hostile assistant won’t do their job, booking a luxury hotel for business travel, and more

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

1. Hostile assistant abuses coworkers and refuses to do their job

I am one of a team of three working remotely in a director’s office. Ron is the chief of staff, I’m his deputy, and Beck is the executive assistant. We work closely with about 20 other people in the wider directorate and anyone who wants something from the director will go through one of us. Since I started in this role six weeks ago, Beck has been unhelpful and negative to work with. I gradually realized they have this reputation with the entire wider team. Every request they receive is apparently wildly unreasonable, everyone is an idiot except for them, why have they been cursed to work with such b-words and worse as this team, etc. I found it odd that they would call me up to complain about people when I was so new, but every job I’ve worked had at least one person like this and sometimes you can get useful information from them, so I tried to keep it friendly and move along. More recently they have also stopped answering my requests or messages — they seem to think unless it comes from the director herself they needn’t bother. Beck is on a temporary contract until September so we all were treating them as a missing stair and essentially working around them until then. We’re actively recruiting to replace them.

Yesterday, I emailed Beck to ask them to set up a locker in our office for one of the wider team who is not there regularly but sometimes needs to store sensitive paperwork. This person had asked Beck to look into this before and received a flat “no” with no explanation, so they had gone to the higher-ups looking for some pragmatism. The higher-ups okayed it and asked me to relay the message to Beck. I sent a very ordinary email saying just that and asking that Beck get it sorted. I immediately got a reply — “I don’t know why you’re getting involved with this when it’s already been sorted” — full stop. Beck then rang me and yelled at me for 10 minutes for having the audacity to ask for something they had previously said no to, saying they shouldn’t have to deal with it just because our colleague was having a “temper tantrum.” This was about a locker, not their firstborn child. I tried to talk them down but eventually had to cut them off pretty abruptly or I was going to start yelling back!

We’ve both since spoken to Ron about it separately. He apologized for Beck’s behavior and agreed that even if my original request had been unreasonable, that’s not an excuse for Beck to berate me (especially as they are more junior than me, not to get hierarchical about it). He acknowledged that we’ve all let Beck get away with things partially because we were afraid they might quit and leave us without an EA and partially because no one feels like painting a target on their back.

How should this have been handled before now to prevent this most recent blow-up? When you’re dealing with a sensitive, unreasonable person in an important role (even if they are not doing a great job but better than nothing) and you don’t have much leverage as they’re leaving in a few months, what do you do?

Ron should have long ago clearly told Beck that their behavior was unacceptable, laid out the expectations of the job and their dealings with others, and then held them accountable to that. If that meant cutting short their contract, then so be it — you can’t have an employee who abuses other staff members (even more senior staff members, apparently, which is fascinating!), makes people tiptoe around them for fear of a blow-up, and flatly refuses to do parts of their job. As disruptive as Beck’s behavior is, Ron’s refusal to deal with it is the bigger problem.

I suspect the reason for Ron’s inaction lies in your “better than nothing” concern. It’s easy to feel like a highly problematic person is better than nothing — but it’s not true when the problems are severe and affecting others to this extent. It’s also not a foregone conclusion that Beck would quit in a huff if told to shape up — and in any case, you can’t let fear of that keep you from dealing with significant problems like this one.

2. Did we just get blacklisted by an underground freelance network?

I work in the marketing area of a company that has a very small design team. My manager asked if we could begin creating a freelancer network we could reach out to as a way to alleviate the design team’s work load. A coworker and I began looking for freelance designers that we could hire for an upcoming project and found several we thought would be a good fit. Out of the first batch, we liked Green Designer. However, our manager did not think they fit the profile they wanted for the project so they asked us to expand our search.

We reached out to a second batch of designers and got a note back from one, Blue Designer, saying that they weren’t available but recommended Green Designer (the one we had already spoken to) for the project. We thanked them, but obviously couldn’t tell them that our manager had already said no.

Then we found Red Designer, who we thought was a perfect fit. We were ready to schedule a call when we received a note from Red Designer saying they had spoken with their colleagues and were backing out of the project because Green Designer (again!) was a much better fit for the project.

This left us extremely bewildered because, while it’s common for people in the same field know each other, there are tons of freelance designers out there and it seemed strange that Blue and Red Designers both backed out of the project to give way to Green Designer. Is this type of thing normal in the freelance designer community? (Or in any freelance community?) Is it possible that our company has been blacklisted? (I would think so if the designers outright refused the project, but they aren’t doing that.) Why are all the designers directing is to Green Designer? Is it an arrangement they have? Is it just a very tight community?

This is odd! My best guess is that Green Designer could have mentioned to Blue and Red that they were doing the work and/or were excited about it, and now Blue and Red don’t want to step on their toes. Or maybe the project isn’t aligned with what Blue and Red normally do but it really does happen to be right up Green’s alley, and so they’re referring you to Green without realizing you’ve already talked to them. It’s pretty unlikely that Green knows they’ve been rejected and yet has placed some sort of “dibs” on the work that’s driving other designers to refuse the project and point you back toward Green. But — does Green know they’ve been rejected? If you didn’t tell Green they’re no longer in consideration, it’s possible they think they’re slated to do the work — which could make this make a little more sense.

So I’d recommend two things: tell Green you’re going with another firm, and then tell Red and Blue that you don’t think Green is the right fit and would like to talk with them about the work if they’re interested.

3. Booking a luxury hotel for business travel

I started a new job about a month ago where I’ll be required to travel a few times a year. I’m in the process of booking my first trip right now, and I am the only one who will be traveling and needing to book a hotel. My boss showed me the portal where we self-book for travel, but we don’t appear to have any specific guidelines or policies around booking travel.

The office I’m traveling to is in a major U.S. city, but a really strange location in that city. The only hotel within reasonable walking distance is a ridiculously luxury hotel that cost $800/night. When I asked my boss if he thought I should take that hotel or one that was cheaper but a little farther away, he said, “I don’t know enough about the area to comment, just don’t do anything that would give me trouble when approving your expenses.”

My company is a large multi-national private corporation. I know the difference between $300/night and $800/night would not matter to them, and it would be nice to stay at the more convenient (and nicer) hotel. But I don’t want to be seen as difficult either. In this case, what would the correct move be?

Is there a more mid-range hotel a bit further away and if so, when you factor in the cost of a ride service to and from it, what does that do to your expenses? If there’s a $300/night hotel that would mean a $20 ride to the office and a $20 ride back each night, book that one, as long as it’s within a reasonable distance. But if it’s very far away (like an hour), go back to your boss and say, “I’m not comfortable booking this $800/night hotel but the next closest one is an hour away. Factoring in the need for a ride service every day, staying there would save us $X — but it would mean two hours of commuting a day. Since this is the first time I’m booking travel in this job, I want to check with you about what’s reasonable.” But given the cost, don’t book it without your boss’s explicit okay.

(And if the issue is just that other hotels aren’t walking distance but are still in the general vicinity, definitely don’t pay $800 just to have something walkable. Walkable is nice, but very few expense approvers will think that justifies the price when there are other reasonably nearby options.)

4. Requesting PTO for tattoo appointments

I recently got on the books for an amazing tattoo artist and will be starting a leg sleeve this winter. Currently, we’ve planned for full-day sessions the third Wednesday of each month over the course of six months. I’ve been in my current position for a little under a year, and am a little worried about requesting PTO for those sessions. My job’s very good about honoring time off and no one would blink at one day off a month, but I’m not sure how my PTO requests will be perceived as a whole. I don’t think anyone would be openly judgmental, but I do think taking so much time off for a tattoo might be perceived as a little silly and “young” of me. So I’d rather not disclose that the PTO is for tattoo appointments. However, wouldn’t saying I need PTO for a vague recurring appointment sound like I have some sort of worrying medical condition? Any advice on excuses I can give or ways that I should word the request?

Also, I work in a U.S. government headquarters building. I’m 80% WFH, am not public facing, and all of my meetings have been via Zoom thus far. When I am in the office, attire runs the gamut from full business professional to sundresses and slides. I’ve never seen anyone with a large tattoo, but no one’ s reacted to my existing small ankle tattoo. Any input from readers in similar sectors/industries on how a leg sleeve might be viewed would be helpful. If it’s a total no-no, I might start integrating pantyhose and longer pants (darn you, ankle pants trend!) into my wardrobe now.

You don’t need to specify what it’s for! It’s fine to just say, “I have a recurring monthly appointment for the next six months and will need to take off one Wednesday a month during that time.” If you want, you can add, “It’s nothing to worry about, just something I need to take care of.” There are lots of non-alarming things that could be — routine medical care (allergy shots, for example, or dermatology stuff), dental work, some kind of personal coaching, family mediation … hell, you could be having your portrait painted. It’s fine to just stay vague.

I’ll leave the second part of your questions to readers who work in government, but I suspect it’ll be fine.

5. Cover letter focus — excitement or qualifications?

I’m currently working on a career change, and I’m discovering that the companies in this new field are significantly more interesting to me than in my previous field. Unfortunately, I’m so thrilled about what these companies are doing that I keep running into an issue with my cover letters.

How much of a cover letter should be dedicated to explaining why you would be a good fit for the position and how much of it should be dedicated to explaining why the company’s values are exciting to you? I can combine some of it, of course, but it’s hard to say “your diversity initiatives make me think Company would be an excellent place to work, which is why I’d be a great fit for the product designer position.” I suppose it demonstrates shared values, but how much does that matter compared to how qualified you are for the position?

Your qualifications matter more. Your excitement is a bonus, but it shouldn’t be the main focus of your letter. A few sentences (one to three) about your personal interest are great, but the rest of the letter should explain why you’d excel at the job (without just repeating the contents of your resume, as always). After all, they’re not going to hire you just because you’re passionate — or at least they shouldn’t — but if you can show you’d excel at the role and you’re excited by it, that’s a good combination. Just focus more on the former!

{ 436 comments… read them below }

  1. Anon all day*

    For number 4, it’s going to depend on the office, including how much they scrutinize PTO requests and how far in advance you need to make the request, but I would probably maybe request two days at a time, not all six at once, if I wanted less questions about it. Unless people really care about PTO, I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t put the pattern of first Wednesdays together.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      I’ve been a Federal employee for nearly 20 years, and generally the convention in all of the offices where I have worked is to request PTO up to a few weeks out because that seems to be the way the people who organize the timekeeping system work best. Even if I know in January that my summer vacation is going to be the second two weeks of August, I don’t generally request that six months in advance.

      I would mention the recurring appointment to my supervisor (there are dozens of reasons you would have a recurring appointment. It doesn’t matter what it’s for. I wouldn’t worry about them figuring out the pattern), but then I would request the days off a couple at a time simply because that seems to make things easier for the timekeepers.

      Also, in general, I learned long ago to be vague about my time off. It makes things much easier when something comes up where I don’t want to give specifics to have already created a pattern of not always giving specifics. I usually just say that I’ll be out of the office or that I have an appointment, and that’s plenty of information.

      1. Federal Employee*

        For this, it definitely depends on the custom at your office. I’m a federal employee and we are asked to book things in the calendar at least 60 days and up to 6 months out. That being said, having the same day each month (3rd Wednesday in this example) that someone wanted to use their PTO wouldn’t be an issue at all unless, say, Wednesday is always the all hands on deck day that an important office task is due/carried out. I’m assuming the OP would know if that were the case and would have chosen a different day. I doubt anyone would notice, but if they did there are so many reasons someone might choose to use their leave like that that I as a coworker or supervisor wouldn’t think twice about it.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          The one thing to look out for is crossing budget years. Depending on your funding source, accounts “close” either 9/30 or 12/31, so you might have break the leave request up and do part in this budget year and the rest in the next because of switching accounting codes or something weird in either the payroll or accounting system. Theoretically it shouldn’t matter, but I’ve seen this pop up in state, county, and city systems

    2. Snow Globe*

      I was going to suggest this – if it’s just one day a month, I think it’s unlikely anyone would even notice that the LW is taking days off on a regular schedule, and even less likely that they would care.

      I’d avoid an explanation that might indicate recurring medical appointments; your boss might remind you about FMLA for intermittent leave if they think that’s what is going on.

      1. Bee*

        Yeah, they’re not going to notice the pattern, AND taking regular Wednesdays off was my dad’s preferred way to burn extra vacation time, so this is not that weird! I’d request each one at the beginning of the month, and by the time the next month rolls around, they won’t remember or care.

      2. FedToo*

        I was going to comment on this that since the federal government separates out sick and annual leave so specifically I would not say anything that might make someone think it was for anything medical or dental related.

        Taking a random day each month is very normal in my agency as a way for people to burn leave if they can’t really take full weeks with their schedule. We usually just say oh I’m taking a day each month to deal with a few errands or fun activities.

    3. The Person from the Resume*

      Exactly what I was thinking. For long vacations, I run it by my boss well in advance (6 months or more for the long planned family vacation), but don’t request it more than 45 days to 2 months out in the system. I think we can’t actually request more than 2 months in advance in the system.

      I would put myself OOO on my outlook calendar for all appointments so no one or myself scheduled an appointment on that day and submit the request one at a time as they were approaching. No one is likely to notice a pattern if you do it that way.

      I’d hide it, I’d suppose, but also I just don’t think the pattern would impact my boss at all or be memorable to him in any useful way.

    4. Fed Manager*

      I’ve been a fed for 14 years in three agencies and a manager for two of those years. Other than sick leave, jury leave, etc., the leave is there for whatever you want. Just give whatever notice feels reasonable for the agency culture and block it off on your calendar. You don’t have to give a reason when you request the leave. Just try to avoid taking leave when it would put others in a difficult spot (like if you’re on a litigation team, don’t take vacation in the middle of a trial). I generally would recommend putting in for all the dates that are firm as soon as they firm up.

      1. Happily Retired*

        This is what I did when requesting leave (retired from VA.) Never a problem.

        Also, my agency employed a lot of veterans, women and men, many of whom had tattoos. My boss had a full sleeve on one arm and wore sleeveless or capped sleeves, and no one ever blinked. IIRC, at one point she either got them redone when the ink had faded or was getting ready to; again, no problem.

        We also had a lot of employees whose hair included “colors not found in nature,” some decidedly so. I’m always amused when I read cautions about how straightlaced and prissy the feds are. Not always, not always.

        1. VA Annon*

          Also VA, and non clinical, and have seen lots of colorful tattoos. Only two were ever a problem, and all that was asked was that it be covered (both were large and on a leg): a full color of a very, very buxom beauty in a very tiny and tattered bikini that was straining to contain her astride a motorcycle. The other was a full color gore dripping ghoul eating from a dug up grave. Both people (one male, one female) were more than okay covering the art up at work.

          Point being – if you’ve gone for potentially divisive material, be able to cover it up.

      2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I’ve been a fed for 24 years and a manager for 15 and I agree, but I also wonder if the LW is a contractor, as they say they work AT a government building and not FOR the government. I will add that I know people with small or non-showing tattoos but no one with extensive tattoos, but ankle pants that showed a tattooed ankle (even heavily as a full sleeve may be) would be fine. I think a skirt with that might get some attention.

        1. TooTiredToThink*

          I’m a fed contractor and with the department I work for, yeah, I was thinking that whatever peeped through pants (even ankle pants) wouldn’t be an issue at all, but wearing a skirt that shows the leg below the knee *might* cause an issue. The department I work for doesn’t blink at any feds or contractors dying their hair in all shades of colors (we aren’t public facing); but I’m struggling to recall anyone with anything more than barely visible tattoos (but I’ve seen them!). I’ve also seen ear gauges and I think a nose ring and maybe an eyebrow piercing, but no other facial piercings. Knowing my office, I would feel comfortable just asking (once it was done) if its ok if its fully visible, but I can understand why not everyone feels comfortable asking – and how it might backfire.

      3. Harvey 6 3.5*

        I agree with Fed Manager. So long as the annual leave doesn’t interfere with work, they don’t care. And because I can get work meetings scheduled as far as 9 months out, I usually try to schedule my annual leave a year out (which doesn’t always work, obviously, but at least lets me cover religious holidays). No one has ever commented.

    5. Lily Rowan*

      Yeah, I don’t think I would notice if someone who reported to me took off one Wednesday a month. I mean, not enough to notice it was a pattern or wonder what they were doing on those days.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        If anything, I think the pattern of 1st Wednesdays would make it easier to take the time, since it’s predictable and that simplifies any needed coverage.

      2. Bumblebee*

        I have to write down when my direct reports have taken vacation so that I don’t accidentally bother them – although they always seem a little sad that I don’t remember when they are going to be off. Sad like, “remember, I told you, I’m super excited about going to Puerto Rico next week,” not sad as in “I’m off and you keep emailing me” – that’s why I write it down! I work at a feelings-heavy place though. I would only notice a pattern if they kept choosing days that were inconvenient to others, resulted in a lot of rescheduling, made them miss important things they are in charge of, or resulted in complaints from their teams.

  2. Adara*

    For LW #4, visible tattoos can really depend on your individual organization and where you’re located in the country.
    I work for the government (DoD) in the PNW and I have a visible arm tattoo, blue hair, and a nose ring. Many of my coworkers also have tattoos and facial piercings, and no one is concerned. We are in customer-facing roles, though our clientele is largely military-affiliated.
    However, employees in another military-serving business on the same base are not allowed to have vivid hair colors or facial piercings, so ymmv.

      1. Adara*

        Tattoos are fine. Vivid hair and facial piercings are not. And I really don’t know why the rules are different.

        1. Bilateralrope*

          I’m guessing it’s because tattoos are harder to remove than hair color or piercings.

          1. urguncle*

            I would say more men have tattoos than vivid hair or facial piercings, which are both more common in women and have less historical context than men getting tattooed in the military.

              1. Excel Jedi*

                It’s relevant because Adara’s workplace is with the Department of Defense (DoD). They reference that they’re on “base” which almost certainly refers to a military base. The history of tattoos and vestigial rules based in historical sexism in the military is real and relevant to the conversation.

              2. Weird*

                @pancakes Frequently conversations pop up that are just part of the commentary flow. I’m not sure why you feel the need to police these conversations, but all you’re doing is adding to the sideline without directly adding to the relevance.

                1. pancakes*

                  I have noticed that people like to derail here sometimes, yes, and elsewhere online as well – surely we all have. I don’t think it’s reasonable to characterize asking someone why they think a particular derail is relevant as “policing.” It’s a pretty simple question that I’d think would be quite easy to answer or just ignore. I also think it’s weird that a number of people who didn’t make a point of trying to derail on this have jumped in to defend doing so without being willing to say why.

                2. No Longer Looking*

                  @pancakes it is very much “policing” and I’d personally request that you leave that job to Alison. She’s quite good at doing so.

                3. anon for this*

                  +1

                  I saw Alison asked you earlier today to stop doing this and I think this kind of arguing/policing/whatever you want to call it is why.

            1. Writer*

              I think your gender analysis is relevant and I presume you commented because the poster said they didn’t know why there was a difference in the cultural response. So: relevant. Thanks for pointing it out.

          2. MsClaw*

            Also, as someone who works in govt contracting, LOTS of former military folks are inked, some pretty heavily. Many govt and govt related workplaces are not going to put rules in place that make it difficult to hire vets.

