my boss is annoyed that I stayed out late drinking during a three-day work event

I’m off today, so here’s an older post from the archives. This was originally published in 2018.

A reader writes:

I am a designer for an architectural firm and I was assigned to assist in a trade show, as our firm was one of the exhibitors. The show was held in my hometown so we needed to fly for the event.

The show proper is from 9 AM to 7 PM and fell on a weekend, starting on a Friday. As it was my hometown and my friends were living where the show was held, I decided to catch up with them for drinks after we ended the first day of the event. It was a way for me to de-stress as well. I went out at 10 PM, way after the first day ended, and ended up going back to our hotel at 5 the next morning, but I wasn’t drunk. Tipsy, yes. Blackout drunk, no. After that, I still managed to go to the show at exactly 9 AM. From 9 AM to 7 PM, I was fully-functional in manning our booth, fulfilling inquiries, and any other chores our boss needed me to do without a hitch. He even complimented my work for that day. We closed down our booth, and our boss and my coworkers went out to dinner.

During dinner, my boss asked me what time I got home, as I had asked permission from him if I could go out, which he allowed me to. I told him 5 AM and then he got mad. This is a non-verbatim flow of our conversation:

Boss: You shouldn’t have gone home at 5 AM because we are in the middle of a three-day event. If you didn’t go out, you could’ve done better today. You didn’t give out your full potential.

Me: Sir, I was at our booth at exactly 9 AM, answered inquiries diligently, fulfilled orders, and manned the booth with the way I do in the past shows.

Boss: You’re missing the point here. I’m not saying you didn’t do good today. If something happened to you in this city, which we are unfamiliar with, I am liable.

Me: Sir, this is my hometown. I know the city by heart.

Boss: Don’t argue with me. Going out for drinks even after work hours in a business trip is unprofessional.

His scolding continued and he was changing his points as I defended myself. I eventually shut up so that it wouldn’t escalate any further.

I was fully-functional and fulfilling work to be done on the day without any problems. My question is, was I really unprofessional for going out after work hours in this situation?

I wouldn’t say it was unprofessional exactly, but it didn’t show great judgment.

Going out after a work event is fine. But coming back to the hotel drunk at 5 a.m. when you need to staff an all-day event that starts four hours later isn’t the wisest thing to do.

Maybe you were 100% on your game and no one would have been able to tell that you were running on a few hours of drunken sleep. But for a lot of people, that would have affected their ability to be fully on for a full-day event, which tend to be pretty exhausting. It’s not surprising that your boss would want you to show up fully rested, or that he thought you were being cavalier about your work responsibilities. I’d agree with him there; it does sound you were being cavalier about them.

But your boss is also being weird in the way he’s explaining his objections — but probably more accurately, he’s just not explaining his objections well.

For the record, the thing about being liable for you in an unfamiliar city is weird. (And if you were a woman, it would sound grossly sexist and paternalistic, but I think from your email that you’re a man so we’ll stick to just weird and paternalistic.) And the idea that it’s always unprofessional to go out for drinks on a work trip is silly. People go out for drinks on work trips all the time, and it’s fine — as long as they’re reasonably well-rested and not hungover the next day.

But I suspect that he’s not articulating his concerns well and that they really just boil down to: “While you’re on a work trip, I expect work to be your first priority, which means that you should prioritize showing up well-rested and not hungover after going out drinking with friends. Even if you’re telling me you were fine the next day, there was enough of a risk that you wouldn’t be fine that this isn’t okay to do.”

And that’s absolutely reasonable, and it’s probably something he’s annoyed to have to tell you.

{ 279 comments… read them below }

        1. Sylvan*


          I’m sorry but you’re not staying out until 5 a.m. and then working at 9 a.m. without somebody noticing that you are, at best, tired. Even if OP hadn’t been drinking, I’m sure their boss had a reason to ask what they were up to.

        2. bighairnoheart*

          If this was the case, the boss made a bad call bringing it up at a dinner with the other coworkers. If you suspect one of your employees is coming in to work visibly impaired, you should have that conversation with them one on one.

          1. Observer*

            That’s true. But that doesn’t negate the other issue.

            As I noted in the original letter there were two sets of issues. One was the boss – he really sounds like a very poor manager for a lot of reasons. Mishandling a situation like this sounds like par for the course.

            The second issue is the OP’s behavior. Based on what they wrote, it’s hard to argue that they didn’t show really bad judgement in a way that makes them an unreliable narrator about certain aspects of the story – most notably about whether it was apparent that something was up.

        3. Jodi*

          I’m thinking the same thing. People don’t seem to realize they smell of stale booze after being out drinking all night. I doubt the boss would have asked what time they got in without a reason

          1. H3llifIknow*

            Maybe if they’re wearing the same clothes, and spilled some. Maybe if they didn’t brush their teeth, but what stale booze are you smelling? Where is it coming from? That’s not only irrelevant to the letter which in no way indicated the boss had an inkling, but it’s not true if people have showered and brushed and changed clothing.

          1. Pixx*

            Based on experience, really. Drinking all night, getting in at 5am, and going to work a mere 4 hours later is rarely enough time to sober yourself up. You sweat the alcohol out through your pores – it stinks. People can tell.

            If LW was still “tipsy” at 5am, there’s a good chance he was still somewhat intoxicated at 9am, too.

        4. Lea*

          Yeah…5am he was still drunk and showing up at 9???

          That’s not good.

          Also he would have been better off saying vaguely he got in late and then letting it lie imo

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Wait, why is everyone (including Alison!!) saying he was drunk, when he states he was just tipsy? Aren’t we supposed to take letter writers at their word?

        5. Roland*

          The boss had plenty of things they complained about and they weren’t this. They were satisfied with OP’s performance until this point. Why are people just making things up here?

        6. constant_craving*

          Then they should not have complimented OP on their performance that day. That just undermines the message.

        7. New Jack Karyn*

          That seems unlikely, because the boss didn’t bring it up. “You still smell of booze, at 8 pm the next day,” was not a thing that was said.

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            Just because boss didn’t say it doesn’t prove it wasn’t the case.

      1. Lost Weekend*

        Cmon, OP was working in a booth at a trade show. If the boss wasn’t on site throughout the day, who would the booth patrons have told? And what might they have said? “I believe the person who passed me this literature is pissed, sir”?

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          The boss was there. So were other coworkers. No one said anything about OP smelling of booze.

      2. Zephy*

        It’s not insane to think Boss could smell the booze and was giving OP the chance to explain himself one way or the other, but that’s also getting pretty close to advice column fanfic.

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          Nope, not insane at all.

          When someone’s recently had a lot to drink, it’s not nearly as hard to detect as they may think.

    1. H3llifIknow*

      The boss didn’t ask the OP if she/he want out. He asked what time he/she got back to the hotel since he knew they’d gone out. This is irrelevant. And I find it only “sticks” to the breath or if it’s spilled on clothes.

  1. lunchtime caller*

    In my opinion, the real mistake was being that open with your boss. If you know yourself and you pulled out a great performance the next day that’s between you and your energy reserves, all your boss needed to know was “Oh I can’t remember the exact time, it wasn’t too late. It was great to see old friends!” and keep the conversation moving. They’re not wrong for thinking it sounded a little too wild for a work trip, but that’s why bosses don’t need to know every detail of our lives.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Yes, ironically, the little white lie would have made this a professional and adult conversation. The truth created a weird parent/child dynamic with boss trying not say, “don’t come in at 5 because I said so,” but OP not picking up on it and instead speaking like a petulant child.
      “I wasn’t tired!”
      “I know the city!”
      Boss should have stopped at, “You shouldn’t have gone home at 5 AM because we are in the middle of a three-day event.”
      and if OP came back with “but why?” I think Boss could say that the conversation is complete.
      But to lunchtime caller’s point. The conversation never should have happened.

    2. Morgan Proctor*

      100% agree. Also, what is up with asking their boss for permission to do something on their off time?

      I mean, when I was in my 20s, I absolutely could stay out until 5 am and be on my game at 9 am. Obviously their boss couldn’t tell anything was amiss, because they only got bent out of shape when LW told them what time they got back.

      1. mlem*

        It’s a weekend trade show. The LW presumably asked because there might have been a later function they would need to attend.

          1. MegPie*

            In my industry, the best connections (and connections are vital) are made at non-official trade show functions, sometimes after 10pm. 5am is way too late and LW sounds immature but I wouldn’t say the line of professionalism is official vs. unofficial.

            1. BasketcaseNZ*

              Yeah, when my husband does trade shows, even if they happen to be in our home town, he stays at a hotel, because it is not uncommon for him to be socialising with suppliers or potential clients through until the ungodly hours of the morning.

              Those social sessions (where often either the supplier or the client is paying the bar tab) have had massive positive financial dividends for his company (and by correlation, him). The people he was out with remember him positively at a later date and so sign on for him to work with them.

              We flew to one city to join him on the last day of the conference for a family holiday. He got in at 3am. our then 5 year old woke at 5:30am thanks to jet lag. It was my husbands birthday too, so no amount of persuading could get the 5yo back to sleep in his excitement over Daddys birthday! :)
              Two years later, the people he was out drinking with signed a major contract with his company that got him a 5% pay boost.

          2. alas rainy again*

            Aaaah the lovely diner with a special guest hosted by the regional sponsor of a goverment-organised scientific congress comes to mind. We were stuck sitting at a table until midnight in a city known for its night scene. I am afraid I went anyway for a relaxing stroll until 2 am for unwinding purpose, and clear the head after the day and evening events. So yes, I had asked whether I could skip the sponsored diner (and was denied, unfortunately. The boss liked to show off his posse at such events, especially the young females)

      2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        Yes, this boss is really acting like an angry father scolding a teenager who broke curfew. Staying out until 5:00 AM did NOT show sterling judgment, and people get robbed/attacked/murdered in their hometowns with depressing regularity, but the boss’s reaction turned this into a parent/underage-child dynamic that isn’t exactly professional either.
        Next time, OP, obfuscate a little; if your boss comes on a strict father, grilling you about what you did on your. own. time. off. (WTH?!), “forget” the kind of details that will make him act as if his next words will be “You’re grounded!”

        1. TootsNYC*

          I agree. but OP set it up that way by asking permission.

          So often, we don’t have any paradigm for authority and superior/subordinate except for parent/child and teacher/student.

