should I say something about my assistant’s messy desk?

A reader writes:

My administrative assistant’s desk is atrocious. It is covered in not just piles of paper, but trash, food items, and all sorts of miscellaneous junk. She is a good employee and appears to get her work done. How would you handle this?

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Employees refuse to share a hotel room
  • My neighbor wants intros in my field, but I don’t think highly of his work
  • Candidate sent a document of emails praising her work

{ 199 comments… read them below }

  1. wondermint*

    Thank you, Alison, for always being the voice of reason when it comes to hotel room sharing

    1. Tired Introvert*

      Truly! My last job (first professional one) was awful about room sharing and if it wasn’t for Allison I would have thought it was normal to stick 4 people in a room with bunk beds!

      1. Lea*

        I haven’t had to share a room on a work trip since I was like 22, I’m so glad she always takes the stance that individual rooms are appropriate

    2. Just Thinkin' Here*

      So, almost a quarter of the work time is spent traveling and folks are being asked to share rooms? No, completely unreasonable. This either needs to be funded by the client or the employer needs to reconsider how many employees are needed each month.

    3. Peanut Hamper*

      Part of her answer was even if they have to book a cheaper hotel.

      I will take a private room in a cheaper hotel over a shared room in a fancier hotel any day. I like my coworkers, but I don’t like them that much.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I honestly cannot think of what element of a fancy hotel I would enjoy if I had to share a room!

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I have a hard time thinking of what I even care about in a fancy hotel, when on a business trip. I’m not going to be spending a lot of time in my room. So long as it is clean, the bed is decent, and the plumbing works, I have what I want. A romantic weekend with the wife is different, but that is a different experience.

          1. Troubadour*

            I want a clean bed, a shower, a powerpoint to recharge the phone/laptop, and wifi. If I’m there for several days, bonus points if there’s enough of a kitchenette I can make myself breakfast cereal / toast or something: I’m enough of an introvert that I just don’t want to have to deal with a restaurant or cafe that early in the morning. When I travelled for work, I generally found a motel suits me far better than more expensive hotels.

          2. UKDancer*

            For work I like a comfortable bed, good water pressure, an adjustable shower and a decent hairdryer somewhere in the vicinity of a mirror so I can dry my hair. I like it to be clean and I like there to be either air conditioning or a window that opens. I also strongly like there to be a kettle in the room so I can have a cup of tea.

            If I’m going to have to work in my room I also like there to be decent WiFi and a proper sized desk that I can work from with sockets in the correct place.

            So I am somewhat fussy but it’s more about making sure things work and do what is needed.

        2. Nebula*

          Given the tone and content of the letter, I have a suspicion that the “nice hotel rooms” were in fact just normal/average, rather than being in particularly fancy hotels. That is rampant speculation on my part, I know, but I can see someone who thinks employees should pay extra to have their own room when travelling one or two weeks per month also thinking said employees should be grateful they’re staying in like, a Travelodge (very basic-but-reliable UK hotel chain) rather than some bottom of the barrel sketchy cheap hotel.

    4. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Yes, disgraceful to expect coworkers to share a bedroom (exceptions such as military). Is this a serious business?
      Either just send 1 person or pay for 2 rooms

      1. Sharpie*

        The couple of times I went somewhere and stayed in a hotel when I was in the military, the guys got individual rooms. (I would have always had an individual room as I was the only woman on those trips). The only time I shared was while in training, when everyone shares though the rooms are divided by sex, and on adventure training when we stayed in what was, basically, a hostel.

    5. Pita Chips*

      Indeed! When I travel for business, I want some time and space to myself, especially if I have to deal with a busy airport.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. Travelling is hard and having to spend a lot of time around people and engaging with them is tiring. After a day of work or travel sometimes all I want is not to have to speak to anyone so sometimes I will just go to the hotel and get a room service meal delivered, run a bath and put a face pack on.

        The last thing I want is someone in the same space. Even if they’re not doing anything just having them exist in my space would be annoying.

        1. allathian*

          Absolutely. I mean, I and my husband have slept in separate bedrooms since our son was born. I’m a very restless sleeper and I can’t deal with other people in my space when I try to sleep.

          Coworkers? Nope, never. If I travel once a year for work I’ll pay the difference myself if I have to. But that’s clearly not acceptable in this case because they’re traveling so often.

    6. Artemesia*

      no kidding. It is barely acceptable for a conference which is also a benefit to the employee and perhaps a bit of a perk. It is entirely unacceptable when there is monthly travel which is already intrusive and a burden. Cut a deal with a hotel chain but don’t force people to live 24/7 with colleagues when doing work for the organization.

      1. UKDancer*

        This is a good idea. A lot of hotels will probably cut you a good deal if you’re bringing people to stay for long periods or very regularly because it’s a reliable income stream. One of my regular hotels has a lot of contractors from one particular company (judging from the number of people I see in their branded clothing in the breakfast room). One of the staff I chatted to once said because they sent so many people, the company got a really good price on rooms.

    7. Janeway, Her Coffee In Hand*

      Yes! Not sharing hotel rooms needs to be the standard except under the most dire circumstances.
      I recently got a new job and had to book my first trip. I was so glad they didn’t require sharing. As an autistic person, I absolutely need that privacy to unmask, especially after a big day of socializing. Having to mask 24/7 because of a shared room would wind up with me in an asylum!

  2. HailRobonia*

    Clutter/paper/mess can be overlooked, but food waste can turn into a vermin problem. To quote Mallory Archer: “Do you people want ants? Because that’s how you get ants.”

    1. Beth*

      Yeah, that was my thought. Ants are the least of the possible problems.

      Messy is one thing, but gross is another.

    2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Yeah. It’s the difference between cluttered and unhygienic – clutter can be OK in some situations, unhygienic is not.

    3. Antilles*

      That can also be how you can get weird smells too, because a lot of food which smells lovely can develop a pretty shaky odor if it sits around too long.

    4. Dust Bunny*


      My department’s workspaces are typically a little cluttered in a “work in progress” kind of way, but food is a no-no. Lingering food remnants cross the line.

    5. CityMouse*

      I worked in an old historic building and we had to be very very careful about food waste and paper trash because of mice.

    6. Jaydee*

      If there are dirty dishes collecting there too, that can impact other employees if those are communal dishes. At my old job we would sometimes have to do a quick sweep of offices looking for forks when the silverware drawer in the kitchenette got low. There were a few people’s offices we knew to check because they often had a collection of dishes – not just the ones from that day’s lunch.

      My rule is always that clutter – papers, tchotchkes, office supplies, etc. is okay unless it’s causing issues like Alison noted. But trash – food waste, wrappers, dirty dishes – is a problem in its own right.

    7. ferrina*

      It is so weird seeing Mallory Archer actually be right in a reasonable work context.

