employer wants to record my interview, can I delete all my unread LinkedIn messages, and more

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

1. Employer wants to record my interview

I applied for a stretch job with a nonprofit organization I admire. I was invited for a phone interview with what appears to be an external recruiter the company hired. When I booked an interview slot, the confirmation email contained the following language:

“Request for Permission to Record Interview Session: Would you be comfortable with us recording this interview? The recordings will remain confidential and will only be used by the interviewing team for internal decision-making purposes and to share with folks who cannot attend the interview(s) from our end upon request. Please reply to this email to respond to this inquiry.”

The idea of being recorded makes me nervous. The position is more of a leadership role, but it is not at the director level and being recorded does not appear to be a routine aspect of the job. Should I suck it up and agree to the recording even though it makes me uncomfortable?

If you want the job, probably. This has becoming increasingly common as virtual interviews have become more common; it’s a way to let other people have input into the hiring decision even if they’re not able to attend the interview. You typically you see it more with video interviews, though; it’s less common to see it with phone interviews, so that detail is interesting.

I know being recorded can make you feel more self-conscious when you’re interviewing, but ideally you’d just tune it out and pretend it’s not happening (and maybe it’ll help to know that sometimes no one even bothers watching those recordings; they think they’ll use them but then don’t).

You can certainly ask for more info if you’d like, like how the recording will be stored and disposed of, but it’s becoming a pretty common practice.

2. Boss referred to my miscarriage as me not doing my job

I had a partial molar pregnancy (essentially a dangerous type of miscarriage) of a wanted pregnancy several months ago. I had to have emergency surgery due to skyrocketing blood pressure, which occurred on a day I was supposed to drive seven hours to meet a potential partner. My boss knew about the miscarriage and went to the meeting for me (she lives an hour away from the meeting spot). She now has a good relationship with the partner.

I recently collaborated with the partner and I commented about how much I like them to my boss. My boss responded, “They were supposed to be your partner but you didn’t want to drive that far to meet them.” I can’t get that out of my head. (1) That was the most traumatic event I have ever had to go through. I almost died and lost my only pregnancy. (2) I never say no at work. I always go above and beyond. I would never refuse to meet a partner due to travel.

I don’t expect her to keep a calendar of my traumatic live events but why has she remembered the situation like I was not doing my job? What should I do? Go to HR or therapy?

Talk to your boss! Unless she is a terrible person who would dismiss a deeply upsetting and dangerous medical event as “didn’t want to take a long drive,” it’s highly likely she has just messed this up in her memory — like she remembers you couldn’t attend that meeting, but has forgotten that it was connected to the miscarriage in any way. Your boss doesn’t have the same emotional resonance with those events that you of course do, and could have simply forgotten the sequence of events.

You could say, “I was really taken aback when you said I didn’t meet Jane Smith just because I didn’t want to make the drive. I want to make sure you remember that the reason I didn’t attend that meeting because I was having a miscarriage that day and needed emergency surgery. It was a horrible time. I hope you know I wouldn’t refuse to meet a partner just due to travel.”

3. Working with my sister … and sharing a hotel room?

My older sister and I work at the same company in the same department, although on separate teams working on different products so there are no overlaps in our reporting structure and no competition (thankfully).

We were both given the opportunity to attend a conference in a few weeks and our company is sending a large group of people. When casually talking to the events manager who was handling hotel and flight bookings, I jokingly said, “Oh, [my sister] and I wouldn’t mind a slumber party!”

Apparently this was taken seriously and my sister and I are now sharing a hotel room at this conference when no other attendees have to share. We are also now being put in a position where we have to share a pass for the conference (which is against conference policy, mind you) meaning that there will be two of us with my name wandering around the exhibition hall and in sessions.

Is it unreasonable to call this out to the company to get in front of it in the future? It really isn’t a huge burden to share a room, but I don’t want to end up in a position where leaders view us as interchangeable (again, different teams and products). As much as I love my sister, it would also be nice to have my own space and time at the conference like everyone else.

I worry that this sets a precedent for any travel moving forward, including a company retreat that we have coming up in a few months. Any thoughts on how to phrase this without sounding like I’m back in my childhood home complaining about sharing toys?

I’m not surprised they took you seriously about the hotel room (it sounds like you offered and they didn’t realize you were joking, although ideally they would have confirmed it with you before making reservations) but the shared conference pass is really weird!

I would let the shared room go for now (since you did offer it) but raise it the next time travel plans are being made for something you both are going to: “Jane and I ended up in a shared room last time; we’d prefer our own rooms like everyone else.”

But it’s reasonable to raise the shared pass now: “Somehow Jane and I ended up with one shared pass between the two of us, which was really inconvenient. Do you know why that happened and how we can make sure it doesn’t happen in the future?”

Updated to add: I wrote this thinking the conference had already happened, but now see that it hasn’t. You can ask for both things to be corrected before you go.

Read an update to this letter

4. Can I delete all my unread LinkedIn messages?

I want to go back and update my LinkedIn profile after neglecting it for around five years, but I know that I have quite a few messages that have piled up. The amount of contacts I have been neglecting has been causing me anxiety. Can I just delete them all? Is there a way to somehow communicate that I wasn’t active for years on LinkedIn (I’m worried that maybe I’ll miss something important?)

You can delete all the backlogged messages (or just leave them there, so that if you ever want to look at the history with a particular person, it’s there for you to check, but without feeling any obligation to look through all the messages from everyone). Loads of people ignore their LinkedIn messages or only glance at them once a year or so. Most people get a ton of messages from strangers on LinkedIn, and it’s common not to engage with them all. You don’t need to do any kind of “I’ve been inactive but now I’m back” announcement.

That said, you might take a quick glance through the senders to see if any names jump out as connections you especially want to preserve (like former managers who might be references, old coworkers you really liked, etc.) — but I’d bet you’ll find you don’t even recognize a lot of the names.

5. I don’t want any more hours!

About a year ago I made the leap to transition my side-gig into a fully fledged business. It’s going great! As I scaled up, hunting for new clients, I ended up taking on a part-time project manager role for a charitable project that I’m really proud of. While this role pays less than my usual rate, I figured it’s a steady source of income for a fixed term and it’s something I feel passionately about.

Well, as you might expect with a nonprofit, there is a crazy amount of work that needs to be done and just not enough hours to do it all (I’m on a very strict weekly limit). However, whenever I mention I’m close to hitting my threshold, my (great!) supervisor says she’ll argue for more hours for the role. The problem is, I don’t want more hours!

One of the reasons the job appealed was the limited hours, which could be slotted in around my main business. In the past, when I’ve responded to say “I don’t want more hours,” she has waved it off as modesty — and I’m getting great feedback constantly, along with recognition from everyone that they haven’t really allowed for enough hours. The tricky part is that there will come a time closer to a major event when I will need to get more hours — but right now I’d be more interested in ways to streamline things/reprioritize or redistribute. Can you advise how I can phrase this?

Rather than saying you don’t want more hours, tell her you cannot work more hours — it’s a small change, but it’s clearer. For example: “I think I haven’t been clear enough — right now, I can’t do more than X hours a week. Around the gala in July, I’d be able to work up to Y hours a week if you’d like me to, but the rest of the time I can’t work more than X. Given that, could we talk about how to prioritize everything on my plate?”

{ 273 comments… read them below }

  1. Bruce*

    LW3… the shared room is awkward, but having to share a pass? I worked for a company that would send 5 of us to a local area conference on one pass, we would sign up for which sessions we were attending and then manage the hand off… and this was a VERY multi-ethnic company so appearances did not match the names at all! It was a very cool conference so we all put up with it, but if we were presenting or working the conference the perk was we got our own badge :-) In hindsight I don’t recommend it…

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I wonder if the pass thing was a simple error. Like, they go down the list of booked rooms to assign passes, and no-one noticed that two people were sharing one room. If the company normally shells out for separate rooms, I would be surprised if they were deliberately breaking conference rules to have people share passes in order to save a bit of money.

      1. rayray*

        Yeah, this seems super likely. All the LW and their sister had to do was mention it to someone and it would likely have been resolved.

      2. Observer*

        I wonder if the pass thing was a simple error. Like, they go down the list of booked rooms to assign passes, and no-one noticed that two people were sharing one room

        I think that this is likely enough that the OP could even try to talk to someone about this before the conference.

    2. Brain the Brian*

      My company does this at all sorts of conferences, and it’s horrible. Even if we manage the handoff properly during the day, the post-session networking events that are half the point of a conference usually require a pass to enter. Oh well — their loss, for being so stingy.

    3. Striped Badger*

      I think so as well. No one else had to share a pass, despite it being a large number of people. Its not really a lot of money saved to have you double-up. I don’t think it was them trying to cheat anything: just a mistake.

      If the siblings have the same surname, that would make it even more likely.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Yes, if the conference is still in the future (may be happening now or in the past, depending on when the LW wrote in), I would go to the conference organizer and say “I noticed [sister] and I only have one pass between us. This is against the conference policy. Can [sister] get her own pass?”

        Approach the conversation assuming this is a simple mix-up and of course the company wants to do the right thing and have each employee on their own pass.

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          Yes, I was coming here to say this. Approach it as if it’s a mix up that your company naturally wants to fix. “It looks like you forgot to get a pass for Sister. Sharing a pass is against the conference policy, so we’ll need to get Sister her own pass.”

          1. Brain the Brian*

            Yep, even if it’s not a mix-up (and they were trying to save money), that’s how to approach it.

    4. CommanderBanana*

      As a meeting planner, please do not do this. If your company needs you to attend a conference or convention, they need to purchase your registration.

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

        I was going to say, if there isn’t a pass in someone’s name doesn’t that mean that person’s registration fee was not paid for?

        1. Sparkles McFadden*

          Yup. It’s ridiculous but some bosses will insist on this to save money. In addition to being dishonest, it defeats the networking purpose of a conference because you cannot network if you have a badge that says you are someone else. It also makes your company look terrible when someone realizes you all are doing this.

          But…still some bosses justify it by saying “We are paying the fee for four onsite presentations. We’re just sending a different person to each presentation.”

      2. dont steal from conferences!*

        Totally agree, I run a lot of conferences for a non-profit and the margins are super thin and any profit made funds the org for the year. We’ve caught people doubling (sometimes tripling) up like this and banned their org from the event. It’s outright theft. The venue will likely count and charge for every single entry, especially if any food is involved.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      Actually it seems like getting two people into the conference or the price of one, and therefore basically stealing a spot from the conference.

      It doesn’t really seem like an honest mistake because the moment someone noticed that there was only one badge for two people with different names, it should have been addressed including if what needed to happen is that the company needed to pay an additional attendance fee.

      1. Smith Masterson*

        Yeah. This is more common than it should be, even with outrageously profitable companies. I’ve had to play the pass switcheroo plenty of times, even when I was the assigned session speaker (my reg was only comped for the day of the class.) and hosted networking events. Security once booted me from my own sponsored event because I didn’t have the pass lanyard on. It was a pain!

      2. Nina*

        If the two people with different names have the same surname (incredibly common in siblings, nowadays I’d hazard more common than them having different surnames) and their first names are any of a) about the same length b) starting with letters of a similar shape or the same letter (Poppy and Regan?) or c) flat-out being cutesy matching names like some parents enjoy inflicting on their children (I knew a Rosie and Posie Smith, no they were not twins) or d) the list is sorted by surname…
        any of those extremely plausible situations I can see this being an honest mistake.

        1. ceiswyn*

          Yes, I definitely know of parents who’ve given all their children their own initials. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for someone to assume that ‘SMITH, Colin A’ and ‘SMITH, Clive A’ are accidentally duplication of the same person.

