when your boss’s wife wants to oversee your work

A reader writes:

I need your advice on a situation that I found myself in this week at work. I work for a small business. There are around 20 employees in my office with no HR department. I started as an intern in the fall and was hired early this year. As part of my new job, I am responsible for scheduling one of the partners. This responsibility includes booking his flights and hotels when he travels, which is quite often. Before I took on this responsibility, my boss’ wife was booking his flights for him. When I first started booking his flights, she reached out to me and asked me to call her so she could give me her tips and tricks on getting the best deals, which I did.

My boss is on the road now and before he departed, his wife asked him to put me on the phone with her so that she could give me more advice. I have been following her “advice”: always book airline tickets over the phone, try to see if you can use airline miles that are expiring soon, etc. My boss’ plans changed yesterday and I preceded to change his flights and hotels accordingly. The flight change turned out to be very, very expensive, despite booking a flexible ticket originally. My first priority though is to make sure that my boss gets to his meetings on time, on an airline that he prefers, rather than searching for a long time to get the best deal on another airline. I spent 45 minutes on the phone with his favorite airline trying to get a better deal, but in the end I had to book the expensive ticket and used miles that are expiring next year to pay for a part of it. I did look online at the other airlines my boss likes to fly and their ticket options were even more expensive.

After I booked the ticket, I emailed my boss his new itinerary and cc’ed his wife, which is the protocol that my boss established. She responded to the email and questioned why the flight was so expensive and reiterated that I should call her if I ever need advice on booking tickets.

As I am responsible for scheduling my boss, all of his emails come to my computer as well, so that I can make sure all of his appointments get on his calendar. I don’t snoop through his emails but I do get a notification and a very large preview of every email when it comes into his inbox. After she questioned the price of the ticket, my boss’ wife also emailed him directly to express her “annoyance” with me and how I handled the flight change. She also complained that I did not get the best deal, did not consult her before using airline miles and refuse to call her for advice.

I am not sure what I should do. This is my first job, but I am fairly certain that assistants don’t typically deal with their boss’ spouses and have to call them for advice on booking flights. I know that my priority needs to be getting my boss where he needs to go, when he needs to get there, on an airline he prefers. I don’t know where appeasing my boss’ wife fits in here. Should I try to appease my boss’ wife when booking his flights and let her comments go?

Yes, this is weird. And a bad idea. If this continues, you’ll be essentially reporting to a second boss, one who doesn’t even work for your company and who won’t be privy to other considerations and priorities that you’ll be juggling.

Of course, just because something is a terrible idea doesn’t mean that you can change it, but start by talking to your boss.

Say that you were glad to get his wife’s advice and tips on booking flights, but you’re unclear on whether she will be having a continuing role in managing his travel. Explain that you had assumed that once you were trained, you would be managing the travel, but you’re getting the sense that she’s continuing to oversee it, and say that you’d like clarity on your role and her role, if any. Frankly, you can also mention that you couldn’t help but see her email expressing annoyance that you didn’t consult with her, since his emails all go to you.

Listen to what he says. If he tells you that you’re now managing this and that she should be wrapping up her role in it, then I would say, very nicely, “Does she know that? I want to make sure we’re all on the same page.” (Again, be very nice — bending-over-backwards nice. Making an enemy of your boss’s wife is generally not a great idea.)

On the other hand, if he tells you that she’s going to stay involved in any capacity, then you need to decide how much this bothers you. Is it something you want to push back against, or do you want to suck it up and deal with it?

If you decide to push back, be aware that you might not win, so you want to go about it extremely respectfully. I’d say something like, “I’m concerned about reporting to two different people, and it sounds like I’d be reporting to her on travel and that she’d be assessing how I do. I’m not entirely comfortable with that, particularly since she won’t always be privy to all the considerations and priorities that need to be juggled, and I wonder if there are other arrangements we can make.”  But if that doesn’t work — well, then this is the job and you’ll need to decide if it’s one you want or not.

