my boss has romantic phone conversations that bother me because I’m single

A reader writes:

Longtime reader, first time question asker! I work in a small, two-person office for a nonprofit, was was hired on only a little over 2 months ago. Before me, it was just my boss, the executive director, by herself for a year.

I have really loved my job and boss up to this point and have been great at my work, but my relationship with my boss hit a big snag at the end of last week. I raised my voice at her a bit when she hinted that she doubted my thoroughness on a task that I had worked on for hours. I went home that day pretty annoyed and wrote a long and admittedly somewhat unprofessional email to her, explaining two of the factors that had likely culminated in my raising my voice: 1) feeling that she doubted my work ethic and meticulousness, two qualities I take great pride in, and 2) the frequency of her romantic phone conversations with her significant other while I sat only 10 feet away. I explained that the romantic phone calls had become increasingly annoying over time, as the conversations put my focus in the office on my “singledom,” while I ought to be focusing on my work instead. That might sound like I need to grow a backbone, but I have been single for over 7 years—a long time when you’re in your late 20s—which is the most distressing aspect of my otherwise happy life. I explained all of this in the email and that those reasons made her lovey-dovey conversations extra distracting. I asked her to please consider not having the phone calls while I’m around the office, as they negatively affect my productivity.

My boss sat me down for a tough conversation at the beginning of the following workweek, addressing the unprofesionalism of my email, the need for me to better understand my role in the organization, and that the concerns I had laid out about her managerial style were unacceptable to express. Regarding the romantic phone calls, she was defensive, claiming that they weren’t “recreational” in nature (which was a total lie). She said I should put on headphones if I didn’t want to hear her personal conversations.

The atmosphere in the office was pretty tense for the next two days, as I ended up giving her the silent treatment for what I considered her callousness in addressing my concerns. At the end of that second day, she had one of those romantic phone calls, and I ended up walking briskly out the door without saying goodbye to her. My silent treatment was probably not the most professional or mature way to handle the situation, but it did work to some extent, with my boss trying several times to extend “olive branches” to me, which I was unresponsive to till the middle of the week (I could tell this really frustrated her). Even though she had tried to be nicer to me to close out the week and I had warmed up to her again, on that Friday she had another one of the romantic phone calls. In response, I gave her mostly silent treatment again for the rest of the day, though she didn’t take the bait this time and actively tried to not let my attitude bother her, continuing to act happy and nice (though also emailing me to inform me that she was going to add more structure to my role by making me fill out timesheets). Before she left the office, she tried calling her significant other again but it went to voicemail. She ended up bidding me a warm goodbye, which I acknowledged as minimally as I could without being a complete jackass.

I would like to figure out a way to peacefully put an end to the phone calls, since I’ve been unsuccessful so far. I believe that my boss having them while knowing they affect my productivity in a negative way is borderline harassment. However, I don’t feel very comfortable telling her that because she has interpreted concerns that I have with her managerial style as being unprofessional. How should I approach my boss if the distracting phone calls continue unabated?

Some more clarification: The relationship I’ve had with my boss had been very friendly and sociable up to that point, but her response so far to adverse situations like this has been to be more of a hardass. I feel that she probably believes I don’t respect her authority, which could not be more untrue. I work better and am more focused and productive when there is a culture of workplace harmony and open communication, and when I’m able to be completely accountable to my boss without hating her at the same time. My boss, on the other hand, has never managed people in her career till now and seems to have taken my concerns as a sign that she needs to consolidate her power and add more structure to my work experience—which she feel might be a good move on her part but is exactly the wrong direction from how I best work.

Working in a two-person office is hard. There are other complications in the relationship as well, such as the fact that my boss and I coincidentally know a lot of the same people from both during and outside of work hours. My best friend, for instance, is one of her longtime friends and the brother-in-law of one of her best friends. Also, another one of my good friends serves on the same nonprofit board as her significant other. I could go on. I’ll also add that I had already been to my boss’s house by the third weekend after I started—for a non-work-related party—and that my boss and I have been Facebook friends since day one and ‘like’ each other’s posts from time to time. We’re both young people who share a lot of the same interests, both related to and not related to work. I have greatly respected and looked up to her up to this point, because, until I blew things up with that email, she was very easygoing. I have much less respect for callous power-hoarders, but as a new manager she seems to have headed gradually in that direction, a bit wary perhaps that her direct report might be increasingly insubordinate or nipping at her heels (neither of which have ever been my intention).


This is probably not the answer you are expecting, but you are wildly, wildly out of line here.

You cannot give your boss the silent treatment. That is … well, it’s extremely unprofessional and, frankly, would come across as prohibitively juvenile to most managers — and by prohibitive, I mean a good manager would be questioning your fit for the job. (And if your manager is not, it’s likely because of her inexperience.)

Moreover, you can’t dictate the content of other people’s personal phone conversations. You can certainly let them know when you’re having trouble focusing because of their calls, but when it’s your boss, she gets to decide whether she’s going to modify her behavior or not. And you absolutely cannot tell people at work that their happiness is making you feel bad and so they need to rein it in around you, let alone your boss. Your unhappiness about your singlehood is so far, far afield from anything approaching an appropriate line of argument in professional situations that I am having to strongly resist typing this paragraph in all caps and making it flash at you like a Geocities website from 1999. I am having heart palpitations over how inappropriate this all is.

And when you throw in the social connections and the attending parties, this whole thing sounds like a clusterfudge to me. She erred by not establishing professional boundaries from the get-go, but you’ve taken that broadening of boundaries even further, and you’re not seeing your boss as your boss.

As for the calls themselves, I have no idea how frequent they are or how lovey-dovey. If they’re seriously mushy, yes, that’s inappropriate. But it is not your place to insist that they must stop.  Many bosses do annoying and even inappropriate things, but unless they violate a law or jeopardize your safety, it doesn’t fall in the category of “things you have the standing to insist they stop doing.” Sexual harassment would fall in that category, but unless these calls are sexual (and I’m assuming you would have mentioned it if they were), this isn’t harassment.

Look. She is your boss. That means that she decides what does and doesn’t fly in the office. You can ask her nicely, once, if you’d like something handled differently, but then she gets to make the call, and you need to respect that call. You can decide that you don’t like it enough that you’re going to find a job somewhere else, but being cold or rude to her, giving her the silent treatment, or raising your voice at her (!!) are not acceptable responses. If you are not able to control those responses, then you need to find a new job, because You Cannot Behave This Way.

While she appears to be tolerating this somewhat, I would not assume she will tolerate it long-term (and the fact that she’s already pointed out — correctly — that this is unprofessional is a sign that she won’t tolerate it forever). If nothing else, eventually she’ll mention the situation to a more experienced manager, who will urge her in the strongest of terms to shut it down and to seriously reconsider your fit for the role. And even if that never happens, this is still Very, Very Bad because you are learning terrible work norms that you will carry to your next job, where they will make your life significantly harder because this kind of dynamic will feel normal to you but will be unacceptable to those around you.

So. You need to cut this out. Stop trying to punish your boss for her phone calls or to force an end to them. Be pleasant and professional. Establish a boundary between work life and social life. Put some headphones on if you don’t want to hear her calls, as she suggested. And apologize to her for how you handled this.

Your job is not just to do your work. It’s also to be a pleasant coworker/employee and not to be a source of drama in the office. Right now you are failing on that score, and you must fix it.

{ 586 comments… read them below }

  1. Question Asker*

    Hi everyone, I’m the person who asked the question.

    I completely recognize and understand my boss’s concerns about my professionalism and that the silent treatment certainly will not make me look more professional. As the week progressed, I came to a better understanding of the situation from my boss’s perspective. I was caught up in my emotions in the beginning of the week and just didn’t really have the straight mind to handle things another way, especially as my parents and I have always handled the cooling-off period after difficult conversations with silence rather than an immediate return to normalcy.

    As I mentioned, I gave my boss somewhat silent treatment again on Friday because she continued to have her personal romantic phone calls at work, but if I did anything at all I probably should have instead kindly asked her in person (not by email) to please consider not taking those calls while I’m in the office because they were distracting. And it seemed like she had made at least somewhat of an effort to go into the kitchen to make her food while talking to her significant other so that I wouldn’t be in as direct of a line to that conversation…so maybe I shouldn’t have been as ticked off.

    I talked to my friends who are mutual friends with my boss the Monday evening after the difficult conversation took place (I happened to have been hanging out with them that night), and they told me the silent treatment was probably not the best way to handle things. I definitely agree with them. I just found it to be more difficult to be mature about things in practice.

    This is because I had considered my job for the last two months to be as near-perfect as it could have been, and when that ideal came crashing down, I imagine it was difficult for me to accept. I had considered my work to be awesome and my boss to be awesome, so I didn’t take the reprimand as easily as I otherwise might have. I’ve had previous jobs that I didn’t have as high expectations of because of less enjoyable work and/or bad bosses, so I didn’t have nearly the same emotionality dealing with conflict in those jobs.

    I hope everyone’s advice will help me better navigate this situation and other situations that may happen in the future. I do great work; I just might have some attitude problems once in a while that I need to be able to better deal with going forward.

    Thanks Alison, and thanks to all the commenters.

    1. BCW*

      Here is your problem. You want her to stop making the calls no tbecause her volume is distracting, which would be valid, but because you are sad because you are single. That is just absurd. Whether you ask by email or in person, its still not appropriate. You don’t seem to be getting this very basic concept.

      I’d also advise you to stop talking to your mutual friends about your work issues. Not sure of the dynamic, but these conversations are probably getting back to your manager, and its not making you look good. Do you not have friends who aren’t connected to her that you could talk to? I get wanting to vent about problems with management, but doing that to your managers friends is just not smart.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        YES. I should have mentioned this too. OP, you must stop venting about this to friends connected to her. That’s part of the package when you take a job with a manager who’s friends with your friends, or at least once the situation turns into something like this.

      2. LBK*

        Agreed on all of this. I think you would treat this entire situation completely differently if you didn’t know this boss at all socially, and your relationship is blinding you to how weirdly you’ve handled it. You’re treating your boss like a friend, and she isn’t. Asking someone to alter their behavior based on your emotional needs and then giving the silent treatment when it goes badly would frankly be petty even in a social context, but it’s completely out of line in a work context.

        1. Zillah*

          I would argue that giving the silent treatment to a friend because you’re sad that you’re single is also inappropriate, though.

          OP, I understand being sad about this… but that’s something that you need to grapple with. It’s not fair to expect other people in your life to avoid conversations with/about their significant others in your presence.

          1. Diet Coke Addict*

            The silent treatment is not fair to a friend, either. Good point. (Really, the silent treatment is rarely fair to anyone, ever, and it is never going to provoke a positive response.)

            1. Andrew M. Farrell*

              Is the Silent Treatment acceptable in any circumstances whatsoever besides “I no longer want to have any sort of relationship with you. Stay out of my life forever.” and “I am really frustrated and need to take a while to calm down. I have communicated this to you so please give me some space alone for a while.” ?

              1. Del*

                I’m not sure it even works for the second one there. Absolute silent treatment is really only good for people you want immediately and permanently out of your life.

                Anyone else deserves at least some kind of words, even if it’s just “I really can’t talk to you right now, please leave me alone for a while.”

                1. Zillah*

                  Yes, exactly. There’s a huge difference between the silent treatment and “I need to cool down, can we pick this up later?”

          2. LBK*

            Yeah, I did mention that in my comment it would be petty even in a social context. I don’t think it’s a good idea in socially but it would at least be slightly more accepted as something that happens between friends sometimes. It’s not something that happens (or at least should happen) at work.

        2. Sal*

          In addition to it being completely out of line in a work context, it is profoundly, profoundly unwise to do it to your BOSS. I am agog, a little, I admit.

      3. Anon Accountant*

        Oh, I missed this part. LW please skip doing this! It’s a matter of time before it gets back to your manager and she may decide to critically evaluate if you are a good fit for this role.

      4. some1*

        I’m wondering if this group of friends isn’t why the manager hasn’t taken a harder line yet — the manager is letting the LW get away with a lot because she doesn’t want to lose her friends.

      5. MR*

        I promise that the boss will find out about anything the OP says to the mutual friends. So the OP’s best bet is to just avoid any discussion about work with the mutual friends.

      6. Dulcinea*

        Even if it were the volume and not the subject matter that is distracting you, unfortunately, she’s the boss so she gets to decide whether her priorities are more important than you being distracted.

        (I would say, if it were the volume, you could mention it once and discuss solutions, but if you are literally sharing a one room office I don’t know what the solution is besides you wearing headphones.)

        I think you will might be happier in a different job at this point..because this is going to stick in your craw and it will be hard for your boss to look at your differently in the future. I really hope you find something great that gives you a fresh start.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thanks for weighing back in, OP! Some thoughts on this further information:

      As I mentioned, I gave my boss somewhat silent treatment again on Friday because she continued to have her personal romantic phone calls at work, but if I did anything at all I probably should have instead kindly asked her in person (not by email) to please consider not taking those calls while I’m in the office because they were distracting.

      Nooooo. My point in my original response is that you can’t do this at all. You asked once, and now you must stop asking. It’s her call from here.

      This is because I had considered my job for the last two months to be as near-perfect as it could have been, and when that ideal came crashing down, I imagine it was difficult for me to accept. I had considered my work to be awesome and my boss to be awesome, so I didn’t take the reprimand as easily as I otherwise might have. I’ve had previous jobs that I didn’t have as high expectations of because of less enjoyable work and/or bad bosses, so I didn’t have nearly the same emotionality dealing with conflict in those jobs.

      Awesome bosses do reprimand people when they’re acting in problematic ways. Reprimanding doesn’t automatically equal not awesome. Your boss was right to address this with you. If she’s wrong in any way, it’s in not continuing to address it since it’s continued.

      I think you’re on the right path in mentioning you’ve got to readjust your thinking here — just sounds like you need to push yourself further down that path.

      1. Rose*

        I think she was more referring to being reprimanded, and incorrectly in her mind, about the work she had put so much time into, not her behavior after.

      2. Jessa*

        The problem is even if you have an excuse, even if you think the boss is wrong, you have to listen to what they’re saying. If they’re reprimanding you they have SOME reason.

        BIG ADVICE – never, ever, ever send an email when you’re still mad/upset/annoyed/ fill in the word here. Write it in a word processor and save it for the next day.

        Then also if you’re upset about something with your boss, calm down and go and talk to them, don’t put it in email because it will come back to haunt you.

        Whatever your boss thought (right or wrong) they had a reason to talk to you. If they’re wrong (they were at you for something someone else did,) or they’re missing information (you just didn’t keep up with them on it and they thought you weren’t working on it because they didn’t SEE the work,) the time to talk about this is when you’re calm.

        And right or wrong your boss has their opinion and as they’re the boss, their opinion is the RIGHT one. It’s kind of like that horrid saw “the customer is always right (NOT,) the boss is always right. You can leave if you disagree with what they think is right, you can complain to someone higher up if what they think is right is HORRIBLE (and that’s a pretty high standard of horrible.) But still.

        1. Lore*

          The best tip I’ve ever gotten on avoiding the angry email is to fill in the “to” field as the last thing you do. That way, it’s impossible to accidentally click “send” until you’ve thought it over. (It’s also a good tip for job applications or anything where you might accidentally send before finishing.)

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            I do this all the time. Sometimes I just need to vent, or sometimes I haven’t given myself enough time to cool down. Writing the email, even if you never actually send it, can be therapeutic. Then you can just delete it from your Drafts folder if you read it later and see that it has questionable content.

            1. Chris80*

              Just be careful not to accidentally send the email that is in your drafts – I hit the wrong button on my smartphone once and sent a months-old draft that I never intended to actually send. Eek! Depending on the type of phone, it can be easier than you think to do this accidentally!

            2. majigail*

              I agree, I like to write it all out, and look at it when I’m feeling more objective to strip out all of the emotion, hyperbole, etc. I know I’m prone to doing that in first drafts especially. When I look at it again, I look to change thing like, “She was constantly gabbing on the phone,” to “She took 5 calls this week, lasting approximately 5 minutes each.” I often go back a week later to further refine. The nice thing about doing this is that you can then actually send, if appropriate, or save it as documentation of an ongoing problem.

              1. Koko*

                Hyperbole and sweeping absolutes are what I’m prone too when I’m upset, too. Instead of saying, “When you did X, it really upset me, and you’ve done it a few times in the last couple weeks and I’ve felt worse each time.” I say, “You always do X and make me feel like crap about myself!”

          2. Jean*

            YES YES YES!! (Insert ticker-tape parade for this idea!)
            If you want the convenience of having the intended recipient’s email right at your fingertips, address the new message as usual (which usually means letting your email program autofill the address after you type the first several characters) and then _IMMEDIATELY_ copy this information into the first line of your message and DELETE it from the “T0” field. After you have goof-proofed yourself against accidental sending, you can compose, revise, save it as a draft, etc.

            If/when you eventually decide to send the message, reverse this sequence so that the address goes into the “To” field and gets deleted from the message body.

            In the meantime you won’t risk mortification or worse by hitting the key combination that triggers “send” when you meant to “save” or backspace or whatever else.

            Life is too short to risk setting oneself up for self-inflicted heart palpitations.

            1. Jean*

              P.S. If you’re feeling paranoid, print out your draft, grab it off the printer immediately (for obvious reasons), secure the printed page in your purse or backpack where you can take it home for further consideration, and delete it from your work email. If the message is still important later, you can retype it–perhaps in a briefer form. In the meantime you don’t have this potentially harmful text sitting around in your work email.
              Of course, YMMV if your workplace has security requirements so that nothing goes home…

            2. Amy*

              Wait, if it’s going to auto-fill anyway, why not just type it in later and save yourself the double copy/paste effort?

          3. Sandrine (France)*

            When I need to vent about something, I actually speak out loud to myself… in English… while in the bathroom.

            Seems completely stupid but at least I can vent vent vent and get it all out.

            Of course I only do this when alone at home… works wonders. Really.

            #sillytipoftheday hehehehehe

            1. Carpe Librarium*

              When I am cranky about something, I tend to give the dishes a good telling off as I wash them – along with extra vigorous scrubbing.
              Admittedly, I am sometimes telling the dishes off for not having already been washed…

            2. NewGirlontheBlock*

              I actually will go into the bathroom stall and just silently yell at whomever I need to be upset with for whatever reason. Even if it is something stupid, I do it. It gets out all the upset feelings, but doesn’t hurt anyone. Usually after I “yell” it out, I either realize that there is nothing I can do and let it go, or I calm down and can handle the situation without getting too upset.

            3. Koko*

              I used to work as a delivery driver, so I spent a lot of time in my car by myself. I worked out all my problems by having long one-sided conversations with people who weren’t there, actually saying out loud the things I wanted to say to then or was planning to say to them when I got the chance. Very few of those “rehearsal” conversations ever went live with the other person. It turns out having the conversation with myself in my car got it out of my system most of the time.

          4. Bea W*

            God yes! If I don’t use this method, I write it sonewhere off email that is private (not on the company network) or vent / get a head check with a friend who is in no way connected to my work. Thankfully this hardly ever happens at current job, but it was a daily occurance at my last one. I definately mucked it up once or twice too (though at that point I already had one foot out the door).

            1. drives me crazy*

              I vent about work by handwriting letters to my friend who lives in a different state and who doesn’t know anyone I work with. That way I get a chance to vent my frustrations which is very cathartic, and I do it in a way that no one at work would find out. I am very careful to keep the letters in a safe place so nobody else can read them and I label the envelope they are stored in as “Diaper coupons”.

          5. Abradee*

            Yes–and when responding to an email that’s angered or frustrated me, I’ll sometimes hit reply and then go in and erase the person’s email address in the “to” field before typing a single word. I tell myself I can always go back and re-enter his or her contact information if I ever do decide to send it, but in the meantime I know I’m not going to accidentally send anything I might regret.

            1. Jamie*

              Great advice to always kill the email address of anything even slightly sensitive – way to easy to forget to save and hit send.

              If, after revision, I’m still not sure I send it to myself. As weird as it sounds seeing it hit my inbox where I have to open it helps me see how it will sound to someone else. Even though I wrote it, I don’t see problems with tone as well when I’m just proofing my draft as when it’s sent.

        2. Kay*

          This is so true. There are MANY times when my boss drives me bonkers, but it’s his company, not mine, so we do things his way. I occasionally make suggestions on how to be more efficient or utilize technology more effectively, but ultimately it’s his call. I don’t have to like it, but I do have to abide by it.

          Also find someone else to talk to besides friends associated with her when she does drive you insane. You really don’t want those things to get back around to her. I talk to my husband or my mom when work is driving me nuts so that I can vent those frustrations without being unprofessional to my boss.

      3. Mena*

        I don’t think she understands that just because she asked the boss to stop taking the calls doesn’t mean the boss is obligated to accommodate this request.

    3. Hattie*

      I’ll give you props for actively seeking advice and coming to the comments to probably get a bit of a beating from others — so, good for you on that I suppose.

      Listen, I’ve totally been in your shoes before. I was immature and unprofessional to a previous awesome boss that I have a world of respect for. I worked my ass off and thought he was out of his mind with any criticism (and there were personal issues complicating things too). I wish I had somebody like Alison to give me this talking to 5 years ago! Listen to her advice and stop acting like you’re in high school. Apologize for being immature, tell your boss you understand it’s wildly out of line, and then change your behavior. That’s all you can do to salvage the relationship at this point, but honestly, it may be too late.

      I’m on great terms with my former boss now, but it took leaving and some serious growing up before that happened.

      Good luck!

      1. AMG*

        I agree. Everyone has made mistakes. I would hate to have to air my prior transgressions at my current job (or anywhere). You had the courage to ask, and you seem open to hearing feedback and making the change, so good for you. It will serve you well.

