manager who makes too many assumptions, spending sick leave in Cancun, and more

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

1. I manage a manager who makes too many assumptions about everything

I manage a manager, Jane, who openly for all to hear assumes motivations for our clients, consumers, and employees on everything. It’s not only unhelpful, but it also is incorrect. For example, we had a project that was having some difficulties and Jane said in a team meeting, “Oh, they’re going to ask us to work the weekend,” when this was never mentioned. It not only put all others in the meeting on their heels and made them nervous, but it also made it seem like our clients were overly demanding. They never asked us to work through the weekend, nor did we need to. Her throwaway comment stressed a lot of employees out and also put our client in a false bad light.

Another example is when an employee Jane manages asked about a glitch she found on a project when she was reviewing it. I had more interaction with the glitch, so I asked her to compile all the feedback she received from different individuals experiencing the glitch, and then we could look at it as a whole. In response, Jane said, “It must have been a one-off situation,” but it wasn’t. There were a lot of people who experienced it, and we needed to come up with a solution – but her comment downplayed the seriousness. I appreciate if she was trying to bring levity, but she is always interjecting assumptions without any basis, and it’s not helpful at all. How do I approach this without knocking the wind out of her sails? Other than this, she does good work – but her additional anecdotes are becoming a lot to piece through.

Name the pattern! And explain that people put a lot of weight on her comments because she’s a manager, and so she needs to be more thoughtful about not making throwaway comments that people are taking seriously or rushing to conclusions without first asking questions. For example: “I’ve noticed a pattern recently that I want to bring up to you. You’ll sometimes make what I think you’re thinking of as a throwaway comment, not one you’ve necessarily thought through or expect people to act right away on. But because you’re a manager, your words carry a lot of weight — and when you haven’t thought through what you’re saying and are working from an assumption that you haven’t taken the time to confirm, it can send people down the wrong path, stress them out unnecessarily, or leave them with the wrong impression. For example (supply examples).”

Obviously, you don’t want the result of this conversation to be that she clams up and never speaks again because she’s afraid of doing what you’ve described, so there’s going to be some art in working with her on this. And it’s unlikely that a single conversation will solve it — but it will flag the issue and provide the framework to make it easier to talk with her about it when you see it happen the next time. It’s likely going to be an ongoing process of coaching (because at its core it’s about judgment), and you’ll need to talk through what she should be doing instead (asking more questions, probably), but this framework should help you name what you’re seeing and why it’s a problem.

2. Was it inappropriate for an employee of a client to invite me for drinks?

When I was 20, I worked at a consulting firm. I worked for a client overseas and worked mainly with a team, but occasionally I had to interact with other employees of our client company. One of those times, a female employee really appreciated some help I gave her and we talked a bit. She mentioned that she would be in my city for a work trip and that we could go out for some drinks if I wanted.

I felt a bit uncomfortable and didn’t answer and then we both pretended nothing had happened. I didn’t want to meet because I thought it would be weird (we really didn’t know each other and I suspect she didn’t know how young I was — she never saw my face) but I also felt it wouldn’t be appropriate. As a man, I didn’t want anyone in my company to think I was trying to hook up with employees of our client (even if this wasn’t the case; I think she was just being friendly). This happened many years ago and while I praise myself for my caution I still wonder if I was right in thinking this was inappropriate.

It doesn’t sound particularly inappropriate; people often meet up for drinks when they’re traveling through the city of someone they work with. I’d assume she was just being friendly and/or networking. If she’d kept pushing you to meet up after you’d declined, that would have been inappropriate — but it sounds like she just suggested it, you didn’t take her up on it, and that was that. Which is also fine! You’re under no obligation to agree to invitations if you don’t feel comfortable or just don’t want to go. Ideally, though, you should decline gracefully — citing other plans is an easy way to do it — so that no one feels awkward about it.

3. Coworker wants to spend sick leave in Cancun

I have a coworker who’s having a medical procedure done and is taking a week to recover. The second week he’s going to Cancun but wants to include that as sick time, not PTO. Can he do that? It seems like if he’s well enough to fly, it should be considered vacation.

It’s possible for someone to be well enough to fly but not well enough to work — depending on the physical and mental demands of the job, and also on what recovery entails (i.e., being laid up in bed is different from just being too mentally fuzzy from painkillers to work). But most employers are going to be awfully skeptical of someone submitting sick time while declaring they’re spending a week in Cancun. Your coworker is pretty much asking for pushback on it.

That said, if you don’t manage him/aren’t in HR and his absence isn’t going to significantly impact you, it’s not really your business and you shouldn’t get involved.

4. My new boss is in my D&D group

I work for a government organization with many departments. During the pandemic, a few semi-official hobby groups were created to allow people across different departments to socialize, including but not limited to a book club and a D&D group. They still exist “post-pandemic” and I’ve been part of the D&D group for about a year. We don’t meet during work hours, and we avoid discussing work during gaming sessions.

Earlier this year I interviewed for a higher position in a different department, and just got the news that I got the job! During the process, after I’d already interviewed, a new person joined the D&D group, and it turns out she’s going to be my supervisor for this new position. She’s fairly new to the position herself.

I know from past letters that you’ve cautioned people about getting too casual with their supervisors and reports, and because of the nature of tabletop RPGs, the group is pretty informal with each other. What’s the best way to avoid any professional missteps or awkwardness when my supervisor and I are pretending to be wizards together in our off hours?

I can’t speak to D&D-specific missteps (although I bet some readers can in the comments) but assuming you’re, you know, a reasonably well-behaved person and not the boor of the group, this is more of a potential landmine for your manager than for you. She’s got to be thoughtful about ensuring that others on the team don’t feel you’re getting special access to her or that work conversations are happening during these get-togethers that they’re not included in. You don’t need to manage that for her, though; that’s hers to navigate.

5. Asking for a raise: a success story

I wanted to share a success story with you! I’ve been at my current job about 18 months now, and am a mid-career nonprofit professional who freelanced a bunch before getting this steady gig because I needed a more stable income. I realized recently that I need a raise as I was taking on new responsibilities, and had already received a new title (budget issues at the time of the title bump meant asking for a raise was not prudent). But the budget has steadied out, and I figured it was time.

I read all the stuff I could on your blog about how to ask for a raise and then sent my boss an email asking for a salary discussion to be put on the agenda for our upcoming 1:1. In my email, I mentioned the accomplishments I’ve had recently and new projects I’m taking on that she’s expressed happiness with, and provided research about the market rate for my position, which my salary was at the low end of. My boss agreed to the discussion, and it turned out: the discussion didn’t need to happen. She showed up with a salary memo from HR in hand, with a 12% bump in my pay.

The hardest part was getting up the confidence to just ask for it! I knew I wasn’t going to leave over it, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to have the conversation. And I’m so glad I did!

{ 375 comments… read them below }

  1. Scout Finch*

    For some reason, my brain read ” Spending sick leave in Canada”.

    I’d rather be in Canada than Cancun.

    1. münchner kindl*

      I don’t know about Cancun, but in my country, there are several well-known holiday places that also have specialized clinics and reha (physical recovery, not alcoholic rehab) places, because eg mountain air/ see air is good for some illnesses, but also mountains/ oceans are a tourist place, and once the infrastructure for tourists is in place, supporting a clinic is easier than going into a seperate village.

      So it’s not automatic that he’s going to Cancun for vacation only, there might be a specific clinic/ climate he needs.

        1. C*

          Isn’t it? A quick google search tells me that it’s an increasingly popular spot for medical tourism, and not just for totally optional things like elective plastic surgery.

          I mean, I can see it. If the procedure you need isn’t urgent but has to be done anyway, even when you take the cost of the trip and the hotel into account it can often be cheaper to go to another country. And if you’re traveling anyway….

          1. fhqwhgads*

            Yeah my first thought was the person is probably having the procedure in Mexico, in or near Cancun. If OP knows they’re not, all of what Alison said applies. And I guess applies either way. But if the medical stuff is happening there anyway, then it’d be less “going there for the week after” and more “staying there a week before coming back from the procedure”.

          2. HB*

            Or if he has family in Cancun. People do still live and care for one another, even in regions that Americans view as vacation destinations…

        2. KAB*

          Really? I know multiple people that have had gall bladder removals and heavy dental work (not veneers, actual dental work) done in Cancun. Medical tourism is huge in Mexico and oftentimes patients need to do immediate recovery near their care team, even if they don’t require hospitalization. OP seems to assume their co worker is leaving for Cancun after surgery, but what if that’s not true?

          1. PhyllisB*

            Years ago my sister was living in Japan she went to Thailand for dental surgery. She said even with all the associated costs it was still cheaper and excellent results.

            1. linger*

              Japanese national medical insurance (which all permanent residents pretty much have to be registered in) does not come very cheap, but does cover about 70% of dental costs (e.g. out-of-pocket costs for a checkup end up around USD10, a filling around USD50). So this only makes sense if she was uninsured. If the procedure was expensive enough to be cheaper in Thailand, it’s certain the insurance would have been cheaper still; but of course that’s with the clarity of hindsight.

              1. Catherine*

                I live in Japan and was informed by my dentist that the national insurance won’t cover the gum grafts I need. I’m looking into my options for medical tourism elsewhere in Asia now. There are kinds of dental work still considered elective here because teeth are luxury bones.

          2. HonorBox*

            I think there’s quite a distinction between having the procedure in a foreign country and recovering in the foreign country. We are supposed to take letter writers at their word, so let’s do so and assume that the second week of recovery is being taken in Cancun as written.

            While I don’t think there’s a huge difference between recovery at home and recovery elsewhere, I also think a lot of it also depends on what a doctor tells this person. Do they need two weeks of recovery? Or is it “a week or two” and they’re hoping to get a few days of beach time in more of a vacation mode?

        3. The World Is Not Enough*

          Medical tourism is a thing, and Cancún has been promoting itself as a center of medial tourism.
          Thailand too.

        4. DrSalty*

          Ok y’all fair enough. My perception of Cancun is as a bachelorette party destination. Guess I was wrong.

          1. Kara*

            It’s an “and” situation. A service economy such as that created by being a party destination has a lot of issues such as low wages, crime problems, and a relative lack of higher paying career opportunities. I’m speculating here, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Cancun has been actively encouraging its medical tourism industry. The infrastructure for the tourism part is already there, and the medical part would help bring in and create a much better local job market.

      1. Ginger Baker*

        Also even if it was “just” a hotel…free cleaning and meals that can be delivered to my room? That alone sounds FANTASTIC if I am not able to do very much while recovering.

        1. metadata minion*

          Yeah, I would personally prefer to recover at home rather than spend the money on a vacation I can’t 100% enjoy, but it doesn’t seem at all weird to me that someone else might want to recover in a hotel with room service and a beachfront view.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I stayed at a long-stay hotel after surgery. Sure, I’d have preferred to recover at home, but my apartment is a lofted third-floor walkup (with no elevator), so it was a couple of weeks before I’d recovered enough to even get there.

            Ironically, there was a fire at the hotel a couple of days after the surgery and I ended up evacuating down three or four flights of stairs in the middle of the night. (In hindsight, maybe I should have waited for the fire department to help me evacuate, but it all turned out okay.)

      2. theletter*

        I could totally see going to an inclusive resort for recovery – If all you can do at the moment is sit around, and sunshine and warm air could help, and you can’t cook for yourself, and your apartment gets claustophobic if you can’t leave, and there’s construction in your neighborhood so it’s always noisy – a cheap trip to somewhere hot and beachy with an all-day buffet is probably worth the pain/cost of a flight.

  2. duinath*

    1 for in the moment you could just meet her assumptions with “why do you say that”. the larger conversation is key, but in the moment if you can get her to think about what she’s saying and try to justify it she may begin to see the mistake herself.

      1. DeskApple*

        This! I had a manager who did the SAME thing and I noticed the pattern was a personal issue he had with catastrophizing small things and then minimizing serious things. He had a family member in another department who confirmed that was what he did in all areas of his life and it made those around him miserable and encouraged my department to push back because it was incredibly important to our tasks. At first he shut down completely and even RAN AWAY and said things like “I should just quit if you all think I’m so terrible”. When he would return we pressed on with a bit more humor and responded to every weird comment with “haha that’s funny” (automatically assuming it MUST be sarcasm on his part).

        This, combined with a group agreement to ignore his comments going forward resulted in him being…managed out by his employees. Apparently us going forward despite his theatrics in our case was enough that he actually kind of moved himself into a niche role of subject matter expert (which he was, the management is what he failed at), and our department hasn’t really had or needed a manager since!

        1. Baunilha*

          I had a similar issue, but with a friend. She would either overreact or underreact, depending on her own experiences. (She was the kind of person who would downplay racism because of the difficulties she thought she faced as a white woman…)
          We had long conversations about it and she actually had to lose some friends because of it to realize how bad it was. As a manager, OP has a lot more power to rein in the situation and avoid a scenario where Jane is losing employees and good relationships.

    1. pally*

      Excellent idea!
      This also provides those at the meetings a way to gauge Jane’s comments (real or far-fetched) and how much stock they should have in them. They see pushback and they can hear Jane’s explanation. If her reasons are far-fetched, that will ease concerns.

      They may even pick up this method for when they are in 1 on 1 conversations with Jane.

    2. Smithy*

      This is great – because I think it can also allow for someone to be able to self-check in the moment but without being unable to contextualize moments when they might have a relevant point.

      Thinking of the part about working over the weekend, while that might never be a demand the client would make – Jane might be aware that this client has new management or new targets and so work that they would have approved in the past, they’re now going to be more demanding and will require more effort overall. But instead of saying all that, Jane has given it a shorthand of having to work on the weekends instead of sharing that context. I’ve seen a lot where someone’s efforts at hyperbole, sarcasm or shorthand end up either not making sense or leading to clear confusion.

      As a coaching tool, this provides a self-check for Jane, but also can highlight new and very relevant information that’s gotten lost in someone’s more knee jerk reaction.

      1. Kara*

        I’m not going to go into why because it’ll sidetrack the conversation, but I struggle with how to appropriately joke around. My jokes don’t land as jokes. They land as deadly serious, and could possibly be interpreted as grumbling. Tone of voice makes no difference (then again, I can’t tell any difference between other people joking vs talking either). It might be worth checking in on a few of these comments to see if she’s attempting to be funny or if she really is catastrophizing. My recommendations for handling the former are very different from the latter.

        1. Runcible Wintergreen*

          I think asking “Why do you say that?” in a genuinely curious tone helps make that point, either way. If she’s joking that gives her the chance to clarify (and also makes the point that it didn’t land that way). If she’s not joking it forces her to take accountability for the things she says offhand.

          1. Smithy*

            Yes, I think it comes from the position of genuinely giving the person the benefit of the doubt. That they were trying to be funny/sarcastic, they have information that is relevant but not sharing clearly, or even having that internal moment of anxiety where the response is impacting the larger group – either way, they get the chance to correct it in the moment.

            Also, as with most things in need of correcting – they can become habits that we’re less aware we’re doing. So having it called out immediately lets the person do that self-check in the moment.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          Tones are also very regional! I moved from the East Coast to the Midwest for college and had to change my “sarcasm” tone because otherwise Midwesterners thought I was completely serious (and very mean).

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Came here to say this. With an “I’m curious about your reasoning here” vibe, it doesn’t come off as too harsh.

    4. jojo*

      True. I would ask her “why do you assume that? What is your thoughts process here?” When she has texplain her words she might think twice before she says them. And i her thoughts make no sense people will place less value on hee words.

  3. Nodramalama*

    I’m so curious that the coworker in LW3 is being open about spending a week in Cancun and using sick leave. Surely even if it is legitimate you’d think the optics are not great and you’d keep it on the down low.

    If their supervisor I wrote in I think I’d really struggle to know how to respond! Maybe by wanting some kind of documentation…? But specifically for LW I agree, not your monkeys not your circus.

    1. Usedtobeunderpaid*

      I am wondering if they are having the medical procedure in Mexico itself. A lot of people I know get dental work and other things done in Mexico where it’s cheaper. So maybe they just want to be in Cancun because it’s closer to where they’ll be anyway and more pleasant.

      1. Yikes Stripes*

        Yeah, that was my first thought. My sister in law went to Mexico to have a couple of dental implants put in and it was a two step process, each step about a week apart. She just stayed at a resort for that week because flying home and back would’ve cost just as much and been a massive waste of time on a plane.

      2. Nodramalama*

        It’s weird then that they wouldn’t start with “im going to Mexico for a procedure then Cancun”.

        It just seems so self sabotagey if that’s the situation and they phrase it like “I’m going on holiday to Cancun and using sick leave”

        1. LaurCha*

          They may think they’ll face the same assumptions I’m seeing here in the comments – primarily that it’s cosmetic surgery.

        2. Huttj*

          Keep in mind we’re getting like a 3rdhand summary here.

          Could easily have been when informing management “yeah, I’ll be out for 2 weeks, second one I get to spend in Cancun, they have a recovery spa there familiar with the procedure.” But those details didn’t get sufficiently communicated to coworkers as info got filtered around.

          1. Irish Teacher.*

            And assuming the LW isn’t there manager, they may not have been so careful about phrasing it. Like they may well have explained the situation to their manager, but they might simply mentioned going to Cancun to the LW (or another coworker who passed it on) and the LW (or other coworker) might have said, “oh? I thought you were getting a medical procedure done?” and they replied, “oh, I am. I’m just spending the second week of my medical leave in Cancun,” not even considering that the LW would care one way or the other or that the LW needed any details about the situation.