    8. Hyaline*

      This. I would have added #4: pest control to the list. If it’s cleaned up and all food and food wrappers are tossed every night, ok, I guess, but if tasty treats are left to fester overnight or for days ants will be the littlest of the invaders.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        While the office building I work in isn’t particularly old and pesty, I found out that leaving a bar of dark chocolate and a small bag of almonds in a cubicle desk drawer leads to me going Ew! Ew! Ew!Ew! when I decided I wanted an afternoon snack. Apparently a mouse or mice had found my stash and been nibbling on them, wandering around the drawer at night.

        Led to a whole sanitation project for everything in that drawer, tossing some of it, and being paranoid for weeks that something on my desk had been mousified when I wasn’t there.
        And the purchase of a metal cookie-tin thingy which is where my stash of chocolate lives these days, along with tea, dried fruit and a toothbrush and toothpaste.

        There was a completely different event involving mice and a box of 150 Mini-Moo creamers in our break room, which was gross and messy in a completely different way. And is why the Mini-Moos now reside in the refrigerator.
        (did they have to gnaw through almost every single one? It’s like the chipmunks that take a bite or two out of every single cucumber in the garden … pick one and have a field day, little dude.)

        1. Ari Flynn*

          Judging from my fancy rats, they have to check every single one, just in case it’s better than the one they have.

          (Rodents like to investigate things. Especially food. “Eating” and “figuring things out” are two of their greatest joys in life. Pet rats get puzzle toys where you put a treat inside and watch them turn it over and over in their wee little hands, going HOW DOES IT OPEN!?!?! until they solve it.)

    9. Annony*

      It depends on how long it is there. If “food waste” means that she doesn’t immediately throw away chip bags/candy wrappers and waits until the end of the day, it isn’t really a vermin problem. If it means there are lunch remnants from last week, I agree.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        “No food left overnight” is a pretty good rule of thumb. Critters tend to come out after hours when it’s dark and there are no humans around. My office keeps food trash in the covered kitchenette and garage garbage cans. Desk trash cans are for dry paper trash.

    10. Seeking Second Childhood*

      That was my addition. Ants, mice, roaches, rats, pantry moths…

      I also add damage to furniture and carpets and equipment when fruit rots through the bag or soda spills.

      I say this as a natural clutterbug who long ago set a personal policy of no food at my desk beyond one meal period. And no eating where I can spill crumbs or liquids into the keyboard.

    11. Person from the Resume*

      I agree. Boss totally has standing to say the desk must be clean of food waste and crumbs and to enforce it.

    12. Brain the Brian*

      I had a coworker once who kept old food in her desk for years. She left due to a health crisis, and only after several months did the company send someone with a master key to our desks to clean out her area. Oh my heavens, the smells and the bugs. They had to get an exterminator, and we had to work from home for a few days (this was pre-Covid). Yuck.

    13. Willow Sunstar*

      Yeah, back in the Pre-COVID days we would get ants and I was wondering how. Then found out my boss at the time had a stash of fruit at his desk. Not even in the fridge.

    14. LaurCha*

      Came here to say this. Food and drink trash has to be gotten rid of. Leaving it to fester on the desk is gross.

    15. Overit*

      No kidding. My daughter was able to break an apartment lease because of ants.
      The renters below them had tons of food waste out on every flat surface. The waste attracted onslaughts of ants for months. They would exterminate and then 7-10 days later, the ants would return because of the continued pikes of rotting food from the downstairs neighbors. The landlord was trying to evict them but the process takes months.
      Best part was the people operated a food truck. I have not eaten at a food truck since.

      1. 1LFTW*

        Something similar happened to me at my first apartment in college. I started to get roaches occasionally, which was weird because I never left food lying around. When the downstairs neighbors got evicted for not paying their rent, my landlord found the source: these people just… never took out their garbage.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        When I managed a building the ground floor tenant couldn’t understand why she kept getting ants. Maybe all the cat food you never swept up lying around on the kitchen floor?

    16. londonedit*

      Yep, I’ve spent time working in old buildings and the rule is always absolutely no food left out overnight. Everything needs to be in sealed containers and preferably put away in a filing cabinet or kitchen cupboard. There were still mice in the building but we really didn’t want to be doing anything to encourage them.

  3. anonforthisone*

    Someone at work kept food at their desk without sealing it properly. Then the mice arrived. Ugh!

    1. HailRobonia*

      My old office had a mouse problem. At my final interview for the job a mouse ran across the desk and the two people on the interview panel shouted in surprise/shock/fear and I grabbed the folder with my resume and other papers and swatted it right across the room (where it scampered away).

      I got the job. Oh, and one of the interviewers quickly went out into the main office to tell people what happened and allay any fears (can you imagine if a job candidate goes in for an interview then you hear screaming?)

        1. Goldenrod*

          Wow. Agree! That should have been followed with a swift, “You’re HIRED!”

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I kid you not: My boss at the time once opened our exterior front door and a mouse ran into the building.

        Boss and I stood there in shock for a moment and then went nuts trying to find it. I have never seen a wild mouse run toward humans before!

        We never did find it, dead or alive, but we never found anything nibble or pooped-on, either. We have no idea where it went.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          I used to live in a house that had a mouse that would come out into the living room when we were all hanging out, chatting. It would wander around, and sometimes sit up on its back legs as though it were listening to the conversation. It would come towards us like it wanted company. And sometimes hop instead of crawl on all fours. It was very cute, and we never had the heart to try to get rid of it. (I spent some time looking at field guides trying to figure out what species it was, because it looked and acted very different from the regular field mice I’d see growing up)

          My brother now lives in the house, and occasionally sees a very similar mouse, with the same behavior. He set mouse traps in the basement and got rid of quite a few ‘regular’ mice, but could never bear to set one in the living room in case he got the hoppy, friendly one.

          1. Fluffy*

            I’m reminded of Sean an McGuire’s Aeslin mice: talking and devoted to making religions for their humans

    2. Smithy*

      In the realm of very cluttered vs dirty – I do think that uncovered food is the easiest for a manager to address and can possibly be a way to kick off other cleanliness conversations.

      Because while it can start with “we’re trying to be responsive to worries about insects/rodents”, it can be matched with concrete expectations about a desk being organized enough to confirm that there’s no food left. I don’t think the expectation needs to be as tight as the chance that a piece of fruit leather could conceivably be in the middle of a stack of paper -ergo no stacks of paper. But if there’s so much paper/book/binder clutter that it’s hard to scan for food waste, that can make the subject one to object.

    3. Sunflower*

      Our office has mice too. We’re only suppose to eat in the lunchroom since it gets cleaned every night, and not at our desks, but people do anyway.

      They put out traps but they’re not working so far. The only thing happening is the mice are still getting into people’s desks and chew through flimsy food wrappings (like chip bags). LOL

      1. WellRed*

        The first time a mouse got into my desk and my snacks I’d clear out all my food. Ick!

        1. Marzipan Dragon*

          I did. I’m not one to leave food in my office anyway but had left an unfinished box of Junior Mint candies on my desk one night. Came to work to find mice had eaten all the chocolate off the mint centers. So grossed out. This was one week before discovering the person in the next office over didn’t use her desk for office supplies but that every drawer was a separate category of snack food. My mouse was just overflow from her desk. Policies were made.

