team sleepover, firing abusive clients, and more

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

1. My team is having a weekend sleepover at a coworker’s house

I just started a new job last month and joined a small team at a big international company. Our team is just 10 people and very tight-knit. Everyone on the team aside from me and one other new member has been working together for over a decade.

Next month is a big milestone in the team’s work and to celebrate, they’re planning a retreat at my colleague’s vacation home. We’re all going to sleep over there for the weekend.

I have never had anything like this come up in my professional life before. I don’t know anything about the specific sleeping arrangements or activities except that we’re going to do a yoga class together (side note: I can barely touch my knees, let alone my toes, and hate yoga).

How can I ask for more details without preemptively ruining my relationship with this team, who are all warm to me, and very close and looking forward to this time together? I feel like this is not optional because I was asked about when I’m available and it’s true, I do not yet have any plans for that weekend but I thought we would be meeting in the city where we work for a picnic or something, not having a full weekend away together! And several of us are parents — we’re just supposed to let our partners or families take the kids for the weekend? Are we sharing bedrooms with each other, or sleeping in sleeping bags, or what? I have no idea. It’s a lot!

If you just want more details, it would be totally reasonable to say, “Can you tell me about what the plan is, as far as sleeping arrangements and activities?”

But you can also still opt out even though you said you were available that weekend. Something could have come up since then, like an unmovable family conflict or perhaps your plans for child care fell through. You could also be available for just part of it if you don’t want to forgo it completely — “I don’t have anyone to stay with my kids that night (or I have a family thing I need to be home for that night, or I have a conflict with the evening portion) so I’ll need to leave around 5 but I’ll be there during the day.”

Teams: stop doing this. I can guarantee you there’s at least one other person in the group who doesn’t want to go either but feels pressured to say yes because everyone else seems enthusiastic.

Read an update to this letter

2. Telling abusive clients we won’t see them again

I work in a small veterinary clinic. From time to time, and more frequently recently, we have clients that we decide we will no longer work with. This is almost always the result of really bad behavior on the part of the clients, screaming/swearing at staff, calling us names, threatening us, etc. These people almost always say at the time that they will never come back, and we will send their records with them or offer to send them to another clinic for them.

You would think that would be the end of it, but not infrequently, these people call the next time their pet needs something and expect to come back like nothing happened. I have looked online for scripts for firing clients, but I can’t find anything that meets this specific need. Is there a way to politely tell people that we will no longer work with them, without having to get into a long discussion about how what they did wasn’t that bad and they should be allowed back?

Ideally once you decide to fire them as clients, the clinic would send them a letter through the mail explaining the decision and including all their pet’s records. They still might not react well, but that way you’re not blindsiding them with a refusal when they call.

But if that’s not an option for some reason, then when they call to make an appointment you could say, “You told us you didn’t plan to return so we closed you out a patient, and we’re not able to resume seeing you because you were abusive to our staff when you were last here. I’m not able to override that decision, but I can refer you to other nearby vets to try.” There’s no magic set of words that will stop some people from trying to argue with you, but you can repeat “I’m not able to override that decision” … and if they become abusive again, you can say, “This behavior is why we will not make another appointment, and I am going to disconnect the call now.”

Sorry you’re dealing with this.

3. Inviting questions on my own condition for Mental Health Awareness Month

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’d like to put up a little note in my cube along the lines of “It’s Mental Health Awareness Month! Ask me anything about .” I would really like to destigmatize this condition and open a possible line of communication about it for anyone curious about it (or just to let others know they aren’t alone!), but I’m not sure if this is entirely appropriate in a work setting honestly. Could I get your thoughts on the matter?

If it matters, the condition is bipolar, and my workplace is slower paced with a lot of small talk throughout the day. I wouldn’t impose the topic on anyone, but if they wanted to broach the topic and learn more I’d be happy to discuss with them is all I’d be trying to signal.

I’d strongly advise against it. There are too many potential consequences to encouraging people to talk to you about your mental health at work — from inappropriate questions to off-base assumptions about your work or your mood in the future, which can hold you back professionally (for example, getting wrongly labeled as too fragile to handle a specific project, denied a promotion that you’re qualified for, or discriminated against in other ways). That’s wrong, but it’s still very often the reality.

But there are other things you could do for Mental Health Awareness Month! You could have a flyer listing mental health resources or literature on your company’s EAP if you have one. You could also consider starting an employee resource group dedicated to mental health issues at work, where you could work with others to do things like advocate for better mental health benefits through your company’s insurance.

4. I accidentally saw my boss’s message complaining about me

I’m in my third week at my new job in an entry-level payroll position. Today I was watching my supervisor handle some client questions when she went to message my other supervisor about a tax question on Teams. While I was watching her type her question, I noticed a previous message from last week. That message was about me and how annoying my popper fidget toy is. Most of my training has consisted of reading about laws and regulations, which is a snooze fest to be honest. So I listen to music and use a popper fidget to focus.

The message complained about how it was annoying and they didn’t know how to say anything, and one comment was even “I don’t know if this will work out.” Honestly, I was just trying to focus and didn’t take that into consideration, which I now feel terrible about.

We had a check-in, all three of us the week after the message was sent, and it was never mentioned, I never got an email about it, nothing.

Should I take this passive-aggressive message as a hint that they don’t know how to bring up topics to employees, even something as simple as distracting other coworkers? What if it was something more serious? Will a performance issue not be brought up until it’s been going on for a while? I worry that their lack of will to communicate small problems could foreshadow a bigger issue. I have noticed a few other strange things about this place too. On my first day I had a meeting with the owner, who told me he wasn’t allowed to be a part of the hiring process anymore, and that the previous person in my position only stayed a few weeks.

Yeah, it’s a red flag. If it was just that your manager was privately annoyed by the fidget toy but didn’t address it, that wouldn’t be as alarming (still not great, but forgivable). But once she’s at the point of complaining about it to someone else, she owed you a conversation. And if she’s thinking you might not work out, she definitely owes you a conversation. So yes, this is a manager who you cannot trust to speak with you forthrightly when she has concerns. (And saying she didn’t know how to address it?! It’s one thing to decide it’s not worth addressing, but a manager who doesn’t know how to address something this simple is a manager who is going to really struggle with more complicated issues.)

The person in your position before you only staying for a few weeks is a red flag too. Sometimes that’s about the person, not the job, and it could be the case here. But combined with the other things you’re noticing, I’d be concerned.

5. Forced to take a vacation day for the Kentucky Derby

I live in Kentucky, where the Derby is a really big deal. Like, really big. My employers are even closing on the Friday before the Derby so everyone can have a long weekend. The catch is that it’s not a paid holiday for employees. In fact, they are forcing us to use a vacation day for this. Is that legal? Can I push back against this somehow?

It is indeed legal. If you’re exempt, you need to be paid for the day but they can require you to use vacation time for it. There are even companies that close for a full week between Christmas and New Year’s and make people use vacation time for it (other times of the year too, but that one is popular).

You can try pushing back by pointing out that you and others are saving your vacation time for other things and that you shouldn’t be required to dip into your PTO for days when working isn’t an option since the company is closed. It may or may not work, but it’s reasonable to try. Getting coworkers to join in with you will give you a better chance.

{ 665 comments… read them below }

  1. Not A Manager*

    LW2, I would amend Alison’s language to “You told us you didn’t plan to return so we closed you out a patient, and we’re not able to resume seeing you.” Period. Don’t even open the door to whether they were abusive or whatever. They quit, you accepted their resignation, that’s it. When they push back, just keep repeating “I’m sorry, we’re not able to re-admit you to our practice.”

      1. Popinki*

        24-year veteran of customer service hell here. Saying “I am not able to override this decision” just opens the door for them to scream at you to get them someone who CAN override that decision, RIGHT NOW!!! And god forbid whoever has that authority let one back; all the others will come back because now there’s a precedent.

        Don’t offer to refer them to other vets, either. You’re not their secretaries, they’re the ones who sh!t the bed with their bad behavior, let them solve their own problems.

        With nasty people, if you give them a nanometer, they’ll try to take a football field.

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          re: reference

          No way would I volunteer to offload a known bad actor in a service industry that receives so much abuse, as documented in the national media (in the USA at least).

          They acted the fool, let them figure it out on their own.

        2. Koalafied*

          I would offer to refer to them because the poor animal shouldn’t go without care on account of their owners mistakes, and hopefully they won’t be such arsheholes to the next vet after experiencing actual consequences for their actions with the first one.

          1. Anonym*

            Yeah, unfortunately there is an innocent party at risk here. I’d also vote in favor of referring them to other practices just for the sake of the animal in question. (Outside of a care practice, I would otherwise agree with no referral.)

          2. Crimson*

            I’ve never in my life been referred to a vet, I’ve moved six times in five years, and I’ve never had any trouble getting my pet care. They can google it like everyone else trying to find a vet.

            1. OhNo*

              Personally I might tweak the language here to make the difference clear. OP doesn’t need to refer them to other vets (where they might preemptively do work like let the new vet know they are coming, send records, etc.), but they can certainly give them a short list of other vets nearby if they have one to hand.

              A list like that is easy to come up with once and save somewhere. That way, you don’t have to put in extra effort in the moment for someone who is/was abusive, but still ensure that the pet has a very good chance of receiving care.

              1. JustaTech*

                The after-hours voicemail at my vet has the number for the local emergency vet; maybe something like that could be offered to an abusive client so their animal can at least get some care? (Most people don’t want to have to go to the emergency vet because 1) it’s only for emergencies and 2) it’s so much more expensive.)

          3. Ellie*

            You could use the same argument justify continuing to see clients that owe the clinic money and won’t pay for their pet’s health care. Vet clinics aren’t a charity, at some point you have to cut them loose.

        3. Tobias Funke*

          A lot of helping professions’ code of ethics require a provider to give referrals when a client is terminated.

          1. Zephy*

            Does it need to be a referral referral, like actively seeking out another provider who is taking clients and making the introduction and attaching your name to it? Or is it sufficient to merely point out the existence of other similar providers nearby, perhaps furnishing a list of offices with contact information?

    1. Bagpuss*

      I would also look at whatever your standard terms are and consider including in them, or in a separate policy, specific provision saying that you can refuse service / terminate the contract in certain circumstances – including where someone is abusive or threatening to staff.

      And make sure that you document when someone is being listed as ‘terminated / do not accept’ for that reason. It can help protect you if someone were to complain or to claim that they were being refused service for another reason such as illegal discriminatation.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Documentation: Lawyers call this “papering the file.” It is a very, very good idea. Put it in writing. Send a letter.

    2. ijustworkhere*

      I see your point and your approach is probably better in the long run. However, I’m just so fed up with this type of behavior that I almost feel an obligation to stand up for myself and let somebody know–politely and professionally, but clearly–that their behavior is unacceptable and inappropriate.

      I can take the heat of somebody’s wrath–I’m pretty adept at handling difficult people—but I think about the next person they dump on who can’t. Maybe me calling that behavior out will make them think twice before subjecting somebody else to it.

      1. Boof*

        I actually think it’s much better all around to address in the moment too.
        I’m in health care; people are stressed, i get it, but i still clearly tell them they can’t abuse staff both in the moment and after the fact if i learn about it later. That actually often takes care of things. If it continues, they have to sign a behavior management plan to be seen again and can get fired if they break it. I’ve only had to do that once. Clear communication about what is unacceptable and consequences are key.

      2. EPLawyer*

        They won’t. They don’t see their behavior as bad. There is always some excuse, oh my puppy was just so sick I couldn’t help myself, or I didn’t sleep well because my cat kept throwing up. Or even, I am the customer so you have to do what I say and you aren’t so I HAD to get angry to get you to listen (does THAT one sound familiar to anyone). So they will always be able to justify behaving this way in the future. They will never change.

        The people for whom those excuses are legitimate will apologize AT THE TIME they get snappy. Because they know its wrong to behave that way.

        I have it right in my fee agreement that any abusive behavior can get you dropped as client. People ask about that. I say look, this is a divorce/custody, OF COURSE you are going to get emotional. If you are cursing out the situation, I get that. You don’t get to curse at me. Most people get the difference. The few I have had to drop for that reason, let’s just say I knew why they were in the situation they were in. And there were other reasons to drop them. bad clients aren’t just bad in one way.

        1. OTGW*

          Yeah, like, people (here and generally) say “oh when customers are upset it’s not about you” etc etc. But like, it is about me (or the vet, or the retail worker or whomever). I didn’t provide something for them so they’re screaming at me. Maybe they are having a bad day but PLENTY of people know to keep their mouth shut and not take their stress out on an innocent party.

          Telling patrons why their behavior is bad is nice in theory but they’re assholes because they want to be and because it gets them what they want all the time.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Also, it doesn’t goddamned matter if it’s about you or not–they are still out of line.

            “It’s not about you,” is just another version of, “I’m sorry if your feelings were hurt.” It’s making it your fault if you object to being mistreated.

          2. ostentia*

            Exactly–I don’t care if it’s about me or not. At the end of the day, I don’t want to be yelled at, regardless of whether it’s about me, them, the color of the sky, etc etc etc.

          3. OhNo*

            “Maybe they are having a bad day but PLENTY of people know to keep their mouth shut and not take their stress out on an innocent party.”

            Exactly this. I’ve had plenty of bad days in my life, but I have never once taken that out on a customer service person, a healthcare professional, my pet’s vet, or anyone else just because they happened to be around when I was having a rough time.

            If anyone EVER tries to use the excuse of “Oh, but I was having a bad day!” ask them why they didn’t take it out on their boss, or the CEO of their workplace. It’s a good way to realize that they CAN control where their anger/upset/hurt feelings get dumped, they’re just choosing not to because they think there won’t be any consequences.

          4. MigraineMonth*

            I find “It’s not about me, they’re just stressed” to be a useful way of framing things in the moment. It’s a way for me to kind of step back and observe what’s happening without it engaging my defensive reactions, and sometime it lets me de-escalate the situation (with someone who’s just being short or dismissive, not the real a-holes).

            But you’re right, that doesn’t make rude or abusive behavior okay. If you’re older than 10, you should have figured out it’s not okay to take out your bad day on other people.

        2. There's No Name Here*

          I see what you are saying. But I worked for a year as a veterinary clinic receptionist, and otherwise in other public facing positions. And one difference I noticed is that when people behaved egregiously badly (cursing, shouting, etc.) at the vet’s, they would sometimes come back and apologize. Sometimes it was three weeks later, but they did it, and it was a proper apology. “I should not have acted the way I did,” not excuses. It was the doctor who would say, at the time, it was very bad news we gave him. In other customer service roles, no one ever apologized to me until they were actually in handcuffs, which probably helped to give them some perspective on their conduct.

          I’m not suggesting that clinics shouldn’t fire hostile or abusive clients. I just wanted to point out that someone who goes off the deep end when their dog dies isn’t necessarily the same jerk as someone who shouts at the server because their hollandaise is cold. As with human health care, you’re seeing people under awful, stressful, shocking circumstances, before they have time to consider their response.

          And yet, maybe our vet should have fired more clients. At least one chronic complainer eventually tried to sue the practice, basically because we failed to make her pet immortal. And I can see that the pandemic has lifted the lid right off the box… more people are quicker to resort to worse behaviour than ever before. Kudos to any practice that tries to shield their staff from damaging behaviour before burnout occurs.

          1. SloanGhost*

            Ehh I can count on one hand the apologies I’ve gotten (it’s 2, MAYBE 3) and the jerks? As we say in the industry, TNTC.

      3. Miss Annie*

        Human doctors have letter templates that are written by lawyers. I have no idea where to get one, but you could start there.

        Maybe your own PCP can get you a draft.

          1. Sharon*

            Actually, since Fluffy isn’t the problem, it would actually be fine if someone else started bringing Fluffy in and managing their care, as long as that person behaved and the banned person had no further contact with the clinic.

        1. nona*

          I mean, the human doctor probably got it from a lawyer or their malpratice insurance provided, so the vet could also start with a lawyer that does malpractice advising (or their malpractice insurance) provide them with something directly, so it can be vetted as something that applies/works for any idiosyncrasies in the law regarding veterinary care vs human care.

        2. Curious*

          If that’s how human doctors do it, how do Emergency Medical Holograms handle this problem ?

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Agreed. For the sake of simplicity and safety I would not revisit the reasons why. Mentioning reasons can read as opening that whole can of worms for debate. It’s not open for debate.

      “The last time you were here, we both agreed to terminate our business relationship with each other. And that decision remains in place. We are not able to help you.” You can add “we wish you the best” or whatever if you choose. I do like the phrasing “we are not able to help you” and I have used this and seen it used with some people.

      Generally, I’d say, “I am sorry. We are not able to help you.” But, you have to choose the wording that suits your setting and is inside your comfort zone. I have no problem apologizing because I know in the end my answer is final. For me the apology is just another way of closing the door on future interactions. But that is me.

      1. SixTigers*

        I’d drop the “We’re not able to help you” on the grounds that while it LOOKS final when you read it, it sure doesn’t SOUND final when it’s said. The part about ” . . . and that decision stays in place” is good, and should be followed by, “Goodbye.”

        Sure, they’ll still get mad, and they may call back, but forewarned is forearmed and the front desk can disconnect the incoming call.

    4. Shiba Dad*

      Not a bad approach, but I disagree with not mentioning abusive behavior. People need to understand that being an asshole has consequences.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        The thing that most concerns me about the very appropriate and deserved pushback on jerk owners is that the pet – the actual patient – might not get treatment or basic care because their jerk owner burns bridges with one too many veterinarians.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          this is entirely up to the client.

          The thing is, the veterinarians are not preventing the client from getting care: The client is preventing the client from getting care. If the client is more invested in being an a-hole than in caring for the pet, then that’s the bottom line. If they care about the pet, they are 100% capable of calling up the vet, apologizing for their behavior, and asking for a second chance.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            I didn’t say it was the OP’s job to solve this problem, nor do I blame the veterinarian. I just said I feel for the animals who might not get care.

            I try not to go into too much detail and offer too many disclaimers about my comments but I guess I really need to rethink that. I just said I feel for the animals, people!

            1. Dust Bunny*

              There’s nothing you can do about that, though. Care is available, and the sticking point is the owner/client’s commitment to being an a-hole. Your staff shouldn’t be at the mercy of that, and the owner’s [even possible] threat not to care for the animal can’t hold everyone hostage to the abuse. Plus, my experience has been that people who are going to care for the animal will do it, and people who aren’t really committed to caring for the animal will fail to do so on the flimsiest pretexts, long before they get client-fired for being jerks.

              I get it, seriously, but my bosses who couldn’t draw the line with abusive owners were crappy people. If you don’t want to have to fire clients outright your only other option is to confront them about their behavior on the spot. But staff shouldn’t be left to deal with the fallout either way.

        2. Software Dev (she/her)*

          This is a thing we have been asking of vets for a long time, to sacrifice themselves, their emotional and mental health, their financial wellbeing, because otherwise an animal might not get the care it needs. It has to stop. Veterinarians are at a high risk of burnout and a high risk of suicide compared to the general population.

          This is the same kind of language that gets weaponized against people working in non-profits, in child services, etc. People in caring professions have to be allowed and encouraged to put on their own oxygen masks first and to set boundaries.

    5. pancakes*

      “Don’t even open the door to whether they were abusive or whatever.”

      If they were indeed abusive and that is indeed the reason why they are no longer welcome as a client, why not? “Open the door” suggests that you fear you wouldn’t be able to resist being drawn into debate about this, but that would be when you simply explain you’re going to end the call now, as Alison’s script covers. Telling the person instead that the office has a very rigid policy whereby anyone who says they’re never coming back is held to that, no matter what they’ve reconsidered, also opens a door to debate, and is less plausible than “your behavior was not acceptable and you are not permitted to come back.”

      1. BethDH*

        “Open the door” can also mean just that it makes it sound like a conversation is opened about what abuse is. I doubt any of those people think of themselves as abusers. Tell them they can’t come back, if needed/desired say “because of what you did/said on your last visit,” but don’t give them a hook to argue that “it wasn’t really that bad.”

        1. pancakes*

          I would venture that most of them don’t think of themselves as abusers, but that seems beside the point. I don’t think of that as opening a door because I could quickly close that door and end the call.

        2. Malarkey01*

          Yes, that’s my experience. It just starts an argument where they want to go back and forth and because of how we’re wired we get drawn back into that because we think we can make people understand…we can’t.
          So many of these exchanges (or videos of these) I’m just thinking “stop talking/hang up/walk away” because it’s just a messy argument now and they huff off feeling even more justified.

          1. pancakes*

            They’re going to feel their feelings either way! If a person who habitually lashes out feels justified that’s unfortunate but it’s not really my problem.

      2. Colette*

        Because an abuse person is likely to act aggressively/abusively when told they’ve been abusive, and the OP doesn’t need to deal with that.

        1. Loulou*

          This! It’s all well and good to say “people need to know that being an asshole has consequences” but actually, OP is also the one dealing with the consequences and it makes sense to minimize them.

      3. Littorally*

        I’d split the difference, personally. The word ‘abusive’ can get people really fired up, so my approach would be more, “Due to your behavior the last time we saw you…” to be clear that it was their behavior without using that escalating word.

        1. What a way to make a living*

          Yes, a factual description of their behaviour is much harder to argue with. Eg “…because last time you were here you swore at our receptionist and damaged a piece of office property, seemingly on purpose.”

          If you don’t have one, developing a policy which sets out specific things that get a client terminated, and possibly including a mention of this in client contracts or other documentation may also help?

    6. Boof*

      I think this comes off as schoolyard pettiness, the obvious response is “now I’m saying i want to come back!”
      In my experience it’s MUCH better to address the real reason they aren’t allowed to return “you screamed and swore at our staff so we will not work with you again” is fine

      1. LilyP*

        Yeah I think this would just confuse things and invite more argument/conversation, because “if someone is a patient and then leaves we never take them back under any circumstances” would not be a normal or logical policy to have — what if someone moved away and then moved back, or changed over to a different vet but didn’t like them? Obviously you’d reinstate patients who left amicably. If people who were abusive aren’t happy to hear their behavior described that way, oh well! You can just end the call, they aren’t your problem anymore.

    7. Not A Manager*

      The thing is, they already know why they’re not being re-admitted. “But whyyyyy?” isn’t an actual question, it’s a gambit to draw you in. Once you go down the road of “you were abusive” it becomes even harder to end the conversation and not be continually pulled back into it.

      Eventually you’re going to have to say, “you’re not invited back and that’s the end of it,” so why not start there instead of wasting a lot of energy just to end up there?

    8. June*

      Firing clients in any field of medicine can have legal ramifications. The clinic needs to find out about the laws of their state and follow it.

  2. Your Local Cdn*

    OP#3: this is obviously a lot more work but my org hosts an AMA panel for mental health awareness, albeit with a moderator who pre-screens questions for exactly the sort of thing Alison warns about! The panelists volunteer to engage, and there is /always/ a member of senior management on the panel as well. If you are considering starting an employee resource group, this could be a cool event to engage the broader organisation :)

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      An AMA is a great idea. It could cover almost anything, mental health, how to maintain a healthy work/home balance, how to break into a particular field, moving to another country for work etc. An old workplace used to have weekly lunch bag talks but they were always dominated by one person who hogged the Q&As after the talk to the point that other people stopped going. A moderated AMA sounds like a perfect solution

      1. pancakes*

        You don’t think there’s a difference between an AMA about professional development (“how to break into a particular field,” etc.) and one about living with mental illness? Maybe I’m missing something about the format here, but having a panel of people with an assortment of mental illnesses take anonymized questions from the audience seems kind of off to me, like they’re a living diorama or tableau vivant. There are so many resources for people who want to learn about mental health to do so without treating individual people as ambassadors for their condition. Teaching basic awareness doesn’t require props.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          An AMA could potentially allow the “speakers” to be anonymous too – questions submitted and answered in advance, perhaps, or down virtually. And there is a difference between learning that, says, OCD involves a combination of [list of symptoms] and hearing from a (willing) person living with it about what their individual experience is like.

          It wouldn’t necessarily be something for the company to take the lead on, but the LW is interested in speaking about their experience with bipolar disorder, and if she knows several other people who have a similar interest but hesitations about career impacts, an anonymized AMA does have potential.

          1. pancakes*

            A sort of double-blind set up seems like a lot to go through for a workplace q&a, and there is no shortage of material for people who want anecdotes about living with mental illness to read or watch. It seems odd to me to put panelists through all that just to gratify people’s curiosity about other people’s lives.

            If the letter writer wants to speak about their experiences, I think it makes more sense in terms of risk and work relationships to pursue that outside of work. Speak to the general public at a well-organized panel, for example, or to a group gathered by some sort of organization with expertise in this area, rather than by your HR or internal events department.

            1. Jaydee*

              Exactly! There is no reason for this to be an internal panel of employees. There are various organizations that either already have webinars available or would be willing to help develop an in-person training or webinar about mental health topics.

              I’m on the mailing list for an org that has a series of free webinars about specific mental illnesses and diagnoses as well as topics like mental health in various populations, treatment options, the intersection of mental health and substance use, etc. I’m also typing this while watching the first of a series our department has developed in conjunction with a local university on mental health in older adults.

              And I know of a few different professionals in my community who regularly speak or do continuing education presentations about mental health and wellness and who do reference their own lived experiences with mental illness or brain injury when doing so. So if there’s a desire to have a speaker who can be seen as a peer (rather than a professional from another discipline without lived experience) that may be possible to find too, but from the outside so that again there’s connection but also a level of distance.

              So resources are definitely available with varying levels of work needed to set them up that don’t require individual employees to provide personal information about their own mental health situations, even in a double-blind way.

    2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Yeah, I can’t see how this would work without the panel members having scripted lines for when they don’t want to answer something, other than pre-done questions.. but idk, I am trying to imagine questions that don’t just sound like school IEP accomodations: “what helps you best when you’re feeling a sensory overload?”. It’s so very subjective, or “how did you find out you had xx.” Questions like that could be pretty triggering. But I’m definitely open to ideas

    3. Judge Judy and Executioner*

      I love the idea of a resource group. I was just at a conference for HR professionals related to DEIB and one company was going to be starting a Mental Health ERG. I really like the idea of it, but I also would fear outing myself as someone with struggles in that area.

  3. Loulou*

    #1 sounds like my worst nightmare, but I have to disagree with Alison’s blanket “stop doing this” statement. This doesn’t sound like a required work thing, but a social activity that I’m sure this close knit group of people who have been working together for a decade enjoys! Declining optional social invitations you do not want to accept is a basic adult skill, and I think it’s really silly to say that you shouldn’t invite peers to occasional nice events because they don’t know how to say no. Let the people who want to do this do it, thank them for the invitation, and be nice to them at work.

    As for what to say, I would just be honest and try “I’m sorry, when I said I was free I thought you meant for a daytime picnic. I can’t get away for the weekend, but I hope you have a great time.”

    1. Princess Xena*

      The problem is that if you have a group of people who are coworkers, they cannot be ‘just a social group’ because there are power imbalances in play that are not present with a simple group of friends. Is one of them a manager? If so, what happens if the manager has a clash with the coworker hosting? What if the manager is the one hosting – how do you say ‘no’ to the arrangement? The celebration is specifically aimed at achieving a big team milestone, so not participating could easily look like someone is ‘not a team player’ even when there may be legitimate medical and personal reasons they can’t attend.

      To a certain extent, you have to have more boundaries at work than with your friend group. It’s why managers shouldn’t date anyone they supervise, or you shouldn’t share all your deepest and most personal thoughts and feelings with your whole team. There will be a point when what is best for a professional coworker relationship will conflict with what is best with a close friendship, and if you let the friendship rule your team will go downhill.

      To me personally? Going on this sort of trip with coworkers would be a special sort of hell, not a reward. And if you’re a manager trying to figure out how to reward a team or commemorate a milestone, that’s absolutely something that has to get considered or you will have people leave over a solvable problem.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, I agree. My employer has offices all over the country, and they used to organize company events so that people could meet employees from other offices in an informal way. These involved sports and cultural activities (museums, art galleries…). They were always held Friday-Saturday, and the Friday was a workday, not PTO.

        No such events have been held for more than two years, but there’s one coming up in the fall. Most of my coworkers are really looking forward to it, but I’m not going. Luckily these are completely voluntary, and managers are explicitly banned from considering attendance at these events in performance evaluations. A former manager did try to persuade me to go a few times. My coworker who does the same job (we usually cover for each other) loves these things and always attends, and my former manager told me that I didn’t have to stay away for coverage, we could both be absent on the same day. I had to spell it out to her that just the idea of attending an event like that where I couldn’t get away from my coworkers for two days and where I’d have to share a hotel room with a coworker was stressing me out before she stopped trying to persuade me to go.

        1. Bagpuss*

          It’s tricky, isn’t it? My sister used to work for a big multi-national company, which used to have various trips. (for instance, the final of the inter-office football tournament typically involved teams from different countries competing)

          they seemed to handle it quite well – for instance, I recall my sister went to the inter-office football final – it was held in a different city and country to where she worked, the company chartered a plane and paid for hotels, and I think arranged for a number of optional events such as a guided walking tour of the city – they encourages everyone to attend the final football match and evening meal but everything else was optional, and there were a variety of choices (I think that there were ‘scratch’ 5-a-side football, and tennis tournaments, museum and walking tours, and a coach or rive trip), so opportunities to meet colleagues from other offices but a wide choice of activities. I think that it ran Friday night – Sunday night so no one had to use any holiday .

          1. High Score!*

            Yeah, I worked for a company that had optional golf weekends. Those of us who didn’t go always felt left out while others had access we didn’t to management and more bonding with each other. I was a single mom at the time so even if I played golf it was not an option.

      2. This_is_my_nightmare*

        I so wish employers would stop doing these things! My company has 6 offices based round the country and prior to the panini held a major ‘social’ event near Head Office every 2 years. It usually involved camping (blergh) and ‘team building’ activities that often involved getting dirty and/or wet. I joined in the autumn just after they held one, then the panini, and they haven’t quite gotten back to it yet, so I’ve yet to have the pleasure (from what I’ve heard it sounds like my literal nightmares). And always on a Saturday that no one gets paid for because ‘fun’ and ‘socialising’ *facepalm*. I have enough to deal with with the dinners that our MD seems to think are a great idea to arrange when he visits the offices – the last one happened at less than a week’s notice and I had to field a personal phone call from his PA explaining that no, I wasn’t available and no, I wasn’t changing my plans that I’d had for nearly 3 months to go to a rubbish restaurant with my colleagues and the MD. I’ve no idea what I’m going to do when they bring back the ‘fun’ weekend – it doesn’t sound optional.
        Employers – please understand that your employees mostly don’t want these things and if you really must indulge in them, PAY PEOPLE.

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          I don’t think “employees mostly don’t want these things” is a statement you can fairly make. This comment section seems to skew toward people who just don’t like hanging out with their colleagues, but that hasn’t been my experience in the real world. Lots of people genuinely enjoy the occasional out-of-work event with their coworkers.

