do I really have to attend a company dinner, boss is moody and distant, and more

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

1. Do I really have to attend a company dinner?

I work remotely for a virtual company that has quarterly in-person meetings for the leadership team. I am administrative but travel with the team. There is a team dinner the night before the meetings. I bowed out of the last dinner because a family member was located nearby and I chose to dine with them instead. The president of the company with whom I work closely seemed put off. She has mentioned it at least three times that she thought I would have dinner with the team.

I’m appreciative of the invite but have no desire to dine with them. I know I’m a respected member of the team (in fact, I’ve been with the company the longest out of the entire leadership team). I’m well-liked, friendly, and approachable during work hours. I’m fiercely territorial about my off hours and my desire to choose my dinner companion, if anyone at all. I view this invite as optional since it really is just a social gathering before the actual meeting and it is an event that takes place outside of normal business hours.

We have another in-person meeting next month and there’s a dinner. Do I have to attend?

You should attend. The exception would be if you have a medical need to opt out, like if you aren’t doing indoor dining because of Covid.

Sometimes it’s part of the job to put in face time at stuff like this, especially if (a) you work remotely the rest of the time, (b) you’re part of the leadership team, and/or (c) it’s part of a business trip that your company has flown you out for. Any one of those factors would mean you should attend.

We can debate whether or not it should be that way, but the reality is that it is. Moreover, your company president has made it clear that while you view it as optional, she doesn’t. There may be real professional consequences to opting out, even if they’re not immediately apparent.

See it as the price you pay for not having to deal with people in person the rest of the time.

2. My boss is moody and distant

I have a manager who I used to feel was a friend for three years or so. We got along great and never had any problems. Then one day she told me she felt I wanted more in our work relationship and she had pulled back from me. When I explained that all I ever wanted was to be friends, it seems like she started going through periods of moodiness with me.

It has been depressing that I once enjoyed my job and seeing a boss I considered as a friend who supported me as a person and professionally is no longer the same. She has even admitted that she is only rude to me and doesn’t know why. Her body language over the few years that have passed since our conversation seems more annoyed with me now and is sometimes out of the blue.

She is more moody with everyone now, but seems to let it out more with me. I have tried to talk to her about the stress I feel because she sometimes is short or annoyed when I talk to her, but she becomes very agitated and angry with me. She states it’s none of my business when she’s quiet or unfriendly. I would quit my job now because of the stress I feel at times due to this. I just don’t know how to deal with this emotional roller coaster anymore. It’s hard seeing the kind person I use to know but never knowing when the cold, distant, and angry person is going to come out. I am struggling. What can I do?

I can’t say for sure what’s going on with your manager but since she’s moody with everyone, it’s most likely  about something that’s going on with her, rather than the rest of you. That said, we do know that the one time she addressed it, she said that she felt you wanted more from the relationship than she did. That’s worth paying attention to; for whatever reason, she doesn’t want the relationship it seemed like you had previously. (Her instincts there are right, even though the way she’s handling it is bad: managers really can’t be friends with their employees. Friendly, yes, but not friends. More here.)

That also tracks with her getting agitated when you talk about feeling stressed by her responses to you or when you ask why she’s being quiet. Those aren’t really conversations for your manager; they’re conversations for a friend, and she’s tried to say that’s not the relationship she wants. (She’s handling this badly, to be clear! But I suspect that’s what’s going on.)

As for what to do: it would be a good idea to job search. I’m skeptical that she’s being a great manager to any of you, and it sounds like this has become a major source of stress for you.

Meanwhile, respect the fact that she wants a fairly distant relationship. Treat her like your manager, not a friend or former friend, and I suspect you’ll attract less of her ire for however much more time you remain there.

my boss has mini mean flashes

3. Interviewer said “thanks for making this easy for me” and walked away

I wanted to ask you about a strange interview experience I had when I was fresh out of undergrad. At that time, I was still trying to find a full-time job, so I was interviewing at restaurants to make money in the interim. I was planning to move away and continue my education at some point in the next couple of years.

This particular interview started off normal, but at some point the interviewer asked about my future plans. I told him the same thing: “I plan to get another degree in maybe a year and a half or two years, probably at (location).” He replied something like, “Thanks for making this easy for me,” and then stood up, shook my hand, and walked away. I was so confused I just smiled and shook his hand, and left feeling pretty bad. I asked my family what happened, and they guessed that they didn’t want to hire me if I wouldn’t be there in a couple of years. Ultimately I’m thankful that I didn’t end up working for someone who, I felt, treated me rudely. But my question is, was the interviewer being reasonable about not wanting to hire me? To me it seems like restaurants shouldn’t make it a requirement that their new hires commit to working there for more than a couple of years, but maybe I am out of touch.

Yeah, it’s not uncommon for interviewers not to want to hire people who plan to leave in 18-24 months, but typically that’s less of an issue at a restaurant, where high turnover is more common. That said, maybe he’s been able to hire people who all stay a long time, in which case more power to him.

But he was rude about it! He could — and should — have simply said, “We’re looking for someone who wants to stay long-term so I don’t think we’d be the right fit.” I’m quite sure he would have thought it was rude if you, the candidate, responded to some answer of his that you didn’t like with, “Thanks for making this easy for me” and walked away, and he’s no more entitled to do it himself. (Although admittedly, that would also be kind of awesome for a candidate to do and I’d enjoy seeing it.)

4. Coworker keeps calling me a communist

I am Eastern European and I’ve been in the U.S. for the past seven years. My coworker always calls me a “commie” jokingly, but recently he has been relentless. Every time I say something he doesn’t agree with, he says, “Well, that’s because you’re a communist.” I’m really not, nor have I expressed that type of political association. He even said that if I think about criticizing U.S. capitalism, I should go back to my communist country. Again, my country is not communist.

I have asked him to stop and he always says to stop being sensitive and that he is only joking. I am afraid that if I report him, he’ll get a slap on the wrist and he’ll know it was me and could retaliate. There is a promotion coming up and I am one of the potential contenders, while he is one of the people who can influence the ultimate decision on who would get the promotion.

Your employer is legally required to put a stop to your coworker’s comments; it’s against federal law for them to permit an employee to be harassed based on their national origin. The right next step is to talk to HR; tell them what’s happening and what he’s said when you’ve told him to stop. Make sure you also stress that you’re concerned about retaliation and ask how they will ensure that you’re not retaliated against, even subtly.

You might judge that you feel safer waiting to have this conversation until after the promotion decision is made … or you might decide you want HR looped in before that, so they can be on guard for bias in that process. That depends on factors I don’t know, like your sense of how likely this guy is to try to muck up your promotion regardless. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this!

5. Was my boss implying I’m a slacker?

I do payroll and benefits for a small company. It’s been very stressful lately with new programs, W-2’s, open enrollment, etc. That’s all done now and the next project is a very detailed 401K census. I told my boss I was starting the census data entry, and her reply was, “Please do.” It made me feel like she was implying that I’ve been slacking off. Am I being overly sensitive?

Yeah, I think you’re reading something into it that’s not there. Unless your boss has a pattern of implying you’re not picking up work quickly enough, “please do” in this context most likely just means “yes, that should indeed be the next priority” or “go for it!”

{ 446 comments… read them below }

  1. Honoria Lucasta*

    LW5: my boss will also say “please do” when I suggest/mention a new project I can start on. knowing her personality, it’s very much an encouraging “That’s a great idea, thank you for taking initiative” remark. Hopefully you can take your boss’s comment that way, too!

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yeah I think it just means “OK, carry on”. I wouldn’t use the specific words “please do” but do often say things like “sounds good, thanks!” when someone says they’re going to do something. Probably the boss interpreted it as OP asking “permission”/confirmation to start that work, whereas OP was just telling the boss that that’s what she is going to do.

      1. Honoria Lucasta*

        Good point about the slight difference in intention — I can see it feeling weird to be given permission to do the thing you’re already doing, or to feel like you’re being asked to do it when you were already doing it. For LW5’s sake: I don’t think the “please” in the phrase has to mean the person saying is making a request — it can signify a polite yes (as in “yes, please”) in response to the implied question “Can you confirm that this is my next priority?”

        I notice that your loop-closing comment (a great phrase, thanks commenter below for using it) has an exclamation point in it. Some people really just aren’t exclamation-point users, my boss among them tbh, and so their messages come across in text as having a flatter affect and being less perky even if there’s no less encouragement or inner cheer from them than there would be from a more !! inclined writer. That is part of the difficulty of reading tone as an employee, but I think giving your manager the benefit of the doubt until he/she has actively lost it is a good practice to follow.

    2. John Smith*

      I’d say it depends on how it’s said. It could easily be taken as positive encouragement, but could also be said in a contemptuous way and can come across with an air of aloofness. I’d like to think the former, but I’m tainted by my own experience of bad managers where the latter is the case.

      At least she didn’t say “Make it so” ((c) Cpt. Picard, USS Enterprise), used often by my manager which portrays all you need to know about him (and makes people want to slap him every time he says it – he is no captain and certainly no leader).

      1. Allonge*

        It’s of course possible for tone to indicate something else, but the wording itself is neutral. Absent other evidence in the direction of dismissiveness / contempt, I don’t see the point for OP to take it as a negative comment.

        From the short description, I would think that OP (reasonably!) expected a bit more of a thank you for handling the various stressful things in the last weeks, so maybe that’s what’s really missing – an acknowledgement of the work delivered?

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, for me, a lot would depend on the tone. If it were said in an impatient, almost sarcastic way, I would imagine it meaning, “well, obviously you should do some work and stop slacking,” whereas if it were said politely, I’d assume it meant “good idea” or “yup”.

      3. WantonSeedStitch*

        See, I’d be tickled if my boss said “make it so!” I just take it as an indication that the person is a huge nerd, and that makes me happy. But coming from a bad leader, nothing is going to sound good.

      4. Throwaway Account*

        I could also see a tone for “Please do” that sounds dismissive or like the boss is not happy. But the unhappiness could be only about the 401K review and whatever stress the boss is anticipating from it or that she wishes she could have OP work on something else that is the boss’s priority but is not the company’s priority.

    3. N C Kiddle*

      Unless there’s context to suggest otherwise (a nasty tone, a history of previous issues in this area, etc) I’d assume it was just meant as a fairly generic loop-closing response, comparable to “thanks for letting me know”.

    4. Star Trek fan*

      I think you’re reading too much into this. Next time try this mental image: Boss points finger and says “make it so” while channelling their inner Jean Luc.

    5. HB*

      As others in this comment thread have said, I think it’s most likely a generic ‘I agree, carry on.’ If there *was* a bit of weirdness to the tone, then it’s still possible that it had nothing to do with you and everything to do with the fact that Payroll forms and the census have tight deadlines (as I know you’re aware). The boss could have been receiving requests/reminders for the Census and didn’t push that onto you because they knew you were working really hard to get everything done, but when you announced you were ready to work on the census I could see her response being tinged with some relief, but coming out a bit funny because of the deadline stress.

    6. NotSarah*

      I would hear this as “this a great use of your time” or an affirmation that I’ve prioritized the right project.
      Good job, LW5!

    7. C*

      Agreed. As a boss who says “please do” on a regular basis that’s pretty much what I mean. “I agree that’s the next priority – please continue.”

  2. Tisserande d'Encre*

    #5—I empathize so hard with your interpretation of the tone, since I struggle with that too with my manager. It’s probably just your boss’ way of saying “sounds good”, though!

    1. Heidi*

      I’m also wondering if the response was just a 2-word email, which makes it even more difficult to pick up on tone.

      1. Erin*

        That reads more as a chat reply than an email to me; if so, it’s very easy to get a bit sloppy/thoughtless in those but it’s also entirely legit and should be safe to fire a clarifier back.

        “Yeah, getting X Y Z done has been tough, and I’m pleased to be moving on. Btw, your ‘please do’ could be read a couple different ways – just checking, we’re all good on my work progress?”

        1. Michelle*

          Good point. I know she’s been stressed too with all that’s going on so I will schedule a “check in” meeting with her and talk about it.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            I don’t agree with that advice at all and don’t think you should do it. Perfectly fine to schedule a check-in meeting and perfectly fine to confirm briefly that you’re meeting expectations, but to hyper focus on a particular chat message for clarification when the plain meaning seems to be “please do what you told me you were planning to do, I’m good with that” will likely come across as very weird and insecure.

          2. Observer*

            I will schedule a “check in” meeting with her and talk about it.

            Schedule the check in meeting, but don’t ask that question. You are likely to come of as a bit precious. You don’t want to create an impression that you are hyper-sensitive or need to handled with kid gloves.

            What does make sense to ask it something like “As you know things have been crazy, and I also know that you’ve been stressed with everything going on. So now that things are calming down, I wanted to check with you if there is anything specific you need from me and also if all is well in general with my work.”

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Oh gosh I really have to disagree, that would be such an odd response to receive to what is a very normal thing to say!

        3. Awkwardness*

          Unless there are several incidents or a certain pattern that could be interpreted in a negative way, I would not approach the boss about it.
          Bosses should be allowed to be in a hurry or give short answers too without being overanalysed.

          1. Awkwardness*

            Even though I hate to type it out:
            Please consider if you would feel the same if this was coming from a male boss. If your threshold for need of clarification/reassurance would be higher in this case, it might be a good idea to keep this to yourself with your boss too.

        4. Sneaky Squirrel*

          I would be annoyed and consider it a waste of both of our time if anyone (a colleague or direct report or a manager) scheduled a check-in with me to ask me to elaborate more on a message that simply says “please do”. Unless you have any reason to believe that the “please do” meant anything other than what was directly written, let it go.

          1. Nesprin*

            Eh, I’d give a followup meeting on a 2 word email a 2/10 for annoyance- If my employees didn’t understand my intention or were offended by my tone in an email I’d want to know, because I want my employees to feel like I support them and that they can give me feedback.

        5. Two Fish*

          Don’t ask for clarification about a common, rote response. If there was more context about OP being behind on things and boss being snippy, use that to interpret. If not, it’s very weird to get hung up on this.

          There’s a couple different ways almost anything could be interpreted; that doesn’t make all interpretations equally likely or reasonable. If OP shows their boss that they twist around normal phrases to take insult from them, it’s likely to sour the relationship.

        6. Cyndi*

          The only conversation within MILES of this that would sound like a good idea to me would be if LW asked their boss “hey, it’s been pretty slammed recently, now that it’s eased up I was wondering if you had any feedback for me on my time management and how I’ve been prioritizing things?”

          I wouldn’t get any closer to their “real” concern than that.

      2. Chas*

        I was wondering the same. Also, can “Please do” be one of those suggested responses that Gmail gives you the option of pressing to automatically send a reply? This could be a case of LW5’s manager being too busy to write out an actual response and just hitting the button while being glad that LW has correctly chosen the next thing they should prioritize.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I was gonna say, that totally reads to me like one of the suggested responses that Teams offers when someone says “I’m going to (whatever).” It’s not one I would click on generally, but if one was in a hurry…

        2. Jack Russell Terrier*

          On that note – ‘please do’ tracks to my British ear. I can def hear some older Brits giving ‘enthusiastic oh god yes that would be wonderful’ with ‘please do’.

          Not sure if I’m on point or not with that, but I heard it with an old-style Brit accent in my mind and nodded to myself.

    2. thelettermegan*

      to me, ‘please do’, sounds a little like the Star Trek command that the captian would give the helmsman has a sort of ‘final answer’ after they set the direction but before they put the ship in drive.

      Capt. Picard would always say ‘Engage’, but other captains would use other ways to say ‘please do,’ in response to ‘bearing is set, should we go?’

      It might help to think of the ‘please’ as more about general politeness instead of frustrated begging. Instead of saying ‘yes, do that,’ it’s ‘yes, do that, to your satisfaction and my utmost repect to you.’

        1. wendelenn*

          “Let’s fly!”
          “There’s coffee in that nebula!”

          (I was disappointed we didn’t get to see Captain Seven’s new catch phrase in the final episode of ST: Picard. And yes, I know that’s not Janeway’s catch phrase and she only said it once, but I loved it.)

    3. learnedthehardway*

      My default is to assume good intentions, unless otherwise stated clearly by people.

      A) it forces people to be direct, if they do have a criticism to voice.
      B) it smooths things out if they said something awkward that could be taken the wrong way.
      C) it feels better to me. I don’t spend my time wondering what they meant. (If I feel I need to, I ask them to clarify what they meant.)

      I prefer people to be direct and I’ll go out of my way to get directness, if I feel it’s necessary.

  3. Jackalope*

    I’m surprised that someone hiring for a restaurant wouldn’t want to hire someone because of a possible departure that far in the future. As Alison said, maybe this particular restaurant has super minimal turnover, but that’s not generally the case! And since many (most?) restaurant positions don’t require months and months of training, they could get a lot of good work out of someone in 18-24 months.

    1. Gyroscope*

      Plus plenty of people have a vague plan to go back to school in a few years that doesn’t pan out or takes longer than expected. Not exactly the same, but when I was fresh out of college, I took a low paying job unrelated to my field just to pay the rent and ended up there for a year while actively applying for and interviewing for other jobs.

      1. Easy Interview*

        It did end up taking me 3 years to go back to school. This happened in early 2017, in case that context matters. But some comments lower down are talking about how the place may have been more upscale, which it sort of was. So they may have been looking exclusively for long term staff, which is fair. I had previously worked for a short time at literally the most upscale restaurant in town, so I was surprised by his reaction. In the end, I’m happy I didn’t work there. The path I ended up taking was good.

      2. Random Dice*

        Restaurant managers can have a LOT of issues, in my personal experience. One manager hired me but fired me because I hadn’t heard of the (ok enough but not Ivy League) college he went to.

        Another was an alcoholic who got mean.

        Another did heroin off her girlfriend’s belly in the communal bathroom.

        I wouldn’t read too much into a rude restaurant manager.

        1. Heffalump*

          There was a guy I worked with quite a few years ago. He was actually the shift supervisor, not the restaurant manager, but still. He was 26, I was 28, and he wanted me to address him as “Mr. Lastname.” I didn’t play along on this. He didn’t really make a huge issue of it, but he once said to another employee, “I can’t seem to put it across to Heffalump that he should call me Mister.”

          He was later transferred to another restaurant in the chain. I heard the following over the grapevine: He’d broken up with his girlfriend, and she’d tried to kill herself. He took that as evidence of true love, they got married, and they were expecting a baby. I felt sorry for the child, having parents like that.

    2. nodramalama*

      Or possibly they have high turn over and are now looking specifically for employees who will stay longer and they can train to hold higher positions

      1. Ash*

        There typically is not a lot of opportunity for advancement in a restaurant. It’s not reasonable to expect large amounts of people will want to stay working for tips and primarily on nights and weekends for years on end. Some do, and some even enjoy it, but they tend to be the exception and not the rule.

    3. MK*

      I know this is common in many countries, but in mine most employers who want to build or maintain a successful longstanding business make a point of hiring professional service workers that have either long experience or a degree or formal training in hospitality. I don’t know how high turnover is, but there is a definite bias against hiring people who are doing this temporarily to get some cash.

      1. Katie Impact*

        I’ve seen this in my country as well, but I’d be mildly surprised to see a company expect someone to stay long-term and *not* also specifically state formal training as a requirement in the job posting.

      2. Misclassified*

        Even in America it depends on the level of restaurant. Chain? Yeah, high turnover. Small business family owned? Could really depend. Really high end? Those often have a professional server industry.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          This is true, but would the OP even get an interview at that last type? It doesn’t sound like she had that kind of background.