        2. Sunflower*

          I transfer my snacks into aluminum or thick plastic containers. I don’t know why some of my coworkers doesn’t learn.

    4. afraid of snakes*

      In one of my jobs 20 years ago we had a brand new building with these removable floor tiles for all the cabling to be run under. There was a point when we weren’t even allowed to eat at our desks because the crumbs would end up under the tiles, which would of course bring mice. This was in the Rocky Mountains, so what do mice bring? Snakes. On the second floor.

      1. A large cage of birds*

        Oh hell no. I’m not stepping back in that office until the legless ones are dealt with.

      2. RVA Cat*

        I’m on the east coast and it’s scary enough to imagine a big ol’ ratsnake in an office predicament.

      3. Media Monkey*

        sounds like haven for my 2 cats. one brings in mice and the other slowworms (probably the most snakey thing you’d easily find near a house in the UK – we do have other types of snakes but they tend to steer pretty clear of people/ populated areas). problem is that the one with the slowworms doesn’t kill them and you have to get to them pretty fast before they shoot off into a dark corner! at least the mice are dead (and often decapitated)

    5. Hyaline*

      Had a professor in a former building who kept open jars of peanut butter on his desk. Guess what? We got mice. This did not deter him. I’m sure he consumed a sizable amount of mouse droppings.

      1. HonorBox*

        Oh my goodness. You just brought up a memory. Had a professor when I was in college who was incredibly sloppy. When he left, his office was PILED with trash. Like there was a huge mountain of trash on the floor when he left. There were mice all over the place.

        1. bamcheeks*

          An old colleague of mine was on a 12 month academic contract and was given the office of the permanent academic she was covering for (he was on a secondment or fellowship elsewhere). Typically people would leave all their books on their shelves, but tidy out all the “normal” office stuff so it would be usable for whoever else had it over the year they were away. He hadn’t tidied it or moved any of his stuff out: not just papers, notebooks, pens, and books, but thinks like empty coke cans, crisp packets, pencil shavings and so on. She was so annoyed she got a big box and put every single on the desk and immediately accessible shelves into the box along with a label: “coke can, left end of window sill” “broken pen, right hand side of desk”, “notebook, top left hand corner of desk”. So passive aggressive, I loved it.

          1. Mad Hatter*

            I was the college admin Asst who had to clear off a professor’s desk before their sabbatical replacement arrived. The desk/chairs clutter filled up 4 large boxes which remained unopened in the office corner after the professor returned. When I left 5-6 years later they still hadn’t been touched.

        2. OFFICE SNAKES!!!*

          What is it with professors and mice?

          (There was allegedly a mouse problem in the humanities building when I was in undergrad. Might have been due to all the popcorn ceilings instead of, say, dropped popcorn…)

    6. Non-profit drone*

      My office has lots of mice, to the point where we are ordered to throw away all our food trash in a special bin in the hallway. Absolutely no food trash allowed in the offices itself. Mice don’t bother me, but I am deathly afraid of cockroaches, so I never leave even a crumb in my workspace.

  4. LoV...*

    I have a pretty high tolerance for clutter, but food items are a bridge too far IMO. It’s not sanitary and can smell pretty bad.

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Same. From the title of the post I was thinking “cluttered” and my response was “probably not, unless it’s where customers or clients can see it”. But if it’s actually unsanitary, yeah, definitely say something!

    2. Tisserande d'Encre*

      This! I am a very messy person and really struggle with clutter but trash and food are Gone!

  5. Anon for one, anon for all*

    Oof, I feel the messy desk. One of my employees had a terribly messy work area – files, notes, other papers, personal items, a few food wrappers/drink containers, and more. Notes from conferences years gone by, all out in piles. They were in a client-facing role and duties included maintaining confidential files. We were all terribly busy, but this employee was known to lose track of things here and there – eg, regular reports missing information, deadlines missed due to notes getting lost. Not enough to rise to the level of discipline, but enough to get a little bit frustrating. When I became their supervisor, I was told by my boss that they had one week to get their desk cleared (after they’d had years of it being remarked upon but zero remedial action taken), and we didn’t exactly have any spare time for them to work on it. I had a few other “things are going to change around here” things thrown at me when I got the role and had no idea how to manage this – and being perpetually short-staffed and hiring didn’t help. I’d just had my knuckles rapped for this desk issue out of the blue, on top of an already stressful day, walked into their office, grabbed an empty food container and almost tossed it into their trash as I told them they had to get the place cleaned up. Then I realized it was NOT one of the empty ones – I had no idea if it was in fact their current lunch. Color me mortified. They laughed, thank god. I apologized, put it back, told them we’d have to come up with a plan to get their desk in order. As far as I know, they never did; it fell to the wayside after a heap of fire-level priorities we were always dealing with… and I never heard about it again from the higher-ups.

  6. HonorBox*

    OP1 – It would be one thing if the assistant had piles of papers, files, etc. on their desk and was doing a good job, people could reasonably easily find something if needed, and it wasn’t too out of the norm within your workplace. But trash and food are problematic. The optics are bad for sure. But there’s also a chance that it could attract pests. At the very least, I think you need to tell them that trash and food can’t be visible to others.

    OP2 – I think your employees are right to refuse to share a hotel room. Even if they didn’t snore, you’re expecting that they’re away from home for business OFTEN. They should expect some privacy and downtime, and the way you’ve set that up makes that impossible. I’d be upset at work for forcing me to have an assigned roommate.

    The statement in the letter about the accommodations being “nice hotel rooms” gives me a bit of pause too. It could be the Ritz Carlton and the fact that I’m hearing someone snore, arranging shower schedules, having to compromise on what TV show to watch, etc. still makes it a problem. If you need to look at a different level of hotel or rework your travel budget/planning, that’s the solution.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I’d rather stay in the Best Western by myself than the Ritz with an acquaintance.

      1. HonorBox*

        Same here. In fact staying at the Ritz with an acquaintance/coworker would actually be worse because I wouldn’t feel like I could relax and actually enjoy the Ritz room.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        That was my thought. I don’t want to stay in a dump, but if my options are fancy but with a roommate (who snores so much I cannot sleep) and a less fancy place in a single room, I picking the less fancy place.

        1. Jane*

          Same except I AM the snorer. I would be horrified if I had to share a hotel room with a co-worker. It’s one thing with a close friend, or my BF, because they know how it is.

          But yeah, give me basic motel vs. lux hotel so i can have my own room.

      3. Pita Chips*

        Bingo. For one thing, I meditate, which is really hard to do with someone else in the room and I’d really rather not.

    2. 1 Non Blonde*

      That bit also gave me pause because I don’t know of any “nice” hotels that have twin accommodations. Though I suppose that’s more common outside of the US.

      1. HonorBox*

        I was assuming “twin” meant two beds… but I could be wrong. Whether it is twin beds like a dorm room or two queen beds, it still is a hard no for me.

        1. UKDancer*

          I think room descriptions vary in different countries. In the UK a twin room is a room with 2 individual beds in which are not joined together. So you have 2 separate beds with individual duvets on. This is distinct from double / kingsize which have one larger bed.