          1. Narvo Flieboppen*

            Based on my experience, close to half of the people I have worked with really do not enjoy these sorts of activities. Of those who didn’t like it and would have preferred to avoid it, most of them felt pressured to participate.

            It may not be most, but truly a large portion of people do not want or like these events and do not want to commit personal time to attending.

            If even 1/3 of your staff don’t want to deal with it, then events like this are a problem, especially if there is any pressure to attend – be it officially or just unofficially from a manager who doesn’t understand.

            In my opinion, the best way for a company to show appreciation for their staff is to put large sums of money into their paychecks.

          2. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

            Actually, a lot of people fake enthusiasm over these events because they feel like they have to. More people than you think really don’t want these events. I was just in a work summit where so many people acted like they were super jazzed to be there but really couldn’t wait for the whole thing to be over.

          3. Candy Morningstar*

            I enjoy occasionally hanging out with colleagues, but it’s something like a happy hour after work, or maybe a picnic in a convenient location as the OP suggested. But a whole weekend away, or a camping trip with physical activities that not everyone wants to or is table to do? That’s a lot to ask people to commit to.

      3. Cj*

        And in this particular case, it’s 10 people going to vacation home. I can’t imagine that they’re not going to at least be sharing rooms, if not beds. No way would I want to go to an event like that.

        1. Liz*

          That is my worst nightmare! I am a restless sleeper, get up multiple times, and snore like a warthog. i cannot imagine sleeping with co-workers in the same room. i would be mortified since I know i’d keep them up.

    2. John Smith*

      The problem is that when you decline to participate in what is a personal level of hell, you risk being seen as a trouble maker or not being a team player when this is not the case. By all means have social interactions, but make them unconditionally voluntary. I’m sure a bonus pay packet, meaningful vouchers, extra PTO or even a day trip / picnic / open activity (where one can leave freely part way through) would be more welcome. A weekend retreat in an employee’s holiday home to me is a spell in an Orwellian joycamp. But worse.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree with this. Saying no comes with consequences. But looking over the long term, if this is their normal then it’s a hill to die on for me. For [reasons] I am not comfortable staying overnight in a place that is not home. There are exceptions to this- for example a motel or a home of a good friend/ close family member.

        If I had known it was a requirement/expectation of the job I would not have taken the job. I’d be comfortable saying that I have health and dietary reasons for not being able to commitment that substantial amount of time. However, OP, you can just go with “I have personal reasons that prevent me from committing such large blocks of time to things outside my home.”

        I’d rather find out NOW how much of a big deal this is for them, than tap dance around it for years to come. To me that dancing around the issue is AS stressful as actually spending a weekend away from home in a place I did not choose. My choices would be confront the situation or just go for the weekend, no grey area. For me I would not “just go for the weekend” which leaves me with no alternative but to find out how big a deal it will be if I do not go.

        I had one job where we had to do X. I was never informed of X on the interview. In my case, X was something that a doc would agree I should not be doing. It was a serious misstep on their part that they did not inform me during the interview. I had to confront this situation. I landed on, “If I had been told about X on the interview I would have withdrawn my application. I was never given that opportunity to truly learn what the job actually entailed.”

        I kept the job and I never had to do X. One sad side-effect was that I did feel like I had to work harder because everyone knew I did not do X and I had to make up for that in some way. My point is that you may need to consider how this job fits for you over the longer haul, OP.

      2. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

        I know, right? Sometimes ‘team player’ is thrown in one’s face to mean go along with what someone else wants while they disregard what you want. But the person planning these things should be a team player by being considerate of the fact that some people will not be comfortable with an event like this.

    3. Beth*

      Declining social invitations is an adult skill, but this isn’t strictly a social invitation–it’s a *work* social invitation. Even if attendance isn’t mandatory, skipping work social events can have bad effects. At minimum, it means you get less face time with management than your peers, which may lead to perceived distance between you and your manager, accidental preferential treatment if your manager knowing other coworkers’ goals better than yours from conversations they had while socializing, etc. At most, you might get labeled not a team player and seen as a misfit on your team, especially if everyone else is attending and you’re the odd one out all the time. There’s more to consider than there is with a purely social event.

      Work shouldn’t put people in a position where they need to weigh all that. Team celebrations and social events are good, but in moderation–they should be activities that are doable for most people (skip the extreme sports), are easy to schedule around (ideally happening in work hours, or like a happy hour that you can duck out of after making an appearance–definitely not an entire weekend!), and aren’t likely to lead to unprofessional behavior (heavy drinking isn’t ideal). This is why most workplaces default to a team lunch or something similarly low-key; it’s easy and really unlikely to cause any problems.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        You make good points. I can’t sleep in the same room with another person, so sharing a room with a co-worker is a hard no. I don’t want to explain why because it becomes TMI. Other people may have sleep disorders or very regimented night routines. What happens to the early birds who need their 8-10 hours of sleep and are up at dawn while everyone else is still sleeping? A weekend would take a week to recover.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I relate. And I want to add that I cannot recover DURING a workweek. My weekend time IS my time to recover from the workweek.

          1. This sounds familiar. . .*

            I agree. My weekend is my time, with the only exceptions being really serious deadlines, etc. If I am needed on the weekend, I’m all in, but I’m certainly not devoting a whole weekend to a corporate social event or teambuilding. I worked for a lady once who pulled this same type of thing, inviting the company to her “beach house” for the weekend. She painted it as some big reward that she was providing for us, but in all honesty, she was very controlling. I just perceived it as her trying to control one more aspect of my life. I felt like controlling us during the week AND over the weekend was a big win for her. My parents were living at the beach so I certainly didn’t need her beach place to chill on the water for the weekend.

        2. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

          You shouldn’t have to explain why. You’re not a room sharer and that is that. Sharing a room is a hard no for me as well. I don’t think you should have to come up with an ultra compelling reason to get someone’s sign-off on that. I don’t care how much money the company saves by making people share rooms. If they don’t want to pay for me to have a little privacy and dignity, then they shouldn’t make me go.

    4. Allonge*

      Kind of agree? As we have seen here, there is no social activity that everyone can join, so if we have a blanket ban on things that possibly don’t work for people, there will be nothing.

      But companies should very much take into consideration that people will be afraid to decline (case in point: OP is afraid to ask a totally reasonable question on what will actually happen over the weekend they would attend) and start with ‘this is optional and you will not be seen as a non-team player if you don’t come’ and definitely aim for the lower investment levels of activities.

      1. Eukomos*

        Someone could always be afraid to ask about anything. I’m quite anxious and when it flairs up I can get super worked up about conversations that turn out to be painless in the end. It would not be beneficial for me if my employer (or family and friends) managed to somehow set up my life so I never had to ask a question I was afraid to ask; taking the leap and asking improves my distress tolerance and reduces my anxiety over the long term. I sympathize with LW feeling freaked out about this situation, but asking their boss for details and laying out their own boundaries is the best thing for everyone here. If the boss doesn’t handle it well then that’s important info about culture problems at this office.

        1. Allonge*

          Oh, I totally agree that the fear to ask a question cannot be reasonably accommodated by setting up an environment where people don’t have to!

      2. quill*

        Also we want to avoid mixing work and people’s daily maintenance / work of living. Unless it’s unavoidable (like, everyone works at a field station or something) it’s a hard no from me on coworkers seeing my pajamas.

    5. Despachito*

      I was thinking about that as well.

      I’d perceive as a sign of much better management if they ensure that no one is punished for not participating, and I mean not even by raising a brow, and that everyone feels safe to do so. If they completely cut out any BS about “not being a team player” (isn’t it important to be a team player AT WORK, not at social events)? Why spoil the fun for most of those who want to go, because the management does poor managing in their day-to-day work?

      1. MK*

        You are thinking of “punishment” for not participating as a conscious intentional thing, but often it isn’t. A new person coming into a longstanding team is going to have a tough time intergrating in any case, and not participating in social work events isn’t going to help. And this is a work event, not purely a social one. If these coworkers were simply taking a mini vacation and inviting the OP, sure, it would be the manager’s job to make sure the OP wouldn’t face bias at work for saying no. But since this is presented as a work celebration, it was absolutely on the coworkers to consider that, with 2 new colleagues, a weekend like that was probably a bad idea. At the very least, they should have proactively asked the new people what would work for them, not start organizing a getaway. Ideally, they should have a celebration more accessible to everyone and treat the weekend away as an optional extra.

    6. Artemesia*

      This is not a neighborhood tea party or a hobby group this is her financial support – her job. It is not as easy to not be available for a work related event; best case she is missing out on relationships that are important for her own progress especially as a newbie; worst case she is viewed as ‘not a team player’ and actively excluded from opportunity.

      Lots of people are not comfortable with sleepover events especially where they don’t have their own room and privacy.

      1. SixTigers*

        I’m wondering what kind of sleeping arrangements there would be with TEN PEOPLE in one person’s house. Does the coworker live in a palatial Venetian-style palace? Or are people going to be sharing double beds and on pull-out couches in the rec room and crammed into bunk beds and in sleeping bags on the floor in the den? Oh no no no no no. I would get no sleep whatsoever and I wouldn’t be fit to live with the next day. And any work-related relationships would definitely be tainted by that, and my reputation wouldn’t be “not a team player,” it would be “spawn of Satan.”

        Eight hours in my own bed with my own chosen breakfast? I’m a great coworker! Shove me into a situation like that? Not a good outcome.

        1. Clisby*

          Yeah, rent the Biltmore Mansion for this getaway and I’d go for the whole week.
          Anytime I’ve read a letter like this on AAM, I wonder, “How old are these people?” I can’t think I’d have been willing to do this at any point past 25.

          1. quill*

            It would 100% depend on how well I knew people. I always wonder if people are stumbling into a workplace where everyone in it was high school / college friends, because the only upcoming trip that I, at 30, would consider taking where sleeping arrangements are couches and floors is one that involves my college friends, most of whom I have shared shoebox sized dorm rooms with long term, or my friend from high school, with whom I have definitely squeezed into hotel rooms for conventions before.

    7. bamcheeks*

      Reading the OP, I’m not sure that’s absolutely clear– “team retreat to celebrate a big milestone” doesn’t sound purely social to me. (“Retreat” very definitely suggests “some strategic talk, planning, reflection etc will be happening” to me.)

      1. OP1*

        OP here- exactly! I think that there will be a lot of work discussions as part of the weekend, but then again, I am not totally sure about the agenda because the only things I know so far are the dates and location. And yes our manager is also going to be there!

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          Can I ask why you haven’t asked about any of this? You said in the letter that you’re worried asking will ruin your relationship with the team but I’m really struggling to see why it would. Are these people terribly intimidating, are you having trouble with wording the questions, have they given you some reason to think they’ll react badly to some simple logistical questions? Is it just because you’re new? Because when you’re new is exactly the time that people will expect you to ask lots of questions, because you don’t know how stuff works! Asking clarifying questions about new work/social situations is really, really normal!

          I’m not trying to put blame on you here – when they invited you along they should have proactively offered *you* this information. But it seems like a lot of your discomfort is coming from not having answers to some pretty straightforward questions, and it’s probably going to make it harder to come up with a way to gracefully decline if you don’t know what you’re declining. So I would be interested to know if something other than your newness is holding you back from just asking these questions, as your coworkers (not Alison or us) are the only people who can give you answers.

          1. BethDH*

            I think your comments are really good in general for someone who is new at a place where others have been there a long time.
            And OP, if you’re having trouble deciding which questions are relevant, just start by saying “hey, can you tell me more about what to expect at the retreat?”
            I get anxious about not knowing things in new situations in part because I think I need the right questions (I think my brain treats it like another job interview or a test) and I find that consciously reminding myself that all I need to do is open a conversation helps.

          2. OP1*

            Mainly because they’re all so happy and excited and warm and I don’t want to be a wet blanket or negative. But I should give them the benefit of the doubt. To be honest before the letter was published, I did email the coworker hosting to ask about logistical details but she hasn’t responded yet (in more than 24 hours!) and I’m worried she perceived my questions as negative.

            1. bamcheeks*

              Someone who perceives, “I would prefer to know where I’m going to sleep and what I’m expected to do” as negative has problems that you can’t control for, OP! Even if you were feeling 100% up for and excited about the trip, “hey, do I need a sleeping bag, what about my work laptop” are completely practical things to want to know in advance.

              I totally get the thing about it being presented as such a positive and a done-deal that it’s really difficult to ask questions, though. I find it so hard to imagine from the other side, however– how do you get to a point that having a sleepover for a work team sounds like such a uniformly fabulous idea that you don’t even factor in that it might sound exceptionally weird to the new person and they are probably going to need a lot more detail and reassurance — never mind the opportunity to opt out!

              1. justabot*

                Those are great questions. Asking if you should bring your work laptop is also a good one because you might get an indication of how work-related it is versus just social and the work accomplishment was just an excuse for a celebration, outing.

            2. pancakes*

              It would be quite over the top and unprofessional for your coworker to give you the silent treatment in response to basic questions about what to expect. Do you have reasons to believe your coworker tends to have outsized, disproportionately emotional reactions to minor things or is remarkably unprofessional? Or both? The fact that it’s been 24 hours doesn’t in itself signify either.

            3. EventPlannerGal*

              Okay, I see! I think your best bet is basically to approach it in as open a manner as you can – people won’t be put off by someone simply seeking information, but it might come off badly if you sound like you’re judging or distrustful. Personally I would suggest:

              – instead of long lists of granular questions, start simple but open-ended: “can you tell me how the sleeping arrangements usually work?”, “how do you usually arrange transport?” etc. If you need to clarify further you can follow up.
              – relatedly, YMMV but personally I specifically would rethink the phrasing of the “what are parents supposed to do, leave kids with their partners?” bit. Childcare concerns are real, but if you phrase it like that I think you risk making other parents on the team (who may well have done exactly that, as it’s a pretty normal thing to do for an occasional weekend) feel a bit alienated or judged. If you need to cite childcare as a reason not to attend, I would just stick with “I won’t be able to arrange childcare that weekend”.
              – if you do need to decline, try to do so in a positive way. Don’t feel like you have to be all “oh I wish I could, I’ll be at the next one!!” if that’s not true (you don’t want to skip this one but end up committed forever after, after all) but just more like “I hope you guys have a great time, if there’s anything I can catch up on/materials you can share let me know” type of thing.
              – don’t be afraid to lean on the fact that you’re new! “Sorry for all the questions, I’ve never been to an event like this so I’m not sure how they work”, that sort of thing – it’s a totally valid reason to ask, and unless you approach it in a really negative manner you shouldn’t come across as a wet blanket.

              Overall, if your colleagues are generally warm and pleasant people then I truly don’t think skipping this one event will harm your relationships. FWIW, I’ve worked on many an office event and there’s always someone who can’t make it however big a deal it is. It happens! Now, if you decline this one and every other event and coffee-break chats and so on then yes, people will probably start to see you as a bit of a cold fish, but the whole office isn’t going to turn on you over one event.

            4. Comment Away*

              Why are you e-mailing? Why can’t you walk over to the host’s desk and ask. And if you are not in the same place, how about asking over zoom so you can see each other and it can be more personal. Or if neither of those work, then pick up the phone and call.
              If you were to email me about this, I would not want to spend the time to write you back a detailed email – and even if I did you would probably have follow-up questions.
              Just do this face to face (or at least voice to voice).

                1. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

                  Yes, email is fine. Face-to-face is overrated. Preferring email is not a character flaw.

            5. Eukomos*

              She probably perceived them as lower-priority than whatever else she was dealing with yesterday. Do you work in an office or have a Slack channel with someone who’s been to one of these before? It might be easier to ask about this in a more casual context. Wander over to whoever you feel most comfortable chatting with and say, “hey, can you tell me some more about this retreat weekend?”

            6. RagingADHD*

              I think you are overthinking the way your questions are perceived. Taking a day or two to respond to a low-level question about an event next month is not a sign that she is feeling some kind of way about your question.

              It’s a sign that she is busy.

              1. Allonge*

                This. It’s a low priority question with no template answer to use. OP, if you don’t get a response in the next 4 hours, walk over to someone else and ask in person.

                It’s totally normal to want to know where you are travelling to.

            7. justabot*

              Hopefully it is a positive sign at least that they are happy and excited and warm people and have stayed at the same place for 10 years. That doesn’t mean you have to love it too or that you can’t enforce your own boundaries on how much of a work/life balance you want. Just that it may end up being something you enjoy and look forward to in the future too? I don’t know if that’s a realistic thought or not, but since it sounds like you are leaning toward going, I hope that it’s an enjoyable time. Questions about sleeping arrangements or if you need to bring anything are totally fine. That’s also the nice part about being the “new” person. You can just make friendly conversation and play up the, “I’ve never done something like this! Can you tell me more about it?”

        2. justabot*

          They may just be calling it a “retreat” in order to expense it… when in reality it may just be for social/celebration purposes?

      2. pancakes*

        “Retreat” suggests work-related but every other aspect of it suggests slumber party. If there will be in-depth work discussions surely there would be pre-reading being circulated? I don’t see any good reason not to ask for more clarification because the way this is described is confusing.

        1. Nightengale*

          the retreats I have gone on have not involved pre-reading. They made a huge point about how we shouldn’t worry or think about anything ahead of time, it would all be self-contained at the fun and relaxing event. As someone with diabetes and a number of disabilities, I had to convince people to give me sufficient pre-information so that I could even participate. Relatedly, I now have a very high trauma response to the word “retreat.”

          1. pancakes*

            That’s going to be something that varies by profession, then, because in mine, not thinking about the topics in advance or preparing to discuss them in any way would not be seen as relaxing so much as wasting people’s valuable time. It’s also going to depend on whether the overarching plan is to strategize or debrief or just have a nice time. Just having a nice time requires some planning too, particularly if people are meant to bring clothes suitable for yoga, or swimming, or golf clubs, etc. The complete lack of messaging around this get-together makes me think it’s more social than work-oriented.

    8. BritChikkaa*

      Yeah I agree. I’m sorry Alison but I think it’s totally inappropriate to punish employees and ban their social events just because some employees don’t have the ability to use their words.

      I personally would absolutely adore this! I know I’m in the minority on this board, but honestly there are people here who are such extreme introverts they struggle just to say good morning, or who can’t handle someone asking “how was your weekend.” That’s really where introversion crosses over into just not having basic people skills which are unfortunately a requirement for any job involving face to face work with others.

      1. Stevie*

        Just a slight note – what you’re describing isn’t introversion. It sounds more like social anxiety. Introverts need solo time to recharge, but aren’t inherently unable to engage in social interaction. You can be extroverted and have social anxiety; they are separate things. The introvert versus extrovert thing is about how you attain energy in regards to social situations.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Yeah, I think a lot of people assume introvert = shy and poor social skills and extrovert = confident and good social skills. I know extroverts who are extremely shy, some who hate being alone because it makes them feel more self-conscious – everybody will be watching me if I go for a walk alone – and I certainly know plenty of extroverts with poor social skills; all those who can’t get their head around people not enjoying parties and continue pushing when somebody has made it clear they aren’t going or who don’t take a hint when somebody seems doubtful…those are all signs of poor social skills. I also know introverts who are extremely confident and have great social skills. Of course, the opposite can be true too. And confident people can have poor social skills.

          I doubt struggling to say “good morning” would have anything to do with introversion. More like either social anxiety, as you said or misanthropy or something.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            More like either social anxiety, as you said or misanthropy or something.

            Or a convenient straw-man exaggeration.

            1. Jackalope*

              There has been at least one letter to Alison from someone who didn’t like their coworker saying good morning to them every day and was trying to figure out how to get them to stop. So it’s not actually a straw man argument, although that example was more extreme perhaps than most commenters.

            2. Random Bystander*

              Good point. I am an extreme introvert (we had a professionally done MBTI event at work awhile back, and I scored so high on the I side of that particular element that it is not possible to score higher I). I do not have issues with making polite small talk (replying to a good morning or a “how was your weekend”–which generally only requires a good morning back or a “fine, thanks–how was yours?”).

              Introverts aren’t necessarily any more socially awkward or misanthropic than extroverts. (Well, all right, I will concede that a misanthropic extrovert would be a very miserable human.)

              1. GythaOgden*

                I’m a terribly extrovert introvert! I need serious time to myself and am a complete hermit at home, particularly since I was widowed (and it’s taken me a long time to realise that my time is now ALL my own, so I can afford to spend some of it doing social things with others). But outside the house I can actually be very chatty and enjoy human contact, and flourished in a career that I would never have thought would be a good job for me — customer service on a reception desk.

                When I go away with people I enjoy being with, and as long as I /can/ retire to my room in the evening and do my own stuff, I love the camaraderie that comes with it. I also enjoy solo travel. I’m a walking contradiction :).

                1. Cactus*

                  “Extroverted introvert” is not a thing. You might be somewhat in the middle of the spectrum. Or you might be an introvert who does well in social situations, but still needs lots of alone time to recharge. But that does not make you an “extroverted introvert.”

                2. Software Dev (she/her)*

                  Can’t reply to Cactus so just noting that extroverted introvert is a thing! If you like chatting with people, but find it exhausting, then you are still an introvert. I have a friend who likes to join all sorts of social activities and professional groups, but with the expectation that they are going to drain her and she would need to recharge. Whereas I despise social activities altogether. Whereas a friend of mine who is an extrovert would go a little crazy if left for a day or two without social activity because his batteries are running low.

                3. GythaOgden*

                  At Cactus — it’s a me thing. We’re all different and all have our quirks.

                  At Software Dev — +1

            3. GythaOgden*

              To be fair, though, the traffic on straw is not all one way. The anti-trip faction here has good points, and I share some of the scepticism towards them (since they’re not terribly common here in the UK other than the odd drinks/food party after work unless you’re fairly senior; my parents went on trips to various European cities as part of senior management junkets for my dad’s job).

              No joke, but I would hate the trip described in the OP. I’ve just this morning turned down a trip my mother was planning because it is with her loud and boisterous family and a kind of week-long house party with zero privacy. However, I’ve also been on several university study trips to Europe, with less privacy than ideal. They were optional to my degree (because obviously they had to be paid for separately) but were valuable experiences in their own right and totally enjoyable (and one was hilarious, but then we were all big kids at the time and had the energy to stay out later than I would do now!). They involved trips to government institutions and networking opportunities within the framework of academic work. On one, I had more facetime with my dissertation supervisor. I totally get not everyone likes them, wants to go on them or can afford them. But we’re deep in sandwiches territory when people start assuming their way of looking at it is the only way anyone else could possibly look at the situation.

              Some people do have more opportunity to go on these things (particularly if they create an updraft where people who have time and energy get more opportunities and hence generate time and energy for their own advancement) and some people do actually enjoy them. Don’t forget people here are all different and just because someone enjoys or can go on them or might get something out of them doesn’t mean everyone has to.

          2. RagingADHD*

            The label is also often misused by commenters here who attribute behavior consistent with extreme social anxiety to “introversion.”

        2. Hiring Mgr*

          I think people often use the colloquial meaning of those terms (similar to “hostile work environment”)

      2. MK*

        This isn’t about introversion. Of course people can say no, but they are often consequences, even unintentional ones, like not intergrating in your team as a new coworker.

        If you don’t want to be punished by a ban on your social events, be more aware of how you organize them. In this case, it was on the person organizing the celebration to consider that while 8 of the team are long-time friends and colleagues, there are two new coworkers, so a weekend spent at someone’s house that involves yoga is probably not the right choice.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          And a sleepover in a house… even for the most luxurious vacation house I doubt there are 10 bedrooms, so there will be doubling-up at minimum. What if someone is a snorer? Has night terrors? Needs a CPAP for sleep apnea?

          As an actual introvert – if I were a new employee I’d be stressed as hell all weekend, not being able to get away from being “on” around new coworkers and my manager, trying to make a good impression.

          1. LifeBeforeCorona*

            As an introvert who is frequently forced to be an extrovert for work, a weekend like this would leave me mentally and physically exhausted. Because it is new co-workers that I want to get to know the pressure is higher for the new people.

          2. pancakes*

            I would think anyone with a significant sleep-related condition would want to ask about the sleeping arrangements, yes. I don’t think people who know they would need more information about that need to be formally invited to ask. If someone has a condition that makes sharing a room feel impossibly awkward, I’d expect them to decline the invitation rather than accept it and spend the weekend “stressed as hell.” That would be a bit awkward for a new employee, yes, but so awkward as to be worth making yourself miserable? I would not do that to myself. I know some people would, but that’s a choice.

            1. RabbitRabbit*

              Considering tales of some people who’ve had to share hotel rooms with a colleague on a business trip, it’s possible that one of the *other* people may be the snorer/etc.!

              1. RabbitRabbit*

                Hit ‘submit’ too quickly:

                …but obviously that’s a lot harder to figure out from a conversation.

                Me, I tend to sleep awfully the first night or two in a hotel, whether traveling for business or pleasure, so this sounds like a nightmare to me. Sleep-deprived, unable to escape being around new colleagues…

                1. pancakes*

                  That makes a lot of sense, DataSci, but I think there’s a difference between sleeping poorly and sleeping in some way that would be embarrassing or distressing to reveal to coworkers. A number of people here seem to be talking about the latter.

          3. Richard Hershberger*

            It might have ten bedrooms. This is at the large end of vacation houses, but they certainly do exist. My extended family does (except for the past two years) a week every year at one of these. For years we did it at the Jersey shore, but land prices there are so crazy that the lot sizes are pretty small, resulting in an upper limit to the number of bedrooms. The family has outgrown those houses, so this year we are going a different route, with a house in the mountains. At that point things opened up and we had no problem finding a house large enough.

        2. bamcheeks*

          Clearcut extravert here, and I would a) hate this and b) not be able to organise childcare even if it was something I was really excited about.

          1. sofar*

            Yes, I hadn’t even thought of childcare. And even if you CAN get someone to watch your kids for a weekend (or you have a partner), weekends are big for families, as it’s the one time you can cram in bday parties, sport events, etc. How presumptuous of a company to take that away.

      3. justabot*

        How far is the vacation home? Is it possible to just go up for the day or for one night? I understand the hesitation, but since this is already happening, could it possibly be an opportunity to spend time with your new department and get to know these coworkers outside of work? I know that some people want no part of that, but if it is a very tight-knit group who enjoys spending time with each other, building those relationships in a less formal setting than the office might help, especially as the new person. It may even be fun? Or else just make an appearance for the daytime hours and skip the overnight. You might get the lay of the land in case there is ever a future invite, so you can at least stake it out and if it’s something you may enjoy doing. Obviously no one should have to do anything that makes them uncomfortable. If you go, I would not drink very much, or at all, as no one wants to be the “story” from the weekend at the manager’s vacation house.

        1. OP1*

          It’s about 3-4 hours away from where we work, depending on traffic. So I think if I go, I go. At this point I’m pretty much committed to going but I really want more information about the plans, and especially sleeping arrangements, but can’t even think about how to phrase my questions without sounding skeptical or hesitant, when everyone else is so excited.

          1. justabot*

            Gotcha! Hmm. Have any of the team members ever been there before where you could strike up a casual conversation about the weekend, instead of asking the host? Or asking if there’s anything you need to bring – since there are so many of you, do you need to bring any pillows or sleeping bags? I hope it’s an enjoyable time and not too stressful.

            1. quill*

              Yeah, if you focus on what you need to pack for it should not come off as skeptical.

          2. Jam on Toast*

            Ugh…3 to 4 hours there and back!?! That’s a whole work day’s worth of travel. When you add in that plus the yoga and the forced togetherness, I’d be nopety-noping this. What about saying something like “when you asked about my availability for the team building exercise, I was very excited to have a chance to get to know the new team better. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realized the event was going to take place over three days in Lamatown. I have family responsibilities that mean it’s just not possible for me to be away for that amount of time. Can we schedule a lunch get together next week/on Friday? I’d be happy to research the menus/make reservations/organize catering. That’ll give me and Newton a chance to get to know the team members better. Everyone’s been so welcoming.”

            1. quill*

              Yeah, in my opinion, 3-4 hours is too long of a drive for a 2 night stay. Especially if you have work the morning after you get back.

          3. Kaiko*

            Talk to the person whose house it is one-one-one! And say something like “just wanted to check in on the sleeping arrangements! is it an option to get a room to myself?”

          4. Annie*

            Try this idea. Pick a coworker you feel the most trust towards so far, and casually say “I’m excited but a little nervous for the weekend! Can’t wait to spend quality time with you guys – any tips for what to bring and what to expect?” Then follow up with a few natural questions like “What do you think the plans are going to be” etc.

            Most people will appreciate you admitting to a little nervousness but powering through it for their sake.

            1. pancakes*

              I think that phrasing conveys more certainty about definitely attending than advisable. If the letter writer wants to know the arrangements before committing to going, there’s no good reason to make a point of building up excitement and firm intentions to go.

          5. pancakes*

            Skepticism and hesitancy would be a matter of tone more than phrasing. Asking what the sleeping arrangements will be in a straightforward, not-pointedly-skeptical way seems very doable to me.

          6. Allonge*

            I would find it really strange if a newcomer did not have questions about an event like this. Ask away and of course also feel free to decline!

            1. pancakes*

              Why make it that obvious that you’re avoiding it rather than ask about the arrangements or say you’re busy? That’s all but guaranteed to make things needlessly awkward.

            2. Eukomos*

              That’s the kind of lie you have to keep track of later. Much easier to be honest in the first place.

          7. Rusty Shackelford*

            can’t even think about how to phrase my questions without sounding skeptical or hesitant

            Do I need to bring a sleeping bag or air mattress?
            Wow, all ten of us? She must have a huge house. Have you been there before? Do you know how big it is?

          8. Quinalla*

            Pick either your manager or someone who you are closest to on the team and just ask one on one, I’d say something like, “Oh, I’ve been meaning to ask, for the weekend trip do I need to bring anything besides clothes and toiletries? Does everyone get their own room? How about food and clean up? Is there an agenda or pretty informal? Since I’m new, I want to make sure I know what I need to do!” And I’d probably ask the first question and see what they say and move on from there. If you convey curiosity and interest in your tone, it would be really weird if anyone gave any pushback on this. They should be slapping their heads going, oh yeah, we should tell the new people all the plans of course, our bad!

            And if you don’t want to go, sounds like you are committed at this point, that conversation could be a good time to bring up concerns too.

          9. Esmeralda*

            Hi [name — pick the organizer or the friendliest person]! Could you tell me some more about the weekend work retreat? Is there an agenda? Oh, and also, what are the sleeping arrangements?”

            There ya go. Use that.

            You can then ask follow up questions as you converse with [name].

          10. Cascadia*

            You just ask! Your tone and the phrasing of your questions are the way that you show skepticism or hesitancy. Just asking “can you tell me what the sleeping arrangements are?” is not conveying skepticism or hesitancy and 99% of people won’t read it that way. I think because you are skeptical and hesitant you are assuming that that is automatically conveyed in your questions, but I promise it’s not! Also, give your co-worker a little more than 24 hours to respond. Especially if you asked a lot of questions – sometimes it takes more than 24 hours to get back to someone – especially with what might be viewed as non-urgent questions.