      3. TootsNYC*

        I think that “asking for permission” set up a framework of parent/child.
        And so that’s not something OP should have done.
        and then the boss wouldn’t have known to even ask, “what time did you come home?” the way a parent would.

        1. Morgan Proctor*

          Yeah, that’s why I’m thinking this LW is/was in their early 20s and just doesn’t yet understand the importance of boundaries and white lies.

        2. Mike*

          Unless there was some other reason the boss was asking. I.e. OP smelled of alcohol/hangover, or wasn’t on point during the show.

      4. I am Emily's failing memory*

        The asking permission as well as addressing the boss as “Sir” made me wonder if this is a non-US country… which could be relevant in terms of how staying out until 5 AM on a Friday is perceived in that cultural context – norms on this can really vary.

        1. Observer*

          No. If you go back to the original, the OP is (was) young-is (25), relatively new to the professional world, had a prior job as a “brand ambassador” for an alcoholic beverage which required a lot of evening drinking, and is related to their boss.

          *AND* the boss is also apparently a micro manager.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            and is related to their boss

            Wow, LW really buried the lede! No wonder it sounded like a parent scolding a child – sounds like boss was wearing his “family” hat more than his “workplace” one.

            1. Jane Anonsten*

              The boss was OP’s best friend’s uncle, so OP was not related to the boss but knew him very well.

              OP’s comments were very interesting — they commented as “Sender” and reading his comments really just made me more confused (though I do think perhaps they are not in the US based on a mention about a cultural difference with “tipsy.”)

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I do think “Oh around midnight” would have avoided the follow-on conversation.

      (And I agree with Alison–this is something where people’s perception of you matters, and you conveyed that drinking all night with your high school buddies was more important than the work tasks you had the next day.)

      If you truly have a liver of iron and your body is still happy to party all night and work the next day (this diminishes sharply over their 20s for most people), you still want to be discrete about that at work.

      1. GrooveBat*

        But “Oh around midnight” would be a lie.

        I run trade show booths for my company. I don’t expect my employees to have to answer to me about what they’re doing in their off hours, but it’s not unreasonable to expect them to use good judgment. If one of them had mentioned to me that they were going out to meet friends, showed up bleary and hungover the next day, and then *lied to me about how late they were out* it would not go over well with me. I would absolutely question their judgment and their integrity.

        The LW was traveling for a company event, on company money, for a specific company-related function. It’s not unreasonable to expect them to prioritize work performance over partying with their friends, and it’s not unreasonable to expect them to have the common sense to know this.

        1. Nina*

          See, you sound like a reasonable person who realizes that employees are adults and their off hours are their own and that scolding them like unruly teenagers is not on.

          There would be no need to lie to you.

          1. GrooveBat*

            There wouldn’t have been a “need” to lie to this boss either, if OP had not used such bad judgment.

            I read OP’s comments on the original post. The manager seems kind of annoying and OP characterized him as a “micromanager.” So that leads me to one of two conclusions: 1. Either the boss is a micromanager who gets super stressed out around trade shows, ergo, employee should have erred on the side of caution and not behaved in a way that they knew would only exacerbate boss’s stress; or, 2. Boss is a micromanager because their staff has an unfortunate pattern of making bad judgment calls and boss needs to constantly check up on them.

            Either way, my answer ends up the same: Don’t do stuff you have to lie about to your boss.

            1. Wonka Chocolate Factory*

              Are those the only two options you can see? I can see a number of reasons that Boos might be a micromanager, your two included, and also “Boss is a control freak who always exercises excessive control over their employee’s leisure time.” In the case of a toxic boss, my answer is generally going to land on, “Act like an adult in your leisure time and when that comes into conflict with what your unreasonable boss wants, lie.” If LW knows they can go out at 10, drink until 3, come home at 5, and still do better than their colleagues at work the next day, then they should feel free to do so.

            2. Moonstone*

              LW should not have asked for permission to go out that night and absolutely should have lied about the time they returned. The boss isn’t entitled to that information at all. If LW did well the following day then that is all the more reason to withhold that info from their boss. In my 20s I absolutely could have functioned – and functioned well – on little sleep. It’s not so outlandish to believe LW could as well.

            3. Dancing Otter*

              Or LW considers Boss a micromanager not because he is, but because Boss supervises LW more closely because he can’t trust LW’s judgement.
              Admittedly, Boss didn’t explain the issues with staying out all night drinking while on a business trip well – very poorly, in fact – but this was a huge error of judgment by LW. You have to wonder how good his judgement is in general.

    4. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      Totally agree. The 5 return time was a little much but only because it might/could impact her work that day. Since her work was apparently fine, no harm no foul. OTOH, the boss was a weirdo about the whole thing. It’s not professional to go out for a drink after business hours? She owes it to the company not to do a good job but to do the best possible job and she has to change her off-hours behavior to add 2% that no one is going to notice?

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Oops, missed that the LW was a man, apologies. I guess I thought that much paternalism wouldn’t be directed at a man.

      2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        Going out till 5am happened not to affect his performance, but it’s not about how much you can push the envelope and get away with. It’s about setting conditions for the best outcome. Staying up all night (even not drinking) is setting conditions for a pretty bad outcome. The fact that it happened to work out fine is irrelevant.

        I do agree that OP should have said he got back ‘pretty early (technically the truth!), not sure exactly what time, but it sure was great to see my friends’. I think it’s strange that he had to ask the boss for permission to go out and also strange that the boss asked what time he got back in, it sounds like some enmeshment there.

        1. Lunch Ghost*

          I assume the boss did have some problems with OP’s work that day (OP mentions the boss saying OP didn’t work up to his full potential and could have done better), decided “stayed out too late” was the mostly likely explanation, and asked about that. In which case the boss could also use some advice: if you have concerns with an employee’s work, go straight to the concerns, don’t try to figure out the backstory. (Not least because you won’t always GET the backstory– if OP fudged and said he didn’t know, or lied and said midnight, then what? Accuse him of lying? Ask how many drinks he had?)

          1. Smithy*

            I go to a lot of external networking type events with work, and over time have learned that as a scope of work – we’re not great at explaining expectations, explaining what a good result is, how to try and improve, what isn’t great, etc.

            Certainly, showing up dressed and behaving professionally is a start, and there can be generally ambitions (talk to X people from Y fancy entities). But it’s understood that when you arrive, you can only control so much and being in position to adjust is part of the professional engagement. And setting metrics and expectations around making those adjustments is often not a skill many managers have. So even an expectation like “the event starts at 9, but I require showing up between 8:30 and 8:45 for early networking” isn’t a detail lots of managers will spell out or quite frankly want to. Because it’s more like – if your personality thrives on early am coffee networking, do that! Or if you’re better at “in the line for the toilets chat” – do that! But if you’re seen to do none of that, then it can be seen as an issue cumulatively.

            Clearly working a booth or any other networking event can have quantitative achievements – but not finding a way to better articulate expectations around networking and adjusting social networking approaches after you’re in the room means you’re left with the approach the boss used.

            1. StressedButOkay*

              Agree – at previous job, before the pandemic, they would send staff to events every year. There was a core group that went but they would rotate other staff through so they could have the chance to go. Someone basically did exactly this – showed up to open the booth and it was clear to everyone that they had been out drinking into the wee hours. To the point where rumor was he was most likely still not sober.

              He was directed back to his room, taken off the floor for the rest of the event (they had him doing stuff behind the scenes for the rest of the time), and he was officially barred from attending in the future.

              So while I think the boss didn’t handle this well, there’s an expectation of people attending business trips that wasn’t met by the OP. It can absolutely have an impact on how you’re viewed by your boss and colleagues, and could impact your employment in various ways as well.

          2. constant_craving*

            Well, according to the letter the boss had concerns about OP’s performance after learning the time he got home but before getting that information had complimented OP’s work.

            1. Paulina*

              My guess is that there were other employees around for that strange conversation, so the boss didn’t want them to think he was ok with booth staff going out all night. Because then they might start doing it too, or they might think he’s favouring OP by being ok with it from OP.

        2. JelloStapler*

          Exactly, the judgment of risking lower performance the next day by staying up until 5am is key here. That said, just lie next time, or try to get home earlier.

    5. londonedit*

      Yes – you’d think any reasonable person would be able to understand that going out and getting in at 5am when you’ve got a work event starting at 9am the next day, especially a work event where you need to be customer-facing all day, is really Not The Done Thing. So if the OP made the decision to stay out until 5am, they really should NOT have admitted it to their boss. ‘Oh, I can’t remember what time exactly but it wasn’t too late – it was really nice to catch up with my friends!’ is probably all they needed to say. The boss would have been within their rights to say ‘You weren’t on top of your game today and it wasn’t hugely professional; in future you should have a think about whether going out during an event is the right thing to do’, if indeed that was the case, but it’s likely the boss’s opinion was informed by the knowledge that the OP had been out until 5am, and if they hadn’t been explicit about it then they probably wouldn’t have had the argument.

      For what it’s worth, I hope the OP *did* have a think about whether going out until 5am was the right thing to do in the middle of a work event. It’s one thing if it’s a stressful event and it’s accepted that everyone in the company will go out for a full-on drinking session, but the point here was that the OP went out with their own friends and decided to stay out until the early hours. I’m far from being a puritan when it comes to drinking, but the fact is that when you know you need to show up and be professional the next day, you don’t go out on the lash all night. See your friends, sure, but limit it to a sensible number of drinks and make sure you’re in bed at a reasonable time.

      1. mlem*

        I’m growing increasingly skeptical of claims that people “should have known” that something “isn’t the done thing”. Sometimes you can guess at what you haven’t learned yet, but even that takes a level of judgment that not everyone has developed yet. Someone who thinks it’s fine to get back at 5am and then work (or show up at class) at 9 probably hasn’t yet learned that the optics are poor.

        1. Smithy*

          Right – and I’ll also say, that often on work trips – people get bad nights sleep all the time for reasons that aren’t their fault. Jetlag hits bad, they get food poisoning, they get sick, late night fire alarm or other hotel noise weirdness – the list goes on.

          And when those things happen early in your career, the point is in fact not just to push through whatever the issue if you’re feeling horrible in every circumstance. Yes you’ve traveled a really long way and food poisoning (if that’s what it is) isn’t contagious – but if you look green, dark circles under your eyes, and a sheen of sweat all over your body…..let’s think through a Plan B.