        You can ‘act as if’ in a pinch. Sometimes growing and changing isn’t comfortable (in fact it usually isn’t), but play the part of the professional Alison and the other commenters describe here and you will eventually fint it to be the ‘new comfortable’.

        One day you will look back on this and cringe, but just know that you are walking a well-worn path. :)

    4. Karyn*

      Dear OP,

      This concerns me: “As I mentioned, I gave my boss somewhat silent treatment again on Friday because she continued to have her personal romantic phone calls at work, but if I did anything at all I probably should have instead kindly asked her in person (not by email) to please consider not taking those calls while I’m in the office because they were distracting.”

      The point Alison was making above, and the point I am going to make here, is that you should not say anything at all regarding her taking personal calls, because you are her employee and she is the boss. You don’t get to request that she not take calls from her S/O, unless they fall into the sexual harassment realm of things, which I am assuming they do not.

      Look, I’m a divorced 29 year old woman who has not been in a relationship for over a year, and the relationships I’ve had since my divorce have been largely physically and emotionally abusive. So I get where you’re coming from as far as being distraught over being single, in your late 20s, and even being resentful over others’ happiness. I get it. But the fact of the matter is, you don’t get to express that resentment in the office, and ESPECIALLY not toward your boss.

      YOU are the only person responsible for your actions here. YOU make decisions about how you act and react to issues, whether perceived or real, in the workplace. You don’t have to like your boss. You don’t have to be friendly with your boss. In fact, there’s a good argument for NOT being friendly with your boss. But you do have to RESPECT your boss, and if you don’t, you can choose to find another job. But I can almost guarantee you that you’re never going to find a boss who doesn’t have personality quirks that annoy you from time to time, so my suggestion here is this: move on and start being more respectful and “adult” about this entire situation. You have a job that you say you otherwise love and are good at. You have a boss who doesn’t seem outrageous or overly demanding or nitpicky – in fact, you say you found her “awesome” before this all happened. And try to make positive changes in your own life that will allow you to feel happier with your current circumstances rather than resentful of others for theirs.

      Good luck!

    5. Noelle*

      I agree with Alison’s advice, but I also wanted to ask if you’d considered seeing a therapist. I think there are two problems – one is that you are upset about being single, which sucks. Two is that you may not have a great support network outside of work and people who are connected to your work (I could be completely wrong here, I’m just basing this on how disappointed you are with your high expectations for your job, your personal connections with work, and your previous closeness to your boss). I’ve visited a therapist, and he really helped me sort out a better work/life balance and deal with my emotions about being single. You can’t control your boss, but a therapist might be able to help how you feel around her and give you an opportunity to talk to someone who isn’t connected to your work.

      1. Sunflower*

        Yea I want to echo this because 1. I can’t imagine having a boss that is also BFF with my BFF’s. I know I vent a lot about work to my friends and they do to me and it would be really awkward if they were friends with them and I’m sure they don’t want to be in the middle of it. Also, I don’t think this is especially normal that this is bothering you that much. It doesn’t sound like the conversations are inappropriate and someone talking to their significant other about mundane life things (groceries, rent, etc) really should not be bothering you. I am also the only single person in my office and while it’s annoying to hear about other people’s relationships, I don’t consider it interferring with my ability to work. A therapist might be able to help you out with both of these things. Good luck!

      2. AMT*

        Yes, I was wondering when someone would say this. This sounds like a set of attitudes and behaviors that aren’t confined to work. Therapy could help a great deal.

      3. Sadsack*

        Great recommendation regarding therapy. OP, counseling can be more helpful that you may realize. Many people shy away from it because they don’t think that need it, but having a neutral person to confide in/vent to can be such a relief. I am wondering if it wouldn’t be especially helpful to you given the reference you made to the way your family deals with issues. You may want to examine your approach to not just this issue with your boss, but to all your relationships. Good luck!

      4. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

        Plus, you have problematic behaviors you need to get a hold on: triangulation (the talking to the third parties about your problems with at least some goal of getting them on your side), trying to control others, lack of boundaries, not responding appropriately (silent treatment). A therapist will pick up on all that and help you learn better ways to communicate.

      5. Thomas*

        100% agree. Therapy can be a wonderful thing, and all people need it from time to time (even if few are brave enough to take the step).

        1. CTO*

          A wise boss of mine used to day, “Everyone’s got at least six therapy sessions in them. You may take them now, you may take them later, but there’s always a point in life where you’d benefit from them.”

      6. On My Phone*

        I wish we could refrain from advising “therapy” to people we don’t know based off of very little insight into a portion of someone’s life. OP just has some growing up to do.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          In this case, though, the OP said that he’s repeating patterns that he learned in his family, which is something that therapy is a really logical solution for.

        2. AMT*

          Therapy isn’t just for mentally ill people, or even people experiencing serious problems. It sounds like the OP could at least use someone to talk to about work and relational issues, short- or long-term. Saying that the OP could use a therapist doesn’t imply anything about him/her beyond that. That’s what therapists are for.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            Yes! And there are awesome therapists out there who will help clients work through interpersonal situations in different contexts, including work relationships. OP, if you do wind up going to a therapist, it’s worth saying up front what you want: “I’m having trouble with my relationship with my manager at work, and that’s what I want to focus on with you.” (Although obviously you might decide you prefer a broader focus, and that’s fine too–but it’s worth coming in with an idea of what you want to get out of therapy.)

            1. Noelle*

              You pointed out something that I think a lot of people don’t understand when they go into therapy. You can totally define the relationship with the therapist and what you want to focus on. It doesn’t have to be a deep dive of your entire life unless you want it to be.

        3. Zillah*

          ‘Therapy’ is not a dirty word. It’s a tool that can be useful in helping someone to work through issues of many different kinds.

        4. Noelle*

          I don’t typically recommend therapy, but I thought in this case it made sense. He said he is distressed about being single, to the point where his boss’s phone conversations are actively affecting him. Also, he was extremely disappointed that the job wasn’t living up to his expectations, and it also sounds like because his friends are also friends with his boss, he may not have a good outlet to talk about problems at work. This in addition to the family patterns Alison pointed out. This wasn’t a judgement of the OP’s character, it was advice I made that, from personal experience, helped me a lot.

        5. Not So NewReader*

          I was just about to echo the therapy recommendations myself.

          While I tend to agree that therapy is overplayed for many unnecessary situations, I think OP has had a very strong negative reaction to something – that well- doesn’t really need a strong reaction. Additionally, OP is asking how to put the brakes on here.
          I see grief issues- missing an SO, missing a part of life. Grief can masquerade as sadness, anger, jealousy, edginess and many other emotions. I think that OP has half the problem solved already- by saying, yeah there’s a problem. I am willing to bet that OP just goes a few times and progresses along very well.
          Additionally, the counselor can be whomever OP chooses, a person of the cloth, a psychologist, a life coach (to map out a plan/direction in life), etc.
          We can tell OP, “You need to apologize to the boss and also do XYZ.” But that does nothing to handle the bigger life issue.
          She can do all these things and still feel that sense of loss/mourning in her life, which leaves her vulnerable to other triggers.

          OP, I am on the opposite end of a similar story. I was 45 when my husband passed. The stupidest things were triggers for me. Going into Target made me cry. One sunny day a sweet light breeze brought tears to my eyes. I got mad when a friend said something without thinking. Way too much reaction for what was going on. I vote for confronting whatever you have going on- it will not be worse than what is going on right now, OP. Why? Because you are the one doing the choosing, not the situation.

          If you choose to go this route, you can just tell your boss that you realize that the whole thing was over the top and you are going to look into resources to help yourself so that this problem does not happen again. Honestly, that should be enough to satisfy her.

      7. Sarah*

        I agree with the thought about going to a therapist. I believe that there may be things in the Op’s past re: parents (as mentioned by OP) that may be worth reflecting on.

        Also, I believe that OP may simply function better in a more standardized / formal work environment. Honestly, hearing the boss talking to their significant other several times a day would annoy me as well. I prefer a professional work environment. (That said, I wouldn’t mention anything as it is the boss.) OP, consider taking your skills to a larger company.

    6. A Reader*

      Learning the norms of a workplace’s culture can be hard. It can be really hard when you don’t have much experience in the working world (which seems true of you?). I think the best way to move forward here is to drop your own conceptions of what’s ‘fair’ in an office or ‘fair’ behavior from your boss. (Unfortunately, life as a working adult is pretty seldom fair.)Once you do that, you’ll be open to all the points AAM made here. It’s a tough task, but you’re clearly up to it. Asking advice was a good first step! Good luck with this!

    7. Aunt Vixen*

      if I did anything at all I probably should have instead kindly asked her in person (not by email) to please consider not taking those calls while I’m in the office because they were distracting.

      Almost. You’re almost there. The thing is that the content of other people’s phone calls in the office is immaterial. This is especially true when other people are your boss, but even when they’re not. If she’s raising her voice, you might be able to ask her if she minds if you close her door/put on some headphones/etc., but this should be true whether she’s talking to her significant other or to the cable guy.

      The volume of her calls can be legitimately distracting to you. The subject matter can’t. What she talks about on the phone and with whom is so not remotely your business that it is part of your job to pretend not to have heard it.

      1. Sal*

        Just want to point out here that when you’re talking to your boss, your suggestions (“Boss, is it okay if/would you mind if…”) need to be things YOU can change (wear headphones, shut your door), not things SHE needs to change (talk in the kitchen, shut her door before making the calls, not make the calls). Especially in light of your now-recent history.

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          Sure, but if there’s only one door, and it belongs to the boss, I think it’s okay if an employee asks if it’s okay to close it. Mind you in a two-person office it’s not likely that the boss is sitting in a room with a door and the employee is sitting out in an otherwise-deserted cube farm – but if that’s how it is, saying “Sorry, do you mind if I close the door while you’re on the phone” shouldn’t be overstepping if it’s said in a politely apologetic tone.

          Otherwise, I agree with you: the problem is one the employee is having, not one the boss needs to fix. “Can I close your door” – okay. “Can you keep your voice down” – no no no.

          1. Jessa*

            The only time “can you keep your voice down” is a legit thing to say to someone above you in the hierarchy is when it actually interferes with your job – IE you’re on a phone all day as the receptionist, or sales person and your customer can hear the conversation. And that still needs to come across as “Boss, my customers can hear you talking on the phone, what do you want me to do about it.” Or maybe in a critical case a polite hand motion to the phone like “they can hear you,” to indicate to the boss in the MOMENT that their conversation is carrying. But if the boss still doesn’t lower their voice, then they’re saying they don’t care what your customer hears. And even if that may be a bad thing, it’s their call to make. Unless of course what the customer is hearing is the boss cussing someone out, in which case after talking to them doesn’t work, talking to someone higher up is then reasonable.

          2. Bea W*

            At one place I worked people kept their office doors open all the time. It was totally normal behavior for someone to quietly over and close the door or if not a full-on close, make eye contact, and whisper, “Do you mind if I close the door while you’re on the phone?” (Depends on how familiar you were the person.) Often times someone would get caught on the phone longer than expected in more of a conversation than expected, but the cord didn’t reach the door. So having someone walk over and offer to close the door was actually welcome, not rude. Most people don’t want to sit talking on the phone where everyone else can hear whether it’s a business or personal call.

      2. Parfait*

        This. This is part of the way we keep ourselves sane in open office plans. It’s a polite fiction. We pretend we didn’t hear the conversation that we shouldn’t be hearing. We act as if the cube wall is a real wall, and we don’t repeat the information we heard to others. We don’t ask about the conversation when they get off the phone. As far as we are concerned, it happened behind a closed door.

        1. Del*

          Thiiiiiis, this this this. My erstwhile cube neighbor (and work buddy, for that matter) made a lot of long personal calls during the workday. Some of them were more understandable than others (dealing with banks, doctors, etc, who were probably not open during off-work hours, versus calling her parents to chat) but all of them were Not My Business and while it was hard not to overhear, my role was to pretend firmly I wasn’t hearing a whole lot of her personal business.

          It’s just part of the social contract on the job.

        2. Ann Furthermore*

          Yes, absolutely, and when it gets to be so bad you can’t take it anymore, put on a pair of headphones if you can.

          I used to sit next to a woman who talked all the time. All. The. Time. She bought a loft, and had it remodeled, and was on the phone constantly talking to her contractor, or telling people about the renovations. When she was close to being done, I could have told you everything about that place, down to the placement of the last throw pillow. I’m pretty good at tuning things out, so most of the time it didn’t get to me, but sometimes it really did.

          Then I moved cubes and the guy on the other side had a really annoying laugh, and he would laugh all day. Again, I could usually tune it out, but sometimes I would hear it. A couple people asked me how I could stand to sit next to this guy, and listen to that laugh, but when I said, “Well, I sat next to Chatty Co-Worker for 2 years,” they understood.

        3. Chinook*

          I learned in Japan that the culture developed an interesting technique to survive in a world with paper walls (not paper thin but literally paper) – you do not acknowledge what is going on until someone give you a reason to acknowledge it. For example, my coworkers would enter the office and loudly say “Tadaima” to announce they were there even though it was obvious. Ditto for students, manager and, eventually me. If you didn’t announce yourself, we sort of acted like you were a hologram – we saw you but didn’t interact because you obviously were in your bubble.

          1. fposte*

            Ha–I’ve been thinking of Japan, because I first heard the “pretend you’re not hearing/seeing this” social more articulated in a discussion of Japanese culture.

        4. Amanda*

          Oh, I wish more people would follow this! I have a fairly strict no-eavesdropping policy. If someone’s having a conversation outside my office door, or (when I worked in a cubicle) at the next desk over, I ignore them. When I ignore something, I am actually very good at tuning it out. People expecting me to chime in like I’ve been listening all along annoys me.

        5. Bea W*

          Exactly. This is necessary to survival in an open office plan, or an office with thin walls. I have a cube neighbor who always speaks at top volume, and can get caught up in a lot of personal calls. We just pretend we don’t hear it, at least as far as he is concerned. Occasionally he says something so outrageous we have to actively stiffle a giggle, or get up and take a walk down the hall or and quietly snicker over making a fresh cup of coffee until we’re composed enough to return and get back to pretending we didn’t hear any of it.

          The same rule applies to passing gas and other embarrasing noises in the office.

    8. Katie the Fed*

      OK – thanks for the additional perspective.

      So here’s what I think – you’re VERY young and this is probably your first job, right?

      You’re still navigating the professional boundaries of your job and learning what working in a professional environment is right.

      So you know now that this isn’t the right way, so that’s good.

      Like I said below – as you deal with these situations, really, REALLY understand that all you’re being paid to do is provide a service. You seem conscientious and probably do good work, which is good because a manager might otherwise not put up with this drama. So you’ve got that going for you.

      Try, as much as you can, to separate the issues from the emotions. It’s REALLY hard for some of us – I get really emotionally invested in my work too. But when you come at a colleague or a supervisor with a wall of emotion, they tend to see it as “CAUTION: CRAZYPANTS” and can’t really get to the heart of the matter and help resolve that.

      So you need to stick to the facts and the real issues:

      Issue: Loud phone calls are totally distracting. I had a boss who sat next to me and talked to his wife like 8 times a day with conversations that went like this: “no, I love YOU more, sweetie pie!” ((vomit)). But that’s his prerogative. All I can do is walk away or ignore it, or mayyyybe politely ask him to keep his voice down.

      Issue: You’re single and it sucks. Well, I’d argue it doesn’t suck but that’s neither here nor there. But that’s your issue and yours alone. Not a workplace matter.

      OK, so all of that is to say – stick to the facts and the issues that are truly workplace issues. All of the other stuff is yours to deal with.

      Good luck. There are worse things in life than caring a lot – it’s just how you handle it that will make or break you.

          1. Lizzie*

            But she’s not a teenager. Late 20s is wayyyyy too old for this. I might expect some drama like this with 15 year olds at a summer job, but not with full-grown adults.

            1. CrazyCatLady*

              I’ve seen way too much drama from adults even older than the OP to assume it’s just related to age. Some people just don’t have self-awareness or coping skills – and never learn them. As a result, they create drama. It’s certainly not limited to teenagers, unfortunately.

            2. Tinker*

              And yet, here we are.

              There’s a thing somewhere in the Miles Vorkosigan series along the lines of “Oh, your honor doesn’t have a reset button? Mine does.” The point, in context, being that we end up in situations that we should not have gotten ourselves into, but yet we have to carry on anyway. Thus is it for the OP — regardless of whether they should be having this issue or not, they are having it and the only solution now is to get over it.

              1. fposte*

                Yup. And you know, she wrote in, and she’s willing to acknowledge that she blew it. She’s game for a learning moment here. It may be a bigger lesson than she realized, but now’s the time.

            3. Bea W*

              Some people never grow out of it. If you never had adults modeling good communication for you, you likely did not learn it and think the way you act is completely reasonable and normal.

            4. Koko*

              Just wanted to interject that based on AAM’s comment above the OP appears to be a “he.”

              I’m a bit embarrassed to say that without realizing it, I was more understanding when I thought it was a young woman who hadn’t yet outgrown Mean Girls, but reading it again from a young man suddenly gave it a much more bitter and aggressive tone in my head. (Which I’m mentioning to point out my own prejudices that I was surprised to see, not to suggest that it’s true.)

              1. Ritu*

                I can honestly say my opinion changed slightly when I found out it was a “he” as well. I was surprised and assumed it was a “she.”

                hmmm, wonder what this says about me ;)

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Not necessarily. I know people who were in grad school until 24 or 25 – started their first job in mid-to-late 20s.

          1. Noelle*

            I just wanted to say I’m also in government and it is extremely common for us to have employees who are in their late 20s but have never had an office job before. It’s especially common if you’re in a field where an advanced degree is required, or it takes a few years before getting a job offer. I feel like I was really lucky to have a work-study job in an office when I was in college, because it’s hard to know how to be professional when you’ve never been in an office before (or if you’ve watched too many episodes of The Office and think it’s an appropriate way professionals act).

          2. A*

            Sure, but the average maturity level of a 21-year-old is very different than the average maturity level of, say, a 27-year-old. I would find this behavior extremely immature for a 21-year-old but I could maybe buy the whole ‘very young, first job’ things. But from someone who is 25+? It’s pretty unacceptably egregious, regardless of professional experience.

            Not that I’m saying there aren’t very immature people in their late 20s, but I’m less likely to give someone leeway because they’re young and inexperienced at that age.

          3. De Minimis*

            I didn’t have a professional office job until my 30s. I fell into a post office job about a year after college and ended up staying there for nearly seven years.

            Although I like to think I was pretty mature, it was a big difficult adjustment for me, I was very accustomed to a really cut-and-dried structured environment where work is given to you and your only role is to do it. I couldn’t pull it off and ended up getting let go after my first year. My current job is my “second chance” job, and it’s the first one since the Post Office that I’ve held more than a year.

        2. Jubilance*

          It could very well be her first professional job. I’ve worked with people in their 30s and 40s who were in the first professional job. Not everyone goes to college right after high school. Or if she went to graduate school, she could be in her late 20s and fresh out of school. Don’t assume that late 20s=experienced.

      1. fposte*

        She does say that she’s had previous bosses, so this isn’t the first job, but the use of how her family deals with arguments as a work starting place does sound like she’s still learning some workplace norms.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          ah see – I read these letters too fast when I’m at work and miss some details like that. It was the parent comparison that caught my eye.

    9. VictoriaHR*

      I think you need to be telling all of this to your boss, not to us :) Just tell her straight where you’re coming from, where you know you erred, need her input on the rest, and how to fix the problem going forward. This could be a great opportunity to take constructive criticism, learn from it and make changes, which will be great for the “What is your greatest weakness?” question in future job interviews.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I wish my employees were as self-aware as the OP, actually. She knows there’s a problem. I have one who REALLY needs to grow up and work on professionalism but she just doesn’t get it.

      2. Observer*

        Actually, NO, do NOT tell this all to your boss. It’s important to acknowledge these issues to yourself, but it’s not your boss place to deal with these issues, and will put you at an eternal disadvantage.

    10. Sophia*

      “I had considered my work to be awesome and my boss to be awesome”

      Did anyone else immediately hear, “Everything is Awesome….” from the Lego movie? Please tell me I’m not the only one.

      1. Nancypie*

        Yes, I cannot get that out of my head anytime I hear the word awesome. I am also always telling my squabbling kids to let it go, which triggers me to start singing the song from Frozen.

      2. Mints*


        I actually really really like the song. I want to request it next time I’m out at a place with a DJ

      3. Mallory*

        I heard Janis Ian from Mean Girls: “Did you have an awesome time? Did you drink awesome shooters, listen to awesome music, and then just sit around and soak up each others awesomeness? “

      4. Anna*

        Well, you might have BEEN the only one. But now you’re not. So thanks for that. *howdoIturnthissongoff* ;)

        1. Jessa*

          I read an article that said the way to get rid of ear worm songs, is to actually sing/listen to the WHOLE thing. Otherwise you have parts running through your head. No idea if it works, I’ve not encountered the “won’t go away song,” since I’ve seen that advice.

          1. Jessica (tc)*

            Unfortunately, that has never worked for me. It just gets more of the song stuck in my head, and I’m singing it for longer. I’ve tried it so many times (after hearing that it’s stuck in your head because you didn’t finish the song or whatever), but the songs I get stuck in my head are so darn catchy! That’s why they’re in there. :( I do sometimes listen to other songs in the hopes it’ll remove the earworm and have had some success with extraction that way.

    11. Katie the Fed*

      Oh also, OP, I come from a family like that too where we Do Not Talk About It. It’s been really hard to learn in my professional and personal life – it’s something my fiance and I addressed in pre-marital counseling because I’m just bad about it. Learning how to handle conflict and disagreements well is a skill, and not one we all have when we should.

    12. Katie NYC*

      Ok, I’m just curious. Could you describe the content of these calls? Are they lovely dovey or “what-are-we-doing-for-dinner-honey-?”