          11. bamcheeks*

            OP1, please remember everyone else who is excited has presumably done this before and knows what the sleeping arrangements are. You can genuinely be excited about this and still need to know what to pack–like, “do I need to bring bedding? what about my work laptop? is everyone dressing casually, er, sorry to be daft, but how casually? like, jeans and smartish tops, or sweats and vest? do you think people would appreciate it if I made some of my signature salted caramel brownies? actually, how are doing food– do I need to let anyone know about my dietary restrictions?”

            (Honestly, I am side-eyeing your colleagues that someone hasn’t taken you aside and given you all this kind of information. It’s WILD that it hasn’t occurred to anyone that you would need to know this stuff– the number of people who are easy-going enough to just rock up and figure out where they are sleeping later is pretty small!)

          12. weekend warrior princess xena*

            OP…this doesn’t sound like a good use of weekend time. That’s so far out. Activities you don’t enjoy. Questionable sleeping arrangements….I’d need to take a day of PTO following all that just to feel like I got some time to be “off”.

            I know you are still thinking on it…but if I were in your shoes, I would have a “conflict” arise and then just suggest if we all can do a day-time weekend event on another day (if you are even wanting to socialize with coworkers outside of the office) because I am “so bummed I missed out on that team bonding”. If you have a good feel on what the team likes to do, you can even get specific with your suggestion – Picnic followed by watching Shakespeare in the park, an escape room, a volunteer event digging out a community garden…etc.

          13. K-Sarah-Sarah*

            No one here can read your coworkers’ minds, of course, but asking questions to understand what’s going on for the event is totally normal. You’re new, right? I’d want to know if I should bring snacks, clothes/gear for specific activities, etc. I have anxiety, so I always ask plenty of questions to take away as much of the unknown as I can.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        This is really far removed from what OP is talking about here. There is a huge difference between staying at a random person’s house for a weekend verses not saying hello in the morning. Additionally, OP would not “adore” this and that is the scope of the problem here: what to do when one does not love this idea.

        Staying in a remote location with a bunch of people I barely know goes way out beyond “having basic people skills.” There are many, many other factors going on here. To narrow this down to a problem with introversion skips over the many other reasons why people would not want to go.

        In your example here, the solution would be to let the people go who want to go and then work to absolutely insure that people who do not go do not suffer any repercussions- such as lost work opportunities, alienation, exclusion and so on.

        1. SloanGhost*

          I think the commenter you are responding to is way off base and pretty rude, but to be fair I think they are specifically responding to Alison’s suggestion that employers stop planning events like this entirely rather than speaking directly to OP.

      5. JMA*

        As a social extrovert, this idea sounds terrible. The pressure to participate, especially with the power imbalance of joining an established team turns this from a fun invite to an obligation in all but name. My weekends are mine, and I have no qualms about using my words to get that point across. I’m just aware enough to know that others would view this opportunity for what it is, a massive waste of time.

      6. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        You are simultaneously saying people should “use their words” while demonstrating how people will be judged and demeaned for using their words. Judging people for not wanting to spend their entire weekend with people they just met and whose opinion could affect their careers is where extraversion crosses the line into intolerance and dismissiveness.

      7. springs2*

        That is absolutely not introversion. That’s social anxiety disorder. There is a huge difference between the two. Introverts can say good morning in the hallway or be asked how their weekend was without falling to pieces. Stop making the rest of us look bad.

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          It’s mental health awareness month and I would note people having social anxiety ( especially in the workplace where doing the wrong thing can have you destitute faster than you can blink) is not making anyone look bad

      8. Esmeralda*

        Well, that’s unnecessarily mean.

        OP is new. They are asking how to do it. Instead of putting them down for NOT KNOWING WHAT TO SAY, how about offering a suggestion about what to say?

        Plenty of people don’t know how to ask questions like this. It may seem obvious to you. It’s obvious to me — now that I’m a cranky oldster. When I was younger this was just the sort of thing I’d worry about. Fortunately people were nice to me and helped me learn.

      9. Nancy*

        This is not introversion. Introverts enjoy spending time with people.

        I have turned down plenty of work social events with no ill effects. A simple “sorry, I am unable to make it. Hope you have fun and look forward to hearing about it” works fine. I have also gone to others because they sounded fun and were. Vacation home sounds great to me, depending on the location.

        LW, just ask for more information. That’s not an odd thing to do. They know you’ve never gone before.

      10. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        It’s not just the introvert vs extrovert thing here. Its a whole weekend. Is it paid? If my boss expects me to show up for 2 days and nights I want paid. Also I have dogs, cats, and chickens. I need to be physically at my home daily to feed, water, let them in and out. The expense to board pets at the vet or have someone reliable come and care for them multiple times a day would probably outweigh what ever benefits I’d reap from a work retreat. Not to mention that living in a rural area, my days off are pretty much my only time to travel to the city for things like groceries. And that’s not even touching the whole am I going to have my own bed, have to share one, or sleep on the floor like a 3rd grader. OP has read the room as everyone else looking forward to this trip and is afraid that not showing enthusiasm might affect their job. That’s a legit fear.

        1. This sounds familiar. . .*

          Amen Esapee. I’d be willing to bet it isn’t paid. Just the expectation that “Who wouldn’t love spending 48 hours straight at work with absolutely no escape after having worked a 40+ hour week and with another 40+ hour week on the heels of it.” Pet care, child care, a gift for the host/hostess, cost of food, four hour car ride each way. No way. Introvert, extrovert or not, if I spend 48 hours straight with my sister and her dog I come home completely exhausted. This is ten people. Sounds like a weekend of endless, exhausting stimulation.

      11. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Damn introverts, having second thoughts about sharing a bedroom with their new manager of one month! How do they even work with others? Hahaha you can’t be serious.

        I personally think that work friends of a decade who want to enjoy a sleepover together, should arrange the sleepover amongst themselves, on their own time, and not frame it as a (seemingly) mandatory work activity that their new teammates also have to participate in, but maybe that’s just the extreme introvert in me.

      12. Nameless in Customer Service*

        Would your direct report suffer professional consequences for declining this invitation?

      13. Darsynia*

        I have to say that the multiple people framing this as a lack of adult skills or people skills is, quite frankly, offensive.

        I am an extravert, but I would be hard-pressed to look forward to what seems like a necessary-for-good-work-relations trip including things that aren’t work-related, including physical activities and sleeping arrangements. It’s absurd to act like someone who is capable of holding down a job and keeping a good work/life balance would be deficient in skills because they balk at this stuff.

        Very disappointed in some of the comments.

        1. pancakes*

          Would you be hard-pressed to ask what the sleeping arrangements and general plans for the weekend are, though? The comments about the normalcy of doing that and urging the letter writer to do that seem to be the ones you’re disappointed with. Many people are saying they wouldn’t look forward to going on a trip like this with their coworkers, or wouldn’t go themselves.

          1. Nameless in Customer Service*

            BritChikkaa, who started off this thread, said that they’d adore this kind of trip and compared people who wouldn’t to “such extreme introverts they struggle just to say good morning…,That’s really where introversion crosses over into just not having basic people skills.”

            I don’t think not wanting to attend an event like this should be castigated as “not having basic people skills.”

            1. pancakes*

              I totally agree with your last sentence, but I suppose I took that part of that comment as more of a general observation about commenters here vs. something directed at the letter writer, or at people who wouldn’t find it easy or particularly exciting to make arrangements for a weekend away with the work crowd. People who find it difficult to ask about what the sleeping arrangements are, that’s another matter. I wouldn’t go nearly so far as to call it a lack of people skills but I would say it seems inordinately hesitant, and for no apparent reason.

        2. Be kind, rewind*

          I wouldn’t like this event either, but I wouldn’t provide a blanket statement to “never do this”, either.

      14. Kate*

        You really went off in a direction this doesn’t relate to – OP did not say that they are upset about saying “good morning;” this is about likely being required to share bedrooms with a coworker.

    9. Random Bystander*

      The invitation isn’t just a “social invitation” it is an invitation to a *work-related* event, and it’s not a simple matter of “using one’s words” or using “adult skills” but navigating how to thread this work-social event without work repercussions. This isn’t just co-workers who have been together for some time extending an invitation to the new team members to join their event–this is a *work celebration* combined with a social activity (which to me sounds like it came from the eighth circle of hell). There’s no way to decline without risking major blowback on the job (especially for the LW, who is a newbie to the team), and that is why I wholeheartedly agree with Alison’s blanket “stop doing this” statement.

      Unfortunately, the LW doesn’t really have a good opt out (without risking those work repercussions), though maybe raising a few questions if plans aren’t too well-set might make a difference, but it honestly sounds like the whole thing is too far down the planning stage to change anything.

    10. Lacey*

      It’s not just social, because it’s your coworkers.

      You decline enough of these things and people say, “Oh Lacey doesn’t like us.” When they’ve decided you don’t like them it affects how they interact with you at work. They stop listening to your ideas or feedback.

      1. pancakes*

        Reasonable people wouldn’t say something like that. People who are unsophisticated and at ease about that certainly might. It’s going to depend on the people. I don’t think a blanket rule is necessary for people who aren’t developmentally stuck in high school.

        1. Lacey*

          You read this website. How many offices do you think are entirely populated by reasonable people?

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            You read this website. How many offices do you think are entirely populated by reasonable people?

            Doesn’t Alison have several self-employed readers?

            1. quill*

              Not to cast aspersions on the commentariat but I’d wager that we all switch off being the reasonable person depending on the subject…

          2. pancakes*

            Clearly not many! I also see a lot of letters from people who are unreasonably hesitant to express themselves, though. It is what it is, but some of us come away from this stuff feeling grateful that our own workplaces are relatively well-adjusted rather than thinking “oh yeah, that is just what my [manager / coworker / etc.] would do.”

            1. GythaOgden*

              Yup. I’ve been reading this site since mid-February and I’ve taken two things away from it — 1. How to think like a professional and 2. Geeze, I’m SO lucky to work where I do.

          3. Eukomos*

            LW describes their coworkers as lovely, friendly people who like each other though. Given that’s all the info we have to go on, might as well take them at their word and assume this office largely has reasonable people in it.

            1. pancakes*

              Yes – that is valuable context that a number of people seem to have overlooked.

        2. owen*

          the thing is, people don’t *say* this. They just conclude it and how they act towards you changes. A lot of the time it’s totally unconscious – which makes it harder to recognise for people. It absolutely happens, though.

      2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        I had a job once were people really side eyed me because at break time I read a novel as opposed to sitting and gossiping with them. Like it was actually stated to me, out loud, that I had othered myself by not joining in and got labeled as stuck up and not social because I liked to read. Now this job was a dumpster fire for vast other reasons but yes my job was affected by people who didn’t like me for not joining in on what they did.

        1. Very Social*

          Ha, I had a group of “friends” in middle school who iced me out for that exact reason…

    11. CB212*

      Yeah, if I assure you I’m free as a bird next weekend, that absolutely does not mean you can have the entire weekend, nor that I can leave town! It means I have flexibility on scheduling – Saturday afternoon! Sunday brunch! It doesn’t mean I have a cat sitter or frankly even that I’ll skip the greenmarket.

    12. Love to WFH*

      Overlapping social and work relationships can create problems. I’ve worked with people that I valued and trusted enormously as coworkers, but that I had no desire to be friends with. For example, a man who was a very conservative evangelical Christian. We did not discuss civil rights or religion at work, and got along great.

      If you become close friends outside of work with some coworkers and not others, it complicates things at work — especially in a small team, and where the group includes a manager.

    13. Lynca*

      So you can’t look at people doing “social” events through work as just purely social or entirely optional. Work has a lot of control over your life and these people can influence your success or failure at this job. This isn’t like a group of friends that formed outside of work.

      I’ve sometimes opted out of work social events. There’s always a cost associated with it whether it’s missing out on building relationships with other workers or losing opportunities related to work. It’s up to you as to whether it’s worth it. That can be hard to gauge when you’re new to the team and haven’t seen how they react to an invitation rejection.

    14. anonymous73*

      It’s not just a “social activity” if colleagues feel forced to go. I’ve had a lot of close friends that I’ve worked with…that doesn’t mean I want to spend a weekend with all of them in the same house.

      1. Aarti*

        I am very social and friendly and like people a lot. I work in a people facing environment. This sounds like hell.

    15. Career not a Job*

      I feel like a lot of people are just jumping to the worst possible scenario. My company does something like this – typically renting out a house or a small hotel for our group of 10-15. Everyone gets their own room, and there’s plenty of free time during the weekend to get away feom your collegues. But it is a greay bonding experience where we get together, have some fun activities, and become closer as a team. Not everyone is at a job they hate – some people actually like the people they work with. OP – I think if ypu approach this from a positive lens, you might find yourself having a great time and becoming one of those super close coworkers. At the end of the day, you have to identify whether this is just a job or whether this is a career path – careers typically involve relationship building the higher you go.

      And agreeing with people above, not going/or making some big declaration like this is the worst idea ever will not go well. And even the best employer will def hold this against you subconsciously.

      1. KRM*

        I loved my last job. And if you told me I had to take a weekend to spend in the woods with my colleagues, that would be a hard no for me, no matter the arrangements. I don’t want to give up a whole weekend in order to HAVE to spend time with work people in a setting far away from our town. I managed to become close with people at work without being forced to go away for an entire weekend, so it’s not like this is necessary in any way towards team building. For sure LW should not be barreling in screaming “HOW DARE YOU PLAN SOMETHING LIKE THIS I’M OUTRAGED THIS IS AN OUTRAGE”, because it seems like the older 8 team members have done things like this before. But part of being a team is realizing that when you hire new members, they may not be on board with things the Way You’ve Done Them Before, and you have to accept that and make changes!

        1. Kate*

          I’ve been in many workplaces I’ve enjoyed. As a full time single parent (yes, 100% full time) – arranging multi day and night child care to do this sort of thing is a Hard No.

          It’s not hard to arrange events during normal work hours! Companies should be aware that there should not be variable high or low barriers to participation in a work event.

    16. June*

      Just say no to Team Sleepovers. Way to overstep boundaries. The duty of an employee is to show up to work and do their job competently.

    17. Nanani*

      But it’s not an optional social invitiation – it’s a work thing with work people for work.
      Applying social rules of etiquette to work situations is the source of a LOT of problems discussed on this site. They don’t transfer smoothly!

      You’re not wrong to make the point about saying no, but the reality is WORK dynamics mean saying no is much harder than it is with friends.

  4. phira*

    LW 2: My best friend is a vet and I am just so sorry for all that you’re all dealing with. Vet medicine was already tough before the pandemic, but these days I know it’s been alarmingly worse. You’re doing the right thing by firing abusive clients, even if it’s hard. You and the rest of the staff at your clinic do not deserve to be treated this way.

    1. Artemesia*

      I am truly having trouble imagining lots of horrifying clients of a vet’s office. Assuming the vet has not harmed Twinkie — WTF? The dropping of social restraint in interactions has truly become alarming.

      1. AlliterativeApple*

        Yeah, it’s a real problem. There was an article in The Guardian about the stress and abuse vetinary practices are experiencing in the UK. A combination of pent-up stress from the pandemic, and an explosion in people getting new pets over lockdowns has contributed by the looks of it.

        (link to follow, or Google the article title “‘Relentless calls and constant abuse’: why Britain’s vets are in crisis”.)

        1. pancakes*

          I suspect that people never having had pets before is a big part of this. Some of the questions I’ve seen online from people new to the world of pets during the pandemic are wildly out of touch, just totally unrealistic about their own capacity to care for a creature for the rest of its life.

          1. SloanGhost*

            Unfortunately IME the behavior of our long-term clients worsened severely right along with the new people (both new clients and new pet owners).

      2. anonanna*

        My vet has signs posted that they will not tolerate abusive behavior from guests. I didn’t know it was a larger phenomenon!

      3. ArchivalGoat*

        Vets, in the US have the highest rate of suicide of any profession. It was bad before but now it’s become an epidemic.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I just did a quick google. Docs and Dentists are first on the list. Then police officers and #4 is vets. I did not realize vets were that high on the list. But I can see that the overwhelming amount of sadnesses they encounter during a day is probably a contributing factor.

          1. Bagpuss*

            I believe that it is more likely to be about the accessibility of drugs, and understanding of how they work. A doctor, dentist or vet who is suicidal is much more likely the means and the knowledge to put those feelings into action.

            I assume that police officers in the USA are high on the list as they routinely have access to firearms.
            Here, in the UK, Farmers are higher on the list than police officers, again, I suspect, as they are one of the few groups which are likely to have access to firearms.

            I am sure that levels of stress are relevant but from what I have read, it’s likely that access to effective means is more likely to be why those professions cluster at the top (and if you look at research into those who make non-lethal attempts then the details of those most at risk change significantly)

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Former veterinary assistant here: It’s an enormously stressful profession. I cannot overstate that. You’re expected to work miracles while charging people next to nothing because “it’s just a dog” or “you should do it out of the goodness of your heart, not for money!”. And people wildly underestimate how much pet care should cost so finding out that, yes, their failure to spay their dog now necessitates a $1,500+ pyometra surgery or that their expensive puppy has parvo is a nasty shock. The guilt-tripping is massive and never really lets up

            Worse, we really do wish we could do all that for free, but we still have to eat just like everyone else does. I loved the work but I never made a living wage or got benefits so I couldn’t stay in it.

            1. Butterfly Counter*

              Thanks for doing what you’re doing. At a recent vet visit, they gave me my total (it was an expensive day) and I could see everyone visibly relax when I just said, “Okay,” and pulled out my credit card.

              From what I’ve seen personally is that when there’s a special vet clinic in the area where vets and others volunteer their time and expertise to do mass spays/neuters for a small fee (like $75), the people think THAT is the actual cost of vet care, not realizing it pays for the bare minimum of supplies and that everything else is being done for free and a lot is being donated.

              But people! There is vet insurance! I think when I get another dog, it will be something I invest in. Once puppies turn into little old men/women, they get expensive and the insurance goes a long way to offset those golden year vet bills.

              1. leaf*

                My vet insurance has been a lifesaver with my now 15-year-old cat. Nationwide pays 75% of my vet bills after I hit my copay, so I can afford her surgery and dental and whatever else she needs.

                1. pancakes*

                  It was pretty useless with our dog because it turned out his most expensive problems were allergy related and therefore an uncovered preexisting condition, so we didn’t get it for the cat. If we get another pet I’ll look at the options again because that was a while ago.

              2. Dust Bunny*

                Yeah, this is why I like but also kind of side-eye those TV shows with the volunteer clinics: It’s not free. The client isn’t paying for [some of] it, yes, but it’s not free. The receipts they give should itemize the full cost and then have the “covered by donation” amount at the bottom. Like, a spay is open abdominal surgery. There is no way that only costs $50.

      4. Lacey*

        Oh it does not surprise me. I haven’t yelled at my vet, but I’ve sure wanted to.

        They took on way more clients than they can handle and they stopped having anyone answer their phones (you leave a message and they may or may not call you back) .

        If you have an appointment, you arrive, leave a message and then wait for them to maybe see it. But usually, you spend 2 hours in the car with your dog before someone calls you and tells you that since you didn’t call you’ve missed your appointment.

        If my vet hasn’t had clients absolutely lose it with them, it’s only because every other vet is booked solid and we all know we can’t switch.

        1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

          I understand that’s frustrating, I did the wait in the car thing too. However, instead of just yelling at someone, couldn’t you have knocked on the door, or stopped one of the techs coming out to get pets and ask about the status of your appointment? Has anyone voiced that this is a reoccuring issue directly to the owner of the practice, and not in an aggressive way? (I’m not a vet, but if someone is cussing me out, yelling and being dramatic, I am not likely going to believe what they are telling me is a valid experience for all.)

        2. SloanGhost*

          Coming from vet med in reception/admin, we hate crappy clinics almost as much as the clients do–we often end up cleaning up their mess, having to soothe the feelings of an understandably upset new client (as well as build trust with someone who is currently feeling pretty untrusting), and they’re HELL to get medical records from. Worst of all, of course, is seeing an animal that it’s now too late to save due to another clinic’s negligence.

          But it’s weird to assume that all clinics who have noticed this change are running like yours. I promise you, this has been across the board.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          Unless this is the only vet in town–in which case it’s hardly surprising that it’s overwhelmed–you could go elsewhere.

          Also, it’s just like the doctor’s office–people make an appointment for one thing and then spring four more complaints on the vet once they get into the office, so visits take longer than ever. I have a cat who has to be sedated to be examined and, since she doesn’t have any serious complaints, I just send in a written sheet of all her updates (“Eating and drinking fine, Eliminations normal; doing fine on RX food,” etc.) so the vet doesn’t have to call and ask me that.

        4. Nameless in Customer Service*

          I applaud your restraint, but I doubt that every client who yells and screams and curses at the vet staff has quite such impeccable reasons as you do.

        5. TangerineRose*

          That sounds terribly frustrating. My veterinarian office isn’t like that at all. They sometimes put me on hold when I call, but not for very long. Is there some better vet office near you? Do you know other pet owners who could give you recommendations?

      5. Yikez*

        The logic goes something like “I am paying the vet, therefore I am a customer, therefore I can behave however I want.” Decades of “the customer is always right” have ruined too many people. In my dream world, every customer facing person should be allowed to say “No, and go f*** yourself.”

      6. Isabelle*

        It is terrible and part of the reason vets have such a high rate of suicide.

        1. SixTigers*

          There were a series of interviews on WeRateDogs a few months ago, in which vets were talking about the stresses they encounter in their jobs.

          One nice fella went into a little detail about the extreme swings from one exam room to the next, and the toll it takes on him — in Room A is a nice little puppy who just arrived and Mom and Kid are just delighted; in Room B is an elderly cat whose kidney issues have ballooned and the elderly owner is distraught; in Room C is a dog with a rapidly growing tumor but the owners’ finances can’t handle the cost of an operation; in Room D is an obese cat whose owners “explain” in baby-talk why they won’t cut back on its food —

          This is what they experience all day, every day. It’s an incredibly rough road to walk.

      7. Worked in IT forever*

        I live in Canada, and several months ago, our vet clinic sent a blanket email to clients saying that abuse of clinic staff wouldn’t be tolerated. I was surprised and saddened that they had to tell people to behave. I think they also have a sign on their window about this.

        The letter said that several clients got upset because they couldn’t get immediate appointments because the clinic was already fully booked, and they took out those feelings on the staff. The letter mentioned that the whole profession was going through unprecedented staff shortages, and on top of that, the pandemic had resulted in a huge increase in new pets. They were asking clients to be patient with staff.

      8. Office Lobster DJ*

        Also worth a Google on this topic is the org “Not One More Vet.”

        Abusive clients play a role, but the nature of the work itself is also a factor. Imagine a day filled with sick and suffering animals, euthanasia, having to tell distraught clients that there’s nothing you can do for their beloved pet unless they can figure out how to pay, etc, THEN add abusive customers on top. It’s a real, devastating problem.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I very clearly remember a woman who came in with a sick puppy. It tested positive for parvo, which is expensive and tedious to treat and not at all guaranteed to end well (it’s a virus but think of it as cholera–highly contagious and extremely debilitating).

          Apart form having bought an expensive puppy from a shady “breeder”, she had:
          1) No bank account.
          2) No credit cards.
          3) No job of her own, and her husband had only just started working again after being out of work for awhile, so they had no cash.
          4) They were new in town and didn’t know anyone they thought they could call for a loan.

          She very clearly just expected us to pay it for her, because obviously we loved animals and she didn’t have any resources or a plan, so . . .

          I think she finally did think of somebody to call to at least get a first payment, and we did a payment plan with her (no idea of she honored it or not. That’s a whole other story), but people who get pets they can’t actually afford with absolutely no thought how they’ll care for them are incredibly common.

          But your vet doesn’t get tax money the way a human public ER does. All of this comes out of the someone’s wages. There’s no backup when clients don’t or can’t pay.

      9. Lady Blerd*

        I believe that part if the issue could be the fact that people are paying out of pocket with the vet service. People have a heightened sense of entitlement when they slap their debit or credit card on the table and they forget that pets are living creatures with issues that can take time to figure out, not a car with a faulty transmission that can be easily fixed.

      10. RagingADHD*

        I haven’t seen people behaving badly firsthand, but the way the vet staff respond to me when I’m just a normal level of warm and pleasant is very revealing. A smile, please and thank you, have a nice day…

        They look like they’re going to cry with relief sometimes.

      11. yala*

        The nightmare stories my cousin tells me. Lots of people who are stressed, lots of people who regard their pet as an object and are shocked and angered at the cost of things, lots of people who ignore everything a vet says, and then show up furious when their dog is sick because they did exactly what the vet said not to do, etc…

    2. Hotdog not dog*

      This breaks my heart. I love my vet, and the staff in her office are awesome! What reason could there possibly be to mistreat people who are helping your pet? While it’s true that Best Good Dog isn’t always happy to be there, that’s no reason for bad behavior on my part. (And since Best Good Dog’s cooperation can be bought with cookies, even his resistance is minor.)
      I hope people settle down and start treating your friend’s practice better.

      1. Bagpuss*

        It is shocking. I think it is probably to do with the fat that people are in an already stressful situation (their pet which they care about, is sick or injured) and they are facing high costs. Add to that that a lot of vets are very busy and so there is often the stress of waiting / not getting answers straight away.

        I am not sure if it’s the same in the US, here (UK) more and more vets are part of big groups or franchises so I think that the individuals tend to have less discretion to depart from the policies / requirements for upselling etc., and being part of larger groups it can be that you are less likely to see the same person or build up a personal relationship with them.

        I’ve never yelled at my vet or any of their staff members but I have been very frustrated by issues of poor internal communication and understaffing.

      2. metadata minion*

        People get *extremely* defensive when told that they’re doing something that might harm their pet, even if they’ve specifically gone to a pet expert to learn why their pet is sick.

        1. pancakes*

          How many people are so inept as to be unknowingly mistreating their own pets, though? I don’t think I want to know the details on that, yikes.

          1. Esmeralda*

            Feeding the cat food that it’s allergic to, because you didn’t know the cat had allergies, or you checked the ingredient list and missed the allergen in the list.

            1. pancakes*

              Anyone could do that. Being irate with the vet about it is not something just anyone could or would do because that would be childishly impulsive and extremely unhelpful.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                You are giving people way too much credit. People knowingly mistreat their pets all the time – overfeeding, not training, cruel training, leaving dogs outside in the winter, all sorts of things. And don’t even get me started on people who try to get predator and prey pets to play together…

                1. Hillary*

                  This morning my town picked up a dog who’d been left tied to a bridge (per someone else’s fb comment). They’ll keep the dog for a couple days, then when it goes unclaimed it’s off to the humane society (which here will mean adoption as soon as they get it vaccinated and neutered, and confirm it’s not dangerous). The local cops run the lost animal hold, which means someone will have some serious explaining to do if they try to claim the dog.

                  My town’s facebook page is about 40% lost pets looking for their owners.

              2. Esmeralda*

                Rght, that’s my point. You asked how people could unknowingly mistreat their pets. That’s an example.

                Of course getting angry at the vet because of it is unreasonable. But I took your question as “how could people unknowingly mistreat”

                1. pancakes*

                  I meant in the context of people who behave badly in vets’ offices, not in general. The comment I was replying to was about defensiveness, and the comment that person was replying to was about how ridiculous it is to lash out at someone who is helping treat your pet.

            2. tinybutfierce*

              Way, WAY too many people, because they simply don’t think before they do something, and assume something that’s okay for humans must be okay for animals. My roommate’s cat had a respiratory illness that lasted several months before she took him to the vet to actually get it treated; I later found out, in the interim, she put an essential oil diffuser with peppermint oil directly near his food and water dish, because she assumed it would help his breathing since it helps humans. Cats are especially sensitive to essential oils and peppermint oil is VERY toxic to cats. Her cat now permanently has what’s essentially cat asthma as a result of this and the vet told her she’s incredibly lucky that’s all that happened.

              1. pancakes*

                Yikes, that poor cat! I have never lived with someone who was careless with pets that way and that would be horrible to be around. Likewise people who think essential oils are the solution to all medical problems.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Lots. Lots of them. Using cheap but potentially harmful flea meds. Treating mange with motor oil. Guessing at symptoms and dosing them with human medications. Using dog meds on cats. Trying to make their cats vegan. Avoiding legitimate medical treatments because they want to be “natural”. Even “smart” people–we once had a dermatologist treat his ailing dog with an antibiotic because he thought it might have an infection. Turns out it had kidney failure and he’d been giving it gentamicin, which you should not give to a kidney patient. But diagnostic bloodwork is just padding the bill, right?

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              TRYING TO MAKE THEIR CATS VEGAN oh that’s the one that really gets under my skin.

              1. Galadriel's Garden*

                Oh man…I have a friend who’s vegan, along with her gf. They each have a cat, and gf was apparently contemplating how to get their cats onto a vegan diet. I may have gotten heated at the mere concept of it, and angrily exclaimed, “If she wanted a vegan pet then she should have gotten guinea pigs!!” Seriously – cats are obligate carnivores. Making them vegan is literal animal cruelty.

          3. metadata minion*

            Because a depressing number of people don’t realize how much work pet ownership actually is. And especially once you get outside of the standard cat and dog range of pets, finding accurate, comprehensive information requires quite a lot of research. Even if you get someone who’s conscientious and generally knows what they’re doing, you can run into things like “oh, this would normally have been a good thing to be doing, but it turns out your pet has kidney disease and so your healthy high-protein diet has been making them sicker for months”. And even though it’s not actually anyone’s fault, it’s pretty human to feel really guilty in that situation and in a fair number of people guilt is going to come out as anger.

        2. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yep. Pet groups are some of the worst places on the internet, and this is one of the reasons. I would not sign up for my entire life to be a pet group. I try to be incredibly gracious with our vets, even if I’m frustrated/overwhelmed with the situation or the cost. I appreciate them so much.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        Money. People want hospital-grade treatment for Chihuahua-sized prices. Everyone wants you to diagnose I guess by laying-on of hands? Definitely not by running bloodwork or taking x-rays that might cost more.

        1. Banana Pancakes*

          Having a pair of rabbits has cost us a fortune even in comparison to what my partner and I anticipated as people with prior rabbit experience. But we love them and we want them to be happy and healthy, so we make it work however we have to. That’s what you agree to when you take on pet ownership.

          I have so much love and respect for the people who make that possible by doing a job I could never do.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            I have a [free] cat who has a series of manageable but chronic health concerns so it’s (mercifully inexpensive, so far) medications, expensive prescription food, occasional bloodwork. Plus, one of her health issues will probably lead to diabetes so that’s always in the back of my mind.

            I’m still hoping she lives to be like 25.

    3. LifeBeforeCorona*

      A family member is a vet tech and they always had a zero tolerance policy for bad people behaviour, not for bad dogs because the dogs can’t help it. The pandemic really brought out the worst in some, especially the impulse pet owners who are know realizing the long term costs of pet ownership. Almost everyone at their clinic has a pet that was simply abandoned there because the owners refused to pay their bills.

