is it unprofessional to get a tattoo on a work trip?

A reader writes:

Last week I had to travel for work. My boss lives in one state, I live in another, and we met in a major metropolitan area in a third state for three days of meetings. On the third day, Thursday, we carpooled from the hotel to the airport. We arrived about an hour before my bosses flight but 10 hours before mine.

About two hours into my wait, I was on Instagram and a tattoo artist I’ve loved for years and happens to be in the city I was in for my trip posted that they had an opening in an hour. I checked and I could Uber there in 20 minutes. The art I wanted was a small floral piece so I’d be back at the airport about three hours before my flight. I went ahead and did it.

A relevant detail: because of the sensitive data my company handles, we have very strict requirements on the types of work that can be done in public and the internet connections we use. Other than answering a few easy emails via my phone, there wasn’t any work I was going to do anyway and my boss was okay with me reading, scrolling the internet, or otherwise doing nothing to kill the time in the airport. I also did not expense my Uber costs to my company.

The next day on a conference call, my boss noticed a fresh tattoo on my forearm and asked about it because it clearly wasn’t there when he saw me just 24 hours prior. At this point, his tone was pretty friendly and more like “there’s no way I missed that, right?” I told him the chain of events that led to me getting the tattoo the day prior. He looked mad told me it was unprofessional. I apologized, mostly out of shock because I didn’t know how else to respond, and then he told me I should be glad I didn’t get written up.

It’s been a week and he’s still pissed (honestly it’s the best word to describe it) at my “flagrant unprofessionalism” (his phrasing).

It’s not that dramatic, right? I get that it’s a bit odd and I have no plans of making “I got a tattoo on a work trip” my go-to conversation starter, but his reaction seems over the top.

One coworker who witnessed it thought it might be a case of him making sure a younger newer employee wasn’t ignoring professional norms but I’m not sure what norms I ignored and while I am newer to the company (almost one year in) I’m not new to the workforce. I’m in my mid-30s and the boss in question is only a few years older than me. A friend thought maybe it had less to do with “tattoo on a work trip” and more to do with “tattoo on a woman” which would be on-brand for this person and his more … traditional … views.

I will say he hasn’t brought it up since and our interactions have been completely fine so maybe he had a bad day?

Yeah, this is ridiculous!

Your boss’s reaction is entirely out-of-line.

What you do in your own time while you’re traveling for work is none of your employer’s business as long as it’s not going to affect them in some way (like if you got so hungover you couldn’t focus on work the next day, or instigated a fight with a local competitor). Getting a tattoo on your own time shouldn’t even register.

Your boss might not like tattoos, but that’s not in any way relevant to what he does and doesn’t have standing to intervene on as your manager. There are all sorts of things you might do on your own time while traveling that he might not approve of but which aren’t any of his business: gambling, sleeping with a stranger, eating a sandwich that was left in your car all day, watching hours of trashy TV in your hotel room at night, and on and on. None of those give him any standing to threaten you with professional discipline.

If he brings it up again … well, in theory, you should be able to say, “Can you explain how me getting a tattoo at a time when I wasn’t expected to be working has anything to do with my professionalism?” … but whether or not it makes sense to bother getting into it with him depends on (a) the rest of your relationship with him and what you know about how he responds when challenged, (b) what other battles you might need to save capital for, and (c) your sense of how much it will really matter a month from now. If it’s going to have real consequences for you (like if he actually tried to write you up for it, which would be absurd), you’d need to address it more head-on (which could include looping in HR, who presumably/hopefully would shut him down, especially if you can argue it’s gender-based), but otherwise you might be better off just internally rolling your eyes and letting it go.

{ 372 comments… read them below }

  1. Hills to Die on*

    I only assume he’s thinking that it was a work trip and you can do only work-related things on a work trip. But then if he knows you specifically cannot work at a certain day/time, what would it matter as long? I think he must have assumed you are ‘on the clock but not working’? But it doesn’t make sense. There’s some extra non-relevant thought processes going on in his head and he needs to get over it.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      ‘what would it matter as long as you didn’t so anything that made the company look bad?’ is what I meant to say.

      1. Angstrom*

        If you’re wearing company-logo clothing, you have an obligation to not embarrass the company, even on your free time. And on a work trip, you shouldn’t do anything in your free time that will interfere with doing the work. But outside that, your free time is yours.

    2. ErinWV*

      But would he have reacted like that if she told him she spent the extra time shopping, or at the zoo?

      1. Sloanicota*

        The only possible thing I can think of is the possibility that the boss felt OP was risking being delayed / missed her flight or something. But honestly, a ten hour weight is danged unreasonable at the airport anyway.

        1. Roland*

          Yup, extremely unreasonable! Given that he thought they should carpool when their flights were so far apart instead of just taking the L and letting OP expense their own taxi sure tells me this boss is unreasonable in non-tattoo matters as well.

          1. Rubber Ducky*

            No kidding. Even if he was flying cross-country from coast to coast, he could do that in half the time she was waiting. He’s at home having dinner with his family and she’s still hanging out in an airport. Not cool. He’s the one being unprofessional even asking someone to sit in an airport that long barring some kind of flight delay out of their control.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              This – the only time I’ve waited more than three hours in an airport was due to a delay (caused by weather in the flight path of my incoming plane). And the airline was definable doing everything it could to keep us passengers happy and comfortable while we waited.

            2. Lexie*

              I’ve opted to go to the airport earlier than necessary in the hopes of getting an earlier flight home, but that was purely my choice.

        2. A Simple Narwhal*

          I can’t believe the boss made her go to the airport 10 hours early! That would be excessive for an international flight, it’s especially egregious since the boss only had to be there an hour early.

          Other than for control or cheapness, I can’t think of a good reason why they had to carpool and couldn’t just go separately. I know I would rather fund my own transportation than sit in an airport for an extra 9 hours! So I’m leaning towards the boss having control issues.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            How were they traveling to the airport? Flying unicorn and there’s only one magical carriage a day?

            1. Rose*

              The monster that swims across the airport moat gets tiered and can only make on trip per day.

              1. Elitist Semicolon*

                Which makes it really hard for people who are travelling with a goose, a fox, and a bag of grain.

          2. nona*

            Yeah, I didn’t even get to the tattoo part. I am completely stuck on the 10 hours at the airport. That is totally unreasonable, I don’t care how much money the company saves by car-pooling. Something is off.

          3. Jillian*

            It’s possible the distance from hotel to airport was several hours and it made more sense to go together. He still should have let her Uber around the city once they arrived.

            1. Ms_Meercat*

              Maybe but unlikely? Since she was able to get to the somewhat famous tattoo artist in a 20-min uber… And even so, OP still could have easily had *checks notes* 5 hours in the city before having to get to the airport?

              1. Lydia*

                Yeah, OP commented that the hotel was 1.5 hours from the airport, so even though that’s still a long time to be at the airport, it makes a little more sense.

          4. LCH*

            also the last time i tried to get in super early, airport security wouldn’t let me. this was an airport where there weren’t really any waiting areas outside of security so it sucked.

        3. Observer*

          But honestly, a ten hour weight is danged unreasonable at the airport anyway.

          Yeah. If you want to talk about “flagrant unprofessionalism”, I think that this qualifies much more closely.

            1. Miette*

              Maybe that’s his issue? If OP was technically on the clock (i.e. it’s midday on a workday), then it looks like she went to get a tattoo on company time. But since she’s completely unable to work due to security reasons–and if her productivity was such an issue–why make her go to the airport in the first place? I mean we all know this guy’s an ass, but what difference does it make what OP does during these 10 hours. still shaking my head.

        4. StressedButOkay*

          That’s the only thing I could think of as well – that what if there were delays, etc., and they missed their flight? But at the same time, carpooling to the airport so the boss only has to kill one hour while OP has to kill ten is insane.

          1. constant_craving*

            If that’s the concern, it’d be reasonable to make it clear to OP that the company wouldn’t cover the cost for a different flight if OP missed hers due to non-work reasons. But it seems really unlikely that was actually the issue.

        5. GammaGirl1908*

          Agreed. I was all prepared for this to be in some weird grey area, or for the tattoo-getting to have somehow impinged upon work, but I am fully on LW’s side here. She did nothing wrong.

          The biggest issue was expecting her to twiddle her thumbs in the airport for 10 hours, apparently to save a few bucks on a cab. I, also, probably would have looked up the closest place to get a pedicure or do some shopping or see a local attraction or have a nice lunch. This isn’t that different.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            Yeah, my thought was that a fresh tattoo can look a little wonky, and she got it before the trip was over. Like, the evening before the big presentation.

            But no, that’s not what happened at all! The boss is being unreasonable.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              Seriously! I mean the work part of the trip was fully over! The boss was not even in the same state anymore!

              I think it’s possible there are different scenarios where the answer to this question might have been yes, but this one seem so extremely obviously to be “this was definitely okay and I can’t imagine why the boss would have any opinions on it at all.”

        6. Kyrielle*

          This. I mean, I might go that early just to try to get stand-by on an earlier flight if that looked possible? But I probably wouldn’t bother and I definitely would be ticked if a boss made me go there that early, and stay there.

      2. Peanut Hamper*

        Or more closely related, if she had gotten her ears pierced? Probably not.

        But as Hills said, that’s definitely his issue.

        1. Cait*

          Exactly! I was thinking she should compare this to getting her ears pierced or dying her hair. I doubt he would consider either of those things unprofessional. It sounds like he’s equating getting a tattoo with going to a strip club or getting wasted at the hotel bar.

          1. Sasha*

            Is he imagining that this is a “drunk night out in Vegas, we all got matching tattoos” situation? I guess that would be kind of unprofessional, but mostly due to the “getting so drunk you don’t remember getting a tattoo” part.

            Maybe he doesn’t understand that people get tattoos sober, following a conscious decision…

      3. Sparkles McFadden*

        Maybe. Some bosses don’t like it when they feel like they are not in control. The fact that there was physical proof of a non-work errand is enough to unhinge an insecure manager.

        I had a boss who got upset about minor things, particularly on work trips. She once instructed me to go to lunch with a vendor. She had insisted on going to a particular restaurant, but when she sent me in her place, the vendor suggested another venue. He was the host so I said “Sure.” When we met up with my boss later, she asked how I liked the restaurant she picked. I said we went elsewhere…and she had a meltdown in the office foyer and she ended up in a screaming match with the vendor rep who intervened when she yelled “You are not allowed to go anywhere unless I say it’s OK.” So that was fun.

        1. Lorena*

          OMG, that’s awful. I don’t know that I could work for someone who felt they needed to be so controlling, that would be so exhausting. God forbid we have free will. I hope you don’t still work for them.

        2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          If we can cite comments for Worst Boss of the Year, we have a nominee!

          1. Jellyfish Catcher*

            Sadly, I’m betting that there will be worse ones.It’s not even halfway through the calendar year; I have faith (or cynicism) that we ain’t seen everything yet.

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          WOW. Apparently she had her job mixed up with a daycare run by Ms. Trunchbull!

        4. Environmental Compliance*

          Did we have the same boss?

          A previous boss who had me attend a conference – driving, mind you, 7 hours in the rickety work truck (refused to let me drive my personal vehicle that I felt much safer driving), as we weren’t allowed to expense a plane because *county government* – told me to go sit with these vendors & state gov’t people, introduce myself, yadda yadda. She ended up having a meltdown when vendor invited *all of us* to dinner and she didn’t like I was also invited but she didn’t get her own personal invitation. How dare I get along with the people I need to work with, I guess?

    3. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Oh “work-related things on a work-trip”. Someone should tell the bosses who introduced a formerly very sheltered loved one to strip clubs and massage parlors. (Of course, they absolutely should have said no, but yeah). There’s a truck-ton of non-work things done on work-hours and with work money.

      1. Lydia*

        Hard to say no to a person in authority in that situation. That is firmly in the bosses’ camp.

    4. El l*

      Everything else aside, the part that puzzles me the most:

      Who asks/requires their colleague to go the airport 10 HOURS early?

      Especially if you can’t work while waiting, that is simply not respectful of their time.

      1. Ari*

        Someone who didn’t want to pay for two Ubers is my guess. I’d be so bored stuck in an airport for that long.

        1. WellRed*

          Waiting at the airport for 10 hours would cost more than 2hours unless they refuse to cover your food etc when you travel. What a cheapskate company. But then, writing someone up for a tattoo is ridiculous, so I’m guessing these are the tip of an iceberg.

        2. Sheila*

          I assumed they shared a rental car and were returning it at the airport, because that’s my frequent experience. However, I’ve never waited TEN HOURS before, I’d either coordinate departures better or have the late person drop the early person at the airport and hang on to the car a little longer.