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I posted about this elsewhere, but my boss used to sit next to me and do this – no less than 8-10 conversations with his wife every day that were like “no, I love YOU more! Awww you’re so sweet! I love you so much! I can’t wait to see you!”

        I wanted to jam ice picks into my ears. I have no idea how adult humans can want/need to validate a relationship that much.

        So it is definitely possible.

        1. Nerdling*

          I had a coworker who did this with his wife and child. At the top of his lungs. Every day at about 10:15. People avoided making phone calls or sought reasons to leave the area around that time because it was so loud and obnoxious. So when I finally got fed up and approached him about it, it wasn’t about the gag-inducing baby talk, it was about the volume, because that was the most important thing — bring him down to a volume everyone could manage to do their jobs through.

          1. Fee*

            Yeah I shared an office with an old boss who used to talk TO her (not yet talking) toddler on the phone at frequent intervals throughout the day. It was infuriating. As everyone else has said to OP, you just have to suck it up and pretend it’s not happening, but I can’t lie that it coloured my view of her as a manager that she didn’t realise how distracting it was for the rest of us in the office.

        2. Mallory*

          At my old job, one of the marketing managers was going through a long, drawn-out breakup with her boyfriend, who happened to be one of the board members of our non-profit. For days, every time I would walk into the marketing office, she would be having these loud, unabashedly melodramatic conversations with him: “You’re walking away from THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU!!!” &c.

      2. Jennifer*

        “Oh, you’re schmoopy!”
        “No, YOU’RE schmoopy!”

        Much as I feel for the OP, the bottom line in life is usually: “The boss can do almost anything he or she wants, including making annoying schmoopy loud phone calls you can’t avoid.”

        1. Bea W*

          I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. (I learned the word “schmoopy” from an old bf)

    13. Bea W*

      You can’t control what your boss does, not even by using passive aggressive methods like “silent treatment” in order to manipulate her behavior. Stop doing this. It will make things worse, not better. It’s also completely dysfunctional, and totally inappropriate for a professional relationship especially with your boss.

      The best thing you can do…LET IT GO. So what if you are single and she’s not? That is irrelevant here. That is a personal issue that only you can deal with. It is not up to your boss to refrain from this type of conversation with her partner because you have a personal hang-up over being single.

      When the conversation is truly distracting and preventing you from working, the best you can do is politely ask her to take the conversation someplace else (or close her door, or whatever) because it is distracting you from your work. Do not make it personal. It is not personal. She is not sitting there thinking up ways to deliberately stick it to single people. That’s important to remember, because you have made it personal, and that makes it 10x harder to let it go and move on.

      For a practical solution when you can avoid those conversations, headphones if you can work with them on. When you feel yourself becoming annoyed, take a quick break, get something to drink, walk around the building for 5 minutes, whatever gets you away so that you can clear your head and get back to work. If there is work you can do without sitting so close to your boss, do some of that for a bit.

    14. GigglyPuff (formerly O)*

      Hi, I’m not sure if someone might have mentioned this yet, but I’d like to address your comment “especially as my parents and I have always handled the cooling-off period after difficult conversations with silence rather than an immediate return to normalcy.”…

      While I’m in my mid-twenties I moved back home during graduate school for an internship and ended up staying there for work in the area. I was always one of those people who had personal revelations, maybe once a year, like “ooo, I really shouldn’t do that”, or “I don’t want to be that way”, but dear lord, after I moved back home, every week I was having at least three because having a more adult relationship with my family, and how everyone was treated, it was like a smack in the face for how I did NOT want to be when I was older, when I had my own family, spouse, close friends, and I was already well on a path to using the interactions I had growing up with my family in my personal life.

      To help clarify things: for example, I grew up as one of those kids who “threatens” their parents (not physically!), i.e. “well if I can’t do that, I’m not gonna do this”, it was all very immediately reactionary anger. I put my foot down with that type of behavior when I moved back home and immediately stopped doing it, and that’s when I realized I learned it from one of my parents and just never realized it before, when in an argument they immediately threatened to not allow me to use their personal frequent flyer miles for an upcoming trip, which had absolutely nothing to do with the argument we were having.

      So one thing I’ve learned, always stick to the issues, never bring in outside problems (make everything it’s own discussion), and don’t make threats, it just escalates everything into unresolved.

      One of the other big things I’ve learned is there are so many varieties of arguments: there’s mad, angry, upset, frustrated, pissed, etc…these are all different emotions that have to be handled in different ways. Unfortunately when my family does get into disagreements, within ten seconds we’re all yelling at each other, because we think we know what it is about, there are no calm rationale arguments about disagreements, which makes me sad, because things never quite get worked out. I have now disengaged from them when this behavior happens, I calmly state what I’m thinking, and hope for the best.

      Things like this, things we carry over from our home life need to be looked at because they can impact your entire life, like here, this has always been the way you’ve reacted to conflict, but it was inappropriate for the workplace. Like others have said, you need to learn how to separate work life from your personal, including behavioral reactions. At home, parents were the authority and everyone fights them at some point, you can’t do that at work unless you are ready for the consequences.

      As others have suggested, it might be worth it to see a therapist, because it is nice to have someone to vent to, especially when you know it won’t get back to anyone who might care. Fortunately I was able to have these self epiphanies myself, but they were quite a shock and I have to work on them every day, because I don’t want to be my parents, or to not be able to have a normal fight without someone screaming or crying with silent periods. I want to be able to get angry or upset with someone without trying to emotional hurt them because that is not the person I want to be.

      I apologize if this seems way off base, it’s just the parents comment reminded me of my situation. I hope everything works out, and while being single sucks, it could be worse…I’ve never been a relationship. :)

      1. CTO*

        This is really excellent advice. We often learn to argue or express hurt the way our parents did. Sometimes the patterns that seem very normal at home just don’t really work out in the larger world. They don’t get us where we want to be. This seems to be one of those cases. OP, you show wonderful self-awareness to realize that you’re coping the way you coped as a kid, and that it isn’t working for you in the workplace.

        Therapy is a very, very common and effective tool to learn new patterns that will serve you better. Having a therapist doesn’t mean that you’re “crazy” or “ill,” it just means you benefit from having a neutral third party to help you see and change patterns that are causing you suffering. I have a therapist, plenty of my “normal” and balanced friends have therapists, and those who can’t afford therapy are jealous of those who can. If your health insurance or EAP covers it, give it a try. Even a few sessions can be really helpful towards getting a fresh start with this situation.

      2. Bea W*

        Then you don’t know what you are missing. Ignorance can be bliss sometimes!

        You’re comments about your parents are spot on. My parents were great examples of how I didn’t want to be, and I feel like a learned a lot from that although sometimes figuring how to do it differently was very difficult because I no examples other than my family and the people I grew up with, who were often just as dysfunctional. :/

      3. Hunny*

        I was thinking something similar. My parents and U DO NOT argue effectively with each other. I’ve gotten the chance to develop different coping skills once I moved out, but every visit home feels like backsliding. I got to choose who I want to be, what kind of response I want to be associated with, and its worlds different from how I treated my friends back in high school. I shudder to imagine doing something in the workplace that I would do in an argument with my parents, it would be an automatic firing =(

      4. Not So NewReader*

        I don’t think I can find it but a while ago there was an impressive set of comments regarding how people felt their parents made or broke the poster’s working career. The comments touched on what we saw or did not see growing up and how it impacted us later on.
        It was a thought-provoking read.

        I think the number one step is identifying what skills are missing. The second step is trying to figure out where to get those skills. (Skills can mean soft skills, relationship skills, coping skills etc.)

    15. A Teacher*

      Can I add it wouldn’t matter if she were your boss or your co-worker? You can certainly change your opinion of someone based on how they act or what they talk about but in the world of adultland you don’t get to tell another adult what they discuss personally with other people.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “romantic talk either” unless they are having phone sex, which would be weird, what is so annoying to you about the conversation?

    16. Nicola*

      To be blunt, you keep having excuses because you’re having long-winded analysis of your behavior. I’m still hearing, “yeah I made mistakes but…. ” because you say “I have attitude problems once in awhile.” If you want to move up and have a successful career, once in awhile attitude problems are going to negatively impact that. You don’t have attitude problems with either your boss (or your coworkers).

      If you’re upset, don’t show it. If you feel angry and want to write an email to your boss about it, write it on Word first, let it sit for at least 24 hours, readdress the email and decide if you want to reword or delete the whole thing. Never send an email when you’re mad.

      Here’s what you do now: Go to your boss and apologize. Don’t make long-winded analyzed explanation of your reasons why you messed up. Just say you were out of line and are sorry. And then, never show this behavior again. Owning the mistake and then never repeating it goes a long way in showing integrity, maturity, and growth.

      1. Anonsie*

        I was trying to come up with a way to say exactly this.

        The sheer length of your responses should be a clue to you that you are way way waaay too into what is mostly a non-issue. You’re finding problems that need action and explanations for what you do in every teeny little detail.

    17. Elizabeth West*

      OP, no matter how nice your boss is, she’s your BOSS. She’s not your friend. If the job is ideal because you like the work you do, and you’re compensated adequately for it, and you’re treated like a valuable employee and not a slave, then that’s the best you can hope for. But you simply cannot control what other people do; you can only control your reaction to it.

      I know it’s tough to sit there and listen to other people mush all over their SOs when you’re single. Hell, I’ve been single twice as long as you have and I effing hate it. But that doesn’t mean I can tell my boss to not talk about her kids and grandkids because I’m jealous that she has a family and I don’t. I’m actually glad I have a boss who has a fulfilling personal life, because she’s that much more pleasant to deal with at work, rather than if she were crabby and bitchy all the time because her family sucked.

      Bottom line: when you’re at work, you’re there to concentrate on WORK. If the phone calls are distracting, it’s okay to ask someone to please keep it down or take the call elsewhere because talking makes it hard to focus. But the content of the calls is NOYB.

      I’m happy to hear that you recognize there are problems. Half the battle with an attitude problem is realizing you have one. I have one too and I’ve been working on it after not working on it for decades. Believe me, it’s much easier to address it now than later, after it becomes entrenched, because then it will be like digging out a major organ with a spatula. I have to be way more mindful of what I say now and it’s really hard for me, but I’m trying.

      Good luck with this.

    18. KatA*

      OP, I want to note that there’s a difference between a cooling down period and giving someone the silent treatment. A cooling down period is acknowledging that you’re still too angry/frustrated/whatever to deal appropriately with something and need some time to collect yourself. Giving someone the silent treatment means that you’re still worked up and are deliberately taking an action meant to show that someone that you’re angry with them instead of constructively resolving whatever the issue is.

      1. Ruffingit*

        The silent treatment is passive-aggressive and has no place in the work environment. Or anywhere really, it’s never been helpful to resolving issues. I really hope the OP comes to understand that it’s not a good technique to ever employ. She’s extremely lucky her boss didn’t toss her out immediately just for that behavior. It’s so incredibly unprofessional.

    19. Nerdling*

      I think this might also be a good time for you to work on taking criticism more smoothly. It was by far the hardest thing I had to learn how to do in the office, and it’s something I still struggle with. But it’s completely necessary to come around to realizing that criticism of your work product is not personal; it’s professional, and it’s meant to help you sell yourself and your product in the best light possible.

    20. AGirlCalledFriday*

      Even though this letter horrified me ^_^ I have to say that it takes a lot of guts to admit to your mistakes and be open to suggestions, especially as you are a longtime reader and know how the comments go sometimes. It’s really wonderful that you are willing to improve.

    21. Ruffingit*

      especially as my parents and I have always handled the cooling-off period after difficult conversations with silence rather than an immediate return to normalcy.

      This is a major error in your thinking and you need to spend some time working through this idea – your boss is NOT your parent. You cannot handle workplace situations the way you handle family conflicts. Ideally, you’d be mature when handling both family and work conflicts, but at work you have SO MUCH MORE TO LOSE. The silent treatment may be the norm in your family, but it’s not the norm at any workplace ever. Your boss, however young and inexperienced she may be, is still your boss and as Alison pointed out you must treat her that way. You should give a lot of thought to drawing a heavy line between work and personal.

      You are Facebook friends with boss, you have mutual friends, you’re partying at her house on the weekends…this is not good. None of it. You have no professional boundaries and therefore you have trouble when professional things must be addressed such as her criticizing the quality of your work. You just don’t get to be upset and treat her the way you did. You just don’t because she’s not family or a friend (even if she tries to act like one). She’s your boss.

      Please think about drawing a line between personal and professional. It will likely help you a lot to handle the emotions better in the future.

      1. majigail*

        Ideally, yes, but I think it would be difficult for the OP to extract himself from the personal life situation without it becoming REALLY WEIRD because there was a situation before the hiring (or at least it sounds like there must have been.) Another cautionary tale about hiring friends…

        1. Ruffingit*

          Yeah, I don’t think it’s possible to pull back now. I was saying that more for the future because I could see the OP getting into this situation again since she apparently believes it to be appropriate to have these kinds of personal ties to work. It just isn’t so in the future she needs to be cognizant of that and not get entangled this way after being hired or not take a job with a friend again.

    22. Callie30*

      I am one who is sensitive to noise, so I bring a good set of industrial ear plugs anywhere where I plan to do work and it works well. You may want to try this instead of trying to make the ED change her patterns for you. As Alison said, this is your boss’ call, not yours.

      I would suggest not creating drama when it’s avoidable, which it is completely avoidable here, with a set of ear plugs.

    23. Vicki*


      Your dreamjob isn’t.
      And you can’t be friends with your manager.

      You need to look for another job, in an office setting of more than two people, where you can make cordial acquaintances of your co-workers.

    24. ella*

      I don’t really have advice, except that I feel you on the pain of singledom. My drought has (with a single exception that lasted only nine months) been even longer than yours. And on a general level, I don’t think that asking happily coupled people to be respectful and compassionate towards the unwillingly single is a bad thing.

      However, Alison’s right that the pain that these conversations can cause us is ours to deal with, and it’s not fair or reasonable to expect others to censor themselves around us all of the time. My roommate is very happily coupled, and the walls in our apartment are very thin. It sucks and is awkward on multiple levels when I hear things I don’t want to hear. But on all other levels, she’s respectful and compassionate ,and listens to me vent about being lonely, and it’s not her fault the walls are thin, so I appreciate that the situation I have is 85% reasonable, and buy noise-cancelling headphones for the other 15% of the time.

    25. KrisL*

      Thanks for the follow-up.

      Your boss is not one of your parents. You might want to write out a list of how you want to behave at work and then refer to it until it becomes a habit.

      Attitude problems can end up being a huge problem. Even if you do great work, many managers are not going to find it worth it if they have to deal with an attitude regularly.

    26. Observer*

      I haven’t read most of the responses, so I am most likely inadvertently repeating stuff mentioned later. But some thoughts.

      1. Get yourself a mentor ASAP – someone who is NOT connected to your boss socially. You have some huge blind spots, and someone with an outside perspective can help you identify them.

      2. You need to find a different way of dealing with people and situations than using the silent treatment. It’s hugely destructive to all sorts or relationships, anyway, but in a wok context, it could kill not just a particular job, but your job prospects in general.

      3. There is no such thing as a perfect job. Even awesome bosses make mistakes, and may give an inappropriate reprimand on occasion, or do something else mildly out of line. And, they will CERTAINLY occasionally do things that you disagree with or don’t like. Expecting anything else is just setting yourself up for disappointment and failure.

      4. You should really apologize to your boss. No “buts” or explanations. Just acknowledge that your reaction was unprofessional, and that you are taking steps to avoid repeating these kinds of mistakes.

      5. Allison is correct – you cannot ask your boss to stop taking her lovey – dovey calls anymore. You’ve brought it up, and now it’s in her court. I would normally say that after some time, you could bring up the issue of the volume *if* there really was a good reason not to wear headphones. But, you’re going to have to deal with the fact that it’s only her personal calls that you claim are distracting. That’s not going to fly.

      6. You need to be more open to criticism. That’s not easy. But, it’s hugely important. Your boss may have impugned your thoroughness, even though you thought you were being thorough. But, obviously there was something about your work that she was unhappy about. And, you apparently never acknowledged the problem. You will have a very hard time convincing her or anyone else that you work best with minimal structure when your work product doesn’t seem to be up to par, and your reaction to criticism after the fact is to refuse to acknowledge the problem, perhaps with a dash of office drama.

      7. Stop discussing your boss with mutual friends. You are playing with fire, and this could do you a tremendous amount of damage.

      8. Last, but not least, never shoot of an email while you are worked up.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I think Alison responded on that at some point. It’s not an actual thing (yet) – just something a few of us had proposed. But I think it would be more for people writing about a WTF with their boss or something else, not when the OP is the cause of the WTF, if that makes sense. Most of these questions are very sincere and it would be really sad for someone with a legitimate question to end up there.

  2. BCW*

    Wow. So much immaturity in this letter. First off more than immature and unprofessional, you just sound whiny. Her happiness makes me sad because I’m single is a ridiculous stance to take. Do you get mad when you see people who have pictures of their significant other as well? Its just so ridiculous that I don’t even know how to take it. The fact that you sent the email you sent AND gave her the “silent treatment” is the icing on the cake. While she erred by blurring the lines of professional and personal, at this point you should be thankful for her bad judgment, because if you didn’t have this friendly relationship you probably (and rightly) would have been fired. I’m not one to necessarily harp on age, but really, this attitude is the entire reason that millenials (which I’m a part of that group) get such a bad rap. I don’t even know what to say as far as advice besides grow up and start acting like an adult.

    1. LBK*

      I will say that while I can understand the struggle of feeling like you’re the only person that’s single in a world of couples, it isn’t something that should come out in the workplace. It’s not a totally ridiculous thing to feel (and societal/cultural pressure does not help) but to ask people to alter their behavior to work around it isn’t the right way to go about adjusting. Getting used to not assigning your personal worth to whether or not you have a relationship is the real answer, but it’s not an easy place to get to, especially once you reach the age where every TV show, movie, book, magazine article and seemingly every person in the world considers you a weirdo for being single.

      1. BCW*

        I can’t personally relate to that, but I’m a guy living in Chicago, so I have plenty of single friends. Of course I get lonely at times too, but I can’t imagine expecting someone to not be vocal about their happiness to placate my emotions. Regardless, whatever those emotional triggers or responses are, you need to be able to keep that out of your workplace.

        1. AGirlCalledFriday*

          Just want to mention here – I’m in Chicago too, and I know TONS of people single well through their 30s and it’s no issue. However, I’m from a small town and there, being single in your late 20s is something brought up constantly. I can see that, depending on the OP’s location, while I agree that being single is nothing that should be interfering with your work, it’s possible that – especially if OP is a woman – that this is something she might have to be dealing with constantly outside of work.

          1. Bea W*

            I’m single and childless, so some of my closest friends are also single and childless, because when you get to the point where many people you age are married and have chilren, your lifestyles sort of part ways and you naturally gravitate towards others with similar lifestyles. I also have friends who are raising families, and I never deliberately looked for other people who were single and childless. It just happened, I suspect much like people who are involved in raising a family are often around other parents, and end up interacting in that context way more often than I do as a single non-parent. It naturally sorts itself out that way.

    2. manybellsdown*

      Right. OP, your boss is not being happy AT you. She’s not having phone conversations and being in a relationship just to bludgeon you with your not-partnered-state. Her relationship is a thing that exists and is not about you in any way, even if you’re overhearing it. The issue rests with you.

      I can see that you feel like she’s flaunting her significant other at you, but consider that even with mutual friends she may not even have known you were single, or that it was not by choice. Until you blew up at her, how was she to know you didn’t just prefer living alone with, say, your exotic reptile collection?

      1. fposte*

        And there’s disparities in all kinds of things, and aside from some particular sensitivity in a moment of genuine crisis (don’t kvell about your wedding plans to the friend whose fiance just dumped her) that’s something we all just have to live with. People with kids get to talk about them in front of people who want them; people who had vacations get to talk about them in front of people who didn’t. And we all have some things that other people don’t and talk about them freely, so it’s not like we’re always on the receiving end, either; we’re just disposed to see it that way.

        1. Colette*

          There’s a quote I heard somewhere along the lines of “would you really trade your life for theirs, without even knowing what they’re dealing with?”

          Sure, she’s in a relationship – but maybe she is struggling with illness or has a family member who’s dying, or was abused as a child. Maybe she is close to bankruptcy, or she’s talking to her partner frequently because it’s an abusive relationship and her partner doesn’t trust her. You can’t know everything she’s dealing with from the outside. You can choose to focus on what she has that you don’t, but you can also choose to focus on what you like about your life.

          1. Del*

            I’ve heard something similar! “Don’t envy someone unless you would trade your life for literally, absolutely every single part of theirs.” If you aren’t willing to make that tradeoff, figure that they are paying for their perks with things you wouldn’t want.

            1. Aunt Vixen*

              Or, as the fellow said: “Richard Cory went home last night and put a bullet through his head.”

        2. Ruffingit*

          My life is not an indictment of yours. That’s always the way I’ve seen this sort of thing. Some people seem to think others exist solely to shine a spotlight on their unhappiness or desires. But really, most people are just living their life and doing the things they want to do. They are not actively planning their lives so as to make you the most unhappy possible. That sort of thinking is incredibly egotistical actually.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I wanna borrow this and send it to a couple people. REALLY.

            If a person looks at my life and becomes unhappy with theirs then that is a call to action for that person. Likewise, if I look at someone and my heart sinks a little, that means that I need to step up to the plate more.

            Sometimes we DO remind each other that we could do better or have better. I think that is supposed to happen, it is a means to propel us forward. Of course the ideal rebuttal here, is to have enough going on in one’s own life that life feels full and there is no need to do Comparative Lives 101.