      3. Treena*

        Unlikely. “The second week he’s going to Cancun” implies the procedure is local, one week local recovery time, then a flight to Cancun.

      4. Hyaline*

        Given the phrasing, the LW doesn’t give that impression—but because it’s not their circus, it’s possible their info is incomplete or incorrect and going to Mexico for the procedure is exactly what is happening. It’s possible they have a follow up appointment and are choosing to stay in Cancun instead of coming home and flying back or camping out in a hospital adjacent hotel for two weeks. Either way, it’s for their supervisor and/or HR to sort out.

      5. mbs001*

        No, it clearly states that the employee is having their procedure and recuperating the first week at home. Then they want to go to Cancun to recuperate for a second week. Totally trying to scam to get vacation time covered by sick leave.

        No way with that be approved by my firm.

        1. Observer*

          Totally trying to scam to get vacation time covered by sick leave.

          Not necessarily. Cancun does a lot of recovery spas. Depending on the circumstances and specifics, something like that can actually be hugely helpful for recovery.

          No way with that be approved by my firm.

          I hope you are wrong. Making decisions like that without any information is a really bad way to manage.

          1. Nodramalama*

            I mean sure, but unless they live very close to Cancun I think my works first question would be “do you really need to go to a recovery spa in Mexico”

            1. Dahlia*

              I think that would be a very inappropriate question to ask anyone but your closest friends and family.

            2. Observer*

              Why would it be any of their concern? If they are having a procedure, and their doctor expects them to need two weeks off why on earth is it anyone’s business if they are splurging on the most luxurious recovery spot they can come up with, if that’s what they are doing?

              It’s simply not the employer’s business to decide how someone recuperates. And it’s incredibly presumptuous, to be kind, for an employer to express any opinion on an employees plans for their recovery, much less expect to be able to “approve” (or block!) such plans.

        2. ecnaseener*

          Would you still think of it as a scam if their doctor told them they shouldn’t go back to work for 2 weeks?

        3. Lydia*

          It’s weird to call it a scam when all that’s happening is the person is choosing to spend their second week recovering somewhere that isn’t home. It wouldn’t be scamming if he had to stay a week at his parent’s house. This really doesn’t rise to scam levels. Also, it’s not the LW’s problem and they can keep well clear of it.

        4. Irish Teacher.*

          I wouldn’t think that means they are trying to scam to get vacation time. It seems far more likely they have been told they will not be able to work for at least two weeks after the procedure and are simply planning to spend one of them in Cancun. There are all kinds of reasons they might not be able to work and many of them would not prevent travel.

        5. KateM*

          Please point out where it *clearly states* that the employee is staying the first week at home. Maybe they stay in a hospital for a week.

    2. XF1013*

      I suspect that the opposite is true: Because the optics of recovering in Cancun are not great, the coworker is trying to be open about it to prove that they’re not doing anything wrong. If they tried to do it quietly and got discovered, it would look as if they lied about the illness, which could lead to serious repercussions.

      1. Sneaky Squirrel*

        Agreed, this is where I went. Employee needs to take the time off anyways but can safely fly and decided to bundle it with vacation because why not? The employee knew if they came back with a tan and started talking about their relaxing time in Cancun, others would have asked about the legitimacy if sick leave, so the employee is being up front about it now.

      2. kiki*

        Yeah, I thought the same. The optics of telling everyone you’re going to Cancun during your sick leave isn’t great but the optics of folks finding out you were in Cancun while on leave would be worse. I don’t know how likely it is that anyone would find out, but some people are friends with their coworkers on social media and stuff.

      3. Observer*

        I agree.

        No matter how legitimate it is, if the management found out later, it would be much harder to come back from.

    3. Jeez-it*

      This is why you never tell more details than necessary. Now there’s hundreds of people on the internet speculating the veracity of this time off. Busybody coworker comes to AAM, the AAMies come through adding their two cents, and now it’s a whole Thing about why Jane is being judged for living her life.

      1. Lady Danbury*

        On the flip side, if he hadn’t said anything but somehow the office found out that he was in Cancun after the fact, we’d be having a variation of this same conversation, with commenters going as far as to accuse him of potentially defrauding the company. LW’s coworker is pretty much in a lose lose situation.

        1. Jeez-it*

          Again, nobody’s business if they don’t tell more details than necessary.

          Defrauding the company? Yikes, it’s part of their compensation to take time off. The why doesn’t matter.

          And if someone needs to finagle the details to take some time off, that’s something the company earned through their whack policies.

          Again, don’t give details.

        2. Florence Reese*

          There are already commenters accusing him of defrauding the company, some with absolute certainty despite knowing 2 sentences about this situation lol. Our discussion here would not be much different if the coworker was caught afterwards. And to be honest, the advice to OP would not be any different either: it’s “not your circus, not your monkeys” either way, let’s be real. Nothing for OP to do here.

          But there’s a decent chance that OP wouldn’t even know about it at all if the coworker kept their mouth shut. If they did find out, it would likely be after the company discovered the coworker’s time in Cancun and (hopefully) investigated enough to confirm that that was a misuse of sick time rather than recovery as others have suggested. For practical workplace advice, I think Jeez is on the money here: don’t overshare.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        I think the OP should assume that the individual has valid reasons for being off, and that while they might be able to go and rest on a beach somewhere, they aren’t up for being at work.

        Personally, I expect to have eye surgery in the next couple of months. I’ll no doubt feel just fine after a couple of days, but I won’t be able to look at a computer screen for between 1-2 weeks. Should I stay at home and do nothing because it looks more “sick”, or should I take the opportunity to do something fun that is aligned with the level of physical capability I have?

        1. weegiewool*


          About 10 years ago I had pneumonia and was off work for 3.5 months. During those 3.5 months I had annual leave booked and had paid for my holiday. (UK – we get a reasonable amount of leave, and I get generous sick leave as part of my contract).

          I did not cancel my fortnight in France; my husband drove us there, and I spent the fortnight coughing, taking the antibiotics, and sleeping in the warmth of France instead of being ill at home.

          I was in no way fit to be at work. In fact, I eventually started a phased return to work about a month after my annual leave.

        2. watermelon fruitcake*

          I agree with you. This part of your comment made me think of something, though:

          Should I stay at home and do nothing because it looks more “sick”, or should I take the opportunity to do something fun that is aligned with the level of physical capability I have?

          When Worker’s Comp and/or another insurance claim are involved, the opposing party will literally hire a PI to follow you around to make sure you are acting “injured” enough. I understand the concerns about fraud, but it’s rather intrusive, and considering people behave differently in response to pain/injury according to individual experiences and needs along with cultural and subcultural pressures, it seems arbitrary.

          1. Bird names*

            Oof, yeah, that is going to be incredibly arbitrary. Seems also like a great way of adding to the stress of a person in recovery.

    4. Mouse named Anon*

      Mexico also does alot of weight management surgeries (at a fraction of the cost of the US). I have had a few friends (mostly FB friends) do this. Alot of them stay for several days at a recovery center. I am not certain about recovery but its possible the co-worker is doing this? Maybe getting the surgery and staying longer for recovery. Also I know nothing about the recovery for this. Just from what I have seen on FB from friends.

    5. umami*

      I would say that even as a supervisor, I wouldn’t care that someone is spending their second week of recovery on what might sound more like a vacation. I’m surprised the employee is saying that is their plan, but also, I would respond with ‘I don’t need any details about what you are doing or where you are going while you are convalescing’. I wonder if it was just to be upfront about it because they know it will be on social media, and they don’t want the whole ‘Jack is supposedly out sick, but he’s in CANCUN!!’

    6. Kara*

      Frankly I’m a little dismayed to see this point of view. If the employee was me, I’d be very open about the whole thing -because- of the optics. The appearance of propriety comes up often here, and trying to keep something secret often doesn’t work very well. Would i rather my boss and coworkers know exactly what’s going on and that I’m not trying to hide anything, or would i rather have someone find out i was in Cancun and now the whole office assumes i was lying and trying to get some extra vacation via sick leave?

      Further, one single week isn’t very long to recover from a surgery; even a keyhole surgery. (And that’s assuming that there aren’t any complications.) The employee has vacation and has every right to use their vacation. Would their coworkers prefer that the employee take some extra time to heal and recover and come back at 100%, or do they want their coworker to come back while still healing just because it’s somehow immoral that someone is healing up on a beach instead of at home? Particularly since there’s a good chance that the employee won’t have to worry about doing things like cooking or cleaning while in Cancun which means they can just focus on taking care of themselves?

      1. Late Bloomer*

        Precisely. When I had laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis years ago, I would have needed approximately two weeks before I’d have been able to work. It wasn’t an issue at the time because it was between semesters in my adjunct academic job, with all responsibilities bounded by the academic calendar, and no one to report to or care during that hiatus. Scheduled the surgery that way on purpose. I could barely hobble around the first week, while I could function for life tasks during the second but tired easily.

        If it had been an option imaginatively or financially, a week in Cancun for the second half would have been amazing and brought me back to life even sooner. My partner could have dealt with helping me through airport + other logistics, and I could have relaxed around a pool with a good book, had room-service food, and enjoyed fruity drinks with jaunty paper parasols (once I was done with painkillers). Would also have eased caretaking responsibilities for him. It would NOT have been a vacation.

        Let’s just be bighearted and assume that people are doing what they need and not bilking the system. And if they are? It won’t be a one-off but a pattern that will eventually make itself known.

      2. Nodramalama*

        The optics are bad because even you’re phrasing it as “the employee has vacation”. Yes, they have vacation time but personal leave is not meant to be used for a vacation.

    7. jojo*

      I would think if they are using some kind of medical leave for this time off the doctor has to provide the proper paperwork. As long as the doctor provides correct paperwork it is irrelevant what anyone at the company thinks. If it is not approved medical leave than he is either on vacation or unpaid time. Either of which would make it none of companies time. But I would advise him not to post any pictures.

  4. Magdalena*

    Regarding the D&D group.
    I’m a little surprised by Alison’s take on it.
    It reads to me as you socializing with your new boss when her other reports aren’t. I realize others are free to join but I still think it creates an imbalance in access to the manager and should be avoided. Unless it’s a very large group where you barely talk to each other.
    I’m open to changing my mind though.

    1. Jay*

      I think Alison’s point is that that’s for the manager to care about, not the employee.

      1. Nebula*

        Yes, especially because the manager is new to the group and the employee isn’t. It would be really unfair to expect the employee to give up a hobby they’ve had for a while because their new boss has just joined. The boss should bow out if this is going to be an issue.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I’m pretty sure the advice to the boss would have been that they should probably bow out of the group (particularly because they just joined, after OP). But the boss wasn’t writing in, and the employee isn’t obligated to do that. Nor is the employee really the one who should be moderating perceived signs of favoritism. The boss is.

          1. Zelda*

            Indeed, if a letter came in saying, “I just joined a D&D group, and at the second meeting I realized that one of the regular members was someone who had interviewed for a position reporting to me a couple of weeks earlier. Now we’re offering that person the position, and they will be my direct report. Can I stay in the D&D group?” we’ve have precedent to infer that Alison’s answer would be a pretty clear, “No, you need to drop out and leave your report to continue their regular socializing, without their supervisor mixed in.” It’s just that the supervisor isn’t the one who wrote in.

    2. LadyAmalthea*

      I think it’s because the activity is sponsored through the greater workplace, like if I joined my office’s monthly walking group, which involves a monthly long walk, followed by dinner at a local to the walk restaurant – it was organised in part by my former grand-boss, but several hundred people were invited by mass email, so even if O were the only one to participate, no one person had special access.

      1. stratospherica*

        Having said that, D&D groups are by necessity pretty small (like, 10 people would be close to impossible to manage unless there were some kind of system by which attendance was staggered into different games). I guess it depends on the exact details of how the game is played, such as if there are multiple groups or it’s just one adventuring party, but it’s a little bit of a muddier situation than, say, a street dance club.

        Though it’s still the manager’s responsibility to navigate the matter.

        1. Tio*

          If they had enough people to split into two or more groups, like an Adventurer’s League, then they could easily put the new manager in a different group than the OP and it would probably be fine. But if they can’t, I agree the manager should probably step back a bit

        2. ferrina*

          I think it depends if OP is the DM. If Op is the DM, part of the DM’s job is to manage the table dynamics. Personally, I’d feel weird DMing for my boss- too much weirdness and too many people take DM dice rolls personally.

          But is OP is just a player, then play on. It’s the manager’s to manage (though I’d make sure my D&D character was a more mild flavor)

          1. Spiritbrand*

            Since it’s sponsored by work, I doubt they’d be playing the lascivious halfling bard. That said, no matter who they play they are going to learn a lot about each other’s personalities…for better or worse.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I dearly hope “no player-player romance” is already in the core rules for a workplace D&D game.

        3. Random Bystander*

          It kind of depends on just how many people are actually involved–when you get above 10, it’s very easy to have two separate groups who are in separate adventures (and with different DMs), in which case LW and LW Supervisor just need to be in separate parties (and groups might not even meet at the same time–Group A might find Wednesday night the best night; Group B could meet on Thursdays).

          And yes, both from the standpoint of LW having been involved longer and supervisor being newcomer *and* the reporting structure, it’s supervisor who needs to work to navigate the situation.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I’d call that two D&D groups, though, not one with over 10 members. Unless you wanted to have them both in the same universe and have wacky cross-over sessions?

            You might be able to do a 10+ group if only a handful showed up to any given session. It would probably either have to be plug-and-play adventure (e.g. Pathfinder) or extremely improvisational (“Since Rika’s player isn’t here, this session we’re going to take a break from Paladin Rika’s ongoing quest to find Bard Joaquin’s lost kitten.”)

        4. Terranovan*

          I have read of a tabletop group with 17 people for a one-off game:
          Mostly, it wasn’t easy, and the steps he needed to take reinforce your point.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, this is not for OP to resolve. (Obviously they are free to stop going if it gets too much, but the conflict is not on their end).

        Managers need to be careful not to give more attention / facetime to one employee over others, but that does not mean employees are not allowed to be in positions where they might get more facetime.

        For the specific situation: OP is new to the position, boss is new to both the org and the D&D group. It really is ok to be testing the waters for a few weeks before anyone makes an conclusions.

    3. Hyaline*

      I had the impression that the group was pretty large, open, and fairly informal—D&D can be small and tight knit or it could be they’re mostly doing one-off drop in games. It is work sponsored and was originally intended to be org wide so upper management must be well aware that socialization is happening across levels as well as departments. Whether or not the atmosphere is conducive to both remaining in the group is up to them—but I don’t see a reason the LW should preemptively drop out. FWIW I think the issue of access to managers can be overblown—depending on the workplace it could matter quite a bit or really not make a difference, and I think it’s for the manager to mitigate that aspect, and of course LW can drop out if they’re just personally uncomfortable (but I don’t think they need to).

    4. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Employee is not seeking extra access to manager. Like they aren’t joining the D & D group because the manager is there. They were already in the group.

      As a general rule, employees should not seek out extra access to the boss. that means not joining their book club, intentionally going to the same gym, etc. And if an employee does this, their manager should speak to them about it.

      In this case, the employee is already in the group, so they shouldn’t have to leave. This is on the manager.

    5. Momma Bear*

      I think that OP should think about how they would handle seeing any other coworker out in the wild – informal still has boundaries. I had a similar situation and the way it ended up was that boss and I dialed our social interactions way back and stuck mostly to being coworkers. It’s harder in a D&D game, but I think OP can still find a way to keep work at work.

      1. ferrina*

        My struggle was not keeping work out of D&D, but rather, keeping D&D out of work. My coworker and I passed a lot of memes that others just didn’t get. Whereas we rarely talked work at the D&D table.

        1. Zelda*

          “My coworker and I passed a lot of memes that others just didn’t get. ”

          And for precisely that reason, gaming with one’s boss is too likely to lead to at least the perception, and possibly the reality, that this one report is buddy-buddy with the boss, and that the boss’s sense of social closeness to the report may interfere with their ability to critique the report’s work fairly and distribute rewards fairly among all their reports.

        2. Lydia*

          This. Although my friend and I, when we were still working together, did a really good job of not mixing either of the two in either setting. And even now when I don’t work with them anymore, I try not to ask for gossip when we’re at the table. I’m the GM in this case, so I get to set the dynamic, but it can be hard!

        3. Confused*

          The written word doesn’t always capture tone.

          Are you saying you want the others (work colleagues) to understand the meme about D&D?

          1. ferrina*

            No, I’m not expecting other people to get the meme. I don’t get Friends memes. It’s just a function of certain people having common interests, and others not sharing those interests.

            My coworker and I would share D&D jokes, and others would shrug and let us nerd out.

    6. Bob*

      In a world of hybrid and remote work imbalanced access to a manager is a fact of life. I see this in the same light as no team Happy Hour because Bob and Shirley are remote.

    7. fhqwhgads*

      Her take is the same as your take, except where she notes that’s the new boss’s problem, not the letter writer’s.

    8. MCMonkeybean*

      The boss should definitely leave the group. I was a little surprised she didn’t mention it, but if the boss were the one writing in I feel pretty confident that’s what she would say.

      It sounds like the boss only just joined the group, and that OP only found out they were hired for the new job right before writing in. So I think it’s very likely the boss will just politely excuse herself right out of that situation! I definitely hope so.

  5. Tiptoptypo*

    LW #2 (and anyone who is trying to deflect “drinks” ambiguity): you could have suggested a coffee instead, which gracefully deflects the ask to be more in the professional lane.