          I tend to feel responsible for junior people I’m traveling with, but I’d mentally check them off as “safe” if I left them at an airport with a ticket home and no obvious travel risks ahead of them, and I’d be a little alarmed if they left the airport for a personal trip after I thought they were safely at the airport waiting for a flight. They could have car trouble or an accident or get mugged or simply experience a delay causing them to miss their flight. I don’t think I’d go as far as confronting them about it or calling them unprofessional, ever. I think at most I’d take note that their risk tolerance is different from mine, and I’d probably worry more about them in travel, and try to have more open conversations about travel plans and whereabouts so I’d know what their plans are.

          1. sookie st james*

            I find this an unusually paternalistic way to be relating to your coworkers/employees… surely they could “have car trouble or an accident or get mugged or simply experience a delay” when they leave the office after a normal workday, or at any other point in their personal lives? I’m not sure how deciding to do something fun instead of sitting in an airport (for TEN HOURS no less) has anything to do with “risk tolerance”. And it’s no more a manager’s business than if their employee decides to go to a bar on their way home from work.

            1. Silver Robin*

              I agree that it is ultimately to paternalistic.

              That said, I can somewhat sympathize. Especially if, say, the junior employees are fresh out of school or something. Some folks (like myself) quickly and easily take on “point person” for travel situations when they are the most senior person around. I also think that it makes sense to be a bit more worried about folks handling themselves in an unfamiliar place than a familiar one. In theory, employees would well know how to get to/from the office and where to go/what to do/who to call if something goes wrong (with a local support system). Away from home, that is less the case.

              Again, though, I agree that the “mother henning” is a impulse I tamp down when I am in a professional setting. I would not shift communication requirements or anything.

              1. Sloanicota*

                Haha today’s other OP needs to read these and recognize some real “mom energy” when it appears in the wild! Cuz it’s not in their letter.

            2. a clockwork lemon*

              I agree with this. Unless you’re taking actual minors on a work trip, or you’re going to a place with very known safety risks and your business travel includes, like, specific check-in protocols, adults with jobs are perfectly capable of getting themselves to and from the airport and even running errands during a long wait for a flight.

              I have a short list of people who receive updates about my whereabouts when I’m traveling and not officially on company time (like texting my husband I’ve landed/arrived at the hotel, etc) –the only way a coworker would be on that list is if we’re meeting up to grab a drink at the airport before our respective flights.

              This is all especially odd in the context of this letter, where OP and boss weren’t even traveling to the same state!

            3. MigraineMonth*

              Yeah, that feels way overstepping for me. Is the fact that it’s before a flight what is causing the anxiety? I’ve missed flights on business travel before, it’s not actually that big a problem.

              Even straight out of school, I navigated getting to the airport, rescheduling flights when I missed a connection, returning rental cars, being stranded for three days thanks to a polar vortex, etc. I was annoyed when a carpool left without me, but that was just because I didn’t want accounting to balk at the extra Uber expense.

          2. HonorBox*

            I can absolutely relate. Wanting to be sure someone is safe is definitely something I’ve felt too. It might make me worry in hindsight if I knew someone left the airport… or went wandering after we got done with a client dinner or something like that. But I’m also not a jackass who would stick someone in an airport for 10 hours. Also, the OP got home safe and sound.

          3. Anonymouse*

            This would bother me a ton if my more Sr co-worker took on the emotional labor of my well being and the intrusiveness of them wanting to know my plans outside of work related responsibilities without me asking explicitly for assistance. We are talking about adults here don’t forget.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I was recently boggled by someone who wrote into an advice column about how anxious she was about her granddaughter’s safety because her father let his 9-year-old walk 1/4 of a mile home from the school bus stop in what she described as a “safe” suburb that had lots of delivery people around. The grandmother even offered to pay someone to meet her at the bus stop and walk her home.

              1. onetimethishappened*

                As a Mom I often to get more worried about busy bodies than I do something nefarious happening to my kids. My oldest (who is 12), likes taking his 2 younger sisters to the playground up the street (which is also a school). They have been doing it for 2 years. I can actually see the playground from my house and my 12 year old has a phone. I get more worried about someone calling the cops on the kids being alone then something bad actually happening to them. Because Karen’s gonna Karen.

          4. Chilipepper Attitude*

            But if your flight home was a day (or 10 hours) before theirs, you would have no way of knowing if they were “safe” when you left them at the hotel to get themselves to the airport. So in addition to being oddly paternalistic, this is oddly illogical too.

          5. Sally*

            This is an inappropriate level of concern to have about other adults. It makes me think you might have issues with anxiety around traveling, that you are maybe projecting onto others? As a person who travels frequently I would be more concerned about a colleague waiting at the airport for 10 hours (!) than with them leaving the airport to do something enjoyable in the intervening time. That’s a completely normal and reasonable thing to do. getting to the airport 10 hours before your flight is not a normal thing to do.

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          This reminds me of that super controlling supervisor letter who would flip out over any tiny expense, like hot dogs or something? How much can a taxi or Uber possibly cost that it’s okay to ask somebody to sit in an airport for TEN hours? That’s two hours longer than most in-office work days!

      2. LTR FTW*

        There’s zero chance I’d sit at the airport ten hours early, I don’t care what my boss does. I’d pay out of pocket for a second cab rather than doing that.

        1. Lydia*

          I had a small window between a meeting at the Longfellow Building in DC and an event there. I didn’t even stay put for that long. I grabbed a cab and headed to the Natural History Museum so I could see the Hope Diamond. Screw sitting around for 10 entire hours somewhere!

      3. yala*

        To me, the only way requiring that would be remotely reasonable is if the company also springs for, like, a nap pod a lounge day-membership or something.

      4. I Have RBF*

        Who asks/requires their colleague to go the airport 10 HOURS early?

        Especially if you can’t work while waiting, that is simply not respectful of their time.

        This, especially if they had to get up early, check out of the hotel before even getting breakfast, etc. Making a person wait around for ten hours in an airport just to save $50 on a cab/uber is just so over the top disrespectful of that person’s time that my gast is beyond flabbered. (Even at US federal minimum wage that’s a $72.50 sacrifice to save $50.) I’d have said “No, my flight is later and I hate waiting around in airports, I’ll get my own ride. Have a nice flight.” because even if I had to pay my own transport to avoid the ten hour wait it would be worth it.

        1. Shakti*

          Exactly!! Also airports are really expensive so pretty odd choice for saving money. If it was a safety concern airports aren’t particularly safe or comfortable. They’re not dangerous, but something tells me (aka literally everything the manager did) logic isn’t playing into this at all

    5. Rainy*

      I’ve got some bad news for that guy about how his employees are spending anywhere from 6-10 hours every night on work trips.

      1. Rex Libris*

        You mean they’re not sitting quietly in their hotel rooms, prepping for the next work day, and thinking about how great their boss is?

    6. Snell*

      Maybe, if not for the part where boss was A-OK with LW idling the time away scrolling the internet while they wait. Nature of the job means there wouldn’t be any work actively happening at a certain time. It’s not that boss has a problem with non-work-related things, it’s that he has a problem with this one specific non-work-related thing.

    7. Susannah*

      At the airport, though? What does he expect, that she sit there for 10 hours? Would it have been better if she had had 3 martinis at an airport bar?

      I also suspect this is very gendered – he doesn’t like the idea of a woman getting a tattoo, and the fact that she did it (during down time!) while away for work make him feel like the company is an accomplice.

      I’m not a fan of tattoos, and even I think he’s being an ass.

      1. They Don’t Make Sunday*

        Yeah, I’m wondering if he thinks that the timing somehow equates to using company resources to get the tattoo. Like, he views taking advantage of being in that third city as taking advantage of the company, because the work trip was what made the tattoo possible. It’s ridiculous, but if he doesn’t approve of tattoos on women, he could be making this irrational leap.

        1. Tiger Snake*

          Stuck-at-airport time might be paid for as work time, depending. In those cases, they are kind of paying you to be bored. My work policy actually had a clause because of this!
          Basically it says if you leave the airport between flights, you need to record that as your lunch break (if less than an hour) or unpaid leave/not include it in the time you recorded your travel too. The implication here being that, since you get travel as Flex Time after, then even if its in the airport if you’re doing something not work related that can’t count as part of your flex.

    8. 1-800-BrownCow*

      I sleep when on multi-day work related trips. Sleeping at work is unprofessional. Sleeping during my downtime on a work related trip is not unprofessional. I’m with the OP on this one, they did nothing wrong and for their manager to expect the OP to be 100% professional, 100% of the time on a work trip is ridiculous. They weren’t working during the wait at the airport, it was OPs free time to do as they wish, as long as it’s not illegal or damaging to the business.

      And the number of colleagues I’ve known that visit strip clubs on work trips, wonder if the manager would chastise those employees.

    9. Tiger Snake*

      Yes. I confess, my first thought to hearing the OP’s story was “On a work trip?”. It’s the second-moment thoughts that points out that no, that’s not actually a problem in any way.

      It’s just so out of what you normally expect for someone to do on their down time when travelling for work that it throws you: if it had been purely an immediate response I’d have given him a pass as just that. That he’s continuing to be upset about it is unreasonable.

  2. bamcheeks*

    It’s giving “weird paternalistic vibes” or “I don’t find women with tattoos attractive”. Not your problem, LW!

    1. singularity*

      Yeah, reading between the lines gives me that vibe, too. Sounds like the boss assumed LW is still ‘on’ even though she’s not really working and just sitting around at an airport, which is absolutely ridiculous.

    2. Fikly*

      LW’s manager, thus LW’s problem, unfortunately.

      LW did nothing wrong, but it is her problem.

      1. Lydia*

        Yeah, I am wondering if it’s going to shade the way the boss looks at OP moving forward. Which might be an argument for confronting it head on.

    3. ferrina*

      It reminds me of the LW whose boss refused his PTO when his boss learned that he was taking PTO for a video games tournament. Boss has some weird thing going on, this isn’t about LW. Unfortunately she’s the one that has to deal with his weirdness.

  3. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    If anything OP, let that tattoo hold just a little more power for you as a woman. It is of course speculation to assume the source of his ire, but on behalf of those of us out there who are still stuck in more traditional circumstances and who would LOVE to be able to get a beautiful, meaningful tattoo without dealing with a lot of men, GO YOU.

  4. Hudson*

    A coworker of mine did this on a work trip, right down to it being kind of a spur of the moment thing, and we were all thrilled about it and asked to see pictures (it was an ankle tattoo). So your boss’s reaction is not the norm.

  5. Peanut Hamper*

    I love that the artist just happened to have a free appointment, and that you could Uber there and back and get the tattoo in the free time you had before your flight.

    Sometimes these things are meant to be.

    1. Trout ‘Waver*

      That’s part of the problem though, maybe. It’s such a coincidence that someone light think OP planned this and is lying.

      1. Susannah*

        Why would you need to lie about it though? Who needs to sit in an airport for 10 hours? She didn’t ask anyone to pay for her Uber, or her tattoo. It was down time.

        Next time, tell them you had a 12-hour layover so decided to squeeze in an abortion. OK, don’t. But I’d love to see his face!

        1. ferrina*

          But yeah, cosigning. OP had 10 hours to sit around. She would be well within her rights to schedule a tattoo during that time, or go to a brewery, or go to a professional hokey-pokey competition. She had no reason to lie about it being a spur-of-the-moment thing, and assuming she’s got a decent professional reputation, why would someone jump to the conclusion that she’s lying?

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            And even if she did plan it ahead of time, so what? She didn’t sneak away from the meetings, charge her Uber to the company, or do anything besides not sit for ten hours in an airport. She just used some free time that could not be spent working to do something cool in a city she wasn’t usually in.

            1. TinySoprano*

              Exactly. Either way, OP has still done nothing wrong, the boss’s reaction is still out of line, and a 10 hour airport wait is still ridiculous. Also assuming OP knows her boss better than we do, it’s likely she’s right to think he just disapproves because it’s a tattoo.

              10 hours is such a weirdly, egregiously long wait though, I wonder if any of OP’s colleagues have had similar long waits on trips with her boss. It may be worth asking around. Surely nobody else in the same situation would sit around at the airport twiddling their thumbs…

        2. Silver Robin*

          I was taking a much needed drink of water and now it is all over my keyboard!! It is okay, the laugh makes up for it XD XD

        3. Mensa Maid*

          Or meeting a handsome stranger in the bar and going to the nearest hotel for a quickie?

        4. MEH Squared*

          Ha! I snortlaughed at this. Nicely played.

          Your original point is correct, though. This didn’t cost her company a thing (time, money, or work). Her boss was completely out of line.

      2. Observer*

        It’s such a coincidence that someone light think OP planned this and is lying.

        And? Why would it have been a problem for the OP to plan something like this?

          1. Rubber Ducky*

            Not really. You are not obligated to tell your boss everything about your personal life if it no way affects you job. Even if LW had every last detail planned out 3 months in advance, it’s actually irrelevant. The result is the same regardless of it being planned or a spur of the moment coincidence.