But yes, this is weird.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 67 comments… read them below }

  1. Jenny*

    I am annoyed just reading this … I can’t imagine having to actually live out this situation. The boss’s wife needs to get her own life.

    1. Anna*

      Agreed. It sounds as if the OP had taken Boss’s Wife’s advice, and used it to the extent it was possible to do so.

      As far as I’m concerned, if Boss’s Wife can’t live with that, that’s her problem — not the OP’s.

    2. Another Emily*

      I agree. The boss’s wife gave her good advice which the OP now employs wherever practical. But the wife actually overseeing this part of the OP’s work? It’s a trap! Run!!

    3. mh_76*

      no kidding! sounds like marital problems also, maybe she’s afraid that he will (or has) cheat(ed) on her in his travels. She sounds like a paranoid b—- and the boss needs to have either her or his Assistant manage his travels and not have her attempt to micromanage OP/his Asst. [he might also be wise to divorce her but that’s a personal decision that he should make].

      1. mh_76*

        (hit submit before I finished commenting…oops)

        It might be one thing if the husband owns and the wife does work for the business above & beyond the travel arrangements but it doesn’t sound that way. Example: my mom is co-boss to my dad’s secretary because he is sole owner & practitioner (MD) and because she (mom) does the A/R, payroll, insurance-related stuff, and a whole bunch of other things for the business. We 3 kids (now all grown-ups) have done our share of helping and still help sometimes, from doing ledger-cards (in the early ’80s) to helping troubleshoot issues with mom’s computer to working in-office for a summer…and a whole bunch of other things.

    4. Anonymous_J*

      I completely and utterly agree.

      I also agree with AAM’s advice, though, that this letter writer needs to talk with HER BOSS and find out what HE wants and how to deal with his wife’s INTERFERENCE, which is really what it is at this point.

      If the wife is to maintain a supervisory role, the boss needs to be very clear about that with the OP, too.

  2. Z*

    I used to have a job that involved scheduling travel for lots of employees, and the policy was not to communicate with their spouses regarding their schedules. Of course, I wasn’t scheduling travel for my own boss; she would support me on the “I’m-sorry-we-don’t-communicate-with-people-other-than-our-employees” stuff.
    If your boss ends up saying you need to continue to let his wife know about these travel plans, perhaps you can email just him with all the details of cost, miles usage, etc., and then email the wife with just the itinerary information. That way it looks like you’re keeping her in the loop in terms of her husband’s schedule, but she’s not privy to the company’s financial information.
    (I realize it would still be better if she’d just butt out, but this might be a good compromise if that doesn’t happen.)

    1. Anonymous*

      I get the “don’t communicate with the spouse” rule, but as a spouse, this drove me nuts at one of my husband’s former jobs. It was always the cheapest fare possible, even if it meant leaving the house at 3:00 a.m. to catch a 6:00 a.m. flight. Or a return flight on a Sunday night that got in at 10:00 p.m., and home at midnight, but with the expectation that you will be at the office by 8:00 a.m. Monday morning. What was so silly is that if they had worked with us, and booked flights out of a more convenient (to us) airport, they would have saved money because I could have done the airport run. Instead, they had to reimburse shuttle service, which negated the cost savings on the ticket, not to mention the negative impact on employee satisfaction. Let’s just say I’m glad he doesn’t work there anymore!

      1. badger_doc*

        If he had a problem with it, it is his job to speak up… Not yours. It is hard enough to plan travel itinerary for another person, let alone trying to factor in the preferences of the spouse. Econimic times being what they are sometimes dictate the price of airfare, however inconvenient it may be.

        1. Anonymous*

          Agreed, it was his job to speak up. He did, multiple times. Nothing changed. And it wasn’t about MY travel preferences, it was the penny wise, pound foolish approach. Sure they might have saved some by booking the cheapest possible ticket, but they burned actual money in shuttle costs and/or long term parking fees. And then burned the employee out due to the insane travel schedule.