    1. RW*

      oh this is great (have never been in the situation where I need this but… seems like genius advice if I do)

    2. not like a regular teacher*

      Yeah when I am the one doing the inviting in situations like this I ask if the person would like to get together for “coffee or drinks or dinner” and let the invitee set the tone that works for them.

      1. Smithy*

        So my go-to for these kinds of networking meetings where someone isn’t also within my employer but is an external contact (either a former coworker/supervisor or some just employed elsewhere) is “coffee or drinks.”

        For a networking context, the reality is that during the more traditional 9-5, I’ve found people’s schedules to often have a strong preference for work hours or after work only. There are either significant demands after traditional work hours, or in the case of someone traveling for work – their daytime may be completely full and they only have after work. Additionally, for folks who don’t drink – I find that it keeps the door open for someone to be interested in coffee/tea but post 5pm.

        To me, coffee or a drink affords the flexibility of during the workday or after, and then with/around alcohol or not.

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Great suggestion! And also request that you meet up during work hours so it really is more of a work/networking meeting rather than an after-hours social meeting. Although, OP, I hope that you are older and wiser and know that plenty of women meet up with men for strictly platonic and/or work reasons and not every woman out there is hoping to get romantic with their male coworkers.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        But if the other person is in town because of work they aren’t doing with you, they probably aren’t available until after work. You can still say coffee, but it’s probably not going to be happening during office hours.

    4. Hyaline*

      I had the same thought—sometimes “getting drinks” can feel cuspy uncomfortable where coffee or lunch feel fine. You could also invite her to join a group of friends or coworkers for drinks if it’s the solo element that feels potentially uncomfortable.

    5. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Great advice to suggest coffee instead. Although, based on the OPs statement that the situation happened many years ago, it certainly could have been more common at that time to suggest getting drinks and not coffee, depending how long ago ‘many years ago’ was. I can say that in my 20s, it never would have occurred to me to suggest getting coffee instead. ‘Getting drinks’ or ‘grabbing a bite’ was the common request, both professionally and socially.

      1. Dread Pirate Roberts*

        It sounds like the letter writer didn’t want to get together one on one at all, so a polite deflection is what he needed. Specifying where to get a drink (eg bar or coffee shop) would be the next step along with a yes, if he had wanted to say yes. I think the central question about being uncomfortable with the age and gender difference is as AAM says, you can say no for whatever reason you like but the request in itself wasn’t inappropriate.

    6. S*

      It’s just a guess, but the LW mentioned this was an overseas client, which makes me wonder if it’s a cultural-norms issue. I’ve certainly noticed subtle differences in how men and women relate in (parts of) Europe vs. the US. The Europeans I’ve known seem much more open to a man and woman hanging out one-on-one without it having to be romantic or sexual, compared to what I’m used to as an American.

      Of course, men and women can hang out platonically here in the US too, but if they’re both single, the QUESTION of whether it’s a date will almost certainly come up at some point.

      1. Smithy*

        I think this might be more industry or location dependent in the US.

        I’m in DC, and both professional networking and professional happy hours are fairly common without question of it being a date. That being said, I do think for people in industries new to them or in cultural contexts that are different, feeling less confident in reading more subtle social cues I think is pretty more common.

        For me, getting a drink as part of professional and platonic networking is really common. But, depending on how it was worded – I could see having more questions if it was a dinner request. And particularly if it was a dinner request for the weekend vs a weeknight. If the person making that ask was also from the US, I’d likely be more confident in how I’ve evaluate the interaction. But if that person was from a different country/culture I could see just being less confident in how I was reading the situation.

    7. Techie Boss*

      It’s also worth considering whether you would have responded the same way to a male client making this offer. You’re certainly under no obligation to meet outside of work hours, but doing so selectively based on the gender of the person is one of the ways women are subtly excluded from professional networking opportunities. I find it helpful to assume professional interest unless I have a specific reason to assume otherwise.

      1. tree*

        Hi OP here! I would have totally responded the same way to a male client! I honestly felt that it would have been weird for me -20 years old- to meet with a professional 35 years old adult (specially if it was profesionally motivated!).

        And a big part of my disconfort was due to the fact that we didn’t really work together. I just had a chat with her to help her with some problem, but it would have been totally possible to not have to interact with each other ever again.

        1. Dahlia*

          You were also an adult at 20.

          Two adults meeting up professionally is not particularly strange. It’s networking.

        2. Smithy*

          Given that context, I think that instead of framing her request as inappropriate – I think a better read might be that she had a higher interest and openness in networking than you did (do?).

          Lots of professionals in their 30’s/40’s are encouraged to proactively reach out to junior employees and view networking as a possible route of informally mentoring. Older or more senior people are often encouraged to make the first move because a power imbalance can exist, so they can help level that dynamic by making the ask.

          There are some people I’ve worked with where I would not want to accept that offer just because of the nature of our professional relationship. But it’s more declining the networking opportunity, not having the ask itself be inappropriate.

          1. tree*

            I don’t think this applies to my situation. I worked for the IT departament and had to contact her to help her with a problem (she worked for some other unrelated departament). We didn’t know each other prior to that and we chatted for less than 20 minutes, and there was no chance of us working together in the future.

            1. Bitte Meddler*

              You might’ve been the only person she “knew” in your work city and wanted to meet up for drinks (or coffee or a sandwich or whatever) to give her a sense of familiarity in an unfamiliar place.

              Also, some people are just really social and “Person I Met for 10 Minutes Lives/Works in City I Will Be Visiting” is more than enough reason for them to want to meet up, even if you were someone they met in the checkout line at a grocery store in the city your contract gig was in. (“You’re from X-City? I’ll be there in June! Let’s trade contact info and meet up for drinks!”)

              1. tree*

                Of course, I totally get it from her side. But I wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate for me (an external employee who was meant to have very little contact with the client apart from a particular team) to accept the invitation.

                Like imagine if a handyman from another company (which your company hired) goes to your office to repair the AC. The handyman’s manager might not like if while he was repairing your AC he arranged to meet with you after office hours.

                1. Bitte Meddler*

                  In the handyman instance, it would be Corporate Customer and Hired Help.

                  In your instance, it was Two White Collar Professionals.

                  The dynamics are very different. No one from either company would have blinked an eye. (At least, in a normal professional environment).

        3. I should really pick a name*

          I can see why you feel it was weird because you had such minimal contact with her.

          I don’t see what you find weird about this part though:

          it would have been weird for me -20 years old- to meet with a professional 35 years old adult (specially if it was profesionally motivated!).

          Could you clarify?

          1. tree*

            Well I was very shy and I also wasn’t sure if she knew how young I was (I thought it would be embarassing if she expected me to be way older).

            Besides that, our roles and positions were so different I felt like there was nothing we could talk about. I only got that job because its working hours allowed me to focus on my degree, but it had nothing to do with my career and I knew I’d eventually quit.

            It would have been different if we had worked together, or if I could have asked her for professional advice but she was a professional in a field far different from mine.

            1. I should really pick a name*

              Hopefully as you’ve gotten older you’ve realized that the age thing shouldn’t be a barrier to a professional social meeting.

              Even if she was surprised by your age, it shouldn’t have been any kind of problem.

        4. Techie Boss*

          I can see the weirdness more now with the context of you having had minimal contact prior to her asking. Like others have said, some people are more reserved and others more outgoing, so maybe that was some of the disconnect. And I can understand how you might feel like you’re breaking an unwritten rule about socializing with clients generally. That part would be very context dependent on your company and industry, so you probably can read the vibe better than us.

    8. Bitte Meddler*

      I used to be in sales and covered geographies that weren’t my home turf (like, I lived in California but my sales territory was the southeastern US). I was typically in my sales territory 3-5 days a week and then home on weekends.

      It was suuuuuuuper normal for anyone at the company of my customers / prospects to say, “Hey, I’ll be in Northern California for the week of X, would love to meet up for drinks!”

      And vice-versa. I’d be traveling to the area of Customer Y and ask someone I liked / got along with at Customer Z (who was in the same area) if they wanted to meet up for drinks while I was in town.

      “Drinks” turned out to be everything from morning coffee to a quick midday lunch, to a boozy Happy Hour, or even dinner with their spouse/+ 1.

      FTR, I was in my 20’s and early 30’s, single, female, and very attractive. I had people from all age groups, marital statuses, and genders ask to meet up when they were in town. A few were creeper men and I either declined (“Won’t be in town that week. Busy salesperson schedule!”) or offered to meet for morning coffee at a place a few doors down from my company’s office… signaling that this was a “strictly business” meeting.

    9. Hosta*

      I often offer to grab a beverage of their choice with someone. Usually that’s coffee in my world since many folks I work with don’t drink. Sometimes that’s a drink. Sometimes its a boba milkshake. For folks who don’t know me I do clarify that coffee or a soda or an alcohol is all an option.

  6. Recovering the satellites*

    I have found that those who make many assumptions tend to be insecure about something (or many things), and the out-loud statement of an assumption is their form of controlling the situation or person at hand. It can be unintentional or not.

    Normally, making daily general assumptions are necessary to navigate through the unknown with little information and overall it usually works out.

    However, when it becomes a problem like in this case, I’ve found the reasoning to be on one end or the either of an outcome control spectrum; for self preservation or to tear down others.

    I admit, I’ve been guilty of the self preservation form the times I just did not have enough mental bandwidth or strength left to take in any new information. I was trying to control my reality by willing things to be a certain way and saying them out loud in the hopes it will become real. Maybe like self soothing now that I think about it?

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yeah, one of the biggest beefs I and my former boss have with the terrible coworker at my very recent ExJob is that she assumes things All. The. Time. Former grandboss figured she was very underqualified and insecure, whereas after awhile we realized that in fact she was a complete fraud and her assumptions were because she was too lazy to bother learning anything about the work we all did.

      Hence the reason this is now my ExJob.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      My parents are both assumers. My mother is definitely insecure. My father is arrogant, with a touch of Dunning-Kruger (making assumptions about things about which he knows very little, or in areas in which he already has a history of misjudging and misinterpreting). The manager here sounds more like my mother’s insecure/catastrophizing type, though.

    3. Future*

      My terrible former boss was also a big assumer, amongst their other faults. A lot of bad (and baseless) assumptions about me and other employees. This letter and comment discussion is really useful in helping me put a finger on that as one of their troubling behaviours.

    4. S*

      Asking questions means admitting you don’t know something, which is hard to do when you feel in over your head generally.

  7. Law Bird*

    I wonder if the person felt uncomfortable because they were unaderage (to be drinking alcohol).

    1. londonedit*

      This is a good point, and especially if the contact was outside the US. I doubt she even considered that the OP would have been underage (the drinking age here is 18, so I’d assume anyone in an entry-level job would be well above the legal age to drink).

    2. Alan*

      Or just because they’re 20? Many years ago (in my early 20s) I was working with a visiting researcher at my company and after work she asked if I wanted to do something together. We were the same age but I was painfully introverted and had no idea how to respond to such a suggetion and just replied that I was going to go home and watch TV :-).

    3. JustaTech*

      Yes, that would add an extra layer of awkward because they can’t even if they wanted to, but also at that age no one really wants to flag how young they are in a professional context.
      And they often don’t yet have the life experience of how to 1) read intention and 2) gently deflect.
      Thank you LW3 (tree) for writing in to ask so other people can learn from your experience!

  8. Matt Cramp*

    LW#4: this gets complicated if you or they are the Dungeon Master (DM), who has an authority/facilitation position in the group. It’s long been known that DMs can sometimes not keep their authority in the game and their personal relationships separate; there are plenty of horror stories about the DM’s partner getting preferential treatment as a player. If both you and your supervisor have similar relationships to the DM, that of being colleagues that you don’t closely work with, then that won’t be a factor.

    In that case, just behave as you should for other players: be a good team player, be generous with who gets to be the main character in each encounter and storyline, and talk with the DM and other players if you want your character to do something that might be disruptive or make it harder for the other players to have agency over their character.

    1. MsM*

      I don’t know, I’ve encountered a lot more inter-party drama (or at least tension; I’ve managed to avoid any real horror stories) than DM/player drama. Of course, if you have a good DM and everyone at the table is an adult, you can usually find a way to mediate it, but in-game frustrations can easily be magnified if you’re already frustrated about something going on in real life. And if the other player is already involved with that frustration, it can get ugly.

      1. Mango Freak*

        Yeah the DM issues tend to be that they don’t manage player conflict like they should, but less often that they initiate conflict.

    2. Rex Libris*

      Just don’t play a Chaotic Evil assassin who is constantly stealing from the party gold stores, and you’ll be fine. :-)

    3. ferrina*

      Totally agree that it makes a big difference if OP is DM. There is waaaay too much possibility for weirdness. A lot of people take DMing dice rolls personally (my then-boyfriend got so angry at me when his character almost died while I was DMing. Nevermind that he sprinted away from the rest of the party and completely ignored the healer, put himself in the middle of a swarm of melee enemies. He was still surprised when they all hit him. I was fudging rolls left and right to keep damage minimal and keep him alive). Or the Boss could think she needs special treatment. Or other players could think Boss is being favored. Or Boss could dislike when OP plays a villain. Or Boss could be rude to another player/another player could be rude to Boss and OP needs to manage the situation. All kinds of weirdness happen.
      Part of a DM’s role is to manage the table, and if OP is DM, I think they are within their rights to ask Boss to leave the table.

      But if OP is just a player, I think it’s an easier dynamic. You get to sit back and defer to the DM to facilitate, or to the Boss to remove herself. Just make sure that your character isn’t one of the spicier ones, and that your backstory isn’t too tragic.

      1. Amber*

        I know I’m late to the game here but (as a DM of a group where my players could potentially end up in this situation!) I’d bring it up with the DM. Partly because they’re going to have to manage it in some ways if you both keep playing, and partly because they can more easily bring it up with her- ‘hey you just joined my table and I’ve become aware of a potentially challenging connection with a long term player, let’s talk about how that is going to play out’ is not an unusual conversation for an experienced DM, details of the situation aside.

  9. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (manager jumps to conclusions) – I can’t stand people like this, unfortunately there are a lot of them around, including managers. The trouble is, this is such a deeply ingrained thought process that it’s almost (or actually is) a personality trait in its own right – and will be very difficult to change, even by naming the pattern. I think all you can do is keep challenging her on those statements, either in the moment or after the fact depending on the situation. She can probably only change it to a limited extent, which is unfortunate as I know how annoying and unproductive that is.

    Are there any other examples of this rigidity of thinking which are part of this pattern- not necessarily making pronouncements that the client will ask for overtime or whatever, but things like when someone brings a problem to her, “it shouldn’t be like that” and no recognition that, no it shouldn’t but it is and that’s why I am raising it. People like this just shut down with “but it shouldn’t be like that”….

    1. Allonge*

      This. I have a work-friend who does this and she is also a chatterbox – she is not a manager but all the same can do a lot of damage as she shares her ‘facts’ with a lot of people.

      It’s not an easy thing to tackle for sure, but thanks OP for trying it anyway!

    2. münchner kindl*

      I consider it as part of bully mentality – because the quick judgements are never positive, only negative.
      In the second example, brushing the problem off instead of looking deeper at it means less work for her, but it also shows disrespect to the colleague who brought up the problem, that they can’t distinguish how serious it is, compared to LW who took the colleague and thus complaint serious and therefore started to investigate.

      I wish LW all the best with Allisons approach, but if the underlying character is that of a bully/ bigot, logical appeals, no matter how carefully phrased, will not change anything, and might only lead manager to retaliate against LW.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I think this take is projecting a lot of needless negative assumptions (ironic, isn’t it?). She could just be a pessimist that speaks without thinking, which isn’t great in a manager, but not evil.

        1. Fikly*

          If she was a pessimist who speaks without thinking, but what she said was based on actual reasoning and facts, it would be much less of a problem. But that clearly isn’t the case here based on the examples given.

          Making negative assumptions from a position of power is effectively bullying, and people who habitually make assumptions do not tend to react well to those assumptions being challenged, whether intentionally or not – it’s how their brains work. It doesn’t make them evil – that’s a wild leap to make – but it does make the problem difficult to solve. And since they are in a position of power, they have a bad effect on those they are in power over.

          But frankly, someone who makes assumptions first and then doesn’t seem to be able to even question them later shouldn’t be a manager, period.

        2. Allonge*

          I agree, this can be a lot of different things, not all malicious. It’s not a good thing, but no need to assume it’s worse than it is – it does not help with finding a solution.

      2. Gimme all you got*

        Why are you calling the manager a bully and a bigot? Did we read the same letter

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        Honestly, nothing here strikes me as indicative of a bullying or bigoted personality. The manager doesn’t seem to be judging or making negative comments about anybody. In the first scenario, she seems to be more worried somebody will pressurise her into doing something than planning to put pressure on anybody else and in the second case, she just seems to be assuming everything is fine and nothing needs to be done.

        I would expect a bullying personality to respond to the second issue by insisting it must be a particular person’s fault or demanding they fix it, not by just saying “oh, it’s just a once-off glitch.”

      4. Householder*

        In my experience, it usually just stems from an inability to process the idea that how one sees the world isn’t necessarily how the world is. It’s a function of low emotional intelligence and lack of mindfulness, not necessarily malicious.

        1. Salsa Verde*

          I agree with this, it’s not malicious all the time, it really is limited thinking – they cannot conceive of any other way to view the situation, so they truly believe their pronouncement. People like this fascinate me, and it is a disturbing trait in a supervisor, so I think it is great that the LW has spotted this trait and is able to identify it for what it is and address it.