            1. I Have RBF*

              Yeah, it’s not the boss’s business what a person does on their downtime, even when traveling, as long as the company itself is not named or involved. It’s not their business. If you aren’t actively being paid for that time, it’s yours to do with as you wish – to get a tattoo, find a place to nap, or get drunk in the airport bar.

              1. Lynn*

                I used to travel for work a lot. Before we started WFH a couple of years pre-pandemic I was on the road every week, all week, and just flew home on weekends and for vacation. There is no universe in which the boss needed to know what I was doing pre-flight.

                As long as I didn’t miss a flight/miss work my activities for the day were none of my boss’s business. I could have been drunkenly singing karaoke in the airport bar, visiting the local motorcycle dealership and having a test ride, having a wild quickie/orgy in a nearby hotel, or meeting with a bible group to pray and it would require neither approval nor notification.

                There would be no reason to lie even if one of those activities was planned rather than spontaneous-so assuming I was lying rather than lucky with something being open would be way out of line.

                And 10 hours waiting in an airport is not something I would say is okay as a planned activity. I’ve done it when flights have been delayed and/or cancelled, but planning to do that doesn’t sound at all fun to me.

                Chicago, DFW and LAX have all been my hosts for ridiculous delays. At least when it was the tiny airport in Arcata CA, they just cancelled the flight and sent us all home/to hotels to wait-because there was nothing at all to do there.

                I would definitely rather go get some new ink than to hang out in the airport, despite not really wanting to fly with a new tattoo. I never realized how often you get crowded/bumped in an airplane until I flew a few times with a new shoulder tattoo.

          2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

            Lying? Did LW say “I’m definitely not getting a tattoo today” to her boss?

            1. Quill*

              Not giving people irrelevant information they aren’t entitled to is not lying is going to become one of the most repeated comments on this site.

              1. Lexie*

                I don’t understand why some people think that a person is being dishonest by not sharing every single thing they know. How do they even come to that conclusion?

          3. Miss Muffet*

            I’m someone who really hates lying and thinks that’s it’s usually worse than whatever it was you were trying to cover…but lying about this is still not an issue for the boss. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the boss.

          4. RussianInTexas*

            Why? I would lie to my boss about my personal life if I expect the truth wouldn’t be welcome.
            My boss is not owned the truth about my life outside of work.

      3. HonorBox*

        Even if OP had planned it, who cares? What was done on their own time is their own business.

        1. Lydia*

          Exactly. She could have gotten out at the airport, done all her check in stuff, and then hopped in a cab for her already booked appointment and it STILL wouldn’t have been any of his business.

      4. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Hm, could you expand your thoughts on why pre-planning that would be a problem?

        Appending a personal trip and/or fun event to a work trip is quite acceptable, preplanned or not, at least in my work context/experience (in the U.S., private, non-government).

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Well, personally I would have not problem with someone planning it. I would have a problem with someone lying about it.

          But, context matters. The employee’s reputation matters. There are some people who I know who I would absolutely think they were lying. There are some people who I work with who I would totally believe it was a fantastic coincidence.

          There are also some people I work with who would intentionally book the later flight at increased company expense so they could attend to personal business.

          Obviously, I wouldn’t know the OP from Adam so I have no reason to doubt their sincerity. But someone who already is skeptical of OP’s professionalism might take issue.

          That all being said, OP’s manager is grossly unprofessional and I’m in no way saying they’re anything but ridiculous and entirely out-of-line.

          1. yala*

            “There are some people who I know who I would absolutely think they were lying.”

            There are some people I work with who basically always think that I’m lying. It’s exhausting. It’s a weird place to jump to in this scenario especially. It’s really stressful when a pleasant coincidence translates as “lie” to people you work with.

          2. Lydia*

            Can you explain why you are going all in on the lie idea when the OP didn’t lie and the only person who mentioned lying was you? Even if someone thought the OP lied, that would still be a problem with them, not the OP.

            1. Trout ‘Waver*

              I would hate for OP to read my comments and think I was accusing them of lying. I never intended to suggest that. I apologize to the OP for any misunderstanding if people come to that conclusion.

        2. Trout 'Waver*

          Also, to address your second point, everywhere I’ve worked has had published guidelines on appending personal travel/excursions to business trips. If that’s the case for OP, they should point out the guidelines and show how they followed them.

          1. metadata minion*

            My workplace has that sort of guideline, but that’s more about “how does it work when you add on a few days of vacation in the area after the conference?”. During the actual trip, there are guidelines for how to get reimbursed for food and stuff, but nothing about personal time other than an implied “you probably shouldn’t break the law”. During my downtime work doesn’t really care whether I go see a museum, or go drinking, or stare at my hotel room ceiling in the blessed, blessed silence after 8 hours of conference panels.

      5. Dinwar*

        I have colleagues who have planned site visits to coincide with events around the site they were visiting. No one batted an eye. I also schedule a major sampling event around my son’s birthday party, so that I can be sure of being home for it. Not only has no one batted an eye, I’ve had people commend me for taking a firm stance on that issue.

        As long as the work gets done properly, the ability to also do something for personal enjoyment is irrelevant as far as the company is concerned. Employment is not ownership, after all.

      6. Kella*

        This is such a confusing interpretation.

        I would never think someone was lying if they told me timing lined up and allowed them to get a tattoo while they waited for their flight. Why? Because I wouldn’t be able to think of any possible benefit to them to claim it was a coincidence when it was actually planned.

        And if I knew OP and OP was a habitual liar and story embellisher, which caused me to take all their stories with a grain of salt, it STILL wouldn’t be a problem if they said they got a tattoo as a result of this cool coincidence. The problem would be the habitual lying. Which is not a thing that’s happening here.

        Without the habitual lying, there is zero reason to expect someone to lie about something where the lie carries no benefit to them. And without the habitual lying, jumping to lying as an explanation *is* the problem behavior, not telling the cool story or getting the tattoo.

  6. Brain the Brian*

    Perhaps he thinks that the pain a tattoo can cause would sideline the employee for all or part of the next workday? That’s a weird overreaction, for sure, but I’m struggling to think of another legitimate reason, and if he’s unfamiliar with the process of getting a tattoo, maybe he thinks that’s the case. Anyway, LW, do see if you can find out what’s going on, since there really is no reason that a reasonably well-informed person should care.

    1. dot*

      It sounds like this was done while waiting for the return plane home though? With that logic, the boss would be upset about anyone getting a tattoo the day before any workday, which would be a huge overreaction and boundary overstep.

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

      I can understand this reasoning some what. but it was less than 24 hours later that they saw over zoom the tattoo. So obviously the OP did not miss anything work related.

      1. Lydia*

        I know not everyone has the same reactions to things as the next person, but I literally had a tattoo done on a lunch break. Even if it did wipe the employee out, it’s still not the boss’ business. Even if she had the tattoo done Tuesday during lunch and didn’t feel well Wednesday.

    3. HoHumDrum*

      I doubt there is a legitimate reason, strongly suspect the boss is someone who still perceives tattoos as taboo and unsavory/seedy which is why he believes it is unprofessional and a sign of really messed up judgement to get one during a business trip. Like he views it as akin to casually mentioning you scored blow during your off hours on a work trip.

      and yes, obviously that is totally different because blow is illegal while tattoos are legal and super normal for many, many people to have, but I’m not stating reality I’m stating how some people view tattoos. It’s absurd but it’s still very stigmatized amongst certain people.

  7. CommanderBanana*

    I don’t think it’s any less professional than getting your hair cut on a work trip, which I’ve absolutely done before. I think this is way more about your boss’s personal feelings about tattoos.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Right – I have seen places to get massages or a mani/pedi literally IN the airport. Tattoos fall into the same category for me.

        1. SushiRoll*

          its not usually recommended to fly right after getting a tattoo since it is an open wound. in this case it sounded like the tattoo was small and OP knew what they were doing so everything ended up fine.

          also a lot of artists use stuff like sandierm now (instead of plastic wrap) which is a clear sticky bandage you place over the fresh tattoo and can leave on up to a few days (especially if the tattoo isn’t leaky and gross) which helps keep it clean in the first critical days of the healing process. that would make flying right after much easier.

    2. mreasy*

      Get my nails done on work trips all the time, it’s the same thing. Boss is being ridic.

      1. Lauren*

        I had a manager that got a $15 manicure during a 30 min meeting break instead of eating in NYC. Now THAT was unprofessional. She should have waited until the day was over, but she could have not drawn attention to it. Honestly, if she didn’t tell everyone including the clients, no one would have noticed, but she did and our boss was annoyed.

        1. Silver Robin*

          I get that cooing over the manicure can get annoying when other topics are more pressing, but why does it matter that she got a manicure instead of having a meal during a break, presumably her own time? (I would not want to go hungry, but folks have their own priorities.)

          1. Lauren*

            It wasn’t though. She left a catered lunch that we provided for the client we were visiting. There were 10 of us in that room so not lost in a crowd type of thing where no one would notice.

        2. Chilipepper Attitude*

          Why is getting a manicure unprofessional?
          Was it the fact that it was in NYC?
          That she skipped eating?
          That she got it at all?

          I’d guess that it was the drawing attention to it but you said she should have waited till the day was over. Why?

          1. Lauren*

            She skipped the client lunch. Sorry, I wasn’t clear enough. It was a meeting break only, we were expected to stay and be ‘on’ during those 30 min.

        3. Lydia*

          It did not take up any more time than eating, so I’m not sure why it matters. Did she miss a meeting? Pass out later from hunger? No? Then there’s nothing “unprofessional” about it.

          1. Lauren*

            She left during the catered lunch. 10 people total and it was still work for us to chit chat with the client and expected to stay. A break meant we stopped presenting, but we were still very much ‘on’ and working our client relationship when she decided to go.

            1. Pescadero*

              So a break that wasn’t actually a break.

              Does this mean her break period/lunch was scheduled for later – or is this a “working” lunch that the employer wants to count as a break even though you’re required to be there?

          1. Dinwar*

            Calling attention to the manicure is. I’d consider it unprofessional in a client meeting regardless of when it was done (with the obvious caveat that you have to know your client, and some would want to hear about it, in which case it becomes networking). I know a lot of people who do personal errands like going to the doctor, getting haircuts, walking dogs, whatever during lunch breaks. That’s your time–do whatever you want. Just be judicious about whether or not to discuss it.

            1. Seashell*

              Unless she spent 10 minutes talking about her manicure, I don’t see why it matters that much that she mentioned it. If one of the clients was looking for a good nail salon, that info might be helpful.

              1. Lauren*

                She did talk about it for 10 min, and the rest of us were ‘working’ by staying and chit chatting with the clients. It was a massively expensive meeting for 7 of us (12 total in the company) to go from Boston to NYC, and she ditched during the break, which was still considered work to the rest of us. While we didn’t know for sure who might come in, she missed the CMO / big wigs coming in to grab lunch though they weren’t part of the meetings.

        4. Sally*

          But if it was a man and he ran out for a haircut or a shoeshine I bet he would never be judged as unprofessional, because double standards.

          1. Lauren*

            We were working still though. It was a break as in – no more presenting during lunch, but we were still ‘on’ in that room. Unlike OP who wasn’t working at that point after the trip at all.

          2. Lauren*

            Actually, one guy did joke that he saw a barber downstairs and that he should get a cut before we go home if he had time. The look of disgust from the owner of our company was like a death stare for daring to even joke. He was not amused. Client thought it was funny, our owner definitely did not.

    3. Totally Minnie*

      I got a massage on a work trip once, and all my boss said was “what a great idea to counteract the airplane seats and uncomfortable conference chairs!” OP’s boss is way out of the norm.

      1. Lauren*

        During long breaks and everyone disperses, yes – totally go off do whatever. My boss did this when no one else left because we were all still working in that room. Chit chat with clients was very much part of the job, but she didn’t see it that way. It backfired for her in general, as she was always excluded from manager meetings even when she was told the day was over – suddenly all the other male managers would congregate and she had no idea. I only knew because I stayed late and saw them get pulled in the owner’s office everyday after she left. 6pm always, and she left at 545pm even tho I witnessed her constantly asking the owner – need anything before I go.

        I see this backfiring forever for OP. Some bosses cannot let this stuff go even when in OPs case, the trip and work was very much over / completed.

    4. CL*

      I tweaked my back on a work trip and absolutely got a massage before my flight home. Actually asked the client I was visiting for recommendations.

    5. Orora*

      Yeah, I’m not getting what’s unprofessional here. Would it be “unprofessional” if OP had decided to go to the zoo during her downtime and came to work with a sunburn?

      If the employee is not expected to be working, what they do is their own business, as long as it’s not unethical or illegal.

  8. Kelly*

    I can see my last boss doing this and he is no one to copy as a manager. He liked us to be his little ducklings to show off at conferences to his colleagues without expecting us to have any network of our own.