          Because of very normal reasons like that which do disrupt business travel, there is also the hope that you will be a bit conservative around staying out late/drinking. So if the fire alarm gets pulled and you lose 30 minutes of sleep, it’s not 30 minutes you were desperately counting on.

          I agree the boss explained this badly, but I think it’s the case of sharing that “this worked this time, but on a work trip there is a more conservative expectation as well as this is why.”

          1. constant_craving*

            Except for jet lag, those don’t really seem like things that are more likely to occur on business travel though. I would never tell a boss I was out until 5am (for a non-work related reason), but I don’t think there’s really a greater risk of all these things on business travel. In some cases, there’s probably even less (my toddler is far more likely to cause me to have a bad night of sleep or get sick than travel is going to).

            In other words, one should always use some discretion in their actions that might impact work, but I really don’t think a stricter standard is needed on travel.

        2. Nina*

          Yeah, I’m autistic af and manage to hold down a job – most of the things I ‘should have known’ I learned deliberately, from here, rather than ‘picking it up from a vibe’ like neurotypicals can. I am just congenitally incapable of picking things up from vibes.

          Unfortunately I have to apply a cultural filter to everything I learn here because I’m not in the US but so far it’s been really good.

          1. nevervibingonthekobsir*

            I’m an “NT” and I don’t think vibes are as obvious as people like to act, especially in a workplace setting, where folks aren’t really just vibing. Everyone is lying about their vibe at work.

      2. The Starsong Princess*

        Yes, no boss is going to approve of an employee going on a bender during a business trip. I would have serious doubts about his judgment going forward.

    6. BluRae*

      I think this OP’s whole problem is that they didn’t understand that staying out until 5am would look wild on a work trip. So they didn’t think to lie, the same way they didn’t think that staying out that late was probably not the best idea.

    7. BaskingInMyWindowlessOffice*

      That was my first thought. What boss is going to be happy to hear that you were out until 5 AM?! If you are worried someone saw you get back at 5 AM, say you had to take care of a friend or ended up staying at friend’s place because you played boardgames until midnight and then decided it was better to sleep there.

    8. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree, your boss does not need to know exactly when you went to bed. I think a vague response is fine here. Something just like “oh, I’m not sure, I got in somewhat late. It was really nice to be able to catch up with some old friends while we are in town.”

    9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Right. Don’t give people the ammunition to use against you. Now that you told him about the five am return time, which admittedly *is* unprofessional, he probably feels he *has* to say something.

    10. nodramalama*

      Yeah agree. When I mention at work that I’m a “bit tired” I don’t say “because I was playing video-games until 1am”, i just say I didn’t sleep too well. There’s no reason to volunteer this information up!

  2. Sloanicota*

    I remember this letter. It’s one of those times where honestly a white lie was the way to go. OP was *too honest* here by admitting they got in at an eyebrow-raising time (and for a lot of professional people, particularly of a certain age, partying late into the night is pretty eyebrow raising). You could have said you got in at midnight or 1AM and nobody would have been the wiser, and the boss would have been happy.

    1. redflagday701*

      Unless the boss somehow knew the answer already and would hold it against OP if they’d lied.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        In order to know the answer, the boss would’ve had to be out at 5AM himself, in which case I have questions for the boss.

        1. umami*

          He could be an early riser. When I’m on work trips, I often get up that early to go run, so if a staff member was just getting back at 5 am there is a good chance I would run into them! But yeah, LW should have realized the question was loaded when it was asked and have proceeded with caution and discretion. But someone who thinks nothing of staying out all night during a work trip and even telling their boss hasn’t developed that level of judgment.

        2. KateM*

          The reason why I know that my 19yo is sometimes up at 4am is that I often need a middle-of-night bathroom trip. And the reason why I know that my neighbours in hotel came in at 2am is that they woke me up with their drunken noise.

    2. GrooveBat*

      I absolutely disagree that lying is the way to go, and I’m actually kind of disturbed to see so many people endorsing this strategy.

      1. Starbuck*

        Because it was never boss’s business what time OP got back in. If boss had specific concerns about his work quality or appearance or timeliness, he can say that. But boss had no issues and had complimented OP’s work before knowing what time he got back in! So it sounds like one way or another, boss is lying somewhere as well.

        1. GrooveBat*

          At best, OP should have said, “Pretty late, but it was nice to see everyone.”

          It’s not really clear from the email how the conversation around OP’s arrival time got started. It could very well have been sparked by something OP said, or the boss simply wanting to make conversation because he knew OP had been out. So I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that the boss was interrogating OP about their activities. I could very well see the boss asking the question innocuously and then being like, “Holy crap, that was irresponsible.”

          But, really, if you’re finding yourself in a position where lying to your boss is your go-to move, maybe don’t do anything you would feel compelled to lie about.

          1. GrooveBat*

            Okay, so I did go back and read the original post and the OP’s response, and it does seem like the boss is a bit of a micromanager so strike that second paragraph.

            But STILL…it seems like OP knew the boss’s nature and chose to stay out that late anyway, which means OP should have known it would be an issue.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        “Oh a bit past midnight” would not have been lying. Or “Pretty late, but it was nice to see everyone.”

        It is not a court hearing where OP is on the stand, under oath, being questioned by boss. Boss is not entitled to every last detail. And for all we know, “what time did you get back” was intended to be small talk.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          *or, like someone else on this thread said (forgot to give credit where it’s due)

        2. Decidedly Me*

          A bit past midnight would absolutely be a lie. If someone told you they would arrive a bit past noon and arrived at 5pm instead – would you not feel lied to?

          1. upallnight*

            There’s a million answers one could provide that would neither be lies nor full disclosures. I would use one that emphasizes my usual, conservative habits. Maybe something like, “Later than usual; I always sleep weird on work trips”, or something like that?

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      Or just say that you stayed with a friend and came back to the hotel early in the morning to get ready for the day. (Just in case someone saw you come back at 5 am in yesterday’s clothes.)

    4. GrooveBat*

      That’s not a white lie. That’s an actual lie.

      A “white lie” is when you tell someone “Your haircut looks great” when it looks like they’ve taken a hedge trimmer to their scalp.

      An actual lie is when you state a fact that you know is false, e.g., “I got in at midnight” versus “I got in at 5 a.m.”

      1. Sloanicota*

        True, although TBH I don’t think this was an appropriate question from the boss so I don’t think OP needs to feel obligated to answer it. But “oh, not too late” is what I would call a white lie and is perfectly appropriate here.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        Nah, a white lie is a lie that is told to avoid conflict or problems, without the lie hurting anybody. I’d recommend a lie of omission (“I don’t remember” ) or a non sequitur (“I had so much fun seeing my old friends again”) rather than a precise lie (“midnight”), but it’s a white lie in any case.

        A lie is fine when the real response would be “none of your business”, but you don’t want to say that.

  3. Doodad*

    Asking for his permission to go out struck me as so weird. This whole thing would have been avoided if OP wasn’t weird about their own time after the event.

    1. DaniCalifornia*

      I also thought that was weird! You don’t need permission from your boss to do something well after hours on your own time even if you’re on a work trip. Also OP provided way too much information in answering what time they got home. It wasn’t the best judgment to stay out all night and they probably were affected it more than they thought, but I wouldn’t have admitted to my boss it was 5am.

    2. NewJobNewGal*

      I’m guessing it was less asking for permission and more about confirming policy and company norms. I’d check with my boss to see if we are supposed to hobnob with clients after the event or if it’s expected to have drinks with your team. And also to make sure it is acceptable to go off site, possibly going to the next town, when traveling for a convention

      1. Nynaeve*

        I’ve also been in situations where the rental car is shared among everyone who travelled, so wanting to take it out after work was done for the day had to be coordinated among everyone. Also, I’m a woman so letting someone know where I am at all times, especially on some sort of trip, is just the thing you do, just in case.

        1. A person*

          I’m also a woman and don’t do this routinely… maybe if I’m going out on a date and think I might be murdered, but not for normal evening activities on a work trip.

          1. UKDancer*

            Yeah if I’m going to something I might let my colleagues know in conversation but I don’t do it because I expect something to go wrong. It’s more

            “Doing anything nice this evening while we’re in Paris UKDancer?”
            “Got tickets for La Boheme at the Bastille. You?”
            “Neat wine bar with a tasting on.”

      2. mlem*

        I asked whether I was allowed to leave company property (go off-site) for lunch when I was in orientation, because *I didn’t know the rules yet*. I got weird looks for asking, but better to ask than to assume and be wrong, I figure.

      3. Starbuck*

        No, if you go back and read the comments from “Sender” in the original letter, you can see how the boss is the problem.

        I always wonder why people comment speculation on letters like this when often there is clarifying detail if you go back to the original?

        1. Jane Anonsten*

          Because OPs don’t always participate in the comments and when they don’t use a variant of OP/LW/Letter Writer it can be difficult to even *find* their comments.

    3. NervousHoolelya*

      I interpreted “asking for permission” as something like “Are you going to need me for anything else tonight? I was planning to catch up with some friends if we’re completely done with work for the day” rather than “Please may I go out with my friends tonight.”

    4. ecnaseener*

      The whole “sir” thing makes me think it’s an unusually authoritative/deferential relationship.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah it’s possibly beside the point but the whole ‘Sir’ thing was really weird to me (then again I don’t live/work in a culture where anyone calls anyone ‘Sir’ on a regular basis).

        1. Van Wilder*

          I was so weirded out by the “Sir.” I thought that’s only something they said to the boss “Mr. Johnson” on sitcoms.

      2. mlem*

        Or that’s the culture. I’ve been on calls with our Georgia office and Had A Moment when the colleague there responded to something with, “Yes, ma’am” — not as excessive deference, just as the cultural norm.

        1. Happy*

          People in Georgia don’t speak like the that letter.

          There’s a difference between, “yes, sir” and “Sir, XYZ”

      3. Nina*

        Oddly enough, it would never occur to me to call a man in a position of authority ‘sir’ (I’d be more likely to just not call him anything) but I call women in positions of authority ‘ma’am’ all the time (unless she expresses a preference for me to not do that).

        Hadn’t thought about it before. Weird.

    1. lunchtime caller*

      I’m guessing the email address is something like John Doe at email provider dot com.

    2. Roland*

      If an email comes in from Joe Smith then one can guess with high likelihood that OP is a man.

        1. Roland*

          I was not making a ruling that every single human being going by Joe is a man. Some names, Joe among them, are statistically speaking much more likely to belong to a man than to a woman.