      3. EventPlannerGal*

        This! Not all restaurants are created alike. Someone hiring for cooks at McDonalds will (rightly) have different priorities than someone hiring for Alinea or Eleven Madison Park. Those are two extremes, obviously, but if OP was interviewing at a ‘nice’ restaurant or one with high aspirations, they may well have been looking for long-term hospitality careerists (who do exist and are extremely valuable members of the workforce) or people at the start of that path, who would want to stick around, work their way up, gain qualifications and so on. Turnover in any restaurant will always be higher than an office job, but in a lot of places it’s not as high as you might think. He was very rude in how he went about rejecting OP, though.

        (I mention Eleven Madison Park particularly because there’s a brilliant episode of the Netflix documentary Seven Days Out that covers the lead-up to their re-opening after a renovation. It talks a lot about the level of service and training required at a place like that. Again, I sincerely doubt that OP was interviewing at Eleven Madison Park but it’s a great episode – I recommend.)

        1. Juniper*

          I worked at two high-end restaurants, and turn-over was minimal. Even the hosts had generally been working there a couple years. Someone with a foot out the door in 18 months time would probably not be considered.

      4. Ole Pammy's Getting What She Wants*

        THIS. I certainly hope you all dont mean it, but there is a huge underlying dismissive tone to the “why wouldnt they just accept someone who can work for a year or so?”. Serving well is extremely sensitive and nuanced work that takes years of training and practice, and higher-end places just arent interested in people who dont look like they are going to take it seriously.

        1. Jackalope*

          There have been many letters answered here talking about how a short stay in a job is less than a year or less than two years, and “normal” stays are at least a year long. In my current job that would be a short time because we have very long formal training, but in all the jobs I’ve had before this that was considered a reasonable commitment of time. And it may well be different in other countries, but in the US even higher end restaurants can often pay their staff as little as they can get away with and do things like give them lousy schedules and such. An employer like that isn’t giving their employees enough of a reason to commit to working there such that they could expect everyone is going to make it a career.

          1. Ole Pammy's Getting What She Wants*

            I am in the US and have over a decade of experience working in hospitality at both low and high end restaurants. Believe me, I know. You’re missing the point that we still dont know what type of establishment OP3 applied to.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      I had some really weird interviews for minimal wage jobs, when I was taking a year out from education were they were all like “Oh, you’re going to university and that’s why I won’t hire you”, so I had this interview where I pretended I wasn’t going to university, and you can literally see the guy thinking “Oh, shit, that’s our favorite excuse line blown” and he ended up trying to convince me to go to into higher education! I don’t know what kind of pushback they were getting from disappointed applicants, but they seemed very reluctant to just say “Nah, it’s not a fit”. Once I got “experience” these types of jobs were happy for me to work *while* going to uni.

      1. The OG Sleepless*

        When I was in graduate school in the early 90s, I interviewed for a job at a record store. The job listing said they needed temporary summer help in the front end. When I got there, the manager asked me what my plans were for the fall, and I told him I was continuing my next year of school. He stood up and said, “ok, well, this interview is basically over. I’m looking for a permanent manager for the video section.” Um, ok? Why did your job listing say something totally different? It was such a weird waste of both of our time.

      2. Ray Gillette*

        That was also my experience when applying for minimum wage retail/foodservice jobs before I got my first office job. It was like they were looking for reasons to not hire me! I think what it boils down to is that the people hiring for those minimum wage jobs are probably not making much more than minimum wage themselves and never got much (if any) training on how to hire, so they’re making it up as they go along.

        My own favorite example was when I was 19. I’d been working at the same chain diner for two years and wanted to see if I could move up to something a little nicer. The hiring manager sat down in front of me, looked at my application, and said “So, I see here you’ve only had one job.” It was all downhill from there. This was a scheduled interview, not a drop-in. If he never intended to hire me, why waste his own time to interview me at all?

      3. anotherfan*

        oddly enough, when a friend was between college semesters, she applied for a job stocking shelves that had been advertised as a part-time summer position. She was asked for her background and said she was between college semesters and was thanked and not hired. She went back two weeks later and when the same question came up, said she was unemployed after graduating high school. she was hired immediately. So some places just don’t want to hire college kids for whatever reason.

    5. Earlk*

      It’s not just the time scale but the implication that the job is a placeholder job and not something they care about/have a passion for. The hiring manager was rude but not ridiculous, people do exist who want to work in hospitality and would want to build a career in it and the LW didn’t.

      1. Juniper*

        Agree. I can imagine a certain level of exasperation as well dealing with job seekers that aren’t really serious. Doesn’t excuse rude behavior, but I get the frustration.

      2. Your Former Password Resetter*

        If they wanted someone to stay on for several years, they really should have put that in the job post. Hospitality has so many high-turnover jobs that 18 months is an entirely reasonable proposal.

        Not to mention that so many jobs have awful working conditions and very low pay, so expecting people to be passionate for those jobs would be pretty absurd.

        1. Ole Pammy's Getting What She Wants*

          anyone with any kind of hospitality experience knows how to suss out the type of restaurant where 18 months is reasonable versus a career server establishment. it’s obvious. This is a case of OP not understanding that themselves.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Ehhh. Maybe. I remember some pretty unrealistic expectations from hiring managers back in my service industry days. And some downright rude behavior. (On the other hand, some were wonderful, and I learned soft skills that benefit me to this day.)

            1. Ray Gillette*

              Yeah, the rudest interviewer behavior I’ve both experienced and heard about from others in hospitality is not from high-end places. The one time I applied to a high-end place, the manager kindly told me that she had a whole stack of applications from people more qualified than me, so I should look elsewhere. I thanked her for being direct with me and meant it.

              A friend applied to Denny’s, made a mistake in his interview, and the interviewer just said, “Bye!” and made a “go away” motion with his hands.

          2. Seahorse*

            Target once turned me down because I said I couldn’t commit to working there for two full years. That was basic, minimum-wage retail with no benefits, and I just needed something to pay the bills.

            I get that places don’t like turnover, but it’s not uncommon for employers to demand loyalty and longevity without offering any real reason to stay.

          3. MassMatt*

            Given how rude the interviewer was, I’d say it was more likely the place was NOT high end and the interviewer had delusions of grandeur.

          4. Rose*

            And anyone with hospitality experience knows career server restaurants don’t interview people with no experience unless they have no other options. It seems like the interviewer wasn’t doing enough to actually attract the kind of candidates they were looking for, then got mad at OP for not fitting the bill.

          5. AngryOctopus*

            That isn’t necessarily true, we don’t have that information. He could have just been a rude interviewer.

        2. Juniper*

          A lot of people are passionate about their jobs in hospitality, so I’d be wary of making a blanket statement like that. In a past life I worked hospitality for a hotel that had a waiting list of candidates out the door. Having said that, it’s unlikely that the restaurant job OP was applying for fits this description. But we don’t have enough information about the position to know anything about the working conditions or what kind of turnover or retention is to be expected.

      3. Smithy*

        Yes to this – and I’ve also seen this kind of tension in my industry around hiring for receptionists or more junior administrative roles. We will often get a lot of applicants from people who’ve finished their undergrad studies and want to work within our sector for 18-24 months before grad school. Essentially being able to have on their resume “worked for X in Specific Industry” before grad school, rather than “worked as a receptionist/administrator in Unrelated Industry.”

        Lots of places will have roles where this type of medium term, higher turnover hire makes sense. But inevitably there are roles where the receptionist or junior administrative position has a runway to grow and they’re preferring applicants to young professionals who are open to that as a career path.

        Inevitably there are candidates who apply and are more comfortable indicating their interest in this career path just for job while always intending to do graduate school. Also their are hiring managers who have maybe had the same thoughts as that hiring manager, but just don’t say them out loud. So direct to the point of rudeness, yes. But not wildly uncommon.

      4. Michelle Smith*

        Yeah, it’s just a poor fit. I interviewed for part-time, evening jobs when I was working full time at a nonprofit making peanuts. I wanted to save up a little cash to help with a move I was making later that year to go to another state for law school. Some places weren’t really interested, but at one particular (then) large chain store they didn’t care at all that I was going to be leaving in 4-6 months, hired me, and gave me plenty of evening/weekend/holiday hours. It worked out great. LW should just keep looking and feel confident that they will find some place to land that is okay with her plans.

      5. Ash*

        How many people in their early 20s go into a restaurant interview thinking, “yeah, this is going to be my long-term career?” Very few unless this is a specific passion of theirs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a job to pay the bills, and we shouldn’t be expected to lie about our long-term plans.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          No one is saying you should be expected to lie, but the restaurant is also in their right to want to hire someone who will be there longer term. As many have said above, there are more people than you think who make restaurant work their long-term career, especially in higher-end restaurants. It’s fine if it’s not what you (or the LW) wants, but a restaurant isn’t in the wrong to want that in an employee.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            But in this case, if they wanted someone longer term, it was still rude of the interviewer to just walk off with a curt dismissal. Just as much time to say “I’m sorry, we’re really looking for someone who wants a restaurant career and will stay longer term”.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              Oh I completely agree with you there, I just don’t think the restaurant would have been wrong in wanting someone long-term.

    6. EventPlannerGal*

      Well, there’s a few things that could be at play here! I think a lot of people think that restaurants just take any warm body but there are a lot of factors that go into hiring. I mentioned above how valuable career hospitality professionals are, especially in higher-end venues, but there’s others as well:

      1. In hospitality, it’s widely accepted that there *is* a higher turnover of staff than in other industries; that doesn’t mean that we *like* or *want* people coming and going all the time. Just as in office jobs, replacing staff is a hassle – the advertising and interviewing, the paperwork, the training, all that stuff is still annoying. And the downgrade in service that can come when you’re understaffed or training up newbies who keep dropping plates or whatever has a very real, immediate impact on the restaurant’s takings (and tips, which I imagine is an even bigger deal in the US). So plenty of restaurants do try to avoid hiring people who are only around for a fixed period if there’s any other option. I recently had dinner in a high-end place I worked for years ago and the host, our waiter and the bar manager were all the same people I’d worked with in 2018.

      2. The issue may be more to do with the fact that OP intended to leave hospitality altogether – he may have reacted differently if she had, say, been planning to move away after the same period. A lot of people basically just don’t take hospo jobs seriously because they’re not planning on doing it for long; there’s less incentive to be a good, reliable worker.

      3. It also depends on what OPs CV actually looked like – if I was hiring and interviewed someone very experienced or with some specialist skill (cocktail or sommelier training, for example) who could just walk in and start taking orders, I’d probably take them on even if it was for a fixed period. If this person had minimal experience and clearly didn’t see hospitality as a long-term thing, I’d be more hesitant.

    7. Caliente Papillon*

      It could also be that the interviewer was on the fence about the person and then when they said the timeframe it just became the clincher.

  4. PotsPansTeapots*

    LW4, I sympathize! I am an American of Eastern European descent with a distinctive first name. My partner has had to fend off comments at his work from a co-worker who has never met me, but thinks I’m a mail-order bride bc of my name and the non-English language I speak! People can really be terrible and ignorant sometimes.

    You have the right not to be harassed like this at your job. I hope you talk to HR either before or after your promotion! Good luck!

    1. Mariko*

      I could imagine that there could be some hostility towards Russians (and people with any name that sounds Slavic) due to the on-going war. But communist? Has the coworker not read the news for the past 30 years?
      The mail-order bride thing is beyond horrid (suggesting that you got married for a greencard)? Either way, definitely worth reporting to HR.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        I drive past a violently anti-communist lawn display near me about once a week. The property owner in question bought the materials for it using his Covid-era government stimulus check. You really can’t make some of this stuff up — and no, some of these people have not read the news in 30 (or more!) years.

        But still, it’s shocking to hear about in a workplace context. I hope the LW can shut this down quickly with a visit to HR.

          1. Communist Canada*

            They deserve the “help” when it benefits them but to anyone else it’s a “handout”

        1. Pinky*

          I will bet a large amount of money on that individual not being able to formulate in any coherent (let alone accurate) way what communism is.
          See also the type of ‘muricans who cannot distinguish between communism and socialism, let alone bolshevism and stalinism and other forms of communism. These are generally also the people who claim the nazi’s were socialists, because the S is right there in NSDAP! while generally being so fascist adjacent themselves as makes no difference.

          The most tragic bit of these people’s existence is that they often as not are from the layer of society that would benefit the most of some more ‘socialist’ features like affordable healthcare, workers rights, renters rights, affordable education, higher taxes for the rich and the likes. Brainwashed in voting against their own best interest.

        2. perstreperous*

          That reminds me of someone local to me who issues rants on X referring to “ratepayers” and “yuppies”, terms which have not been relevant in England since 1993 and the late 1980s respectively!

          As they are a fool I feel only slightly sad for someone who so explicitly lives in the past and appears not to realise it.

          1. Aphra*

            1990 for the former (Local Government Finance Act 1990 brought in Community Charge, LGFA 1992 brought in Council Tax from 1993 [Scotland was earlier for both], both are forms of local taxation which superseded General Rates – similar to Property Taxes in the USA). YUPPIES (young, upwardly-mobile professionals) were first identified as a sociological group in the early 1980’s under the Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher. It’s very common for people in the UK to refer to ‘ratepayers’ as a form of shorthand, especially when bemoaning those who they perceive as non-contributors. It’s like using the term ‘hoover’ to mean any brand of vacuum cleaner and doesn’t, despite your derision, denote, by itself, any lack of intellect on the part of the user, nor does it necessarily indicate the user’s political allegiance. If you’re going to be a snob, it behoves you to ensure that your own knowledge is accurate before you ‘rant’ about others’ apparent shortcomings.

            1. Liz*

              Nothing in your own rant contradicts perstreperous’s comment, though. Those terms might be shorthand for some, but they’re still incredibly dated.

        3. Emmy Noether*

          Some people are veeeeery slow to update their perceived adversaries.

          As a German, few things infuriate* me as much as being called a Nazi solely based on said German nationality. Yes, this still happens.

          *I’m talking incandescent with rage. Do. not. call. me. a. Nazi. ever. There’s literally no worse insult (which is why they use it).

          1. Rose*

            It’s sad/ interesting to me as an American Jew who’s grandparents came here as refugees that you’ve encountered that so much. My impression when I visited and from what I’ve heard is that in Germany people are hyper aware of and thoughtful about that history. It’s always struck me as such direct opposition to the “America has not had a race problem since slavery and even then they were leaning a valuable trade” discourse that’s become more and more prominent in the US.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              oh no, to clarify: Germans are generally very aware and thoughtful, as you say. That’s why it’s such a terrible insult.

              It’s coming from non-Germans. I wouldn’t call it frequent, but not never.

        4. Rex Libris*

          They think they’re reading the news… it’s difficult to evaluate news from Reuters or the AP vs news from some Proud Boys Facebook group with a complete lack of critical thinking skills.

        5. lilsheba*

          If someone called me a communist I would say “yup and proud of it” because capitalism is a racket. I don’t see a problem with being one, even though I am not officially associated with that party either. I’m thinking of changing that.

          1. Not On Board*

            My parents came from a communist Eastern European country. They are vehemently anti-communist and communism as a system doesn’t really work out well for the bulk of its citizens. However, some of the socialism inherent in communism is worthwhile and straight capitalism without being tempered with some socialism is indeed a racket.

            1. Mango Freak*

              Yeah you’d think that the feral American anti-communist crowd would LOVE immigrants from communist countries. Shouldn’t that prove to them that people don’t like living under communism?

          2. Phryne*

            Not really a good plan. Unchecked capitalism is a bad system. Communism is really not a better system than capitalism.
            The free market has many merits, but it needs regulating. Government regulation on trade and markets can be a good thing, thought control by the government is not.
            In the US, the system of many European countries is considered socialist, but they are really really not. They are capitalist (with many a colonial past) but with better regulation. Not just because that is the right thing to do, but because it works better. In Europe generally companies and their workers are not considered adversaries, but equally interested parties that both benefit the most from a good working relationship. Much of the workers rights in Europe I see here as advice on this site that is given as ‘no, they don’t have to do that, but it would be good employership to do that, because you should want your employees happy and productive’. Because that is better for your business.

            1. Phryne*

              Communism is not the opposite of capitalism, is what I was trying to say, mainly because both politics and economics are much more complicated that ‘left and right’ and two bads don’t make a good.

      2. Roeslein*

        One of my peers in grad school was pretty open about being a “mail-order groom” and the fact that he’d gone that route because he faced violent homophobia in his home country. His husband supported him through higher education and he went on to get a PhD and become a university professor. As far as I know they are still married. I think most people were understanding and certainly no one expressed judgment, but it was in a pretty tolerant place. His story definitely made me reconsider how I felt about people making this choice. Obviously this is a very different situation and extremely offensive!

        1. Boof*

          I mean, historically lots of folks used to have marriages arranged by their parents; for economic advantage usually. And probably still do. And if I’m recalling the stats arranged marriages on a whole didn’t turn out worse than any other type of system. Whatever works as long as everyone’s consenting. It’s the schemes that are dubiously consensual that get really skeevy.
          Also, calling someone a mail order spouse, trophy partner, etc etc – pretty insulting!

          1. Lenora Rose*

            Yes, I think this “mail order groom” example exemplifies the difference between taking on a label yourself (he being honest about his own background) versus someone else (especially a complete stranger) calling you the same label with no regard whatever for truth, as happened to PotsPansTeapots.

      3. BubbleTea*

        None of the Russian-origin people in the USA are remotely responsible for the invasion of Ukraine and it’s shitty for anyone to treat them as though they are.

        1. RVA Cat*

          This. Notice how bigotry defies logic – immigrants *choose* their new country over their homeland.

          1. New Mom (of 1 5/9)*

            And sometimes when I pay a healthcare bill I wonder why more people don’t stay!

            (Obviously tongue-in-cheek to a certain extent, of course migration is multifactorial, to say the least)

          2. Jessica*

            See also: Israeli expatriates in the US being harassed/graffiti-ed/etc.

            They did the thing you want: they left the land you don’t think they should be on. Leave them alone.

        2. Abundant Shrimp*

          For real, a lot of us left before the person responsible for the invasion ever came into power, haven’t been back since, are against the war, and have donated to the UA army. We had no more control over where we were born than anybody else in this comment section.

        3. Bitte Meddler*

          A certain set of Americans goes through this with any negative event involving people from another country.

          See: Japanese internment camps in WWII; the huge uptick in violence against Muslims (or people who “look” Muslim) after 9/11; the huge uptick in violence again Asians when COVID appeared to have began in Wuhan; etc., etc.

        4. M2RB*

          And some people have famously left Russia because they are so opposed to the Ukrainian invasion (0lympic fencers) while I’m sure others would do the same if they could.

      4. Michelle Smith*

        While I hear your point and I don’t think you’re implying otherwise, I do think it should be stated that even if a government of a particular country is doing something immoral or engaging in a war or violent conflict, justified or not, that doesn’t excuse being hostile to people from that country, nationality, or ethnicity. I would hate to move to another country or a more conservative of my country and for my coworkers to make “jokes” or nasty comments about me for the actions of our national leadership, who I vehemently disagree with on foreign policy.

      5. Observer*

        I could imagine that there could be some hostility towards Russians (and people with any name that sounds Slavic) due to the on-going war. But communist? Has the coworker not read the news for the past 30 years?