    If I saw someone get a tattoo on their own downtime during a work trip I would not care in the slightest.

    1. Meep*

      Oh man, I feel this. My former manager took the business cards I received at a conference and shoved them into a gallon bag along with all the other business cards she ever got. lol. Hates tattoos too. A year after I was free of her I got my first tattoo as an “f u”. A (humming)bird, ironically.

      We now have an employee who has two sleeves he is getting work done on every three weeks. No one bats an eye. Because it doesn’t affect anyone else.

  9. marymac*

    Getting an appointment with a good artist is super hard, so more power to you. And yeah, your boss is overreacting.

  10. Ann O'Nemity*

    I can understand the OP’s thought process, sitting there at the airport for 10 hours (10 hours!!) killing time. Why not go get a tattoo?

    But from the boss’s perspective, it sounds like the employee got a tattoo on company time, which isn’t great optics.

    1. Sloanicota*

      It’s funny, this letter is superficially similar to the one with the young employee who went out late the night before a work event, but I feel differently about the outcome; in theory, being out late could have hindered the other employee’s performance, whereas this one I don’t see how it could.

    2. OP*

      OP here – was it really though? I mean would it have been any different if my flight had been at a reasonable hour and then I got a tattoo when I was home? Because as it stands I caught a 4 pm flight from the west coast to the east coast and got home around 1 am.

      Part of my thought process was my “work” for the day was travel which just so happened to be in the evening. my free time, which normally happens to be in the evening, took place during the day.

      1. Dulcinea47*

        Agreed. If you were expected to be working from the airport, that’d be one thing, but if you literally couldn’t for security reasons… it was personal time.

      2. umami*

        The bigger issue I see is that you were required to be at the airport so early, simply because your boss’ flight was earlier, so you could carpool? Did I read that right? That seems a bit of overreach; travel days aren’t generally factored in to your work time like a normal day, so it seems a bit heavy-handed to expect someone to sit at an airport for 10 hours and consider it work time. I can’t imagine the company having any standing over how you spent the time between the end of your meetings and your actual flight unless they had booked an earlier flight and you chose to change it to a later one.

        1. Educator*

          This struck me as wild too! Unless the journey to the airport was 2+hours, why on earth would he expect you to carpool and then sit there for ten hours? That is way more objectionable than anything else here! You can’t even drop your checked bag off that early for many flights.

        2. Smithy*

          This part right here is wild. Even if you’re able to expense a large number of charges at the airport (vs being on per diem) and/or have access to an airport lounge – there’s just only so much you can do in an airport for that long.

          Now obviously should the dynamics have been if the OP and boss been coming from a location a long distance from the airport from a location without multiple driver options – then it makes a little more sense. But even then, allowing someone to check into a hotel near the airport and expensing that to work would have made sense depending on the time of day. 10 hours is a huge amount of time to kill time in the airport.

          1. House On The Rock*

            I recently learned that at least some airport lounges limit the amount of time you can spend in them. On my last return trip from a major metropolitan airport I got there pretty early because I didn’t have quite enough time to do anything else the day I was leaving. I tried to check into a lounge, where they asked for my boarding pass and said that I had to wait until 2 hours before my flight (it was probably 2.5 hours before my flight).
            I don’t mean to derail the conversation, more wanted to point out that even if there were such a place to kill time, it might not be viable. And, of course, the OP’s rationale makes complete sense!

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              I can see this for sure, considering the amount of “drunken passenger starts a fight with the airplane door/fellow passenger/flight attendant and everybody gets delayed for hours while there’s a return to the gate and he/she gets hauled off by air marshals” stories!

      3. Lance*

        Chiming in to agree that this wasn’t in any real way ‘company time’, not least of all for the fact that you had no work to do. Your only ‘task’ was… sitting at an airport?

        You’re completely fine, and your boss is being weird.

        1. yala*

          I have definitely worked for some bosses who would be livid that you weren’t exactly where they thought you would be, even if being there would be unhelpful at best and it wasn’t on “company time.”

      4. Book lover*

        Right, OP. I can almost see a boss thinking that you should have had to take PTO for that day, because it turned into distinctly personal time instead of just a work travel day. But that’s really only the most reasonable interpretation of his unreasonable reaction I can come up with.

      5. HearTwoFour*

        I’m wondering where this comes from: “…my boss was okay with me reading, scrolling the internet, or otherwise doing nothing to kill the time in the airport.”
        I mean…if you were going to stay at the airport, what else would you be doing besides killing time?
        It would be difficult for me not to have this conversation if he were my boss. Is he upset because you left the airport (like a bad puppy who escaped the crate!) or is it the tattoo? Who could possibly expect anyone to sit and scroll for 10 hours (9, after he took his more convenient flight home) in an airport? If I realized that’s actually what my boss expected of me, THAT would upset me more than him getting butthurt over a tattoo.
        Your problem is that you work for a petty man, and it’s very likely he will continue to hold this against you in future promotions or raises. What would that write-up even say?? That’s why I believe you need to correct his broken logic now, and not let another day go by with him thinking he’s in the right. (But professionally, of course.)

        1. constant_craving*

          I think OP just wants to illustrate she was off the clock- she was expected to be working in any way.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          “Instead of sitting where I placed her like a Barbie in a toy airport, she had the audacity to exhibit free will!”

        3. londonedit*

          Yeah, the point is that if she’d spent the 10 (!!) hours in the airport like her boss wanted, she wouldn’t have been expected to spend that time working. So there’s no real difference between sitting in the airport and deciding to go sightseeing or shopping or doing anything else – including going to get a tattoo – during that time. I think the boss just has an issue with tattoos in general – I don’t think he’d have reacted the same way if the OP had said they’d been off to see a local landmark or whatever.

      6. Violet Evergreen*

        How does your work handle airport time?

        My work considers time spent waiting at the airport to be work time, and I enter it into my timesheet. If my boss made me carpool to the airport 10 hours early (what? you can’t even check your bags that early!), you bet I would charge all 10 hours. Now, if left the airport to do something fun, I would not charge that time.

        Even if you do not have a billable hours model or are not hourly or there is not some circumstance where you have to enter the time in a timesheet, if you stay in the airport and cool your heels, it’s work time. If you leave the airport to get a tattoo or go to a museum or go shopping, that is personal time. If the problem is that your boss thinks you were on work time, try talking to him about whether it would be different if you had gone to the zoo or shopping or something.

      7. Susannah*

        Agree, OP – this isn’t remotely like staying out late drinking on a work trip when you have to perform the next day. You made good use of down time and your manager is a jerk.

      8. Ann O'Nemity*

        Then that’s a good question for the boss – was it unprofessional to get a tattoo on personal/down time? Or is the the real concern that you didn’t get in a full day of work? In other words, in this situation, did the boss want you to take PTO?

        Two other things to note:
        (1) The federal FLSA does not require compensation for travel outside of working hours that requires an overnight stay, though state laws may vary. So your boss may not agree that the 4 pm – 1 am flight is “work,” and instead expects you to be working during your normal hours. Legal, but sucky.

        (2) Checking emails, browsing the internet, and maybe doing some professional development at the airport waiting for a flight is more justifiable as “work” than getting a tattoo or going sightseeing. In terms of billable hours, I could bill that time at the airport but not the tattoo! Still, your 4 am – 1 am day sounds like hell and a reasonable employer would have thanked you for it.

        1. Lydia*

          All sorts of nope on this. The OP stated in her letter that she is VERY limited in what she can do in public due to the nature of her work. And let’s stop requiring people to be on constantly. What an exhausting way to live.

          1. Thegreatprevaricator*

            I don’t understand how it’s expected that someone use their pto to be in an airport. If it is then does the employee get overtime for the hours spent in an airport – not a location the employee chose to be in plus the travel time? Or time in lieu? No? Then it shouldn’t be required that the employee is ‘working’ during that time.

      9. goddessoftransitory*

        Couldn’t agree more, OP! Especially because you literally could not work on stuff on your laptop/phone, either at the airport or anywhere else.

        Your boss wasn’t working during his flight, it sounds like, or on his way home in a cab/Uber he probably expensed, or during dinner with his family while he expected you to be eating a fifteen dollar hot dog and scrolling listicles. That you instead did something you wanted to do while under no work obligations whatsoever is totally fine!

      10. Bugalugs*

        I haven’t read through all the comments so forgive me if you’ve answered this already but we’re you charging the time waiting to the company to be reimbursed. Like banked time to be taken at another time (PTO)? Or overtime or something like that? That’s the only way I can see there might be an issue otherwise your boss is being really weird about this and quite frankly crappy for just assuming you’d sit at the airport and do nothing for 10 hours.

      11. I Have RBF*

        … my “work” for the day was travel which just so happened to be in the evening. My free time, which normally happens to be in the evening, took place during the day.

        Bingo! This is exactly what it was. Your paid time was the flight time, not the bulk of the wait time. Requiring you to waste your own time waiting in an airport was ridiculous.

      12. Editrix*

        Hang on. You were at the airport 10 hours early for a 4PM flight – so you were there, at the latest, by 5.30 AM, so presumably that meant getting up circa 4 AM for a mid-afternoon flight. For no reason whatsoever.

        Never mind the tattoo weirdness, that alone makes your manager an arse.

      13. NaoNao*

        I would have had the same thought, and most of my bosses would have believed the work day starts at your typical hour (8AM or whatever) and extends into 1 AM, you don’t get to shift the workday to the flying part. It’s crappy and I hate it, but *most* bosses for some reason consider flying not part of the workday or have some weird gray-area martyr culture where they fly on their own time, work during the flight, find ways to work off the VPN, fly into City A and go straight to the office with a suitcase in tow, and on and on. It’s all charades about how “busy” and “important” they are and how much sacrifice they’ve made for a company that couldn’t give two craps ultimately.

        I wrote in with a question about flying back to home base/home city immediately after meetings, because more than once colleagues or leadership acted confused and taken aback that I would work through the workday at City A and then spend the night and fly back to home base in the AM. There was clearly something I was missing, and I had to ask about it, and the comments were illuminating. Basically many managers don’t want you to take ANY free time during “work hours” and for some reason flying counts in their mind as some kind of leisure time (eyeroll).

    3. Kali*

      Optics for whom though? Literally no one would know if OP hadn’t told the boss. I doubt OP is wearing a tshirt saying that she got a tattoo on “company time”, which this barely is. She cost the company literally nothing and had no work she was shirking.

      1. RunShaker*

        optics isn’t an issue for majority of companies, reasonable companies so I disagree as well. I’ve traveled for few years for conferences and client meetings. There will be down time and as a professional adult, managed my downtime and followed company polices. I’m also tatted up. Kept them covered for professional meeting but downtime is yours to manage.

    4. There You Are*

      Nah, sitting in an airport for 10 hours is NOT “company time,” even if the work is something that can be done on a laptop in a public place.

      First of all, they’d already had at least two hours of boss-and-OP time getting out of the hotel and dropping the rental car off at the airport. Add in a 10-hour wait and now you’ve got OP working, at a minimum, a 12-hour day all just for imaginary “optics”.

      OP’s boss is way wrong on this one, and in ways that other commenters have pointed out (paternalistic, misogynistic, controlling) that are hugely problematic.

      1. Deborah*

        More like a 18 hour day because then she had to take the flight and get home, which she didn’t until 1AM.

      2. Sassafrassia*

        When I was a fed, all travel time counted. If I’d ended up sitting in an airport for 10 hours for reasons beyond my control, then sitting on a 6 hour flight, then driving an hour to my house, that would have been 17 hours of “duty time,” minus whatever my normal commute was. So I could’ve then taken two days off later, using that travel time. It was golden.

    5. Beany*

      There’s any number of things OP could have done in that time when work wasn’t actually possible, much less expected — read a book, gone to the gym, gone to a movie, eaten at a fancy restaurant. The difference here is that there was visible evidence of that activity the next day.

      If the company doesn’t have a “no tattoos” policy, the only person who could take offense at the optics is the only person who knows when the tattoo must have happened — the boss.

      1. Nina*

        The difference here is that there was visible evidence of that activity the next day

        If she’d, say, got a haircut, would it still have been a problem? I’m guessing no.

      2. Cochrane*

        I find that bosses like this are usually afraid of their own bosses. If OP missed that flight and was expected to be at work the next day, boss doesn’t want to explain how OP left the airport for something frivolous and he must be a crappy manager if his people think they can go roaming off airport grounds for nonsense instead of being where they were expected and paid to be.

        To be perfectly clear, OP did nothing wrong, but an optics-obsessed micromanager can and will find fault anyway.

    6. Observer*

      But from the boss’s perspective, it sounds like the employee got a tattoo on company time, which isn’t great optics.

      You mean sitting in the airport doing nothing on company time IS “great optics”?

      To the extent that there are any optics involved, the real “optics” issue is that of making someone carpool to the airport and then sit there twiddling their thumbs for 10 HOURS!