    4. Covered in Bees*

      I’ve heard about this from other vets and it’s shocking. While it’s not good, I could understand people facing the death or serious emergency health issues taking their anxiety out on the vet and their office. They shouldn’t do that either, but I can see it happening. However, I’ve heard that it’s owners in run of the mill situations. People are the worst.

      1. pancakes*

        We had to euthanize our cat a few weeks ago after her health took a sudden and sharp turn (advanced lymphoma) and I can’t quite understand people taking their anxiety out on the very same people they urgently need compassionate help from, no. That’s a wild lack of impulse control and self-preservation, to alienate or infuriate the people you need to rely on. I mean, I know it happens, but I don’t quite understand how it is that people who know they can’t get a grip on their own behavior don’t take even basic steps to insulate themselves from the worst of it – learn about anger management, or even just bring a friend to the appointment in the meantime to do all the talking.

        1. All the words*

          I’m sorry about your cat.

          And I’ve been there too and agree. If my pet is sick or injured I need the vet’s help. My pet needs their help. Abusing them just seems stupidly counter productive.

        2. PeanutButter*

          I’m so sorry to your loss. This February I lost one of the bonded senior pair I adopted last year to lymphoma too. (Also sudden, he had diabetes when I adopted him and his brother, and looking back on our year together there were signs…but they were all attributable to the diabetes as well.)

          1. pancakes*

            Thank you, and I’m sorry for yours. It’s extra tough to lose one of a bonded pair. In hindsight there were signs in our kitty a couple months before then, but they were masked by an unrelated minor issue. We didn’t see our usual vet, we went to the emergency 24-hour vet due to the timing, but our usual vet sent a sympathy card signed by everyone at the front desk a few weeks later, and the emergency vet people were as kind as can be. It is sad to read about people giving their vets a hard time during what is already often a hard time.

            1. Jzilbeck*

              I also had a bonded pair of kitties I adopted, one of them had to be put down just before the start of covid (was fine one day but went downhill fast in about 10 days). My regular vet had sent us to the emergency vet (where kitty sadly ultimately passed) but she was so kind, and personally followed up with me a few days later. Both offices sent our family sympathy cards. They are wonderful people who truly care about our furry children, and I can’t fathom for the life of me why anyone would find it acceptable to verbally abuse even one of them. Seems like everyone is on extra edge these days….doesn’t mean it’s okay to take it out on others.

      2. Clorinda*

        It’s probably not the people facing real emergencies. People facing real emergencies are unlikely to be truly abusive–even if they’re not behaving their best, everyone knows why. The people who behave badly enough to be fired by their vets are much more likely to be the-customer-is-always right types who tend to treat professionals like low-value servants.
        If they need to come back because they have “an emergency,” I’d just refer them to the nearest emergency vet service and never let them darken the door again.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          This. People whose pets are in genuine dire distress are usually so freaked out they just want you to fix it. It’s the entitled ones who are the problem.

        2. ThatGirl*

          yes, it’s the general sense of entitlement that their problem is the Most Important Problem and that they should be catered to above all else. Same thing nearly anyone who’s public-facing sees, unfortunately.

          Our vet was wonderful through the end with our dog, spent so much time answering my emails and talking through options on the phone and I was so grateful I sent the whole staff cookies at one point.

        3. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yeah we had a scary string of vet visits when my dog passed in the fall, and I’m sure we weren’t ideal patients. We were confused, scared, we were getting massive quotes for her care, we were facing horrible choices. But everyone we dealt with KNEW that, and all the doctors were incredibly kind and patient with us and I don’t have the clearest memory of the time but I don’t *think* we ever got angry with them. Impatient, at worst, but we tried not to. But the behavior I hear about from vets that they fire clients over is much more severe and in much less serious situations.

        4. TangerineRose*

          That makes sense. I’ve had to deal with some sad stuff with kitties (basically they just don’t live forever, and sometimes a kitty has health issues), and I have burst into tears at least a few times at the vet’s office, but I’ve never been mean to the vets or other people who work there. I don’t really understand the mindset of people who would be mean. The last time I started thinking the vet wasn’t doing a good job, I asked around and found a new vet to take my kitties to. I wasn’t mean aboutit.

    5. LilyP*

      +1 to doing the right thing here. Thank you for backing up your staff and helping ensure they don’t have to put up with repeated abuse.

    6. Kwsni*

      I am a vet tech in an emergency hospital in a fairly affluent area of Virginia, and i have been screamed at, threatened, shoved, had a clipboard thrown at my head, and had someone try to close her car window on my arm. Please fire your abusive clients, and tell them they are not allowed back.

      1. pancakes*

        Yikes!! That is horrible. Wishing you a lot less ridiculous nonsense in the future.

  5. Jessica Fletcher*

    2, sometimes human doctors have to dismiss abusive patients. You might try searching online for a letter template. If they often call back, it might be worth preemptively sending a letter confirming the end of the patient relationship and listing several other area vets.

    1. Jay*

      I’m a doc for humans. We’re required (at least by ethics) to send a letter formally dismissing the patient from our practice. We then have to provide care for 30 days to give them a chance to find another doctor. When I had an office, we sent those letters certified mail, receipt requested. I’ve only dismissed three patients from my practice, all for threatening my staff.

      1. TangerineRose*

        I think a letter sounds like a good idea because it will give the person a chance to absorb the information on their own. Telling them on the phone or in person makes it really easy for an abusive customer to act abusively.

    2. HannahS*

      Yeah, I’d agree with sending a letter after the fact. The last thing you want is for them to come back with their pet in an emergency, expecting to be seen. We send discharge letters (or emails) as a matter of course, not just if someone is abusive.

      When people get abusive/threatening/violent with me, I first prioritize my own safety, which often means that I try to have someone with me. Is there a counter between staff and pet owner? Are they on the phone? Can they be cornered? Things to consider.

      We stay calm and just repeat, “I’m sorry, we don’t prescribe [drug] here.” “I’m sorry, we aren’t able to do that.” “That kind of language isn’t allowed in our clinic and I’m ending this call”

      1. Cj*

        It’s interesting that you mention for not prescribing a particular drug. Our vet clinic quit taking emergency calls 8:00, and will refer you to clinic that is an hour away. The reason is this they had people come in supposedly with any emergency pet issue, the robbed the clinic of controlled substances because only the one vet was there.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        A vet clinic that makes a plan, needs a plan for when a the abusive patient comes back with their pet in an emergency. Will the clinic refuse to see the pet because of the human? My concern is that the human will count on the vet caving and seeing the pet so they choose to ignore they have been fired as a patient.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          The places I worked could have sent the client to the next place down the road since we were in a suburban area with literally dozens of vets around. If we had been the only game in town, yes, we would have seen the pet in an emergency but the vet would have taken a hard line with the client’s behavior and, depending on the nature of the fireable offense, possible insisted on payment in full at the time of treatment (we did time payments. Not all vets do that since you risk the client stopping checks or disputing charges. Most emergency vets don’t do it at all).

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Absolutely send a letter. They’ll just pretend they didn’t know if you don’t.

    4. Susan*

      Definitely recommend sending a form termination letter after these incidents. 1) You are dealing with this at a distance, and in writing, where people have the opportunity to reflect before responding. (And very few will respond.) 2) You are dealing with it immediately after the fact when memories are fresh. 3) You are not “springing” it on people when they are dealing with a new health crisis for their pet. If you wait for the follow up phone call, you are just generating more stress and trauma for your staff. Stress and trauma that could be avoided by a few dollars in postage.

  6. aleth*

    ugh, #5 is reminding me of the awful christmas two years ago when I was getting a divorce, was barely making it paycheck to paycheck, and i had a new job at a place where they closed for the whole week between christmas and new year’s. i begged my boss for any way around it — i didn’t have any leave. was exempt but didn’t know the law then. he said there was nothing they could do about it so i lived on credit cards for a week. was not a merry christmas.

    1. aleth*

      re reading my comment i’m catching that they absolutely could dock my paycheck since it was for the whole week.

      1. Xanna*

        Cheers to you, that you’re through that Christmas – wishing you many, many more merrier ones in years to come :)

    2. Pam Adams*

      My state university closes between Christmas and New Yeara. However, our contract requires that new hires or those without sufficient vacation time must be given the opportunity to earn comp time to cover the days. We also use some of the less popular state/federal holidays to cover several of the days.

      1. JustMe, The OG*

        Same. They’re also allowed to work the days that would be vacation days if their supervisor agrees and it’s possible for their job.

      2. Asenath*

        Yeah. I also worked in a similar setting which was slow over Christmas/New Years – but we all got an extra paid vacation day AND those of us in positions where coverage was not essential could choose to use one or more of our vacation days so we didn’t work at all between Christmas and the day after New Years. Aside from building maintenance, security, and a few offices that dealt with the general public, the required day off was paid, and the others were optional.

      3. RabbitRabbit*

        I had a similar situation but without the week closure – (a while ago) I was hired on at my current employer during the month of October, and new employees earn PTO hours at a slower rate for the first 6 months, so I had barely anything saved up then had to burn a day for Thanksgiving, with Christmas and New Year’s around the corner. I ended up coming in on days that were informal closures, like the Friday after Thanksgiving and I think the day after Christmas, with barely anyone in the building. (These days I would be hitting our PTO cap except that they raised the amount by 50% that you can accrue, until the start of 2023. I work at a hospital so taking time off can be hard right now.)

      4. NotRealAnonForThis*

        A million years ago when I worked in a non-academic support arm of a big state U, we had “season days”. Everyone got them. We were paid and it did not count against our sick time, PTO bucket, or any of the other buckets that an employee might have depending on how long they’d been employed.

        It was fantastic as a first year employee who qualified for exactly zero PTO.

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          “Season days” were specifically the non-weekend days between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. I want to say there four max. because no matter what day those two days fell on, there was a maximum of four days between them that were “work week”.

          I honestly don’t remember if we were open on the day after Thanksgiving or not, if we were paid, or needed to take PTO.

    3. Lacey*

      Oh that’s wretched. My old employer did that, but there was one year where I really needed to work that week and they let me just come in and catch up on our backlog. I’m sorry yours didn’t come up with a similar solution

  7. Abogado Avocado*

    #2: It is difficult, but necessary, to fire bad clients when you have a small business. Life is short and jerk clients only make it shorter. This is not to say you won’t feel bad when you’re telling these clients that they have to find another veterinarian, but I am saying it’s much better for you and your co-workers’ mental health to get rid of bad clients if you can afford to do so. And, really, your work in a veterinary practice is very important, so I hope you will feel justified in telling bad clients that you cannot accommodate them.

    When I ran a solo law practice, I learned that ridding my practice of bad clients was important if I wanted to serve those who really needed my help (as opposed to those whose life work was to argue over every jot and tittle). I didn’t specify why I was not able to accommodate the client in the future. (The first time I fired a client, I did specify — and it led to an argument. Lesson learned.) What I would say was: “We’re not able to accommodate you. You’ll need to find another [type of service provider].” If the client asked why, I would just repeat, “We are unable to accommodate you. I would urge you to seek another [fill in type of service].” If they asked for a referral, I would say it was up to them.

    I hope this is useful. As a person who lives with cat companions, I very much appreciate the work that veterinary practices engage in. Thank you for all you do!

  8. voyager1*

    LW4: Not sure I agree with AAM. The “not work out” could be just be about the popper toy. I would. just keep up with your manager and keep getting feedback on how you are doing.

    The owner not allowed to hire is interesting. The last person in your job lasting a few weeks is probably the biggest red flag of all of this to me.

    Just keep doing a good job. Don’t overthink it.

    1. BubbleTea*

      I can see a scenario where “I’m not sure this is going to work out” would be intended, and received, as a joke by both people in the conversation – there could be context like a previous in-person conversation about how the manager recognises she has a low tolerance for noise or something.

      I’ve made joking comments to my mum or my friend about having lost my baby (as in physically misplaced, can’t find him) which would look really concerning just written down, but the context is that my house is absolutely tiny and there’s no way I could lose him in it, so I know they realise it is a joke. Someone just reading it wouldn’t necessarily realise that though.

      1. L-squared*

        I said something similar. Its totally a thing where I’ve started a conversation at the office in person, than someone came by I didn’t want to hear and finished it on slack. On its own, it is missing context that she isn’t seeing as just a part of a conversation.

    2. GythaOgden*

      Yup. As someone who fidgets with everything (including breaking a footstool at work by constantly clicking it up and down), a popper toy sounds like it would be incredibly irritating for others. I got some smart putty after a thread here recommended it and it’s awesome. It doesn’t seem terribly off to vent to someone about an annoying thing that you know doesn’t rise to a disciplinary level — I’ve given off to my colleague about mask misuse but had no standing to actually tell the people involved they need to wear one. If I were the OP, I’d try to find a fidget toy that doesn’t make noise, and see whether that eases the tension.

      As for sending frustrated texts, my husband did that to his boss once and it did not go down well. He was not fired over it but it shocked him into finding therapy to manage his frustration with work and life in general. So there’s a high possibility that the other person is equally mortified by this.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        It’s definitely not great that the manager isn’t talking to OP if they have any issues, but yes OP I don’t know how you could not assume a popper fidget is very obviously going to be annoying to everyone around you. I don’t even use mine around my husband, though he would never complain about it. There are many, many quieter fidget options available for use in public places.

        The “this isn’t going to work out” message would certainly concern me, but if literally the only other context in that message was about the fidgeting I agree it’s possibly a joke though an odd one to make. I also wouldn’t call any of this “passive aggressive” unless you think your manager meant for you to see those messages which seems unlikely.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I’m not sure if “passive aggressive” is the right term, but there’s something… underhanded? off? about complaining to someone else about your *direct report’s on-the-job behavior* but not telling the person themselves. The manager doesn’t seem comfortable addressing even the most minor of issues, which is a red flag for me.

      2. DataSci*

        Yes, I’d definitely see whether there’s another fidget that works for you that is silent, or at least quieter. My kid has ADHD and has “can use a fidget in class” written into his IEP, but it needs to be one that doesn’t disrupt others. They sell mixed packs of a whole bunch of options so you can try a lot and hopefully find another that works.

        1. Kate*

          Yes, this is soooo important. I have ADHD, so does my kid. That doesn’t mean that our behaviors can be disruptive to others!

          For example, my kid can’t study in study hall; the room is too distracting and noisy with people talking in small groups. Kiddo was getting the evil eye from two teachers for “not studying during study hall” and instead playing chess. Well, we worked it out so that he’s allowed to “not study” in study hall as long as his behavior isn’t disruptive and as long as his homework is turned in on time.

          Playing chess or chatting with another person about music – done quietly? Totally fine.

          Likewise fidget toys – love them, use them. If they click or make a noise they’re not ok because that affects other people.

      3. Crimson*

        It totally depends on the toy. Some of them are silent, some pop pretty loudly.

      4. omiya*

        Yep, as someone with ADHD, I can equally recognize the need to fidget with something to focus AND the need to not hear someone’s noisy fidget toy. Once I hear an annoying sound, it’s like it becomes louder and louder until I can’t focus on anything else.

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      I also wonder if the reason that it was never brought up the following week is just that the OP had presumably stopped doing it after seeing the message, and it didn’t feel worth it to the manager to bring up that one annoying thing OP did for a day or two if they’re otherwise doing a good job. Could be a red flag/passive aggressive, or it could just be the manager thinking it was a one-off or something better addressed in the moment if it happens again.

      1. ecnaseener*

        It wasn’t a day or two, it was at least a week based on the facts of the letter. More than enough time to conclude “this is an every-day thing and if I want them to stop I’ll need to use my words.”

      2. Crimson*

        But if you’re telling someone else you do if it’s going to work out you’re way past the point when you needed to give feedback.

    4. ticktick*

      I was thinking that too – or that the person the manager was talking to told them they were being ridiculous and that it was normal for people to use tools to aid concentration, so the manager realized that they were overreacting and that it wasn’t really a thing that needed to be addressed.

      1. Commenter*

        Yeah I wonder if the email was ‘they does this annoying thing, I hate it’ and the response was ‘doesn’t seem like a big deal, don’t mention it and let them do their thing’!

    5. EMP*

      I also wonder if LW4’s boss doesn’t know how to bring it up because if they assume it’s a protected/ADA/medical thing, they may feel like they can’t address it without legal repercussions. It sounds like there are other red flags but I would switch the toy to a quiet one (I have a fidget cube, do recommend) and see how the job goes.

      You could also address it obliquely with your boss – “I noticed my fidget toy may have been annoying some of my coworkers. I’ve switched it out for a quiet one.”

      1. cubone*

        “Didn’t know how to bring it up because of ADA but felt fine complaining about it secretly to others” would almost be worse in my mind..

        1. Crimson*

          Exactly. And if it’s the kind of popper that makes noise and people that’s not a reasonable accommodation. I also wouldn’t want someone trying to diagnose me so that they could figure out if the ADA applied.

    6. Chapeau*

      My boss, who is the “owner” of our office (elected official) is not allowed to offer anyone a job without at least two of us having also interviewed them. We would prefer if boss doesn’t even mention that our office is looking for staff, as boss is a typical elected official who has trouble potentially offending a voter. Boss’s last two hires were beyond awful, and while one left on their own, the other one’s spouse is a personal friend and the awkward (for boss) means we are stuck with a well below substandard employee who cannot be trained or let go. We’ve been trying to get them to leave on their own for another job for a couple of years, but it’s not working. Boss acknowledges the absolute awfulness of both hires and openly talks about not being allowed to hire without the people who will actually have to train, manage, and work with the new hire being onboard with the decision.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      I heard a big old record scratch in my head when I got to the owner not being allowed to hire sentence. What is going on there? Owners may or may not be doing the hiring, but “not allowed” is very strange wording.

      Maybe they’re advancing wildly unsuitable candidates—”I met this random person in the subway and they’d be perfect for the capybara cuddling job!”—and HR put their foot down. I wonder if this is why the last person didn’t stick around.

      1. Crimson*

        To be fair if I met someone on the subway who was going to pay me to cuddle a capybara I’d be selling myself hard for that role…

    8. SofiaDeo*

      I will agree with this. 3 weeks in to a new job, you are still being evaluated. The “not going to work out” could reference the toy, or it could actually be you. To which I will relate, I had a comment along these lines from another manager where I worked. An employee who had been in my department was now in his, and after a month he thought she wouldn’t work out. She was really awesome, just happened to be outside the “norm” in learning new job duties. But once she understood and “got” them, she was darn near close to 100% in doing them plus had a great work ethic. She was an ideal staff person who simply took longer than average to train. A few months later, he was raving to me about her.

      And FWIW, when I have had awesome people with initially annoying quirks, their awesomeness made the annoyance not so annoying once I got used to it. So just continue to do your best, using the tools and methods that work best for you.

      I would note that the previous person only was there a few weeks, and keep my eyes open. It could be a red flag, or it could be that the company doesn’t tolerate really awful behavior. As opposed to allowing toxic slagger types to upset everyone. Is this a pattern, or a one-off? And IMO it’s too soon for you to know that “the owner isn’t allowed to hire anymore” is because that person has great managers who have made the owner realize that *manager* hiring decisions are turning out better than *owner* ones, or if the place is somehow really really messed up. So keep your eyes open.

  9. voyager1*

    LW5: Was the Derby thing told to you when you were hired. Had a previous employer do something like this but it was at least told to me.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I think that employers should disclose any conditions around vacation use before the employee accepts the job. Dates you can’t take vacation, dates you must spend your vacation on, policies regarding coverage and so on.

      For a case like the OP’s the fix can be very easy, from a psychological perspective. Subtract one day from the general leave in the offer, and add the Kentucky Derby as a bonus vacation day. Then it sounds like you’re getting something extra, rather than having something taken away.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        Yep, this. In the offices I’ve worked before, we were always given a list of company holidays at hiring – “you have X days of vacation/PTO, in addition to the following days in which the office is closed.” Some of those days were paid holidays (e.g. bank holidays) and some weren’t (e.g. Easter Monday, MLK day), and it was good to know ahead of time what that would be.

        I’d also note that it’s not uncommon to have regional holidays that might sound weird to the rest of the country – several states have their own independence day, for example, and places that are strongly represented by a particular religious group may have religious holidays off. When I was growing up in Wisconsin, our first scheduled snow day for school was almost always the first day of deer season even though we rarely had snow then :-P (I later learned that was because so many teachers called out “sick”…)

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          Years ago at an Old Job it was understood that everyone could have a “medical appointment” on the Friday afternoon on the first day of the fall fair.

        2. Clisby*

          My husband grew up in Ohio, and not only was the first day of deer season a school holiday, a day or two of fair week was as well (tons of kids were in 4H and FFA and no point in counting on them to come to school every day of fair week.)

      2. ceiswyn*

        I agree.

        In a previous job, I discovered after joining that they had a similar policy around Christmas/New Year. That was a time I actively preferred to work, as my family was out of the country and all my friends were with their families, so if I wasn’t working I just hung around my house feeling lonely. The amount of holiday they offered was fairly standard, but once you subtracted those days that I couldn’t actually use it became stingy.

        It’s not the only reason I left, but it was all of a piece with the rest.

      3. Beth Jacobs*

        I just frame it to myself as “employer sets the dates of my annual leave”. In practice, I almost always get the dates I request, but honestly, I’m just glad I get generous PTO. If my employer wanted me to use up all of it November, I’d still enjoy the time off.
        Noone’s making you watch the derby. Make it a hike, spa day or read a novel :) !

        1. Covered in Bees*

          I would be resentful of this because I don’t get generous PTO. I need every day to cover school closures and Jewish holidays. That’s it. As much I’d love an extra day off, I need that PTO. People who want to take a longer trip at another time will want that day.

          The issue isn’t people thinking they have to celebrate the Derby. It’s having PTO taken from them that they may have planned to use otherwise.

          1. Avril Ludgateau*

            I get generous PTO (but comparatively atrocious pay, so it’s a tradeoff) and I would still be resentful about this! Our office has dedicated public holidays that are established and immovable, plus vacation, sick, and personal time in distinct buckets that are ours to use (with some rules dictating use, but nothing like “you must use 4 vacation days to cover December 27 through December 30, 2022”).

            If they tried to take even one vacation day and effectively establish it as a holiday, it would violate our negotiated contract and I would fight back against it (even if it happened to fall on a day I intended to take off anyway), because I value my work-life balance, my control over my own time, and frankly my compensation is poor enough that I hold on very dearly to my PTO.

            If you want to make something a holiday (which is what “the office is closed” implies), you make it a holiday outright, and disclose it as such. (In my case, there are holiday pay rules that go into effect in such situations for essential workers, to boot.)

            1. quill*

              Yes, it’s the bait and switch. When you have days x, y, and z off automatically without dipping into your PTO budget, but one random day you are forced to use your PTO that you were told was at your discretion, it’s quite enraging.

            2. doreen*

              I have never understood why employers do this – I just don’t see what the benefit is of granting 15 days of vacation per year and then closing for various days or even a week or two and requiring people to either save their PTO for that week or go unpaid. Do they think people are not going to realize that they really don’t have 15 days of PTO to use when they want to use it?

          2. Another Heather*

            It’s extremely likely that the school district where the business is located does close for Derby – I have family there and it’s very common. Doesn’t help if LW doesn’t need that aspect, though.

            1. Happy Thurby*

              Yeah, schools in Louisville are closed tomorrow. Heck, I live almost an hour away from Louisville and schools are closed tomorrow. If OP lives in or around Louisville, they very literally might not be able to get to work tomorrow because of all the street closures. Plus a certain orange former president is coming in to town, so security is going to be extra tight. It is a mess. Businesses in the area really need to plan better for paying people, but staying open isn’t necessarily realistic.

              1. Happy Sherby!*

                We moved to Louisville the week before Derby in 2019, onto a street that has a big festival on Friday with the road blocked off. Requested a day off, and later saw that I wasn’t charged for it. The boss: “Of course you get the day off. It’s Oaks!” I hadn’t even known what Oaks was (day before Derby, when the fillies race.)
                The street fest is back this year… woo hoo!

              2. Annie Mouse*

                Yep. I moved away from Louisville before remote work was very common, but part of the reason everything was closed on Derby Eve was because it was basically impossible to get anywhere. There are a ton of events that mean a lot of closures and security not just around the downs. Even if you could work remote, that assumes you could get anything done if the majority of people still take the day off.

                Company should be phrasing this as a local paid holiday, and (if they must) subtract one vacation day from the company policy.

                Happy Thurby!

        2. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

          I have more than half of my PTO for this year scheduled. They’re all for things I want to do that are occurring on specific dates. If I were required to use the days on specific days, I wouldn’t be able to do the things I want to. (Or, I would be able to, but I wouldn’t have any days left over in case anything else came up that I wanted to do.)

          My husband gets “Christmas break” off because he works in a school system. However, these days do not count toward his PTO and they are paid. So I also want to make sure I have some days left over Christmas. (When we’re usually really slow anyway and I can’t get much accomplished because so many people are gone.)

          Last year, the day I got off “for New Years” was January 3rd, because of where everything fell. Christmas break was over by then, so my husband didn’t get that day off (and didn’t want to take it off because that’s the day he spends resetting all the teacher’s passwords because they come back from break and can’t remember them, as well as other annoying tasks). Luckily, since we were working from home anyway, my boss let me “swap” that day with a day the week before. So, I was working from home when everyone else at my company had the day off, because I’d already taken my day.

      4. L dubs*

        I wish employers would just give one fewer vacation day at the start and then just give everyone the day off free and clear. It shouldn’t be on employees to remember that having 5 days of vacation doesn’t mean you can take a 5 day vacation.

      5. anonanna*

        I agree. Apparently we can’t take additional time off around Christmas/New Year’s because that’s our busiest season. And I also may be required to do occasional weekend work. Neither of those things were disclosed to me!

      6. Katie*

        While it is good that they be up front, this is a good learning that a question to ask is about forced days off. This can also include what the busy/must work times are.

    2. Avril Ludgateau*

      I just don’t understand why they wouldn’t make it a company holiday, especially if it is only one day.

  10. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

    #1: Totally agree that teams should stop doing this. So many people hate things like this but feel like they can’t say no. For many, it doesn’t build camaraderie. It builds resentment. I like Alison’s examples of what you can say to either get out of it or go for a while but not stay the night.

    But I really do wish work teams would stop doing things like this. Work is important but shouldn’t take over peoples lives. This sort of activity is really overstepping.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I agree. My weekends are my own.

      I’ll happily attend social events at work during working hours, at least if they don’t happen too often (once a month is fine, once a week is too much). I’m also happy to attend the very occasional evening event, maybe once or twice a year. But that’s it.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      I would never, ever want to spend a weekend with people I work with, no matter how much I like them. The lack of boundaries (and potential for conflicts of interest) involved in the whole “sleepover with work colleagues” concept just sets my teeth on edge. If you want to have a close group of friends that you sleep over with all the time, super – just don’t work with those people!

      1. Clorinda*

        I would have a sudden medical emergency on the day. So sorry, can’t make it. Depending on how important this event is to office culture, I might even come in with a drug-store ankle brace on for the first three days of the next week. Which is ridiculous, but here we are.

    3. Despachito*

      Wouldn’t it be better to create a work environment where it would be safe for them to say no?

      I think THIS is the key, because it permeates all other interactions as well. It does not help the morale of the team, let alone camaraderie, if people feel they have to be afraid to raise legitimate concerns.

      1. Your local password resetter*

        It’s an uphill battle though.
        In this case the OP was hesitating just because they wee new and everyone else was enthusiastic. No matter how good your management is, you can’t remove those sorts of problems entirely.

    4. metadata minion*

      Agree. I’m pretty far on the “yay teambuilding exercises!” side of the bell curve for this forum, as far as I can tell, but this would be way over the line for me.

      As a general rule, I want work social/teambuilding/etc. activities to be things where I can be just a more laidback version of Work Me. Work Me is happy to stand around eating snacks or play silly lawn games for a few hours. If I’m spending an entire weekend living with my coworkers, that’s way too long to have to maintain Work Me. I need some time to be Normal Me, who wants to curl up in a corner with a book and eat smelly leftovers at 10pm and fart in peace :-b

      1. KRM*

        OldJob used to do a summer retreat. We went somewhere offsite, had a company meeting for a few hours, then had a BBQ/lobsterbake/whathave you. *If you wanted it* the company would provide a hotel room overnight. They also provided transport to and from the office on the day, if you just wanted to go for the day. So it was a really nice day out (always on Thursday and you weren’t expected to work Friday even if you didn’t stay over), and there were zero obligations to stay. And everyone got their own room (aside from the year when we hired a ton of people, wanted to offer them the chance to stay, and the resort was sold out, but even then it was a voluntary thing to share and HR had no issues saying to the new hires “please let us know if you’d like to stay over so we can see if we can get a room for you. If we cannot you may take the company provided transport back to the office”)

    5. Avril Ludgateau*

      The only to get me to even consider using up my precious free time – a whole-ass weekend! – for work (and it is work), would be to pay me for it, at an appropriate overtime rate (for the FULL TIME that I am restricted from using my time as I please, which includes the overnight hours). If you don’t want to pay money, I’ll accept comp-time at the overtime rate.

      And that’s just to get me to consider it.

  11. Prefer my pets*


    Look, there are some red flags, or at least yellow, but also YOU WERE USING A NOISEMAKER IN AN OFFICE. Just the thought of someone making that kind of noise endlessly made my blood pressure shoot up & my jaw clench. I’m honestly not sure if I would trust myself to address someone doing that because actually listening to it would have kicked off a rage machine across every neuropathway I’ve got. Those types of noises are heinous and noise canceling headphones don’t really work on them. My only option is really to leave the room for a walk to soothe my receptors down and then shoot the person an email or text later, which is what your supervisor should have done.

    They make a zillion nearly silent fidget toys…I know, I own lots of them from discrete spinner rings for meetings to soft puzzle plushies for working at home.

    1. Snuck*

      I have to admit I had similar thoughts. My kids use poppers (they are allllll the rage in the 7-11yr age group by the way – the brighter and bigger the better, maybe find a more ‘mature’ presenting fidget, or make sure it’s a small discrete thing?) , and they drive me bonkers.

      There’s quiet toys out there, but it might also come down to feel/need – my kids have some pretty polar opposite ‘sensory’ needs at times. Head down to your $2 shop and try everything out – there’s stretchy silicone fluffy things, there’s spinners and flippers etc that are all quiet. Avoid the toys that flash or make noise? I’ve got one kid that can make a noise toy out of ANYTHING though so maybe I’m super worn out by it?

      1. pancakes*

        Many people are going to be annoyed by repetitive noises without having misophonia. You don’t have to have a condition to not want to hear someone fiddling with a toy all day long.

    2. poollounger*

      I was thinking this as well. I probably would have to ask someone else to address it, or, if I was a manager, to step outside the office and email the person to stop using it, because the noise itself plus the repetition sends me into immediate anger spirals. I definitely would have said something at some point though, because otherwise I would have snapped.

    3. Beth*

      I think OP realized once they saw the message that they messed up on this, and have probably now considered why this wasn’t a great move on their part.