          So when I stay with my mother or my cousin I get a twin room because we won’t share beds. When I stay with a boyfriend we usually get a king or a double.

          I wouldn’t share either room with a colleague but fortunately I’ve never had to.

          1. doreen*

            I’ve actually never seen a hotel in the US that had something they called a “twin room”. There are rooms with two queen size beds and rooms with one queen or one king – but “twin accommodations” sounds like there are two twin beds, which is not something I’ve seen in a nice hotel in the US. I’ve only seen two twin beds on cruise ships , outside the US, and the occasional US resort that hasn’t been updated since the “Dirty Dancing” days.

            1. UKDancer*

              I think US hotels tend to have much bigger rooms than those in the UK as a rule. Probably because land is cheaper and there’s more of it in the US. I’ve always been amazed by how enormous rooms are in hotels in Washington DC and Baltimore. I’ve never seen anything like it in the UK or much of mainland Europe.

              In cities in the UK you have to pay a lot more for a big room or a room with multiple beds. So they tend to be a lot smaller and only have 1 double or 2 single beds in.

    3. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

      #2, yeah, that’s a LOT of travel to be enforcing room sharing. I’m guessing here, but based on the work travel I’ve done, people are using the room to wind down, shower and sleep. So, maybe go for a less fancy hotel so everyone has their own room. (If there’s a reason it has to be that hotel, maybe a little budget rebalancing is possible, or maybe there isn’t an urgent business need for this many folks to travel this often. Without getting into a remote v. onsite debate, many companies have realized some efficiencies around cutting back on travel in recent years.)

      I wouldn’t ask people to pay out of pocket for their own rooms. I admit I’ve done that because I absolutely won’t share a room with anyone but a partner and very select family members/friends. But, it was when I was traveling twice a year, not a week or two every month!

  7. Mark Greene*

    Forcing people to share a hotel room is unreasonable, not just for the reasons Alison states, but what if you have IBS and would like some privacy?

    1. HonorBox*

      Or if coworker is a smoker and the smell follows them into the building after they go outside. Or they are midnight snackers. Or they take incredibly long showers. Or even something as minimal as you can’t compromise on what TV to watch.

      1. Jellybeans*

        Or they can’t sleep without the TV blaring on top volume. (Shudders at the memory.)

    2. n'anon*

      Violent crime/DV survivor here. Being startled awake by a ‘stranger’ in my room is a recipe for bodily harm.

      1. Anon for this*

        I have some trauma from childhood that is triggered by someone gently touching my arm to wake me up. A friend did this in a hotel room we were sharing because I was snoring. I had to let her know if she needs to wake me up, shaking is okay while saying my name, but just gently touching my arm is NOT. None of us mind sharing when we’re traveling for personal reasons, but it would be a no-go on business travel for a host of reasons.

    3. Stanley Tucci not searching for Italy with a roommate*

      I would simply refuse to travel under those terms.

    4. Willow Sunstar*

      Or other medical issues and want privacy. For the longest time, I’d have eczema flare-ups and hives at oh-dark-hundred like clockwork. Probably was stress. Ugh.

    5. Bethany*

      And so many hotel rooms these days don’t have full bathroom doors! Ones I’ve seen lately include glass windows through to the shower area, frosted glass doors for toilets, slatted half-doors, and a bathtub in the middle of the room!

  8. Liz the Snackbrarian*

    The noise of my CPAP machine bothers some poeple, and if I’m not using it, I’m snoring and drooling everywhere. Between that and me genreally being a messy person, I’m not anyone’s ideal roommate.

    1. DivergentStitches*

      I’d just be embarrassed by all the accoutrements I need: CPAP, then a blindfold thingie under the CPAP straps, that has headphones built in so I can listen to lo fi while sleeping, also a retainer. LOL I’m a mess.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Even if you were a completely quiet non-drooly sleeper, you and your coworkers should NEVER have to share a bedroom.
      Work relationships should never include a bedroom.

    3. Madre del becchino*

      Interesting — I am new to the CPAP experience, and the machine I have makes no noise at all (much to my husband’s disappointment, as he likes sleeping with a fan noise.) Your machine must be different.

      1. Reluctant Mezzo*

        Mine is relatively silent, but the noise of me moving the hose around so it doesn’t sputter around one of the joints would likely disturb others.

    4. lilsheba*

      of the beaten path here but maybe you need a new machine? I have the new dream station from Phillips Respironics and it is quiet…you can’t hear it at all.

  9. New Jack Karyn*

    Neighbor, you don’t want to help this guy. It’s very plain in how you write about him. Just say that you can’t recommend people that you haven’t worked closely with. Give him a firm answer so he can move on, and not hold out hope that you can help him in his career.

  10. A Book about Metals*

    I think food is where you can draw the line – messy papers are one thing but once you add food trash into the mix that can lead to a whole bunch of other unpleasantness

    On the one with the applicant sending feedback she’s received – I don’t see this as a flag at all. Even if it’s not something that’s commonly done, it seems pretty good that they’ve been able to fill four pages with compliments. If LW doesn’t find that relevant for this position, I’d say ignore it but no reason to count it against them

  11. Melissa*

    Alison is right on– perception does matter.

    Also, is your admin actually able to keep track of things and find things quickly when needed? My experience has been that very messy people (VERY messy, like what you are describing) will often say, “Oh I know it looks messy but I know where everything is!”… but they don’t. They constantly lose things, or things get torn up and wrinkled, or just disappear. If that is happening, you are on solid ground to tell her that she has to keep things organized.

    1. JFC*

      +1. I have worked with very messy desk people. Any time I ask them for a document or report, they say, “Oh, it’s right here.” Then proceed to go through multiple 10-inch teetering stacks of papers, folders, etc. to search for it, and maybe find it half the time. Sure, they might know whether it’s on a stack on left or right side of the desk, or in the middle drawer instead of the top one, but it’s a crapshoot beyond that.

      1. Antilles*

        That’s generally been my experience, though ironically the most disorganized office I’ve ever seen actually did know where everything was.
        It was a senior executive who’d been there forever and his office was legendarily messy. People from other branches of the company and even people from other companies (!) had heard rumors of just how disastrous the place was, it was that infamous. Stacks of paper and boxes everywhere, dodging through a maze just to get to the desk, etc.
        But on several occasions, I’d need to ask him about a project when he was out of office. Every single time, I’d call him and he’d tell me to check the hard-copy files, then provide exact directions to the hard-copy for that project, completely off the cuff.
        And we’re not just talking about projects that he worked on the week before and had read recently, he did this even for projects that had been closed for years! “Oh yeah, the Alpha Project from last decade? Okay that information should be in the binder, which is located is in the pile of binders near the wooden bookshelf in the back left corner, probably about halfway down in the pile”.