      1. Blueberry Daydream*

        ‘You mean sitting in the airport doing nothing on company time IS “great optics”?’

        Sometimes, yes. See the answer from the fed, above. Sometimes the flights you get are the flights you get, and they result in many hours of airport sitting. OP wasn’t exactly MADE to get to the airport early. It’s more, given the flights and transport options available, it was the option that made the most sense.

    7. ferrina*

      Nah, travel time isn’t the same as ‘company time’. I’ve traveled at several companies for a bunch of reasons, and as long as the work got done and the objectives were accomplished, I could arrange the rest of my day however I liked. It’s well understood that traveling is a burden and a certain amount of time will be lost in transit.

      If OP was expected to do work during her down time, that might have been an issue (though again, every company I’ve ever traveled for didn’t care when I did the work while traveling, as long as it got done). But she couldn’t have done work because the company didn’t allow her to work from public networks! She was specifically banned from doing work during that time. Would boss have cared if she read Ayn Rand? Watched all Lord of the Rings films back to back? Likely not. A tattoo is no less professional that those activities

      1. There You Are*

        If you’re salaried, tho, you’re always “on the clock” in some respects.

        But I’m literally just playing devil’s advocate and/or being pedantic, to point out that in some jobs, there isn’t a bright, clear delineation of “on the clock” and “off the clock”.

        I’m salaried and travel for work 5-6 times a year, and the only time my managers would ever expect me to work while waiting to catch a plane is if it was super time-sensitive. But then they’d comp that time later, to make up for it. “I’m sorry you didn’t get to see the Liberty Bell or Independence Hall when you were in Philly, even though you had a 6-hour wait; take the next sunny Friday off and go do something fun.”

        Because my managers are reasonable people, not controlling glassbowls who think they own me.

    8. Lydia*

      Something not being great optics is bandied about a little bit too much to make sure people behave themselves. Whatever that means.

    9. Dinwar*

      It may depend on billing. If something like this happened to me (federal contractor), I wouldn’t be able to bill for the time I spent getting a tattoo. I could, however, bill for time spent in an airport because my boss told me “Do this”. I’m a consultant; I’ll do nearly anything you pay me to do, but you’re gonna pay me to get me to do it.

      So long as the employee only charged the time they spent shuttling their boss around, and waiting on the flight, I’d say not only is this fine, but it shows better stewardship of company funds than killing 10 hours in an airport would. Finding ways to make the most out of such pockets of time is a skill I look for in people, to be honest–someone who finds a way to get a tattoo while waiting for a plane is someone who will also likely find a way to to keep productive instead of having standby time.

    10. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      “ But from the boss’s perspective, it sounds like the employee got a tattoo on company time, which isn’t great optics.”

      This is my thought. It’s an optics thing. But it doesn’t really make much sense if OP had to wait so long. Perhaps he was worried about missing the flight and/or incurring extra costs too?

      My guess is that once he thought about it, it wasn’t a big deal.

    11. The Shenanigans*

      Unless the company was paying for the time, it wasn’t their time. It was the OP’s. Just because it was sort of kind of tangential to business, if you squint, doesn’t make the time the office’s. No matter what, the boss’s reaction wasn’t reasonable. I agree with the posters who say this is an issue of the boss not liking tattoos, not liking them on women, or not liking them on anyone in tech. There are some goobers out there who think that tech workers should be more “professional” eg boring looking. Whatever the reason, it’s silly, and the boss is handling it badly.

      I agree, roll your eyes for now but keep an eye out for actual retaliation and shut it down FAST. Any comments about judgment or lack of professionalism or similar that does’t have an immediate or obvious cause should be met with “Is this because of the tattoo I got on my own time that one time I was on the way to meeting you at an out of town meeting?”. Sometimes forcing unreasonable people to say their unreasonableness out loud is enough to get them to reconsider it. Or at least reconsider acting on it.

      Alternatively, if he persists in this nonsense and tells you that you got a tattoo on company time, go to HR and ask them about it. Use a neutral “Well, I was told this time waiting in airports was company time, and I was wondering if that is true.” They will likely ask why you are asking, and then you can tell them about your boss. At any reasonable place, they will shut HIM down, not you. Of course, only you know whether HR there is reasonable.

  11. Jessica Fletcher*

    It’s pretty wild that he expected you to sit in the airport for 10 hours before your flight. I would have done some sightseeing or something instead, if there was no expectation to work from the airport. That was ridiculous in the first place!

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Exactly – would the manager have been upset if the OP had decided to do a tour of the city, go shopping, and go out for a meal in that 10 hours? I think not.

      1. Madame Arcati*

        Yes, it’s eight hours before OP could even check in so it’s not like she could go through security and use the (usually better ime) time killing options, like perhaps paying (her own money) to use a lounge. What was she supposed to do?! Is there a list of approved activities for when management drag you to an airport at 0600 in the goshdarned morning (op says in a comment above here was a four pm flight) missing hotel breakfast I should think so costing the company more in expenses? You may have a manicure but not a pedicure because feet are unprofessional. You may play a portable games console but not buy a ticket to win the sports car in the departure lounge because gambling. You may doze in a chair but not lie down on the seats lest your suit be creased (and dozing rights are revoked if you snore or dribble). You may leave the airport to meditate or attend a religious worship service but you may not get a tattoo…
        Really if the boss was bothered about what OP got up to he could have said, checkout isn’t until 1200, why don’t you have breakfast then do a few hours work (presumably possible if they’d been there for a conference) then get a taxi/public transport to the airport in time for check in? He literally made it impossible for you to work with his airport transfer silliness!

        I think as Alison says, if he is just grumpy then leave him to stew in his own juice. He’ll get over it and it clearly isn’t about what you did it’s his own attitude. But if he says or does anything as a result, act immediately!

    2. datamuse*

      When I changed planes in Taipei there was even a free bus tour you could take into the city because the layovers returning from Asia to the U.S. could be upwards of ten hours (ask me how I know!). Airports just aren’t exciting places to spend your spare time!

      1. The Ghost of Madeleine Wool*

        I wouldn’t mind getting stranged at Changi Airport in Singapore though. It’s been a while since I was there, but we did enjoy the cinema and the tropical garden (we didn’t have time to use the pool though). I had a quick look and there are even more things to do now – play areas and giant slides and sculptures. So while yes, on the whole, most airports are complete armpits, Changi is pretty OK.

        Even so, ten hours is A LOT of time to pass, and if you’re going to be sitting around, then a tattoo doesn’t strike me as any more unprofessional than trying every perfume in duty free*, getting a massage, or going down the giant slide I don’t know, 10 or 15 times.

        *maybe don’t do this for the sake of your fellow plane acquaintances.

        1. Mameshiba*

          Changi, and also Incheon in South Korea are really nice airports! Narita in Japan is pretty good as an airport but not as close to the city–can walk around the local town though, it’s got a nice temple.

      2. Lydia*

        When I was younger, I spent a LOT of time hanging out in airports because I was flying on the government’s dime, and I didn’t get to make a lot of choices about how long my layovers were. I used to LOVE airports. During the day. When shops and restaurants were open, and security was less onerous.

    3. hbc*

      Yes, I wouldn’t consider that a reasonable plan. I mean, if OP was going to be doing nothing in the hotel lobby or nothing in the airport, fine. But the default should not have been to carpool with that much time between their two flights.

    4. onetimethishappened*

      Yeah there is no way I would sit in a airport for 10 hours, I would go crazy. Unless there was some need to work (which OP said they can’t work in public places), I would def leave and do something else. Whether it was sightseeing, shopping, popping into a spa or something.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        And frankly 10 hours is a lot to ask of somebody even if they could work at the airport! Who wants to work for that many hours in a row anyway?

        1. Jessica Fletcher*

          Absolutely! I was thinking like, if she were expected to work a full 7-8 hr day, then it’s not totally ridiculous to set up in an airport cafe or lounge. Then when you’re finished, you’re a reasonable amount early for your flight. But I agree, ideally if you had to work, you could choose a different setting!

          1. onetimethishappened*

            Yes, if I had to work I think I would go to a local cafe or library or something. Not an airport. I do tend to get a little overwhelmed in airports. Esp busy ones.

            I got stranded in Atlanta once after an overseas flight. I was 7 months pregnant and had been up for 20 hours. I couldn’t leave the airport bc my flight was delayed and storms kept pushing it back. I couldn’t find anywhere to just lay down bc those stupid airport seats have the arm rests. I ended up buying a pillow and blanket and curled up on the floor for a few hours. I was giving it one more hour before I canceled my flight and found a hotel. My flight finally took off and I went home and slept for like 15 hours.

      2. BasketcaseNZ*

        We spent 5 hours stranded at an airport in Moscow at the end of a tour once.
        We had expected to leave our bags at the hotel and go sightseeing for the morning before a mid-afternoon shuttle, but suddenly the mid-afternoon shuttle became 10:30am.
        And the airport had nowhere to securely store our bags, and we couldn’t check them in until 1 hour before the flight. Nothing was open, there were no public transport options back into the city, nor an airport hotel to go rest in. It was hell. And this in the days before cheap data roaming existed.

        1. International traveller*

          This can be a Russian thing; I once tried to leave my luggage at the Aeropolis Hotel in Moscow after check out, only to be told, “my ne predlagaem tu sluzhbu,” or “we don’t offer that service”.

          Having said that, I recall that SVO (which may not be the airport you’re at) does offer “kamera khraneniya”.

  12. Michelle Smith*

    At my job, we are specifically encouraged to do personal things on work trips during our downtime. For example, I got to do some civil rights sightseeing on trips to Alabama and Georgia that I felt was super valuable and I probably would never have gotten to do in my personal vacations. And my boss even recommended I prioritize some of it over a Zoom meeting I would have otherwise attended if I were back home.

    My boss could not care less what I do during downtime at the airport, as long as I am not incurring unnecessary expenses that would be billed to the organization (i.e. as long as I pay for non-worked related stuff or upgrades myself). It really seems more likely to me that your boss just has a problem with tattoos. This otherwise makes zero sense.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      I know it was less-than-professional, but I did spend some time in the arcade at the Minneapolis airport when traveling with a senior person at my job. But guess what? It was fine! No one cares!

      Unless they are more “traditional” and don’t approve of visible tattoos and/or tattoos on women. It’s totally a him issue.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        See, I do NOT see spending time in a gaming arcade as unprofessional. Work travel is difficult, so wise managers and companies encourage employees to do things to make it less awful.

      2. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

        My old company paid us a per diem for food but usually on trips we were working in the factory for 12 hours straight and eating one, maybe 2 meals a day out of the vending machines. Then we would take the remaining per diem and go to the casino and gamble the rest of it.

  13. El l*

    The great economist Deirdre McCloskey is trans, and in simpler times kept getting the question, “Why transition?”

    Her response became, “Well, I was on a business trip and was bored, so I thought why not?”

  14. JT*

    Just here to say that I have done this before! While grabbing lunch on a work trip, I looked up from my seat and a tattoo shop I had been following was directly across the street. I freaked out and decided it was a sign that I needed to walk right over and get a small piece I’d been wanting.

    Did not detract from my work reasons for being there or any company money.

    Your boss is weird.

  15. Lavender*

    I’m kind of side-eyeing the fact that you had to get to the airport *ten hours* before your flight. The company couldn’t have expensed a second cab? If your boss is so concerned about you using your time professionally or productively while traveling, then surely hanging out at the airport for ten hours would have also been an issue!

    1. Lavender*

      To be clear, I’m side-eyeing the company for not figuring out better logistics, not you!

    2. OP*

      The hotel was an hour and a half from the airport. I probably could have gotten a separate cab but it made sense at the time to just share the rental car.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Okay, that removes one of the minor issues.

        Though, honestly, in this situation, a good idea would be for your manager to suggest driving to the airport then letting you keep the rental car for a few extra hours to sightsee, hang out in town, etc.

      2. Madame Arcati*

        I still think it’s daft. Your flight was at 1600 right? You could have stayed until final checkout and still been at the airport in good time. And the cost of breakfast (expensive in an airport) would be saved because the hotel meal would already have been paid for. Yet they had you leave at 0430?! Nobody I have ever worked with would expect someone to do this. But then it’s a known cultural thing isn’t it that Americans are up for much longer car journeys than my British compatriots and I, so maybe that applies to waiting in airports too…

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          No, it was weird and unnecessary to be in the airport that far ahead of time.

      3. Dog momma*

        No way I would spend 10 hrs at the airport. Esp after almost 2 hrs. in the car. I’d sleep in, have a nice breakfast, and watch some TV or get caught up with personal stuff on my phone. My back would thank me for it. And if I had to pay to get home,gladly would have done so. And turned that in for reimbursement. If they didn’t, oh well. Your boss is a nightmare. How is he in the office.. bc this doesn’t sound like a 1time thing.