            The idea that having an SO/spouse completes your life is a misconception. Because there is always another level. Next comes the house. Then kids/second house/two dogs/promotion.. there is always something on the horizon “IF only I had…” Magical thinking because that feeling of satisfaction/full life never comes. That is something that is inside us- no externals will provide that.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      Yes! I’m also seeing OP as someone who is oversensitive. To me, someone who is oversensitive is generally someone who is so self-centered that they think every comment, joke, whatever is a about them or a reflection on them. For example, boss makes a romantic phone call and it makes OP feel bad because she’s single: that makes it all about OP. OP gets reprimanded and only sees it from the angle of how it makes her feel and not how she needs to shape up and is the one at fault.
      OP, you need to stop looking at the world in this way – you are setting yourself up for nothing but heartbreak and drama. Working with a coworker who is immature and oversensitive is exhausting. I actually “friendship divorced” a very good friend who was like this because I got fed up walking on eggshells.

      1. ella*

        To be fair…it’s really hard to be unwillingly single for multiple years and not get sensitive about it. I know, I’ve been trying.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          It doesn’t matter – the behavior was ridiculously unprofessional. I am single (I’m 41) and do not have much sympathy when people constantly bemoan their single status. It’s one thing to feel lonely, but it’s quite another thing to drive everyone around you crazy feeling sorry for yourself and never shutting up about how much you hate not having a partner (I am not talking about you specifically).

          1. ella*

            I agree their behavior is unprofessional. My original reading of your comment was that you were focused on their feelings and attitudes, which is what I was responding to. I think we actually agree (reading your comment again I see that you were addressing how their feelings feed into their behavior), but I was bristling at the idea that there’s only a certain amount of sensitivity that I (or the OP) am “allowed” to feel about our situation.

        2. Jess*

          A lot of scenarios are really hard though. And this applies across the board. You can be sensitive about it all you want in your head but it’s not fine to make that known or to expect others to cater to that sensitivity. (And I say this as someone who has been the constant single one amongst my coupled-off friends and colleagues.)

          People who have lost children have to hear colleagues talk about their kids, people with fertility issues have to deal with pregnant coworkers, and on and on. We all just deal and act happy for others when good things happen for them, even if inside we are desperately wishing the same could happen for us.

    4. A Teacher*

      There are also always disparities in life, which I think is hit on well below. Right now its about being single, it could also be about getting married, starting a family, progressing in the work world, buying a home, getting a raise, losing a family member, etc… Its the cycle of life and I say this as someone that is single and in my early 30s its an interesting experience but my path isn’t any easier or harder than the next person’s for the most part, its just different. The response you’re giving your boss is personal and it doesn’t need to be. Will you be angry and give the silent treatment to a friend when they announce they are pregnant? Will you be upset that time when you are stuck in a job and someone else gets an awesome new job? (Had to use awesome) Its not a great outlook on life to be upset about someone else’s happiness.

      1. GoodGirl*

        Your comment is so true. There’s is always going to be something we’re chasing after/working towards, whether it’s a marriage, home, being debt-free, chldren, etc.

        Sadly, I’ve been guilty of feeling the way that the OP does and I have to practice gratitude (a lot) in order to combat it. If you don’t practice gratitude, it’s very likely that pretty much everyone will get on your nerves because as you said, we’re all on different paths and in different stages of life.

        Thanks for sharing this – I needed a “gentle” reminder myself. :)

    5. Chinook*

      Unfortunately, all this commenting on the boss’s actions makes it hard to remember the OP saying “I raised my voice at her a bit when she hinted that she doubted my thoroughness on a task that I had worked on for hours.” and “1) feeling that she doubted my work ethic and meticulousness, two qualities I take great pride in, and 2) the frequency of her romantic phone conversations with her significant other while I sat only 10 feet away.”

      The reality is that point #2 has nothing to do with the quality of work and is just deflecting the issue which should be that the boss had a concern about OP’s work and she got all self-defensive. Having your thouroughness questioned has nothing to do with your work ethic or meticulousness because the boss might have been saying you were focusing on the wrong part of the task. Instead of taking this is an opportunity to find out what the boss really wanted, the OP started putting the blame on the boss and holding herself up as the ideal employee who would succeed if it wasn’t for the working conditions.

      OP, I can’t stress this strongly enough – go back with a clear head and look at what the boss said about your original task and find out if there is anything you could learn from it or if you need clarification. It may be the only way to salvage your job.

    6. Young and the Old*

      “I’m not one to necessarily harp on age, but really, this attitude is the entire reason that millenials (which I’m a part of that group) get such a bad rap.”

      Yep. First thing I felt when I started reading this, too. Ooooooof.

  3. some1*

    Ok, I’m a woman, older than the LW, and not in a relationship. Sometimes that is hard. However, freak-outs like this are why some people pity people (especially women) for being single, inadvertantly leave us out of things, or try to set us up with *anyone*.

    (“Don’t worry some1, you’ll find somebody.” “How come you don’t have a BF??” “Some1 won’t want to come to the group dinner because it’s all couples.” “Do you want to go out with my plumber? He’s in his 50’s and lives with his mom and has never been on a date.”)

    1. Dang*

      Yup. Same here. I’m generally happy being single but do I wish my circumstances were different? Sure do. But it isn’t going to cause me to resent people for being in a relationship.

      Being single doesn’t mean everyone else has to tiptoe around you and act like they are too. I get that it can be uncomfortable and feel awkward but unfortunately that causes some people to react irrationally.

    2. SingleInTheSouth*

      Amen to the “anyone” part of your comment!

      I actually had someone say to me once, “Well, he’s a man and he’s breathing – what more do you need?” Ha! ;)

      1. some1*

        It’s always people offering to set me up, too. I have met a guy through friends and inquired about him, sure, but I’ve never asked anyone to set me up with a stranger!

        Added on to this is the friends and family members who act like you are somehow required to accept every date you get asked out on, even if you aren’t interested in or attracted to the guy.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        some1, there’s a hobo living near my building who is looking good these days. And he got a new cardboard box to live in! Let me know if you want to meet him.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Oh GAWD I hate that, LOL.

        A relative once emailed me the following (roughly): “I found a man for you! He’s the brother of one of my friends. He likes Lord of the Rings like you do. He hasn’t dated in ten years because he got his heart broken. If you want to meet him we can visit and I can introduce you!”

        She was absolutely gobsmacked that I turned her down. She literally did NOT see the giant honking red flag (bolded)!

        1. Ruffingit*

          Geeze yeah. He hasn’t dated in TEN YEARS because of a broken heart? That screams emotionally healthy to me…

    3. EngineerGirl*

      OP, when I was your age my life permanently changed when the love of my life was killed swiftly and suddenly in an accident. The accident was totally the fault of someone else – my love was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. Let me assure you, being single is not the worst thing that could happen. I never found another relationship anywhere near what I had, and never again met anyone that I really wanted. (The pool of men that like geeky stubborn women is smaller than most) I am now approaching 60. MY LIFE DID NOT END.
      Here’s the thing. Happiness depends on happenstance (hence the similarity of names). It depends on circumstances you can’t control. Joy, on the other hand, depends on peace within yourself. It does not depend on externals. So seek joy instead.
      Yes, it is annoying when people keep setting you up with “such a nice man”. It is more annoying when someone at work says they don’t want to promote you because “there must be something wrong with you because you are single”. It is annoying when men try to rescue you from your singleness and get angry when you turn down their dates. It’s annoying, but that’s all it is.
      You are allowing your circumstances to dictate your happiness in life. And it is affecting everything in your life negatively. Stop depending on others to make your life happen and make it happen yourself. You, and you only can make yourself happy.

      1. Jean*

        Hugs to Engineer Girl (and apologies if I’m overreacting b/c it sure sounds like you’ve managed to have a good life in spite of the way-too-early loss of your true love). Kudos to you, Fposte, Colette and anyone else who has commented that life isn’t fair; we all get problems, even if they all aren’t always visible to onlookers; and funny enough, given a chance to trade in our troubles we’d probably choose to keep them because at least they are familiar challenges.

        Blunt summary: Every garden gets manure, but we can choose whether to plant flowers or passively grow weeds.

      2. Dang*

        Hats off to you for a great comment, EngineerGirl. I’m sorry that happened to you but so glad that you’ve found joy in life after tragedy.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Totally get this. There are so many things in life to experience and enjoy. There are so many people to meet who have done things I will never do, yet they are so happy to tell me all about it. And I actually enjoy that, too.

        How’s that song go–“If one door won’t open, I hope you keep going until you find a window.”… okay, that is not the exact line. Sometimes we have to look for that opening, other times it’s right in front of us.

        EG: I am so sorry for your loss.

  4. Anoners*

    I think you need to have a frank and honest convo with your manager and clear the air. Apologize, tell her you’ve realized how inappropriate you’ve been acting, and move on and try to get back to a normal work life. I’m sure this will blow over in a week or so if you stop with the antics.

    1. H. Vane*

      To tack on to this, I think it’d be a good idea to set up some professional boundries with your boss – in a nice, tactful way, since you don’t want her to think you’re being any more petty than you already have been. Let her know that you recognize how unprofessional you behavoir has been, it won’t happen again, and oh, by the way, no we can’t go shopping together on Saturday or whatever.

  5. Jaimie*

    I don’t even quite understand how this went from “my work product is fine, and how dare you criticize me for it” to “the reason my work isn’t up to par is because I can’t stand to listen to your phone calls.”

    This just doesn’t compute, so I am guessing there is more to the story.

    You can’t ask your boss to stop having these calls. It isn’t her fault that you are single and unhappy about it (I assume you don’t ask your friends to not discuss their happiness as well). This is your own thing, and you need to deal with it. I say this as someone who was single for a looooong time.

    Your boss sounds really nice. She’s trying to reach out to you without actually modifying her behavior (which she doesn’t have to do). She’s right– buy some headphones and see if you can’t adjust your attitude.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      Yes, that is a little bit out of left field. “My work is fine and why are you criticizing it” jumps right to “I can’t concentrate because you’re too mushy in the office!” and might be leading your boss to the conclusion of “what a weird complaint to make.”

      1. Jaimie*

        It seems sort of like a projection thing, maybe the OP is struggling to face the fact that her work isn’t perfect (but no one’s is!), so she’s found a way to turn this around to make it about the boss’ behavior instead of about her work product.

        1. Program Manager/Managing Editor working in the publishing industry*

          Yes, this was how I read it also. It sounds like what the OP is actually upset about is the work criticism, but is using the phone calls to level the playing field a bit.

          I think the bigger issue with this whole thing is that the OP did not take the bosses criticsim well. The boss has every right to critique the OPs work, and the OP raised her voice when the boss did so. And to make it worse, the OP sent the boss an unprofessional email in the heat of the moment.

          OP, throughout your career you will hear criticism of your work, even work you know you did well. It will serve you better to listen to criticism with an open mind for ideas as to how you can improve. It’s possible the bosses criticisms were unfounded/unfair, but she is still your boss and gets to say what your work product should look like.

      2. Marian the Librarian*

        I totally agree that it’s a strange jump to make, and, OP, it’s pretty unacceptable to counter negative feedback from your boss by attacking your boss’s behavior. It sounds like you were defensive rather than open when she gave you negative feedback: she said, “Your work isn’t up to par because [whatever reason],” and you said, “How could you question my work ethic? It’s only because of YOUR distracting phone calls that remind me of my singleness that my work wasn’t great this time.” Here are some steps to take:

        1) First of all, stop this “silent treatment” thing right away. Even if she calls her SO from her desk every day until you leave the job. It’s not okay to do this to anyone, let alone your boss. She even took steps (like going in the kitchen) to make you feel more comfortable. And here’s the thing–she didn’t have to. She could have fired/reprimanded you instead for being unprofessional. And that would have been a reasonable response, as others have pointed out.

        2) Next time you get feedback from your boss, take a deep breath and try to receive it gracefully rather than feeling insulted. It seems like there’s a weird dynamic here where your boss is your friend(?) or a friend of your friends(?) but on the job she’s still your boss, which means that feedback is about the job rather than about your personality. If she says “This work isn’t up to par,” it’s not because she’s questioning your work ethic and therefore saying you are a bad person, she’s saying that the work wasn’t up to par. It’s great that you pride yourself on attention to detail, but for whatever reason this particular thing slipped under your radar.

        3) Ask what you can do better. In this situation, I wouldn’t try to draw further attention to my poor behavior by bringing it up again–ESPECIALLY because it all has to do with your personal life (talking about the phone calls/silent treatment here). Stop by your boss’s desk or shoot her an email and say that you’ve considered her feedback (about the work, NOT the phone calls) deeply and would like to take steps to ensure that your work is up to par next time. If you know what those steps are, outline them for your boss to make sure that she knows you’re going to be on top of things in the future. If you don’t, ask your boss what steps/procedures SHE would like you to take to ensure that the work is up to quality in the future.

        Honestly, I bet if your complaint about the phone calls was phrased in a polite way and came at a different time rather than as a counter-attack to her negative feedback, you would have gotten a more positive reaction from her. Even with this unprofessional behavior, she is taking steps to ensure your comfort in the workplace–let me reiterate, she really didn’t have to do this. As Jaime said, buy some headphones and start treating your boss professionally again.

    2. Blue Anne*

      I can kind of see it – if the OP was annoyed about the phone calls but (correctly!) pretending she wasn’t, she could be already stewing. Then a work issue comes up and she snaps about both things.

      I am sometimes guilty of this behavior – not with my boss, thank goodness, but with my husband!

      1. Ms Enthusiasm*

        Yeah but now I think the OP needs to be careful. The way I took it was the phone calls went from just annoying to being “borderline harassment”. OP, you really want to be careful throwing the word Harassment around. I understand you are angry at the situation but what you are suggesting is very serious.

  6. Barbara in Swampeast*

    Oh dear. AAM has it right that this is no way to treat your manager. You can choose to not be chatty, but giving the silent treatment and pointedly ignoring people is childish and certainly will not create good relationships with managers, coworkers, or friends. You’re whole letter was about YOU. Life is not about you. You need to chill out and learn to ignore certain behaviors of other people and how to communicate effectively on matters that can’t be ignored.

  7. Cruciatus*

    As I kept scrolling down and saw that the italicized part seemed unending I actually said “whoa” aloud at my desk. Alison covered everything I would have said–especially the part about it being inappropriate to ask other people to rein in their happiness because it makes you unhappy or points out your own issues. I won’t pile on, but I hope the OP rereads everything and feels silly now looking back on it. I hope this venting will help her realize how inappropriate the whole thing was and move on to become a more pleasant employee.

  8. Anon Accountant*

    Wow. I recommend a very sincere apology and additionally focusing on ensuring professionalism in further dealings plus on doing a stellar job. I’d suggest being a model employee going forward- the poster child for professionalism in the workplace.

    Can you listen to music from an Ipod or computer since your boss suggested headphones? Noise cancelling/noise isolating headphones can be wonderful and a worthwhile investment.

  9. Paloma Pigeon*

    OP, you are letting your personal issues interfere with your work professionalism. Deal with the personal off-line and your work attitude will improve. It can be hard to recognize when pent up feelings bleed into interactions that have nothing to do with them, but I think you would be less bothered by these calls if you took the time to unpack your feelings about being single in a therapeutic setting. The out-of-proportion reaction you are having to them is a huge wake up call.

  10. Dang*

    I’m going to ignore the obvious points here… and agree with AAM’s advice!

    But I will definitely say that I’ve worked in a 2 person office before and it’s definitely hard. I think that’s even more of a reason to smooth this over and try your best to get along, ignore the things that get on your nerves, and keep the environment light and productive. Start with a sincere apology and go from there.

    1. Noelle*

      I agree about the two person office thing. It’s like launching an arctic expedition with only two people. Soon they’ll be at each other’s throats. Even just having a third person around to balance things out helps.

      1. Lizzie*

        I don’t know whether three is better- I think that might end up with 2 people in an “alliance” and the third being on the outskirts. But maybe I spend too much time on elementary school playgrounds.

        1. Noelle*

          That’s definitely a possibility, this was just something I heard on the History Channel once. I think the issue was that if you’re just with one other person, you get personality clashes almost immediately, whereas having another person around as a witness/buffer makes everyone behave better. Not sure if it works in practice though.

          1. AMT*

            I don’t know why the History Channel thing coupled with the two-vs.-one alliance thing made my mind immediately jump to cannibalism, but it did.

            1. Del*

              Hey, probably better than me, all I could think of was Michael Crichton’s Sphere and all the bloviating about groups of three being inherently unstable.

              Hmm, cannibalism or pompous pseudo-scientific babble?

        2. Hunny*

          I worked in a 3 person office. When I moved on the boss made my replacement and coworker work in different offices. She didn’t want her employees to gang up on her (figuratively). Its a shame, in a way, because sharing an office was a great learning experience and helped me learn a lot about a new field.

      2. Sal*

        I actually like threes the best. The intimacy of a two, but without the pressure to either be talking or actively listening/interacting the entire time.

        1. Ruffingit*

          So I just read this as the definition of menage a trois. Because my mind works like that. Thanks for the laugh :)

    2. Jax*

      I share an office with my junior partner, and it’s tough. It reminds me of college roommates and prison cellmates all mixed up together. We have to get along (and we do for the most part) but there are days when one or both of us are thinking, “I HATE YOU.”

      It’s best to let the little things slide. I get annoyed when my coworker surfs dating websites and giggles over the back and forth texting with guys she’s met from there. But she’s a big help to me and more than pulls her own weight with the workload, so I’m choosing to ignore the silliness. (If she starts slacking on her work, then that’s another issue!)

      1. Ruffingit*

        You know, that’s a good point right there: But she’s a big help to me and more than pulls her own weight with the workload, so I’m choosing to ignore the silliness. (If she starts slacking on her work, then that’s another issue!)

        I just don’t care what someone is doing at work so long as they are pulling their weight. If the boss wants to have romantic chat with her boyfriend, more power to her. I’ll put headphones on and Spotify and I will have a lovely afternoon together. It just seems so strange to me that people care so much about what other people are doing at work. Clearly the OP is way over the line in her concern about this and that’s been addressed so I won’t go into it again here. I’m just saying that if more people adopted the attitude of “Do what you want as long as you’re pulling your weight” we’d all be better off.

      2. GH*

        I’m pretty senior in my line of work, and I’ve had private offices ever since I promoted from Assistant to Creative. A couple of years ago, we had a crunch on a project I was on, and got budget to bring on an extra person. The office I was in was larger than most others, because I’d replaced a team that had been fired. There was much discussion of how to juggle the offices around so that the two junior people would have to share an office and I would move into a smaller, but private one. Despite my inner reservations, I volunteered that they should just put the new person at the other desk in my office — I knew it would be more efficient, and also I *really* didn’t like the little office I was supposed to move to. Everyone appreciated my flexibility and team-player-ness.

        The my astonishment, it was GREAT sharing an office! We didn’t judge each other’s personal calls, of course. We got to know each other but we were also good at limiting our chat and at inspiring each other to work. I’m sure it helped that that set-up only lasted a few months (we were all on contract and the project was only 8 months altogether), but it was one of those great lessons for me — something I expected to endure turned out to be a perk.

  11. Celeste*

    I think you need to be honest with yourself about whether you’re cut out to work someplace where you don’t have privacy. It sounds as if you are easily distracted, and maybe you need to work on that. If headphones in this office won’t work, maybe when you hear an incoming call, it’s a good time to take a break and give your boss some space. You are both assuming that the other one doesn’t need privacy.

    You might really benefit from talking to a therapist about the ways that you behave in relationships; this surely is one, and you showed you have a lot of beliefs about why you behave as you do. If you do want to be in a committed relationship with somebody, you are going to need MUCH better tools than silent treatment, waiting for olive branches so you can accept or reject them, and talking about it to people who are not in the relationship.

    In other words, I think you have work to do.

    1. some1*

      “If you do want to be in a committed relationship with somebody, you are going to need MUCH better tools than silent treatment, waiting for olive branches so you can accept or reject them, and talking about it to people who are not in the relationship.”

      Incredibly insightful comment, Celeste. And LW, do you want to be in a relationship with a man who would accept that type of behavior from his GF?

      1. Anonsie*

        “Do you want to be in a relationship with a man who would accept that type of behavior from his GF?”

        Oh man, I see this all the time– where I have a friend who thinks their boy/girlfriend is great because they don’t mind when my friend pulls immature, bratty crap on them on a regular basis. No one ever believes me that they actually DO NOT WANT someone who expects no better of you.

    2. Marian the Librarian*

      I have to say the “olive branches” thing really threw me for a loop as well. This behavior of purposefully waiting for an apology or peace offering and rejecting/ignoring them, then summarily rejecting the boss’s efforts to modify her behavior to make OP comfortable is just manipulative and controlling. It is an appalling way to behave in both professional and personal relationships.

      1. AMT*

        This! And the parenthetical: “I could tell this really frustrated her.” Anyone who would consider her manager’s frustration a good thing is not someone I’d want to work with.

        1. Celeste*

          Yes! Anytime you induce frustration on purpose in a relationship–you are in the wrong.

      2. Kit M.*

        Yes! I just did a control-F for “controlling”. This is no way to treat a friend, co-worker, or a boss. I understand shutting up because you know no good will come of speaking, but that’s not what the OP is describing — she’s just punishing her boss. There’s a lot in this thread about how the employee may be young or inexperienced. Well, sounds like the boss is, too, and she’s been put in a terrible situation I wouldn’t wish on anyone who hadn’t acted in malice.

  12. SingleInTheSouth*

    First of all, let me just say that I completely sympathize with you on the singleness issue, OP. I’m in my early 30s, still unmarried, and living in an area where many people get married in their early 20s. I’ve actually had people I work with say things like, “Wow…you’re still single? What’s wrong with you? What are you doing wrong that you can’t snag a man?” I’ve also be unfairly discriminated against at work because of my singleness.