      That doesn’t change the fact that their manager chose to go straight to ‘this might not work out’ without even a quick “Hey, you might not have noticed since you have headphones on, but that makes a pretty disruptive noise–can you not do it at work?” That’s all that was needed here, and it is a genuine red flag that their manager can’t figure out how to handle quick and straightforward feedback like that.

      1. grey anatomy*

        I dunno, I’m kinda with the manager on this one. If I hired someone so lacking in common sense that they never considered playing with a noisy toy all day in the office would bother their coworkers, I’d be tempted to just can them immediately too. It would drive me mad and give me an extremely poor first impression. Venting to others about it is not unreasonable, they probably didn’t want to have to start acting disciplinary with a brand new employee. And it sounds like the letter writer stopped playing with the toy soon after, so they may have decided they didn’t need to say anything.

        Plenty of other red flags in the letter of course, but I have some sympathy with the manager over the original issue.

        1. Yikez*

          Yeah, I agree. Lacking common sense on its own can be OK. Being inconsiderate on its own can be OK. Lacking common sense AND being inconsiderate? Woof. Really bad combination.

        2. ellex42*

          It would be nice if not making repetitive noise-making activities in the office were a matter of “common sense” or “consideration for your coworkers”, but in my experience, there are very few people who put “noise” under those categories, if they ever think about how their behavior affects those around them in any fashion at all.

        3. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Do you also can people immediately when they pop gum? When they take a call on speaker? You’ve never realized something you thought in one setting was pretty quiet was actually a little loud in another setting? Never had someone come say “hey, ___ is kind of loud, can you knock it off?”

          Use your words, folks.

        4. MsClaw*


          Also not sure how it’s ‘passive-aggressive’ to complain to a colleague about someone noisy and inconsiderate.

          1. Crimson*

            When you manage someone it is literally your job to give them feedback on things that effect their work, including behaviors that are out of sync with your office culture.

        5. Beth*

          What bothers people is so subjective, though. I’ve had people get annoyed at my leg-bouncing fidget, which I understand if we’re sharing a bench or I’m jostling a table (it’s a subconscious fidget for me that takes effort to stop, but I’ve learned to routinely repress it in those circumstances) but don’t really get if I’m sitting on my own chair at my own desk. We don’t know how loud this fidget toy actually is–it could be that the manager is extra sensitive to that sound, rather than that OP was being wildly obtuse.

          Or it could be that OP was being really loud and disruptive and should have known better…but even then, it’s a manager’s job to intervene in their team members’ behavior before it reaches the “I think this isn’t working out” level. It’s weird to be so averse to disciplining an employee–even a new one!–that they hit that point in their thinking before the employee even knows there’s a problem.

          1. Snuck*

            Have you ever heard a poppit? They are a silicone bubble that replicates popping bubble wrap – similar sound and feeling, but you can pop it over and over and over. Some are just a few little bubbles on a strip the size of a match box, most are the size of bread plates and luridly coloured, with some wild shapes like unicorn or minion in rainbow bright.

        6. Snuck*

          Agreed. I’m wondering at the professional maturity of a person who is repetitively using a popper to the point of distracting everyone, while ‘bored’ reading their legislated requirements for their new job.

          I assume this is a new to the workforce person who might do well to have some support and mentoring on professional norms. Poppers and overt fidget toys are not common, and it’s not wise to ‘stand out’ in the first few days (and certainly not while you are still wading through the onboarding learning). If you need them to help you focus then find something discreet, adults have been fidgeting since time immemorial by chewing pencils, squishing stress balls and spinning rings on their fingers – note all of these are quiet activities. For those who need noise to help focus they often negotiate some headphone music time and bring in something to listen to on their headphones (notice the “negotiate” – this isn’t something a new hire in a very junior position can just set out and do themselves). For those needing larger physical movement sensory breaks a brisk walk on the way in or work out before arriving at work, using lunch breaks to walk and exercise, and taking short breaks away from the desk (print to a further printer, use the stairs to travel between floors, get up and get a glass of water oftenish). (And for those who need to have low stimulation environments negotiate a seat away from walkways, facing walls if necessary and far away from doors/printers/meeting places (corners and tucked away desks are usually highly argued over), headphones for quiet (don’t have to listen to music!) and whether you can take a tube or two out of the lights to dim it a little.)

          It’s entirely possible to meet most sensory needs in the office if you think it through, and while it might be that a poppit is the ultimate sensory tool for you, there’s probably other things that while less effective are less annoying to your colleagues.

          Finally… when I first read this a couple of days ago, well before all the comments, I was struck with the image of my son, sitting half lounging in his computer chair, with no attempt at a reasonable posture, popping a 10×10 poppit, headphones on, poor tone and awareness and all. I trust this isn’t the OP when bored watching their legal videos! I hope it isn’t! Sure those videos are boring, but at least try to look like you want to be there! (I’m going to assume the OP doesn’t do this, but instead offer it as an illustration of a not uncommon image that can pop to mind easily when poppits and boring videos come up in the same sentence.)

          1. Snuck*

            I’m sorry, but I’m not seeing the ‘ableist’. There’s been zero discussion of a disability here, just a set of behaviours that are not professionally within the norm. And we aren’t supposed to armchair diagnose the OP’s with a neuro diversity (which is what I think you are suggesting).

      2. pancakes*

        How did it never occur to them before seeing the message to think about their own presence, though? “Honestly, I was just trying to focus and didn’t take that into consideration, which I now feel terrible about.” Being aware that a toy makes annoying noises and is probably going to annoy other people is something even young kids learn to be aware of – basketballs are for dribbling outside and not in the front hall, etc. Yes, the manager should have said something as soon as it became a pattern, but I can see being thrown by a new hire being that self-involved, and wanting to observe whether it’s part of a broader pattern or one annoying trait they have.

        1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

          But it’s also entry level, so I’m going to assume the person is new to the workforce. I would say that it is part of the role of the manager to give assistance on workplace expectations. I don’t see why it is so hard for something so inconsequential to just go to the employee and say ‘hey in our office you cannot do this.’ Like if you as a manger can’t say that for a popit toy, then how are you going to handle an actual work issue?

          1. pancakes*

            People have typically been out in the world a bit before their first job, no? I have been working since I was 16 and my first job was not the first time I encountered people I wasn’t related to. Anyone who’s been in a classroom will have witnessed another kid being admonished for being distracting. I know home schooling is popular in parts of the US but it’s not meant to be rigorous isolation. Yes, a manager should speak up if a new hire is doing something that isn’t ok in their workplace, but as many others have pointed out, they’re fellow beings and will sometimes vent to one another about minor annoyances without wanting or needing to take action just yet.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              Have you never, as a non-child, been told that something you’re doing is annoying to other people? It’s not something that only ignorant, inconsiderate, self-centered monsters encounter.

              If the manager just needed to vent, okay, fine — everyone does that. But the sneering about how even children learn to be considerate of other people that is happening a lot in these comments is so (annoyingly!) self righteous.

              And if that isn’t annoying to you then, well, I guess we’ve established that different things annoy different people haven’t we?

              1. pancakes*

                I don’t think it’s monstrous, but I do think it’s uncommonly obtuse. I haven’t ever been chided for unthinkingly fidgeting at work or otherwise forgetting that other people are around, no, and don’t believe that only people who have get to have opinions on whether that’s annoying.

                1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                  I wasn’t asking because I think only people who have been told the way they are fidgeting is annoying are allowed to have opinions. My question was have you ever, as an adult, been told that *something* you’re doing is annoying?

                  The purpose of the question was to try to get you to think of a time where you may have been in a similar, even if not the same, situation and think about if you would have considered yourself self-involved or not thinking about your own presence? Becoming an adult doesn’t suddenly make us perfectly aware in every single situation of our varied lives when we are being annoying, and some things that Elizabeth finds annoying are going to be different than the things that Lydia finds annoying. That’s ok — there’s nothing wrong, generally, with finding different things annoying.

                  You and anyone else are welcome to find poppers annoying. That is fine and dandy, but what is *not* fine and dandy is to refuse to say anything about it and decide it’s okay to not say anything about it because “geeeez everybody knows that’s annoying!” Just…use your words. Sometimes we have to use our words about things that are obvious to us. Dare I say that learning how to do that is an important part of being an adult?

                2. pancakes*

                  I don’t think anything I said suggests I think every adult is generally a perfectly self-aware and never annoying presence in the world. The context for this discussion is someone who used a fidget toy at work, apparently while listening to music to make dry reading easier to get through (very normal!) without having considered for even a moment whether the fidget toy might be distracting to their new coworkers (not considerate, in my view and my experience).

                  Reading these comments, I’ve been thinking a lot about a guy I worked with who was a yogurt cup scraper. Most of us had breakfast at our desks and that was fine for everyone, but he would scrape his spoon across the bottom of his yogurt cup every morning as if he was an actor in a movie directed to do that with maximum vigor to be annoying, like Mr. Bean or something. One day one of the team snapped and said “DID YOU GET ALL THAT?” It was both awkward and hilarious, and definitely not the ideal way for us as a group to handle Mr. Scraper. If anyone had asked him to stop doing that the first day it happened, though, I think everyone would’ve thought they were being uptight. There’s no perfect formula for this stuff, and I don’t think the manager in this scenario is as terribly amiss as some commenters think for not addressing the distraction right away. To be clear I do think the email was rude, but not wildly so. I think it’s probably less significant than the tidbit about the owner not being involved in hiring, which seems very odd.

              2. ThursdaysGeek*

                Yes. As a young adult I was told that not offering to help clean up after a dinner at a friends house was rude. It was jarring to be admonished, but oh, so helpful. We don’t know what we don’t know, and it’s good when people are willing to tell us.

            2. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

              Sure, everyone has the right to complain, vent, whatever. But if we’re going with the fact that OP should be self-aware, so should the manager. Company chat is not the place to have gossipy conversations, it is logged and retained as a record by the organization and can be visible to others. By your argument, OP is equally allowed to vent that they found out that the manager has been talking about them via the chat to others in the organization. And I’ve been in schools and workplaces where people talking negatively behind someone’s back have also been admonished. And it’s not even a ‘he said/she said’ thing, it’s written down. As company record. That seems a bit self-absorbed and unaware perhaps on the manager’s part.

              Also, there are quite a few public schools that allow for the use of fidget toys in classes, so it has become more mainstream and acceptable in different public locations.

              1. pancakes*

                I basically read company communications for a living (I work in litigation and read an awful lot of other people’s emails and IMs and whatnot during the discovery phase) and yes, it’s not a good place to gossip. It’s also not realistic to think people who spend an extraordi

                1. pancakes*

                  Sorry, I hit submit too soon. It’s not realistic to think that people who spend an extraordinary amount of time with one another are never going to address minor annoyances in print for fear of looking terrible to a lawyer 5 years later,

                2. pancakes*

                  Oh FFS, the page refreshed while I was typing! Expectations for school kids and working adults don’t always overlap, and I think many of us expect a little more self-awareness from coworkers than we do from kids.

    4. Sleepy cat*

      But if you were this person’s manager it would be your job to address it. Which is what the letter is about.

    5. Irish Teacher.*

      I think the point is more that the manager should have said something than that they had no right to be annoyed. The LW had no way of knowing it irritated people if they didn’t mention it. I realise it can be a tough one to address because people feel they are “making a fuss over a very small thing,” but it still isn’t fair to blame somebody for annoying the manager if they gve no sign it was annoying them.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yes, if something is annoying you, then you definitely have standing to speak up about if you’re that person’s manager. The OP in this letter should have used a silent fidget toy, but if the manager didn’t say anything about it, the OP had no way of knowing that it was annoying to them!

        1. Chi*

          Yeah, am I crazy? My daughter loves those popper toys and I don’t know if she has special ones but I have never once heard them. It never occurred to me that they could be annoying. They certainly don’t make noise like bubble wrap used to. I am genuinely confused.

          1. pancakes*

            I don’t have kids but it seems pretty straightforward – some of these toys make noise and some don’t.

            I would think it goes without saying that noisy toys aren’t suitable for most offices, but apparently not.

            1. ecnaseener*

              The letter doesn’t actually say there’s any noise – plenty of people are annoyed by repetitive motion in the corner of their eye, it could just be that.

              1. pancakes*

                Yes, that’s true. “Popper” made me think it makes a noise but it could be motion.

                1. Calliope*

                  I assumed it was a pop-it. The rubber circles push up and down. I’ve never heard them to make a noise.

              2. Loulou*

                Yup, that’s what really bothers/distracts me about fidget spinners, not the noise, although the popper doesn’t sound nearly as quick as those propeller things.

          2. cubone*

            Yeah I’m a little confused by all the comments about how loud popper fidgets are, I thought of them as one of the reasonably quiet tools (compared to say, a fidget spinners or god forbid, pen clicking).

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I do agree that the manager should have said something.

        I do not agree the LW had no way of knowing it irritates people.

        The manager needs to do their job better and speak directly with OP about issues; that is their role in the workplace.

        The LW needs to take like 3 seconds to think about their own choices that they make and how it may affect the people around them; that is their role as a person existing in a world full of other people.

    6. londonedit*

      I agree that the noise of a popper toy would drive me absolutely round the bend if I had to listen to it while I was trying to work, but I also don’t think it would have been difficult for the manager to just have a word with the OP and say ‘I appreciate that some people like to use fidget toys to help them concentrate, but the popper toy you’re using is distracting for other colleagues – could you find something that doesn’t make a noise?’ Believe me I’m conflict-averse but if I was someone’s manager and they were annoying the living hell out of me with a fidget toy, I’d 100% ask them to find something quiet to fidget with.

    7. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I’m confused now, because when I read “popper toy” I thought of the soft (silicone?) boards that mimic bubble wrap. I have several of these in my house in various sizes and the only one that makes any noise is about 50cm on each side and it’s only audible when my 8-year-old does a whole row in one go – rrrrrrrrrrip!

      Is there another kind of popping toy I’m unaware of? I honestly can’t imagine the toys I’m thinking of being audible over the general low hum of office lights, printers, etc.

      1. GythaOgden*

        It may well be that it’s audible to this boss and that’s why it has become an issue for them.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Well, quite. It could well be that LW thinks it’s silent, and that she and I are entirely mistaken. But that surprises me because I’m usually the one going “WHAT IS THAT NOISE”.

      2. Similarly Situated*

        the soft silicone toys you are thinking of do make a noise loud enough that if someone was doing it in an office it would absolutely drive me bonkers. I have one for when I work from home, which I only use there for this reason.

      3. Lynca*

        That’s kind of where I am with it. I bought some of them for motor skill developement as part of my daughter’s PT. Flipping it over is more noisy than actually popping it.

        They make a little noise sometimes but not any louder than typing or an air conditioner. While I get that they are not professional looking I’m having a hard time grasping them being loud enough or consistently noisy to generate this level of response. But maybe because I don’t need a lot of quiet to work that’s part of it?

        1. quill*

          Repetetive but inconsistent noises are more likely to be a problem than consistent repetitive noises like a clock ticking.

          That said, I have 100% disabled analogue clocks that were too noisy when they ticked.

          1. KRM*

            Oh, ticking clocks are the WORST to me. I had to take the battery out of my gift clock from work because it ticked too loud for me. I couldn’t keep the fancy clock/temp combo thing I got for my office room in the office because it ticked too loud. And I need sound to keep me focused! But some sounds will just drive me off the deep end!

        2. biobotb*

          Well, typing or an air conditioner are loud enough to be maddening if they’re incessently repetitive. They’re not silent or even something that can only be heard by someon sitting right next to them.

      4. AdequateArchaeologist*

        There’s a toy I’ve seen recently that’s made of a large, flat piece of silicone with large bumps on it (kind of looks like a shallow ice cube tray). The overall piece of silicone comes in different shapes and colors (unicorn, basic square, etc). When I tried it in the store it didn’t make any noise, so I’m wondering if that’s what OP has?

      5. MCMonkeyBean*

        I have three of them and they all make noise. On two of them, one side is softer and nearly silent but the other side makes a pop. The third makes a pop on both sides. I only use them when I am alone, I have other quieter fidgets for use around other people.

    8. GythaOgden*

      Exactly. The fact that it was a private complaint is probably lenient in the circumstances. I don’t have misophonia but I may be having more difficulty hearing people on the phone at work, and have had to ask two teams already to ask their visitors not to make so much noise when they’re in reception having their phones fixed. And I totally get the impulse to fiddle — if nothing else is to hand I will play with the arrow keys on my computer keyboard. I try hard not to do it — after all, I’m the one who’s asking for quiet — but it’s like thirty seconds of quiet tapping, particularly now we’ve got new keyboards.

      But for the love of all that’s holy, OP is lucky this only leaked out in a private conversation rather than is being discussed in public. The boss has a point, and while it’s unfair she hasn’t asked LW directly to stop using it (my boss would be asking before I even knew I was doing it!), it would ease matters greatly to find a silent fidget toy.

      1. I'm On My Way!*

        Also, it’s crummy that the LW saw the chat, but I work in a small team where we hire temporary help to get through a particular busy season. We often try them out in the role for a couple days to see if it’s a good fit – from both our side and the new emoloyee. She and I have made off-hand comments like “Melvin stapled all the papers in different directions, so he’s not going to work out.” or “Esther asked if we could get a radio, so…nope.” These things aren’t deal-breakers, obviously, and if they were actually things that needed to be addressed, I’d address them.
        I’d never delude myself into thinking that my bosses have never found one of my mannerisms or habits mildly annoying, and that perhaps they’ve even commented to someone else about it. And I’ve considered replacing all my office-neighbor’s pens with the non-clicking variety, but he has a dozen other noisy fidgets, so it wouldn’t help.

      2. ecnaseener*

        There’s nothing “lenient” about a manager failing to tell their employee that they have a problem with their behavior. Negligent is more like it. LW would’ve been much better off if their manager told them to cut it out within the first ten minutes.

        1. Susie Q*

          Chill. Managers aren’t super humans. Maybe they don’t want to address every little thing that is annoying. We are all human and are allowed to be annoyed by things that we don’t directly address.

        2. pancakes*

          If the manager laid down the law on noise in the office after 10 minutes of a new hire fidgeting with a toy I think many readers would say that was heavy-handed, and that the manager should have observed whether it was a pattern or a one-off moment of obliviousness before making an issue of it.

          1. ecnaseener*

            How is it “laying down the law” to say “hey LW, that noise is really distracting, can you please stop?”

            1. pancakes*

              Depends on the context, really. If someone said that to a new hire in my presence after 10 minutes of moderately annoying behavior, I might or might not think that was a little too stern a little too soon.

          2. Mannequin*

            New Hire should have “just known” that their rubber popper toy bothered the manager, so it means they are inconsiderate, and for the manager to have proactively addressed the issue as soon as it BECAME a problem is “too stern” or “too heavy handed”?

            No. It’s perfectly reasonable that OP didn’t understand that something that makes a very tiny noise might be disproportionately annoying or distracting to some people, and it’s the managers JOB, period, to point out things that are causing issues, even if they are small. And what is “stern” or “heavy handed” about saying “that noise bothers me?”

            1. pancakes*

              I think anyone bringing a fidget toy to work should know that if it isn’t silent and/or if they will be making a lot of repetitive motions within other people’s view, other people might find that distracting. A silent toy and/or one that can be used relatively inconspicuously is probably the best choice.

              None of here know whether the letter writer’s toy “makes a very tiny noise” or what. Even if it does, it’s not somehow unfair or illegitimate for other people to find it difficult to concentrate when subjected to a repetitive noise. If it needs to be an accommodation that’s a conversation that needs to be had, and in many circumstances it is possible to move people around to make everyone more comfortable.

    9. Lacey*

      Did they say it was a noisy toy? I thought it was just those little silicon bubble mats. They don’t make any noise.

      1. ecnaseener*

        They didn’t say. It seems to be the universal assumption in the comments, I guess from people who’ve never been annoyed by the visuals of someone else’s fidgeting :P

        1. GythaOgden*

          I think the name ‘popping’ implies noise. It’s obviously annoying someone (and I’m TOTALLY guilty of being the annoying fidgeter in the room, although it’s so much better understood than it was when I was awkward one at the back always twiddling my hair).

      2. H2*

        So, I am surprised to see so many people in the comments saying that they don’t make noise! Every one I have ever seen does make a soft but very audible noise every time you pop a bubble. It may be that they only make a noise when they’re popped in one direction (like maybe when you reset it, it makes the noise?) I know this because my kids have had several and I had to throw them all away because the repetitive and irregular noise does absolutely turn on the rage monster inside of me.

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, my nephew has one and it definitely makes a noise! My sister has misophonia with various sounds and she doesn’t let him play with the silicone popper thing for long because the noise drives her mad!

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Can we at least acknowledge that people have varying degrees of what is considered “loud”? My kids have poppers, too, and they’re quieter than the sound my keyboard is making right now as I type this comment. It is TOTALLY valid for the sound to drive some people crazy, but what’s not valid is for those people to decide that anyone who uses a popper is an inconsiderate, ignorant jerk who deserves to be fired immediately than for someone to say “hey Chandler, can you not use the popper? It’s making me batty!”

          1. Dust Bunny*

            It’s also not valid for popper users to decide that the level of nose the popper makes is actually tolerable and people who say it’s not are really just being insensitive and fussy, which is the undertone I feel like I’m getting here. They’re not silent. It’s a legitimate problem for some of us.

            1. GythaOgden*

              Agreed. We know a few things from the letter, one of which it has upset someone else who has maybe bitten their lip a couple of times about it, not wanting to feel cruel or discriminatory against someone who does need that sort of thing…but lost their composure at one point and vented about it privately…which turned out to be not so private.

              Even if the manager may want to say something to OP, it’s clear OP’s behaviour also needs to take into account what other people need from them in the office.

            2. Insert Clever Name Here*

              I think you’re picking up on that tone from my comment because I’m exasperated with the comments that the manager didn’t need to say anything because obviously a popper is “loud” and even children learn not to do loud things around other people.

              Look, I find noises distracting. I’m the person in my open office (of over 200 people from various departments, many of whom I do not interact with as part of my job) that will walk up to someone I don’t know and say “hey, I’m sure you weren’t aware but when you’re listening to your voicemails on speakerphone, we can hear them all the way over there. Could you use the headset or headphones?” The 3-4 times I’ve done that in the 4 years our office has been open, the person has immediately apologized and said they didn’t realize how loud it was and they’ve stopped doing it. So I just thoroughly am unable to grasp how it’s a moral failing to not realize how loud a thing is, *especially* when you’re in a new office and trying to figure out multiple things a day.

              So I’m not saying that popper users get to decide unilaterally and forever that the level of noise their popper makes is tolerable — but they *are* allowed to think that something does not make any more noise than other office sounds and consider that fine ***until*** someone says “hey Chandler, can you not use the popper? The sound is making me batty.”

              OP said they felt terrible when they realized the sound was annoying, so they were FULLY willing to consider what other people need from them in the office and make modifications based on that.

              As I said, my kids have poppers. One of my kids has sensory and attention issues, so we brought a popper and a few other things to a school musical several weeks ago. After a handful of pops during dialogue my husband switched the popper for something else because the sound did not at all blend with what was going on. But in my loud, open office with clacking keyboards and people on conference calls through their headphones I don’t know that a popper would even register…unless someone came to me and told me it did.

              1. pancakes*

                I think this is something we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on, because I think bringing a toy that makes noise for your kid to play with in the audience at a musical performance is inconsiderate. Even the most buoyant musical is not a constant wall of sound. I also don’t think it’s a great idea for people who work in an office environment to assume that noise-making fidget toys will generally be welcome at work unless and until someone asks them to stop using one.

          2. H2*

            Wow, you’re replying to me and I didn’t say any of that! In fact, I said that the sound I hear from my kids’ poppers is “soft but very audible”.

            I also actually agree that it’s unreasonable to even consider firing someone over it. I will also say that I can understand a manager feeling like it would be overly picky to bring it up with a new hire, especially if there are other critiques that they’re giving on actual work. I can say that the noise from the poppers does truly raise an unreasonable response in me, and sometimes then I think it’s hard to gauge what the reasonable response would look like.

            1. GythaOgden*

              They may also be trying to be understanding about it by not raising it with the OP, because they know they could be seen as discriminatory. It’s maybe the elephant in the room — manager can’t mention it because it’s considered an accommodation, manager is still annoyed by it, manager messages colleague about it, in trying to be discreet actually ends up being blunt about it.

              My husband once got in trouble being in the manager’s shoes. He worked for a small business, and his boss lost a close colleague in a neighbouring firm. He was rather ornery for a few days after the funeral, and hubby totally understood why. But because hubby was annoyed by the boss being that grumpy, he texted me to vent.

              The biggest thing I miss as a widow is not having someone to vent to. Well, ok, not the biggest, but given he died in 2019 and the world went downhill alongside my life, it was a huge loss for my sanity when I needed to vent but the issue wasn’t anything I could actually do anything about.

              1. GythaOgden*

                And when hubby texted me to vent, he ended up texting his boss instead. He didn’t lose his job, but he felt he came close enough to actually seek therapy over it.

    10. JF*

      Okay, I have misophonia, like pretty badly, and these new popper things are like, pretty quiet, especially in a group. It may be OP is just in a quieter office than they anticipated and the light noise sounds louder to the boss, but it is in no way off base to assume it’s quiet and then change behavior when they realize their assumption is wrong, which is why it’s on the boss to SAY SOMETHING.

    11. TheRain'sSmallHands*

      I don’t handle noise at all anymore when I’m trying to think. My clicky keyboard is distracting. Open offices are hell and music and headphones – well, that’s noise. I used to be better, I could handle background office noise from a cube, but I was in a carousel environment with low walls and everyone having phone meetings all the time and its like I reached capacity for it and broke.

    12. Ana Gram*

      I’m so confused by this. I’ve played with silicone poppers and they’re completely silent. Aside from smacking them on my desk, I’m not even sure how I could make noise with one. It’s perhaps not the most subtle thing to see in an office but it certainly wouldn’t distract or annoy me if someone was fiddling with one.

    13. cottagechick*

      My thought was that maybe the manager felt that they couldn’t say anything because using a fidget toy may be considered an accommodation under ADA. But yeah as a fellow employee, I would have shouted over the cubicle partitions – what is that noise, it is driving me crazy

    14. Crimson*

      If you are sent into a rage spiral that makes communication difficult this easily, management is most likely not for you. That’s totally fine! But when you take on a role where you’re managing people, you need to be able to give feedback, even when you’re super annoyed.

    15. omiya*

      I agree! I have ADHD, so I understand the need to fidget to focus. But also… I have ADHD, I’m incredibly sensitive to sounds, especially repetitive, annoying ones. I would absolutely lose it.

  12. Not Gonna' Join Your Silly Softball Team!*

    I’m glad I learned to be proactive at the interview stage about what I was and (mainly) wasn’t willing to do with my non-work hours. I worked for small businesses that tended to have a culture around charity golf tournaments, softball and gatherings that included each other. I told them that they could have me completely professional, conscientious and cheerfully engaged during work hours, but my non-work hours were already fully booked. That let them know that if what they were hoping to replace was the shortstop on their team, they could hire another candidate. I was friendly with my co-workers (and truly enjoyed them), but they knew I would send regrets for showers, anniversary parties and suchlike outside of work. I didn’t have enough time for the friends I already had, and wasn’t about to add another layer of social obligation to my life.

  13. Aphrodite*

    OP #2, I am happy to read that at. least one employer is not. allowing abuse. of the employees. I. hate, really hate, that far too many organizations and companies still expect their employees to always act as if “the customer is always right.” Of course that has never been true, but when company policies forbid employees from hanging up on abusive customers or the companies won’t get rid of such customers or retail employees who have no power to leave or fire the customers or anyone else in a service position from abuse then that company is equally guilt. of the abuse.

    Several years ago, I worked at the adult ed division that handled professional workshops for employers and employees as well as anyone else who wanted to achieve workplace skills in hard and soft areas. I once asked my supervisor why we didn’t offer classes to employers themselves to make themselves better by changing, among other things, the way they had their employees deal with clients/customers. Why did we only focus on training employees to deal with difficult situations instead of also offering workshops on how and why and when to make firing decisions about customers to protect their employees. I wasn’t surprised to get a non-answer; apparently employees are so expendable who cares? (This was long before Covid but the recent post here about abuse is, as we all know, much worse. When. will companies take a. stand against profanity, abuse, violence (threats, verbal or otherwise)?

    I am so glad to hear about this. My only change would be Alison’s “I’m not able to override that decision” comment, which I think should include not just. “I” but “we.” The whole office including the vets are firing the patient, not the. front desk personnel.

  14. talos*

    I have a particular disability (a rather severe spinal fusion to correct scoliosis, which makes my entire torso pretty damn inflexible) that means I *absolutely cannot, under any circumstances* sleep on floors, and I also *really* struggle with sleeping on couches or safely getting off of soft mattresses (which includes air mattresses). I can’t imagine trying to figure out sleeping accommodations in someone else’s home without having to bring this up and tour their home ahead of time. What a nightmare.

  15. Yma Gmizama*

    I have ADHD and I started using fidget toys recently. I love them because they help me so much. I never realized how much I fidget and they are a great tool. But honestly if I had to listen to one that made noise all day I would vent and be annoyed too. It’s one thing to do it when you are alone but in a work environment where no one else can leave I think it is offside. I have multiple fidget toys and none of them make any sounds.

  16. Bayta Darrell*

    LW 3, while obviously we want to erase the stigma around mental health, unfortunately it’s probably not safe for you to disclose this to people. It’s best just to refer people to resources they can access to learn more. If you’re in the US, one thing you could do is point people to mentalhealth dot gov. It has mental health resources and information from several government agencies, like CDC, NIMH, and SAMHSA.

    1. Suzie SW*

      I don’t 100% agree with the advice on #3. There is an inherent risk to sharing your mental health information, but for some people, the opportunity to reduce the stigma outweighs the risk. Part of the reason there is so much stigma is because people are discouraged from talking about it. I wouldn’t encourage everyone to start disclosing their diagnoses, but if someone’s passionate about making a change and understands what they’re up against, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The #metoo and #timesup movements required people to take significant risks, but they did so much to raise awareness. I think “don’t do it unless you’re fully prepared for the possible downsides” is more balanced feedback in this case.

      1. Kate*

        I understand what you’re saying, however sometimes people do NOT want to talk about everything at work!

        I don’t want to “normalize” talking about my mental health to coworkers, because that’s private and personal information. In the same way that I don’t talk about the balance of my checking account or my personal finances at work – not because “it’s a secret” or I am “ashamed and think it should be hidden” but because my mental health is personal and private.

        If Bob or Sally wants to have a conversation, with me – their coworker – about their mental health? I don’t want to do that, and I don’t think it’s ok to foist that conversation on a coworker. I am at work to talk about work.