    3. Betty*

      I’m assuming that it’s the email *address*– johndoe@gmail or whatever, where there’s a traditionally male name involved.

    4. Zephy*

      Alison can see the writer’s email address, which I believe is what she meant – presumably it has a masculine name in it.

      1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

        Also, sometimes the letter writer will write something that Alison doesn’t include, to either keep the letter shorter, more anonymous, etc. So there could have been something in there.

    5. Van Wilder*

      If you’re referring to gender being a spectrum and/or a construct, let’s also keep in mind that this letter was from 5 years ago and our societal understanding has increased by leaps and bounds in that time.

  4. Ho-ho-holey hose*

    I agree that an honest lie was the way to go, but also although the way your boss phrased it was worried, I would expect any boss to be upset an employee stayed out drinking until 5am the morning of a conference. I would definitely question if you really were at the top of your game that day.

    1. JM*

      Completely agree. I absolutely did this in my mid-20s at a conference abroad but had the good sense not to tell my boss the next day – I find it hard to believe that they were 100% on their A game after a lot of alcohol and very limited sleep (I certainly wasn’t when I did it, but I learned a lesson from it!). Agree that the boss might have phrased it weirdly but it does exhibit poor judgement on the part of the OP, which is probably why the boss reacted badly.

      1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

        Except that before he knew about the 5am thing he complimented her on her work that day.

        1. JM*

          It still shows poor judgement. Chances are if you get 3 hours’ sleep after a night’s drinking before a work event then it’s going to have an impact on your performance – even if it didn’t on this occasion I think the manager is well within their rights to find it concerning as a choice.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, I know after hours is technically the OP’s own time but if there’s a chance it can affect the next day–and the OP really did not know for sure that it wouldn’t at the time he made the decision to stay out–it’s kinda not, or at least it can bleed into time that is definitely not.

  5. Manders*

    This person had to be in their 20s. In my 20s I totally could have done that (and did!). In my 30s and 40s? NO WAY!

    1. L-squared*

      Right. That was my thought. in my 20s, it definitely wasn’t uncommon for me to stay out til 3 or 4 and then be at work at 9am. Now, absolutely not.

      1. Sloanicota*

        That’s probably why the boss, who I assume may be older, would find it unthinkable to be out so late and then working the next day.

      2. WillowSunstar*

        Yep, in my 20’s, I used to pull all-nighters playing D&D and in my 30’s, I used to play WoW late at night. I’m in my 40’s now and there’s no way that could happen.

    2. Cmdrshprd*

      Did I do it sure. Was I able to get by while working sure (like provide good/okay work), but did I preform at the same level as being on a rested 6-8 hours of sleep, not likely.

      OP got in at 5am, and had to be at booth by 9am, at best they had to get up 8:45 am so they got 3 hours 45 mins of sleep, OP might have preformed well, but they likely did not preform to the best of their ability had they gotten 6/8 hours of sleep and gone down at midnight/1am.

    3. louvella*

      In my early 20s I was the lead at a daycare and opened it up at 7 am every morning, often on like two or three hours of sleep because I was out the night before. I showed up cheerfully every morning and the parents and kids all loved me. Just had to make sure I swapped out any sweaters or coats that smelled like smoke and rinse off…now I’m like…HOW did I pull that off???

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Ditto. There is an evening dinner right after the annual conference that I run. Even though I plan the dinner, I never go to it because I just do not have the energy to make polite conversation after running around all day!

      2. Manders*

        At 10? LOL, I would have been there at 7:02 PM. But yeah, in my 20s it was a whole different story.

    4. I am Emily's failing memory*

      I vividly remember the morning after the last time I ever drank heavily on a work night. In particular, the moment when I was back in the copy room, crouching on the floor with my head between my knees trying to control my nausea while the copier finishing running off the pages, and my coworker (who was luckily also a friend) came in and asked worriedly, “Hey, are you doing okay?” I told him I was just feeling a little unwell but I’d be fine, but in my head all I could think was, “There’s no way I should have put myself in the position of coming to work in this condition.”

    5. ItBetterNotBeACactus*

      I absolutely had a moment of “Ah, too be young again” wistfulness.

      Now I have one drink at 8PM and I’m done for.

    6. MK*

      Same. In my 20s I could work swing shifts, tie one on, work long hours, and not even blink. And I am female, FWIW.

      As to how to avoid the situation, when someone asks a question that is none of their business, they are not owed an honest answer.

    7. allathian*

      Yeah, same. I live in a country where the drinking age’s 18. There were plenty of weeks when I went drinking on Friday, got home sometime in the early hours of the morning and went to work on Saturday morning. Granted, I had enough sense not to drink before an early shift that started at 7.30 am. The store manager would’ve definitely given me a hard time if I’d been visibly hungover. Then I’d work until 6.30 pm, go home to dinner, and out again drinking with my friends on the Saturday. I still lived at home in high school and my first year of college, and basically worked so I could afford to party.

      This lasted until my mid-20s, and when I graduated college I stopped drinking nearly every weekend. The older I get, the worse my alcohol tolerance gets. Now if I have two drinks, I’ll feel it the next morning, so I stick to one drink with food at conferences, and drink non-alcoholic drinks after that. I’ll also excuse myself and go to my hotel room when others are getting noticeably drunk.

      All this to say that while the LW clearly showed poor judgement in staying out so late at the work conference, they showed worse judgement, IMO, by being too honest with the boss…

  6. L-squared*

    I remember when this was first posted. I very much disagreed with a lot of the commenters. I felt that people were being super about the OP. Some people were saying he “obviously” smelled like booze and was clearly intoxicated still.

    I think the worst thing OP did was be 100% honest with their boss. THat is something I learned years ago. I do what I need to do, and tell them the info they need to know, but i’m not going to be super forthcoming with extra info.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I believe that he may have been fine, but still think staying out until 5AM during a work trip was a poor choice.
      It sound like the boss was a micromanager, but I think a reasonable manager would have been concerned as well.

      1. Grith*

        Exactly this. Even if we take OP 100% at their word and they were fully at their best and great at their job the next day, boss is still correct to say that it was poor judgement to take that risk on a night where you were being paid to be the face of your company on a booth the next day.

    2. Panhandlerann*

      I had a student once who’d come into the Friday class session each week–the class was an early afternoon class–smelling strongly of liquor. But he didn’t at all act drunk. At that college, because students would often go home for the weekends, they tended to use Thursdays instead of weekends to go out drinking together. I was amazed that he still smelled that strongly when (presumably) the drinking had been done that long ago. I was assured by others to whom I mentioned this that it was a known phenomenon.

    3. Happy meal with extra happy*

      I mean, it’s valid to be judgy about some things, and I’m fine with taking the position that staying out until 5am the first night of a three day work trip is one of them.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      People are already doing that here as well, I truly do not understand it. We have literally no idea how much OP drank! It’s possible they partied super hard, or it’s possible they only had a few drinks. There is no reason to assume one or the other and it’s not really even relevant. The hour at which you return home is not directly correlated with the number of drinks you consumed. I’m not much of a partier but I have been to a couple where my friends and I were having lots of fun and didn’t want to say goodbye and ended up hanging out until 4 in the morning. Some of them don’t drink at all, and I only drink a little. The hour at which I got home those nights was not remotely an indication of how much alcohol I had.

      I get why this felt weird to the boss even though I don’t think any of the reasons he gave were reasonable (if he truly had no issue with OP’s performance until after hearing about his night out). But honestly I also think if someone is briefly in an area for work where a lot of their friends or family live and they want to prioritize spending time with them over “being rested” for work, that’s an understandable call. And one you don’t need to give all the details of to your boss.

      1. L-squared*

        This is exactly it. For all we know, he stopped drinking at 2am, and just hung out til 5am. That would be really no different than if they got back to the hotel at 2am and watched netflix for 2 hours after returning.

        There are certain posts on this site where I realize how out of sync I am with the commenters. I’m not sure if that means the people are are lot more conservative (in terms of what is “ok”) than normal, or I’m just a bit less rigid than normal. This is definitely one of those posts.

        People make a lot of assumptions when its a behavior they don’t like.

        1. Starbuck*

          “For all we know, he stopped drinking at 2am, and just hung out til 5am.”

          Hah, we literally do know that, because LW commented as “Sender” on the original letter. Everyone should probably go back and read those comments, a lot of the speculation here is pretty silly when you ignore that context.

        2. MK*

          “People make a lot of assumptions when it’s a behavior they don’t like.”

          Sometimes it turns into fairly elaborate fan fiction. Part of it is my cultural lens (I am from rural Wisconsin) but I don’t understand the pearl clutching over what doesn’t even sound like much alcohol.

      2. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Well… I always hate to nitpick little word choices, but this bit: “I wasn’t drunk. Tipsy, yes. Blackout drunk, no.” did give me pause, because it doesn’t acknowledge that there are several degrees of definitely-quite-drunk before getting to “blackout drunk.” I’ve known people like this who would categorize their own drunkenness as tipsiness because their bar for drunkenness was “blackout” not “impaired.”

        I’m not saying it’s a sure thing that LW drank too much or that the boss had any inkling if he did. But it’s certainly within the realm of possibility enough to be worth considering whether it was a factor.

        1. Fieldpoppy*

          I was trying not to be judgy about the OP but as a leader type person I would just be generally annoyed if a junior had done this while traveling. The intersection between “stay out until 5 am” and “might not be so great at their job the next day” and “extra crap I don’t want to have to worry about” is pretty overlapped.

          Part of my raised eyebrow is having had people do this on work trips and there was *always* something extra I had to deal with or worry about as a result. Including most notably the colleague who went out drinking with clients, ended up having sex with one of them and broke her knee tripping over something on her way back to her room in the middle of the night.

        2. Budgie Buddy*

          Yes we can’t verify but that kind of language always gives me pause in the “uhh please be careful” sort of way >.<

          It’s like when someone says “I may not be the most scrupulous driver in following the technicalities of the law that most people fudge a bit anyway, but in my defense it’s not like I’m imitating Grand Theft Auto. I always get where I’m going in one piece.”

          Like if the example of the thing you’re definitely not doing is so extreme, it sounds like you’re aware that what you’re actually doing is far enough out of bounds to give many people grounds for concern. And you’re hoping to use a bit of humor to distract them from asking for more details, letting them fill in the blanks and assume that your behavior meets their criteria of acceptable.