      2. your mileage may vary*

        By saying “if they had worked with us”, you really mean if they had worked with your husband, don’t you? I’m sorry their schedule interrupted your family life but it was really your husband’s role to get into it with his company.

        1. Anonymous*

          Sure do. And no, it had nothing to do with interrupting our family life. It had to do with watching this company burn my husband out with stupid decisions like set up 17 hour travel days which didn’t take into account how miserable travelling is these days.

      3. Anonymous*

        It sounds like you had some legitimate concerns with the travel arrangements. Did your husband ever raise these with the company? It sounds like he could have made a legitimate case, especially with the shuttle service cost negating the cost savings.

        The company may have been concerned about relying on a spouse to get to the airport but that may have been a fair trade off for a more reasonable flight schedule.

        1. Anonymous*

          He tried, but the company was dysfunctional on many levels, this being just one example. Which is why he no longer works there.

      4. Anonymous*

        See, this is why I never come out of hiding, lol. I absolutely agree that the boss’s wife sounds terrible. It shouldn’t always be about the cheapest fare. It should also be about considering the person who is doing the travelling. If that means spending an extra $50 so the person doesn’t have two plane changes and a 5 hour layover, well, then do it! And hopefully, the OP’s actual boss will make it clear to his wife that this is something that has to be factored in, too.

      5. Z*

        We always cleared the itineraries with the employee before we booked them, and we made sure to use the airport they preferred. Your husband’s work should have been working with him to make sure he approved the itineraries.

      6. mh_76*

        I agree, your husband should have spoken up and whomever was scheduling his travel should have run the times / airports etc. by him first before finalizing the arrangements. I did that with an old boss and, well, if he had to leave the house or get in at a strange hour, that was his decision because he had OK’d the travel times and knew in advance that he’d be coming/going at an ungodly hour.

    2. Anonymous_J*

      This will only work if the husband does not discuss company business with his wife. It does not sound like that’s possible, from the original post. The wife sounds like a real busybody.

  3. AD*

    I’m assuming that the boss in question is an owner, so the wife sees money spent as “her” money. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the boss wants to be booked on convenient flights on his preferred airline, and the wife is always trying to save a dime, so the OP is caught in the middle.

    1. Snow Hill Pond*

      AD, I agree with your assessment.

      The wife wants to protect “her” money. The husband doesn’t want to make 2 connections every time he goes on a business trip to save $100. Both points of view are completely understandable.

      To the OP, if you can get past the annoying behind-the-back emails, I would ask the wife how you could have gotten a cheaper ticket. If she can do that, then learn from it. Who knows? Maybe she has thought of something that you didn’t. If she can’t, then at the least she will understand that you did the best possible job.

      1. P*

        Jumping in late to this conversation, but I don’t really think that the wife wanting to protect “her” money at the expense of lost work hours due to the 2 layovers is a “completely” understandable point of view! By spending the extra $100, the wife gets a spouse who is significantly more rested/comfortable, or at least able to work more productively on other revenue-generating things due to not being stuck in airports.

  4. Eric Brasure*

    Whoa. This sounds *exactly* like a situation I was in almost ten years ago, down to the company size, role of assistant, email setup, work flow… the whole thing.

    If it is indeed the same company and the same boss… I wish the OP good luck. OP, if you want to find out if it is indeed the same company, email me.

    If this is inappropriate, please delete. I am just shocked at the similarities here and want to help the OP get out of a really bad work environment.

  5. Anonymous*

    UGH! I worked at a place with the same situation–an owner’s wife who loooved to feel like she was a manager, even though she didnt work there (But she is on the company website listed as manager, hah)! She’d drop in on meetings and we would waste so much time trying to catch her up, and of course she criticized all decisions made without her input. It got to be a real problem when she decided to start “making her own money” by working at the office 2 hours a week–and did a very poor job of that, too.

