my boyfriend asked my boss to give me a secret day off work — and my boss got angry

A reader writes:

I’ve been working at my current position for 1-1/2 years. I have a non-normal relationship: I am married and have a boyfriend, which my manager knows about, only because I introduced her once to my boyfriend when he was picking me up. It does not affect my work and, frankly, other than the one time I introduced her, it isn’t anyone’s business.

My birthday is coming up next month and I just found out my boyfriend asked my manager for a secret day off. She approved it, but when I asked to confirm about it today, was told that his contacting her was completely unprofessional and inappropriate. I apologized and later asked if there was another method of asking that she would have preferred. She said that no third-party time off requests will be acknowledged and if it happens again, it will be ignored.

I honestly feel like there isn’t anything wrong with what happened, in the sense that he wanted to surprise me and he went through the avenue I would need to, in order to ask for time off. What is your opinion?

I’m assuming that you included the information about being in an untraditional relationship because you think that might have impacted your manager’s reaction to that. We’re going to get to that in a minute, but for now, let’s look at the fundamental question of whether it’s okay for someone else to call your manager to ask her to give you a secret day off (secret from you, that is).

There are good reasons for a manager not to want to be put in the position your boyfriend put her in: She might need to talk to you about work that would need to be finished in advance if you won’t be there on a particular day, or you might not have enough accrued time to take a full day (something that she might not want to discuss with a third party), or she might have safety concerns (since telling a near-stranger that it’s fine for you to take that day off means that you’d lose the protection of having your office notice that you’re not where you should be that day, if his plan were actually to put you in some kind of danger).

But her reaction to you sounds over the top. She could have simply said, “I helped out because I was on the spot, but I’m not generally comfortable doing that.” Or she could have just told your boyfriend when he contacted her that any request for time off would need to come from you.

Now, let’s get back to whether your relationship played some role in her discomfort. It’s possible that it did. The reality is that large swaths of the population aren’t comfortable with open or polyamorous marriages, so sure, it’s entirely possible that she was not at all happy about being contacted by a man other than your husband about taking you for a birthday surprise. Unreasonably or not, she may have felt this made her complicit in what she sees as cheating (particularly if she doesn’t have enough context to know if your husband is on board with this), or she may have felt it drew her into sanctioning something she’s not comfortable sanctioning.

Is that reasonable and/or something your boyfriend should have realized before calling her? On one hand, your relationship is none of her business. And if she was upset that an employee’s same-sex partner called her about something like this but wouldn’t be bothered if it were a heterosexual partner, I’d have no problem calling that bigotry, plain and simple. And you could argue that the same principles should apply here. But people are generally a lot less familiar with polyamory, so I do think it’s unsurprising that she’s playing with different rules (whether or not it should be that way).

I’m similarly struggling with the fact that you introduced your boyfriend to your boss as your boyfriend (as opposed to simply a friend). While your private life is 100% your business, you made her privy to it when you chose to introduce your boyfriend, and it might have been wiser not to open up to her about that.

To be clear, I’m not a proponent of people having to hide fundamental things about who they are. If you were gay, I’d never fault you for introducing your partner. So maybe there’s some inconsistency here on my end, but I’m putting the number of people you date in a different category than who you date. (Feel free to educate me if I’m wrong.) At the same time, I get that the closet is a stressful place to live. But ultimately, the reality is that — at least at this point in time — a lot of people aren’t going to understand your relationship and if you choose to be open about it, some won’t be comfortable. It’s certainly your prerogative to decide that’s their problem — but I do think you should be realistic about the fact that it’s going to happen.

What do others think?

{ 247 comments… read them below }

  1. Cat*

    So I wouldn’t be particularly thrilled to be approving secret days off for my employees regardless – what if the employee wanted to save their PTO for something else and was annoyed with me about it? Just seems like something that is really not my call regardless of who’s doing the asking. But I am curious if the strength of the boss’s reaction is related to her thinking she’s aiding and abetting an affair; I feel like you would have had to be pretty specific when introducing your boyfriend (or later) to dispel that impression.

    1. MousyNon*

      ITA. I have no idea if their relationship is a good one (what if the person who asks is actually a stalker, or an abusive partner?). There are better ways of surprising someone WITHOUT having to involve their employer:

      “Ugh, honey I’ve got this reunion to go to and you HAVE to come suffer this with me. Can you ask for time off work?”

    2. OliviaNOPE*

      I agree, I wouldn’t have approved the time off. I could understand if the boyfriend had called and said, “Hey, I’m showing up at noon to take Jane to lunch so could you help me keep her in the office until then so it can be a surprise?” But approving an 8 hour vacation day on the word of her alleged boyfriend over the phone? Nope.

      1. Calla*

        Yes, in offices I’ve worked in it’s not unheard of for an SO (or even good friend) to call and ask for that kind of assistance — can you put me on the security list so I can surprise them, can you keep them in the office, etc. Approving a whole day off presents aaaalll kinds of problems though.

      2. Kelly O*

        Totally agree with y’all on this one. Keeping someone occupied while you sneak in for lunch is one thing – arranging a whole day off without an individual’s knowledge just seems a bit much to me.

    3. Lauren*

      I would hate for my BF to choose my day off. What if I don’t want a bday off and would rather use it for a proper going away vacation. Also we have 1/2 Fridays in the summer and they count as a full PTO day if you take it off, so I never take it off. As many times as I tell my BF that, he doesn’t know the policy and he doesn’t know my schedule (neither does my boss really) so they have no idea what I planned to work on that day or need to do before another meeting after that day. I know its 1 day, but I know someone that did this for a week’s vacation and surprised his wife with a cruise the day before they left. She was happy about the surprise, but it was stressful because she hadn’t finished things at work (tho her boss said he would cover it), she hadn’t done laundry, she needed a bikini wax, didn’t have a bathing suit that fit, etc. Having an SO give a surprise sounds great, but some people would hate it because they would feel unprepared.

      And maybe the boss was angry by how the BF came about asking. Was it a question or was it ‘OP needs this day off’?

      1. VintageLydia*

        A whole week? Gah, the unpreparedness would chafe HARD! All I would think about is instead of getting a good night’s sleep I’ll be running errands at top speed and then spend all night doing laundry and cleaning house (I never leave the house a mess. Ever. Last thing I want to do when I come back from vacation is clean the house. Unpacking/laundry and restocking the toiletry bag is stressful enough as it is.)

        1. Tax Nerd*

          I totally agree, VintageLydia. The unpreparedness would drive me batty. Plus anticipation is one of life’s greater joys – why rob someone of that?

          (I also clean the house before leaving town. Once upon a time in my youth, I got back from a vacation at 8:30pm on Sunday. And by that I mean, that’s when my flight landed. By the time I got my luggage and got home, it was 10pm. There was no food (and I was starving because there was no food on the plane); the kitchen was, ahem, less than sparkling; and laundry needed to be done if I wanted clothes for work the next day. And naturally I was in “I need a vacation from my vacation” mode. Disaster. So now I make sure the place is going to be nice to come home to after leaving.)

          1. VintageLydia*

            Funny story (and this is wholey off topic from the OP now): A few weeks ago, things got critical for my husband’s grandmother. My mom’s house is the closest to the hospital so we asked to stay there. Well, she was out of town, but she gave me the code to the door and said to help ourselves to whatever we needed. House. Was. Spotless. I mean, the house was pretty clean while we were growing up, but this was “ready for guests” spotless with towels out and fresh sheets on the guest bed and she didn’t even know we’d be coming until after she left. My husband took one look around and then turned to me, “You are your mother’s daughter.” He didn’t even have to say what he was referring to.

            1. Andrea*

              Heh, this is me, too. I mean, it’s just so, so nice to have a clean and organized home to come back to, no matter how long you’ve been gone (even if only hours!). Currently, my best friend is on vacation, and I’m looking in on her cat, and she was in such a rush to leave that she didn’t make her bed and she left a big pile of clean laundry and another of dirty laundry and a few dishes in the sink. Otherwise, the place looks fine; it’s not dirty or anything. I really want to make her bed and fold her laundry and put the dirty clothes in the hamper and wash the dishes, but I feel like that might be a violation…we’re very close and have been friends since we were 13, but it feels like A Line I Should Not Cross…still, I’m going over there every day, and every day it’s harder not to make that bed, at least! I will resist.

                1. Jamie*

                  Yes – dishes would be fine with me…in fact I’d appreciate not having anything gross or growing when I came back. Dirty laundry I wouldn’t touch…too personal. Clean laundry…if there was no underwear/bras or we were close enough that didn’t matter I’d put those away.

                  I’d make the bed (excuses are boring – I’m fully indoctrinated in UFYH) with existing linens, but I wouldn’t change the sheets.

                  I’d make the bed for the cat – nothing more amusing to a cat than scurrying under sheets on a bed being made.

              1. E*

                I would wash the dishes and leave a nice note about it by the sink. Just a “welcome home, I put your favorite mug in the top cupboard” kind of thing. Your friend will thank you for it and will probably make an effort not to leave dirty dishes next time. :)

        2. abby*

          Oh, I clean before vacation, too! Nothing worse than coming home to a mess. We’ve been known to clean well beyond midnight before an early morning flight somewhere. But coming home to a clean house is, to me, worth it.

          1. Jamie*

            I thought everyone did this…I absolutely do.

            There was an old sitcom starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Richard Lewis and I remember some line where someone cleaned their oven before going away and the logic was so that if they died in a crash people would say it was so tragic, but look how clean her oven is!

            That line so resonated with me I remember it all these years later and I can’t even recall the name of the show or who said it.

            1. VintageLydia*

              I know some very messy people. My mom is the only one I know who makes a habit of it, and most everyone else I know takes some sort of weird pride on being terrible housekeepers, and that cuts across gender, age, and income levels.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think it’s also a case of knowing your partner. I’d hope anyone I was in a close relationship would know I would hate that kind of surprise, but other people would like it and find it romantic. You want to hope that your significant other knows you well enough to know if you’d be into this or stressed out by it.

        1. Loose Seal*

          Anyone every watch those sorts of movies where a girl meets a very wealthy guy (why is this never the other way around?) and to romance her at the beginning of the relationship — heck, sometimes even on the first date! — whisks her off in his private jet to Paris or the Caribbean?

          Am I the only one who wonders why it’s supposed to be romantic that he’s kidnapping her?

        2. tcookson*

          I wouldn’t like it one bit. As an admin assistant who takes care of everyone’s needs at work all day long and a wife and mother who takes care of everyone’s needs at home all evening long, I am frequently saving my PTO for a day off where I can be alone in the house with husband at work and kids in school.

          I didn’t even like it when my husband showed up at work to surprise me for lunch. I was already out at lunch with coworkers, and when he didn’t find me in the office, he came over to the student union building where I was eating with them. That was when I was just a few weeks/months into my job when it was new; he doesn’t do stuff like that anymore because I haven’t reacted well to it. I do like going to lunch with him when he calls and makes plans with me. But I don’t like anyone calling the shots about what I do at work other than my own d@mn self.

    4. Oi*

      FWIW, my dad called my mom’s employer and asked for a day off to surprise her, but I was flying cross-country for a surprise visit on her 60th birthday and my brother came down as well.

      Everyone seemed happy to be part of the conspiracy.

  2. EM*

    I actually am confused by this question.

    The boyfriend called the manager to request a secret PTO day for the OP as a surprise. OK.

    The manager says yes. Then the OP goes to confirm the PTO day with the manager…I thought it was a surprise? Did the boyfriend tell the OP about the day at that point?

    Then the manager gets angry. But the manager already approved it? Why wasn’t she angry/upset in the first place? Why didn’t she just say, “I’m sorry, I can’t approve PTO requests from third-parties” to the boyfriend?

    Is the OP saying the manager found out about this person being the OP’s boyfriend after the PTO request and the OP is thinking that is why she is angry?

    I just feel like I’m missing something here, because this doesn’t make sense to me.

