update from the reader who didn’t want to invite her boss to her wedding

Remember the reader who didn’t want to invite her boss to her wedding, but the boss was assuming she’d get an invitation? Here’s the update.

The wedding was early in November. I only ended up inviting one person from my new library (whom I socialize with regularly outside of work) and almost everyone from my old one. I just didn’t talk about it in mixed company and never brought up the fact that I had invited the old director. Whenever it was appropriate (such as when someone brought up the wedding or how plans were going) I casually mentioned just how many people were coming and how I wish I had the budget to invite more. There was only one blatantly uncomfortable moment when one of my supervisors came right out and said that it’s good etiquette to invite your supervisor and director at the very least. I played it off with an “Oh, I know…I feel just so terribly rude but I just can’t afford another guest at the rate my caterer is charging!” (I felt kind of bad throwing him under the bus like that. He was actually a fantastic vendor and allowed me ten extra people without charging extra!)

A few months have passed since I submitted my original question and I can tell you that I have learned a LOT about my new library since then. I probably would have just taken the wedding drama in stride had I been here longer and knew what I know now. The director is a difficult person to get along with to say the least. She’s friendly and funny — almost manic — one minute and a fire-breathing dragon the next. As a result, the other employees (especially those in a supervisory or responsibility-heavy position) tend to be on edge more than any place I have ever worked. The days when she’s on vacation or at a conference, the atmosphere is notably lighter and more pleasant. Though everybody is obviously aware of the issue (and its source) nobody talks about it for fear of repercussion.

Let me just give you one example of what I’m talking about and I’ll wrap this up. The most recent situation that occurred was our holiday luncheon which, as the new gal, I was in charge of planning. Since we have two libraries (my old one and my new one), I initially started planning a shindig for both of them and was told that this party was for library A only and library B was “doing their own thing.” I took this at face value and planned accordingly. This past weekend I was at a party with a couple of the employees of the other library and was told that they had all blocked out their schedule for the day and time of the luncheon and were fully expecting to get an invitation (because, after all, we are one department under one director even though we have two locations). Of course they were never invited because I didn’t invite them and evidently the director never told them that they were on their own for the holiday. They are now rushing to plan something at the last minute because they never received an invitation to participate. I felt like dirt but I was following our director’s express directions.

Needless to say, I’m toughing it out here for a while to beef up my CV then I might seriously consider moving on. Working in an environment like this has got to prematurely age a girl.

Thanks to you and your readers for the great insight and support!

{ 66 comments… read them below }

  1. Ruffingit

    It’s good to hear you didn’t have to deal with her being at your wedding, that would have sucked. She sounds like an awful person especially given the example of the holiday luncheon situation. UGH, how awful.

  2. Chrissi

    I’m happy you were able to make it work. I would imagine that Miss Manners would disagree that it is proper etiquette to invite your boss to your wedding :) Your excuse was perfect though!!

    1. Marina

      +1. Your excuse was awesome, and I bet you anything your caterer would have been more amused than anything about being the excuse to help you out. Talk up the caterer to other soon-to-be-married friends and consider yourself karmically balanced.

  3. EM

    It’s extremely poor etiquette to point out (perceived) rudeness in others — even if true, which it was not, in your case. Something for your supervisor to consider. ;)

    1. The Clerk

      This reminds me of that email circulating a couple years ago from a soon-to-be mother-in-law to her DIL. A laundry list of “etiquette tips” like “It is rude to refuse a dish your host has prepared….When the family takes a walk after dinner, it is in poor taste to decline…” etc. Everyone on the interwebs jumped on the DIL when in fact she was diabetic and half her “breaches” stemmed from needing to work around that, but above all what you said–telling someone about their perceived rudeness is rude in itself.

      1. Kelly L.

        Actually, I thought about an equal number of interwebs-people posted about what a control freak they thought the MIL was! :D

        1. Tina

          If it’s the one I’m thinking of, I saw more criticism of the MIL than the DIL. “Control freak” was one of the nicest things I heard the MIL called lol.