    6. Dr. Doll*

      Sharing a conference pass is basically shop-lifting unless the conference specifically allows it. At conferences I have run, it’s a major source of revenue for the organization and it is not okay to stiff us a registration fee let alone FOUR.

      I’m not criticizing the LW for this, but her company, and all other companies who think this is okay.

  2. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    LW2: I am sorry your boss said that. I can’t imagine any kind of apology being adequate from her. Even if she did forget why you couldn’t drive, her saying that tells you what she thinks of you. I honestly would be looking to leave.

    1. Grub in a jar*

      Yeah…even going with Alison’s interpretation of events (which is not unlikely!) I’m still side-eyeing the boss for feeling the need to say that. What, did the boss think LW forgot they were supposed to drive seven hours to meet this partner? Also possible, I suppose, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

      1. Ridiculous Penguin*

        I had a second-trimester miscarriage 23 years ago. It hit me really hard and took a week off of work at my doctor’s suggestion — I even got a note for my boss (with whom I was honest about what was going on).

        At the time when I *would* have been about 30 weeks pregnant she called me into her office to talk about scheduling my maternity leave. Apparently she forgot I’d had a miscarriage even though it had happened only 8 weeks earlier.

        Point being: some people don’t pay attention. I think OP’s boss would be mortified to realize what they said.

        1. Jolene*

          I’ve actually had the misfortune of both – a late trimester miscarriage in pregnancy #1, and life-saving emergency surgery in pregnancy #2 (heterotypic pregnancy, with ectopic pregnancy rupture).
          #1 was more emotionally traumatic for me – it was years later before I didn’t wake up from nightmares. But, it was less memorable/traumatic for everyone else. I even had a distant coworker ask me “how’s the baby!?” about 3 months after my due date would have been. Very painful, but it was an innocent mistake. She just forget.
          #2 was very traumatic/ memorable for everyone. There is something about the words “life saving emergency surgery” that sticks in your head. NO ONE forgot. Even my a-hole misogynistic self-centered male bosses basically fell all over themselves to be respectful.

          I don’t think #2s boss forgot. I think she was clinging to her bad feelings for some reason or another. Maybe she lost a pregnancy and she had to “work through it” so she is bitter about the time off. Dunno. But I highly doubt she forgot the circumstances or confused scenarios.

          1. Blackcat*

            In my own nearly identical situation, I interpreted the post loss hostility about the fact I had gotten pregnant at all. I think the goal was to push me out before I got pregnant again, or to dissuade me from getting pregnant again.

            (I did get pregnant again, but thanks to working remote, hid it until I got another job at 6 months pregnant. Old boss found out when someone tried to organize a baby gift after the birth.)

          2. Observer*

            I don’t think #2s boss forgot. I think she was clinging to her bad feelings for some reason or another. ~~snip~~. But I highly doubt she forgot the circumstances or confused scenarios.

            I agree. Because the OP did tell her boss what was going on. I could see forgetting the details. But it’s not all that credible that she forgot “emergency surgery.”

            1. Lacey*

              Yeah. A miscarriage, I can see people forgetting, especially if it was early.

              Life saving emergency surgery? No. People do not forget that. One of my coworkers had emergency surgery while she was already on a 2 month sabbatical – it’s been 15 years and I could still tell you all about it.

            2. Hannah Lee*

              Yeah, I’m leaning that way too.

              I can see a boss with low emotional intelligence/high self-centerness spacing on the ups and downs of an employee’s personal life. Not great, but it happens.

              But the fact that boss in her head mapped out a storyline of “I got this cool partner in my portfolio because OP didn’t want to bother making a long drive” and held onto it to the extent that she just blurted it out to LW gives me pause. Like, what is her perception of LW as a person and a co-worker and an employee that that scenario even made sense to conjure up? What other situations is she misremembering? And what other actions/behaviors is she mis-attributing to LW having some failure to meet boss’s expectations of willingness to do what is needed to be successful in the job?

              I might modify Alison’s script for a conversation with the boss to start out taking a moment to ask boss to walk through “so, tell me again, why is it you think I didn’t take the initial meeting with Cool New Partner?” and then ask her why she thinks that and then refresh her memory. Let boss sit in the awkwardness of that moment for a bit so it really sinks in and erases the false memory. Then continue on with Alison’s script.

              Though, on second thought, if boss is super good, respectful otherwise, or such a jerk that it’s not worth doing that, maybe just stick to Alison’s script.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        This letter is wild to me because even without the face issue of the boss rewriting OP’s traumatic experience… it sounds absolutely ridiculous that it was ever the plan for OP to drive seven hours at all! Was this a one-time meeting to initiate contact and then all further communication would have been remote or would she have been expected to make that drive more often? How long was she supposed to stay before having to make the drive back?

        I don’t know where exactly I would draw the line but I feel like once a drive for work approaches 4ish hours it’s time to consider buying a plane ticket and 7 hours is definitely way over that line IMO.

        I know that wasn’t what OP wrote in for and she seems happy to do that drive in theory but that does not sounds like a normal or reasonable work expectation to me.

        1. Wren_Song*

          I think this is one of those times when the LW’s context means a lot. To get from my somewhat rural area to another somewhat rural area in my state, I would much rather drive the 7 hours. Getting to my airport is a couple of hours, dealing with parking and the airport is an hour or more, the flight time to the nearest airport which isn’t especially close, and driving a couple of hours to the actual job site is far more of a hassle than just driving the seven hours. It is honestly only a little longer in transit than if I had flown. I can also come and go as I need to rather than waiting for the very limited flight offerings in those areas. I am definitely not the only person at my institution who thinks this way either. Normal and reasonable job expectations can depend a lot on the available travel resources in your area.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            Agreed. I’m not even in the most remote of rural areas, but our tiny airport is still way off the beaten track for major airlines. Flying is unreliable, super expensive, often requires leaving/arriving at inconvenient times, and isn’t that much faster than driving.

    2. Leave Hummus Alone*

      I’d also be worried about this interpretation lingering come annual review time. I hope LW corrects her boss soon!

      1. Still sad*

        I had this happen. My manager noted in my review that my work had fallen off recently. This was 6 months to the day of my only child’s stillbirth. At that time, we had physical reviews that were submitted to HR and the leadership team. I took my pen and wrote that I was aware of the issue and working on it, but that I was still grieving the death of my child 6 months ago. Then I signed it, and gave it to him to read. I still remember the look on his face. He had forgotten because to him it was not important.

    3. coffee*

      Such a horrible thing to say! Her reaction is pretty key to your next steps, I think – if she did forget, she should be appropriately horrified. It might be a bit of a prompt to think about whether you’re getting enough back from your job to warrant going above and beyond, though. This kind of bullshit is why we have “quiet quitting”, aka “you’re not paying me enough for this much work”.

      LW2, I’m so sorry that happened and then that your boss has made it worse. My sympathies on your loss. Therapy can be quite helpful in this situation – even just the space to talk about it with a neutral party who’s there to support you.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        I second the “use your boss’ reaction as your guide” here (although even if the boss is appropriately horrified, I might make a pointed comment or two about how she might reassess how she thinks of colleagues if she took a terrible medical event/personal loss and morphed it into a lack of desire to do a task.) But IF the boss feels awful, apologizes profusely, etc. I would be willing to stay in the role for a bit to see if things can continue to work. If she’s not appalled by her own mistake though, I’d be job hunting the moment the discussion is over.

        1. Ann Onymous*

          Even if she’s appalled, I’d still give some thought to job hunting. Forgetting the reason that OP wasn’t available isn’t ideal, but it could legitimately be an honest mistake. The problem is where the manager went from there. Unless there were previous concerns about the OP’s reliability and work ethic (and it doesn’t sound like there were) a reasonable manager would assume there was a good reason OP didn’t go on that trip even if they couldn’t remember specifics. The fact that OP’s manager jumped straight to such a negative assumption says a lot about the way she views her employees, and possibly people in general.

          1. My Useless 2 Cents*

            Yeah, it sounds like LW2 is hardworking and reliable. Even if an “honest mistake” this is pretty insulting. A comment like that would have me dusting off my resume even if it wasn’t a life threatening tragedy that caused me to miss the meeting. The reason why the meeting was missed makes the comment exponentially worse.

          2. HotSauce*

            That’s the takeaway here. It really doesn’t matter whether the manager remembers or not, I mean it would be nice, but the fact that they automatically assumed it was because OP is a slacker, or lazy just tells you exactly what they think of them. IMO there’s no coming back from this, even if the manager falls down at their feet & apologizes profusely, the cat is out of the bag.

          3. coffee*

            Yeah, that’s a fair point about job hunting. I guess I just feel like LW2 shouldn’t have to add “find a new job” to her life when things are probably already pretty full on, and was trying to say that if the boss reacts appropriately I can see why she’d stay for a bit longer.

            It is worth thinking about job hunting, whether now or later.

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Much smaller stakes, but I remember a work health inspector making a remark about there not being much lighting. The office was dark at night and we only turned on small desk lamps. The boss explained that my absent colleague “didn’t like” the neon lighting which was supposed to light the entire open space. I was angry on behalf of my colleague that the boss was making her out to be capricious and immediately interrupted with “It’s not that she doesn’t like it, it flickers and gives her a headache. It’s extremely unpleasant and also, since it’s behind her, she just sees her own shadow so she doesn’t even benefit from the light”. The inspector made a note of that and the boss was ordered to have better lighting installed.
        This was a highly toxic boss so now I’m wondering just how nice OP2’s boss is. Even if she simply forgot, it points to a tendency to narcissism. You should remember things like miscarriages and emergency surgery when it’s your stellar employee who’s affected.

        1. 2 Cents*

          Yeah, even if you don’t remember the exact *why,* I’d think “I had to do it instead of Stellar Employee because they had an emergency,” not “Stellar Employee was shirking their duties and called out sick *eye roll.*

        2. BoksBooks*

          From someone who gets migraines from fluorescent lighting, you rock for sticking up for that coworker!

      3. ferrina*

        Yes, I’d definitely let your boss’s reaction guide you. I’d also think about what you know about your boss generally- is she the kind of person that sweeps your accomplishments away and focuses on mistakes? Or does she genuinely appreciate your hard work?

        If the latter, this could just be brain wires getting crossed. Some people can be really clueless, especially when hearing about something they’ve never personally experienced. But if the former, watch out. I’ve worked for a couple bosses that assumed making the impossible happen was my job and when I accomplished it, it was just another day. But heavens forbid anything happen that make their life harder- I would be chided and marked for ridiculous things (not meeting another teammate’s goal, not triple checking that my boss read her email, etc.). I could easily see one of these bosses viewing a health emergency as “you didn’t want to”. These bosses don’t get better. I second the quiet quitting or start sending out resumes.

        I’m so sorry LW!

    4. MK*

      I agree. Ok, so she forgot that the reason OP didn’t make the meeting was the miscarriage/surgery. But what she remembered was that they refused a work assignment because they didn’t want to make the drive? This doesn’t sound like someone who has a good opinion of the OP.

      1. BethDH*

        Could be a joke that landed badly? Still horrible, definitely something to bring up, but I definitely have had bosses who, when I was out with normal level of illness, would joke something like that (and it was quite clear they didn’t secretly resent it based on other things). Sounds like boss and OP don’t have that relationship, but I don’t think it’s a stretch if boss remembered “out sick” but not that it was a particularly traumatic occurrence.

        1. L. Bennett*

          This would be a horrendous thing to make a joke about and would not absolve the boss in the least. I think it would make it worse, in fact.

        2. Observer*

          Could be a joke that landed badly?

          That would be even worse than the boss remembering and still making that accusation.