    1. Michael*

      As confusing as it can be I’ve gone to my managers with something that they approved or cleared on the spot but later didn’t like it. I think it more comes from retrospection. After the fact they get uncomfortable or no longer agree with what happened or they never were in a place to really think it through in the first place. Then, they’ve already given you their approval so they feel trapped. Why not just say no in the first place? At the end of the day, it turns out, bosses are still human, too.

      1. tcookson*

        This. I’ve pushed my boss into giving me days off, and then as the day approaches, he will make pointed comments to me about it to let me know that he doesn’t really like it. He will say “no” if I really can’t have the day off, so I take his occasional grumbling with a grain of salt (especially since I work late, take his calls and text evenings and weekends, etc.). He just doesn’t like to experience a day at work where he doesn’t have an assistant to do everything for him.

    2. I asked the question*

      That is what confused me, frankly. He thought she was completely okay with everything and was very nice about it. Had it been an issue or something she was uncomfortable with, it would have completely been okay to tell him no and that I needed to arrange it myself. I would have been comfortable with that and understood.

      BUT, to act like it was fine and then discuss it with me, when I had no prior knowledge of it, doesn’t seem very fair.

      1. khilde*

        Maybe your boss is the type of person that is knee-jerk nice and accomodating and simply can’t process what request is being sprung on her so she gives the impresion that all is well. Or maybe it could have been different and she didn’t want to go off on your boyfriend, but is more comfortable reprimanding you? Like maybe she understood from the beginnign that it should have been an issue between boss and employee, not boss, employee, and boyfriend so she was intentionally vague with the boyfriend but got more specific with you? I dunno, I would love to hear her take of the situation.

        1. tcookson*

          My mother-in-law is like this. She wants to be seen as the nice, fun person, so she will agree to do things that she then feels resentful about. I think some bosses are like that, too — they want to be seen in a particular way that goes against what they’re actually willing to give.

      2. fposte*

        Except I think you’re the appropriate person to take it up with for the same reason that you’re the appropriate person to talk to her about leave. She would probably still have talked to you about it even if she’d said no to him–not necessarily angrily, just reinforcing the point that all your vacation requests need to come through you.

        Yes, she changed her mind and didn’t deal well with it, but it’s like you’re trying to cut yourself out of the circle here like it should have been between him and her. And the whole point is that there is no circle there that doesn’t include you.

        1. LPBB*


          I think that even if the poly relationship gave the manager heebie-jeebies, this is the important take-away point. The most important relationship here is the one between the boss and the employee, not the employee and her partners.

    3. Steve G*

      Im confused as well, and confused that the OP thinks its completely fine to put it out there that he or she is cheating on their husband/wife (can someone tell from the letter?) but come across with an air of “don’t judge, that’s not the point.”

      1. I asked the question*

        Cheating is normally when people are unaware of what is going on.

        EVERYONE IN MY RELATIONSHIP IS AWARE OF EVERY PERSON! I have full support. I am saying not to judge, because I don’t think it is your right to tell me how to live my life. If I want to be in an open relationship, am not hurting anyone and everyone involved supports it, it isn’t your business nor do you get to determine if what I am doing is right or wrong. (You can determine if it is right or wrong for yourself, but not for me, tyvm)

        1. Jamie*

          You’re confusing judging with telling you how to live your life.

          You have every right to live your life however you see fit, no is is saying otherwise.

          However, you don’t have the right to determine how other people feel about what you share with them. And as it’s non-conventional and not legally protected people have tried to point out there could be fall out from sharing this with people who may not understand.

          But even if people disapprove of this part of your life…they get to feel how they feel and you don’t get to tell them otherwise. Some people will disapprove of this – you have the choice about whether you will have relationships with those who judge…but no one is entitled to public approval or being free from judgement.

          That’s why the caution about work, because unlike in your personal life if there are those who disapprove it can impact you financially. That’s where you weigh the risks of how much to disclose.

          But it doesn’t matter how passionately and fervently you believe that others who have issues with this are wrong you won’t ever be able to control what other people think and you can’t force acceptance no matter how right you feel you are on this.

          1. Another Emily*

            Yeah, it sucks that people (not everyone, but a fair number of people) are going to judge you unfairly for being in an open relationship. It’s not right that they judge you, but they will, and this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

            I’m not condoning the judgement, but you should be aware of it to factor any decisions you make around how much of your life to share with people you know. I think you have a lot of guts to be open about it though. People like you who take risks and are out about being in an open relationship will, hopefully, help people’s attitudes change over time. I think attitudes will change as the trend in society is to become less judgemental and more tolerant over time.

            This is an aside to my opinion about your letter, which is that I think your boyfriend is a nutter for calling your boss about a vacation day for you. That is just such a bizarre thing to do and not the norm at all.

            I don’t have an opinion about your relationship at all. I can’t tell if your boss does, or if she’s simply reacting poorly to your boyfriend’s weird request.

            If I were you I would make sure your boyfriend understands it’s not okay to make work-related requests like this on your behalf.

          2. khilde*

            “But even if people disapprove of this part of your life…they get to feel how they feel and you don’t get to tell them otherwise. Some people will disapprove of this – you have the choice about whether you will have relationships with those who judge…but no one is entitled to public approval or being free from judgement.”

            If more people could embrace this concept, I think we’d have a more civil society. So well stated, Jamie.

  3. Chocolate Teapot*

    It’s the third party request which seems odd. If it was a birthday surprise, then why didn’t the OP simply request a day’s leave (i.e. the boyfriend said to take the day off) and then let the surprise bit come later?

    1. The IT Manager*

      Agree. I think it would be just as odd for the husband to ask the LW’s manager for a surprise day off for her.

      And if my bf/husband did that for me, I’d be annoyed. Maybe its a bad day for me to take off; maybe I have an iportant meeting or tasks that’s due. Etc, etc, etc.

      The only wierd thing is that the manager approved it and then got annoyed at the LW. If I were the manager, I’d never have approved it and may have told the BF that it was inappropriate and unproffesional to even ask. (Because it is.)

    2. Andrea*

      Yeah, this is what I came here to say, too—why not just say, I’m planning a birthday surprise for you, can you please get this day off? The day off was clearly not a surprise, since the OP confirmed it with her manager later, so why couldn’t she have been the one to request it in the first place?

      1. I asked the question*

        I found out about the request after it had already been asked and arranged. I did not have prior knowledge about it.

        1. Jamie*

          But you still knew about it before the day off, since you asked your manager to confirm. So if you knew before hand anyway I don’t see why he felt the need to involve your boss in the first place.

          1. A Bug!*

            From a comment a bit earlier (I think it’s further down), OP said that she found out because she asked for the day off and was told there was a blackout; she told her boyfriend that she didn’t think she’d be able to get the day off, and he said “Don’t worry, it’s taken care of. I talked to your boss.”

            (I can’t help but wonder if the boss told her there was a blackout in an attempt to preserve the surprise. If BF had said “It’s not a big deal, don’t worry about it, we can have lunch on your birthday and then do something bigger at the weekend”, I wonder how things would have gone.)

  4. LV*

    At least the boyfriend didn’t email the manager to say that he had decided OP shouldn’t be working outside the home and he was resigning on her behalf… (I still shudder a little when I remember that letter!)

    1. OliviaNOPE*

      Yes, that one was SO cringe-worthy, especially because the wife really didn’t seem to understand why the boss was so taken aback.-

          1. Poe*

            This is one I really, really wanted to hear more about, partly because the whole scenario was so mind-blowingly foreign to me.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              oh wow – she actually came back in the comments and addressed a lot of them. I didn’t see that before.

  5. Katie the Fed*

    Eh, I think it’s really, really inappropriate and unprofessional for a boyfriend to request a day off on behalf of an employee. I would say the same thing as the manager. This isn’t high school – birthdays are fun and whatnot, but professionals can also say “I need this day off.” The boyfriend could have asked her to request the day off for a surprise he had planned – didn’t need to take the (patronizing and kind of weird, IMHO ) step of doing it for her. Maybe she had work that she’d need to wrap up before going on leave.

    And yes, the type of relationship does matter. No manager in her right mind wants to get dragged into potential drama, and there’s a LOT of potential drama in this case. You have the potential for the husband to come looking for the wife, the manager being complicit, messy divorces, lawsuits for loss of companionship for which the manager could get called as a witness. I know that sounds ridiculous, but that stuff can and does happen – some people go crazy when their relationships go bad and next thing you know you’re getting dragged in. I had a coworker having an affair with another coworker, who left a party hosted by a boss together, and her husband showed up at the boss’s house at 3 am looking for his wife. Don’t be those people.

    So, in conclusion, I’ll say this: grow up. If you’re adult enough to balance these two relationships, you’re adult enough to request your own leave and tell your boyfriend not to request time off on your behalf again. It’s immature and unprofessional in any case, and in this one you’re also making your boss party to your affair. Ick.

    1. Anne 3*

      IA with your first paragraph. But we don’t know if there is ‘potential drama’ from the letter, OP could be in an open/polyamorous marriage where her spouse is fine with this.

      1. Colette*

        Even if that’s true (and based on the letter I assume it is), that doesn’t mean the husband won’t show up at work to surprise the OP for her birthday and be angry/upset when she’s not there.

        1. I asked the question*

          My BF and husband have already discussed everything and he has full knowledge of the plans and is fine with them. I’ve been with my bf for 1 1/2 years and they’ve arranged things in the past for my birthday together.

          I understand that some people may not approve, but in my relationship in some levels, we are like a family- we plan things and fully communicate with everyone involved, so there are NOT surprises or hurt feelings.

          1. Meg*

            Speaking as someone who was once in a poly relationship (although I am only in monogamous ones now), I think Alison made an excellent point when she talked about how this may have made your manager uncomfortable. She doesn’t necessarily know that you’re in an open relationship – she could have thought that your relationship with your boyfriend is hidden from your husband and she was assisting you two in conducting an affair. Fairly or not, plenty of people equate polyamorous with cheating. It’s almost certainly uncharted territory for her, which may have led to her overreaction (and I do think it was an overreaction), since she doesn’t have any previous experience to base her response off of.

            1. Amber*

              Agreed. When I first read the letter from the OP, my first impression was that the OP is married and cheating on their husband. I didn’t even pick up on the open relationship until Alison starting talking about it. On top of that your boss could also have personal experiences coloring the issue. Maybe she had been “the other woman” once, maybe she had been cheated on before so either way she could view your relationship as cheating and could be extremely uncomfortable with it.

          2. Jamie*

            This is information you have about your relationships, but the workplace point is whether or not this is information your boss has about your relationships.

            Personally, unless people are close personal friends outside of work (and your letter didn’t indicate that that’s the case with you and your boss) people you work with don’t want to know the personal details of anyone’s private life. How you manage your relationships and who is and isn’t okay with what. That’s TMI for most bosses and co-workers. And I’d feel that way regardless of the nature of the relationship…conventional or not.

          3. Natalie*

            “I understand that some people may not approve, but in my relationship in some levels, we are like a family- we plan things and fully communicate with everyone involved, so there are NOT surprises or hurt feelings.”

            I think something that can be hard to remember as a poly person is just how unusual this seems to most people. It’s too far outside the Overton window of relationships for people to immediately feel comfortable with it.

            My ex and I had an open relationship, and since we’ve split up I’ve heard two different stories about acquaintances seeing him with some other woman and panicking over whether or not they should tell me. And note, as far as I know he wasn’t doing anything obviously relationship-y or sexual with these other women, he was just with them, alone.

            IMO, if you are going to be publicly poly it is worth it to be extremely clear and explicit about how your relationship works (without TMI, of course) and be ready to answer a lot of the same questions over and over.

            1. TheSnarkyB*

              Ooh, Overton window. Thanks for the new concept- I look forward to reading up on it!