    5. ItBetterNotBeACactus*

      And the boss shouldn’t ask question they don’t really want to know the answer too. Unless they were suspicious of the OPs performance, did they care? Maybe the question started as small talk and then based on the answer, it turned in a lecture.

  7. Cyndi*

    Heck, I was out late enough a couple nights last week to get home right AT my normal bedtime, I didn’t even lose sleep, but I felt like I had the days after because I had no time to decompress.

  8. ScruffyInternHerder*

    And here’s me in the related overall industry, scratching my head over this letter. The only part that seems atypical is going out with hometown friends as opposed to business associates and coworkers.

    At least now the OP knows not to be 100% honest with their boss, because their boss is weird (there was a lot of goalpost moving going on in that conversation…)

    1. londonedit*

      I do think it makes a difference that the OP went out with their own friends. If the accepted form is that everyone working at the event goes out together and has a load of drinks and it’s always a super late night, that’s one thing. But it doesn’t sound like that was the case – it sounds like the OP was the only one who went out for the night, or at least the only one who was out until 5am. I do agree with Alison that the boss probably wasn’t articulating their thoughts well (they should have left it as ‘That was unprofessional of you and not the way we expect our employees to behave’ and not got into the whole tit-for-tat argument about whether or not the OP was fine and whether or not they were safe in the city) but it does seem that the OP did something egregious for the company/event/whatever.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        That’s the only part that I can find.

        Heaven knows that architecture school teaches you (and expects you) to exist on negative hours of sleep. Professors frequently check in at odd hours to see who’s actually still there working. Overnighters are a weekly occurring thing. Was I ever called out in a design review for not having been in studio at 4:30 a.m. when the professor stopped through? You’d best believe it, and it was in a completely negative manner, and never mind I was in the CAD lab at that hour…

        Mix that with the alcohol being a part of the overall culture and you’ve got a 20-something, maybe even older, who isn’t going to see an issue with staying out til 5 a.m. with hometown friends, because you’ve stayed out til all hours with your professors in school, or coworkers in an internship, and there have definitely been drinks or an open bar involved in many of those situations.

    2. EtTuBananas*

      I have some connections in the design/architecture industry, and there is a truly eye-watering amount of alcoholic+ socializing at work events in that industry. I wonder if that was why OP was so honest with their boss – the knowledge that other colleagues in the industry wouldn’t have batted an eye at the time.

      I also have to wonder if the reason people complimented OP on their performance at the conference is that they could tell OP was hungover and did exceptionally well *for a hungover person.*

      But I agree with Alison. It’s reasonable for their boss to not want to jeopardize their company’s reputation at a conference, but their rationale was….weird. Often people try to give specific reasons to justify policies to try not to come off as controlling or mean, when in reality straightforward explanations work much better for most people.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        “….the knowledge that other colleagues in the industry wouldn’t have batted an eye at the time.”

        This exactly. I learned very early that if people are buying rounds, I did not finish the drink from the previous round, it left with the server delivering the new one. In my 20s I couldn’t keep up with senior level coworkers who were most definitely not in their 20s.

        Norms are really weird here (number of times I’ve been out with a group of coworkers including the boss til all hours of the night is far greater than one). Sometimes understanding that alone is a bit of a mind-game. I moved to a different aspect of the field/industry. Its a little milder here, which means its still pretty wild by the benchmark of most other industries.

    3. Bibliothecarial*

      It seemed to me the boss was struggling to explain why staying out all night could be perceived as unprofessional. He was dancing around the issue and seemed to be trying to change the OP’s mind, rather than change the actions.

      1. redflagday701*

        Right. What all the “I bet OP was off their game and that’s why the boss mentioned it” responses here are missing is that the boss doesn’t seem to have identified any actual issues with OP’s performance (and on the contrary, complimented it). The fact that he kept changing his criticism suggests this was more about him having a bug up his butt than OP having done anything wrong.

        1. Antilles*

          I suspect the bug-up-his-rear was primarily driven by the tone/attitude OP took towards it. Nowhere in the letter does OP mention being contrite, apologetic, or even acknowledging the Boss’ point.
          If anything, it’s the exact opposite: OP’s response to Boss AND his descriptions of the event to Alison are basically “we got the job done, right?” and “it’s fine, I wasn’t blacked out”. So if he took that same sort of tack with the Boss, I can see the Boss getting super annoyed by the whole situation.

          1. L-squared*

            Which is also stupid.

            If everything went as planned, so far that the boss complimented their performance, I don’t think OP needs to be apologetic.

          2. redflagday701*

            If a boss made a point of lecturing me in front of my co-workers but couldn’t convincingly explain why my behavior was such a mistake, I don’t think I’d be super contrite either. OP’s boss could have just gone with “Even though everything turned out fine, it’s not a great idea to do this, and here are some reasons why. Going forward I would expect you to make a different choice.” OP could certainly have been more politic, but I don’t think the boss had any business reacting angrily from the get-go.

    4. L-squared*

      Right. I’m in sales, and did a trade show once where my CEO literally said “here is a company card, take these people out and party with them, I’ll see you in the morning”. Now, it wasn’t 5am, but she gave me the card to do this at 11pm, so we were out til 3.

  9. Czhorat*

    I feel that “professional behaviour” on your off-time during a multi-day event is a continuum, with “goes back to the hotel room and goes to bed right after the last professional event” at one end and “misses half the next day with a hangover” at the other.

    I suspect that most reasonable people would consider getting back to your room at 5AM when you’re expected to be working at 9 to be closer to the “bad” side of the continuum than the good side. Is it egregious enough to merit getting fired or even otherwise disciplined? Probably not if it isn’t a pattern and didn’t cause any harm. Will it hurt your professional reputation? Most likely yes.

    While I think some of the boss’s scolding was weird, I’m sure part of it was annoyance at what he saw an an employee not only lacking professionalism but not seeming to understand why it was an issue in the first place.

    1. LTR FTW*

      Right. It definitely was not professional to stay out drinking until 5AM, because nobody can guarantee being on top of their game the morning after a night like that. If I were the boss, I’d be annoyed by that and would think my employee was taking advantage of a work trip to act like they were on vacation. But I wouldn’t have batted an eye at midnight. So, yeah, a continuum.

      OP should have just kept their mouth shut. Even in my biggest party days I knew better than to fess up to an all-nighter to the boss the next day!!

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      Yeah. it’s really not the best idea. I’ve done it once, but that was when I was at a conference, with no active duties in the morning next day. And I knew it wasn’t the best idea. But my boss wasn’t there with me, and I didn’t tell them I’d done it.

  10. RussianInTexas*

    Lie, lie, and lie more. And don’t have childish arguments with the boss.
    But also, I suspect the boss was asking about time the LW got back because the boss did notice hangover.
    I too lied to myself in my 20s that I could sleep the happy hours off in 3 hours and be fully functional next day.

  11. TeacherTeacher*

    I would argue that the worst judgement was in sharing OP had been out til 5 am like it was NBD. Not recognizing it would be perceived as unprofessional was a huge miss.

    1. JelloStapler*

      This- he said it like it was not an issue so to others who see that as ‘”a bit much” and risky to chance that you’d be on your A-game that day, may be part of it here.

  12. ferrina*

    I’m a little curious how LW was on day 3 and the work week after. Usually I can push through the next day, but I crash the day after. This is a 3-day work event where they are doing long days- you need to be on your game for all three days.
    Also wondering about the next week. I worked at an organization that hosted a 4-day conference that about half of the staff would be involved in. The week after conference was rough- folks were exhausted just from the conference, and often there would be some kind of bug going around.
    If LW got away with it, then yes, agree with the other posters that a white lie is the way to go. But I wonder if they actually got away with it as well as they represent in this letter.

    1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

      I don’t see how that would be relevant. It sounds like only the first day they hung out with friends.
      And some people don’t get tired after these types of meetings and conferences or are easily recharged with some sleep.

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        I think the point @ferrina might be trying to make is that sometimes you can power through the next day on little sleep, but it will catch up to you the day after even if you get good sleep that night.

        Friday night stay out late, Saturday are able to power through, even if you go to bed early Saturday, by Sunday you are not at 100% due to the missed sleep on Friday night. Especially if OP stayed out late[r] on Saturday even if not 5am late.

      2. ferrina*

        It’s the second day blues. Sometimes the physical toll hits harder on the second day (pretty common with tough workouts too). You can power through the second day, but the cost comes due on the second day.

        Obviously not true for all people, etc., but frequent enough that I don’t blame the boss for the side eye. There are more people that think they are the exception than are actually the exception. Hence the rare advice for the white lie.

  13. Seal*

    Early in my career I would regularly burn the candle at both ends by working a full day and then working a second job evenings and weekends where going out drinking afterwards was the norm. I was sure that no one at my day job could tell how tired/hung over/out of it I was because I got my work done. Years later as a manager I had a young staff member fresh out of college who would regularly come in obviously hung over or straight from the bar. He also got his work done, but wasn’t fooling anyone, including me. I’ve been retroactively embarrassed by my younger self ever since.

    I wonder if that’s why the OP’s boss asked when they got home. Although the boss didn’t handle it well, it sounds like they may well have suspected the OP was out all night drinking and wasn’t OK with that, regardless of how well the OP performed the next day.

    1. rusty*

      Yeah, I’m a little dubious about the number of people convinced they could pull off a flawless performance after drinking until 5 am. I’m sure *they’re* sure that no one notices, but…hm. It’s possible, but it’s also distinctly possible that people can tell and are just letting it slide. It’s not all that easy to tell how you’re coming across to other people.

  14. XF1013*

    Outcome Bias: judging a past decision by its outcome instead of the wisdom of the decision at the time.

    If anything had gone wrong as a result of the staying out drinking so late, this letter would not have been written. That nothing bad ultimately happened doesn’t retroactively make it fine for OP to have taken the chance.

    1. L-squared*

      I mean, that is kind of ridiculous. That is everything, you can “what if” any situation you like, but if was fine, then it shouldn’t be a problem.

      1. STG*

        That’s largely where I’m at as well.

        The employee was at the trade show during their work day hours producing a level of work that the boss thought was perfectly acceptable. Seems pretty normal. Sounds like they were paid to do exactly what was expected of them.