          Sorry, you do NOT joke with people about events where they almost died and were traumatized. At least not if you are a decent person.

          but I don’t think it’s a stretch if boss remembered “out sick” but not that it was a particularly traumatic occurrence.

          Hard disagree.

        3. BethDH*

          Just replying to myself because it looks like I didn’t explain well — I didn’t mean the boss was joking about miscarriage, just that if the boss forgot it was a miscarriage (as Alison suggested in her response), it wouldn’t be unusual in my org for people to joke about “what a convenient time to be out” without them thinking you were faking it.
          I wanted to address the part of OP’s letter where they seem to be concerned that the boss thinks they would do that.
          I 100% agree that miscarriage jokes are never okay (I got one once where someone attempted a joke about how “was I sure I hadn’t miscarried because I didn’t look as pregnant as I should,” for example).

          1. A reasonable Jane*

            It’s okay, BethDH. Most of us understand that you didn’t literally mean miscarriage as a joke. No harm, no foul.

          2. Waiting on the bus*

            I understood what you meant and I can see it, tbh. If OP was working for my boss it’s absolutely possible he would have blundered like that because sometimes he has a bad habit of speaking without thinking. He’s a great boss overall, but he’s got a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease at times.

            Still doesn’t make it any better for OP. I think for OP, speaking with their boss is the best option. They can then go from there.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Exactly. A decent boss would assess what they were thinking agains twhat they know of the OPs work and go, nah that couldn’t be the reason. Even if they legitimately forgot the emergency surgery, they should have thought about what they know of OP as an employee.

        OP, time to stop going above and beyond. Apparently all it gets you is a SEVEN HOUR drive from someone who lives a darn sight closer to the partner. Without being thought of as decent and reliable. You can’t be more loyal to the company than the company is to you.

        If you feel this is too drastic for what may be a one time thing, you can always soft search just to see what is out there. Like a job that doesn’t require a seven hour drive.

    5. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      I was wondering if the boss had called someone else to fill in for the LW, and THAT person said they couldn’t drive that distance, so boss ended up doing it. Later, the boss could have scrambled the people and circumstances.

    6. Paul Pearson*


      I mean, even if the boss had completely forgotten the events of the day, the comment was entirely uncalled for, especially towards a hard working employee who doens’t say no

    7. bamcheeks*

      Yes, I gasped! I have had two friends go through molar pregnancies and they were absolutely awful. It’s more akin to “forgetting you got hit by a truck and were in hospital for a week” than “forgetting you had that migraine and weren’t safe to drive”.

      I would assume that the boss doesn’t know what a molar pregnancy is and has just filed it as a minor illness that took you out for a day or two rather than the extremely traumatic heath event it actually as. But I am hurt for you, LW. That was a staggeringly insensitive thing to say even if it had been something like a migraine.

      1. MK*

        The problem is that even “minor illness” isn’t the same as “didn’t want to drive”. If it was just that the boss didn’t understand the seriousness of the situation, she would have said “they would have been your partner, but you were out sick that day” not “you didn’t want to drive that far to meet them”.

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, I’d be annoyed even if I’d been off sick with Covid or I’d sprained my ankle and couldn’t drive or was off sick for any reason at all, really. Being off sick is not ‘you didn’t want to drive’. It’s being off sick and therefore *unable* to make it to the meeting.

        2. bamcheeks*

          I completely agree– as I said, even if it was a routine illness, it would have been a staggeringly insensitive thing to say, and would massively damage my trust in my boss and her perception of my work.

        3. Spicy Tuna*

          I once had to fly from Florida to California for something work related. It was a mandate from the state of CA that every company in our industry that did business in CA had to send one person to an informational meeting that lasted 20 minutes. My company had a sales rep that lived less than an hour from the meeting location but I had to fly across the country to check the box. I was steamed (especially since after saying he couldn’t do it, he decided to come to the meeting to meet me in person anyway, ARGH!!!!).

          I think even absent a medical issue, it would be perfectly reasonable for the boss to meet with the potential client / partner since the boss was closer geographically. It’s not like the boss was some random person in the office that had nothing to do with the OP’s line of work.

          1. Jackalope*

            This is part of my thought too. Even if the OP hadn’t had an emergency medical condition come up, having the boss drive an hour instead of the OP driving 7 hours would have made a lot more sense of there was something that had to happen in person. OP could still have managed any work with the partner that could be done by phone or Zoom, but that’s a long drive for one meeting when there’s someone else who lives so much closer.

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

              Also, Why couldn’t the boss transition the client over to OP? Maybe it depends on the industry or company policy but wouldn’t it make more sense?

          2. MK*

            I don’t agree because I have seen how this perfectly reasonable arrangement can become so entrenched that the person who happens to be more approachable geographically ends up unfairly burdened. In this case it sounds like the initial contact person ended up being the one handling that project permanently? If so, it’s not just one meeting, it’s can be a significant increase in workload.
            And if something is the OP’s job and not the boss’s, her being closer geographically isn’t a good reason to take on that work.

    8. Blackcat*


      I also had to cancel something last minute at work due to a medical emergency arising out of pregnancy loss.

      I was suddenly characterized as “flakey” and “uncommitted.” My supervisor also openly criticized my honesty because I hadn’t disclosed the pregnancy prior to the emergency.

      The only thing to do was get out.

      1. tg33*

        If possible framing it as “emergency life saving surgery” rather than a misscarriage is probably the way to go. I’m sorry for your loss, LW2.

        1. Blackcat*

          Yeah, in retrospect that would have been better and likely gotten more understanding. Unfortunately in the moment, I didn’t think that through… coming up with the most strategic thing to tell your boss is hard when you’re *dying*.

        2. Venus*

          I was thinking the same thing, and am surprised that Alison’s response includes the specifics of a miscarriage because she usually recommends giving as little detail as possible.

          I would suggest this change:
          “I want to make sure you remember that the reason I didn’t attend that meeting because I was having emergency lifesaving surgery. It was a horrible time. I hope you know I wouldn’t refuse to meet a partner just due to travel.”

        3. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah. It’s not right, but “miscarriage” covers such a range of medical and emotional experiences that I would lean on “emergency surgery” when that’s what happened!

          You don’t want to risk someone sticking it in their mental bucket with “that time I had a late heavy period.”

          1. allathian*

            Yes, this. I’ve had two miscarriages, and while I needed medication for one to expel the dead embryo (first trimester), I thankfully never needed surgery. The other miscarriage was just an extremely heavy period, heavy enough that I needed iron supplements for about three months, but it was still a very minor issue compared to what the LW endured.

            I’m so sorry for your loss, LW. And I’m also sorry that your boss seems to be an insensitive jerk.

    9. Harper*

      I agree. Even if a direct report of mine *did* ask me to cover a meeting just because they didn’t want to drive, I would be annoyed but I would never throw it back in their face this way. And anyone with any sort of empathy would remember such a horrible event in their employee’s life. It would be the only thing I would think about for months whenever I interacted with the employee, and I’d check on them frequently. Your boss sounds like a horrible person. I honestly don’t know if there’s any coming back from this.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Honestly, not wanting to drive seven hours when boss can just drive two is grounds enough for not going to the meeting. And also honestly, why is having OP spend seven hours in the car a good use of company time? I get that bosses’ time is often more valuable than the time of bosses’ employees, but seven hours of travel time is a lot of wasted time that OP could have spent doing actual valuable work. (I mean, if OP hadn’t had a terrible medical emergency, of course.)

    10. learnedthehardway*

      Even if it weren’t for the tragic circumstances, it was kind of a nasty, passive aggressive thing to say.

    11. lilsheba*

      I just want to say I’m so sorry you went through this at all, this is a traumatic time and I’m sorry your boss is such a jerk. There is no way they would forget this kind of thing, they are just being a jerk.

    12. Momma Bear*

      LW2, I think you should revisit this with the boss. You have the receipts (literally) to show you were out on an emergency medical basis. I would want to nip this idea that you bailed because of the distance immediately. If she wasn’t clear about the medical emergency, make it clear now. If she’s saying this to you, what is she saying to others/the partner?

  3. Bilateralrope*

    LW3: Sharing a pass for the conference, when it’s against conference policy, makes me wonder if the company has done something like only pay for one of you.

    It also worries me about what the conference will do if they notice.

    1. Bruce*

      That bothered me when I had to share a pass, the company was having us cheat the conference. This was early in my career, have not done that since I moved on from that cheap company.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yes, it seems obvious to me that the company has only paid for one of them (I thought at first that this was linked to the hotel booking in that the room came with the conference, but they talked about booking rooms and flights so now I don’t know).

      I wonder whether the company have done this for anyone else as well. If OP is on suitable terms with anyone else going to the conference they could discreetly try asking around.

      Actually when I’ve been to conferences like this, my badge has been scanned (it was a QR code or such like) on the way in, so when “my sister” tried to use the same badge it would show as already used. I suppose the sister will have to sneak in later and bypass the official admission process.

    3. GovSysadmin*

      I’ve staffed conventions in the past, so with the caveat that my experience is with large fan conventions and not business conferences, one thing I will warn you is that depending on how the conference attendee policies are written, it’s quite possible that if they find out, you will both be ejected from the conference and asked to leave the hotel. We would also put repeat offenders on a “not permitted to register” list for future conventions.

      That said, hopefully business people are less unruly than anime kids can be in large groups without their parents around, so it may not go that far. :)

      1. Reality.Bites*

        Just curious – how on earth could the conference force people to leave a paid-for hotel room?

        1. GovSysadmin*

          It’s private property, and if the guests aren’t charged for nights they haven’t stayed there yet, the police can be called to remove them for trespassing. This does require a good relationship with the hotel, and it was usually only reserved for the worst offenders, like people causing multiple problems, the folks running a counterfeit badge printing shop in their hotel room (seriously), or people caught shoplifting in the dealers room. Anime conventions can be wild. In addition, there were a number of times where people agreed to leave in lieu of the police being called in.

        2. Saberise*

          Some conference the lodging is included in the registration. You don’t actually book your own room. I would assume if you were asked to leave the conference that would include the room that they provided.

        3. CommanderBanana*

          Generally conferences have room blocks for attendees with discounted rates, but you have to be registered for the conference to receive the discounted rate.

          We run audits of our registration lists against the rooms booked in our blocks, and if someone who isn’t registered is in the block, their discounted reservation will be removed from the block and reverted to the prevailing room rate or cancelled entirely.

      2. ferrina*

        Business conferences will vary widely. Some are pretty lax about these things- if they have trouble getting attendees, they don’t mind if a few fly under the radar. Some are much stricter. One big difference is that for many business conferences, it’s the workplace’s job to register attendees, not the attendee. Depending on how many attendees were sent, how many years, etc. the attitude may vary from “eh, we’ll let you in but you need to pay for a day pass” to “no, you can’t come in this year” to “never again”. There’s a really wide range.

    4. Madame Arcati*

      Yes this is precisely what I think. The company might have been in good faith thinking you’d like to share a room with your sister (it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that you might have enjoyed some time to catch up sans spouses/offspring/work. BUT it seems very much like they’ve used booking one room as a way only pay for one person to attend – otherwise why a shared pass? If you were both booked in and paid for, you’d be issued with one each. That’s as dodgy as heck, by this company.
      Also impractical; what are you supposed to do with assigned seating in a small group or seminar setting; have one of you sit on the other’s lap like a ventriloquist’s dummy?!

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I thought they were “just” handing the pass between each other but reading between the lines is it possible that the company has printed multiple copies:

        > two of us with my name wandering around the exhibition hall and in sessions

        It does seem to read like two people with OPs name could mean they both have copies of the pass.