              I agree with your comment about openness. I think that this work/private life thing should be a modified version of “all or nothing” where “all” still has professional boundaries. That is to say, I think you (general you but also OP) can keep you private life private by not bringing anyone personal into the workplace situation. In this case, if I were going for “Nothing”: I would have not introduced them or just introduced by name. I would not talk with people about being married. I would not be mentioning two different names in any way that would be confusing or beyond how you might discuss people in your circle of friends (and in my experience, when you talk about friends at work, the names don’t get mentioned so much).
              My personal preference would be more of the “all” variety. When you’ve been at your job long enough that you/people are discussing family or weekend plans or anything else personal, I would mention that I am poly amorous, explain what it is if necessary, maybe say their names… Maybe not say one is husb, other if boyf, but keep it brief, “family”- sounding, since I think people get it when they start to think of your love life as a community rather than an orgy, and move on.
              I think you can’t have it both ways by having (presumably) mentioned a husband and introduced a boyfriend. I think this will cause more trouble than not.
              Disclaimer: your safety (whether physical safety, job security, feeling emotionally safe..) comes first. There aren’t many workplaces in which you can just come out about something like this without it causing a big to do or worse, and I’m not naive to that fact. I just think that you’ve disclosed just enough for it to be a problem.
              I also say this as a bisexual person with a bi significant other (people get really confused and worried when they hear me talk about attraction to men and women in front of him), who has been in multiple iterations of open relationships (friends don’t know what to do with that- if you don’t want them in the horrible position of seeing your boo out with someone else and not knowing whether to tell you, ya gotta clue them in. Especially if you don’t want to know!)
              TL;DR: Keep the private private or disclose it- this middle-ground thing won’t work well.

                1. Jamie*

                  Don’t apologize – I thought it was brilliant.

                  You have a real gift for being so sensitive to the core subject, while still articulating what that means in the real, and imperfect, world. It’s a common theme in your posts and I for one come away with a greater understanding of things I don’t have real world exposure to because you post things like this.

                  I think your name is disingenuous…you have far more wisdom than snark and I think that’s awesome.

      2. Jamie*

        The boss may not know either. Did she introduce her boyfriend only or explain that the husband is okay with it. If she explained…why is she explaining what her husband is and isn’t okay with sexually/romantically…which in and of itself is not workplace conversation.

        The boss could very well have no idea how much drama is involved here and if like most people probably really wouldn’t want to know…it’s not the kind of thing you ask follow up questions about.

        This is a lot of information for the workplace.

      3. Katie the Fed*

        if she is, that changes it. But without further information, it sounds like “affair” to me and I have seen more than my share of that kind of drama.

      4. KellyK*

        It sounded from the letter like she is in an open relationship and her husband’s fine with it. But that doesn’t mean 1) that the boss knows that, or 2) that the boss wouldn’t view it as a potential for drama she doesn’t want to be involved in anyway.

      5. TheSnarkyB*

        The OP is not making her manager party to any affair.

        One thing that I think is important to consider here is: maybe the manager had a problem with it because it was a boyfriend, regardless of the poly aspect. Like it or not, boyfriend has a casualness to it and has implications of immaturity in a way that husband does not. I don’t like it- I’ve been with my boyfriend over 3yrs, we’re very serious, and the high school connotations don’t apply- but I get it. If I were a manager, I’d be less comfortable w/ a call from the boyfriend than I would be from someone else’s husband Bill who I’ve seen at the Christmas parties 3 years in a row, or the lobby, etc. One has to consider: how long has OP worked there? How familiar is the boss with this unknown entity on the phone? Is it the kind of company where the boss’s name and number are easy to find? If not, that adds some weird-factor to it, etc.

        1. Chinook*

          I agree that “boyfriend/girlfriend” has a connotation of not being permanent. Fair or not, when you publicly signal you are in a long term relationship by using words like spouse, husband/wife, or partner, this allows others to see that person as having influence on your life because of said commitment. Boyfriend doesn’t get the same perogative.

          As the military chaplain said to DH and his buddies “Spouses count because they can legally follow you. Girl/boyfrends and fiancés don’t because they can still split without legal consequences.”

        2. Katie the Fed*

          When I posted that, it wasn’t yet established that it was an open relationship. And regardless, the boss may FEEL she is becoming party to something inappropriate.

        3. Another Emily*

          It would also be pretty weird if a person’s husband or wife asked for a day off on the employee’s behalf.

    2. Brton3*

      I totally agree that it was patronizing. And also weirdly controlling. Hey Sue Ann, I got you tomorrow off, and you and me are doing XYZ. A surprise is one thing but this is a strange situation all around. I still think it’s a stretch that her nontraditional relationship might lead to drama that spills over into work; honestly, everybody has a little bit of personal drama and sometimes it spills over into work. Not everyone is a consummate professional about such things.

    3. Colette*

      And then there’s the logistical issues. I book & attend meetings and have daily commitments that someone has to cover if I’m not in. I can get someone up to speed if I’m not going to be there, but I would need to know that I wasn’t going to be there.

  6. Anne 3*

    I think I’d be uncomfortable with anyone (spouse/boyfriend/parent/whoever) approaching my boss for anything, honestly. Unless I’m somehow unable to notify work that I’m not coming in (because I’m so ill I can’t speak, or something), they have no business approaching my boss.

    1. Michele*

      I had something similiar happen to me in my first managerial position. One of my employees was in an abusive relationship and had used all of her vacation/sick days in the first 3 months she worked for me. Her boyfriend called me directly to ask if she could have a specific day off so they could get married. It was so awkward and I felt presurred not to say no. At this stage in my career I would be 100% comfortable saying no. Nobody but the employee should request time off.

      1. MS*

        Oh. Dear. God! To get married to an abuser? That amps up by infinite degrees the inappropriateness for anyone other than the employee to request time off.

        1. Michele*

          She actually transferred the call to me. I was caught so off guard. I think she was afraid to ask me since the week before I had given her information for a domestic violence hotline.

    2. Anonymous*

      I just think it’s unprofessional. There’s no reason for a SO to talk to your boss about anything, unless you’re in the hospital. If he wants to surprise her, wait until Saturday.

  7. Oxford Comma*

    I don’t care what the people I supervise do on their time off. That’s their business. However, this is what would bother me: How do I know you’re on board with what the 3rd party is asking? I once worked with a woman who was going through a divorce and her soon-to-be ex would come in and want us to tell us where she was or to let him into her office. We happened to know the situation, but what if we didn’t?

    1. Yup*

      I get where you’re coming from with whether the employee is on board with the third party request.

      I’m friends with a couple where the wife approached the husband’s boss with a secret PTO request so she could surprise her spouse with an exotic vacation. The manager approved it, thinking he was doing something nice for the husband employee.

      Unbeknownst to her, the husband had major work plans for those dates and was LIVID when the wife popped the surprise on him. They ended up cancelling the nonrefundable vacation with great angst all around. I think the husband’s annoyance transferred a bit onto the manager (“Why would you agree to this without talking to me first?”), and the manager was cranky that he got dragged into family drama when he didn’t initiate any of it and was just trying to be nice.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        It just feels so controlling to me. I’m sure that wasn’t her intent but the whole thing gives me the heebie jeebies.

        1. Yup*

          Eh. They’re a couple that regularly throws each other surprise birthday parties and surprise nights out and other stuff like that. So it’s in the realm of normal for their relationship. I’d hate it for myself, though.

        2. I asked the question*

          I knew he was planning something for my birthday, however I don’t know when.

          Generally, I’m great at surprising him with things, so he wanted to do the same for me and not have me worry about planning anything for my big 3-0.

          I thought it was sweet that he did this, because my job does not require projects that need following up on etc. As long as we can schedule someone else to cover, it isn’t a problem normally.

          And no, I would NEVER let anyone send my own resignation letter. I just read that post and I do not think that is acceptable. If a job position isn’t working out for the family etc, it is her responsibility to resign. I can understand that being controlling, I feel like this is entirely a different situation, since it is a birthday surprise for something that is generally a big bday event.

          1. Liz T*

            Yeah, but this isn’t about your relationship with your boyfriend–it’s about your relationship with your boss. I can’t imagine approving someone’s time off without that person’s consent. Your boss should’ve just said no.

          2. Katie the Fed*

            Not everyone thinks birthdays are a big deal. That’s part of why I think it’s best to just request leave without a reason. Requesting a day off for your birthday could seem a bit childish. Not to everyone though. Just request the leave and be done with it :)

            1. Brenda*

              I AGREE WITH THIS. We are adults! I would be so embarrassed if this happened to me because it seems silly, and I work hard to be perceived as a professional.

            2. Jamie*

              And even those who think birthdays are a big deal once you pass 21 should know you can’t expect them to ever be a big deal to the people with whom you work.

              Unless you guys do cake/treats…then the people who like cake/treats will be mildly appreciative that you had a birthday…but that’s it.

              1. Anon*

                Haha, I love that. Cake/treats are definitely a good thing :)

                At my old job we did monthly cakes for birthdays, so you didn’t have it exactly on your birthday but everyone who had a birthday that month got to pick their favorite cake for that day :)

                And on people’s actual birthdays, we went crazy at their desks; we got out confetti and happy birthday streamers and we didn’t pull huge pranks but you always knew the mouse/batteries/tablet pen were going to be hidden somewhere around your desk. It was fun, like a scavenger hunt + mini celebration. Took weeks for the confetti to go away though.

          3. Anonymous*

            I think that the problem here is from the bosses point of view they are the same. And you can tell us a thousand times your situation is different but in the end someone else talked to your boss about your job and that isn’t ok.

            (Aside from being in the hospital in which case your boyfriend or husband or whoever calling and letting your boss know would be acceptable, but if you aren’t incapacitated, you’re responsible.)

        3. Collarbone High*

          Agreed, and I wonder if that — rather than the polyamory angle — is what caused the manager to have second thoughts about approving the leave.

  8. Brton3*

    I don’t think the nontraditional relationship has any bearing on this question. It was weird and unprofessional for the boyfriend to contact the manager. The manager just had a delayed reaction to it.

    Talking about the relationship seems to be unnecessary in the context of this question, but I will just add: I would hope that the OP was straightforward when explaining her relationship, and remains otherwise totally professional. In other words, I assume she isn’t one of those people who talk endlessly about their unorthodox personal lives at work as a way of drawing attention to themselves. If I had such a coworker or report, I might allow my personal irritation to spill over into a conversation like this.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I read your last sentence too fast and I thought you were talking about taking a “personal irritation PILL”. I thought “where can I get those?”

      Seriously, though. I agree. I think the OP’s relationships have no bearing on the matter. Most companies I have worked for have required the employee to request the time off personally. Third party requests would always be answered with a NO and an explanation that the employee must ask.
      Personally, I would be very upset if anyone requested a day off for me.

      OP, whenever someone shares a part of themselves at work there is always the potential for that sharing to come back to haunt them. For example: Suppose Sue is having a tough time financially right now. Several times a week Sue mentions her current hurdle in a steady stream of financial hurdles. Then money comes up missing. Guess what is going to happen next.

      Here’s the kicker- a coworker realized that everyone would blame Sue so the coworker saw an opportunity for themselves.
      Because Sue shared information at work, the waters got murky.

      Realize that what you share at work can come back around at the worst possible time. It creates an added layer of complexity.

      Yes, the boss should have made the decision once, not twice.
      Has anyone ever seen a boss that NEVER did this? “Yes.” Then a while later “UH, I meant to say NO.”
      To me, this is just part of work life. Even the best of bosses will contradict themselves once in awhile. It sounds to me like you got the time off for this request and told in the future do not do it again. That is reasonable.
      I don’t see anything that indicates she had expressed a personal opinion on your life style. She simply said no third party requests. As long as this applies to everyone and all the time, I don’t see a problem.

      1. Jamie*

        Yep – people make judgements about each other (good and bad) all the time for all kinds of things. People can share whatever they like about themselves, as long as they don’t veer into TMI territory, but they can’t control what other people think or feel about what they’ve shared.