          3. Simonkitty*

            Depending on the person’s role, I think that where the piercings are located could be an health and safety issue. A combative person could grab the earring or nose ring and pull very, very hard causing pain or injury. That’s why long hair needs to be under a net and rings removed from fingers when working near machinery; the machine could grab and cause an injury.

    1. Former fed*

      Second this. I was a fed and am now a contractor. There are agencies that are super straight laced and ones that are not. Where I work now, there’s no visible ink, even on contractors and the feds are all business formal. I know others with more relaxed offices and I interviewed with another contracting company where one of the folks in the Zoom panel had a very noticeable nose ring and very obvious ink… To the extent trying to recall if their hair was green or something. So it can vary widely. Generally, the actual feds are more formal than the contractors though, from what I have seen

      1. Student*

        Agree, this varies a lot by office. Mine is pretty formal in the office. We’re in DC, which tends hard towards dressing up.

        Another factor to consider is that your political appointee agency head can have a big impact on cultural changes in dress codes (and telework policies) – historically, the Democratic appointees are more pro-telework and less strict on dress codes than the Republican appointees. Every 4 years, there’s potential for big changes on easily-modified workplace policies like these, if it matters to the new person at the top of the agency.

      2. AlsoAFed*

        I work for a business-casual federal office. Never seen a full arm or leg sleeve, but I’ve seen ankle tattoos and no one says anything. Just continue to dress appropriately.

        With regard to the leave – I would schedule all the dates as soon as I know, for the full six months. Where I work, people would appreciate that. If you have the option of an alternate work schedule or compressed work schedule, that’s also a way to handle this: switch your day off for six months to alternate Wednesdays and avoid the leave discussion completely. Assuming, as someone else said, that Wednesdays are not an important work day when some major team or project activity always happens.

      3. office jockey #24601*

        DC federal contractor here in a fairly conservative bureau at a very straight-laced agency. Tattoos are fine in my office if small or easily covered. One female colleague has a small wrist tattoo that’s visible but subtle. Another male colleague has arm sleeves that I’ve only seen when he rolls up his sleeves in casual team meetings. Both are older with mid-level roles, and the latter is very well-regarded in his field. Nobody in the office has colored hair (except blonde braids), but a couple have subtle nose piercings or interesting nail polish.

        I think the consensus is– for formal meetings with higher-ups, or for highly public-facing roles, make sure they’re covered. When you’re with close colleagues or getting to/from the office, you can be a bit more lax. This probably still means panythose or pants with socks for OP#4, as it’s harder to cover up your legs than your arms if pulled into a last-minute meeting.

    2. LW #4*

      I’m in DC, which makes me think I should skew more formal/covered, but it’s been hard to get a read on things because of WFH. We have set in-office days, but only a few people at a time, so it’s hard to tell what’s widely accepted and what’s someone just rolling in with open-toed shoes because they don’t expect to see anyone that day. No one I’ve seen has tattoos, piercings, or unconventional hair colors.

      1. tattooedfed*

        I’m also a fed in DC (but on a fully remote schedule), and I’m tatted and pierced to the gills. I’m at a smaller agency and no one has made any comments about my ink except when they have noticed it in person, and all of the comments have been in the “wow, I love your tattoo” vein. It does seem highly agency and office specific, though, so I might go by what I see other people in my unit do when it comes to covering up.

      2. Janet Pinkerton*

        Hi! I’m a fed in DC in a similar-sounding office. In my office, a leg sleeve would be pretty outside of the norm and would get a second or third look, but it wouldn’t be disallowed. I think there’s a substantial difference between an ankle tattoo and a leg sleeve, within the government. My coworker keeps her arm half sleeve covered at work. I have another coworker who has a ton of tattoos and I think full sleeves but they’re 100% covered at work—we talked about it on work travel once.

        I would think ankle pants would be no problem, but I’d probably wear pants or tights with a skirt for a while when I’m in-office.

        It also probably depends on your professional ambitions. Happy where you are? Visible leg sleeve sounds perfectly fine! My responses are based on my interest in joining the SES one day soonish.

        But also, I’m so excited for you! What an exciting tattoo to be getting.

        1. Janet Pinkerton*

          And for additional context, I had dark blue bangs at one point in this job. I got (positive) comments all the time, but it was definitely a remarkable anomaly. And I found count the number of people I saw with colorful hair on one hand, and that includes in my large building and on zoom calls.

        2. Joielle*

          I work in state government but my office situation sounds similar to yours and I totally agree. I have quite a few tattoos but I’d never get one that couldn’t be covered by a suit. And I prefer to wear a suit with a pencil skirt, so that’s basically nothing below the knee. I’m not SUPER fastidious about keeping all of my tattoos covered at all times, but I do cover them in meetings, especially with higher-ups or the public. More like… if I go for a walk at lunch and it’s hot out, I might keep my cardigan/blazer off for a bit once I return to the office, so people might see some arm tattoos if they happen to walk by. But I’ll put it back on before my next meeting.

          And yeah, it does depend on whether you care about promotions. There are certainly people in my office who flout the dress code, but if you’re looking to move up at all, you’ll want to keep it pretty formal and conservative in my experience.

      3. AnonFed*

        I’m a DC area fed and tattoos and bright hair are completely acceptable where I work (my boss had purple hair for a while, a coworker has sleeves). But it’s incredibly agency dependent.

      4. DataSci*

        My wife is a fed in DC, and has in the past had vivid pink hair. Nobody cared. It will differ by role and agency more than location.

      5. Long time Fed*

        I’m a DC area Fed. In my office I have colleagues with tattoos, including a very visibly one that the director of our agency has, but can’t recall seeing anyone with a full sleeve. There are some people with colored hair, including myself (although I did mine in the pandemic and because we are still WFH no one has seen it since it is a peek-a-boo panel of color that isn’t obvious on Zoom video). I think it is very agency dependent on how tattoos are received. I would suggest covering your sleeve until you get a sense of how formal or informal your office is. I also think the content of the tattoos is a consideration. I wouldn’t display any tattoo with violent or graphic imagery that might be disturbing to others. That would be similar to the letter writer who had to work with a co-worker who liked to post gun targets all over his cubicle.

      6. VA Annon*

        I would advise since you’re in DC and in what sounds like a more conservative office, I’d design your ink to be covered.

        Enjoy the project, and I’d book the time based on your specific office’s culture.

      7. NotAnotherManager!*

        In DC, I tend to find that the courts, legislature, DOJ, DOD, and some floors of State tend to lean more formal, but there are exceptions for entirely back-office jobs. My spouse works for a large agency in an office that is not open to the public, and they are far more relaxed.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      I agree. Government is far too broad. I now WFH full time, but when I went into the office I don’t think anyone was dressed full business professional. I do judge many of my colleauges as rather conservative and traditional family type people so they may not be tatoos friendly, but you never know. We don’t do video so some of them may have some wild tatoos I am unaware of.

      I have no tatoos. I’m thinking of them (very ambitious thoughts) and I suspect it might surprise my colleauges is we ever had an in person meeting and I had rather large, colorful tatoos on my arm. But given we had an established relationship, I don’t think it would change their opinion. So depending on who you’re meeting with may also be a factor.

      I’d personally always wear full length pants because I think ankle pants look silly especially with the cute (usually Clarks) flats and cute socks I wear with dressy pants. I will no longer wear heels and I’ve never worn high heels. The reason I will rarely wear a dress (less than once a year) is because of the shoes that “go with it” are almost always uncomfortable, heeled shoes.

    4. Eye roll*

      Government is a very broad category. Government lawyer here. An ankle tattoo wouldn’t get a second look. But flip-flops and a sundress, while technically permissible, would get serious side-eye, and a full leg sleeve would probably get the same.

      1. Joielle*

        Yeah, I think this is the key. A visible full leg sleeve would be “allowed” where I am (state government lawyer) but it would be unusual and might limit your chances at promotion. But a lot of people have those got-it-in-college-type ankle tattoos so that seems more widely accepted. (Even at that, though, none of the senior leadership at my agency has any visible tattoos, so I’d be careful.)

        1. Lydia*

          I think it also depends on which state you’re in. The state I live in, it wouldn’t get that much notice anywhere, even in the more conservative areas. Same for local government, which is what I work in.

      2. LW #4*

        Based on all the responses here and what I’ve seen from my coworkers, that’s the vibe I’m getting from my department. Ultimately might be best for me to cover up while working in the office.

        1. FisherCat*

          I know you’ve gotten lots of responses in this vein but here’s another for good measure. DC area fed in a law enforcement adjacent agency. Very conservative (aesthetically, not politically) culture and a visible leg sleeve would be noticeably off beat here. Probably not against any specific rule or policy but it would be unusual and if I were going to get a large piece of art like that I would plan to always cover it in the office.

    5. Lacey*

      Yup. It super depends. I worked for a shop with super conservative owners, but they didn’t blink when an employee came in with a large tattoo and plans for a full sleeve.

      On the other hand, when I worked at a financial institution, that would have been an absolute no-no.

      And now I work for a company where it really depends on the role. I could have as many tattoos as I want, but sales people might have restrictions and the restrictions will vary depending on which part of the company they’re selling for!

    6. Kat*

      LW#4–

      I work in DC in an executive department, in a program office attached to the Office of the Secretary. I have a lot of visible arm tattoos and bright teal streaks in my hair (for now! I’ve also had purple hair.) Not only has no one ever given me a single bit of trouble about it, my middle-aged male managers have enthusiastically told me how cool they think it is. I also don’t feel like I’ve been treated as less mature for it; I’m in my mid-thirties. I even once dyed a coworker’s hair bright blue because he wanted to go wild, and he had a great reception too! It is worth noting that all my office’s customers are internal, and that I have had this appearance both in virtual meetings and prior to the pandemic.

      Obviously every office is going to have its own norms, but I hope that gives you a little more confidence— even in places you’d think would be more conservative due to their focus or position, they still might be quite accepting.

    7. DC Fed*

      Regarding visible tattoos, I’m a Fed in the DC area, and agree with others that it depends on your Agency, your level, where you see yourself in X years, etc. I am in the international area, so I dress very conservatively in the office (I don’t wear jeans on Fridays, even though there are folks that dress in jeans all week), and I have a very conservative hair style. I traveled a lot for work before covid and know that tattoos, piercings, non-natural hair colors and styles, non-natural looking makeup, etc. are not well received at high-level meetings abroad. If it makes you happy, go for it, but think about where you want to be in the long run – SES, etc., you may restrict your growth, unless you already see this in your leadership.
      My sibling used to work in an office (non-Fed) and I let her know the pros and cons of getting tattoos in an office environment, especially a conservative one, and she is now has her own successful business, and her clients don’t care.

    8. Rain's Small Hands*

      Where I’ve worked people mostly cover sleeves and larger tattoos. You’ll see them peeking out from under shirt sleeves, but I’ve only worked one or two places where they’ve been displayed by people wearing short sleeves – and then its generally the people whose careers are limited – the tattoo being perhaps part of that, but perhaps not. I’ll also note that men usually wear long sleeves in the offices I’ve worked in, so cover tats as a measure of course, where women’s dress is more flexible in sleeve length – so it may not be the tattoo exposure limiting them as much as just, you know, having ovaries.

      Pay attention to see if other people in your office expose ink – and what roles they are in and what the perception of them is. Because its so variable by region, industry, and office.

    9. just another bureaucrat*

      Midwest state government chiming in. I work in an arm that is fairly …old school? We have a lot of people who’ve been here for 30-40 years kind of area. We definitely have people with visible tattoos. A few folks with full sleeves or large leg tattoos that are visible, a few with other very visible spots, neck, hands etc. It’s not everyone but definitely it wouldn’t shock anyone. Same with blue (although apparently blue is VERY not in right now as like 3 people have dyed to pinky and purplely shades recently) hair and facial piercing’s. In the minority and might get some comments but mostly casual interest the same way people comment on the weather around here, it’s a thing that people see and can talk about so they do because casual conversation is weird.

    10. Australian fed*

      Australian federal government here, worked in a couple of staid economic-type agencies.

      Excepting IT, tattoos are uncommon but not especially remarkable. One of our directors had a pretty prominent forearm sleeve and I don’t recall anybody ever commenting on it. A couple of my younger co-workers had “issue” tattoos like breast-cancer ribbons or the semicolon, and we discussed it very occasionally during after-work drinks. Another staff member had highly visible self-harm scars (I am assuming) on her arms and nobody ever brought that up either. I doubt it would be much of an issue unless the tattoos were extremely heavy, in an unusual location (e.g. face), or controversial subject matter.

      Maybe a bit more common in IT, which tends to be a little bit less staid.

  3. Mockingbird*

    For #3, ask the people in the office you’re visiting where they normally have people stay. Unless you’re the first person making the trip, they’ll know where others have stayed and they’ll know the area.

    1. LJ*

      Even if other colleagues stayed at the fancy hotel before, be careful – travel demand is way up this year, and it’s possible your colleagues had $300 rooms at the fancy hotel before (which could be sold out now, and only the $800 room is available)

      1. SomebodyElse*

        This is what I was thinking. I booked personal travel for a hotel I stay in once a year about a month ago and my typical $250/night room was over $500. I chose a different hotel. It’s nice but not $500 nice.

        OP, Look around the area and if possible talk to someone at the location and ask if they can recommend something. Most offices have a travel ‘cheat sheet’ they can probably send with local preferred hotels.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        The other thing I might add to that is what time of year they’d stayed – I can see a situation where they’d had $300 rooms at an off peak time of year but it works out at $800 in the height of the holiday season. (I remember having this conversation with my uncle after having been tasked with finding accommodation for a tour of Scotland, and he’d set a really low limit but was asking for really high quality accommodation. Turned out he’d been getting ideas for prices based on what they would be if we were going there and then, in February, but we were going at the end of May which is getting into peak time – that particular week was the school half term holiday in England – and therefore more expensive. It ended up being worked out with a bit of “Okay, that place on the Isle of Skye is a bit over his limit, but the Premier Inn in Glasgow is enough less to balance it out”.)

    2. allathian*

      Yes, I was going to suggest this, too. LW, contact the office you’re visiting and ask them.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Yes, do this. Ask the people at the place you’re going for the hotel their visitors stay at. They can also suggest ways to get to the office from the further hotel.

      2. Hannahnannah*

        In my experience, sometimes the office you’re visiting will have a special rate at a local hotel for their clients. And, depending on which business you’re visiting, sometimes they assign one of their staff members to shuttle visitors from the hotel to the business on the days you are working together. So, it’s defintely worthwhile to talk to the office you’re visiting!

    3. LJ*

      To add, $800 a night would raise eyebrows even in New York or San Francisco, let alone any other city in between. Imo if there are really no written guidelines (surprising for an MNC), book a $300 Hilton or Marriott, get a rental car, and no one will bat an eye if you treat yourself to a nice meal or two

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Yes $800 a night certainly fits the category of “things that would give a problem in approving the expenses”!

        The little further away hotel is the obvious answer if it’s a reasonable distance, but if there are truly no other options is there any possibility of booking outside of this portal? (Check with company first whether this is possible!)

        1. Sally*

          I had to do that once when I needed to be in NYC for work, and I didn’t have enough notice to get a hotel room in Manhattan (and no, I’m not going to stay in Queens or Jersey City and commute in at the crack of dawn!). The Pope was in town, and something else was going on. Anyway, I got an Airbnb room, and submitted the expense. They didn’t love it if you booked outside of the approved system, but they reimbursed me.

          1. GythaOgden*

            I had a similar issue working for a nonprofit over the summer while I was at uni. We’re talking like, £50 not $800, but I was asked to go to a party conference to run a stall. I was given a ludicrously small budget and found a £50 deal for the whole time I was supposed to be there.

            I approached my coordinator and explained that this was the only one I could find in the budget and it was £50 and could he approve it…He looked at me a bit funny and asked whether there wasn’t anything cheaper than £50 a night. I explained that it was £50 all in and there wasn’t anything cheaper to be had. (This is 20 years ago before the rise of booking sites and all that wizardry, plus £50 per night is laughably cheap by today’s standards, never mind £50 for a few nights!)

            So I booked it and had a nice time. Most UK towns are walkable, so it wasn’t difficult to get to and from the conference, and other people were handling the equipment and leaflets; I just had to show up.

            I do think OP needs to look further out. Uber and taxi services are going to be more reasonable on an expense sheet than the Ritz, and probably wouldn’t amount to the $800 per night that the main hotel would cost.

            Also, just because the company isn’t a mom’n’pop, they didn’t get that way by being spendy. There’s a good Chris Rock sketch on the difference between ‘rich’ and ‘wealthy’, where the rich simply spend all they have and end up broke and the wealthy make sound financial decisions, lay away money for their children and — his point — perpetuate socioeconomic power. He admonished people for not using their money wisely when they had it, because the way to improve one’s own social position is to be conservative with more frivolous spending and to use money wisely. (Yeah, that’s pretty capitalistic of him, but (a) so what, that’s the system we live under and the alternatives are much much worse; and (b) it was talking about race and money and Rock was addressing black people who he felt were letting the side down by not being more careful with their money and just perpetuating a boom and bust cycle rather than actually giving them and their communities a hand up the ladder. It made sense for me as well, who is in possession of a decent legacy, but has difficulty /not just spending it/.)

            So the company didn’t get where it is by allowing $800 per night hotel spends. They may well be OK with $300 and a bit of good stuff on the side, but they need the $500 excess for more important business stuff. Even if it doesn’t sound much, it all adds up.

            1. MsSolo UK*

              Our work portal has a very low limit for hotel bookings, especially for London (and it’s a slightly weird amount, like £86 per night, rather than a round figure, so you get caught out by hotels that do round up), and there’s often a bit of fiddling around to make sure you get something in budget. Usually it’s “well, it’s over budget but breakfast is included, so if you add the breakfast and snack stipends on it just about squeezes in” or, as above, “it’s over but the nearest one under budget would result in spending more on public transport to get in and out then just booking the local one” (yay, UK rail prices). We used to do a lot more booking outside the system to get cheaper prices, but the new word from on high is that they’d rather go over budget in the system than under budget outside. I suspect a few people getting scammed on AirBNB might have contributed to that.

          2. Kevin Sours*

            *Way* back in the day I got do a surprise trip to Manhattan (literally got asked if I got go at 11am and was on a flight that evening) and the only place with rooms was the Plaza Athenee. Fortunately I wasn’t the one who had to sort that out (the room rate was approximately my monthly rent at the time).

      2. Amy*

        Definitely. My husband and I each stay in Manhattan 2-3x per month. I’ve never paid more than $350 and it’s usually closer to $250.

      3. Person from the Resume*

        I agree. It’s been a while since I travelled, but I don’t recall booking anything for travel into $200 per night. At think I wouldn’t blink at $300 in a major business area.

        I would NEVER book $800 per night hotel. At that point, it’s cheaper to take taxis, Uber/Lyft, or maybe even rent a car at a more reasonably priced hotel farther away.

        1. Beth*

          Bear in mind that the rental car will add a daily parking fee to the overall cost! I missed that particular angle on one business trip, and ended up with a less expensive room plus parking charges that ate up most of the difference. This was in a city with good public transport; I skipped the car the next time around.