          I have a friend like this and it seems like she sees a situation, tries to understand it and takes the first possible explanation that pops into her head as the truth, and doesn’t examine that assumption to see if it makes any sense, just decides that must be the answer. She also sees situations as very black and white, so maybe that’s part of it.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          I’d call this bad judgement, which is a serious issue in a manager. I hope this is just a brain-mouth filter issue that LW can coach Jane through, but if she doubles-down on her assumptions instead it sounds like she isn’t cut out for a management role. You can’t have someone just making things up and passing that along as truth, whether that’s because they’re lying, assuming, anxiously catastrophizing, etc.

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      I have a friend like this and…she will not accept that the things she comes up with are assumptions. If you point out that what she is assuming isn’t even the most likely outcome, she’ll say something like, “but I have a gut feeling about it and my gut feelings are always right” (they are not; she says this very regularly and I think she has been right maybe twice in total!) or she’ll insist that is just what happens. Like with the point about them making people work all weekend, it would be, “oh, they will. That’s what always happens in this situation.”

      To make matters worse, she seems to have limited memory of the times she was mistaken in the past or other times similar things happened. Like if you point out that the client never made you work weekends in the past, she would insist that no previous project had ever had any difficulties and truly believe that, even if they had. I think a certain amount of confirmation bias was involved, like you remember the times you say had to work late or the times something missing was stolen or whatever, but you don’t remember the times a problem was solved easily. But it does get frustrating.

      I don’t know if this manager is going to react in the same way, but just to say it is a possibility.

      1. Allonge*

        Oh, totally, the scary part is that people who do this often don’t have any concept of how much it happens and how very off they are from reality in their convictions. It’s mind-boggling really.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          There was this one show we used to go to on a yearly basis for a while and every year she would panic about getting there early because you didn’t book a seat, you just sat wherever when you got in, and she wanted to be one of the first in so she could get a good seat. One year, she was completely panicking that we weren’t as early as usual and I pointed out we’d been quarter of an hour later or whatever it was the previous year and had ended up with great seats, but she insisted we had never been rushing before; we had always previously had plenty of time.

  10. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (Cancun) – if they are recovering from the procedure for 1 week (medically ordered) and just tacking on a trip to the beach after because they are nearby there or whatever – this wouldn’t fly in most places and the 2nd week should be taken as vacation. If the recovery is actually 2 weeks and they are proposing to take 1 of those weeks in Cancun – that is less clear and probably depends on the nature of the procedure (is it plausible that they’d be able to go to the beach but not to work – would doctors say that the trip to Cancun is medically OK? in which case they are probably OK to work as well) – not a good look to extend your sick leave with a “vacation” though, but that is political.

    I’m sure there will be a lot of comments saying “eyes on your own paper” and if it doesn’t affect you (eg workload) don’t get involved. I understand that viewpoint but don’t agree. Presumably there’s some benefit to the person in doing this rather than take vacation (e.g. sick leave is less limited or comes out of a different bucket) and people doing shady things with this is going to have a hit on morale, which is everyone’s problem.

      1. WellRed*

        There’s nothing for a coworker to do. It’s not their business and they have no authority here.

        1. Allonge*

          True, but it’s a fair question in response to the comment above – Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd says it’s not good advice to ‘keep eyes on your own paper’, but what else is there to do?

          1. Rex Libris*

            Nothing. It’s inadvisable to insert yourself in another coworker’s leave requests, when you have no authority or standing to do so, in the name of a theoretical morale hit… which won’t happen anyway if everyone is actually minding their own business.

            My response to the OP would be how involved do you think a random coworker should be in discussions between you and your supervisor about your sick time use and approval?

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      But we don’t know the medically required recovery period is for 1 week and not 2. OP says the coworker is taking 1 week to recover and then going to Cancun the 2nd week using medical leave. At every place I’ve worked, if I have to miss work for a medical procedure, I have to supply documentation from my doctor saying when I can return to work and if it was only 1 week I had to be out, then I would be required to use my PTO for the 2nd week.

      As for being able to go to Cancun, but not return to work, I agree with Alison that it can depend on the nature of their job. My husband works as an EMT and several years ago he had to have surgery due to an injury he sustained on the job. Because his job requires he do physical labor, he was out of work for some time, longer than if he worked a desk job, so we did a few trips while he was out of work since he was capable of traveling, while also recovering from his medical procedure.

      1. KateM*

        Or maybe the coworker spends the first week in hospital and then the second week in a recovery place.

        1. Coverage Associate*

          Yeah, way above someone mentioned that traveling to recover at a relative’s house wouldn’t raise eyebrows, but Cancun does.

          First, people can have family in tourist destinations. But more likely, I can imagine lots of medical issues where it’s “be near your provider” for the first week, then “ok to travel, but no driving (or whatever)” the second week.

          1. I Have RBF*

            Also Cancun has recovery and physical rehab places that are cheaper than in the US.

    2. MicroManagered*

      If the recovery is actually 2 weeks and they are proposing to take 1 of those weeks in Cancun – that is less clear and probably depends on the nature of the procedure

      I don’t think it’s less clear at all. If the doctor-ordered recovery time is 2 weeks, they can spend one of those weeks on the moon if they’re inclined. It’s a baaaaaaaad idea for an employer to try to evaluate someone else’s private medical info.

    3. Observer*

      is it plausible that they’d be able to go to the beach but not to work – would doctors say that the trip to Cancun is medically OK? in which case they are probably OK to work as well

      That’s just not the case. Especially if they are going to a recovery spa. There is such a huge difference between being somewhere where everything is being taken care of for you and being at work that the idea that if you can do one you can do the other just makes no sense.

      And just because the CW is flying that does not really change a lot. Again, there are a lot of possibilities here that would make a huge difference.

      1. Kyrielle*

        There are a lot of jobs where being able to fly is irrelevant but being able to lift things*, do physical labor, or even just concentrate is relevant. None of those are necessary for flying, assuming you have a companion or airline service to handle luggage for you.

        Mind you, *I* wouldn’t plan a trip to Cancun under the circumstances unless I were already nearby for treatment, purely because if you can’t fly the first week after the procedure, you’re assuming your recovery is standard and you can fly after that, and that’s a fair amount of money down the drain if your doctor tells you that you aren’t recovering as quickly as needed for that.

    4. Velawciraptor*

      This and other similar comments are giving “if you’re well enough to play video games, you’re well enough to go to school” vibes.

      Different activities require different energy levels/abilities, even when recovering from an illness or medical procedure. Neither we nor LW3 have enough information about the co-worker’s anticipated procedure, recovery, or trip to have anything constructive to say or do about the co-worker’s plan. The only reasonable, adult option is the one frowned on by this commenter: MYOB.

    5. Observer*

      I understand that viewpoint but don’t agree.

      On a separate note, why? You’re claim that it’s somehow the LW place to worry about general morale is beyond unconvincing.

      people doing shady things with this is going to have a hit on morale, which is everyone’s problem

      No, no and no.

      Going backwards:

      Morale is not the job of employees, but of managers.

      The only way there is going to be a hit to morale is if people *choose* to get in a twist about it, and also to make a bunch of uninformed assumptions.

      You really, really have no idea of whether this is shady or not. You know nothing about the procedure he’s doing, how he’s planning to travel and what his accommodations in Cancun will be. But somehow you “know” that he’s clearly ready to go back to work since he’s going to be able to actually relax in a vacation spot. Which is a medically weird assumption to make. It sounds like something out of the school of “ill people need to be kept in dark and dreary rooms” and “If kid is well enough to watch TV then kid is well enough to go to school.”

  11. Molly Millions*

    LW3: Elf Ranger, here. I do think there’s potential for awkwardness that wouldn’t exist if you were playing, say, Scrabble.

    The improv and roleplay inherent to D&D can lead to interactions you may not be comfortable having with your boss present: bawdy jokes, violent gameplay, drug and alcohol references, irreverence toward serious subjects (e.g. some DMs incorporate real-life historical events/political movements/religious beliefs into their storylines).

    Every D&D group is different, but in my experience adult-oriented scenarios (e.g. needing to seduce a guard to enter a vault, spending an evening at a disreputable tavern, etc.) are fairly common and you often have no choice but to play along.

    Even if your group keeps things totally G-rated, you may find your boss’s presence limits your ability to fully engage in the game. (For example, my character is an ignorant buffoon; I’m not sure I would feel comfortable acting that way with my new manager watching.)

    Optics aside, it might end up being a drag.

    1. Quoth the Raven*

      Tiefling Rogue here, though I mostly stick to World of Darkness (Brujah through and through) and not DnD.

      Along with the points you brought up, I’d be a bit weary of the emotional aspect of the game, too. I am aware that not all groups play the same way, but with most groups I’ve joined, there’s been the potential of emotional vulnerability, sometimes exploring topics that are relatively personal (for example, gender expression, sexuality, etc.) and sometimes with the story touching on topics that can be charged for some people. Again, not all groups, but the closer the players are the more I’ve seen this happen. It wouldn’t necessarily be a deal-breaker for me, but it’s something to keep in mind.

      I don’t say I wouldn’t play in a group with my supervisor, but I would see what kind of game the DM is running and what checks and balances are in place and then go from there.

      1. Twix*

        I have 20+ years of experience DMing and would be very wary of running a group where two of the players had an employee/boss relationship. There’s a lot of potential for out-of-game stuff to impact the game or vice versa. (Alison and a bunch of other people already brought up the latter, but imagine trying to run a session the week after the employee got a disappointing review or got turned down for a promotion. I really wouldn’t want to deal with Flathgar passive-aggressively refusing to heal Glorwyn because Bob is pissy that Jane decreed no more condiments in the office fridge.)

        That said, anyone who agreed to DM for a work-based group would know this was a possibility. My advice would be to talk to the DM and give them a heads up about the situation and ask what they had done as far as heading off these kinds of problems. If it’s a big enough group that there are multiple games going, they may want to keep managers and the people they manage in different ones. If the answer is “Nothing”, point out that this is likely to not be the only time this comes up and it would be smart to think through how to approach it.

    2. Pandas*

      On the other hand, the role play element of D&D might make this easier to manage than some other situations, because if this group is at all serious, LW and Boss will be spending most of their time acting as characters. There won’t be as many conversational opportunities to 1) talk about real life personal stuff or 2) talk about secret work stuff compared to a recurring lunch or happy hour. I’d also expect a workplace group to try harder to keep things G-rated, I’d personally be using my stoic monk character over my himbo bard character, as fun as he is to play.

    3. Beth**

      Isn’t this a problem with any work-sponsored group? I am not a D&D aficionado but I think I would be wary in any work-associated group. In a book group, I wouldn’t be reading Fifty Shades. In D&D, err on the G rated side.

      1. coffee*

        Yes, since it’s already a bunch of coworkers I would be surprised if the groups covered that kind of content.

        1. amoeba*

          Yup, exactly. Or it’s a workplace where everybody is fine with that kind of topic, but in that case, I wouldn’t think it’d be worse with a supervisor!

        2. Molly Millions*

          I went back and forth on that, but given the group consists of government workers from different departments, many of the players might not be coworkers in any sense and may not adhere to the same boundaries office-mates would. (E.g. a statistician in the Department of Fisheries will likely never work directly or share office space with someone who processes citizenship applications).

          An RPG is different from say, a book club, because in the latter there’s consensus-based planning and it would be simple to preemptively rule out any NSFW content. In a D&D game, everyone’s making things up on the fly and you’re expected to “yes and” things.
          (I highly doubt they’re playing a particularly raunchy campaign, but there are directions a D&D session can go that would seem totally innocuous to some but make others uncomfortable).

          The LW knows better than I what the dynamic of the group is, just sharing my thought process.

      2. Engineery*

        My issue would be the “magic circle” element of a shared game, which IMHO is especially important in any sort of roleplaying environment.

        When we’re playing a game, I’m playing a character. That character has to have certain negative traits, and they might well be traits I actually have in real life, but amplified for dramatic effect. That’s something I’m comfortable doing with friends, who know my real personality and understand I’m acting, and sometimes poking fun of my worst attributes. We all agree that we’re inside the “magic circle” where our words and actions aren’t accurate reflections of our real selves.

        The chance of a supervisor failing to buy in to the “magic circle,” or simply associating negative character traits with me personally, is just too risky. The fantasy elements aren’t the problem – I’m obviously not interested in hunting arcane treasure or killing spiny devils in real life. But if I’m playing a character that’s lazy, or selfish, or impulsive, that’s the sort of subtle acting that a supervisor might associate with me as a person, or as a worker, rather than the character I’m playing.

        And it doesn’t even have to be a recreational activity. I remember AAM having occasional posts about work-related roleplaying exercises. It’s not uncommon for a supervisor to ask an employee to act out a negative trait for an exercise, but offer no “magic circle ” – that is, the supervisor can, at their sole discretion, decide the employee was “not really acting” and punish them for the negative trait.

    4. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      Unless there have been really clear ground rules already laid out about what is and isn’t in bounds for a work D&D group, I would pull the GM aside and say, “Hey, FYI Linda is now my manager; would you mind bringing in an x-card dynamic or something similar? And generally be on the lookout for awkwardness there?”

      I’ve played with coworkers (and my wife’s coworkers) but never with my boss or reports. Those games didn’t get quite as deeply personal as some of the games I’ve played with my longstanding group of friends, but they did go beyond our typical in-office interactions, and depending on the relationship I had with my boss, it could potentially have felt constricting in the ways Molly suggests.

      Assuming that the mere presence of my manger wasn’t crimping my play style, the thing I’d want to be very careful about is generally being a good player-teammate — not hogging the spotlight too much, not killing off boss’s new animal friend “well, because that’s what Brutus would actually do,” making sure everyone feels good about loot distribution if that’s a thing in your game, etc. That isn’t necessarily different than how I play with my friends, because I want my friends to have a good time, too, but I’d want to be very sure that my manager wasn’t having a shitty night because I was being a callous player. (And there are definitely plotlines that aren’t inappropriate, per se, but that rely on a lot of trust and give-and-take between players, that I would probably keep for the non-work games — the ones where your character is secretly a spy for the enemy country, or where your character fakes their own death and everyone is really cut up about it, or…)

    5. Rex Libris*

      The OP could use it to their advantage… Play a Paladin and spend a lot of time proclaiming things like “I will follow the path of the just, for I am trustworthy and loyal.”

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Except if you’re playing in a group with a Paladin, you spend most of your time wanting to stab them because they get the group in soooo much trouble. Self-righteous is not the same as good, and not all Paladins are paragons.

    6. Smithy*

      Bringing up Scrabble gave me a chuckle, because my mom is a fairly competitive Scrabble player and certainly has a personality that she brings to the game. How she is when she’s winning (on the gloating side), how she is when she’s losing (pouting).

      How irritating or off putting you find either behavior socially, that’s debatable in another context. But I don’t think she’d have as much fun playing with her direct reports and feeling a need to have those responses or reactions in check. So I think having that gut check of “is this still fun” quite frankly is fair.

  12. Beth**

    My mother is like Jane in post 1. She brushes it off by saying her “favourite Olympic sport is jumping to conclusions.”

    It’s fine when she’s just creating backstories for random strangers we’re never going to encounter again. It’s exhausting when she is ascribing motivations to people she does have to have an ongoing relationship with (neighbours, pharmacists, whatever).

    She’s retired now, but I think she would find it hard to stop in a work context even if spoken to by a boss. It’s just too much a part of how her brain works.

    1. Sloanicota*

      It would be impossible for the boss to coach the employee to stop thinking like this – that would require a professional – but they might be able to get her to stop *saying these things out loud.* I think making it all about their role as manager is a good one. “When you are here wearing this hat, don’t make these idle comments” is achievable.

      1. kiki*

        Yeah, this is what I was thinking too. A lot of people who move into management don’t realize or always remember that their words carry different weight now. Telling this manager to keep that in mind and hold their thoughts until they’re more certain of things is a great place to start.

    2. TPS reporter*

      I can’t help but think of the Jump to Conclusions game in Office Space.

      at least your mom is self aware and can laugh at herself a bit?

      I wonder if a bit of self awareness and a private way to signal between manager and boss when this is happening could be helpful.

  13. Irish Teacher.*

    LW3, do hospitals, clinics, etc give notes for procedures like that in your country? I know when I was in hospital, on leaving, I was automatically given a note saying I would need at least two weeks off work.

    I don’t think the fact your employee is going on holiday automatically means they are able to work. I could probably have travelled a week after I left hospital but I couldn’t carry much, couldn’t raise my voice and couldn’t turn my head to the left, all of which are necessary for teaching but not necessarily for travel. It really depends on the procedure and what his job is. I agree the optics are really bad though, especially if one doesn’t know anything about the procedure, though two weeks is a fairly short recovery time.

    Is it possible to ask him to get the doctor or hospital or clinic to sign off on how much time he needs or would that be out of step with your work culture to the point of sending like you are accusing him of something?

    1. KateM*

      As a teacher, I was once by doctor to given a medical leave for a month. I hadn’t even had surgery, I just had lost my voice and had to give it a long rest. I felt so guilty that I continued my life as usual, just did not go to work.

    2. Jam*

      My husband had an eye issue where he was instructed not to read or look at computer screens for two days. He couldn’t work, and ended up going on a museum tour, working in the garden, playing golf – all of which I’m sure looked like a lark to his coworkers but it’s actually really hard to stay modestly at home if you can’t read or be online!

    3. AnonAnon*

      Good point and it reminded me that a lot of companies in the US require you to go on short term disability if you are sick/recovering for more than so many days. I was out on leave last year for a month. After 7 days (including weekends) I was required to go on short term disability. There was paperwork involved and I had to have a letter from my Dr stating my projected return date and then a letter from my Dr saying I was ok to return to work.
      I felt guilty going to an art festival for one day, on a Saturday, during my leave. LOL

      I have unlimited sick days, and this was still required.

