is my employee lying to avoid coming into the office, convention center won’t turn down the music, and more

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

1. I think my employee is lying to avoid coming into the office

I am a manager in a small education nonprofit setting. We have a hybrid model and are in the office Mondays and Fridays. The in-office days are important for the service we provide. One of my direct reports, Laura, has a demanding role. She is salaried and exempt but if she works over 40 hours we consistently track the overage and promptly schedule comp time. I am overall happy with her performance, with some areas in need of improvement. She has only been in her position for four months.

Recently, there is a pattern of Laura asking to work from home at the last minute on our office days. She says she is sick, but they always line up with another reason she’d want to work from home. The most recent example is she asked in advance to take four vacation days, Tuesday through Friday. I said yes, with the caveat that it would be important to still be in the office on Monday. That Monday morning, said she was feeling sick and wanted to work from home so as not to risk infecting the rest of us, but she said she was still feeling well enough to work remotely. However when we got on Zoom, the room she was in was one I’d never seen before in four months of Zoom meetings. I strongly suspect she flew out for her trip over the weekend and planned to work remotely for the first day of her vacation, but I don’t have concrete proof. I’d say this has happened five times over the past two months.

We don’t have a written policy addressing working from home on office days, and I have been pretty lenient in the past. For example, an employee had a major maintenance issue in his apartment and I allowed him to work from home while waiting for the repair technician to arrive. In this case, Laura’s frequent requests to work from home are impacting my ability to plan and pushing more work onto the rest of our team. How do I address this with her? I have already emphasized that she should take time off when she is sick and I have never pushed back on a sick day request. I really don’t like being lied to, but I don’t think I can accuse an employee of lying without proof. Pushing a strict new policy feels like it would be unfair to the rest of the team who have not had this issue. Help!

If it were just a couple of times, I’d say you should give her the benefit of the doubt. But five times in two months with a distinct pattern to the timing is … enough that it’s worth talking about.

To do that, name the pattern and the impact on the work, but without speculating on the reasons. So for example: “I’ve noticed you’ve frequently been asking to work from home on our in-office days. It’s happened enough that it’s impacting my ability to plan, and it’s pushing more work onto the rest of our team. It’s something we can accommodate occasionally in unusual circumstances, but in general I do need you in the office on our office days, which are critical to the work we do. Do you foresee any trouble doing that going forward, aside from rare exceptions?”

It’s possible (although probably unlikely) that there’s something going on that’s legitimately interfering with her ability to work that schedule — like she’s having a medical treatment on Friday that she’s still suffering effects from on Monday. But absent her raising something like that, you should simply lay out what you need and how that’s different from what’s been happening, while making sure there’s room for her to speak up if there’s an obstacle to her providing that.

2. Cell phone settings in open offices

I work in an open floor plan office and today it became very obvious that someone in the sea of cubicles left their cell phone on their desk with their phone set to loud. This happens sometimes and the occasional ping is no big deal, but their phone ended up pinging almost non-stop for nearly 30 minutes (I assume they’re in a very lively group chat of some kind).

I thought about getting up, finding the desk, and turning the phone off myself, but given that I know people can be sensitive to other people touching their things on their desk (generally rightly so, I think!), I decided to just book a conference room to hide from the pings. We’re not really supposed to just book conference rooms when it’s not for a meeting, but doing so seemed reasonable at the time. We also don’t have assigned desks, so I’m not sure whose phone it was; otherwise I would’ve just messaged them to let them know and asked if it was alright if I turned the sound off. Any thoughts on how I could handle this differently in the future? Should I have just turned the sound off?

Someone who leaves their desk while their phone remains there at loud volume and getting non-stop alerts there is forfeiting the right to object if someone goes to their desk and turns it off. Next time it happens, turn if off. If you want to be especially considerate, you can leave a note letting them know you did and why.

3. Convention center will not turn down the music

I belong to a professional organization that has a statewide convention every year. We always hold this meeting in a convention center/resort that has been in business for decades, and is centrally located and affordable. The problem is that a few years ago the center was purchased by a frozen-drink-themed resort chain. Everything is pretty much the same, except now they blast yacht rock 24/7. I don’t mean just in the bars and restaurants, but at the reception desk, the halls outside the meeting rooms, in the corridors that connect to the hotel, etc. I’ve had to shout at the receptionists in order to be understood, we’ve had to close the doors to meetings to drown out the sound, and I’ve heard people complain they couldn’t sleep because the music crept into their hotel rooms.

For three years I’ve complained to the management, as have my fellow attendees, asking that they turn down the music in the business part of the center. The responses are always apologetic, however, I get the impression that the loud music is corporate policy. I’ve told them this might be an ADA violation, as anyone with hearing loss would not be able to hear anything above the noise, but as that doesn’t apply to me, I don’t feel it’s an avenue I can pursue.

Changing convention centers is not really an option, and other than the music, we have no complaints. Is there any way we can lean on the corporate management so we can carry on a conversation in the halls?

Since it’s apparently part of the resort’s branding, you’ll probably have a better shot if you lean on the conference organizers… and this is really on them anyway, for choosing this venue year after year when they know the issue. Can you and other attendees lean on the organizers to (a) try to negotiate a change in the noise level in the halls near their meetings rooms or (b) choose a less raucous space for future years (you said it’s not an option but … it might have to be?) . I’m skeptical that they’d succeed in the former, but they’ll have more weight than you would have as an individual conference attendee.

Read an update to this letter

4. Should I give feedback to a former intern on our coffee meeting?

I’m curious if I’m way off-base here. And if not, how to proceed.

A former intern reached out to me to set up a coffee during the work week. He has just graduated from a graduate program and I assumed he wanted some advice about applying to jobs in our field. I am very fond of this intern and so I was happy to meet with him. In between his first email and the coffee taking place, he emailed with a question about an open position at our organization. I replied with my thoughts and encouragement to apply. I was a little confused, figuring this is what he, at least partly, wanted to have coffee to discuss.

Fast forward a few days to our coffee. When I arrived, he was there and had already gotten himself a drink. He did not offer to get me one. After some brief catching up, I asked him about applying to jobs and work topics, but the conversation kept turning back to personal things. Again, I really like this former intern and was interested to hear about his life and family, but I think a workday coffee should have a point and not just be a social call. I was also put off by not being offered a drink. Honestly, if he had offered to pay I probably would have declined and gotten both our drinks on the company card! But he didn’t give me the chance.

Do I give him feedback? I realize we are no longer in a formal work relationship but I really don’t want him going off into the world with bad manners! Do I subtly suggest he reads Ask A Manager as he prepares to join the working world? Notch it up to youth and inexperience and hope he grows out of it?

I wouldn’t mention any of this to him!

The fact that he didn’t use your meeting to talk about work isn’t a faux pas. Lots of people meet for mid-day coffees and keep it purely social; it’s a way to stay in touch with old colleagues, and it’s not bad manners! It’s probably true that he thought to rekindle the connection because he’s applying for a job in your organization, but “rekindling the connection” often means “let’s have a social coffee to catch up”; it doesn’t have to mean you talk work. You expected something different, but he didn’t do anything wrong or in need of correction.

Not offering to get you a coffee is a little rude — the person who invited the other should at least offer to pay, but as your former intern he’s probably used to more senior people paying. He still should have offered to! But it’s not such an outrage that it warrants saying anything. (That said, if he ever tells you he’s asking a bunch of industry people to coffees to pick their brains or something, that would be a good time to mention the etiquette on paying, in a mentor-y way.)

{ 660 comments… read them below }

  1. Zarniwoop*

    “We don’t have a written policy addressing working from home on office days … Pushing a strict new policy feels like it would be unfair to the rest of the team”
    Just because it’s written doesn’t mean it has to be strict. Allow infrequent exceptions but not a pattern.

    1. GythaOgden*

      Yup. Having rules you can point to is really important in this kind of situation. Particularly as Laura is a very new employee, she needs to get into a new routine and be able to focus on building the capital she needs to be trusted to WFH on a trip or whatever.

    2. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, although it doesn’t HAVE to be written. You’ve got a clear regular pattern of working in the office that you expect everyone to follow. Laura has had enough exceptions that it’s impacting your ability to plan and other people’s workloads. This is a totally legit conversation to have, and now is the right time to have it! Whether it’s written or unwritten makes no difference: the problem is the pattern you’re seeing and the impact it’s having in others, and you don’t need a written policy to address that.

      1. ferrina*

        The OP needs to be explicit with Laura about wfh expectations, but that can be written or in a conversation. It’s possible that Laura doesn’t yet understand what the expectations are (especially if OP has been treating her requests as no big deal), but since it sounds like she planned to work from her vacation, I’d have very real doubts about her integrity.

        If OP wants, they could even tell Laura that she needs to work from office or take sick time (no wfh option). This isn’t uncommon for a new hire. It doesn’t even need to be a policy; it’s okay to have different expectations based on role/performance.
        “I’ve realized it’s not working out to have you work from home and it’s created undue burden for the rest of the team. For the next couple months, I need you to be in the office or take sick time if you aren’t feeling well.”

        1. Ama*

          Yeah this reminds me a bit of a pre-pandemic situation I had with a new direct report who just misunderstood how our flex time policy worked — at our office it meant that you had the option to set a schedule other than 9-5 with your manager but you were still expected to stick to the schedule except in special situations (that were also prearranged with your manager), my report thought it meant she could show up at a different time every morning as long as she worked 8 hours. Once I clarified what the expectation was, we were fine.

          I will say that report taught me that it is basically impossible to tell whether a report just really does need a lot of one-on-one guidance to understand office norms or if they are the “you didn’t explicitly tell me I *can’t* do this so I’m going to do it until you say something” type. They both need basically the same kind of management, though — they need to be told clearly what the expectations are even if sometimes what they need to be told you think should have been obvious.

          1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

            I’m an advocate of making things as explicit as possible. If she came in at different times every day, she couldn’t really “pick up” that everyone else came in at the same time every day. Also, it’s not really “flex time” if you’re expected to work the same hours every day, and telling people you have flex time is a little misleading IMO.

            1. I Have RBF*

              Also, it’s not really “flex time” if you’re expected to work the same hours every day, and telling people you have flex time is a little misleading IMO.


              Asking for the same hours every day isn’t really “flex time”. It’s simply letting people set their regular start time. If Adam starts at 7 am, Bill starts at 8 am, Carol starts at 9 am, and Dave starts at 10 am, with “core hours” of 10 am to 3 pm, that’s not actually flex time, that’s staggered start times.

              It becomes flex if Adam starts at 7 am except when he has to drop his kids off at daycare, Bill starts sometime between 8 am and 10 am, depending on traffic for his two hour commute, Carol usually starts at 9, but some days comes in at 7 am, and Dave starts between 9 and 10.

              The difference is subtle. The first is rigid, but negotiated. The second is flex time with core hours.

            2. JB (not in Houston)*

              That’s what flex time has meant everywhere I’ve worked. The “flex” part is that it’s flexible on what your regular schedule is.

            3. DisgruntledPelican*

              Flex time means so many different things. In addition to both things described here, it can also mean my schedule is Monday through Friday, but we had an event on Saturday so now I’m going to take a random day off during the week to make up for it.

        2. Jade*

          This is good. Make her come into the office for a few weeks. Because she’s certainly taking advantage of wfh.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, don’t make formal blanket rules that impact everyone when there is really just one person you need to talk to.

        1. Ama*

          So much this. As someone whose coworkers are all struggling under a extremely strict hybrid schedule that our CEO fully admits is to keep people “from taking advantage” and which seems to be based on one particular department that didn’t do well during the shutdown (because the CEO failed to notice that the department head was herself struggling), I can speak from experience that crafting policies more to prevent bad behavior than to set clear expectations only ends up demoralizing everyone.

          1. Area Woman*

            I love how you framed this. Policies set clear expectations, they’re not meant to preempt every bad action. I pride myself on trusting people and letting them do their thing, as long as they meet expectations.

    3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      The policy could include not working elsewhere but home (which can be verified with IP addresses right?), which is pretty common apparently, especially if confidentiality is an important issue.
      And if it isn’t (doesn’t sound like it is, because the problem is more that the in-office work has to get shunted onto others) there may be exceptions to this rule, but the employee would need to seek permission to be an exception.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        As stated above, I think there is no reason to add more restrictions when the vast majority of people are not abusing the existing, flexible policy.

        I would balk at my employer trying to check my IP address to see where I am. If you can’t trust me to be working from where I say I’m working, we have way bigger problems than me working from not-home. And if it’s just as okay for someone to work from their local coffee shop, the park across the street, their romantic partner’s apartment across town, or their parent’s living room as it is for them to work from their own desk, then this level of tracking is too much IMO. Just let people know that the expectation is that they need to be working from whatever location (city, state, in reasonable driving distance of the office, whatever it is) and leave it at that. If LW is willing to, for example, let someone work from their mom’s house one Friday because her pipes exploded and the repair person is coming over, but mom can’t get the time off to stay home to wait for them, why create a policy that would discourage or prevent that kind of flexibility?

          1. JustaTech*

            Unless your systems *require* a VPN before you log in. If I want access to anything beyond email and chat I have to log in through our VPN.

      2. tinyhipsterboy*

        I’d try and stay away from that sort of policy, honestly. I once worked for a hospitality company that required us to ask permission before working anywhere other than a typical home office, which had me really worried because I couldn’t afford to take time off but also have a yearly trip back home that is low-key enough that working is completely feasible while I’m there.

        In that specific case, luckily, the company wasn’t strict–I just had to make sure I had a private corner where people couldn’t just walk by and see the information on my screen–but even just the requirement was enough to get me nervous that I wouldn’t be able to see family the one time a year I get to. It might be a good idea to specify that the policy is flexible but things cannot be a pattern, but unless working specifically at home is crucial (like if you need to connect to a specific intranet that needs approval or something), it could read unnecessarily restrictive. Depends on the business, though.

        1. Louisa*

          I don’t think it’s an issue to work elsewhere, just ask for permission and it would be an exception AND meet you office day expectations.

      3. Wintermute*

        if someone is on a VPN, including a company VPN or connects via a data center accumulator entry point then it is not possible to use IP addresses to correlate location. My computer routinely thinks it’s in Florida or Alabama sometimes both at once.

      4. Hannah Lee*

        Agree with those that think a new policy limiting WFH to only approved locations that’s not the way to go here.

        Because not only is it putting restrictions on everyone even though only one person is an issue. But also because the issue OP is having with this employee aren’t “She’s supposed to be working remotely, but she’s doing it from an unapproved place” , it’s that she’s frequently not coming into the office on the designated “work from the office” days. That is what’s disruptive to workflow, other employees and is negatively impacting the productivity of the department.

        There’s the side issue is that Laura seems to be possibly lying about being sick on those days, and doing so with some planning … in the example her “oh, man I’m sick, I’m not going to make it to the office” call in happened on a Monday and possibly enabled her to take a nice long trip somewhere. Which OP doesn’t have proof of, but it likely will make OP keep an eye on Laura for other integrity issues showing up.

        Reiterating/clarifying expectations will either change Laura’s behavior for the better, or make clear that there’s a more serious issue going on that OP will need to address.

    4. Totally Minnie*

      My office’s hybrid policy includes a specific number of exception days per year when you can work from home on an in office day. That way, if 3-5 times a year an emergency crops up that means you need to work from home on what would normally be an office day, you have the flexibility to do that. But when you use up all your exception days, you either need to go in to the office or use paid leave.

      1. Antilles*

        That seems pretty restrictive. I feel like the whole point of having a human manager is that they should be willing to exercise judgment about the work impact and what’s reasonable. Laura can take 5 unscheduled days and be in compliance with your company’s policy, but if those 5 days involve lying about being sick to extend a vacation, that should still be a problem due to the dishonesty involved.
        Especially in OP’s scenario where it seems like everybody else in the department is doing fine and Laura is just the one exception pushing boundaries; just deal with the one bad apple directly, no need to create some restrictive policy about “exception days” when it’s really just one person causing trouble.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Agreed. My job has a strict policy but my manager doesn’t enforce it. It works out better for both of us not to adhere to rigid requirements and let us work from home when we need to. I get to preserve my leave for times when I actually cannot work and she gets to have my labor on days when I’m not well enough to get to and work from the office, but can work from my desk at home (or the bed if it’s bad enough). As a chronically ill/disabled person, I’d wash out pretty quickly if I had to come to the office on set days every week, because my health fluctuates too much for that kind of predictability.

          1. I Have RBF*


            I’m remote, and this very much helped me when I had Covid. I could work part days, and sleep the rest. It took me a month and a half to work back up to full days, but if I was in-office I would have had to take at least two weeks of sick time, and would have been useless in the office for the month afterwards because of fatigue and brain fog.

        2. Smithy*

          Yeah, this brings to mind managers who want to rely on tools like RACI charts to avoid management issues they don’t want to deal with.

          Not to say that RACI charts or more clarity around rules can’t help formalize expectations where there’s ambiguity. However, if that ambiguity is accompanied by a significant break with the expectations of behavior and professional norms – then I think that hoping new rules alone will fix this often just delays that conversation. Giving Laura the benefit of the doubt that she does not have any malicious intent, but rather just hates coming into the office and is trying to get out of it because she assumes it doesn’t harm anyone else or any workload. Someone with that mindset may just need more management to genuinely see how it’s negatively harming the team/workflow.

        3. There You Are*

          Our new CEO just announced the end of 3/2 Hybrid. Starting in Sept, we will be required to be in the office M-Th, with Fri being the only allowed WFH day.

          If, as in the example above, your mom’s (or your) pipes bust on a Monday night and you need to unlock the door for the plumber first thing Tuesday morning, you can’t swap Friday for Tuesday; you have to burn a PTO day, even though you have a perfectly fine WFH setup right there and could put in 8+ hours of work.

          Same if you’re feeling a little under the weather or, as with Michelle Smith, have a chronic illness / disability than can flare up without warning. Our CEO’s message to you is, “Sucks to be you! Have you considered not being disabled so you can display performative loyalty to me?”

          1. It's My Birthday! (yesterday)*

            If you have a chronic illness/disability that can flare up without warning, I recommend seeking a formal ADA accommodation to work from home. That’s what I have. USA here.

            1. There You Are*

              Interesting. I have IBS and sometimes need to visit the bathroom over a dozen times in an 11-hour period (the total amount of time I spend away from home on an in-office day).

              I am mentally able to perform my duties. I am physically able to perform my duties. But my life — and the lives of my co-workers — will be much better if I WFH instead of going in. No need to burn a sick/PTO day.

              But my CEO doesn’t see it that way, not if I have a flare-up Mon thru Thu. According to his new policy, there is no “WFH as usual” on Mon, Tue, Wed, or Thu. There is only “sit in your cubicle for 8 hours” or “take PTO”.

          2. I Have RBF*

            IMO, your CEO is an ass. C Suite people who demand in-office, butts in seats rigidity deserve to have their demoralized employees quit and tank their company.

            WFH and full time remote is here to stay. I was reading an article the other day about how the more in-office days a company demanded when the job didn’t actually need it, the harder it was to hire people.

            1. There You Are*

              Yes, yes he is an ass.

              And, yes, prior to the announcement, many of the senior leaders a rung or two below him (the people who knew the announcement was coming) quit.

              Now that the rest of us know about, a bunch of us have flipped our statuses on LinkedIn to “open to finding a new job.” Our managers know we are demoralized and have other options, so there’s no need to hide our job searches.

      2. Daisy-dog*

        Meh, I don’t love this. I came back from vacation with a cold last year. Besides the fact that I’d just had 3 days off and had a ton of work piled up (I don’t work there anymore), I was really fine to work with an occasional nap. Because of my excessive coughing and sniffling, I worked from home. I had already swapped office days that year because my dog was sick with stomach issues, my husband had Covid (which I then caught), extreme weather, a bizarre rash situation, etc. So the choice would be to come to work and share my cold? Or use sick time and let those projects get further behind schedule?

    5. Mockingjay*

      “…unfair to the rest of the team.”

      Written policies put everyone into a fair arrangement. “These are the conditions for WFH: location, availability requirements, core hours, IT requirements (VPN), in-person attendance on X days (specified)” etc. Policies can also define consequences. A WFH policy benefits employees because they know exactly what they have to comply with; it helps managers because the same rules apply to all and individual employee compliance or performance can be measured against the benchmarks in the policy.

      Ideally a WFH policy should be company-wide, with the caveat that not all jobs are doable remotely; those roles might have an extra benefit or perk to compensate.

      OP1 has two issues: a new employee whose performance isn’t where it should be, and an informal WFH policy which will likely lead to other problems across her department in the future. For the first: address Laura’s performance, set clear goals, and have defined consequences for not meeting those goals. For the second, look into standardizing the WFH policy. Right now it’s on the honor system, but as evidenced by Laura, honor isn’t always going to work.

      1. Christina*

        But it’s the difference between equal and equitable. The rules don’t have to be exactly the same for everyone because everyone doesn’t have the same needs. If only one person is causing problems, you don’t need to make a new rule that applies to all the people who aren’t causing an issue, you just need to address the one that is an issue.

        1. *kalypso*

          This is more writing down the current expectations so that when someone skirts them, there’s something to point to beyond ‘we expected this and you did that, which we don’t like’.

        2. Boof*

          I do think it can be nice to have written guidelines so new folks have some idea of what’s normal. But they shouldn’t be strict/reactive. In this specific situation it’s a little hard to visualize how that would look “unscheduled work from home days will be allowed at manager’s discretion on individual request and circumstances, more than [5 per year???] may trigger a performance review if there is no formal accommodation plan/request” ???

    6. CommanderBanana*

      Also, having a conversation with the person who is causing the issue should be the first step, not leaping to pushing a strict new policy of no recess for anyone.

    7. Momma Bear*

      Having a policy can still provide wiggle room at a manager’s discretion. It would just work the opposite way. However, I do see value in talking to the offender directly. Since this is a pattern, address it. If she needs another day she should just ask for it upfront so you can plan for her to be out. If she doesn’t have the leave accrued, then she needs to adapt her vacation accordingly. She’s only been there a few months, so good time to check in and level-set anyway. Have a one on one to touch base with her.

    8. SpaceySteph*

      I agree, as norms on WFH are evolving, it can be really helpful to have a written policy so people can understand the expectations from the outset. It doesn’t have to be any more strict than the current verbal policy.

    9. tamarack etc.*

      Yes. Also, the OP might consider having as a policy that people working from home are transparent about where they’re located. We have a very flexible hybrid team, with some completely remote, most regularly working from home, and as we’re scientists, some may work from travel locations, sabbaticals on other continents etc. I know from the team members’ background, even blurred, usually where they are and if it’s an unusual place, we usually volunteer. Like “I’m downstairs in our den today instead of my upstairs home office as we have the plumber in and I want to catch them before they leave. Sorry if my audio isn’t as good.” We’re absolutely OK with a grad student having their toddler in the background (even audibly so, and saying hi occasionally) – but I think if you work from home your home becomes a site of work, so it’s normal for the co-workers to have some idea of the contours of your WFH setting.