        It’s just the more people know about you the more complete a picture they form in their mind about who they think you are.

        I don’t talk about religion at work – ever – but I wear a crucifix and miraculous medal. Someone could absolutely look at me and form the judgement that I lack logic and believe in what they feel are fictional characters controlling my life. Someone else could see it and think I might be the person who knows where to get the best grilled cheese during Fridays in lent (and I do.) In wearing a visible symbol I’m opening myself up for people to factor that into who they think I am. Whether that falls into the positive, negative, or completely neutral so who freaking cares column is on them.

        If it were impacting my life or job I’d have to evaluate if it’s more important for me to put it out there or more important to keep something like that private so it can’t be held against me.

        We all make those kinds of choices all the time, but the more unconventional the choices the higher the risk that there will be judgements beyond your control which may not be based on fact.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yes. Any time we stand for something/anything there will be people who will want to point out how wrong we are. It’s just human nature.

          I have a friend with green hair and large rings in her earlobes. She is a very dear person. She is surprised that people comment. The only part of this story that gets me is her surprise. People do people-y things which includes commentary/opinions/judgements. We all do this to some degree. Although, some folks excel at this stuff.

          Going back to our OP- none of us truly know the boss’ thoughts. We can speculate and come up with ideas that resonant. But we don’t truly know. As a professional it would be up to the boss to stay out of her employee’s personal life, no matter how much personal information is offered.
          Very few people are able to remain absolutely unbiased- hence OP’s question here.
          Like with your cross and medal, or my friend with the green hair, any time we take a stand on anything we have to be prepared to either stand up for our position OR have a plan to dial it back. That’s a recurring theme in life.
          I suggest to the OP that if it bothers her enough, perhaps going back and talking to the boss on a different day would be the best idea.
          ” Boss, regarding that incident the other day, I believe I upset you and, most certainly, that was not my intent.”
          OP might find out that the boss was PMSing and had cramps up to her earlobes that made it impossible for her to think clearly. The boss might say “I am glad you opened that subject to clear it up.”

  9. Jamie*

    I just would have said the request needs to come from you and have shut it down immediately. I wouldn’t discuss anything with a third party.

    And it’s true that your personal life is none of your work’s business…but you introduced the topic into your work life initially. People can’t unknow things once they know them so whether it should be or not, it’s not surprising that other people would be uncomfortable with this given that this isn’t something with which most people are familiar.

  10. I asked the question*

    I am the one who originally asked the question…

    Basically, she told him everything was fine and it wasn’t a problem for me to have a day off. There are only 3 people in our part of the office and as long as everyone is aware of it, there isn’t generally an issue with time off.

    The reason I found out about it, was because I was trying to ask for a day off for part of my birthday, and hadn’t known it had already been arranged. When I spoke to my bf about it, he said he had already figured everything out and Surprise! You have a day off already planned! I was a little worried, because I had been told that day that the month of my birthday as well as the rest of the year are blacked out and we cannot have time off, so I asked her to double check. When I brought up the surprise day I hadn’t know about, was when she said it was highly inappropriate and unprofessional.

    I brought up the bf/husband situation because I wasn’t sure if it was just something she was uncomfortable with, because of who he was. Had it been my husband, would it have been ok? She is one of the very few people in the office who knows about both relationships and while I do not talk about them, I have made it very clear that my husband knows and it is an open consensual thing.

    I hope this clears up a few things.

    1. Del*

      Given that, I would kind of wonder if this were something that came from higher up along the line — ie, she approved it when he called, and then later she was told she shouldn’t have, and would get in trouble if it happened again.

      That said, though, some people will default to a polite and agreeable response if taken by surprise, but then later be more uncomfortable/unhappy with what happened, and that may also have come into play here.

      In either case, honestly, whether or not it would have been “more okay” coming from your husband depends on whether her qualms include the idea that she might be aiding/abetting you in cheating, or whether her qualms stem from anyone at all other than you asking for the time off. If the former, then probably. If the latter, then probably not. In any case, generally speaking employers don’t even want call-outs from someone other than the employee unless it’s an emergency situation, so it doesn’t seem unreasonable that a pre-planned absence should also come from you, not from the third party.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        Del, that’s what I was envisioning as well. That the manager either thought it over later, or discussed it with another manager, and realized there could be all kinds of drama and fall-out resulting from a third-party PTO request.

    2. MousyNon*

      That does clear things up, and honestly I’ve got to say I’m on your manager’s side here. I’d feel extraordinarily uncomfortable with a third party coming to me about an employee for any reason other than an emergency (i.e. “XX is in the hospital!”). I don’t think it would have been okay if it had been your husband, either, and I say this as somebody well versed in so-called ‘non-traditional’ relationships. Your BF definitely overstepped his boundaries.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      I don’t think it really matters if it was your boyfriend or your husband requesting the time off – it should come from you. Just stick with that I don’t think you’ll have anymore problems. You’re the master of your work domain, not either of the men in your life.

    4. Jamie*

      IMO it would have been totally inappropriate and unprofessional if your husband had asked. Or your mom, or grandpa.

      For me there is no acceptable way for a third party to speak with one’s employer regarding work place stuff unless you are incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself.

      The line was cross irrespective of who it was who crossed it. Then again, the boss was wrong in approving it, so there is OFI for everyone here.

      1. khilde*

        My husband and I have the same boss in the same department, but work in different sections of the dept. Even then (or especially because of) I would NEVER dream of having my husband ask my/our boss for my time off. We stay out of each other’s work life as much as possible. Though there have been times when the kid is sick and I stay home and he goes into work and tells the boss that I stayed home with a sick kid, but I always follow up with an email to her as soon as possible formally telling her. Like others, I would cringe if my husband asked for a personnel action on my behalf.

        1. Liz*

          Ditto: same department, same boss, different teams. Sometimes my husband would tell my boss that I was home sick and I’d email or call in when I managed to focus, but that’s about as far as we’d go. Anything else just felt downright weird.

    5. Sophia*

      That your birthday month and the rest of the year were blacked out/no time off – is probably the reason she was upset. She knew you knew that, and then was caught by surprised by the bf’s request. If it’s blacked out, I assume its extremely busy and she’s also probably being asked by her boss why you have the day off when it was not allowed

      1. some1*

        Good point, Sophia. LW, is it possible your boss thinks your BF was trying to go around you because you thought she’d say no to you?

      2. I asked the question*

        I didn’t know it at the time- last year, it was a different set of months that was blocked out, so to my knowledge at the time, it wouldn’t be an issue.

    6. some1*

      I’m guessing that Alison was on the money when she guessed that your boss approved the day off to your boyfriend because she felt put on the spot, and upon further reflection, decided she felt it was inappropriate and unprofessional.

      Does she think it’s unprofessional because a third party asked, or because she doesn’t approve of your relationship? I don’t know. It could be any combination of either or any amount of both. Either way, I would not ask her why because I don’t think any answer she gives you will help the situation. I would just tell your BF not to contact your boss again unless can’t speak and he needs to call in for you.

    7. annie*

      I almost thought you were my coworker for a minute there, because we just experienced a similar situation. To be honest – I wish I did not know anything about my poly coworker’s open relationship, and I do feel differently about him now – mostly this is because he has actually brought drama into the office as well via crazy phone calls/fights/tears/various people picking him up from work/etc, which has made it a workplace issue. It has hurt his credibility, reliability and has made him seem very immature because he could not handle his personal life outside the office. My coworker’s particular drama aside, I just don’t think it is appropriate because without a lot of detailed explanation about your particular situation, its obviously going to look like you are cheating to most people who observe you kissing some random other guy named Bob hello in the parking lot, when they know you are married to Jim.

      Nothing against poly folks, many of whom are my friends, but there’s a catch 22 here when its in the workplace – if I see you with another man, I think, oh, I saw her cheating, that’s uncomfortable knowledge, but if you explain to me all the details of your particular arrangement, I think, oh, that’s too much information for me to know about a coworker.

      1. Natalie*

        Eh, I think there’s a middle ground. One option, certainly, is to not have Bob or Jim meet you in the parking lot at all and just dodge the question entirely.

        But I think it would be equally possible to let it be known, in the same casual way a gay co-worker would let it be known, that you are in an open or poly relationship without having the give details. If your co-workers have questions you can direct them to Google.

  11. Anonymous*

    As far as the non-traditional relationship, monogamy is not morally superior to polyamory*, in both cases it depends on how the other person or people in the relationship are treated on whether the relationship is good or bad. A lot of the discussion about polyamory is that it sometimes/always isn’t a choice, it’s a innate part of themselves, and so IMHO having a problem with that is the same kind of bigotry about having a problem because someone is gay.

    *I’m not the OP and not into that, so for me this is more a theoretical argument rather than a personal one.

    1. Kitty*

      When I read that it “sometimes/always isn’t a choice,” I thought you meant that if one person in a relationship wants to open things up, the other person might feel like they have to agree to it if they want to stay in the relationship (that kind of “not a choice”). ;-)

      When I was younger, I agreed to an open relationship because the person I was dating wanted to be able to date other people, but it was too difficult for me. We didn’t do a good job of it, and we finally decided it was better for us to be monogamous. (Ironically, the defining event was when I dated someone else for a short time when we were trying non-monogamy.)

  12. TBoT*

    One of the reasons there’s been so much progress in the last few years on the subject of marriage equality is that a lot more gay people have been coming out and talking openly about their lives and their relationships to people who might otherwise judge or devalue them. Polyamory is definitely a lot less well-known of an issue, which is exactly why it’s socially important for polyamorous people to live their lives in an open manner. With awareness comes greater acceptance. I’m not saying that it should be mandatory for poly people to come out as poly, but that it’s as important to raising awareness as it is for LGBT people to come out.

    At the same time, doing so is a risky thing. Being open about polyamorous relationships may indeed invite criticism and scorn from people who aren’t educated or aware on the subject, but that doesn’t mean a person shouldn’t do it.

    So that’s the education part. On the part of the actual question, I would similarly feel really weird about granting time off requested by a third party, no matter how that person was related to someone who reported to me. But the OP’s manager’s response does seem pretty snarky.

  13. I asked the question*

    Okay, read a few more comments.

    First- I am NOT cheating on my husband, nor lying to him etc. He is fully aware of my bf and we actually have family meals every week and we all spend time together. (they are friends.) Yes, it isn’t traditional, but both parties are FULLY aware of the situation and support it wholly.

    Second- I knew I had something being planned for my birthday, I just did not know when- In my job position, things are finished the day of and we do not have projects or things that carry on past a few days.

    Third- I do not talk about my personal life at work. Three people in the office know- but we are a very large company and have about 150 employees at this particular office. I am pretty quiet about it in general, because I feel like it isn’t anyone’s business and I know that it can create others to make personal judgments on something they do not understand.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I’m glad you clarified the first part. If it works for you and everyone’s cool with it, that’s fine. But just be aware that your boss might not really understand that.

      My point above about potential drama is from more traditional monogamous relationships that have gone bad, but anyone whose been on the receiving end of someone’s jilted spouse going off the deep end might want to just keep as much distance as possible.

    2. fposte*

      I’m with people upthread in thinking that the poly aspect wasn’t really at play here. Your manager agreed on the spot to an uncomfortable request and then regretted it. She didn’t handle it as well as she might, but the request was pushing it, and she’s identified a pretty understandable workplace policy–no third-party requests will be accepted.

      I think your boyfriend meant well, but in general I would recommend against direct communication with a partner’s boss unless you’re reporting a hospital stay or you already know the boss pretty well. I’d be annoyed to be asked by somebody I’d met once to let his girlfriend off of work for a day.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Agree. Having read the comments above, I think OP’s manager said yes because she felt put on the spot, but after the fact was annoyed because a) she felt put on the spot and b) she may feel that the boyfriend was asking as a way of getting around the blackout dates that OP would not have asked for.