        I am not sure if that’s better or worse than just handing the pass between them actually.

        I did assume they had already brought it up with the company (or company brought it up first) and were told to share the pass, rather than this being an ‘oversight’ that needs highlighting to the company. Of course if that conversation didn’t happen, that should be the first step though.

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, I’m not sure whether it’s better or worse either. I’ve worked for a couple of pretty cheap companies in my time, and what they’d do for things like the London Book Fair would be to buy one extra pass with the name ‘Editorial Assistant’, and then the junior members of staff would take turns to use it to visit the Fair. Which is probably still dodgy and not what the event organisers want, but perhaps seems slightly less dodgy than trying to get away with printing two copies of the same pass and giving them to two different people. Though I can’t quite put my finger on why – at least in the first scenario there was only ever one person using the pass at any one time, I suppose.

    5. DataSci*

      I don’t see how it could be otherwise. I’ve never been to a conference where registering / paying didn’t get you a badge. I don’t know whether it’s deliberate or an oversight, however.

  4. Heidi*

    For Letter 5: Does the supervisor know about the LW’s main job? It might be worth reminding her. Especially if you’re in a situation where having a higher paying job allows you to work at a discount for the non-profit. You don’t need to say it too bluntly (as in, “My other job pays my bills so I can afford to keep working for you, Jane!”), but knowing more about your specific situation might impress it more deeply in her mind that they shouldn’t be pressuring you to work more hours.

    1. OP5*

      Hello! They do indeed know and realise they’re paying me less. I think that’s part of their enthusiasm for me, lol. They’ve been receptive to me restructuring how I work with them, i.e. having core hours now but yes I think Alison’s right that I need to say ‘I cannot’ rather than ‘I don’t want’.

      1. Heidi*

        You could also agree to work more hours but ask that they meet your normal pay rate. Assuming you’d be willing to do that, of course. You would know better how this would be received, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be paid fairly for your work.

    2. Ama*

      I think there definitely needs to be a boundary reset conversation here. I’ve worked in nonprofits for a long time and I’ve seen over and over again situations where a part-time employee or volunteer proves to be a great, reliable worker and people start forgetting the terms under which they were originally brought in. It sounds like the supervisor here just needs reminding that OP is never going to have more than their current availability — this could include noting that they have another job or it could just be saying “hey you keep saying you’d like to ask for more hours and I just want to remind you that I’m never going to be able to add more hours, my current schedule here is all the time I have.”

      I currently manage a part-time contractor who does very specific work for us involving a special software and I’ve more than once had to tell other colleagues they can’t have her to do general clerical work or meeting support and it always turns out they don’t realize I have her to help with a very specific set of tasks (it also usually turns out they don’t realize how much we pay her per hour or that we pay her at all). I also try to check in with her every so often to make sure she’s still okay with our arrangement and we’re not giving her too much or taking too much time away from her other contractor job which is a more consistent amount of hours per week.

  5. JC*

    It seems like it would be reasonable to say you were joking about the “slumber party” and request an additional room be booked. They were clearly planning on that expense already

    1. Storm in a teacup*

      I agree with this approach. I would frame it as ‘if course someone has accidentally only booked one of us on the conference. How do we get the other registered and accommodation?’
      Also if my younger sibling joked about this and I ended up having to share with them there would be a lot internal eye rolling and an expectation that they would shout me dinner or similar for putting me in this position!

      1. abca*

        Yeah, IMO is this is a really bad decision from the events person. Surely they would at least confirm this with the other person involved? How would they handle this if you’re not sisters? Like work “friends” and one enthusiastic coworker says of course you’re happy to share rooms. I can see why LW is concerned about being seen as interchangeable.

      2. Smithy*

        Yeah, if this workplace has other cases of being aggressively cost efficient with travel at the expense of employee sanity (i.e. taking moderately cheaper travel even if it extends travel time by hours) or other cases of being generically unreasonable – then I get not speaking up.

        But it’s also really common for conferences and other travel like this to be coordinated by someone as item 16 on their list of 50 things to do. It’s not a large company’s event person or travel team coordinating registration and rooms, but an administrative assistant on the Coms team who’s not even going. All to say, giving space for mistakes or less than ideal choices happening out of miscommunication or misunderstanding is a good place to start. Making the phrasing soft in case the employer DOES turn out to be cheap/unreasonable is helpful, but it’s also because when they’re reasonable – they really will want to fix those situations if they can.

    2. Clara*

      Or just get the other sister to say ‘hey, I don’t actually agree with this, we spoke about it and would prefer separate rooms’. They shouldn’t have let you make a unilateral decision for the two of you, though I can see how it might seem like a good way to save money – particularly if it’s one of the party suggesting it.

  6. Just*

    LW 1. I wonder what would happen if you told them you will be taping the interview as well.

    1. Mid*

      Depending on the tone used, it could be seen as weirdly adversarial, mildly quirky, or even a positive. But it would likely stand out, and possibly in a negative way.

      1. Smithy*

        I agree it’d likely be seen as adversarial.

        That being said, in the way that often video meetings are recorded so that others can view them later who can’t attend the meeting – an option might be to say “as you are recording, would you also mind if I made my own recording? I am working with a job coach and would appreciate the opportunity to review our conversation later in my efforts to improve and grow.”

        If an employer who asked to record a conversation responded poorly to that request – then I’d see that as a huge red flag. Presumably the employer is recording the conversation for work purposes, and should the candidate provide a sensible work purpose for their recording – a wildly negative reaction would be disarming. But just saying “I’m ok if you record if I record” would feel adversarial.

      2. Observer*

        What are you trying to do here?

        To be honest, the question you pose sounds pretty adversarial.

        On the other hand, I think someone could easily say something like “Sounds good. I’m working with a coach, and a recording would be really useful. Could you send me a copy?”

        The response to that would be telling.

    2. Morning reader*

      Would you have to ask? If they are asking for your permission to record, would it be safe to assume the other participants already consented?

      1. ecnaseener*

        No, I don’t think it’d be safe to assume they consented. When they asked for LW’s consent, they stated what the recording would be used for and promised it would be kept confidential. It wouldn’t be the same thing for the other party to covertly record without making similar promises.

        The legality of it depends on jurisdiction, but ethically I do think you should ask.

        1. Observer*

          That doesn’t make a lot of sense. They are recording the session. How could they say that they don’t consent to it being recorded?

          1. ecnaseener*

            Because now someone else has a recording, which is relevant to their privacy concerns? Like, think of literally any other situation where you give permission to a specific party to use your likeness etc. – that permission is given to that party.

            1. Observer*

              No. Either you record or you don’t. You don’t get to claim the right to be the only one recording.

              This is not like giving your permission to use your likeness because this is a two way conversation. It’s like them claiming that they can use your likeness, but you can’t.

          2. DisgruntledPelican*

            Because they’ve consented to a recording, held by their company, to be used for specific purposes. They have not consented to a recording held by another entity (the interviewee) for whatever use that entity may want. It’s not the actual recording that’s the issue, it’s who has access to the recording and for what purpose.

    3. Alice*

      My company has a default record setting on all online, external and internal calls. Same as when you call a utility company or your bank- literally everything is recorded these days. It isn’t abnormal in any way and I doubt most people would be concerned (though might prefer not to)

    4. L-squared*

      I mean, what do you see the point of this as? Likely they will say “sure, that is fine”. But it just seems like a very odd way to start off. OP doesn’t want to be recorded. This seems like some kind of “turnabout is fair play” thing, but recording a call isn’t some super odd thing that never happens. Likely it wouldn’t come off great for OP in any way.

      1. umami*

        Precisely. I would completely get the tit-for-tat implication behind such a request, which is unnecessarily adversarial for something that is well within standard business practices nowadays.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      That is unnecessarily adversarial and doesn’t really make sense–I assume they are just using the built-in recording function of whatever software they are using which is very common and normal and suggesting you would be using some other kind of recording device would be extremely odd.

      I do think you could reasonably ask for a copy of the recording they make though. Although personally I would not want to as I agree with Alison that quite a lot of the times people record meetings “just in case” someone wants to look back at them and then nobody ever does. I think it is extremely likely that no one will ever look back at the recording of this interview and if I were OP I would choose to believe that (and having a copy myself where I could look at it and overanalyze everything I said would be counter to choosing to believe that)

    6. umami*

      I don’t assume any mal intent in wanting to record the interview. It’s a practice that has become very normalized. I would think it strange if someone pushed back on that, although I would be open to their reasoning against it. It’s just a part of our scheduling process: send out available interview window and attach the audio/video consent form. However, the phrasing in OP’s case was a bit troubling because they frame it as a question: Would you mind …? Well, if you’re asking, maybe I do mind! The framing brings undue attention to the process.

    7. Nina*

      That seems kind of weird, just technologically? if you want a copy for your records (to remind yourself of what they said about the job???) why not just say ‘sure, can I have a copy of the recording when it’s done please?’

      1. Observer*

        I think that that’s a really good response either if you actually need a copy or you have a concern about their reasons for recording.

        It’s a very normal response, I think.

  7. Pip*

    LW2 – I’m so sorry your boss said that to you. I really hope that you talk to her and that she is completely mortified and profusely apologetic to you. What she said was a pretty snotty thing to say even if you hadn’t had a medical emergency, especially since it sounds like you really go above and beyond at work. I would think about looking for a different job, if that’s possible, with a boss who isn’t a jerk. Best of luck whatever you decide.

  8. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (conference attendance with sister):

    > I don’t want to end up in a position where leaders view us as interchangeable

    I can understand that concern but do you think there’s any basis for it (other than this conference incident)?

    I didn’t get the impression that the reason they’ve given you a shared hotel room or only one conference pass is anything to do with seeing you and your sister as interchangeable, but rather that they’ve found a mini cost saving opportunity (someone will be congratulating themselves all the way to the procurement form for thinking of that ‘clever’ little scheme – until the conference organisers find out, that is… just saying).

    At my previous company there were twins who both worked in the same department (there were sub-teams of people with their own supervisor and the twins had different supervisors). Later they both became supervisors of those teams … They did make an effort to dress and ‘act’ independently though rather than being a double act (as I expect OP and sister do as well). No one thought of them as interchangeable.

    In general I think people will realise you and your sister are two different people, just as they do with couples.

  9. Anne Wentworth*

    We decided to start recording our video interviews (not phone) when our team got big enough that it would be too intimidating to have everyone on the call. But we ask the candidates for permission and we’ll still conduct the interview if they decline recording. We also tell them up-front that the recordings are deleted when we’re done with the hiring process. We were trying to avoid overwhelming candidates; didn’t realize it had become commonplace, but it makes sense.

    1. Mid*

      Do you tell candidates that’s why you’re recording interviews? (This is just out of curiosity. I’ve had interviews recorded but the reason was because of certain regulations, rather than large team size.)

  10. OneAngryAvocado*

    For LW2 Allison is a lot more gracious than I would be – I’d be very tempted to look her dead in the eye, say ‘I didn’t bail out of meeting them; I had a incredibly traumatic miscarriage that resulted in emergency surgery and almost in my losing my life’ and not do anything else to mitigate the awkwardness while I wait for my boss to realise what a fuck up she just made. But then making your boss uncomfortable deliberately (or revisiting past trauma) may well not be what you want to do!

    Regardless, for something that big and traumatic I think any boss worth their salt should make an effort to remember it. I’m sorry your boss is being an ass; that sucks.

    1. Mother of Cats*

      Yeah, I think this boss is a contender for Worst Boss of the Year 2023. Either she forgot about this horrific thing that happened to her employee, or she remembers and is being terrible about it. Either way, this is a huge fuck-up on her part.