  12. Essentially Cheesy*

    The idea that being asked to share a hotel room in this day and age is ridiculous.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I never did, even when I first started work, >4o years ago.
      It’s only ever been a thing with cheapskate employers / those circling the drain.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        It’s pretty standard in academia, particularly at junior levels. It’s a side effect of grant funding, and in some cases government-set per diem limits. There’s a set budget for travel and going to conferences is seen as a benefit to the person going (so your employer/supervisor isn’t going to get annoyed if you refuse to go). If you need a private room, you could get it, but it could mean one conference every two years rather than one a year, or not going to bigger conferences (which are more expensive), or needing to stay at a hotel further away and taking the bus or walking to the conference venue.

        I’ve gone to conferences where I’ve had tenured faculty contact me and ask if I wanted to share a room – this is someone who manages their own grant money, and makes their own decisions, but had a limited travel budget.

        I’ve never had to share a room for work imposed travel however (ie, I’m sent, rather than requested to go), although some work sites have shared bathrooms in the dormitories.

        1. Treena*

          I’m a PhD student and am going to three conferences this year. One local, one in Europe, and one in North America. It’s never even been mentioned to share a room, I would never. It’s your supervisor’s job to fund your travel and if they can’t, well… they shouldn’t really be supervising students.

          You mention grant/government limitations, so thanks for adding one more reason to not entertain the idea of academia in the US.

          1. amoeba*

            Eh, I’m in Europe and as a PhD student/postdoc it was super normal to share rooms. But those people were also mostly my close friends, so everybody was, in fact, fine with it! And if somebody needed a single room for whatever reason (only person of their gender in the group, odd number of people, health reasons, snoring, whatever), that would be accommodated. So really no problem for anybody I’ve met.

            For work trips now in industry – eeh, I’d probably be fine (and I absolutely still share rooms with friends on private trips!), but depends on the colleague, of course – in the “grown up world” we tend to be less close than during grad school, for sure! Wouldn’t like to share with a random near-stranger from my company. Also would feel ridiculously stingy, so that alone would annoy me, even though the shared room would probably not be a big problem for me.

  13. Falling Diphthong*

    OP2, you say hotel costs are a significant part of the budget. What about salaries? Health insurance? Electricity? Staying in compliance with state and federal regulations? Would you just slash the budgets for those in half and expect there to be no impact on the business except better profits?

    Giving people a hotel room is a cost of doing business. If they were on, say, a nuclear submarine, you could point to the norms being triple bunking with strangers. But above water, giving your employees a private space to retreat to should just be the norm.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Also, if this is a line of work that requires that much travel, then hotel costs need to be a significant part of the budget. If you can’t afford to house employees while they travel for work they are doing for you, it’s time to reexamine what you’re charging or how you’re using the money you do have.

      1. UKDancer*

        Also these people would probably prefer a room of their own in a cheaper hotel to a shared room in an expensive hotel. I think a lot of people would. If the expense is a thing, they could look at a lower priced hotel.

        I mean my company has fairly strict rules how much you can spend on accommodation so I wind up in Premier Inns quite often and they’re fine, clean basic and always the same. I’d rather have a room of my own in a PI than having to share a room in a posh hotel with a colleague.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          Same. What I basically need when doing business travel is time alone. If I have to stay in a cheaper, but perfectly serviceable hotel to achieve that, I’m good with it.

          Now that I’m job searching again, I’m thinking of adding this to the list of questions to ask. Might as well winnow out these companies from the get-go.

      2. bamcheeks*

        if this is a line of work that requires that much travel, then hotel costs need to be a significant part of the budget

        Right??! When I had a heavy-travel job, my expenses each month were pretty close to my salary. That’s normal! This isn’t something to skimp on! I don’t know how you think you can have people travelling 25% of the time and NOT be spending a significant amount of travel. If that’s not budgeted in your costs, why not?

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes, when I’ve done jobs with a lot of travel, the company has to resource that. It’s just the way things are. I mean I’ve never worked anywhere that paid for luxury hotels but the assumption everywhere I’ve worked is that the company will budget enough money for an individual ensuite bedroom for each member of staff. That’s just the bare minimum.

  14. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

    Re #3 – IME, most of the time the vague response won’t end it. I deal with this a lot, and the correlation between the people who always want/need recommendations and their own Dunning-Kruger effect size is HIGH.

    In general, if approached from the “want to pick your brain” angle (which IME always leads to “who can you recommend me to”), I now consistently beg off so as not to take the first step down this path. This is of course different from people who approach me saying “so-and-so is amazing, could you talk to her about X?” – that is fine!

    However, once you’re in the death spiral with people who suck but want you to recommend them and there is no universe in which you can do that, I will either (1) actually send an email (so I can say truthfully that I did) that says, “so-and-so asked me to recommend them but to be clear, I don’t know anything about their work product” or (2) will not send the email and say I did (I know, I’m going to hell).

    For me, the scripts offered for this don’t work because these are people with whom you need to not JADE because they will argue anything (you don’t have time now? How about next week/month/year?) or continue to ask.

    1. Artemesia*

      This is why ‘oh I have a policy to never introduce or recommend people I have not worked closely with.’ Argue with that.

      1. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

        “But we have spoken about this and so you know my work! We know each other now, we’re neighbors, we are close, this one time won’t hurt, I’m sure you can make an exception for a neighbor, right? I’ll show you examples of my work if that will help, how about that? I’ll just email it to you and that way you can take a look, I can get your email off the neighborhood list. Why not? What’s different about working together if we have met and discussed my work? Why won’t you lift a finger to help a friend/neighbor? How about if I have a my old co-worker call you and tell you all about working with me? It would mean so much to me and my family if you could do this for us!”

        Trust me – people can argue anything!

    1. Petty_Boop*

      There should be no “gently” (that word is so weirdly overused here like every discussion about anything is so fraught!) about it. FIRMLY tell her, “No food debris at your desk. Period. Any snack items must be in reclosable pet proof containers like glass jars with lids and kept in a drawer. Wrappers, used napkins, utensils, plates and cups are either thrown away or washed immediately after use. Are we clear?”

      1. Mrs. Hawiggins*

        ^ This. 100% this.
        We all have our piles of paper and folders but food and plates and all that absolutely not. Seriously I’ve seen people get warnings for having a crapped up work area like this.

      2. Also-ADHD*

        I mean, your example sounds like a dressing down of a child, so I’d go more gentle than that but not kid’s gloves. I’d do the SBI (situation-behavior-impact) and then after that, make sure my direction was clear: ie “I’ve noticed your desk (description of the mess without charged words like messy that are subjective/instead things like “has a lot of papers on it” “has open food wrappers” etc). It seems like you let things pile up on your desk, which causes (whatever problems). These problems need to be addressed because of xyz.

        The phrase “Are we clear?” is very demeaning and would better be replaced by something like “Does that make sense?” Or “Do you have any questions?” which is more likely to actually check understanding.

  15. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    Hard no on the hotel room sharing. I barely tolerate sharing a room with my family! SMH that the OP thought that the high quantity of travel made it more reasonable to require it instead of less. I used to travel for work and I would have quit my job if that were the requirement.

    I am a terrible roommate.