          1. The Clerk

            Well, the thing is, people were calling her a control freak and so on, but still condemning the DIL. Like “Oh, that poor woman needs to calm down and stop trying to control that monster DIL or she’ll go nuts!” Like being a control freak was endearing and the cause was pure but lost nonetheless. There was a ton of “kids these days” vitriol, which I found so gross because if diabetic baby boomers were eating huge starchy meals and fainting during walks afterward for the sake of etiquette, that’s not something to be proud of. It’s lunacy.

  4. Jake

    I didn’t invite a single coworker to my 200 person wedding. It was 400 miles from where I work, so there was no way I’d ask them to travel that far.

  5. Vicki

    I guess it’s too late to invite them after all and increase the size of the luncheaon.

    I’d love to see the look on the director’s face when everyone from the other library showed up.

    I hope you didn’t let them think that you left them out on your own decision!

  6. Nobody in particular

    That sounds like my friend’s boss at a library. KEERAZY! But my friend did not recently get married.

    1. Jessica

      I’ve worked in a few libraries, and I know a lot of people who work in libraries – almost all of the directors I’ve heard about or worked with have been awful, awful, just the worst. Must be something about the profession.

  7. Mena

    SO glad that you didn’t suck it up and allow yourself to get bullied into inviting someone that you didn’t want to – yeah, maybe Crazy Aunt Martha but not a work relationship – that woman will be long gone out of your life (probably very soon) and isn’t worth the emotional investment.

  8. Looby

    Why you didn’t tell your old co-workers they weren’t invited to the holiday party? You had the perfect opening at the other party to drop enough hints that they were on their own!

    1. PJ

      Sounds like she did, and that’s how they found out about it. Snarky PJ hopes she said, “But Director told me not to include you because y’all already had other plans!”

      Professional PJ thinks… Nope, Professional PJ hopes she did that too.

      1. MaxH42

        Yep, feigning innocence while giving co-workers the unvarnished truth like that is both the professional and the humane thing to do.

        1. OP Bride-to-Be

          I didn’t even half to feign innocence. I really thought they knew that they weren’t to be included in Library A’s holiday luncheon and was as surprised as they were when the truth came out. At least I had a chance to set the record straight that the idea to leave them out was NOT mine and that I would have loved them to be there. Part of me wishes I had just been subversive and invited them anyway but I work on a yearly contract basis and I’m not ready to find myself unemployed! ;)

  9. Elizabeth West

    one of my supervisors came right out and said that it’s good etiquette to invite your supervisor and director at the very least

    Um, NO. You are not under any obligation to invite anyone to personal events, especially work people that you don’t socialize with. Good gravy.

      1. Tina

        I’ve never understood why people (like the supervisor in this case) WANT to go to weddings in these type of situations. Do you really want to go to the wedding of a person you hardly know, who has no family connections to you, where you’ll sit around knowing hardly anyone at the wedding and would feel obligated to bring a gift? Just seems to create awkwardness all around.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I will never understand this. For anyone earning above subsistence level wages, is a free meal really that attractive?

            Plus, for the amount of money she’ll probably pay on costs associated with attending the wedding, she could have a delicious meal delivered to her door and eat it from the comfort of her couch.

                1. Yup

                  Why do casinos, banks, luxury retail stores, etc comp or deep discount things for the very very wealthy? Because for some, the lure of free stuff is totally irresistible.

            1. Ann Furthermore

              Oh, I’m right there with you. Also appealing to people is the idea of an open bar. Now why someone would want to go someplace with a bunch of people they don’t know just to get some free cocktails and food is beyond me. I’m with you — I’d rather order something and have it delivered while watching re-runs of Breaking Bad.

              When I got married, we did an open bar, but we gave all the bartenders strict instructions that no one was allowed to be served shots. That always seems to be where the trouble starts.

        1. Ruffingit

          I think some people are trying to create false intimacy. They want to picture themselves as being the beloved manager that everyone invites to these personal events because said manager is just that awesome.