    The owner was a very sweet and hard-working guy with an overbearing wife. He wouldnt/couldnt stand up to her. Finally after nearly a year the tension got so high in the office that he had enough and told her she either works full time or stays out of trying to make decisions for the company. Instead, she made it her mission to “catch” me doing something wrong. I was the new star employee she blamed for getting him to take a stand.

    Luckily by the time this all came to a head I was getting ready to move to another state. I still cant believe that someone could be so obsessed over controlling things, that it was more important to find any flaw in me rather than appreciate that I was going above and beyond my duties and getting A+ reviews from my boss and co-workers.

      1. Anonymous_J*

        She might have been an abusive spouse. He may have been afraid of her (the husband.)

        I’m glad he finally stood up to her!

    1. Anon*

      Slightly off topic but “I still cant believe that someone could be so obsessed over controlling things, that it was more important to find any flaw in me rather than appreciate that I was going above and beyond my duties…” is a perfect description of my mother.

      1. Alisha*

        Mine too.

        She actually berated me for having the gall to work several jobs at a time because I graduated into a mild recession (not this one – a much, much milder one).

        By 2009, she learned what the statement “Gen. X will be the first generation to do worse than their parents” means. Now she is insisting she was proud of me the whole time and only said encouraging things. I’m like, “Nope!”

        1. Natasha*

          My mother is the same way. Everytime I get a job, she is agitating me to find a different one because she finds some new reason the one I have isn’t good enough. Even if the jobs she wants me to apply for are a step backwards in terms of pay and experience building. The thing is it’s only because she didn’t get to choose the job I am working with. All just so petty.

  6. moe*

    We seem to be missing some context here… is the wife interfering with other things, or just travel?

    I’d be VERY reluctant to bring up the wife’s email. While it may be ‘known’ that she can see email, bringing up their private communications would be crossing a line, IMO. Part of the admin code is to never use knowledge from private communications to your own advantage or to complain about. I’ve never seen it go over well when an admin complains about an email she saw as part of her job duties. Yes, it will look like she was prying… and that she herself lacks boundaries, should she bring it up.

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      Yeah, I’ve got to agree. I would try to seek clarification on who needs to manage the travel plans, but leave the “private” messages out of it.

    2. Charles*

      I agree too!

      Unless the boss says something the OP really has no way of knowing what the boss said to his wife about the email or even what he thought about it! The boss may have privately told the wife to back off or something like that.

      Otherwise, the rest of AAM’s advice is good; just don’t mention the email.

    3. Ponies!*

      Another agree from me. Maybe the OP can say something like, “I get the feeling that your wife is sometimes frustrated with the way I handle your travel schedule” and let him read between the lines.

      1. JohnQPublic*

        This just strikes me as disingenuous. If the lady doesn’t know you see a preview of all emails your boss gets On His Work Email (and you are, after all, his assistant) she ought to. You’re not complaining, but you are bringing up something that needs to be addressed and clarified. To whom do you report? The fact that she is having issues with your performance should be addressed openly, either it’s legitimate or it’s None Of Her Business. I heartily hope it’s the latter.
        This really is an issue of her not letting go of her old job. She needs to find a new job that so embraces her time and attention that she doesn’t have an opportunity to hover over yours.

    4. Ellie H.*

      I agree with AAM and JohnQPublic – it’s disingenuous to pretend that you didn’t read something that you are *supposed* to look at as part of your work. I tend to favor directness though.

      1. moe*

        I doubt the expectation is that OP is actively reading emails from the boss’s wife. The way she phrased it–that she “doesn’t snoop” but did see a preview–makes me think there is a norm that she wouldn’t be actively reading emails of this nature, or at a minimum–wouldn’t bring it up.

        It’s a tricky area, but in my previous experience as an admin with this type of access, there were a lot of emails I was to pretend I didn’t see–bank statements, notices from HR about someone about to be terminated, salaries and budgets. I’d be fearful the boss would question my judgment and discretion if I ever brought up something that seemed to have an expectation of privacy around it and didn’t have an urgent need for me to bring up, and I think a private email between boss and wife falls into that category. Plus, she knows his wife is annoyed through other means; she can just reference those direct communications without a need to bring this up.