      4. Amaranth*

        If there are no written guidelines, there are likely still accepted norms. LW’s boss is doing a real disservice with their disinterest here, “don’t get me in trouble” isn’t useful advice. I agree that LW should check with the office they are visiting to find out what is in the area, if being in walking distance is critical because of traffic/transportation issues, etc. A corporation that wouldn’t care about $800/night hotel for a single person might have an agreement with a particular hotel chain or even corporate apartments in some areas. LW needs to find someone outside their boss who has more information — just because the company can afford it doesn’t mean they won’t get judged on how much they spend.

    4. Summer Dust*

      Another thing the OP can do is call the hotel and find out if they have a cheaper rate or a special promotion. They might be willing to reduce the price (I’m not sure if they would reduce it to $300 from $800 though) in exchange for a guaranteed number of nights and/or a prepaid reservation.

      1. LJ*

        Unless a) you’re bringing in a whole conference worth of people, b) it’s really a mom-n-pop operation, or c) both, most hotels these days would probably redirect you to their website

        1. Kevin Sours*

          You never know. I once accidentally negotiated my own rate a hotel, though granted I was already a regular by the time that happened (and it was a long time ago). Also couldn’t hurt to have somebody inquire about a corporate rate if it’s going to be a regular thing.

          1. Lydia*

            I’m always curious about corporate rates, conventions rates, or government rates. In my experience those all ended up being more than the standard room rate.

            1. Summer Dust*

              Those rates exist to ensure the hotel will not cancel if overbooked (to my knowledge), and the unsecured bargain bookings are the first to cancel.

            2. Kevin Sours*

              At the time it was at a discount to the regular rate, though not absurdly so. There might have been cheaper promotional rates but if so I didn’t ever find out about them.

    5. Triplestep*

      I suspect the issue is LW#3 is new to this job and doesn’t know anyone in that office, but asking someone there where they normally expect visiting employees to stay is pretty standard. I am surprised LW#3’s manager didn’t point her in that direction the moment the idea of an $800 per night hotel came up. There’s got to be a meeting planner or admin who books travel or *someone* who can tell you, LW#3. I’d start with the person or team you’re going to see there and ask them who maintains information on accommodations for employees coming in from out of town.

      1. kiki*

        I’m wondering if LW called out to their boss that the hotel was $800 per night or if they just said, “it’s more expensive,” or “it’s the Four Seasons.” I could see the boss thinking the price differential was more like $500 vs $300, which is still a lot, but could be justified under some circumstances. Whereas $800 is much more and I’d have a hard time finding justifications unless it’s literally the only decent hotel in an hour radius.

        I would go back to boss and be more explicit about the cost and/or ask where other folks have stayed in the area.

    6. LP #3*

      I assumed the people at the office I’m visiting would suggest the $800/night hotel because it’s across the street from the office, but reading Alison and everyone’s comments, it’s clear to me now that $800/night is too much for business travel, even if that’s the hotel they recommend. This is definitely the reality check I needed! I’m going to book the $270/night hotel that is a short taxi/Lyft ride away.

      1. Clementine*

        As a note, if you’re in the office and people ask, ‘Hey, why didn’t you stay at Hotel Across the Street.’, I would reply – ‘Funny story! That was my first thought, but when I went to book it was $800 per night which was a bit beyond what I felt was within the range of reasonable.’

        And then just go from their reaction – it lends credibility to your decision making process and also gives you information about it.

        1. KRM*

          And it’s possible that that hotel isn’t normally $800 a night, or never has been when the people in that office booked it–so if they ask and you say “Oh, I looked, but it was $800 a night, which is crazy!” they may start saying “well, check the hotel across the street, but sometimes the prices are nuts, so X and Y options are also a short cab ride away!”.

        2. LW#3*

          Yes thank you for saying this! I think in my mind, I was thinking people would be like “why didn’t you choose the clearly nicer hotel that is more convenient to our office?”, but you’re right that when I explain the price they will understand. I’m seeing other comments now saying there may be an event that weekend or the more reasonably priced rooms might be sold out; I’m thinking one or both scenarios are strong possibilities.

      2. Cormorannt*

        Yeah, I don’t think the average business is going to put a high priority on being right across the street as long as the cost of transportation doesn’t end up being more than what you save by being farther away. When I’ve traveled for business, there often isn’t a hotel in walking distance, or that is accessible by walking, so a short taxi or Lyft ride is expected.

        1. Nesprin*

          Yeah this- if it was $300 closer vs $200 an uber ride away, the 300$ might make sense. but with a 500/night differential, I think you’re going to be further away.

      3. Amy*

        I wouldn’t assume they would necessarily recommend it. My company’s office is a block from the Lotte NY Palace (the one where they filmed “Gossip Girl.”) No one from my company ever stays there for work. It’s just not really a normal business travel hotel.

        And I’m seeing rooms for $500 this week so it’s still cheaper.

      4. Rain's Small Hands*

        I suspect they actually wouldn’t. You’ll get “no one stays there, its too expensive.” Unless as other commenters have said, their rates are fluctuating high due to an event or post Covid travel. And yes, in a city where parking is expensive and its difficult to drive, just plan on the taxi/Lyft. There are cities where you need a car – but a lot of other cities you are just better off with a cab or rideshare.

        $800 is a lot for a hotel room. I’ve stayed in some really nice hotels over the world, and that’s a lot for a hotel room, even in Manhattan or London.

  4. Chase J*

    It really depends on what the tattoo is. If it’s pretty flowers or a portrait of a loved one, then no one is going to care. If it’s a photorealistic zombie with flesh rotting off…well, good luck with that. And if it’s a hate symbol, then you’re SOL (but also you did that to yourself)(also it was really shitty of your tattoo artist to put that on you).

    There are, of course, certain parts of the US that are more conservative than others. You’ll have to use your best judgment as to whether they would be cool with something like this.

    If you had a similar piece of art as your tattoo hanging up in your cube/office, would it be work appropriate? Family/pet portraits almost always are, as are images of landscapes, animals, flowers etc. So most traditional Japanese pieces would fall into this area. But something out of a slasher movie or a sexy pinup, probably not.

    1. GythaOgden*

      That’s a good yardstick to use! My colleague’s cheeky picture of a cat dancing to YMCA would make an excellent tattoo. And don’t get me started on Angela Martin’s (from The Office) saxophone babies.

    2. Pickled Beets*

      Yeah, this. But overall, you’ll probably be fine. Maybe long pants if you ever brief someone with stars or the President. You’ll have a chance to test the waters slowly, too.

    3. LW #4*

      No worries there, the tattoo will be totally work-appropriate — flowers and folklore, mostly.

      1. BEC*

        I’m currently in the military and therefore can’t get any new tattoos that the uniform doesn’t cover…but as soon as I retire I’m so excited to get a sleeve and a big leg tattoo (leg sleeve? cuff? does that have a name?) of exactly that.

        I once saw someone with vines and flowers all the way from her foot to her shorts and I instantly fell in love – it would be so neat to have vines and flowers all the way up the side of my body and down one arm.

        I’ve seen people get breast/chest tattoos after mastectomies and those seem like such a profound way of honoring and providing sweetness to that area.

        1. LW #4*

          That’s exciting, good luck at planning your design and choosing an artist! There’s a ton of talented artists out there, especially those who specialize in florals.

          1. Bureaucratic Hospice*

            Hi LW4! I’m actually an HR manager for a fed agency RO – and covered in tats :) I’ve worked both in the DC metro area, abroad, and in some extremely conservative parts of the country (NW Florida, SD, etc)

            B/c federal government offices are usually full of veterans (some agencies/locations more than others, but there are nationwide hiring mandates to this effect) and tend to have more relaxed dress codes outside of SES/certain specific career fields, most won’t even blink about tattoos.

            Can you cover it up if needed and is it not offensive? If you can answer yes to both, you should have zero problem. Your accrued annual and sick leave is your right as an employee, and you are under no obligation to divulge what it is for, especially if you are using your Annual leave (and for sick you only have to answer what category it falls under, i.e personal illness, appt, dependent, illness/appt, bereavement, etc).

        2. Hobbling Up A Hill*

          Post car accident and reconstructive surgeries I had some pretty gnarly looking scars. Now I have some pretty pretty looking tattoos and I can wear a bathing suit without having people ask intrusive questions – well, having them ask a different set of intrusive questions. You can’t even really tell that there’s scars under there unless you touch them and I checked with my doctors and worked with my tattoo artist so in the event I have to get some parts changed out later on they should only need minor touch-ups.

          It hurt, yeah, but it was quite therapeutic to… I don’t want to say reclaim ownership but the car accident wasn’t my fault and all the scars were caused by trying to fix that so they were just a reminder of someone else’s fuckup and a lot of pain. The tattoos were my choice, I chose what they looked like and I chose to deal with the pain.

          1. Miss Muffet*

            Love this! I know some breast cancer survivors who do this over mastectomy scars too. It sounds like it was a bit of a healing process for you!

        3. Justice*

          I’m glad I’m not the only one who got tripped up over “leg sleeve”!
          But I’m not sure that “tattoo pants” would be better! ;)

    4. let me be dark and twisty*

      This is slightly irrelevant to AAM but there are actually a lot of tattoo artists out there, especially well-known ones and ones in high demand, who will refuse to do tattoos involving hate symbols (overt and covert).

      Of course, someone who really wants a tattoo of that will keep asking around till they find someone willing to do it but I don’t think that is OP.

      1. Tupac Coachella*

        An artist actually warned my husband that the imagery in a tattoo he was interested in has been co-opted by white supremacist groups in recent years. He had no idea- he chose it because it looks cool and would work well as a cover-up piece. The artist didn’t say he *won’t* do it, but the way he said it strongly implied that he doesn’t do racist ink and may have outright refused if hubby had said “yep, I’m down with that” (it doesn’t hurt that I’m a POC and we use the same guy, so the artist had a good idea that he probably was not aware). It’s really nice to know that he has the integrity not to let his clients get hate ink, even inadvertently. It never ceases to amaze me what a broad knowledge base tattoo artists pick up in the course of their work.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          I got my first tattoo in decades last year and realized for the first time how much medical knowledge they have. They keep their shops medically clean and know everything about treating open wounds, which is what tattoos are. :)

    5. The OTHER Other.*

      The letter is asking about how to ask for the time off, not whether the tattoo is appropriate. Given it’s on the leg and LW works in a government office, it would be easy to cover even an offensive tattoo so no one ever knows it’s there.

      1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

        But LW4 wrote [i]”Any input from readers in similar sectors/industries on how a leg sleeve might be viewed would be helpful.”[/i] and Chase J’s answer definitely falls into that part of LW4’s question, so no reason to gripe about it. Maybe you didn’t remember that part when replying to Chase J?

        In any case, LW4, I think with flowers and folklore you’re pretty safe from unintentionally creating problems for yourself. But definitely wear ankle-length trousers for the time being (wide-cut linen ones would still be nice during the summer months, for example) and maybe gauge your office’s general attitude towards full-sleeve tattoos before rocking up in a knee-length skirt without a pair of tights someday.

        1. Weird*

          Also, these conversations happen on this comment forum and unless it goes way off the rails, it’s okay to talk about it.

    6. Lily Rowan*

      Not a fed, but I work in a very conservative office (in a not-at-all conservative area), and just got a floral tattoo that is visible in some outfits, but not most. I’ve just gotten compliments. I think it would have been less acceptable even five years ago, but even we have gotten more relaxed.

  5. Maggie*

    I would not recommend booking an $800 room without explicit permission, If this is in a major US city certainly a less costly hotel + Uber combo is possible. Most hotels around me in a major USA city are $300-500.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, best to ask. But it does sound weird that the only alternatives seem to be a really expensive hotel, or a mid-range one an hour away.

      1. PollyQ*

        That was just a hypothetical Alison covered in her answer. What LW said was “cheaper but a little farther away.”

      2. Ellis Bell*

        In my city, they are starting to renovate docks further down the river which is creating a bit of a cool “upcoming” area, but it’s super annoying logistically because it’s so disjointed from the city proper. That was what I was picturing when reading OPs reference to a “strange” location; my example is a 40 min walk from the centre, but it’s also a bit remote and creepy to walk to/from because it’s not as busy as the city proper, and it’s not well served by public transport yet. I think when you’re traveling to a city you immediately think “walkable” or that travel infrastructure will be right there, and that you shouldn’t have to organise transport. However if OP sets up a regular taxi to and from their locations, it should be headache free.

        1. ThatGirl*

          And I’m thinking of Chicago, where most of the hotels are centered around the Loop, but there are some fancier options out in the neighborhoods that would certainly cost more. I don’t think that’s the city the LW is visiting, but I can understand it.

        2. pancakes*

          My impression was more that the letter writer doesn’t know the city they’re traveling to at all and has some odd ideas about travel. It’s pretty odd to think the only reasonable place to stay in a big city is directly across the street from your meeting location.

          1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

            It’s also odd that a large company wouldn’t have some more guidelines in place. Maybes not firm numbers because prices can fluctuate, but typically they have a list of preferred hotels (and yes not necessarily directly across the street) and rules around upgrades, and various other expenses. I am sure though this policy isn’t super easy to locate but I’d bet one does exist. Whomever does the reimbursements would likely know if there is one and can help.

            1. biobotb*

              Or recommended hotels in a city where they have an office that employees will be visiting.

      3. Antilles*

        It’s not that there are no alternatives whatsoever. It’s that OP only looked for hotels within “reasonable walking distance” – i.e., not considering other parts of town or suburbs or etc.

    2. Willis*

      Especially if the boss specifically said not to do anything that would look weird on an expense report. An $800 a night hotel would if there are other options a reasonable distance car ride away. Walkability is not the only thing to consider.

      1. Admiral Thrawn Is Always Blue*

        I’m new to my job and just endured a travel policy training process. I won’t be traveling but will need to know to support my boss in future. I’m pretty sure their heads would explode at the invoice for THAT hotel! But here all travel has to be preapproved (nonprofit association).

    3. Beth*

      Yeah, ‘within walking distance’ isn’t really a reason to pay double the usual cost of a hotel room. When I’ve traveled for work, I’ve always had to either rent a car or get a taxi or rideshare from my hotel to the office.

    4. Lab Boss*

      Ditto on “explicit permission.” Our company has a blanket OK on booking extended legroom seating for flights over a certain duration, but even with that blanket permission I wanted VERY specific permission from the big boss when the flight we needed to be on was charging $950 for extended legroom and only $600 for standard.

    5. Bunny Girl*

      And I would have this conversation at least partially over email so it is in writing.

    6. RC+Rascal*

      Senior person who traveled all the time with my last job with a Fortune 100 company.

      I had to explicitly get sign off on rooms over $300 a night. Spending $800 a night is going to have serious repercussions. At minimum you will be develop a reputation for questionable judgement and you might even be known around the company as the $800 a night hotel prima donna. Consider having someone from your office give you a ride every day, use a cab, Uber, or investigate if the hotel has a shuttle service. Some of them do.

      For reference, I used to travel 50% and my travel budget ran $4k-$5k a month excluding air fare. That figure included a lot of business entertainment (meals, not things like golf outings).

      1. Smithy*

        Yeah – so I can certainly think of a few scenarios in my own travel history where going cheaper/more reasonable really did create a headache.

        One uniquely pathetic situation was a conference in Dallas where it was in a very large hotel complex but the rooms were rather costly and there was a mid-priced totally fine hotel across the street. Well this being Dallas, across the street meant needing to walk through the parking lot of my hotel, cross over 5 lanes of traffic with no cross walk, then through the large parking lot of the conference hotel. It was awkward and not ideal, but the only way I ever could have seen approval for staying in the big hotel was had that conference been at that hotel year after year and someone C-Suite had to play frogger with me to/from the hotel with me.

        I also want to say to the OP – kudos for asking AAM and your boss could have taken this as a better teachable moment about travel expense optics. What expenses do/don’t get the side eye are not clear. Plane tickets are a case where prices you’d NEVER pay in your personal life get a shrug as the “cost of doing business” (as are often that high because you buy them later than you would for personal travel, and in my nonprofit life – to be compliant with US government grant conditions). So an internal plane ticket jumping in price by $1000 from when you priced it out to purchased it, isn’t desired but often isn’t questioned. But then requesting a hotel room that’s over the US government per diem levels would require a massive justification.

        All to say, you’re not silly for asking and for getting insight where the expenses would later be justified (i.e. more ride-share/taxi costs to/from the hotel). In my awkward Dallas case, had I paid for Ubers to take me to/from the hotel across the street because I found it too dangerous/difficult – my office would have paid those without question.

  6. Aurora*

    For Letter 4: I work in local government and I’ve seen people with tattoos/arm sleeves (and I have a visible tattoo myself), but I will agree that it can vary highly depending on your particular office/what area of the country you’re in, so it might be a good idea to tread cautiously at first. Re: PTO, I think Allison’s typical advice on keeping it vague is absolutely the way to go.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Would it be usual to have some sort of formal policy or employee handbook which LW4 could check?
      I’m not in the US but here I think any government dept would have an employee hndbook and it would include any policies around dress code etc .

      Beyond that, I think if it is something which you could cover with pants / socks / pantyhose if need be then you shuld be OK, as even in conservative workplaces the policy is generally ‘no visible tattoos’ and legs are easier to cover than some other areas. (and even with ankle length pants, most of it would be covered and mpst co-workers are probably not looking at your ankles, so it would be a lot less obvious than if it were a big tattoo on your arm, for example. )

    2. Kiwiii*

      In my previous career, I was an admin for two different bureaus in my state’s state government. We’re a midwestern purple state. In both positions, while no one had sleeves, I worked with at least one coworker with a sizeable forearm tattoo and never saw anyone bat an eye.

  7. Cats Rule*

    LW4: Why do you have to give any reason at all? My experience is that you just submit the dates you want to take PTO. No explanation needed. It’s personal time, what you’re using it for is not your employer’s business.

    1. Random Internet Stranger*

      Totally agree and I bet no one will notice the pattern. No one in my office would (aside from thinking Wednesday is a weird day to take off)

    1. Koalafied*

      A usage note to be aware of – this term originally was coined to describe serial sexual harassers who were tolerated within a company because they were perceived as too valuable to lose or too hard to fire.

      It’s gradually shifted over time to increasingly refer to any problematic person who a dysfunctional organization works around rather than dealing with directly, but you may still encounter people who interpret it as referring to a sexual harasser.

      1. Migraine Month*

        I think the original context was within a friend group, but you’re right that many people will still interpret it as referring to a serial sexual harasser (or assaulter).

        1. Lime green Pacer*

          AFAIK, the original context referred to a serial sexual assaulter within the BDSM community. Look for the post on the Pervocracy blog.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yep! What happened was that there was a guy in the community who was a sexual assaulter, and everyone knew it, but instead of booting him out, they all just adapted–they’d assign someone to keep an eye on him, gently steer newbies away from him, etc.–but inevitably someone would slip through the cracks and he’d have another victim. It doesn’t just mean an asshole.