  17. Beth*

    LW3, I personally don’t disclose mental health conditions at work. I don’t think anyone should disclose unless they’re to the point of ‘I need to get official accommodations for this or I am going to get fired’. It’s not fair or right, but there’s still so much stigma out there about mental health diagnoses. Conditions either get dismissed as weakness (depression, anxiety, etc) or villainized as scary (schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, etc) or both. And since those stereotypes are widespread and often unquestioned, they’re deeply ingrained in a lot of people, including many who are otherwise kind, generous, lovely people. It’s not something you want to open yourself up to at work if you have a choice in the matter.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Good intentions but the consequences can be very bad.

      I once admitted to having schizophrenia at work, thinking people would understand. I had to leave that job because people treated me like they were walking on eggshells to ‘avoid setting the crazy person off’ or even avoiding me entirely as they didn’t feel safe (for the record I have never attacked another person nor do the voices tell me to do that).

      I have done a load of the sewing patterns from a mental health charity in the UK and sold those at work with all proceeds going back to said charity as my preferred ‘raise awareness’ thing. Maybe something like that?

      1. GythaOgden*

        Yup. That sounds better. I liked the way that our organisation sent round teabags with cards about having a cuppa and taking the time to talk. I don’t drink tea, but as someone with a whole mind full of neurological issues, it was the thought that counts. Raising awareness begins with the individuals involved and making sure the workplace is at least a supportive environment. It’s also recognising that neurotypical people have bad days and everyone needs support once in a while regardless of whether they have a recognised condition. Mental wellbeing is important to everyone — everyone experiences things like grief and anxiety at some point, and normalising just looking out for your colleagues and taking the time to be there for them no questions asked is important. Compassion (without going too deep into the specific issue) for someone who appears to be struggling is as important as recognising and being aware of disorders.

        As for me…

        I have had panic attacks that lasted a week and although my bosses are really supportive (and one of them had anxiety of his own and disclosed to me about it to make me aware that he was on my side and looking to help from a place of experience), it’s a good job that I’m really not into having a career of any kind due to the stress being too much to handle.

        That said, I’ve seen a lot about mental health first aiders and other very supportive things that come with disclosure. When I was struggling with being in the office when everyone else wasn’t about a year into the pandemic and talked to the Health and Safety officer about supporting us not just through making the office safe for us but through some kind of emotional support for working in a very absurd situation, I was assigned a lovely lady who swung by and talked things through. The H&S officer took my issues upward but also took the time to look after me as a person struggling with a rather absurd ‘Waiting For Godot’ style job. (Two of us on reception, just call us Vladimir and Estragon…)

        I think things are getting better in /formal/ terms — in terms of support in the workplace — but you’re right that public, informal acceptance and understanding lags behind that formal support and being seen to take advantage of that may be an issue for advancement. I also work for the NHS, which is highly attuned to such issues and may well have formal structures in place to mitigate the effect on people’s careers.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          That’s actually good to know as I’ve always wondered if having my catalogue of mental disorders would actually bar me from working for the NHS.

          A general ‘we support mental health needs’ is, at least to me, a far better idea than encouraging invasive questions about one’s own condition. I did once do an AMA on schizophrenia here on a Saturday open post but that was because none of you know who I am :)

          1. GythaOgden*

            The NHS is an awesome employer. It will depend on your trust, but it has excellent benefits. I think I also gain from working with a trust that runs community medicine and the local mental health inpatient facility, meaning there’s a local bank of knowledge that helps the culture.

            (I occasionally cross paths with the clinical psychologist who treated me and diagnosed me with Aspergers — he credits me with his interest in the condition in women and I’m honoured to have made a difference to his practice, and thus the practice of others, in this way. It’s very awkward when he comes in, but it’s nice to know I’ve contributed to research. Hubby was the same when he had cancer — he participated any time someone needed to study him because he said he felt that even if he didn’t come out of it alive, someone else would benefit from his data. I know that will vary between people, but it’s good to know that we have both helped doctors to better understand our conditions so that when others come up through the system they’re using knowledge they gained from studying us. We donated our bodies and minds to medical and psychological science before we died!)


            Back to the NHS. I’m in office facilities, so that may explain the more laid-back approach, but certainly the whole vibe at the moment, particularly after covid, is all about helping each other not get burnt out. They don’t offer mental health days (my more conservative colleagues were aghast at that idea, but facilities/maintenance is a job which needs reliable coverage, so I see why they’re not comfortable with it and I respect their perspectives) but everything else is light years ahead of most places.

            The downside is the awful pay — but if you can stomach that, it’s worth it.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              Heck I took a paycut to return to the UK railway (not saying which firm, but it’s the place I’m happiest). But I was considering doing IT for the NHS recently.

          2. GythaOgden*

            The NHS is an awesome employer. It will depend on your trust, but it has excellent benefits. I think I also gain from working with a trust that runs community medicine and the local mental health inpatient facility, meaning there’s a local bank of knowledge that helps the culture.

            (I occasionally cross paths with the clinical psychologist who treated me and diagnosed me with Aspergers — he credits me with his interest in the condition in women and I’m honoured to have made a difference to his practice, and thus the practice of others, in this way. It’s very awkward when he comes in, but it’s nice to know I’ve contributed to research. Hubby was the same when he had cancer — he participated any time someone needed to study him because he said he felt that even if he didn’t come out of it alive, someone else would benefit from his data. I know that will vary between people, but it’s good to know that we have both helped doctors to better understand our conditions so that when others come up through the system they’re using knowledge they gained from studying us. We donated our bodies and minds to medical and psychological science before we died!)


            Back to the NHS. I’m in office facilities, so that may explain the more laid-back approach, but certainly the whole vibe at the moment, particularly after covid, is all about helping each other not get burnt out. They don’t offer mental health days (my more conservative colleagues were aghast at that idea, but facilities/maintenance is a job which needs reliable coverage, so I see why they’re not comfortable with it and I respect their perspectives) but everything else is light years ahead of most places.

            The downside is the awful pay — but if you can stomach that, it’s worth it.

    2. Alex (they/them)*

      I disclosed that I have ADHD at my previous workplace, figuring it would be fine, since it’s not a “””scary””” condition, but it resulted in people not taking me seriously and making some out-of-touch jokes.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I can all too easy guess the kind of comments :( I’m sorry.

        There’s also a surprising amount of stigma attached to any medications for such issues – had enough ‘but those things are over prescribed/harmful/hide the real ‘you’/you don’t need that’ comments to make sure that my meds are unlabelled and I don’t tell anyone about them.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I definitely wait to disclose until I have a sense people already take me seriously, but even then it’s not a sure thing. I do feel like I have to sometimes – for instance my CEO keeps seeing me on my phone and making a face so I’m prepping for an “I’m not goofing off sometimes I check my email on my phone to trick my brain into thinking I’m taking a break” conversation at some point. Or “I need to close my door because this office is a sensory nightmare right now”, etc. But there’s always the potential for stigma.

    3. tinybutfierce*

      Seconding this, honestly. Several years ago at a previous job, I was going through an incredibly difficult depressive episode, and I confided in my bosses because I knew it had started affecting my work, and I wanted to explain what was going on and let them know I was actively working to manage it. I barely got any acknowledgement, let alone support of any kind, and they fired me less than a month later on the weakest of pretenses (woooo, at-will state). I’m absolutely never telling another employer (or coworker, even) about any of my conditions, unless I’m at the point I need accommodation, because I’m simply not willing to take that risk again.

      (And just to cover my bases before anyone suggests legal action, I simply didn’t have the mental or emotional capacity to handle something like that for a whiiiiile, and when I was finally at the point where I maybe could have, it simply would have been more trouble than it was worth to me.)

    4. Just Me*

      In addition to this–you also could unintentionally be triggering other colleagues who are struggling with mental illness. Once upon a time I was at a low point where I was figuring out if I needed professional help for anxiety/depression and any talk about others’ mental illnesses/addictions/stressors was difficult–I felt I couldn’t participate without “outing” my own dark thoughts or lying/feigning disinterest.

      Another issue is that if you regularly bring up your mental health diagnoses, others may feel that they can’t then bring up work concerns to you. I had a colleague once who was open about being a recovering alcoholic and how much of her social life was tied to AA, which was great, but she would discuss it often enough that it would be awkward to pivot and say, “So, um, Jane, have you done the TPS reports?” or, God forbid, to say, “I know you’ve just laid bare your deepest, darkest stories, but I’m really concerned with your performance on this thing.”

    5. cottagechick*

      I agree that disclosing at work is fraught with complications and reactions from others that we do not expect. The reaction from my family when I disclosed that I suffer from anxiety/depression was terrible and continues to be. Little digs about my actions/mental health and how I should just be able to “smile” it away is just disheartening.

  18. Katie*

    Veterinarian here…. Be sure to look into how your state board requires these situations to be handled. PLEASE support your staff and fire the abusive clients- we actually had one throw heavy items at our staff- but there are rules about when and how you can discontinue care, especially if a case requires continued management. Especially if your area offers limited options as far as other clinics go, you may be required to help them find a new clinic or give a grace period to do so. The scripts offered are great from a professional viewpoint, just be sure to play by the rules with the board as well. I’d generally advise against sending records directly to a client- a clinic to clinic transfer proves transfer of care.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve been shocked how often a human in a white coat starting their portion of the discussion with “I was made aware of how you spoke to (support staff member). We all working in Fluffy’s best interests, and I expect all of our team members to be treated with respect” results in backtracking and apologies. Sometimes an invitation to seek a second opinion, “since trust in your care team is important, and it seems like we may not be on the same page” also does the trick. Call them on the bad behavior! If it doesn’t work, you have documented evidence to explain the firing/ show warnings were given when you get to that point.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      All of this.

      I worked at two different places. The first one, my boss would back us up and would 100% fire abusive clients. And call the police if necessary, as he did when somebody took offense at our receptionist’s Middle Eastern name after 9/11 and tried to haul him [receptionist] over the front desk. I had to leave because of personal reasons but I never regretted working there.

      The second place wouldn’t fire anybody for anything. We had a woman who, in fairness, was probably legitimately mentally ill, but she was routinely hideously abusive to the front desk staff and our bosses just kept making excuses. I stayed less than a year (and would have gotten out sooner if I’d been able t0).

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        There’s probably a big culture difference (am in the UK) but our doctors, vets in the local area have signs up and a message on their phone line that states if you are abusive to staff you will be removed from the patient list and have to go and find another provider on your own.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Some places in the US do, too. It depends on the vet. The second place was run by a bunch of cowards.

    2. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

      I was wondering if veterinarians have the same transfer of care rules as doctors for humans. Thanks for your post.

  19. I Like Turtles*

    LW5 – If it makes you feel better, my company does forced shutdown for nearly 2 weeks over Christmas and New Year that we either have to take unpaid or use some of our leave. I didn’t realise initially this was part of it, but fortunately I was able to get approval to work through the first few days so that got me over the line.

    It sucks, but it’s the way it goes. They can’t really pay you if there’s no work to do.

    1. GythaOgden*

      Ouch. Two weeks is overkill. Are you in something where work predominantly takes place outside?

      1. I Like Turtles*

        Agricultural industry in Australia. Our actual season is roughly April-October.

    2. NotRealAnonForThis*

      My husband’s first place of employment did this. You could use your vacation. Or you could be out of vacation by the time it rolled around, and under the rules in our state at that time, file for unemployment and receive benefits for one of the two weeks.

      Most everyone did the latter, even though management tried to tell everyone that they *had* to do the former if they wanted to be paid. The state didn’t really care what management wanted though – they were functionally laid off for two weeks, so they were paid via unemployment rules at the time.

    3. TheRain'sSmallHands*

      I’ve mentioned this before, but my place of business shut down with mandatory vacation the week before Christmas and New Years – the messaging on this was tone deaf because it was “to spend time with your families” – my husband worked ecommerce retail. He was in the office every day but Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – and he brought his laptop with him to visit relatives in case he needed to log in. My sister and her husband are both in medicine and we usually just push Christmas into January. I didn’t “spend time with my family” on those forced vacation days – my family was working. For a period of time we also had a mandatory week off in the Summer over the 4th of July – a period of time when I wouldn’t dream of traveling because I hate crowds….so out of the three weeks of vacation, two were determined for me.

      Fortunately I had great bosses – I was salaried, but they’d let me comp around some time And they had a generous leave policy so I was up to four weeks quickly – and the 4th thing was short term – I moved to a team more global in nature and was exempted and around then they dropped that week from being mandatory for the office side.

    4. Aitch Arr*

      We do a shutdown between Christmas and New Years, but give everyone the time as a extra PTO.

  20. GythaOgden*

    Sad to say, OP5, that this is normal in the UK on the days that a company closes over Christmas and New Year. For bank or public holidays those are included in our AL allowance, but a company can require its staff to allot AL days to closure.

    I work somewhere that doesn’t close over Christmas (healthcare admin doesn’t stop over the holidays) and I work those three days (bank holidays cover two days) so I can take the holiday at other times. My husband, when he was alive, had to take the days as there’s not much a landscaping firm can do over those winter days. My dad, in civil engineering project management and often on site supervising, complained about taking those days off when it was usually much colder in January and February. But for whatever reason, it is for many people time when a skeleton crew takes on essential business but the rest of you get a break. So I see why it isn’t more of a ‘public’ holiday. (And because it’s so dead and I’m now a widow, I’d rather have Christmas Eve off to be with family and then work through the following days so I can goof off a bit more at my desk. This year CEve is at the weekend, so the bonus is I don’t have to take time off to go to the crib service in the afternoon and my dad’s birthday party later on.)

    When I worked in Ireland, Good Friday wasn’t a public holiday (it is in England, basically because it always has been and so became a bank holiday when those were formally instituted) but my firm shut down for the day, meaning I had to take it as AL.

    We do get more statutory time off than people in the US, so it’s not necessarily as unfair for us as it might feel for you. But unfortunately it is what it is — it’s customary practice.

    1. Varthema*

      Yup, in Ireland and can confirm about Good Friday, and Christmas week for my husband’s firm. The last was especially annoying when I was working as a teacher in a private language school that stayed OPEN during Christmas week, so not everybody (not even most people) could take their annual leave that week. So one of us HAD to take a whole week of leave that week, while the other COULDN’T. Ugh.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Yeah, that sucks. At least for me hubby could give me a lift to work then go and see his mum, who doesn’t live that far away from where I work. This year just gone, however, I was so wiped out that I didn’t get to go to my friends for the first in-person New Year since 2018 (in 2019 a friend died on Christmas day, so we thought it not a good idea to celebrate that year, and you know what happened in 2020!). So definitely a double edged sword :(.

        In our organisation Christmas week gets divided up between us. I’ve taken a day on occasion — once was when my husband had recently been diagnosed with cancer and my cousin was staying with us, and my mum arranged an appointment with her quack who sold us placebos for the usual extortionate amount. At least we had the opportunity to sit in the Portsmouth one way system and have lunch on the beach while the wind battered the restaurant cabin. Soooo yeah…I’d rather be working.

    2. londonedit*

      In publishing it’s extremely common for companies to close between Christmas and New Year – it’s a hangover from when the printing presses used to shut down for a two-week Christmas holiday. The way it’s always worked in my experience is that if your job gives you the minimum 20 days’ holiday (plus bank holidays) then you generally don’t have to use annual leave to cover those days in between Christmas/New Year, but if you get 25+ days of annual leave, then you might have to use three days to cover the holiday. Luckily where I work we get 25 days and the office closes for the Christmas/NY period without us having to use annual leave to cover it, but there are definitely still companies where people do have to use annual leave even though the office is closed. It doesn’t really seem fair to me but I guess 20+ days’ holiday is enough for most people, and most people will want to take Christmas off anyway, so it’s not a massive deal in most cases (remember also that in the UK holiday has nothing to do with sick leave, so no one needs to save their annual leave for illness).

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Our place is a rare 24/7/365 (well hello railway) place but anyone who has to work bank holidays gets extra pay. I’ve even considered doing the Xmas day shift on IT helpdesk :)

        But the general office staff in e.g. finance don’t generally come in in between Christmas and new year and it’s assumed by management that they’ll just book the time off. Several offices will have no staff in at all.

        (I do have to be in during that time but between us here it’s the only time of the year that IT can be considered ‘downtime’)

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. I’m in a white collar corporate type job. We don’t shut between Christmas and NY but a lot of people take the time off so they tend to assume people will. Usually there are enough people who don’t that it works out alright for cover from a combination of people who don’t celebrate Christmas and people who want to escape from their visiting relatives. I tend to continue to work through because I don’t want to take leave and it’s a good quiet time to get my filing done and catch up on paperwork with nobody wanting me and much fewer emails.

  21. Abby*

    1. I suffer from crippling insomnia (due to mania). Simply state you are an insomniac. You are happy to join them but won’t sleepover. A head of department asked me to stay at his house to look after pets while he was away on holiday. In my mania, I craked out laughing! He asked why I was laughing and I said sorry don’t sleep anywhere but my house!

    1. No_woman_an_island*

      Exactly! I will not give up my bed if I don’t have to. It’s hard enough to sleep as it is…not giving that up to hang out with coworkers.

      1. abby*

        I’ve just spent the whole night awake and it is nearly 3 in the afternoon in England. …

  22. Aunty Fox*

    LW1 omg I feel you. This would cripple me with anxiety, not to mention I like my colleagues but my free time is precious and I want to spend it with other people! Also I snore so loudly that when I lived in a flat the guys downstairs complained so you know, I’m not a great camp buddy.
    I might just say that while you are free in the day at the weekend your partner has evening commitments and you don’t want to leave the kids with a sitter the whole night, then if they press for more info you can just shrug and say it’s some regular boys thing you don’t ask.

    On the mental health letter, in one to ones where my team have expressed they are struggling I’ve referred to my own mental health issues to reassure them there is no stigma from me, but I wouldn’t push them to say more than they are comfortable with and while I will happily answer questions I don’t actively invite them. I am with Alison and would err on the side of gently does it raising these things in the office.

  23. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    re 3, Mental Health Awareness events don’t do what they’re intended to do. People feel obliged to out themselves, but in most cases the only safe stories to tell are those where mental illness was (a) situational, (b) finite and (c) tidy. That’s not the reality of the majority of mental illness, so those stories can further isolate people with chronic and/or complex illness.

    I have a tendency to rant about this so I’ll try to be brief.

    I would suggest that a better way to mark MHAM would be to highlight gaps (chasms) in healthcare provision and the connections between mental health and social inequality more generally. How is DEI at your workplace? Do you have good sick and PTO allowance? Are people empowered to maintain a true work-life balance, eg working reasonable hours, using their PTO, good benefits, etc? Do you have 360 reviews? Is constructive feedback acted upon?

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Very much agreed. There’s been a couple of firms where they’ve pushed the ‘share your experience with mental problems to help others understand’ narrative and while, okay yeah the intentions are good, they’re absolutely not going to want the uncomfortable silence and discrimination that follows when someone with a stigmatised/messy/chronic/traumatic disorder talks.

      I don’t want people to know I have schizophrenia, or depression, or OCD, or PTSD (…it’s a long list) – I just want to not be in trouble if I need to take time off to *deal* with those issues.

    2. cubone*

      I worked in mental health for years and tbh I have become a cranky old grump about “mental health awareness”. It’s not really fair – mental health awareness IS important, especially when it’s thought of in a public health information/education way.

      But I sat through SO MANY presentations, TedTalks, panels etc where someone “shared their mental health story” and it was all very inspiring, but every time someone would approach them after and ask for advice on how they can get help, and the speaker would just be completely lost. It was just platitudes (“you matter!”), advice that wouldn’t work for them (eg advice to walk to the mental health clinic in a rural isolated small town that has 1 doctor), clearly overwhelmed speakers who had no clue what bipolar or borderline was after their talk on depression etc.

      It wasn’t their responsibility to advise people what to do, but every time I felt like I could see it coming a mile away and there were no resources provided, no thought to safety or risk, or the possibly uncomfortable position this person might be put in. I think you’re completely right that the stories people are comfortable with are situational and tidy.

  24. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW4, for some people a fidget toy would be a reasonable accommodation for neurodivergence. If this applies to you, does your manager know? They might be more inclined to work with you on finding a solution if they believe it’s not just a personal habit.

  25. Another Ashley*

    Letter 1: I absolutely would not do the sleep over. Spending an entire unpaid weekend at a coworkers house would monopolize too much of my personal time. I also have safety concerns about spending the weekend with 10 people I barely know. I wouldn’t bring up those issues but I would definitely decline.

    1. anonymous73*

      I feel the same way. The ONLY people I would want to spend an entire weekend with in one house are my nearest and dearest friends. I don’t care if it made me an outcast, I would decline. And I would make sure that they knew I was uncomfortable with the situation. Who knows, maybe OP declining will give someone else the courage to say they don’t want to go either. I can’t imagine everyone thinking this is a fabulous idea, but who knows, maybe I’m the weird one.

  26. Graeme*

    LW5 – Echo what Alison says about this being fairly standard around Christmas here in the UK – my first professional job we got 20 days holiday + bank holidays + those days as a bonus. Jobs since then have generally worked the other way round – you get 25 days + BH’s, but are expected to use 3 or 4 of those days to cover the non-bank holidays between Christmas and New Year. Either way it works out roughly the same and is generally explained before taking the job.

    At least in the companies where I’ve worked (Industry-adjacent), this is due to the production area shutting down and cleaning/deactivating all equipment so that it is safe over that time. And this is therefore also applied to all support staff, although those of use with keys could probably make a case to come in if we reeeeeeeally wanted to.

    The principal is perfectly reasonable and works really well over Christmas: you get near enough 2 weeks off for a relatively low cost of around 15% of your holiday allowance, where 2 weeks would normally be nearer 40% of your yearly holiday days. The issue you’re running in to is a) this should have been explained as a condition of your benefits when you took the job and b) you’re in the US so presumably aren’t getting much AL regardless c) an isolated day that you have to take off when you wouldn’t generally choose to is going to be more disruptive to your weekly workflow than beneficial to your overall restfulness.

    You could try and fight it, but if you’re also effectively asking a manager etc to come is as well, it’s going to be expensive in terms of political capital, so it really comes down to how disruptive you’re willing to be and how highly you value that one day of leave.

  27. Darcy*

    Sorry LW1. You have to go to the event. No making excuses or attending dayt8ne only. You’re new to the job and if you don’t show up for this special event (for whatever reason) it’s going to be remembered negatively for a very long time. If you ask for special accommodations, you’re going t9 be seen as a problem child. Suck it up and think of it as an investment in your career. Hopefully, these “special events” aren’t a regular thing but you won’t know that until you’ve been there a while.

    1. OP1*

      That’s what I think, and I am planning to go. But I also have gotten so few details about anything, and I’m having trouble formulating my questions about the sleeping arrangements and activities because every time I write it out, it’s so obvious that I’m feeling apprehensive and skeptical, and I don’t want to alienate my new coworkers who have been genuinely welcoming and are all really looking forward to the trip.

      1. Valancy Snaith*

        I think you’re letting your apprehension run away with you! Even if you were totally, completely psyched for this trip, it would still be normal to want to ask questions because you’re going to need to know what to pack. Find the person who’s in charge of the weekend, or whose place it is, and say “Hey, I just want to plan for the weekend–what should I bring? Do I need to bring sheets or a sleeping bag or a towel? What kind of clothes–I know someone mentioned yoga, but is there a plan for whatever else is going on so I can know what to pack?”

        If your coworkers have any common sense at all, at this point they’ll say “Oh yeah, I forgot you hadn’t been there before!” and likely will explain whatever is going to happen. If you decide you don’t want to go, you’re realizing it comes with the opportunity cost, but at least you’ll have an idea of what you’ll be missing at the weekend.

      2. DarthVelma*

        I think you are probably over-thinking this and tying yourself in knots trying to figure out the perfect way to ask. There is no perfect way.

        You’re new. So of course you have logistical questions. Just ask.

      3. High Score!*

        Your coworkers are likely NOT as excited as they act. They may believe it is obligatorily.
        It’s perfectly ok to say due to family obligations, you’re not free in the evenings. The more people start pushing back on crap like this, the less it will occur.
        Plz give an update. Good luck!

      4. No_woman_an_island*

        OP1, you don’t have to even give a real reason. You don’t owe them this, and if the success of your career depends on you teenagering it up with strangers, then this isn’t the job for you anyway. Just say “wow, this sounds great, but it’s really hard for me to get away for a whole weekend right now. Can we do a happy hour sometime?” Let’s them know you’re not totally blowing them off, but you still get to have your (very reasonable) boundaries.

      5. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking questions. I’d sooner have a member of staff who asked for clarification than one who sat in discomfort and silence.

      6. Cate*

        I think it’s completely fine to ask the questions. Just like, hey! This sounds great, thanks for hosting. It’ll be my first time, can you run me through what the schedule looks like / what the sleeping arrangements are so I can figure out my packing?, asking doesn’t need to be a big deal.

      7. Critical Rolls*

        I agree that you’re overthinking this. I think you could decline and it would be okay. But if you’ve decided to go and you want more detail, just write the email you’d write if you were looking forward to it.

        “Hey, I’m looking forward to the weekend trip! Could I get some more detail about what to expect? Food, sleeping arrangements, activities, that kind of thing. Right now I’m staring at my suitcase and drawing a blank!”

      8. Nameless in Customer Service*

        Your questions feel apprehensive and skeptical to you because that’s how you’re feeling when you wrote them, so rereading them brings up the memory of those emotions.

        But they’re probably just questions and will look normal and fine to someone not in your head.

        While we’re discussing your letter today you could start a thread here with your list of questions and get people’s opinions on your wording, if you like?

    2. Michigan mom*

      Totally disagree! I have no past trauma, love strangers and I don’t mind awkward situations when it gives me a good story later. That said I have four kids under 14 and my life cannot accommodate work crap eating more of my time. The reason is no one’s business. I think if you can spare a few hours in Saturday to pop over and join an activity great. And it’s also great that your team is looking forward to this even but it doesn’t work for your life abs why is no one’s business. Don’t suck it up. Be cheerful when you decline. So sorry to miss it but life and if you want a little slice then do it. Otherwise you have a thing that came up and if the “thing” is realizing this even sounds like absolute hell that is none of their business.

      1. pancakes*

        Yeah. There are lots of people who would not be able to make this because of child care, elder care, pet care arrangements or whatnot. It should be a non-issue to attend only part of the weekend or not at all. If no one in this workplace has anything going on in their personal lives that could possibly keep them from spending a full weekend with work people, that is very unusual, and if they don’t realize that’s unusual, they’re uncommonly out of touch.

    3. anonymous73*

      No they actually don’t have to go. I don’t care if it alienated me, I would say no because this is not something I would be comfortable doing, and nobody is going to force me to spend my weekend time in one house with a bunch of my colleagues. If more people stood up for themselves in situations like this, this type of “forced fun” would end.

    4. JMA*

      Yikes. This is why interviews are two way streets. If I was interviewing and was made aware that I was joining a cult and not an office of professionals, I’d leave a cartoon-style silhouette hole in the door as I escaped.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        Enjoying a weekend retreat does not equal cult.

        It’s entirely reasonable that this isn’t the LW’s thing, but there’s no need to exaggerate.

        1. metadata minion*

          If the office reacted the way Darcy implies they will, this is a deeply unhealthy workplace. Happily, I don’t think that’s a reasonable assumption to make without a lot more information.

        2. JMA*

          I like how your comment on my exaggeration focused on the cult and not the cartoonish antics. I’m 100% capable of making a me-shaped hole in a door at a moment’s notice.

        3. I Hate Holidays*

          All my work retreats were during the work week, at resorts where we had private rooms. We were paid for attending. Not a cult here, but expectations to work all week and donate my weekend time to work-related activities…no.

          OP, please don’t be so timid with your new coworkers! Just asking a few questions about something new to you is not being negative, it really isn’t. I think you have overthought all of this. Ask what you need to make yourself comfortable.

    5. cubone*

      The world is changing my dude. We can all see that “suck it up and see it as an investment in your career” advice never paid off anyways. So we’re not doing it anymore. Employers can learn to suck it up and start scheduling WORK events on WORK time.

    6. Sparkles McFadden*

      Hard disagree on this. This “your career will be ruined if you don’t do this thing you don’t want to do” idea echoes the advice I got over the years about “how to get ahead” by doing things that sounded crazy to me. These things ranged from people advising me not to negotiate for salary or ask for a raise, to volunteering to take on extra work without compensation, to being told I needed to curse more and laugh at some idiot’s rape joke so I’d be more like “one of the guys.” I did none of that, and I had a long and productive career just being myself.

      This is a weekend getaway with coworkers and that’s kind of odd to begin with, but it’s not during work hours so you’re not obligated in any way. In one job, I opted out of multiple weekend trips to Atlantic City saying “No thanks but have a good time!” and no one cared. They were just nice people who enjoyed these trips, so they’d invite me just in case I wanted to go, and they’d bring me back a gift box of taffy when I declined. That said, here’s my advice to the LW:

      If you don’t want to go, don’t go. There’s nothing wrong with saying “It’s so nice of you to invite me along but I have other plans.” If you want to go for a day, do that. Ask questions! Ask what the sleeping arrangements are and what activities are planned. How are meals arranged? Are there costs involved? These are all normal questions to ask. If anyone would judge you for not wanting to go or for asking normal questions, you’d be judged harshly for some arbitrary thing anyway.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I had a coworker at my first US job who told me about how, in her first year at that same job, her husband didn’t want to go to the company Christmas party with her, but she forced him to. “I told him, if you don’t come with me, I’ll get fired.” Readers, she would not have gotten fired! Like many others said, LW’s teammates will probably be just fine and understanding if LW doesn’t go.

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      “if you don’t show up for this special event (for whatever reason) it’s going to be remembered negatively for a very long time”

      For *whatever reason*? Like if, heaven forbid, OP or OP’s family member ends up in the hospital the day before the retreat, the coworkers will hold it against OP forever? My god, what sociopaths have you worked with in your career? I’m really sorry. Everyone I’ve worked with has been far more reasonable than that.

    8. Nanani*

      That’s not okay even if it’s true.
      They should and could push back with, yknow, reality. They have kids to take care of and are an adult with a life that isn’t 100% focused on work the way sitcom characters’ is.

  28. Irish Teacher*

    I think number 4 is particularly a red flag as autistic people often use fidgets and autism can make it difficult for people to “read between the lines” and figure out how people feel if they don’t explain. Not suggesting that autism is a factor in this specific situation or that one should assume anybody who fidgets is likely to be autistic, just that the fact the manager is irritated by certain forms of fidgeting and seems unwilling to say so to the person means that the workplace could be unwelcoming to those with autism and even more difficult for them than for the LW.

  29. Bad Ass Insurance Lady*

    #2- you may want to ask your veterinarian malpractice insurance carrier for guidelines on firing a patient that doesn’t leave you potentially exposed to a claim in the event of sudden injury or illness and you refuse to treat their pet.

  30. Manager*

    LW2: I couldn’t tell from your letter if you’re a hospital manager or not, but I would recommend having the hospital manager and doctor sign the letter/be willing to back it up over the phone. As somebody who worked in vet reception for a few years, the “white coat” syndrome is real.

    I took the brunt of some nasty conversations only to be undermined by my manager/veterinarian because the pet parent was always nicer to them. You’re doing the right thing in protecting your staff.