        I would ask you the same question. Are you really unaware of how many Russian immigrants are dead set against Putin? Are you really unaware of how many people have “Russian sounding names”? Anyone who expresses hostility based on someone having a Russian sounding name, or being Russian is *exactly* as ignorant as the people who assume that everyone from these countries is communist.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          I don’t think they were *condoning* bigotry based on presumed russian ethnicity. Just that such bigotry would not be a surprise to them given the current situation.

          1. Observer*

            Except that that’s not what they said. They said that one is not surprising and the other requires not having read the news for 30 years. And that’s just not true.

            *Both* require exactly the same level of ignorance and bigotry. Their failure to recognize that is a problem.

      6. Jessica*

        I feel like it’s worth pointing out that even if someone *is* a communist, their coworkers shouldn’t be harassing them about it at work.

      7. MeepMeep123*

        Ummm, why is that understandable? Presumably, someone with a Slavic last name who immigrated here is here for a reason, right? The reason being that they didn’t like Russia and what it was doing, otherwise they’d still be there?

        Bigotry is never justified, but it’s especially moronic in this context. Your average Russian refugee is probably more anti-Russian than any American could ever be, because they’ve been there, they know what it’s like, and they fled from there to be here.

    2. philmar*

      My husband was born in Moscow, but he moved to the US as a child, is a naturalized citizen, and is an active duty US military member (as am I). His coworkers frequently call him a commie, a russki, a spy, a sleeper agent, comrade/tovarisch, ask about “the motherland” etc. And since I’ve married him, I also now get asked if I’m a double agent and things like that. He says it doesn’t really bother him, but it does make him think less of the people who do it. I’ve noticed that people who say things like this are also stupid or annoying in other ways, too.

      1. Sh*

        I’m a Black Canadian and the number of random people as well as a few co-workers who approached me and congratulated me after Obama won his first presidency was interesting. I had no idea that I was so influential.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, that attitude is sickening. I’m in Finland and our border with Russia is 830 miles long (1,300 kilometers, give or take). The hate Finnish citizens of Russian origin get is astounding, never mind the Russians who are here on a residence permit.

        Granted, there is a serious political issue in that the Kremlin has expressed an intention to “protect the interests of its citizens regardless of whether they live in Russia or elsewhere” and that it is practically impossible to rescind a Russian citizenship.

        I wish we could learn to treat people as individuals regardless of their origin.

      3. Le Anon*

        The culture in the military (that I’m familiar with) is so weird about this. Some servicemembers are very proud of giving and receiving sh*t in equal measure in all directions, and it doesn’t seem to register that some of it might still be harmful. Like, the person who jokes that your spouse is a communist might expect him to reply by calling the joker a redneck, or saying, “Yet, under capitalism, you can still only afford one joke.” And they’d laugh and consider it an equal exchange. It’s a sign of people who fundamentally do not grasp the problem of perpetuating stereotypes even if you “don’t buy in” yourself.

      4. Observer*

        His coworkers frequently call him a commie, a russki, a spy, a sleeper agent, comrade/tovarisch, ask about “the motherland” etc.

        Ah, yes. Makes sense! Because the most destructive Russian paid spies of the last few decades have been as “American as Apple pise”. So it MUST mean that anyone who looks or sounds remotely Russian is the REAL mole. Somehow.

        (And in case it’s not clear, the point I’m making is that it only possibly makes sense is if you are in a place like The Looking Glass land. Which we’re not.)

      5. Silver Robin*

        Kid of Soviet refugees chiming in and my *friends* would tease me all the time as a kid, asking how the KGB training was going, “commie” comments and the like. I did not mind them and even played along sometimes till I heard from a friend of my father’s how upset he was when a coworker made the same kind of joke. He *fled* the KGB and the authoritarian government, to be teased as if he were one of them was an incredible insult. I never held it against my friends (we were kids) but I stopped laughing.

      6. AngryOctopus*

        Also, that type always thinks they’re “being funny”, as in the letter. Bro, if it’s so funny, how come I’m not laughing?

    3. EvilQueenRegina*

      Mail order bride…my uncle married someone from the Philippines in 2001. Yes, I’ve been asked if she was a mail order bride.

    4. Abundant Shrimp*

      Me too! I’ve been in the US 27 years and have been a US citizen for 21 of them, have a very internationally common first name (I was a member of a Greek church for 12 years and lived in a heavily Italian neighborhood for 20+, and both places had a lot of women my age and older with my first name) but an ethnic last one, my kids have ethnic first names, and I speak with an accent. I get this all.the.time. Coworkers, dates, friends of dates, people on the street, you name it. I’ve been asked if I work for the KGB (no), been grilled by a date on what my favorite brand of vodka is (haven’t really touched the stuff since college so I don’t know!), my one past boyfriend’s friends who lived in a tiny town in rural Ohio assumed he’d met me on a mail-order bride site (he met me on OKCupid). Been repeatedly told “when I was a kid, we were SCARED of you guys” by someone who thought it was a perfect icebreaker (it was not). It gets so exhausting. But it’s pretty rare for coworkers to go as far as you or LW say. Maybe when I started working here in the 90s I got those comments at work, I don’t remember anymore – they got lost in the 27-year endless stream of similar comments from other people. I work in a field that trends young and my coworkers with very few exceptions are millennials, very few are my age (older X) and I haven’t had any teammates older than myself in well over a decade – and the new generation(s) don’t seem as hung up on it as the older folks used to. And it’s gotten a lot better for me after I moved to the more blue, more diverse, higher educated part of my metro area three years ago. Honestly I’ve gotten no comments like that at all in my new neighborhood ever. Anyway LW needs to go straight to HR about this because country of origin is a protected category and one cannot really keep harassing a coworker about it, it has been right there in the handbook and in the mandatory harassment training at every job I’ve worked in the past 24 years. Give him hell, LW!

    5. Rex Libris*

      The inability of some people to distinguish their ignorant and ugly assumptions from actual reality never ceases to amaze me.

    6. Nuke*

      Peoples’ brains work in absolutely baffling ways. My family is German, but I’m the second generation in the US. When I was in MIDDLE SCHOOL I told a classmate that my family is German, and she immediately asked me if I “agreed with what the Nazis did”. What on actual earth. Like, my grandmother lived in Croatia (then Yugoslavia) and was forced out of the country for being half German… People who don’t know anything about world history seem to be the loudest about how much they think they know! Like “foreign countries” are magical fantasy lands like Narnia, instead of just… places where human people live.

      1. Abundant Shrimp*

        This is especially wild in the light of how well Germany has handled things after the end of WW2. My great-grandparents were killed in the Holocaust and my great-aunt was a survivor. Great-aunt started receiving reparations in the 80s and continued getting them for the rest of her life. And Germany still reaches out to people of Jewish origin that were alive during the war, offering them to apply for one-time payments if their family was affected. Anytime I tell this to my US friends, especially the ones of African-American heritage… minds.blown. I get it that your family never lived in Germany, but wanted to point out that Germany is doing it right.

        “Like “foreign countries” are magical fantasy lands like Narnia, instead of just… places where human people live.”

        This explains so much of what I’ve seen and heard in my 27 years in the US. SO SO much.

        1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

          Honestly, I think the “magical fantasy lands” thing is so prevalent because so few Americans (esp. more rural-based) actually ever travel to other countries. And even for many of those who do, it’s often on vacation, which often only perpetuates the problem. I’m not trying to excuse it AT ALL, but it definitely explains a lot.

          1. Jessica*

            This attitude makes me roll my eyes so hard.

            Most Europeans also have a “magical fantasy land” idea of what the US is like, and most have not traveled here.

            1. Bitte Meddler*

              Yup. It’s the lack of travel and exposure to people who aren’t like them that leaves them with nothing but “magical fantasy land” to hang their ideas on, regardless of which country/area they happen to be from.

          2. JustaTech*

            It’s a really really old thing in literature: in both the Canterbury Tales and 1001 Arabian Nights “China” and “fairyland” are basically used interchangeably. It’s weird.

        2. JelloStapler*

          Germany went the way of acknowledging what happened and addressing it, I feel many in the USA are still trying to either a) pretend racism does not exist here or b) pretend the South won the war.

          1. Hot Flash Gordon*

            I think it could be both, since those who like to pretend the south won the war also like to pretend it wasn’t about slavery and racism.

    7. Festively Dressed Earl*

      Your partner should shut his coworker down. WTF?

      Comments about ‘communists’ or ‘mail order brides’ in this context are no different than the slew of other slurs based on innate characteristics. The words are meant as pejoratives, making the other person feel deficient and alienated until someone calls out the speaker. Then, of course, they’re ‘just kidding’.

      LW 4 should go to HR now. I understand the concerns about retaliation and possibly being passed over for promotion, but this glassbowl coworker is likely to smear LW to the hiring committee. If HR doesn’t take it seriously, that’s a sign that LW is working in a beehive and needs to get out.

  5. Viki*

    LW 1 A q team dinner for a remote position is an easy thing to do. That’s 4 times a year. I also work remote and have a 3 day trip every q to see my leadership team, and it’s a back to back in person meeting fest with working lunches and dinners but it’s the trade off for literally being across the country.

    Think of it as not optional, but an added bit of the work trips.

    1. Artemesia*

      I’m sort of surprised that the OP doesn’t realize that the dinner is part of the meeting. I have also noticed over the years that people who take advantage of work travel to visit relatives often lose credibility (especially when they can control where they go and when they travel — although in this case, presumably that was not is). I had a colleague whose contract was not renewed because of a reputation for using company funds to finance his personal travel.

      Of course the meeting dinner 4 times a year when one’s travel has been paid to the meeting is ‘required’.

      1. Anneke*

        I’m part of a team that’s distributed around the country and has quarterly two-day face to face meetings with a team dinner on the first night. One of my local coworkers has family in the city we travel to, and often has a day of leave after the meeting, or stays an extra day to work at that office and then stays the weekend to catch up with them. He always comes to the team dinner, because the whole point of the trip is to spend time with the team and time not spent working is an important part of that.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          Yes, I would agree that attending the team dinner is important. It might very well be that a topic for the following day’s meeting is discussed over the meal, and despite the letter writer’s opinion, it isn’t a social event, but rather after-hours work with food.

          I used to have to organise formal dinners for a board of directors, but I was never allowed to attend, unless the meeting was taking place outside of our home location. There were multiple occasions when, during the following day’s meeting, a comment would be made along the lines of “Well we talked about this last night”.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            Even if they don’t though and LW is correct that it’s purely social, the message has been sent that it’s expected that everyone attends. They’re going to have to suck it up and go, even though it’s annoying and frustrating.

            I loathe mandatory work dinners and I’m the first one to opt out of annoying Christmas parties or team building happy hours. I also hate dinners on work trips – I have to be “on” all day; at night I just want to retreat to my room to recover from being social all day and get my work done for the next day. But I swallow my frustration and deal with the annoyance of having my “after hours” time monopolized, and then take time off after the trip to recover instead.

        2. New Mom (of 1 5/9)*

          I work remotely with a similar in-person cadence, and what you’ve described is (quite obviously?!) the acceptable thing to do. Extend the trip on your own time. Heck, for a Monday-Wednesday trip, my company will even pay to fly you out on Friday instead of Wednesday, as long as you can prove that the Wednesday and Friday flights cost the same. (You’re on your own for hotels though of course.)

      2. Adam*

        Every company I’ve worked for has been fine with extending trips for personal reasons, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the work part of the trip or cost the company money. That means no skipping out on dinners to have dinner with relatives, but if everyone else is arriving on Monday, getting there Saturday and spending the weekend with your relatives beforehand is fine.

        1. KateM*

          What you describe is in fact this no way different from extending business trip because of wanting to do some sightseeing, right? It’s just that the “sights” are family members. :)

          Although I have no idea how much bowing out of a business dinner in order to have a dinner with your family is analogous to bowing out of a business dinner in order to go to a theme park or night club or theatre on your own.

          1. Leenie*

            I’m not Adam, but I think he’s saying visiting family and sightseeing are actually the same, when it comes to business travel. You just need to arrange to do that in the days before or after the needed business travel, and not skip any meetings, including business dinners, for your personal interests (regardless of whether the personal interests are tourism or visiting with family).

            1. UKDancer*

              Yes this is what I do. When I’m at the event I focus on the event and just do that. If I want to sightsee / meet friends I do it either before or after the work event is finished. So I had a meeting in Oslo last year which isn’t somewhere I’d visit on my own. The meeting was on a Thursday, I stayed over at my own expense Thursday night and Friday night and went back Saturday morning.

          2. Dinwar*

            “What you describe is in fact this no way different from extending business trip because of wanting to do some sightseeing, right?”

            I can’t speak for Adam, but in my company the sightseeing is often considered a perk. A project manager will discuss the neat attractions in the area, stuff you normally wouldn’t get a chance to see because travel is so expensive. But when the company’s paying for it, and you’re right there, it’s super easy to stay an extra day and go see it.

            The managers I work with would give you a side eye for skipping out on a team dinner to go sight-seeing, but it’s also easy enough to explain. “I scheduled this when I first heard about the project, and unfortunately my deposit isn’t refundable” is typically sufficient. “I’ll probably never have a chance to see this again” is as well–and usually sparks a discussion about the thing you’re going to see and how to get the most out of it. It’s polite to see if there’s another time to meet with at least the manager, though.

            1. Greg*

              I’m not sure how other organizations work but when we send people places for work the itinerary is set and communicated before anything is booked, in large part to avoid anyone booking things like that. I work in a really cool industry with a lot of perks! We get to go cool places and do some really cool things! We very much encourage people to extend on either side of a trip if they’d like or explore the areas we go.

              But if I am sending someone or bringing someone to a different location my expectation is that they are at all the scheduled work activities; if they made a non-refundable deposit on an attraction that interfered with something previously scheduled or without checking on when and where they would be expected…well, sorry, but that isn’t what you were brought here to do.

              And if the president of my organization told me they were upset that I didn’t go to something I could never see not considering attending moving forward, regardless of circumstances (outside of a true emergency).

        2. ghost_cat*

          I work in government and any extension for personal reasons is denied on grounds that you are seeking a personal benefit not available to others. Even if the cost of the travel is less.

          1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

            You guys don’t do they ‘you can extend on your own dime’ thing? I’m a gov contractor and we’re allowed to extend as long as it’s understood that you’re responsible for paying for the hotel, no per diem is given for those days, and you have to show how much a flight would have been on the day you were supposed to come back and if you end up with a more costly flight you pay the difference, and for example, if it’s a Friday, you have to use leave hours.

            1. Michelle Smith*

              That’s how it works for my team when we travel on federal grants as well. One of my bosses almost always extends her travel to do fun sightseeing and hiking through national parks.

          2. USfed*

            Yeah, I’m a US fed and we can do this, we just have to write up a cost comparison. It’s actually very straightforward.

          3. N*

            I work for the federal government and people do this almost every trip. It’s pretty standard. As long as I pay the difference in cost and take PTO for the extra time, it’s absolutely not a problem.

          4. Just Another Fed*

            Chiming in that this is not only permitted at my federal agency but quietly encouraged. If my conference starts Monday, I’m going to fly in Sunday morning. This gives me time to tourist, and my boss likes it because it means if something goes haywire with my flights there’s padding before I really need to be there to do my job.

            1. PubIntAtty*

              I was a frequent flyer fed and whether you can get by with this is a function of your admin staff- the rules are pretty straightforward and adding a day on at your own expense generally saves the gov money- but if your admin does not want to fill out the extra form they have a lot of authority to just say no. Another example of good or bad support staff making all the difference in quality of work.

          5. Aspirational Yogurt*

            I work for (local) government and we are totally allowed to extend travel for personal reasons, on our own dime of course. We pay the difference if the extension results in a higher airfare, and lodging/transportation/meal costs we pay on our own during the extended time.

      3. Brain the Brian*

        The flipside of this is what I often do: if I’m visiting relatives on my own dime and time, I’ll offer my manager to stop by clients nearby if my company reimburses me the additional costs (extra mileage, meals, etc.) ti do so. We’re a cash-strapped nonprofit, so they’re always appreciative of getting client visits for much less money than normal (e.g. 50 miles of reimbursed driving instead of 600 miles or a whole flight and hotel), and it’s great networking for me, too. Win-win.

      4. Leenie*

        You mentioning that your colleague was choosing the destinations makes me think there’s another layer to that particular situation. But when it comes to regular conferences or other necessary business travel, I have zero problem with anyone reporting to me extending a trip for personal reasons, as long as it doesn’t cost more. I just confirmed that for someone last week. I’ve done it myself plenty of times – have someone come meet me in Chicago or Nashville, have my husband fly out either before or after the business portion. Why not? I think where it gets problematic is when people are attending personal events instead of the business events. Evening events are a normal part of business travel, and this is once a quarter for a person in a leadership position. LW really should go to the dinner. But if she wants to see her relatives and it’s a great distance away, maybe extending the trip would be possible.

        1. Artemesia*

          It is subtle. Where I have seen it be problematic is when people are scheduling visits BECAUSE they have family in the area ie choosing or controlling destinations — if the meeting is mandated by the company and one happens to have family members in the area it is different. And of course not avoiding business events for personal visits.

      5. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’d suggest taking one day after the meeting to spend with family – vacation day if needed, travel in a weekend otherwise. If boss is grumpy then; it’s easy to spin it as less time off work than coming back on a special trip.

      6. Medium Sized Manager*

        I work remotely, but our home office is where my family lives. My boss knows that part of the reason I want to have a work trip to the main office is so that I can see my family, but my family also knows that I am there to work! This is the tradeoff of not being close enough for the 2x a month in-office days.

    2. ghost_cat*

      I agree. I have a situation where our remote team often complain that they felt left out. A couple of them do little on their end, e.g. putting your camera on in meetings, participating in social events (that honestly, are often organised because remote workers are in town) go a low way to getting yourself recognised and personable. And if your work trip is paid, like ours, at least console yourself that your meal is paid for, unlike us in HQ who have to pay for our own meal and can’t expense it when we make the effort to meet with you over dinner.

      1. Leenie*

        Oh, I’m slightly outraged on your behalf. My work’s policy is that if anyone in the group is traveling, the whole thing counts as an employee travel meal, which seems fairer to me.

        1. ghost_cat*

          It’s government. So only the people travelling get a travel allowance. Us who work at HQ have to suck it up. Nothing quite like being told to ‘bring a plate’ to a morning tea to share with the remote workers who are there on a generous allowance for breakfast/lunch/dinner to make you a little jaded, especially when the remote workers work from home while you are up for the cost of a daily commute. None of my remote colleagues have in any way to date contributed to a morning tea for any of the organised events, because they just flew in that morning. Yeah, I’m bitter about it.

          1. misspiggy*

            When I was the remote worker on expenses flying in, I’d always bring a box of chocolates or biscuits to the first get together. It was the customary way to get over that awkwardness.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I love having our Aussie team members visit…. great folks AND they come bearing Violet Crumble.

              (We can get it in the US now, but its specific texture loses something in shipping.)

            2. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

              I had a Board member who lived in Geneva (we are in DC area) that would always bring chocolates when she came in for the quarterly meetings. She knew her expense reports were a bit more intense for me to review and approve, so she was getting on our good side.

          2. Jackalope*

            I totally get your bitterness about it, and the person in charge of planning things should try to figure out a different option if that’s possible. Having been the person traveling in from out of town, though, it would be tough to bring stuff on the plane or to find something that’s not questionable airport food on the way to the meeting to bring with you.

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      An invitation to a team dinner on a paid trip is often not something you can refuse without serious consequences.
      When your boss has clearly told you this is the case, don’t try to push back or rules lawyer, just attend.