        An admin cannot afford to lose his or her boss’s trust in her level of discretion. There’s no need to be “direct” about this part of the story, and it’s a potential landmine if she does.

        1. Anonymous_J*

          In a preview, you can generally see the first couple of sentences. The wife may have started the email in quesiton with, “That Sally-Sue is really annoying me with the way she does x/y/z.” The OP wouldn’t have to “click into” the message to see something like that.

  7. Joey*

    I don’t think she’s gonna go away. I’ve met a few spouses who manage only when they feel like working and rarely is it disallowed. I think you should ask your boss for some clarity on priorities/preferences when booking flights. Sounds like your first priority after getting your boss there on time is convenience when the wife’s is price.

    1. Mike C.*

      Joey’s right, there’s no way in hell she’s going away.

      This is why I hate small, “family owned and operated” businesses. They have all the same problems a family has without the personally benefiting from the nepotism.

      1. Jamie*

        Many have these issues, but not all.

        I work for a family owned business and I can’t imagne this kind of unprofessionalism being tolerated.

      2. Alisha*

        Yes, and my experience working for them has been that it gets no better when they grow and hire staff beyond family members. The growth round is usually the boss’s opportunity to hire his buddies, who, though they’re not on the same pedestal of infallibility as the family, are damn close to it.

        There’s nothing better than going to work every day knowing that one small slip-up means you’re toast, whereas the boss’s fraternity or sorority buddy would need to run the company into the ground for six or seven years straight before s/he finally got the axe.

        I worked a non-professional job at a family owned company, and one of my first professional jobs in my field was also at a family business. Never again. Twice burned is two times too many.
        = P

        1. JohnQPublic*

          Just want to thank you for using the words ‘too’ and ‘two’ properly. I see them misused so much I need to thank people when they use them right. Good job.

  8. Piper*

    Ugh. This brings back memories from a job I had once where the CEO made me work with his wife when I was working on rebranding the company. He listed her qualifications as “she likes fashion and putting colors together” – not sure how that translates into expertise with building a company’s brand, but whatever. I just muddled through and kept her in the loop with all of my decisions, and not surprisingly, she had no real input because of her lack of experience.

    I don’t understand why CEOs find this appropriate? I’m so annoyed for you, OP!

    1. Esra*

      This is like every graphic designer’s nightmare. Right up there with getting the soon-to-be-in-law’s opinion on every step of the wedding invites you’re designing.

      1. Alisha*

        That, and “I have this great idea for a website…it’s bigger than Facebook…and I’m gonna need a shopping cart, customizable profiles, and videos like YouTube. Also, I’m gonna need it in two weeks, and the budget is $1,500.

        When can you start?”

        1. Esra*

          “Okay, you got me. The budget is actually $50. But it’ll be a great portfolio piece!”

  9. Work Angel Wisdom*

    This is indeed a very peculiar situation. I have experienced something similar, perhaps worse. The boss and his wife were both executives of the company.. The wife made things difficult. In the end i chose not to put up with it and i believed it would only get worse so i resigned after i found a new position elsewhere. I do feel for this person and i believe it is entirely inapproprite for the boss’s wife to be critiscing her work. Very frustrating!

  10. Lexy*

    I agree w/ Alison, clarify priorities with your boss. I would specifically ask “would you prefer that I choose a less convenient (read: longer, more connections, whatever) flight to save 10-20%?” If he says “no, I would prefer to get there quicker even if it costs a little more” then you know HIS priorities, and since he is the one evaluating you, that’s what matters.

    My sense is that the wife thinks you are not ABLE to find cheaper fares (because she thinks you’re young and stupid? I don’t know, that’s her problem) so it might help to respond to her with something very friendly that dispels her of that impression. “Thanks for the offer of help Cindy, I know it was really tough to finagle that last minute change. But Bob has instructed me to keep him on Delta unless the savings are significant. Since the price difference was only $X [you can make this up!] I figured it’s what he would prefer. I appreciate that you are available if I need you though.”