    Last little note: turn off their vaccine reminders so you don’t accidentally tell them to call you again.

    1. Boof*

      Yes you HAVE to have buy in from those in authority. Sucks yours wasn’t supportive :( If the boss/manager is allowing people to abuse their staff then that’s the real problem (not likely from LW2’s case since it sounds like they do drop patients for abuse).
      I saw it first hand when I was a trainee the fellow or attending (people higher up / in more authority) would clearly tell a patient who was being nasty to stop – patients generally looked chagrined and respected that. Not sure it would be as respected from someone perceived as lower down on the pole but it can be.
      If I hear about a patient being abusive I tell them clearly to stop – even if there’s a good reason they are super frustrated I do of course address that reason but if they were being mean I tell them clearly they can’t handle problems that way and the right way to handle problems (ie, call or message us, and never scream or swear at people just be persistent and clear on the urgency of the problem if it doesn’t seem to be getting handled appropriately)

      1. GythaOgden*

        I work in healthcare admin and have had a few scary callers. The risk team (health and safety, but covering wellbeing as well) were amazing at helping me recover from the incident.

  31. Maltypass*

    Lw2 you mentioned its been more frequent recently, if you’re not a regular reader there was a recent thread talking about this very issue with bad behaviour being on the rise from people. You’re very much not alone. Maybe its worth reaching out to other vets in the area to see how they’re handling it? I don’t know if thats done behaviour but I guarantee they’re dealing with the same thing

  32. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP1: It’s not unprofessional to ask questions about a trip away from home! For instance asking if there are privacy, proper beds, accommodations for people with medical issues etc.

    I mean technically I could stay over someone’s house but a) I go to bed really early (because my meds put me to sleep), b) I absolutely need a bed and a decent sized one because I’m tall and have a back injury, c) I’m a very early riser. Had enough scouring someone’s house for coffee at 6:30am frankly. Also I absolutely require time alone to recharge after prolonged social interaction else you get a very stressed and unhappy Keymaster.

    It’s also a benefit to the organisers to be asked these questions. Because they can ensure they’ve actually planned this right and that there’s not going to be a disaster…

    1. UKDancer*

      Definitely. I mean I travel a lot on business and when I have a new member of the team accompanying me I always expect them to ask about logistics, travel and sleeping and what they can charge in expenses. If we have a work awayday there’s always things people want to know about the logistical plans.

      It’s perfectly normal to want to know how things work and ask about it. Especially if you’re new. I’d say it’s equally normal for people to only be able to attend part of things due to childcare / other commitments. Especially if there’s an overnight stay.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I’d be surprised if any kind of overnight stay was announced at this place and I didn’t have half a dozen questions regarding accommodations. It’s perfectly normal and yeah, even the guy who’s only been here a few months would be fine to query it.

        (Then again we are IT and management of IT professionals is likened to herding cats at the best of times)

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes I mean I kind of expect new people to have more questions if they’ve only been there a couple of months. They don’t know what the rules are. There are also certain things I need to tell them (e.g. we don’t pay your bar bills but do pay for food).

  33. L-squared*

    #4. That seemed like A LOT to “accidentally” see. That said, I don’t necessarily feel that the comment on its own is a red flag. I can easily see that being one of those things someone finds annoying, but not conversation worthy. I can definitely see finding someone popping those things all day annoying. A similar thing happened to me though. I remember I once started a new job at a small company. I sat near the owner/CEO and COO. Me and the COO had similar names (think Mikey and Mickey). I was watching some very long, very boring training videos, and also playing on my phone while doing it. The CEO accidentally messaged me instead of the COO complaining about it. They never said anything. I took that as a hint that what I was doing was visible and not coming across well, so I stopped. There was never any conversation, and I went on to work there for years and have a great relationshp with the ceo.

    And it seems your boss was talking to another boss of yours, which is different than just random gossip to me. Also, the “I don’t know if this will work out” could be missing some important context. I know I’ve definitely started a conversation in person with someone, than another person came by, so I finished it on slack. Maybe what wouldn’t work out was the seating arrangement or anything else.

    Similarly, the previous person lasting only a few weeks says really nothing. That happens sometimes. You don’t know WHY they were only there a few weeks. There is a lot that, on its own, doesn’t seem that bad, but I can see how everything together can be worrisome. I’d let it go for now, but maybe find another way to focus.

    1. El l*

      But the owner openly saying – on the first day – that he’s “not allowed” to be part of the hiring process? Allowed!?

      Sounds like there’s a lot of trust issues around this place.

      1. L-squared*

        Yeah, that can mean a lot. I’ve had companies with owners I liked who probably shouldn’t have been allowed to sit in on interviews, because they asked questions that shouldn’t necessarily be asked.

      2. nonegiven*

        At least the owner is comfortable saying he hires people who know what they are doing and tries to stay out of their way.

  34. GermanGirl*

    OP1: Being available on a weekend and being available to spend the entire weekend are two very different beasts and you could just use that to justify that you’ll only be attending part of it.

    And also, don’t be shy to ask questions. As the organizer I’d love to get questions and clarify things, so everyone can have a great time without any unwelcome surprises.

  35. Emily*

    LW2: The weird part of this is that it’s at an employee’s vacation home and not someplace that specifically hosts these things (where you would almost certainly have your own room). But retreats and related events that take you away for days and, if you have kids, assume you can manage child care while you’re gone are not really that atypical. I’ve had a couple of mandatory ones that were mainly social/networking. They were really annoying for me, although a lot of people seemed to like them.

  36. Truth Universally Acknowledged*

    LW #2 here. Thank you Allison and everyone for your comments and suggestions. I appreciate them all. I do have to acknowledge that I am lucky to work in a place that does not allow the staff to be mistreated as long as people are polite to the veterinarians, which is usually how it goes. To the people wondering what on earth people could be upset about at a veterinary clinic I can tell you it is predominantly, but not always, financial. To which we are sympathetic and try to be as accommodating as possible, but still this is a business. One of the worst meltdowns I have seen was because a man’s dog wasn’t groomed the way he wanted it. Pro tip- fur grows back!

    1. anonymous73*

      I had a cat who was blocked once and had to take him to the vet. I had been laid off and the vet bill was around $1000. Yes it sucked, but it wasn’t my vet’s fault that I lost my job. There is no excuse for abusing someone who is providing a service to you. Good luck OP!

    2. Dust Bunny*

      “what on earth people could be upset about at a veterinary clinic”

      OMG, how long have you got?

      Veterinary medicine is one of the top professions where everyone thinks you should do it out of the goodness of your heart, take in all the strays, and provide free care to everyone who can’t afford it or doesn’t want to pay. Of course, not a single person who has said this to me has ever offered to do whatever they do for a living for their veterinary staff free of charge, though–apparently animal care providers are supposed to magically absorb all of the loss. Trust me, we would all have loved to save all the animals but nobody was giving us free groceries, rent, or healthcare because we loved puppies.

      Also, there is this amazing expectation that care should be pennies on the dollar since “it’s just a dog”, never mind that it’s medical care on a small-business model and the a lot of the supplies are the same (and cost the same) as at your doctor’s office. And it takes a lot of staff. It’s an extremely high-overhead situation. My former employer had people stop checks and dispute credit card charges *to which they had agreed*–we always brought them a printed estimate–all the time. Literally. As in, easily a weekly occurrence.

    3. Omskivar*

      I worked as a receptionist at a vet clinic for a few months and I can concur, finances were the main reason I got yelled at. Clinic policy was payment at the time of services, and if a client admitted that they didn’t have the money, then according to policy I couldn’t make an appointment for them. I’ve had multiple people accuse me of wanting their cat to die. I honestly preferred taking euthanasia calls.

    4. tinybutfierce*

      I just wanted to say “thank you” to you for all the work you and your coworkers do. Y’all are genuine lifesavers and I’m so glad there’s folks like you doing the work you do. <3

    5. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      I hear horror stories about this, and it’s atrocious to me. Pandemic care for our furry friends is hard enough without this sort of nonsense you have to deal with. Most vets in my area aren’t even taking on new clients. (I know this, because we have been considering switching, for [reasons], but it would never ever occur to me to be abusive to any of the staff at our current veterinary office.)

    6. fine tipped pen afficionado*

      My roommate and I have a dog who has several health issues and really really severe anxiety. He has to be drugged to even drive to the vet and fully sedated just to have his hair cut. When we don’t drug him two hours before his appointment, his anxiety by the time we reach the vet is so high that they can’t do anything further to him or risk him cooking his brain from how elevated his temp is.

      Our vet is INCREDIBLE and puts such thought and care into giving him the treatment he needs even though it’s burdensome for them. Even so, it’s hard to manage and sometimes things do go wrong. Or sometimes we try to schedule with staff who are unfamiliar with his case and think we’re angling for special accommodations just for our own convenience. (I take the full day off work whenever he needs to go to the vet, so no part of this is about my convenience lol.)

      It’s really scary being unsure if your pet is going to be okay or if they’re going to get the care they need. That in no way makes it okay to abuse people, but irrational anger is a pretty common reaction to fear. (I’m choosing to give people the benefit of the doubt and see it as concern for their pets or fear they can’t afford the care their pets need, not just wanting to spend the money on Funko pops or whatever instead.) My roommate sometimes lashes in out in anger when something goes wrong with our dog, so we’ve had to arrange for all vet communications and services to go through me.

      I hope this helps other commenters understand why people act like they don’t know how to behave in public. That doesn’t make it okay and your office is absolutely doing what’s right. Bless you and your coworkers for all the work you do.

  37. Bunny Girl*

    Just a bunch of love from a former vet assistant to writer 2. I recently quit my vet assistant job and one of my main reasons is because the clients were beyond abusive. We don’t get paid enough for that mess.

  38. Vanellope*

    I wish OP4 would clarify exactly what type of fidget toy they were using. They say “fidget popper” – my daughter has learning/focus issues and has several poppers that she uses at school to keep her focused. They are made of rubber and are completely silent – there are little bubbles that flip back and forth, but no sound. Only the colors are loud.

    I think OP making noise all day is a completely different scenario than the manager just hating the look of it (they are obnoxious, think tie dye/neon/etc) and perhaps not understanding that they have an actual function and are not just a toy.

    1. Similarly Situated*

      I have one of those silicone popper toys and it does make noise, so I don’t think we can assume just because maybe you can tune it out or don’t hear it that it is not making noise that might disrupt someone else. Over the office noises at my work I can still hear when the person one cube over plays with coins on their desk, or clicks a pen constantly, and it drives me bonkers. Even if there are tons of other noises present, the sound gets to me.

      1. Susie Q*

        This is correct. My daughter has tons of silicon poppers and they definitely make noise.

        1. pancakes*

          I’m getting the impression that some do and and some don’t. Which makes sense, because why not? Some keyboards are really loud and some are silent, etc.

    2. Making up names is hard*

      Maybe OP4 can find a fidget popper that doesn’t make any noise, or a different fidget toy that is silent. I know sometimes the noises make it more effective, but this might be worth it… I’m on the lookout for a new fidget myself since I realized my favorite one to use when watching TV with my roommates make a lot of clicking noises.

      Also, I recommend fidget rings! Mine is silent unless I spin it really fast. I wear it on my index finger and can fidget it with my thumb, so it’s very unobtrusive.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Fidget rings are amazing! I’ve got a much used rose gold coloured one on my left hand.

        Also I get a lot of benefit from just having one of those thumb stones (it’s like an oval piece of amethyst with a divot on one side) in my pocket. It’s not a button but having that to run my thumb back and forth on really helps.

        (Did have a fidget cube but that did make a fair bit of noise)

  39. anonymous73*

    #2 As Alison said, if you can, once you’ve decided to fire them send them their records. If they call “I’m sorry but we won’t be able to provide service to you anymore based on the way you treat the staff. We’ve mailed your records to the address on file.” You don’t need to mention that they said they weren’t coming back last time and you don’t need to sugar coat it. You just need to be honest, and if they start berating you over the phone tell them “I’m hanging up now” and then hang up. And then find a way to red flag them in your system so if they continue to call, everyone will know they are no longer a client. Block their number if you’re able. Nobody should put up with abusive behavior when you’re providing them a service.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      This is possibly not a good idea. If they transfer the records to another vet they can prove they’ve closed out care and put them in the hands of someone else, which I think they’re required to do? If they just give the records to the person, that could be considered patient abandonment, which I’m pretty sure still applies to animals.

      1. anonymous73*

        If there’s a law in place about records, then yes OP needs to follow that. But I still stand by the rest of my comment. Nobody should put up with continued abuse from customers. If it’s a one off because someone is going through something that’s one thing, but continued irrational and abusive behavior should not be tolerated.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          I’m not referring to laws necessarily but medical licensing requirements and board of ethics type stuff. It may be somewhat location-dependent. I am not in any way suggesting accepting the behavior is an option. I’m specifically suggestion the part about mailing records directly to the patient’s humans part of your suggestion is likely to make the situation worse.

  40. Avril Ludgateau*

    #5 is so, so common. I’ve been indignant about it ever since learning of it (although it hasn’t happened to me, yet). I’ve even seen it formalized in union contracts at public universities: the college is closed from the Ath of Smarch to the Bth of Burbuary, and all employees must ensure they have enough vacation time to cover the closure. If they don’t, they will be docked pay.

    In one case, it applied to a Christmas-to-New Year’s break for an employee that started in November and did not even have the accrued time yet. She was steaming, especially as this was not outlined to her until the onboarding process, after she’d already started (and ostensibly quit her last job).

    IMHO it should be illegal, on the basis that you’re essentially paying the company for their closure (i.e. you CAN’T work, but you’re using your compensation to cover it). It isn’t illegal, but it is unethical and it should be a crime. If you tell me I have x weeks of vacation and y holidays when you make me an offer, but one of those weeks of vacation is actually rigidly restricted to set dates… In practice that is actually x-1 weeks vacation and y+5 holidays, and that’s not what I agreed to. That’s a bait and switch if it’s not disclosed clearly at the offer stage, and even when it is upfront, it is still a BS approach.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I agree that this is something that should be disclosed upfront, but I don’t think it’s particularly egregious.
      Do they hassle their employees if they take their vacation time when they want, and take the time during the scheduled closure unpaid?
      (I realize that not everyone can afford to take time unpaid, but it’s an option)

      1. anonymous73*

        I don’t think it should be illegal, but it’s bad business practice and completely unfair to employees. If you decide to close for a specific period of time, you shouldn’t force your employees to use their benefits to cover that time period. THEY didn’t decide to close, YOU did.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          My company does a brief shutdown every year.
          I was told about it in advance, and it’s my choice whether or not I use vacation time for it (I typically don’t and take it unpaid) and it’s never felt like an imposition to me.

          1. anonymous73*

            Choosing between using a benefit for something you’re forced into or taking a day unpaid is not having a choice. It may not bother you, but it IS an imposition to many. A benefit ceases to be a benefit when you can’t use it in the way you want.

            1. quill*

              Yeah. It smacks of false advertising. We offer 20 days of vacation time per year! Depending on when christmas to new year falls you’ll be required to use 5-6 of them though, so actually we only offer 14-15.

          2. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

            It’s great that you can swing unpaid time, but many people can’t. Losing several days of pay can be a huge imposition.

  41. Delta Delta*

    #5 – I’m a fairly successful horseplayer, and I think of Derby just like Christmas: it’s the one day when lots of people go to the races, everyone dresses up, and just like church on Christmas, people who don’t go all the time don’t exactly know when to sit down. It’s decadent and depraved, and I love it. OP is certainly right to feel annoyed about being told how to use her PTO. I suspect, though, this goes back to the tradition of almost everything (including some schools) being closed on Derby Friday because it’s Kentucky Oaks day, and that was often thought of as the days the locals went to the track and left Derby to the visitors. The Oaks is a big race for fillies, and the whole day is pretty focused on races for fillies and mares (and sometimes the Oaks is a better race than the Derby – that’s how it looks like this year will be!).

    I’m biased because this is something I like, and if I lived in Louisville I’d be over the moon for the day off. If I didn’t like it, though, I think I’d be annoyed that one of my days off was not really mine. Hopefully OP can find an Oaks party to attend or plant her garden or get a haircut or something else with the day!

    1. anonymous73*

      Whether I liked the reason for having a day off is irrelevant if I’m being forced to use a vacation day.

  42. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I get wanting to have a nice social atmosphere with your team. I don’t get why this involves adults sleeping at a co-worker’s home. There can still be good team building with a picnic at the park and some lawn games/yoga/board games/whatever and then everyone can go home to their lives/homes/families/pets and not have to have a sleepover. But, I haven’t been to a sleepover in 25 years (because I am a grownup) so maybe sleepovers have changed?

    1. anonymous73*

      No they haven’t changed. This situation is odd and if it’s becoming a “thing” I’ve never encountered it. I go away with my friends for a girls weekend every year. But these are my closest friends. Sometimes one of them may suggest inviting another one of their friends (someone I don’t necessarily dislike, but I don’t want to spend a weekend with them) and I always find a way to bypass that (I’m the organizer). There is no way I would want to spend a weekend with colleagues in one house, no matter how much I liked them.

  43. Minerva*

    LW5 – Lord I hate this. Even if it is communicated to you in advance, even prior to hiring, I feel like this is a way they can pretend to offer more PTO than you will “really” have. Like if you say there is 3 weeks of PTO, but I *have* to use a week between Xmas & NYE then I really only have 2 weeks PTO.

    If a company is closed you have no option to work, they should be honest that you have X Days of PTO and X days of “Company Holidays”

    1. Graeme*

      The latter is exactly how it has been explained to me every time I’ve moved jobs in the UK. 25 days holiday, of which 3 or 4 (depending on what day of the week Xmas falls) need to be reserved for the Christmas shutdown.

      And I don’t see any “pretending” it’s holiday – you still get the time off, you’re still at home and in a functional company, you should still be able to relax and forget about work for ~2 weeks. If agreed in advance, this is just a perfectly normal part of discussion about benefits – the only real issue here is the surprise factor.

      1. quill*

        For most people the total of PTO they bargain for is in addition to paid days where business is closed. Advertising 15 days but only disclosing later that 10 are flexible is very much misleading.

        If I accrued, let’s say, 20 days of PTO last year but close of business days were expected to come out of that pot? Subtract 5 days for memorial and labor day, thanksgiving, 4th of july and black friday. 1 for a hyperlocal holiday. At minimum 3 between Christmas and new year’s, depending on what day of the week those fall on. 1 for MLK day. I actually only have 10 schedulable days of PTO. 20 days is more than many workplaces start you off with in the US. My first job with any PTO at all was 1 day per month combined sick or vacation. You can see how even one not actually flexible PTO day would be a problem. Especially if you want to travel anywhere or you are ever sick for more than three days.

        If every business shuts down at a specific time and everyone is told the actual vacation situation at offer “You have x number of PTO days, 3-4 of them cover our annual shutdown and can’t be rescheduled” (and you don’t have a ludicrously low amount of flexible PTO) it’s a lot less infuriating than “Didn’t you know we shut down for derby day but we require you to use PTO for that specific hyperlocal holiday? No? Sucks to not have asked!”

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

        I agree. I guess because I’m in higher ed, and I’m used to the university being closed for 2 weeks in winter and all sorts of holidays, that’s a big part of why I stay in higher ed despite all its drama. This doesn’t really bother me so much. They should be clear how it’s broken down — holiday, vacation, sick leave = X number of days off per year. For me, those holidays are the time I would probably be taking vacation anyway and it’s better than trying to compete with my coworkers for who gets the slot this year.

  44. Missouri Girl in LA*

    LW5-Welcome to South Louisiana. I used to work at a University (hubs still works there) and we had to take 6 days for forced PTO over Christmas-4 were deemed holidays and the Monday before Mardi Gras (a state holiday). When I first started at the university, I thought a holiday break would be a perfect time to catch up on a bunch of stuff. Nope. We didn’t have a choice. And the Monday before Mardi Gras-that made sense because you couldn’t drive in the city due to the barricades for the endless parades.

  45. anon toady*

    3- I would agree with Alison’s advice, for a reason I haven’t seen mentioned yet. Obviously, you are the expert on your own experience and mental health, but that’s different than being able to effectively educate others on the condition as a whole. I would be hesitant about accidentally giving a narrow view or leading to generalizations from my own bias and experience. I think questions about mental health (in the way I’m understanding your idea) are better directed towards professionals or people with experience in public communication on that topic. I hope that makes sense, I haven’t had coffee!

    1. cubone*

      Yeah I hope OP realizes there is a huge likelihood some of the questions they get will fall into either:
      A) explain the science and be my sole real life example of this condition
      B) provide general advice on handling mental health or specific advice about MY mental health condition

      That’s a lot to carry and frankly even if OP is fine with it, they shouldn’t be. There’s a huge risk they aren’t prepared for what they’ll be asked. I would never consider doing this without like, a handout of crisis numbers or training on mental health first aid. You have NO idea what people will think is appropriate and my experience (working in mental health for years) is that there is a strong likelihood some will think this is an opportunity for any and all expert mental health advice.

  46. Anon, anon*

    LW #2, if you want to avoid giving the client another chance to argue, you could use Alison’s language and then end with “we closed you out as a client, and we’re not accepting new clients.”
    Although I suppose they could just as well argue with that.

  47. Dust Bunny*

    LW2: Former veterinary assistant here. I don’t know the actual wording but, yes, my former boss would send a short and polite-enough but very clear letter stating basically that our expectations were not compatible and it was best if they did not return as clients, and that we would transfer their records as soon as we were contacted either by the client or by their next pet-care provider.

    But, remember–they will be ex-clients. You don’t need to soften this too much. And it’s important to do for the sake of your staff. The second place I worked never fired clients and the receptionists in particular had to put up with some horrendous and really inexcusable treatment.

    And, wow, does veterinary medicine give you some stories to tell! The one time my boss didn’t send the letter was when a cat mauled its owner and then one of the veterinarians, and was so aggressive during the week it boarded that we could barely clean the cage. The owners were [fake, I suspect] outraged when they came back to pick it up, so it didn’t occur to us that they would ever try to come back. Well, they did, about a year later. We think that we were probably the only vet clinic in the area that had not specifically told them not to come back so they thought they’d see if we’d take them again (we did not).

  48. matcha123*

    Re the first letter…I think they could easily ask about the details. That doesn’t sound to strange to me and I don’t think others would find it a strange question.
    As to skipping it, I think they might feel bad you weren’t able to join. Unless there’s something about them that seems like they’d be angry about it, I don’t think skipping is terrible.

    However, I think it’s important to go into those kinds of events with a positive mindset. If one goes in thinking about how much they hate yoga and so on, it makes it harder to find anything to enjoy.
    I went on a weekend onsen trip with other female coworkers over a decade ago. I hate sleeping over at people’s homes or in rooms with other people, I certainly didn’t want to be naked in a bath with other women, and I need my quiet time to recharge.
    But, in that instance I put my discomfort aside and went and enjoyed the trip. That wasn’t the first time I put aside significant discomfort for work…I don’t like being in front of people, but I had to give multiple presentations to large groups for work. I don’t like talking on the phone, but I had to take multiple calls daily for work. And much more.

    I don’t think people should be placed in extreme discomfort, but I do think that even adults should be open to pushing boundaries (to an extent). If they don’t want to, then pay people like me more :)

    1. Kate*

      Being naked and sharing a bath in front of your coworkers here is not something anyone at any time should feel they need to have a “positive mindset” about, or set aside their “discomfort.”


  49. Jennifer Strange*

    #1 – My husband’s place of employment (which has branches all around the country) used to host a mandatory retreat for all staff which was held at a summer camp in California (one which, unfortunately was destroyed during one of the wildfires a couple of years ago). They literally slept in bunk beds in cabins. To say he hated it would be an understatement. Thankfully, the pandemic stopped those retreats completely (at least for now).

    #3 – As someone who has suffered from anxiety (and, more recently, postpartum depression) I sincerely applaud your desire to de-stigmatize mental health issues. Unfortunately, I agree that it’s likely to impact you negatively, which is very unfortunate. Hopefully we’ll get to a place one day where folks can talk freely about these things.

    1. Niles Crane*

      The way to enable folks to talk freely about mental health is by having willing participants begin the conversation. We can’t speak freely if no one is speaking. If LW #3 understands the potential downsides and is willing to accept them, I think it’s a brave and worthy cause. I have a couple of diagnosed mental health issues that I am in successful treatment for, however, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a breakthrough moment here and there. For many, “covering” is the norm at work, which adds an unnecessary burden to everyday life. If I were able to freely disclose that I’m having a breakthrough of my OCD, it would remove a huge amount of added stress of trying to pretend that everything is fine.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        I agree, if the OP is willing to be open about it despite the potential negative impact they absolutely should! I just wanted to acknowledge the fact that there, unfortunately, is a good chance that there would be a negative impact. Wishing you nothing but the best, and I hope you are able to better talk about those breakthroughs with no repercussions. It’s not fair to anyone that the stigma remains, and it certainly doesn’t help anyone – including teammates of folks handling mental health issues – to pretend it doesn’t exist.

  50. RagingADHD*

    I continue to be surprised by the number of LWs who don’t appear to be new grads or interns, yet seem to be unfamiliar with extremely well-established, normal business practices.

    Like business team retreats.

    Been around for decades. There’s a whole industry around hosting them, or DIY planning them. Even having them in a vacation home if suitable. Many companies do them every year.

    I’ve never *been* on a company retreat either, but are there really a lot of established professionals out there who have no clue *what they are*?

    Like em, don’t like em, whatever. If you can’t get childcare, don’t go. And yes, opting out will mean you miss out on contributing to the work-related discussions or strategic planning they are going to do. If they were doing those discussions during work hours and you were not there, you’d miss out, too. You miss things when you are not there.

    It’s not a “sleepover,” and it’s very wierd for Alison on the one hand to pretend that it’s unusual or outlandish, and on the other to say, “teams, stop doing this.” It’s a thing you don’t like, but it is a pretty common thing nonetheless.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      I think that it depends upon what industry/area of business that you are in. Even when I worked as a research tech at a university, I never knew about them. Working in chemical industries, I have never heard of them either. (and I’ve been in 7 different types)

      I think that they may be more common with sales and other people orientated areas.

    2. londonedit*

      I’ve been working in publishing, in the UK, for nearly 20 years and have never heard of a weekend company retreat. A company awayday, yes, but that’s very much a working day that just takes place off-site, maybe with some strategy activities and some sort of team-building thing. In my 20 years I’ve worked for two companies that held an all-staff awayday once a year, and they were both very small companies – generally there isn’t much money floating about in publishing so big events are rare. I’ve never heard of a multi-day retreat with everyone staying over together for a weekend.

      1. UKDancer*

        Also been working in the UK for about 20 years in a variety of medium and larger companies. I’ve had awaydays and these usually involve some mix of business planning / vision for the company activities and some more social / team building things in varying combinations. Some are better than others. I’ve had one that was a weekday evening and then an awayday the next day and some people just came for the day but that was unusual (and the hotel was near Chessington so the rooms were all zebra patterned which is why it sticks in my mind).

        I’ve never had anything over a weekend. That would be really weird in my circle and would also be extremely expensive in London. I can’t think of anywhere I’d work that would include something like a weekend event. I mean nobody would want to go and people have domestic commitments. That would be very weird in all the places I’ve worked.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Have worked in finance, engineering, heavy engineering, software development, government services…and never had anything work wise scheduled for the weekend. (Except being on call of course)

          It just wouldn’t work for our department at all. People have other commitments, or they just need the weekend to decompress from work. I suspect I’d get a ton of people with sudden migraines/family issues at short notice if this was announced here.

          Frankly I’d be one of them.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        We’ve had very big away events, like a gathering of IT departments from across the country, and they’re generally for 3 days max and hosted at the kind of business centres where everyone has their own private room (think hotel style but generally a lot larger and nicer). And they are done during the week, the work ends at normal time and you’re paid.

        I have never in my career heard of a corporate away event at someone’s house or described as a ‘sleepover’. Or anything at a weekend. There’s been social events organised here for weekends but I never go – I absolutely need that time to myself.

    3. New Jack Karyn*

      It’s not a business retreat. They’re calling it one, but it’s really a social event. There aren’t training seminars, or leadership panels. It’s not being held at a resort, hotel, convention center, or business park.

      If it was a business retreat, the expectations would be made clear in a more formal way, like an email or flyer.

    4. Fluffy Fish*

      Business retreats are common, yes. But that doesn’t mean all business retreats are done in a professional manner.

      Business retreats at an employees vacation house are not. That’s where it gets weird and potentially uncomfortable. Wanting to know what the sleeping arrangements are is amply reasonable. Wanting to be sure it’s truely work related is reasonable.

    5. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      It’s happening at someone’s house, out of working hours and described as a sleepover. That’s pretty weird.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        +1. This is not a normal “business retreat” and shouldn’t be addressed as one

    6. fine tipped pen afficionado*

      Just because something is common does not mean that it should be.

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My workplace does have out-of-town retreats, that some of my managers have attended. They are however:
      1) not on weekends (and if one was, there certainly wouldn’t have been an expectation for the participants to work as normal M-F, leave for the retreat at 5PM Friday, and be back at work bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 8AM Monday morning)
      2) not at somebody’s house or vacation home!!! No one is sharing bedrooms that I know of. And I’ll be very surprised if the activities include yoga, or other physical activities that would make some of the participants look embarrassing, unable to properly participate, perhaps result in an injury in some cases (i.e. no rock-climbing retreats either).

      Just because they call it a business retreat, does not mean it’s not a glorified sleepover based on its format. I can call my cat a dog till I’m blue in the face, it’s still a cat.

    8. fhqwhgads*

      What the OP describes does not match any version of “company retreat” that I’ve seen – at least not the reasonable ones. Company retreats should: occur on or mostly-on business days; be held at a hotel or some sort of conference center; be focused on planning, meetings, training, other work related stuff, and yeah maybe a bit of bonding.
      What OP describes: everyone going to one of the staff’s vacation house to stay the weekend and celebrate success of a project – that is not a company retreat. It sounds more like a party, which happens to last all weekend.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yep. This isn’t like any work retreat I’ve ever heard of or experienced.

    9. quill*

      Usually those do not take place on the property of an employee if they are actually intended to be work plus some nonwork activities. And they are usually at least partially on work time. This one seems to be “It’s a party where we might talk about work, might not, but we are definitely not structuring it as part of work.”

      (Also: I have never heard of an overnight event, working in STEM. We had a massive day of presentations once? And a picnic afternoon, which was paid.)

    10. Koala dreams*

      Yes, they are very common in my country too. I can see the argument that a day outing is more including and accessible than a weekend retreat, but there’s nothing weird with people liking weekend retreats.

    11. Nanani*

      But it was presented by the LW as a sleepover, not a retreat or a conference or anything like that.

      It’s very unusual, actually. Pretending it’s normal because you want to equate it to something it’s not doesn’t change that?