  2. elle kaye*

    #2 – though sadly, a lot of phones are default set to require authorization to turn them off nowadays. (I. e. entering a password to shut it off.) Ergo, it’s truly evil.

    1. duinath*

      sure, but with apple phones at least you can turn the sound off by pushing a button on the side of the phone. don’t think you need a password for that, and it’s probably better to turn the sound off rather than turn the phone off entirely, if you want to maintain a cordial relationship. tbh i assumed that’s what lw and alison meant.

      1. John Smith*

        I think whatever action is taken, the owner needs to be told of it (and why) when they return to it – you wouldn’t want them to miss an important call. Yes, they may have missed one while away, but it could be there’s one scheduled that they’re by there phone for.

        1. Colette*

          I think it would be kind to tell the owner, but I don’t think it’s a requirement – if you leave your phone on unattended, you get what you get.

        2. It's My Birthday! (yesterday)*

          If an expected call was that important, wouldn’t they take their phone with them?

      2. JSPA*

        As fluffy dense pillows are hard to come by, in an office, put a tied-off bag of foam packing peanuts over it, and an upside-down empty box or two, over that. It’ll muffle the phone without touching it directly.

        1. Observer*

          It’s extremely hard to actually effectively muffle the phone’s sound. Some of the pings, maybe. The phone ringer? Generally not. I’ve tried some of this stuff for a number of reasons, and it really doesn’t work all that well.

          What has worked the best, in my experience is putting it in a drawer. That bag of peanut, or even wadded up paper, will be much more helpful there, as well, if you can find it.

          And, I don’t care if someone touched it. Put a note on the desk that “Your phone is in drawer X, because it was blowing up and people couldn’t work.”

      1. NeedRain47*

        It doesn’t silence alarms tho.
        It doesn’t happen a lot, but I am in charge of silencing my coworker’s alarm when he leaves his phone at his desk, as I am also an iphone user.

    2. Myrin*

      It honestly didn’t even occur to me that someone could mean “literally switch the whole thing off” – I thought OP meant “turn it to silent” and every phone I’ve ever had (except for, if memory serves correctly, the brick nokia in 2001) has had a little button on the side to simply mute all sounds.

      1. Susan Calvin*

        Yeah, that’s… probably only iphones. I can’t say for sure, but none of the Android phones I’ve handled over the years had a physical mute button, unless you count the volume up/down ones, which depending on model might only affect media and not ringtone volume.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          My Android phone (Pixel) has the standard volume buttons on the side. For the ringer.

        2. Myrin*

          I have never had an iPhone so I wouldn’t know. But yeah, I meant the volume button which is effectively the same thing, you just have to hold it for a bit for it to go all the way down.

        3. Android User*

          Most of the Androids I’ve ever handled have a menu you can access from the lock screen by swiping down. There’s generally a mute button there unless the owner of the phone has gone in and totally reconfigured the buttons.

          1. Beany*

            Mine ( a Moto G Power) has a set of controls accessible from the lock screen, but audio controls don’t appear to be part of them.

      2. amoeba*

        Yeah, like, please don’t do that! I’d be pretty annoyed if somebody force quit my phone instead of just turning off the volume! (Although I believe mine just goes to vibrate with the volume buttons on the side – still, better than nothing!)

        1. Timothy (TRiG)*

          If the vibration is still annoying, sitting the phone on something soft can help a lot.

          1. amoeba*

            And I just read “…sitting on the phone” and was like, yeah, sure, sounds a bit extreme though?

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Vibrate can also be extremely annoying if it’s going off a lot. My partner’s watch vibrates when they get a notification and sometimes they leave it on the kitchen table and the sound of it vibrating drives me crazy until I pick it up and go put it on their pillow so I can’t hear it.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I was in middle school when gigapets were really popular and got one for my birthday. Sometime during the night, it started continuously beeping for attention, and no amount of button pressing would get it to stop. In the end, it took a screwdriver and pair of pliers to disconnect the battery, and I never got another.

    3. MK*

      If I couldn’t turn the volume down, I would put it in a drawer to at least limit the noise.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        I was thinking of throwing a woolly jumper over it to muffle the noise.

        I remember calling a colleague to come and get her phone which was driving us mad in our officially quiet office, The colleague came to get it, but instead of answering the phone she just started dancing to her ringtone music (she’d just changed it to a hit song). We were all seething.

      2. ferrina*

        First offense: Leave a note.
        Second offense: Put in drawer and leave a note
        Third offense: Wrapped in bubble wrap and duct tape. Put in drawer.

      1. Jack Skellington*

        Also usually phones will have a button combination to force quit them (otherwise you may end up stuck if your phone freezes, which my previous phone did when the hardware became too old to handle the OS)

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        Right? Maybe it’s my Apple focus but on those you only need to hold down two buttons together at most to power it off. If it’s passcode locked then you need to re-enter it to use it once it’s turned back ON.

        1. Jack Skellington*

          I’ve never encountered it on an Android either, though I admittedly only ever used cheap ones (if I’m going to pay that much for a phone I want the ability to remove all the useless preinstalled apps)

          1. Anonymous 75*

            My Samsung doesn’t have this either, you can turn it off from a side button and then confirm the off request. you can also just turn down the ring volume via a side button as well.

            1. Wintermute*

              it does, on a Samsung the default combination is usually volume down plus power for 15 seconds will force-boot the device. on some others it’s volume up+down and power.

          2. Wintermute*

            it’s built into the OS-level, typically it’s volume down plus power or both volume buttons plus power for 10-20 seconds depending on OEM.

      3. Allonge*

        It’s enforced on our company phones (security) and can indeed be a setting for anyone. Sure, there are ways to get around it but generally you would want to mess with someon else’s phone the least amount possible.

        I never met an Andriod phone where there was no sound button on the side though, so that’s better in most cases.

    4. Ally McBeal*

      What kind of phone requires a password to turn off? iPhones don’t require that, but I’ve only ever had iPhones after ditching my Blackberry.

      1. Jack Skellington*

        I’ve never noticed this on Android phone either (though admittedly I never had a high-end Android). Though as Allonge suggests it may be a thing on company managed phones.

      2. Firecat*

        Samsung A53 is one example that won’t turn of with a button combination and requires unlocking to access the phone in order to access the power settings (it’s on the drop down menu with airplane mode etc.)

        1. Jack Skellington*

          According to my googling this should be possible with buttons though. It seems like a horrendously bad idea not to have any hardware way to turn off a phone at all, considering how often “turn it off and then on again” is necessary to fix freezing issues.

      3. RussianInTexas*

        Pixel 6Pro requires you to get in to settings to power it off, which requires you to unlock the phone.
        But you can turn the ring volume down via the buttons on the side without unlocking the phone.

        1. Observer*

          It depends on how the phone is set up. You can set it to use the power button to . . . actually turn the power of.

          But also, there is a different combination you can use – I’ve had to do it. I don’t remember, but if volume rocker doesn’t work, or you need to turn of a phone in a pinch for other reasons, Google is your friend.

    5. Mimi12*

      Better idea: find the phone, identify the desk owner, and then message or email them that their phone is not on mute and is receiving multiple pings.
      I’d be pretty weirded out if someone touched my phone, but if I was in a meeting and was told my phone was going off loudly, I’d run out and fix that post-haste.

      1. B*

        I wouldn’t love someone touching my phone but I also would not leave it unattended and making noise in a semi-public space for a half hour. I think the latter is a much bigger breach of etiquette than the former.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Agreed. If one of my possessions is making noise, leaking, stinking, or otherwise affecting other people, I’ve forfeited the right to complain if someone takes minimal steps to stop it from doing that.

        2. Le Sigh*

          I have worked with several people who do this, and I’ve had to listen to endless streams of ringtones when those were a thing (see, Red Solo Cup, Tis the Season, and even Real Slim Shady, on repeat) or vibrate going off over and over again. And very often the people who do this are repeat offenders, no matter how many times you ask them to stop. Don’t want me to touch your phone? Silence it or take it with you. Otherwise, you get what you get.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        The office didn’t have assigned desks, so OP doesn’t know who left a phone beeping wildly away next to her workspace.

        I think the politest option is to turn it to silent and stick a post-it on the phone that you did so. I will break my usual anonymous note stance and state that this particular note can be anonymous–you aren’t asking someone to consider doing something in future, just alerting them to an existing circumstance. Like “wet paint” or “use door on left.”

  3. Kevin Sours*

    If you don’t turn down the music we’ll keep coming back isn’t much of a negotiating strategy.

      1. English Rose*

        Exactly. What if the convention centre closed down, they’d have to find an alternative then.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Which they just might encounter soon enough if the guests can’t sleep with all the noise lol

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        If this was my event, I would do my very best to be a huge pain in the arse to the hotel until they made changes – though the organisers (for reasons I go into further down this thread) may not be able to get the hotel to budge.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          If they’re a chain or owned by another company, I’d go to the head of that–even the overall manager might have no say about this stuff if it’s coming down from above.

    1. MsM*

      Unless they keep blasting the music because they’re hoping this group will take the conference elsewhere.

      1. Antilles*

        That’s certainly a strategy people sometimes use.
        But in this case, I think it’s far more likely this is just something that the corporate “frozen drink/resort chain” imposed from way above. It’s part of their #brand to always have music playing everywhere and that’s that.

        1. Dover*

          Wasting away again in #frozendrinkthemedresortandconferencecenter
          Searching for my lost Quarterly TPS Report

          1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

            Yeah, I bet hardcore psittacineheads can sleep through yacht rock at seismic volume levels.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          Which–fine, but I don’t need the music set to HEARD IN SPACE levels.

      2. Verthandi*

        There was a hotel / convention center that did something similar. Instead of music it was no air conditioning in the middle of summer in a climate with heat and high humidity. Some convention-goers have mentioned that they felt heat coming out of the vents.

        The convention will never go back to that hotel no matter how many times the management changes, and no one who was at that convention will ever use them again for any reason.

    2. Ama*

      Yeah as someone who has had to oversee the selection of a new event venue many many times, this is just inertia on the part of the conference organizers. I run a week long small conference every year and there are only a tiny amount of venues in the entire US that fit our very particular needs for space and budget (for one thing it needs to be in a location that is warm enough to go outside in early spring). But we’ve had to move venues multiple times in the last three years for various reasons and even though it is a crappy process, we’ve always managed to find something.

      1. Ama*

        Heh I should clarify in the last three years we had it — for obvious reasons we took a break from 2020 -2022.

    3. tamarack etc.*

      I think the org needs to seriously look into alternatives and fall-backs. Even without the music the venue might become closed without notice – upgrade work, asbestos removal, natural hazard -, and if they have the mindset that changing the venue is not an option, they could end up on the back foot.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      Exactly! Why would they quit doing something if there’s no consequence?

      Insert my rant here for BLASTING MUSIC in public venues–I get that bars and such are loud, but just about every place I go nowadays for just regular lunch or something similar is always playing their Pandora stations set at “Vibrate Everyone’s Fillings To The Beat!” level, and I despise it. I can’t hear anything my co-diners are saying, or the wait staff. It’s even blasting in the bathrooms!

  4. Margaritaville*

    Dying to know what frozen-drink-themed resort chain buys naming rights to a convention center but yeah, I don’t think they’re changing anything, they have no incentive to.

      1. Anonychick*

        “Yacht rock” is, as I understand it, a usually-but-not-always-negative term for a specific variety of soft rock, focusing mainly on 70s & 80s soft rock, with the occasional singer/songwriter or beach-music vibe thrown in.

        (I’m going to assume we’re not supposed to directly name the chain, even if it’s obvious to me, so I won’t, but parse it this way: “[name of a yacht-rock song that encompasses within it the name of a sometimes-frozen alcoholic drink], which, in addition to being a song, is now also a chain of beachy/yacht-rock-themed restaurants and resorts.”)

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Ugh, they only music on the radio when I was growing up in Kansas. This was before Internet or anything more than corporate radio stations.
          There’s nothing like being trapped in the hinterlands with the same top 10 songs playing all the time. :p

        2. TooTiredTooThink*

          Yeah, it’s painfully obvious to me and now that I know how they operate I’d never want to go there. Not that I wanted to, to begin with, but you never know.

          1. Kayem*

            Yeah, it’s not like I had any plans to go there to begin with, but now I’ll make extra sure to avoid it. All of it is bad enough but the music is so loud it’s seeping into rooms? How is that an okay thing to do to customers?

          1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

            Some people claim that there’s a resort to blame… but I know, it’s the convention’s fault

            1. Generic Username*

              Sounds like the leaders of the professional organization need to find a new meeting location for the sake of their members – I suspect the resulting changes in latitudes would lead to changes in attitudes.

            2. Phony Genius*

              At least if you’re late for a 5:00 meeting at this convention, you can say “It’s 5:00 Somewhere.”

            3. Delta Delta*

              I don’t know the reason they return every season.

              Although, there’s booze in the blender, which maybe helps.

              1. Wondercootie*

                This whole comment thread is giving me life. Now I’m off to find a boat drink.

        3. Anonymous 75*

          I don’t think I’ve ever really heard of it in a negative light, at least not in popular culture, there’s whole channels dedicated to it on Spotify, Sirius and iHeartRadio.

          1. Twenty Points for the Copier*

            Yeah, in my experience the term is more ironic or tongue in cheek than derisive.

        4. fhqwhgads*

          I’m assuming the OP of this thread knows which chain it is given their username. Unless they were sincerely asking and that was a free-association.

      2. Straight Laced Sue*

        That sent me down a rabbit hole…I’m resurfacing briefly to say, “There is a wikipedia entry on Yacht Rock and it is amusing and interesting.”

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Thank you, wikipedia’s phrase “originally known as West Coast sound or adult oriented rock” answered so many questions for me.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            AOR! I wondered what happened to that, it’s not a phrase you hear much any more.

      3. Seashell*

        Sirius satellite radio has a Yacht Rock station. It’s a bit like reliving my childhood.

      4. Kaboobie*

        One of my favorite podcasts is Slate’s “Hit Parade”, which did an excellent episode on yacht rock back in 2020. It identifies the “Doobie bounce” as heard in the song “What a Fool Believes” as a defining characteristic. Now that I know about it, I am always delighted when I hear it. Yacht rock blasted 24/7, however, would send me off the deep end.

      5. RagingADHD*

        It’s Margaritaville and they play Jimmy Buffett and similar music. Honestly, I have no idea why so many people feel compelled to play coy around here with hints and euphemisms. It’s not defamatory to say you don’t like a place, particularly when the thing you don’t like is a major part of its brand!

        If you hate everything about a brand, it’s probably because it’s not intended for you.

        Margaritaville is loud because its whole vibe revolves around partying, and its target market for “business conferences” are the ones where people expect/intend to get plastered and be rowdy. They play music late at night because nobody goes there to get a good night’s sleep. If the LW’s conference organizers don’t think its suitable, they should pick a different venue that caters to their expectations.

        Every single one of their resorts emphasizes attributes like fun, playful, carefree, laid-back, unwind, where “laughs are louder and smiles are wider,” etc. I don’t know what else they were expecting, particularly after the first year.

        Is there a chance that the conference organizers and some of the attendees actually like it, and LW is an outlier?

        1. StressedButOkay*

          Hah, as soon as I read it, I went – yep, Margaritaville. I’ve only stayed as a vacationing guest once and it was…interesting/intense. But it’s Margaritaville and Jimmy Buffet and it’s 5 o’clock somewhere. That’s the schtick. It’s a shame that it’s no longer a good fit for the event but the resort isn’t going to change unless it changes hands again.

        2. Cheese Victim*

          It’s not about openly admitting dislike for a brand – the OP may not have mentioned it because they don’t want anyone to recognise what conference it is and then try to figure out who wrote in. Some of the conferences in my field are only a few hundred people; if someone was vocal enough in trying to get the site to turn down the tunes, I’d have a good chance of figuring out who it was.

          1. Aquatic*

            “the OP may not have mentioned it because they don’t want anyone to recognise what conference it is and then try to figure out who wrote in.”

            I know every OP thinks that which is why we have so many “cutesy” euphemisms for jobs (the llama thing is way too overdone) but trust me:no one is that unique. No company or job is that unique or niche. And it’s not like the OP is spreading lies (presumably). They’re stating a fact: the conference venue is no longer viable because of X, Y, and Z.

            1. Cheese Victim*

              How fortunate that this has been your experience. It very much has not been mine.

            2. Junior Assistant Peon*

              Agreed! Unless you’re an aide to a famous person or something like that, all the cutesy topic-masking stuff about llamas and teapots is just confusing. Almost every LW here works at a generic cubicle farm.

          2. RagingADHD*

            There are several dozen locations of the brand in at least five countries.

            Considering that the LW came back and added not only their profession, but an actual link to the specific location (rather than the international chain as a whole), I don’t think they’re worried about being personally ID’ed.

            1. E. Chauvelin*

              I didn’t even know there *were* Margaritaville resorts and my reaction to reading the original letter was “Are there Margaritaville resorts?” and googling to confirm.

        3. Jenzzz*

          I…have the feeling this is an organization and resort I’ve done some things with in the past (but have since moved out of the state, so am no longer involved).

          I can guarantee there are some who are like “yeah, let’s enjoy this!” (I would’ve been one of them), but about 3/4 who are like, “I’m a grumpy old person who doesn’t like fun”.

          But yeah, professional organization that I know has a lot of AaM readers who has put on an annual conference in a centrally located inexpensive resort that was taken over by Margaritaville. The “centrally located” gives it away because it is in a state that would have a Margaritaville not near a beach because beaches generally aren’t centrally located.

          1. Boof*

            I like fun… i also like maintaining my hearing. Constant loud noise is bad for the ears and it’s not an organ that regenerates. Inescapable blaring music isn’t my idea of a good time and never has been

      6. Wintermute*

        “yacht rock” is a term for soft rock from the 70s and 80s. Obviously in this case they’re probably heavy on the Jimmy Buffet but bands from The Eagles, to America to Supertramp and artists like Donald Fagen and Rupert Holmes (in fact “Escape (the pina colada song) may be the absolutely quintessential yacht rock track) have been called “yacht rock.”

        Some people even call Duran Duran yacht rock, even though they’re founders of the New Romantic movement (heck the name “New Romantics” is taken from their song Planet Earth), though the video for Rio probably does them no favors as they are literally on a yacht, but I draw the line when people try to include Sade and Diana Ross, though they appear on the Wikipedia list of yacht rockers.

      1. Brian*

        OP here. I’m not saying that’s the exact convention center I’m talking about, but my organization has a reservation there in the spring.

        1. MsM*

          There’s a YouTube video that just went up by a couple of guys who went around the country visiting every single outpost of the chain, and now I’m disappointed they didn’t cover the convention angle.

        2. fiona the baby hippo*

          OP, i just want to say i feel for you. When we started dating, my now husband lived across from an empty parking lot that slowly became a margartiaville in the 2 years he lived there. He only overlapped with the operating hotel for 3 months, but there were nights I would literally cry bc I was so tired and the Jimmy Buffet Sirius XM station was blaring. It was an insight into CIA-level torture. Because he lived in the ‘downtown district’ he was exempt from normal noise ordinances and they could play that music on BLAST till 11pm weeknights, 12am weekends, and there wasn’t much we could do except try (and fail) to drown it out with a sound machine.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yeah, that’s the only one I could think of, unless Jamba Juice went into the hotel business!

          1. SadieMae*

            You can get Kool-Aid slushies in some places. So now I’m imagining a Kool-Aid-themed convention center where occasionally a large pitcher crashes through the wall of a conference room and yells “Oh yeeeaaaaah!”

            I mean, it would liven up those drowsy late-afternoon sessions.

          1. Wintermute*

            for my money “Escape (the pina colada song)” is the absolutely quintessential yacht rock track.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Let’s not try to guess. Even if it doesn’t technically violate Alison’s “no guessing where letter writers work” rule, it’s similar enough situation to make ME uncomfortable for the letter writer.

        Identifying a crucial vendor linked to a unique problem could get back to them, and comments section jokes are not likely to make a vendor cooperative.

          1. Cheese Victim*

            (That was a response posted later, and Seeking Second Childhood’s point stands.)

        1. Torso*

          So OP did confirm in comments, but also:

          I get that, but the description OP gave is REALLY OBVIOUSLY identifying…like it could only possibly refer to one brand. Is it really guessing at that point?

        2. Maggie*

          No one needs to guess because it’s insanely obvious. It’s the same as saying you work at a large super store with blue uniforms that rhymes with “schmal-mart”

      3. DJ Abbott*

        Margaritaville is an interesting song about a man realizing where he’s gone wrong. If only I hadn’t had to hear it 6 million times.

      4. WellRed*

        Oh no! We actually booked there for a key west trip that we ended up canceling for the time being. I may have to rethink staying there.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Don’t. Stay at the Blue Marlin Inn. It’s a two star but its clean and decent, its one block from the Duval Street beach, a couple blocks from the Bouy and not that far from Margaritaville. Go to Margaritaville for drinks.

      1. Katty*

        Having stayed at that resort (did not realize it had changed into a yacht rock playing hellhole – it’s been there 50 years or more), it’s AWFUL. I can’t believe the policy they have for the music. We asked it to be turned down repeatedly and were told they would lose their jobs if the did.

        1. Zarniwoop*

          “We asked it to be turned down repeatedly and were told they would lose their jobs if the did.”
          I wonder what the thinking behind this policy is. Why is the music so important?

          1. Some words*

            They’ve apparently decided that’s an important part of their branding.

            It sounds like an eye twitch inducing nightmare of an atmosphere to me.

          2. Lexie*

            They probably need to go over a few heads to get to someone who has the authority to overall the policy.

          3. Student*

            Somebody in management has hearing damage and DOES NOT want to admit it.

            Signed, a person with hearing damage who did not like admitting it

          4. Glomarization, Esq.*

            You don’t go to Disney World and think that they’ll oblige when you ask that they turn down “It’s a Small World, After All” or change it out every once in a while for a different song. And you do that at Margaritaville, either.

            1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

              Yeah, but that’s one ride out of dozens, that you’re choosing to wait in line for to be in for a short amount of time. Not a conference center that people are spending full days at.

              1. goddessoftransitory*

                And not in restaurants and other areas where you might want to converse with people without screaming at full volume.

                1. Katty*

                  Yes, it’s really bizarre. We had breakfast one morning at 7 am. We were the only people in the restaurant. The music was so loud we had to speak in raised voices. 7 am

                2. sparkle emoji*

                  Or a hotel room where you presumably want to sleep. If I had to listen to loud yacht rock all night I would cry.