      I honestly don’t know what my reaction in the moment would have been. If I had to guess, probably bursting into tears and/or quitting on the spot. I think OP2 would have been justified in doing either or both of those things.

  11. Paul Pearson*

    LW#2 I’m deeply sorry for what you went through: I’m also deeply leery of your boss. Sure, as Alison said, she could have entirely forgotten and just need reminding but even if that day hadn’t been so utterly terrible for you that seems like a completely unnecessary and unprompted snide remark. Especially when you said always go above and beyond and never say no – that level of unnecessary passive aggression and completely unwarranted dig doesn’t point to her being the best person to work for even without the added cruelty of what that day was to you

    I’d consider past interactions – I mean, I don’t know, maybe she had a really bad day, maybe she hadn’t had a coffee for 4 hours, maybe she just stubbed her toe: but if this kind of behaviour is common to her that’s an issue

  12. gies me the boak*

    It might just be a difference of UK vs US work cultures, but the use of “folks” in the message sent to LW1 comes across as a bit unserious and unprofessional for phrasing this kind of request. Does everything really need to have a faux-chummy informal tone crowbarred into it?

    1. Madame Arcati*

      Yeah I know what you mean; I wouldn’t expect it over here but I do think it’s a simple cultural difference; judging by AAM that business corres in the US has some differences re formality – eg in cover letters exemplified here there is usually at least one mention of being “really excited” which would be a bit…much…in a professional context, for this stuffy Brit anyway!
      I remember reading quite a bit by Bill Bryson about how professional interactions differe either side of the pond (his American accountant would say, hi Bill, whereas here it’s be, good morning Mr Bryson). It’s interesting really when you think of the sir/ma’am convention from children/teens when addressing adults in the southern states (this is my perception from tv and film anyway; many apologies if I’m off base!) which we don’t do here.
      And now I am way off the subject…

      1. amoeba*

        Interesting – I actually noticed people being a lot less formal when applying in the UK vs. continental Europe a few years back! In the UK, it was strictly first names only, so even the first message from the HR person would start with “Hi amoeba”, whereas in Germany or Switzerland it was always the much more formal, business greeting and “Dr. Lastname” back then. But even here, it’s now mostly changing in my (science) field.

        So, I digress, but basically: I always felt that we tend to be even more formal than in the UK, but the message above reads perfectly normal and conversational to me. (You could also ask, does everything really need a stilted, formal tone crowbarred into it?)

        1. Rock Prof*

          When I moved back to the US from living/working in Germany for a few years, my emails were so formal sounding! I had a ‘very serious person’ reputation at my new job for a few years after that.
          Now, folks didn’t even register to me when I read that email now! I had to go back and find it.

    2. Well...*

      It’s cultural. For me it’s a gender-neutral stand in for second person plural: “what do you guys think?” being replaced with “what do folks think?”

      I can’t make myself say “you all” or “everybody” consistently… it’s just too awkward of a replacement for me. “Folks” is one syllable, similarly vague as in speaking to most of the group rather than specifying the whole group, and rolls off the tongue.

      1. Well...*

        Also I agree that the UK isn’t really more formal, they just see the word “folks” as more casual/outdated than people in the US do.

        There are some cultural differences I’ve had to adapt to. More of you are experts at cleverly dodging questions and respectability politics in a way I have never encountered before, I’m truly in awe. The skills I’ve learned to counter this from UK colleagues are so, so valuable.

        1. English Rose*

          We secretly enjoy our expertise at question dodging and respectability politics :)

          And “folks” does come across as a very specifically American word.

          1. Well...*

            Haha yes, I have been very impressed with people’s strategies to navigate the landscape here. I’ve learned a lot.

          2. Morning reader*

            Obama used it a lot. I like it, it doesn’t read too casual for me. (Thanks, Obama!) It makes sense to me that it’s not used as much in other English-speaking places. “Folks” almost implies American folks. I’m not sure you have “folks” in England. (Obviously there are people but do they ever use that term for themselves?)

            1. Mighty midget*

              In England it’s generally “old folk” or “country folk”. Just “folk” might be used a bit in some regions but not much.

              Also, Folk is one of those words that somehow feels wrong when you write it many times. Suddenly it feels like it’s spelt incorrectly!

      2. sb51*

        Yeah, five or ten years ago it was old-fashioned/casual/weird in my part of the US; now it’s definitely a replacement for “you guys” because we’re very not a “y’all” area. It’s definitely something that’s shifting in use. It can be a very very subtle signifier of “this person is non-binary friendly” but as it catches on more widely, less so. (The variant spelling “folx” is definitely a community signifier, but “folks” is widespread.)

        It does seem to be bleeding into written and formal communication more than “you guys” or “y’all” ever did, as a replacement for “ladies and gentlemen” and other binary gender descriptors.

      3. amoeba*

        That’s true. In this specific case, I guess “people not in the call” would have worked well, though. But if you’re already used to using folks, it makes sense that it would pop up in this kind of phrase as well!

      4. alienor*

        I thought the same – I know a lot of people who use “folks” and “y’all” as gender-neutral replacements. Both of them are a little too homespun to feel natural to me (in an example like LW#1, I’d say “for people who can’t attend” or “for those who can’t attend”) but it does read like they’re trying to be inclusive and not creepily chummy.

    3. Cat Tree*

      There’s a bit of a culture shift happening where “folks” is starting to be used in place of “guys” as a gender neutral term. It was a little unusual when I first started hearing (well, seeing) it. But now that I’m used to it, I’m fully on board and just it myself. It might feel less unprofessional to realize it’s an intentional choice with a specific purpose.

    4. Alice*

      Ive called out my colleagues in Tennessee before for using “y’all” in emails and was told it’s just part of the language and much more accepted now (although it screams way too informal to me for emails to clients – and everyone else on our global team found it really cringe and unprofessional). But what do I know! (pedantic 30s Brit who still uses double spacing!). A lot of offices are trending more informal and gender neutral/ inclusive in their language as newer team members come in.

      1. DataSci*

        Some context you may not have not being American is that there’s a long history of people (I debated using “folks” there) from the southern US being viewed as ignorant or stupid because of their accents and regional vocabulary (of which “y’all” is the best known). So they’re quite aware of how many people view their language and them, and don’t need you “calling it out”. (And even if they could train themselves out of using “y’all”, accents are harder to change, so it wouldn’t really help much anyway.)

      2. PhyllisB*

        You’re fighting a losing battle with the “y’alls.” This is inbaked in the South. I always try not to use it in emails, (except here, of course) but in my speech…it’s gonna be there. Even Alison says y’all. :-)

      3. Fives*

        I’ve thought a long time about this comment and tried to come at it from a number of angles.

        I work at a very large southeastern US company. My immediate first response was please don’t “call out” people in another region/country for how they speak when it’s completely normal in that area. “Y’all” is inclusive and much better than “you guys.” It doesn’t mean we’re ignorant or unprofessional. A lot of people in my company, from the CEO down, use it in everyday conversations and in all-company emails.

        That being said, my company is not international so I don’t know if I would use it with an international office. But this just seems like such a minor thing to call out. I wouldn’t call out someone in another country who speaks differently.

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          yes I’m like that’s way too strict for a call out ( I live in Memphis which technically is in Tennessee despite being a whole nother place)

      4. Lynn Whitehat*

        Why are you calling them out? It’s a regional variant, and very normal in the southeastern US, where they live. It’s also a decent work-around for the fact that standard English doesn’t have a plural “you”, and “you guys” is becoming less popular for inclusivity reasons.

        I’m an American who works with a lot of Brits. Believe me, I could “call out” plenty of non-standard regional variants if I wanted to be difficult about things. I’ve chosen instead to enjoy them or ignore them.

        1. Well...*

          Classism and accent politics in the UK are next level. An accent can place you in a very precise geographical region of origin and into a very specific slice of a socioeconomic class.

      5. rayray*

        That’s the way people speak in that region. I’m certain you have your own colloquialisms that sound funny to other people. No matter what you think of the way they speak, it was out of line to say something. It’s rude. You are not their grammar teacher, so let it go.

      6. Clara*

        I think it’s fair to flag that if they’re emailing British clients and it’s a formal environment, it might be out of sync, but I wouldn’t ding them for using a regional term – particularly when you’re all in that region!

      7. not a hippo*

        You can pry y’all from my cold, dead hands.

        Why are you policing your coworkers’ harmless phrasing, especially in a state where the phrase is common as mud?

        (Oh sorry, was that too country for you?)

      8. Spreadsheet Hero*

        So uh. I get that class/accent/dialect politics in the UK are next level and basically a social pestilence, but what you did was a real jerk move. There’s a massive stereotype of southeastern American dialect meaning that people are stupid or slow — “talk slow, think slow” kind of crap — and there has been a move, among many professionals and educated southerners, to combat that stigma.

        I apologize that you find our way of speaking “cringe” (and I certainly wouldn’t write “y’all” in formal communication), but it was not your place to “call them out,” and what you likely were was hurtful.

        1. MJ*

          An aside on the”slow talking” – a taxi driver in England told me that American regional accents are just British accents slowed down from the heat (especially in the southern states). :)

      9. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        Yeah, don’t do that. Y’all is a perfectly acceptable term over a wide swath of the US, and it’s not informal in those areas. Y’all is gaining more and more traction because it fills a linguistic gap in a non-gendered way.

        Language evolves.

        And as an interesting sidenote, in areas where “y’all” is common, students learning second languages that *do* have a second person plural (like “vous” in French) actually pick up how to use that form faster than those who don’t have an equivalent.

    5. ecnaseener*

      Wiktionary has the “people in general” meaning of “folks” labeled as US English, so yes I think this is just a cultural difference. It certainly doesn’t read as unserious or unprofessional to me, though it’s not the most formal register.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Several years ago I did some research and learned the word folks derived from a German/Russian word, volk, and volk derived from a family name, (which is similar to my family’s name).
        My mother’s family were farmers who spoke a dialect called Low German, and people who spoke regular German looked down on them like Americans look down on the southeast.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      Huh, I’m in the UK and kind of disagree. I just see it as a very standard word, very old but still usefully ungendered which just means “people”. I mean I probably wouldn’t expect to see it used to draft legislation or in a courtroom, but semi formal business communications? Yeah, why not?

      1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

        Yeah, this is pretty much how I see it. (English person here.) I say “hi folks” on emails for practical stuff, where I don’t know a specific person’s name & where it’s not so formal as to warrant a full-on “To whom it may concern”.

        1. londonedit*

          Same here. ‘Folks’ might give me a very slight ‘oh, you don’t hear that often’ pause, but absolutely nothing more than that. I had a teacher in the mid-’90s (southern England) who routinely referred to the class as ‘folks’ – it was one of his linguistic quirks and that was that.

    7. Persephone Mulberry*

      Midwestern American here – I had to go back and re-read the equation because “folks” didn’t even register, it’s that common here. It didn’t feel “crowbarred” into the message at all.

      And to that point, if I were writing that message, I would *want* the tone to be casual and friendly to hopefully put the applicant more at ease. Same with leading off with “would you be comfortable?” – a question, acknowledges that the interviewee is a human with feelings – rather than something like “we request your permission” – statement, feels more formal and “legalese-y”. If anything, it’s the “Please reply to this email to respond to this inquiry” that feels overly stiff compared to the tone of the rest of the paragraph.

      1. LimeRoos*

        Same! Midwestern American and I also had to go back and read the question to spot Folk lol. I don’t usually use folks, but a lot of leadership at my company does, so it just sounds normal.

        1. Filosofickle*

          I had to do a page search! After about the third reference to “folks” in the comments I scanned the questions again and still had no idea what the commenters were on about.