      But again, if you are not their manager, there is not much you can do. Their manager should be following whatever policies your company has for sick time.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, I originally read the post on the train and rushed it a bit so it’s only now I’ve noticed that the LW gives no indication that it is their problem anyway. I assumed they were the manager and were wondering whether or not they should sign off on this, but reading it again, it sounds more like they are a coworker who is just wondering why it was permitted. In which case, it is quite likely the manager has more information than the LW does and may have good reason for approving this.

    4. Lady Danbury*

      A family member recently had to have surgery in a foreign country (the specific surgery wasn’t available in our country). She was cleared to fly home (on a regular commercial airline) long before she was cleared to go back to work. Safe to fly is safe to fly, whether the flight is back home or to a vacation destination. Obviously the optics aren’t great, but it would have made no difference to her recovery if had had flown to Mexico instead. There are all sorts of situations where you might be cleared to travel long before you’re cleared to return to work, depending on the nature of the health issue and the nature of your job.

    5. Lily Rowan*

      Yeah, there are so many different factors around when you can work vs. do anything else. Someone who reported to me took leave for surgery, I think it was, but she definitely didn’t give me any sense of what it was. Anyway, she was out for four or six weeks, but in the first week I saw her on the street, and she looked totally fine! And yet, it still wasn’t my business what the surgery was or why she wasn’t at work. Maybe she couldn’t sit for more than 10 minutes, maybe she couldn’t focus on a screen, maybe she was hopped up on pain meds, I have no idea. But she had the medical clearance to be out and that was that.

      1. Lady Danbury*

        You’re absolutely correct that it was none of your business. People can look fine and be absolutely non-fine. Some of the commentary on this letter is dangerously similar to the backlash that people with “hidden” disabilities face. If you’re fine to fly/drive/walk across the street/whatever, then you’re not really sick/disabled and shouldn’t be using disability accommodations. We should be pushing back on this type of speculation, not encouraging it.

    6. Dahlia*

      This is not LW3’s employee – this is their coworker. Asking for medical documentation from their coworker would very much be overstepping!

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, I missed that on the first reading and just assumed the LW was in the position of having to decide whether or not to allow the employee take a second week of sick leave.

  14. UKDancer*

    I think for OP2 in my large company it’s fairly normal to suggest meeting up if someone is in your city. This usually falls under networking and is very rarely a precursor to anything more. I wouldn’t read anything into it unless you have supporting information.

    Equally it’s fine to be busy and make excuses or suggest coffee as an alternative. Although if it is someone a lot more senior in my company I’d usually make time for coffee even if I’m busy because its a good way for face time.

    I’ve done this and had it happen a lot and whatever casual response one makes is fine unless the other party is very difficult.

    1. Roeslein*

      Yes, I’m a consultant (female, in my late 30s) and if a client / lapsed client / potential client was passing through my city and wanted to meet I’d definitely make time! I assume OP#2 doesn’t have any business development / sales responsibility as this is an odd way to react to a normal request. Of course, if I got vibes that the client team member might be creepy and this wasn’t about networking it would be a different story (in that case I would bring a colleague), but nothing in the letter indicates this.

      1. tree*

        Hi, I’m OP2! You’re right, I worked in the IT Operations department.

        I don’t think I explained myself very well (maybe because English is not my first language), but part of my disconfort came from the fact that she wasn’t part of the team I worked regularly with.

        Let’s suppose I worked in the Help Desk team answering calls from the client’s employees and helping them (it wasn’t really like that, but similar enough to my situation). If I had accepter her invitation, I feared that my company would have thought that I was using my 15 minutes calls with the clients to hook up. It would have been different had she been part of the client’s IT department (with which I interacted every day)

        1. Le Sigh*

          I see your point about different teams. I guess my question here is whether this person was otherwise giving off vibes that suggested something inappropriate? If the circumstances were entirely the same but the colleague was male, would you have felt the same?

          I also am curious why you thought the company would automatically jump to you trying to “hook up.” Barring other info, my brain would not automatically slot “man/woman getting drinks = obviously hook up.”

          1. tree*

            No, she didn’t seem inappropriate. If she had been a man, I would probably still have felt it was inappropriate – not because of the invitation itself – but because I wasn’t sure if it okay to interact that much with our clients.

            To me it felt like arranging to meet with the credit card support team assistant that just helped you with your problem. Our companies worked together but we didn’t. And I was aware of my female colleagues receiving some weird invitations often so I thought it would look as if I was doing the same.

    2. GreenShoes*

      Agree I also think that in your early career it can be a little jarring to get invitations like this. There seems to be (at least in my case) a ‘reshuffling’ in the mind of where to file ‘out of work’ work functions. Before professional working there’s a clear divide of social and school then social and work. That fuzzy spot in between can take some getting used to.

    3. Abogado Avocado*

      As a lawyer in government, the answer to me depends on who you’re consulting for and what’s in the contract. In government, we often hire consultants to evaluate or audit existing processes (think: awards of grant funds or community assistance). In those situations, the contract may explicitly forbid non-work contact with government employees because we need to know if and where we’ve got gaps in processes. Additionally, if you’re doing financial auditing, industry standards may also limit non-work contact with employees of the places you’re financially auditing.

  15. Not Jane, I hope*

    I struggle not to be LW1’s problem report ‘Jane’. It comes from wanting to make sure my team have a heads up on any problems affecting them and not leaving them feeling like they aren’t kept informed.

    I try to make it clear where what I am saying is on the ‘speculation – confident informed guess – confirmed detail’ spectrum and avoid the speculation end. Labelling it my head before saying it helps.

    1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      Yeah, I, too, tend to jump to possible explanations and outcomes for things BUT I mostly do that in my own head and if I feel the need to share those jumps, I always preface what I say with things like “I assume”, “Maybe this means”, “I’d expect” etc. to make it obvious that I’m speculating.
      Maybe that’s still annoying for others but I’m also not sure I could change much about myself in that regard.

      1. Salsa Verde*

        I think this is the perfect solution – preface with “I assume” or “I’d imagine” to make the speculation obvious. That is totally different than making a pronouncement of fact, and thinking about people I’ve known like this, that would have made things so much better.

        I do think it’s such an ingrained part of people’s personality and way their brain works that they would never be able to stop completely, and it’s not necessary to stop trying to guess what is going to happen next, just be sure to make it clear it’s a guess and not a fact.

    2. Laura*

      I’d be pretty frustrated if I had a manager or (anyone higher up than my manager) speculating about things at work. I’m a front-line employee, so there’s a lot of decision-making I’m not privy to and hearing speculation from people higher up than me is just confusing. Either they know the information or they don’t. If you don’t know, just say that. A confident informed guess might be ok in some circumstances (especially if it’s something like “hey, this is probably going to happen soon, but we haven’t hammered out all the details yet), but hearing managers speculating is so frustrating because i have no way to know whether I agree with their speculation or not because they are discussing things with other managers and I have no access to those discussions.

      So, don’t do that.

  16. misspiggy*

    I’m genuinely surprised about the negative optics of taking a week to recover from a procedure somewhere warm in a hotel, where people will be available to bring you food and clean up after you. (That’s assuming recovery is needed, but we’ve no reason to doubt that.) It would be normal and logical in the international field I work in.

    1. NforKnowledge*

      I think it’s the ability to take a flight to the resort, which implies the trip is less recovery and more just normal holiday.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Yes, I think it’s the travel. Traveling (as in the actual getting from home to wherever and back) is usually quite tiring, so the assumption is that if you can travel, you can work. That may not be true (depending on the specific travel and the reason one can’t work), but that’s the perception.

        If it was a hotel close to home, it would be perceived differently.

      2. Step back*

        Why do you assume it’s a resort?

        Why do you equate sitting in a seat on a plane/car to working?

        1. 34avemovieguy*

          It’s not just the act of sitting in a car or plane (though long periods of being still can be exhausting and grueling on their own). But travel does exert enough, especially plane travel.

          1. lost academic*

            “Can be”

            You have no information about what’s going on with this person.

            1. 34avemovieguy*

              I am not trying to be argumentative, but I genuinely don’t understand your comment. Travel is exhausting, what with cramped seats, long lines, going from security to your gate, waiting for baggage claim, finding transportation to the hotel. I feel like if you can do that, you can probably handle being at work. Whatever recuperation someone might get from going to Mexico would be contradicted by going through that. But maybe someone gets rejuventated by taking your shoes off and then having to rush to put them back on and then eating at an overpriced fast food establishment

              1. Lady Danbury*

                Traveling with accommodations for a medical issue is different from general travel. Depending on the circumstances, you may eligible for wheelchair assistance, skipping the lines, a trolley ride directly to your gate, early boarding, etc. You may also have a travel companion to help navigate some of the logistics. As I previously mentioned upthread, I had a family member who took a flight about a week after having surgery. They were nowhere near recovered enough to return to work, but they were medically cleared to fly. In their case they were flying back home, but being cleared to fly doesn’t change based on the destination. The duration of the flight could be an issue, but we have no information on that. LW could live in Miami, where the flight to Cancun can be less than 2 hours.

              2. Observer*

                Travel is exhausting, what with cramped seats, long lines, going from security to your gate, waiting for baggage claim, finding transportation to the hotel.

                Well, yes, *if* you are traveling without any planning and taking the cheapest seats, and not accommodations in place.

                But there are actually larger seats (try business class), wheel chairs (and sometimes motorized transportation), and pre-arranged transportation. And assuming CW is traveling with someone, there is also someone to deal with baggage pickup as well.

              3. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

                I would assume (though maybe incorrectly) that the person recuperating probably has help- either a significant other/spouse or travel companion- that’s taking care of a lot of that. If they’re physically unable to carry bags or move through the airport, they could be using a scooter or a wheelchair. We really don’t know.

                Personally, I feel a little weird about it- like when my mom would make me stay in the house when I played hooky from school so no one saw me “having fun.” At the same time, if all the person does is lounge on a chair on the beach or patio, I can’t see why they shouldn’t go to Cancun. My personal thoughts on vacation are it’s supposed to be restful and relaxing and surely recuperating from what is probably not something super-drastic could be done in a place where their normal responsibilities (chores, outside pressures, etc) are absent. It sounds like a pretty good set up, even if I do have mixed feelings about it.

              4. Ferret*

                1. Not everyone finds travel exhausting and stressful
                2. For an example that could stop you from working a desk job but not be an issue on holiday – anything to do with screen time (quite common after head injuries or brain trauma), eyesight, mental focus or fatigue/narcolepsy, hearing problems, vocal issues (see above for an example from a teacher that had to take time off because she lost her voice)
                3. Even if it does make travel more difficult that may be tolerable for a short journey (we have no idea where they are normally bases) in a way that would be impossible to 10 or more hours a day
                4. If this is a job with limited or no options for remote work there may be even fewer options for accommodation

              5. HB*

                I think this is getting to the core of the issue for most people. Airline travel has become increasingly difficult, but it’s also not guaranteed that it’s as miserable for all people. My husband and I rarely fly, but when we do, we pay for first class because it’s makes a huge difference in the overall quality of our experience. We also typically arrange for a car service so we don’t have to worry about parking or driving home super late. It may not turn it into the breeziest day in the world, but there’s definitely a pretty wide spectrum of travel difficulty: direct flight versus multiple layovers, first class versus economy, etc. When my husband and I went to the Dominican Republic we saw some people who had hired some sort of concierge who escorted them basically from the plane through customs/security to their private transport to the resort, etc. Probably a silly waste of money for most people, but if you’re recuperating and can afford to make things as easy for yourself as possible… there are options.

                I also know people who routinely travel in ways that make me miserable just hearing about it, but it doesn’t bother them at all because they travel frequently and that’s just how they do it.

              6. Lady Danbury*

                Anyone can request accommodations at the airport/while traveling, if needed. These may include wheelchair service, skipping the line, a trolley to their gate, early boarding, etc., which would mitigate almost all of the concerns raised. I flew with accommodations once bc I was on crutches and it was the easiest travel experience I’ve ever had.

                Even without accommodations, being cleared to fly is not the same as being cleared to work. We have no idea what the coworker’s medical issue is and suggesting that they should be able to work just because they can travel is unreasonable speculation in violation of the commenting rules.

              7. Stuff*

                I mean, I’ve flown with a broken arm, before. I have TSA Pre-Check, so I’m not required to remove my shoes or belt or take my electronics out of my backpack, and security lines are usually really short. I’d actually decided to go on vacation because of the broken arm, I wanted to be somewhere with good public transit where a non-functioning arm wouldn’t hinder my mobility, and I was bored at home not being able to play video games. I spent my time visiting museums and sightseeing, things I didn’t need two working arms to do. And it was fine, I only needed one arm to pull a rolling suitcase and one shoulder to carry my bag, a flight attendant put my bag into and out of the overhead compartment for me, security was super easy because I could keep my shoes and belt on and not dig stuff out of my bag, and then when I got where I was going, there was a light rail station at the airport to take me to my hostel. It wasn’t really exhausting or stressful at all, it was pretty smooth going, and this was with the cheapest economy plane ticket. I wouldn’t have been able to go to work during this time, however, because I needed two functioning hands at work.

              8. Emmy Noether*

                I’m with you, 34avemovieguy. Unless maybe your chauffeur is driving you right to the door of your private jet, travel is commonly understood to be exhausting, even business class, and even with accommodations (it’s certainly much much easier, but not easy).

                I feel like those people saying it’s not are like those people that say they feel energized by a run. Like, I believe you feel that way, but if you’re on bedrest with 40° fever or have a broken leg, a 5k is not going to energize you.

                Of course, it’s very possible that the reason they can’t yet work actually has nothing to do with how tiring or not it is, they’re not on bedrest, and they’re fine to travel (several possibilities were mentioned elsewhere).

                1. Observer*

                  Unless maybe your chauffeur is driving you right to the door of your private jet, travel is commonly understood to be exhausting, even business class, and even with accommodations (it’s certainly much much easier, but not easy).

                  Not really. I mean it is true that it’s generally not energizing for people. But *so* difficult that it’s reasonable to assume that anyone who is traveling must be in great health? No.

                  I do NOT enjoy plane travel. But I can say from experience that having the right set up can really take to a point where it’s just not that big of a deal, especially if it’s not a long flight.

                  And no, I am not someone who is energized by a 5k run.

                  Also, being too sick to work and being on bed rest are NOT the same thing. It’s highly, highly unlikely that the LW’s coworker is going to be on bed rest at that point.

              9. LaurCha*

                You really cannot know that. I could take an easy non-stop from my home city to Cancun and be there in an afternoon. I could hire a driver to get me there, check my bag at the curb, have a porter wheel me to the gate, then at the other end hire a driver to pick me and my luggage up and take me to my hotel. Travel is unpleasant, sure, but I totally could have done that after my last surgery, had I the money. What I could not, do, however? Was teach my full load, full-time, until I recovered.

              10. me*

                I am mentally and physically capable of traveling while on prescription-strength painkillers. However, I am not legally able to do my job while on said painkillers.

                I am also able to travel while one hand/arm is not functioning. However, I cannot do my job without the use of both hands.

              11. Sharon*

                Recently while dealing with a medical issue, I decided to not cancel a pre-planned trip to visit a friend. I was being dropped off and picked up at the airport and figured I could sit around at her house talking and watching movies just as well as I could sit around at home. And I didn’t have to worry about cooking for myself or taking care of my pets as I would have had I stayed at home.

          2. MsSolo (UK)*

            Mm, I was thinking initially of the various longer recovery periods I’ve had where I couldn’t work (eye surgery, elbow surgery) but could have benefitted from a holiday, but the thought of trying to navigate an airport / flight is definitely offputting. I wouldn’t have been able to take charge of my own luggage, I’d have been worried about losing my painkillers, I’d have struggled in cramped conditions. Sofa at home was definitely the more relaxing option!

            (of course, some people find a drive to Barnard Castle the best way to check their eyesight before returning to work!)

        2. Boof*

          Cancun is sort of a resort town.
          I’d agree tho staying in a resort is probably easier than staying home alone/without a caregiver, and probably less expensive than rehab, depending on insurance, needs, etc.
          It’s on the manager to figure out if the orders are for two weeks to recover or one and which leave bucket it belongs in.

        3. RagingADHD*

          Flying is exhausting, and international travel especially so. Navigating an airport with a week’s worth of luggage is far more onerous than going to my job. That may not be the case with every job, but it’s certainly not an outlandish association.

          It remains none of LW’s business, but I can certainly understand why they are wondering whether work will allow sick time to be used here .

      3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        Right. It’s not a case of surgical tourism (fly to country X, get cosmetic or optional surgery there because it’s cheaper/shorter wait list/etc, spend 2 weeks in country X).

        1. C*

          Why do you assume that it’s not medical tourism? We have a third hand account to go by – we have no idea if it’s even being reported accurately.

    2. k*

      I can imagine how this would make sense for some people in international positions, but unless LW #3 lives near Cancun, there’s no way that this doesn’t come off as just a vacation. If it was only (or even mostly) about the convenience of staying in a hotel while recuperating it wouldn’t have to be Cancun and it wouldn’t be happening the 2nd week out from the procedure.

      As the advice says, it’s certainly possible in theory to feel well enough for a vacation but not well enough to go back to work yet…however it wouldn’t be surprising at all to get pushback at trying to describe that time off as part of your sick leave.