    3. Sunshine*

      I was thinking this too. Hoping the carpooling was voluntary and not a bid to save a few extra pennies, because wasting 10 hours in an airport is incredibly insensitive to OP’s time!

  16. Kelly*

    This reminded me of when I was a newer employee on a work trip and met up with a friend that was in that town. My boss threw a fit and I understood this more once I realized later what an utter control freak she was. She simply didn’t like me doing anything outside of the work trip hotel and where she couldn’t have the feeling she was controlling what I was doing. Needless to say, that wasn’t the last time she threw a fit about something and I learned a lot about how NOT to manage from that boss.

  17. NYC Taxi*

    Entirely fine to get a tattoo on your own time–Suspect your boss meant “not professional on a woman”. I work part-time halfway across the country at our headquarters and have been working with a tattoo artist there on a rather large cover-up tat. My boss doesn’t care. My coworkers don’t care. No one cares. I can confidently say that ink will not compromise your professionalism.

    1. Sunshine*

      It’s just strange because he was friendly about it until OP mentioned when she got it. But it’s strange either way! Why does he care at all?!

      1. irritable vowel*

        Right – it’s the circumstances that are the problem for the boss, not the tattoo itself. Someone who’s not into tattoos might assume that this was a rash, split-second decision that perhaps reflects poorly on the character of the person getting the tattoo, not understanding that scheduling sometimes takes months, people follow artists they like to see if they have last-minute openings, etc. He may be interpreting this as drunken-sailor-on-shore-leave-type behavior. Still not justified or rational, of course.

      2. ferrina*

        He might have been friendly as a cover until he could find a reason to be mad. I’ve known a lot of people like this- they are mad at something that they know is unreasonable, so they find something else to get mad at. Because they know that their anger is unjustified, they act super nice until someone provides a justification for them to be mad (especially if they think they know what happened, and are asking to confirm so they can act indignant and angry about what happened). These are the people who tend to say “I’m not mad you said Reasonable Thing, I’m made at how you said Reasonable Thing. You should have known that I wouldn’t want to hear that at 4pm on a Tuesday! You should have waited until 3pm on Wednesday!” (Spoiler alert: 3pm Wednesday wouldn’t have been any better- they’d just use a different excuse. They were just mad you said Reasonable Thing).

        It’s really manipulative and crappy. But yeah, there’s people out there like that.

  18. Dulcinea47*

    Instead of asking him to explain his original objection, ask him to explain how it (the tattoo) is affecting your work product. If it’s not, he might think to shut up. and if he thinks it is… find a new job I guess.

  19. RunShaker*

    I’m concerned about what the OP stated in her letter as in he told the OP “she should be glad she didn’t get written up” and the “flagrant unprofessionalism.” That sounds alarming to me and I’m wondering if it could affect how he perceives her going forward. I have tattoos and try to get one in cities I’m visiting. I would be worried and wondering if I should address with him now to protect my career.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Agreed – and for this reason, I think the OP needs to push back on the reaction from the manager. Whether it is the tattoo itself or the fact that she got it while on a company business trip – her manager shouldn’t be thinking that this is either unprofessional or worthy of being written up over. It wasn’t and it isn’t.

    1. OP*

      The actual work location was in an industrial park 1.5+ hours from the airport so we only had one rental car and I didn’t feel like taking my chances with an Uber being willing to make that drive so we used his rental car to get us to the airport on time for his flight.

      1. umami*

        Ah. That makes sense. That still doesn’t seem to give him any standing over how you spent the extra time. Was he upset that you left the airport after arriving there with him, or just that you got a tattoo before you had formally left the city where the meetings were held? I’m just really struggling with identifying just what part in his mind made it unprofessional!

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          Sometimes people have strong emotional reactions and then have to “assign” that feeling to a reasonable reason, and usually come out with something unreasonable. And it’s usually not a conscious process at all. Unfortunately, those are often the same people who will double down on something because they can’t conceive of admitting to making a mistake.

      2. There You Are*

        And, yanno, there could have been a tattoo place inside the airport. Would your boss have had a fit if you got one there? Or got a massage (also available at some airports)? Or treated yourself to an expensive meal?

        His reaction is wildly out of place.

      3. Sun and clouds*

        I think you should ‘misunderstand’ his comment to mean he thought you might miss your plane. Very earnestly reassure him you would never miss a flight as that would be sooo unprofessional. Because what else could he possibly be referring to?

        1. ferrina*

          I kind of like this. The wide-eyed confusion about the issue and asking to explain themself. It must be done carefully- you want to land right between self-awareness and shame. If they feel like you made them look bad, that usually triggers and even worse reaction. Unfortunately, I used to be at a company where I used this skill a couple times a month. That was a Very Bad Place.

      4. Seriously?*

        Make sense. Glad you were able to find an Uber back and forth to the appointment. I’m guessing that the boss man was paying you the entire 10 hours? Perhaps he was feeling he shouldn’t be paying for you to get a tattoo. Otherwise, it’s your free time to do what you want.

      5. goddessoftransitory*

        Up until that point, that makes total sense. A snag or snarl could have made him late for his own flight. It’s the “and now sit around the airport for hours on end after I leave” bit that gets me. You didn’t charge an Uber or anything else to the company, or get the rental car back, or anything else that could have cost them a dime.

      6. Madame Arcati*

        Hang on, so your flight was at 1600 I think you said? And you were ten hours early, so that’s 0600, then an hour and a half to get there…you were finishing up at an industrial park at 0430? Had you had to pull an all nighter? I’d say after all that you deserve a tattoo as a reward!!

        1. OP*

          Flight was at 4:20 Pm. We got to the airport at 7.

          We were able to make it in about 1.5 hours but this trip was in LA so realistically the traffic would have been way worse as we approached rush hour. Probably. I’m not from LA but I’ve heard the horror stories.

          We finished up at the industrial park the day prior so I was well enough rested.

  20. MEH Squared*

    I blanched at Alison’s example of eating a sandwich that was left in a car all day, but she’s right. Your boss is being ridiculous. You had ten hours to wait for your flight. Whether you stayed in the airport the whole time scrolling through your phone or went and got a tattoo (on your own dime!), it does not matter one whit. As a female-presenting person with four tattoos, I would have done exactly what you did in that circumstance. As for your boss, I would probably let it go if he does not mention it again, but file it away for further knowledge. In other words, what Alison wrote in her final paragraph. Also, congrats on getting an impromptu tat from an artist you love. It sounds like it was meant to be!

    1. Bed of evil and lettuce*

      Maybe the sandwich was the Broodwich! I don’t think I’d be tempted, but I’m not gonna judge anyone who wants to try wheat harvested from Hell’s half-acre. (Though, like Master Shake, I’d agree the sun-dried tomatoes are disgusting. Pick ’em off. No acid reflux AND you don’t end up trapped in the Broodwich Dimension.)

  21. RCB*

    I get the “let’s leave this alone and hope it never comes up again” mentality, but I’ve also lived through way too many times where something was let fester and it did rear its ugly head again because it wasn’t addressed, and by that time the damage had been severely done, so I think you need to talk to your boss and come to an understanding. I think there is a real risk that he may overlook you for raises, promotions, etc. if you don’t clear the air with him, and unfortunately you won’t know about that until it’s way too late.

    1. Properlike*

      Yeah, I think it’s worth a “check-in” with your HR to ask how you violated company time because your boss has brought it up more than once. Likely they will think it’s ridiculous and tell him so, but if not, at least there will be a record if he later retaliates.

  22. Tea Pot Painter*

    As someone who has witnessed more than a few coworkers get tattoos on work trips – the only time it has been at all unprofessional was the person who got a big piece on day 1 by ditching a meeting and then spent the rest of the week in pain and constantly complaining and putting on lotion and such. That was incredibly unprofessional.

    What OP did? Good grief no one should care! If you’d popped out of the airport on your *10 hour wait* to go to a museum would your boss be so upset? And honestly making someone spend 10 hours in an airport is just cruel. If one of my reports said they did that I’d be happy they found a productive way to kill some time!

    1. umami*

      That was my thought, too; she got it literally just before traveling to leave the work trip, not during the trip, so it had zero impact on her ability to perform during the trip, she didn’t miss her flight, there was no issue whatsoever.

    2. Lucky Meas*

      That first paragraph is what I expected from the title. OP must have missed a flight or meeting, or was visibly healing while meeting with clients, or missed out on business dinners/networking in order to do get the tattoo… nope…

  23. Lcsa99*

    Maybe your boss thought you were trying to pull one over on him? Like a kid leaving the house for a party as soon as their parents left, he doesn’t believe that you did this on the spur of the moment; and instead left the airport as soon as he was gone, so you could get the tattoo. It still wouldn’t really be any of his business, but that’s the only thing I can remotely see him objecting to.

    1. MindYourOwnBiscuits*

      But what would that matter either? Their flights were for whatever reason many many hours apart and she was going to sit and wait there or somewhere else either way.

      1. Lcsa99*

        I am not saying I understand his objection or that he was right – I am saying this is the only part I can see – that he thought she purposely deceived him to get a tattoo.

    2. Observer*

      Maybe your boss thought you were trying to pull one over on him? Like a kid leaving the house for a party as soon as their parents left, he doesn’t believe that you did this on the spur of the moment; and instead left the airport as soon as he was gone, so you could get the tattoo.

      That’s gross. I mean, I don’t think that it’s so unlikely. But what difference would it make if it were planned or on the spur of the moment? You say “like a kid leaving the house”. Except that the OP is NOT a “kid” who needs the permission of her boss to get a tattoo! She didn’t need him to not know to “be able” to get the tattoo.

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      Why shouldn’t she leave the airport for any reason she wants? After they returned the rental car there was no reason for her to stay–her boss is presumably an adult who could check in for his own flight without her there.

  24. Don't Comment Often*

    Did I read this right? Your boss expected you to go to the airport 10 HOURS before your flight left? Why? To save a few bucks on Uber? That’s insane. I know that’s not the issue of this letter but that floored me.

    1. Cochrane*

      If boss is a micromanaging suck up, it looks great to higher ups that one can keep “expense discipline” during business travel and make an underling obediently wait nearly half a day for their flight in the process. Jerk game respects jerk game.

    2. doreen*

      Apparently , they were an hour and a half away from the airport. I wouldn’t want to take my chances on getting an Uber willing to do that.

  25. TootsNYC*

    If you’d gone to get a haircut, or a hair color, how would that have been different?
    Or if you’d gone clothes shopping?

    Men get a shave and a haircut at the airport, or on a layover, all the time. (If you’re Bill Clinton, you get shit for it.)

    Is it because you left the airport? But you had so much time–if you’d gone to a local museum for 4 hours, what would it have mattered?

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      Okay, the Clinton thing was because that process held up some other air traffic due to Air Force One being on the tarmac for extra time. It was a legit complaint, but (as are so many things) got completely blown out of proportion.

  26. OhNoYouDidn't*

    If you had skipped a session, or missed a meeting, or missed a deadline because of getting a tattoo? Sure. But that would be the case whether you were at home or on a work trip. This is not normal. You did nothing wrong.

  27. OP*

    OP here. Regarding the time spent at the airport: the actual work location was in an industrial park 1.5+ hours from the airport so we only had one rental car and I didn’t feel like taking my chances with an Uber being willing to make that drive so we used his rental car to get us to the airport on time for his flight.

    Also possibly relevant: I work from home full time and I have two small kids. We have dedicated childcare for them but my day to day involves either sitting in an office alone or going to one of the common areas of my house where I hear “mamma. mamma. mamma” approximately once every 28 seconds. I knew what I was getting into when booking flights and it never even occurred to me to be annoyed about the downtime. I was kind of excited to be able to people watch without having to actually interact with said people and to drink a coffee while it was still hot.

    1. umami*

      Then I wonder (just pure speculation here) if he thinks you were making up the fact that you just happened upon a chance to get the tattoo, and had intentionally booked a late flight in order to do so but didn’t tell him? Still feels like a stretch, and it still shouldn’t matter since you were flying cross-country anyway and it wasn’t a typical work day, but MAYBE that is what he found unprofessional? IDK

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Unless the later flight was a lot more expensive or something, that still isn’t his business, though.

    2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      Hi OP. This makes me even more convinced that you were violating your boss’s dated paradigm. A work-from-home mother, instead of rushing home to be with her kids or doing something “appropriate” (e.g., read a book, have tea, knit a sweater, whatever) instead gets a tattoo. While he used the word unprofessional, he probably wanted to say “unladylike”.

      This is definitely your boss’s problem, not yours. Please go to HR if he doesn’t drop this ASAP.

      1. metadata minion*

        “Read a book, have tea, knit a sweater” literally does describe what I usually do while waiting for a plane, and now I kind of want to get a tattoo just to spite the LW’s boss :-b

    3. Properlike*

      Oh my gosh, I feel this. 10 hours ANYWHERE without your small kids is heaven, including minor inpatient surgery (plus painkillers.)