            2. Observer*

              What Jaunty said.

              But also, conventions are not a significant portion of Disney World’s business. Also, even *Disney* doesn’t do this to people are their *hotels*.

          5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            In the hotel area? At night? When even the party-goers are trying to get their 3 daily hours of sleep? This makes no sense to me and makes me wonder about possible miscommunication. Would it help for OP’s company to reach out to whatever part of the corporate HQ the policy came from? I know my workplace would be extremely attentive to a large, regular client telling us they are very unhappy with X or Y to the point where they are considering switching (and OP’s company absolutely should in my opinion).

        2. Certaintroublemaker*

          That is horrifying! I also don’t get it—their major demographic is my age and above. I already have tinnitus and some hearing loss. That environment would be physically painful, impossible to navigate, and would worsen my hearing. (And is likely creating hearing damage their employees will be dealing with in their futures.) Throw in the interrupted sleep, and what an all-around nightmare.

          1. morethantired*

            I have tinnitus and hearing loss, too, and the best thing I ever did was buy a set of concert ear plugs that come in a little case that I bring with me everywhere. I no longer have to worry about how loud a restaurant is going to be and whether I’m going to be able to hear the conversation. They’re comfortable enough to wear them all day and re-usable so you don’t have to buy multiple pairs. They eliminate the damaging range of decibels, so you can’t hear the music or noise, but conversation and such is clear as day. Obviously a conference center shouldn’t be this loud, just sharing this because when I find myself in places that are unexpectedly loud and make it difficult to participate in conversation, the concert earplugs have been a game-changer.

            1. Pumpkin Pie*

              Thanks for sharing this. My husband has the same hearing issues so I’ll be passing this long.

              1. ArrozBee*

                Loop, probably, but you can also try Eargasm. I have several different styles of Loop earplugs and can attest that they help immensely. I also gave some to my dad (who has tinnitus). Jury is still out on helping him though. Haven’t followed up since April.

          2. Ace in the Hole*

            “And is likely creating hearing damage their employees will be dealing with in their futures.”

            Good thing there’s actually OSHA standards addressing this! It is an osha violation to expose employees to noise above a certain threshold, and employers with reason to suspect hazardous noise levels are required to do monitoring to make sure they’re within permissible limits.

            One of the red flags for hazardous noise levels? Having to raise your voice to communicate with nearby people!

            I would encourage the LW to pursue this with the conference center since if it’s that loud, sending employees to work a full day there might put her out of compliance with OSHA. There are also phone apps that give you an estimated decibel reading… while these aren’t precise enough for any official purposes, they can at least give you a ballpark estimate on whether or not this is a occupational safety matter. Anything at or above 85 dB triggers the hearing conservation standards, with a slew of requirements ranging from written plans to annual hearing tests.

          3. goddessoftransitory*

            Oh God, I didn’t even think about what it must be like to have to work in that environment! Can you imagine trying to take drink orders or reservations or deal with guests with the volume of the music that high?

    1. amoeba*

      Honestly, apart from the music I’d be quite worried what the theme would feel like to recovering alcoholics/strict muslims/etc….

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Is that really a concern? Any hotel where a conference is taking place is going to have bars/restaurants, and alcohol is commonly served at these events anyway, so not sure why this is different, even if “Margarita” is in the name.

        1. different seudonym*

          I would say it is indeed a concern to people in recovery, at least. Because conferences often seem to carry the OBLIGATION to attend drinks-focused events, and in your…..less reconstructed fields, the literal obligation to drink, it would be rough. To be clear, I’m not saying it would cause relapse. I’m saying it would be abject misery in itself, and likely would give clueless people and active addicts permission to push boundaries a lot.

          The religion thing I’m not truly qualified to speak to, but it does seem on the level of, say, making the opening banquet a pig roast.

        2. sparkle emoji*

          Can’t speak to the convention center, but if this is Margaritaville, the restaurants and resorts typically have a lot of margarita-themed branding, complete with a giant margarita blender that equally giant alcohol bottles fill at regular intervals. It’s more alcohol focused than a standard restaurant or hotel.

          1. amoeba*

            That’s what I imagined, I could see that being a potential trigger for some people!

            Guess for me it’s just very weird to basically have an alcohol theme for a professional venue…

      2. RagingADHD*

        It would feel like loud music. They don’t actually force drinks down anyone’s throat.

        Have you ever worked with any strict Muslims? Because I assure you, they are perfectly able to exist in society without being continually offended that other people are not Muslim, and that things like alcohol and non-Halal food exist. Anyone who can fast daily for a month every year without being traumatized by other people’s work lunches isn’t going to have a come-apart over a weekend conference at a themed hotel.

        1. amoeba*

          I mean, no, sure, but from the comment above it does seem like alcohol-related things are somewhat ubiquitous?

          And yes, I’ve worked with many observant Muslims, most of which were perfectly fine being in the presence of alcohol. I’d still be worried that there might be some for whom it would be less than ideal – and if that’s the conference venue, there’s no way you can opt out, like for an evening brewery tour or whatever!

          Also there’s many other people who might not be happy being constantly bombarded with alcohol references – people who lost loved ones to alcoholism, who suffered violence from drunk people…

          Generally, I just feel that anything alcohol-themed should always be opt-in. (And I drink and would not be bothered by that part at all…)

          1. Aquatic*

            “Also there’s many other people who might not be happy being constantly bombarded with alcohol references – people who lost loved ones to alcoholism, who suffered violence from drunk people…”

            We too are perfectly capable of not falling to pieces when around alcohol references. Stop using while ethnic groups for your straw man efforts to get woke points.

          2. Eukomos*

            For a while my office had an observant Muslim ordering the wine for our business dinners. She was totally fine with it, she just relied on the caterers’ recommendations. Muslims don’t need to be shielded or protected somehow from awareness of alcohol, they just don’t drink it.

      3. I Need Coffee*

        The theme of the resort is based on a song by Jimmy Buffett. The whole vibe is a laid-back, flip-flops, tropical feel, not a frozen drink at every turn; although as a resort there are certainly bars on property, but no different than any other hotel or convention center.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          I cannot understand what is supposed to be laid-back or chill about loud music, though. I associate that with mosh pits. (I’m guessing I’d get kicked out if I tried to mosh to the yacht rock, though. Or, like, Aggretsuko-style karaoke to it.)

      4. s*

        Heck, I love a margarita and I’d still be uncomfortable with this branding in a work setting… especially since the Jimmy Buffet audience seems to have a lot of overlap with the (older, male) demographic that I sometimes have to work extra hard to be taken seriously by, as a young woman.

    2. Happily Retired*

      Ahh, thanks for the Margaritaville guesses! I kept trying to think how Slusheeworld would play out.

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        I would absolutely go to a Slusheeworld or Slurpeeland themed place, as long as lots of slurpees or slushees were included.

      2. Aitch Arr*

        The Pina Coladays Inn
        HurriCrowne Plaza
        Motel Six On the Beach

        *gets her coat*

    3. Venus*

      I think the only time OP’s organization has any leverage is during the negotiation stage for booking the place. The meeting planners could ask at that time.

      I would be tempted to ask how much it would cost extra to turn the noise down and see what they say.

      1. Miette*

        I plan and work a lot of conferences, and I have never been to a convention center or meeting-hosting hotel that wouldn’t turn the volume down around the meeting spaces so that the attendees wouldn’t be disturbed during the presentations. I understand they want the brand-related stuff in common areas like the lobby and restaurants, but around the meeting rooms would be unacceptable. If they refused I’d certainly be looking for some concessions from them (i.e. money back or discounted/comped services).

        1. Galadriel's Garden*

          When my husband and I were last in Vegas and spending a day wandering around the hotels on the strip, at a certain point we reached “critical sensory input overload” and found ourselves hanging out by the conference center at the Bellagio for exactly that reason: the music was way lower, the flashing lights nonexistent, the people few and far between. As a person with a musical background who becomes highly distracted by music while trying to work, and who is also prone to audio sensory overload, blasting music during a conference sounds like my nightmare.

    4. WestsideStory*

      Maybe it will work itself out… if it is a Margaritaville, the one in NYC just filed for bankruptcy.

    5. Really?*

      Been in this industry for years. Hourly staff – the waiters, room attendants, desk clerks, set up staff can’t address these issues. You need to get the organizers involved to speak to the executive team- the Director of Sales or the GM. Allison is correct; you don’t have the leverage to get this changed; the organizers do. Seek out the events planners, preferably with a group of like minded attendees, and explain your concerns. They should be able to get it addresses immediately, but can certainly address this in the next contract. “Turn down the music or we are going to take xxxx roomnights of demand to an alternative resort” tends to be a compelling argument to most hotel salespeople. Alternatively, if a lot of you start booking outside the room block at an alternative hotel, if others are available in the area, and explain to the organizers why you are forced to do so, they will get the message.

      1. Ama*

        Although I’ll say we just dealt with an extremely unpleasant hotel sales staff at a venue where we hosted a conference last year (not a booze-themed restaurant owned one but it was actually a pretty big brand name hotel) who decided we didn’t book enough guest rooms to get all the same amount of meeting room space this year (despite the fact that we spent over 150K in food and beverage and meeting room rental) and basically gave us a “take or leave it” proposal.

        We left it. And now we’re at their direct competitor in the same neighborhood, they were happy to have our business.

  5. Goldie*

    Stopping to get the coffee is one of the awkward parts of going out to coffee. You should have just gone and grabbed some for yourself.

    Of course an intern is a little awkward, they a learning the ropes.

    1. Allonge*

      Of course an intern is a little awkward, they a learning the ropes.

      Which is why OP is wondering if they should mention it to him? Learning the ropes happens by people telling you stuff, as much as observing.

    2. EngineeringFun*

      I have gone to MANY of these coffee meetings. It’s a mixed bag about what topics are discussed. It’s kinda of the fun of it. New project, friendly chat, undercover interview, networking. Everyone has always just grabbed a coffee (and danish) for themselves.

      The only time I’ve had a meal paid for is when they are trying to hire me. And that was clear up front.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, I mean, I probably also wouldn’t think to offer, but I would ask whether they wanted to get something for themselves! (Or possibly wait for them and then order together). I mean, I might still invite somebody just because I feel like it! Just don’t think the expectation that the one who suggested the meeting pays is a thing here.

      2. ferrina*

        This has been my experience too. I might offer to pay when I know I’m in a higher pay band, but usually it’s everyone grab their own. I’d never expect the person in a lower pay band/new grad to offer to pay. It would be nice if he said “Do you want to grab some coffee?”, but he’s new at this, he’ll figure it out. And most people might have said “Let me grab some coffee, then we’ll chat!”

        And it really is a mixed bag. Sometimes it’s a social chat (which I loooove), sometimes it’s a work-related chat. Unless he said it was in informational interview, there’s nothing wrong with a social chat.

        1. Brooklyn*

          Yeah, I can’t imagine expecting my intern to buy me coffee. When I meet former interns for coffee, I insist on buying! Or expensing if that’s appropriate. They were making $17/hr, and then went back to school! How in the world is it appropriate for them to buy me, someone with a decade of professional experience and professional pay, coffee?

          If it’s just some random person trying to network, I’d likely default to everyone gets their own, but if it’s anyone with a legitimate claim to my time – an intern, a family member, a friend’s kid – I’m buying them the $4 cup of coffee.

          1. Wilbur*

            I can’t imagine expecting anyone to buy me coffee if they offered to meet up. It’s not a work event where you have some obligation to attend.

          2. Random Dice*

            They said they just wanted the offer, and would have insisted on paying. It’s about giving a young person a heads up on the convention.

            1. Eukomos*

              And people are saying that is not a universal convention, and OP is both over-attached to it and would be misleading the former intern to tell them it is universal.

            2. Joron Twiner*

              Then why not say, “can I buy you a coffee” or since the intern had already gotten one, “can I buy you a pastry”?

      3. Student*

        This kind of thing, who pays for food in a social gathering, is very regional and can also vary by culture and finances (i.e., rich vs poor). Intern didn’t meet OP’s regional and social class expectations.

        I’ve done this kind of stuff all over.

        I’d like OP to be aware that in some regions/cultures, the intern offering to buy you a coffee would be a considered a grave insult and serious social faux pas, due to the difference in job positions/standing between you and him. That’s a bit extreme, but it’s out there. I’ve run into it several times. A single such experience can make one a bit gun-shy about buying others food for a bit.

        In a lot of cultures, the majority I’ve bought food in, the intern would be in the right assuming that a friendly-but-work-adjacent meeting should be assumed dutch by default. The host will say something upon invite if they’re treating.

        As far as I’m aware, OP is a mild outlier in expecting an intern who invited them for coffee chitchat to pay for OP’s coffee. Not on the extremes, per say, but also not common across much of the US.

        There’s also an unfortunate (and slowly fading) gendered component to this. OP said the intern is a guy. No idea what OP’s gender is. If the OP is also a guy, then this is unlikely a factor. If the OP is a woman, then the intern might’ve erred on the side of not buying OP food/coffee so as to project that this is a professional meeting based on respect for your work, and avoid any possible hint or concern that he might be hitting on you. Such thinking may be misplaced in your specific circumstance or culture, but others would appreciate it. Personally, I don’t think there’s a “right” workplace etiquette choice for how to handle any possible gendered components, and you’ve kind of got to go with your instincts and best guesses for the people involved (and treat everyone equally within a diverse group lunch). I try to assume good intentions here, unless they start hitting on me or similar. I find most of the time nowadays. they are trying not to screw up, and just don’t have a clear or consistent cultural model for what that approach ought to be.

    3. Also-ADHD*

      I don’t really understand the “offer to pay” thing. I think it’s inappropriate to offer to pay (with anything but a corporate card, officially) in most situations like this. For a work acquaintance, or especially a mentor/authority it seems even worse for either side to offer payment! I really thought LW was in left field expecting him to offer.

      1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

        what’s weird about either side offering to pay?

        the intern made the invitation, so it’s reasonable for them to pay.

        lw presumably has a lot more disposable income than an intern/new grad, so it’s reasonable for them to pay.

        either way, a perfectly normal, professional interaction.

        1. Also-ADHD*

          So to clarify, I feel like if you’re close, offering to pay freely like you would for a friend is not inappropriate, but I think it’s inappropriate for either side to expect that and in a professional non “familiar” interaction, it may be uncomfortable and feel inappropriate even to offer, aside from saying “I can put this on the company” (which is totally different because it creates no power dynamics or obligations if a corporate entity is paying officially) in cases where that’s allowed/appropriate. It creates a sense of familiarity not professionalism to me and I’ve never experienced this idea that “who invites pays” in a professional setting aside from “official company” invites paid for by the company.

        2. Delta Delta*

          And we’re talking about a cup of coffee. At most it’s $5. That may still be a lot for intern/new grad, and at the same time, isn’t as much of a financial burden as asking the OP to go to lunch. I see nothing wrong with them each paying for their own coffees.

          The other thing – what if the intern likes plain coffee and OP likes those $8 milkshakes masquerading as coffees? How could the intern possibly know what OP wants? Or could the intern even afford that? If I were the OP I’d let this all go. And if the OP is this bothered by it, keep future interactions at arm’s length.

      2. amoeba*

        I don’t think it’s *inappropriate* to invite a (former) colleague to coffee, either – I have a few coworkers whom I meet semi-regularly for lunch and if we go for an espresso after, we generally just take turns inviting each other. It’s only 2 bucks or so and it’s just a nice gesture. I would never, ever *expect* that, though!

      3. Kesnit*

        This is an intern who just graduated and is job hunting. My first thought was “the intern was probably pushing the limits of their budget getting their own coffee.” It would be one thing for the intern to assume OP was going to buy coffee for both of them. It is completely different for someone to just get their own coffee – especially of the intern does not know for sure what OP would want.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I agree, I would never expect a former intern to buy me coffee! I also really hate when people are like “I would never let you do X but you should have acted like you wanted to anyway.” That seems so unreasonable to me.

          It seems like OP ultimately wants to tell their intern to be faker: ask people for coffee like you are just being social, but then talk about work instead; pretend you want to pay for coffee while hoping they refuse the offer. I know there are all these unspoken rules to networking but that is really rubbing me the wrong way.

          1. Lisa*

            “I would never let you do X but you should have acted like you wanted to anyway.”

            This feels to me like OP grew up in the Midwest, because this attitude to social interactions is very common. There’s an unspoken etiquette around offering and turning down.

      4. Sloanicota*

        I think it was a bit odd the more-senior person wanted a coffee but didn’t stop the interaction to go get one for themselves (and pay for themselves, and probably offer to get a second something for the intern). Don’t expect the intern to have good instincts around this stuff yet; who knows what he was thinking. And yes, it was his invitation, but I would never expect a junior employee and former intern to even offer to pay for me, in a more-senior mentor type role.

        1. ferrina*

          Good point. The intern is watching the more senior person and picking up their cues from them. I remember grabbing coffee with a more senior person. I got there early, and the senior person did exactly this- set their stuff down and went to get coffee. I didn’t offer to pay and they didn’t seem to expect it. My budget was really tight, and if I thought I had to pay, I wouldn’t have asked them to coffee (especially since I was already paying for subway fare and my own coffee, and I was looking for a job). I remember a couple more senior people they would pay because they were aware I was just starting out and in a lower pay bracket (much lower, like probably half the salary they were getting).

        2. B*

          Totally, 100% agree. Depending on the industry and the relationship, it might even risk coming off as out of touch or presumptuous for the intern to offer to pay.

        3. Allonge*

          But OP is not writing in about how the former intern was out of touch, OP is asking if they should mention it to him that this may seem out of touch. So the cluelessness is indeed expected, the question is about the proper response.

          1. Sloanicota*

            But even better than telling the intern afterwards would have been SHOWING the intern, in that meeting, how a professional-ish coffee meet up is supposed to go, which does not include the more-senior person sitting without coffee, secretly wishing for coffee.

            1. Allonge*

              It’s incredibly unlikely that OP did not get themselves a coffee just because they were not offered one by the ex-intern.

        4. TootsNYC*

          I’ve started to be proactive in these situations.
          If I think it’s appropriate for me to buy the coffee, I will clearly indicate that. In this situation, I’d have said, “That sounds like a good place to meet; I’ll treat, since I can expense it.”

        5. MigraineMonth*

          I assumed that when the intern didn’t offer to get coffee for them, LW got something for themselves. I don’t see any indication they sat around wishing a coffee would appear.

        6. Kay*

          If they were my intern I would have firmly instilled in them my “gifts flow down, not up” mentality. Regardless of social norms surrounding invites I can’t imagine how gross I would feel if I let my just out of school, looking for a job, former intern pay for anything for me.

        7. Emmy Noether*

          It was kind of unclear to me what actually happened:
          – if this was a table service sort of place, the LW should have flagged down a waiter and ordered. In that context the intern “offering” wouldn’t make much sense.
          – if this was a self-service type of place, does LW think intern should have gotten up to get LW something (so basically take their order)? That intern should have waited to go order until LW got there (intern may have felt weird blocking a table without getting something first)?
          – What did LW do finally? Get a drink themself or no?

      5. Daisy-dog*

        I have had very, very few coffee meetings in my life as an adult. But none of them involved anyone paying for anyone else’s coffee. And I live in the South (very urban area, but stereotypical ~niceties~ apply in other ways). It would *never* occur to me to offer to buy someone’s coffee except if I was out with someone junior to me – who hadn’t already bought their own drink.

        I have had people bring me Starbucks a few times. A mentor, a boss, and a salesperson. Never a peer, so I don’t know how’d I’d manage that – probably just say no, thanks.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I can see this intern thinking:
      • I don’t want LW to think I’m only interested in what I can get out of them, so I’ll make social small talk
      • I don’t want LW to think I’m assuming they’ll pay for coffee on the company card

      1. TootsNYC*

        and maybe also:

        • I can’t really afford to buy two coffees, but I don’t want to look like a mooch, so I’ll pick my own up ahead of time, and LW won’t think I’m hinting, but they also hopefully won’t expect me to buy theirs too.
        If I arrange to have coffee with a peer, I don’t treat them. And the former intern was trying to make this a peer interaction (hence the avoidance of “help me get a job”).

        As I mentioned elsewhere, I have gained experience that has taught me to say, in LW’s position, while we are still arranging the get-together, “I’ll treat, since I can put it on my expense account.” That also indicates that it’s business, and it’s OK to raise business topics.

    5. Cherries Jubilee*

      Yeah I don’t think it’s expected at all that the intern should offer to pay, regardless of his initiating the coffee. I think it’s OP who’s off base here.

    6. Ari*

      Agreed. Also, with everything being so expensive lately I don’t EVER assume someone else is going to pay for me, even if it’s just coffee. Not family or close friends and certainly not a former work acquaintance. Heck, I wouldn’t even put coffee on my company card. The paperwork to justify the expense would take more time than it’s worth.

    7. Teach*

      Exactly! I don’t know whether it was a Starbucks-type set-up or a sit-down restaurant, but either way, once I’m physically in the place, it would seem unnecessary and kinda awkward for another customer to “offer” me a coffee. Surely you can just order one for yourself? As for who’s paying… it’s one cup of coffee.

  6. The Prettiest Curse*

    OP 3 – unfortunately, I think that you’re going to stay stuck in Margaritaville. In my experience of holding events in hotels, hotels are generally very unwilling to change anything that is iron-clad corporate policy*. You definitely should complain to the conference organisers, but unless they have an ace negotiator on their event staff who can somehow get “please turn the effing music down” written into their event contract, it’s probably not going to happen.

    I guarantee you that other people have complained about the music and as an event organiser myself I would hate it – but unfortunately many of the complaints you get about venue issues as an event organiser are things you would love to change, but can’t due to venue policy.

    If enough people complain at the same time or stop going to the conference and speak up about why (maybe on social media when they announce the date), that might make them consider a different venue. But I don’t think the hotel will change their policy just for one event, and if it’s the cheapest venue in the area, the organisers might be stuck with it for budget reasons.

    *Don’t get me started on the topic of air conditioning in hotel ballrooms.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Also, I should add that the amount of leverage the event organisers have with the hotel will very much depend on the size of the event, how much they’re paying and how much business they’re bringing into the hotel. If they’re a nonprofit with a smallish event – nope, not going to happen. If they have an upmarket clientele and are buying out the entire hotel, the hotel is a lot more likely to listen to them (if they can hear the event organisers over the sound of music, that is.)