    3. londonedit*

      I think this is one of those ‘in an ideal world’ situations. I mean, 100 years ago people would have thought nothing of someone going off to recuperate by the sea after an illness – but then people also probably didn’t have sick leave and holiday allowance and all the rest of it. In an ideal world, yes, you’d think ‘what a sensible idea, going to spend some of your sick leave recuperating in a nice environment’, but unfortunately in most real-life companies it’s going to come off as ‘using sick leave for a holiday’, which probably isn’t going to go down well with your boss.

      It’s a really sticky area because it comes down to what people perceive as ‘acceptable’ uses of sick time. And if you’re off work for something non-physical, or that isn’t particularly physically limiting, then it’s perfectly possible that going away for a week or going to museums or going for long walks might actually be exactly how you need to spend your sick leave in order to recover. But we have this thing about ‘optics’ hanging over us, which means people are scared to go anywhere in case they’re ‘spotted’ and people think they’re not genuinely ill.

      1. Bird names*

        Yeah, that sounds unfortunately about right.
        I gotta say though that it seems weirder the longer I think about it. Vacation time is, sure, a way to spend time away from work, possibly in a nice location.
        Ideally though you come back refreshed as well. Sufficient sick time also should allow you to get back to work in a better state of mind (and body). It seems rather weird that we act like there could not possibly be any overlap (or benefit) whatsover between the two and have so many people worrying about being ‘spotted’. We’ve had at least one letter iirc that had someone being worried being seen shopping for groceries!

        1. londonedit*

          Absolutely. It seems stranger to me the more I think about it, too! But I suppose it’s all part and parcel of the whole stigma that still tends to exist around mental illness. Unfortunately too many people still have the view that if you’re ‘well enough’ to go shopping or go to Mexico or whatever, then you’re ‘well enough’ to work. But it can be far more complicated than that!

          1. doreen*

            It can absolutely be more complicated than that – but I also think some of it depends on the details. For example, someone who has a physical job and has to take a few weeks off because their leg is in a cast going to a movie is not the same as someone who works in an office and was at work on Monday and at work on Wednesday and seen at a theme park on Tuesday.

            The reason the situation in the letter feels off to me is because it’s written as “has surgery then goes to Cancun” without any mention of what kind of work or a mention that the surgery is actually being done in Cancun or what sort of surgery it is or even if the second week is doctor-recommended recovery time – you can certainly need more time to recover than the doctor initially recommends , but if you are told you will need a week to recover, there’s no way you will know you will need 2-3 weeks recovery time in advance of having the surgery. The OP is a co-worker and doesn’t have a right to any of this information but I’m puzzled about why the co-worker mentioned anything more than that they will be out for two weeks due to surgery.

            1. Observer*

              The reason the situation in the letter feels off to me is because it’s written as “has surgery then goes to Cancun” without any mention of what kind of work or a mention that the surgery is actually being done in Cancun or what sort of surgery it is or even if the second week is doctor-recommended recovery time

              That’s actually why I think that the LW is way off base. They have absolutely *no* information, yet make the *assumption* that “can fly” is the exact same thing as “can come back to work”. It makes no sense whatsoever.

      2. Hyaline*

        I feel like different places have different cultures around use of sick time for “nice but not necessary” situations, too. Recovering somewhere warm with a nice view? Nice but not necessary. Taking a week off to recuperate at home under doctors orders? Necessary. So the optics are likely going to be different even if the result is the exact same thing. And the result is this letter itself—obviously the LW is in no position to be making any decisions, and it’s not even their lane, but they still have an opinion and it’s probably going to affect how they interact with their coworker and the company.

        If there’s any hard and fast lesson to be learned here it’s that if you’re going to do something like this, don’t broadcast it around your office.

        1. Ariaflame*

          After all, how dare people recuperate somewhere where they don’t have to drag themselves around the house and do everything for themselves?

        2. Kyrielle*

          Except if you don’t, and people learn you were in Cancun, then you were lying/hiding/being deceptive, and that’s not a good look either. This is a lose/lose/lose situation for the person getting surgery, assuming they need to take two weeks off and can travel safely the second week.

      3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        Step 1: be born a member of the landed gentry, or marry into it.
        Step 2: be diagnosed with a vague illness
        Step 3: spend 3 months languorously by the sea

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Step 4: meet Hercule Poirot and become involved in a murder investigation

    4. Observer*

      I’m genuinely surprised about the negative optics of taking a week to recover from a procedure somewhere warm in a hotel, where people will be available to bring you food and clean up after you.

      Really! It’s just so weird.

      Many years ago I had major surgery. My in-laws are wonderful people and they offered to pay to send us to a hotel for a week, even though I had all the housekeeping taken care of. Just for the stress reduction – for me *and* for the family. We didn’t do it, because for me it would still have been a different kind of stress, but it was a sensible idea.

      In fact, it’s such a sensible idea that a medical practitioner essentially suggested. I was recovering in a shared hospital room who was using the same practice as I was. Other Patient (OtP) asked the practitioner about staying an additional day in the hospital and they responded by say that OtP would be better off just going to a hotel for a couple of days. “You don’t need medical care, you just need someone to take care of everything so you don’t have to do anything or think about anything. Hotels are just fine for that and a lot cheaper than hospitals.”

      1. Hyaline*

        Though there are plenty of hotels with housekeeping and room service available without going to Cancun, so the whole thing remains a little strange and I imagine LW might not have the full story.

        1. Observer*

          Of course the LE doesn’t have the whole story.

          But my point is that a vacation spot can be a really good recovery option. Not just the room service, but also the weather can make a huge difference to people. So the idea that all of the exclamations about how “strange” this is are just weird to me.

      2. I Have RBF*

        “You don’t need medical care, you just need someone to take care of everything so you don’t have to do anything or think about anything. Hotels are just fine for that and a lot cheaper than hospitals.”


        I have on more than one occasion driven to a (cheaper) town and my wife and I stayed in a hotel for a week – not to play tourist and do all the hike around looky-lou stuff, but just to stay somewhere that had other people doing the cooking and cleaning!

        Also, if you live somewhere with stairs but no elevator, and a hotel has an elevator? A hotel is the perfect place to recover from leg or abdominal surgery, yet is cheaper than a rehab place. A $100/night hotel is cheaper than a $300/night rehab place.

    5. Dahlia*

      Honestly, as a person who lives in a rural place, getting to the hospital involves travel. The hospital I’d have to go to is in a city 2 hours away. It’s also where the airport is.

      Honestly I’d probably rather fly to a warm place than spend multiple hours driving in Canadian winters.

  17. MyStars*

    #1 — I’m in a community where many of us developed this pattern as a survival skill early in life. It’s the illusion of control. It’s also both unnecessary and disruptive outside the contexts where we developed it. in addition to outlining the pattern, it helps to have a nickname for it where you can call it out in the moment or shortly thereafter. We call it MSU (Making *Stuff Up), as in, “[Catastrophe] could happen — or it might just be MSU.”

  18. Bookworm*

    #5: I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story. We heard way too many of the failure or how they go bad, etc. so I was so happy to see you got one and it was a relatively painless process. Thanks again for sharing! It brought me a smile.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Agreed! I am, alas, in the “when asking for a raise goes bad” category for my most recent ExJob. They claimed it wasn’t in the budget, but when I left for greener pastures posted the position at the same salary I’m making at my new job (~40% pay increase) despite the job being exactly the same as what I was doing, with my exact same qualifications. It was pretty insulting, given that I’d gotten rave performance reviews for every year I’d been there.

      But I did get a nice little promotion and salary bump at my 2nd most recent ExJob when I asked for it (delayed a bit because pandemic), so I am also in the success story category. It’s amazing how different it can be working for good people vs working for frauds who are out to get you.

    2. OP #5*

      Happy to share! I was surprised to see how much it was, considering I asked for 5% at the most, but apparently my non-profit really wants to keep me around!

  19. Step back*

    Wow, I didn’t expect the comments to already be so puritanical about someone’s required recovery time.

    It’s not your job, as a coworker, manager, or HR, to involve yourself or your opinions in the required recovery time from a procedure. You’re not a doctor, and even if you were, you are not THEIR doctor. The standard for returning to work is not “you can drag your body to your desk” nor should it be. The location of recovery time isn’t your business and it shouldn’t be. You have absolutely no useful information about anything that’s going on with the individual, procedure or recovery and even if you did – again, you aren’t a doctor and you aren’t THEIR doctor.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      It isn’t “puritanical” to be concerned that someone is potentially defrauding the company.

      1. lost academic*

        They were supposed to be recovering that week – per the letter. It’s literally no one’s business where they choose to do it. Jumping all the way to fraud is pretty much why everyone’s coming to work sick – that attitude is so prevalent.

        1. doreen*

          It doesn’t actually say that – it says they are taking a week off to recover and going to Cancun the second week. The second week may or may not be recovery time – the letter doesn’t say.

      2. Jam Today*

        How are they defrauding the company? They have PTO as a benefit, they have sick leave as a benefit, both of those will be paid out irrespective of where they are geographically.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          There must be some distinction between them, otherwise the letter wouldn’t exist, because it would be moot.

      3. bamcheeks*

        I don’t know how sick leave and PTO are accounted for, but even if the co-worker had actively deceived the company about the reason for their second week off, would that really count as fraud? I though sick leave counted as a benefit?

        1. doreen*

          It may or may not legally be considered fraud ( I know in my state, I have seen public employees charged with grand larceny over sick leave but that’s always involved additional details such as forged medical notes and time periods much longer than a week) but if someone says they need a week off on sick leave to recover from surgery and they don’t actually need the time for medical reasons , it can and probably will be called “fraud” colloquially even if it doesn’t meet the legal definition.

      4. Lady Danbury*

        As a coworker, you do not and should not have enough information to determine whether or not someone is defrauding the company, because you shouldn’t know the details of someone else’s private health information. Therefore, all we (and the LW) can do is speculate, which is unproductive at best, malicious at worst.

      5. NotAnotherManager!*

        Unless there is some vast difference is paid time off for sick leave and paid time off for vacation, how is this “defrauding” the company? They’re getting paid regardless and will be OOO regardless of which of their leave buckets are used. If they were taking a more extended medical leave, that would likely require doctors’ notes and other documentation and the decision would be made at a centralized level.

        We moved to a single PTO bucket years ago (just added the total PTO days + total sick days, so nobody lost anything), and it’s saved so much hassle and drama of assessing whether a time off request is justifiably sick leave. I don’t want to be in the position as a manager to make decisions about whether something is medical enough. I also no longer get coworkers trying to turn each other in for not really being “sick” on their days off. (I don’t care. The effects are the same regardless of the reason.)

        1. Bird names*

          That is pretty much where I land myself. It just seems like such a waste of time and as you pointed out, some of them *did* waste time… by needlessly tracking what others were doing with their time off.

      6. Observer*

        It isn’t “puritanical” to be concerned that someone is potentially defrauding the company.

        That is an enormous leap, with absolutely no evidence to back it up.

        This person is being perfectly up front about his plans. If his manager is approving it, that’s not fraud. You would need to add all sorts of speculation to the matter to make this come close to fraud.

      7. Irish Teacher.*

        I do think it’s a bit of a jump for a coworker to consider somebody is potentially defrauding the company if all the information they have is what is mentioned in the letter though (of course, it is possible they have more). If one of my coworkers mentioned going abroad while on sick leave, I’d assume they had been told they would not be able to do some part of their job – would not be able to carry more than a certain amount and say they work on a building site or would not be able to drive and they have no other way of getting work or they are having surgery that effects their eyes and they should not be using screens for more than X amount of time per day or any one of a whole host of things I wouldn’t even consider – but that did not affect travel.

        Unless the LW has more information than is in the letter – and I do realise they may be leaving out information like the procedure for anonymity reasons – I don’t see that they have any real reason to assume “their doctor has only recommended they take one week off but they want to go on a holiday so they have told their manager the doctor recommended two and the manager hasn’t thought to ask for any evidence of this.” It’s possible but well, it doesn’t strike me as the most likely option and it also sounds like the LW might not be in the best position to investigate. It would be a lot easier for a manager or HR to do that.

        Especially given that they are only taking two weeks off. That’s a pretty short length of time to recover from most medical procedures.

    2. Czhorat*

      To me the issue isn’t “fraud” or anything like that, but a matter of optics; “I need the time off because I’m unwell” and “I’m at the beach in Cancun” will read poorly to many people, whether it’s right or wrong.

      LW should probably not say anything, but if I were the employee on medical leave I’d not go out of my way to tell anyone else I was in Cancun.

      1. Sharon*

        This. The letter writer just shouldn’t have mentioned where they would be and it wouldn’t be an issue. Relaxing and taking frequent naps at a resort could easily be more conducive to healing than staying home where you have to cook and clean up after yourself, etc. If Aunt Gertie who can barely walk and gets confused sometimes can go to Cancun, so can OP.

  20. Cabbagepants*

    #1 I am a recovering version of this. I come from a family of scientists who LOVE dreaming up explanations for things.

    What helped me to still communicate was to try to focus on the facts. Observe that the client was having difficulties, and then troubleshoot how to help them, rather than jumping to weekend work. Make a mental note to see what the real outcome is. Privately notice that they didn’t ask for weekend work this time.

  21. bamcheeks*

    LW1, I really like Alison’s point that “people put a lot of weight on her comments because she’s a manager”, and that’s how I’d approach this. She can have all the jumpy thought patterns she wants but part of taking on the responsibility as a manager is finding a new level of professionalism where your go-to tools are listening, asking questions, and judging your comments before you speak.

    As a manager, you’ve got to feel the weight of everyone below you looking to you to provide leadership, even in small ways, like when it’s time to stop talking about your holidays and move on to work, or how much we can criticise management, or whether it’s OK to use mild swearwords. You’ve got to just have some sense of that responsibility. Just as there’s a difference between handing out with friends and hanging out with colleagues, there’s a difference between hanging out with colleagues and hanging out with people who report to you or who are otherwise junior to you in the hierarchy. That’s the tack that I would take as Jane’s manager– does she feel that difference? If she doesn’t, she should. And if she does, but ignores it, she needs to pay attention to that, and let it stop her blurting out the first thing that comes into her head. A mnemonic that I learnt years ago is SPIES:

    Seek info
    use Initiative
    Escalate if necessary
    Support whoever you’ve escalated to

    Learning to stop, think first, ask questions, and consider your options before you respond to a situation is a key leadership and problem-solving skill that absolutely can be coached, and “here’s a skill you need to develop as a manager” is a much stronger and more constructive message than “this personal trait is really annoying, stop it.”

  22. 34avemovieguy*

    I just wanted to point out in #2 (meeting client for drinks) that OP never actually declined the invite. They just ignored it.

    1. Myrin*

      I don’t think anyone – neither Alison nor the people who have so far commented on this letter – said anything to the contrary?

  23. Dinosaur With The Little Arms*

    For LW3 does the CoWorker maybe have family/friends in Cancun? I’ve had the situation of going to stay with family after a surgery (because I live on my own and it’s either have someone stay with me or go to them) which to someone who didn’t know my situation would sound very much like “I went to stay in a touristy and very busy part of London after my surgery”…
    Yes, some of my slowly building up stamina post-surgery activities were (gently) doing fun London things, and I obviously got to catch up with my family – but I spent most of the time resting, feeling sore and recuperating from the un-fun things a general anaesthetic does to my head.

  24. It’s Me*

    I know quite a few people who play D&D and heard (and always witnessed from when a past roommate played) how heated these games get! I would be very reluctant to play D&D with my boss because I’ve seen friendships end and groups fall apart over D&D drama!

    1. Jerusha the Bard*

      and yet some groups don’t have issues with such things at all. I’ve played with a couple where one spouse was the DM and the other was a player. The DM was careful to treat their spouse the same as everyone else. No targeting, no favoritism. The player didn’t try and take advantage.

    2. Bread Crimes*

      I’ve been in a D&D group with my boss, my roommate, my grand-boss, and one of my boss’s partners. It worked out fine! But it was a pretty chill group of people and we already knew we enjoyed each other’s company for board games over pizza and soda every now and then, so transitioning to a D&D campaign was built on knowing that we wouldn’t have any difficulties with the social stuff just because we met up outside of work.

      Conversely, I almost got into a shouting match with one of the people above over a game of Ticket To Ride at the company’s Halloween costumes-snacks-and-games day, so… it can be hard to predict that. We were briefly embarrassed, and then thought it was very funny, afterward. Who knew little fake trains taking imaginary trips could be so infuriating?

      D&D doesn’t have to be any more drama-filled than a book club or knitting circle or cross-fit group, assuming reasonable adults all around.

      1. Nonny Mouse*

        My first game of Ticket to Ride, I got locked into Vancouver and couldn’t get to Montreal. I wanted to flip the table

    3. LabRat*

      I’ve been running a DnD group of co-workers and colleagues from the company up the road for a year now and we’ve yet to run into any drama at all. It does help that no one is anyone’s boss, but it helps more that we’re all adults and almost all experienced players with good player/character separation skills.

      Honestly, in a town as nerdy as this one in as small-world an industry as mine, it’s actually been excellent networking.

  25. It’s Me*

    I broke a bone recently and I was well enough to fly home after it happened but I took a lot of time off in the following week because of pain and medications knocking me out. I would’ve rather spent that sick PTO on the beach! Also, medical tourism is a huge industry. I think there are a lot of reasons someone could go away and still be unable to return to work. I think this is one of those times where asking for more details could overstep if it’s not handled the right way and I would personally let it go, especially since this LW doesn’t manage them.

  26. Jam Today*

    #3 — stop paying attention to the contents of other people’s wallets. Your life will be much happier for it.