      2. TootsNYC*

        the original context was an abusive person within a kink group, but the person who created the term explicitly said it would apply to someone in a friend group OR someone in an office.

        This isn’t just about sex. Just about every workplace has that one person who doesn’t do their job, but everyone’s grown accustomed to picking up their slack. A lot of social groups and families have that one person. The person whose tip you quietly add a couple bucks to. (Maybe more than a couple, after how they talked to the server.) The person you don’t bother arguing with when they get off on one of their rants. The person you try really, really hard not to make angry, because they’re perfectly nice so long as no one makes them angry.

        Don’t gatekeep it; the creator of the phrase didn’t.

      3. John Smith*

        Got to say, I’ve never heard of the term before and didn’t associate it with anything sexual. Like my gran used to say… It’s not so much the words you use but the meaning behind them.

    2. Just Another Cog*

      This is a great way to describe someone like this!

      But…….

      Why is it that so many workplaces have someone who is such a jerk, but are treated like Teflon?

      1. Migraine Month*

        Judging from letters to Alison, it seems to be a sunk cost fallacy plus managers who aren’t willing to use their power.

      2. DJ Abbott*

        In my new job the assistant manager is mean and occasionally bullies, but she’s been there the longest and has a lot of institutional knowledge.
        Seems like that might change in the future though. I gather they used to be a much harsher culture and enough people complained that they’re trying to turn it around now. Most of the managers are new and they’ve been very careful to make sure I didn’t get overwhelmed and walk out like my two predecessors.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      I learned about it from Captian Awkward where she talks about it a lot in relationships, but it seems to have come from The Pervocracy web site.

      It’s very useful to describe someone who is awful and should be fired (or ostrocized from a friend group), but for some reason everyone just works around them. New people to the office or group are usually shocked everyone else puts up with them missing stair, but then they are often “brainwashed” by everyone else putting up with it and saying “that’s just how Beck.”

      This is a perfect example of this. Beck should have been fired by now.

    4. RhondaDawnAnonAnon*

      I had a former co-worker who fits both meanings of the phrase, in that he was a serial sexual predator AND totally incompetent at his job.

      The story of how he finally got fired is pretty spectacular. He attended a public event for our organization that was being live-streamed online and recorded for future viewing. While he was backstage, he started in on his usual sexual creep stuff that he always got away with in our division. One of the tech support people who was there to help with the live-streaming/recording was like “Who the hell is this jerk?” and was smart enough to turn on a microphone that got him on the recording.

  8. Silverose*

    The tattoo thing depends on agency, region, and office culture. I worked in state government (public facing) in a suburb in the Midwest and one of my coworkers got an arm sleeve done. Our direct supervisors and the office director had no issue with it, but the officer director told her to be prepared to cover it whenever the regional director was due in because that individual WOULD take exception. Everyone would rather avoid the question coming up than have a blanket statement added to our region’s dress code due to the regional manager’s biases. It turned out that the tattoo actually helped the coworker connect with the population we served, but the regional manager retired a year later having never seen it.

  9. TimeTravlR*

    #4: I worked with a fairly high level federal employee who had multiple visible tattoos, changed her hair color frequently (and rarely to a “natural” color), and had many piercings. No one cared as long as she did the job. Times are changing, even in the fed world. I hope your agency is as open as mine!

    1. Bunny Girl*

      I work in the state government and I have multiple visible tattoos, including one on my hand, and no one has said anything about them. I agree times are changing and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it.

  10. Ariaflame*

    With #2, have you clarified with the manager what ‘not fitting the profile’ means? Especially if Green Designer is a part of any minorities it would be good if you had specific work related reasons that pertain to the project so that you can say to other designers when they suggest Green Designer ‘We considered them, but for this project we need more X and Y and they seem to be more focussed on Z’.

    1. #2 OG poster*

      We have and out manager’s answer was that they didn’t have synergy with the company, which is vague in and of itself, and that seems like a rude answer to give.

      Also, update, on Friday we received a strongly worded email by Green Designer asking why they were being held on standby for this project and why were we shopping for someone else when they were supposedly already hired, which makes things even more concerning since the kickoff for this project literally just happened last week.

        1. Lily*

          Is it normal to first talk to the freelancer and then get them rejected by management? I always thought once you’ve talked to them, they’re essentially hired unless e.g. their offer is out of budget. I never thought they’d be refused for stuff like bad fit etc, at least not at this point. But I have no idea how the norm is.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            Well, I’m used to having a discussion with a rough outline, then an SOW and budget are put together. Even if the budget would be within available resources, there can be disagreement on any other point – SOW, communication style, compliance/liability clauses, timelines … until you have a signed contract people can back out.

            Of course there’s a difference between a one-off $200 mini-project, some sort of medium-sized engagement (say, 100h of work), and a $100,000+ major commitment. For the first you may just say “let’s give this week’s video transcription task to the new freelancer, and if they do a good job we can send more work their way”. For bigger things, you’ll want to have a bunch of conversations first to get to know them.

            1. #2 OG poster*

              Agree. This is a very large project and we didn’t ask the Green Designer to do any work other than take a look at a mapping of the current tactics and pitch the idea of what the company would like to change. I think the issue might be that he is not talking to the final decision-maker, but rather to the middle man.

              1. tamarack and fireweed*

                Well, I hope you’re paying them for this – and I can see a bit better why they think they’re already hired or as-good-as in this case.

                Good luck straightening out all the relationships – I maintain that having a clearer line for communications with your freelancer pool is probably going to be needed.

          2. The OTHER Other.*

            I find this very odd. I talk to freelancers pretty frequently and it’s normal to feel people out to see who is right for the job. The letter even says they looked at “groups” of designers and thought Green was the best out of the group. Absolutely no one has ever followed up with me (let alone with a “strongly worded” email) basically claiming the job because I’d talked to them.

            I talk with potential customers all the time and don’t assume I win them all, that’s not how sales works, if it were, everyone would do it.

            Either this is an oddly insular group of designers, or communication with Green designer was very poor and Green was left with the impression they had the job. Given the boss here was asked why not use Green designer and responded with a vague and meaningless buzzword like “synergy”, it seems like communication is lacking.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Right, exactly — but in this case it sounds like someone told Green they’d been hired (“asking why they were being held on standby for this project and why were we shopping for someone else when they were supposedly already hired”). Now, maybe that is Green assuming things where they shouldn’t have — but generally someone with experience freelancing won’t assume they’ve been hired unless someone told them the company wanted to move forward with them.

          3. Lacey*

            I’d never assume I was hired until I had an official confirmation. But it does sound like the conversation has been bungled.

        2. tamarack and fireweed*

          OK, all of this is compatible with your company having a reputation for stringing freelancers around – which may not be your fault, since you just started connecting with outside providers, but still.

          At the very least clearly the freelancers you’re talking to are talking with each other. Maybe that’s by pure chance, or maybe it’s because of the nature of the work you’re offering, so the pool is much smaller than you seem to think. Or it has something to do with your approach to search (so you might be finding freelancers that are already connected). None of that would be particularly worrying – it’s quite likely that in many fields, freelancers value their own collegial network more than knives-drawn competitive advantages over each other, so if they know that one of them is finalizing a contract with you (as they may all be thinking) then they will remove themselves from consideration. Or of course Green is bullying their colleagues or is some sort of freelancer mafia boss, but that’s really unlikely.

          But be that as it may, it’s a problem, as Alison says, that Green thought the project was basically theirs! Given you’re just starting out with external freelance resources, it’s really THE moment to review how you communicated with them. If you find that your communication was appropriately non-committal, with a clear next step (yes/no from your side) then that’s on Green, of course, and even a good reason not to continue with them. (Ie, if you remained with “thank you for your portfolio – we’ll review it as a team, including with our decision-makers, and will get back to you by [date] with our decision whether we can give the go-ahead on our side”.

          Also, as a general rule, I default to transparency. Communicating to Red and Blue what you told us – that you’re building a pipeline of freelancers for a pool of projects, seems like the best approach to defuse a reticence about stepping on colleagues’ toes.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Yeah, typing as a freelancer–if the Blue and Red Freelancers have other work options plus a good ongoing relationship with Green Freelancer, then preserving all of those is going to seem like a better bet than going with a flaky company that may ask for their time and then not use it.

            You schedule based on the expected work, but you are paid based on the work completed–stuff that is scheduled and then canceled can really cost you since you turned down other work for August based on being really busy with this project.

            1. Smithy*

              Yeah….so I used to be the solo fundraiser for a nonprofit with a notorious difficult to work for CEO. I worked in a very small niche and there was a group of fundraisers for like-minded nonprofits that got together semi-regularly.

              I was pretty green, but the group did help create a larger group of practice when most of us were working alone and had almost no other fundraisers to connect with. When I eventually gave notice, I let this larger group know I was leaving and that my position was posted. One person in the group wrote back a fairly scathing email that it was unprofessional and unethical for me to share this job being mindful of the working conditions under our CEO. At the time the email seemed extreme, but in retrospect I see a lot more nuance.

              My CEO was very difficult to work for and I get how someone in this niche fundraiser group wouldn’t want to risk their peer network by sharing a job posting with someone who might later feel misled into a bad or difficult placement. And if I was honest, I wouldn’t have recommended my job to anyone I wanted to keep in my professional network without heavy caveats on the conditions. For these freelance designers they likely benefit from a general collegial relationship with Green Designer and risking that over one job with an unknown entity clearly doesn’t seem worth it.

            2. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

              Very much this. Freelancers do talk to each other, and it sounds like a) your company gave Green some kind of strong indication that they were on Standby for this job (and never officially released them), and b) your company may have a generally bad or at best not good reputation in the freelance community, so job info gets passed around for comparison.

              No freelancer needs another bad client.

          2. #2 OG poster*

            Thank you, your comment is super helpful. We are reviewing how we have communicated with the designers we’ve spoken to and trying to identify what mistakes were made and how we should approach this for future projects, and we’ve also reached out to HR so they can train us for these types of situations.

            That being said, your point about transparency is on-point and I think we missed the mark by trying not to hurt sensibilities when we said “hey, we like your work” and then backing out because our manager didn’t like it.

            I wonder, do you have any recommendations about what can be said to a freelancer who ultimately wasn’t chosen for the job?

            1. North Wind*

              I’m a freelancer and do mostly short-term projects so I meet with potential new clients frequently.

              I find it common that if someone isn’t interested in working with me, I just don’t hear back from them. Occasionally, the client will get back and just say something along the lines of “Thanks for taking the time to speak with us but we’ve decided to go in a different direction.” I thank them for letting me know and move on.

              I don’t think you need to say much, but don’t leave someone hanging with the wrong impression of your intent. If you say you’ll be in touch with someone, do follow through and get in touch with them, even if to let them know it’s not a good fit.

              This letter is really interesting because something like this happened to me just this past week. A freelancer I’ve never met before but who works on the same platform as I do got in touch with me to see if I’d be interested in a project he didn’t feel was right for him. Our skills overlap a bit but the project is in my niche. He introduced me to the potential client, and it turned out I had been speaking to them about this project a couple weeks before. The communication had gone silent and I’d assumed they were no longer interested. So yeah – I guess they were scouting around and ended up back at me.

              1. tamarack and fireweed*

                This is very interesting input – and I like that the LW is getting a lot of good perspective from the freelancer side.

                The only addition I’d make is that here, Green is at least going about it as if they thought they are on standby for the project. So it’s definitely a case where a final message would be extremely useful, along North Wind’s template, with an added “please send us your final invoice for [pieces you asked for them to complete]”

                1. Miette*

                  Another freelancer chiming in:

                  One other thing to take from this is to always be clear about next steps when you wrap up a call with them (or any other vendor) at this stage. If Green had been told, “Okay, we like what we’ve seen but we need to run it by our manager in order to move forward,” there should not have been an expectation at all on their part.

        3. #2 OG poster*

          In this case, it was an initial interview to pitch the project and understand their approach to the project. There was never an agreement about being hired or asking them to stand by while the decisions were made internally. Granted, there have been communication mistakes made along the way and I fully understand Green Designer’s bewilderment, but what is strange is that after the initial interview they never reached out to us, and we’re only finding about this through other designers.

          1. AbruptPenguin*

            That is slightly weird on the part of Green, but maybe they thought since they got the job, they were just waiting for you to contact them to get started. The entire consultant hiring process needs some work, it sounds like. And what does “lack of synergy” even mean??

          2. pancakes*

            “Granted, there have been communication mistakes made along the way” – On your employer’s part, you mean? I would think it matters what the specific mistakes were, in terms of trying to understand why the freelancers are behaving the way they are.

          3. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

            I honestly still don’t quite understand. If Green was never told they had the job, what were the communication mistakes?

            1. #2 OG poster*

              From the many comments people posted, I think the communication mistakes were that a) we didn’t inform Green Designer that we were considering other designers, b) we weren’t clear about telling them we were going in another direction, c) Green didn’t follow up until 3 months later and just assumed they were hired even though no information was sent their way.

              TBH this has been quite a learning experience and I can now understand what their POV might have been considering all the gaps in communication.

              1. misspiggy*

                Employers often have to delay freelance work, so Green might have thought they were just waiting for timing confirmation.

                Normally an employer would tell me (a freelancer) what the specific next step will be. If it’s got to go to a superior for their decision, I would expect to be be informed. If I got silence after a positive discussion, I might assume they wanted to work with me, and the next step was for the employer to give timings.

                Green might have been over-optimistic, but it’s useful to check whether or not they were told about the need for higher-up approval.

      1. anone*

        This sounds like a manager/your organization problem. There’s no conspiracy to blacklist your company, but if your company is treating freelancers shabbily, people will remember that and *will* talk to each other about it. That’s not the same as “blacklisting” (freelancers do not have the time or energy to make and maintain “a list” or anything so remotely formal), it’s just the reputation your company earns through its actions. Freelancers have to budget our time carefully. If the freelancer was given the impression that they were being hired and no one communicated otherwise (especially after you got the reactions from the next two designers that suggested the original designer was expecting to work with you!), that’s a problem.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Its just so odd to me that people think “conspiracy” or “formal blacklist” when the reality is “no, company just has a crappy reputation that precedes them”. Its not just freelancers either.

          1. #2 OG poster*

            To be honest, I don’t think the company has a bad rep for how they treat freelance designers. This has often been done in the past and the relationships have been cordial as far as I know. I think the issue was that we did not communicate clearly with Green Designer, but it did seem odd that out of 3 different pools of designers, the 3 we selected knew each other.

      2. Kella*

        It seems possible that Red and Blue Designer heard Green Designer was hired for this project, and then when they were contacted about doing the project instead, they were under the impression that Green Designer was being strung along and you were only keeping them on the project if you couldn’t find anything better. And so they decided to not participate in going behind the back of one of their colleagues like that.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Or they figured the ostensible hiring of themselves would turn out to be just as solid as the ostensible hiring of Green, and stuck with something more dependable.

          1. #2 OG poster*

            Hadn’t thought of that, but it might be a possibility. Which just throws another wrench in the works like someone else mentioned in another comment: now, the company’s rep might be tarnished because we “shop around for designers” and then never hire them. :/

            1. North Wind*

              Feels like there are a few threads to untangle here.

              1. Maybe you didn’t clearly communicate with Green and they got the wrong impression, and you can change that in the future. But it seems possible that Green made a big assumption and this falls more with them. There’s no contract/method of payment yet, and they don’t have your files or anything to actually work on.

              2. I’m a freelancer, and I can’t fathom faulting a client for speaking to multiple freelancers. In fact, if I know of someone who has a particular expertise or specialty that the project requires, I’ll suggest them. I’m looking for a project that’s a good fit, not just any old project, and I feel like most good freelancers really vet projects and clients. There’s nothing wrong with shopping around for a designer. I think you could only get a bad reputation if everyone somehow thinks you hired/have a contract with Green and then actually ghosted them while looking for someone else. The issue here being that you’d be flaky and unreliable – but it doesn’t seem that’s what actually happened.

              3. This might just be me, but as a freelancer I’ve realized it doesn’t work out to develop a relationship with a potential new client just in case they may have work down the road for me. I mean, I’ll meet with someone and have a chat and say sure, get in touch when you have a project and we can see if it’s a good fit and whether I’m available at that time. But I’m not getting into a contract to be generally available whenever they need someone. Some freelancers would work on a retainer basis for this type of thing, just not for me.

              1. #2 OG poster*

                Thanks for our comments!

                On point 1, I do feel like Green Designer did make a leap in judgement, but I also feel like we miscommunicated our intentions. Also, I don’t want to split hairs, but they hadn’t been in contact with us for three months, and then decided to do so just now. It seems odd that they didn’t send a follow up within the first month, my logic being that if you believe you are hired and on standby, you’d want to know what’s up with the project.

                On point 2, a lot of people have commented something similar and it makes sense that freelance designers have open communication between themselves. That being said, we did mess up by not being clear with our intentions in the first place.

                On point 3, this makes sense. When we’ve worked with designers in the past, we hand over a contract and open a PO before beginning ANY design work, so again, Green wasn’t under any contract whatsoever.

      3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Do you know who gave Green the impression they were hired? Has anyone spoken to the freelancers other than you/team? – it sounds to me that you/team believed Green to be the right freelancer but then manager vetoed it, but it isn’t clear how/why Green believed they were on standby which I presume means hired but just waiting to get started on the project?

        Blue and Red’s reactions suggest to me they didn’t already know Green was “hired”, but thought probably for the same reasons as you that Green was the most suitable freelancer and told you so. Then they must have messaged Green with (something like) FYI, “OPs Company” approached me about Project X, but I’m already booked so I suggested you”.

        It seems like either a miscommunication/misunderstanding somewhere (most likely) or someone at your (OP) company has handled this badly. Have you worked with Green before?

        1. #2 OG poster*

          As far as I know, we haven’t had communication with Green Designer, but it might be possible that someone else reached out to them.

          Miscommunication and lack of transparency on our part seems to have been the problem. :/

      4. Beth*

        So if someone told Green Designer that they were ‘already hired’, then your company might be de-facto blacklisting themselves. Of course they might mention their new gig to their colleagues! And of course their colleagues would be surprised and alarmed to see you shopping around after hearing you’d hired Green for the job!

        It doesn’t take a nefarious list being passed around to make freelancers go “Wow, this company hired my friend and then tried to ghost them and hire me instead, that doesn’t seem like an organization I want to work with.” This is concerning, but not just because the project kickoff just happened–if your company develops a bad reputation, you’ll find it hard to hire freelancers for similar roles in the future.

        1. Lily*

          Yeah, most of the time nobody gets “blacklisted”, it’s just that other people don’t trust them anymore.
          And tbh if I was a specialized ” painting flowers on teapots” freelancers and a company was looking for someone to paint animals on teacups – and my friend were a “painting animals on teacups” specialist – I would ask myself why they wouldn’t hire the most obvious person. And depending on their potential reasons – and it sounds like they don’t have a clear one – that.might be enough reason to withdraw.

      5. Bagpuss*

        Proir to this undate was wondering whether Green was a newer / less experienced freelancer who had lower rates while they are building up theier client base, and the compnay’s budget was low balling the more experiences freelancers so they were directing back to Green..

