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Unfair Expectations of Singles at Work, on Holidays and Every Day

I’ve been studying singlism for a long time. Sometimes I think I’ve heard all the stereotypes, all the unfair expectations, and all the examples of discrimination against single people, and nothing will surprise me. But then I get surprised all over again.

Earlier this year, someone asked if he could ask me questions about singles in the workplace. I’m not going to name him, but he is someone who has written a lot and whose thinking is taken seriously. Below are three of the questions he sent me. At first, I thought he wasn’t serious. Maybe he was just trying to get a rise out of me. But no, he was serious.

Take a look at them and see what you think. Feel free to share your reactions in the comments section. Over the next couple of weeks, I will share my answers, in three posts corresponding to the three questions.

Here are 3 of the questions I was asked:

#1 “A boss tells an employee, “You’re single. You don’t have to race home for your spouse or kids. Someone’s got to get this work done tonight, so it seems fair I ask you to stay late.”  That boss might also use that rationale to have you travel on weekends, show up on holidays, even accept a transfer to some far-flung place. But isn’t that fair?”

#2 “Sometimes, it’s not the boss who’s asking more of the single employee. A coworker who, for example, wants to leave early to take their kid to the doctor, or even to the soccer game, is more likely to ask a single coworker to pick up the slack. That co-worker might argue that our organization always talks about being family friendly and that we’re a team, so we should all pitch in in the same way that if a coworker gets a serious disease and can’t be terminated because of the Americans with Disabilities act, people have to pitch in. We in this area talk all the time about community, the collective. Shouldn’t it be from those with the most to those with the least?”

#3 “The bias against single workers can even extend to pay. An employer might think, “You’re single and so you have fewer expenses than my employees with partners who may be stay-at-home parents with children, I only have so much budget. It’s fair I pay people with stay-at-home spouses with kids more–they need the money more.  I mean society wants workplaces to be family-friendly. After all, our children are our future. And right or wrong, women do most of the child rearing. And women are otherwise getting the short end of the stick. In paying parents more, I’m just being a good feminist.” What would you say to that boss?”

Happy holidays to those who will be celebrating. And if you are single and have a boss, I hope she or he is more enlightened than these questions suggest.

UPDATE: Here are my answers to question 1, question 2, and question 3.

Unfair Expectations of Singles at Work, on Holidays and Every Day

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single." Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2019). Unfair Expectations of Singles at Work, on Holidays and Every Day. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Dec 2019
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