    I am a ridiculously light sleeper. I don’t take meds unless I have to share a room and then the sleep meds make me snore and I still wake up at 3 am and if I am trapped in the bed forced to be quiet I will never get back to sleep. I normally get up and make the time productive and then I am ready to go back to sleep around 5 am. This also means that I almost always end my day with a 15-20 minute nap between work and dinner so you better not be in the room then. And lights out early.

  16. BellaStella*

    Hotels: two times in 2 years I have had to say, “No I want my own room” to a difficult boss who is always wanting to be centre of attention. She wanted 8 of us to share a big airbnb. Ugh just no! After ten to 12 hr days at a conference I need down time to rest

    1. Goldenrod*

      I’m shocked that in 2024, people are still expected to share hotel rooms with coworkers. This should be a hard no.

      1. Lea*

        Me too. Honestly the only exceptions to these should be in emergency situations where there is literally no other option like post national disaster

          1. allathian*

            And cisgender people too. I’ll happily accept a trans woman as a woman in every other way, but I won’t share a room with her unless she’s had bottom surgery, and the configuration of other people’s genitalia’s none of my business. That’s my limit and I’m firm on it, even if it gets me a reputation as a TERF.

    2. Doc in a Box*

      In our late 20s, a group of 3 co-residents and I booked a 2 bedroom Airbnb for a work conference. We had a blast, but we were all good friends outside of work, so it felt more like the sort of fun trip you do during/just after college than a real “have to be ON all the time” work trip. I couldn’t imagine doing that with my current batch of coworkers — and definitely not with my manager!

      1. amoeba*

        Yup, it very, very much depends on the specific work place and colleagues for me! Although an Airbnb with single rooms would be completely fine for me in most cases…

  17. Dasein9 (he/him)*

    I agree that you need to draw a hard line with regard to food and drink left on the desk.

    As for the clutter, well, does the Admin have enough space to keep track of everything? Some brains need things visible instead of put away in files to work well and that can quickly become clutter. If that’s how your Admin works, it might help a bit if you offer to let her have an organizing system that works for her (desk cubbies, small shelves, or whatever she thinks will do the job) while having the conversation about cleaning her desk.

  18. DivergentStitches*

    The last one reminded me of April Kepner in Grey’s Anatomy when she was looking for a new job; she came to interviews with binders, including a tab labeled “Feedback” or “Kudos” or some such. She’s a treasure.

  19. pally*

    For the neighbor who wants introductions, is there a professional organization pertaining to the field that the neighbor can be directed to?

  20. Cetetera*

    It’s hard for me to imagine having to share a hotel room for a work trip. I assume folks know what they’re signing up for when they agree to work for an employer with the policy, but it’d probably be “quit with nothing lined up” territory for me if it came up unexpectedly.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Somehow I doubt if that policy comes up during the interviews.

      I agree that I’d walk, too. I’m a grown adult, and that means I no longer have to share rooms for budgeting purposes.

      1. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

        I agree that this is unlikely to come up, although I actually did ask about it once. I’d never had a high-travel job, and was at a second interview for a job with 25% travel. Thankfully, they mentioned the travel so I was able to ask about their travel policies. Which turned out to be driving up to 10 hours each way (!), with someone from another org who could be a total stranger (!!), and sharing a hotel room with that person (!!!). It wasn’t the only red flag, but it was the biggest one. I noped out!

        1. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

          My wife got pretty far along in the interview process for a job only for them to spring on her that the position 1) required 50% travel, 2) the food per diem when traveling was $20, and 3) their “competitive” salary was $40,000.

  21. Emily Byrd Starr*

    1. You should also say something if the messy desk becomes a health/cleanliness issue, i.e., if the food and trash will attract bugs or mice.

  22. Tradd*

    Every job I’ve ever worked at has not allowed people to accumulate food trash on their desk. Messy is one thing. Food/drink containers? Nope. Especially if there is leftover food or pieces of fruit going bad.

    1. H3llifIknow*

      One of my offices years ago had a strict full on NO BANANAS EVER rule. The fruit flies would seemingly spontaneously combust out of the peels if even one was in the trash and nobody fussed.

      1. Potassium*

        That is a terrible policy. Some of us are potassium deficient and get leg cramps because of this. Bananas are a prime source of potassium. You need to at least make reasonable accommodations for people with potassium deficiency to eat bananas.

        1. H3llifIknow*

          I knew there’d be at least one “but the people who NEED a banana” comment. Potassium comes from a wide variety of foods AND *shockingly* supplements. There are other options: Eat lunch outside and dispose of the peel. Eat a banana with your breakfast cereal. Have one with or after dinner. Have one in the car on the way to work. Peel it before coming to work so that all you have are chunks to eat and no peel to dispose of. Or here are 18 food HIGHER in potassium than bananas:

          1. Avocados-Half an avocado without the skin and seed (68 grams) contains 345 mg of potassium, or 7% of the DV. If you eat a whole avocado, you’ll get almost 15% of the DV at once
          2. Sweet potatoes-A 1-cup (328-gram) serving of mashed sweet potato boasts 16% of the DV
          3. Spinach-Just 1 cup (190 grams) of frozen spinach packs 12% of the DV for potassium. Similarly, about 3 cups (90 grams) of raw spinach contain roughly 11% of the DV
          4. Watermelon-Just 2 wedges (about 1/8 of a melon, or 572 grams) provides just under 14% of the DV for potassium
          5. Coconut water-Just 1 cup (240 mL) of coconut water contains 13% of the DV for potassium.
          6. Beans-Just 1 cup (179 grams) of white beans has twice as much potassium as a banana, clocking in at a whopping 21% of the DV. The same serving of black beans provides 13% of the DV
          7. Legumes-1-cup (198-gram) serving of lentils packs 15% of the DV for the mineral, while the same serving of chickpeas, soybeans, and peanuts provide 10%, 19%, and 23% of the DV, respectively
          8. Tomato paste-Just 3 tablespoons (50 grams) contain more than 10% of the DV.
          9. Butternut squash-Just 1 cup (205 grams) provides 12% of the DV for potassium.
          10. Potatoes-One medium boiled potato (167 grams) offers 12% of the DV for potassium
          11. Dried apricots- Just 1/2 cup (65 grams) provides 16% of the DV for potassium
          12. Swiss chard-Just 1 cup (175 grams) of cooked chard offers 20% of the DV for potassium — more than double the potassium in a banana
          13. Beets-Just 1 cup (170 grams) of boiled beets gives you 11% of the DV for potassium
          14. Pomegranate- One whole fruit (282 grams) gives you 14% of the DV for potassium
          15. Fruit and vegetable juices–Citrus juices seem to provide the most potassium Fruit and veggie juices such as orange, grapefruit, pomegranate, carrot, and tomato juice all provide 9% or more of the DV for potassium in 1 cup (240 mL).
          16. Fish-For example, just half a fillet (154 grams) of cooked cod provides 12% of the DV, and a whole fillet (150 grams) of haddock offers 11%
          17. Yams-A 1-cup serving (136 grams) of cooked yam provides more than twice as much potassium as a medium banana.
          18. Salt substitutes such as Potassium Chloride

          1. Helewise*

            Or you could just empty the trash regularly and let people eat bananas so they don’t have to figure out how to prepare half a fillet of cooked cod at their desk. It kind of seems like that might be stinkier than a banana.