      Particularly in a remote job when she so rarely meets you, you don’t want her to then notice you for the wrong reason: pushing back on something regarded as a standard part of your work.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        So much this, especially because the OP wrote: ‘I know I’m a respected member of the team (in fact, I’ve been with the company the longest out of the entire leadership team). I’m well-liked, friendly, and approachable during work hours.’ OP might be expected to exhibit appropriate and/or leadership behaviors because of her standing, and attending a company event, whatever its format, would be part of that. Skipping it would definitely be noticed, and for all the wrong reasons.

        I relate to and empathize with ‘I’m fiercely territorial about my off hours and my desire to choose my dinner companion, if anyone at all.’ But it’s been made plain to the OP that attending this event is not optional, and it’s pretty common to regard work-related social gatherings as rarely ‘social.’

        1. GrooveBat*

          I respect people who are able to maintain reasonable boundaries between work and personal life. But there is something angry, almost antagonistic, about the way OP characterized their boundaries. I mean, it is one dinner a few times a year. Why such hostility?

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            It sure seems that the OP’s stance is very hostile, maybe insulted. ‘Why are they demanding this of me?’ or something like that.

            If this was a weekly event, I could understand the frustration. Just a few times a year? Heck, I’m introverted to the point of being a hermit, but even I can attend quarterly company events without feeling aggrieved.

          2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Wonan*

            I agree. It seems like setting boundaries around working hours is being taken a step too far here. You’re already there, so not going really stands out to others and seems like a snub.

            I’m in a similar position as OP, totally remote, but a few times a year I have to fly in for conferences and stuff. I get it’s exhausting, especially when you’re remote. Being around people all day, even at dinner is a big shift in the energy I’m used to. But I suck it up, go and make the most of it because it’s the few times a year we are all together in person. As much as I love WFH, very occasional in-person stuff is important and I don’t see it too much of an ask.

            1. Observer*

              You’re already there, so not going really stands out to others and seems like a snub.

              It *is* a snub. The OP makes it clear that they don’t want to spend ANY time with colleagues if it’s not purely work. Even on a work trip. Are they such horrible people? Are they so beneath the OP?

              OP, I don’t know what you are thinking, but you can be sure that this is what at least some of your colleagues are asking.

          3. Antilles*

            Based on the framing of “fiercely territorial”, my best guess is that OP wants to set a hard-and-fast line rather than having any risk of this expanding. No, she will not work outside of 9-5 and that’s the same whether you’re asking me to attend a random Wednesday Teams meeting about widgets or a team dinner during travel…and she’ll refuse both equally just to make sure that line remains solid.
            Unfortunately, this isn’t realistic, especially now that the company president has flat out said (three times!) that you’re expected to be there.

            1. Observer*

              Based on the framing of “fiercely territorial”, my best guess is that OP wants to set a hard-and-fast line rather than having any risk of this expanding.

              That’s the kind of rule that makes a person seem overly rigid. Because there really IS a difference between an “emergency” meeting that could have been a set of emails you could look at when you get into your office, a semi-genuine emergency meeting, a *true* emergency meeting, and a *planned* after hours dinner that is *part of a quarterly meet up for an otherwise remote team

              If the OP really cannot see the difference, I have to wonder what other “rules” they enforce in problematic ways.

          4. Smithy*

            I want to start with saying that for most employers – especially ones with work travel – these work dinners would be viewed as a reasonable business expectation. And in general, I don’t personally disagree.

            I do think that sometimes pushing back forcefully on things that are deemed as common or “normal” can better highlight why someone is asking for a business practice to be changed due to it being perhaps exclusionary (i.e. golf as a defacto activity) or are overly burdensome (i.e. weekly happy hours or other ‘drinks with the boss’ as being quasi mandatory).

            I know we’re not supposed to speculate too freely about things not mentioned in the letter – but to the point of hostility – my take is that when something becomes a BEC moment, it’s worth looking a bit bigger. If these dinners feel like a fate worse than death – then it never hurts for the OP to ask if they have outgrown the job or employer.

          5. Michelle Smith*

            I don’t think the criticism of the LW here is entirely fair. We have plenty of people who have written in over wanting to bow out of holiday parties that only happen once a year. People have their reasons and I think it’s fine to be angry or annoyed that you’re required to do something in the evenings for your job that you don’t want to do. I still think the LW should just go, of course, but I don’t think they’re unreasonable for being annoyed about it (just like I think it’s perfectly okay for them to display that annoyance in their letter, so long as they’re able to choke it down and keep it hidden during the event, being privately upset is plenty normal).

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              It also seems like the OP is admin staff, not management. (Unless I’m reading that wrong.) If she’s paid hourly or at a much lower salary than everyone else at the dinner, I get why she might want to give it a pass.

              1. bamcheeks*

                Yes, I was wondering that too. If all the rest of the senior leadership team are salaried, there might not be any question of whether this is “work time”, because they can quietly flex their hours to take a couple of hours back somewhere else with no questions asked. If LW has a clear demarcation of “work time” and “non-work time” and this dinner is happening in “non-work time”, that would grate on me a bit too.

                You could try casually asking whether you can come in a couple of hours late another day in the week to avoid going overtime.

                1. PubIntAtty*

                  Similar thoughts, I don’t mind being territorial about work hours even on travel (travel and meetings can be grueling and for some of us that means going full antisocial after 5 pm to cope) but if attendance is mandatory then it needs to be on the clock even if it is just a few times a year.

              2. Winstonian*

                Ehh, when I was in a similar job (EA to high level staff) I was salaried specifically because how high it was. Coupled with the traveling requirements it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they are the same.

              3. SheLooksFamiliar*

                OP said this: ‘I know I’m a respected member of the team (in fact, I’ve been with the company the longest out of the entire leadership team). I’m well-liked, friendly, and approachable during work hours.’

                This alone should be a reason for OP to attend the function. If she’s hourly, she should be paid, of course, but that wasn’t her rationale. She simply doesn’t want to go – which I get! – and thinks that should be that – which it isn’t.

              4. Justice*

                But they are compensating her, they’re…buying her dinner. If the LW really doesn’t think that there’s any benefit to the social aspect of the dinner (which there definitely is), and she’s that salty about the extra couple of hours of time it will entail WHILE SHE’S ON A WORK TRIP, then do what all people at a restaurant under duress have always done and order the lobster. And dessert.

            2. Cicely*

              Sure, but feeling annoyed is one thing. Acting on that annoyance, as LW has done in the past, can be something else entirely.

            3. jojo*

              I don’t think the comparison to a once-yearly holiday party is apt. If the company decided to hold their holiday party the night before a mandatory company meeting, and if they were covering travel for remote employees to come and attend the meeting, then we probably wouldn’t say, “sure, skip the party!” (This scenario also probably wouldn’t happen because most companies aren’t scheduling those kinds of meetings near the holidays, and because holiday parties are more commonly understood to be purely for socialization purposes.) What the LW is asking about here isn’t a holiday party that everyone understands is primarily a social gathering; it’s a semi-social team activity that is directly tied to a purely work-related activity (the daytime meeting for which they are traveling).

      2. Lucia Pacciola*

        “When your boss has clearly told you this is the case, don’t try to push back or rules lawyer, just attend.”

        Yeah, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea of writing in to an advice blog to find out if you have to attend a team dinner that your boss has told you to attend. At that point it’s more of a philosophy blog question. “According to Sartre’s theory of radical choice, I can always choose to do the other thing, but does radical choice apply to work dinners?”

        Hopefully we’ll get an update on this one, where LW tells us what happened when they went to their boss and said, “I understand you think this dinner is important, but I’m fiercely territorial and prefer to choose my own dinner companion, so I’ll be bowing out of this event if that’s alright.”

        1. ABC*

          I’m always a little curious about the letters where someone is basically asking (about something that’s not illegal or morally repugnant), “Do I have to do what my boss is telling me to do?”

          AAM correctly says “yes” 99% of the time, but what if she said, “Nope, you don’t have to do that”? What is the LW’s game plan? Go back to the boss and say, “Actually, this advice columnist said that I don’t have to”? Is the LW expecting the boss to sheepishly yield? It’s almost certainly not going to work out that way.

          1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

            I think it’s like any other AAM question – it’s a sanity check. If Allison says the boss is bananapants, you know you should start looking to make a change. If Allison says this is a completely normal thing, you know you’ll probably face the same situation in a hypothetical NextJob, so you may as well make peace with it now. And for all the gradations in between, you can get a gauge of how much social capital you might burn pushing back, or what aspects you could maybe push back on more. Like, in this case, if OP’s hourly, she should be getting paid for a mandatory work dinner! If she’s salaried, could she make up that time elsewhere in the week? Is it like a holiday party where you can show your face for 15 minutes and leave, or does she need to sit through dinner, drinks, and dessert?

            I know in my current situation I would probably quit over a mandatory quarterly dinner, but I’d really rather not. So if it were me asking the question, I’d mostly be trying to calculate how much pushing back would cost me (reduced raise? or first on the chopping block next layoff?) and how aggressively I should be job searching.

            1. Bog Witch*

              Someone’s boss very reasonably asking them to attend a dinner as part of a work trip does not require a sanity check. If they have questions around the logistics of it (e.g. getting paid for it if you’re non-exempt, to use your example), then they ask their boss, who can actually answer those questions.

              1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

                Asking my boss if this is a thing I should quit over or if it’s more likely I’ll just see a reduced bonus this year is patently a non-starter.

                1. Bog Witch*

                  Luckily, “should I quit over this” is not a logistics question, which is what I’m talking about.

              2. Lisa*

                You’re assuming a certain level of savvy here. I would be surprised at this question from someone who was well into their career or had white-collar parents who clued them in to business norms. From a newish worker who hasn’t had that background, it might not be as obvious as it is to you.

                1. KateM*

                  I think that when OP writes “I’ve been with the company the longest out of the entire leadership team”, it is safe to assume that they are not a newish worker.

              1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

                In my case, that’s a lot more disruption to my life than I’m willing to tolerate for my current job – both the travel and the dinner. My standard bedtime is about 8:30, so going out for a big group dinner after work would throw me off kilter for a week or more. And, in general, large group dinners are high stress/low reward for me – I can’t follow or contribute to the conversation, so it’s eating in silence and sipping water while I wait for things to end. I’ve done them in the past as one-offs when I really couldn’t get out of it (introductions to a new team, etc), but if that was a regularly occurring part of my job, I’d find a new job.
                Which isn’t to say it’s not a reasonable request for many jobs! But… it’s also a reasonable thing to not want to do, and to wonder if you really, truly need to do it.

            2. Lucia Pacciola*

              In that case, the question is “should I quit this job over this?” But that’s not what LW asked.

        2. Gemstones*

          Yep. The answer is almost always going to be, “No, they likely won’t fire you on the spot, but it’s not a good luck, and do you really want to use up goodwill on something like this?”

            1. Lucia Pacciola*

              Haha I thought “good luck” was fine. It’s super unlucky to blow off clear direction from your boss.

        3. A ridiculous proposal*


          The LW knew the itinerary and chose to not attend what *they* thought was an optional event EVEN AFTER BEING TOLD THRICE that it wasn’t optional. All events planned are NOT optional for work trips unless explicitly stated. I also can’t believe someone would be so obtuse as to think they are right about this.

          I honestly suspect that AG posts these left-field questions periodically so we get a glimpse into the absolutely bonkers questions she receives.

          1. Orsoneko*

            The timeline isn’t entirely clear from the letter, but I think the boss brought it up three times *after* the previous dinner, which if anything makes it even wilder that this is actually a question. “I chose Option A, then received specific feedback that I should have chosen Option B. Which should I choose the next time I’m faced with this identical scenario under the same set of circumstances?”

          2. Dining alone*

            I really don’t think it’s a bonkers question. I’m a hard core introvert in a job that often includes social events. Even worse, sometimes I’m required to host them. ::shudder:: So before I even applied, I talked with people who have this job and asked a bunch of questions about how/when/IF I’d be able to retreat to the sanctuary of my hotel room (we travel weekly too). And then I made choices, armed with that information. (One choice could have been to seek other employment, but in my case I’ve found coping mechanisms & ways to reduce the drain on my social batteries.) And that’s basically what this LW is doing too – seeking input and perspectives from others who’ve been there, done that.
            And yes, she has to attend these work/social events, no doubt about it.

            1. Lucia Pacciola*

              “I really don’t think it’s a bonkers question.”

              “And yes, she has to attend these work/social events, no doubt about it.”

              If there’s no doubt that she has to attend, then yes, it really is a bonkers question.

    4. Dread Pirate Roberts*

      Yes at my job, when people are travelling teams generally plan evening events so everyone gets a chance to socialize with those they don’t often see in person. It’s considered a perk not a chore by most people. I’ve heard of people bowing out sometimes and that’s totally fine but if you were to bow out of every or the only evening event, it would definitely be something people would have Opinions about and affect your social capital. Which could be a fine trade off for some people, but work travel has its own sometimes unspoken rules about what’s on the clock and what’s not for salaried people and for LW1 I’d say the rule has now been spoken by the boss.

      1. Observer*

        It’s considered a perk not a chore by most people.

        So I don’t really think that this is relevant. While I do disagree with the OP’s take on the situation, it’s quite normal for people to see it as a chore, albeit a necessary one. And even if someone did not really see that it is necessary, that’s fine. People get to feel how they feel about stuff, and that’s fine for the most part

        The problem here is the apparent hostility and even more so, their desire to refuse to do something that they have been clearly told they need to do.

      2. JelloStapler*

        Many people would not see it as a perk; many may be emotionally drained by it and that is okay. However, they should still attend if that is what is expected. But they are not required be see it as such.

        1. Le Sigh*

          Yeah, I see it as a bit of both. Usually these trips leave me tired and behind on my day-to-day work, so it’s less that it’s after hours, more about finding energy for yet another social engagement when I’d rather watch a movie and fall asleep. It’s definitely a chore and a necessity for work. But if I like my coworkers, I also see it as a perk, since I don’t get to see them very often. Plus a higher up will usually buy everyone drinks.

          Totally fine to not view it as a perk, though. And OP can skip going! Just do it with clear eyes and don’t pretend it won’t hurt your job, fair or not.

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes I’d agree they can be both a perk and a chore. I go to conferences and after a full day I want to curl up and not speak to anyone ever (and I’m somewhat extrovert so generally like people). But I go to the conference dinner because they’re important for networking and I usually get something out of it.

    5. CommanderBanana*

      At one of my previous jobs, we hired an event manager two weeks before our biggest conference. She would have the opportunity to go to the conference without having much to actually do, since all the planning was done, and it was a great chance to see the entire event without being as much in the weeds as you would normally be onsite.

      She didn’t attend the conference’s biggest event, the huge opening night party, and my grandboss fired her when we got back. I don’t really agree with how it was handled – my grandboss was a horribly difficult person and a nightmare to work with – but in retrospect I can see her thought process.

    6. el l*

      Yeah, I also have a similar arrangement – meet with leadership for a week each quarter – and yes, “dinners with the partners” is part of the job. An easy part of the job, but still part of it.

      Could I get out of one of the dinners if I had family/close friend in town and nothing else would work to see them? Probably – but the burden of proof would be on me to justify it, and I would run a small risk of repercussions.

      Because – I’m leadership, the company is paying my travel expenses. I’m there to work, and dinner is another meeting.

    7. StressedButOkay*

      I think that’s the way to look at it – it’s 4 times a year, it’s not every week or even every month. It’s not a weekly happy hour but a part of these quarterly meetings.

    8. Jade*

      Yes. OP has to attend. I’m assuming they paid for her flight and hotel. It’s a reasonable expectation. Your time is not your own on a business trip.

    9. Really?*

      It’s surprising that after the boss has outlined expectations that LW1 still doesn’t quite get it: the team dinner is part of the meeting, and you are expected to attend. It is not optional. Virtually all of the people that have commented on this thread are agreed on this point. Think of it not as an “invitation,” but rather as a command performance. Over my lengthy worklife I have gone to dozens of “social” events that I would rather have skipped. But it’s part of the job, so I suck it up.

  6. nodramalama*

    LW1 i would definitely go to the dinner. It might be a bit annoying but I think its definitely not worth sacrificing the social capital to skip out on it.

    LW2 i feel like possibly you’re spending too much emotional capital worrying about your boss being short or abrupt because you’re viewing it through this friends mentality. Yes, if my friend was often abrupt with me I would ask if something is wrong. But if my boss is abrupt I just ignore it. And asking her or pushing her for a different relationship is likely to make her behaviour worse, not better.

  7. GythaOgden*

    As a team admin to the senior leadership in my region, it’s actually a real honour to be included in their training and teambuilding activities. You get to understand where they are coming from and they get to hear your opinions.

    I think you need some perspective here. As admin directly to management you’re in a privileged position and you do sometimes need to accept sometimes they will want you to be present after hours. And it could well be really beneficial to you if you want to develop your administrative career.

  8. Twix*

    #2 reads very, very strongly to me as someone doing a bad job of trying to set boundaries. One common form of that is acting generally unpleasant and unapproachable so people will figure out to leave you alone without having to have awkward conversations where you actually express the boundaries you want. The thing that really makes it read this way to me is the seemingly random escalation. A common pattern in that dynamic is person A feeling like their boundaries should be clear from their passive-aggressive behavior, then getting upset when person B unknowingly violates them because clearly they should have figured them out by now, while person B is perplexed and upset because they have no idea what they did wrong.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      Alternately (or possibly in addition to this), it could be a person who is Just Too Tired and doesn’t have the spoons left to internally censor their comments. Which isn’t a good thing in a workplace, obviously, but often whatever stressors are in their life end up being temporary. (Sometimes not, but in my experience the person either solves the problem, learns to cope more efficiently, or leaves.)

      1. KateM*

        And there could definitely not be enough spoons for someone who wants their manager to take care of their emotional needs that have nothing to do with workplace.

      2. Twix*

        That’s certainly possible, although if so it’s been going on for several years now. The other thing that pointed to a boundary issue was the fact that it sounds like she actually did try to set some at the beginning. One possibility is that from her perspective she tried to establish the professional boundaries she needed and LW kept pushing on them, hence the hostility. (Although to be clear, I’m not saying the situation is LW’s fault. Even if that is how she feels, there are much better ways of handling it and she’s the one in the supervisory role.)

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Exactly. OP your boss has told you she doesn’t want to be friends. Stop trying to be her friend. Her hostility, while not appropriate to the workplace, is a result of you continuing to push.

          Your boss is not responsible for your emotional regulation. You are. You need to stop dumping on your boss for not fulfilling your needs. Make friends outside work, get a hobby, talk to a therapist. Something other than talking to your boss. Who has made it abundantly clear they don’t want to hear it.

        2. Autofill Contact*

          Yes. Younger Supervisor Me empathizes greatly with the manager. There are better ways to go about setting and enforcing boundaries, but when it’s the first time you’ve done it, it takes a lot of energy and it’s easy to resent the people who don’t seem to understand the boundary.

    2. JubJubtheIguana*

      Yeah, this is one of those letters where I’m desperate to see the other person’s perspective as they likely would tell a very different story.

      How many letters has Alison printed from people complaining that a colleague has latched onto them in an inappropriate way and believes them to be close friends, while the LW wants a professional relationship and doesn’t know how to make the person respect professional boundaries?

      I’m sorry the fact the LW wrongly believed they had a social relationship with their manager (which is inherently problematic) is a red flag that LW may have boundary issues.