        2. The Clerk

          I doubt she’d bring a gift. Whatever book of etiquette she’s been consulting probably advises that gifts flow upwards.

        3. Cat

          I think it’s a combination of narcissism and neediness. There’s a particular type of person who (a) feels a desperate compulsion to be liked and (b) assumes that they are central to everyone else’s lives (after all, they are the center of their own life!). Not being invited to a wedding can’t be an oversight or just because you’re not that close because of (b) – of course you’re vitally important to their lives – and therefore must mean they hate you; this can’t be borne because of (a). And the whole thing spirals into a vortex of needy, high-maintenance obsession.

  10. Adam

    Beware the fire-breathing dragons. You’ll be blessed if you manage to escape with just singed hairs on your feet.

    1. Sugar

      My former boss is one of these. She’s sweet for a while then she turns into a fire-breathing dragon. The woman only does this in front of employees, though. She doesn’t act like this in front of customers(She has the assistant manager deal with the rude and nasty ones. I can see why. She has no idea how to deal with them without revealing her true colors.). Yeah, she’s aware of exactly how she is and she doesn’t seem to care. I don’t know if she was the mean girl in high school who never had any real friends or she has some personality disorder or what. Either way, she’s toxic to be around. Boy do I feel sorry for her husband, kids, and in-laws. They have to live with her. That, and my former coworkers. Hopefully, they stay strong/get stronger and don’t let her suck the happiness and compassion out of them.

      1. Writer

        Did you and I have to same boss? ;)

        Seriously, my former librarian boss was almost identical to yours. Although mine used to make trips to Canada and Mexico a couple of times a year for prescription drug runs. She was close the door to her office, pass out and we would find her a few minutes later with her head on her desk. I am not exaggerating.

        And don’t even get me started on our patrons!

        1. Sugar

          If so, she works in a fast food place now. If not, you probably ran into a family member of hers. She has never mentioned her side of the family. This might be why.

  11. Ash

    Is there something about libraries that makes them attract crazy people? My best friend works at a library and the stories she has about her co-workers are off the wall. And not just “funny” or “silly” crazy, but like, “I don’t know how this person got hired because they sound like a terrible human being” crazy.

    1. HumbleOnion

      That’s true in every library I worked in as well. The profession in general attracts the crazies. Non-crazies move on to other jobs, or other professions. You get to witness the Peter Principle in action.

      1. CupcakeWithSprinkles

        So true. I briefly worked in a library after graduating from college and it was by the far the worst job I ever had. My old boss is almost identical to the OP’s description of her gem of a boss. In fact, we used to call my old boss “The Devil Who Wore TJ Maxx,” because “The Devil Wears Prada” was a popular book around that time.

        Yet, the funny thing is, even though it was a horrible job/experience and still have “flashbacks” at times…I still love TJ Maxx and libraries. :)

      2. kelly

        I work in a library and am grateful that I work with sane, functional coworkers. I think some of the perception that people who work in libraries aren’t the most stable comes from the fact that there are some who go directly from undergrad to library school without little non-library work experience. Some of the crazy behavior that you witness wouldn’t be tolerated in most private workplaces. At the university I work at, one librarian was forced to retire last year after her dementia became too severe for her to even do her job at the bare minimum. I think another reason is the fact that there are a significant number of libraries, public and academic, that hire through the civil service exam and have restrictive residency requirements even to apply. You aren’t going to get the best or sanest people for these positions if there isn’t some flexibility.

        I don’t have my MLS and believe that having it doesn’t make you a better library worker. It depends on the person’s skills and abilities, not some piece of paper you have. There is no reason that you need a graduate degree to check out books or do basic clerical work. I think the MLS should only be required for administrative or specialized technical positions. There is a very good reason why there is a surplus of library school graduates and not enough jobs for them – there are fewer librarian positions than there were 15 years ago. The state and local governments that set library budgets have realized that you can retitle a librarian position upon the retirement of the incumbent as library assistant or library technician and pay them $15 to $20k less per year, benefits included. More than likely, some recent MLS degree holder will take the job because they need to pay off the loans. They probably are better qualified on paper and experience, especially for public libraries, than their predecessor who held the librarian title.