    But all that being said, I’ll echo AAM said about unprofessionalism. You cannot let your own insecurities get in the way of your professionalism. I know it probably doesn’t seem like it at the moment, but your boss did you a huge favor by talking to you about this rather than just firing you. (FWIW, it sounds like she might not be the most professional person either if she’s having “romantic conversations” at work, but that’s beside the point. I once had a boss who used to do pills in her office – not everyone is a role model for professional behavior, believe me.)

    I’ve been in your shoes. I know how it feels. My advice would be to do some soul searching and really figure out the root of your insecurities. I can’t tell you how much I regret letting my singleness bother me in my 20s and how much energy/time I wasted.

    1. SCW*

      Amen! I wish my singleness bothered other people less. My mother is of the mind that not having children is tragedy, and not getting married the worst thing ever. She has come around to single me, but the rest of my community struggles with it. It isn’t an issue at work, because at work I am focused on work, and learned long ago the importance of leaving outside of work issues outside.

      1. Andrea*

        I’m married but childfree, but I think I can relate, because nosy strangers and extended family members are always commenting on it and asking questions. The difference is that some single people want to be coupled, and we are childfree, not childless or infertile: we never wanted kids, anyway. So at least the comments we get are just rude and not hurtful. Being on the receiving end, I know a little about what it feels like, and I never comment or ask about that stuff with people, even friends. They’ll tell me if it’s my business, and in the meantime, there are more interesting things to talk about and more welcome questions to ask. Most people just don’t think about this very much, or they feel more comfortable with their own lives if others have made the same choices. But that’s about them.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Childfree by choice here too. It’s ridiculous what people will say. I especially love this one: “Who will take care of you when you’re old??” Seriously? I should have children as an insurance policy for when I’m old? How does that even make sense and how unfair is it to try and tag another human being with a job before they’re even conceived? It’s ridiculous. Check out all the nursing homes with people whose family never visit and then tell me how it’s a great idea to bring kids into the world with the job of caretaking me when I’m old. Stellar plan there.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            There is no guarantee or law saying that children must care for their parents. I think it is lonelier to have children that do not show up than to have no children at all. I see lots of parents in pain, often, over that sticking point.

    2. AVP*

      So so so cosigning on this as another long-time single person.

      OP- I understand the insecurity, and feeling like everyone secretly thinks there’s something wrong with you, or that they’re setting out to make you feel uncomfortable and are purposely PDA-ing in front of you as some sort of pointed commentary. But it’s one of those things where you’re hypersensitive to it if you’re the single person, and barely thinking about it if you’re not.

      If your depression/insecurity over this is clouding your judgment in such a way that it’s putting your professional life in jeopardy (which it seems to be), it might be worth it to book a few targeted sessions with a therapist who you can talk all this out with.

    3. thenoiseinspace*

      I always find the concept of “snagging a man” really funny. It just gives me this mental image of men running around in circles gobbling like turkeys and then a pack of women with butterfly nets chasing after them.

      It’s offensive to both sexes, really, so the more I can laugh at it, the better.

      1. SingleInTheSouth*

        I literally just LOLed at your illustration of “snagging a man.” Time for me to get out the butterfly nets and go hunting! haha

        All joking aside, I completely agree with you about it being offensive to both genders.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        That’s the same reason I hate those stupid wedding cake toppers where the bride has the man by the collar and is dragging him. It’s as bad as if the groom were dragging her.

        1. LPBB*

          I loathe those cake toppers. They are horrible and play on harmful stereotypes. I do not understand people who actually buy and put them on their cakes.

          1. Simonthegrey*

            We used a statue of two dragons as our cake topper, because so many of those out there are offensive.

          2. Nina*

            I googled “funny wedding cake toppers” and a LOT of them are playing on gender stereotypes; usually with the bride dragging the stubborn, immature groom. It’s pretty disheartening.

      3. Windchime*

        Butterfly net! Of course; why didn’t I think of that before! I’ve wasted a lot of time digging pits and covering them with branches; that never seems to work.

      4. LJL*

        the image of I get is of a trap like a bear trap, probably baited with a football and a six-pack. As you say, offensive to both sexes!

    4. Jennifer*

      “I’ve actually had people I work with say things like, “Wow…you’re still single? What’s wrong with you? What are you doing wrong that you can’t snag a man?” I’ve also be unfairly discriminated against at work because of my singleness.”

      I would be seriously inclined to say something like, “Well, I’m a horrible person and nobody wants me.” I mean, really, how do they EXPECT you to answer that question?! What the hell kind of response are they fishing for by saying that?

      My shrink recommends bursting into tears and running from the room, a tactic that she claims really works well on relatives.

      1. Leah*

        Would it make you feel better to know that the people who ask that kind of thing don’t get better?
        If you’re in a relationship, it’s, “So, why aren’t you engaged/married?”
        If you’re married, “So, still no kids?” “Why don’t you have/want kids?”
        If you have a kid, “So when are you going to give your kid a playmate?”

        So on and so forth. I try to minimize exposure to them when I can although sometimes it is unavoidable or unforeseeable. Sometimes, I want to climb the mountain of conflict and just throw down about their rudeness. I generally stick to the tried and true method of looking confused, cocking my head sideways and say, “Why do you ask?” or, if I’m feeling snippy and I might get awaya with it, “Huh, what a personal question.”

        1. GoodGirl*

          Very true, Leah. I had someone on my team who would ask me every day when my boyfriend and I were getting married. It was really annoying after awhile. Finally, I had to point blank tell the co-worker, “I’ll let you know as soon as my relationship status changes, but please don’t ask me about it anymore.” They haven’t mentioned it since.

        2. Kelly O*

          If one more person says “oh are you sure you don’t want another?” I may just let them have it.

          “But she’s such a doll! You can’t tell me you don’t want more!!” – which usually happens 3.9 seconds before or after a thrashing on the ground hissy fit regarding the fact that I will not let her watch Peppa Pig for the 345,983th time. Or, you know, jump off the top of the treehouse at the park.

      2. TL*

        Wait.. do people actually ask you that?

        People have kinda hinted around that with me, but I’ve always been like, “Haven’t met anyone up to my standards and I wouldn’t be happy with anything less, plus I’m perfectly happy now.” I’ve never had anyone outright ask that, though.

        1. anonintheUK*

          I’ve had other women tell me I’m too picky. I don’t think they realise quite what they are telling me.

          1. TL*

            I think the response to that is: If they’re not going to make me happier in a couple than I am as a single person, I don’t see the point. And let me assure you, anything less than X standards will not make me happier.
            Ug. People have some messed-up views sometimes.

          2. Bea W*

            My mother just assumed any older woman who had never been married and had children was a lesbian, and that any woman they were friends with was likely their lover. Um. No. She also seemed to assume women cheated on their husbands all the time and speculated way too much on whether people, even her husband and his siblings, really all had the same father. So…yeh…there you go! It’s obvious! Women need to be with a man, so much so that they may need to be with more than one man, and anyone who doesn’t is obviusly into women. *eye roll*

        2. Jamie*

          A lifelong single friend of my mom’s used to answer the question with:

          “I am single because I haven’t yet met the man who deserves to be as happy as I would make him.”

          As a kid it always made me laugh.

      3. SingleInTheSouth*

        I’ve started to respond by saying things like, “Better to be alone than married to a man child.” (Several people I work(ed) with are married to guys that I think are pretty worthless).

      4. Yogi Josephina*

        I…really, really think I need to try that. I’m serious. The next time someone says that, I’m totally gonna get all straight-faced and just bluntly say, “I suck and I’m totally unwanted by anyone.” And then just stand there and wait. And wait. And make the person SUPER uncomfortable. Oh, that’d be glorious.

        1. A Cita*

          I’ve actually done that! :) But I’ve said straight faced, “Because I’m a loser.” Waited. They laughed. Laughter died down to nervous chuckles. Silence. I walked away. Wasn’t asked again. :)

    5. Anonylicious*

      I just tell people that my long-term singleness is part of a plan to one day be the easiest broad in the nursing home. That usually shuts them down.

      1. A Cita*

        You joke, but actually that’s were STDs are on the increase in the U.S.

        But, nothing a little bit of protection can’t solve. :)

  13. Katie the Fed*

    OP –

    Alison said everything more politely than I could dream, and I’m going to respect her wishes to not dogpile on you.

    But, if I can give you some general advice – you need to think of work in the appropriate bounds. It is a job. You are being paid to accomplish tasks. That’s fundamentally what a job is.

    When you’re young especially it can be easy for work to become the replacement for high school or college or whatever – your source of social fulfillment, drama, relationships, etc. But it’s not that. It’s a job. You are being paid to provide a service. Nothing more, nothing less.

    So all of this – this drama, these long-drawn out emails explaining your feelings, your sadness about being single – that is all noise and it’s keeping you and your colleagues from doing your job.

    You and your manager are not friends. You may be friendly but the nature of your professional relationship with her means that you CANNOT be friends in the truest sense of the word. She is your boss. Treat her as your boss, even if you don’t respect her. Just treat her like it – everything will go a whole lot better.

    I’ll respond about your singleness separately.

    1. MurphyB*

      I agree with Katie, and I hope you know we all mean these things kindly. However…

      I also urge you to re-read your original email and response on the thread from the perspective of someone else – pretend you’re the boss, or that a friend is telling you the story. I understand how a 2-person office can be difficult, but almost everything about the situation reads as overly dramatic to me.

      As someone who learned a harsh lesson about tone-deafness and self awareness early on (by being fired), let me tell you:

      The thing that jumps out about this at me is your intense focus on how all this affects YOU. As hard as it can be…it’s not all about YOU. When you’re at work, it’s almost never about YOU alone; it’s about the job, professionalism, and mature and thoughtful interaction.

    2. SherryD*

      Very well said.

      I have so much compassion for the OP. I had a similar experience at my first professional job in my mid-20s. I brought my emotional issues to work, and treated coworkers unfairly. When you’re having strong negative emotions, it genuinely seems like those feelings are the only thing that matters, but the fact is that they don’t belong within the bounds of the workplace. Yes, even when you think your coworkers are causing those emotions.

      Learning the lesson the hard way sucks, but at least it’s learnt!

  14. Lizzie*

    Based on the overall tone of this letter, I seriously doubt that the boss’s conversations with her SO cross the work-appropriate line. There is no mention that they take hours on end, that they involve anything remotely sexual, or anything else that’s actually problematic- so I’m willing to bet that they’re more like a “Hey hon, how was your day? What do you want for dinner?” kind of thing. The reaction here is bizarre. OP, think about what you’re saying. Reminders of her personal life make you mad because you’re not happy with your personal life. That’s not an appropriate way to operate in a workplace. The way you’re acting is seriously bad news.

  15. Adam*

    I am single and sort of wish I wasn’t. It can suck sometimes when all (and I mean ALL) of your good friends are married and even have kids now while you’re still “table for one”. But learning to appreciate myself and be genuinely happy for others has made being single mostly ok for me. I would find this manager’s constant lovey dovey conversations annoying sure, but mostly because listening to anyone be constantly shmoopy can get on your nerves regardless of your relationship status. I’d plug in some headphones and ignore it, and MAYBE joke about it with friends (who aren’t connected to her) afterwards.

    1. Jennifer*

      I wish headphones actually worked for blocking out conversations, though. They really only work so well, even when you have them cranked up to 11. But that’s about all you can do.

      1. Adam*

        Interestingly, my headphones seem to cancel most other noise out with the music on, and they cost less than $15. In addition I’m fairly good at tuning out conversations I’m not interested in hearing.

        1. Bea W*

          I just use the ones that came with my phone. Can’t hear a thing, including when my boss, who is naturally loud, walks up to my desk and starts talking to me. I don’t even have to turn the volume up too much either.

        2. Jennifer*

          Yeah, but I can’t use noise cancelers or anything that really blocks sound because people are constantly coming up on me from behind and talking to me, and I have to have the volume down enough to hear them ignoring my headphones. Feh, but there it is.

      2. Windchime*

        I find that mine work best when I play a white noise app through them. I find working with music playing to be distracting, so I just hook my noise-cancelling headphones to my phone and play my white noise app. Works great for me. Except putting my headphones on seems to cause people to want to come and talk to me.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Me too. I sit in the middle of phone support people and while they reduce the talking to a level where the music can usually drown it out, it doesn’t block it. I can’t afford the blocking ones.

  16. Overkill*

    Curious to know how the boss would behave on the phone if and when the relationship sours or ends! Yikes!

    In any event, it’s not your place to dictate how she behaves, unless what you were hearing could amount to sexual harassment, were the boss so inclined/orientated. Same for colleagues, I might add, coming from someone who was yelled at for sighing at the ‘wrong time.’

  17. Rachel*

    Besides all the excellent advice above: you have got to figure out some way to come to terms with your current single status.

    From this letter and your comments, it’s hard for me to tell if your boss’s phone calls were of the inappropriate romantic sort, or if she just liked to spend lunch on the phone with her significant other. Talking to a significant other? Isn’t necessarily romantic. Unless those phone calls are actually romantic in nature, this seems even more out of proportion, because what are people supposed to do – pretend that they doesn’t have a SO around you?

    Being single while everyone else is coupled can really suck. But something is making you react exceptionally badly to your single status right now, and figuring that out will make you a happier person. Other people’s relationships have nothing to do with your lack of one.

  18. The Bookworm*

    I hope everyone remembers this letter before they hit “send” for an e-mail written when upset or in an emotional frame of mind.

    I’ve never sent a nasty e-mail in a work situation, but I did something similar to a now ex-friend. (should have been an ex-friend long before I sent the e-mail.) I don’t regret losing the friend, but I regret sending that e-mail.

    1. Blue Anne*

      Yes! This is a good cautionary tale.

      Go ahead, write the angry email, save it to drafts, and go to sleep. Then see if you still want to send it the next day. Avoids so many problems…

    2. AMT*

      Very insightful. You can dislike someone intensely and still not want to behave nastily toward them!

  19. Kelly O*

    OP, not to make you feel like this is a pile-on, but you really do need to let this go, step back and think about how you’re behaving.

    Things just seem all over the place, and although I absolutely understand wanting to make things right, sometimes the best way to right a problem is to just let it go.

    Your boss’ relationship is not about you, nor are her phone calls. Learning to tune out things is a valuable office skill (trust me, we have a lot of shared space and thin walls. It’s handy.) Perhaps it’s time to focus more on your own work rather than what’s going on at the next desk.

    Just let it go. I know it’s a lot easier to say stop worrying about it than it is to do it, but this is one of those times you have GOT to let it go. Stop talking with mutual friends, because that makes it worse. If you have to vent, find a sympathetic friend who is not associated (you’ll find that you wind up damaging more than just one relationship when you try shoving people in the middle of things.)

    Focus on your own work. Let the relationship part of things go. Get your own stuff done, be a good employee, and show the boss with your actions that this is over. You CAN say too much. I’ve done it. Many of us have. Pardon the bluntness of how this will sound, but “get off the cross and use the wood to build a bridge so you can get over it” is applicable.

    Understand I don’t mean that as harshly as it may sound. But either deal with this or find another job. And understand that your actions may cause your boss and others to decide you’re not a good fit. Especially if you have no contract and are in an at-will state (as most of us are.)

  20. Lizzie*

    I just want to address this line:

    “The conversations put my focus in the office on my “singledom,” while I ought to be focusing on my work instead.”

    No- they don’t. They may put YOUR focus on your relationship status, but they do not put the office’s focus on your relationship status. No one else is thinking about your relationship status like you are. It’s not important to them, because you are there in a professional capacity. They care about your work and professionalism, not who you’re seeing. Unfortunately, you’ve shown them a real lack of professionalism with this situation.

    1. fposte*

      And “I believe that my boss having them while knowing they affect my productivity in a negative way is borderline harassment”?

      No. That is nowhere *near* harassment, and bringing the word into the situation so inappropriately is an indication that perspective is lacking here.

      1. Jessa*

        OP – No, no, no can we please not inflate the word harassment to mean just anything annoying? It fosters the idea that any complaint is groundless.

        If it’s messing with your productivity you need to find a way to deal. And that does not mean changing your boss. It could mean headphones, it could mean asking to turn your desk in a way that lowers the noise or getting a baffle/screen next to your desk (I’m really sorry boss, but the conversations distract me, is it okay if I put this cool Victorian screen here?) Okay that’s a bit muchish. but seriously. Unless those conversations really rise to harassment (boss keeps cussing someone out, talking about sex in seriously descriptive language…) the discussion needs to focus on how YOU can stop being distracted. Not on how the boss needs to stop doing things in an office.

    2. SRMJ*

      Yes, exactly. No one forces the OP to think about her relationship status; that’s all her doing. I understand it’s an unpleasant thing to dwell on, but claiming the conversations force her focus onto her singledom is not her boss’ problem. It’s her problem and it’s for her to fix – not for her boss to adjust her behavior so as to avoid making the OP thing sad thoughts. OP, don’t make people feel like they have to walk on eggshells around you and speak in exactly the right way to avoid your ire. Bad for relationships of any type, but especially bad for you if it’s a work relationship!

    3. LizB*

      This! You’re right that you ought to be focusing on your work instead of your relationship status — but it’s your job to make sure that’s happening. It might have been possible before all this drama to enlist your boss’s help in that, but that ship has really, really sailed. At this point, get some good headphones, maybe find some music or white noise that helps you focus (I recommend + instrumental music), and just try to tune out your boss’s conversations with her SO. I also think you should consider getting some emotional support from a therapist or from friends who aren’t at all connected to your work — it sounds like you’re in a lot of pain, and having somewhere to process that pain outside of work may also help your focus.

  21. Red Librarian*

    As a 32 year old woman who has been single for 5 years, I understand that it can be frustrating. But as her direct report, it is not in your place to tell her what calls she can and cannot make. I’d take her advice and just put in headphones or listen to music, she’s clearly given you permission to do just that.

    I suspect your social connection to your boss is blinding your professional interactions. More than anything else, I would recommend no longer venting to mutual friends. That puts them in a very awkward position and isn’t fair to them.

    This is between you and your boss on a professional level, not a personal one, yet the way you are behaving suggests you are treating her like a friend you are mad at, not a boss you are having difficulties with.

    1. Zillah*

      I would add to that, though, that while headphones are a good fix for something like this, it’s really important to not get huffy about it. If the OP is still feeling annoyed/resentful over the situation – or even if the boss just perceives that they are, because of past behavior – I can see how plugging headphones in every time the boss dials the phone could also come off a bit like a temper tantrum. OP, headphones are a great idea, but be careful that you’re not coming off as rude when you use them.

  22. Del*

    Since everyone’s covering the big points here (raising your voice to your boss, really? Blaming her personal phone conversations for you feeling bad? Come on OP!), I want to touch on a couple other things that are also standing out to me, although they’re not the biggest WTFs of this question.

    I feel that she probably believes I don’t respect her authority, which could not be more untrue. I work better and am more focused and productive when there is a culture of workplace harmony and open communication, and when I’m able to be completely accountable to my boss without hating her at the same time. My boss, on the other hand, has never managed people in her career till now and seems to have taken my concerns as a sign that she needs to consolidate her power and add more structure to my work experience—which she feel might be a good move on her part but is exactly the wrong direction from how I best work.

    This whole letter, and every aspect of your behavior that you have described to us, is dripping with a lack of respect for your boss and her authority. I would not be at all surprised if she thinks you don’t respect her, because you’re giving her all these signs that you don’t!

    Brutal honesty time: it is nice when your workplace atmosphere provides the environment you work best in. If it doesn’t, short of harassment or other really inappropriate behavior, that is your problem. Your boss is not required to coddle you by providing everything just the way you like it. Part of being professional is accepting that sometimes circumstances aren’t what you’d prefer, and dealing with it anyway.

    Also this:

    I have much less respect for callous power-hoarders, but as a new manager she seems to have headed gradually in that direction, a bit wary perhaps that her direct report might be increasingly insubordinate

    First of all, you’ve only been on the job for two months — as workplaces go, that’s not enough time to see “gradually” anything. You’re working out your fit, still, and your boss is working out how to manage you. You’ve shown that you blow up over a) criticism of your performance (that “she doubted my thoroughness” part at the beginning of your question) which is a part of her job to provide to you, and b) personal interactions that are none of your business anyway. This is going to color how she handles you, because this is a valid and pretty major discipline issue. And the fact that you’re regarding this as power-hoarding (what power? she is your boss, of course she has the power here!) rather than as a shift in management based on your behavior is really, really troubling.

    Being professional means behaving respectfully toward your boss. You may not feel respectful, but you need to act like it. This means no blowing up, no raising your voice, no silent treatment (!!!! This is petty as hell, LW. Really?), and no “well after I misbehaved she is refusing to cater to my preferences.”

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      That last part is ESPECIALLY problematic. Going from an easygoing relationship with your boss to describing her as “a callous power-hoarder” is hardly indicative of a strong workplace relationship. Especially when the description comes right after a reprimand.

      1. fposte*

        Right. I think it’s true that the manager is a little inexperienced, but that’s working to the OP’s benefit right now, in that she’s getting slack cut her that a more experienced manager wouldn’t have granted.

    2. JustMe*

      Just want to also add that giving your boss the silent treatment, raising your voice to her, and sending her a long e-mail critiquing her judgment completely undermine your statement about working best in a culture of workplace harmony and open communication. Because by doing those things, you aren’t truly contributing to that culture. You are actually just enjoying having those benefits extended to *you* without being gracious enough to extend them to someone else–and, with that other person just happening to be your boss, it’s doubly bad. You even said she extended an olive branch to you (which she didn’t have to), which you ignored–another point against the “harmonious workplace” vibe you said you enjoy.