      Clearly the manager finds LW’s behaviour needy and inappropriate- she very explicitly told the LW that she felt LW wanted a more personal relationship than she’s able to give as a manager, and coupled with LW admitting they’re upset at realising the social relationship was one-sided, it indicates a manager not doing the best job at handling someone with boundary issues, rather than someone who is just a bad manager or bad person.

      1. Twix*

        Same here, because I don’t think it’s a given that this is what’s going on but it is a very plausible interpretation.

        I think the key question is whether OP was originally misreading things. It’s certainly a possibility, but it’s also very possible that they did have a more social relationship until she decided to step back from it. There are plenty of reasons that could be the case, from a change in HR policy to seeing someone else end up in a messy situation with someone under them due to blurred professional boundaries to simply being ready to move on from the relationship.

        There’s things that can read either way; e.g. the fact that according to OP other people also have concerns would lean toward a her problem, while the fact that she has acknowledged treating OP differently but supposedly can’t explain it sounds a lot more like an OP problem. The apparent lack of clear communication could be due to OP being unwilling to hear something they don’t want to or due to her not being as blunt as she needs to be in an emotionally complicated situation, which are both issues we see here all the time. Basically this situation reads very differently depending on whether or not you assume OP is a reliable narrator.

        But no matter what’s going on, it’s clear that she wants firmer boundaries than OP wants to respect. Even if the problems with navigating that are largely on her end, it’s absolutely true that that doesn’t automatically make someone a bad manager or a bad person in general.

  9. Despachito*

    #2 sounds VERY unprofessional, albeit, as Allison said, the feeling behind it (not to mix up friendship with work) is correct.

    I understand the boss wants to distance herself from the OP but I think she should TELL OP what she expects of her, and then firmly but politely hold that boundary.

    OP possibly approaches the boss in a more familiar way than the boss wants (because they used to be friends and she just continues what she was used to while the boss wants it to stop), and it is the boss’s right to say “I do not want this anymore”, but she should communicate it clearly to OP, not going the “hot and cold” way and hoping OP will eventually understand. That is terrible management and terrible human behavior.

    1. MK*

      She did tell her, in a very direct way. “Then one day she told me she felt I wanted more in our work relationship and she had pulled back from me. When I explained that all I ever wanted was to be friends, it seems like she started going through periods of moodiness with me.”. When someone tells you they feel you want more from your “work” relationship with them, that’s a very blunt statement that a) they don’t consider you a friend, whatever you may feel, and/or b) even if you were friends, they don’t want a close personal relationship anymore. If you then reply “all I ever wanted was to be friends”, it’s pretty understandable that they would be frustrated. Also, I don’t see any “hot and cold” going on here; “Her body language over the few years that have passed since our conversation seems more annoyed with me now and is sometimes out of the blue”, that’s pretty consistently cold for years now.

      1. WellRed*

        I cringed so hard at that response. When someone tells you, in any relationship, they need to pull back, need space, don’t “see” you that way, please heed that.

      2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Ah, but she didn’t. Boss was entirely *indirect*. She didn’t say what she wanted, she told OP what OP wanted. OP, knowing that was not correct, tried to correct her and tell her what OP did want. Hence where we are now.

        Boss wasn’t blunt at all. She never said “I want to have a more professional relationship with my reports.” In fact, from the way it was phrased, I thought Boss thought OP wanted to date or something. That’s how not clear and not direct that statement was.

        When someone tells you how you feel and that is not in fact how you feel, it is totally natural to be confused and try to explain that there has been a misunderstanding. This is why you need to talk about how you feel and what you want and let the other person speak for themselves.

        1. sookie st james*

          To me, she was actually perfectly direct. We don’t know exactly what was said or how, but I think it’s entirely reasonable for someone to think they’ve set a boundary when they’ve said “you want more from this *work relationship* than I do.” We don’t need to know the exact details to infer that the manager was telling LW ‘whatever you want and however you’re expressing it, I need less of that’ and also she’s reiterating that for her, she sees it as an exclusively *work* relationship. LW’s response about wanting to be friends being met with “moodiness” also reinforces that she *does not want to be friends*. We can argue with her methods (whatever ‘moody’ is supposed to mean, it sounds unprofessional) but I think we can fairly assume most people would get the picture from all that.

          1. sookie st james*

            The more I sit with this the more I’m thinking there’s a gendered layer to this in the accusation of ‘moodiness’ – it’s the kind of word we throw at women when we wouldn’t throw it at men, bc it implies an unreasonable/hormonal reaction, vs more neutral language which might convey something more akin to a manager simply trying to navigate a tense relationship with an employee wherein they are frustrated that their employee continues to solicit unwelcome social interactions with them and becomes accusatory/needy if they wont accommodate that.

            I can’t know LW’s gender and I don’t want to unfairly speculate on the way they expressed their attempts at friendship, but I have been in many situations where I’ve tried to establish boundaries with men, they’ve continued to push/stampede over them, and I’ve become withdrawn, quiet, and maybe even cold around them because they make me so uncomfortable or they take any whisper of friendliness as an invitation to be overly familiar all over again. I have been accused of being ‘moody’ when I was actually just being put in an impossible position of having to rebuff unwanted advances repeatedly.

      3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        OP stop trying to be friends with boss. The best thing you can do is respect her boundaries. It will probably make your life easier at work too if you stop pushing.

      4. ecnaseener*

        See, I disagree that “I think you want more from this relationship than I do” is very direct. You, and presumably the boss, think it’s obviously conveying “you want to be friends and I don’t,” but another perfectly reasonable interpretation is “you want to be really close friends and I want a more casual friendship.” LW probably interpreted it the second way, and meant their response as “I never meant for us to be really close friends either, so I don’t know where this is coming from.”

        1. sookie st james*

          Genuine question, if someone said this to you and that was your interpretation, would you come away from the interaction thinking you had to modify your behaviour regardless or would you think the clarification was enough? Because imo it’s kind of irrelevant whether the LW thinks they were acting like ‘friends’ or ‘close friends’, the outcome is the same: however they were acting was making the manager uncomfortable, so it needed to change, which is what I think was the direct part, not whether they both classify friendships the same etc. You can’t stick a different label on it and suddenly change the way it feels to the person receiving it

          1. ecnaseener*

            I would think I needed to make *a* change, but different amounts of change for the different interpretations. I do in fact behave differently toward people I think of as casual friends vs strictly not-friends.

      5. Olive*

        “she told me she felt I wanted more in our work relationship and she had pulled back from me” does seem like the manager tried to address the situation with the LW, but it’s a vague summary of whatever the conversation was and it’s probably impossible to judge without knowing what was actually said.

        It could refer to a reasonable explanation from the manager that the LW purposely left vague to make herself seem more sympathetic, to which the LW responded that the only thing in life she wanted was for them to be friends.

        Or it could refer to an incoherent and messy statement from the manager, but the LW shortened it to be considerate of our time, and she responded that she hadn’t been asking for anything more than a normal friendship. Who knows?

        1. Heffalump*

          … the only thing in life she wanted was for them to be friends.

          The only thing she wanted in the relationship, not in life.

    2. sookie st james*

      I think a possible interpretation is that, while the LW saw them as friends, the manager never did, which would make me view the manager in a more sympathetic light. So while the LW continues to view this as ‘my former friend is giving me confusing signals’, from the manager’s POV it could be more like ‘my employee was being overly familiar in a way that made me uncomfortable, I had a conversation where I established my boundaries, yet they continue to cross them by expecting a social relationship that requires high levels of emotional labour from me’ (e.g. being an outlet for their stress and helping them to manage their emotions in the workplace).

      I agree that acting annoyed with a subordinate isn’t appropriate behaviour but I do have sympathy with the manager here as well in that they actually have tried to have an explicit conversation, and while I appreciate that Alison often says we shouldn’t assume people will pick up on social cues, it does sound like the LW has been steamrolling past some pretty obvious non-verbal cues here (no hate, I know not everyone picks up on non-verbal cues the same way, but it’s not entirely unreasonable for someone to expect that most people would understand certain behaviours).

      I’m interested in when the LW says their response to the manager setting boundaries was to say “all I ever wanted was to be friends” – is there a possibility the LW thought the manager was rebuffing some kind of romantic advances and is therefore continuing to be over-familiar because they don’t understand that the problem is that this manager doesn’t want *any* kind of personal relationship at all?

      1. Still*

        This. “All I ever wanted was to be friends” makes me think that the LW thought the boss didn’t want to be romantically involved, when in fact the boss didn’t want to be friends at all. So from LW’s perspective they’ve never crossed a boundary (they only wanted to be friends!) but from the boss’ perspective they were crossing the boundary (they’re pushing to be friends!)

        1. Guest*

          This is definitely how I read the letter as well, the boss sounded like they were shutting down romantic advances. I was very surprised everyone else (including Alison) saw it differently. Obviously we don’t know the exact conversation, but the boss could have been clearer about what they meant. Either way, I don’t think the advice changes: stop pushing to be friends with your boss.

    3. connie*

      I really don’t get the push back agains the boss, and I think Alison’s and your criticism of her is a bit of a leap. The LW herself told us the boss was clear that boss did not want a friendship, and LW describes pushing or trying to negotiate that boundary. If you’ve never had this happen, you just don’t get how hard it is to deal with the feeling of someone wanting something impossible from you and feeling like they refuse to get the message.

    4. Happily Retired*

      I keep reading #2’s post as a (personal) nightmare scenario response to a previous LW who had asked for advice on establishing work boundaries with employees and coworkers, implemented it in some way, and now the other person is all Fraught about “why is she so meeeeean?” No, I’m not saying #2 is doing that. I’m saying that this has always been my fear.

      Establishing boundaries is absolutely something that needs to done, but some people just aren’t going to hear the message, at least not at first. They may have come from one of those work settings where personal intrudes on work all the time and doesn’t understand that this place needs to be different. I don’t think that it was quoted verbatim after all this time. I am NOT calling #2 a liar! I’m just pointing out that there is often a struggle here for context and more information in initial posts.

    5. JubJubtheIguana*

      The manager directly and explicitly told LW that they were being too needy, and that the personal relationship LW has created in their head doesn’t exist. LW seems upset that their female manager doesn’t want a personal relationship.

      Telling your boss that you ever wanted was to be friends is kind of weird. It’s not a social relationship.

      And I’m curious if LW is male or female, because that makes a big difference. A female employee (especially if it’s a very young woman) being a bit needy and having poor boundaries with their boss is understandable, it needs to be nipped in the bud but it’s not usually a big deal.

      A man believing that he has a personal relationship with a woman just because she engages with him as part of her job, who pushes back and gets upset when she makes clear she was just doing her job, is a potential safety risk. Women CONSTANTLY have to deal with men who treat basic politeness or a woman simply doing her job as a sign that she’s interested in a personal relationship.

      If it’s a man upset at a woman rejecting him, that frames things very differently than if it’s a female employee with less than ideal boundaries.

      1. LWH*

        “A female employee (especially if it’s a very young woman) being a bit needy and having poor boundaries with their boss is understandable, it needs to be nipped in the bud but it’s not usually a big deal.”

        I think we have seen a whole lot of letters on this site over the years that suggest that it absolutely can be a big deal, we’ve had women with female coworkers who want to go on vacation with them, do everything with them, try to move in with them, whatever. The level of clinginess is the question here, far more than gender.

  10. Worldwalker*

    “Stop being so sensitive” is one of those comments that pushes my rage buttons. That’s saying “Stop being insulted when I insult you.” Nope. Not today, jerk.

    And jokes are only funny when both people laugh.

    1. N C Kiddle*

      “Oversensitive” is the one that gets me worst. No, I’m not oversensitive, you’re undersensitive because you have zero tact.

      1. House On The Rock*

        This is such a simple, but not necessarily obvious, response. I’m going to start using it, thank you!

    2. Salty Caramel*

      It’s a hot button for me too. I had variations of it for years until I started setting firm boundaries. The first people to do it? My parents.

      Silly me, not wanting people to be mean to me. Also crying with frustration because people around the bully either joined in or passively sat by, which only made it worse.

    1. rr*

      That was my thought too. Many, if not most, admins aren’t salaried. If that is true here, the admin is really working off the clock, which is not right. But many employers present any meal as a non working event. Mine certainly does, regardless of context. In that case, LW1 is in even worse position.

      1. Juniper*

        I’ve been an admin for most my working career working for both the federal govt and large companies and have always been salaried. In fact, I negotiated my current contract with OT pays since I didn’t want to be burned by uncompensated extra work. So not uncommon.

        1. Tanner*

          Being salaried is not the same as being exempt. She could be paid a salary and still be non-exempt in which case she should be entitled to extra pay for attending these apparently mandatory meetings. Sometimes admin workers can be truly exempt, but this is a high threshold. To qualify for an exemption a worker not only has to make over the set threshold, but they also have to satisfy a duties test. It is possible for companies, even large ones, to misclassify administrative workers as exempt.

    2. Ashley*

      Even if salaried, I know it is a pain when you are expected to work late without having the option to flex to leave early sometimes. I am not a big fan of that type of culture, but it definitely happens.
      And team dinners can be soul sucking social time for introverts but it does sound like have to dig deep into the reserves and plaster on the happy face. Hopefully after a few of these you will be able to flex your schedule some other time to make sure for the dinner. (And a free meal is rarely worth the forced socialization.)

    3. AnglerTodd*

      I’m not OP, but I’m hourly in a part time role support admin position. I blanket told my boss I’m not attending unpaid team building or events. My boss sees them as “perks” for employees and some attend every one. But it’s definitely not a “perk” for me. If OP is hourly, I think the advice should be edited to reflect that requiring attendance at an evening dinner should not be a requirement of goodwill and career advancement in employment. And it’s frustrating when people continue to assert than unpaid time is “part of the deal.”

    4. House On The Rock*

      I was surprised that the concept of OT or being able to flex their schedule didn’t come up.

      I manage a group that supports high level leadership and clinicians (think IT-ish team at a large medical center). I frequently need to advocate for me and my staff not matching the hours of our customers and partners (early and late meetings, because that’s when doctors are more available). I also sometimes have to point out that even a well compensated programmer or analyst isn’t at the same pay or level of commitment as the head of a surgical specialty.

      It may be the case that the admin is expected to attend these functions, but it’s also not unreasonable for them to get some additional compensation and flexibility to make up for the extra work/time.

  11. RC*

    Re: LW1: I am not and will not eat indoors with anyone outside my household until and unless something dramatically changes re: people’s general consideration for the health of others and/or their understanding of How Air Works and/or the outlook re: long covid treatments… but I’ve still gone to work mixers/receptions/dinners and either sat with my takeaway container of food in front of me in order to scarf it down later, or was able to recruit some pals to eat outdoors with me. But if boss is requesting your presence and/or it’s not a climate for outdoor dining, it’s probably the former you’re looking at. (after four years of this I am aware I’m very much in the minority here, but I felt I needed to say it just in case anyone else out there has drawn the same boundaries as me: you’re not alone!)

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      That is indeed a minority view and unless you have an official health accommodation to avoid indoor work gatherings & meals that would often have serious professional consequences in those jobs where they are a standard part of work. However, if you are lucky enough to have a job where it genuinely doesn’t matter, of course you can do whatever you want.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      In this case, it just sounds like the OP wants to maintain strict boundaries on what she regards as her free time but her boss and her employer don’t.

      1. Two Fish*

        Yeah it seems like OP mistakenly thinks of these four dinners a year as encroachment on their free time, when in fact they are a part of the work time. It’s such a small ask, OP is coming across as unreasonable pushing back so hard on it.

    3. D*

      I eat beforehand and sit there to talk with my KN95 firmly on…but I do try to show up.

      Fortunately, my job doesn’t require much after-hours socializing.

      1. RC*

        Yay KN!

        Socializing is more important for my job (many/most jobs?) than I wish it was, but y’know what’s even more important to my job? Not having brain fog or other covid-induced disability potentially for the rest of my life. So here we are… I’ll make it work if it’s important, and it’s a nice excuse to avoid socializing when I don’t care enough to be arsed to socialized with people I do not like (…but that’s a whole other post).

    4. melissa*

      The OP said she is fiercely protective of her time off; she didn’t mention germs. So you do you, but it’s not really a similar situation.

    5. AnonInCanada*

      I’m pretty sure OP#1 isn’t as much concerned of the health risks involved with being inside a room with a bunch of co-workers inasmuch as their concern with sacrificing time off the clock to do so. That’s two different scenarios. One that OP#1 needs to suck up. What is it, two hours, four times per year? That’s a small price to pay to maintain good stature with the boss, who’s implicating their presence at these dinners.

    6. Antilles*

      That’s fine for you, but none of that is applicable to OP though, because she went out to dinner with a relative that same night. If the concern was being in close proximity to people outside your household, that should also apply to cousin Jenny.
      Also, OP’s paragraph about “no desire to”, “fiercely territorial”, and “choose my own dining companion” statement clearly indicates the issue isn’t a health concern but just that she doesn’t want to.

      1. StressedButOkay*

        Yes, thank you! I think this is a very important discussion but has nothing to do with the OP’s issue and now it’s just a 30+ thread of people arguing.

    7. Katara's side braids*

      Same. Since Alison did mention avoiding Covid as a valid reason to decline, I’m wondering what the best way to frame that would be given the current climate of denialism. I don’t have any offically-diagnosed vulnerabilities, but live with people who do. I’ve also had 3 Covid infections myself, and since repeat infections are known to increase Long Covid risk I’m pretty invested in never getting it again.

      Luckily I don’t really have to worry about indoor dining events at my current job, but it would be nice to have something in my back pocket for the future.

    8. Observer*

      : I am not and will not eat indoors with anyone outside my household until and unless something dramatically changes re: people’s general consideration for the health of others and/or their understanding of How Air Works and/or the outlook re: long covid treatments

      Aside from what everyone else has (validly) pointed out, this is just not relevant to the OP. They are explicit that they simply do not want to spend time with these people, indoors our out, if the time is not purely about getting tasks done.

      There have been enough letters here from people with concerns like yours that it’s pretty clear that the responses would have been different it that’s what the OP had expressed concern over.

    9. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      RC you’re not alone, I’m Covid-cautious still also, I cannot afford to risk becoming disabled by Long Covid, and can only avoid it by avoiding getting Covid. There’s no one else to take care of me or pay my bills, and I need to stay well to take care of my elderly parents. If I had to go to an indoor restaurant for work I’d wear a tight fitting N95 mask the entire time and not eat or drink. That’s my right to protect myself even if others don’t agree. BTW to the poster that said there are treatments for Covid: there’s only one now and many don’t qualify for it, and there are zero treatments for Long Covid. I’m not playing that roulette wheel of disability.

    10. MCMonkeyBean*

      Same–our household does not eat indoors in restaurants because we are continuing to mask indoors always in public spaces. I have still gone to a few work “social” events and either ate my food outside or just sat and socialized with people and then got food after.

  12. Juniper*

    I worked at two high-end restaurants, and turn-over was minimal. Even the hosts had generally been working there a couple years. Someone with a foot out the door in 18 months time would probably not be considered.

  13. Redaktorin*

    Letter 2 comes across to me as having some MAJOR perspective issues and missing reasons. Is the boss being unprofessional? Hard to tell. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear they’d been carefully explaining their boundaries to LW on a regular basis and just having those boundaries ignored—which, yes, does tend to make people moody.

    1. Velawciraptor*

      I mean, the boss has admitted that she’s rude and it’s only to OP, so I think it’s pretty easy to tell that the boss is being unprofessional in that aspect, at the very least.