  14. BCW*

    So what was unclear to me was whether or not it really is an open relationship or an affair. As alison said, that could make a lot of difference. Just because the OP is open about it, doesn’t necessarily mean that the husband knows. I’ve had friends put me in that position, and its not a comfortable one to be in. So the boss may not want to be an accessory to her affair.

    Now as far as someone else asking for a day off, to me its not THAT big of a deal. Put it this way, if a husband wanted to surprise his wife on their anniversary, but to make it a surprise he was doing it the day before (long weekend or something) I wouldn’t say it was that bad, and I’d argue many people would call it romantic. I think though this is where some people would see it as there being a difference between boyfriend and husband (which I don’t think is necessarily fair with people’s different opinions on marriage).

    So with those 2 observance, its hard for me to say whether the manager was overreacting or not.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I certainly would NOT call it romantic if a husband did the same thing. I’ll call it inappropriate, because it is. The wife is the employee, not the husband.

      Is it so difficult to say “honey, I have a surprise planned for you – can you get the day off work and leave the rest to me?”

      I’m taking my boyfriend away for a surprise weekend but I let him know I had something in the works so he could plan his weekend accordingly. Because it’s his time, not mine.

      1. BCW*

        Thats fine. I also think it depends a lot on the company, type of work, etc. I know at my company, it would probably be fine. When I was a teacher, that probably wouldn’t have flown very well.

        1. Jamie*

          It also depends on the relationship. As Alison mentioned up thread, some people would find this incredibly romantic (I know some people who would be swooning if their partner did this) and for some it would be a presumptuous nightmare.

          But most people in long term intimate relationships should kinda know what would work and what will spark WWIII.

      2. Jamie*

        Or lie and say you have a colonoscopy scheduled or something (because nothing says romance like a colonoscopy!) and let me see if I can get the day off. If you know that’s something I’d be happy about once I know it’s not a camera probe but a fun filled whatever you have planned.

        But I’m with Katie on this – my husband calls my boss for anything and whatever romantic thing he had planned just turned into something else entirely…namely a long conversation about boundaries and our relationship. Trust me, compared to that the procedure would be a good time.

      3. Jen in RO*

        But it depends on the relationship, doesn’t it? Presumably your boyfriend knows that you would not like this surprise. Maybe OP has told her boyfriend that she would love to be whisked away to an unknown destination at an unknown time, so he knew that his plan wouldn’t backfire.

  15. Only slightly off topic...*

    I’ve often wondered how requests for time off works from a third person. The thing I really think about is when a TV show surprises a person with a vacation or something and they leave *immediately*. Does this actually happen? Do the people go on vacation or take their leave right away? Wouldn’t their job have to be informed of this? Does the production company call ahead of time or does part of the family know? Or is it just all staged?

    The one I’m really curious about is the Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition. The ONLY way I can figure out that that show works is that the person takes the first three months off of work- how exactly is that possible? What do they tell the person or the job about that situation?

    Am I just completely naive for thinking it’s not all staged? ;)

    1. VintageLydia*

      A lot of that is careful editing to make it look like they took the vacation immediately.

      As for reality shows where the participants are there for months at time, they either got leave of absences or are unemployed to begin with. People who can’t get the time off simply can’t participate.

      1. Julie*

        And that’s why some of the people on Dancing with the Stars are so exhausted. They are keeping (at least some of) their professional commitments while also doing the show.

    2. Daisy*

      I remember once on a episode of Biggest Loser someone did a temptation for $1000, and their trainer afterwards yelled at them, ‘You’ve taken three months off work for this, what does $1000 matter?’

    3. annie*

      Almost all reality television is staged. Family members work in on shows like that and have told me me all about scripts and casting calls. Even the extras are usually cast. :(

  16. Inksmith*

    I think if your boss had an issue with it, for whatever reason, she should have said at the time, not taken it out on you… And that your poly relationship isn’t something she has a right to take issue with. I know Alison says it’s different from being gay, but I disagree as a gay person who’s faced the whole tell, don’t tell, be judged, feel icky for being in the closet, argue with family thing. I don’t think it’s different in the sense of one’s ok to be weird about and the other’s not. You introduced the guy as your boyfriend, clearly you’re not cheating, or you wouldn’t have done it, so, whatever, she needs to keep her personal opinion of your relationship out of her managing of you.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Actually, legally, she does have a right to take an issue with it. Sure, it would be nice if she didn’t, but poly lifestyles are not a protected legal class. Even sexual preference isn’t a protected class in all states.

      I’m not saying she SHOULD, but legally she can.

    2. some1*

      “You introduced the guy as your boyfriend, clearly you’re not cheating, or you wouldn’t have done it”

      Not necessarily true. I have known plenty of people who were cheating openly to the whole world except their partner.

      “I think if your boss had an issue with it, for whatever reason, she should have said at the time”

      I agree, but I think we have all been in situations where we agreed to something we didn’t want to while being put on the spot, and later changed our minds.

      1. Sophia*

        But I think the point Shannon was trying to make was, why can’t bf plan the surprise for your day off? You both are not kids, it doesn’t have to be celebrated on the exact day.

        1. shannon313*

          Yes, exactly. Much better chance of the surprise going off without a hitch. The fewer people involved, the better.

      2. Jaimie*

        I thought you found out about this because you asked for the same day off? How do you not know it was a Saturday?

  17. Jubilance*

    I think its weird that the boyfriend approached the boss about a secret day off from work. I get that he wanted to surprise the OP but approaching the boss is so unprofessional. It would have been better for the boyfriend to say to the OP “Honey I’d like to do something special for your birthday so please request that day off from work.” The rest of the surprise could still have been kept.

    I also think the OP shouldn’t have introduced her boyfriend as her boyfriend, if her boss already knew her to be married. Leaving it at “this is Tom” and not explaining the relationship would have been fine.

    1. Jessa*

      I don’t have a problem with the boyfriend introduction although I wish there was a better way to introduce the second partner of a gender in a polyamorous relationship. But given the fact that the current “poster group” for poly relationships usually involves women that would normally only be permitted to BE partnered with the men they are with in marriage, and therefore marriage per se is a thinly veiled…well you’ve read the news, it gives honest adults with genuine adult consent a BAD NAME (I’d put that in headline caps but you get my point.) So there’s no language to describe it because it’s an unofficial relationship and will be for many more years to come.

      It’s a terrible thing. I have friends who are poly who have a lovely family and every now and then they have to move because some neighbour wants to be awful about things. They’re all adults, they were adults when they met, but people assume the two women were forced into it and were brainwashed when they were teenagers or something.

  18. MR*

    Ok, after reading the OP’s comments, I get it now.

    I suppose the only time something like this would be fine would be if the significant other was close to the boss in some way, and the SO approached the boss with something like ‘Hey, I have a surprise trip planned for the last Friday of the month, is it ok to give the OP the day off without telling her?

    As a one-off situation that isn’t coming from a third-party stranger, I would be ok with that as the manager.

    1. Jessa*

      Okay maybe if the boss knew the people really, really well. And knew that the relationship was really good and the employee really would not have any issue with finding out one of their leave days had just been eaten up without talking to them first. But that requires a level of knowledge that a lot of people would consider too close to be supervising that person.

      Really the only time I’ve seen subordinate/manager positions work when people are that close are when the subordinate is the personal/executive assistant because you’re practically in the back pocket of your boss if you’re really good at that you get very close by necessity.

  19. Jessa*

    I think that there’s an issue about calling the boss and asking, but the issue should have been the boss politely saying “I’m sorry I can’t do that.” And I kind of think it’s a little odd that someone wouldn’t realise that. The boss’ reaction to you for whatever reason I think is a little odd as well. It should maybe have been “look, you need to tell him that it’s kind of cute but it’s really not how business is done, and it’s not just because you may not have time off. How do I know you’re not in a bad relationship and … explains all the reasons Alison said.”

    But seriously this should not be taken out on you because your boyfriend did something odd. He didn’t do something SO odd or strange like coming into the place drunk or streaking in the parking lot or something totally off the wall. He tried to do something romantic.

    But honestly I’d have a problem with my manager for approving it. How does the manager know that I don’t have plans for that time? Maybe I have doctor’s appointments? Maybe I need that time for something else? Maybe I’m trying to get away from a bad relationship and am saving up the time to move away. I really think the manager was completely wrong to have approved something to do with your benefits and payroll without your input. They should have told your boyfriend that they need to tell you about this. And they should not have indicated whether or not the time was available or whether or not they would say yes or no until YOU came to them with the request. How do they even know that you’re still seeing this particular person if they only met them once.

    1. Jessa*

      And I agree with Alison the number or genders of the people in your life has nothing to do with my opinion on the subject. I’d say the same thing if someone had been in a solid relationship for 50 years with the same person/persons. Just because it was solid yesterday doesn’t mean it’s solid today. And that also doesn’t mean that the other person gets to decide what use your benefits are put to.

  20. Ruffingit*

    I tend to err on the side of third-parties NOT approaching the boss for anything. It’s just not their place. Although, this can go completely crazy on the side of the boss too. I once had a close friend who went to the hospital with double pneumonia. I had called the ambulance for her and then followed it to the hospital the night she was admitted. She was incredibly sick. The first day she was in the hospital, she was on oxygen periodically (mask over her face) and then sleeping the rest of the time. I called her job and told them what had happened. The response? “We really need to hear from the employee herself.” REALLY? Gee, maybe once she’s off the oxygen and she can squeak out a couple of words, I’ll have her call you. WTF???

    So sometimes bosses can really be unreasonable, but in the case of the LW, I don’t think the boyfriend should have asked.

    1. Jamie*

      That’s crazy! I was hospitalized with double pneumonia years ago and it was days before I would have been able to use the phone. Drawing in enough air to speak would result in coughing fits which went on forever. I was temping at the time and my husband had to call me in and thankfully it wasn’t an issue.

      But that definitely falls into the category of okay because they physically cannot speak for themselves.

      1. Kelly L.*

        The only time I ever had a third party call in sick for me, I had come down with laryngitis and couldn’t speak audibly on the phone. I felt so weird having my BF call in for me, but this was before texting was really a thing, and it was for a food service job where nobody was checking email during the day, so it was the only way to get the message there (short of hiring a singing telegram to show up at work, or something).

        1. Jamie*

          (short of hiring a singing telegram to show up at work, or something).

          How awesome would that be! That never happens around here and now phone calls and emails seem so anticlimactic.

      2. Ruffingit*

        Yeah, this particular job was crazy. They were huge jerks. My friend was working in a daycare at the time and when I called, not only did they tell me she needed to call, they asked if she was coming in the next day! UH…no, no she’s not because it’s kind of hard to drag the IV pole into the play room. o-0.

      3. Jessa*

        Yeh but person cannot physically speak is a different issue. At which point if the boss is unsure they can then say “we will need documentation from the employee that they were in hospital please let them know that,” or some such. I mean seriously. I know I’ve had issues with bosses like that because I have vocal issues, so I basically rasp out something word sounding and hand the phone to my husband.

        But yeh, in the case that the person can’t talk that’s not the same as someone asking for their holiday pay to be used.

    2. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Serious medical issues, hospitalizations, and death get a pass on 3rd party contact with the boss in my rule book.

      1. Ruffingit*

        You’d think. But as I said, my friend’s boss was crazy what with refusing to take my word for it and then asking if my friend was going to be into work the next day. She ended up quitting that job not long after thank God!

      2. Chinook*

        I would hope that, in the event of my death, my boss would take DH’s word for it. If she still required to hear from me, I would choose to appear at about 12 am and start the conversation with a good, old-fashioned “Boo”!

        1. Ruffingit*

          LOL! I can’t remember where I read this, but someone on the web was talking about trying to cancel their dead relative’s cell phone or something. And the cell phone company kept insisting the primary account holder needed to call. No amount of “SHE’S DEAD” seemed to get through to them.