  27. Dinwar*

    #4: “D&D Group” isn’t sufficient information here. My D&D group (really a TTRPG group) is like eight people who play regularly. A few members of the group are also members of D&D groups that consists of dozens of people who rotate through various games–think of it more like a group of potential players, and if you want to play a game you propose it to the group and see who shows up.

    That this is a work thing means it’s probably on the low end. But that gives both of you more leeway here. Not everyone can show up to work-sponsored events–for example, my office has had baseball tickets available, and I was in the field so I didn’t get to go. It happens. Doesn’t mean that my boss was supposed to bow out because the other members of the team had more access to them. (And before someone says “But frequency!” us field grunts missed enough such events that we started hosting our own.) It’s a thing that happens occasionally.

    Finally, I wonder if the whole “perception of unfair access” thing isn’t overblown in some cases. It sometimes seems like a manager is expected to act as if they’re in a different caste than their team. I mean, what would you do if your manager’s kid was on the same baseball team as yours? Or if you happened to notice you frequent the same restaurant? Or volunteered at the same charity? Both you and your manager need to be able to live your lives, and that’s going to include sometimes bumping into each other socially. Better to know how to deal with it than to try to avoid every instance of it.

  28. H.Regalis*

    Lw4 – It’s possible it’ll be a problem but it really depends on your group and the manager’s personality and her (out-of-game) character.

    If you’ve ever listened to or read RPG horror stories, you’ll likely have seen some where managers used their work authority to get preferential treatment in-game. It doesn’t sound like you’re the DM, so that’ll be less of a possibility here even if your manager turns out to be a huge jerk.

    The other main thing is basically the same issues you’d have if you were in the same friend group: If you two have a disagreement, or she has to discipline you for something, that could make the group weird. Also, other people in your department might think you get preferential treatment because you game together.

    Besides that, it depends on how NSFW your group is. Since you’re playing with people from work, I’m guessing there’s no ERP going on, so you don’t have to worry about that. I don’t think, “I cleave the goblin’s head from his shoulders with my axe” is going to be an issue, but bawdy jokes, adult stories, rolling to seduce a guard, etc. likely will make things really weird to be playing with your boss.

    Take a wait-and-see approach for now, but be prepared for the possibility of one of you needing to leave the group.

    1. Molly Millions*

      That was exactly my thought. I also think it’s relevant that not all of the players are direct co-workers – if they’re government employees from different departments, some of them likely never cross paths professionally and may not have the same boundaries/level of self-censorship you’d want among actual colleagues.

  29. Kesnit*

    About 20 years ago (while I was in the service), I unexpectedly had to have brain surgery. When I was released from the hospital, I was put on 30 days convalescent leave. Since I lived alone and didn’t have a lot of friends in the area, I stayed with my parents during that time. My parents already had a beach vacation planned (that they were driving to), so I went with them and spent a week of my leave on the beach.

    When I went back to work, I told people about my beach vacation and no one batted an eye. I was on leave (for brain surgery!) and it didn’t matter where I went. The purpose was to recover and make sure nothing bad happened. If I wanted to spend that time relaxing by the ocean (which, technically I did at work because I was in the Navy…), it was no different that relaxing in my old bedroom at my parent’s house.

  30. Czhorat*

    As a TTRPG veteran I think having a manager in the D&D group is highly inappropriate; those groups can get very close-knit; there’s a sense of facing (virtual) dangers together and the formation of strong bonds for that. If one of the people involved is the gamemaster/dungeonmaster there’s also a power dynamic which may be the reverse of or play into the real world power dynamic at work.

    That said, this is the LW’s hobby and group; there’s no reason they should have to leave, but the manager should *really* step away from this.

    1. Dinwar*

      The Society for Creative Anachronisms used to have a baron on an aircraft carrier. Enough people on the vessel were members that they held tournaments and courts and such. Everything you describe about TTRPGs is taken to a whole other level with the SCA. It’s one thing to roll dice with someone, it’s a whole other world to spend a week camping with them, or to help build each other’s armor, or to patch up incidental injuries.

      The Navy objected to them holding those because of that power dynamic you mentioned–the captain of the ship was outranked by other members of the ship within the SCA, and that was contrary to discipline. As far as I know (and believe me, we checked) the members were not told to stop participating in the SCA. Some still participate.

      That means that you expect managers and employees to be held to a higher standard than the armed forces hold their officers and enlisted to. Seems a tad extreme.

  31. Czhorat*

    For LW3 – while I kinda understand how this could happen, I think it’s VERY poor optics to be on medical leave and going to a vacation destination; in their place I’d be very vague about my whereabouts during my convalescence to avoid what is certain to be a negative impression.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I wonder if they’re trying to get ahead of the situation in case they went and someone DID find out.

      1. Czhorat*

        That’s not unreasonable.

        “I’ll be convalescing on the beach in Cancun” doesn’s sound great, but it’s probably better than having to answer “why were you in Cancun while you were supposedly out sick?”

        1. Pizza Rat*

          I think so. I’ve seen someone call in sick from the Bahamas and get in trouble for it. There were other nails in their coffin, though.

  32. PieAdmin*

    OP4 – I think as long as neither you nor your manager are the DM, you should be fine. I’d assume your manager wouldn’t hold anything that happened in-game for or against you in the working world unless you get evidence otherwise.

  33. Allonge*

    LW3 – companies that care about this often have a rulebook on what counts as sick time and how you can spend it.

    One of my best friends works for a large org, where people typically move countries for their work – they have a separate set of rules for sick leave in a different place from the place of work (as lots of people will want to get treatment / recover in their home country or where they have better support systems). As long as the doctors clear it, it’s very much allowed.

  34. HonorBox*

    Regarding Letter 3 – I think there’s some information missing that leads to speculation about the coworker’s motivation and need. The letter didn’t specify what the procedure is. The LW doesn’t know specifically what the coworker was told by a doctor about recovery. It appears a bit “off” because they’re appearing to tack a trip to Cancun on to sick leave, but we don’t know enough to really be able to say much.

    If the surgery isn’t terribly invasive (meaning a flight and all would pose a threat to blood clots or something like that) and the doctor said specifically that they need two weeks before returning to work, then as long as the coworker is footing the bill and is ready to come back to work at the appointed time, no big deal. Where/how we recover is a personal choice, guided by doctor’s advice and based on the type of procedure. It would probably be less “bad optics” if, for instance, the coworker were going to stay with their parents for a week following the surgery. I don’t think tacking on a trip to Cancun is the ideal choice myself, but given what we don’t know, I don’t think we’re in a good position to say anything… which is where the LW should also find themself.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      It really depends on the nature of the job. If it’s a physical job and an employee can’t do the job during recovery, but flying is okay then that makes sense.

      For an office/desk job, it is hard to picture that someone is able to fly (which for me is a tiring, exhausting, and somewhat physical in that you really can’t find a place lay down or sit comfortably if needed), but can’t work.

      1. Observer*

        For an office/desk job, it is hard to picture that someone is able to fly (which for me is a tiring, exhausting, and somewhat physical in that you really can’t find a place lay down or sit comfortably if needed), but can’t work.

        So, a lot of us can picture it. Because for one thing, there are a lot of ways to make flying much better, if you have the money and support. Also, for some people the benefit of the week in between out-weighs the stress of traveling. On the other hand, even *if* the job is completely desk based, there is travel to and from work (which can be every bit as stressful as a plane trip, and there are 5 of them in a week) and jobs are often stressful enough that *that* is the reason to not be at work. I’m not even talking about mental health issues – there are a lot of clearly documented physical effects.

      2. Ferret*

        1. Not everyone finds travel exhausting and stressful
        2. For an example that could stop you from working a desk job but not be an issue on holiday – anything to do with screen time (quite common after head injuries or brain trauma), eyesight, mental focus or fatigue/narcolepsy, hearing problems, vocal issues (see above for an example from a teacher that had to take time off because she lost her voice)
        3. Even if it does make travel more difficult that may be tolerable for a short journey (we have no idea where they are normally bases) in a way that would be impossible to 10 or more hours a day
        4. If this is a job with limited or no options for remote work there may be even fewer options for accommodation

        1. HonorBox*

          To add to point 3. Let’s say this person is in Houston. That’s about a 2 hour flight from Cancun. Their daily commute might be close to that in total.

          We also know nothing about the procedure, so your second point also is spot on.

          And third, we know zero about this coworker’s plans other than they’re going to Cancun. Do they have family there? Are they traveling with their spouse? A lot of conclusions are being drawn from very little info, and the information the LW has doesn’t give them (or us) enough to really do anything other than speculate and/or grouse about how stressful travel can be.

          1. Dahlia*

            As a person in a rural area, a 2 hour drive is how long it would take to get to the nearest hospital that is capable of surgery.

        2. Pretty as a Princess*

          Hear, hear! Head injury/ concussion is a great example. Get a bad enough concussion and you get strict orders about screens and flourescent lighting, etc.

          I would haul ass with my husband to Cancun in a heartbeat (well, probably Aruba) if I had a concussion serious enough to need a few weeks of brain rest with strict no screen requirements. Happened to a friend of mine years ago. No driving, no computers, well what the hell were they supposed to do, sit at home in their house all day and just be sad? Why not be somewhere you can lie on a beach and hear the ocean!

      3. HonorBox*

        Which goes back to my statement about needing additional information that the LW doesn’t have, and probably isn’t entitled to. What’s the procedure? We don’t know. It could be almost anything. But IF the doctor is prescribing two weeks off from work, it actually doesn’t matter what job this person does. They’re not able to work, per doctor’s orders. And IF the person is able to travel (which it seems like they are) then it really doesn’t matter where recovery takes place.

        Our opinions about the impact of travel on our own mental and physical bodies doesn’t help provide guidance for this LW. And I think no matter what that guidance is to keep out of it.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          Actually we really have zero info.

          Nature of procedure? Not know
          Nature of job? Not known
          Why the LW is asking? Not known. It even sort of sounds like the LW is asking because the coworker asked the LW for advice and the LW is writing AAM (“Can he do that? It seems like if he’s well enough to fly, it should be considered vacation.”)

          But even a 2 hour flight is not only 2 hours in the airport. It is the time to get to the airport, through security, wait to board, fly, deplane, get luggage, get to hotel from airport.

          You can indeed fly when you’re recovering from some procedure. You might be able to fly when you’re unable to work. Traveling by plane is not less taxing than resting at home.

          1. Dahlia*

            The travel might be more taxing, but the other factors might make it worth it. Lots of people with chronic pain make that kind of decision daily, to do something that takes more spoons upfront that will make your life easier in the long run. Maybe travel means one hard day, but then 7 easier ones.

  35. Stay in your lane, mine is crowded enough*

    The sick leave thing seems extremely straightforward to me. Is two weeks off recommended by the health care team? If so it’s no one’s business where or how that sick time is spent. If not the sick time is unlikely to be approved. If it is likely to be wrongly approved then your company has larger management problems and this is just one symptom of a bigger problem.

    Random “concerned coworkers” need to avoid making assumptions and stick to Alison’s usual advice: is it affecting you? If so point out the impacts and address those and stay away from speculating on other people’s health and healthcare.

    As others have said there may be excellent reasons for this (housekeeping services, a mild climate, possibility of family nearby, if avoiding screens is recommended that’s a lot easier when you’re not at home doing nothing). Or it might be a terrible idea and travelling might make this person’s recovery harder. Either way it’s no one else’s business, it’s strictly between the person having surgery and their care team.

    I want to point out that the judgement around how people manage their health (especially if there’s any hint of anything enjoyable, regardless of how much suffering the person is otherwise enduring) contributes a lot to people avoiding things that might help them significantly. I have long COVID and if I’d been able to afford a couple months at a resort early in my illness I almost certainly would be less sick now! I actually do need a mobility device but I’ve spent 4 years mostly housebound and am only now getting a mobility aid, in large part the delay is due to the stigma of being a young, ambulatory wheelchair user. In general, assume people are doing what’s best for their health, or at least the best they can in the circumstances. And try to remember that sick people deserve ease and enjoyment too. We all know stress contributes to negative health outcomes and yet the general tendency is to come down hard on anyone who has the audacity to make their lives easier or more enjoyable while ill.

    1. Bird names*

      I am very glad that you will be getting a mobility aid soon and hope you get to enjoy the additional range of motion it can provide!

      Yes, joy and enjoyment of life is necessary for our general wellbeing. It is one of the reasons depression is so insidious and why it is more prevalent in people with chronic conditions. Unless it is indicated (migraine with visual component) it can in fact help to distract yourself during a bout of illness.
      This is something that Tom Hodgkinson (The Idler) pointed out. We have lost
      the concept of reconvalescence. We are usually not back to 100% yet after the medically approved sick time. It may take days to weeks of additional reconvalescence after a bout of accute illness to be in top form again. Capitalism however doesn’t like that.

      1. Bird names*

        And yes to the rest of your post as well, especially the last paragraph. It is both unnecessary and unkind to expect people to perform a certain way of ‘sickness’, both, because we are hardly familiar enough with all illnesses ourselves and because of the huge variety even in one condition. Long Covid is unfortunately a very good example of that.

  36. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    #1 – I had a supervisor like Jane. He’d make big pronouncements based on 60% of what he heard from somewhere, often waxing poetic about it. The challenge would be that the Big Change that he’d be rattling on about would be 5 years in the future, would be belittling what we did, and would have no practical application for now or planfulness about how to make ourselves relevant in the Big Future. I had to learn how not to listen to any of it.

    In the meantime, I’ve got a neighbor who fancies herself empathic, and expresses this by interrupting our conversations with pronouncements about my emotional state which are invariably completely off the mark and/or constructed from misunderstandings of things I have said. After 15 years of living next door, I now interrupt her and push back, but the worst part is that not only does she then sometimes-silently emote into my living room, but also all of my feelings of being heard and empathized with need now to be be swept up and pushed off to the side.

    Working for Jane would be exhausting.

  37. kiki*

    Tangential to Letter 3, but from reading it seems like there was a time in history when doctors would prescribe “a few months by the sea” for certain ailments.

    1.) Wish I could get that prescription today
    2.) I do think there are some health benefits to recovering in beautiful, calming surroundings. Being out on medical leave shouldn’t have to mean you’re just miserable and sitting at home.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I think there was a letter here (or maybe it was a real-life discussion?) about someone who was recovering from agoraphobia and *needed* to get out and visit museums, galleries, shops etc, but felt like it wasn’t “allowed” whilst she was on sick leave. We’ve still really got the idea that “physically unable to move” is the only condition that really warrants sick leave or time off work, and it’s so damaging.

      1. Pita Chips*

        We’ve still really got the idea that “physically unable to move” is the only condition that really warrants sick leave or time off work, and it’s so damaging.

        To build on that, we also have the impression that when someone is discharged from the hospital they are “all better” and ready to resume all activities as if nothing happened. This is especially egregious because insurance companies don’t want to spend the money for recovery in a medical facility so people are shoved out way too soon.

        The system is borked. That’s a technical term.

        1. Bird names*

          Yup, actual sick time barely covers the first part on our way to recovery and plenty of employers try to cut into that as well. Bring back reconvalescence at pleasant locking destination of your choice.
          I also concur with your final assessment of the situation. ;)

  38. Leenie*

    I know there are a lot of downsides to having PTO in one bucket instead of separate vacation and sick leave. But as long as you have enough of it, an upside is that it renders LW3’s question moot.

  39. Josh*

    For #1: when I first became a manager I had a really hard time adjusting to the power dynamic: there were lots of times when I’d come across as arrogant or callous when my actual thoughts were completely opposite to that. For example I would have a conversation with one of our machinists, and see that he was doing something differently than I’d seen in another shop. I knew this guy had more experience in one fingernail than I’d ever have, so I asked (with great curiosity in my heart and a desire to learn from him) why he did it that way. Only a month later did I realize that he saw me as some upstart kid who was challenging his knowledge.

    If OP has any personal examples like this of how they fumbled the power relationships, it might soften the discussion.

  40. Observer*

    #3 – Sick leave in Cancun

    First of all, why are you asking? Unless this is something that directly affects you or there is something else major that you left out, I can see no reason this is any of your concern.

    I’m also going to disagree with Allison a bit here. If your coworker is documenting his medical issue and 2 week recovery, HR / Management would be stupid to push back. It really does not make any sense to equate flying with a week of work. And the idea that if you are “well enough” to do anything enjoyable it means that you are not “sick enough” to take sick leave is one of the toxic ideas that lead to people coming in to work when they really should not.

    1. umami*

      100%. If a doctor says they cannot return to work for 2 weeks, it makes absolutely no difference where the employee goes or does. The employer cannot allow him back to work during that 2 weeks, period. So what if he travels during the second half when he presumes he will be able to manage the travel? I really don’t get why this is an issue for people. If this were my employee, I would have absolutely no concerns, and if I heard people grousing about it, I would set them straight. It’s not about whether you think someone should be at work, it’s about what their medical provider says. Medical leave doesn’t require you to be homebound, for goodness’ sake!

  41. Bad Wolf*

    This is why it’s so difficult for women to network. Because men (of all ages) automatically assume a drinks invitation is a come-on.

    1. Managing While Female*

      This. He obviously didn’t need to meet up with her if he really didn’t want to, but his reasoning is messed up.

      1. Bad Wolf*

        He admits she never even saw his face (didn’t know his age) and yet obviously her intentions were inappropriate and made him uncomfortable. Good lord.

        1. xylocopa*

          I feel like what you’re saying is the same response we’d hear from a male OP who was annoyed that a woman he’d spoken to remotely for work wasn’t interested in an offer to meet for drinks.