      Especially if you are a two-person office, you literally contribute the other half of the office culture. I would imagine that your boss has probably let some annoying things you’ve done slide, and (rightfully) expected you would reciprocate. Also, consider this from her point of view: she probably likes an open, easygoing office, too–your making a fuss about her personal calls is probably stifling that once-enjoyable environment for her, as well. Another point: if you have a relationship with your boss outside of work, and you are the only other person in the office, that may have factored into her decision to hire someone she knew. Meaning, she knew you well enough to believe you’d be great to work with. She’s already given you a huge vote of confidence in hiring you (not even considering her patience in all this after)–you don’t want to let her down.

      Bottom line is: at the end of the day, your boss is responsible for herself and for you. You, on the other hand, are only responsible for yourself. If you like the culture at your office, don’t be stingy–uphold that culture yourself and be gracious to others, as well.

      Long story short: Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.

  23. Katie the Fed*

    OK, now for the other issue. This isn’t related to work, but you seem frustrated so I’ll give you some unsolicited life advice:

    Try not to stress about your relationship status. I know it’s hard when you want to be in a relationship, but there are so many truly wonderful things about being single (especially in your 20s) that you’re probably overlooking. And I don’t mean this in a blowing-sunshine-up-your-ass way to look on the bright side, I mean there are SERIOUSLY nice things about being single in your 20s.

    This is probably the only time in your life that you’ll be completely unencumbered by another person, and can do what you want, when you want. It’s really nice. I traveled to India, Africa, Asia, Europe all when I was single in my 20s. Traveling alone means you meet interesting people are are open to all kinds of experiences you may not have when you’re with someone else. It’s incredibly liberating and fun. And then when you do meet someone, you’re a really intriguing person because you did all this stuff on your own and you’re strong and independent and clearly a lot of fun.

    You can do whatever you want without worrying about someone else’s schedule. Volunteer work, sleeping until 2 on weekends, binge-watching House of Cards just because you want to – you don’t have to check with anyone.

    If there’s any way you can change your outlook on this – it’ll do you a world of good. And it’s going to be great when you do find the right person 0r people that you have something to talk about – there’s nothing more attractive than someone with interests and hobbies.

    I’m not going to tell you that you’ll find your special someone anytime soon. You might not. I didn’t think I would but I gave it a shot and it worked out. But you can’t pin your life and happiness to someone you’ve never met who might never show up.

    OK, I’ll stop preaching.

    1. Jubilance*


      I was scrolling down to leave a comment but Katie the Fed really summed up everything I could say.

      I spent too long in my 20s bemoaning my single status as I saw friends and acquaintances (and even women I hated) get married. I wondered what was wrong with me. I worried I was gonna be an old maid. Being single and my pursuit to leave that state started to take over my life. A good friend told me “you aren’t sick, you’re just single” and it took a long time for that advice to get through to me. Being single wasn’t a bad thing, it was just the current state of my life. As I got older and matured I realized that being single wasn’t the death sentence I thought it was, and I started looking on the bright side.

      OP, I know it may seem like you’re the only single person out here, but you really aren’t. Try to see the good things that come out of being single, whether its your ability to hog the remote or having the freedom to be selfish & not think about another person. You aren’t dead, you’re just single. Go out and enjoy your life and be happy in your singleness (not in spite of it, but in it).

      1. Judy*

        Best advice I was given by one of my aunts when I was in my mid-20s and frustrated after a break-up.

        Don’t worry about being single. Worry about being you. Do the things you enjoy doing, and there will most likely be someone noticing who enjoys doing the same thing. Nothing attracts others more than someone being happy. Give up on finding the one. Work on finding you, so that you’ll be ready when there is someone out there.

          1. Judy*

            The bonus is, of course, if there isn’t “the one” out there, you’ve had a great life doing things you enjoy.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Oh, and the nice thing is that when you DO meet someone (I met my fiance when we were 32) is that you’re done with all the drama and silliness of your 20s, you both know what you want, and it’s just…nice.

      1. SingleInTheSouth*

        I couldn’t agree more! I’ve been dating the same guy for a year and a half and I (hope) that we’ll get married in the next few years. We’re both 31 and I appreciate him so much more than I would have if I would have met him in my 20s. I was a blessing to meet him at the time that I did.

    3. class factotum*

      Going to agree with this. I didn’t get married until I was in my early 40s. I love my husband and am happy to be married, but man I miss DOING WHAT I WANT TO DO WITHOUT NEGOTIATING. I don’t even mean the big things – I mean the little things like if the dishes are dry enough to be put away or what time we go to bed. (I am a morning person, my husband is a night owl. This would not matter except he thinks it’s important to go to bed together and I couldn’t care less.)

      I was a Peace Corps volunteer. I traveled all over. I had adventures. I did cool things. I was lonely sometimes, but not always. Being married doesn’t solve that problem – you can be lonely with another person. Marriage (or being partnered) is fine, but I think I would be just as happy single.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit*

        . I love my husband and am happy to be married, but man I miss DOING WHAT I WANT TO DO WITHOUT NEGOTIATING. I don’t even mean the big things – I mean the little things like if the dishes are dry enough to be put away or what time we go to bed.

        Oh god, I couldn’t agree with you more. I wouldn’t trade my husband for anything, but damn do I miss those little things.

        1. Jen RO*

          Yes! I am so happy when my boyfriend goes out by himself and i can just paint my nails and listen to loud music!

          1. Noelle*

            This! I love my boyfriend but I need my alone time. And more importantly, occasionally I need my alone time at home with all of my stuff.

            1. Jenn-X*

              Yes! “My stuff.” I’ll schedule PTO and not tell my husband just so I can stay home from work, alone, and play Skyrim uninterrupted or watch Netflix and tool around on the internet all day. If I told him I was taking time off from work, he’d want us to do something together. Love him, but I love and need my alone time, too. We do take vacations together, but I am someone who deeply, deeply appreciates and needs time away from all humans, even the ones I love.

        2. Jamie*

          I mean the little things like if the dishes are dry enough to be put away or what time we go to bed

          I know it’s not the point, but are there varying degrees of acceptable dryness? I always operated under a zero tolerance policy for moisture in the cabinets.

          But ITA, I wouldn’t trade my husband for the world but he keeps insisting on entering rooms I just cleaned, will put towels in the linen closet even though he knows I can’t stand that he rolls them (looks like a warehouse overstock of sleeping bags for gnomes), and I’d have a lot more closet space if he would just keep his clothes in the family room closet – but apparently that’s unreasonable.

          Your comment reminds me of the Mad About You ep where Paul was being annoying and Jamie calls Fran in the middle of the night and says, “remind me why you hate being single.”

          Green grass on both sides of this fence.

          1. TheSnarkyB*

            (looks like a warehouse overstock of sleeping bags for gnomes)

            Oh shit, someone please revive me. This was the funniest thing I’ve heard in a very very long time!

        3. Kelly O*

          Thank you for helping me realize I am not the only one!!

          My hill upon which I shall probably die is named Would You Please Turn That Down?

          Apparently I either have the hearing of a mutant bat, or my husband is deaf as a door post. I find myself saying nearly every morning “would you please turn that down? I cannot hear the traffic report on the television I am standing directly in front of, because your YouTube video is trying to wake the people in the next apartment complex over.”

          Finding a mutually acceptable volume is akin to peace in the Middle East.

      2. AMG*

        Good Lord yes. The best advice I ever had when I was single was that I should live my single life. And I did. Be able to look back on being single and say, ‘wow, I really had a great time’ and not, ‘wow, glad that’s over’. Have adventures! Do things you can’t do when you have to consider someone else’s opinion! Look at life as an opportunity to experience and have excitement. I miss being able to do that, so please, don’t waste the opportunity. I’m so glad I have all of those great experiences and hilarious stories.

      3. sam*

        Hee. I just turned 40 and am still a singleton (a friend says I can’t call myself a crazy cat-lady spinster until I acquire more than the one cat, so singleton it is). I sometimes joke that if I did meet Mr. Right and want to get married, he’d still need to buy an apartment down the hall, because I like having my own space way too much.

        My dad and stepmom have the right idea – it’s her first marriage, and she was over-50 (my mom died relatively young (49) so my dad was a widower). they split their time between a NYC apartment and a weekend place, and they will sometimes spend full weeks not seeing each other, on purpose (i.e., dad will stay in the country to putter around the garden while stepmom comes to city for work during the week), and they often take trips with friends and without each other. And they have one of the healthiest relationships I’ve ever seen.

        1. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

          I have been single for 10 years (all of my 30s) and IT KEEPS GETTING MORE AWESOME.

          I just had to share.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            Me too! And now that I’m 40, I’m witnessing all (well, almost all) of my friends’ marriages fall apart and could not be happier that I didn’t marry the guy I was dating at 27 just because we were the “right” age and got along well.

            1. Jamie*

              I remember my sister going through a patch in her 40s where she was convinced she was never going to meet anyone again.

              In her 50s she had 4 relationships and broke 2 engagements – all her call, nothing mutual about it.

              It sucks when anything in life is like this – feast or famine. A little consistency would be nice – but you never know what’s going to turn it around.

              Fwiw she chalked it up to guys she was meeting in her 40s all wanting someone younger so they could start their families and wanting multiple kids. She said in her 50s she started meeting guys who were either happy with their grown kids or childfree by choice and not looking to do the diaper thing.

              Could just be the guys she was meeting, though.

              1. Jessica (tc)*

                I absolutely loved living alone, but when I fell in love with a childfree-by-choice guy, I snapped him up even in my late 20s! Those don’t come along every day, particularly when you’re young. I was convinced I’d be single for my entire life, and I would’ve been content with that, too, because I loved the freedom of living by myself with no one to be accountable to on a daily basis. Things are more difficult with another person around (why can’t I find things where I left them? and why is my apartment-mate insisting he didn’t move them? I’m pretty sure they don’t grow legs when I’m not looking…) and I definitely miss some things about living alone, but I’m pretty fond of this guy, so I’ll keep him. :)

                1. Katie C.*

                  Ditto the snatching up a childfree-by-choice guy in my 20s. Especially living in the Bible belt, I had never met another person who didn’t want children someday!

                2. Jessica (tc)*

                  Katie C., I’d never met a guy who didn’t want children (lower Midwest), so I can understand that. I’d only met one woman who didn’t want children, and we have forged a close friendship (we had other things in common, of course, but it was nice to have someone who understood the pressure and the certainty). It’s more common where I currently live, however (upper Midwest). I have several coworkers who are non-parents by choice, so it’s kind of nice to have that from at least some people where I work (in a school).

                  The funny part is that my parents are okay with it, so I don’t get pressure from that front. I get the most pressure from my good friend’s parents, because they really want both of us to “give them grandchildren.” ;) (We’re also close to each other’s families, so it’s nice to have someone to help out in those situations as well.)

        2. Bea W*

          Same. I have lived in my own place for more than 20 years now. It’s hard to imagine not having my own space or not annoying the bejeezus out of anyone I would be living with.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            As someone who loved living alone and did so for a stretch of more than a decade before getting married last year, I am fascinated by this topic. We’ve had some challenges in adjusting to it (exacerbated by me working from home, no doubt) and I’d love to hear more from other people on how this has gone for them. I might ask about this on Friday’s open thread!

            1. LJL*

              I’d love to hear that insight as well as I’ve lived alone for about 15 years, and my sweetie and I will be getting married soon and moving to our own place.

        3. A Cita*

          This is actually my ideal if I do decide to pair up at some point after 60. I will never share my bedroom or my bed. Or my bathroom. No. Those are mine.

        4. Katie the Fed*

          I always swore that I could only be married if we had neighboring townhouses. But somehow we’ve made sharing a space work – just because we sort of make our own spaces. We’re not in the kitchen at the same time (also it’s like 10 square feet). We hang out in separate rooms. We do our own things.

          But when we travel together it can get exhausting being together all the time. The last trip I decided to skip a day tour and do my own thing because we were getting on each other’s nerves and we just needed some alone time.

          1. Jessica (tc)*

            I always joked that I wanted to marry an OTR truck driver, so he’d be gone all of the time. I didn’t end up marrying one, but I’m convinced I’ve met one of the only two people in the entire world that I can live with and end every day with both of us still alive. (The other was my long-term college roommate, and there was a reason we roomed together for so long. I used to think she was the only person I could ever live with in close quarters.)

      4. Jennifer*

        Oh, ugh. You just cannot explain to an early bird how painful it is for you to go to bed by 9 p.m. and then lie there wide awake with nothing to do for three hours! There’s no analogy you can come up with that works for them!

        1. the invisible one*

          Likewise explaining to a night owl that while maybe you can be vertical in the late night, there isn’t really enough there to fully participate in whatever is happening. Especially the second night because you’re going to get up early regardless… (sleeping in? 7AM is my weekend lie-in.)

          I have no idea how couples with different sleep patterns manage. I sure couldn’t.

          1. Jennifer*

            See, I think the night owls should be able to relate to that one because they are forced to be vertical in the early morning when they’ve got nothing going on in the brain either! They know what the lack of function is like, just at the wrong time of day. On the other hand, I just can’t think of an early bird version of having to go to sleep long before they are actually tired, because that experience just doesn’t happen for them that I have ever seen.

        2. Bea W*

          Ugh yeh…that’s not happening. I really do not sleep well when I go to bed before 11 PM. I refuse to go there unless I am so exhausted I am falling asleep.

          Mornings? Just stay the heck away from me unless you want to get hurt. Don’t insist on coming to bed with me when I want an afternoon nap either. I do not use the word nap is not a ephemism for sex.

      5. Kelly L.*

        I got so spoiled when BF and I were long-distance. I missed him, obviously, but I also got to unilaterally decide whether to go out or stay in on any given occasion, schlump around the house looking like an absolute hag, have no mess in the bathroom/kitchen that I didn’t have my own self to blame for, and spend the whole night arguing about baseball on the Internet if I wanted to. :D

      6. Sigrid*

        Same here — there are plenty of things that you don’t appreciate about being single while you’re single, so my advice is, DO appreciate them! I am very happy in my relationship, but I sure do miss a) being able binge-watch anything I want without having to explain why I’m watching reality tv at 2 am; b) eating ice cream for dinner; c) not having to check in with anyone if I’m going to be home late; d) not having to pick up after myself if I don’t feel like it; sleeping until 2 pm on weekends if I want to; etc.

        1. Bea W*

          Oh we would be perfect for each other! Unless you ate the last of the ice cream I was planning to have for dinner.

      7. Anonsie*

        I’m glad someone said this, because all I can ever think when people I know are upset about not having settled down into a long term relationship yet is “Hah. Yeah. Because this is sooo great. My life would just be a void without it. Mhm.”

        Proving once again that it is really a cartoon for adults, the episode of Adventure Time where Prismo says “Dude, I get out of relationships because I don’t want to have a discussion about what we’re going to have for dinner every night.”

      8. Windchime*

        I didn’t do all the glamorous activities that others did (traveling to Asia, joining the Peace Corps, etc). But I’ve been single for many years (18 to be exact!), and there is a lot to be said for being able to run my life exactly as I want to, without any negotiation or compromise. Want to leave the sink full of dirty dishes? I can! Want to stay up and knit all night while watching bad reality TV? I can! Cat sleeping on the bed? Sure, go ahead!

        The grass is always greener on the other side. I’d love to have a nice guy in my life, but I just don’t know if I want to trade in my autonomy for a relationship.

    4. Dang*

      Totally agree. I’m turning 30 in a few weeks and have been single for about a year. I only wish I’d spent more of my 20s single and not worrying about the drama of my relationships!

    5. A Cita*

      Yep, this is pretty much my story, only it was in my 30s. I spent from my teen years to early 30s constantly being in relationships. And it got old. Fast. I was so done with it–having to compromise on things I wanted to do (like lie in bed all day and watch cooking shows non-stop sometimes), places I wanted to go (why don’t dudes dig the opera?), things I wanted to see, and being done with being treated as one of a unit rather than my own individual self (No, there’s just one me, no need to use plural pronouns when speaking with me).

      So I quit all of that and spent my 30s traveling the world solo, living in a village in the Himalayas for a couple of years, learning new languages, giving up a lucrative career to get a graduate degree (best decision of my life!), having some exciting adventures, and just having a lie in for a whole weekend when I wanted it. I always said I’d settle down at 50. Now I’m in my 40s and I pushing that date back to 60. Life isn’t a binary choice of paired up and sucks ass. Life is what you make it. Having someone along for the ride (if that’s what you want) is just the cherry on the top.

      I think a healthy perspective on validating yourself will help to not interpret someone’s relationship status as an indictment on your self worth (to the point where its actually starting to sabotage your professional life). I concur with other posters who have recommended the possibility of therapy to help with this. It can do a world of good.

    6. Red Librarian*

      It took me a long time to appreciate the perks that come with singledom but at this point I have a pretty awesome life that I love.

    7. LMW*

      Even if 95 percent of the time you are rocking the single thing and loving life and exploring possibilities and enjoying having all your time as your own…that doesn’t mean that the other 5 percent of the time (when you’d actually like to travel with someone, or you get seated at a table of strangers at a wedding because everyone else is coupled off, or wonder if you are going to miss out on being a parent) doesn’t suck so much it can’t turn you (momentarily) into a crazy person. I was totally fine with being single in my teens and 20s, for all the reasons you said — but on the occasions it hits, it can hit hard. And the sunny “being single is awesome too” speeches don’t really help when you’re at that point.
      OP, I think you are at that point. We all compare ourselves to others at times, but it’s a foolish, self-destructive habit. Doing it out loud or over email doesn’t do anything but make others feel awkward and make us seem small and petty and irrational. In general, people don’t have patience for self-pity and it will always come across as self-pity when you tell people they have to stop doing something because it makes you feel bad.

      1. fposte*

        Though I’d say the suckage is a personal take there too. It’s not a universal punishment to meet new people at a festive occasion, for instance.

        1. Josie*

          Until you are ALWAYS trying to meet new people when you go out because you don’t have the built-in s0cial network of a partner, however, it can be hurtful to tell single people that they should always enjoy it because you do on occasion.

          (I have no idea if you fall into this category, I just want to make the general point that “I loved being single for a year, I had so much fun!” can be wearisome for the truly chronically single to hear.)

          1. fposte*

            My point is that those who don’t like it can’t say it universally sucks any more than those who do like it can say it universally doesn’t, and it’s wearisome to hear either of them beyond a certain point.

          2. Katie the Fed*

            I for one wouldn’t volunteer my perspective on this to someone who didn’t ask. But if you’re going to complain about being single to the point that other people being happy makes you miserable, you might need to try to change your perspective.

        2. LMW*

          Well, no, obviously not. I was using “you” in a hypothetical sense, not a universal. Point being, it’s possible to feel multiple ways about one situation, and they’re all valid feelings.

    8. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      I’m 33 and have never been in a relationship. Ever. And I live in a culture and a place where most people get married in their early 20s. I don’t get a lot of “wow, you’re still single?!?” (instead, it seems that most people look at me and just assume that I’m going to be a perpetual old maid, including my extended family, and I’m not really sure which one is worse) but I do get down sometimes. I’d really like to be married and have children.

      But whenever I start to feel bad about myself, I remind myself of all the men I’m glad I’m not married to. Including my brothers-in-law and my best friend’s husbands. They’re all nice enough people, but I wouldn’t for a second have considered a relationship with any of them! When I see women who are married who don’t seem to be any more attractive than I am (and some seem significantly less so!), I look at who they’re married to and say “whew! Glad I dodged that bullet!”

      Plus, I can go on a vacation whenever I want. Spend all night having a Doctor Who marathon when I want. Spend my money on what I want. Sleep as late as I want on Saturday mornings. Until I meet a man who’s so incredibly awesome that giving up on all of that seems like a good plan (and it certainly hasn’t happened yet!) I’ll stay single, thanks.

      1. E.R*

        My lovely mother always said, “Getting married is not an accomplishment.” Sure, a long happy marriage is an accomplishment (because it takes a LOT of work over a long time), but walking down the aisle? Anyone can find someone to do that if they choose. This isn’t directed at you in particular, it just got me thinking about my mother, who married in her mid-thirties back when that was not the norm (people whispered about her in her small town). I recently found out my grandmother, who died when i was a young teen, married in her mid-thirties as well. Both very happily.

        1. SingleInTheSouth*

          I hope you don’t mind, but I’m stealing your mother’s quote (“Getting married is not an accomplishment.”) :) This is terrific.

      2. Jennifer*

        Oh yeah, the only ex who wanted to marry me…well, he would never have had a job and would have made me broke, so I’m glad that didn’t come off. (Not that I could bring myself to marry him when he wasn’t up to taking care of himself, mind you.) And looking at one friend of mine, well, I call it “husband jail” because her husband is that kind of dude. Ughhhhhhh. Yay for single.

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          My best friend’s husband thought it’d be awfully fun to play around with thermite. To try and melt sulfur. Several third-degree burns later. . .

          Boy, was I glad I was single that day. The only person’s bad decisions I have to worry about are my own.

    9. Miss Evy*

      I think a lot of the other commenters have great advice and anecdotes about their own experience, so I wanted to throw in my two cents as well.

      Please remember that, for the majority, when they are sharing things about their lives (I can’t comment on the phone conversations – all of our employees take personal calls to the break room or outside), it is NOT about you. They’re not rubbing it in, they’re not trying to make you feel bad… that is just their life, and they are sharing. Now, I can see why the phone conversations might be distracting – but as was previously mentioned, the content of the calls are immaterial.

      Your satisfaction in life and your happiness are what YOU make of it. It can suck to be single, especially if all of your other friends are married or in long-term relationships. At work, my boss is married and my colleague is in a committed relationship, so when I was struggling with a break-up of after 2.5 years, it was hard to listen to their stories about their kids/grandkids/weekend plans/going on a trip together!/all sorts of great things.