          1. Editor*

            Speaking as a widow of several years, yes, there is apparently always some business that’s totally unreasonable in some way about a customer’s death.

            I think it is actually helpful to know how to get to a spouse’s office and who the boss or department head or whatever is. I met one of my spouse’s supervisors — who’d been there for years — when I talked my way into the office and informed them that my spouse was too sick to give me their phone number, too sick to call, and would be likely to be out a long, long time. But at least I got their contact info so I could all and tell them he died without having to beg some stranger — again — to let me in through the locked outer door. People should keep a set of basic information posted at home — their name and office phone and title, the name of their supervisor and perhaps the next supervisor up along with phone numbers and emails for those people, and the contact information for HR, particularly if HR is outsourced. It can be on a folded paper in your wallet or at home in a sealed envelope as long as it is somewhere easy to find and is regularly updated.

            1. Ruffingit*

              Agreed. I keep a listing of passwords, names of all my accounts, etc. with a copy of my will so that the person who needs to handle it can do so and will have all info they need.

    3. Another Anonymous*

      I completely agree that the situation was drastic and the manager needed to have been more understanding of the situation….BUT, a few of the previous comments have mentioned situations where the individual was in an abusive relationship or going through an acrimonious divorce. Managers aren’t necessarily privy to that information about an employee’s personal life. It would make sense to request that the employee to call in order to ensure the situation isn’t some “Lifetime Movie of the Week” scenario. Just food for thought…

      1. Ruffingit*

        Yes, there are some situations where they need to hear from the employee, but then there are others where they need to just take the word of the third-party such as the one I described. I really felt badly for my friend as she asked me what her manager said and I told her. It was unnecessary stress as my friend had no health insurance and already was afraid of losing that job. As it happened, she was able to work with the hospital’s financial dept. to get the bill down from $29,000 to $800, which she paid off over the next year. She quit the daycare job and found a better one.

        1. khilde*

          “As it happened, she was able to work with the hospital’s financial dept. to get the bill down from $29,000 to $800…”

          Wow! I seriously am fascinated by these stories where this happens. I wonder what a person says to get this done? (I’m not asking for help, haha, just curious).

          1. Ruffingit*

            In my friend’s case, she was basically homeless (living with friends of hers) and she was working a minimum wage job. Given those two factors, they knew she wasn’t ever going to be able to pay $29,000 and no health insurance meant they weren’t going to get any portion of it that way either. I’m not sure what kind of mathematical formula they use to calculate the bill in this case, but $800 is what my friend ended up with and she did pay all of that when she had a better job and a more stable living arrangement.

            1. Jessa*

              Many states have a fund that does this that you apply to in Ohio you can get an instant reduction of up to 75% or more on your bill (before you even go in and start looking for mistakes/mis-billings, etc.) if you’re under a certain income threshold. It’s part of their Medicare/caid? I never know which one that is…system. I think. But you don’t have to be eligible for Mediwhatsis to be eligible for reduction on a hospital bill. I guess it’s because hospital bills aren’t normally planned events and the fund treats them differently.

              1. Ruffingit*

                Good info on the fund! In my friend’s case, the hospital financial worker came to see her directly and negotiated it down with her so she never had to apply to a fund of any sort or do anything. The hospital worked it out with her themselves. But good to know there are funds available for this type of thing.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Reducing medical bills: You start by calling the office directly. You tell them your situation. Then you ask “Is there anything you folks can do to help?”
            Key part- call the office directly. Don’t deal with a collection agency or any other intermediary. If you feel better about going in person- go at a slow time of the day or call to make an appointment to see someone in billing.
            A former boss of mine got a bill reduced from $140 down to $35 just on one phone call.

      2. Jessa*

        The main point here is less the “is it a safety issue for the employee” but more a “the boss is being an idiot because sometimes the employee CANNOT call in period full stop. No matter what the rules say sometimes it’s physically impossible – is in an accident, is on O2, is in jail, has voice issues that prevent speech, had a stroke, is on a breathing tube, etc. And because their rules are so strict they’re going to no call/no show/penalise maybe fire that employee even though it’s completely NOT the employee’s fault.

        IF they think it’s a safety issue, there are things they can do, up to and including calling the police non emergency line and sending them on a well person check. But that’s not really what the issue is here. There are ways to check up on the employee’s safety if that’s the concern. You can visit the hospital. You can send flowers. You can call the employee’s stated emergency contact person on their file and ask them (one presumes this is someone they trust.)

  21. FiveNine*

    Honestly, I’m going to go with it seeming perfectly reasonable for a boss to find it completely unprofessional for a third party to contact her asking her to approve a “secret” day off for the employee and to tell said employee exactly what she did.

  22. A Bug!*

    Late to the party, yet again. I’m in agreement with everyone who said that the nature of the relationship is a distraction from the real issue here, which is third-parties contacting employers.

    In general, I don’t fault the manager too harshly for agreeing in the first instance, as she was caught off-guard; nor do I fault her for not bringing it up until you told her you were aware of the arrangement. I can even be a bit sympathetic that she handled it as poorly as she did when you told her, and this is why:

    Here’s my best understanding of how things went down. The manager agreed to a request which she realized later was completely inappropriate. But she probably doesn’t feel like she’s in a position to call him up and retract her agreement, because he’s probably made plans and maybe he’s bought tickets, maybe she doesn’t have a contact number for him, and he’s not her employee, anyway. So the best option, having missed the initial opportunity to say “no”, would be to tell the employee that it’s not appropriate for third parties to make such requests going forward.

    But she can’t address it with you, OP, not yet. She entered into the boyfriend’s confidence when she agreed to give you that day off. She can’t bring it up to you without spoiling the surprise. So she’s made an error in judgment and her hands are tied for now, as far as dealing with it in a meaningful way goes.

    So when the you ended up spoiling your own surprise and informed the manager of same, it may have popped the top on some frustration in circumstances where the manager wasn’t truly prepared to deal with it yet. The manager may well have been planning to think out a game plan for a more level-headed conversation to take place after the birthday. She didn’t expect to be placed in a position where she was able or required to address it sooner than that, so she wasn’t prepared.

    Which isn’t to say that she handled it will, because she didn’t. She doesn’t seem to deal that well when she’s caught off-guard. But the bottom line is that the request was inappropriate coming from anybody but the employee; in a similar situation I would apologize for my boyfriend’s indiscretion and ask him to, in future, make plans that do not involve him contacting my boss. Other commenters have given some excellent suggestions.

    (My opinion on the issue might change slightly if my partner and my boss knew each other well, but it doesn’t seem to be the case here so I’m not going to waste my brain points hammering that out.)

  23. long time lurker!*

    I did this last year: spoke to my husband’s boss and got him a ‘secret’ half-day off on Friday so I could whisk him away for a weekend. But here are the caveats:

    – we are in a monogamous relationship (which shouldn’t matter, but may do regardless)
    – I have met his boss several times and we like each other, and his boss is also good friends with a member of my family, so there is a separate connection there. Because of this, I knew the boss well enough to know he would likely be receptive to my request.
    – my husband is the top performer in his department and very rarely asks for special treatment – this is not to say that you are not a top performer, OP, but in our case it made a difference
    – my husband’s job is one in which a half day would not cause any issues in terms of coverage or getting work done
    – I arranged it well in advance

    If even one of these caveats were not the case, there’s no way I’d have done this.

    1. khilde*

      Your success story makes me think of one other fundamental truth that I’m startig to sense about the workplace: know your circumstance, know your workplace’s culture, know your manager/employees/spouse, etc. I think situational awareness is pretty huge and that’s becoming clear to me the longer I read this blog.

  24. Joey*

    I’m guessing the boss may have been uncomfortable with the poly aspect of the request. At least that’s the reason for her overboard reaction. I just can’t imagine someone getting that upset over a third party request. Most reasonable bosses I know wouldn’t make such a big deal about it.

    1. fposte*

      Your family must be delightfully functional :-). Agreeing and then sulking all through what you agreed to do because you wish you hadn’t been asked but didn’t manage to say no? That’s SOP in many families and relationships (and it was me for a lot of my teenage years). This is actually a slightly more evolved version of that, in that the boss actually did later say that this was not an appropriate request and shouldn’t happen again, but I’m betting the boss wouldn’t have been nearly as miffed about the request if she’d initially just said no. Not saying the poly thing couldn’t be in there, but I don’t think it needs to be. Which I guess is a long way of saying I think it’s possible the boss actually is a bit unreasonable here, so I agree with your summation.

  25. Rayner*

    I think the manager regretted her decision, and decided to get stroppy to the OP about it. Which is bad management – either have a blanket policy of “No third party requests, ever,” or deal with it on a case by case basis but it was her cock up.

    Not horrific management, but, you know, not amazing either.

    The only way forward is to make sure that the OP is the only person who makes that kind of request in the future, makes it clear to her partners that it’s not okay to phone management with anything less than, “she’s in hospital”, and to make sure that her manager knows that she feels sorry that the manager was put in that position in the first place and that it won’t happen again.

    On the other issue, I really don’t think the OP should have to keep it ‘out of the office’ or should not have disclosed it. Many people consider being poly to be on the same sort of ‘innate part of themselves’ as being gay, or bi, or pan, or asexual, or something similar. Or it’s a kind of relationship that works for them on a purely practical level in a different way depending on how it’s set up. It’s not up the manager or to anyone to say to people “This kind of relationship is okay to tell people about but this kind is not and I don’t want to hear about it.”

    Also, she didn’t bring into the office, anymore than someone who introduces their husband or wife brings their relationship into the office. It’s /unusual/ but that’s Western culture for you. In other parts of the world, it’s common, and it has strong prevalence in history.

    That’s the problem. People need to stop putting poly in opposition to ‘normal’ (read: monogamous) relationships just because they have an extra person (people). It’s just a different variation on the same principle – people being together who love each other.

    OP can choose not to disclose it, and that’s totally her choice, but also, it’s her choice to let people know about it. Like Alison said, being in the closet for whatever your orientation or sexual identity, as well as gender, is a horrible, unfair place to be and more needs to be done to change it.

    1. I asked the question*

      Thank you!

      I did apologize for what happened and my and my partners intention was to NEVER make her feel uncomfortable. I didn’t know that he had contacted her, but I felt like it was her responsibility to let him know at the time of the request, that I would have to ask. It would have not been an issue then and he would have had no problem letting me know the date, so I could request it off with my saved up time.

      I have not, nor do I advertise my relationships. He came to pick me up one day and was in the office for a moment. I wanted to introduce them, so she wouldn’t think I was cheating and understood/hopefully felt more comfortable about it; rather than just thinking some random guy was picking me up.

      I understand some people may not be comfortable with my choice in relationships, that is fine. I would hope that they would reserve judgement, rather than assuming things though. I have nor do I plan on “coming” out about this; I understand most people will be quick to judge and think regardless of what my situation is, that I am cheating. It would be nice eventually though, to not be judged for this, because I am being responsible and while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it is something that makes me happy.

      1. some1*

        If I am reading you correctly, your BF came to pick you up and actually came into your workplace and then contacted the boss, both without your knowledge. Is it at all possible that your BF isn’t as happy with this arrangement as he says? Because I feel like he might be trying to be more visible to your co-workers to make a point. If he wanted to pick you up, he could have waited for you outside, and sparing you having to explain your relationship to any co-workers who might happen to be there. Also, it’s rare that a guy would contact his GF’s boss if he only met her once to request a day off on her behalf, even for a special birthday surprise. Most guys would just tell their GF to do what she can to get the day off because he has a surprise planned.

        I apologize if I’m off-base or if I offended you, it just seems so rare to me that I wondered.

        1. I asked the question*

          No, you are not offending me. I understand why the question is being asked.

          He has only come to the office once- and I asked him to come in so I could introduce him. There are only 3 people in our office, and at the time, it was just my boss and a friend/co-worker. Maybe that was unprofessional of me- not sure.