      2. XF1013*

        Perhaps we disagree about likelihood, then. It seems to me that the all-night drinking carried too high of a probability of something going wrong: OP could have suffered an accident or other misfortune while out drunk, or overslept his alarm, or shown up too hung over to function, or made a critical error at the event, and so on. Given the expense and stress of the trade show, I think it’s reasonable for the boss to have expected OP to avoid those risks. I would not say the same if the boss was upset about OP taking smaller risks instead, such as, I don’t know, watching TV in the morning at the risk of forgetting to leave on time. In other comments, it seems clear that plenty of people perceive little or no danger in OP’s all-night drinking, so I can understand coming to different conclusions.

      3. Willow Pillow*

        That’s also a logical fallacy – some activities are inherently riskier than others.

      4. Humble Schoolmarm*

        I think a lot depends on OP’s attitude going forward. I think it’s no harm, no foul if OP realizes that there’s a better than decent chance of oversleeping, being short with v.i.p.s, or vomiting on someone’s shoes and so it’s better to a) save it ’till the last night or b) call it quits a little earlier and c) keep this as an amusing story about your twenties to tell when staying out past 10:30 is a wild time. If OP takes the fact that nothing bad happened (bad here being not performing too well at an important event, less the safety risks the boss was on about) to mean therefore he can go out till 5 am and go to work all the time, it’s probably going to end badly at some point.

  15. Jennifer Strange*

    Did I, in my younger days, ever stay out too late with a few drinks and then go into work the next day? Absolutely.

    Did I – or would I – ever have admitted that to my boss. Hell no.

    1. JelloStapler*

      much less to keep arguing the point when boss was skeptical (even if he went a bit weird about it).

      1. ferrina*

        Right? That wasn’t a cardinal sin, but there’s a series of weird decisions that LW was making. I’m really curious if this is a one-off or part of a larger pattern.

  16. Turingtested*

    I think for the vast majority of people staying up til 5 AM is going to have poor effects on their next day. I have a hard time believing that the LW performed as well as they would have with a full night’s sleep and the boss asked because something was off.

    Most people are going to have little sympathy for socializing til 5 AM. Insomnia due to nerves about the show, feeling ill, or a bad reaction to medicine are all more acceptable.

    I’m intentionally leaving alcohol out of my comment.

    1. allathian*

      The boss apparently complimented the LW on their performance, so it seems to have been good enough.

  17. H.Regalis*

    I agree that “If something happened to you in this city, which we are unfamiliar with, I am liable,” is paternalistic and infantilizing. This isn’t a school trip and OP is not a kid. The fact that the boss had them ask permission to go out also struck me as a bit controlling and weird.

    FWIW, depending on what the legal limit is where they live, OP was probably still legally drunk when they went to work, even if they couldn’t feel anything.

    If they could do it over, I think it would have been best not to stay out that late partying; it would have been second best if they had just lied and given a vague answer; and finally if the boss had pressed them, or was, like, staking out their room to see when they got back, apologized. Pick your battles. It’s reasonable to expect that you’re not going to be out partying until four hours before you have to be on shift.

    1. JelloStapler*

      I’m wondering if the “asking to go out” was an “I know we have a dinner planned with the team but this is my hometown and I have plans to see some old friends- that ok?” then asking to go out, period. Not saying that expecting people to spend all their free time working is cool- but let’s be real, is some industries it is.

  18. BellyButton*

    It would never occur to me to ask someone how late they stayed out unless I saw signs that they were struggling, which makes me think OP wasn’t as on their game as they think they were.

  19. Curious*

    I’m frankly concerned about the comments that say OP should just have lied about when they got back. putting aside issues of right and wrong (because I realize that folks may disagree about those), the time that OP returned is (within a range) an objectively verifiable fact. other people connected to the workplace (including customers) may have seen and recognized them. it is therefore possible that boss may learn about the lie. Learning that an employee will lie about things that embarrass them would tank the employee’s reputation.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      I agree. I think it’s reasonable to obfuscate and say you don’t know what time it was if you don’t know, but saying midnight when you know it’s 5 am is a really stupid thing to do. Making a mistake is something you can learn from and doesn’t have to affect a manager’s judgment of you forever. Deliberately lying about the mistake you made in an effort to actively conceal the mistake is much more troubling.

    2. LTR FTW*

      OP didn’t have to lie. Vagueness is fine. “How late were you out last night?” “Oh I don’t know, not too late, I got a full night of sleep” is enough. I’d probably follow that with a quick subject change – something like “And we had dinner at this cool Mexican place, you guys should check it out tonight” to change the boss’s focus.

    3. Somehow_I_Manage*

      This is an exercise in emotional intelligence. The correct answer is to smile and say “We had fun! We were definitely up past my bedtime, but fortunately, I was still able to get some rest. I’m glad I was able to see them.”

      It’s the truth and it has the appropriate level of specificity.

    4. Budgie Buddy*

      Yes – it’s interesting to me how many people are jumping in with “Just lie LOL duhhhh.” I guess lying is more commonly accepted than I thought?

      I agree that it was definitely counter productive in this case for OP to both stay out late enough to raise eyebrows and to be so blatant about it. Inevitably he was going to get called out.

      Equally relevant advice would be “Now you have more information about acceptable behavior in this situation. Alter your behavior in the future so you can be honest without pissing off your boss.”

      1. L-squared*

        “I guess lying is more commonly accepted”.

        If you think management doesn’t lie to employees all the time, you are crazy.

        There are malicious lies, and there are lies that aren’t really the person’s concern. If my boss asks me how late I was up the night before while at a conference, I don’t owe her 100% honesty.

        1. Curious*

          There is a big difference between a vague or diversionary answer — which is common and acceptable — and a lie. If I learn that you lie when you determine that you don’t owe me or anyone else the truth, then I won’t trust you. that’s true for an employee, a peer, or a manager. I can’t be sure whether your view of when the truth is owed will accord with mine. I simply won’t trust whatever you say.

        2. Budgie Buddy*

          Uh oh looks like I did end up triggering the “Everybody lies – Deal With It!!!!” response. O.o

          This always leaves me confused because when people bring up things like “If you think management doesn’t lie, you’re crazy.”

          Huh? Who said management does what now? What connection am I missing?

          I honestly don’t even factor in what “management” (of OP, the Platonic Ideal of management? Someone explaaaaain) does when I’m considering what I personally would do. If they lie often, then I wouldn’t believe them without evidence. But if they’re evil jerks because they lie, why on earth would I want to imitate them and start lying in…revenge?

          Just. Confuse. -.-

          This is just me, but im also pretty crap at guessing what another person will consider a “white lie” versus a “malicious lie” so that’s why I avoid obfuscating in general. I find a lot of “white lies” protect the liar and would be considered hurtful by the victim.

          (I also dislike the idea of “You can break the rule but don’t get caught tehehe.” I’ll just follow the stupid rule as long as it’s not hurting anyone. But I’m not going to sneak around – it feels very childish.)

          1. Wonka Chocolate Factory*

            I wouldn’t say that lying is commonly accepted. I would say that when you are dealing with a boss who has already torn up the social contract, there is no need to uphold it yourself.

          2. Grith*

            OP here told the truth and was then so outraged by the consequences of that decision, he chose to write to an advice column to complain about the fact the boss was unhappy with the truth. So “tell the truth and accept the consequences” is clearly not acceptable advice to him.

            What else can we suggest? We can back up his assertion that it’s totally fine to be out drinking to 5am and then put in a shift as the face of your company on a booth, but I don’t think any individual commenter is obliged to think that. And regardless, it doesn’t really help if the boss doesn’t think that. Or we can suggest way to try and avoid the issue, such as obfuscating the detail that is likely to freak out the boss.

            Lying isn’t ideal of course. But neither are any of the other options, which means we’re in a position of individuals making judgement calls of which is the least bad option. And for me, “trying your best to avoid putting an actual number on the time you got back and then learn not to push your luck again” is probably the option that gets you out of this self-inflicted situation with the least dent to your credibility.

      2. ferrina*

        Shades of grey. 100% honesty isn’t the best policy, and let’s be honest, no one actually does that.

        A diplomatic “Oh, I probably stayed out later than I should have, but it was good to catch up!” side steps the question. Or even “I don’t know exactly when I got back”- a lie, but also not exactly up to the boss to dictate what LW’s bedtime should be. Hence the white lie.

        Not defending LW’s original choice (which was def bad judgement), but the boss doesn’t get to dictate LW’s bedtime. That’s something LW can obfuscate (though boss can certainly be suspicious, and hopefully would be looking out for other incidents of bad judgement).

    5. Ellis Bell*

      I’m not reading those comments as ‘You should definitely do something your boss is going to disapprove of BECAUSE you can always just lie”, but more like “IF you do something your boss is going to disapprove of, you are going to have to lie about it later.” So, yeah that involves a few calculations like: Is it something other people would know about/discuss? Can you just be vague, or will he be like a dog with a bone? If none of those pass muster than you have to either come home early, or take the lecture on the chin. Another option would be to admit exactly when you got in, but with an acknowledgment that it was a bit too late and time got away from you. The naive way the OP volunteered the time like it wasn’t an issue is what prompted the lecture about why it was a problem.

  20. SlimJimbutnotSlim*

    Honest question: is your company liable for any harm that comes to you while you’re on a business trip? I’ve never thought about it but I assume if you’re injured while in a city for business your company pays for it, no? That’s the only way the bosses comment makes sense to me

    1. Curious*

      There are people who identify themselves as attorneys here. I’d like to hear if they know if this is valid. The idea that your employer could be held liable for you on your off time. Is it true? Is false? Is the issue when are you considered working on 3 day work trip – the whole time or during work hours?

      1. Michelle Smith*

        It depends. :)

        Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I’m a lawyer, but not an employment lawyer. My general understanding that someone can please correct if I’m wrong is truly that it depends on how related and anticipated the activity was to the business trip. I would think that in this instance, going out to drink with friends wholly unrelated to any work related purpose, would likely not be covered by things like workers comp. However, things like traveling to and from the convention center, going to a restaurant with coworkers, or flight layovers could be considered working time and could lead to legal liability. So I could see an argument that perhaps if they were going out to eat dinner with their friends, an accident or injury might lead to a workers’ comp claim since the person has to eat on their business trip to survive. I have not reviewed any case law on this though and my employment law class was 12 years ago.