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        On the other hand, if this is a smallish event, any number of hotels can accommodate it. The LW says that going elsewhere is not an option, but why is this? Is it really the only facility that otherwise meets their needs? Has anyone looked into this? Or is it that the event organizers love it? If so, this is an internal political matter within the organization.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          It is definitely easier to move if it’s a small event. In my experience of events in hotels (mid-size annual conference for a nonprofit), hotels tend to jack up the prices for returning events, so after 2 consecutive years at the same venue, they will probably get a better deal by shopping around anyway. But their event may be stuck there for some other reason that’s inherent to the event or its delegates (for example, it’s the only hotel in the area that has free parking or easy airport access), in which case Escape From Margaritaville: Librarians Assemble may not be possible.

    2. convention committee member*

      Having been on the organizing committee for a large academic conference– it’s also worth keeping in mind that the contracts for these events are usually booked years in advance. So if you convince the organizers to move to a new venue that might not actually result in a new location for several years. By the time an org is hyping the dates of next year’s events, the penalties for cancelling are likely prohibitive.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) holds its annual convention in a different city each year. It also strongly wants the local team to be playing at home, with catching a game part of the convention experience. The MLB schedule comes out in midsummer. This means the convention is scheduled less than a year in advance. They have not yet announced where it will be next year. I find this astonishing. The event is of modest size, as these things go, but well beyond the “hold it in a Holiday Inn Express” level. Next year’s schedule came out about a week ago. I suspect this is followed by a scramble to match it with available space.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I learned of SABR’s existence today, and I’m a bit stunned. I’m obsessive about quite a few things, but I don’t think I’ve ever said, “You know what would make [my niche interest] more enjoyable? Statistical analysis.”

          1. Phony Genius*

            They do a lot more than statistical analysis. They also have an extensive photo collection, and conduct research in all aspects of the game, such as history, uniforms, women in baseball, etc.

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            There are, roughly speaking, two sides to SABR: stats and history. There is some overlap, but you can easily have a substantial SABR experience without doing the stats side. This is mostly how I approach it. I am interested in the results of the stats side, once they get past the discussion phase. I have no interest in watching the sausage get made.

            My personal niche is 19th century baseball. SABR has a committee for that. We have an annual conference of our own. It is a complete nerd-fest. Statistical analysis only rarely enters into the discussion.

            The stats people also have their own annual conference. It would never occur to me to go. I would be bored silly. Also, the 19th century conference is at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. The analytics conference is at Arizona State. I say we win that one.

          3. New Jack Karyn*

            And a lot of people do like it. Actually analyzing the stats has upended a lot of old beliefs about best practices in baseball. What traits of players are really valuable? What strategies are truly effective? What helps win ballgames?

            Baseball has *always* had statistical analysis. We always talked about ERA, RBI, batting average, and pitcher’s wins. SABR and the like are trying to do a more accurate job of it.

  7. Foagmlord*

    Is it really that weird that a former intern didn’t talk about work during coffee? I don’t really see where the coffee meeting was a work-coffee.

    I’m not sure what “preparing for the working world” advice he would need based on one coffee outing that had nothing to do with work.

    I catch up with colleagues I’m fond of whenever I’m able to, even those who managed me. We never ever talk about work. We catch each other up on our lives and what we’ve been up to. My first manager in my first job when I was a teenager even came to visit with me after I moved to Japan with his wife, years and years after I left that job. And so did another manager from 3 or 4 jobs after that.

    I don’t think the actual coffee order was a huge problem either. Maybe he got there early and didn’t want to seem like he didn’t order anything while still holding up a table, so he ordered something. If he ordered for OP too, it might have gotten cold before they arrived, or it wasn’t something they drank.

    I’d be weirded out if my friendly catch-up got criticized for being unprofessional.

    1. MK*

      No one said he should have ordered for her, just offered to pay , since he was the one who invited her.

      1. Foagmlord*

        I think it depends on how he invited them for coffee.

        Like, “Hey, wanna grab some coffee?”


        “Would you like to get some coffee with me?”

        My personal opinion is that unless someone explicitly says they are paying, expect to pay for yourself in any situation that involves food/drinks. It saves a lot of headache and overthinking.

        Plus I kind of think it’s weird to expect a subordinate to offer to pay for coffee even if you plan to decline and offer to pay yourself, especially a former intern (chances are it was an unpaid internship).

        1. WheresMyPen*

          This is what I thought. When I was an intern, I struggled to pay for my own coffee sometimes, let alone anyone else.

        2. SusieQ*

          “Plus I kind of think it’s weird to expect a subordinate to offer to pay for coffee”

          This. I would never expect an intern to offer to buy me anything.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Yes, and recent graduates are not exactly known for their deep pockets. Maybe he got there early and ordered *because* he couldn’t easily afford a second coffee.

      2. L-squared*

        I still think that is an odd expectation. Especially if you looked at this as a social get together

        think of it this way, if you text an old coworker “lets catch up over drinks”, are you then expected to purchase their drinks that night? How many? 1? Multiple?

        I’m not seeing the difference here.

      3. ferrina*

        Nah, I don’t think he needed to offer to pay. This is more like two friends catching up than a wine-and-dine situation. And it sounds like he’s a new grad- where would he have extra money? This is a rare case where if someone offers to pay, it should be the person making more money. It’s not a hard and fast rule, just a nice gesture acknowledging that you understand they are just starting out in their career and that’s a tough place to be. I had some people do this for me when I was younger (always appreciated, never expected), and I’ve done this for other young professionals (again, they never asked or expected, always appreciated).

      4. TootsNYC*

        when I have coffee with a peer, I don’t offer to pay. Even if I was the one to say, “could we get coffee?”
        It’s not the same thing as a date, nor is it a supplicant type thing.

    2. Allonge*

      I don’t think it’s bad-weird but I would probably be a bit surprised too if a random ex-intern reached out just to chat.

      It’s not a bad thing! But I see why in the circumstances OP expected that there would be some work relevance to the meeting too.

      1. IluvCarbs*

        I think the problem as well as that the intern might have been worried that OP was going to think they were just using them for job reasons. It can be very difficult especially for new to work people to figure out how to network. Even experienced people write in to Alison all the time because they didnt keep in touch with old managers/colleagues and dont know how to do it now or are worried about bridge burning.

        It sounds like OP thought it was an informational interview and the former intern wanted a catch up. Its likely they got the specific work answers they needed beforehand (possibly for fear of the application closing) and just wanted to maintain the relationship. I can understand why you thought they didnt get the most out of the opportunity but I think they did ok.

        Depending on how busy the coffee shop is I might have gotten just mine first. Just so I could save the table without appearing rude. And wouldnt order for someone else as it could be wrong or get cold. But I would offer to buy OP one when they arrived. The intern though might not have been able to afford it. Or just didnt consider it. Even if I was invited out for coffee I would still approach it as me paying my own way.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I don’t think any of this is a faux pas either. I don’t even think it’s a preference of OP’s, like they seem to have enjoyed catching up. I just think they feel like some rules got broken that the OP’s intern should know about. I’m really surprised a senior person would mind getting their own drink, and I don’t think OP did, really. I’m reminded of how someone once explained to me the difference between etiquette and manners: etiquette is about knowing a set of rules so as to segregate those in the know, from those who aren’t. Manners are about making sure people are comfortable and feel at ease. I get wanting to make sure an intern isn’t on the outside of etiquette know how, but also I think sometimes it undeservedly gets more attention than simple good manners. You were both comfortable and had a good time!

    4. Lexi Vipond*

      I had to read ‘even came to visit with me after I moved to Japan with his wife’ twice! :D

      1. Jack Skellington*

        Same! My initial reaction was “uh you sure he wasn’t visiting his wife???”

    5. Giggler*

      My first manager in my first job when I was a teenager even came to visit with me after I moved to Japan with his wife, years and years after I left that job.

      I’m sure you meant “he and his wife visited me after I moved to Japan” but at first I parsed it as “after I moved to Japan with his wife, he visited me” and was amazed at his warmth and forgiving nature! Hahahahaha.

    6. Nom*

      I’m with you on this one – I am confused by the expectation that the intern pay! If I invite someone senior to me to coffee I’d be disgusted if they asked me to pay for them.

    7. AnonAnon*

      Yeah I’m thinking OP#4’s expectations are coming across as a bit rigid. It’s a catch-up over coffee, not a debutante ball. I don’t think the intern did anything wrong – he just didn’t behave in the exact ways OP expected him to do.

      OP wrote in to ask if they are off base, and if so, how to proceed. My suggestion would be: I feel like OP came in with a biased view that 1). Ex-Intern is ignorant of professional norms and need feedback, and 2). OP knows the right way to do things.
      I would suggest OP consider that perhaps there is no one right way to do things in the wide-world of professional norms. This might be an opportunity to reflect on how to let go of unspoken expectations, be more open-minded and go with the flow.

  8. AnonNow*

    I would feel embarrassed at expecting a former intern to get me coffee. People can typically order exactly the drink they want via an app, and the intern knows he’s making way less than the poster, I’m sure.

    1. HRMgrTess*

      My thoughts exactly. I would never expect one of my Interns, former or otherwise to buy my coffee, especially in this economy!

    2. A*

      Yes! I get that the LW says they didn’t expect cut him to pay just to offer to pay but that is also a little off in my opinion. I’ve arrived to these types of meetings early in the past to make sure I could get my own coffee without the more senior person insisting on paying but also without potentially getting roped into buying two drinks.

      1. ferrina*

        I was confused by that. If you didn’t expect him to pay, why did you want him to offer? You wanted him to offer something you didn’t want him to do? And you’re…..offended he didn’t offer to do the thing you didn’t want him to do in the first place?

        1. MigraineMonth*

          There’s a joke about two extremely polite men, Albert and Bernard. There are two pieces of cake left, one large and one small. Albert tells Bernard he should choose first. Bernard declines and insists Albert choose first.

          Albert takes the larger piece, and Bernard is shocked at this breach of etiquette. “If I had chosen, I would have taken the smaller piece!”

          Albert replies, “How is that impolite? I’ve given you the piece you would have chosen.”

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Ha, that is one conundrum of politeness! We pretend like choosing first is a priviledge, but it’s really not (because of the expectation to politely choose the less desirable thing). If it goes really wrong, people have different ideas about which is less desirable, and both end up with the one they wanted less.

      2. manners!*

        Yes! I thought it was actually MORE polite to get his own coffee – takes the pressure off the more senior person to feel obligated to pay. Plus if he got there early and was waiting around it would seem like he expected a free drink.

        1. Aquamarine*

          This is what I was thinking! As the LW said, she wouldn’t actually let the intern pay, and I think there’s a good chance he knew that. In my early working years, senior people always insisted on paying.

          So my thought is that he may have purposefully purchased his coffee before the LW got there so that he could at least pay for his own. It wasn’t really an option for him to buy coffee for both of them.

    3. ursula*

      I completely agree. The former intern may have asked for the meeting, but you are still in a power dynamic with them. I was corrected on this (kindly but very firmly) by a lawyer when I was still a student and objected too strongly to them picking up my tab: the more senior person pays, and by default I would have expected to pay for the former intern’s coffee in this situation. I don’t see any issue at all with him grabbing himself a drink if he arrived before you and not offering to buy yours. (I also hate sitting down at a table in a cafe without ordering a drink first, even if I know it will only be a few minutes until my friend arrives; it just feels so rude.)

    4. Heidi*

      The OP seems to be quite clear that she would have paid. I think the issue is for next time, when former intern is setting up a coffee meet with someone who he doesn’t know well but has something he wants professionally (advice, job, whatever). Buying the coffee would serve to express gratitude for coming and to grease the social wheels in that situation. I also wouldn’t assume that an intern doesn’t have money – I’ve worked with interns who were wealthier than me.

      1. CoffeeOnMe*

        Thanks, all! Heidi, I am the letter writer and that was my thought. I want this person to be set up to not offend a person who isn’t me in the future.

      2. manners!*

        But this situation has no bearing on how he would behave if he asked his old colleague or someone he met on LinkedIn to coffee – he knows the power dynamic in this situation. He’s the ex intern and the subordinate and he took the pressure off by getting his own coffee. He might behave entirely different in another power dynamic. Also a lot of people find it presumptuous to ask about an open position right off the bat – they might not want to come across like they don’t care about catching up with you/are only interested in what you can get them.

      3. Dust Bunny*


        He’s a former intern, so it’s entirely possible he’s employed and his circumstances have changed since she knew him. And there is no way I’d invite someone for coffee and not expect to buy at least their first drink.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          It sounds like he is not yet employed, as he inquired about an open position in OP’s organization.

    5. Jessica*


      $5-10 for a coffee may be merely a gesture if you’re a senior, salaried employee, but it can be a lot more to an intern or junior person.

      I’m in Seattle, where the coffee meeting culture is strong–we have meetings in coffee shops, we run out to get coffee for the team mid-afternoon, we go grab a coffee to brainstorm–and usually we all pay for our own, or the senior person buys (or puts it on a company credit card). I’ve had more junior people ask if they can buy, usually because the meeting itself is a favor, but that’s usually explicit: “hey, can I treat you to a coffee and pick your brain?”

      If the invitation isn’t explicit that the other person is treating, I assume I’ll be buying my own (or buying for both of us if they’re junior to me).

      I’d feel deeply weird about expecting an intern (even a former intern) to buy me anything.

      1. raymondholt*

        I do a lot of networking type coffee meet ups and have for years. If I arrive first my priority is always on scouting a table to we have somewhere to sit and actually have our conversation. If it’s a place where I feel I need to order something so that I can nab a table, I’ll do that. The part about paying for another person’s coffee … that’s usually a toss up and I wouldn’t overthink it. I met up with a contact for coffee this summer who insisted on treating because apparently the last time we met up (4 years ago, pre-pandemic) I treated and she “owed” me. I didn’t remember!

  9. Viette*

    #1 – do go into the conversation with her thinking about what you’re willing to do if this is an ongoing problem. She’s good at her job… except for the fact that you need her to be able to come in to the office reliably to deliver services.

    If she gets better and then goes back to this behavior after 3 months, please have already thought about what comes next. As a fellow employee it can be remarkably tiring and demoralizing to watch management and a colleague go in circles over something like this with no true resolution to the fundamental issue.

    1. Heather*

      Absolutely. I had a colleague who did similar things, and it was extremely demoralizing. We would complain to the manager, she’d go “Yes I know, we are talking to Employee about it.” The behavior would improve for a month, then go back again. It definitely made everyone else feel like their own needs were less important than Employee who was getting away with whatever she felt like.

      1. cncx*

        I had a coworker like this! Did great work when they showed up, amazing work even. But our job is front facing and coverage based, and someone at home means the rest of the team is doing all the front facing tasks, which is fine when it is planned, but the saying they were home office at 755 for an 8am shift…it was exhausting.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I’d be pretty concerned because this employee has only been in the role four months and they’re playing these kinds of games regularly. OP says it started “recently” so maybe this employee made it, what, three months on the job before they started abusing the work from home policy? If the employee had been there years and this was infrequent (like, once or twice a year), I’d roll my eyes and let it go. Nobody likes being lied to but good help is hard to find. This … doesn’t seem like that.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        OP said in the letter “I’d say this has happened five times over the past two months” so it sounds like she had 2 months of following the office norm and then started doing this. I agree that it seems bold to start doing this in your 3rd month.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Sounds like a new person testing the boundaries to see if management really cares about the in-office days, and OP not speaking up let her believe this is okay (since she got away with it without consequences) and kept doing it. So speak up OP!

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      “Drusilla has staked out the position as the unreasonable one in the office, so none of the rest of you can be unreasonable–only one person gets that role.”

  10. Grim*

    I want to be sympathetic towards #3, because that sounds really annoying, but as somebody who doesn’t have to put up with it, the idea of trying to conduct a serious professional convention with Margaritaville blasting in the background is EXTREMELY funny.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        If the place is being run by Jimmy Buffet’s company that’s probably not even the silliest song. Cheeseburgers in Paradise might be.

        1. Book miner*

          It would be a real challenge to try to find the silliest song in the Jimmy Buffet oeuvre. Is it “dreamsicle, big dill pickle”? Is it “math sux”? Sadly I don’t think the resorts play many of the deep cuts.

          1. DisgruntledPelican*

            The ever workplace appropriate “Why Don’t We Get Drunk (and Screw)”

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        There’s a lot of potential for comedy in the events world – sometimes you have to do a bit of scheming and plotting to make your event work better, not to mention the truly ridiculous things that can sometimes happen at events.

        I’m imagining a plucky event coordinator (America Ferrera) in a battle royale with a Yacht Rock Coordinator (Harvey Guillen) that ends with them fighting it out for control of the music remote on top of the hotel. As the remote falls to the ground in slo-mo, the Yacht Rock Coordinator screams “Oh nooo, not the music! Our branding is destroyed! Corporate will be furious to hear about this!”

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            Yeah, I heard about that show, wanted to watch it and then kind of forgot about it!

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              A new season just came out and after almost 10 years it managed to be exactly as good as the first two seasons. Highly recommend.

            2. catsoverpeople*

              I avoided watching it because I hate when a show I like only has like 20 episodes and then gets cancelled on a cliffhanger, so I didn’t try Party Down until the revival season was released.

              In a nutshell, YES, highly recommend! It was like they didn’t realize the first time around the high-caliber comedic talent in their cast, so I kept thinking “do more with these people”, and in the revival they finally did. Worth it!

          1. 2 Cents*

            Make that me three. OP #3, I’m sorry, but your letter is exactly what I needed this dreary Friday LOL

      1. Critical Rolls*

        “Listen, I want us to get this resolved before it reaches the shushing stage. We don’t enjoy shushing, but we’re very good at it. Let’s just turn down the music and keep this amiable.”

      2. Ey-not-Cy (also a librarian)*

        Hey Brian! It did seem louder this last time. I was out in the “estates” so didn’t have any issues at night with music sleeping. But it was really loud out in the lobby area trying to check in and out. I’d think the staff would have hearing issues themselves. I know our stereotype is “shushers”, but really, so many of us only get to see each other once a year and are “singletons” in our workplaces. We just want to connect, visit, network, and maybe vent. No shushing at all, lots of chatting, preferably no shouting.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        No, no… that makes it better. MsM is right that you must pitch this to a studio as the next Bachelor Party. Air vents should be involved.

      4. L.H. Puttgrass*

        This is what’s called “burying the lede.” Why, oh why, did you leave this amazing detail out of your letter?

        Now if y’all will excuse me, I’m going to be spending the next few minutes laughing uncontrollably.

      5. I Have RBF*

        Oh, no!

        I can just imagine a gang of you going to the convention center hotel desk and doing a synchronized “shhhhhhh!!”

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Having been to the Margarittaville in Key West, its great — for a drink or even a meal. Hubby ordered a margarita having never had one before. I got a hurricane. Hubby found out he does not like margaritas. Ms. Petty had two drinks and did not mind the music AT ALL.

      But for a convention NO. And I like yacht rock. Honestly the chain needs to rethink this policy. But for OP, changing locations is probably your only option.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I worked at a water park the summer I turned eighteen and they played the same songs on rotation all day long. We literally could tell what time of day it was by what was playing and how many times we’d already heard it. It was agonizing.

      If I never hear “Kissed By A Rose” or “Friends in Low Places” again, it will be too soon.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      OP, if you get a group together and really dedicate yourself to an ongoing sing-along, donning sunglasses and standing on the conference tables as you wave your branded water bottles and bellow “Some people CLAIM that there’s an IN-TERN to BLAME, but we KNOW…” it might dissuade the organizers from their belief that this conference is immovable.

      Probably won’t dent hotel management, though.

  11. Emma*

    OP 1 – during my leadership training we were taught that absences on Fridays and Mondays are warning signs of both mental health issues and burn out, but also of domestic violence. We were given a dialogue tool (essentially questions to ask, and suggestions like “if they say X, respond with Y or ask question Z) to use if we noticed an employee having a pattern of absence on Fridays and Mondays, as support for the conversation. I suggest you google it, you can probably find resources online that could help you if Laura reveals something of that sort. I find it helps to be prepared when one risks getting into sensitive conversations.

    1. GythaOgden*

      That’s fanfic — and it would be pretty invasive to proceed on that basis.

      We’ve done that training ourselves in the context of receptionists looking out for issues with patients, and I’ve seen it put into practice while we are temporarily being used as a clinic while another building is being refurbished. However, the training also taught us to know our boundaries and not to proceed on a mere assumption, because some people just need a listening ear rather than a full on social services intervention, and we’re not equipped to do more than that. There’s also the issue of consent — sure, you may see someone struggling with something, but leaping in and saving them from it would be a bridge too far.

      My mum once did it with one of my friends who had been kicked out of home. She insisted that because we were friends, S could come and live with us indefinitely. But she wasn’t trained to spontaneously adopt her, S being with us for several weeks meant I couldn’t be alone when I needed space to myself and S was not very boundary friendly, and my younger sister felt squeezed out because my friend was almost like a pet to my mum and she was neglecting my sister’s needs to play saviour for S. S was rapidly becoming a not-friend to me in the process because every waking moment of precious time off from school was turning into an ‘entertain S moment and solve her problems’, but I had issues of my own that were getting ignored by the ‘ooh shiny’ problems that my mum was focusing on for S.

      Eventually we got social services involved and they took my friend into proper care, found her a trained foster family and got her relevant support.

      So even if Laura is in some kind of precarious position, it’s not her employer’s responsibility to leap in and help. It would be up to the employee to get help and sort herself out so she could hold the job down or look for something that gave her more flexibility than she already has. Likewise, it’s not the other employees’ responsibility to go aw, poor Laura and carry her. If Laura is burnt out, that’s Laura’s problem and she may need a leave of absence. OP can refer her to the EAP, which helped me on a number of occasions. But they need the job done.

      I’ve been in a position myself where studies might well have shown that carrying an employee through a breakdown might have been a good thing for my wellbeing. But my boss was struggling in a two person office and the second person — me — wasn’t showing up, mentally speaking. So she needed to let me go and bring someone more reliable on board.

      (I also know from experience that you can cross-reference some people’s sick leave with football games to which they need to travel. The signs in this case pretty much match those kind of assumptions tbh and absent any other disclosure, I think OP needs to proceed on a firm but fair basis with this. It’s early enough in Laura’s tenure that even in the worker-friendly UK she probably wouldn’t pass probation if she kept this up with no disclosure about other issues, and in the mean time the employer is neglecting other employees who may well have issues at home themselves but are turning up reliably to the office when asked to.)

      I’m also sure academic studies — necessarily trying to figure out the best possible thing for a certain set of people — can prove a lot of different things. Ultimately, however, real life needs often require necessary compromises with something that would be great for employees but would mean a company struggles to find adequate coverage or creates equity issues within their team. I think in physics it’s called a spherical cow — where this particular variable might require this kind of process, but we’re living in a world where there are a million other factors at play, many orthogonal to the needs of the spherical cow, and thus a study may not be terribly applicable in the real situation.