        However , with the update it sounds as though Green belives they have been hired and so the others have eithertheard this, or thik Green is geneuinely the best fit.

        Ether way, it sounds as though someone needs to speak urgently to Green to let them know that you haven’t yet determinedon a freelancer (although if you have had 2 others turn it down then you may need to consider going with Green this time , uless there are a lit of other options you haven’t tried yet!)

        1. #2 OG poster*

          Green was our top choice because they did appear to meet the requirements our manager gave us, but ultimately it wasn’t up to us to make the final decision. I think the issue was that we didn’t want to hurt sensibilities and we might have not been clear about looking for other options, which we are trying to solve right now.

          1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

            You’re trying to create a business relationship, not a social relationship. Don’t worry about hurting feelings (that’s a social thing) but instead be COMPLETELY transparent with whoever you talk to. Including saying things like “I have never worked with designers before; what is your experience for how long it takes to agree on what the object should look like?” or even, “I have never worked with freelancers before; what questions should I be asking you?” (Because “the company” doesn’t have experience with things; individual people do, and if you haven’t done something yourself it’s good to be frank about that.)

            1. #2 OG poster*

              Thank you! This is super helpful. Will literally copy/paste into a doc for future use. I guess you are right about the part of building a work vs social relationship, so in the future, we will opt for a more transparent approach.

      6. CB212*

        In my creative field it’s normal for a company to check my availability and put me on hold – while still shopping around for a cheaper designer. And sometimes they find one, and a hold just evaporates. Personally I know a hold isn’t a booking… but it’s also bad form for me to book other work while I’m on hold, so it’s a system that relies on clear communication because we are actually holding that time – which might be three days but might be three months! (And when I was younger I did not realize as clearly that a hold might mean nothing, and best case scenario that’s where communication went wrong with your company and Green.)

        My network and I definitely trade information about who puts you on hold and ghosts you, as well as who doesn’t pay in 30 days, and who makes everything an emergency no matter how good a job you did. And as others here have suggested, if there’s work I can do but don’t love doing and don’t want to add to my portfolio, I do like to push it to a colleague whose niche it is, and there’s reciprocity with that kind of referral. So it’s unlikely you’ve been blacklisted… but clearly these designers have been talking about you and there’s a tangle of missed connections somewhere.

        1. #2 OG poster*

          Thank you, this is very insightful! It makes sense that as freelancers you’d communicate with your community as a way to watch everybody’s back. That being said, I don’t think it was something related to budget or experience, it might just be that our manager didn’t like them, period. But, reviewing our communication with Green, we did not mention about being on hold for three months. This is not how we have handled relationships with freelancers in the past, which just adds to everyone’s puzzlement (Green Designer’s and ours) about this project.

      7. KoiFeeder*

        I would really, really like to know what that means, especially if Green is a minority as Ariaflame said.

        But, flatly- if Green thinks they were hired and then ghosted, they’ve told their network by now (certainly prior to sending that email!). Your company still need to communicate with Green! They need to explain the situation, and if they can give honest work-related reasons they need to provide those. But I suspect that unless your company apologizes and really does hire Green, you are going to have a very difficult time finding freelance designers for this project and probably any subsequent ones. Not because of any blacklist or conspiracy, but because people talk and your company does not look good in this story right now no matter how anyone might try to spin it.

        1. #2 OG poster*

          Agree. Our manager has taken charge on this and is communicating with Green to prevent this from going further. However, I do wonder why Green hasn’t communicated with us in all this while and they just began doing so. While there have been mistakes made on our part, it does seem like as a freelancer to be potentially hired, you would want to know if there are any updates.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            You said the project is just kicking off now right? Green was probably told about the expected kick-off time and now that it’s here, they are reaching out to see what’s going on. They’ve been keeping busy with casual gigs, waiting for this one to materialise, and they’ve caught up with their network and found that you’ve been looking elsewhere, and Red and Blue both say they recommended Green, and Pink and Purple haven’t heard from you so surely that means you’ll should be giving them the go-ahead?

            1. #2 OG poster*

              At the time when we first contacted Green, we didn’t have a clear timeline for the project. I’m guessing that after they heard from Red and Blue that we were still looking for designers, they were prompted to follow up.

      8. tangerineRose*

        The whole “synergy” thing seems suspicious. Either the manager is bad at explaining things or has a reason that they don’t want to admit for not hiring Green Designer.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          yeah “synergy” is a corporate bla-bla buzzword that nobody ever uses in real life. It means Green won’t be a good fit, because they didn’t go to the same university as the Manager.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          yeah this reeks of the worst use of “good fit”, ie this person doesn’t have the right privilege white male aura

    2. Green great dragon*

      I was also confused by this. Is this a flat no from manager, or if you go back to them and say everyone else is pointing you back to Green and you think Green would work, then might they let you go with Green after all?

      OTOH, is Green actually the problem here, and manager knows it, and ‘not in synergy’ means they’re a nightmare to work with, reads things into conversations that weren’t ever said, hoards work and won’t collaborate?

      1. bamcheeks*

        “not in synergy” could also mean “does good work but also does stuff which is so wildly at odds with our company values that we think it could be a problem with other stakeholders”. Like, you don’t have to buy into our Casual Fridays and Wellbeing Wednesdays, but if we’re an overtly progressive LGBT+ friendly company and your other major contract is the Christian hard-right– or vice versa– it might not look so great for us to work with you.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Oops, sorry, this was meant to be a reply to Another Graphic Design Freelancer* at August 1, 2022 at 8:00 am!

        2. Another Graphic Design Freelancer*

          I mean, maybe, but did they not view Green’s portfolio? That should have been due diligence up front. I support a lot of progressive orgs and live in the south so I make it super clear. If that is the sitch and Green and/or Company didn’t make it clear, they really should because this whole thing would have been avoided!

          1. Another Graphic Design Freelancer*

            omg did not mean to post my avatar headshot, is there a way to remove? My email auto-filled!

            1. Another Graphic Design Freelancer*

              Managed to switch it to my dog. How embarrassing haha. I clearly should not be commenting without coffee!

          2. bamcheeks*

            I don’t know, it seems like a reasonable split of duties to me that LW and their immediate team were looking at the quality of the work and the higher-ups are thinking of the political implications. Especially if rather than an upfront “we only work with companies that share our values” thing it’s more of a “there’s a very influential board member who would prefer we don’t work with companies who X”.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Sounds like Red and Blue Designers might also be judged not in synergy by the manager, after (in their understanding) agreeing to take on the work?

        OP, it is really, really common for a job to expect to send me stuff to launch on the 9th, and then that becomes Tuesday, and then that becomes the following Monday. Because they were slow getting some piece, not because the work was being shopped to other people while I tapped my foot in the week I opened up.

      3. #2 OG poster*

        When Red backed out and referred us to Green, I asked my manager if we could consider them, as this just showed that they were someone who other freelancers looked up to, and they got back to me with the same answer. When Blue backed out, I asked my manager again if we might not consider them and they said the same thing, so there is little else I could do.

        That being said, the company I work for is very inclusive as it has a few international offices, and is very open about supporting the LGBTQ+ community, this being a specific point in its core values, so I’d like to think that it is not a case of dismissal based on race or gender. I think it might just be pure dislike.

        1. pancakes*

          “as this just showed that they were someone who other freelancers looked up to” – Is that an important component of the design work they’d be doing? Your employer’s selection process for this seems pretty muddled.

          1. Lydia*

            “Looked up to” in this case can probably safely be interpreted as “whose work other designers appreciate and think would be a good fit.” I don’t think the OP is saying that’s one of their hiring criteria.

            1. pancakes*

              I would expect the company itself to have a better sense of what they’re looking for on this project than Green’s contacts.

              1. Lydia*

                I’m not sure why you’re focusing in on word choice here, but I think the appropriate read on it is Green’s peers’ opinion could be used as a form of referral since the OP was going back to her boss to approach Green again. Red and Blue designers were approached after Green. Red and Blue both suggested Green instead. That is information you can actually use to take it back to your boss for reconsideration.

                1. pancakes*

                  I don’t think this is a matter of word choice; I think you’re talking about a very collaborative process, and I’ve been wondering whether the hiring company intends for it to work that way, and what it actually communicated to the freelancers. From many of the letter writer’s comments it sounds like there isn’t necessarily alignment between how their manager sees this process and how lower-level employees are communicating with freelancers. Of course it can be a collaborative process, and recommendations like these can be taken back to the boss, but if the boss is making these decisions based on “synergy” and no one else knows just what that means, those recommendations don’t seem to be seen as valued by the boss. It seems to me that this boss / company has specific ideas about what they’re looking for that the letter writer doesn’t have enough visibility into to communicate effectively with freelancers. I think this is a structural problem, not a matter of language.

          2. #2 OG poster*

            This was not a component in the brief we were given, however, you are on point in saying that the selection process is muddled. Since our manager has the final say it’s basically trying to read their mind and guess what it is they want, and this is not the first time we’ve encountered this. Even when asking for clarity about a task, the answers are very vague.

            1. misspiggy*

              Ah. So by this point several freelancers will probably have worked out that your manager is not easy to work with. A boss like that a particular nightmare for freelancers, because they’re not around enough to see the little day to day signals your manager is sending out. Being blindsided indirectly by someone you don’t know is not something I want to sign up for. If the person I’m talking to has no real power, all my work might be rejected at the last minute and I’d have to redo it, which would at least halve my pay rate.

              In your shoes I think I’d be trying to get out of recruiting freelancers for this organisation, or I’d be discreetly upfront about the manager, and offer a higher rate than normal.

    3. londonedit*

      The first thing OP’s company needs to do is to confirm to Green that they’re not getting this job. Yes, that’ll be an awkward conversation, but they absolutely need to say something as soon as possible, along the lines of ‘Our communication on this job hasn’t been clear, and having reviewed the work of several designers we have decided to go in a different direction. We can only offer sincere apologies for not clarifying our position earlier in the process’. It’s possible Green won’t want to work with the company again, but they at least need to make it clear that Green shouldn’t be hanging around waiting to finalise things with them on the project. And then they can go back to Red or Blue and say thank you for the recommendation but they’d already decided Green wasn’t quite right for this project, the job is still available, and would they like to work on it. But they have to tell Green first.

      It is fairly normal to consider more than one freelancer for a particular job, especially with design, but the way it’s always worked in my experience is that you’d first of all do some initial research and narrow it down to a few possibilities, then you’d contact those possibilities – making it clear that you’re speaking to a few designers about the project – and see who has availability/who fancies taking on the work. If you want to contact them one at a time, that’s absolutely fine too, but you wait for their response and you then either agree to work with them or you say thanks but no thanks and move on to the next person. What you don’t do is speak to one designer and get them excited about the project, and then leave them hanging while you contact a couple of other people and decide the original person isn’t actually right for the job. And you need to be clear with people when you’re in the initial stages of discussion – you need to say explicitly that nothing is yet confirmed, that you’re waiting for approval on the budget, that you’re speaking to a few different designers, that you’ll be in touch by X date with your final decision, whatever. You can’t let people think they’re about to be hired for a job if what you’re actually doing is asking around to see who you might prefer to hire.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        Another freelancer seconding this. When communicating with freelancers, the phrases to have in your back pocket are:

        “We’re talking to a few other people, but are so glad that you’re interested.”
        “We love your work, and we’re looking at a few other possibilities.”
        “We haven’t made a final decision yet, but we’re so glad to hear that you’re available.”

        Use one of the above and add one of these:

        “We’ll get back to you by X.”
        “We’ll let you know what decision we make.”
        “We’ll be back in touch shortly to tell if you this works out on our end.”

        These are all ways to let the freelancer know (politely) that they DON’T HAVE THE JOB yet and should not block off time for it. Time is money when you are a freelancer!

        Best of luck resolving this muddle. Hope it goes okay for you and Green and whatever freelancer you end up working with!

        1. #2 OG poster*

          Thank you londonedit and Shirley Keeldar, I am literally copy/pasting this into a document for future reference.

          We have indeed made mistakes in communicating our expectations in a clear way and moving forward we are making sure that we express this clearly. Our manager is also reaching out to Green Designer to clear up the confusion and apologize for the lack of clarity about the project. Last, we are also reaching out to HR so they can train us in these types of situations so that we may be able to handle it in a better way.

  11. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. Beck sounds like Joy, the assistant from Hell in Drop the Dead Donkey. If memory serves, everyone was terrified of her, and just did their own administrative tasks.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      OP1, you don’t have an EA now. So I do not see why he is worried about not having an EA.

      Please let him know that a toxic person like this sows seeds that eventually destroy a company.

      To you, if this is the way the company handles problems what else are they doing? Keep your eyes wide open here. Either they fix this problem or you have a major red flag on your hands.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Exactly this^. Also, I should think it would be a bonus if Beck quit in a huff. Not sure why Ron is framing that as a bad thing.

        1. EPLawyer*

          or you know you could tell Beck, shape up or we will replace you. So plan on replacing him. So you go without an EA for a bit. Nothing is better than an EA who screams at people for … doing their jobs.

          OP, you can’t do much about this but your team now has a rep amongst the wider team and the company. This is going to make life harder unless it is rectifited SOON. So what if Beck’s contract runs through September. You can tell him to wrap it up now. I hope at least you have already started the hiring process for the new EA since Beck should be gone soon.

          1. tangerineRose*

            Plus how many people will quit or at least start looking for other jobs over this? It’s a good market for job searching right now. Also, they’ll tell people about the awful EA, and fewer people will want to work with her.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Also, they are framing it wrong by saying that they are afraid of not having an EA. By making that decision, they’re actually choosing Beck over the other employees who they are harassing, who are at least as likely to leave as Beck would be if they were properly and professionally managed and disciplined. I know if I were the OP, I would have handed in my notice already rather than have to deal with Beck, more so if I were that poor person asking for a locker!

      3. Puggie Mom*

        I realize that this is not exactly the same situation. However, several years ago, after I had moved to my small city, I had to find an ophthalmologist. I found a doctor who I really liked. His office also had an optician setup where I could order glasses and contact lenses. The entire business had a EA/office manager who was a complete nightmare. She was one of the rudest, most abrasive, condescending, mean, awful people I had ever had to deal with. Despite the fact that I truly liked the doctor and the optician, I decided to Never return again. I never said anything to either the doctor or the optician. I just never made any further appointments. (*Note: I bought two pairs of glasses and a pair of contact lenses from them.) Later, after I had lived in my small city for some time, I found out that other patients had had similar experiences and had left the practice. Personally, it was worthwhile to drive to another nearby city instead of dealing with that horrible woman. She was and has been driving people away from this business / practice for years. When I asked some mutual friends why they kept her on, I was told that “she understood how to deal with insurance companies.” Sheesh, seriously. Is she the “only” person who can “deal with insurance”?

  12. three soft tacos*

    #2, career freelancers often do know each other and have generally niche’d themselves deep enough that they literally don’t even want Greenies job. To me this sounds a lot like someone either misunderstanding someone’s expertise or just not wanting to work with the best (or near it) in their field.

    1. anone*

      It might be about niche, but equally could just be about not wanting to undermine important professional relationships by poaching people’s work. If the org doesn’t want to hire Green, that’s fully their right and I wouldn’t necessarily refuse a gig that a friend got turned down from (if it was handled appropriately). But the org needs to communicate more clearly with the original designer and it doesn’t sound like they’ve done that (especially with LW2’s update in the comments above). I’d take that as a red flag about the org.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Blue and Red might reasonable conclude that engaging with OP’s company will just leave them where Green is–decks cleared to take on this project and nothing is materializing and so they won’t get paid, either.

        In my field it’s pretty common to start the work before the contract gets here. Green may well have figured “They’ll give me the stuff to get started the last week of July, and the formal contract will be finalized around then.”

    2. Another Graphic Design Freelancer*

      Niche might be part of it, but also if they heard about the process Green went through (seems to me like Green maybe excitedly talked to Red and Blue about the opportunity) they might just not want to step on toes or they just might not want to be strung along if that is how it sounds like the process went for Green. I know a number of other graphic design freelancers in the area, and to me it seemed like the company was being difficult or wishy washy (what even is not fitting the profile? I’m not your employee I don’t have to buy into your culture) it’s just not worth my time. For me, I’m good at what I do and overbooked most of the time, and if I come across as a PITA client, it is absolutely not worth my time. Sorry OP! I would make it clear to Green they didn’t have the gig and then expand your search. I live in a small town outside a big City and provide services to a few big cities, there are more of us out there!

    3. Nina_Bee*

      I think this is the case too, maybe Red and Blue genuinely a) thought Green would be a better fit for the role, or b) they didn’t want the work / wasn’t quite part of their skillset. Sometimes freelancers have preferences or they may have just finished a stressful contract and want a break etc.

  13. PollyQ*

    LW#1 — Pay attention to this note from Alison: “As disruptive as Beck’s behavior is, Ron’s refusal to deal with it is the bigger problem.”

    Beck may be gone in September (although I wouldn’t be shocked if he somehow manages to stick around), but you’re going to have to continue dealing with Ron. I think it unlikely that it’s only when it comes to Beck that Ron is unwilling to have a confrontation or make a difficult decision. Maybe you’ll be able to help stiffen Ron’s spine, maybe you’ll be able to get him to delegate those kinds of tasks to you, but one way or another, I strongly suspect you’re going to have to find a way to handle this tendency of Ron’s in order to get your work done.

    1. Kfish*

      Absolutely. I had a co-worker like this, we all breathed a sigh of relief when she quit for a different job, and then my boss HIRED HER BACK. Three different (more qualified) people quit because of one entry-level employee.

      I honestly believe that management does this because it’s not them getting yelled at, so it’s not a problem.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        That’s exactly why they do it: They don’t have to train and they aren’t the ones inconvenienced by it since everyone else has no choice but to cover for the toxic employee while management doesn’t do its job.

      2. Bunny Girl*

        We currently have a supervisor in my department who is beyond toxic. She bullies her direct reports and is just overall an awful human. Even though there have been multiple complaints about her and half of the small team has quit directly because of her, there have been no changes or adjustments. It’s super fascinating to me why companies keep these people – especially when they lose so many team members because like isn’t it cheaper to lose one person than 5? I digress.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          I had a boss chew me out for being open in saying someone was a problem employee – by saying that, I was apparently “questioning their hiring and personnel decisions, and thereby undermining (the boss’s) position.”

          So… my pessimist theory is that admitting to a bad hire makes some bosses feel Things – and it is easier for them to continue in Blissful Ignorance of the issues with Problem Employees.

    2. JayNay*

      I used to work with my own version of Beck, a person who refused to answer my questions or train me, and who belittled my work. It was really scarring. I wish I had spoken up more directly with my boss and told her clearly how this was causing problems for me as a team member as well as for my workflow and ask her to adress the issues.
      I guess that would be my advice as well: ping every trouble Beck causes back up to Ron, don’t try to ignore it or work around it. Put it on Ron’s plate and let him deal with it.
      The truly absurd thing is, if Beck were fired tomorrow what terrible situation would happen? Pretty sure nothing that would be worse than getting berated for completely normal work things at the regular. A person who is causing that much trouble – there’s no way their work outweighs that.

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        That’s what I say, pass the pain up the chain.