      Being single is not a bad thing. It can get lonely (which totally sucks!), but the best thing you can do is to live up your singledom, and when you’re in one of those moments when you feel lonely and sad about not having someone, find a way to cope with it in a way that doesn’t embitter other parts of your life (like taking it out on your boss at work). Invite your friends over for a bottle of wine. Bust out Zumba or Rock Band at home when you start feeling down. Read a cheesy romance novel, or a mystery thriller, or heck, learn something new! Languages, team sports, circus arts, programming, whatever. Start a Meetup, or join one, so you can meet new people in your area who aren’t connected to your professional network.

      Ultimately, your being happy should not hinge on your relationship status. Be happy for yourself, with yourself, and with your life as it is, because it sounds like you have a lot going for you in terms of your job, work environment, and your circle of friends. You have a lot of opportunities because you are young and single, the biggest of which I believe is time, and there is SO much you can do with time.

      A story about one of my closest friends, who is single and unattached: She was released from a work contract December/January, and she decided she wanted to travel abroad. So she did some research, and a few weeks later, she was on a plane to Nepal. She was there for thirty days and said the experience was amazing, and she would do it again.

    10. lindsay j*


      I recently broke up with a guy who was very nice, mature, and stale, and well liked by my parents and mutual friends.

      One of my reasons for doing so was that he and I have been dating for 8 years, and we started dating when I was 20. (ACD I’m a bit of a serial monogamist so I had not spent a significant amount of time being single since I was 16.

      I just felt like being in a relationship for that long, that young, if it didn’t stunt my personal and emotional growth certainly stunted my self image in a way. I felt like I needed to prove to myself that I could do things on my own – from fixing a broken toilet to renting an apartment to handling a bad day at work. I also didn’t want to feel as though I had settled for someone who didn’t treat me as well as I deserved just because we bonded over liking the same bands as 20 year olds.

      So far, I’ve found that I can do all those things and more, and that for the most part I actually like being single. I can have what I want for dinner, when I put something somewhere it doesn’t move until I move it, I can go out to the bar and have a couple drinks and dance without having to hear that it’s a waste of money or that my friends are annoying, I can take last minute trips without having to align two work schedules. And I can take the time to get to know guys and evaluate their fit in my life in ways I wasn’t capable of when I was younger.

      I know the novelty of these things must wear off after being unwillingly single for years. However, I just wanted to point out that there are some great things about being single, and some less than stellar things about coupling-up early.

      Plus, think of your non-single friends and who they are with – chances are you know several people who could do much better who are settling (or maybe this just applies to my high school friends). I mean I’m sure that if all you wanted was a warm body you could log into okcupid or go to a bar tonight and find somebody who is unattractive, 20 years older than you, a deadbeat, abusive, a chauvinist pig, borderline illiterate, has no personality, has nothing in common with you, or all of the above. Some of the people you envy in relationships are with people like that because either they are afraid of the alternative of being alone, or because deep in their hearts they don’t feel like they deserve better.

  24. Lady In Red*

    It might actually benefit you to find a job in a more normal office, so you can do some growing and stretching and figure out more how the real world works at this point.

    You sound like you need both the services of a good therapist and some more real world experience. Your boss/friend may actually be be hindering you from getting the in your face feedback a more normal job environment might actually provide (and at this point, since your behavior may end up showing you the door where you work, life may end up providing you with that experience.)

    1. limenotapple*

      I was also going to suggest therapy, because when I look back at the times in my life when i have been unreasonable like this, there were other things going on to cause me to lose perspective and be impulsive and passive-aggressive. I think it’s a great idea.

      Also, it might help the OP’s feelings about being single, because that may or may not be something that changes.

  25. S*

    Obviously, the OP is pretty far out of line, but I will say I agree that mushy romantic phone calls (assuming they really are mushy romantic calls, not a 5-minute logistical “let’s decide where to eat tonight”-type conversation with an “I love you” tacked on the end or something) are *completely* inappropriate in the office. AAM is of course right that it’s not your place to point that out to your boss, but still – that seems completely unprofessional and not okay. And I think it would be distracting for almost anyone, regardless of their age or relationship status.

    Also, it hasn’t been brought up that the boss is a woman in a relationship with a woman – obviously that should not make any difference to anyone, but could it be that the OP is (subconsciously, even) more uncomfortable with this than she would be with a hetero relationship? Just a possibility to consider, I could definitely be completely wrong about that.

    1. Lady In Red*

      AAM’s point is that the boss gets to decide. If you don’t like it, as an employee, you get to leave. ;)

      1. S*

        Oh, definitely! I just wanted to point out that while the bigger issue here is obviously the OP’s reaction, what she was reacting to does sound like a problem in and of itself – albeit one that pales in comparison to the hole the OP dug herself into.

    2. Del*

      Also, it hasn’t been brought up that the boss is a woman in a relationship with a woman – obviously that should not make any difference to anyone, but could it be that the OP is (subconsciously, even) more uncomfortable with this than she would be with a hetero relationship? Just a possibility to consider, I could definitely be completely wrong about that.

      Can you clarify why you feel this is an important possibility to consider? I don’t see how it would change anything about how inappropriate the OP’s reaction is.

      1. SRMJ*

        If it is true, then it would seem the OP is unaware of it – and that is important, if she’s trying to figure out how to be less bothered by it. It would be a self-awareness issue. I.e., maybe she really believes it’s the phone calls that bug her, and it’s actually that it’s a gay relationship. But if she doesn’t realize, then any reference to it will bug her, goopy phone calls or no.

        But given that they have a bunch of mutual friends in common, it seems unlikely she’s a closeted, unwitting homophobe.

        1. Del*

          This seems like a pretty tenuous line of speculation, honestly. There’s plenty to work with that’s actually stated in the letter.

        2. Zillah*

          Agreed – I don’t think there’s any evidence that the OP’s issue with the boss is based on the boss’s sexual orientation. For all we know, the OP isn’t straight, either.

      2. S*

        Like I said, it definitely could be (and should be) completely irrelevant, I just think it’s an aspect that could potentially be making things more complicated for several reasons. I doubt OP is a homophobe – but maybe she’s gay and therefore more jealous of/upset by the boss’s relationship than she would be by a straight relationship; maybe she’s interpreting small romantic gestures (a “baby” here and there or something) as “mushy” when she wouldn’t if the boss was straight, etc. I totally acknowledge that this is 100% wild speculation on my part, I’m just saying there is a small possibility it’s affecting the OP more than she realizes.

        1. ZSD*

          I’ve looked back in the letter, and I don’t see where the sex of the boss’s SO is indicated. How do you know that the SO is a woman? (I might just be missing it.)
          Just curious.

                1. Zillah*

                  Yeah, rereading it with that in mind, there are a few things that definitely make a little more sense.

              1. Katie the Fed*

                I’m legitimately surprised/ashamed by my own biases and assumptions sometimes. I definitely thought OP was a female.

              2. A Cita*

                I’m confused. Why does it mean the OP is a man? Could be another woman. I assumed all actors in this scenario were women. It just read that way.

            1. Marquis*

              And… isn’t the whole situation pretty identifiable to begin with whether or not gender is mentioned?

            2. Jen S. 2.0*

              Wow, it never even REMOTELY CROSSED MY MIND that OP was not a hetero female and the boss was not female talking to a male. I now need to go back and read the whole shebang again with a completely different eye.

              1. Beti*

                I’m with you. It’s really interesting to me that most of us read letters like this and form a precise picture of the situation. And then be totally off base!

              2. Mika*

                So weird. I totally got the impression that the LW was a guy. Just something about the writing style.

        2. Kelly L.*

          It popped into my head too, because I do think there’s this thing in our culture where people often see a gay romantic gesture as several levels more “TMI” than the same gesture between straight people.

          As in: straight couple holds hands, no one notices. Gay couple holds hands, people worry about what they’re going to tell their children. Straight woman mentions her husband, no one notices. Gay woman mentions her wife and she’s “shoving her sex life down people’s throats.” In the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated, it comes out that roughly the same scene gets a higher rating if the people in it are of the same sex. It can be really subconscious, I think.

          That said, my next thought was I don’t think that’s what’s happening in this particular case just because it takes so long for the OP to mention the partner’s gender. Normally this would come out earlier, I think, if that was the issue.

          1. Christy*

            Honestly, hearing that the LW is male makes me question if gender *is* involved. Because he’s a man hearing a woman be lovey-dovey (let’s say) to another woman, he’s getting it on both ends–he’d rather be the one hearing lovey-dovey things from a woman, and he’d rather be the one saying lovey-dovey things to a woman.

            And I also wonder if he has a negative idea in his head of strong female managers. I’m not sure, but I think it’s possible.

    3. Tinker*

      I think whether it’s “your place” to bring it up to your boss depends on the particulars of the situation and how you approach it — employees can’t demand of employers that they hold their phone conversations elsewhere, but usually humans can talk with other humans about mutually agreeable ways of managing their shared space.

      That said, if the OP has broken out the silent treatment (!) and ticked off the other human involved, probably that bridge is good and burned in this case.

    4. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

      Who are you that you know this detail that was left out of the letter? The OP under another name, one of the friends?

        1. ZSD*

          Thanks for the explanation. In that case, would it be appropriate to remove this comment thread as well? (Is that something you do?)

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Well, generally I want people to abide by the disclaimer that I have on the question submission page, asking them not to submit anything they wouldn’t want published. I’m willing to accommodate after-the-fact- “can you please remove identifying detail X” requests up to a point — but I prefer not to remove other people’s comments in accommodating those requests unless there’s real need, since people take the time to write them out and engage here.

            1. ZSD*

              Okay, thanks. Honestly, I think there’s enough identifying information in the letter (assuming there aren’t lots of managers out there whose new employees have recently given them the silent treatment after asking them not to talk to their significant others) that it probably doesn’t make much difference either way. If the manager happens to read this, she’ll know who wrote in. (That said, she might be happy to see that her employee is at least reaching out for help and trying to learn something!)

              1. AMT*

                Or angry that her employee referred to her as a “callous power-hoarder.” Or both. Ah, the many emotions of managing.

        2. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

          Right, but who is S. who just told us that the OP’s boss was in a same-sex relationship and that the OP was male? Is she a friend who is coming in and sharing more gossip about this situation. Because a) creepy and b) makes me think the boss, OP and all their friends need a train out of Dysfunction Junction, stat.

          1. Zillah*

            No – the gender of the OP’s boss was in the original letter, which Alison later edited out, and she referred to the OP as “him,” so it’s fair to assume that he’s male. There’s no reason to think that S. is anything other than a regular commenter.

            1. Zillah*

              And by “original letter,” I mean the letter that was originally posted here. The wording was changed a little while after it was posted, when some of us had already seen it.

  26. MousyNon*

    I completely agree with eveyything Allison said (including her follow-up’s in the comment threads) and I don’t think there’s any reason for me to beat on a dead horse re: workplace professionalism.

    But I sooo sympathize with being late-twenties and single, so *hugs*. I am the queen of awful first dates (seriously, I give Leslie Knope a run for her money), and hell, I just had my best first-date to-date a few days ago (we spent six hours together, had a million things in common and amazing chemistry, flat out said to each other that both of us were interested in doing it again) and STILL got blown off by the guy. It sucks, but it’ll get better!

    Really, it will!! If I can believe it, so can you, OP. Keep dating, keep putting yourself out there! I’ve also found that limiting my social media intake has helped–ignoring constant wedding etc updates from friends has made a world of difference in keeping myself from eating nothing but ice cream and chocolate while watching netflix in my pajamas (for the most part…I can’t deny I did that yesterday, because UGH DATING).


    1. Katie the Fed*

      Thanks for this. It’s good for me to remember what a total pain dating can be.

      I’m going to do something extra nice for my fiance today just because it’s really nice to not have to date anymore. Ugh. Single-and-not-dating was fine. Single-and-dating was a nightmare.

  27. OriginalYup*

    One thing I see in your letter and follow-up comment is your surprise and frustration that you’re encountering these issues (negative feedback, distracting phone calls, difficult conversations with the boss) in what you’d considered to be a near-perfect work environment. But good workplaces aren’t free of problems — that’s an unrealistic expectation that will only set you up for discontent. Even the most wonderful amazing boss in the world is going to have annoying habits, or weak points, or do certain things in a way you don’t like, or make decisions that you disagree. That’s normal, and it’s something that everyone has to learn how to live with productively. Even the most spectacularly great job is going to have rough patches and frustrations. If you continue to approach this situation with the mindset that the best solution is the one that returns your workplace to an idealized state of zero conflict or minimal discomfort, then you’re in for a hard landing. Alison has given you very practical advice on how to navigate. In following her guidance, please also think critically about your expectations for your job and workplace, both in terms of how you’re perceived and your relationship with your boss. You might find some other unconscious ideas about how things ought to be or people should behave (ie, the silent treatment as a normal post-difficult discussion tactic) that are acting against your own best interests here.

    1. fposte*

      “One thing I see in your letter and follow-up comment is your surprise and frustration that you’re encountering these issues . . . in what you’d considered to be a near-perfect work environment. ”

      Good point–some of this may be the moment of finding out that your job is human, if you will, rather than being perfect. So maybe it’s being punished a little for having to come off of the pedestal the OP put it on in the first place.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      This is excellent, all of it. Especially this:

      ” Even the most wonderful amazing boss in the world is going to have annoying habits, or weak points, or do certain things in a way you don’t like, or make decisions that you disagree. “

    3. Joie de Vivre*

      This is exactly what I was coming here to say. Excellent points and very well said.
      Whether a 2 person office or a 200 person office, when you’re working with other people, there will be things that you wish were done differently. Learning to navigate those situations is one of the most important basic skills you will need to be successful.

    4. H. Vane*

      You know, I think the very best workplaces are the one where you grow in some way. A job shouldn’t just be about a paycheck – you should be finding ways to be a better person and a better employee. Sometimes, frequently in fact, it’s hard, painful and unexpected. However, it’s so much worse to be unfulfilled and unchallenged. OP, take your boss’s and Alison’s conusel and reevaluate all your relationships, because respect and tact should be used liberally.

  28. Bluefish*

    Aww. OP. you’re at work to do a job. Sometimes things aren’t going to be pleasant or go your way. (If it were up to me, all people who dare to eat chips at work would be fired. Haha). The fact that you are here, questioning this shows that you know things aren’t right and that you’re willing to try and learn/grow from this. Good for you.

  29. EM*

    And another one where I’d thought I’d heard it all but have once again been proven very, very incorrect!

    Wow. I wonder how the OP has made it thus far in her professional life acting like this. Perhaps this is too disrespectful — but LATE 20s?!! Wow. Again!

    1. CTO*

      As Alison said right away, there’s no need to pile on. Comments like this one aren’t helpful at all and don’t provide a shred of useful advice… just more shame for the OP. I give OP a lot of credit for being brave enough to come participate in the comments despite knowing that he’d read things like this.

      1. EM*

        That’s fine. I do think other people made harsher comments than mine. Frankly, I have no advice for this person as I can’t even imagine this kind of mindset & behavior.

  30. AndersonDarling*

    This reminds me of a letter that was sent into a “Dear …” Columnist. It was a lady who was having difficulty having a child and was upset at her co-workers for talking about their children and wanted them to stop talking about their families while at work.

    It sounds like the LW got into a bad place when she received a bad review of her work and looked for an excuse. People do this all the time to cope with bad news and it is common in the workplace-young.

    As everyone else is saying, let it go. When work is all there is in your life, tough workplace conversations can seem to ruin your whole life. Step back. Apologize. Grow and learn from this situation.

  31. Ann Furthermore*

    OP, I’m just repeating what everyone else is telling you here, but the bottom line is this: all your boss owes you is your paycheck. You agreed to perform a job for her in exchange for set amount of money. As long as she’s paying you that set amount of money, she is fulfilling her obligation to you.

    She does not owe you friendship or anything else. If she chooses to talk on the phone all day long with her SO, that’s her prerogative. If she is not satisfied with how you did something, she is allowed — and should be expected — to bring that to your attention. If you disagree with her assessment, then sure, have a conversation about it, but don’t tell her that her conversations with her boyfriend are what’s keeping you from doing your job. That’s an immature response. And stop immediately with the silent treatment. That’s not how an adult behaves, that is how a child behaves.

    The only thing that you can control in any given situation is your response to it. And so far, you have not been responding to it very well. If you focus on how you respond to things based on what you want the outcome to be, you’ll be much better off.

    My husband runs a very small business, and tells everyone he hires the same thing on their first day.

    “We’re not here to hold hands and take long warm showers together. We’re here to make money.”

    1. Jamie*

      Ha! I have never said it at work, but coming home from particularly bad days when users were exceptionally needy I have been know to wish for a job where I’m not expected to give everyone a warm bath and a kiss on the head.

      I’m stealing the showers phrasing – cracked me up.

  32. TotesMaGoats*

    I’ll admit that once I saw the letter kept going, I skipped to Allison’s response. Whoa, indeed.

    OP, I know it’s going to be hard to read through all of the comments here. You’l probably have the urge to get defensive. That’s okay. That’s normal. Read them all. Take them in. Then take a step back and see how we are all seeing your actions instead of looking through your own eyes.

    Even though we are all strangers, we want you to have this be a positive learning experience and not a career crippling regret. You know where you messed up here. Silent treatment isn’t cool in any relationship, personal or professional. Appropriate boundaries are required in any relationship, personal or professional. And a sincere apology goes a long way to repairing a damaged relationship, personal or professional.

    I think most of us have probably stepped in it at work to the same degree at one point or another, that’s why our responses are so strong. We know how you are feeling and we know what needs to happen for a positive outcome.

    I know it’s hard when you see others having all these positive things (ie romantic relationships) going on in their lives and you don’t have it. It can totally drag you down. And when it’s so present, it makes it worse. I get you there. I went through 4 miscarriages in the past three years and while my coworkers and bosses were super supportive it was crippling at times to watch them get pregnant and have successful pregnancies. However, I had to compartmentalize like crazy. I couldn’t let that impact our relationships or my work product.

    You’ll get past this and you’ll learn from it. How quickly and how much is all up to you.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      Also important to remember is that just because it appears on the surface that someone else’s life is perfect, and they seem to have everything that you want, what’s going on inside their relationship, or in their lives, may be completely different.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          And btw I’m so sorry about your miscarriages. I can’t imagine what that would be like to go through. I had complications with the one I do have, and that was the most stressful thing I’ve ever had to endure.

          And I do totally get what you’re saying…when I was trying to get pregnant and having trouble, my nephew and his girlfriend — both meth addicts — announced they were expecting their second child. They’d already lost custody of the first one. The resentment I felt was overwhelming — there I was, trying so hard to conceive and not being able to, and it just happened for the 2 of them. The fact that the poor baby would quite possible never have a shot in life was secondary — all I could focus on was how cosmically unfair it seemed to be.

    2. Celeste*

      I’m so sorry, Totes. I had the kind of infertility that made ovulation difficult. It is devastating to be able to get pregnant but not stay pregnant. (((((Hugs)))))

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        Thanks guys. Thankfully, we were able to successfully have a little boy 4 months ago.

        Suffice it to say, I could kinda of (if I squinted my eyes) see where the OP was coming from in that their singleness was getting rubbed in their face.

  33. Just a Reader*

    Something I don’t think has been covered–OP, really consider whether an office this size is for you. It can be really, really hard to work in that type of environment.

    I worked in a 5-person office and tempers ran hot, “management” got personal (and vicious) and most of the normal professional courtesies didn’t exist because of the size of the group.

    Some people flourish in this type of setting; I did not, and was ultimately let go (they alternately called it a layoff and firing, and I was never clear on the reason–but it was a relief).

    Just some food for thought.

    1. OriginalEmma*

      Same here. I worked for a year in a four person office that rapidly downsized to two, where the two remaining had a strong friendship. It was not an environment that I thrived in, both as a newcomer and someone doesn’t develop friendships very easily with folks.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. When you’re in a bigger company it’s much easier to escape a lot of the daily drama and get along better with people. When it’s a really small office, there aren’t many ways to get around that.

      I agree with others that say this could very well be a fireable offense for the OP; however, I would add that, because of the fact there’s only two people, it’s much more likely. What manager is going to want to sit in an office with just one other person who gives her the silent treatment and uses that to try and control her? If there was a third of fourth person, there would be a better balance, at least, and maybe things could be worked out more easily. Me, personally? I’d probably fire the OP, escpecially if she’s acting like this after just two months on the job.

    3. Algae*

      Good point! My decently-sized company is kind of oddly laid out and the Accounting department is off by itself, a little fiefdom of about 9 people. Whenever you do get to talk to someone from over there, it’s all about how awful Alice is or the stupid question Billy asked. I honestly think that being cut off from being able to easily get up, walk around, and talk to someone in a different department foments the unrest over there.

      Small offices are tough, sometimes. Figure out if this is right for you.

    4. Anna*

      That’s what I was thinking! A two-person office?? Yikes!! I couldn’t imagine that, the smallest office I ever worked in had 35 people. OP’s behavior was totally unprofessional, but I can imagine interacting with only one other person for eight hours a day, five days a week (or more!) could seriously hinder one’s perspective.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      Not sure what happened here but I meant to post this under Katie the Fed comment further up.

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        Apollo – This isn’t criticism, more of a “Psst, you have spinach in your teeth,” but the phrase is actually, “Struck a chord with me,” not “Struck accord. . .” :-)

  34. Katie NYC*

    I know this is slightly off topic, but I’d love clarity on the content of these conversations.

  35. Whippers*

    This is just weird. How does her being in a relationship affect you in any way? Surely you must know tonnes of people in relationships; do they all have to hide the fact they’re in one so as not to make you feel bad?
    And actually, I don’t agree with the boss taking romantic phonecalls in the office, but bringing your own romantic status into it is just bizarre.