    2. philmar*

      They are also far more often a sign of someone wanting to take a long weekend. Just this week multiple people called in “sick” to work on Monday, only to get caught because the local airport caught fire and cancelled all flights, forcing them to reveal they had actually planned to fly back on Monday rather than the night before.

      1. No jam*

        Emma is making an excellent point and demonstrating what good management looks like. Jumping to a conclusion that assumes the worst of workers every time, and being allowed to continue to do so, no matter the detriment or causes workers, is not good or responsible management.

        1. philmar*

          I think assuming someone is experiencing domestic violence because they call in sick Friday or Monday is a huge overstep from a manager.

          1. Violetta*

            agreed! She’s calling in sick the Monday before a scheduled vacation and then working from a different location… to go to possible DV is really reaching

          2. SarahKay*

            Emma isn’t saying to assume domestic violence. Emma is giving information to OP1 that there are a number of causes for frequent absences on Fridays and Mondays, and that one of those causes is domestic violence, so a little preparation before the conversation may help OP1 pick up on it if that’s the reason.
            My reading of OP1’s question makes me think that they’re a good manager who wants to do right by their team members and so might find this very useful information, perhaps for future team members, even if not applicable to Laura.

            1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

              Yeah. I think we have a tendency to leap to the conclusion that investigating a possibility is the same as accepting that possibility as reality and it’s really important to move away from that. Is it likely that it will turn out to be DV? No. Will you miss a lot of opportunities to do right if you never even ask the question? Yes.

              1. Observer*

                Will you do a lot of damage by trying to investigate when you have no real idea of what you are doing? Yes. Even in the very unlikely case that that’s what is going on.

          3. Aelfwynn*

            Also agree. Yes, there are a lot of possibilities as to what is happening here but if my manager thought I might be in an abusive situation because I was calling off on Mondays and Fridays (which are also very common days for people to call out) with absolutely no other evidence, I would not be happy.

            It’s important to keep an open mind, but also employees are more often than not doing the ‘obvious’ thing and do not have some kind of tragic backstory that we need to explore. Speculation like this muddies the waters when all you need to say is “I’ve noticed this pattern. We need you to commit to being in the office these days, save for emergencies that come up. Are you able to do that?”

        2. Green Worm*

          I don’t think LW is jumping to a conclusion here. She has information to back up a reasonable suspicion, and wants to know how to address a pattern of behavior she has seen in a new employee that is affecting her ability to get work done. Emma has no evidence of DV, and also makes no suggestions as to what LW should do if it WERE DV. She merely mentions it as a possibility and leaves it at that. With no further evidence except the (very common) days that Laura is calling out, I feel like it would be worse to go into a conversation with the far-out thought that Laura is being abused than to take the pattern of behavior at face value and say “this is a pattern we’ve noticed, and we need you to be consistently coming into the office on office days, barring some emergency”.

        3. Observer*

          Emma is making an excellent point and demonstrating what good management looks like.

          Hard, hard disagree. This is not good management by a long shot.

          Jumping to a conclusion that assumes the worst of workers every time, and being allowed to continue to do so, no matter the detriment or causes workers, is not good or responsible management.

          Except that this is not close to what anyone is suggesting. They are saying, correctly, that domestic violence is not the most likely scenario. And they are pointing out, also correctly, that to do what Emma suggests and actually try to essentially dig to expose the “abuse” would be a major overstep, at best. The amount of damage that could be done by this is pretty jaw dropping.

          Absolutely no one is suggesting that the OP go in swinging and ignore any and all information that would indicate that their employee has a legitimate problem that the OP should try to accommodate.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        The very first Dilbert cartoon I ever read was the pointy-haired boss complaining that fully 40% of absences were on a Monday or a Friday, and this had to stop! Asok the intern laughed at the joke, then realized the pointy-haired boss wasn’t joking. I am so old that I remember when Dilbert was good.

    3. Amey*

      My sick days often fall on Mondays and sometimes after vacations and I always feel guilty because as a manager it’s a pattern we’re told to look out for (although I try to be very generous with this given my own experience!) I think it is often a burnout thing for me, I’ve pushed myself and got quite run down and the second I stop (for a weekend or a vacation), my body decides I can be sick now.

      1. allathian*

        This happened to me with upsetting regularity in a former job that was more stressful than my current one. I decided that I had to find something less stressful, and I did. The old job was much more chaotic and had tighter deadlines than my current one, although the skill level was about the same, and my current job even pays better. I won’t get rich, but I wouldn’t switch to a more stressful job for more pay.

      2. Goldie*

        Except this person asked for the day off and then when they didn’t get it, said they had to WFH because they were sick, then zoomed from a place other than home.

          1. londonedit*

            Yeah, they asked for Tuesday-Friday off and OP said that’s fine, but we really need to you be in the office as required on Monday. Employee said OK yes of course, no problem, then on Monday said ‘I’m so sorry, I’m not feeling well and I don’t want to infect anyone, so I’ll work from home today’. And then when they joined the Zoom meeting, they were obviously in a different location from their home, which made OP suspicious that the employee actually left for their holiday destination over the weekend and had no intention of ever being in the office on that Monday.

      3. Christmas Carol*

        My ALWAYS mother was sick every Sunday for years. As she grew older, it stretched into Monday. She finally figured out she was allergic to a preservative in the prepackaged lettuce used at the restaurant where she met her girlfriends for dinner every Saturday night. She switched from tossed salad to coleslaw and problem solved.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          In middle school my son would routinely get sick on Fridays, because that’s when lack of sleep wore down his immune system.

          I know he wasn’t faking because he’d give me the bug, and so I would be sick on Monday.

      4. CommanderBanana*

        Same. I was working at a very stressful office and would always get sick over holidays. I think my body was pushed to the breaking point, and I could keep it together to keep working, but as soon as I had a 3 day weekend I would get flu-like symptoms. I think it was just exhaustion.

        I’m also extremely introverted, and after large conferences where I have to be “on” for days, I will get sick with the same types of symptoms. It’s like a system crash.

      5. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        I almost always get sick at the end of any vacation I take that’s a week or longer. From what I can tell, it’s probably more that I am out and encountering way more people than normal because I’m traveling (I’m pretty introverted, but you can’t avoid people on airplanes/trains/etc.), OR I’ve pushed myself too hard doing stuff on my vacation (note to self, do not try to climb tall things while still recovering from jet lag). Sometimes both.

        I’ve started to build in at least one “vacation from the vacation” day at the end of my vacation, which has helped most of the time.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Same here. I definitely needed it the last time I actually travelled — I might have been on holiday, but my immune system definitely wasn’t!!

      6. Aggretsuko*

        We had a manager here who was sick EVERY SINGLE MONDAY without fail, unless we had Monday off and then she was sick Tuesday. She was also out sick after her vacations for just as long as she was out on vacation (so out for two weeks in Japan? out another two for being sick afterwards, pre-pandemic). Very eventually she realized she needed to retire if she was that sick all the time.

      7. Observer*

        My sick days often fall on Mondays and sometimes after vacations and I always feel guilty because as a manager it’s a pattern we’re told to look out for

        Yeah, it is something that gets said a lot. And without some real nuance it’s pretty bad advice. Because even if you look at pure chance, Monday and Friday are 40% of your work days. And given that this stuff is not purely random, it’s not surprising at all that there are going to be more *legitimate* absences on those two days.

        The one thing I would be looking at if it’s really a lot higher is other signs of burnout or really high stress levels. Because if someone is at that stage, it’s going to be very likely that by Friday that are legitimately sick (or stuff happens over the weekend).

      8. Katydid*

        Most of our vacations were spent backpacking, camping, or traveling to visit relatives, and by the time we returned home, I was worn out. I learned to make sure I had at least one full day at home to rest up before I went back to work. If necessary, I shortened our trip to ensure having that recuperation time. Mentioning it in case it helps someone else with their planning.

    4. Cherries Jubilee*

      Uhh absences on Mondays and Fridays are also signs of… wanting to extend the weekend.

      1. Alice*

        Can I point out that 40% of workdays are Monday and Friday? It would be odd if there were no sick days/WFH-because-of-illness-days on those two days.

      2. Also-ADHD*

        I feel like I take so many less sick days working remote. I’m not surprised if ALL sick days fall on in person days for people who are hybrid either. I’m also way more likely to take a sick/PTO day on a M or F than any other day, to extend the weekend. It shouldn’t be seen as “suspicious” that someone would be more likely to push through illness a) at home or b) midweek.

    5. Analyst*

      I mean….if you work Monday-Friday…you should expect 40% of people’s absences to be on a Monday or Friday, just basic math.

    6. Observer*

      during my leadership training we were taught that absences on Fridays and Mondays are warning signs of both mental health issues and burn out, but also of domestic violence. We were given a dialogue tool (essentially questions to ask, and suggestions like “if they say X, respond with Y or ask question Z) to use if we noticed an employee having a pattern of absence on Fridays and Mondays, as support for the conversation

      This is a wild leap, and it would be a major overstep.

      To be honest, the idea that a list of questions provided as a small part of “leadership training” in any way qualifies a manager to try to elicit information that an employee does not want to provide is scary. Even if you are seeing much stronger signs, or a combination of signs (which means that there is a much higher likelihood that something like this is happening), this kind of this is highly problematic. Neither you nor the OP is trained for this. The most the OP could to, if they have much stronger reasons to believe that this is real possibility is to point to an EAP if the company has one and ask what kinds of help might be useful. Do NOT probe or ask leading questions.

      I did do some checking on typical signs of domestic violence in the work place and non of the sources listed this (and I’m talking about solid sources not fly by nights). So, I’m also a bit skeptical that this is a sign, to start with.

  12. oirishgal*

    If you have to raise your voice to be heard by someone 1 metre from you (e.g., across a reception desk), that’s a rule of thumb indicator that the noise is a level that is potentially harmful to hearing (85dbA for 8 hours) The actual risk to guests depends in the actual volume and time spent in the specific area (the receptionist is very likely at risk if in post for 6-8h hours as you had to shout). The threshold for harm to someone who is higher risk for hearing damage is lower again (80dbA).. So this could actually be a H&S legislation breach and you could point that out.

  13. BeeJiddy*

    Maybe it’s cultural (I’m not in the US), maybe it’s just my organisation, but the lower-paid person would never be expected to pay for the coffee, no matter the conversation’s purpose. If I had asked someone to meet me as a favour I would still offer, but it wouldn’t be considered a faux pas not to.

    1. Well...*

      Yea, in academia it’s the same. You always pay if you’re roughly higher up in the hierarchy (prof>postdoc>grad student).

      1. Blue*

        IME post-doc and grad student is a bit of an iffy one, but definitely the professor is always expected to pay for students and postdocs.

    2. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      Yep, same experience for me (also not in the US) – no matter who initiates the coffee meet-up and what it’s actually for: the senior person pays at least their own coffee.
      And I might even think, by buying their own coffee before the senior person arrived the junior person is trying to not monetarily impose on the senior person. Or at least that the junior person is not well off enough to potentially buy another potentially costly drink and just already got their drink to try to circumnavigate the potential awkwardness by making sure the situation would not arise.
      (Would that be overthinking it? Yes it would! But I’ve definitely known a lot of recent graduates overthinking these kind of things.)

    3. GythaOgden*

      Yeah. It’s a clash of etiquette: the inviter normally pays for the invitee, but the power differential trumps that convention.

      Both people should buy their own coffee, tbh. Intern had no trouble doing that in this particular scenario and he shouldn’t just invite his ex-boss out to a cafe to mooch off her, but I’m side-eyeing the OP here for assuming that he’d order for her.

    4. Roland*

      I’m in the US and my first thought was the intern may have bought their own drink specifically to avoid having OP pay for it! I too am surprised by OP’s surprise. Admittedly they just finished grad school and if they’re closer to 30 than 20 I maybe get where OP is coming from.

    5. amoeba*

      Yup, same here. I mean, not with peers who are just senior to me in years (so probably make far more), there you’d probably take turns or split the bill. But if it’s actually somebody above you in the hierarchy, it would definitely not be expected to invite them.

    6. TootsNYC*

      As the higher-up person, that’s something I like to establish really early on. It helps the rookie feel comfortable.

    7. Gathering Moss*

      Yeah, also not American, and here it would be seen as a bit weird, and overly familiar.

  14. Ink*

    1- is it possible that leniency has led to the impression it’s an on paper but not in practice rule? Not to say your flexibility generally is bad, just that bringing it up might have a good chance of stopping the sick days for this particular person. The vacation thing is a bit brazen if you’re right, but finding out you’re breaking a rule you thought wasn’t enforced can be enough of a shock to ensure compliance regardless.

    1. WS*

      Yep, she may be unaware of exactly how flexible “flexible” is. It can be hard to gauge as a new person, especially if she’s coming from somewhere that had very different rules (in either direction).

    2. Gyne*

      But surely she knows which required in office tasks she would normally do on the Mondays and Fridays she is on site that aren’t getting done (by her) when she doesn’t come in. She may not be thinking about her absence’s impact on the team but if she truly is shocked it’s a problem that she’s pushing work onto her teammates, that’s not so great.

    3. Blue*

      I think that may explain the other days but for the Monday before the scheduled vacation, it would be weird to hear specifically, you need tp be hear this Monday, and think that it’s not an issue to not come in on Monday.

  15. Platypus*

    Is it really that impolite that the former intern didn’t offer to pay? I’m curious if this is field dependent. I work in biotech and I would never make the assumption that one of my old interns (or even an old coworker who wanted to catch up) would pay for my drink if they asked to meet up. Especially a former intern who was in the midst of job searching- expecting them to pay honestly seems out of touch.

    1. Orsoneko*

      I was wondering the same thing. Taking the intern factor out of the equation and just imagining the same scenario with a former coworker, I would not expect the other person to pay (or even offer) if I were the invitee, and I don’t think it would occur to me to offer to pay if I were the inviter. Now I’m wondering how many inadvertent coffee meet-up faux pas I may have committed over the years.

    2. Allonge*

      Expecting them to pay may be too much (I rarely expect not to pay for my own meal/drinks) but as they are the one reaching out, expecting to offer is reasonble in my culture, especially:
      – for something small like a coffee (so not a full lunch) and
      – as the meeting turned out to be social catch-up.*

      Still, I doubt I would think a lot about this afterwards – I understand that the only reason OP asked the question is the former ‘intern-mentor’ relationship where OP would have standing to explain work-social rules.

      *To be honest I cannot really explain this, but I know that for me, while I would be happy to meet someone I worked with for a quick coffee – unless we were close, I would expect for it to have some work-relevance, even if it’s all going in one direction. The best I can come up with is that I have limited time outside of work (even inside of work) for people I am not that close to? I am not 100% sure what is going on here.

      1. amoeba*

        I think it depends on how you ask. If it’s “hey, would you have time for a coffee with me?” or maybe even “I have a few questions”, then I’d feel the same way. If it’s more of ” hey, haven’t seen you in a while, would be great to catch up, would you like to grab some coffee one day?”, especially with someone I was friendly with before, I’d expect a more social situation (and might be surprised if they suddenly start talking shop, actually! Wasn’t there a letter about a similar situation with a former boss some time ago?)

    3. Maxine*

      Yeah, I am so confused as well. I would never expect the other person to pay for the drink unless they explicitly said so.

    4. happybat*

      If I had requested a semi-work coffee meeting with a senior colleague, I would absolutely offer to pay. And I would be completely unsurprised when they insisted on covering it instead. It’s a little social dance which seems (to me) to be about me demonstrating I am grateful for their time by offering, and them demonstrating their eagerness to help (and acknowleding their superior financial position) by paying.

      1. ecnaseener*

        “Semi-work” is definitely the operative word here, since the former intern intended it to be a purely social call! Unless it’s a date, the “whoever invited offers to pay” rule doesn’t apply to social coffees IME.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        I do think though, that while “little social dances” have a place, there are all kinds of reasons why people, especially interns, would be unfamiliar with them. They really do require a good knowledge of a particular culture and in this case, unfamiliarity with the office environment could be enough to mean somebody has no idea about the “dances” expected, as could being from a different culture (either a different country or part of the country or just from a different social group) or just being literal and assuming people say what they mean or of course, being neuroatypical.

        On a personal level, I find these kind of “social dances” quite confusing because it feels wrong either way, like you are making things awkward if you offer to pay when you know they will refuse but like you are being rude if you don’t and then there is the question of whether you are meant to accept their refusal or if you are meant to insist or if you are meant to pretend to insist, intending on giving in and letting them pay after a certain number of arguments.

        I don’t think the interaction is problematic in and of itself but I do think it gets problematic when people are judged to have “bad manners” based on their not following the script because some groups have better access to the scripts than others.

        1. Anemones*

          Well, and that’s why the LW is asking – the former intern seems unfamiliar with this “social dance”, so should she fill him in on this expectation.

      3. CoffeeOnMe*

        I am the letter writer and this is exactly how it works in my mind! I’m glad I wrote in and I appreciate everyone’s different takes on the situation.

      4. londonedit*

        Yep, that’s how it’d work in my mind/culture as well. The person who suggests the meeting would offer to buy the drinks, but etiquette has it that the more senior person would insist on picking up the tab.

        My only thought – apart from the fact that the intern might not be aware of the norms around this sort of thing, if they haven’t had many similar social interactions – is that maybe the intern was worried they’d have to cover the cost of both drinks, and therefore bought their own as a way of saying ‘I’m sorted for a drink, but please go ahead and get one yourself’. If I arrive at the pub and a friend is already there and already has a drink, etiquette dictates that I should offer to get them another drink while I’m at the bar, but it’s also perfectly OK for them to say ‘Oh no, thanks, I’m fine’, in which case I’ll just get one for myself. That could have been what the intern was doing.

        1. Platypus*

          This is what makes me wonder if it’s cultural! In the US, if I meet up with a friend at the bar and they already have a drink, I’m not going to offer to get them another one. I’m going to go get my own and assume if they want another drink they’ll do the same. Likewise, if our positions were reversed, I would not expect a friend to offer to buy me another drink.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      I think so.

      One, he’s no longer the intern. He’s no longer her subordinate.

      Two, he asked her to meet him. If you invite someone for coffee, especially if it’s not clear it’s social and not business, I think it’s pretty rude not to pay for their first drink. (They can buy subsequent drinks themselves.)

      1. Platypus*

        What field do you work in? Automatically assuming someone else will pay for you would be seen as a faux pas in biotech/biopharma. After reading some of the comments, I am also wondering if there is a cultural component to this as well

    6. Ray Gillette*

      “You’re not supposed to pay, but you are supposed to offer so that I can turn you down and insist on paying myself” is one of those etiquette rules that makes sense to people who get it and makes no sense to people who don’t get it. The importance of this kind of gesture varies depending on culture and situation.

    1. SaeniaKite*

      OP did say the on office days a vital to the service they provide so perhaps that means those are the only 2 days that work?

    2. allathian*

      Yeah, I was about to ask the same question, especially about the Friday. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in extending the weekend by an hour or so by eliminating the commute on Friday afternoon. I’m less fussed about going to the office on Monday because I’m an early bird anyway and rarely have trouble getting up in the morning, but night owls may disagree.

      That said, at least in my area where those who work hybrid tend to WFH on Fridays, the Friday rush hour is usually easier and buses and trains are less crowded, so some people may prefer going to the office on Friday for that reason.

      1. Justin*

        I suspect OP has no choice and job duties dictate the days.

        But I myself choose Fridays for those reasons. And we get summer Fridays so we go to happy hour early. yay.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        I live in the same town as my job, so usually I work Fridays in office so nobody else has to deal with the commute drama.

    3. short'n'stout*

      It’s probably dictated by when the services the organisation provides are required. If there are external clients, for example, the OP’s organisation will need to work with the client’s schedule.

    4. Allonge*

      Presumably someone who needs to provide in-person services on those days. It’s really unlikely that they picked these at random.

    5. amoeba*

      I mean, in theory it could be one of those horrible management practices who want to ensure that employees don’t use home office to “slack off” or prolong their weekend (I remember a bad LinkedIn article about how you should never work from home on Mondays or Fridays because it would make you look like a slacker. From 2022 as well!)

      But I’d lean towards giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming there’s a valid business reason.

    6. Venus*

      What I also don’t understand is why the employee took leave Tuesday through Friday. If I were her, I’d take leave Monday, and Wednesday through Friday. That way she isn’t expected to work in the office and there are no problems.

      But it is clearly more than this one incidence.

      1. Lily Potter*

        My guess is one of the following:
        *as a new employee, she didn’t have enough PTO to cover five days, or
        *she knew that it would be dicey politically to ask off for Monday (which is an important in-office day at this org) and figured that “being sick” would play better

        It’s pretty safe to assume that this employee never planned to come into the office that Monday

      1. amoeba*

        Well, they say “The in-office days are important for the service we provide. “. They don’t say it needs to be those specific two days, so I could just as well see needing any two days a week and the company deciding that home office on Mondays and Fridays will lead to people slacking off, so that’s when everybody will be coming in.

        It’s not relevant to the letter though, and we don’t have any additional information, so not super useful to speculate…

        1. Allonge*

          I would argue that “The in-office days are important for the service we provide” likely means these particular days, at least that is how I read it.

          Is it really that difficult to imagine that e.g. an org provides in-person services on these two days?

    7. Grace Poole*

      I’m sure there are perfectly legitimate business reasons for the in-office scheduling, but if given a choice, Monday and Friday would be the worst options.

    8. Dust Bunny*

      “The in-office days are important for the service we provide. ”

      Maybe they are the most convenient days for their client base?

    9. It Might Be Me*

      Me. I love it. There are lots of reasons it works best for me. There are also probably reasons why it works best for this business.

    10. Ewesername*

      In our office, it’s a coverage thing. Our section of our department is in Tuesday and Friday. Other department sections have different days. It staves off the “why isn’t finance ever here?” complaint from other departments that may have over lapping days.

    11. Samwise*

      People who don’t make their own schedule.
      People whose jobs have tasks that need to be done in office on M and F
      People who don’t hog all the desirable days but understand that others in the office might also like to have M or F off

      That’s who

  16. Purple Halo*

    LW4 you said he’s just completed a graduate program. There’s a good chance his income is not particularly high, and he’s likely spent a lot of time around other people with lower incomes.

    My experience is people with lots of $ shout each other, because it doesn’t really matter if someone is ahead or misses a turn. People with very limited $ buy their own – because they recognise the impact on weekly budget of things like that.

    Personally I think your expectation that a junior would buy you a drink is off. It sounds like he reached out to catch up, not to request a favour from you (even if you saw it as you helping him out by agreeing to catch up). You weren’t stopped from grabbing a drink, you could have ordered and purchased your own.

    1. Snarky McSnarkerson*

      Maybe the intern did not want to make the OP feel obligated to purchase coffee for them because he was asking a favor.