  11. Rob*

    Not just in dealing with situations like scheduling travel, but any instance with dealing with a spouse when it comes to work is odd and annoying. It’s one thing if the spouse drops by, says hello to everyone, and goes on his/her merry way. But to interfere in work? Odd.

    However, maybe the partner just does not realize how interfering his wife is, and that she is undermining the work of the OP? The OP seems to have the parameters that the partner has in place regarding airlines and the like, so that doesn’t seem to be an issue. Since the wife did all of the travel before, he may just be used to her involvement in it and hasn’t realized the OP knows what is going on and can handle the work just fine.

    If the partner is worth his salt, once the OP has a conversation with him, he will tell his wife to back off and let the OP do his/her work moving forward, without being undermined.

  12. Anon*

    One of my relatives does something similar. Her husband works in retail and she sometimes acts like a secret shopper for him. Not really secret since most of the employees know who she is, but she’ll be in there all the time and will tell her husband (especially if he’s out-of-town for a meeting) if something doesn’t look clean or neat or displayed well enough or whatever.

    I love my relative, but I can’t imagine what those employees think. I know it would annoy me, but there’s not much they can do since her husband seems to value it.

  13. Alisha*

    Okay, serious response time. Since you weren’t supposed to be privy to this note:

    After she questioned the price of the ticket, my boss’ wife also emailed him directly to express her “annoyance” with me and how I handled the flight change. She also complained that I did not get the best deal, did not consult her before using airline miles and refuse to call her for advice.,

    would you be able to set up a meeting with your boss and request his “evaluation” on your performance as far as handling his traveling affairs are concerned? If he asks why you are requesting the evaluation, perhaps you could say something like, “I realize that your travel booking and itinerary were managed by your wife for years before I was put in charge, and I want to make sure I am performing these duties up to standard, as well as find out if there is anything I should be doing differently.”

    Unless your boss is nuts, it’s likely that his wife’s criticism of your performance will be on his mind going into the meeting, but the beautiful thing about this approach is, you don’t have to let on that you know what she said about you. If you want to probe him, you could say (very carefully and with a smile), “[Wife] expressed concern to me about my expenses on the [X Flight] last week. I know that, because of the emergency change of plans, the ticket cost more than I expected, and I want to make sure I am following protocol – and I was also curious to know whether I am overlooking any potential ways to save money on tickets booked close to takeoff?”

    1. Alisha*

      p.s. I would also document any meetings about the traveling stuff going forward. Reasons being: 1) This matter involves your boss’s personal life, so it could get hairy, and 2) If, heaven forbid, you should wind up going on a performance improvement plan because of this stupidity, you will have proof that you took every possible opportunity to seek feedback and improvement.

      I’ve been working in screwy situations and managing people who wound up in tight spots for a decade, so I hope I can be of help. Good luck, and let us know how it turns out!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s kind of avoiding the main issue though (what the appropriate role of his wife should be), and it risks him saying, “Oh, talk to Jane if you want to know how to do better there.” I’d just be direct.

      1. Alisha*

        Really good point. I’m realizing in reading this that I have sometimes misjudged the main crux of a conflict in the past. I’ll bookmark this discussion – it’s a good tool to have in the arsenal in case I’m ever stuck between (for example) two bosses with two competing visions.

  14. Cassie*

    When I first started working for one of my current bosses, the previous secretary told me that I would have to send a copy of the expense report to the wife (as the secretary had). I remember sending her and him an email with instructions on how to log in online to see the expense report, but I don’t think I ever sent her an expense report. I mean, I get that she keeps the books at home and all but if they care that much about getting reimbursed for every single expense, maybe they should sit down together at home and lay out all the expenses to be reimbursed. And then he can bring me the list the next day.