      1. OP*

        I did. Well, we each booked our own. I knew what the delay would be when I booked my flight. I also didn’t have a lot of options at the time. It was fly at 7:30 AM which I didn’t want to do because I’m not a morning person and I don’t want to get to the airport that early, the 4:00 flight that I actually booked, or a true red eye at 9 pm to arrive at 6 the next morning.

        1. Observer*

          It’s on your boss that you didn’t have a second car. And you can order an Uber in advance, so that wouldn’t have to be a problem.

          But your boss knew about the lag, and it was based on a perfectly calculations. So, there is just nothing there for the boss to get bent out of shape about.

    4. Empress Matilda*

      Ooh, that is entirely relevant, and I’d have done the same in your place. You mean I get an ENTIRE DAY, awake, all by myself, with no parenting? Sign me up!!

      I mean, your boss is still being a jerk about the tattoo, but I withdraw my objection to your pre-departure time at the airport. Take it where you can get it!

  28. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    Your boss is being ridiculous. If I found out one of my direct reports was able to get a spur of the moment tattoo from an artist they loved on a work trip I’d be ecstatic for them. It’s a story I’d tell other people and end with, “I mean, how cool is THAT?!”

  29. Fluffy Fish*

    Fully agree your bosses reaction was bananapants and wrong.

    But now you know something valuable about him – he can be utterly unreasonable. Which means he could be again – over a tattoo or something else entirely. I think most of us wish we had something cool, confident and reasonable in response to out of line comments.

    So now is a fantastic time to work on stock phrases to respond to said bananapants statements. “Can you explain…”, “What do you mean by?”, “My personal time is not relevant to work…”

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Oh and you also know valuable information on what NOT to share with him – which is up to and including honestly anything personal. So you can practice deflection statements as well.

  30. hereforthecomments*

    I’ll be up front and say that I don’t like tattoos, at all, on anyone, for any reason. So I replaced “getting a tattoo” while waiting on a flight, with “got my hair colored/cut” while waiting on a flight (something others might notice if they’d just seen you and you look different). Would your boss have thought that was unprofessional? What about shopping for a new outfit or shoes? I think it has more to do with it being a tattoo.

    1. Observer*

      You could be right. But that doesn’t make it any more reasonable.

      This reminds me of the letter about the woman who threw a fit over the LW’s tattoos.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Weird, it’s never occurred to me to form an opinion on what other people do to their bodies.

      1. Quill*

        Opinions have been formed but I have known better than to say them since I was in elementary school

      2. Kyrielle*

        This. If your plans for a long wait at the airport included *me* getting a tattoo, I would be upset. But beyond that? Nah. Except if you were visibly excited by it / happy with it, because I *do* like seeing people getting to do things that make them happy. And there is no way that later flight, getting in at 1 am, wasn’t cheaper than earlier alternatives (if there were any).

      3. Madame Arcati*

        CommanderBanana that is to your credit but it’s true to say that plenty of people have to problem forming and expressing such opinions, especially about what women do with their bodies!

  31. Gender Menace*

    This is so wild to me, because at my last professional conference one of our vendors literally hired a tattoo artist to do industry-relevant flash pieces after panels and dinners were over.

    I know norms vary wildly between industries, but this is definitely more of an issue with your boss’s taste than you being “unprofessional”. What if you had gone and gotten your hair done instead, or just went shopping? It’s unrealistic for him to expect you to wait around and do nothing for ten hours, off the clock.

    1. Redactle*

      My industry is one of the few left with very formal norms, where visible tattoos are an absolute don’t (I am in awe at the thought of a professional conference with a tattoo artist!)… and what OP did would still be considered totally acceptable and unremarkable here. Definitely a boss issue.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Seriously. I work with the boring, staid people, and this is BY FAR not even in the ballpark of the most insane thing I’ve seen on a business trip, let alone at a conference. A tattoo isn’t really any different from a manicure or haircut/color, so I don’t know what OP’s boss is on about.

  32. fgcommenter*

    Make sure you do not agree that it is unprofessional. It is a popular scam by bosses to take something they have a personal issue with and label it as “unprofessional” to dishonestly assign some weight to it. If he fires you because he feels offended that you got a tattoo (which he can do in at-will employment), you can easily collect unemployment unless he can show that you were fired for cause, the cause being behaving in an unprofessional manner that you have admitted to. While that may not automatically disqualify you, it will make it less easily collected.

    The longer he keeps flagellating you with accusations of flagrant unprofessionalism, the more tempting it will be to apologize and agree in the hopes it will stop his temper-tantrum. Hopefully awareness of this scam reduces that temptation.

  33. oranges*

    Regarding any potential future conversations you may elect to have about it, I always like to ask, “what’s your opposition to this?” when someone is being vague and don’t appear to have a leg to stand on about something.

    And “it’s just unprofessional” isn’t a good enough reason. He needs to either walk it back or state clearly what policy you’ve violated.

  34. H.Regalis*

    You did nothing wrong and were not being unprofessional. You were off the clock killing time before a flight. The only possible thing I can imagine him objecting to would be if you had gone there wearing a shirt with a company logo, which I think you would have mentioned had that been the case. He’s being overly controlling and possibly sexist.

    Alison’s advice is good. If you think it’ll blow over, roll your eyes and let it go. If he does actually try to discipline you for it, be prepared to stand up for yourself and possibly talk to HR; but do not a second think that you did anything wrong by getting a tattoo on your on time.

  35. Happy*

    What a tool! He wasn’t even in town anymore. It’s not like you blew off a work commitment to get the tattoo.

    10 hours sitting in a airport when you don’t have to be is…a lot.

  36. Jinni*

    OMG I had a friend with the opposite experience. On a work trip before the pandemic, the boss wanted to take all her reports to get matching tattoos. My friend had such a hard time navigating this and not alienating her boss. I think in the end the boss got a tattoo and maybe one of the employees, but not my friend.

      1. Jinni*

        Nope, it was publishing. The editor was the darling of the moment (several of her hand-picked authors hit NYT in a six-month period). She ran her imprint like a cult, though.

    1. CSRoadWarrior*

      Yikes! Your friend’s situation just shows that the complete opposite is just as inappropriate. Also, why force someone to get a tattoo if they didn’t want one?

  37. Buffy Rosenberg*

    Urgg, this reminds me of a former boss who was very paternalistic with all the women in his team. I wonder if this guy is like that.

  38. irene adler*

    Call me stupid, but I’m not clear what part of this was the unprofessional part:

    -the tattoo itself

    -changing the plan for the OP’s 10 hour wait time by leaving the airport. Boss assumed OP would remain in the airport for those 10 hours: “boss was okay with me reading, scrolling the internet, or otherwise doing nothing to kill the time in the airport.”

    Boss should clarify here. Or I need to read more closely. Probably the latter.

    I wonder if there’s a company insurance issue here. Maybe employee coverage when out on business travel isn’t covered when one goes beyond the intended travel sites (the airport, hotel, meeting venue, then back again). Sure, a long shot. And easily communicated to OP if this is indeed the case. No need for anger.

    I used to catch hell from boss when I would run an errand for work during the workday (pick up batteries at the store, drop off water samples at the lab, etc.). Said I wasn’t covered by the company insurance should I get into a car wreck so I was forbidden to do these things (my vehicle insurance wouldn’t pay if they knew I was running the errand for work). So I did these errands after work. There was no one else whose job this was.

    1. Observer*

      Boss should clarify here.

      Why? What difference does it make? He doesn’t get to decide if she gets a tattoo or what she does during her wait time.

      I wonder if there’s a company insurance issue here. Maybe employee coverage when out on business travel isn’t covered when one goes beyond the intended travel sites (the airport, hotel, meeting venue, then back again).

      That’s not how any of this works. At all. Either the wait time was “work” or it wasn’t.

      As for your former boss, he was straight up lying to you. If you were hourly, what he did was also illegal. Because he was making you work for the company without paying for this hours. And there is no doubt that if you had gotten into an accident while running those errands, your insurance would not have covered and your company would have been on the hook. Your not being covered under the insurance would not have changed that – it would only have insured that the company would have to pay the cost, not the insurance.

        1. HearTwoFour*

          Not stupid, because you have the same questions as everyone here. Observer’s response to you was about 30% too harsh.
          However she is most comfortable, OP should get clarification on what the boss thinks is unprofessional, so that she can properly address/correct his thinking.

          1. Observer*

            I’m not sure what either of you is responding to, TBH. Why is is “harsh” of me or an implication of anyone’s intelligence, to point out that a prior boss lied to an employee?

            Same question for pointing out that it doesn’t really matter what the Boss was thinking. It’s not that @Irene Adler is “stupid” for not understanding what was unprofessional, because there actually isn’t anything unprofessional in the OP’s behavior. It’s that there is nothing for the boss to *legitimately* clarify here.

  39. Just Me*

    I’ve been a bit busy lately and have not visited Ask a Manager as often as usual. But having been reading the blog more frequently recently, I’ve noticed a lot of posts that deal with odd or inappropriate remarks or behavior.

    Has the pandemic and other recent stressors made us all cranky or rude? Or out of line?

    1. I Need Coffee*

      I personally think it is a mixture of political climate and the pandemic. People seem to have forgotten how to coexist and practice civility.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Yes, indeed. I am amazed, for instance, how many openly drunk people I talk to on the phone at my job before noon on a weekday.

    3. Quill*

      Based on the number of things posted just today linking back to questions from 2015 (otherwise known as before any political or personal stressor you care to name looked very relevant to today) I think it’s just normal fluctuation from baseline human insensitivity.

  40. Purple Jello*

    I think I’d go to my boss and say something like: It’s been bothering me that you thought I was unprofessional on our work trip, but I wanted to let you know that I would not have done anything to miss my flight. I *know* that would have been unprofessional, and I didn’t want you to think I would have done that.

    If possibly missing your flight wasn’t what he was talking about (possible spoiler – it probably wasn’t) then he’d have to spell out clearly what he WAS talking about. Is a visible tattoo against company policy? Is personal use of down-time against the travel policy? I can’t think of anything else that could be a “valid” violation of “professionalism” or company policy.

    Make him spell it out.

  41. Observer*

    OP, is it possible that the reason your boss is ticked off is because this kind of arrangement (where you sit at the airport for an extra 8-9 hours) is not in keeping with expectations at your company? Then when you explained about this in a call with others, this piece of ridiculousness got exposed.

    1. Violet Evergreen*

      OP has left some explanatory comments on why she got to the airport 10 hours early. It made total sense.

      1. Observer*

        I saw what the OP posted. And yes, it kind of made sense, but it also was not necessary, because they didn’t have to share a car on the one hand, and on the other hand you can order an Uber in advance, so you don’t have to worry that the driver won’t want to go to the airport.

        Even if there really was no way to get a second car and they actually tried to get an uber and couldn’t, the optics that so many people are mentioning could look really bad, and it would be hard for Boss to explain.

  42. PivotPivot*

    Was the LW wearing a company branded top? I know that me and my colleagues are given chapter and verse where we can and cannot go while wearing company branded apparel.

  43. lb*

    our teapot factory used to be across the street from a tattoo parlor and on friday the 13th, they were having their usual promo – a bunch of hourly employees got tattooed on their lunch break since the rule was “no tattoos on the clock”.

    i’ve also gotten a tattoo on a business trip on my day off… no one said anything at all!

    1. SB*

      Teapot factory? Of course I knew teapots are a thing, I have several, but it didn’t occur to me that there would be whole factories dedicated to making just teapots. I love this.

      1. Quill*

        It’s on the AAM list of implausible professions to ascribe to letter writers if they need to go into detail about their job. I believe the regular rotation is “chocolate teapot factory” “Llama groomer” and “Beverage Snorkeler”

      2. Numbat*

        is possible they actually worked at one but it’s also used on this site as a stand in for people’s actual workplaces. like “llama grooming”.

  44. Budgie Buddy*

    I’m a little confused about the details about sensitive data and limits on the work OP can do in public. Is this just to clarify that OP wasn’t expected to work from the airport? It doesn’t sound like she was using any company accounts to message the tattoo artist. Nothing she did was a security issue.

    1. Batman*

      Yeah, I think OP included those details to demonstrate that she could not spend her time doing substantial work in, say, an airport lounge and therefore there was no chance that her boss could think she was wasting work time.

    2. Sunshine*

      Yes, I think this was just to demonstrate that there was no expectation that the OP would be working during the 10-hour wait – like if the boss expected that but OP went and got a tattoo instead, that could be a reason for the boss to be upset.

    3. OP*

      Yes. I handle sensitive financial documents and can’t work in public locations (per company policy). The emphasis there was just to illustrate that a) my boss knew the timing and b) knew that I would not be working in any meaningful capacity. And even if I had been on a plane during the middle of the day I still would not have been working other than maybe answering a few quick one sentence emails. Which I did anyway from the tattoo parlor.