        1. Curious*

          well, at least in Australia, the activity during which the employee was injured has to have been induced or encouraged by the employer.

          how do I, a person who is not a lawyer in Australia know this? In the (somewhat infamous) case of Comcare v PVYW, an employee on a business trip was injured, in a hotel room paid for by her employer, when a fixture fell on her while she was engaged in sex with a friend. While the Federal Court found this was enough to make the injury connected to her employment, the High Court reversed, because while her stay in the hotel room was induced or encouraged by her employer, that particular activity was not. And, this case attracted wide attention for some reason.

    2. LolaJosie*

      Not a lawyer, but at my company, the life insurance goes way up if a person were to pass away while on a work trip. I believe it’s 2x salary normally but 5x salary if on a work trip.

  21. Despachito*

    I frankly do not see anything OP did as unprofessional, and his only mistake was to be truthful with his boss.

    I understand why he asked if they are done for the day, and I consider it professional – the Boss may have planned a late meeting or a socializing event with clients, and OP was just checking that this is not the case.

    As for the late drinking, I think that as long as OP does not commit anything atrocious during the night, comes to work on time and performs as usual, it is none of the boss’s business. The boss has no right to police what OP is doing during his free time. The only thing that should matter to him is whether OP is able to do his work, which he apparently was in this case.

    I am surprised how many people jump at a conclusion that he must definitely NOT have performed well based just on his lack of sleep and drinking. I absolutely think it is possible to not sleep one night and to be fit as a fiddle the next day. OP seems to be young and manning of the booth does not seem to be extremely taxing, and the Boss even complimented OP on his work before he knew when he came back.

    I think that unless Boss noticed that OP was not up to his task that day (which does not seem to be the case), he was weirdly and inappropriately patronizing and if I were OP, I would lose all the respect for him, and regret only that I had not lied to him.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, I agree.

      Granted, I don’t think that the LW showed particularly good judgement by staying out so late, but most people deal much better with a lack of sleep in their 20s than they do later in life. I certainly did.

  22. redflagday701*

    I wonder if the boss would have been so upset if OP had been out drinking till 5am with other people from the show, or if that would have been still unprofessional but not such a big deal. I feel like OP might have been getting penalized for hanging out with friends, which is too bad. I completely understand staying out till 5am with hometown friends if you don’t get many chances to see them.

    1. LTR FTW*

      A LOT of people, especially early career folks, treat business trips as vacation time. It’s a “free” opportunity to hook up with friends in another city after work. Which is FINE if you don’t abuse it – what happens on your time is your business.

      But when you’re out partying with friends until 5AM, you’re prioritizing personal time over work time. Your company didn’t spend all that money to send you to this event for you to party with your friends, they sent you to be on your game and to represent your company. Partying with business colleagues is absolutely more acceptable, since networking is often considered an important part of business travel.

      1. redflagday701*

        I get it, but I would be a lot more convinced in this particular instance if the boss’s criticism had been consistent and had had anything to do with LW’s actual performance the next day. As it is, life is short, hangouts until 5am with people you care about are all too rare for most of us, and the balance of power favors employers over workers so frequently that I’m not gonna blame anyone for taking full advantage of a business trip. When OP is on his deathbed, he’s not going to look back and say, “Gosh, I wish I’d gotten back to the hotel at 1 so I was well rested for the trade show.”

        1. LTR FTW*

          There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of a work trip to see friends. But as a former boss of mine used to say, “What happens on your time is your business. When it becomes MY business, we have a problem.”

          Show up to work and do your job and it’s NBD. But I find it *extremely* difficult to believe that OP was operating on all cylinders after being out until *5AM* drinking.

          Make your choices in life, but if looking unprofessional in front of your boss is one of them, don’t get mad if your boss loses respect for you.

          1. redflagday701*

            I dunno. If OP was young (and I’m inclined to think he was, based on how he comes through in the letter), I don’t have a lot of trouble believing it. When I was in my twenties and even thirties, I could have a few drinks and miss a night of sleep and keep on truckin’ without any noticeable issues, especially if I was doing something that kept me engaged and busy. And if there were real issues with OP’s performance, the boss should have named them and refrained from complimenting him on it earlier. If it went down as described — and we’re supposed to take letter writers at their word — it sounds to me like the boss felt annoyed and was trying to rationalize his annoyance after the fact. And the annoyance was understandable, but that doesn’t make it valid.

            I do think OP should have been conscious that his boss’s opinion could have a real impact on his career. I just don’t think he needed to feel bad about staying out till 5am if the only offense was staying out till 5am.

        2. Gray Lady*

          The boss’s inconsistency means the boss is inconsistent and not managing the LW well.

          It doesn’t mean that partying until 5 AM when your employer is paying you to do a job to the normal standard of your ability is a good choice. I suppose it’s just barely possible that LW is a unicorn who can deliver the same solid kind of work performance (including presenting a positive marketing presence to the public) that his employer pays him for after doing that, but for most of us mortals, it’s not going to go well. Maybe it’s the choice you make based on your deathbed regrets, but then getting told off is the price you accept for it. No one’s saying he should be fired or otherwise punished. Expecting no one to care if you come to work hungover and so soon after the partying that you’re not going to get past it for the entire day when you’re supposed to be “on” in a public position is unreasonable.

  23. DivergentStitches*

    I mean, I would think less of a subordinate who went out drinking all night and came back at 5 am still tipsy, regardless. It’s not a good look for a mature responsible person, IMO.

    1. Lilo*

      +1. OP made some poor choices and then doubled down when the boss criticized them. Really poorly handled all around.

      1. allathian*

        The poorest choice the LW made was to ask permission to go out with his friends after the first day. That set up an unhealthy parent/child dynamic that doesn’t belong in the workplace. If the LW had asked something like “Are we done for today or have you set up a dinner meeting with a client you’d like me to attend?” and got the all clear that they were done, he could’ve said something like “In that case I’ll go to dinner with a few friends, it’s a long time since I’ve visited my hometown, see you tomorrow at 9!” Unless the LW had been noticeably tired the next morning, in which case the boss should’ve said so directly, the time the LW got back to the hotel is none of the manager’s business, frankly.

        1. Lilo*

          Showing up to a work event still tipsy from the night before is absolutely the boss’s business.

  24. Somehow_I_Manage*

    Setting aside right and wrong, I’m not sure there was ever a point in my life where staying out until 5am turned out to be the right choice. Even when I was younger, once the clock passed the 12-2am window, the night was either over, or if not, it was heading off the rails. That goes for both a night at the bar, and a night cramming for an exam.

    Understanding that everyone’s approach to “going out” runs on a bell curve, I think it would be fair to assume that being out to 5 am is on the extreme side of the curve. That’s not to say it’s wrong, but I think it would be reasonable to expect that most people are going to react with surprise (and at least a little judgement) if you bring it up like it’s no big deal.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Yeah, agreed. Regardless of whether or not the boss is overreacting, the fact that the LW thought saying they were out until 5 am wouldn’t be met with disapproval seems naive.

      1. BaskingInMyWindowlessOffice*

        It really makes me question the rest of the letter. The day really go the way they thought?

      2. GrooveBat*

        Yeah, because if you go back and read the LW’s responses in the original post, it seems pretty clear that they knew boss would have had a problem with it.

    2. Tiny clay insects*

      I used to go out clubbing at a wonderful late-night gay club in Chicago (called Berlin, if you’re curious), then drive back to my college that night, regularly getting home as the sun rose. Those were amazing nights and I only regret I didn’t get to do it more. I was never driving drunk (or even tipsy). I was just dancing for hours with my friends to incredible music.

      I mean, I wouldn’t have been able to work at a trade show all day the next day afterwards, but I had to push back on the idea that it is never good to get home at 5am.

      1. allathian*

        True, but in this case alcohol was involved. Even if the LW was able to drink reasonably sensibly, it’s doubtful he was below the legal limit to drive when he got back to the hotel.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I mean, I still attend events of an org I belong to, where people stay out till all hours and there’s an official Sunrise group that caps the night off by going outside to see the sun rise. Worked a couple all-nighters as well. Last one, I was still in the office when people came back in and ended up working the entire day and was even pulled into a meeting on my way out at five pm. (Do not recommend, but wouldn’t say things headed off the rails that day either. I’d gotten done what I intended to get done when I decided to work through the night.)

      When I was young, 12-2am was often considered kind of early. New Year is a big holiday in my culture and I don’t think I ever ended the night before 6-7 AM on a New Year night between ages of 18 and, let me think, 45? (with the exception of one year when my kids were 2.5 years old and 2 months old. I crashed at 12:15 am or so that year.) One year in college, I got a new relationship out of it (another woman wanted the same guy but she fell asleep at three am and he and I kept going till the party ended at 7 or 8 or so) – we ended up having a bad marriage that ended in divorce, so maybe staying up not the right choice? ;) But my point is, I don’t see anything depraved in staying up till five am per se.

      1. Moonstone*

        I Wrote This in the Bathroom – I wholeheartedly agree with you. In my 20s, Friday & Saturday nights were just starting at 10–11 pm when we were heading out to the bars and clubs and we wouldn’t get home until whenever. If that isn’t someone’s thing, then no problem. But I find it kind of ludicrous for people to suggest that nothing good happens at that time or “good” people don’t stay out that late. We were all employed, highly educated, and all around “good” people who just liked to go out and have fun. There is nothing wrong with that.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, nothing wrong in staying out late. But did you work the next day?

          In my late teens and early 20s (drinking age 18 here), I went out most weekends and basically worked so I could afford to party. The store I worked at wasn’t open most Sundays (Sunday opening was only allowed if the preceding Saturday or following Monday were holidays with limited opening hours). I frequently worked on Friday night until 9, grabbed something to eat at home, went out with my friends and usually stayed out until the bars closed at 3 am, which meant that I had to budget for a cab home as well because the commuter trains and buses stopped running at 1.30 or thereabouts, and then I’d go to work at 10 am on Saturday, and do the same thing all over again, and I’d still be able to spend time with my family and do chores/homework on Sunday.

          There’s no way I could do this now…

  25. The Mess*

    I think your main mistake here was answering with a number. The right answer is “not too late, I needed some rest.”

  26. yirna*

    Regarding the “paternalistic” comment about being liable if something happens to an employee during travel, I’m pretty sure that the way it would work for me is that my employer pays for my travel insurance via our benefits plan: as long as I’m on travel status, in a location at least 2 hours away from my regular place of work, it’s my employer’s travel insurance that would cover me if something were to happen. In a way, they ARE liable if I go out drinking way too late and injure myself tripping over a curb or something, but it’s a lot harder to justify that scenario to insurance. During work travel, even to my hometown, I need to act reasonably, in a way would reflect well on the employer who is paying for me to be there. I don’t think the comment about being liable is weird, I think it indicates a work environment where the manager is responsible for the safely of their employees, especially when they are on travel status and therefore responsible for them outside of their regular working hours.