      2. El l*

        Agree. Frankly, it would put me more at ease than if they said “can we share this with our team?” Implies it’s people they know, rather than say a satellite office on a different continent.

    8. El l*

      Even within the US, it depends.

      I wouldn’t use “folks” when addressing conventionally professional clients, or in talking with someone I just met.

      However, when addressing my rural clients, it’s absolutely common usage, I use it, and it’s a good way to begin emails. Note that it’s part of a wider shift in focus – for example, wouldn’t use “guys” when speaking with them, even if in urban life “guy” has now become gender-neutral.

      To OP’s situation, rather than address it just referred to her professional team. In this case, judgment call depending on who you’re dealing with, but it’s at worst a minor faux pas. Because it’s generally understood as a bit more warm than the more conventional “team”.

    9. Claire*

      “Folks” is an extremely common word in the U.S., it’s used regularly as a synonym for “people.” No “faux-chummy informal tone” is being “crowbarred” in anywhere. This whole comment is strangely antagonistic and not offering anything useful to the OP.

      1. Xers prefer to stay out of this*

        Thank you for saying this. A little curiosity and open-mindedness about language and norms in other places would go a long way.

        I read right past “folks” because it is so very normal.

    10. Marketing Ninja Unicorn*

      As an American in marketing and communications, ‘folks’ is rapidly gaining traction as the go-to for mixed-gender greetings.

      ‘Y’all’ is popular in a lot of places but it is a regional dialect, and folks from New Jersey might not be comfortable adopting that into their lexicon.

      ‘You guys’ is obviously very gendered, and although ‘Yinz’ is popular in parts of Pennsylvania, it hasn’t caught on to a broader appeal.

      ‘Folks’ is a perfectly acceptable, gender-neutral/gender-inclusive word that conveys who’s being addressed.

  13. Helvetica*

    LW2 – in addition to your boss’ awful comment, what jumped out to me is that this was a meeting with a potential business partner to which you had to drive 7 hours.
    Not to be very European (7 hrs would take me into another country here) but even understanding the long distances and more willingness to drive in the US, I would find a 7 hour drive for such a meeting, or really any work-related purpose, to be super long. Maybe also something to consider addressing in the future, if it comes up again.

    1. bamcheeks*

      If it’s a seven hours round-trip, rather than seven hours there and back, that’s not so unusual. I have had jobs where that would be an unusually long but not un-heard-of trip in order to have a face-to-face meeting. I personally always did stuff like that on the train, but my colleagues who liked driving would have driven it.

      1. bamcheeks*

        (For context I’m in the UK– the point of me adding this comment is that that wouldn’t be so unusual in Europe either!)

      2. Helvetica*

        Ah! I read it as 7 hrs one way but if it was roundtrip estimate, it makes more sense, though still is a relatively long work trip.

      3. L-squared*

        Yeah, 7 hours round trip is far enough to be annoying, but short enough where it may be the most logical. I’m in pretty big state, but only one city really has a major airport. 3.5 hours is definitely still in the state, and it really wouldn’t make sense to fly. Even if could fly to one of the smaller ones, by the time I factor in time to get to the airport and get through security in time for boarding, its only slightly less than 3 hours anyway, so driving is likley the more convenient option as I can leave whenever I want, and not be on the airline schedule.

        1. DataSci*

          As an aside, I’ve never understood why “in state” matters outside of state government travel, rather than just distance. Even aside from cities near a state border (like where I live in the DC suburbs – an easy walk to DC, 3 hours to the far corners of the state) some states are big! When I lived in California I used to regularly travel for work from LA to the Bay Area, and it was definitely a “flight” distance. And that’s only halfway across the state!

          1. doreen*

            I don’t get it either – I can drive to about eight other states in less time than it takes to drive to the other side of my state. (At least 6.5 hours of driving). But I hear people complain all the time about going out of state for something, as if 45 minutes to New Jersey is somehow closer than 3 hours to Albany.

      4. londonedit*

        Also in the UK and yeah, a 7-hour round trip would be akin to me driving to my parents’ house and back in a day. Which I probably wouldn’t want to do in an ideal world, but it is doable, especially if it’s for a work thing where it’s important for people to be there. A 7-hour one-way trip would be quite the undertaking for a British person (from here to Edinburgh or Cornwall on the train is around 5 hours) and I can’t imagine being expected to do that and back in one day – you’d expect the company to put you up overnight. Anyway, not hugely relevant to the OP’s situation (unless it was indeed a 7-hour one-way trip, in which case that definitely sounds ridiculous even if you’re fighting fit) but even on our little island a 7-hour round trip wouldn’t be seen as something too horrific in a work context.

    2. LTR FTW*

      I noted the 7-hour trip as well.

      I, personally, would probably have pushed back on driving 7 hours (especially if my boss was only an hour away from the client). However, I’m 52 and have reached a point in my life where I’m both in a senior role AND am pretty good at setting up boundaries at work. OP indicated that she never says no… I think learning to say no is a good professional skill to have.

      Also, OP, I am so very sorry for your loss.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        As a mid-40s person myself, I’m also only just now learning to say no. It’s definitely tougher to say that when you’re earlier in your career and worried about which no will be the wrong one to say and which of your many yesses will lead to something amazing that you never would have guessed it would.

    3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      I think 7 hours one way would be unusual even out west where things are further apart and airports sparse on the ground. 7 hours round trip would be totally normal. Anybody from Montana or Wyoming to give their perspective?

      That actually might be part of why the boss remembered the drive rather than the miscarriage. If she had already been considering it beforehand, and was maybe a bit dubious or worried about the length, it would be fairly easy to forget that the thing she thought might be a problem didn’t actually turn out to be the problem.

      1. TiredHiringManager*

        I am in the mountain west and used to regularly drive 6 hours one way to a client site. I’ve also flown then driven 2-3 hours more to reach more remote sites in Montana and New Mexico. Airports aren’t always practical in rural areas out here because flights can be very infrequent, rental car counters have limited hours, or the nearest small airport can still require a long drive.

        1. Mid*

          Also a lot of regional airport flights require you to fly into a specific major airport, which can be in the opposite direction and make the overall time shorter to drive. Eg the regional airports for the Dakotas and Iowa mostly require you to fly out of MSP, and if you’re coming from west of MSP, you’ll likely end up flying for just as long or longer than a drive would be.

      2. Not my real name*

        In Wyoming I think you are pretty spot on. We drive about 2 hours one way for a shopping day in the nearest big city several times a year, but the 5 1/2 hour one way trip to take the kid to college requires an overnight for us.

      3. Velociraptor Attack*

        I live in one of these states and have a job that requires I cover the whole state and does require travel. Sometimes I’ve looked at flying instead of driving if it’s more than 4 hours and it’s just not worth it.

        Between the large “cities”, there are no direct flights, they all connect through Denver, so ultimately I end up with a 6-hour flight, including a layover, then have to rent a car, when the drive would have taken me 5 hours. Plus flight times are very limited.

        For the tiny regional airports where there are puddle jumper direct flights, those areas often don’t have rental cars available so it just makes more sense and is less of a headache to drive.

        OP doesn’t mention if they were expected to drive 7 hours one way and then 7 hours back the same day or if they could stay overnight but depending on if the partner wanted like a 5pm meeting, they might have planned to drive out that morning, meet the potential partner, stay overnight, and go back the next morning. I’ve definitely done that.

    4. Cat Cat*

      I’ve been out west, and if I go in the right direction it’ll take me at least eleven hours to get out of my state.

    5. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      And considering that the boss only had one hour to drive I’m seriously thinking she could have taken that appointment as a matter of course given the proximity. I mean, it all worked out well didn’t it?
      AFAIC it’s ridiculous in terms of wasting employee time. If they are not a chauffeur or lorry driver I’d rather they were doing something productive for seven hours, especially if I could do it in one.
      Not to mention the great unmentionable CLIMATE because even if everyone is driving electric cars it’s a huge waste of energy.

  14. TechWorker*

    I am British (though do work with lots of Americans) and am so used to ‘folks’ this didn’t even register. The rest of it is very polite. I hope people don’t read my emails as ‘faux chummy’ every time I use the word folks…

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Americans tend to read UK emails as faux formal, unclear, and slightly rudely distant. The phrase, “further to your request” stands out in my memory as so formal that it lost all meaning. Further, like my request was far away!?

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Wow, as far as generalisations go, an American saying that Brits are rude just leaves me speechless.
        “Further to” has nothing to do with distance and is a perfectly acceptable expression in British English. I suppose you could put “With reference to your request” instead.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I am also really used to it and I work in a very untrendy English comprehensive. It gets used all the time because our meetings are so en masse.

    3. Melissa*

      I’m American and I never use “folks,” but I will say that in general, people have weird quirks and most everyone just accepts them! I used to have a boss that would text all of us (nurses) and refer to us as “lovelies.” Which was odd, but whatever, she was a good boss anyway, you know?

    4. Mercurial*

      I’m British too, and use it frequently at work. To me, it is a reasonably informal non-gender specific (and helpfully inclusive) term that saves time and/or provides variety to “everyone”.

  15. English Rose*

    LW4 – sidebar on LinkedIn. Yes go ahead and either delete or mark as read all your messages, but now you’ll be back on LinkedIn do be an active user, writing updates, commenting on others’ posts, generally forging relationships. If you’ve been away that long you’ll find it’s developed into a really good and (depending who you follow) grown-up social platform. No longer simply somewhere to store your CV.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I rarely comment except on friends’ posts, which wouldn’t really count as networking for me. Otherwise I use LinkedIn purely as a place to show off my CV, in place of a website which in my profession is not worth the effort. I have a whole lot of contacts from my various professional roles and have managed to get plenty of work as a freelancer simply by reaching out to all of them. One responded to my message four years later. With LinkedIn, you don’t ever lose your messages and it’s easy to find them again, much easier than with email.
      I have also had complete strangers reach out to me on LinkedIn to offer me work and one of them has now become one of my favourite clients.
      So all in all, I don’t know that’s it’s all that necessary to engage with people all that much there.

  16. Mary Poppins*

    LW5, do you work at my employer? I’ve worked at a small nonprofit (private school) for over 10 years, and I’m leaving next month for exactly the same reason. My grand boss constantly underestimates how long tasks and projects will take. For our senior management, this job is more like a “calling,” and despite a lot of lip service to families and work -life balance this workplace is the epitome of “if you are good at your job, your reward is more work.” As a result, everyone is constantly overworked and under pressure. No matter what job description you are given on paper, the reality will be that you are expected to do much, much more. I’m one of the few 12 month employees, and I’m very busy over the summer (when senior management disappears for 4-6 weeks to recharge or do other projects). I told them in Feb that I’m retiring in June. Without involving me in the process at all, they hired someone who has no experience in my position and told them they could start in August. Then they sounded surprised when I told them that wasn’t going to work. I’m supposed to “orient” my replacement for 4 days in June, and when I explained that I normally do a ton of work in July, they said, “Oh but we’ll get you the info you need before then,”assuming I’ll have it all done before I leave. It’s not a matter of not having the info, it’s a matter of having the time to DO the work! I keep telling myself that it won’t be my problem if they have a mess in August and September, but I keep feeling like I’ll be blamed for a poor transition if/when it turns out that having no one in my position for a month was a disaster.

    You will have to be extremely firm and repetitive on your boundaries, and hold the line. “I’m unable to give you the hours needed to do that while still doing x, y and z. Which do you want me to hand off?” Rinse and repeat.

    1. OP5*

      That sounds like a nightmare and you have my sympathies! And you’re right about reinforcing boundaries. Think the situation is made more awkward in that I’m one of the very few paid members of the team.