            1. H3llifIknow*

              Well, when you work for the govt and their cleaning people are contracted to empty trash weekly, and it sits in breakrooms and in hallway dumpsters until then, that’s easier said than done. And yes, Cod was the CLEARLY THE ONLY OTHER VIABLE OPTION available from that list of 18 other foods higher in potassium, so yes, sadly they’ll have to learn to to eat it raw or cook it at their desk.

          2. Hannah Lee*

            Or just have a can of low-sodium V8, no complex seafood preparation required.

        2. Shynosaur*

          I hope this comment is satire against the “but not everyone can eat sandwiches” impulse in the comments with a side dose of how overrated bananas are in popular culture.

          Anyone with a potassium deficiency is hopefully well aware that bananas aren’t even the best source of potassium out there. Get yourself a spinach/apricot salad and coconut water. You’ll be fine without the fruit fly bait lol

          1. UKDancer*

            I like bananas but I can confirm coconut water is great in my experience for leg cramps. I get them when I’m dancing or doing pilates sometimes and it is really good for sorting them out as well as rehydrating.

          2. H3llifIknow*

            I agree. I, ironically, have been potassium deficient for like 30 years. I use a salt sub on my food, I take a supplement and I eat a lot of sweet potatoes, beans, and greens. I like my bananas, but my Dr. told me the number I’d have to eat to negate the deficiency is super high.

            I also find it amusing that I said in the original post “nobody fussed” not even the “but I love/need/want a ‘nana” crowd. But someone who read about the policy is more offended than those who lived it! LOL

            1. allathian*

              Indeed. I like bananas a lot, but it’s a maximum of one per day and I don’t take them to the office. Too many bananas = constipation.

              That said, I think that it’s a bit iffy for offices to dictate what people can and can’t eat there, unless there’s a very good reason not to, such as a person who risks getting anaphylaxis from breathing the allergens. One of my friends is so severely allergic to peanuts that she can’t be in the same room as an opened can of peanuts. One of my aunts has a similar reaction to shellfish.

              Thankfully the kitchenettes in my office have good enough ventilation that the smells of food heated in the microwave don’t linger. People microwave quite pungent food items without any issues, like fish or cabbage soup.

              The office could require employees to dispose of banana peels offsite, either by taking them back home or by bringing peeled banana pieces in sealed containers to eat at work.

              1. H3llifIknow*

                I should have clarified no WHOLE bananas = plus peels. If I brought in banana slices and ate them with no residue, there’d be no issue. The issue was a few people who’d eat sliced bananas in their instant oatmeal every day and then the peels would sit and …germinate fruit flies (I’m not a scientist but it was weirdly magical how they just…manifest!). So, you are correct that people COULD bring chunks or a peeled banana to be eaten all at once. Asking people to dispose of offisite, well… we know people, right? Someone always breaks the rule assuming it shouldn’t apply to them or is stupid or whatever, someone always INTENDS to do it but doesn’t get around to it, someone just flat our refuses, blah blah. Also, our location wasn’t really conducive to anywhere nearby to dispose of them. If I saw a coworker put a peel in a ziploc and seal it and stick it in her purse/backpack to take home, I certainly wouldn’t say anything and I’m sure the rule was flaunted now and then but the following season NO FRUIT FLIES FTW!

        3. Peanut Hamper*

          Yeah, making a general ban on food is one thing, but banning a particular food makes me think two things: 1) this company makes knee-jerk decisions, and 2) people here aren’t taking the garbage out every day.

          1. H3llifIknow*

            1)You’ve clearly never suffered a full on gnat/fruit fly infestation. They are nigh on impossible to get rid of.
            2) You’ve clearly never worked for the DoD, so yeah the trash isn’t going out every day. It’s like once a week…if THAT. And in offices where the cleaners aren’t permitted and it’s up to the employees, well…have you ever worked with other people?

            1. Peanut Hamper*

              I did actually! That’s how I figured out that taking the trash out daily is the best way to combat that.

              And at my last job, we rotated who had to take the trash out so that it went out daily. But it was a small company, and we didn’t have DoD style work rules, so we could make sure the kitchen area stayed clean.

          2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

            I’ve never worked anywhere that emptied the trash daily – and I worked for engineering firms. It was usually weekly, especially for the personal bins by our desks.

            It is ok to ban one food that has caused problems in the past, providing there are other substitutes of similar price – and H3llifIknow has listed umpteen above.

            1. Freya*

              At my current workplace, it’s the kitchen bin is emptied weekly, and each employee is responsible for emptying any bin under their desk. We were warned when we joined that bins with food scraps or stinky things being left over the weekend was a disciplinary thing. Several of my co-workers elect to only use the bin under their desk for paper (gets transferred to the secure shredding bin on a regular basis) and the kitchen bin for everything else. Me, I use the bags I buy my fruit in as bin liners for my non-paper bin, because they’re small but big enough to take all my tissues and I didn’t pay for them, and I park next to the outside bins on my last workday of the week so it’s easy to take my little trashbag out.

  23. Not your typical admin*

    Hard no to sharing a hotel room – especially for that long. People need time to decompress. Even in my own home, at the end of the day I watch tv in our bedroom while my spouse finishes up some work stuff for about an hour. I’m a much nicer person when that happens.

  24. ArlynPage*

    I worked at a startup in my 20s, and when we were sent to conferences with per diems, a trusted colleague and I would share a hotel room so we would be able to stay someplace slightly nicer and even be able to afford a good meal within our per diem rate. Of course, that’s a lot different than being placed together with a random colleague in a hotel room for a quarter to half of each month. OP2 should budget for employees to have single rooms during travel; at most they could provide some sort of incentive for employees who choose to room together, but the default expectation should be that each employee stays in their own room.

    1. College Career Counselor*

      Agreed, and yet, it still happens. At my current employer (I’ve been in higher ed for years), we do not share rooms. Back in the early 2000s, my (very underbudgeted) employer sort of announced that people were sharing rooms at conferences for budgetary reasons. Personally, at that time in my life I didn’t care, but I do get that not everyone feels the same way (as well as the fact that I may well have been in the minority in that opinion).

      Here’s an added wrinkle just for fun: I was the only person of my gender in our office. Therefore, I shared a room at the conference (splitting the cost with that person’s institution) with a same gender colleague I’d never met before. We became friends and often roomed together at various conferences/meetings, etc. We’d get to talking with other attendees, and people would invariably ask how we know each other. “Oh, we’ve been sleeping together for years..”

      1. amoeba*

        I have both shared a room with a stranger (where I actually actively asked in the conference group whether there was anybody else without a roommate) and with a colleague/friend of the opposite gender. Both were fine in grad school, probably wouldn’t do either nowadays, haha…

    2. HonorBox*

      I’m much farther into my career, but there are a very limited few people I’d consider sharing a room with if there was a cost savings involved that benefitted me in a way that allowed for a nicer meal or two. But that would be at my own choosing, not at the assignment of my employer. And that very limited few number is probably 3 or 4….