        1. Jamie*

          This is what’s losing me as well. Introducing someone as your boyfriend to people who know you have a husband seems to me the definition of “out” when it comes to this.

        2. Nony*

          I’ve talked to people how have been “secondary” partners, or maybe just a newer partner with someone who already has established relationships. They tell me that being someone’s dirty little secret really damages your self esteem and trivializes the relationship. They resent being shunted away or called a friend euphemistically, and won’t stay in relationships where that happens.

          We grant legitimacy to relationships by acknowledging them publicly. I imagine it feels similar to being conventionally unattractive with your partner ashamed to be seen with you in public. Or if you were in a same-sex relationship with a closeted person, for my fellow LGB folks.

          So, it seems like introducing your poly boyfriend to your coworkers has more to do with the health of the relationship, and retaining personal integrity, than workplace relations. We often have to make those kinds of decisions when it comes to the intersection of work and life.

          A few people in the poly community stretch the concept of being “out” to include far more than publicly acknowledging your important relationships though, and talk about poly dynamics, philosophy, sex life with casual partners, flag waving etc. ad nauseum. IMO you don’t have to go that far to be “out.”

          This is all speculation though; the letter writer could tell you better.

          1. I asked the question*

            TY Nony for adding your opinion on the matter and that is more of what I meant by out.

            With my bf, a lot of people do not know I am married or have another relationship, other than the one with him. It does get very tricky, however because of his job, it isn’t something we can explain, nor is it something his family would understand.

            My job is a bit more casual and while I wouldn’t tell the CEO or VP, I did tell my manager after I got to know her, because I felt like it might be misconstrued later or could possibly become an issue. (As an example, I had to be hospitalized for an ear infection, *yea, I thought kids only got horrible ones too…* my bf had to call my manager and let her know, because I was in too much pain to even think, let alone actually speak words, other than crying and sobbing with pain.) Had she not known about the relationship, she would have wondered what the heck was going on and it could have been a bigger issue later.

            I know my relationships are something I am proud of, in the sense that I am not ashamed of them and when my bf came to my office one day, I wanted to introduce my manager to him, just to be polite and not act secretive about something that I’m not ashamed of. This doesn’t mean I am going to tell every single person at work, or personally either. I’ve just started to tell close friends who live in other areas, because it is such a touchy issue and I am afraid of being judged. Thus far, no one has been judgmental, but it is something that is normally frowned upon and looked down on.

            I realize it is my choice to be in a relationship with someone else and I have to face the repercussions of it. However, I do not think that it is fair to fire, or demean the relationships I have, because it doesn’t fit any of the posters own personal box of traditional. I am free to have any relationship I want, as long as I am honest, healthy and everyone involved consents.

            1. Sophie*

              I was wondering, when you introduced him as your boyfriend, did you follow up with an explanation or indication to your boss that it was a polyamourous relationship? It’s possible that introducing someone as your boyfriend makes them assume you’re cheating (even though you’re not).

              If you didn’t give that explanation, it may be that your boss assumed you were cheating behind your husband’s back.

      2. Anonymous*

        Isn’t having a boyfriend on top of a husband the definition of cheating? I’m glad you found happiness, but it is what it is.

        1. Calla*

          How exactly is it cheating, assuming *all* parties are aware and happy with it? If I am married and my spouse and I decide that we are the ones with combined lives and are each others’ top priorities, but can casually date other people – that’s an agreement and following it isn’t being unfaithful. On the other hand, if said married couple had that same agreement and one of them breached it in some way, it would be.

          (Now you could say technically it’s adultery, and I think in some ways i.e. in the military it can still be treated as such – but it’s not cheating.)

        2. Rayner*

          Cheating implies that partner A knows nothing about your relationship with partner B, and that it’s supposed to stay that way.

          Polyamory is very different. In this case, it is when we have A, B, and C living in an equal, harmonious relationship.

          Not cheating.

        3. Also Poly*

          Cheating isn’t about who you’re with, it’s about how you’re with them.

          Are you doing it by lying or disregarding others’ feelings? That’s cheating because you’re deliberately breaking the preset rules of your relationship, so to speak. If everyone’s on the same page and playing by the same rule book, then it’s not cheating because nobody’s breaking any of the “rules.”

          Check out “The Ethical Slut”–it’s an amazing guide to poly relationships and it goes into greater detail.

          By the way: the tone of judgement in your last sentence is really off putting. Those of us in poly relationships have (usually) spent years researching, discussing, and learning about what makes our types of relationships tick. To assume that you, a casual observer with no prior experience, knows more about how we live our lives than we do is downright insulting. Pro tip: if you don’t know much about something, check the judgey tone until you do.

          1. I asked the question*

            @ Also Poly

            Read the book, it is really great! And yes, we work extremely hard on the relationships. It takes a large amount of communication for every person involved. If done correctly, it is a whole lot of work; but can be worth it too.

          2. Anonymous*

            I’m sorry that it came across as judgey, although your sarcasm was uncalled for. I was frankly thinking of it in the semantic ‘adultery’ sense, and others have pointed out that a consensual relationship doesn’t count as “cheating”. It’s a question of definition, not judgement. I encourage you to get off your high horse.

            1. Also Polly*

              Sorry if I came off as defensive–the “cheating” comment touched a nerve. Often times, poly people are accused of being duplicitous, cheating, sex fiends by people who don’t know much about our relationships. We deal with so many negative stereotypes and it gets really old.

              The cheating stereotype is particularly painful for many of us because we bend over backwards to make sure that we’re completely the opposite. We devote so much time and energy to being completely above board and ethical in our relationships. It feels insulting and frustrating every time someone implies otherwise.

              I’m truly sorry for the sarcasm–it was unwarranted. But please also be more careful about how you refer to usin the future. It’s comments like those that make us not want to come out to people in our lives.

      3. Katie the Fed*

        Like I said above though, I would advise you to be circumspect in general. Your poly lifestyle is not a legally protected class, and a boss with an issue over it could make things difficult for you. Just be smart :)

      4. Ruffingit*

        For what it’s worth, I’ve known a few people who practiced polyamory and while I’m a one man woman myself, I respect people’s right to do whatever works for them. My feeling has always been that I don’t have to fully understand something to respect someone’s right to do it. It’s hard to find love in this world that is true and good. If you’ve found that with multiple partners, one partner, same sex partner, whatever, then more power to you and may you all have a joyful, loving, long life together!

  26. Anon*

    Because I know all of my staff and their SO’s, I wouldn’t blink at approving a surprise day off. However, if I didn’t know them like that, I wouldn’t be comfortable doing it, regardless of the situation.

  27. Gay Guy Here*

    Can we dispense with the comparison between gay and polyamorous relationships? Not valid. At all.

    This request would have made me squeamish, not just because it was a third-party request (though I agree with others that third parties should, as a rule, not be approaching one’s boss). To receive this request from someone aside from one’s legal spouse (when there is one) would blow my mind. That the boyfriend presumes recognition of his status is a triumph of chutzpah.

      1. Chinook*

        From a legal standpoint, the piece of paper makes a huge difference. Upon signing it, the 2 individuals are granted all sorts of rights and responsibilities. Yes, this can also be granted in a piece meal fashion, but it isn’t the same. That piece of paper makes your spouse your next of kin, taking it away from your parents.

        And, if it isn’t such a big deal,why has the gay community fought so hard for it?

        1. Jamie*

          ITA – legally it’s a huge deal and that is why the gay community, imo, should have the same protections and opportunities to live happily ever after or crash and burn in divorce court the same as hetero people have had forever.

          1. Jen in RO*

            I get it, in the big things, like inheritance. But if a job will accept a PTO request from someone’s husband, when the people involved have been together for 3 years, how is that relationship more valid than my 6-year-but-not-married one? That’s what I was objecting to, not the entire idea of marriage. (Also applicable to visiting boyfriends in hospitals and similar things.)

    1. I asked the question*

      Actually, Poly is comparative to gay. While in western cultures, there is a HUGE stress and push towards monogamous relationships, it isn’t so in other cultures. Also, in the past, it also was not frowned upon and is also found in nature. (Which, last I checked are also the same arguments for being gay.)

      Not saying it is exactly the same, but am saying it is a very valid argument.

      1. Anon*

        If you’re not gay, I don’t think it’s your place to decide if it can be compared to that. Just like it’s not really gay folks’ place to decide if the marriage equality movement is comparable to the civil rights movement, etc.

        Also, I don’t know if people really want to be drawing on other cultures/the past — usually (but of course not always!) when that’s talked about it’s men with multiple wives where the women really don’t have much say. There’s a *reason* that’s what most people think of.

        1. Anonymous*

          Let’s put it this way: are you gay? If you’re not gay, I don’t think it’s your place to decide if someone else can make a comparison.

          We all have opinions. To participate in society means that we’ll be exposed to people with differing opinions. And I think that’s OK.

          1. Anon*


            Sure, we all have opinions. Doesn’t mean they’re all right and it doesn’t mean certain people should present theirs as truth.

              1. I asked the question*

                Actually, yes, I would.

                I think some make a choice to be, just like others choose to be gay or straight, bi whatever. I also think there are those that are born gay/straight/bi whatever.

                Regardless, I know from my mom coming out and finally being free and admitting she is gay, that this is similar. While it may not be exactly the same thing, they can be compared. (in my opinion.)

              2. Natalie*

                Does it really matter? We protect (both morally and legally) other non-inborn traits – religion primarily, but also many disabilities.

              3. Julia*

                I don’t like the implication that our respect for other people’s differences should be contingent on whether or not they’re innate or chosen.

                And yes, I’m gay, if that legitimizes my opinion for you.

              4. EveHeart*

                Am I the only one who thinks this is completely off topic? OP, the issue is that a third-party requested time off for you. This is not acceptable professional behavior. They could be a number of reasons your boss slightly over-reacted that have nothing to do with the make up of your romantic relationships.

                I don’t give a crap about what my co-workers/employees do in their romantic relationships. I do care about someone from their life interfering in the office.

                Its like stories you hear of a parent calling up a company and demanding to know what is going on with their child. The boss, if a good manager, will inform the child that is this not acceptable and cannot happen again.

                1. Sophia*

                  I agree, and I think your point is echoed above but can get lost in all of this poly discussion. I don’t think the issue is the relationship at all, but like you said, third party requests.

        2. Ellie H.*

          You could present the exact same argument the other way: “If you’re not in a polyamorous relationship, I don’t think it’s your place to decide what can or cannot be compared to it.”

          If you think that only a person who is both gay and polyamorous could make a fair comparison, that would be a valid opinion to me. (As an aside, my guess is that some gay polyamorous people would feel they’re comparable, but others wouldn’t!) But to me it is illogical to say “only gay people can decide what can be compared to being gay” while simultaneously denying polyamorous people the same jurisdiction over comparisons to their sexuality.

          1. Anon*

            Not really. One is saying “Please don’t compare your experiences to mine when you haven’t lived mine” — it’s not denying that there may be a couple similarities, but that you shouldn’t proclaim one is generally the same as the other when you don’t know that. The other is saying “Don’t tell me what I can’t compare my experiences to even though I’ve never experienced the other things!”

            (However, a poly person would be well within their right to say “Please don’t compare being X to being poly” — see how that works?)

            1. Forrest*

              Except you don’t know the poster – it could easily of been a man that was writing in.

              Additionally, people have empathy. I don’t have to live the life of a child in Africa to empathize with them and understand it. Like wise, I don’t have to be homeless in order to do that.

              Humans don’t live bubbles. Yes, a non class member shouldn’t appointment themselves as a speaker on behalf of everyone in a minority class. But that’s not what she did here. She made the comparison between minority groups in how to their relationships are often in the closet.

              1. Anon*

                OP has essentially said she’s not gay.

                And yeah, we sympathize. But if you said “This situation I’m in is a lot like being a child in Africa” I am PRETTY SURE a lot of people would side-eye you.