  17. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    How should the LW1 manager respond if the employee apologizes and says she can’t help getting sick?

    1. GythaOgden*

      Here in the UK you’d be speaking to your management and looking at any of the following — accommodations, occupational health, getting surgery (an old boyfriend of mine was out on paid leave more often than he was in one year, so his work said they needed him to make sure his shoulder was secure before he came back to work) or, ultimately, whether the job itself is right for you at all.

      We do have very generous sick policies in terms of leave (though not always paid above the minimum required by law, which is pretty derisory). Your employer has every right to start discussing with you whether you’re able to do the job. Our organisation handles facilities and maintenance for hospitals, clinics and other 24/7 enterprises, so we need staff to be reliably present. We have a kind of points system — we can be off for an ‘instance’ of any number of consecutive days (but over 7 and we need a doctor’s note), so my two weeks off with the flu earlier in the year counted as one instance, but can only have a handful of instances in a single rolling 12 month period before discussions are had. The UK also has more granular reporting needs for employers (to help with things like necessary accommodations for the employee themselves) so we do need to know what happened such that the person was out. (Like — cold/flu, depression, GI issue, etc, not the whole graphic explanation of how you were sick three times in one hour and your mum drove half an hour to your house, bought out the supermarket’s supply of chicken soup and porridge for you, filled your freezer with homemade Bolognese sauce and even dug out Pinkie-Pooh who you had when you were 10 to cuddle or whatever.)

      TBH I trust my management enough for these to be good faith discussions about how they can assist you to stay in your job. But because we need to be both physically and mentally present, the burden of reporting is on us and they have a reciprocal obligation to make things work — but not an infinite one.

      If you’re too ill to show up when you’re needed, yeah, you can be written up. Good companies will make this a real process and work with their employees, but because of the legally generous situation, the flip side is that we are somewhat accountable for our own ability to do the job we’ve been hired for.

      And I have been let go because of mental issues that were legitimately getting in the way of actually being there to do what my boss was paying me to do — so I am sympathetic to both sides of the desk, particularly seeing how my boss was struggling to make her own deadlines because I wasn’t pulling my weight either. I got myself sorted out and have been continuously employed for ten years now, so people can definitely bounce back. But understandably employers don’t necessarily want to carry people unnecessarily if they’re not giving their boss and their team what they need.

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        It sounds like they do allow people to work from home when they’re sick or otherwise (like the maintenance example LW gave). Would they be changing it for this employee?

        Perhaps LW could say ‘you seem to be getting sick a lot, 5 times in two months, I’m concerned you’re pushing yourself too much to work through being sick and would like you to take sick leave instead of WFH’ … but I’m not in love with that either.

        1. Allonge*

          Beyond the questionability of asking to justify sick time, this would not address the actual issue of presence in the office. It really is ok for a manager to ask what is going on there and say it’s part of the job to be in the office!

          1. GythaOgden*

            Yeah, in an ideal world, people wouldn’t have to justify sick time, but at some point — at least here in the UK — your company would be making inquiries. They generally do collect data on it — partly for their benefit and partly to make sure they’re not creating issues for someone at work. If you have, like we do, generous time off policies (the max we can accrue from time spent at the org is six months full pay, six times half; there is paid leave by law for six months but at a very low rate) then it becomes important for them to justify why they’re paying us to not work. At our org we need to produce a doctor’s note after 7 working days and it’s in the policy that after so many instances of sick leave per rolling 12 month period, they’d be investigating, again for the employee’s benefit as well as theirs.

            Letting someone go if they’re continually ill and thus unable to do the job is something that will be probable in a long run situation or if the employee is unreliable. It’s up to company discretion — my manager has waived even doctors notes in the past because he trusted me to know I wasn’t shamming, and my husband’s boss even kept him on payroll for a small amount each period while he was dying of cancer.

            But IME it’s not terrible that an employer would start to make enquiries at some point, and that would also be much fairer on people who are reliably there and don’t take much sick leave in the first place.

            1. Allonge*

              Oh, I totally agree that sick time in general is going to be monitored, I was responding to a specific suggestion (right above me) for OP’s situation which I think both brings up sickness unnecessarily AND does not point out the actual issue.

      2. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

        But sometimes you’re not too sick to work, just potentially infectious.

        1. Good Enough For Government Work*

          Yup. Been WFH all week with a cold; I was fine to work, but didn’t want to infect anyone else with this!

          1. It Takes T to Tango*

            I’ve had times where I wasn’t feeling well enough to drive but could still work – tweaked my knee, hurt my back, etc. I can’t keep my leg elevated or use a heating pad while driving.

        2. Delta Delta*

          This. I did several remote court hearings with COVID. It wasn’t pretty and I didn’t feel great. But the work got done and I didn’t infect anyone. There would have been no reason for me to ask to cancel due to illness when there was a good work-around. Had I been sicker, or lost my voice, I might have asked to continue.

      3. L-squared*

        I mean, that sucks.

        I say this as someone in this situation. I’m in my companies HQ, and we are forced to come in 3 days a week. 75% of the company is remote full time. If they get sick, they can still work from home. If I get sick, like feeling good enough to work, but not good enough to walk to the train and take the ride to work, then I’m punished by having to take PTO. If the job can be done remotely, even for the most part, I don’t think forcing people to take sick days because they got sick on a day that is 40% of the week is really good.

        1. Allonge*

          But apparently this job that OP writes about cannot be done remotely on Mondays and Fridays.

          Oh, I am sure there is something people can do still, but the main job is at the office. So a frequent inability to get there is an issue.

          1. L-squared*

            Then it needs to be all or none unfortunately. Management shouldn’t be deciding when someone is or isn’t sick. But, again, my problem is that you are basically saying that 40% of the week you are just out of luck if you happen to not feel well enough to come into the office, or are contagious. That, to me, just isn’t a good policy.

            1. Happy meal with extra happy*

              I mean, that’s always been the case. If a job has certain in-person requirements on specific days, than, yeah, there’s no middle ground if you can’t be in person. That’s just the nature of some jobs.

              1. legalchef*

                Yeah, that’s basically what I meant – “the job requires in person work on this day. If you are unable come in person you need to use PTO”

            2. Allonge*

              You are assuming that all tasks can be done on any day (and maybe at your company it does not matter indeed!).

              But OP expressly said that the in-office days are important for the service they provide, so this is not the case for them – on these two days the job is in-person and the team needs to be there to provide services.

              In this case yes, someone who is contagious on Monday is out of luck. But the issue is not even that Laura had one Monday when she could not work but several over a shortish period.

            3. amoeba*

              Eh, they could, for instance, offer a certain contingent of “flex days” for everybody, so, like, 10x a year you’re allowed to work from home Mondays or Fridays, but everything above that, you have to take PTO (adjust numbers as makes sense)…

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        A pretty routine, pre-pandemic use of work from home was when you’re ill enough that having to put on a suit and commute for an hour each way and remain upright all day would be too difficult, but you could sit at home in your sweat pants and take care of low-to-mid-focus tasks.

    2. Allonge*

      I would say of course they cannot help being sick, but as their lack of presence in the office is causing work issues (planning and workload of the others), I wanted to be clear that flexibility about WFH on these days is meant to be for rare exceptional cases only.

      And if it keeps happening, then we at some point get to the level where their suitability for the job will come into question. You cannot do a lot more at this stage; but it’s necessary to flag that it’s a problem and it may even become prohibitive to employment there – and of course to listen to whatever the answer is.

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        I guess if their in-office absence causes or lens then their total absence would cause even bigger problems right?

        But I think I hear what you’re saying. They need to be in the office and if they get sick or “get sick” too often they’re going to be at risk of losing their job. Just make the discussion about absences and not about sickness?

        Where does ADA come in to this, if at all?

        1. Allonge*

          Short term, probably it’s better that they work from home instead of being out 100%, but mid- and long term if this keeps happening there are other considerations – impact on the rest of the team, impact on the services provided to clients and so on. If every Monday the team needs to, idk, process 4000 snail-mail letters or lift an elephant or receive a gazillion guests, they are not much helped out by Laura processing invoices from home.

          Look, for whatever reason, the job requires people to be in person on those two days. At this point, Laura has missed a significant number of these, meaning this part of her job is not performed up to standard. If she needs to be working from home full time, or flexibility in the days she is in the office, her best bet is to find a job that actually allows that and not to push her luck at this one. Just as she would need to be learning a job-related skill much faster. The why matters very little.

          Re ADA – from what I learnt about it here, if the ADA applies to the situation, it would need to be a dialogue about accomodation, not the employee unilaterally deciding to stay home. And it would need to be a reasonable solution – the company is not obliged to grant WFH full time if they can come up with something else.

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            Yes. There needs to be a dialogue about reasonable accommodation. Which means the employee needs to bring it up, not just decide she can take Mondays and Fridays WFH when it is a job requirement to be in the office.

            But OP can address this like any other work issue. Name the pattern and the effect on work. Then see what OP says. Just like with the other areas of improvement that OP noted need to be addressed.

            Although to be honest if someone is only 4 months in and is already taking advantage of the policy you have to wonder about their work.

        2. Gyne*

          The ADA comes in to play if and when these in person tasks are an “essential function” of the role. One possible accomodation might be to redesign the role to shift all in person work to someone who is able to be in the office 3 days a week, and shift all remote work to someone who can’t. But in a setting where there are multiple same-level team members splitting up the departmental workload, you also have to be fair to the rest of the team and that might not work. It might end up being that the in person days are essential functions and that’s non-negotiable. I think of accomodatioms as “What things need to be in place for this person to do the *same job* as the person next to them?”

          OP could also offer up with Lisa that if she has an unplanned WFH day, the next business day is an in person day to do her make up tasks instead of shifting them to her colleagues. So if she’s feeling cruddy on Monday but wants to work, she comes in on Tuesday to make up the in person stuff. It wouldn’t even have to be in person the whole day, potentially she could come in, knock out the hands on stuff, and finish the day at home.

          Ultimately, this role might not be a good fit for her if it truly requires in person work (as many, many jobs do) and she can’t actually be in person. I would not hire someone to cut my hair remotely if their planned accomodation was to dictate to me how to do it over zoom, for a(n extreme) example. Hence the ADA’S requirement for an interactive process for “reasonable” accomodations.

          1. No Tribble At All*

            Right, the accommodation might end up being “Laura gets shifted to a similar role that doesn’t require the in-office part” but again that’s IF she starts the process, and IF she truly is getting sick every weekend.

          2. GythaOgden*

            In my situation as in-person, that means the work falls on my shoulders. We already have issues with people not remembering that we on reception aren’t paid directly as admin staff for the tenant orgs; we’re an offshoot of facilities. I’ve had several managers come to me and apologise for their reports’ behaviour towards me — I didn’t demand an apology, but I had to set boundaries with people because we’re not direct employees of the tenant orgs and therefore have no ability to fetch and carry for them, print stuff for their meetings or dispense stationery or packaging. We had one manager even start sending us howlers angry that we couldn’t do stuff for her that we wouldn’t have been doing for her in 2019. There can be a bit of entitlement on the part of people who have been used to working remotely, stemming from the short-sightedness of a lot of privileged people, and I think it’s part of things settling down after the massive disruption to previous workplace norms after Covid that WFHers also acknowledge and understand their privilege and don’t take advantage of it in the way Laura is here.

            If someone’s role being reassessed and redefined means people who can come into the office have to do more often, then they’re going to be upset. We all have our issues and priorities and while WFH can be a reasonable accommodation in jobs that can handle it, a significant number can’t. AskJan and equivalent UK sites all stress that roles should not be reorganized to the detriment of other employees.

            From : ‘Employers are not required to remove essential job duties to permit employees to work at home as an accommodation. For some jobs, the essential duties can only be performed in the workplace, but in many jobs, some or all of the essential duties can be performed at home.’

            Acas in the UK suggests it’s slightly more generous here — : ‘The employer does not have to change the basic nature of the job. For example, if someone in a call centre asks for a job that does not involve taking calls, this might not be reasonable if there is no other job to give them.’

            — but practically speaking it would be really hard to change some jobs to eliminate the in-person bits.
            I’m also disabled and would love even a hybrid accommodation (my friend whose wife has fibromyalgia raised the possibility that I might have chronic fatigue syndrome and I’m certainly desperate to slash my commute for pure health reasons), but the nature of my job makes that impossible. I’m working on getting into a role that allows more flexibility (there is something on the horizon in that regard) but would have no problems complying with the needs of that job.

            At that point, it crosses a line between reasonable and unreasonable — because in this case being able to be in-person is part of the role, and Laura is just taking advantage. We can speculate on whatever she needs ad infinitum, but OP needs the job done and the job involves in-person work, and Laura is on very thin ice.

        3. sparkle emoji*

          The ADA would come in if the employee started the accommodations process with the OP, the OP can’t initiate it for them. In the letter, it sounds like the Mon&Fri in-person days are pretty important and cannot be moved, so it could be tricky to find a reasonable accommodation that would allow the employee to not come in those days while still doing this specific job.

  18. Expectations*

    I’ve met former coworkers at varying levels of seniority for lunch or coffee before and it would never have occurred to me that it was anything but social or that we wouldn’t each pay for our own. If I set it up strictly as a networking meeting I would be very clear about that and then I probably would offer to pay – but I would probably also expect to be waved off.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Yeah, I read this as, “It would be great to catch up, want to meet for coffee?”, especially since the application question came later.

      1. CoffeeOnMe*

        That’s so interesting, AvonLady. I’m the letter writer and I actually figured it would be especially work related after the job question. Either way, I was happy to see the former intern and I’m glad to get perspective on it from this community.

  19. LawBee*

    LW4, basically you thought this was a Type A meeting, it was a Type B meeting, and you didn’t pivot. Former Intern didn’t do anything wrong. Neither did you, and it sounds like you had a lovely time! But I think it was just a misread of the situation.

    I think the buying coffee/offering advice is a little out of date, though. It’s possible he didn’t offer BECAUSE this was a social catch-up, and at least in my sphere, you pay for your own stuff unless it’s a date.

    Also, like Purple Halo upstream said, coffee is expensive. He probably doesn’t have that much money. Two coffees can easily be 15 bucks, which is a lot of money when you have just come out of grad school and don’t have a job.

    1. CoffeeOnMe*

      LawBee, absolutely! It was really fine – I had a good time. But that’s why I wanted to ask Alison. Going forward, I don’t want my former intern to “offend” (I was not offended!) someone else. Someone who might have a more direct line to getting them work, etc. etc. So I wanted to know if she thought I should bring it up with them now. I won’t.

      Re: paying – I think for me it’s a little bit of a dance. They offer to pay, which I think is polite, I say no of course not! And then we can all feel good. They offered and I didn’t let them.

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        I can understand making the offer so it can be graciously declined, but I was really poor for a long time and I was never in a position to pay if the person didn’t decline. So I could never participate in this kind of dance. I didn’t flaunt wealth or anything but also didn’t look obviously poor from the outside so people didn’t know. I would have felt pretty bad if I thought they were judging me.

        1. LawBee*

          Yeah—the danger of making the offer is it might be accepted, and there goes 1/4 of your internet bill.

        2. sparkle emoji*

          Yeah, by doing the dance you risk encountering someone who doesn’t recognize the dance and takes you up on it. I’m an autistic person who has to be told when a social rules dance is happening the first time I see it, and I would feel awful if I found out that I wasn’t meant to accept and that by accepting I had wasted money someone didn’t actually have.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      The thing is: He’s a former intern, the LW didn’t say they were particularly friends otherwise, and it was during the work week. I would have assumed it was business, too, although I guess I would have asked ahead of time if there was anything specifically he wanted to ask me about, which might then have revealed that he thought it was social.

      1. Anemones*

        Yes! I think these aspects are getting lost a bit – unless you were already expecting to become friends with a former intern, I would REALLY expect any coffee meet-up to be work focused.

  20. Seeking Second Childhood*

    OP2, if it happens more than once, listen for it and let the owner know it’s happened. They might be like me –mortified.

    I was a late convert to cell phones and forgrtful about carrying it around. When my co-worker told me my phone had been making noise I apologized and turned the volume down… second time I told her she could turn it off if I did that again. (And I gave up on clothes without pockets.)

  21. No jam*

    Re OP4 and Alison’s response to the query about the paying for coffee…considering most interns are paid very little, or nothing at all, and most senior people are paid more than most junior people, the proper thing to do would be for OP4 to offer to buy their ex-intern another coffee. If you really want to raise it, tell them you’d have been happy to pay for both of you.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      The OP didn’t actually want the former intern to pay, just to offer. I can see the etiquette there, especially if the OP expected that the former intern was looking for help in getting a job. If I’m asking for a favor, offering a coffee seems nice. But of course the senior person should be gracious enough not to accept it. And then in this case, the former intern wasn’t even asking for a favor!

      It’s all a delicate dance.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Not necessarily? He just graduated, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a job doing something else while he was in school.

      Also, if you don’t have a job, don’t ask people to venues where one is expected to buy something.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        That seems like a really limiting rule. Someone has a bit of savings and can buy their own $3 coffee, but it would be a real stretch to also cover the other person’s $6 drink.

      2. Coffee*

        That could be very limiting on a lot of places, and not everyone would understand wanting to, for instance, meet in a public park, rather than a coffee shop. A coffee shop really is the default, especially with anything related to work.

  22. Mild Accountant*

    LW3: on the bright side, at least you know flip-flops are, in fact, professional attire at this particular convention center?

    (My condolences for your predicament. I mean, it’s absurd. I’m giggling a little bit because the situation is so absurd. But it IS genuinely annoying that the hotel’s branding is disrupting your convention.)

    LW4: I’m actually kind of on the fence here! The big issue seems to be that you expected it to be a professional meeting (where – yeah – etiquette rules would probably apply) and he just wanted to do a personal catch-up (where…it wouldn’t). I think that might have been his major “error” instead of his actual behavior – and I’m putting “error” in quotes because I’m not sure if that was an error!

    This isn’t the best way by any means, but if he wrote in, I’d tell him to say something like, “Hey, I’d like to meet up for coffee sometime this week just to catch up on life – it’s been a while.”

  23. No jam*

    OP1, managers leaping to conclusions that a direct report or other worker is lying basically never ends well. As a manager, you have power over people’s ability to survive, and you need to be objective, not swayed by bias or assumptions.

    Laura having a different background in a video call means nothing, especially as you have no knowledge of what the inside of her home looks like beyond the backgrounds you’ve seen before. I always use either a blurred background or an image as my background on videos calls, and the manager who asked me if I was secretly on holiday was left embarrassed when I told them it was just a new background that came with the Teams update.

    Every time I’ve seen this type of situation, the employee has been facing genuine problems, from illness to carer’s responsibilities to issues with transportation to abuse (see Emma’s comment above regarding this point). None of it has been of the employee’s choosing, but has been a source of stress and frustration.

    You need to ask Laura what supports and accomodations you can provide her. You may also need to be flexible about whether she really needs to be in the office two days a week, or if this is just a preference.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      You’ve reminded me of how during the covid lockdowns, a couple of colleagues were in a meeting and one of them was using a custom background. The other person in the meeting wasn’t too familiar with computers and somehow came to the conclusion that that didn’t look like his house and therefore he and his wife must have split up.

      In this case, I can see why the LW would be suspicious though, due to the combination of things.

    2. Green Worm*

      I don’t think that the LW is leaping to conclusions. She’s noticed a pattern in this particular employee (one that has been causing issues, see: Laura’s frequent requests to work from home are impacting my ability to plan and pushing more work onto the rest of our team.) and she was suspicious because all of Laura’s last minute WFH requests have been when she has another reason she may want to not come into the office. The LW is using deductive reasoning and she specifically said that she was not going to accuse Laura of lying. It’s not just “she had a different Zoom background once and so she’s a lying liar-face full of lies.” LW is asking how she can address this pattern of behavior since it’s causing actual issues and is thus clearly not just a “preference” LW has to have employees in the office.

    3. New Senior Mgr*

      I was side-eyeing the zoom background reference too, but then I read the behavior was a pattern. This is a problem, the pattern. Leave the zoom background out of addressing the pattern with Laura. Actually, leave the zoom background out of any manager-employee conversations unless it’s an inappropriate or unprofessional background.

    4. My Name is Mudd*

      I frequent the Overemployed (OE) Reddit, because I can’t really believe how people work multiple full time jobs. That said, common advice on the OE boards is “never quit, make them fire you” and “refuse to comply with Return to Office.” It’s wild how many do this, and it works in their favor. Now, is Laura OE? Maybe. Is she just doing what they suggest? Possibly.

    5. VoidKitty*

      In my early career co-workers would occasionally confide that they planned to do take a long weekend (or whatever) and call in sick. Or they were planning to leave and were using up their accrued sick leave on Mondays or Fridays before hand without their manager knowing. I mean, the manager knew they were using PTO, just not the real reason.

      It was rare and I stopped seeing it as I moved further in my career.

      Not denying your experience. Just sharing mine.

  24. Moose*

    My hatred for Margaritaville becomes more rational all the time. I refuse to go in there, the music makes my skin crawl. It’s not even the yacht rock, but being surrounded by constant sound like that is terrible.

    Don’t even get me started on the song itself, though…why does it have to be on every road trip playlist?

    1. Heather*

      It’s a real banger, though. But I think it should ONLY be played on road trips and such— definitely not at hotels and conference centers.

    1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

      Same, and the only way I would offer to pay is if I was in a very secure financial position, which a former intern job searching might or might not be. I would never offer if I was counting on the other person to say no!

  25. NP08*

    1. There’s an extended scene in The Office where Michael says “2/5 of all sick days are on Mondays and Fridays. Think about THAT.” Implying that people are working the system and missing the obvious joke.

    Being suspicious of somebody’s Zoom background changing and jumping to conclusions about why is exactly why mine is always a fake background. Next thing you know this manager will send Dwight over to the employees house to keep watch!

    1. amoeba*

      Oh, come on, that’s unfair to the LW – it’s not like the different room was the only thing that made them suspicious! They took the rest of the week off, asked to work from home Monday, weren’t allowed, called in “half-sick” and *then* had a different background. I’m usually very trusting with my employees but that would definitely make me think twice!

      1. Gyne*

        Yes, agree, it’s not *only* the zoom background, it’s the zoom background in the context of everything else from a person whose reliability is already in question after only four months on the job.

      2. Piscera*

        Also agree. We’ve heard here about employees taking jobs they were clearly told were hybrid, then in practice they tried to work 100% remote schedules.

        1. Myrin*

          “That Monday morning, said she was feeling sick and wanted to work from home so as not to risk infecting the rest of us, but she said she was still feeling well enough to work remotely.”

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            The comment implies they asked to work from home, were denied, and then called in sick. That is not what happened.