        1. Anonymous

          I have an MLS and think that it certainly can and often does make people a better librarian. It’s certainly possible to be a sucky librarian with one and a good librarian without one. But some intellectual grounding in the profession is, for most things, a good thing.

        2. Lynne in AB

          I suppose it’s a YMMV thing. I’ve worked in a few different libraries, public and government, and the only crazy stories I have are about patrons, not staff…(okay, except for one library director. But he is the glaring exception. Certainly my current librarian coworkers are pretty sane and sensible and productive.)

          That is not to say that there isn’t a particular…I’m not sure how to say this. A particular subset of personalities that tends to be attracted to library work? You could probably say that about a lot of fields though.

          1. shhhh

            Yep. Librarian best job in world full of unstable control freaks. I notice many librarians posting here, no wonder. Catalogers are known to be …special.

            Of course, when I visit libraries today (esp. academic) I hardly recognize them.In a matter of years they have turned into wifi spots aiding and abetting misinformation through Google and the decimation of collections and research skills.

            As an aside- wiki is not a resource. Oh and BTW, a little research on my part found all those unpaid internships don’t equal better pay. Not my opinion, research.

            Class of 2013: Paid Interns Outpace Unpaid Peers in Job Offers, Salaries- NACE

            *Research matters. Ask a librarian!

        3. a.c

          A position that requires an MLS generally means that it is a specialized, technical, or management position, and you don’t generally do the clerical work if you have one of those positions. I don’t know where you work, but it sounds like your staff is way too top heavy if you have people in MLS level positions doing clerical work and checking out books. Of course an MLS doesn’t make you better at that stuff– that’s not really what an MLS is for.
          I do agree that there are too many grads being churned out for the number of good jobs. I don’t like seeing low level positions being advertised with an “MLS preferred” qualification– and that’s becoming more common, unfortunately. There is a difference between “library worker” and “librarian.” I wish that more places respected that difference, and didn’t try to get someone with a $40,000 master’s degree to do a job that doesn’t require it. Unfortunately, that’s the market these days.

          1. OP Bride-to-Be

            We actually have not one but THREE open librarian positions (40k plus) that we stand a chance of losing the funding for if we can’t fill them soon. Part of the problem is that the reputation of this particular administration has leaked out and qualified professionals are not applying even with the high graduate to job ratio.

        4. Deni

          I’m at my second library job (spent years working in private industry — marketing) and have the same fire-breathing dragon boss as the OP. I always think, “If she were in my old career, should would have been fired years ago.”

          I’ve debated looking for a new job, but all of MLS friends complain about the same toxic library management so it seems to be a problem everywhere. 100% agree with other commenter about the Peter Principle.

          1. a.c

            I think it’s more of an issue that good managers are really hard to find. I have worked a lot of places in different fields, had a few good bosses, some mediocre ones, and some terrible ones. Mediocre and terrible far outweigh the good, and that’s true of all the industries I’ve worked in, including libraries. Libraries tend to value long term stability, just as a kind of general philosophy that permeates the profession. So I don’t feel like all librarians are bad managers, it’s just that the bad ones tend to stay for a really long time. Libraries tend to be part of higher ed or the government, both of which are not known for being quick to fire low performers. People just stay in those jobs for so much longer than in the private sector, so when you get a bad one, they stay. This is also true of employees at all levels. Stability has its upsides, but this is one of the downsides.
            I also think management is a very hard thing to do well, and that power isn’t always good for people’s personalities, and that goes for any industry. The two reasons I just listed can account for all the bad managers I have encountered.

          2. Lynne in AB

            It is not a problem everywhere. This is the fourth library I’ve worked in and I’d say only one of them had questionable management. All of the others, including the current one, have been great places to work (and even that one library with iffy management wasn’t horrible. I am actually really surprised that all of the librarians you know are working in toxic places.