        Make the pain of dealing with this person the problem of the one with the power to do something about it.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Absolutely make the manager manage. It’s not a problem for Ron if another employee is causing a problems and everybody else fixes it. Make it Ron’s problem.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        Ron sounds like he shares the staffing attitude of a manager I once had:

        “bad breath is better than no breath”

        They are both very very wrong.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Although I wouldn’t be shocked if he somehow manages to stick around.
      As soon as I read that everyone was trying to work around the missing stair just until September when the contract ended, I put a small bet on someone high up deciding that it made sense to extend Beck’s contract.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      Agreed. While Beck is an extreme case, a manager who won’t manage is problematic even when dealing with coworkers who are just mediocre. I remember when I worked retail, we had a couple of situations where a manager from another branch came to cover while one of ours was on holidays. One of them was a really nice guy, but young and I suspect he was a bit reluctant to come in to a different branch and start giving orders to people who weren’t technically “his” staff. Even though we didn’t have any Becks on the team, it was still really frustrating when he was in charge because some of the newer people were reluctant to take initiative without his say-so and a couple of people were inclined to stand around and let others do their share of the work when there wasn’t a manager telling each person what to do. I got frustrated enough at one point to decide that as the longest serving member of staff on that shift, if he wasn’t going to organise the work, I was.

      I’ve also worked under a few principals who give in to the person who shouts the loudest, one apparently told the P.E. teacher she couldn’t take a team to a match because people would get mad at him if he asked them to cover her classes.

  14. ceiswyn*

    LW1 – You don’t want to be without an EA? I put it to you that you don’t have an EA right now. Is whatever fraction Beck is currently doing of their job really worth all the extra work and stress they’re causing the rest of you?

    1. coffee*

      Yeah, it sounds like someone didn’t have a locker, asked for one and got told no, asked again, Beck was told to organise it and yelled instead, and the original person… still doesn’t have a locker? Hard to know for sure.

      Also, September is so close. If Beck quits then it’s not that long until her contract would have ended anyway.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      Exactly this and well said. I can’t fathom the thinking involved here, which I’ve heard is the case in multiple workplaces and not just this one. Someone who intentionally avoids doing their job and antagonizes their co-workers–including people senior to them–is viewed as better than a temporary vacancy until someone new can be hired. Just no.

      1. MsSolo UK*

        It does make me wonder if there’s a budget thing here where if you have the position unfilled for a certain amount of time an overzealous employee in accounts is going to claim the role clearly isn’t needed and reassign the budget, meaning any bum on the seat is a necessity if you want to ever have an EA again.

        We’ve run into issues where because there’s an extra cost in hiring a temp there are more hoops to jump through to prove you really, really need one, and you need them for this specific project, and you definitely want them for this specific timeframe, no more, no less. Firing a temp near the end of a project would definitely make it hard to replace them. (though here, Beck should have been fired near the beginning!)

        All that said, holding a temp to account, and them quitting? Not a problem! Even the most zealous cost-cutter usually grasps that an employee leaving isn’t a sign the post isn’t required.

        1. pancakes*

          Same difference – if there’s no way for anyone in this company to effectively communicate with that overzealous employee about why Beck had to go, the appropriate response to that is also, just, no. If there’s an overzealous employee who can’t grasp that or be reasoned with, they need to go as well.

    3. bamcheeks*

      yeah, this is so wild! An EA role is not usually so niche or specialised that it would be impossible to fill it at short notice. A GREAT EA who makes the entire office run smoothly and significantly decreases everyone else’s workload is hard to find. But most temping agencies should be able to supply someone who can fulfil the essential tasks day-to-day without making the entire office actively worse.

      1. EPLawyer*

        THIS. Good grief, a temp can do a better job than Beck right now. Sure a temp might not know all the nuances, but it sounds like everyone else is handling the nuance ANYWAY. Then you can hire someone to take the role permanently.

        But Beck has got to be told to stop. Sounds like Ron doesn’t want to have that tough conversations. As his deputy, its up to you to explain things to Ron how it is hurting the team, the wider team and the company as a whole to keep Ron rather than go with a temp.

    4. BEC*

      Agreed! And at a minimum, Beck needs to be told she absolutely can’t speak to people this way. Every time.

      Alison’s phrase (“given that you may not refuse to do the tasks associated with your job, do you want to take a couple days to think about whether this role is a fit for you?”) would fit here.

    5. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I am deeply curious as to what Beck actually does all day since it seems like he doesn’t do any actual work. OP, I need an update on that if not the rest of the story.

    6. TootsNYC*

      LW5:
      I work at a high prestige place. We’re a household word.
      We know everyone who applies is excited about our brand and what we do.
      It gets old. And it doesn’t set you apart.

      Don’t spend that much energy on gushing about it. Tell us about you.

  15. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

    LW#1, is Beck’s role seriously, drastically underpaid? Is that why Ron thinks they’ll be hard to replace???

    Just thinking about how I spent 3 years trying to get an EA/AA/Office Manager job, but Beck is somehow still employed.

  16. GythaOgden*

    Even in the public sector in the UK where it’d be really hard to sack someone on a whim, Beck would be out that door. We had a Beck in our office, and he was a lovely guy but clueless and a bit of a cloud-cuckoo-lander. He evidently couldn’t do his job for whatever reason and was just let go.

    Beck should have been let go, like, yesterday.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Think Kevin from The Office (closest example to the actual guy here) or Phoebe from Friends.

        Someone who’s not quite all there — they can be perfectly good at their job or able to live independently, and also educated and intelligent, but whose demeanour is a bit thoughtless, absent-minded, sheltered or prone to saying the first thing that comes to mind without filtering it through a bit of common sense.

      2. pancakes*

        A fan of the classic 1990 album by that name put out by The Lightening Seeds. I can’t be the only gen-x’er here!

        (I’m joking).

          1. pancakes*

            I have to add, I just listened to “Pure” off that album, which came out when I was 13 and was a hit in the US, and a big fave for me at the time – it holds up pretty well! I hadn’t thought of them for years before today.

  17. Luna*

    LW1 – Beck should have been read the riot act and told to work on their attitude, lest they get fired. Beck is not irreplaceable, there are other people out there that can be EAs. It will take training them at what exactly needs to be done how in the company, but that’s the case for everyone. Don’t consider someone ‘maybe’ quitting because you are reining them in and demand they follow established rules to be an issue. Frankly, it’s better if the toxic source disappears (of their own accord or being let go/fired) and you have some issues for a while to get a new person in, than for the toxic source to remain and make everyone miserable, and difficult to perform basic work duties.

  18. mimi*

    A bit off topic but I really like the use of Green, Red and Blue instead of names. For some strange reason it makes it much easier in my head to tell them apart!

    1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      Yes! Same for me. I think it would eventually become confusing if every LW used colours instead of names, and I do enjoy when LW’s use pop-culture references as names (even though that can be confusing, too, when I am not particularly (or at all) familiar with the chosen reference) but it made for a very nice change

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        All of the Ferguses and Janes in AAm letters have merged into two big, nasty nightmare employees in my mind.
        I really hope that I never have to work with anyone called Fergus just because of the associations the name brings up now!

    2. Dragon*

      Ditto. I think it makes reading easier when talking about people or places outside the company.

      For instance, “We enlisted Blue Agency, Red Agency and Green Agency in our search for a new Operations Manager.”

  19. Michele*

    #4 Read your dress code. Look for the word “distracting” and the context it is written in and choose carefully.

  20. Kate, short for Bob*

    Nothing about these posts – other than I think a leg sleeve is a trouser – but was there ever an update on the linked ‘boss wanted company to pay for his sex vacation’ post? I really want the arc of justice to have bent on that one

    1. Hlao-roo*

      No update for that post, and no comment from the letter writer in the comments either (as far as I can tell).

  21. FashionablyEvil*

    Lol, #3 reminds me of a colleague. We had a meeting in Dallas (which has two airports) and in one of our team meetings, I said, “By the way, I looked at the map, and Love Field is about 20 minutes closer to the conference hotel than DFW, so if you have a choice, Love Field is a little easier.” Somehow my colleague interpreted this as “don’t book the $300 direct flight to DFW,” but as “book the $800 connecting flight with a 2 hour layover in Houston into Love Field to save 20 minutes in a cab.” My boss was NOT impressed.

    Anyway, it’s definitely the combination of factors in terms of how far away, what time you need to be onsite, the general safety of the area, the cost of driving/parking a rental car, etc., but $800 is definitely going to raise eyebrows.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yes, time is money. As a consultant, it’s glaringly obvious (I know how much my company charges for an hour of my time) but I think it’s easy to overlook when billable hours aren’t involved.

    2. Smithy*

      Ouch….

      I will say, when you are new to this – this isn’t obvious. And I do think that if ever possible it’s a kindness for managers to take junior colleagues and even just recent hires traveling for the first time and give them some general FYI’s/guidance on travel. Every place does not work the same or have the same hang ups.

      I will say that with hotels, if you work for a US HQ entity – the US government per diem guidelines for cities/countries on hotel costs are really helpful. So if you’re ever asked and you say that you’re hotel price is both convenient and under those guidelines, it’s a solid marker. Also when planning out expenses I just take the highest amount even if I assume my ultimate hotel cost will likely be less.

      And a note on advocating for more expensive options due to either safety and/or business need. If the reason you want to be in the $800 a night hotel is because that’s where a conference/meeting is being held and it will make networking and other business functions better/easier – talk through those realities with your boss. If the reason is strictly a safety concern – it’s totally fair to flag those – but just be mindful that the solutions may be different. Things like, “you can always expense ride shares/taxis if you don’t feel comfortable walking no matter how short the distance”.

      I attended one conference where they housed us a genuine 45-60 min away from the conference site. It was ridiculous, but also because all of the cheaper/closer hotels were deemed to be “unsafe” and the ones closer to the conference center “too expensive”. Truly the ultimately case of the worst of both worlds, but part of why I think it’s really important to make sure you’re either making a solid business case to be in the pricier hotel or developing real world solutions to less safe options.

      1. LW #3*

        Thank you, this was really helpful, and I appreciated the comment that it’s not always intuitive to know what to do in these kinds of situations, especially at a new company.

  22. I'm Done*

    For OP4, unless you’re required to give more than a couple of weeks advance notice, I would just individually put in the leave request for each month. There is no reason to request it as a block. You aren’t required to provide a reason for taking annual leave. Secondly, each federal agency has a different culture regarding dress and appearance. If you work for the FBI then you probably would completely cover it while other agencies are much more laid back.

  23. The Rafters*

    LW 4. I work for state gov. No one cares about rainbow hair, piercings or full sleeve tats. I do have to add though that I work in a very liberal state and in an even more liberal agency, so that might make a difference. I will also add that no one on the big floor has full sleeves or rainbow hair, so it having a large tat probably also depends on how high up the food chain you want or expect to go. As far as time off, if you aren’t calling out sick at the last minute for this, there should be no problem requesting time off weeks or months in advance. Likely no one will ask or care even if there is a pattern to the time off.

  24. Irish Teacher*

    OP4, This may be cultural or something, but I think adding that it’s nothing to worry about would be more likely to make me think something medical/something possibly concerning. Just “I have an appointment once a month for the next six months” could be anything. If you had kids, I’d probably be thinking something like taking them to get some kind of vaccination or something like that. Or heck, that your childminder needed that time off.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      As a coworker in a work-mostly-from-home environment, I wouldn’t even notice a pattern in LW4’s time off. The most I would think of it is if I needed to schedule a meeting with them and noticed “LW4 is off on Wednesday this week” but I wouldn’t ever put together a pattern of “off one Wednesday a month for six months.”

    2. londonedit*

      I mean, this is holiday leave, right? Not sick leave? So I don’t see why the OP needs to intimate that there might be some sort of medical reason for the time off. In my experience, with ‘use it or lose it’ holiday, you often end up with situations where someone’s off every Friday in March because they’ve got to use their remaining holiday before the end of the leave year, and to me, if I even noticed at all, this wouldn’t feel any different from that. On the offchance someone did make a comment like ‘Have you stopped working on Wednesdays or something?’ I don’t think you’d need to say any more than ‘Ha – had some leave to use’ or ‘Just taking a few days off this month’ or whatever. It’s your holiday to use as you wish – no one cares whether you’re getting a tattoo done or going on a spa day or painting your living room.

      1. Loulou*

        Yes, agreed! My comment got swallowed but I also thought the “just an appointment, nothing to worry about” wording heavily implied it was medical (to the point that I would feel OP had *tried* to imply it was medical). And you’re absolutely right, from what OP has said they really don’t need to worry about an excuse.

        1. pancakes*

          Whew, that’s a lot. If someone wants to take away all that from a brief comment by a coworker on a topic that isn’t any of their business, I think that’s entirely on them, and not anything for the coworker to worry about. “Maybe someone who likes to speculate about this type of thing will speculate about it” doesn’t need to be their problem.

          1. Loulou*

            I mean, I wouldn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it or speculating, and that’s exactly *why* I would assume it’s medical. I would devote very little mental effort to thinking of alternate explanations, and instead assume that the most obvious interpretation was correct.

            1. pancakes*

              That’s one of the main problems with speculation / unexamined assumptions, though – guesswork is often not correct. Also often unnecessary as well.

  25. Not really a Waitress*

    “It’s easy to feel like a highly problematic person is better than nothing — but it’s not true when the problems are severe and affecting others to this extent.”

    This 1000 times this

    I recently moved departments because in my previous department the manager refused to address 2 specific problem associates. One did absolutely nothing, but created a lot of drama. The other is productive but is a ticking time bomb.

    What you allow is what will continue.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yep. IMO the most effective approach for the LW would be to get Ron to realize that the choice isn’t between Beck and no EA, but Beck and either another temp EA, and very likely also Beck or multiple other employees, who might well quit rather than put up with Beck (and management that lets Beck get away with being abusive), especially in today’s job market.

  26. A DC Fed*

    OP4 – It sounds like your agency may be more lax on the dress code so I say go for it! Definitely have a plan for if you get pulled into a last-minute meeting with senior leadership (SES or political appointees) when you are back in-person. It’s my experience that those folks skew much more traditional and business formal in the workplace so they might not appreciate the artwork. Perhaps keep a pair of long pants or opaque tights/leggings in your desk/car/commuter bag that you can change into on a moment’s notice if you get called up to see them, like how your male colleagues might keep a suit jacket at their desk if they ever get pulled into a meeting.

    As for scheduling the time, go ahead and book it all now. I’ve had a few instances where I needed recurring time off and would always submit all the requests at the same time. Usually gave my boss a head’s up first by saying ‘hey, I have a bunch of appointments coming up. Everything’s fine but it’s something I need to take care of and can’t delay.’ No one ever objected. (Well, the nosy gossip did but that’s another story.)

  27. Friendly Bureaucrat*

    LW#4 – My particular sector of the government hires a lot of veterans, and a lot of military folks have large tattoos, including sleeves. As long as the subject matter isn’t profane or violent, you’d be fine here. I suspect different parts of the gov may react differently, but hopefully yours will be similarly chill!

  28. Katie*

    I have traveled very little for the company I have been with for 15 years. Those times I have traveled I still had anxiety of choosing the hotel within walking distance.
    What worked for me was asking coworkers who had done it many times before. What did they do? Ultimately for me the extremely close hotel won (mine was only 100 more though…).

  29. Lab Boss*

    For LW4 I can’t say anything about how government jobs feel about tattoos, but Alison’s advice on how to describe it struck me as a little off- it sounds like advising the OP to phrase things in a way that implies they need the time off for medical/treatment reasons, rather than a tattoo. I wouldn’t care if an employee took time off for a tattoo, or if they took time off without telling me the reason, but if they gave me a reason that implied it was a medical necessity and then I found out it was for a tattoo I’d be wondering why they described it in a kind of misleading way.

    PTO should be approved as a matter of course and not held up to the manager’s opinion of a “good enough” reason- but if you have a manager who expects you to explain yourself, I would be cautious about making them feel like you tricked them into approving PTO.

    1. Over It*

      Yes, I agree! I know LW said PTO in their letter, but many government agencies also have separate medical and vacation leave instead of one bucket of PTO. If that’s the case for LW’s work place, they really need to be using vacation leave for this, but Alison’s advice makes it sound medical in nature. But so long as LW has accumulated the time off and is scheduling around any dates that would seriously inconvenience those they work with, one day a month is not something anyone will notice or care much about, let alone pick up on the pattern. Unless it’s part of their team culture, I don’t think LW has to provide any explanation at all.

      1. Hey Y'all*

        Thirty-four year Fed here. Sick leave and annual leave are completely separate, there is no one-bucket PTO in any agency. Also, I have never explained why I’ve taken sick leave. OP, don’t worry about it, submit your leave requests when your timekeeping system allows you to.

    2. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      Counterpoint: Your reasons for using your PTO are absolutely none of your employer’s business, and Alison’s advised script is not misleading in any way.

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      “I have a recurring monthly appointment for the next six months and will need to take off one Wednesday a month during that time.” If you want, you can add, “It’s nothing to worry about, just something I need to take care of.”

      Where are you getting it’s implying something medical? It’s stating you have a recurring appointment and it’s nothing serious. Assuming it’s something medical would not be OP’s problem but rather the person making that leap with exactly zero information.

      The thing is, it’s not your employers business why you are taking off, unless it delves into things like needing FMLA. And even then there’s limits. Regardless, you do not need to explain in detail to your manager why time off is needed. So long as you are following the employers rules regarding leave use, you’re good. Managers can want lots of things. Doesn’t mean they’re correct or entitled to the things they want.

      1. bamcheeks*

        That wording would just give me a kind of double take because — why would I be worried? Why are you explaining this to me? It’s just more information than I would need!

    4. pancakes*

      “but if they gave me a reason that implied it was a medical necessity and then I found out it was for a tattoo I’d be wondering why they described it in a kind of misleading way.”

      It wouldn’t occur to you to pause and ask yourself whether the reason is actually any of your business? Or to wonder whether busybody-ish behavior in the workplace may in fact have been the reason for them not wanting to reveal anything about their time off in the first place?

      1. Lab Boss*

        As I said in my second paragraph I think managers should be approving PTO requests as a matter of course. I certainly do, and if my team offers me any reason it’s just becasue we’re all pretty conversational about what’s going on in our lives. It would feel weird to me if someone gave me an explanation that felt misleading- but that’s because they don’t have to give a reason at all, so why give a coy one?

        My comment was more pointed at someone with a boss who DOES demand explanations for PTO requests. If I had to give my boss an explanation she thought was good enough for my absence I would also be very careful not to give an explanation that could be seen as misleading- because if she were that controlling I assume that would create a problem.

        1. pancakes*

          I don’t follow as to what you think is misleading about it. “I have some appointments I’ll be out for, don’t worry, just something I’m having taken care of” isn’t misleading on account of not giving you giving the full rundown on what the appointments are for.

      2. Cj*

        It isn’t any of your business, so there is no need for the OP to make such a statement in the first place.

        This is the language Alison also often recommends when people *are* asking for time off for medical appointments. I think that’s one of the reasons why people think the boss would read something into it.