      1. jojo*

        I question OP2’s characterization of what the boss “admitted” to. Who admits they’ve been rude, unless it’s in the context of an abject apology? It seems more likely that the OP is characterizing certain behaviors on the boss’s part as “rude,” whether or not the boss sees or intends them that way, and boss has acknowledged (or has not denied) that they don’t display those behaviors toward others. I’m imagining something like this:
        OP: I noticed you’ve blocked my personal cell phone number on your personal cell, have you done that with anyone else?
        Boss: Nope, just you [perhaps because they were never on texting terms with any other employees].
        Or something like this:
        OP: I noticed you never ask me anymore how my weekend was, but I think I just overheard you chatting with Fergus about his weekend, so what gives?
        Boss: I don’t want to get into this. [does not deny they were friendlier with Fergus and declines to give a reason, which OP chooses to interpret as “I’m rude to you and not to others for no reason!”]

    2. CT*

      I wondered this as well. I’ve had a colleague who wanted more of a friendship than I did and came on quite strong, and while I was friendly overall, there were times where I wanted to keep my personal life private and set boundaries and she took offence to that because she was happy to share every detail of hers. Or if I was quiet because I was busy she would ask me if I was ok or if something was wrong and assume I’m upset with her, when I was just fine, just too busy to chat. But that became annoying because she would perceive my mood differently than it was and make assumptions, and then kind of like self fulfilling prophecy, it did become about her because she kept bugging me.

      1. StarTrek Nutcase*

        CT, I too have had a coworker like that. She was so upset I preferred to work all day with very little chatting (we shared a large office). She finally asked me why I wouldn’t be her friend. I told her I don’t do friends at work, but always will work collaboratively. She kept pushing. I finally said I would be professional and civil, that’s it. She complained (sobbed) to her boss. Her boss spoke to mine. Mine told me they both got a good laugh that she thought I would be forced to be friends with her while doing a lot of her work. Her case was weak also because she socialized so much (phone, visitors) that she only did 40% of her workload. Gawd, was I glad when she left.

  14. Introvert Teacher*

    #2: Yeah, your boss is not really your friend, no matter how friendly your working relationship can be. It’s a good idea for both of you to have a separation between you — it’s not being distant, it’s being professional. Someone I worked with got promoted and when she did she sent out a FB message saying she appreciated me, but would be removing me as a friend in order to establish professional boundaries. She was also a little less familiar with me in person going forward. It didn’t offend me at all, and she was a great boss!

    #3: It’s silly that a restaurant would be deterred from hiring someone who could commit for a year and a half — seems like a long time to me, in restaurant tenure.

    1. Ole Pammy's Getting What She Wants*

      a year and a half really isnt a long time at certain types of places – steakhouses, supper clubs, etc. Being a career server is extremely different than someone just looking to make extra cash for a while.

  15. Hiring Mgr*

    #1, yes you should absolutely attend this next dinner. Get that you want to choose your own dinner companion, but this is just a few times per year so I’m sure you will survive. Especially as part of the leadership team. Especially since you skipped one already. ESPECIALLY since your boss told you to go!

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      The boss making a big deal out of it is key here.

      Alison said it in her answer, just because you consider it optional doesn’t mean it is. OP your boss has made it clear, this is not optional. So you need to attend.

  16. Nothing Happening Here*

    #2 Your company is not your family. Your boss is not your friend. Your coworkers may be friendly, but they are not your friends.

  17. Southern Litigator*

    LW 4, when you report this to HR, please specify that you are being discriminated against because of your national origin. You should make sure to actually say the words national origin. Then you can describe the comments, but you often need to say specific words that trigger for the HR person that this isn’t interpersonal drama.

    1. One HR Opinion*

      This is great advice! National origin is a legally protected characteristic vs. say, my red hair. It’s not right if people call me soulless, or won’t promote me because I’m a ginger, but it’s not illegal.

      1. jojo*

        I think you could make an argument that red hair is a proxy for race or ethnicity, so you might still be protected! But yes, there are characteristics that aren’t legally protected (like dying one’s hair bright red, for example), so it’s really important to be explicit about what kind of discrimination is occurring. That way HR is legally bound to take OP’s complaint seriously.

  18. Bookworm*

    Sending you sympathy, OP 1. I wish these conversations would change–these types of things are expected and it can hurt professionally if you don’t go but from my experience there is genuinely no upside to them, either. I don’t want to see my co-workers outside of work hours, it never helped me in career advancement and honestly has occasionally felt like power plays by management (“we threw a holiday party, be grateful”).

    Good luck in however it goes.

    1. Boof*

      I realize I’m in a different profession than OP, but on the flip side, when I go travel to a conference – the kind where tons of professionals of my type gather once a year – I am BOOKED SOLID. The conference all day, and I comb through all the random dinner engagements every night to see which ones would be most valuable. For me it’s an opportunity to get a little airtime with folks who are very busy and hard to get in a room together, and I absolutely learn all sorts of things. Chat about a rare patient scenario to see what they would do, chat about trial concepts, chat about where the development of this or that medical testing is heading, etc. We’re all there to chat with each other; it works, and frankly I find it one of the funnest and most energizing parts of my job – causal group brainstorming!

    2. HonorBox*

      I don’t think this is a situation in which there’s no upside. The LW is traveling in to a quarterly meeting of management. It is likely that there will be conversations about non work stuff, but the boss may see this dinner as an extension of the rest of the meetings.
      I suggested elsewhere that the company should just not refer to the dinner as “optional” because if they say optional but get upset because someone actually took them at their word, that’s crappy. But upside is there because it is valuable face time when you don’t have that otherwise.

      1. CB212*

        It’s only the LW, not the company, who calls the dinner “optional” – a label LW gives it based on happening outside of set work hours. The company appear to refer to it as the “team dinner”, which is obviously a work event.

        But even if a glossy printed program had described the dinner as optional for conference attendees, once LW’s boss has said at least (!) three (!) times that they should have been there, it could hardly be clearer that for them it is absolutely not optional.

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I’m fiercely protective of my free time, but a team dinner as part of a paid series of leadership meetings sounds like it is a business dinner rather than a mindless social event.

      Anyway, when your boss says 3 times you should attend then it is indeed mandatory. However, it would have been better if this had been made clear well in advance rather than assuming you’d realise.

  19. Ole Pammy's Getting What She Wants*

    OP3, it’s also very possible this manager was looking for career servers, depending on the place. Certain higher-end restaurants are less likely to hire people who view serving as a temporary or secondary job. He was certainly rude about it though!

  20. xylocopa*

    ” Then one day she told me she felt I wanted more in our work relationship and she had pulled back from me. When I explained that all I ever wanted was to be friends”

    At first I just read this as wholly about friendship–but does this mean the boss felt like OP was “wanting more” as in trying for something romantic, and OP said they just wanted to be friends? Because that’s a whole additional can of worms. If I thought someone was pushing for a romantic relationship at work and they answered with “no no, just friends” rather than “no, it’s just professional” I wouldn’t feel like that solved any problems at all, and would constantly be uneasy about someone potentially hitting on me.

    But that may not be what OP is describing!

    1. Myrin*

      My mind briefly went there as well but since the boss said “more in our work relationship” I concluded that no, it’s still about friendship, because that’s kinda the next step up from a work relationship. It’s possible, of course, but if so, OP doesn’t seem to have picked up on that at all or she surely would’ve mentioned it in some capacity; the letter itself is definitely about friendship.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      I don’t think that’s what it meant. OP even made it clear their minunderstanding. “All I wanted was to be friends” vs the boss’s “you want more than I want”.
      ie the boss was saying “I’m not your friend, I’m your boss”. And OP didn’t get it.

    3. Still*

      Yeah, I feel like the OP heard “I think you want a romantic relationship and I don’t”, and tried to clarify that they “only wanted to be friends”… but the boss was actually saying “you want friendship and I don’t”, so “I only want to be friends” wasn’t reassuring at all.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      That’s how it read to me as well. If that was the situation then the boss is not handling it well, but I can certainly understand why they would have difficulty navigating it gracefully.

  21. Seashell*

    #3 – I would think if you have an undergraduate degree, you’re probably already considered over-qualified for a restaurant job and not likely to stay after you find a job that requires a college education. Stating your plans to leave for further education was just added to the guarantee that you didn’t want to stick around.

  22. HannahS*

    OP4, I’m sorry this is happening. I also want to echo the importance of weighing whether to raise this before or after the promotion. Recently, I was acting as a whistleblower* and was worried about retaliation from a manager in another department (Sid), so I told my direct manager what the situation was and that I needed to report it to HR. Because my own manager knew what was going on, he and HR had an easier time protecting me from Sid, who absolutely hit the ceiling and tried very hard tank my promotion.

    I am very glad that I looped in my direct manager. It worked in my situation because my manager was a reasonable person who wanted me to succeed professionally. He had a good sense of nuance and political maneuvering. If he was more of a bull in a china shop, it might not have gone as well. Also, my HR department was solid.

    The big difference between my situation and yours is that I wasn’t worried that the manager would interfere with my promotion until AFTER I did my whistleblowing. I think the ideal outcome is for HR to say, “Mike is being investigated for a matter relating to HR; he is to be removed from the selection committee and should not comment on any candidates” with strict confidentiality and no further details given to anyone including your coworker until after the promotion goes through. But that depends a lot on the quality of your HR department and how seriously the rest of the selection committee would take it. Is there anyone superior to you in the workplace that you can talk to for advice, being clear that you’re worried about your coworker impacting the promotion?

    *the exact details are complicated because my workplace actually doesn’t have an HR department, clear hierarchies, or traditional promotions; I actually emailed Alison several months ago in a panic she wrote back privately–thank you Alison.

    1. Hrodvitnir*

      Good for you. This letter made me wish I was in a position to complain for the LW, it just is such awful behaviour.

  23. Nora*

    I wanted to comment on LW #1 because I’m the manager in a situation like this – you should absolutely go. It’s one dinner, and you don’t have facetime any other time since its all remote. At least in my company, things are extremely flexible. So a small demand on your time once a quarter is not that big a deal.

    Also – well liked by the whole team or well liked by a select few who you are also friends with? On a company you have to be at least equally polite to the whole team, and that sometimes gets lost in remote work.

    1. HonorBox*

      Your first paragraph…spot on!

      I’d say that the company should probably reword the schedule to make the evening dinner not optional, but just a part of the overall meeting. Regardless, asking someone to attend a dinner that is built in to a quarterly meeting of managers isn’t asking too much. You’re already going to be there.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        Doesn’t sound like the company itself referred to the dinner as optional; the OP seems to assume that because it is outside normal working hours.
        Maybe for clarity the program could have specifically stated “non-optional team dinner” but it sounds odd, especially if the rest of the leadership team are eager for the facetime together.
        Much better if the OP had asked in advance if she could skip it, so she had more notice that she shouldn’t.

        1. Angstrom*

          In my experience, if dinner is on the work schedule, it’s expected that you’ll attend. If it’s not required it’s labeled “on your own” or something similar.

    2. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      I’d be interested to hear from a manager’s point of view, if the employee went to an indoors restaurant with you/team but was in a well fitting protective N95 mask and didn’t eat or drink the whole time, how would that be received? It’s what I would do (mask), but in this climate it might work against the employee depending on how the manager interprets it.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        The LW didn’t mention anything about wearing a mask (or fear of COVID in general), so it’s not relevant to anything.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I’ve done it a couple of times and it’s mildly awkward because people feel bad you’re not eating but overall it’s fine.

  24. High Score!*

    OP4 You may as well go to HR now. If capitalist dude see you as a communist then he’s not going to promote you anyway.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      That was my thought as well. OP4, if he has a hand in the decision making, you aren’t getting promoted.

    2. Observer*

      If capitalist dude see you as a communist then he’s not going to promote you anyway.

      I think that this is a real issue.

  25. Baska*

    #3: While I never said something quite like “thanks for making this easy for me,” I did have an interview once that lasted about 5 minutes by mutual agreement. It was a position being filled by a recruitment agency. My opinion (as the candidate) was that it wasn’t really my type of job, but maybe they’d really wow me. The interviewer’s opinion was that I wasn’t really their type of candidate, but maybe I’d wow them. Short version: neither of us wowed the other, we had shared moment of bafflement over why the heck the recruiter thought I’d be a good candidate for this position, and I left after barely 5 minutes.

    1. Sneaky Squirrel*

      I had a job interview where I talked with an initial interviewer who tried to sell me on the company, then talked to a second interviewer who could tell this wasn’t the type of job for me.
      By that point I knew I didn’t want the job and was ready to leave. I was so relieved that he brought it up that he didn’t think I was much of a fit so that I didn’t have to stay for the remainder of the interviews.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I had a phone screening last week where they made it really easy for me to decide that I definitely didn’t want the job. I didn’t say that to them, but I did say that I really wasn’t keen on their hybrid set-up (3 days/wk in a cubical-city type office) and I was much more productive at home where I wasn’t distracted by what was going on around me. I didn’t necessarily consider myself out of the running because I figured I’d see what they thought about next steps but when they emailed a few days later to say they weren’t going forward with my candidacy it was definitely the easiest of rejections.

      I also wondered, had I proceeded further in the interview process and the place seemed like a perfect fit other than the hybrid thing, if I could perhaps request more WFH days as an ADHD accommodation but honestly it’s nice to just stop having to wonder about that.

  26. HonorBox*

    #2 – Your boss very clearly told you what she wanted and what she was expecting from the relationship. It seems like it was the proper approach given the work relationship and power dynamic. That shouldn’t give her a reason to be rude to you, but it may have been a defense mechanism on her part to push you away since you’d made it clear you wanted to be friends. So she handled it poorly and it sounds like she’s just handling herself poorly with everyone. But you were asking for something more than she wanted to (or could… for two reasons) give.

    #3 – I’m going to respond with the assumption this was not the restaurant from “The Bear” where Richie was polishing silverware, where you’d think longevity of staff would be more valued. If that was the restaurant, LW, don’t bother with my thoughts. :)

    I know several restaurant owners and I think most are in a position in which they’d hire someone walking in off the street for a shift today. The fact that someone can “only” commit 18-24 months would be a huge win for them. This person was extremely rude to you and that’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. If there was a desire to have some longevity, he should have taken the time to explain that, and explain why. And while this is probably unfair to him, I’d imagine you probably dodged a bullet because if someone is that rude in an interview, your work experience would have been miserable.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      I wish people would stop insisting that the manager in letter 2 was clear. She was not. She did not say what she wanted. She told the LW what the LW wanted, which made the LW confused, which the LW then tried to clear up. The boss is handling all of this badly, including the “Our relationship needs to change” conversation.

      Now, personally, I would have stopped trying to understand the boss or fix things long before 2 years were out, but if LW is used to a dynamic of trying to mind-read and placate the person who is displeased with them, this might seem normal to them. LW, this is the new normal and you have to accept this is how things are. They will never return to how they were, so you need to let that go. The whole thing sounds bad for you, so you likely need to leave. This is a very unprofessional and unhealthy dynamic.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        The boss did say that she’d pulled back, and used the phrase ‘work relationship’. That may not be outlined in bright yellow high-liter, but it’s not terribly foggy, either. I think LW2 is an unreliable narrator as to reading emotional nuance, and is letting her own personal issues cloud her professional judgment & behavior. I think that she is winding herself into knots about how her manager feels about her, and is exacerbating the situation.

        The manager isn’t perfect, either! But she didn’t write in for advice.

  27. hbc*

    OP4: Is it possible to play a little bit of offense with this guy? Since it’s so predictable, you should be able to think some responses out in advance. “Ah, so is the joke that you’re acting like a stereotypical Ugly American who doesn’t even know that Slovenia is a democracy? Very believable.” “Dude, your info predates the internet, people in Communist China know more about the world than you.” “That’s exactly what I expect from a card-carrying member of the Whig Party.” “Senator McCarthy was less obsessed with communism than you, Dave.”

    Sound very bored and bland when you say it. These kinds of “jokers” get very annoyed when they don’t get any emotional traction *and* they get back what they dish out.

    1. Poison I.V. drip*

      The most anti-communist person I ever met was an Eastern European immigrant from a formerly Iron Curtain country. He grew up under a legitimately communist regime, not whatever cartoon version of communism Americans picture, so it makes sense he was hostile to it. He even regularly referred to his employer, the US EPA, as Bolsheviks. A little much, but the point is, OP could probably mop the floor with that coworker in an actual structured debate.

      1. Abundant Shrimp*

        Yah, a lot of my native country’s immigrant community leans WAY to the right to overcorrect for their (our) totalitarian-left upbringing. (I did too, for a couple of years after I came to the US. Then I became a citizen and got the right to vote, decided to do some research on the candidates, and have been voting blue ever since.) It making me not want to hang around my community notwithstanding, they are certainly not communists and would be highly offended to be called that.

      2. BecauseHigherEd*

        Right? My dad’s family is from a formerly Iron Curtain country (some of his family members came to the US as refugees in the 50’s/60’s; grandma has stories about how seeing her sister meant going without food for months) and he is RABIDLY anti-communist. If anyone tried this with him, they’d get a swift uppercut for sure.

      3. Not On Board*

        Oh, my parents are the same. They’re very anti-left on almost everything (except for some social issues like equal rights and lgbtq rights). I’ve had arguments with them about having a more balance view and then they resort to calling me a communist. It’s a vast over-correction to how they grew up.

        1. Communist Canada*

          My husband and ILs emigrated during the Cold War from an eastern European country. I admire them because it was dangerous and that had to start from nothing.
          That said, they tend to go to the right of the center- both not wanting to flirt with what could be considered communism, and getting frustrated when others get what they consider “handouts” after they worked so hard without it.

          Unfortunately for my MIL, who also drinks MAGA clickbait like it’s Ensure, this tends to also include that no one could possibly have it worse than they did- therefore any other experience isn’t valid and is “whining”. She also said Canada is communist because of a form they had you fill out when you entered the country. So, there’s that.

        2. Abundant Shrimp*

          While both my parents were/are pretty anti-left for the same reasons, my mom’s been baffled, and I mean BAFFLED, by abortion bans. She’d read the news and ask me in utter confusion “why is it such a big deal to get them banned? why are these politicians obsessed with these bans? Is it an American thing, can you explain it to me?” because it was such a normal thing where we came from.

      4. MeepMeep123*

        Yup. Americans haven’t actually lived under communism and don’t know what it’s like in practice. My family and I have lived in such a regime and I know where all of these pro-communist leanings lead. It starts out as “let’s end oppression for the workers” and ends up as “This person is a kulak – let’s confiscate their house and property!” (which actually happened to my great-grandfather)

    2. H.Regalis*

      If they were cheaper, I’d say get him a custom Joe McCarthy waifu pillow. “I got you this pillow so that you can pretend someone actually thinks you’re funny and interesting!”

      1. Heffalump*

        I’d never heard of waifu pillows and had to look it up. I learn something on AAM almost every day!

    3. Czhorat*

      I don’t love the fighting fire with fire approach, as tempting as it is. If you respond with this kind of joke or a dig back at them then it’s no longer harassment but a two-way conflict in which you’re both going to be perceived as acting like children.

      “He started it” isn’t going to be a defense if someone complains about you sniping back at him.

    4. I should really pick a name*

      Turning bad behaviour back on someone leaves them the opportunity for them to complain about you. At the point, your only defence is “he did it first” which isn’t that great.

      1. Czhorat*

        Yeah, I replied the same but got stuck in moderation.

        As tempting as this is, you risk turning a clear cut example of harassment into two employees squabbling like a couple of school kids. Management would likely look unfavorably on both of you, and “he started it” isn’t really a great response.