                Also, I have no problem with some direct, situation-specific comparisons (though I would say being in the closet as gay and being in the closet as poly are probably not the same; the only similarity is that sometimes they both have to be hidden). But that’s not what I was responding to. I was responding to a situation in which a gay person said “I am not comfortable with people acting like being gay and being poly are the same” and a person who is NOT gay saying “I can compare it to whatever I want!”

                1. Forrest*

                  Um no, we talking about a guy who made a board statement that says “gay and poly relationships have no thing no common and knock it off with comparing them.”

                  He was not saying that “I’m uncomfortable” and the OP did not say “I can compare it to whatever I want!”

                  (And by the way, she can. There’s no law saying people can’t compare things to each other.)

                  And again, it is comparable. Just like it may not be considered wise for people in poly relationships to share information about their significant others, in many cases its not considered wise for gay people to share information about their significant others.

                  And I’m extremely uncomfortable with the idea of someone who is probably used to fighting against the idea that he “choose” his orientation is now turning around and saying the same thing to the OP.

        3. Forrest*

          They’re all arguments for a minority’s rights to exist and have the same legal standing and treatment for the majority’s rights.

          I think they’re all comparable. And I think the “you have to be a member of that class for your opinion to have an weight/respect/legitimacy.”

          As a woman, I appericate it very much when men weigh in and say they don’t have the right to tell women what to do about their bodies.

      2. fposte*

        But I think that’s why you’ve confused some of us with the “not out at work” thing–you’re using a standard term for those comparable gay relationships but apparently meaning something different. People know about your non-heteronormative/mononormative partnership at work. That’s what “out” traditionally means.

  28. Dana*

    Am I the only one wondering what the bf has planned for the day? I hope it’s pretty great, considering all the work drama it has caused!

    P.S. Happy birthday in a month! :)

    1. I asked the question*

      Thanks Dana!

      I’ll be sure to post what happens. I’m really excited. He’s put a lot of work into planning everything and is trying to ensure I don’t accidentally ruin the surprise. (I tend to accidentally find out or guess his surprised before they happen, so this has been a goal for him.)

      I do have a hint that it does involve traveling. :D

  29. EveHeart*

    I agree with pretty much all the points that have been made so far. Let’s look at this situation from a different angle. Let’s say, my father (who I am close to and my co-works have heard many stories about and meet once) for example, called my work to request time off for me. This puts my boss in a VERY awkward position and depending on what has been doing on that day, if she has been very busy for example, she might say yes just to get out of the situation.

    After a day or two she would probably regret that. Now, she cannot call up my father and tell him not to do that again. What is can do is call me into her office and explain to me that she was put in a weird position and that this cannot happen again.

    I think this has very little to do with the unique make up of the OP’s relationship. It is much more about proper work place etiquette. If it is not appropriate for my father (as in my example) to call and request surprise time off for me, or a close friend, or (insert any other kind of relationship), then it follows that in most work places a boyfriend/girlfriend should not do this either.

    Just as the husband who resigned for his wife made his wife look unprofessional I think, to a lesser extent, the same thing has happened here. If I found at someone in my life did this the first thing I would do would be to go to my boss and say something like, “Hey, I just found out (name) contact you. I had no idea he was going to do that. It won’t happen again.”

  30. Elizabeth West*

    By the time I got to this, there were 200 comments and I didn’t want to crash my browser by reading all of them, so I’m just going to comment as though there were only a few. I may repeat something already said.

    I have a HUGE problem with the third party time off thing. The safety concern is what stuck out at me. Plenty of people have stalkers, and abusive spouses and ex-spouses. No SO or friend or whoever should be able to go in and request anything on behalf of the employee and get it. The boss should have said no, and I think she realized that.

  31. Anon*

    Further upthread, someone linked to the AAM post about the woman whose husband emailed to resign for her.

    I thought it was interesting that there was a comment on that post describing the situation in *this* post, and saying they think that’s completely ok but the resigning thing isn’t:

    > My mother did it once and she was already quite friendly with the boss due to social stuff anyway. She arranged a surprise holiday and called to sort out the time off from work.

    She’d never imagine dealing with anything else for him.


    I just thought it was interesting that this had been mentioned on this blog before as well.

    1. Anon*

      Gah. Someone tell me how to make those pretty indentation line thingies? The paragraph with the > at the start, and the one after it, are a quote.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      It was mentioned on the other thread, but in some cultures (hint: not the most women-friendly cultures) it’s more normal for men to call work on behalf of their wives. My mom was an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher at a college and would have middle eastern female students whose husbands would come in to argue with my mom about their wives’ grades or demand she allow them to miss a class. Urgh.

      I’d much rather live in a society where women are expected to make their own decisions.

      Of course, in the military it’s not terribly uncommon for wives to call their husbands’ chain of command to question if he really has to work that weekend, or find out if he was really on duty until 3am the night before. It’s not good for the husband’s career usually, but it definitely happens.

      This was a totally off topic rambling.

  32. Anonymous*

    I read the letter, read the response, and then re-read the letter.

    Any idea that the manager took issue with the nature of the OP’s relationships, instead of with the fact that a third party asked for a day off on the OP’s behalf, is pure conjecture. Nothing that the OP said about the manager’s response indicates that she even knows who the third party is! Only that the manager said this request was inappropriate and that it better not happen again.

    OP – you introduced this guy to your manager once. It is possible that she doesn’t actually remember anything about your relationship to him. It is possible she doesn’t care. You have presented zero evidence that she does care. IF she seemed unusually upset, there are other potential explanations available. If I was your boss, I would’ve shut this down very firmly, too, regardless of who it was that had contacted me – husband, father, son, great-grandson-once-removed, boyfriend, secret lover, lesbian lover, dog, favorite rock-band singer, or whatever.

    I also would’ve been supremely annoyed with you for a reason that has not seemed to cross your mind – for taking off from work for your birthday. I know it is a widely accepted practice, so I probably would never actually complain about that kind of behavior. I do think it is childish and rather self-centered behavior to expect the rest of the world to give a darn about your birthday, and I doubt I’d be able to completely hide my attitude from an employee who asked to take her birthday off. I grew up in a family where we were severely punished if we attempted to celebrate a birthday after the age of about 10, in an area where birthday celebrations were generally rare.

    1. Jen in RO*

      But it’s a PTO day that she earned. Asking for that particular day of doesn’t mean that she thinks the world should give a damn… it just means she wants that day off.

      (OP, I’m also turning 30 soon, and I really hope I’ll be somewhere exciting then and not at work!)

  33. anonymous for this post*

    I comment here a lot but am anonymous for this because it is a complicated situation for some people in my entourage.

    I agree with Alison that your boss may have been more upset about the work she had planned for you that day or that week or because she felt put on the spot. I’m reasonably sure it is as simple as that. But as someone in a poly situation, I wanted to add my two cents about how I deal with it at work.

    My relationship with my boyfriend is my “main” relationship; however, my husband is still an important part of my life and while we will probably get divorced eventually, there are some logistics reasons and personal reasons that we are trying to work through before pulling the plug on the relationship. While at work everyone knows in principle (I have my husband’s name, he is on my health insurance, etc.), I am sensitive to the fact that it is hard to deal with in reality. People just aren’t as used to poly as they are to homosexuality yet.

    One of the things I do is that my boyfriend is my “work spouse”- he is the one who is my “+1” at company events (it may be important to note here that my husband’s girlfriend is one of his colleagues so it goes both ways) and that my husband does not hang out with my work friends nor do I his (his girlfriend being part of that). I know for a fact that if my husband called HR or my manager for time off, they would not take it as well as if my boyfriend, who they know and hang out with, were the one calling. Likewise if I called my husband’s job. Has your husband already met and hung out with your colleagues, because that could be part of the situation, if it is more than just your boss feeling on the spot. Or she could be wondering, “how many other boyfriends does she have that will be calling me up, and will I have to do this again” so it could also be, like Alison mentioned, a number thing more (how many people will you have minibreaks with this year to take into account when scheduling for the team) than judging your lifestyle.

    It is a fine line to walk between being honest and true to yourself by working in a place that accepts your values and putting people in situations they do not know how to deal with. I find that my colleagues react best to the situation when it is theoretical and not say, me showing up at the company picnic with both of them or just my husband.

  34. alfie*

    As many others have said, I just think the nature of the relationship with the boyfriend is a red herring, and it is odd to me that she’s making it about that. Would the OP call her boss’s husband (or sister or whatever) and ask them to remember to pick up the dry cleaning or pay the rent on time? If OP was behind on a project, should her BF come in and help her get it done? One’s agreement and relationship with one’s employer does not extend to family and friends, regardless of how important and legitimate those personal relationships may be.

  35. Bess*

    I’m in a poly relationship myself, so I say this without any judgement attached to the fact that it was the boyfriend doing the asking — third parties should not contact your boss for anything other than emergencies. Period. Full stop.

  36. candy*

    Husband, boyfriend or family member — I think it is inappropriate, unless it is an emergency, for ANYONE to be asking for time off for me in a professional context. It is my vacation, they are my benefits, and I would be livid if a manager even entertained the option of someone else requesting my time off. For all a manager knows, this person could be in an abusive relationship and the abuser could be requesting time off as a type of control. A stretch, I know, but it seems so incredibly unprofessional to me that anyone else would request time off of a job FOR me.

    1. Jamie*

      A couple of other people have mentioned this, but it’s a really good point that should be remembered…as Candy says, it her benefit.

      Vacation days are tied to payroll. In a lot of companies you cash out what you don’t use. It’s essentially a third party asking for a day’s pay.

      Payroll and benefits – sacred things.

  37. Abby*

    I agree that it is inappropriate in that a boss has no way of knowing if an employee is ok with taking time off for that reason or in that way. Along with all the other reasons mentioned, an employee might be reluctant to ask for a day off because she/he knew someone else needed the day off, the department was really stressed with work etc. A boss cannot possibly be on top of all of these reasons and understand all of this context. If an employee asks, then the boss can treat the request as the boss might any other-approve or deny depending upon the business reasons.

    I think that for many supervisors it would be extremely difficult to separate the context of a boyfriend requesting time off when the supervisor knows that someone is married. I agree that personal business is separate but it would be hard for someone to not let that influence them-the opposite could happen as well, a boss not wanting to appear judgmental approving the vacation even though there was a business hardship. And I would say that the employee did make it her supervisor’s business when letting her supervisor know about the dual relationships.

    I hate that anyone would have to keep secret an important part of their lives, but there are many things in my personal life that I am not ashamed of, but that I don’t choose to share with my boss or my co-workers. And I don’t view that as hiding my true self, but rather keeping somethings private.

    I would not have shared this relationship although I don’t really think it is shameful and I would be upset if my partner/spouse/husband/sibling asked for time off for me. And, as a boss, I would be uncomfortable approving it. Although, I will note that two people who are married to each other report to me. I might in this circumstance, but I would have to be sure I was really comfortable with it.

  38. H*

    I would be absolutely mortified if my husband called my boss to request a “surprise day off.” MORTIFIED. I’m an adult, I’m responsible for my own job and my work, and I would find it beyond embarrassing to have my husband and boss talking about what is, essentially, my private life behind my back. And as the boss in question, I think I probably would’ve said “this is a nice idea and I get why you’re asking, but I need the employee to make the request.”

    1. Betty*

      I agree completely. I’d be mortified and extremely annoyed at my husband.

      What would have happened if the letter writer didn’t find out about the day off ahead of time, and it turned out she didn’t want to use her PTO that way? What if she broke up with her BF, showed up to work, and her boss was surprised she was there? Would the company give her the PTO back?

      Anyway, the boss may have been taken by surprise by the request. But she should have told the BF that only employees can request to use their PTO. And it shouldn’t matter WHO was doing the requesting: husband, bf, mother. IMO, only the person employed by the company and earning the PTO should be able to request time off.

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