  27. RJ*

    Ah, NeoCon. The bane of most managers in the architectural/design industries.

    This letter is definitely indicative of the industry, which unfortunately, was heavily into entertainment and drinking at trade shows. At the firms I was employed at throughout the 90s and early aughts, the rules for designers at this particular even got tighter and tighter as the years went on. Things have been changing albeit slowly, due in part to actions and reprimands similar to those of the manager in this letter.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      That’s immediately what I thought as the source, too. I switched to a different aspect of the industry, but dang. Any sort of trade show or conference may as well be held in Vegas because that’s how everyone’s going to act regardless the location.

  28. E*

    After a big convention I went out WITH my bosses drinking. Your boss sounds like a stick in the mud tbh. If he was complimenting your work throughout the day knowing you went out but not knowing the time you got back clearly you were fine. Your biggest mistake was asking permission & giving details. That’s none of his business really.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      While I don’t think the boss approached this in the correct manner, I hardly think he’s a stick in the mud for finding the LW’s admission of being out until 5:00 am on a work trip to be less than professional.

  29. 1-800-BrownCow*

    OP, I agree with your boss, I would be annoyed too if one of my direct reports stayed out all night drinking while traveling out of town for a conference. Ok, you may have been only tipsy and still did great all day at the conference, but it is very irresponsible and could have affected your performance throughout the day. However, I would not have lectured you in the way that your boss did. I would have handled it differently. BUT, I also advise that you don’t share details like that in the future. Your boss does not need to know you stumbled in at 5AM. This is a time when white lies are appropriate.

    1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      She wasn’t tipsy anymore at 9am.
      Possibly feeling hungover and tired, yes, but not tipsy. She DID go back to her room to shower and stuff and had 4 hours until work. Not like she came to the booth drunk. Jeez people,

  30. LTR FTW*

    Also, OP’s “it’s not like I was blackout drunk!” isn’t the flex OP probably thinks it is…

  31. I should be working*

    I’m curious how much of the conversation with the boss came about because the boss was caught off guard by the “5am” return time, and felt the need to say SOMETHING in the moment so they didn’t seem like they condoned getting in at a time that’s objectively too late. Then they kind of grasped at straws for what to say, and made a few nonsensical points.

    I can also see why LW may have asked “permission” to get together with friends, as when I went to a tradeshow there was some expectation of going to after hours events on some nights (which would be 7-10ish?) I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say “hey, this is in my hometown and I was planning meet some friends on Friday night. when will we be wrapping up with work stuff so I can make plans with my friends, and when do you need me at the booth on Saturday morning?”

  32. CLC*

    Yeah OP was fine the next day (apparently), but they shouldn’t have assumed they would be. Even though it was a weekend it was a work night. Leaving at 10 and coming back drunk at 5 is irresponsible.

  33. CaliPara*

    Your employer can’t dictate what you do on your personal time, and scolding about getting in a 5am is doing just that.

    It’s inherently wrong because it can’t be applied to everyone. When I was in my 20’s I could have – and often did – easily stayed out until 5 then worked at 9. Now I’d need at least 3 days to recover so I don’t. But that’s my business.

    “Bad judgment on your personal time” could mean anything to different people – like drinking coffee too late or getting too close to your sick niece. The employer can only concern themselves with the end result – bad performance (no need to know why!!), smelling like alcohol, coming in sick etc.

    Also this conversation didn’t take place during the work day, it was after work at a social event, so it would be reasonable to think that it was a social (friendly) conversation, like asking about your family. The boss can judge silently, which is why most of us would lie. The boss was totally wrong to make it a ‘performance’ or ‘judgment call’ conversation.

    1. GrooveBat*

      If you’re not traveling on company time and company money, I’d agree with this. But these trade shows can be expensive, and managers need to demonstrate they’re getting value from the investment. So I do think it’s appropriate for a manager to want every person attending the event to be engaged and alert for the entire weekend, and to be pissed off if someone made a bad judgment call that could have impacted performance.

      1. CaliPara*

        I agree that it’s appropriate for a manager to want good performance, of course.

        And if they tell you in advance they expect you to be “on the clock” 24/7 (and pay you for it if not salaried) then they can also dictate what you’re doing for all of the hours of the event.

        1. GrooveBat*

          I’m not saying your manager should “dictate what you’re doing for all of the hours of the event.” Not at all. By “engaged and alert for the entire weekend” I meant during event hours. Which means, “don’t do stuff in the off hours that could jeopardize that performance.”

    2. Despachito*


      To assume that things MAYBE MIGHT have gone somehow vaguely wrong is not a good argument here. There were no dangerous activities involved (such as DUI), and OP was even complimented on his work.

      I agree that all that should matter to the boss is the OUTCOME, and in this case it was good. When I was actively practising a sport and we went for a week-long training camp we could drink as much as we wanted during the night (we were all adults) but our coach wanted us fully prepared in the morning and any excuse that we are hung over wouldn’t fly. So it was up to us how much we wanted to drink because we knew we would have to heavily exercise regardless, and if we did so with a splitting headache it was our problem.

      OP is an adult and should be allowed the same agency. If it was visible the next day he had been drinking and his work would suffer for that, then yes, the boss would be more than entitled to reprimand him. But because it seems he had no problem until he learned about the exact hour OP came home (and I assume still did not know if/how much OP had been drinking), his meddling was inappropriate.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I don’t think the only thing that matters should be the outcome. Process matters, too. The boss did a poor job of articulating his objections, but it would have been within bounds to say, “Hey, you got by with it this time, but rolling in at 5 am isn’t always going to work out for you. It’s running a risk of not being at the top of your game at this event, and it’s unprofessional.”

        1. Despachito*

          I see what you mean, but were I OP, I’d find even that inappropriately patronizing.

          I think the “unprofessional” here would be if :

          – OP wasn’t able to work
          – OP’s work was impaired
          – it was obviously visible/smellable that he had been drinking all night
          – OP was noisy/disturbing during his night out.

          None of the above had happened. It was OP’s free time (as checked with the Boss) and the Boss only learned what OP had been doing by OP himself. OP is also old enough to KNOW that there was a RISK he would not be up to par, but the important thing was that he WAS. I do not think he needs a lecture about this by his boss.

          I’d not consider the Boss trustworthy anymore – he was on an unnecessary power trip here, and struggled to invent weird “reasons” to reprimand OP. The only lesson I would learn here is that Boss is not reasonable and does not deserve the truth.

  34. My 2 cents*

    I worked with a group of 30 somethings – pushing 40 that thought drinking after an all-day event with 2 more days to come was the normal thing to do. When I declined to go with them, they were very upset. Two of them I worked closely with, and the next day, I watched them give one of the worst presentations I had ever seen. They couldn’t get the software to work and they both just kept laughing about it. That might slide when you are using software to present your company’s information but not when YOU are the software company. They even told the potential clients in the room that they had been out drinking so they didn’t have their act together. I was embarrassed for them. And I was embarrassed that I was associated with them. Luckily, that position only lasted less than 6 months. 10 years later I am still very grateful that I didn’t stay at that company.

  35. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    Honestly, this is one of those situations where it’s just better off to lie. It’s really none of his business and if he had no issue with your work that day, it is simply better not to give people ammunition they can use against you. I have learned this the hard way too. Better to be vague or lie if pressed.

    And I’ve also done the late night drinking thing at a trade show too. It IS exhausting, but you’re also working over a weekend and not getting paid any extra usually. So BAH!

  36. Rochard*

    your boss pays you for the time you work. if they want to manage your time out with that they pay you. if they have an issue with your work they follow process they don’t berate you at dinner.

    if they had no complaint about your work, you have zero responsibility to follow their best practice on your down time.

  37. Turtles All the Way Down*

    I’m about 90% sure the LW is in their 20s and didn’t have a ton of work experience up to this point. I can’t image staying out later than 2 AM much past the age of 28, frankly, nor working a full day on 3 hours (or less) of sleep. But I’m also a slight introvert and need a bit more sleep than some.

    1. allathian*

      Agreed on all points. Frankly, being forced to people for 3 days straight would leave me unfit to work the first few days of the following week even if I went to bed at 10 pm and got up by 7 every morning to have enough time to shower and eat a good breakfast. I need feeding at about 3-hour intervals to be at the top of my game. If not, I tend to get hangry and then to eat too much when I do get the chance to eat, which makes me woozy and forces me to drink even more coffee than I otherwise would. Too much coffee (more than my standard 5-6 cups per day) affects my sleep…

  38. Barney Stinson*

    – Boss had complimented employee’s performance for the day.
    – Boss wasn’t wrong; staying out until 5 am really reduces the chances you’re going to do okay, even if you did manage to pull it off (see first bullet point)
    – Why did employee actually tell boss the truth about the time? That’s where the lack of judgement shows up. “I had a restful night, thanks for asking!”

    Kids these days…

    1. Purple*

      This is post from back in 2018. Sender was mid-20s then. He’s early-30s now. Not exactly a kid. (And to clarify, I’m on his side).

  39. Workfromhome*

    The issue was in the response not the action.

    “During dinner, my boss asked me what time I got home, as I had asked permission from him if I could go out, which he allowed me to. ”

    Question” what time did you get home”
    Answer: Do you have a concern about my performance today?
    (I’d really want to say its none of your business but answering with a question is more tactful way of doing it)

    Its none of his business what you do from the time you start working till the time you star if it doesn’t impact your performance. what difference does it make what time you get in? what if you stayed in an had 10 people in your room for a party until 5 am?
    what if you got in at 8 pm and stayed up watching movies or having imamate relations until 5 am? what if they were at a family home and got caught up remising (no booze etc)

    If the OP was displaying poorly in their appearance, smelled of booze, were appearing overly tired fine. Tell them “Your performance was not up to pa is there something that caused it? You need to be in good condition and perform well. Don’t do it again.

    Keep it about performance. Keep it about work. What I do and when I do it in my off time is none of your business as long as I perform to standards period.

  40. Happy*

    Thank you! A lot of people here seem to be deliberately painting OP in the worst possible light.

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