  45. Llama Wrangler*

    I wonder if the boss thinks you intentionally booked a later flight to get the tattoo. Could the boss think that you couldd have booked an earlier flight, and worked a couple of hours after arriving home, or been better rested for the following day? Perhaps they think you should have taken a vacation day?

    Otherwise, I agree with everyone else. If the boss knew there was no earlier flight, their reaction is over the top.

  46. HonorBox*

    OP since I see you’re in the comments, I have a question, as I’m REALLY puzzled.

    Why did you need to carpool back to the airport? Whose decision was that? It just baffles me that you’d be expected to sit for 10 hours and really have no real opportunity to do anything other than waste time. Even if you’re in a shared rental car, the additional cost of an Uber has to outweigh having someone sit and be entirely unproductive and really uncomfortable. You could have stayed at your hotel and worked some more before you checked out. And you certainly could have found much better things to do than sit for more than a workday in the airport twiddling your thumbs.

    To your question… I don’t know that it is worthwhile to challenge your boss unless you have a solid relationship and you know it is a solid relationship. Because it otherwise seems dangerous given that your boss appears to be someone who a) expects an employee to sit for 10 hours idly just so they can carpool to the airport, thinking that’s reasonable and b) flips out about that employee then getting a tattoo during that down time. And that’s the kind of person who is going to be unreasonable in general.

  47. Maree*

    I wonder if there are any liability issues. We have to sign a contract before work travel that negates us doing any number of things the company’s insurer find risky (travelling in certain types of vehicle, going to certain parts of town, being out without a buddy – all dependent on location of course). I wonder if a tattoo would affect insurance? Our cover allows emergency dental for example but not planned dental. So we could go to the dentist for a tooth ache but not a planned extraction (because that country was cheaper) in case something went wrong and medical care was required, which would cause insurance issues for the company.

    1. GreenShoes*

      Are you in the US? What you are describing sounds very unusual. Typically there is no additional insurance needs for a traveling employee.

    2. aebhel*

      I feel like if the OP signed a contract negating her getting a tattoo, that would have been a relevant piece of information to include. Absent that, there’s no reason to think that insurance has anything to do with this (and in any case, this seems like travel within the country).

    3. Observer*

      International travel might have some issues that way. But I would have expected the OP to be aware of that. And if this were the problem and the OP missed the memo, the boss should have said so instead of some nonsense about “unprofessional” behavior.

  48. SB*

    I would probably be mad too, not that you got one but that my flight didn’t allow for me to get one too! Shame we can’t share pics because seeing other people’s tattoos makes me happy!

  49. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    It sounds like your boss is thinking of that long layover as a workday, and ignoring that your explicit instructions from him were not to do any work once you got to the airport.

    Yes, it’s a workday in the sense that you had to be somewhere with him on company business earlier in the day. You did the work you were being paid for on this trip, and you paid for the tattoo yourself, rather than expensing an extra couple of drinks or overpriced appetizers at an airport restaurant.

    If your boss was trying to ruin your morale, he found a cheap way to do it. But he’s not the one writing in for advice, unfortunately.

  50. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    Boss is chief constable of the Fun Police – he’s against visible fun on a work trip even during your own time.
    He wants you to be a boring conservative misery guts, like him.

    You did absolutely nothing wrong.

  51. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    You were supposed to suffer during that 10 hour wait, not have fun

    1. NaoNao*

      Yep, that’s my take too. For some reason I don’t get, about 70% of my bosses would have had an issue with this too, despite lip service to the contrary about WLB.
      There’s this attitude of any time work is on the table in the slightest, the entire day is to be either dedicated to work or thinking about work or “acting busy”. Breaking up work time with breakfast with boss, carpooling, and then taking a several-hour ‘break’ instead of writing sentences on a blackboard for 10 hours in the airport is not suffering so they’re upset because THEY put “work” or *any work adjacent activities* first. These are people who go out with clients until 3 AM and then show up to 8AM meetings after doing a punishing workout and act condescending and irritated with you if you decide not to stay up until 3.

  52. Anonymous for This*

    I took 4 days off for various tattoos at my last job and no one cared. I didn’t tell them about the first one, but I was in the tattoo chair when my boss called during the second one. I had to fess up because I didn’t want him to hear the buzzing and think it was something else when I answered the phone.

  53. a clockwork lemon*

    I didn’t parse this detail on my first read of the letter but OP says she went to the airport with her boss, they arrived one hour before boss’s flight, and that two hours into LW’s wait she went and got her surprise tattoo. This means that the boss…was already gone by the time she even made the decision. And not only gone, but gone to another state entirely!

    It doesn’t make a difference to my own interpretation, which is that boss is overstepping in a very weird and pretty bananas way, but the timing of it does make me feel like boss’s reaction is even more egregious. It’s one thing to have quirks and norms about shared time on a work trip, but this is more in line with getting pissed that your employee grabbed a cancellation spot at the local tattoo shop on their way home from the office.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      I mean, the guy was probably home with his family by the time she was getting the tattoo–he was done with his workday and would consider it ridiculous if she’s said that it was unprofessional for him to be having dinner while she was still at the airport.

  54. LJ*

    Without wading into possible judgement against a woman getting tattoos, I could at a stretch see some logic like:
    1. “OP was supposed to be working during the work day”
    2. “We had to get to the airport for my flight and the transportation options sucked, so OP had to wait at the airport for 10 hours. OP can’t work at the airport, but oh well”
    3. “OP did something that’s personal and kind of a ‘big deal’ on time they were supposed to be working” (in a vacuum, while ignoring point #2)

    (I say ‘big deal’ because as a person unfamiliar with tattoos, I’d have thought they were like surgery appointments that you have to scope out, plan, take a day off, etc)

    That’s not to excuse the boss for continuing to harp on it, but I can see where the initial surprised ‘unprofessional’ reaction may have came from

    1. OP*

      You can scope out an plan but I’ve been obsessing over this particular parlor and artist for a while so the planning was already done. Most of the planning is in researching the artist and the studio to make sure it’s legit and clean and they can do what you want.

      Beyond that the actual tattoo is pretty easy. You can schedule in advance and a lot of artists will accept walk ins if they have the time.

      For this particular tattoo I saw the appointment so I went in and picked from their pre-designed art. I was in and out of the studio in about an hour total. Got a coffee, took an Uber back to the airport, still had 2 hours before my flight to watch Love is Blind.

  55. Yeeshhh-no*

    Honestly, at first when I saw the question I thought, “of course it’s unprofessional”, but then when I read the circumstances I changed my mind. There are certain windows of time during business trips that are considered ‘free time’ where you’re technically not working but I would expect certain professional standards, like not over drinking or going to strip clubs, and for a tattoo I normally would say to just wait until you got home to get it done. But when you’re clearly done with all work and just returning home at this point, it’s definitely an overreaction on the bosses’ part. And I’m very traditional in terms of social and office norms.

    1. TeaCoziesRUs*

      I’m not part of the tattoo community for the most part, although I’m considering a second tattoo. But I think a key aspect you are missing is that tattoos are ART – the tattoo artist IS an artist themselves. I know many people who would consider anything done by an artist they adore. It would be like loving Bob Ross (RIP), adoring his work, and discovering that he’s hosting an hour-long painting workshop while you’re on a ridiculous layover, and jumping on the opportunity. Does this framing help you understand better why OP jumped on the opportunity?

  56. HearTwoFour*

    OP, you should tell your boss you want that write-up, and then add your hours, Uber, and tattoo to your expense sheet.

  57. Journey of man*

    It wasn’t until he noticed the tattoo the next day. This makes me think he is just Mr. Petty Conservative. Had he not seen the ink, there would never have been an issue.

  58. Extra anony*

    I would check your employee manual or guidelines on work travel and down time. If nothing you did violated the policy, he has no grounds to criticize. I personally would not ask his opinion about what made in unprofessional in his eyes.

    I do wonder if he thinks you basically wanted a free day off, since you said upthread there was an early flight (presumably the one he took?) but you got the later one so as to not wake up early, but then woke up early anyway and got there ten hours ahead in his mind in order to get this tattoo. I am NOT saying you were trying to do this, but maybe that’s where this is coming from, plus a side of anti-tattoo?

  59. Ellis Bell*

    OP2, how about making your reasons more vague initially as a sort of training wheels tactic until you feel more comfortable? So instead of mentioning your explicit plans or reasons you just refer to “an appointment”, “commitments”, “plans” or “leave I need to take”. You might also want to frame it to yourself as though of course they will ask for details if they need to, and what you are saying is just the opening of the conversation.

  60. Coco ran*

    I wonder if it’s also to do with OP talking about it while on a conference call with others (even though he brought it up!). I can see a boss who cares a lot about his own image freak out that his employee was talking about it doing something non-work related on a work trip in front of other folks? Still makes it inappropriate, but would explain why the reaction was over the top.

    1. Observer*

      How does that work, exactly? Boss asks a clearly personal question – ie about a new tattoo that they noticed – but then calls the answer “unprofessional”? What exactly would have been a “professional” response to the question?

  61. Miyon Im*

    My immediate first reaction was “wow what a coincidence, very cool!” I really don’t understand such uptight people. You’re not a slave, it’s your body and your time.

  62. Student*

    Sometimes, you need to make a conscious decision to not treat certain co-workers, and especially bosses, like friends. This is a warning signal that you can’t talk about otherwise-reasonable, friendly things with this specific boss, so pull way back on sharing with him. That’s unfortunate, but happens a lot.

    Instead of giving him the whole story of the tattoo, you can leave most or all of the information out while giving him a short but true answer to his literal question, instead of answering his implied-but-unstated question. Something like, “Yep, I got a new tattoo! I think it came out great. Still a little sore, but it’s getting better quickly.”

    If he asks something more pointed or invasive, the Miss Manners technique of answering over-personal questions with a little humor and a lot of deflection often works, as does the politician technique of answering a slightly different question that you wish they’d asked instead of the one they actually asked. For example, if a boss asked me exactly when within the last 24 hours of my personal time I got a tattoo, I’d try brushing him off with, “Not on the clock. Why do you ask?” or “Gee, I left the receipt with the time stamp in my other pants, boss, and I can barely remember what I had for breakfast this morning! I’m gonna need more coffee if we’re gonna ask hard questions this early in the day – be right back!” Choice between the two would depend on the boss’s normal tone toward people: formal vs more casual.

  63. MapleHill*

    When I first read the headline, I could see how it might be seen as unprofessional (like maybe you showed up with a fresh wound to a meeting or skipped out on something work-related). When I read the actual situation though, it’s totally fine. I think your boss is being weird about it and wonder if something else is going on. Maybe he wanted company while he waited (still ridiculous but it’s so odd). I’m not a person that likes tattoos (if that’s the issue), but that should not result in this response.

    Maybe approach it like, I’m sorry it upset you, but I’m a little confused by your response. For the future, I want to be certain we have the same expectations on work trips for my free time and want to understand why this wasn’t an acceptable use of my time or what you expected me to be doing during that time instead.

    If anything, I’d be mad at the boss that I had to go to the airport TEN hours early because of his flight time!! That’s a total waste of time I could have either been working if that was expected, or out exploring the city or sleeping.

  64. ThisisTodaysName*

    When we travel for work, the entire travel day, whether we are actively working or not is charged to the client. It’s possible that your boss assumed you were charging that time. If you did, well that’s definitely a nono, but if you didn’t, I’d let it go and just assume that your professional demeanor going forward will forgive all in time (oh and maybe wear a sweater for a few meetings til you’re sure he’s “over it”! ;) Or not…)

  65. anycat*

    as someone who has gotten tattoos on lunch breaks… nah. they’re being a little unreasonable. if you were just sitting around the airport, couldn’t do work there, and were travelling i’d say they’re acting a little crazy. it would’ve been different if you had blown off meetings to go to the appointment.

    enjoy the tattoo!

  66. Antiqueight*

    Can I please have #3s job if they leave it? I would give my left leg to get to work remotely in a well paid job that has enough to do but not stress me out. I don’t want to advance anymore if it means stress and so far as I have experienced it always does, and then I get ill and have to step out until I recover. So a role which let me work away at my own pace (which is not too shabby unless I get stressed) – I’m competent and get good reviews – Money is totally not worth it, once I have enough to pay the bills.

  67. Katie*

    I’m stuck on he wanted you to just twiddle your thumbs at the airport for TEN HOURS. That’s extreme to save the cost of a second Uber, and you didn’t expense him so…the math isn’t mathing as the kids say

  68. Meredith*

    Some people have weird ideas about professionalism. Meanwhile my coworker and I got tattoos on one of our work trips and our boss (the owner) not only went with us but actually paid for them!

Comments are closed.