            1. Myrin*

              True, but that’s not what you replied in your above comment and not what I reacted to.
              (I also don’t think it matters – amoeba’s overall point remains exactly the same whether that one additional step existed or not.)

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                I was responding to this: “they asked to work from home Monday, weren’t allowed, called in “half-sick”

                That is not what happened. They did not ask to work from home and then call in sick. They just called in sick. It would HUGELY change the letter to me if they requested to work from home for a non-illness reason, then were denied, then called in sick and I feel it is absolutely worth noting that *that is not what happened*

        2. fhqwhgads*

          It does? They were on vacation Tu-Fri, were told “yes but make sure you’re in office Monday” and then called in Monday saying they felt ill, didn’t want to infect anyone, and would WFH that day. They didn’t ask to WFH Monday before the day came though.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yes, the before part was the implication I was objecting to. They are implying that they only called in sick after being denied a separate request to work from home and that is not what is laid out in the letter. OP says they explicitly told them they needed to be in the office, but did not indicate they said so in response to a WFH request.

    2. DisgruntledPelican*

      OP is responding to a pattern where the employee is switching to WFH on days when they need to be in the office basically EVERY OTHER WEEK (5 times in two months).

    1. Boof*

      I think it’s about the courtesy offer and courtesy refusal-no-let-me but I agree i try to focus on substance and not superficial niceties. It sounds like intern is trying to network but a little off on the game; but also no harm, no foul. Not worth “addressing “ unless the intern asks for advice about it, and it’s all subtle enough that it will probably vary person to person

      1. Anon1*

        I hate the song and dance of a courtesy offer because, for me at least, if I offer to pay for something I have to be able to pay it. As much as we can say that obviously they will refuse as a courtesy that’s not a certainty, so if they don’t refuse I would have to pay or look like an idiot or a liar

        1. sparkle emoji*

          Yeah, it’s possible the intern knows the rule exists but financially couldn’t risk the courtesy offer being accepted so he came early and bought just his own to avoid this.

  26. Coffee snob*

    I had a colleague act surprised when I didn’t buy her lunch one time. She’s a public employee and I’m a consultant so technically I’m not allowed to buy her anything over $5, and my work won’t expense it, but for years I was afraid to not pay and just paid out of pocket. Be careful about sending the wrong message if you mention him not offering to pay.

  27. Coffee snob*

    I know we’re supposed to take letter writers at their word but I can’t get over Monday and Friday as their in office days. It just sends a message that management wants to make sure you don’t have even an extra minute free adjacent to your weekend. It feels punitive.

    1. NP08*

      I agree. And that if you dare to take one of those days as a sick day, people will be suspicious. The employee in the letter is still working and didn’t *even* take a sick day and her boss is still suspicious of her despite saying she’s happy with her job performance.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        While she said the employee’s work was good, she also said that her in-office duties had to be shunted off onto someone else’s plate if she WFH on in-office days, so there’s some work she is simply not doing very often. That’s not fair on the other employees.

      2. sparkle emoji*

        Please be a little more generous to the OP. The problem outlined in the letter is not 1 sick day taken on an in-person day, it’s 5 days in 2 months where this employee was supposed to be in-person but worked from home, and at least one of those times was the day before a scheduled vacation. It sounds like the Monday and Friday in-person is for specific client-related reasons, not some desire to punish employees. The frequent absences are causing work issues.

    2. Gyne*

      Why is it punitive? Those are normal work days.

      Let’s take the site of work out of the equation and simplify the problem to: “employee has required tasks she is frequently not doing that require me to ask her teammates to cover at the last minute.”

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I assume Coffee Snob is thinking that they are likely to be a lot of people’s least favourite choices for in-person work. Those are the days, especially Friday, when traffic is worst, so they are the worst days to be travelling to and from work. In my experience, the drive home on a Friday is significantly longer than any other day (though this may be less so in countries where things like college students returning home each weekend is less common).

        Now, I’m guessing there is a business reason for choosing those two days and it wasn’t just arbitrary but they do seem the two least convenient days both for employees and for stuff like reducing congestion. It is very likely they need people in the office those specific days though.

        1. Janet Pinkerton*

          Around DC, these are the days with the least traffic because so many people WFH then. Parking is even cheaper in some places.

          1. londonedit*

            Same in London. The transport network is noticeably quieter on Mondays and Fridays – Fridays are practically dead in central London, and Thursday has become the night where everyone goes out after work. Some people are even positing the idea that off-peak times for rail/tube tickets should be extended to all-day Monday and Friday in an effort to get people to come into the city more, rather than everyone crowding in on Wednesday and Thursday (I don’t think that will happen, it’s just an idea, but there’s a lot of discussion about the topic of how to get people back into the centre of town on a regular basis, because it’s really hard for the retailers and restaurants etc).

            1. Dutx*

              If we’re going to collect anecdata, mon/tue/thu are “the” days in my country. A lot of parttime working parents take wed/fri off because most primary schools end early then. (Friday too for younger grades. And even parttime working non-parents often like Friday off.)

              Mon/Tue/Thu core days are so ingrained in my country that the thought of anyone thinking it’s malicious to have Monday as in-office just seems baffling.

              As for the worst rush hour, that’s been Tuesday morning for as long as I remember. Nationwide.

              1. Dutx*

                Oops, rewrote a sentence and messed it up. Most primary schools end early on Wed for all grades. Many end early on Fri for younger grades.

            2. UKDancer*

              Definitely. London and other UK cities are notably quieter on Fridays. I work hybrid and actually choose to come into the office most Fridays because it’s quieter on the train and I can get a seat and there are fewer queues for the sandwich shops. My office is quite fun on a Friday as a few of us come in and we have a nice chat in between. I then often go on to the theatre or go to a dance class in the city centre.

        2. mlem*

          My company has several buildings around a certain metro area. For one of the buildings, traffic is worst on summer Fridays because beach traffic blocks half the routes away from it. For a prior building, which was near a series of malls, traffic was worst on November and December Fridays. For other buildings, Friday traffic is lightest, because they’re not near the beach routes. Highly variable.

    3. Christmas Carol*

      Really, how dare a business run for the convenience of it’s customers. What’s the world coming to?

    4. Jack Skellington*

      I can fill a book with the legitimate business needs this comment section wouldn’t understand.

      The comment section may love yoga pants, but sometimes those crisp white collars of yours are on full display (and so heavily starched I wonder how y’all don’t cut yourself).

        1. Jack Skellington*

          I prefer paprika, actually, thanks.

          On a more serious note: reminding this comment section that they heavily skew towards white collar workers and as a result that just because they don’t understand why something works the way it does is not automatically a symptom of Evil Corporate Overlords is a necessity sometimes. Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean there’s no reason for it.

    5. Peanut Hamper*

      You may have missed what was literally the third line of the letter.

      I am a manager in a small education nonprofit setting. We have a hybrid model and are in the office Mondays and Fridays. The in-office days are important for the service we provide.

      This is not about being punitive, this is because the people they serve need them to be there on Mondays and Fridays.

      I know we tend to skip over the beginnings of letters to get to the juicy bits (and I hate that I just wrote “juicy bits” because this is not a soap opera, these are real people with real concerns who need real advice, and they are not writing in just to entertain us), but when something bugs us about a letter, it really does mean that we should go back and read more carefully to see if there is something we missed. I know that for me, there usually is.

    6. Leandra*

      Monday and Friday are still business days. I knew of a solo practicing attorney who was fine with their assistant working a flexible schedule. But the assistant had to be in-office on Fridays, because that was the local court’s standing weekly date for Type X hearings.

    7. MH*

      Wow, the length some posters will go to find the bad in any employer/manager is really amusing to me. The LW says these days are necessary for in office tasks. Let’s take them at their word, shall we?

      1. Unlucky*

        I think most people will only start assuming the best of employers and managers when the majority of them start conducting themselves in a way which promotes faith in them and the system that they have created and designed to benefit them, and don’t take almost every opportunity to get ahead in a way that leaves the finances and health of the workers upon whom they are entirely reliant. To be honest, if you’ve got through any stretch of your career without being unfairly treated or otherwise disadvantaged by employers or managers, you should count your lucky starts.

    8. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Presumably OP has no say in the in office days. Presumably it is not worth what capital she has to push back on this. So she has to work within this policy — and so does her employee. Her employee can think its terrible all she wants, but she still needs to show up. Otherwise, the rest of the team gets stuck with her work, which isn’t fair to them.

    9. Weary cigarette drag*

      Then get over it, and read the commenting rules while you’re at it. Not every job is tech-sector white collar work that you can do from home in your jammies.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        I know every time somebody writes in with a question about something in a blue-collar environment (factories exist! they’re where all the stuff you buy gets made!) a whole lot of people are going to be clutching their pearls.

        So yeah, every work environment is different. Sometimes you really need to be in the office—or at work, in person—on Mondays and Fridays, and sometimes on Mondays through Fridays. Sometimes the weekends, too.

      1. Part time lab tech*

        Education? Mondays and Fridays are the most common Pupil Free/Teacher Development days and have been since I was in school.

    10. alienor*

      I can see Monday since a lot of meetings are often scheduled then. Friday, though, is when people need quiet, uninterrupted time to wrap up the week’s work and prepare for the next week (at least I do…I have 6 meetings today and I’m SO salty about it because now I’ll have to do that wrap-up/preparation over the weekend instead). If they really want everyone in two days a week, and one of them has to be a Monday, then Wednesday would be the logical choice for the other one.

      1. Allonge*

        In your workplace.

        But as I am sure you know, there are a billion places that have other considerations than ‘when are meetings scheduled’ and ‘I need quiet time on this day’.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I don’t have something like “the week’s work” – with some rare exceptions usually involving outside deadlines, I can or can’t do every part of my work on every day.

      2. RussianInTexas*

        Fridays are very often my busy days (I work from home all days), because I am in customer service and account managing and a LOT of customers leave issues until Friday – hit send and go on weekend.
        There is no work for me to wrap up on Friday. The stream of incoming work happens on all days, it does not matter if it’s Monday, or Wednesday, or Friday.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Same here in Facilities. Friday is just another day we’re open until 4pm because that’s when our post collection is scheduled.

          I think some people here need to, ahem, check their privilege.

      3. DisgruntledPelican*

        Fridays are my office’s most important days. Everyone is here that day, and some of us will be here until 10pm. It’s almost like all workplaces are not the same.

    11. New Senior Mgr*

      I agree it feels punitive, and certainly not a scheduled I’d even consider, but employee agreed to this schedule. The only issue (to me) is her work falling to her in-office colleagues on those days. Must be addressed. Perhaps, this schedule no longer works for her… and this should be a part of the conversation too.

      1. Gyne*

        I mean, I don’t want to get up at 3 am and start baking donuts every day, so I don’t work in a donut shop. You have to do the job you have, so if the job you have is an education nonprofit that provides in person services on Mondays and Fridays, it’s not punitive to be expected to do your work.

    12. londonedit*

      Friday would raise an eyebrow here, but the company I work for separated teams out into different core in-office days – so one half of the company comes in on Monday/Tuesday, and the other half comes in Wednesday/Thursday. It’s not absolutely set in stone, and you can come to the office on your non-core days if you want to, but you’ll be hot-desking. In my department, there is flexibility and we don’t have to be in the office every single Monday and every single Tuesday if it doesn’t work for our particular schedule, but other department heads are much more strict about it and people are expected to come in on their core days unless they have a legitimate reason not to. And we don’t even have a particular business reason for it – it’s just that everyone knows continued hybrid working is a perk, so the feeling is that the least you can do is show up for your in-office days seeing as the trade-off is being able to WFH for the rest of the week.

      That said, where I work there absolutely wouldn’t be a problem with someone saying ‘I’m travelling on Sunday, but I don’t have enough holiday to take the whole week – is it OK if I work from Scotland on the Monday?’. But the point is that it wouldn’t be a regular occurrence, just something occasional if they happen to be travelling or they have the plumber coming or whatever. The problem our OP has is that Laura a) seems to be fudging the truth about being ill/where she’s working from, and b) it isn’t a one-off or a ‘do you mind if I WFH on Monday, only the landlord needs to come and do some repairs and it’s the only day he can manage’ thing. There’s a pattern of Laura suddenly deciding she’s too ill to come to the office on a Monday, and on top of that it also looks like she’s not being truthful in claiming to need to WFH because she’s not well enough to come to the office.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        Especially since, to use your example, Laura was specifically told “Working from Scotland this Monday won’t be an option, we need you for in-person tasks that day” and still worked remotely from “Scotland”.

    13. It Might Be Me*

      But we don’t know, and we don’t need to micromanage, OP’s business needs. This gets into everyone wants X because that’s your preference. Not all of us have the same preference.

    14. Gemstones*

      If you’re hired to work a 9-5 Monday-Friday job, is it really punitive to expect people to do their jobs, though?

  28. Charlie*

    My understanding of #3 is that their organization is the one organizing the conference, so while I’m not clear on whether or not they are directly on the organizing team, they are not just an attendee. It sounds to me like, if they are not personally organizing it, they are at least already in close contact with the organizers, but maybe that’s just how I read it.

  29. Donkey Hotey*

    #1 In the last three years, I have always been leery of bosses jumping to conclusions about employees and working from home. HOWEVER, this one has all the red flags. Reminds me of an old coworker whose kid miraculously had pink eye (automatic stay home) multiple times a year, usually right before a vacation or a long weekend.
    To be fair, there could be other reasons, but that certainly is Colonel Mustard in the Library.

    1. Green Worm*

      YES. There are always other possibilities, and it’s important to keep an open mind when talking to the employee (as Ted Lasso would say, be curious, not judgmental), but when something looks, smells, acts, and sounds like a horse, it’s probably a horse.

  30. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    I don’t really agree about the coffee. He arrived first, got his own. Then you arrive, get your own. I mean, yes I can see the politeness in offering if you invited the other person and you’re trying to get a job in their field (I would do that) but I wouldn’t think anything of it at all if someone didn’t offer to pay, especially a junior person.

    It’s not like he left you to pay for all the drinks.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think “whoever issues the invite should offer to pay” is a decent general rule of thumb for dating, but I’ve personally not encountered that for just general social meals/coffee/drinks! If I meet up with my friends or my sister for drinks or dinner, it’s always been assumed we’d all just paid for our own meals. If I plan to pay, like because it’s someone’s birthday or I want to thank them for something, then I would say that as part of the invitation.

  31. Problem!*

    I had a colleague who had his ringer set to his grandkids yelling “Grandpa pick up the phone!!” and would routinely leave it on his desk at full volume then leave for a long time. This was over a decade ago and I can still hear it. Older people like to whine about younger people not following office etiquette, but it goes both ways. They like to lean on the “I’m old I don’t understand technology” card but personal cell phones have been commonplace for well over 30 years at this point and have always had mute and volume settings. There’s no reason they don’t know how to or that they should mute their phone in a shared office setting.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Thirty years ago, cell phones were not commonplace. My daughter was born in November 95 and my partner’s phone rang as I was giving birth. The hospital staff did not know what the cell phone was and told him he needed to turn it off or he might deregulate hospital systems.
      (It was our mutual boss, calling to see why he hadn’t come in, even though he knew I was due any day. I remember thinking “if he picks up, I’m leaving him” because how could anything be more important than seeing his daughter in less than an hour’s time? Luckily he didn’t pick up.)

      1. Matt*

        It’s probably about 25 years for the general population. I got my first “Nokia brick” cell phone in 2000 and my first smart phone in 2015, and I’m aware I was a very late adopter since I always loathed the social expectation of constant availability that came with the possession of that device.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I suspect that the old people who don’t follow office etiquette are just the young people who didn’t follow office etiquette a few decades later

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*


        I’ve long suspected that they were the rule/etiquette followers who simply re-freaking-fuse to change with the times.

      2. alienor*

        I remember when I got my first “real” job 25 years ago, people who were in their 50s were resistant to technology and slow to adopt new forms of office etiquette, and at the time I thought that was understandable since they’d started working when computers still used punch cards. But now my peers are in their 50s and some of them behave the exact same way, even though we’ve all been here for every change and advance that’s happened in between. It’s weird, but I have to think that today’s crop of 25-year-olds will also be like that when 2048 rolls around.

  32. L-squared*

    #1. Based on the frequency, they are likely lying at least about a couple of these times. At the same time, there is no way to reasonably accuse them of that without looking like a jerk. People get sick on Mondays and Fridays. Its possible they were still not feeling well that Tuesday, you just were unaware of it because they weren’t in the office.

    #2. I actually disagree with Alison here. The way she writes it, is implying that someone did all of this on purpose. It was likely an accident, and I’d wager the person didn’t even know that they left their phone for a while. I default to respecting a coworkers things, and I don’t think an accident absolves that.

    1. mlem*

      #2, accident is irrelevant. If someone leaves a disruptive element around and isn’t there to make it stop being disruptive, it’s fair for the people being disrupted to do something about it. I’m not saying sledgehammer the phone (or the work device that starts autoplaying loud videos, or the battery-powered toy, etc.), but finding a way to mute it is entirely appropriate.

    2. Observer*

      #2. I actually disagree with Alison here. The way she writes it, is implying that someone did all of this on purpose

      It doesn’t really matter WHY the person did this. The fact is that when you cause this kind of disturbance you don’t have standing to complain when someone does something non-destructive to contain it.

  33. Heather*

    I feel like we needed a part two answer to question 1– So what do they do if it continues? I see why the manager feels odd about pushing back on these absences, but they’ll have to do something.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Just like any other job performance issue — setting expectations, coaching and imposing consequences, whatever they may be. It may be as simple as you — employee has to be in the office every day up to and including termination.

  34. Slow Gin Lizz*

    OP4: “Do I subtly suggest he reads Ask A Manager as he prepares to join the working world?”

    Yes, but not because of this situation, but because AAM is fantastic and offers excellent advice for all people in the working world. And don’t be subtle about it. :-)

  35. Janet Pinkerton*

    I admit I’m honestly disappointed we haven’t had a “guess the name of the hotel chain, wrong answers only” thread yet. I’ll start:


  36. Judge Judy and Executioner*

    Regarding #4, I’m a low level manager and would not expect a former intern to buy me coffee. The last time I met one at a coffee shop, they had already ordered and I put in my own order and joined them at the table. I don’t think they need advice, I just think you have different ideas of normal/professional and that’s okay.

    1. Delta Delta*

      This just crossed my mind. Maybe the Intern had anxiety about who would pay and doing the whole “I’ll treat,” “no, I’ll treat” dance, so he specifically arrived 10-15 minutes early to avoid all that.

  37. HearTwoFour*

    To not pay for coffee doesn’t bug me. However, I think it’s very odd (bordering on insulting) that the former intern assumed the OP would be ok to essentially ‘play hooky’ for the afternoon just to learn about his life and family. Unless things like that were common at this particular office, I’d be thinking his work ethic was far too casual. Just because he’s not working doesn’t mean the OP didn’t have important things waiting for them back at work. Putting those things off for a professional meeting is different than leaving the office to hang out.

    1. L-squared*

      I mean, OP could have also said no, if she was too busy.

      People take coffee breaks at work all the time. They go out, and grab coffee, maybe sit at the shop for a while. I don’t know why you’d see it as playing hooky.

      But by that same logic, if there isn’t time to do it to discuss career stuff, then there isn’t time to do it to discuss personal stuff. Either they have time to step away from the office, or they don’t.

      1. HearTwoFour*

        Meh, agree to disagree. There is a big difference between sitting in a coffee shop to unwind before going back to work vs sitting listening to someone ramble on about his family, wondering if he’s ever going to get to the point. I don’t think this was a case of having the time or not; it’s a case of thinking they thought they were going to help someone out in their career, and it turned out to be not that at all.
        And sure, OP *could* have asked, but who would ever assume they would have to? It’s in the middle of a work day. Sure, tell me all about your family.

    2. Anonymoose*

      Interns are still learning their way in a professional world. This intern may have seen others “meeting Joe from Company X for coffee/a drink/whatever” and thought this is a great way to maintain contact, network with his former mentor. The social aspect of it doesn’t bother me, but the LW was free to ask at any time, “So did you have a particular reason for wanting to meet?” It’s possible, too that the intern chickened out of asking about the job he’d previously inquired about, thinking it might get seen as exploiting their relationship. I think since he got there first, it was fine for him to get his coffee. If he KNEW what his former mentor liked, then, sure it’d be nice if he had it waiting, but overall I think he was just awkwardly trying to network and it didn’t go great.

  38. This_is_Todays_Name*

    Old employer that had a lot of younger people working there, in the “Before Times” had a policy that if you called in twice on a Friday and/or Monday, it was a warning. Do it a third time and it was a write up, four? Bye-bye. All of this was if it occurred without a Doctor’s note, or previously known/approved reason, obviously. When I started, I thought “what a ridiculous policy” … until I saw WHY. Nobody had trouble getting to work Tue-Thu, but so many interns and younger employees developed “Fraternity Flu” on Mon and Fri! One thing I’d ask though, is if there’s any flexibility for your employee to have her in office days on say, Tu and Th instead of Mon and Fri? If she’s otherwise a solid employee who does good work and this is her only issue…is it worth working with her on it? I dunno.

    1. Green Worm*

      It seems to be causing an issue for the other employees who have to cover for her during those in-office days, per the letter, so I’d say it’s definitely worth addressing.

      1. Anonymoose*

        Well the LW said it was “difficult to plan” for work. If she has the discussion and works with the employee so that she CAN plan for it… then the impact is minimized if not completely negated…

        1. DisgruntledPelican*

          LW also said it was “pushing additional work on the rest of the team.” Was there a reason you left out that part of the impact?

          1. Anonymoose*

            …because I didn’t MEMORIZE the entirety of the letter? Is there a reason you’re being so oddly aggressive and accusatory about it?

    2. *kalypso*

      In my college job I used to feel so bad because after a concussion (at work and everything) I had a Monday shift and I’d be lyingon the floor at 10am wondering why I couldn’t get up.

      Fine for my Tuesday shift.

      It took me about eight weeks before I figured out that if I started trying to get up for Monday on Sunday morning, I could make it to work on Monday, and that was when I was diagnosed with post concussion syndrome.

      Working with her on it may look like knowing when she can’t make it in on Monday and planning for it, or having a jobshare, because if people are coming in for appointments on Monday then someone needs to be in the office on Monday to see them and it’s not fair that everyone is scrambling to cover her and do their own work because there was no planning done at all. But it’s a discussion and not necessarily one that means that work magically stops needing to be done on time.

    3. Problem!*

      Did the timer reset on the three call outs rule? Like you just couldn’t do it three weeks in a row (understandable) or did you only get to call out on a Monday/Friday three times in a calendar year?

      Requiring a doctor’s note for being sick on a Monday isn’t fair because that requires acquiring a note from an urgent care or ER since most primary care offices aren’t open on weekends. That takes time away from actual emergencies and leaves employees with a hefty bill.