    2. Zarniwoop*

      “I keep feeling like I’ll be blamed for a poor transition if/when it turns out that having no one in my position for a month was a disaster.”

      But at least you won’t be there to hear it.
      It will have ceased to be your circus or monkeys.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        And it won’t even matter for your reference if you’re retiring! Happy retirement!!

  17. Tired of Working*

    OP #3 jokingly said, “Oh, [my sister] and I wouldn’t mind a slumber party!”

    That’s what happens sometimes when you “make jokes” that other people don’t realize are jokes. They think that you are being serious. I never saw the need to “make jokes” and say things that I didn’t mean while at work, and I don’t know why others feel the need to do so, but this shows that it can backfire at times. I wonder if the sister was told ahead of time that she would be sharing a room with OP and what she said. Did she feel pressured into going along with it? All I know is that if I had a sister working at my company and she “joked” that we would be fine sharing a room, and nobody got confirmation from me that I felt the same way, and we were put into the same room all because my sister felt like “joking,” I would be seriously annoyed.

    But I don’t know, maybe I’m taking this too seriously, and all of you out there would just love to share a room with your sibling at a conference without having been asked in advance if it was okay with you.

    1. Friday Person*

      As somebody who has on occasion at work “made jokes,” I can tell you that it is because I am a person who enjoys sharing humorous moments with my colleagues, and because the thought of spending 8+ hours a day barred from speaking in anything but entirely literal statements makes my head hurt.

      (It sounds like in this specific situation, there was a miscommunication and some clarification would have helped, but “why were you making any joke ever” is a bizarre takeaway.)

      1. Tired of Working*

        You said ” I am a person who enjoys sharing humorous moments with my colleagues” but I don’t see how the OP telling TPTB that she wanted to share a room with her sister was sharing a humorous moment with her colleagues. I don’t see it as being humorous at all. And I wonder if OP’s sister found it humorous when she had to share a room with OP.

        1. Friday Person*

          The humor is in the verbal juxtaposition of two different situational contexts, one referring to working adults (a professional conference) and the other to young children having fun (a slumber party) to highlight the OP’s somewhat unusual situation of having a colleague who is also a sibling (and thus could theoretically exist in both contexts simultaneously). Hope that helps! :)

        2. Gryffin*

          “but I don’t see how the OP telling TPTB that she wanted to share a room with her sister was sharing a humorous moment with her colleagues. I don’t see it as being humorous at all”
          Serious question here but are you in fact actually a robot? I’m not making a joke there, i genuinely am curious. Because seriously, WTF

          1. Silver Robin*

            Hey, some folks struggle with facetious/snarky/sarcastic/metaphorical language. There are lots of people who are very literal minded for various reasons. No need to be so dismissive and question their humanity by asking if they are robots. That is mean.

      2. alienor*

        I’m just remembering the LW from a couple of years ago who got in trouble for making a joke about the printer, and it turned out jokes were forbidden at their new company.

        1. Lady_Lessa*

          I remember that one as well. And it was a pretty good, but standard joke about printers.

    2. Silver Robin*

      Yeah, they should have confirmed first, but I can also understand it if they thought the siblings had already discussed it and that LW was informing them.

      Your scare quotes around “make jokes” is kind of confusing. Folks *are* joking and getting misinterpreted. Sometimes that is because they said something too believable, sarcasm and being facetious are tricky that way. But it feels like you think people are intending to be misleading (lying) and then claiming to be joking to hide that. Sometimes people are just trying to be silly and it falls flat. God forbid LW use the unusualness of working with their sister as the basis for some levity.

    3. amoeba*

      Well, I don’t have any siblings, but if it were a good work friend, absolutely no problem – I’d prefer to share a room, actually! People are different and I’d usually expect my hypothetical sibling or friend to know me well enough to judge… (Although I’d always ask beforehand, anyway, but then LW didn’t actually do it on purpose, so…)
      It would certainly not be a big deal or a problem for me. Which doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be for other people, but it’s also not some kind of general rule that everybody would be horrified by it!

      Now, the shared conference pass is a completely different story and I’d be livid about it.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      As someone who takes what people say fairly literally and almost never gets the joke: You are being amazingly melodramatic about this. The problem here isn’t the joke, it’s the “nobody getting confirmation.”

      The proper “I didn’t get the joke” answer would’ve been “Oh, ok, we don’t usually set people up to share rooms, but let me confirm that with her and we’ll see what we can do,” at which point LW can go “Oh, gosh, no, sorry, I was being silly!”

      1. ferrina*

        Agree. I can have a hard time telling what is a joke and what is serious. I solve that by following up on anything that I’m not sure about. Especially when it impacts a third party who wasn’t in the original conversation. I would certainly never ban people from joking!

        That said, I could totally see myself making this mistake in my early career when I was young and overly eager to please and prove my value.

    5. Dr. Vibrissae*

      I have to agree with others that your level of annoyance at possible joking took me aback. However, you bring up a possible solution that Allison didn’t mention: the sister is in a different department and wasn’t consulted (presumably about these arrangements). She is also the one short-changed by not having her own conference pass (or a conference pass in her own name) perhaps it would work more smoothly if the sister complained either directly or through their own manager to get this fixed.

      1. Silver Robin*

        But Allison did say they should have confirmed. She just did not spend much time on that aspect of it

    6. Jackalope*

      I mean, I honestly wouldn’t mind sharing a room with my sister if it happened even if we preferred having separate rooms. We get along well and haven’t had tons of time to just catch up since she started having kiddos, so the slumber party aspect does indeed sound appealing to me. I can see how this could be annoying to some people, but if the OP couldn’t stand her sister I can’t imagine that she would have joked about sharing a room like she did.

    7. Madame X*

      Your response reminds me of a letter writer who wrote in because they worked at a company that had a “no humor” policy.

      In my opinion, this is an extreme policy. People sometimes joke. Having a bit of levity with your coworkers is part of normal human interaction. Sometimes it can happen that people misinterpret something, but the best way to handle miscommunications is to quickly clarify. Banning all humor in the office is so over the top that I just don’t think that that’s a reasonable or, in my opinion, a humane way of cultivating a warm & professional office culture.

    8. Ellis Bell*

      Er, this isn’t a cautionary tale about making jokes in general! It might be about making jokes which are too believable, because I would definitely prefer to share a room with my sister and I would have taken OP at her word. It might also be a cautionary tale to double check your understanding of things with people when they have a light hearted tone, and use not-literal descriptions like “slumber party” especially since there was a second person involved.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, it would be really weird for this to turn into an indictment of humor in general. I’m removing some of the most derailing parts of this and closing the thread.

  18. HonorBox*

    LW2 – OMG. I’m so incredibly sorry that happened to you and that your boss is handling it in such an insensitive way. Regardless of your relationship with them, it is absolutely fair (and recommended) to let them know that you were undergoing an emergency surgery…for a very difficult and tragic situation…and that you weren’t making an excuse to not have to drive.

    Maybe (trying to think positively) they said it meaning to make a bit of a joke, but that’s not something you joke about, and it doesn’t sound like the partner took it as a joke. So clarifying would be good. It might make your boss uncomfortable, and it should. Don’t hesitate because you think it will make them uncomfortable.

    We all know this as loyal AAM readers, but being dismissive of people’s health or a loss in their family is terribly insensitive.

    LW3 – The joke obviously was not taken as a joke. I’d point out next time that you’d prefer the same sleeping accommodations as everyone else and not share. The shared registration is more problematic, though, and I’d definitely point out that not only it it unethical (you’re getting more than you paid for) it also caused you to miss out on things at the conference. You couldn’t both get the maximum benefit from attending because you couldn’t both be there at the same time.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > not only it it unethical (you’re getting more than you paid for) it also caused you to miss out on things at the conference

      Not to mention that part of the reason it is named registration is so the number of people can be tracked (for fire and capacity purposes). What would it be like if everyone brought a “+1” on their pass…

      1. HonorBox*

        Good call. Also, if there’s food of any type served – whether a plated meal, buffet, morning muffins or some sort of appetizers at a reception – this drastically throws off the count… if both people could even get into the food portion.

        Then we get into a situation where someone has to purchase a meal and the business office won’t reimburse (calling back to last week)

    2. linger*

      It’s entirely possible LW2’s boss has forgotten the medical history, maybe even as a deliberate strategy of compartmentalising work-relevant from private information, which in most cases would be a good thing. However, boss has replaced the resulting blank with something that reflects very badly on LW2. It is worrying that was the default, and it needs to be corrected.

  19. Nala*

    LW2, when I was in my early twenties I worked for an organisation in which we had meetings every three months with another department. We were in different buuldings at opposite ends if the city and rarely interacted with them outside this meeting. At one meeting Wakeen was excitedly saying how he was off on paternity leave next week. I did not attend the next meeting a relative died and I was off on bereavement leave. Next meeting I ask Wakeen how he likes being a Dad and his face falls. Turns out the baby was stillborn. I had no idea. Wakeen’s manager had mentioned this is in the last meeting and asked no one to bring it up (apparently his preference) but I wasn’t there and none of my team thought to tell me. Wakeen’s manager starts telling me off when my manager interrupts and says I wasn’t there last time because my sister died which had also been mentioned in the meeting but the other manager forgot. Even though I had no way of knowing I still apologised to Wakeen because I’m not heartless and still hurt him even though it wasn’t deliberate. Both managers also apologized to me because neither of them were horrible people, mine should have warned me and forgot and his should have remembered I wasn’t there due to a bereavement and forgot. We worked together until I left for unrelated reasons a few years later. No one was evil even though several people were hurt emotionally none of it was on purpose.

    in this case how did your manager react at the time? if she was sympathetic and concerned she likely forgot though I am still concerned about why she felt the need to say you couldn’t be bothered. If she was dismissive at the time that implies worse things. I’d give Alison’s script a go and go to HR if she responds with anything bit profuse apologies.

    1. HannahS*

      Yeah, unless there’s other evidence that the supervisor is terrible, it’s worth raising how hurtful it was and seeing what she says. I could 100% picture a version of events where the manager was making an effort to explain why the OP wasn’t there, but because they were in front of a client, she didn’t want to say anything about medical emergencies and thoughtlessly landed on “didn’t want to” without realizing how dismissive that sounds. Or she forgot…because she had her own loss at the time that others don’t know about. Or she forgot because she’s absentminded and not socially clued-in but still a good-enough manager in other ways.

      People screw up. Sometimes people screw up in ways that are really hurtful. I don’t think it’s necessarily true that the manager is heartless and cruel (though of course it might be!) and I think it’s worth trying to raise the issue before jumping to leaving the job and/or holding a grudge forever, which I see some people suggesting. And I’m sorry for your loss, OP2.

  20. FashionablyEvil*

    I strongly disagree with letting things go in #3–I’d use the cheerful “Of course this was a mistake!” tone and ask them to fix it. If the hotel is sold out, you’ll have to make do, but sharing a conference badge is sketchy. (Also, if my sister did this to me, I’d be seriously annoyed.)

    1. amoeba*

      Eh, the LW says the room-sharing is actually no big problem for her (and I assume for her sister as well, as she wouldn’t have mentioned it otherwise). So in that case, I’d also let that part go!
      The badge though, I’d definitely do everything to fix, seems super sketchy and I’d be so embarrassed if I got caught!

    2. Dr. Vibrissae*

      I agree about the badge. And since the sister is in a different reporting line and is the one who is getting short changed by not having her own badge, it might work better for her to push back either directly or though her manager by bringing up the lack of badge, and even confusion over why she wasn’t given her own room.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think the badge thing likely *was* a mistake. It’s just too odd. What would be the point of sending them out there and then setting it up so that they would both miss much of the conference since they couldn’t be there at the same time? The plane tickets probably cost more than the badges so if it was about saving money they’d be better off just not sending the sister at all. I imagine that either because of shared last names if they have the same name, or maybe even because they were working off a list made after the hotel room decision was made, they just forgot to register OP’s sister.