    5. LW #4*

      I’d be using annual leave, but thus far it’s been normal for my manager and I to chit-chat about why we’re off when discussing our upcoming week’s schedule. I’m sure my manager wouldn’t pry, but I’m an overthinker — knowing me, I’d take the brief moment of silence after my manager says “OK” to my leave request to stammer out some weird suspicious lie for no reason. I’d rather have an innocuous reason in case my brain shorts out.

      1. Lab Boss*

        I think people took my comment to mean that you owed your boss an explanation and I definitely didn’t! My department usually chit-chats about time off as well, with appropriate vagueness about some subjects- “I have a Dr. Appointment” is more than enough explanation. Some people don’t give reasons and that’s also fine. Maybe it’s just the way my department talks but at least here, you’re right that the vague “recurring appointment” language would sound medical and it would seem odd to find out later that it was for a tattoo. Your mileage may vary though, and ditto on the other responses that you don’t really need to give a “why.”

        1. LW #4*

          I gotcha, and I agree! I don’t have to say why I’m requesting leave, but in this case I think being cagey and vague would make me more nervous (justified or not) than just having an alternative reason at the ready. It’s more of a me thing, whereas I think a lot of commenters are giving advice based on a hypothetical situation where I have a nosy manager.

          1. PollyQ*

            I’m gonna recommend that you think about just telling them the truth. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to spend your vacation time any way you like, it sounds like you & boss have a pretty friendly relationship, and it seems like keeping it secret is going to be harder on you than otherwise. I’m not saying this because there’s anything wrong with keeping your choices private or because you owe anyone an explanation, but because you don’t seem 100% comfortable with not telling.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      If someone assumes “standing appointment” as a medical thing, that’s kind of their own bad interpretation, no? I have someone who has a standing appointment with their stylist every 6 weeks because they have a hairstyle that requires frequent trims and touch ups – it’s their PTO, and they don’t owe an explanation of how they use it. (The only reason I know that’s what the PTO request is for is that we’ve worked together for years and it came up in casual conversation at a department lunch.)

      In the federal system, where sick and vacation is separate, they simply need to follow OPM/agency guidelines on which bucket to charge.

    7. Just Another Comment*

      I agree — mostly because, if I were a manager and someone told me they had a recurring appointment but it was nothing to worry about and then they booked it as vacation/personal leave, I might let them know “hey, don’t forget you can use sick leave for pre-planned medical stuff” and that would end up being a bit awkward. I think a manager in that scenario would have totally good intent — most people don’t want to burn personal time when they don’t have to! – but it ends up weird when it doesn’t have to be.

      1. Lab Boss*

        Yes, that’s more what I was trying to convey! I think I worded my comment in a way that made people think I was saying OP owed their boss an explanation, but really it was just about not using words that could be taken wrong.

      2. pancakes*

        It seems a bit paternalistic to worry that they won’t haven’t categorized their own leave correctly without a reminder to do so. I think that’s the reason it seems a bit awkward.

        1. Lydia*

          It is actually the job of the person who has to approve the leave to make sure it was entered into the timesheet correctly, too. When the employee signs it, they’re saying it’s accurate. When the boss signs it, they are saying they reviewed it and it was accurate. If you work in something like government contracting, and you review an employee’s time sheet, you can bet if you think there’s an error, you will follow up on that.

          1. pancakes*

            Yes, I’m not in gov’t contracting but my own timesheets get reviewed for accuracy as well, and are eventually signed off on by a judge if there’s a settlement. It’s very important for them to be correct. If the person who reviews my timesheets reminded me of the basics every time I approached them to say I’ll be taking some time off I wouldn’t be happy about that. Saying I’ll be taking time off isn’t my way of asking whether I’ve filled it out my time correctly.

  30. Sotired*

    I think anyone who takes the attitude that the money won’t mean much to the employer is likely to have a short tenure. Agree, if a 20 cab ride, take the 300 hotel. If over an hour, talk to boss.

    1. Miette*

      Agree. They may be a huge, private company, but your department/division/line of business has a limited budget for travel, and something out of order like $800/night for a hotel will definitely give the boss trouble when approving the expense.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      This can be taken too far, though. Wasn’t there some person who wrote in about not eating OT pizza and taking hours of public transit rather than a cab, not seeing the forest for the trees, and some poster who has often espoused taking on their employer’s expenses rather than expensing them? It takes time to develop this judgment and know your company’s culture and OP’s boss was spectacularly unhelpful on this front).

      In my industry, you can’t charge travel time and people’s consulting rates are between $250-1100, depending on their experience and industry. Someone might tell you to stay in the $800/night, depending on factors, because it costs less than the time. I would definitely want my boss’s explicit approval on it, but it might be the right option.

      1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

        That’s a pretty extreme example. Shouldn’t be used to discount a general rule.

  31. Used to Have a Beck*

    OP 1, I had a Beck (Jane). Unfortunately, I inherited her at a state agency where she had been employed longer than I had been alive. Because the things I needed her to do didn’t even exist when she got her job (things like turn word docs into PDFs and use Excel), they didn’t exist on her work profile and she refused to learn them. It took me over a year to get her work profile updated, document over a series of 1:1 meetings that she refused to do the training and implement the new work tasks assigned to her, and put her on a PIP. I was exhausted by the end of it, disillusioned with my state agency, and highly annoyed with Jane, who rather than do the PIP and learn the new skills just retired. FWIW, nobody showed up to her retirement party. Sucks to be Jane. If that’s anything like the situation Ron is in, I can see why he might just want to wait until September. It sucks, and it’s a reason why government work gets such a bad rep.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I do not understand refusing to learn new skills. I work with a few people like that, and I’d lose my damn mind if I had to manage them without the ability to require training. My mom is in her 70s and recently learned Excel basics for her new job. She takes good notes and is interested, which goes a long way.

  32. Coffee and muffins*

    #3 $800 a night for a hotel is alot, ask who your finance/accounting person/approver is and contact them for information on what has been approved in the past. Your company may not have a clear $ range per night but if everyone who has ever been there is at $300 dollars a night and you book at $800 its going to be an issue. Our average is to pull hotels within 10 – 25 miles and whatever the mid range is what we expect people to book within that range. The hotels I have approved in the past year range from $200- $450 a night and are within 20 minutes of the office, more than a 20 minute drive we usually approve a rental car.

    1. WellRed*

      Yeah OP, especially as you’re knew to the job, you don’t want to hearafter be known as the employee who booked the $800 a night hotel room.

  33. HE Admin*

    Curious about if doing everyone’s admins tasks is actually Beck’s job. His attitude is absolutely inexcusable and he’s the wrong person for the position either way, but I’ve definitely been in the spot where I was admin for a set group of people, but EVERYONE decided I was there to be THEIR admin, and was therefore available to book their travel, do their expense reports, order their office supplies, etc. I was not. They were supposed to be doing those things themselves. The right way to handle that is, obviously, to talk to the supervisor and get it straightened out…but it seems like with Ron, that might not be successful anyway. But if that’s the case, Beck should just be lining up a new job rather than blowing up at everyone around him.

    1. WellRed*

      I wondered that, too. Beck (and Ron) need to go but is this really Beck’s job. My definition of an EA is much different than an office assignment or manager.

    2. KatEnigma*

      But the higher ups specifically said Beck needs to do this. “And other duties…” makes it Beck’s job, especially when the higher ups say it is. If they wanted to push back, they should have taken their concerns to the higher ups or given notice. The reaction was in no way appropriate. So yes, it probably is their job.

  34. Anna*

    LW2, I’m a freelance translator and know a lot of other freelance translators. A scenario just like yours recently played out with some colleagues of mine, where a company reached out to both Green Translator and Blue Translator. Green and Blue talk often, so they soon realised. Green had already sent their offer, and Blue referred the company to Green. There was no blackballing involved, just good colleague-ship between Green and Blue.

    1. Trawna*

      This means the client doesn’t get to bring in competitive bids and make their own informed decision.

      This is generally called collusion.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I’d have thought rules requiring competing bids and outlawing collusion started at much, much larger contract sizes than “getting a freelancer to do some design work for us” precisely because this kind of practice is so normal (and valuable!) among freelancers?

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          In my organisation, anything over £1,000 (roughly $1,230 at current exchange rates) has to go out to 3 bids. Design costs can add up pretty fast when revisions are added, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if even a project that started out small ended up over the threshold.

          1. #2 OG poster*

            The company doesn’t work on a bid model even for large design projects like this. If the budget the freelance offers is within a certain quantity, and our manager likes the work, then they are certain to be hired.

            Our confusion stems from being told that Green “doesn’t have synergy” with the company when they haven’t even been hired yet. How do you tell someone that? That being said, we are aware of the communication mistakes we made and are remedying that with Green.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I think this is more called “But what about confidentiality?!!!” “This is not a spot where confidentiality as a legal concept applies.”

      3. Aurelia*

        Pretty sure collusion refers to large companies with major influence over markets, not small networks of individual freelancers.

      4. MM*

        By your standard, so is the minimum wage, all labor law, and all unions. This is, shall we say, an insufficiently parsimonious standard to match up with the generally accepted notion of what counts as collusion. Or, to be empirical about it: it’s a position held by economists on the right who advocate a fantasy version of the market that has no social dimensions whatsoever and just so happens to work out really well for those with more capital and thus more market power. Their argument is not one I like, but it is still more coherent than yours, because at least when they call unionization collusion they are referring to an entity that does have the power to shape the market. You’re ignoring that Blue and Green are not the only translators in the world–they do not together constitute a cartel, monopoly, or anything of the kind–and the company can certainly find other competitors; just not Blue.

        What Anna described is simple, normal collegiality, as she said.

  35. Ruby314722*

    For #2, I obviously don’t know the specific dynamics of this freelancer pool. Still, I can say that as a design freelancer, the only time I’ve turned down inquiries like this is because I was personally not interested in the project for whatever reason, and then recommended someone else I knew in a more similar niche.

    For example, after several bad experiences in a row, I will no longer work with non-profits, but I have a friend who works with them almost exclusively. If I get an inquiry from a non-profit, I will reply that she’d be a better fit, (rather than the real reason that I don’t trust them to pay me and not design-by-committee the project to death).

    1. Lab Boss*

      And especially if Green was the first designer the company looked at, it would make sense that Green is a well-known or successful designer in the niche. I assumed it was as simple as “It’s not for me but Green’s great at that!” without realizing Green had already been Plan A.

  36. Me (I think)*

    Having been a freelancer, it’s very common for freelancers to have an informal network, talk about clients and contracts, go out for beers or lunch, and share work and gear when necessary. As a photographer I found this network more valuable than any individual client.

    It’s possible to get informally blackballed by this sort of group, but usually it’s when you don’t pay your invoices. Or take six months to pay, or ask for fifty changes but refuse to pay for them, etc.

    1. #2 OG poster*

      Agree, totally understand that having a community can help everyone watch their backs and I think our worry was that we were being blacklisted because Red and Blue declined in favor of Green. Once the initial panic has worn off and seeing everyone’s comments here our issue was miscommunication and not having clarity in our process of expectations, which we are working to remedy with Green.

  37. Esmeralda*

    OP #5. OMG, qualifications please. Please please please. And tailor your resume. Please.

    Can you tell I am once again chairing a search committee? And because I’m in higher ed, academic adjacent, we are not getting the number of applications we used to…so I can’t nix an app because the resume is a hard slog or the cover letter is Happy Happy Handwaving! I mean, those things do not help applicants, they get dinged on “effective written communication” (a requirement of the job), but not enough to chuck them.

    Qualifications. And use some (brief) examples, I can smell the difference between telling and showing.

    1. OP #5*

      Yeah, I haven’t been doing just one or the other, more like trying to find a good balance between the two. And thanks to Alison’s advice over the years, I now always tailor my resume. Good luck on finding who you need!

  38. Mrs. Pommeroy*

    hell, you could be having your portrait painted. Oh Alison, why give us such stupidly wonderful ideas?! Now I’m fighting the urge spend the next hour researching how to do this where I live, and how much it would cost, instead of cleaning my flat xD

    1. Lab Boss*

      And at my job we’re allowed to set our own ID pictures for Outlook/MS Teams, with the only restrictions being that they are either our faces or something workplace-appropriate (like a flower or a space image)… so I’m only a few steps away from having my oil portrait become my official work photo…

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        At my workplace the theme is science fiction, comic book or gaming avatars. It’s a total geek outfit.

  39. Big Ol’ Beet*

    Travel person, it’s weird that the travel system isn’t set up to make sure you are within the guidelines of company policy, but definitely do the better priced one and rent a car or something. I can’t see that ending well for you. If this is for a client and not just internal to your company, then chances are they are going to pass along the expenses to them so that’s another thing to consider.

  40. Lacey*

    LW #2 – I wouldn’t say this is super common, but it’s not uncommon either.

    I’ve had other designers recommend me for jobs they don’t want – whether it’s because they don’t have the time or because they don’t specialize in that kind of design, but I do.
    It doesn’t mean they’re refusing to work with you bc you didn’t hire Green.

    Although – I will say that if you haven’t turned Green down yet, there could be a bit of that going on.
    I’ve had other designers turn down work from a client bc they knew I’d been contacted and, apparently, ghosted.

    But, it also happened to be work they rarely do, but I specialize in. So it already wasn’t work they were super interested in, but then they were also thinking this company was probably super inept to ignore a designer who specializes in that area in favor of one who barely has any experience in that type of design.

    1. linger*

      LW2’s company is also an entirely new client to the field, so an unknown quantity for any freelancer, and will be ranked below existing reliable clients by any freelancer already near saturation workload. If this is the situation with Blue or Red, who therefore recommend Green as having spare capacity, that would not leave LW2’s boss in a good position to reject Green for “lacking synergy”.

      1. Lacey*

        Yes. This is also true. And I do think designers (or any freelancers) develop a bit of an allergy for finicky clients like this. The bad communication, the vague/absurd reason for not wanting to use Green.

        That all sounds like a client who will be impossible to get project specs or actionable feedback from.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      If I know a brand new company contacted and ghosted someone of whom I think highly, then it seems likely they’d do the same to me. That’s the only thing I know about them at that point, beyond tone of email.

  41. QA Peon*

    LW #4 – if you don’t want to divulge your appointments are for a tattoo, there are a ton of other things they could be fore. I’m taking every Thursday afternoon off this summer to take my kid to library events and swimming. I’ve also taken weekdays off to attend classes – everything from web design to quilting. Lots of coworkers take Wednesdays off at random just because they’re good days to get things done, chore wise. Less busy and easy to schedule.

  42. El l*

    Op 5:
    We live in a social media age. Excitement (or any high emotion) is common.
    But skills are rare.
    Employers want what’s rare.

      1. pancakes*

        I think it’s a bit incomplete. The problem isn’t so much that excitement is common, but that it isn’t in itself an indication a candidate does higher quality work than the others. It’s a feeling, not a skill or qualification. People who are excited about what they do aren’t necessarily better at it for that.

  43. Cover Letter Gal*

    TO LW5, I always use the last paragraph of my cover letter to say something along the lines of “because xyz qualifications, I think I’d be a good fit and because xyz (something specific about the company), I am excited to work there”. Some places (especially if they’re super mission-oriented) do care just as much about your passion; my company rejects job applications because “they’re qualified but they don’t show why they want to work HERE.” I don’t see why you can’t include both

    1. bamcheeks*

      My cover letter structure is “here’s who I am, here’s why I’d be good at your job, here’s why I want your job”.

      1. Camelid coordinator*

        I go for something similar: “I’m great, you’re great, here’s why we’d be even greater together.”

    2. OP #5*

      Yeah, I asked because in the past, the places I’ve gotten interviews are places I’ve made a point of showing excitement in. I’m definitely going to keep some of the excitement in, but probably adjust my ratio to like 90/10 instead of the current 70/30

  44. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    OP 4 I’ve worked in a state department for nearly a decade. PTO is PTO. Doesn’t matter why you are taking it as long as you request it thru the proper channels and give them the proper time notice. As far as tattoos go, Old Policy was no offensive tattoos. A few years later they changed it to no visible tattoos if public facing. (most of us aren’t public facing, many of us are work from home) Many cowokers and I have tattoos.

  45. Generic Name*

    OP 3: because you are new, I think you could go back to your boss and ask for clarification. How are you, a new employee supposed to know what might pose an approval problem? He gave you a non-answer. You could ask him for some more context like what is the price range of hotels people typically stay at (for this project or similar ones). Also try to find out if there is a travel budget or an assumed hotel cost for the project. Or even if your department has a travel budget. If $800 a night would eat up half the department’s annual travel budget, that’s a problem.

  46. Trawna*

    OP2. My dirty lens — your manager just got off on a power trip with you as the victim.

    I’ve been there where my company didn’t have the right resources, my manager wanted me to source freelancers, then didn’t trust my judgement (you picked Green!), and then put me in the position of messing the freelancer around, juggling deadlines, keeping them in reserve just-in-case, etc. Yes, and dealing with the fallout afterwards.

    The only real cure is getting a new job where you’ve carefully vetted company resources and management philosophy.

    In this case, OP2, it is time to be very clear with the freelancer — you recommended them to your manager, your manager picked someone else, contracted with them and the work is underway. Apologize for the miscommunication, and wish them well. ie: with your best professional demeanour, throw your manager under the same bus they threw you.

    Again, my dirty lens.

    1. #2 OG poster*

      Yeah, my coworker and I do feel like we are dealing with the fallout, but our manager IS communicating with Green and apologizing this misunderstanding, so they are more or less taking responsibility for their vague decision making.

  47. anonymous73*

    #4 You earn PTO and it’s nobody’s business why you’re taking it. I think you’re very much overthinking the whole thing. Unless you’re in a busy season where it makes it more difficult to have PTO approved, or a lot of people have asked for the same time off and they need you for coverage, submit it and let it go. And as far as the tattoo being acceptable to be on display while you’re at work, I think it depends on the office – my last office had a policy that they could not be visible, but it was a policy that was never enforced.

  48. SMH*

    higher-ups okayed it and asked me to relay the message to

    Go back to higher ups and explain how you were treated and that Ron is doing nothing about ED. Make them aware of all issues with Ron and Becky.

  49. LadySB*

    I work in a government office in a large US city, and I have 3 very visible medium tattoos on my arms and a small one on my ankle. I’ve never felt uncomfortable or judged for them. I think that unless you work in a very conservative field (which it doesn’t sound like, based on how others are dressing in your office), the days of having to hide tattoos are behind us.

  50. Interviewer*

    OP#1 – you can’t control how anyone reacts to anything. Your boss can (and should) handle the unprofessional reactions, if any. Ron needs to set the expectations around behavior and deliver consequences for not meeting those expectations.

    The only thing you can control is your work and your reactions. Please don’t take Beck’s tantrums personally – it sounds like she performs them for everyone, and there’s nothing you can do to prevent them. You are doing normal work things, while Beck clearly belongs in a zoo.

  51. Call me St. Vincent*

    Former fed here. Tattoos were a complete non-issue in my law enforcement type but otherwise conservative field. Many many folks have sleeves especially former military people. Go for it!

  52. A Yellow Plastic Duck*

    $800 a day hotel?