  25. Morning Reading*

    I am curious about the standard practice of room sharing for extended periods. Does this mean that all the engineers hired and employed are the same gender? Is it uncharitable of me to suspect that the gender is male? And that this company hires only male engineers so that they can roomshare?

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      I can see it, if the folks were involved in being field techs connected to contractors. Mainly because of the work involved. I don’t know if ours share rooms when they are on the same job or not, but they are all men. (small company 4 out of 4).

      1. Morning Reading*

        Based on a quick search, it looks like @16% of engineers are women, only 8% of mechanical engineers, so I can see how this could be a practice historically.

    2. SharingIsCaring*

      I’m female and been asked to share a room with a man. Also have met folks younger than I am who think I’m a fuddyduddy for not being comfortable with it.

        1. bleh*

          It’s not actually an age thing. It’s an “individuals have different opinions” thing. You could just as easily say “one day when you’re older, you’ll mature past that discomfort.” Both of those things are weird opinions to attribute to age over individual differences.

          Personally, I would have been less comfortable at certain points in my life when I was younger because I was more anxious about interacting with men then.

          Now it would be a bit weird, but sharing a room with anyone would be weird, and gender would matter a lot less than a bunch of other things.

          1. KateM*

            Agreed, I’ll have this summer a camping trip with half a dozen of young men and I’m much more comfortable sharing a cabin with them than I would have been at their age (plus, two of these are my own sons). There are perks to being old and obese when you are a woman!

  26. Haven’t picked a username yet*

    I don’t even like being in the same hotel as my team and will often book my room and let them book wherever (we are generally in areas with lots of choices near each other and people have different brand preferences.

    I need wind down time before and after work, and also feel like it is pressure on my employees to always have to do breakfast and dinner when on trips. I usually do schedule one team dinner, and will of course carpool with anyone at my hotel, but traveling is hard when there are no boundaries between work and not work time.

  27. Abundant Shrimp*

    My very happily married parents didn’t share a room or a bed because of snoring and of body heat differences. Me personally at this time in my life? I can only share a bedroom with my cat, barely. Romantic partner maybe, but would depend. A coworker is just a hard no. Aren’t engineers in high demand? Would the money LW is saving by making everyone bunk together, even begin to make up for the costs of finding and training a replacement because someone couldn’t handle rooming with their teammates anymore and went to a competitor who doesn’t have these requirements? And I agree with other commenters that it does not have to be a super luxurious hotel if the company cannot swing the costs. It has to be good for sure, if they’re staying there that long that often. But not so good that the company can only afford to pay for two people to a room.

    1. allathian*

      My husband and I haven’t shared a bed (except when traveling) for 15 years. I suspect it’s a big reason why we’re still happily married. I’m a restless sleeper and my husband snores.

  28. Dido*

    Keeping trash and food on one’s desk is objectively a problem that warrants discipline if not immediately rectified. Attracting ants, flies, rodents, and God knows what else affects the entire office.

  29. Michelle Smith*

    “Other engineers don’t have a problem with sharing.”

    I just want to point out that this probably isn’t true. There may very well be people who hate this with a passion, but don’t feel like they have the political capital to spend on this issue because they can’t afford to lose their job, can’t afford to pay for their own room out of their salary, etc.

    People need privacy for lots of reasons besides snoring, including making phone calls, handling medical issues, and simply just winding down after a busy day. If you wouldn’t expect your employees to be roommates during the rest of the month, they shouldn’t have to be for the week each month they’re traveling.

    1. HonorBox*

      Oh this is such a great point. I’m glad you made it. The fact that no one has raised the issue to this point doesn’t mean it isn’t an issue. They may have raised the issue softly but let it go before straight up refusing, and that might have been pushed aside.

    2. Abundant Shrimp*

      I posted a story in the comments on here a few weeks ago from my own college years, that helped the then-20yo me understand something very important: “doesn’t complain about the thing” =/= “does not have a problem with the thing.” In fact, “doesn’t complain about the thing” may not even necessarily mean “does not hate the thing with a fire of a million burning suns, and spend all free time looking for an exit.” After the other engineers have seen the pushback the two people got for speaking up, why would they bother speaking up too? Or maybe they did speak up or otherwise show that they were unhappy and LW never noticed. I mean, I want to respect LWs and I greatly appreciate it that this LW wrote to Alison with this issue, but from reading the letter it looks a lot like LW is looking for the right verbiage to either convince the two roomies to continue sharing a room, or for a way to penalize them for not wanting to. “Could they be right?” isn’t even part of the letter from what I can see.

  30. Glitter Spuds*

    Ug. LW#2 – re-budget and get your employees separate hotel rooms. All of them. Not just the ones who are expressing their boundaries.

    And don’t “make” them pay the difference. Like Allison said – get a less expensive hotel!

    Someone up-thread mentioned the pain of coordinating a shower schedule while sharing a room with a coworker, and I’d like to add this: sometimes -especially while traveling – I just want to poop in peace. Not in a stall. Not where someone else is “pretending” not to hear me.

    People need space to just exist – without being observed – without being “on” all the time. Sharing a hotel room with a coworker would eliminate ALL of that.

    1. Abundant Shrimp*

      Yesss nothing would stress me out exactly like the pressure of using the only bathroom, showering, pooping etc with the full knowlegde that your roommate might be needing this bathroom RIGHT NOW! and I better hurry up and finish what I’m doing.

      I have roomed with people fairly recently in my 50s. But we were at fun group events, not working, and they were close friends – not coworkers, jksksksgstrtbjsss### (sorry, I have no words)

      1. Katie A*

        In case you’re ever stuck in that situation, most hotels have at least one bathroom somewhere that guests can use near the lobby, so you could use that.

  31. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #2 I hope the OP makes it clear in interview #1 that engineers will be required to share bedrooms on business trips.
    Then everyone who is not desperate to pay bills can nope out of working for your cheapskate business and find a job with a properly run and financed organisation.

    1. Non-profit drone*

      I enjoy your username and your comments! They are exceptionally logical and intelligent. :)

  32. Non-profit drone*

    If my company was going to send me on the road a week out of each month, not only would I refuse roommates, they’d need to put me up in a Residence Inn or some other suite-style hotel with a real refrigerator, sink, and microwave. No way I’d be eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at fast food restaurants or any restaurant for a week. I want the ability to at least have a box of cereal with milk in the mornings and cook some spaghetti with Ragu at night or make a salad, along with an adult beverage.

    1. amoeba*

      Yeah, that would annoy me probably as much as the roommate! Honestly, sharing a small apartment with two (or more, if there’s several people, I mean, one each) bedrooms and a kitchen and a living area seems to be a much better solution than even single hotel rooms. Would happily share the kitchen with my coworkers, no problem.

  33. Raida*

    A messy desk?

    Tell them a messy desk isn’t an issue, but a dirty desk is.
    No food.
    No rubbish.
    And on Fridays we’ll both give our desks a once-over to make sure on Mondays we start with a nice environment.

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