  28. urguncle*

    LW#1: I treat in-person trips as 0 downtime unless I’m literally in the hotel bed. Don’t stay out past your normalish bedtime, but then I also travel during work days.

  29. Czhorat*

    LW1 is almost the flipside of the manager last week put off that his report didn’t visit when in town; it;s the question of face-time vs private time to oneself.

    I agree with Alison that this is, unfortuneately perhaps, part of the expectation. Not going makes you the outlier, and not in a great way.

    I find that in salaried positions with a measure of responsibility there’s an expectation that protecting your personal time isn’t always entirely possible; there will always be crunch times, company gatherings, client dinners, or whatever else depending on your role and situation. You need to find a balance, but “never talk about work after 5” is a harder thing to hold to.

  30. fhqwhgads*

    LW1, I think you’re thinking of this dinner as just as meal. It’s not. It’s one of the “events” of the business trip. Like how some conferences will have a dinner event that’s definitely part of the conference and not just the time people get to eat? Treat it like that.
    If the dinner were more of a “hey a few of us are catching a bite the night before” then your reaction would’ve been appropriate, and your take that this was part of your personal time would be true. But this dinner wasn’t one of convenience (we’re all here for the meetings anyway, let’s eat together), it was part of the agenda they flew you in for. That’s why the boss got huffy.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Boss got huffy because Boss doesn’t know how to use her words like a professional adult. Hinting and huffing is basically the same poor communication as LW2. Your explanation is great – but that’s clearly not the explanation LW1 was given, either before or after the dinner last time.

      1. Really?*

        I don’t think that I would agree with that. As a manager, I frequently made requests of my staff using usual, polite phrases e.g. “Would you please….” Only once did I have to explain to a (young) subordinate that my requests were in fact, orders, and they were expected to comply.

        1. Lusara*

          I wonder if the LW is a little neurodivergent. I am and when I had a boss who would ask me “Do you want to do X?” I took them literally and didn’t understand they actually meant “Please do X.” So I would respond “No I don’t want to do it.”

  31. BecauseHigherEd*

    LW 4 – Send your coworker articles about the recent aggressive turn many Eastern European countries have been making toward conservatism, religion, nationalism, and free market capitalism?

    Your coworker is being obnoxious and I’m sorry about this. (American of Eastern European descent here–can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to explain that my family is “not Russian” and also, no, the country my family came from is not “the same as Russia.”)

  32. Czhorat*

    For LW3, I think it’s VERY easy to fall into the trap of answering the question on the surface rather than the bigger question underneath. The underneath question is always “why should we hire you?” – every answer needs to be chosen with that goal in mind.

    “What are your future plans?” isn’t a question about your lifelong dreams and goals; it’s about your future reliability and availability. If it’s not a place I could conceivably be planning a career I’d prefer to be vague than say “I’m leaving in two years”. An answer like, “no big long-terms plans for now; I’m excited about this opportunity and could see myself here for the forseeable future” is a white lie but mostly a non-answer. If you don’t have an answer that will make them hire you, don’t give answers that give a reason to NOT hire you.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      So first off – the dude was rude, period. None of this changes that.

      For office jobs, sure, your advice stands, but I don’t think LW was wrong to be surprised that 18 months isn’t a long enough time commitment to work as a server. My BIL used to work in kitchens and I’m not sure he ever stayed longer than a year. I mean, usually he quit in a huff because they wanted him to, like, wear different pants or something, but that’s the vibe of most restaurants. It’s piece work, not “career” work.

      1. Czhorat*

        Oh, the guy was absolutely rude. It’s a completely unreasonable way to answer.

        I’ll admit that I’ve never worked in the restaurant world; my thoughts are more general.

  33. Abundant Shrimp*

    #3 holy crapola, what a terrible answer. I’ve had interviews cut short when we both found out that our expectations were a wild mismatch (e.g. I was looking for no on-call responsibilities and the job was mostly on-call, or job would come with a 30% pay cut, etc.) But we always parted on good terms. What the heck! I never worked in the food industry but have heard that people can be blunt there, maybe it was a case of that.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      It’s fine to end an interview early to save everyone’s time so long as it’s done politely. This person wasn’t blunt: they were downright rude.

      1. Abundant Shrimp*

        Exactly – I’ve said things in the past like “I’m going to save us both time and withdraw, because I cannot agree to (blah)”.

        One interviewer that I remember fondly asked me why I was looking and when I said “to get away from being on call” (I got that interview through a recruiter, who’d sworn up and down that job was exactly what I was looking for), he responded with “then you came to the wrong place”. We talked shop for a couple of minutes (because standing up and leaving right away felt weird, probably for both of us) and then wished each other a good day and he left. That is the way.

    2. Leenie*

      It was a good answer because a one sentence, snarky dismissal isn’t leaving it on good terms. The problem wasn’t cutting it short, it was the way that they did it.

  34. D.C. Paralegal*

    “I’m fiercely territorial about my off hours and my desire to choose my dinner companion, if anyone at all.”

    I can’t help but compare this letter to the brouhaha over the Demoted podcast this past week. (For anyone unaware, while there’s more nuance involved, it basically comes down to “If my boss schedules an 8 AM meeting on short notice and I have a conflict, can I blow it off because that’s my time?”)

    Here’s what sort of rubs me the wrong way about the “fiercely protective” approach: if these intrusions were a regular occurrence, I could see the need to set up boundaries. But just four times a year? Come on. That’s still 361 days to dine as you please. Also, my personal experience is that when you’re traveling for work, it’s expected for your employer to lay claim to large amounts of your time. As long as you’re being compensated, whether it’s on salary or overtime, I can’t think of any good (non-physical or emotional health) reason to decline to go to something like this.

    But I’m curious: is the company equally protective of its employees’ on hours? Or has the LW been able to take time off on short notice even when it might have been inconvenient for the company? The employer/employee dynamic only works when both sides are flexible on things. It doesn’t have to be an adversarial relationship.

    1. Seahorse*

      Looking back on my working life so far, I was a lot more protective of my time in places where I was unhappy and felt unappreciated. My last couple jobs have had good environments, and I am trusted (and paid) to make judgement calls about my own schedule.

      I don’t mind extras now, but there were a couple jobs where I really resented any reach into my own time. It felt like I was already giving so much of my life & time to a job, and now they wanted more??

      That might not be the case for the LW, but it’s something to consider.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        What has that got to do with anything? It’s still been made clear that she’s expected to be there.

        1. D.C. Paralegal*

          Yup. And as an admin myself, I think it’s cool that the president of the company A) Believes she’s important enough to the organization to pay for her to travel to these meetings, and B) Actively wants her to participate in the leadership team dinners instead of making it optional, which would send the message that it’s not important to the team dynamic whether she’s there or not.

          Frankly, I know a lot of people in admin roles who would kill for this level of consideration at work.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      imo in a normal week at your usual workplace, a v early or v late meeting at short notice, outside your normal working hours is different and ok to push back on, whereas the OP’s dinner was part of a paid multiday leadership event during which the normal rules about free time wouldn’t apply.

  35. ThatGirl*

    Re: LW1 – I traveled for the first time ever for work last year, out to an office on the west coast. Long story short, I decided to opt out of the last dinner because it was at a steakhouse and I don’t really eat red meat; I also have a friend/coworker who was also there who is vegetarian/vegan. So we decided to decline the invite and get sushi on our own.

    Even though I’d already been with these people for 2 1/2 days and eaten multiple meals with them, I got gently chided by my manager that we should have gone to that dinner. It wasn’t a big deal, but now I know going forward that unless there’s some major conflict (e.g. I didn’t make it to a wine tasting because my flight had just landed) I am expected to be at meals/events like that.

    1. HonorBox*

      The one note I’d make for you going forward is the menu choice. I think you can opt out if the restaurant is a mismatch for your diet. Not in a “I don’t like broccoli” kind of way, but for someone who doesn’t eat red meat, sometimes steakhouse menus can be challenging. So I’d only say that it would be OK (at least in my book if I was your manager) if you looked at the menu in advance and weren’t able to find something that worked for you to eat.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        The one note I’d make on your one note is explaining your reasoning.
        Saying “I won’t be able to eat there” leaves some room for accommodation, or lets them know why you’re not coming. Just not showing up without a reason doesn’t come across as well.

      2. ThatGirl*

        Yes, my manager also noted that we should have let someone know if it wouldn’t work for our diet(s). For me it’s strictly personal and I could have found something to eat – they did have pasta and chicken dishes. But I agree and forgot to note that part :)

  36. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #2 -Your manager is handling it unprofessionally now, but you ignored her very direct request to draw a line in your friendship. It seems to me that she feels like there’s nothing else she can do but be short with you. It’s possible she also has more going on since she’s short with everyone, but she’s made it clear her personal life isn’t your business. You’ll need to work on putting up the proper boundary and treat your manager only as a manager and maybe find another job if you can’t let go of the friendship or put up with her style of management.

    #3 – Was the interviewer being unreasonable about not wanting to hire you? No. It’s a pretty normal consideration for many employers to want someone long term even if they haven’t explicitly put out a time commitment. Admittedly restaurants wouldn’t strike me as the type to be concerned about that but there’s no reason that they must be the exception. But that interviewer was super rude.

    #5 – Do you have any reason to believe her “please do” was anything other than her agreement that you work on the census data entry? I’ve had my manager use “please do” when I’ve told her I planned on working on X project. I’ve considered it innocuous; more of an acknowledgement of what I’ve said than a concern about my work. If she’s never explicitly mentioned concerns of slacking or any other work concerns, then I would consider your reaction to be “overly sensitive”.

  37. Three Owls in a Trench Coat*

    #3 – I did something like that once as the candidate.

    I got the salary range during a brief phone interview. The upper half of the range given was at the low end of my search, so we scheduled the formal interview. It went very well and the Owner wanted to offer me the position, but as we wound down, he started reviewing schedules and compensation. It was significantly lower than what I’d been given earlier. I stated that I had been told the range was X-Z per pay period. He said that was after 2 years AND the first two weeks of training were unpaid (?!?!?!?!?!?!). As he continued with the training schedule, I interrupted him.

    “Let me stop you right there. That is not what was represented to me earlier and is not within the range I’m looking for. Let’s end the interview here.” He tried to convince me to stay as I got up. “I may be what YOU are looking for, but you not what I am looking for. I am sure you’ll find someone who will be a better fit. Thank you for your time.”

    I think he was shocked I didn’t think this “golden opportunity” wasn’t my dream job. I had already driven the absolute farthest I could commute, AND it had multiple tolls on the route. Unpaid for two weeks? Nope, not happening. I couldn’t afford to get there, let alone any of my living expenses. Frankly, I was pretty insulted the offer was lower than entry-level considering I had 10+ years of experience.

    The receptionist asked me how it went. I said, “I don’t think we’re a match. I hope you find someone.” I left feeling like a movie hero walking away from the explosion behind them.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Mandatory unpaid training is 100 percent illegal, omg. That place was full of bees, good call on exiting immediately!

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Well done to leave immediately rather than being frozen in surprise at such a blatant planned deception.
      I hope noone else was fooled and that he eventually had to raise the pay to marker rates.

    3. Cicely*

      “I left feeling like a movie hero walking away from the explosion behind them.”

      I love this! So stealing…

  38. My Two Cents*

    For #4, am I the only know-it-all in the comment section? I do actually know a lot of history/current events (and am a know-it-all), so my default is to just explain things to other people when they say ignorant things. So when you have some more time with the commie guy, could you sit him down and explain the recent history of your country? For example, Poland. You could start with it being conquered by the Nazi’s in WW2, then talk about the influence of the Soviets and Poland’s form of communism until 1989. If you were alive then, you could say a bit about what life was like under communism. Then you could talk about the transition to democracy in the late 80s, and the current struggles the country has had in repelling fascism. After all that, I can’t imagine the guy would call you a commie. My grad school dept was very international, and I learned a lot about modern Turkey and Lithuania from them when I knew them, and glad they shared about their countries.

    I know it’s more fair to go to HR, but just another option if you’re worried about him influencing your promotion.

    1. My Two Cents*

      Also, just want to add I’m not a man/woman-splainer. My default is assuming people know about a topic; I only explain things when it’s clear they don’t. I love it when I find someone who knows a lot about a subject I know a lot about, because then we can really talk!

        1. My Two Cents*

          Esp because schools really do teach it – socialism vs democracy vs communism vs autocracy. I know I paid more attention in school than most, but it’s pretty basic stuff taught to everyone in the USA, multiple times.

    2. HannahS*

      I think the big thing that you’re missing here is that the coworker isn’t harrassing the OP because he’s simply doesn’t know history. He’s harrassing the OP because he’s a bigot. The facts don’t matter to him–the OP has already explained that their country of origin isn’t communist. And even if it was, his behaviour would still be inappropriate.

      1. Be Gneiss*

        Yeah, IME the Venn diagram of the people who make shitty comments like OP’s coworker, and the people who would be receptive to a history lesson and would subsequently adjust their viewpoint is 2 separate circles.

      2. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Yes, this. People being harassed like this don’t owe it to their harassers to explain how the harasser is factually incorrect. Even if the LW *was* from an actually still Communist country, it would be inappropriate for the coworker to be behaving this way.

    3. Cyndi*

      It’s a nice thought, but I can’t imagine how it would be feasible for OP to sit a coworker down and go “here, let me lecture you about the history of my country for a long time,” and he actually sits and listens and nods patiently, and gets educated and logic’d out of being a bigoted jerk. I think that only works on TV.

      1. My Two Cents*

        I think I would hope that getting subject to a boring history lesson would stop him, because he would be afraid the OP would launch into another history lesson :-)

    4. Heffalump*

      Maybe OP4’s country used to be communist, and coworker is assuming that it still is. Of course coworker’s behavior is unacceptable regardless.

    5. Observer*

      So when you have some more time with the commie guy, could you sit him down and explain the recent history of your country?

      What makes you think that he’d be willing to spend the time? And that it would make a difference? The OP has already given him some basic facts *and* has told him that they don’t like the “jokes”. His response is that the OP is “too sensitive.” People like that don’t take to “lectures” (ie any explanation that takes more than 15 seconds) well.

    6. Dinwar*

      You’re not the only know-it-all. I’ve done the same thing with the whole “There are only two genders” thing–turns out the biology is VASTLY more complicated, in ways that have fairly profound implications for evolutionary biology. And the idea that gender dysmorphia is modern is simply laughable, considering Rome had a trans emperor/empress (they changed pronouns partway through their reign), among other things…

      I can get away with it because my role is to be a scientist, and a huge portion of my authority has historically come from the fact that I know a lot about the technical side of things. To be blunt, people are used to me going off into the weeds. Plus, I’m rather weird and slightly macabre.

      If you’re going to go this route, understand that this can get ugly. Some people will take ANY engagement as an opportunity to “argue” (by which I mean, shout talking points until you either want to put their head through a wall or walk away). It’s not always the best route to take. On the flip side, I’ve had some truly fascinating conversations with people that started this way, so sometimes you find a kindred spirit!

      1. Random Dice*

        That trans emperor unfortunately seems like it may not be true. I wish it were, but it seems like postmortem character assassination, after a physical assassination.

        All the contemporary accounts of Elagabalus’ reign until assassination at age 18 are masculine presenting, as are the statues and coins. The name ending in -us instead of -a is a male name. (Latin doesn’t have pronouns, everything is based on the last letters of a word, they change to indicate gender and part of speech – object, indirect object, etc.)

        The historians who wrote about Elagabalus’ genderqueer ways – after death – seem to have been currying favor with the next emperor, in that fun sexist way, by implying he was a woman. (And that he let loose lions among his dining guests, and separately killed dinner guests by dumping so many rose petals on them that they asphyxiated??) They did the same to Nero and others.

        Though he does seem to have married a man, legally, so he’s still a queer icon.

  39. Hamster*

    #2 – I feel for you LW. I had shades of that at previous job. It’s not that I wanted *more* than a work relationship or outside of work friendship, but to have the same level of friendliness he had with everyone else around me. He was friendly in the beginning but at one point it changed and I noticed a considerable difference between how others were being treated vs how he was with me. It started to feel like I was walking on eggshells around him and it did affect my performance.

    While I agree with the general idea that work is work, it’s not friends or family….it is very hard to NOT take something like this personally, especially if something seems to be directed only at you! I’m curious about LW’s performance and tbh I have a hard time believing that manager is being objective and can evaluate their performance correctly especially when they admitted they’re only rude to LW!

    I’d start looking elsewhere.

  40. Garlic Microwaver*

    OP 1… It’s in your best interest to go to this dinner. You are coming across as difficult and contrary. Just go.

    1. sam_i_am*

      “Difficult and contrary” is a good way to put it. LW1 has a weirdly hardline stance against a pretty normal obligation on a work trip. Work dinners help build working relationships/camaraderie, help with networking, and generally just help you stay connected with coworkers. A weekly after-work obligation might be burdensome, but a dinner on a business trip is just part of the job.

      1. UKDancer*

        This so much. Also the president of the company has specifically been clear she wants the OP there. That is not even a subtle hint. She’s said expressly that she expects OP to be there. Ergo I think it’s something you just have to do.

  41. Observer*

    I know I’m a respected member of the team (in fact, I’ve been with the company the longest out of the entire leadership team). I’m well-liked, friendly, and approachable during work hours.

    If you keep up with this, you can expect the pieces in bold to change, despite your longevity. You can “view” this however you want, but you are not the one who sets policy – your boss is. And she says that it’s NOT “optional”. But also, your attitude is going to affect how “approachable” you are at work. People are not robots, and and personal *work related* connections are absolutely made stronger by some IRL contact. Which means that the “social” aspect of this dinner is intentional and appropriate. On the other hand, people are going to see your clear refusal to spend even a single extra hour every 3 months in their presence without some sort of transaction happening as bordering on hostile, which is going to mean that they are not going to see you as approachable or friendly no matter how many smiles you slap on your face.

    1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

      “personal work related connections are absolutely made stronger by some IRL contact”

      I see this sentiment a lot, but it really hasn’t played out that way in my personal experience. I’ve found that the interpersonal parts of my annual review have improved significantly since I went remote and stopped showing up for any in-person social events entirely. My assumption is that my default facial expression is aloof/disinterested, that I am significantly less likely to express myself verbally in a crowd than most people, and that I probably don’t mask my immediate reactions to things as well as I’d like (including chronic pain). Remotely, I can keep the conversation mostly task-focused and be considered warm, helpful, and competent. In person, it’s all RBF and the occasional wince/scowl/expression of disgust.

      1. Observer*

        I see this sentiment a lot, but it really hasn’t played out that way in my personal experience.

        Anecdotes are not data. The actual data we have indicates that it does play out that way most of the time. 100% of the time? No. But then nothing is 100%. On the other hand it’s a real enough effect that the employer is not being unreasonable here.

        1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

          Do we have any solid data on the effect of in-person work interactions vs remote work interactions? I’ve seen a few studies, but they’re mostly pretty one-sided (survey data among managers says there’s less connection, survey data among non-managers says relationships have improved, etc.).

          1. Observer*

            The data is mixed, because there are different things being measured.

            The data that I’ve seen really does indicate for certain types of work it doesn’t matter (eg call center type work, even high level). But for many types of teams some in person contact seems to be important. It does not have to be every day, and hybrid types of set ups can work really well. But the ones where people do periodically see each other and interact in person not purely in a work transactional fashion seem to work the best.

          2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

            Managers are the people who do employee reviews, set their bonuses, recommend / reject their applications for promotion. Their opinions matter a lot more because they have these powers to reward more facetime if that is what they find / think works better.