      I think the hotel thing was ultimately OP’s fault and she probably needs to suck it up this time. Personally I would have taken that as a genuine suggestion as well. I would have thought it was delivered in a joking manner–as in they were obviously not going to be actually having a literal slumber party–but I really don’t understand what the “joke” was meant to be or why you’d bring it up at all if you didn’t really intend the room sharing as a possibility.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Whoa, yes — I’d thought the conference had already happened and the LW was asking how to handle it now (she wrote “to get in front of it in the future”) but re-reading the letter, it hasn’t occurred yet. They can definitely ask for both things (room and pass) to be fixed now.

  21. CommanderBanana*

    “I recently collaborated with the partner and I commented about how much I like them to my boss. My boss responded, “They were supposed to be your partner but you didn’t want to drive that far to meet them.”

    Does your boss have a habit of saying stuff like this? If so, they suck. I worked for a woman who would constantly bring up any time someone was out of the office, including once making a snarky comment about me missing a (pointless) meeting because I wasn’t in that day…because I was doing my job staffing a training on the other side of the country.

  22. Extra anony*

    OP3, I would address this directly with the person with whom you made the joke. Something like… “Hey, I saw I’m in a room with (sister) for the conference. I know I made a joke about a slumber party, and it’s fine for this time, but for future conferences I’d like to have my own space, especially since we have different roles/schedules.”

    I would ask your sister to request her own pass and treat it as a mix up because it’s against the conference rules.

  23. Delphine*

    LW#2, I’m sorry you had to go through that and I’m sorry about your boss’s comment. I agree with Alison: unless you have some reason to believe that your boss would be so casually cruel, give her the benefit of the doubt and bring it up with her.

  24. Antilles*

    OP4: If it’s been years plural since you’ve been on LinkedIn, the vast majority of your messages are going to be completely irrelevant – recruiters wanting to discuss positions that are already filled, people congratulating you on previous promotions, etc.
    So feel free to delete them without even opening them. At most, skim the titles/sender names to see if anybody specifically pings your interest (as AAM suggests), but everything else you can just mass-delete without hesitation.

  25. PhyllisB*

    You’re fighting a losing battle with the “y’alls.” This is inbaked in the South. I always try not to use it in emails, (except here, of course) but in my speech…it’s gonna be there. Even Alison says y’all. :-)

    1. allathian*

      I wish it’d gain more traction in the English-speaking world in general. It fills a void in the language.

      Apparently y’all is also used in South African Indian English in the same way as in Southern US dialects.

  26. ANON*

    Not really anything to add to LW2, just condolences. I had a CMP and ended up needing to take time off not just for surgery, but also later for chemo. All miscarriages are terrible, but Molars are just the little extra bit of hell.

    1. Anon x2*

      I also had a CMP that needed chemo treatment after 2 D&Cs. They are awful as well because most people have no idea what they are and you constantly have to explain what happened…

  27. Former academic*

    LW1, in academic interviews in the US, it’s pretty normal to record group portions of interviews (especially things like formal research presentations/demonstration lessons). The idea is that it’s more fair to candidates for everyone to be able to see things for themselves versus have to rely on others’ reports. (NB: academic hiring is weird because there are A LOT of decisionmakers– at my former university the whole department discussed/voted on the hiring recommendation to the Dean). So, there may be a positive motivation (fairness, inclusiveness of team members in the decision process) behind the request.

  28. Hiring is weird*

    LW1: I was just recently on the other side of this situation. Such that we could be speaking of the same interview! I know from my part, I’m on a Board that was conducting around 12 interviews and knew not everyone could make every time slot due to other commitments, so we requested to record so everyone in the decision group could have the same information. We then moved to a next round, and to save a different group asking the same set of questions, we shared the interviews. This allowed the next stage to move on to different interview topics without some people feeling like they didn’t have the needed background questions! Probably a rare situation but extremely helpful. And I expect it may become more common for non profits due to the expense saving from not having all the great candidates fly to a central location, especially when the interview panel was also scattered.

  29. Recruiting Ops*

    LW#1 – I work in Recruiting Operations and interviews shouldn’t be recorded! It violates GDPR and opens up issues with bias unless they’re recording every single interview they conduct. I ended this practice when I started my current role and our Legal team was horrified to find out it was happening.

    1. BellyButton*

      I miss working in Europe and Canada where there are stricter privacy laws. In the US we do not have anything equivalent to GDPR

      1. fhqwhgads*

        My understanding is GDPR applies if either: the person is an EU citizen OR the person is physically in the EU at the moment. So, in my experience, US companies already jump through many hoops to be GDPR compliant if they do global business. Someone phone interviewing while on vacation in the EU? GDPR applies. US permanent resident who is EU citizen? GDPR applies. There are too many possible scenarios to not default to complying. Unless the company has no interest whatsoever in best practice.

      2. Peter*

        California has a fairly comprehensive privacy law now – California Consumer Privacy Rights Act . Other states also are enacting more comprehensive privacy laws. Some US companies are looking at what they have done for GDPR to see how they can leverage that work to comply with the California law.

  30. BellyButton*

    Even if the manager forgot about the medical emergency and devastating loss, the passive aggressive remark is unprofessional and uncalled for.

  31. Jane not Daria*

    LW 1: DO NOT allow yourself to be recorded! When I interviewed for my current job over a year ago (via Zoom) they tried to record me and I said no. I still got the offer.

    My exact words: “I do not consent to be recorded.” I then looked directly at the camera with a pleasant look on my face. Over the course of several interviews I was asked three times to be recorded and I used the same language each time. Only one person (my current boss) pushed back. At that point, I said that I would be happy to schedule additional meetings with any other stakeholders who needed to weigh in on my candidacy. No one else asked to schedule a follow-up and I was offered the job.

    Do not let them intimidate you. (And use the word “consent”—it is very powerful.) I am surprised that Alison was so far off the mark on this one. As she has said countless times, interviewing is a two-way street. You deserve to meet everyone who might weigh in on the interview process.

    1. Filosofickle*

      DO NOT as a blanket command feels unnecessary. It depends how much you care! I don’t love being recorded, but video calls I’m on are recorded on a daily / weekly basis for all sorts of reasons — research interviews, client presentations, information sessions — so it’s not that big of a deal to me. I wouldn’t burn the capital on saying no if I merely felt “nervous” as the LW says. You feel strongly about it so it makes sense for you to push back. It may not be the case for everyone.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s a very strong take on a very common practice. You’re certainly entitled to it, but you should know that you’re almost certainly not meeting everyone who might weigh in on the process, even without recordings.

    3. Mid*

      Can I ask why you feel so strongly about this?

      I always assumed that my candidacy was discussed by far more people than I met, and that if anything, recordings would be beneficial instead of relying on people’s memory and retelling of an interview. I have a rather unique resume and so I usually get a good number of questions about how my career path has worked and how my skills translate. I also feel like having a recorded interview to be shown to people who couldn’t be present in the meeting could help reduce some biases, because again, it’s not relying on second hand retelling.

      Are you concerned about bias? Improper storage of your data? Something else?

    4. Observer*

      DO NOT allow yourself to be recorded!


      You are making an extremely strong and broad statement. And you state it as though it’s an incontrovertible fact, like “The sky is blue and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” But it’s not an incontrovertible and you don’t bring any reason or hint of a reason, for your command.

      You deserve to meet everyone who might weigh in on the interview process.

      Not at all. If you think that in every case where you have interviewed you actually met everyone who has in any input into the decision, you are mistaken unless you are dealing only with small and fairly flat organizations. Whether or not an interview is recorded, there are many people who might have a say in a hiring decision, regardless of whether they interviewed the candidate.

    5. umami*

      It is highly unlikely that a candidate will meet every person who might weigh in on their candidacy, and I’m puzzled at your strong reaction to being recorded. It’s one thing to not feel comfortable being on-camera, but your reaction feels … extreme. I’m glad it worked in your favor, but I don’t think it’s indisputable advice or applicable in this situation.

    6. Lucky Meas*

      It’s weird to see the pushback to this comment. I would be very concerned about privacy if they are recording and storing interviews. You don’t know who is seeing that or sharing that or when it will be deleted. I think perhaps this is an American cultural comfort, since there aren’t strong privacy laws in the US.

      1. umami*

        I don’t think of an interview as being particularly private or that there should be an expectation of such. What would you consider private about the content of an interview? I would see it more as a protection than anything else.

      2. Peter*

        I’m not quite understanding the push back to someone not agreeing to be recorded. I understand many may not care. But some may care for many logical reasons, as well as simply personal preferences.

        If I was agreeing to be recorded, I would ask if it was audio only recording or visual and audio recording.

        I’d ask in a simple way if they would provide me their statement of how they plan to handle the recording (sharing, storing, deletion of original and back up copies — think privacy and security).

        I’d like the recording to be of everyone who is part of that to-be-recorded interview (i.e. no recording of me without recording everyone). Just as if I was mainly on camera, I’d want them all to be as well.

        And afterwards I’d want to have a copy of the recording.

        Yes, asking questions about the recording, as well as not agreeing to it, could negatively affect one being considered for a job. But for me, as US resident in one of the states that has newer, fairly comprehensive privacy laws, I’d prefer to work for a company that at least seems to take privacy and security into consideration when recording job applicants.

  32. Allornone*

    Geez. I really hope Alison is right about #2’s boss simply forgetting. The alternative is heartbreaking.

  33. Ardis Paramount*

    LW1 – To stop myself from being psyched out by the presence of a camera in a meeting or interview, I tell myself that someone named “Cameron” is present as an observer and note-taker.
    Kind of silly, but for me it collapses the distraction into something too trivial to worry about.

  34. Ermintrude (she/her)*

    Actually, ignore my comment, I was tired and acting like it’s Twitter here.

  35. Vegas*

    Wow. I’d be super annoyed if I was coordinating travel to a conference and someone communicated a preference to me, I wrote it down, made it happen, and then they acted like I’d wronged them because I was supposed to somehow know they were joking. People have jobs to do, don’t give fake details to someone planning stuff and then be surprised they believed you. I don’t respond to everything an employee says to me with “Hmm, could they be making a silly joke and I should ignore this?” And I shouldn’t have to.

    The only appropriate way to address this is to go back to the person and say “Hey, I’m super embarrassed. I was playing around the other day and I was joking when I said I wanted to stay with my sister. I should have made it clear that was a joke! I’m sorry for the trouble, but is it too late to change that? Again, I apologize.”

    If that person came back to me with “Next time I’d prefer to have my own room like everybody else,” I’d be irritated that they were acting like I made a mistake or singled them out. This whole situation came from OP stupidly making a joke to someone who was trying to do their job, so it’s on OP to fix it and take responsibility.

  36. Raida*

    2) “They were supposed to be your partner but you didn’t want to drive that far to meet them.”
    “Ex-fcking-scuse me? The meeting when I was in hospital, and nearly died? The meeting where *you* said it was not a problem and you’re happy to do the meeting? Are you seriously telling me that you see me as the ‘person who didn’t want to drive’ and not ‘the reliable worker that lost a baby a few months ago otherwise she *would have* done the drive’? Should I apologise for the interruption to my job by a medical emergency?”

    I know the moment has passed, but yeah you gotta go talk to your boss to clarify their memory. They need to know that their mis-remembering of the events had better not colour their opinion of your work ethic.

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