    Nowadays, I only hear from the wife infrequently, usually if there’s a charge on his credit card that she’s not sure about (he gave me his credit card number so I could book travel and make purchases on his behalf). Or if I need a copy of one of his other credit card statements, I’ll email her and ask her to send it to me. I used to ask my boss but he would ask me to email his wife.

    Contrast that with my other boss. I’ve asked him for a copy of his cc statement for reimbursement, and he says that he doesn’t have it because his wife takes care of the bills. I want to ask “could you ask her to give you a copy of the statement?” but I wouldn’t dare! (He’s kind of touchy).

  15. Anonymous*

    Dont put off dealing with it, it will only get worse. Be direct & speak out.

    BTW OP, did your boss have anything to say on the matter to you..or on the ticket being too expensive. After all, he IS the boss & its his money!

  16. Anonymous*

    This sounds like a law firm (OP’s use of the term “partner.”) If so, it makes a lot more sense. A partner is an owner, and especially in smaller law firms, partner’s spouses can actually be quite involved in firm affairs….especially if those spouses are on the hook for business debt, as is often the case.

    My advice? Do what your boss wants. Complaining will get you tossed.

    1. Natalie*

      No one has suggested the OP complain – asking for clarification is not remotely the same thing as complaining.

  17. Andrew*

    As annoying as the boss’ spouse can be, believe me, it’s far worse when the interfering parties are the boss’ chronically underemployed, whiny, self-absorbed adult children.

  18. Anonymous*

    I had this exact same situation at one of my old jobs. His wife would call daily, be on the phone when I was talking to his credit card company, and put in person requests for when she wanted to travel with him ( a low point in my career was getting a call from a conference to ask if she wanted any spa treatments while she was there). Unfortunately, there really is nothing you can do. I also saw his emails and am sure she complained. And i have never posted on here, but this situation was so horrible. So good luck! In my case she had just moved with her husband to start a new new job, all her kids were in college and she was bored and enjoyed harrasing me. Good luck.

  19. Anonymous*

    I wonder if the wife sent the e-mail on purpose, knowing that OP would see it. That would be a kind of sneaky way to get an insult delivered without having to confront the person she’s insulting directly.

  20. TracyDee*

    I wonder if this is a family-owned business where the wife feels she has a stake in how things are done? Her involvement would make more sense, then (although it would be no less annoying)

  21. Anonymous*

    UGH this is so tricky! I agree the OP should say something but. . . it probably won’t change anything. family dynamics and bad habits are family dynamics and bad habits. My last job, the owner of the company and my boss, who was herself inexperienced in the field (her company had expanded into publishing, but she had no actual experience herself in publishing) was notorious for her waffling. She’d go back and forth on any decision for days, ‘just not sure’. Then, we’d finally have whatever the project was perfected, ready to go to print. . . and she’d come in the next morning having shown her husband, her cousin, her kids, whatever it was and then making us redo the work to fit their assessment. It didn’t matter if things were done by people with loads of experience and expertise: if her husband said he something looked ‘funky’ it all had to be redone to fit his sensibilities. Drove me absolutely mental, particularly when a project wouldn’t sell well and WE’D get blamed.

    End of day though, there was no way to speak to her about it. Myself and several other employees at various times tried to counter her edicts, to explain why we’d done x or y, or how it was far too late in the process to make all these changes and still meet deadline, but she was having none of it. Her husband, cousin and kids (who were 13 and 17 and somehow getting a say in what I did for a living) would swan into the office occasionally to feel they were ‘a part of it all’, and make sure we appreciated the valuable feedback they were giving us. It didn’t matter how many times we tried to tell her, she was in the habit of showing drafts to her family, and could not be convinced they were not absolutely right.

    good luck tho: it might not help, but you will feel better once you’ve said something. . . at least.

  22. Lili*

    Thank you for your article! I am going through a similar situation and found this article EXTREMELY helpful! Good Luck!

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