            I myself know a fair number of librarians who work for different libraries, mostly public, and by and large, I think they wouldn’t describe their workplaces as toxic. Most of them seem pretty happy.

            I will grant that there are libraries out there that are toxic workplaces, but I can’t see it being the majority of them. That is just too unsupported by my experience and what I hear from people I know.

    2. Bea W

      Having flashbacks of that one reference room librarian that nearly made me cry. That was my local library and was a place I enjoyed, and after getting my toes singed, I never went back there. Seriously, that was like 15+ years ago and I get anxious thinking about if I ever have to walk in there even though I no longer live in that city and would not use that library. That may be an overreaction but I was young and trying to help a patron sitting next to me who had asked me a question, and she was so nasty I was deer in the headlights stunned.

      1. Lynne in AB

        Aww. Now that’s just wrong. :( I would probably never want to go back either. I hope you have had better experiences in your current city’s library.

  12. Ann Furthermore

    Hmmm. There might be something to this. In college I worked at the library in the Business School, and my boss there was very nice, but the most scattered, disorganized person I’ve ever met. And everything was a panic — she was always so hyper.

    She was married to a guy who worked in the university’s main library…I’m not sure what he did. Again…very nice guy. But he was *so* spacey and out there, and everything he did was in s….l….o….w motion. Walking, talking, everything. Their car was in the shop once, so one of my friends who also worked there came by and picked them up one morning to give them a ride. The husband was standing on the front porch eating a bowl of cereal, and the wife was stooped over tying his shoes. I always wondered what would have happened had those 2 ever had a child.

    Another woman who worked there — the chief librarian or whatever the title was — had this same friend house-sit for her when she went on vacation. She told my friend to feel free to have people come over to hang out with her, or order a pizza and watch a movie — low-key kind of stuff. So I went over there one night. This woman was, to my untrained eye, a complete hoarder. Every square inch of her house was crammed with stuff — in one room the door wouldn’t even open all the way. I never would have guessed that — at work she was always very put together and professional.

    1. Ann Furthermore

      Oh….and I just remembered another co-worker, who was also one of the head librarians. Sweetest woman, but also kind of spacey and out there.

      I was wearing a skirt one day, which was kind of sheer so I had a slip on underneath it. She came up to me out of the blue, and without any greeting or anything, said, “Y-S-I-S.” I looked at her and said, “Excuse me?” And she said, “Y-S-I-S. Your slip is showing.” It was so bizarre.

      1. The Clerk

        Some celebrity years ago, I’m thinking Oprah, responded to that with “What, you didn’t know I wore one?” Seriously, it’s a slip. It’s not shocking.

  13. Tara T.

    I like that the reader used the excuse that she could not invite anymore people because the caterer was costing so much – that was very tactful. That was a very smart idea. It is also true that no one is required to invite their work acquaintances, even their boss, to personal events; or socialize with work acquaintances at all outside of work.

  14. Melissa

    Good etiquette to invite your supervisor? WTF? Um, no. I was raised by “Emily Post” herself. Just no.

  15. The Clerk

    I think the OP made a good move by tying it to cost–she didn’t even need to specify it was the catering, just saying that she had to limit her guests due to the cost. People forget that it costs money for them to be added to the guest list, and hopefully a boss would feel embarrassed for hinting you should essentially buy them an expensive dinner to celebrate your wedding.

    This one won’t, though. Just like I’m sure she wouldn’t bring a gift. Or if she did it’d be of the used cat toy variety.

  16. Sugar

    First off, kudos for standing your ground. Second, I hope you find a better job that’s not in a toxic environment. She sounds like the type who invited herself to sleepovers and birthday parties as a kid. When it comes to sleepovers, birthday parties, and weddings, you can invite whoever you want. It is your choice. If somebody is offended because you didn’t invite them, oh well. It’s their problem, not yours.

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