    This may be a situation where you want to try something out of the box like an Airbnb.

    1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

      On a huge company’s dime? Nah. Do what you can but your job shouldn’t require you to stay in an AirBNB, for several reasons. The company can afford a hotel.

  53. Student*

    OP #3: A good way to gauge whether travel expenses are “reasonable” or not is to lean a little on the GSA-set hotel per diem rates. You can find them easily on the internet. These are the rates that the US government deems reasonable for business travel for hotels all over the country.

    You don’t need to abide by their guidance, since you’re corporate and it doesn’t sound like you’re a government contractor, but they can give you a ballpark for what a large swath of business would consider a reasonable travel expense. They are very specific to each area to reflect differences in prices and have seasonal adjustments, and they allow reasonably nice hotel rooms in any place I’ve traveled to. It’s probably fine for you to pay more for a hotel than this rate, by maybe +20% to +50%. It’s probably not fine for you to pay double this rate or more unless you have a really strong justification and your boss’s advance approval, unless you’re pretty high up the corporate ladder.

  54. James Gregory*

    I also work in government and if I saw you arrive to the office with a full leg sleeve tattoo, I would think you had some serious mental health issues.

    1. Lemming22*

      While you are allowed to have your opinion I think this is pretty out of touch. Both your opinion on tattoos as well the tone of your comment around mental health.

    2. neeko*

      I hope you sit and think about how judgmental, rude, and ableist this statement is. Good grief.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      Huh? Why would a tattoo indicate “serious mental health issues”?? That’s a very big stretch even for a highly conservative area.

      Getting a tattoo is not a sign of mental illness, any more than dying your hair or getting random piercings. I’m over 60, and I don’t consider it bizarre or insane.

      Yes, some images are… not for the faint of heart. But they also are pretty rare. Yes, the classic sailor tattoo of a buxom woman can be a little problematic in current office culture, but those can be covered by long sleeves/long pants. Unless a tattoo is decidedly offensive, it shouldn’t be an issue.

      My housemate who is 60 regularly expands her ink. It’s all nature stuff, and gorgeous. The modern inks and techniques are very vivid and have a shorter recovery time.

      1. pancakes*

        There’s little point in trying to reason with someone who doesn’t appear to use reason in forming their views. Particularly when their views are extremist. There’s nothing this person said to suggest the subject matter, or inks used, or recovery time are somehow driving their views rather than, say, weird bigotry.

    4. K-Sara-Sarah*

      What? Why? How do you reasonably connect ink with mental illness? Neither of those things, either independently or together, automatically signify a bad employee.

      I’m curious about an explanation, but I wonder if would be just as rude and judgmental as your comment.

    5. Chidi*

      What on earth….?! I am a clinical social worker for the federal government and several of my colleagues have full arm sleeves/leg sleeves Having tattoos is not a mental health concern.

      Step off with the judgement.

      LW – You’ll be just fine in the federal system with your tattoo.

      1. pancakes*

        It’s a bummer that so many people’s response to an unhinged opinion is “I’d like to hear more about that! Let’s get into detail.”

        1. K-Sara-Sarah*

          I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m a fan of calling out bigots and a-holes but asking them to explain themselves and telling the group just where, exactly, they think they get off with this kind of bullshirt. I’m certainly not agreeing with him.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Agreed.

            Pancakes, I value your comments here, but I have to ask that you focus more on the letters themselves and less on dissection of other participants’ comments and wording (this stems from the overall pattern I’ve seen, not this one exchange). Thank you.

            1. pancakes*

              Got it, but I’m not seeing how asking for a specific diagnosis in this thread could be useful to the letter writer or anyone else.

              1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

                Hi pancakes. You might want to look up Socratic irony; I often use it in such situations. I was not actually asking for specific diagnoses; my expectation was not that James Gregory would reply with info from the DSM. Rather, my point was that he would be UNABLE to provide specifics, because having a leg tattoo is not a symptom of ANY disorder.

    6. bluephone*

      Ha haha, well we found the staff members on Dr. Oz’s senatorial campaign*

      (Oz’s competition is John Fetterman, who is well known for his tattoos)

  55. aebhel*

    Re: 4, I’m in civil service (public librarian), and I have several large, visible tattoos, including a half-sleeve; I have one other coworker who is getting a full sleeve done right now. We’ve both booked PTO for tattoo appointments, and it’s never been any issue whatsoever. Unless it’s expressly prohibited by your dress code (or you live in a very conservative area–I’m in a fairly small conservative town, but I’m also in the northeast), I doubt it’ll be an issue. I’m very public-facing and many of our patrons are elderly, and in nine years no one has been anything other than complimentary or curious about my ink.

  56. kiki*

    LW 1: There are some positions where a bad version *is* worse than nothing– I’d consider an EA one of them. In the example about the locker, how many people have had to spend their time thinking about and coordinating something that likely should have taken less than an hour? How many days has it been since the employee initially asked for this? How many extra steps have been added to what should have been a straight forward process. At this point, would it have been easier for LW to just set up the locker themselves? Having nobody in this role *temporarily* will likely free up time and emotional energy. This situation is also a great candidate for having a temp step in.

  57. Anon for this*

    Sorry if someone already said this and I missed it- but if you’re using a portal to book (like Carlson wagonlit?) something wildly out of the normal range would probably get flagged before you made it to the actual stay. I work for Amazon and we use that set up and there’s a whole team who review these things and will contact you to rebook for a cheaper hotel if they find one for less than what you booked.

  58. Crencestre*

    LW1: Even if the powers that be are too laissez-faire to have taken the steps needed to address the Beck problem (formal meetings complete with written warnings, a PIP and then early termination of her contract if the above didn’t work) they should at least take account of how Beck’s behavior is affecting their other employees.

    Someone in Beck’s position can cause a LOT of problems in a company – you don’t need an exalted title to have the power to wreak havoc by acting the way she does! (A 10 minute yelling tantrum over a routine request?!) LW, your company should consider the cost in employee morale, stiffen up their corporate backbone and end Beck’s contract ASAP. And if she works for an agency, THEY should be alerted to her behavior as well. (But really, this all should have been addressed with Beck long before it got to this point. It got to this point because she’s gotten away with it – she’s had no incentive to “straighten up and fly right” in the past, so why should she start behaving herself now?)

  59. Lady Pomona*

    LW1: Even if the powers that be are too laissez-faire to have taken the steps needed to address the Beck problem (formal meetings complete with written warnings, a PIP and then early termination of her contract if the above didn’t work) they should at least take account of how Beck’s behavior is affecting their other employees.

    Someone in Beck’s position can cause a LOT of problems in a company – you don’t need an exalted title to have the power to wreak havoc by acting the way she does! (A 10 minute yelling tantrum over a routine request?!) LW, your company should consider the cost in employee morale, stiffen up their corporate backbone and end Beck’s contract ASAP. And if she works for an agency, THEY should be alerted to her behavior as well. (But really, this all should have been addressed with Beck long before it got to this point. It got to this point because she’s gotten away with it – she’s had no incentive to “straighten up and fly right” in the past, so why should she start behaving herself now?)

  60. Former Retail Manager*

    OP #4 – Federal Govt employee here with a partially public facing role. I’m not sure about your agency, but ours does not have a dress code. We have some wording about “professional” dress, but because there are no specifics, it has really never been an issue. I don’t think the PTO is an issue at all. The Govt is far less “nosy” about why you’re using PTO…if you have the time to use, your performance is meeting expectations, and no deadlines are impacted, it’s virtually always approved. As far as how you might be perceived, I don’t really see a negative there either. We used to have a couple of gentlemen in our office, one had a full sleeve and one was sleeved out on both arms. It served merely as a conversation starter and source of compliments for both. I think you’d be fine to wear skirts or ankle pants and see no need for you to cover it up fully unless your agency has a policy on visible tattoos or it makes you more comfortable or you are working for a super conservative agency.

  61. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    Not sure about American cities, but in Canada, it’s not uncommon to see a quoted price of $165 which then has HST on it AND then there’s a “municipal tourism tax” or similar and then HST on that. I had a block of rooms at $165 per night and after all those taxes, it ended up closer to $195.

    Keep in mind that unless the website you’re looking at is quoting you the full price with fees and taxes, the final price will be higher.

    I’ve seen LW#3’s comments and it’s a good plan to book at the cheaper hotel.

    Side note: Eeeesh, prices have gone way up for hotel room nights. And hotels are being more difficult about their contracts (less willing to change them), attrition rates, direct billing options, etc. I know they were hit hard by the pandemic but a few recent experiences leave me wondering “Don’t they want our money? Why are they making it so hard for my to spend my money?”

    (We’re further complicated that we prefer unionized hotels and they’re not always available.)

  62. Baby bulldog*

    Maybe we could avoid using the term “blacklist” given its racist connotations? I know I hadn’t considered this before, but it was recently brought to my attention, and I decided to stop using it. Just wanted to share in case others don’t know. I think language matters here.

    1. #2 OG poster*

      Apologies for that. I should have said “vetted” or “red-listed” which is how I’ve seen it used as well. I’ll make sure to take that into account in the future.

  63. Cringing 24/7*

    I feel like OP3’s boss was particularly unhelpful. When I had employees I managed, that’s the sort of question I’d contact Accounts Payable or HR, so that I’d have an answer for not just this one employee, but the rest of the team when this inevitably came up for them as well. Not only did OP3’s boss state that they didn’t know, they threw the question back on the employee by essentially saying not to mess this up.

    OP3, I’d treat this like expensing a meal in a restaurant. Don’t choose the most expensive option, and don’t feel like you have to choose the cheapest one. I like Alison’s suggestion of going ahead and factoring in some travel time to a moderately-priced hotel (if there is such a thing anymore) so that it’s still net cheaper than choosing the super expensive hotel.

    1. LJ*

      It’s possible the policy is really at manager’s discretion, but the manager could’ve given better examples of “this is what a reasonable business expense looks like” to a new employee. Not everyone remembers being new to business norms

  64. Jessica Fletcher*

    I personally wouldn’t use the “recurring appointment, nothing to worry about” language here. To me that suggests something medical, and some people are going to worry or at least assume you have a medical thing. If I later found out it was a tattoo, I’d think it was weird that you used that language. I wouldn’t care that you got a tattoo or used PTO for it, but it would feel strange that you phrased it that way. Some coworkers or managers who had assumed it was medical will wonder if you were trying to misrepresent the reason.

    You’re overthinking it. Just put in the requests, maybe breaking up the submissions. I bet no one even notices that you’re gone the first Wednesday for 6 months.

  65. Just Me*

    LW 3- even if the expenses aren’t much for your company right now, for auditing purposes it can end up being an issue if an employee is perceived to be expensing things beyond what is really necessary for work. This is a little less true in the for-profit sector (I used to work in nonprofit and government where this was a BIG deal), but is still a factor. You have to think, if there was a deposition or an IRS audit where there were allegations that the company was using company funds for unrelated expenses, would this hold up?

  66. Government Manager in the Midwest*

    LW#4 – Local government manager here. As long as your leg sleeve isn’t inappropriate (nudity, inappropriate/offensive language, etc) it would be fine in my office. Many of us have visible tattoos and it’s really no big deal.

  67. EmmaPoet*

    #1- You have a Ron problem. Beck is going to be gone in September (one hopes), but Ron will still be there, refusing to actually manage. Keep that in mind as you look at your situation.

  68. TootsNYC*

    LW5:
    I work at a high prestige place. We’re a household word.
    We know everyone who applies is excited about our brand and what we do.
    It gets old. And it doesn’t set you apart.

    Don’t spend that much energy on gushing about it. Tell us about you.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Yeah, around 30 years ago I applied to a place, was a perfect fit for the job, and they tried to lowball me.

      After telling the HR rep that the offer was unacceptable (a pay cut, actually) she said “yeah but this is (company)”. To which I replied, “yeah but I’m the_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2, how’s that ?”

      She sharpened her pencil.

  69. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #2 — surprise, surprise! People DO talk with each other. And if you rejected “Green” and they’re the best in the specialty you want – and tell “Red” and “Blue” that you did that? Maybe they’re being honest – if you don’t want “Green” to do it, you’re likely to NOT be happy with the others (or, they’re thinking that way) and they’re steering clear of you. AND – you shouldn’t be discussing your dealings with “Green” with other purveyors.

    #3 – $800 a night? WHERE THE HELL WAS *THIS*??? Most large companies have a travel bureau, because they have deals with hotel chains. And I have never seen convention rates that high. The reasons companies like to hold conventions in Las Vegas are that a) it’s easy to get there from nearly anywhere and b) rooms are relatively cheap.

    If this is in North America or Western Europe, I’m stunned.

    1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

      Rockaway Beach is in NYC, but on the far outside.

      There’s one hotel there, and it’s SUPER expensive. Depending on the date and what rooms are available, $800 might be their best offer.

      1. pancakes*

        There are several hotels in the Rockaways, and an enormous number of others between Manhattan and the Rockaways, and I don’t see any indication that that’s where the letter writer is headed.

        1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

          Yikes you DO like to nitpick comments, don’t you?

          The nearest hotel I could find to Rockaway BEACH (which is what I said) other than the Rockaway Hotel is a 90 minute walk from the Rockaway Hotel. 40 minutes by public transportation (right now), 20 minutes by car. If it has vacancies.

          Perhaps you’ve never traveled to Rockaway Beach, or you’d know that “between Manhattan and the Rockaways” is all of Brooklyn. Brooklyn itself is twice as large as Barcelona or Paris.

          Regardless, it was just an example.

    2. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

      The Greenpoint area too is a candidate. Of course those hotels aren’t REALLY luxury, not like the Four Seasons or something. They’re just “I have a pool and serve hot food, and am in the five boroughs” luxury.

    3. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      You can spend $800 a night on a hotel in North America with breathtaking ease, especially if there’s a major convention in town driving up prices (and lowering vacancy). Vegas is the outlier, routinely offering cheap convention space and hotel rates. Because they figure they’ll get your money on recreation and booze.

    4. #2 OG poster*

      Just to clarify. We did not speak to Red and Blue Designers about hiring Green. They were the ones that brought them up on their own. Red said they were unavailable for the time period we needed them for and Blue backing out because they felt Green had more expertise. It was Green, in their follow up email that mentioned both Red and Blue.

      As for them speaking to each other, it’s not THAT which caught us off guard, but rather that they opted out of the project. As many have already pointed out, maybe our needs are for a niche group of designers, which would make it even more understandable that they would be communicating. It’s simply something we hadn’t encountered before.

    5. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      I had a situation like that 10+ years ago. I was on temporary loan to one of our offices in Oslo, Norway and our regular hotel told me they’d be full next week and have no room for me.
      There was a big event (Nobel peace award ceremony, iirc) and the cheapest available hotel in a two-hour-commute radius was about $900 per night (we usually paid around $150). I made arrangements to stay with a colleague for that week; in the end a cancelation happened and it became moot.
      Same happens with some regularity with trade fairs, e.g. Frankfurt book fair – a (not very nice) room that was $80 last week may be $400 during the fair, if you get one at all.

  70. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Perhaps in the Super Bowl city during that week – oh, yeah, the upscale hotels in Louisville during Derby Week, maybe a highest-end luxury hotel in Mekkah during the Hajj? But… in business? No, never saw that.

    1. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      Really?? Because I have to book travel to major industry conventions and I see that all the time.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      Party political conferences (at least in the UK, which is where my experience has been of that) can certainly cause it. Trying to find accommodation for a family party on relatively short notice, when the Labour Party conference was in the same city that same weekend, and then also having to sort out my relatives who hadn’t bothered doing anything about it until about a week ahead of time, was fun.

  71. ANON_Allthetime*

    For LW#4 – I’m a Federal employee for one of the more laid-back departments in USG and my office is full of millennials and Gen Z, and while my agency can be very casual they would probably not look too favorably on a leg sleeve. Staff who have visible tattoos in my office do have some larger tattoos, but generally something that could be covered if meeting with outside stakeholders.

  72. sparklykitten*

    LW2: I’m in a niche freelance network. Any of the above scenarios could be true. There is another, though: Green Designer has power in the freelance network, and other color designers are afraid to step on Green’s toes.

    This has happened to me as, shall we say, Blue Designer.

    It’s not a fun place to be.

    1. #2 OG poster*

      Makes sense. This was our first thought when this while thing started, but it seems very insidious to think that Green has a monopoly on the freelance designer field.

  73. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    Beck sounds exhausting to deal with but I’m really not sure that they are “better than nothing”.
    Employee needs a locker, asks Beck for one, Beck says no. Employee goes to a higher-up who says yes you can have a locker and Beck should sort it. Higher-up asks OP to ask Beck to sort it.
    At this point, it would have been quicker for OP to just sort the locker out themselves.
    Given that the manager is not managing Beck properly at this point (they should have told Beck themselves “sort the locker for Employee” and Beck wouldn’t have answered them back presumably?) I think perhaps the manager has not managed Beck properly from the outset, it’s perfectly feasible that Beck doesn’t have a clue how to go about sorting the locker for Employee, but doesn’t want to admit it. This does not excuse their behaviour of course, but at some point if an employee does bad work, it has to be imputable to their manager not just them.

  74. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    As a translator, if I’m asked to do a job I’m not comfortable with, I’ll recommend a friend who I know could do a better job. There are some with such specialist knowledge, everyone defers to them.
    Rather than continuing the search, I’d go back to the manager who refused Green, to say that both Red and Blue had said the same thing, they think Green would be best at the job. I’m thinking there might be some bad blood between Manager and Green, perhaps they fell out over an invoicing issue where Green wanted to charge more than previously agreed, because the work took longer than expected, or some similar problem that had nothing to do with the quality of the work produced. If there is some kind of unresolvable history like that, OK, OP will have to continue their search, but it may be that Manager didn’t realise Green had X experience or Y qualification, or maybe it’s just prejudice because Green is not an alpha male from Harvard. I think it’s worth delving deeper into whether Green might work before setting out on a search for a Rainbow-coloured Unicorn.

  75. Avril Ludgateaux*

    #4

    I am once again asking for people to start referring to leg sleeve tattoos as “pant legs”.

  76. Inigo Montoya.*

    For Number 2, I want to ask if you have personally met Green, Blue and Red.
    I had a situation in a past job where we were looking for a contractor and doing a search on a site (the work would have been remote). Several possibilities came up (I will call them A, B, and C) and we reviewed their qualifications and had brief phone conversations with each. It later came out when we received a call from A and the call display showed C’s number that A, B, and C were all the same individual using different names! I guess he forgot which number matched which personality. It it possible Mr Green, Mr Blue, and Mr Red are the same person (sounds like the plot twist in a whodunit, I know).
    In our case, we decided to go with D from a different site.

  77. Good Enough For Government Work*

    UK gov, not US, but the only response you’d get from any of my colleagues would be a request to see the tattoo and its progress.

    US attitudes to leave weird me right out. It’s your paid entitlement, why on earth would a colleague CARE what it’s for? I’ve been telling all mine, very cheerfully, that I’m off to the Discworld Convention later this month. I’ve even shown a few work friends pictures of me in cosplay. (Hell, one work friend sewed one of my cosplay dresses for me!)

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