          1. Bad Wolf*

            Male OP: “I asked a female coworker out for drinks and all she wanted to talk about was work. Is she using me?”

            1. xylocopa*

              Lots of guys: “She never even saw my face and yet obviously my intentions were inappropriate and made her uncomfortable! How am I supposed to ask women to network?”

              Like–argh, yes, I get why people got that kind of vibe from this letter, and yes it’s a problem that people can’t have a gender-blind approach to networking. But there also needs to be room for people of any gender to be uncomfortable about outside-of-work ambiguous socializing if they’re not feeling it. Honestly if I, female, at age 20, had been talking to a guy about work and he said we should get drinks next time he was in my city, I’d be questioning it too.

              It just seems harsh to read so much into this one letter.

        2. tree*

          Hi, OP here! I didn’t mean to imply she acted inappropriate or wanted to date (I even said she was just being friendly). I was very young and unexperienced back then and I couldn’t picture myself meeting with a professional 35 years old adult (who was probably expecting someone older), it had nothing to do with thinking it was a date.

          I explained in another comment that it would have been different if we had worked together. But I was more like an external IT Support guy working for her company. I feared my company wouldn’t find it appropiate that I was using my short interactions with the client (usually 15 minutes long chats to get some problem fixed) to arrange for meetings or dates.

      2. Lady_Lessa*

        But he was probably in his first job (or at least very early career) and didn’t know how to handle the situation. AND if it were stressed about inappropriate contacts with clients, it could have gone down badly.

      3. tree*

        Hi, I’m OP2! I don’t think I expressed myself very well. I never thought she was trying to date me, I felt unconfortable because she wasn’t part of the team I worked with everyday.

        I feared that my company would think that I was using my very short interactions with the client’s company employees to try to get dates. It would have been different if we had worked together but our interaction was an isolated one (it was like the IT Support guy having a 15 call with someone to help them with their computer)

        1. Bad Wolf*

          “I feared that my company would think that I was using my very short interactions with the client’s company employees to try to get dates.”
          But this is exactly my point about the warped thinking of men in the workforce. The thought wouldn’t have crossed your mind if the person asking you out for a drink was another man. Even if you had thought it was ill conceived, rushed, or unnecessary, you’d have assumed it was work related networking. Not a potential date.

          1. Myrin*

            OP did assume that it was work-related networking, he just feared the company wouldn’t see it that way.

            1. Bad Wolf*

              OP: “This happened many years ago and while I praise myself for my caution I still wonder if I was right in thinking this was inappropriate.”

              This doesn’t sound to me like young OP assumed the drinks offer was work-related. And it doesn’t sound like he has changed his mind about it with age and experience.

              1. tree*

                The problem to me wasn’t the networking meeting itself but the way I got the invitation.

                From my company’s perspective I called an employee of our client to help her with a problem and I used that interaction to arrange a meeting. It would have been different if we had been working in a project together.

          2. tree*

            I mean, you’re totally right. But around the time some of my female coworkers (including my manager) talked about how random men (from my company or our clients) would invite them to dates or ask for their personal telephone number all the time, which made them very unconfortable.

            This wasn’t my case, but I felt that it could be perceived that way.

            If it the person inviting me had been a man, I still would have found it inappropriate (to me it compared to calling the Customer Support hotline of my credit card and inviting the assistant for some drinks). But as you say, her being a woman did influence my perception.

    2. Ferret*

      I didn’t read any of that into the letter. I though it was much more down to the fact that this was a young and inexperienced person being asked to join a one-on-one activity by someone with significant seniority, and where their only previous context for that activity was romantic.

    3. Working While Not A Conventionally Attractive Female*

      I agree.
      Many men assume it is not networking “it’s date, amirite?”

      I’ve been in networking situations where a guy turned down my invitation to talk about a topic because he wasn’t attracted to me, but that was not the purpose of the invite!!!

      Also, I’ve dealt with female pendantics who assume, drinks can ONLY mean alcohol. Sigh…

    4. Hyaline*

      I didn’t read it that way at all–I read it as he was young and inexperienced and wasn’t sure if it would be seen *as others* as inappropriate, so he chose not to engage. NOT that he thought she was coming onto him or had worries about getting wowzers in his trousers! In other words, he was perhaps overly concerned with the optics of the situation and realizes he perhaps could have handled it differently (with experience comes wisdom, etc).

      I feel like we need to let people be young and awkward and admit to fumbling through social and professional exchanges without assuming the worst!

      1. HonorBox*

        OMG. Thank you for “wowzers in his trousers.”

        I’m absolutely going to borrow that sometime very soon I hope.

      2. JustaTech*

        Yes, exactly this!
        And also the professional “how much am I supposed to network with clients, is this an allowed amount of networking”.
        If you work in a highly regulated industry (it doesn’t sound like that’s the LW’s case), it can take a while to figure out what is an acceptable amount of contact with clients/vendors and what gets you into the realm of “you need to document this for reporting purposes” – (none of which is related to sex).

  42. Just Thinkin' Here*

    LW 3 – My employers have generally required that sick leave be served at home, or at minimum in state. There have been exceptions if the hospitals, outpatient facilities, etc, are over state lines – but those employees would be able to provide paperwork if needed. An exception for Cancun would require that the employee was having the procedure there. There are different rules by U.S. state, but workers comp programs usually have similar requirements.

    In the end, it would be up to HR and the manager how they want to assign sick leave, but note that if they approve the sick leave for this employee, everyone else has the right to do the same…

    1. Observer*

      My employers have generally required that sick leave be served at home, or at minimum in state

      Good grief! That’s a level of intrusiveness that really smacks of Big Brother.


      but note that if they approve the sick leave for this employee, everyone else has the right to do the same…

      And why is that a problem?

      1. Coffee Protein Drink*

        That does seems a bit much, requiring recovery to be at home. I was a in a motor scooter accident and a friend of mine insisted I stay at her house while I recovered.

        Medical procedures, even outpatient ones, are invasive and the body needs time to recover. I would have no problem approving the sick time.

        I just hope that isn’t a workplace like I had years ago where you got dinged on your review for using more than half of your annual sick time.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      “My employers have generally required that sick leave be served at home, or at minimum in state. There have been exceptions if the hospitals, outpatient facilities, etc, are over state lines – but those employees would be able to provide paperwork if needed.”

      Wildly out of bounds for an employer. It’s not their business full stop. If someone provides the required documentation for being out on an extended medical leave, then that’s sufficient.

      My employer doesn’t get to dictate what I do or where I am when I am not working. It’s between me and my health care team.

      1. LaurCha*

        The very phrase “sick leave be served at home” as though it were a prison sentence gives me the ick.

    3. Coverage Associate*

      Worker’s compensation programs are arranged around manufacturing jobs, even if they cover all jobs. There’s virtually no consideration of mental health or anything that isn’t limb movement. That’s also a situation where workers comp is approving the treatment, providers and leave. It’s very different than treatment not related to a work injury.

      Though manufacturing jobs should be more concerned about pain medications that could make flying reasonable but working machinery not. Unless one takes the attitude that if the pain meds work so well you can fly commercial, well you don’t need them anymore and should come back to work.

  43. Jerusha the Bard*

    LW4–Something Allison didn’t mention: please talk to your DM and let them know of this dynamic if you haven’t already. The DM will ideally be able to direct any attempt of your boss to bring that relationship into the campaign or to how your characters relate to one another. “No work talk,” should be easy to manage. What might be more challenging is if your boss tries to make decisions for you, unconsciously pulling rank, while in character. You might want to be be prepared to say, “Let’s save that for the office, please,” in certain situations.

    Good luck! I’m in a campaign that’s been goin on for three years. I love my group

  44. ariel*

    Congrats to OP5! As an aside, I’m always shocked when folks get big raises on here. In my job, when we get a promotion, we get a 2-3% raise. I thought that was normal in all positions but thanks to AAM for teaching me that perhaps it’s not.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      to put it in perspective I work for local government – and while we pay better than many, government is not exactly known for competing with private sector:

      a promotion – either raised to the minimum of the new grade or 10% for first grade, 7% for second grade, 3% for third and above to a max of a 20% raise

      an upgrade – these are either position reclassifications due to job duties changing or time in grade upgrades for position that have like a 1,2 and 3 – 3.5% for each paygrade between the old and new title – no cap. i recently just got bumped 4 paygrades which equaled a 14% raise.

  45. Dawn*

    Just for the record, D&D groups are friend groups, and the new manager should recuse herself from it on those grounds. But that’s not really your battle to fight.

    1. Ferret*

      This isn’t necessarily true, they can be much more casual and akin to book clubs which are a perfectly normal thing to organise via work. Potentially more opportunity for awkwardness given the improv involved but this depends a lot on the specific context.

      1. Lady Danbury*

        This. One of my friends is in a D&D group with people who are most definitely not her friends. Their connection is solely based on D&D and they rarely socialize or even communicate outside of D&D. A book club perfectly describes their interactions.

  46. Van Wilder*

    I once needed four weeks off from surgery and spent the third week on a cruise. It was heaven. There were certain things I couldn’t do and spent the week much more low key than I would have if I were healthy on the cruise. No regrets.

  47. Tesuji*

    LW4: I feel like not enough weight is being given to this being a work-created group.

    To me, there’s a lot of activities (e.g., book clubs, hiking groups, after-work going-for-drinks, etc.) that I’d view completely differently if they’re in the “a group of random friends from various places” category or the “listed on the company calendar” one.

    If it’s in the latter category, there’s a *lot* of things that change, like the kind of topics you can discuss during book club, the level of drinking at the after-work social, and yeah, whether it’s problematic for managers to be interacting with subordinates.

    I mean, there’s still a level where the boss needs to keep things professional and make sure there’s no level of inappropriateness in the interactions with their subordinate, but to me, the fact that it’s a work-sponsored activity means that both the boss and the subordinate taking part in the activity isn’t automatically a “OMG, one of them must sprint for the exit and/or dive through a window, to avoid the streams from touching” moment.

    To be honest, being a D&D player for decades, the idea of a work-sponsored D&D seems like a horrible idea, but then, I kind of feel the same way about book clubs, so that might be more of a ‘me’ problem.

    1. Hyaline*

      This was my response too–that most replies focused on the “D&D” part, not on the “work sponsored” part. If it were any other activity–walking club, book club, lunch break birdwatching, board game club–would they have the same reaction? For one, I think people are assuming that this workplace D&D runs the way their own campaigns do and has the same dynamic (for example, lots of comments about how D&D groups are small and close knit and we really don’t know that to be the case–it could be a drop-in group running one-offs every time. The LW only described the rapport as “informal” so there isn’t much to go on). But bigger picture, if managers supposed to avoid interaction with subordinates to such an extreme degree that they cannot attend *work sponsored events* that would be…weird. Adjacent but not identical example, my workplace has multiple book clubs–ranging from professional development to shared interests (and range from “regular attenders” to “mostly drop ins”). It would be bizarre if a manager had to avoid the book club that interested them just because a report was a regular attender and might be there. In that case, you may as well ban managers from all book clubs or specifically set them up by employment tier! While I can see how D&D might be different from a professional development reading group, it’s maybe not that far off from a board game club or a SFF book club and if it’s work sponsored/created, it’s assumed people who work together may attend together.

      This is more of a case of “playing D&D with my manager might be awkward” (which is fair! but also a side effect of attending work sponsored events–you run a risk you will see coworkers and managers!) than “this is unilaterally unacceptable manager/report mingling” in terms of the root issue here. And in fact, the LW asked NOT “is this unacceptable mingling” but “how to avoid this being awkward” and the answer is basically be normalsauce and trust your manager to not make it awkward (and if they DO make it awkward, that’s a separate question!).

      1. Exhibit Bee*

        Yes, this. At a previous job, my supervisor ran a D&D game for a while. It wasn’t *sponsored* by the employer, but we played on the premises and there were flyers advertising it in the break room. It was run very casually, and it was emphasized that anyone who was interested was welcome to come try, even just for a session or two, so we had people dropping in and out all the time. And I dunno, maybe my perspective is biased since I was in the group and all, but it was fine! There certainly wasn’t any obvious drama from it at least.

  48. MessM*

    LW#1, I might ask if she thinks it would helpful to get some sort of real time flag the next time she does it in a meeting, since it seems likely that she’s just saying things without thinking twice and the behavior may be easier to correct if she is getting real time feedback (also allows her to amend her statements). Something subtle obviously and maybe just once or twice so she hears herself doing it

  49. Moose*

    LW2: “Years later I still praise myself not having the social graces to decline an invitation I didn’t want politely” is certainly a take.

    I understand you were 20 back then and honestly we all make social faux pas when we’re young. But I hope you have learned some social graces since then. You don’t have to accept an invitation but IMO, intentionally not responding to one and then expecting everyone to just move on and pretend it didn’t happen is fairly rude.

    1. UKDancer*

      Yes. A graceful decline is something like “I’m really busy that week but I hope you have a great time.” Not responding and letting it tail off is awkward in my view.

    2. Space Needlepoint*

      Not wanting to go is fine, but deliberately ignoring the invitation it is rude indeed. Being rude to a client can damage relationships, in or out of a work context, can damage relationships.

      Totally unnecessary.

    3. tree*

      OP here! Yes, I don’t think it was correct to ignore her invitation, but I really felt unconfortable and didn’t know what to say. I would have handled things differently now.

      But I still think that it could have got me into trouble so I’m glad I refused (albeit in a very poor and rude way). A manager in a Call Center wouldn’t be happy if one of their agents arranged to meet with someone who called after a 15 minutes long call. My situation was similar to that, I really never expected to receive an invitation like that and I totally panicked.

  50. Blue Pen*

    This is probably an overly charitable explanation, but (and assuming the LW isn’t writing in from Mexico where their colleague could more feasibly travel to Cancun) I could see a situation where the worker is being advised to relocate to warmer climes for their recovery. Fresh air, the sun, beach, etc., really do wonders for me when I’m unwell.

    1. JustaTech*

      There are some conditions where the simplest (if not easiest) treatment is to live someplace warm – like Cancun. The one I’m thinking of is a issue with circulation that is exacerbated by cold temperatures, so if you can just up sticks and move to Miami or Cancun, that would “fix” your condition.

      I’m not sure it would apply to surgical recovery, but maybe?

  51. saskia*

    I also manage a manager who acts like the one in #1. I push back in the moment when he says things like that in front of others. “While we may have a large workload from this client, to be clear, the client has never mentioned us working weekends. Let’s not jump to conclusions.” And if it’s appropriate, “Weekend work would be an emergency situation only. One of my priorities is managing client expectations of what we can accomplish during normal working hours.”

    If you do this consistently, others will begin to understand how to deal with this manager’s pronouncements. I honestly think hearing pushback has been good for the manager I have this issue with. His thinking, at least in meetings and publicly, has become more flexible and he seems to see the ‘other side’ more often now than when he first started.

    1. Myrin*

      These are amazing scripts! Clear, concise, firm, letting others know the “real” expectations, all while not coming down on the manager in question with a hammer. Bravo!

  52. Fluffy Fish*

    When I had hip surgery,(pre-covid, no remote work) I was unable to work for 6 weeks because I couldn’t drive. I felt absolutely fine and could do just about everything, albeit on crutches, as long as someone else was driving me there.

    There’s plenty of reasons someone has to be off work but can still do other things. Being unable to work due to injury or illness = sick leave eligible. It literally doesn’t matter what else they do on their approved medical time off.

    But here’s the real issue OP – it’s not your business. You’re not his manager nor HR. If they are satisfied he meets the requirements to be on sick leave for 2 weeks then that’s sufficient.

  53. Kate*

    #3 – mind your business!!! How an employee spends their pto/personal/sick time is up to them. They get x amount of days and should use them as THEY see fit. How could you possibly think this is any of your concern?!?

  54. Observer*

    #3 – Coworker sick leave.

    I want to make another point. Please knock this out of your head *completely* That is, you say that “It seems like if he’s well enough to fly, it should be considered vacation.” This is toxic, dangerous and totally un-tethered from reality. Being well enough to fly does not at all mean being well enough to work. Insisting that people who are “well enough” to do anything but sit in their recliner are well enough to work is how we get all those stories of people who come in to work and get others sick because they are still contagious or cause havoc because they are actually too sick to work.

  55. Wintermute*

    Re: D&D. Long time DM here, convention games, run for organized play organizastions, been around.

    I can’t recommend it.

    The two biggest things are table dynamics and feeling trapped. Both of these can be totally subconscious and not your fault because of how you internalize power dynamics psychologically.

    about table dynamics I mean you’re the DM you’re in charge you’re watching to make sure everyone has fun. But then you’ve got the player you feel you can’t say no to, consciously or subconsciously you end up favoring them in ways that distort the group balance and can make the game center around their character. It’s usually called the “DM’s kid brother” problem or “DM’s girl/boyfriend problem” where there are consequences (from mom or your partner) if they don’t have fun so you need to bend the game around what they want. This can make it no fun for anyone else. Including you.

    And there’s the second rub. You can end up feeling like a captive. Because some day you may want to quit the game, it’s no fun anymore it’s run its course, but the player is super into it still despite running out of challenges to fight (maybe they’re a power fantasy oriented player that doesn’t lose fun when every fight is a foregone conclusion). Well if you’re relying on that game for special access to your boss (again this can be totally subconscious and without you intending to) or you are afraid of disappointing them, well no one wants to disappoint their boss so you can feel trapped.

  56. Raida*

    4. My new boss is in my D&D group

    You tell your new manager that there’ll be no work talk in D&D, and then you let them handle it.

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