            Employees who want remote work to gain back time, transport costs etc are motivated to claim facetime brings no benefits. It may be the case for them personally, even for their individual bits of work, but sometimes facetime is an overall benefit for their team or employer as a whole.

  42. Abogado Avocado*

    LW 4: I am sorry you’re dealing with such idiocy at work. Please be aware that US courts have made clear that “I was just joking” is no defense to illegal discrimination on the basis of national origin. Therefore, should you decide to report your colleague for his uninformed, insulting and illegal comments, a competent HR department will not be deterred in disciplining him should he say, “But it was a joke!” (In fact, you might want him to say just that because it’s an admission that the words were, in fact, uttered.)

  43. Mbarr*

    OP 2: Oof, I feel you. My boss also has super moody days. I know she’s going through a rough time, but it’s been over a year. I found it exhausting to try to figure out how to start conversations.

    My tip: Just stick to absolute business conversation. Don’t try to engage in chit chat about personal lives. Don’t start your conversations with, “How’s it going?” Instead, start with, “Hey, I’ve got 3 things on my agenda. Do you have anything you want to start with?”

  44. Chris M*

    LW1 needs to stop being a baby. Nobody really *loves* work dinners, but they are a part of team building and humanizing the people you work with. Go. Smile. Act like you like and respect the people you work with, even if you don’t. It’s part of professional life. If you can’t be mildly inconvenienced once or twice a year in this way, you’re not cut out for professional life. You don’t have to be “like family,” just have mutual respect. Like it or not, declining to eat with your team is a definitive signal that you don’t respect the group and don’t identify as part of it. I would be severely disappointed if I were your supervisor.

    1. Velawciraptor*

      Woah, there’s no need to be so rude to LW1.

      LW1, there is a fair point in this comment: that declining to eat with your team does send a signal you probably aren’t intending and that your supervisor appears to be responding to. Alison is right that you should attend the next dinner to rectify that situation. Good luck.

      1. Chris M*

        Consider the harsh tone a reflection of what this attitude sounds like to the LW’s coworkers. “I have no wish to dine with these people” is a really repugnant and childish attitude in a team setting. This person works remotely and only has to do this a few times a year. They already have the privilege of avoiding most bog-standard office interactions 361 days of the year. Suck it up. Plaster on a fake smile and make some small talk. Not everything is about how you personally feel.

    2. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      Someone got up on the harsh side of bed today. What if I went to the team dinner but wore a mask the whole time to protect myself from Covid and Long Covid, and didn’t eat or drink – would you still think that disrespectful and unprofessional? This type of situation can be a real/stressful conundrum to those still trying to protect themselves and family members.

      1. Observer*

        What if I went to the team dinner but wore a mask the whole time to protect myself from Covid and Long Covid, and didn’t eat or drink – would you still think that disrespectful and unprofessional?

        If you didn’t go on about all the other idiots not masking, no. (And I mention it because *some* of the people talking about the Covid risk are being pretty rude about it.)

        But it’s also not really relevant. The OP is pretty explicitly not worrying about Covid but about NOT choosing to have a meal with their colleagues.

      2. Chris M*

        There is no indication of any medical motivation. If there were, that’s a very different story, and I’d be much more understanding. This person has indicated that they’d just rather spend time with a family member. While I share that feeling – I’d rather have dinner with my family than with my coworkers virtually all the time – I recognize that work, which pays my bills and feeds my family, requires a bit of sacrifice now and then. 4 evenings a year is hardly worth the hand wringing.

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      That’s really harsh (to call the OP a baby) when she just asked a question. Noone will write in if OPs get too much personal criticism.

      And no, the OP has expressed no concerns whatsoever about Covid. She regarded her evening as her time and we’ve all told her it is a business dinner which is scheduled as part of the whole set of leadership meetings. She probably got the message after the first 100 comments.

  45. jojo*

    LW1, it’s only four times a year. Is this a hill you really want to die on?

    If I were the boss, I too would be put off by an employee trying to visit with family while other employees are at a company event, made possible by travel which the company has (presumably and rightly) paid for. If you have some true free time during your trip, feel free to see your family, but the hours during which these team dinners take place should not be seen as free time.

  46. FYI*

    Question —

    Can you skip the company dinner when everyone (but you) has first spent three hours at a pub crawl and delayed the dinner to keep drinking?

    –Signed, Hungry Non-Drinker Who Is Sick of This Crap

    1. Really?*

      It’s permissible to leave after the first round at the second venue if there is no sign of food or after the second round at the first venue if no one else wants food. Just make sure you make your excuses, so they are not all looking for you. However, I would probably make a push to get to the food part of the agenda sooner.

      1. Antilles*

        Another option is to order food as part of the pub crawl – either by suggesting it to the group or by just going ahead and announcing-not-asking “hey guys, while we’re here, I’m going to grab a burger”.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      If it were a team pub crawl I’d definitely opt out, stating that I’m nearly teatotal and that the event is an absurd choice. However, as I’ve usually had at least 1 Muslim coworker no team has organised a pub crawl, even a totally optional one, as it would appear deliberately exclusionary.

      Totally different to a bog-standard team business dinner which might be boring, but at least if you have any allergies or dietary restrictions you should be able to inform the organisers in advance – if any company ignores this, then you have a perfectly reasonable excuse to refuse future events, rather than merely wanting to use your free time your own way.

  47. Cyndi*

    LW2 and LW5: I understand where you’re both coming from, to the extent that my boss and I have a close friendly working relationship, and when I come in in the morning and say hi to him and he mumbles something instead of making small talk, I do have that little reflexive urge to go “Are you mad at me?”

    But I shut that urge down, and I definitely never say it, because that urge isn’t about my job or my boss at all, it’s about old childhood stuff. It’s not his problem and I shouldn’t make it his problem. I don’t think, in general, you should be giving your relationship with your boss the same degree of emotional picking-apart you might do with a friend or relative or partner.

  48. Caramel & Cheddar*

    For #1, I’m curious how the team dinners are actually framed, i.e. as mandatory vs optional-but-secretly-mandatory. Every time I’ve ever flown in somewhere the day before for work, there’s often been a dinner that night but it’s never framed as mandatory attendance, more of a “Since we’re all here, let’s dine together” thing.

    I agree that four times a year is not a burden if one is otherwise fine with dining in restaurants, but I do wonder if LW thinks it’s optional because it isn’t explicitly stated that their attendance is required.

  49. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    LW, shut the communist thing down now, and hard. I’m of German background (spoke it at home, followed those norms more, trips every few years), and would frequently face a sort of…discrimination as a teen in school. Immature people without an understanding of history would call me a Nazi.

    It really made my school life difficult, and similar to you, was harder to address as it wasn’t racism per se (and in fact some on the far left today would still hold that connection against me).

    Also, make sure that this coworker doesn’t poison others against you. I had people not want to hang out with me, because others told them I was basically a fascist.

  50. Esme_Weatherwax*

    Re: thanks for making it easy for me as the interviewee, I interviewed at an Instructional Design firm and had a good first conversation with the person who managed the position. Then I got to talk to a VP. I can’t even remember what I asked, but his response was that he was frustrated with the entire staff and “if I could, I’d fire all of them.” He seemed to realize what he said after it was out of his mouth, and that was the end of our conversation. I passed by the first interviewer on my way out of the building to withdraw my application.

    It wasn’t quite as overt as standing up and saying “thanks for making this easy for me,” but I did appreciate knowing immediately what kind of Big Boss I’d have had if I took this job.

  51. Coffee*

    See, this is where I feel like I go a bit crazy!

    They said “please” and then gave the most basic action verb- “do”.
    That seems like a positive neutral statement to me.

    And yet, people will SPIRAL like a slinky at thinking that’s a secret message of hatred and incompetence.
    And then write to a whole blog about it!


    1. JustaTech*

      I think that, because it is such a short statement, tone makes all the difference. I can see “Please do” being cheerful and upbeat, or deeply frustrated.

      And when the phrase is communicated in a medium with less or no “tone”, like over email or chat, then the “tone” that comes in is strongly flavored by the receiver’s history – if you’ve only ever heard it in a context of the speaker being irritated, frustrated or upset, then you’re going to apply that tone even if the person sending the message didn’t intend that at all.

      And if your interpretation is of irritation or frustration, then it’s likely that you’re not going to want to ask for clarification (“Hey, did you expect me to have started this sooner?” “Hey, did I miss something important about how you want me to do this project this year?”).

      I’m not saying this is a *good* thing, but it is a thing that happens because of stuff outside the context of work. And for folks who do tend to do this, it’s a good thing to be aware of, so when you start doing it you can say “hey, am I doing that ‘not-enough-information-so-I-assume-the-worst’ thing again?”.

    2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

      So, I think this is one of those ones where depending on your your specific subset of English-speaking culture, the rules of conversational implicature can really play out differently. In my experience, “please do” would be most commonly encountered as an idiomatic response to someone asking permission (“May I?” ”Yes, please do!”). Getting it in a situation where I wasn’t asking permission would feel… snarky, like maybe I should be asking permission (Grices’ maxim of relevance!). Getting it for notifying my boss that I’m doing part of my job would confuse me, particularly if I couldn’t read their tone.
      That said, I’ve long since learned not to put too much weight on implied communication at work, because we’re from all over and we have different idioms.

    3. New Jack Karyn*

      Yes, people write in to advice columns when they have trouble parsing communication. As JustaTech says, tone means everything here–and tone is notoriously easy to misread in text.

      If we insult and belittle people who write in, we won’t have people write in. And then no more AAM. That would make me sad.

  52. BellyButton*

    Team dinners on an executive trip are expected, especially when you all work remote. My company is 100% remote and when we are all together the dinners are not really optional, unless someone was sick. I really wish I didn’t have to go to all of them, especially after a long day of working in person, but they are expected. I approach them as they are part of my job while on the trip.

  53. Salty Caramel*

    Re dinner:

    You need to go. With your employer paying for the travel, accomodations, and the food, they have command over your time.

    I used to work for someone who would expect 8 hours of work after I spent 8 hours with a client. He also got tweaked if we didn’t answer the emails he sent at 1:00 a.m.

  54. CTA*

    LW #4

    Definitely shut down this “joke.” Jokes are only funny when the subject of the joke is also ok with it and you aren’t ok with it. Also, you don’t want this joke to turn into something more malicious. There’s saying that “jokes are based on truth.” In your case, it’s not a truth. You don’t want anyone to think it’s a joke based on a truth when it’s not.

    I once had a friend who let her boyfriend’s best friend “affectionately” call her “lush.” While lush can mean luxurious, it also has a slang meaning of drunkard. I told her he shouldn’t let him call her by that word, but she took it as him being “affectionate” and didn’t see the issue. While she was drinking a lot, I didn’t think of her having a problem because we were in our 20s and we live in a drinking culture. Turns out she did have a problem. In her case, there was truth to the joke. Regardless of there being truth to the joke, I would still give her the same advice: Don’t let anyone make demeaning jokes about you, even if you take it good naturedly now.

  55. JJ*

    LW2, I’m concerned that (like many people) you struggle with boundaries and neediness: “I have a manager who I used to feel was a friend for three years or so. … one day she told me she felt I wanted more in our work relationship … I explained that all I ever wanted was to be friends … I once enjoyed my job and seeing a boss I considered as a friend …”

    No boss should ever be a friend to anyone they supervise, and no employee should want to be friends with their boss. Being friends (equals who often lean on each other and who show vulnerability to each other) is completely incompatible with the hierarchical, needs-to-be-emotionally distant boss/employee relationship. And, no one should seek to have *anyone* at work fulfill their emotional needs; work is for work, not for the complex interpersonal relationships (friendships, romances) that often lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings that impair or impede the work-together relationship. To paraphrase something Alison has often written, one can have warm, friendLY relationships with people while not having friendSHIPS with them. Professional distance is crucial in the workplace.

    People who cross this necessary boundary at work tend to have unresolved and problematic relationships with one parent or both. If you think this could be the case with you, please consider exploring this with a licensed, experienced therapist; if you don’t, you’re going to repeat this pattern in every future workplace.

    1. Heffalump*

      This from The Unspeakable Queen Lisa upthread:

      … [I]f LW is used to a dynamic of trying to mind-read and placate the person who is displeased with them, this might seem normal to them.

      Trying to mind-read and placate the authority figure tracks very well with your observations.

  56. Hedgehug*

    ah….my spouse is Belarusian so I can only think of funny responses to your coworker, like staring him down and threatening to report him to the K*B, then doing a terrible fake laugh saying you’re just joking and not to be so sensitive.
    In all seriousness though, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. Your coworker is an ignorant jackass. My husband doesn’t even like telling people where he’s from because he is worried about people judging his country of origin and affiliating him with politics he doesn’t agree with. And you’re even from one of those countries, which make your coworker even MORE ignorant. I’m sorry :-(

    1. Heffalump*

      I’d be inclined to assume that since your husband emigrated, he doesn’t agree with the Belarusian regime.

    2. Observer*

      I can only think of funny responses to your coworker, like staring him down and threatening to report him to the K*B, then doing a terrible fake laugh saying you’re just joking and not to be so sensitive.

      That’s a nice fantasy, isn’t it.

      OP, maybe you could imagine doing that every time Idiot CW gives you a hard time? But instead of *actually* doing that, go to HR and report national origin discrimination. Based on what you say, your company is definitely large enough to be covered under the Federal laws.

    3. UKDancer*

      Sorry your husband is getting that. Belarus is a beautiful country and its people can’t help the horrible man in charge. I thought Minsk was a lovely city, the castles and countryside were stunning and the food was amazing. Anyone who knows anything about the politics and the difficult continuing fight for democratic change there, would understand that one individual can’t do anything about it.

      1. Dek*

        I mean, heck, I feel like folks in the US really should be better about understanding that the people in/from a country don’t always support that country’s leadership.

        …admittedly, the only thing I know about Belarus is that that’s where Meyer Lansky was from.

        1. UKDancer*

          Belarus is a lovely country subject to the whims of a horrible dictator who has ignored elections which went against him, oppressed the winners of those elections, tortured dissidents and detained them without trial, controlled and constrained press freedom. Unfortunately the army and the Russian Government keep him in power, if he respected the wishes of the people he’d be gone. None of this is the fault of individuals from Belarus who deserve a better hand than they got.

          If he wasn’t there it would be a lovely tourist destination and somewhere full of potential and promise and with lovely people and amazing food.

  57. OMG It's 2024*

    I get the OP’s discomfort or whatever with “please do”. I’m trying to think of a time when I’d say that to one of my minions (KIDDING–callback to yesterday’s comments on its usage), and … I cannot, unless they were asking for permission maybe? Like, “Hey, is it okay if I run out for a break? “Please do.” But, if they said, “I’m starting the TPS report now”… “Please do” has an “off” feel for me though it’s perfectly polite and reasonably appropriate. It just feels oddly formal and … well off. When I have a guest and they say, “Mind if I grab a coke” I’ll say “Please do!” So, saying that to a coworker telling me that they’re doing their job would strike a weird chord to me too, I think. I keep saying it out loud and there’s just not a right tone to hit for me to use it with an employee.

  58. Coyote River*

    LW4, I feel your pain, having been born in the East but spending most of my life in the West.

  59. Raida*

    “…with her getting agitated when you talk about feeling stressed by her responses to you…Those aren’t really conversations for your manager; they’re conversations for a friend, and she’s tried to say that’s not the relationship she wants.”

    Sorry, no.

    LW specifically said it causes her stress when Her Manager Is Short With Her At Work. She has brought it up in Work context, about how her Manager is negatively impacting her. In the work environment. Where the Manager can, thank you very much, get a handle of her emotions and not punish someone by being rude to them.
    The Manager said it’s none of her business – actually I’d argue it’s the Manager’s JOB to interact in a manner that isn’t rude to any staff, so if they want to keep it personal and private they can bloody well not bring it into the office.

    If a staff member asks how you’re going because you’re being RUDE at work, regardless of if you feel they are too familiar, they are telling you there’s an issue for you to address. They don’t NEED to ask how you’re going, they could just say “Hoi, you wanna watch your tone mate? I don’t care why you’re acting like this but it stops now.” This is someone being NICE, and honestly the LW needs to stop being nice because it’s interpreted as further attempts at friendship, instead of responded to as a manager-staff issue.

    1. Heffalump*


      I suspect the manager is at the BEC point with the LW, and looking for a new job is the LW’s only option by now.

      I’d be interested to know what the manager’s response, if any, was to “all I wanted was to be friends.” If “you want more from the relationship than I do” was delivered harshly, then “all I wanted was to be friends” could mean, “I meant no harm, please don’t be angry at me.”

      Some commenters have, reasonably, suggested that the LW thought the manager wanted a less close friendship when the manager actually didn’t want any friendship. If so, then “all I wanted was to be friends” would have been the perfect opportunity for the manager to clarify this.

      The manager acknowledges that she’s rude only to the LW but doesn’t know why. So she thinks it’s acceptable to be rude to a subordinate, and she has some inkling that her rudeness is irrational but keeps doing it.

      The LW mentions that her manager’s annoyance is “sometimes out of the blue” and the cold, distant, angry person can come out at any time—what another commenter termed “random escalations.” I’m skeptical that every single solitary instance of annoyance/anger is being triggered by the LW’s neediness/boundary pushing. I have some experience with people getting angry over innocent, offhand remarks or actions.

      I agree that it was a mistake for the LW to tell her manager that she was being stressed. But if my manager were short with me for no apparent reason, I’d think it was perfectly reasonable for me to say, “Why were you short with me this morning?”

  60. Bast*

    As I’m sure others have pointed out, there’s a big difference between interviewing for your neighborhood Denny’s or Applebee’s and interviewing for a really upscale place that many look to make their careers in. For the latter, they (often) outright refuse to even interview unless you either have a connection, or a resume that demonstrates you have been working your way up the restaurant ladder for awhile. They know what they are looking for, and don’t “waste their time” so to speak, with anyone who is not going to fit into what they want. Unless you are interviewing for one of those types of places, it’s really odd behavior. I’m not saying that people can’t or don’t make a career out of working at Denny’s, but both from working in a restaurant (not a fancy one) and being a patron, the turnaround was very, very high, and it was expected. 18 months would have been considered a “long time.” Employing high school and college students, people with other full time jobs that needed a side hustle, and the partially retired were all common. We didn’t expect that the engineering major was going to want to stay in the restaurant after graduating, or that people who worked nights and weekends were going to suddenly quit their full time jobs to work at the restaurant. People deciding that it wasn’t for them after 3 months or that it didn’t align with their schedule or that the tips weren’t big enough to justify working there anymore was not uncommon, creating a large turnaround. It wasn’t that the owner loved turnaround, but it was part of the industry UNLESS you are operating at a very high level and your employees are making decent money.

    I guess this is my long way of saying, given how high end places tend to operate, this seems unlikely to be a high end type place (unless it was just someone who didn’t know how to look through resumes and called everyone?) and if it was a normal place, it’s very unusual behavior and a weird expectation of loyalty to assume someone will be around for any length of time. Frankly, even as someone who has moved into a non-service industry where people graduate, get jobs, and some DO stay for decades, if not their whole career, I have still seen people quit in a relatively short amount of time because life happens– “it isn’t a good fit,” or “after seeing what it’s really like, I can’t spend my life doing this” or “my spouse got a job across the country that pays way more and we’re moving.” It happens. No matter what industry you’re in, managers have to expect that people can and will quit.

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