  51. Aphra*

    LW2 I’d tweak Alison’s script slightly from ‘I’m not able to override that’ to ‘I’m not going to/willing to override that’. It’s clearer and doesn’t leave room for the client to ask to speak to someone who IS able to override etc. Absolutely terminate the call the second they get abusive though.

  52. Ruth*

    Oof I didn’t realize that some places closing between Christmas and New Year’s require employees to take PTO! My org started doing it in the last couple of years, and they are paid holidays in addition to an already generous PTO policy. That’s the way it should be done!

  53. Former Retail Lifer*

    OP#1: I’d let them know I couldn’t get away for the whole weekend due to family obligations, but I’d go for a few hours. You still get credit for attending but you can exit when you’re ready. I sure as hell wouldn’t spend all weekend with work people.

    OP#2: I have a friend that’s having a lot of trouble getting the right treatment for a medical issue and that’s resulted in her getting angry with medical professionals and being banned from an entire hospital system in our city. She received a certified letter from the hospital system stating they were no longer able to treat her. I don’t remember what the rest of the language said. I work in property management and when we choose to not renew a lease, we don’t give a reason (even though we have one and a paper trail). We just send them a letter stating that their lease will not be renewed, and this is based on our lawyer’s advice.

  54. Starlike*

    LW1, I’d like to address one of your lines that hasn’t been mentioned… yes, you should be able to leave the kids with your partner overnight. If you feel like you can’t, that’s out of the scope of this column obviously, but something you should take a very hard look at. I had a similar work retreat come up when my kids were 2, and leaving them with my husband for a night was the one thing that I didn’t consider an issue at all. Overnight trips for work aren’t unusual, and asking about sleeping arrangements and an agenda is totally reasonable. Depending on your field of work, this is almost certainly not the last time that overnight travel will come up, and you should be able to rely on your partner or family since it sounds like you have them available. If you didn’t, that would be another story, but it would just mean you’d need to be looking for reliable childcare.

    1. fine tipped pen afficionado*

      I read it as a hypothetical not a statement that LW has a partner or family upon whom they can rely, but I feel pretty strongly that employers should be much more discerning than they are in requests that would require overnight childcare, which is prohibitively expensive and hard to find if you need a paid option.

      Partners and families and friends might have jobs that work nights and can’t easily be called off, they might be sick or have a disability that makes solo childcare impossible, they might not be local, they might just be mad at you right now and kind of petty.

      Sometimes overnight travel for work will really be unavoidable, but employers should work hard to avoid it whenever possible. A “retreat” is not really a good reason to place this heavy of a burden on people. Even if you think you know their resources and situation; it’s important to remember that people are a lot more than the persona they feel able to present at work.

      1. JSRN*

        I agree with this. An overnight retreat is really not a good reason to leave your kids overnight (IMO). If it were an actual work trip, that’s one thing. But if my husband said he’s hanging out overnight with some coworkers and I’m just expected to stay alone overnight with the kids so he can have fun….nope. I don’t care if that makes me unreasonable or whatever other people may call me. I wouldn’t do that to him either. It’s just not fair as it’s not a business trip, he’s not getting paid for it, and it’s not company sponsored. I would expect him to decline it. Many people tend not to be considerate of their spouses and think they can just do whatever they want whenever they want and that’s not right.

        1. fine tipped pen afficionado*

          That is totally valid. Kids may be a joy but they also require a lot of energy which can be in short supply after a week of work.

    2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Sometimes that’s a relationship issue, and sometimes it’s that the partner really isn’t available, because of his work schedule. “You can’t go fishing with your brother next weekend,” sure. “You have to find someone to cover your Saturday/Sunday overnight shift at the hospital,” no. Somewhere in between is the person who accepted a Saturday job knowing that the LW would be there for the kids during the day on Saturday: yes, you can ask your partner to take that day off, but that’s a budget hit even if their manager is reasonable.

    3. GermanGirl*

      Well, yes and no. Of course I or my partner are perfectly capable of taking care of our toddler alone for a whole weekend, but it’s exhausting and we try not to do this to eachother more than a handful of times a year each. And I’d much rather use these rare weekends to visit my sister or attend a workshop for my hobby.

      Plus, it’s always stressful because we do a lot of adulting stuff on the weekends and if one of us is gone that usually means cramming this stuff into the already busy workdays before and after.

      On the other hand, being away for half a day or an afternoon and evening is usually no problem at all.

  55. Anon Vet Staff*

    My favorite client firing was the man who constantly berated EVERYONE from the receptionist to the vet and then when fired whined about his autism and ADHD. I always find it funny how they never consider that any of the people they habitually abuse might ALSO have autism and ADHD (I do!).

    Many also will say they will be calling/texting “Bob” (aka “Dr. Stark”) personally to complain about you and protest the decision. Giving Dr. Stark a heads-up that he will be receiving an angry personal call from Mr. AngryClient usually results in him saying “…who??”

    (A newer coworker once halted that one by saying–completely genuinely–“Who’s Bob??” as she did not know his first name yet)

  56. PieAdmin*

    LW2 – I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. It’s ironic that in a profession you get into to help animals, you find yourself dealing with some terrible humans.

    One in six veterinary professionals considers suicide. There is a mental health crisis within that field.

  57. fine tipped pen afficionado*

    LW #3: I apologize for the novel that’s about to follow but I am very passionate about this topic and your spirit and courage should be commended about all else.

    I think there’s a lot to be said for people being able to feel more empathy for someone they know than a stranger, but that’s only true if those people like and/or respect you. Which coworkers often do not, even if they are very polite and civil to your face.

    At the same time, there’s a lot to be said for wanting to work in a place where mental illness is destigmatized and talking to randos about your experience, as some suggest, is unlikely to address the stigma in your workplace.

    This is a huge personal risk to take, but I don’t think I agree with not doing the risk/reward calculation at all. I have multiple mental health diagnoses myself, though it has to be said that the stigma surrounding bipolar is its own creature entirely.

    I actually believe that if you have a lot of social capital at your workplace and the leadership has demonstrated (not just said, but DEMONSTRATED) support for flexibility, accommodation, and support of mental health even if they were a little incompetent in how they did it, that you really ought to talk openly about your diagnosis. That’s a lot of caveats and you really need to ask yourself if you are respected and well-liked and valued enough, and if you have enough authority to be the person doing this. But if you are, I believe you should. It would still be a risk and would likely cost some of that status, but I feel like workplaces will never change unless they are forced to change and neurotypical people are never going to force the change for us. They simply aren’t.

    I don’t know that posting an AMA sign is the best way to do it, however. I am not an expert in these matters, but I generally approach mental health in the same way I approach my queerness. I tend to bring it up as an offhand comment in conversations that are not going to be ABOUT my mental health, but which my mental health affects. Like talking about whether we like to work from home or not, I’ll say that the structure of coming daily to the workplace is really supportive to my strategy for living with depression. When we’re talking about our preferred number of monitors I’ll drop that I prefer to only have one because having even more sensory input exacerbates the inattentiveness I have to manage because of ADHD.

    As a caveat, I am a mid-level employee who is well-liked and well-respected with strong relationships throughout the organization. My organization and its leaders are also reasonably progressive and have demonstrated consistently a desire to do better on this front, even if they aren’t sure how. I have the sort of reputation that every time I drop these hints, people express their surprise because they had no idea I struggled with anything. Which is exactly the stigma I am trying to cure by showing that I am effective, professional, and personable despite my diagnoses. And in the case of ADHD, I am sometimes effective because of it.

    If you aren’t confident that your reputation and your work will be more powerful than the stigma, I have to agree that you should not bring it up unless you are willing to find another workplace. You might still put up the flyers as Allison has suggested, or take the same approach you might find in safe space training for queer allies. A sticker or a pin suggesting that you are a safe space for coworkers to talk about their own mental health. But you should only do that if you are prepared to actually be a safe space.

    If none of this advice helps you, I hope it helps to know that you aren’t alone and lots of people are asking themselves these same questions. And to end on a hopeful note, after I “came out” as it were, my supervisor shortly after started having hushed conversations with me about her own mental health and soon after also “came out” with her OCD diagnosis. A couple of other people in our department have since come out about their own health. It can be a positive experience too.

    1. Hookt Awn Fonicks*

      Agree 100%. I’m in the same boat and was very conservative about disclosing anything for years about my diagnoses, including ADHD. However, I will occasionally mention at least the ADHD now that I’ve changed employers, become a manager, and have a more supportive manager chain up at least two levels. I’m at a phase where I feel secure enough to make a difference by showing you can be successful in my field without being just like everyone else.

  58. Too Many Dogs*

    LW #2: I would not offer to refer them to another veterinarian. Think how you’d feel if you got a new client who turned out to be horrible, only to find that another vet sent them to you. It would strain your relationship with the other office.

  59. Former Retail Manager*

    OP #2…a slightly different take and likely a wildly unpopular one, but fidget toys in general appear unprofessional. Using them in an office setting, where other people can see you clearly, and apparently hear you (I’m assuming this thing makes noise) is a hard no. If you are new to a position that requires you to learn about the multitude of laws and regulations applicable to properly administering payroll, and you can’t get through that information without playing with a toy, I’d be concerned that either you lack the attention span and attention to detail that payroll can require or, if I weren’t aware of why people used these things, I might assume that you are literally playing with a toy rather than paying attention to what you’re supposed to be learning. Either way, it’s a bad look in my opinion, and something that would raise an eyebrow for a new hire.

    If you’re working remotely and this helps you, great, but in an office setting it just doesn’t seem suitable.

    If you really need this device, or a similar one to focus (assuming it’s quiet), I think you need to let your boss know sooner rather than later, but there is no need to mention the message you saw. Maybe just say “I just realized that I never mentioned it, but over the years I have found that using fidget type devices really help me focus on my work or when learning new things, so if you see me using one, I don’t want you to think that I’m not paying attention….it’s very helpful to me. I also realized that I was using one a few weeks back that was pretty noisy and I’m sorry about that. I won’t use that one going forward.”

    1. fine tipped pen afficionado*

      Fidget devices are a recognized aid for folks with ADHD and I’m not a legal expert but this feels discriminatory and your opinion is exactly the stigma that LW 3 is worried about. Please self-reflect.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        “you can’t get through that information without playing with a toy, I’d be concerned that either you lack the attention span and attention to detail that payroll can require”

        Right that’s…what the devices are for.

        1. fine tipped pen afficionado*

          Yes! And for the record, I have ADHD and my attention to detail is outstanding and something every employer I’ve had has been impressed by. Needing an aid to focus does not mean you don’t have good attention detail. Just… for the record.

        2. Nanani*

          Exactly. The device is what enables them to concentrate!
          It’s like telling someone with glasses that you’re concerned they lack the reading ability to read their screen wihtout glasses. Bob, that’s what the glasses are for.

      2. SloanGhost*

        A lot of the comments on this letter are straying in this direction and it’s an uncomfortable reminder of how unwelcome ND people are in work settings.

    2. cubone*

      Are you familiar with the term “ableist”? Or is it also unprofessional when someone with a broken leg needs a cane or crutches to walk around?

      The line “if you really need this device” assumes you think many don’t. Why is the assumption that people are lying and don’t know what they need – instead of assuming that someone using a device like this knows EXACTLY what they need?

      One of the greatest misconceptions about ADHD or other learning disabilities is that the behaviour you see is “lack of focus” or not lying attention, when often, the behaviour you see that LOOKS like lack of focus (fidgeting, doodling, using a fidget toy) IS that person trying their absolute hardest to focus.

      You are exposing your own lack of knowledge and empathy.

    3. Nanani*

      There’s a reason that’s an unpopular opinion, and it’s because many people are recognizing that fidget toys are an appropriate accommodation.

      Imagine someone said reading glasses and hearing aids “just don’t seem suitable” in an office setting. If you can see why that’s a problem, you can understand why anti-fidget-toy attitudes are a problem.

  60. AM*


    I do agree with Alison. Don’t discuss details about yourself that could be used as a weapon against you later. Even if it’s the other person inviting the conversation.

    I once had a terrible experience with a classmate. I was honest with her that I was feeling depressed because our school issued a final exam that was too hard for what they had taught us. This classmate then tried to gaslight me and say I was sabotaging our group project. She thought that because I was depressed, that meant she could easily manipulate me. She tried to destroy me because I disagreed on things (that had very little to do with the project) and also because I refused to do dirty work like bother mentors for help when those mentors were assigned to other teams (she didn’t like the mentor that was assigned to us). I had to get the school staff to intervene. She only backed down a little when staff pointed out that her reasoning didn’t add up. She didn’t stop trying to bullying me when I did things that were not what she would have done (and not that I had done anything wrong).

    1. AM*

      FTR this other classmate was the one encouraging things like openness. She would even tell me that she thought my problem was that I didn’t believe in myself. And completely out of the blue and in front of everyone. Nope, my problem was her toxic positivity and her trying to force me to be a shiny happy person. She thought I didn’t care about other because I would only say “good morning” instead of “good morning, how are you?” I don’t ask the latter because I know people will feel obligated to say “good”. But she shouldn’t have held it against me.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Oh my word you brought back a memory. Coworker about 4 jobs back I admitted to having major depressive disorder to. Every day after that I got bombarded with those kind of positivity memes, talks, urging me to go out and exercise etc. It really, really doesn’t help.

  61. WillowSunstar*

    I’d be forced to skip #1. I’ve started getting chronic hives at night ever since a few years ago, when I turned 40. Apparently it’s a genetic thing. I’ve already had to use it as a reason to leave an event early for something outside of work. (I live alone and have to be safe to drive myself home, and medication for said condition makes me sleepy.)

    So that’s also another thing, you or a family member could have a nighttime medical condition that you’re caring for them for (you don’t have to be too specific).

  62. Veryanon*

    That first letter – I truly don’t understand people who act abusively to service providers. Of any kind. I mean, if you’re experiencing bad service, it’s fine to address it politely, but what do you have to gain from screaming at the receptionist at your doctor’s office or the server at the restaurant? I think it’s just part of the overall lack of civility that’s been trending for years, but has become so pronounced with the pandemic.

  63. Lobsterman*

    OP2, either request an accommodation under the ADA or leave the fidget toy on the desk as a decoration.
    OP3, dead letter mailbox their calls can be shunted to. “This is the mailbox for clients we don’t serve because they are flagged as abusive. Feel free to leave a message, which we will not listen to. If you think you received this message in error, please be assured that you did not.”

  64. Not Today Josephine*

    I was a member of a team that consisted of all women in their 30’s including an Indian woman, and me, a woman in her 50’s. A team sleepover was planned and everyone was invited except for me and the woman from India. I was told that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it due to the fact that I was 20 years older than everyone else, and the other uninvited coworker would not have been able to attend anyway due to her religious beliefs. Please note that one of the people planning this sleepover was our manager!

    1. Nanani*

      If they want to socialize with peers, fine, but as soon as they start inviting everyone except ABC it stops being social and becomes a dangerous mess.

  65. FNR*

    Oof, joining the chorus of folks telling OP3 to be careful about disclosing. As someone who is also bipolar, I made the mistake of telling my then-manager about my condition, hoping to provide some context for why I went from being the department rockstar to being just generally fine at my job (aka: my “rockstar” work happened during periods of hypomania).

    At first, it was fine: my manager reacted sympathetically and even disclosed some past mental health issues of her own. But then, because it’s a *chronic condition*, I continued to be bipolar: I had good periods where things were fine and bad periods where I could barely get out of bed, and my manager began to get impatient that I wasn’t suddenly all better and her sympathy vanished. I began to be denied professional opportunities based not on the quality of my work but because she was essentially waiting for the other shoe to drop (she literally said “what if one day you’re suddenly too depressed to do [X Task]?” when I asked about permanently taking on duties that I had been covering on an interim basis without any issues). I was viewed as inconsistent and a ticking time bomb.

    Bipolar disorder also suffers from the stigma of being generally misunderstood compared to depression and anxiety: in my experience, it’s a lot easier to request accommodations from HR when you’re depressed at that exact moment than to request accommodations for potentially being too depressed to get out of bed a month from now (funny story: my HR person asked me why I didn’t “just go to bed earlier the night before”) or too manic to focus six months from now. I faced a *lot* of skepticism about whether or not it was even real and HR never bothered to contact my therapist.

    I eventually left that organization and have never disclosed my condition to anyone at work in anything but the vaguest possible terms (“I have a chronic condition that occasionally flares up,” and then just let them assume I get migraines).

    If you decide to disclose anyway, OP#3, just know that you’ll probably have to work twice as hard to fight the stigmas that come along with it, because you may end up losing the benefit of the doubt in any situation where your reliability is questioned.

    1. cubone*

      I am sorry this happened to you and that so much stigma around bipolar still exists. One of the things I hear most from a few friends with bipolar is they’re endlessly complimented for “working so hard” or being a rockstar during bouts of hypomania.

      Our conception of mental health is such a simplistic view of depression and anxiety, with no room for nuance.

    2. Sylvan*

      Strongly agree with you. I’ve been treated negatively after disclosing anxiety disorders, which aren’t as stigmatized as many other mental illnesses. Additionally, people who seem supportive can let you down when you actually experience symptoms of your condition (such as a panic attack, a depressive episode, or a couple moments of out-of-character behavior).

  66. JSRN*

    LW2, I just wanted to thank you for standing up for your staff and banning abusive clients. Too many companies allow their clients/customers to abuse the staff so horribly and do absolutely nothing about it, even sometimes apologizing to the customer or offering coupons/free stuff!

    I’m not saying for you to do this. But if it were me, I would be 100% honest and tell the person exactly why they are not welcome back….”On May 5, you brought your dog in and threatened to punch the tech then threw our pens all over, because of that, you are no longer welcome here, goodbye”. Hang up before they can argue, they don’t deserve any time to talk. Then I would follow it up with an official letter outlining everything without any recommendations for another vet, they’re on their own to find someone. Again, I’m not telling you to do this, I’m just sooo tired of disgustingly rude people and they need to be told the consequences are because of their rudeness. If enough businesses do this, maybe these rude people will think twice before they start abusing employees who are there to assist.

  67. sofar*

    LW1: The company should do this during the work week, if they want to do a sleepover. My friend’s company does this every year, but it’s midweek.

    And, like … do NONE of these coworkers have lives?

    I’m booked every single weekend through September for weddings, family trips, volunteer/hobby stuff, birthday parties, grad parties, etc. I literally cannot imagine having no life to the point where I could just go, “Yeah, let’s do a work sleepover during the weekend, awesome, I have nothing planned.” The trade-off with a corporate job is that you cram your entire life into your weekends/evenings and focus on work during business hours. My weekends are therefore booked solid.

    1. fine tipped pen afficionado*

      LOL This is such a smooth roast. I can’t stop laughing.

      “I literally cannot imagine having no life to the point” I have burn cream ready for any commenters affected.

    2. Colette*

      That’s you – others are busy during the week. (And for those with school-aged children, being gone mid-week can cause other problems with childcare.)

      1. sofar*

        This appears to be a corporate job, though. So I’d see a mid-week trip as along the same lines as business trip, where it’s normal to be gone a couple week nights as well as the week days you’d already be working anyway.

        And if the company was giving employees two week days off in exchange for this this work-sanctioned sleepover, that would be different.

        But what they are doing is snatching away the weekend days in addition to the week days.

        Business travel is a pain no matter how you cut it, if you have kids, I agree there. But if they’re making you travel mid-week, at least some of those hours are time you wouldn’t get to spend with your family anyway (and where the kids would be in school/day care). And, even if you’re single/childless, the corporate work structure forces you to devote your week days to work and cram family obligations in on the weekends. If a company snatches those weekend days, too, it really puts people in a bind.

    3. SnappinTerrapin*

      My social calendar isn’t as busy as yours, but I agree. When I’m not working, I have things to do with my family, even if the specific activities look like “doing nothing” sometimes. I’ll work overtime, when needed, if I’m able to, but no unpaid activities “for the company” under any circumstances.

      In previous jobs, I have traveled out of town or out of State for work related conferences, but my employer paid the expenses (or per diem) as well as my salary.

      I have also voluntarily socialized with individual coworkers over the years, and even attended an agency picnic on a Saturday (which was open to families), but I’d be too busy for an event like this.

      If the LW WANTS to go, it is entirely reasonable to ask all the questions about logistics. If the questions aren’t received well, then that just lets her know something very important about her company, and she needs to decide what to do with that information.

  68. Susie*

    I am a person who can focus much better having something to do with my hands. I bought a completely silent sand filled fidget toy and I can focus better on calls, meetings or conversations and have been compulsively checking my phone or multi-tasking much less. When I’m stressed I will pick at myself. Fidget toys save my skin as well as my concentration.

    I get some people may be annoyed at this! But honestly, it’s more annoying when I grab my phone and turn the screen on and off so can we please normalize those that need a quiet unassuming fidget toy if it’s not a huge contraption? When I was a kid in school this would have helped too but it wasn’t a thing.

  69. bastian*

    My mom and dad owned/ran a veterinary clinic for many years, and had to “fire” a few clients over the years. Once they’d noticed the abuse had crossed a line, usually one of the vets would be the one to come out and talk to them, telling them they were no longer welcome, etc. etc. It was important it came from the vets, because in that context, they have the authority, even more so than the manager. Then they send a standardized letter (I think they had a lawyer write up a form letter for them) to that client, including their records and recommendations, but making it clear they weren’t allowed back. Finally, they’d place a note in their chart stating that if they called, they were not allowed to schedule, and techs/reception could just continue on the “As Dr. XXX said…”, rather than having to take any of the responsibility for it themselves. Not sure if it’s helpful, but thought I’d mention what their “procedure” was. I think having a pre-set plan and a formal letter/dismissal really helped make it easier if they made the decision to ban them.

  70. Elizabeth West*

    It’s a bit late for #5 now, but having worked in jobs where Black Friday wasn’t covered, I ask questions in interviews when we talk about PTO. When are the busy periods? Are there blackout dates? What’s the maximum time people usually take at one time? How do you manage coverage? And especially if it’s hourly, are there times when the company is closed, and what’s the policy for that?

    I frame it as how it affects my job when people need to be out. The pandemic gave me a convenient way to open the topic—PTO doesn’t always equal going on vacation. I do want to know what happens if someone gets sick and needs to stay home for a while, because now we have hit-by-the-COVID-bus as a real possibility.

  71. Nameless in Customer Service*

    Ugh, the problem with work events is that nothing work-related is truly optional. If one doesn’t go one misses out on team bonding and one gets subconsciously judged for it.

    I’ve noticed that not a few commenters mock people who don’t want to spend time outside of work with our coworkers. Apparently we can be diagnosed as misanthropic or introverted or whatever. My reasons are twofold: one, I don’t get to pick my coworkers. I don’t really want to spend any extra time with, for instance, the ones who loudly and constantly discuss how they voted against my freedom and the existences of people I love, Two, I have people I love and like whom I’d rather spend time with. I don’t live to work; I work to finance my actual life. So why is it supposed to be pathological that I don’t want to spend extra time in work mode, especially overnight where I couldn’t get any rest, away from the people I have chosen?

  72. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    LW5: I don’t think it’s disagreeable to require use of vacation, unless it was never explained when hiring or in the employee handbook. However, I do think it’s super weird to offer a larger vacation package to then just require it be used to cover company holidays, just expand your holiday paid days off.

    For my practice groups, we’re updating our corporate schedule to indeed partially close the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Critical roles will be offered differential pay and everyone else gets a paid holiday. Historically, these offices have had extremely low volume that week, and it didn’t make sense to have staff in and be idle or to force the use of vacation time.

  73. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    LW2: I recommend this template. While not aggressive about it, I generally have a low tolerance for staff abuse from clients/patients and will not hesitate to terminate the relationship. Especially right now, when everyone is sick of the abuse.

    Dear (Client):

    After careful consideration, I feel it would be in your pet’s best medical interest to seek the services of another veterinarian. I have decided to discontinue as your veterinarian effective 30 days from the date you receive this letter for the following reason(s): (Indicating the specific reason(s) for termination is optional although if it involves your medical treatment, such as failure to take prescription medication, you may wish to do so.)

    I strongly urge you to make arrangements for the services of another veterinarian as soon as possible to maintain the continuity of your pet’s care. INDICATE APPROPRIATE REFERRALS HERE. We will transfer a copy of your pet’s medical records to your new veterinarian upon request.

    If your pet should have a medical emergency before you have been able to secure the services of another veterinarian, I will be able to provide such emergency care for 30 days from the date you receive this letter.

    In closing, I wish to remind you of the importance of seeking regular care and maintaining the continuity of services by a qualified veterinarian. (If the pet has a condition that requires specific care, state the care AND the consequences of no care in clear, client-friendly language. If the pet has a condition that needs regular follow-up, state the frequency and urgency of the follow-up, AND state the consequences of not getting the follow-up at the recommended time in clear, client-friendly language.)

    I appreciate your understanding and assistance in this matter and assure you we will do all we can to facilitate a smooth transition of your care.


    (Veterinarian’s Signature & Name)

  74. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

    LW4: you saw something on someone else’s screen and it was about you. It was NOT a “passive-aggressive hint”. They didn’t set this situation up specifically so you would see that.
    (And this is exactly why it’s good to not actually look at people’s screens except when they’re specifically showing you something – and if they need to interrupt themselves, it’s good to look away for a moment. And it’s also why I hate pop-up notifications. Besides being distracting, I’ve seen some pretty confidential information pop up in chat messages on other people’s screens while they were giving presentations.)

  75. Re'lar Fela*

    Just for fun, on the topic of #5: I moved to Louisville for university and currently live here. My daughter attends public school and the entire district is off tomorrow for Oaks Day. My boyfriend, a native Louisvillian, takes the entire week off every year to participate in Derby Festival events and is APPALLED that my workplace does not consider Oaks or Thurby to be a holiday. My roommate, who works for a start-up, was informed on Monday that she would be off for half the day today (Thursday, or “Thurby”–the new locals day since out-of-towners have caught on to Oaks Day) and all day tomorrow.

    In their cases, of course, my boyfriend voluntarily uses his PTO and my roommate’s time off is a paid holiday (and a half). But this town is wild when it comes to Derby things. My university has a section of the by-laws stating that the spring semester must be completed prior to Derby (regardless of university closures/makeup days).

    I imagine it’s similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. But yes, OP #5, you should definitely be either given a holiday or allowed to decide whether or not you want to work and I’m sorry that’s not the case.

    1. fine tipped pen afficionado*

      Interesting. I lived in KY until I was 22 and am a UofL alum and I have never participated in a single Derby event or even particularly been encouraged to engage in it. (That’s not strictly true. I really enjoyed the Turtle Derby of 2020.)

      I remember St. Patrick’s Day being a much bigger deal, but maybe that’s because I hung out in the Highlands and was too occupied with finals and not exactly the target market for the Derby to notice the hullabaloo. Honestly this comment is an excuse to say hello to a fellow student of Papa Johns University lol!

      1. pancakes*

        That is funny, I’m in NYC and have gone to a few Derby-centric events here over the years. One year recently I met friends at Bell House (music/comedy venue in Brooklyn) to watch on a big screen there. It was packed and a lot of people were in full Derby looks.

      2. Re'lar Fela*

        Hello! I actually went to Bellarmine, but my boyfriend is a Papa Johns University alum :)

        I have also never participated in a Derby event and have only been to Churchill Downs twice (once during senior week and once on a random Thursday morning not during Derby season). In college, I was usually back home by Derby and then I just have never seen the need to participate. The St. Patrick’s parade is fantastic, though. I used to live right off of Bardstown Rd and be able to walk to the parade, which was pretty great.

        Anyway, yay Louisville!

  76. B Wayne*

    So you get Friday (Oaks Day) off. I would be happy to not be in Louisville the week of Derby and usually tried to avoid it if I could. I wouldn’t want to burn a day but good luck getting that changed. Having Friday off is even in some union contracts in Louisville.

  77. Koala dreams*

    #1 When people are enthusiastic about something, they are usually happy to talk about that something. You can explain to your co-workers that you are new and have never been to an activity like this before with work, and ask what it’s like, what the schedule is, what the arrangements for sleeping and food are and so on. If you have any breaks together or a company chat or something like that, it would be perfect for this.

    Just skip the mom-shaming (parent-shaming?) and you’ll be fine.

    If you find out that the arrangements don’t work for you, you can then go back to the organizer and tell them. If you want you can explain about the mis-matched expectations too, the way you described it in the letter sounds fine.

    If you think you could participate with some accomodations, you can also go back and ask for those. Or you could just say that because of family reasons/health reasons/personal reasons you won’t be able to go.

  78. Pam Poovey*

    #2, I would absolutely err toward notifying them asap. Not so much for the person’s ease, but for the sake of the animal who didn’t ask to have a jerk as an owner.

  79. Yellow*

    LW4 don’t read other people’s private messages if you don’t want to see things you won’t like.

    I get that you didn’t mean to see it, but it wasn’t meant for you, and really it’s very mild. What she wrote want abusive, or indicating anything malicious.

    The idea that because someone is a manager they cannot vent is ridiculous. They have to vent to equal or higher level, but they can vent. Just like employees can.

    You did something really annoying, that you should have known was annoying. Someone subjected to your annoying behaviour vented to a colleague privately. It is unfortunate that you saw it. But really you need to move on.

    This doesn’t mean your manager won’t provide feedback. Managers selectively choose what they raise.

    This could mean that there are other things that are bigger issues and so manager is focusing on important things and letting little things slide. Maybe they hoped you’d figure it out on your own. Maybe they planned To talk to you and you didn’t repeat so they figured self awareness solved the problem. Maybe manager is easily annoyed with noises and wants to balance a personal idiosyncrasy with reasonable expectations.

  80. Mannequin*

    Is nobody else going to bring up the fact that Covid is still an issue and a multi-day sleepover with 10 unrelated people is still not a very smart idea?

    1. Re'lar Fela*


      That was my thought as well, but alas, most of the world seems to have decided that COVID is not a thing anymore (despite the fact that young children still aren’t able to be vaccinated). The whole thing is wild

  81. Employment Lawyah*

    2. Telling abusive clients we won’t see them again
    1) Use a form letter. Have your attorney write it.
    2) Do not make accusations; do not give them reason to be pissed; just state the facts.
    3) Be exceedingly clear.; do not use flowery language. Eg don’t say “we may will not be able to serve you”, say “you may not make an appointment at this office, and you will not be accepted as a walk-in client.”
    4) Send via certified and regular mail (send both at the same time)
    5) Enclose a complete copy of their file and vaccination history.
    6) If they have deadlines coming up (vaccinations, etc.) make sure to remind them.
    7) Move on.

  82. Daisy*

    LW1: say “I’ve never done this for work. You all seem excited! How does this go? What do we talk about? Where do I sleep?”

  83. Ex NDIer*

    Team getaways are the worst. My weekend is mine!
    Our CTO wanted the whole tech team to do a weekend retreat at his vacation home too. Made a point of playing up how remote and difficult to get to it was. So, naturally, we all started gleefully referring to it as “Marty’s Murder Shack”.
    End result was that out of 30 or so team members a grand total of ZERO RSVPed.
    Weekend retreats were never mentioned again.

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