    4. Observer*

      Nobody had trouble getting to work Tue-Thu, but so many interns and younger employees developed “Fraternity Flu” on Mon and Fri!

      Even if there was no confirmation bias at play (keep in mind that pure chance means that 40% of absences are going to be on those days), there are actually perfectly legitimate reasons.

      If I’m doing a test that needs prep, I’m doing it on Monday if I can, and I may not want to discuss this with my boss. If I’m doing a test or procedure that requires recovery time, same. But beyond that, for a lot of people they DO get more sick on Friday because by that point their reserves are used up (and yes, that applies to young people too!) Or they push through to Friday because they’ve been sick since Tuesday, but if they just take Wednesday off, they aren’t really going to feel much better and they’ve just burned a day. But if they take Friday, then they have 3 days to get better. Or they been sick since mid-week and hoped that they would make through to recuperate over the weekend and realize that they just need another day to mop it up.

      Also, a lot of people are more likely to pick up a bug over the weekend because they are more likely to eat at places where they could pick up a stomach bug or eat a new food that doesn’t agree with them; more likely to pick up a bug from people they don’t see often / in a place with lots of strangers; do an activity that leads to them needing to take a day off – and I’m not necessarily getting drunk and being hung over the next day.

      And, by the way, a policy like this could be illegal in a place like New York.

  39. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    #4 – This is why you establish an “agenda” when accepting a coffee meeting during work hours, regardless of who you’re meeting. Had LW known it was a “catch up on old times” meeting, they could have relaxed into it, or chosen a different time.

    That would have addressed LW’s angst about not talking about career development, and honestly, I think that’s the actual heart of the problem, not who paid for whose coffee because LW was clearly prepared to buy the coffees too.

  40. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #2 – college dorm rules apply here.

    If your neighbors are blasting their stereo or TV while you’re trying to study, and it turns out they’re not even in the room, it’s perfectly ok to walk into their room and turn the device off.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      This question reminded me of the time I was at college during January (not many classes offered so there weren’t as many people in the dorms) and someone down the hall left for the rest of the month but forgot to turn their alarm off (back in the pre-cell phone days of alarm clocks). It would go off pretty dang early and loudly, and I, not being a morning person, found it ridiculous. Plus, it wouldn’t just go off once but every 5 or 10 min for probably the whole hour. I was quite pleased to discover that they’d also left their dorm room unlocked so I went in and shut the dang thing off and enjoyed quiet mornings thereafter. Never told them I did it, either, so I hope they figured it out when they got back before they were late to something. But if they hadn’t left the door unlocked, I wonder to this day whether I would have been justified asking our head resident if they could do it for me or if that would have been some kind of violation.

      1. Polaris*

        On your wondering, it was definitely something we would have been encouraged to go to our RA or RD about. Heck, our RD tracked down the person who parked alongside the building and had a supremely touchy and loud alarm on their vehicle (think: first hint of a rainstorm or a squirrel running underneath the car would set it off, and it was loud enough that someone checked it with a dB meter…) as the spots that they were parking in were technically for hall residents, not general populace. For approximately 4 weeks, our entire side of the building was woken up around 0610 by the car’s alarm, because SOMETHING would always set it off.

  41. Badger*

    LW2: If leaving a note to the offender doesn’t work or if they put up a stink, maybe see if there’s anything in your employee handbook about a cellphone policy or about creating a non disruptive workplace. It might help if you end up needing to go to your manager. But hopefully they are a reasonable person!

  42. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

    3#– I once worked for a financial risk management company in New York. The had an annual risk convention, always in a hotel. One year, they held it in the Marriott Marquis in NYC. Seems fine…except that that hotel has a Broadway theater in it, which was currently showing On Your Feet! (the Gloria Estefan musical) with matinee performances.

    Nothing will ever bring me greater joy than sitting in a very boring session, listing to someone drone on and on about financial risk, and suddenly get interrupted by “C’MON SHAKE YOUR BODY BABY DO THE CONGA!” at full volume from right under their feet. A delightful way to keep your audience from falling asleep.

    1. Leandra*

      That brings back a Saturday business meeting I attended at a banquet hall.

      In the room next to us was a Japanese wedding celebration, including musical entertainment. Our speaker’s presentation was occasionally punctuated by the sound of taiko drums.

    2. Jean (just Jean)*

      Thanks so much for sharing this! I’m grinning & planning to tell the friend with whom I occasionally exchange Reasons to Laugh Our Heads Off.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      I almost wish I’d had something like this to keep people awake after lunch at the last annual conference that I organised. The presentations used to start at 8am, so at a certain point in the afternoon, a big part of the audience would just nod off – even if you tried to schedule engaging speakers in those slots it wouldn’t always work. I believe they eventually resorted to breakout sessions after I left.

  43. Parenthesis Guy*

    IT should be able to track which IP address a user uses to connect to the system. Unless Laura is using a VPN to mask her IP then you can get an idea of where she’s working.

    But I would think twice about being strict about enforcing employees return to the office. Laura has a tough job, and seems to be doing good. Do you really want to lose her over this?

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      The OP wrote that Laura not coming into the office on the required days means that the OP can’t plan work properly for the team and her colleagues have to do extra work.
      This will cause resentment unless there is a good explanation

      Sounds like Laura is not doing good consistently because she is dumping part of her job onto coworkers.

    2. Michelle Smith*

      I said this above, but I think this is really invasive. I’d be furious if IT or my manager confronted me to claim that I wasn’t working from home because of my IP address. If I ask to work from home so I can be here for a delivery, but after it comes I go to the coffee shop down the street to get a change of scenery am I abusing the policy? What if my home wifi is unreliable so I pull out my company issued hotspot to make sure I have a strong enough connection for my afternoon Zoom meetings. Am I now going to be accused of attempting to bypass the WFH policy?

      Not being able to trust this employee is the issue here, but I don’t think the answer is invasive surveillance of the location of their computer.

      1. Gyne*

        It is an issue, though, if you are regularly pushing work onto your coworkers to a point where it has become problematic. Some people have the mindset of “it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission” but if I was in Laura’s situation and I knew I was “working from home, sick” on a day my boss had previously told me it was *very important* to be in person, I’d make extra double sure to not raise any eyebrows with trying out a fancy new resort-like Zoom background or working (sick??) from the coffeeshop down the street.

        1. DisgruntledPelican*

          The response to the issue should be to address it directly with the employee, not sneakily put them under surveillance because you wanna play detective.

      2. Donn*

        IP location can be an issue if one is a government employee, or working with sensitive information, or there are company/client/software license limits on remote access.

        Someone who’d secretly outsourced their job to a worker in China, got busted when IT saw the employee’s token used to log into the company network from China.

      3. Cicily*

        If you’re dealing with sensitive data, “invasive” surveillance is a must.

        And if you have to make other arrangements on the fly, you let your manager know. If your manage says ‘no,’ you take a day of leave. It’s not hard.

    3. sparkle emoji*

      The absences are causing work issues(pushing Laura’s work onto other coworkers). OP can address that issue without getting into the weeds of why Laura is absent or tracking down her IP address.

  44. Nea*

    LW3 you have so much of my sympathy! There was a local convention here that I was very interested in, but only attended once because I couldn’t bear the constant, omnipresent music! There was music blasting in the hallways, in the elevators, in the restrooms (where I hoped I could hide for a moment of peace and quiet). They even turned up the music in the meeting rooms for the few minutes it took to end one meeting and start another.

    It doesn’t matter if you don’t have hearing issues; the fact that you are running this convention and some of your attendees might have hearing or other noise-sensitivity issues are reason enough to pull out the ADA. You need to do SOMETHING because I guarantee you’re losing attendees over this.

        1. Rachel*

          I think we have a fundamental disagreement over the extent to which the ADA covers noise levels at public venues.

    1. Wilbur*

      The issue with changing venues might be that it might take a few years. I’m a homebrewer and there’s a conference hosted by the American Homebrewers Association every year. Every year it’s hosted in a different region of the country. When COVID hit and everything got cancelled, there were some people that got a little disgruntled that their region was “skipped”-2020 was supposed to be in Nashville, it went virtual instead and was rescheduled for 2021. Things didn’t improve enough in 2021 so they did it virtual again, but 2022 ended up being in Pittsburgh and 2023 in San Diego because when you host a good sized conference you have to have to plan things out a year or two in advance.

      TLDR: Due to contracts and scheduling it might take a few years to change venues, it’s probably easier to negotiate with management.

  45. Frank Doyle*

    I would just like to note for the record that frozen margaritas are frozen, but a default margarita is just a cocktail. Usually served with ice (though not always).

    1. Wilbur*

      I think this is highly dependent on the region and the type of place you’re going to. I think there’s a decent chunk of people that would expect their margarita to be frozen if they ordered one.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Here, in Texas, you specify when you order if you want frozen or on the rock, or more often, your waiter asks you, unless you are in a bar with a margarita machine, and they don’t make a real one.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I’d like to note for the record my outrage at the phrase “just a cocktail.”

  46. Blue*

    LW2: As someone who would more often been the askee, I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world but I also don’t agree that they should *never* be expected to pay in such a situation, especially as they are a former, rather than current, intern.

  47. Rachel*

    I understand how frustrating the repetitive noise is on a phone left in a common area.

    If you absolutely must stop the noise, I think muffling it by putting it in a drawer is significantly better than messing with the settings on a phone.

  48. Michelle Smith*

    “I was a little confused, figuring this is what he, at least partly, wanted to have coffee to discuss.”
    “Again, I really like this former intern and was interested to hear about his life and family, but I think a workday coffee should have a point and not just be a social call.”

    LW4: Respectfully, I think this was your error rather than the intern’s. If a former colleague of mine, regardless of level, reached out to me for a coffee, I wouldn’t just assume what they wanted to talk about was job-related. Sometimes they just want to hang out and talk about life since we went our separate ways. Sometimes they want specific job-search advice. It can vary. Typically they explicitly state what they want to talk about in their message asking to meet, but if they don’t, I just…ask them: “Hey Joe, are you just looking to catch up or did you have something [work-related/specific to your job search/whatever makes sense here based on the previous communications] you wanted to discuss?” Then you can decide whether to take the meeting. If a purely social call during work hours isn’t something you’re interested in, you can say that: “I’m really pushed for time and wouldn’t be able to meet during the workday for a social call for the foreseeable future. If you’re free on Saturday at 10 am though, I could meet you at Jumbo Coffee on Whatever Street before my 11 am yoga class. It would be great to catch up!” But I think the expectation that everyone feels the same way about workday social calls may be unreasonable. My job even actively encourages us to do monthly coffee meetings with people outside our immediate department to get to know each other and those are purely social.

  49. Observer*

    #3 – Problematic Conference center.

    Just a note- you can ABSOLUTELY bring up the ADA, even though you don’t have a disability. And in fact, I suspect that hearing impaired and others who do need an accommodation would be happy to have you do this. Keep in mind that the law is not “you have to accommodate if someone comes to you” but “You have to accommodate if you have reasonable reason to believe that someone might have an issue.”

    Before anyone jumps down my throat, I’m aware that that usually means starting the conversation. But the point is that you don’t need to pretend that you don’t know that the issue could exist unless someone comes to.

    1. Rachel*

      I think the distinction between a preference and an accommodation is extremely important.

      1. Observer*

        For anyone with hearing loss, the issue not “preference” but “accommodation”. And it’s perfectly legitimate for the OP to actually bring it up.

        1. Rachel*

          It is perfectly legitimate for the OP to:

          (1) ask again for the music to be lowered

          (2) IF they have hearing loss, ask the music to be lowered so they can hear

          (3) tell the conference organizers they cannot attend if they cannot hear at the selected venue

          (4) check to see if this is in violation of the ADA or not and proceed with this if applicable.

          What is not advisable is the OP saying “somebody on Planet Earth might have hearing loss so this venue has to lower the volume according to the ADA.” Because that is a thing you made up.

          1. Observer*

            What is not advisable is the OP saying “somebody on Planet Earth might have hearing loss so this venue has to lower the volume according to the ADA.” Because that is a thing you made up.

            Uh, no I did not make anything up. Because the issue is not “someone on earth”. Hearing loss is extremely common. It is completely acceptable for someone to bring something this likely to conference organizers and point out that they really, truly need to figure something out.

    2. Observer*

      I’ve been reading the responses, and I want to say that the OSHA thing could be a real issue here as well. The key here is whether anyone is being *required* by their work to be at this conference. If yes, this could be an OSHA violation.

      1. Bi One, Get One*

        I think OSHA should be involved simply because the conference venue employees shouldn’t be subjected to extremely loud music during their shifts, regardless of whether the conference attendees have any difficulties with it. That bit might not be OP’s lookout, but it probably couldn’t hurt to flag it in case OSHA has had any existing complaints from the venue’s workers.

  50. city deer*

    I completely disagree that the intern was even a little bit rude by not offering to buy LW4’s coffee. Everywhere that I’ve lived and worked, the norm has always been that a) whether it’s social or work-related, everyone goes in prepared to pay for themselves + b) if it’s work-related and there’s a significant difference in seniority, the senior person may/should pay for the junior. I have never heard of the lower-ranking person being expected to cover the tab (or do some awkward ritual of offering just to hopefully be turned down), even if the meeting is a favour they requested — it’s not like networking meetings are transactions where a coffee is payment for career advice, they’re just something people do to help others up the ladder behind them. I’ve also never been aware of any general norm that the person who extends an invitation offers to pay — on the contrary, I was taught that it would be rude to assume that someone is 100% definitely going to treat me, in any context.

    If anything, I think this person was extra polite by getting his own drink first, which showed that he didn’t expect the LW to treat him, more in keeping with a social engagement between equals. He could have been more explicit about the purpose of the meeting, but the LW also could have sought clarification beforehand since they were confused.

    1. goducks*

      I agree 100%. If this was a significant expense to the LW, or if this was a sit-down place where they bring the check, maybe things would be different. But at a counter-service coffee shop like a Starbucks where each party is arriving separately and since they do not have any official relationship since the intern is no longer at the LW’s company, it seems completely normal and expected that both parties would pay for themselves.

      If it were a significant expense like a big meal, or were a sit-down type place where both drinks were on one check paid at the table, then there might be discussion on whether the inviter or the former manager should pay.

      But I agree that the intern was extra polite by getting his own drink which signifies they are on equal footing as two former colleagues having a chat.

  51. Chris*

    Regarding Letter 4: Apparently I’m the dumb one. Each time the LW mentioned the intern not offering to buy coffee I commented out loud that “this statement shouldn’t be in here.” And then when Allison said it IS rude, I shouted “NO!” emphatically.

    Why is it rude? I HONESTLY do not get this. It isn’t a date. This is an intern. Someone who, probably, wasn’t being paid during their time in the position at the LW’s company. Or if they were, they weren’t being paid generously. They probably don’t have a ton of money to begin with and somehow, SOMEHOW, it’s rude to not offer to pay for someone’s coffee when we KNOW they are trying to get their foot in the industry? This absolutely does not sit well with me. I don’t think this is rude. Especially if the LW went in expecting this to be a networking style chat about positions to apply for, how to apply, other companies to consider, etc. If this IS some form of business “etiquette” lesson I missed out on, then like many forms of manners and etiquette, I think it’s time to PHASE IT OUT. The intern system today is highly predatory and exclusionary, creating barriers of privilege and this is just one more.

    1. Lexi Vipond*

      I don’t speak business etiquette, but if the intern (who hasn’t actually been an intern for years, it sounds like) had invited the OP out specifically into order to learn from them, wouldn’t that be more reason to buy the OP a drink, not less?

      In any other setting ‘I’ll buy you a drink if you’ll help me with X’ would be much more usual than ‘I need you to come to this place and help me with X and also buy me a drink while you’re there’.

    1. Jack Skellington*

      Let’s just believe letter writers at their word that this is necessary instead of jumping to conclusions shall we?

      1. Jack Skellington*

        (As a sidenote, this is exactly the sort of obviously white collar stuff I was referring to. Just because you cannot conceive of a reason to work in the office doesn’t mean there isn’t one.)

    2. fhqwhgads*

      The kind that has a service they provide to the public and the public needs them physically there on Mondays and Fridays?

      1. Jack Skellington*

        I mean, if people like the ability to run quick errands while working from home or more flexibility for appointments, they have to be making those appointments and running those errands somewhere…

    3. GythaOgden*

      A monster with obvious business needs, like seeing clients on a Monday or Friday, as stated in the OP.

      And yeah, Monday and Friday are business days. The 75% of people who can’t work from home have to be in. We at reception have to stay until 4 on a Friday because that’s when the post gets collected. And if you do anything on a weekend that involves someone else’s labour — like going to the shops or to a funfair or something like that — those people are still working for your convenience and leisure needs.

      I’m not sure what your job is but you need to make sure your own privilege isn’t doing the talking here.

  52. Brian*

    OP #3 Here. Some clarification:

    1. We’re an organization of librarians, which makes this even funnier.
    2. We’re a statewide organization with hundreds of attendees. This is the only venue that works for us. Because of the layout of the state, changing cities would involve certain members having to drive six hours to attend.
    3. I’m not an organizer, but I do have their ear.
    4. The center is great in every other respect. It’s just the damn music that’s driving us nuts.

    1. Coco*

      Absolutely push this with the organizers. All attendees (including yourself) can/should leave reviews on social media and reach out to the venue company individually. There are hundreds of attendees, and if they get enough poor reviews or negative emails, that might just sway them. I imagine the employees at the venue hate this as much as you!

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      The driving 6 hours thing might be a bullet you have to bite. You can rotate around to different venues, like many other professional societies do, so everybody has the pain of long travel at some point and it balances out over time.

  53. Extra anony*

    The issue with LW1 could be solved by not allowing her to work remotely when she feels sick. I think if it has happened multiple times in two months, you could say you need her to either come to the in office days or take a sick day. She’s a new employee, so I think you can be less “lenient” than with employees who’ve been there a long time; emphasize that the in office days are necessary to the service the NGO provided, and for the rest of the year (or however long you choose), she should take a sick day if not coming in.

    (For the commenters who feel this is totally unfair for being Mon and Fri, yes, there are jobs that require in person work for substantive reasons! It’s a real thing)

  54. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

    > I’ve told them this might be an ADA violation, as anyone with hearing loss would not be able to hear anything above the noise, but as that doesn’t apply to me, I don’t feel it’s an avenue I can pursue.

    This is NOT the correct approach. PLEASE don’t make disabled people do all the work. You absolutely can pursue that approach. And please bring this up to whoever runs the professional organization (meaning, not just the conference organizers, but the people above them). Please be a squeaky wheel, LW #3.

    Two more small points: (1) Lots of people have hearing loss that they don’t realize (or don’t think it’s as bad as it is). Hearing loss usually happens gradually enough that people get used to the change and don’t realize how bad it is. For that reason, there are probably people who would qualify as “disabled” but don’t realize it, and they assume it’s “just” the loud volume being a problem and don’t want to complain. (2) This could absolutely be a safety issue, if people (including people with no hearing loss) can’t hear to follow instructions to evacuate the building.

    1. Ace in the Hole*

      On your second point, it could be a safety issue regardless of whether people can hear evacuation instructions. There are very specific noise exposure limits for workers in the US, and they’re not as loud as many people expect.

      If the average noise level for an 8-hour work day is 85 db or higher (equivalent to heavy road traffic or a noisy restaraunt), employers must follow protective measures like monitoring, annual hearing exams, written hearing conservation plans, and training.

      1. Rachel*

        Right but this is a conference held at a different venue.

        I think that makes this letter different from a workplace.

        1. sparkle emoji*

          But the venue has its own staff, who would be covered by these protections. You might be able to make a tip to OSHA that the noise may be out of compliance for their sake.

  55. Dover*

    Nibblin’ on free snacks, trying to send a fax
    Listening to yacht rock beat in my ears
    Cursing the music, along with this old tech
    Keeping me here away from my peers

    Wastin’ away in this Conference Resort
    Trying to send my Quarter Profit Report
    Some people claim that there’s a manager to blame
    But I know it’s nobody’s fault

    Don’t know the reason I came back this season
    Nothin’ to show but this sponsored lanyard
    But it’s a real beauty, colorfully fruity
    Holding my badge and my business card

    Wastin’ away in this Conference Resort
    It’s now overdue, my Quarter Profit Report
    Some people claim that there’s a manager to blame
    Now I think, could it be corporate’s fault?

    I picked up a free bag, for gathering some SWAG
    Filled it on up, had to cruise back to the room
    But there’s a poolside bartender, and soon I’ll surrender
    To “5 o’clock somewhere” invading my Zoom

    Wastin’ away in this Conference Resort
    Forget about sending this stupid report
    Some people claim that there’s a manager to blame
    But I know, it’s the organizer’s fault

    Yes, and some people claim that there’s a manager to blame
    And I know, it’s Jimmy’s darn fault

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Slow… Clap….

      Well done and a nice start to the weekend!

  56. Juny*

    #4: Some people get upset (oftentimes rightly, depending on the exact situation), if you only want to use the friendship or relationship for what you can get out of it.

    If the only time you talk to a friend is if you’re asking if you can go fishing on his pond, that’s not much of a friendship.

    I wonder if the intern had this in mind? He appreciated the advice and didn’t want it to sound like he only cared about what he could get out of the relationship.

  57. Raida*

    2. Cell phone settings in open offices
    I agree – find the phone, turn the volume down which doesn’t require unlocking it, leave a note.
    And be honest with the people that sit next to that phone’s desk – “Hi, who’s desk is this? Jo? Cool, I’m going to leave a note but let Jo know their phone is on vibrate. Those notifications are too much.”

    I don’t work in a large office, approx 100 desks at each end, but we’d be very comfortable finding a phone like that and either turning it down or just standing up and saying loudly “Who’s phone is that? Put it on silent and leave a post-it saying so on it”

  58. Raida*

    4. Should I give feedback to a former intern on our coffee meeting?

    Feedback on what? Your assumptions that a person you don’t work with was scheduling a work-focussed meeting with you?
    That to *you* a location as casual as a coffee shop should follow the same social conventions as a meal at a restaurant?

    No, mate. What you described was someone saying “Let’s catch up over coffee” and getting their drink when they arrived, to wait for you. Neither of you need to buy both drinks. and neither of you need to offer.

    If it’s really an issue for you, you can tell them you were expecting a work-related conversation ha haaa and had to change gears mentally when it suddenly clicked “dude this isn’t a meeting it’s a catch up!” – if you want to share a cute anecdote about how *assumptions* can totally change approaches to something like a coffee.
    But entirely frame it as “Isn’t the brain amazing? And the silly part is, I know I could have clarified beforehand! never even occurred to me”

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