    1. stellanor*

      I had a friend, past tense, who was like this. Her boyfriend dumped her and she therefore expected everyone in our social circle to pretend they did not have significant others, because hearing about anyone being in a relationship was “too hard” for her. This went on for *over a year* (I could give someone a pass for a few months after a bad breakup, but come on).

      Shockingly, no one really wanted to edit their lives to suit her poor coping skills, and she lost a lot of friends over her tantrums about it. Including me, because I did not have time for that nonsense.

  36. matcha123*

    Personally, I find it very difficult to understand people who want to be in a relationship so badly.

    I was single until past 26. I’m not going to say that someone should be like me, but I do think that being in a relationship shouldn’t define who you are as a person. I would have loved it if a former coworker would have known not to drop crumbs on everything or look at (and comment on!) what I had on my computer screen, but, I guess that’s life.

    I hope the OP can take a long breather over the weekend and figure out how to work around the distractions.

    1. Whippers*

      I know, i just don’t get it either. Is your life only worthwhile if you’re in a relationship?

    2. Bryan*

      I so agree with this. I see people who have the life goal of being in a relationship and would date anything with a pulse. You should develop feelings for specific people, not a relationship.

      1. YogiJosephina*

        I have lost count of how many people I’ve tried to explain this to.

        Thank you. I have NEVER understood the “I want to be married” or “I want a boyfriend/girlfriend” mentality. YOU DON’T KNOW THAT UNTIL YOU’VE MET SOMEONE YOU FEEL THAT WAY FOR!

        Anyway. Ahem. :)

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      I did not get married until I was 37, and now it’s been almost 10 years. And what I can say is that yeah, it sucks sometimes to be single. It sucks sometimes to be married (or in a relationship). And it sucks sometimes being a parent. And at those times, being single doesn’t sound so bad.

      My husband and I are currently bickering about the fact that he thinks I don’t park my car far enough over in the driveway to leave room for his enormous truck. Last week, I pulled in and he had parked WAY far over on my side, which I thought was a mistake, until he told me that he had purposely done that to force me to park where he felt I should park. ARGH! It’s such a stupid argument.

      My 5 year old is very feisty, stubborn, and opinionated and it’s driving me insane. Getting her to do even the smallest things is a huge struggle. I hope this means that she’ll grow up to be a strong, independent thinker that doesn’t let other people push her around, but in the meantime? OMG.

      1. fposte*

        I think it’s that people believe they’ll be changed in some key way, kind of like people dream about winning the lottery. But it really won’t change you disliking your nose, or worrying your friends are mad, or taking it personally when your boss reprimands you, because that’s about who you are and not who you’re with. And in my experience people who are unsatisfied with their lives don’t suddenly become satisfied with their lives if they couple up–they just have a new part of their lives they’re unsatisfied with.

        1. Celeste*

          You get to the top of the hill, and then you see the next hill you have to get over. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s just a fantasy that there’s only one hill.

          1. fractal*

            “It’s just a fantasy that there’s only one hill.”

            I want to get this tattooed on my wrist. So much truth in your statement.

    4. LPBB*

      When I was in my mid twenties I was desperately lonely and unhappy. I didn’t have friends, only acquaintances, and rarely had men show any interest in me. At the same time, I was being bombarded by messages from mass media that my 20s are supposed to be a time when I’m surrounded by friends and dating different guys all the time and just being happy and carefree. At the time, I couldn’t help but feel like I was defective in some way.

      For me at least, it wasn’t so much that I wanted a relationship so badly, it was just that everybody else’s relationships around me reminded me of how “defective” I was. *But* I knew that was my own issue and kept it to myself. I also worked through those issues and came to a better place. Coincidentally, when I was no longer miserable and feeling defective all the time I started having more fun, more friends, and more dates.

      1. Ellie H.*

        I think it’s possible to be well-adjusted and still sad to be single. It’s completely possible to be happy, self-fulfilled, totally full life, family, friends, etc. and not in a relationship and feel like you have all you need and don’t need a relationship and if you are happy like that, that is wonderful. But a lot of people want the unique closeness of a relationship, even if everything else in their life works fine without it (and even if it doesn’t!). I was perfectly happy being single for about a year and a half after getting out of a serious relationship, and then I wasn’t, and became really lonely. I am happy to be with someone now, and I know I’d be okay if I weren’t, but it doesn’t make you maladjusted and in need of correction if you’re sad not to have that really unique type of closeness and emotional and physical connection with another person.

        1. Whippers*

          Yeah, that’s fair enough. But equally I wonder sometimes with friends and family just how special their connection is with their other half.
          It kinda seems like they could have the same relationship with anyone else vaguely compatible and that they fell into convenient relationships rather than staying single. Maybe that’s just me being very cynical but I would rather be single forever than be with someone just for the sake of it.

        2. Esra*

          Thanks for this. I didn’t start dating till my late twenties, and have been single again for the past couple years. It’s rough to read all the ‘rah rah rah s-i-n-g-l-e!’ comments. I like my friends and my hobbies and my job but… it’s lonely eating alone, and living alone, and being alone.

          1. fposte*

            I guess to me this is more a life orientation thing than a haves vs. have nots. If I’m unihabitational, that’s not a comment on somebody who’s bihabitational, whether we’re happy in our arrangements or not.

            1. esra*

              I’m thinking less about comparisons to others and more about people telling me outright I should be soooo happy I can just go home and be alone (yay?).

  37. Marquis*

    You didn’t ask about this, but…

    If you have issues being unhappy due to being single, you’re going to have a rough time having a healthy relationship. People are attracted to people who are happy and confident with themselves and their lives. Looking to a man/woman for happiness is asking for trouble and codependent relationships.

  38. Kelly O*

    One thing I realized none of us are picking up on is that the OP says she’s only been at this job two months.

    The behavior is absolutely inexcusable, but especially after only two months. Many people have 90 day probation periods, and this kind of thing could easily get a person dismissed for no other reason than just not fitting the need/company culture/whatever.

    I don’t know why the first time I read it, I felt like this job/relationship with the boss had been going on much longer. That it’s so short just adds to the head-scratching for me, personally.

    1. fposte*

      In fact, most employees could be dismissed on that basis any time, not just in the first 90 days.

    2. Whippers*

      Yes, actually I was just thinking that two months is an awfully short length of time in a job to be acting this way. I have just passed my 3 month probation and was actually on tenterhooks about how anything I said could be construed. Which is probably not the best way to be either but I can’t fathom someone acting like this after such a short period.

    3. Zillah*

      Yeah, I wonder if part of this is that the OP’s outside connections with the boss (through his brother-in-law, friends, etc) might be making him feel more comfortable than he really should.

  39. LouG*

    How does one even go about giving their boss the “silent treatment”? Is the OP being asked direct questions by her boss and ignoring them? Is she not responding to emails? Does she pass her in the hall and not say hello? I’m genuinely curious.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Geez, now that I am thinking about how “the silent treatment” would work at work, it even sounds worse. I think I would be fired after two days.

    2. Chris80*

      I’m wondering this, too. For some reason, I was assuming minimum communication from the OP, i.e. very brief responses to direct questions, very little eye contact, and no small talk. But if the OP is really not talking to her boss at all, that’s even worse than what I was thinking!

      1. Nina*

        That’s what I was thinking; the LW has to talk to his boss but probably using as little work-related communication as possible, and/or clipped answers to social questions, if any at all. For example:

        “How are you?”
        “Did you have a good weekend?”
        “Where did you go?”

        And so on.

    3. majigail*

      I’ve had employees do it to me for one, two maybe days. It does not look good and is totally unproductive.

    4. Jen S. 2.0*

      I suspect there’s a lot of dirty looks, exasperated sighing, eye rolling, and thinking mean thoughts about Boss, in addition to monosyllabic/limited responses and general unhelpfulness.

      Boss actually may or may not be aware of the extent; a lot of it may be occurring in OP’s head. The fact that OP has a major attitude may not have even registered, or Boss may not know it’s directed at Boss.

      (I had a dear friend who was annoyed with a truly odious coworker, and she expected him to know that she hated his guts because…she didn’t smile AT ALL when she responded to something he asked her. Me: “You do know he has no clue, right? He didn’t notice. Your awfulness to him was 98% in your head.”)

  40. LizNYC*

    OP, I’ve had infuriating bosses before. Trust me, I know. This is when you type out the email *without an address* at the top, save it to your drafts folder, let it sit there for a few days, then ultimately do *not* send it once you’ve cooled down a bit. It’s helped me last through several jobs when all I really wanted to do was tell my bosses exactly what I thought of them.

    And don’t let your singleness get the best of you. Seriously. I was single for most of my 20s, then a good friend filled out an eHarmony account for me (since describing yourself is harder than it sounds). I met three guys in 5 months and the 3rd guy ended up becoming my husband.

    1. Except in California*

      Yes! Happily single for almost twenty years, and for the rest of my life. I’d never go back to being 1/2 of a couple, not for all the tea in China.

    2. Kera*

      Single from 18-28, and I rocked the hell out of my career in that period. I could do anything, take the best opportunity, because I wasn’t tied to a person or place. Good times, good people, good foundations.

      I mean, I’m still rocking it, but I can’t as easily take that 6-month secondment to Shanghai now.

  41. limenotapple*

    I can understand how her actions made you feel, but I think the only option you have to salvage this right now is to apologize. And not the “i’m sorry you took offense” non-apology, but a real apology.

    I think that would be hard to do. I’m pretty stubborn and it would be hard for me. But I really think it’s the only way.

  42. SCW*

    I want to make a suggestion to the OP that is a bit tangential to the singleness issue. It is about taking feedback. One of the most important professional and life skills you can develop is the ability to be receptive to feedback. To seek it out, respond appropriately, and be able to distinguish between performance issues and personal judgement. No matter what you do in life, and how good you are at it, you will receive feedback, both good and bad. If your boss comes to you to talk about a performance issue and you are appropriately responsive, your boss is more likely to be willing to work with you to overcome the issue.

    I think about it this way–if my boss lets me know I should be doing something different and I respond by asking some clarifying questions about what he wants, and committing to do it the way he wants, and I stay upbeat and thank him for the direction. He will leave feeling more confident in my ability to correct my behavior and in my abilities in general. However, if I respond to correction or redirection with tears, a personal re-attack on him for not telling me what he wanted in the first place, or tangents about his behavior, he is likely to leave more concerned about my behavior and performance then he started with.

    Now, of course, a good attitude doesn’t make up for not having the skills and not following through, but it really helps. I once took a job I was totally unsuited for driving a bookmobile. I ran into a building. It was terrible–but I had all along kept a good attitude, responded appropriately to feedback, and been willing to listen to hard things and work on it. They didn’t keep me driving, but they found a position for me that was a better fit. Attitude matters.

    1. Jean*

      No disrespect, SCW, but thanks for providing both a LOL moment and some serious confidence reinforcement. I’ve made my own workplace blunders, but I’ve never driven a bookmobile into a building! (BTW this is going onto my list of Mythical T-Shirt Slogans.)

      Kudos to you for having such a good attitude that your colleagues wanted to find a better fit for you elsewhere in the same organization.

      1. SCW*

        Someone has always got to have made mistakes worse than yours, and some go down in smoke and some don’t. The question is what distinguishes them? I think it is how you respond–so the OP needs to figure out how she can shape her response into a learning opportunity.

        I always remember at one job they told me the person before me had locked a patron in the library when they’d secured the building and not checked the conference room. I always remind myself, at least I didn’t lock a patron in the building. Or get condoms printed with the library’s logo (that was another, at least you aren’t that bad story).

        1. Jean*

          “get condoms printed with the library’s logo”

          Reactions (multiple choice):
          – WHAT were they thinking (besides “the First Amendment doesn’t distinguish between good and bad taste in free speech”)?
          – Is this a positive display of the professional belief that The Mission of the Library is to Bring Information to the People?
          – Or, does this idea get moved to WTF Wednesday?
          – All of the above

          1. Kelly L.*

            I went to a small rock concert a few years back where the band awarded a “Good Girl” prize to the first woman who could produce her library card from her purse, and a “Bad Girl” prize to the first woman who could dig up a condom. With one of those, I could have won both prizes in one fell swoop.

        2. ella*

          When I worked in hotel A/V support and had a bad day at work, my go-to coping mechanism when I got home was youtube videos of rigging falling down in the middle of concerts. There’s nothing quite like, “Well, you had to re-route the internet with 40 people watching you, but at least you didn’t kill anybody” to make you feel better about your day.

    2. AMT*

      Thanks for the laugh. This one will go down in Great Comment Story history. (Possibly also into Comment Stories Where I Picture A Bookmobile On Fire, Where The Bookmobile Was Probably Not On Fire history.)

      Reminds me of the time I had to shuttle patrons to and from the parking lot at a museum one summer. Ah, college. They took me off the golf cart once I convinced them through my driving skills that I would eventually kill someone.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Our bookmobile did catch on fire once! Nobody crashed it though, and no books were martyred. It was strictly an under the hood thing.

        1. AMT*

          You said “no books were martyred,” but didn’t mention people, so I’m going to assume there were fiery corpses everywhere.

  43. BW*

    My advice would be to fake this one, OP. No matter how much it might gall you to apologize to your boss, you need to bite the bullet and do it. Someday, when you’ve truly reached the right level of maturity, you’ll be glad you did.

    Last week there was a good discussion in one of the posts’ comment section about how to do apologies right, and that’s the way I think you need to do it. This is not a problem that a simple “I’m sorry OK?” will solve. It needs to be the whole nine yards of “I’m sorry that I _______. It was wrong because ________. In the future I will ___________. Can we move on from this?” (I don’t take credit for this, I just can’t find the link)

    I think you’re lucky that your manager is also somewhat immature. Because a more seasoned manager would have fired you in an instant, probably right after you sent your first (wildly inappropriate) email in response to her giving you feedback on your work. So, use this luck to your advantage–Go to her and apologize like you’re in the run for Best Actress, and maaaaaaybe you can still save your “near-perfect” job. It’s worth you saying something you don’t mean–go apologize!!–to save a job that’s “near-perfect”, isn’t it?

    I’m saying this because I think how you reacted to this situation is also affecting your personal life. Because this is not the way to interact with ANYone, whether it be your boss or a potential boyfriend. I admit that I am a stranger to you and I don’t know very much about you at all I can only tell you how this letter is making you come across to other strangers–and that group may include potential significant others: How this letter is portraying you is turning other people off.

    Please please fake the maturity until you make it. Luckily, there are many well-meaning people on this website to help you do that.

  44. Tiff*

    I had to put my head down on my desk for 2 minutes after reading this.

    But the comments….seriously, you guys give me life. All I could think of after reading the OP was a series of not-nice things, but between the comments and Allison’s response all of my not-nice thoughts were translated into something that (I hope) OP can digest and benefit from. It’s easy to e-bash when someone puts their issues front and center. Much harder and better to give good advice with a dose of reality check and a dash of “yeah I’ve been there too”.

    Now I’m just going to sit here contemplating my own overdue attitude adjustments. Good luck OP, you are the one with the power to change this situation for the better.

  45. Tiff*

    Oh yeah, I will jump on the Don’t Put That in an Email train. The stronger your feelings, the more likely they will not go over well in email form. I have definitely been there!

  46. Annie O*

    OP, listen to Alison’s advice and the comments here. There’s a lot of good advice. I’m going avoid dog piling, and take a different track. It sounds like there are a lot of factors that are making this job a bad fit for you, such as:

    * You’re in a 2-person office.
    * Your boss lacks management experience, and you don’t have a ton of professional experience yourself.
    * Your social and personal connections with your boss blur the normal workplace boundaries.
    * You prefer autonomy, while you see your boss growing into a callous power-hoarder.

    If I were you, I’d think long and hard about whether you want this job. If you do, you need to change your attitude immediately. (Start acting like a professional, build boundaries, get headphones, etc). But you may realize that this job isn’t good for you right now – even if you really like the work. It sounds like your professional development may benefit from a larger workplace with experienced managers and mentors.

  47. KVM*

    Please, please, please, do not be friends with your boss on Facebook. If you don’t want to defriend them, then make things very private and unfollow, or take the steps necessary to put them (and possibly the mutual friends with ehr) into their own group who don’t receive your updates.

    And, unless something is super egregious – and I’m talking like legal-action type egregious, PLEASE refrain from posting about work, especially mentioning names, on social media. You could get yourself dooced.

    1. Anonylicious*

      This is why the list function is the best thing ever. Just set your default privacy to “Friends except (list)” and they can’t see a thing but you don’t have to unfriend them.

      Every single person on my FB is on some sort of list. Gotta compartmentalize that sh*t.

      1. Blief*

        Wait. Don’t your actions follow the privacy rules of where you commenting/liking? So if your boss is an exception to your list, that will only work for when you post status, but if you comment on someone else’s post he/she would still get that in their newsfeed, right? I’ve stopped using Facebook all together because I feel like everyone sees everything now. So for example, I will always see when Jody posts on her friend Sally’s wall even though I’m not friends with Sally. FB really confuses me these days. All
        I ever see are ads now anyways. No one posts bc its impossible to keep it among your chosen audience. Am I wrong?

        1. Zillah*

          I don’t think you’re wrong, no – it’s one of the reasons I’m avoiding facebook, too.

        2. Anonylicious*

          If they’re a mutual friend, then they’d see the comments. And they’d see if you like mutual friends’ things, I think. But that’s also where discretion comes in. If you must post something you don’t want a particular person to see, post it on something where you set the privacy settings. Of course, someone else could still tell them about it. But if you’ve already made the mistake of friending your boss with whom you have mutual friends, restricting them with a list is your best bet of mitigating the damage if you feel too awkward to defriend them.

          I mean, the only professionalish contacts on my FB are my old Army buddies, so it’s not something I worry about much. Coworkers go on Linkedin, not Facebook.

          (Also, Adblock Plus is a wonderful thing.)

    2. majigail*

      Or best- don’t put anything negative about work, boss, coworkers, etc on Facebook. I try really hard not to put anything on there that I wouldn’t mind people from all parts of my life, plus some strangers, knowing about. (hard to do 100% of the time.)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I keep all work stuff off facebook, and I don’t friend coworkers or bosses either. The only people from work I have on there are people from Exjob–I didn’t add them until AFTER we left. Only two of them are still there.

  48. Lanya*

    I will just add that the “silent treatment” might give you the perception that you have control over a situation, but in reality it just destroys your reputation for how well you can handle interpersonal relationships.

    I hope things improve for the OP, but she will first need to stop allowing other people’s happiness to get in her way. That is too easy a hole to fall into. In life, we have to make our own happiness.

  49. Bea W*

    Look. She is your boss. That means that she decides what does and doesn’t fly in the office. You can ask her nicely, once, if you’d like something handled differently, but then she gets to make the call, and you need to respect that call.

    Yes, unfortunately. This is one of the tough things I struggled with early in my career, the whole “do as I say, not as I do” thing that managers have the privilege of using, and having to know where the line of authority is drawn. The reality of the workplace is you can’t tell your boss to stop having personal conversations on the phone, even if your boss tells you to stop having personal conversations on the phone. This is purely because there is a hierarchy, which means your boss calls the shots, and not the other way around. It may not be fair, but it is what it is.

    This is where learning to not sweat the small stuff and learning to ask for what you want in a way that it does not appear like you are trying to usurp authority, and getting to the root of the business impact (“calls are distracting me from my work” vs. “I am single and all this mushy stuff makes me gag.”) are vitally important.

  50. L McD*

    It’s funny that the OP’s singlehood is a big part of this question, because my first thought at the content of the email was that it’s how people tend to fight with their significant others, not their bosses. “Could you please put the mayonnaise away after you’re done with it?” “Well the only reason I leave it out is because YOU’RE NEVER HOME!”

    It’s a completely normal, human reaction to bottle up frustrations – even irrational ones, and have them rise to the surface when something pokes at a vaguely related issue. The ability to think through and measure responses to criticism, skirting any knee-jerk negative reactions, is something that takes a lot of effort and practice. But one of the beautiful things about email is that you have time to consider your response before you hit “send.” I’d highly suggest NOT sending any emotionally charged emails to your boss (or anyone, really) until you’ve given yourself at least one night to sleep on it, and consider whether it’s appropriate.

    Because here’s what sucks about this situation now: the phone calls might be legitimately annoying, and not really conducive to a good working environment, but you’ve lost the right to complain about them now. By couching your complaints in terms of your own unhappiness about your singlehood – something that is not your boss’s problem, and something that I promise she is NOT thinking about when she’s making dinner plans on the phone – you’ve put such a weird spin on it that your boss isn’t going to take the issue seriously now.

    I +1 the idea of headphones, and some serious efforts into working out your personal life and figuring out how/why you’re letting it bleed into your professional life like this.

    1. Dulcinea*

      I really like your comment, especially pointing out that OP is “fighting” with his boss the same way you would fight with an SO. Also +1 to this: ” By couching your complaints in terms of your own unhappiness about your singlehood – something that is not your boss’s problem, and something that I promise she is NOT thinking about when she’s making dinner plans on the phone – you’ve put such a weird spin on it that your boss isn’t going to take the issue seriously now.”

    1. Bea W*

      Now that lunch is over, I’m going to have to close my browser and not open it until I get home, or I will not work the rest of the afternoon!

  51. Grey*

    This type of behavior will get you fired from most jobs. Your boss is very tolerant, or at least very good at hiding the fact she’s seeking out your replacement.

  52. Vera*

    I’m not going to rehash what everyone else has said, because it’s mostly on point including AAM’s advice.

    For the forseeable future, your workplace will be a little different than it was before. Maybe before it was friendly and happy, easygoing and didn’t feel so much like work. Now, it going to feel tense and quiet, and if you’re anything like me you will feel like you have a big ball of anger brewing in your chest.

    The best way I found to deal with this was to completely immerse myself in projects. The kind of projects that require 4 hours worth of focus at a time with headphones on and no other distractions. I hope that’s an option for you. I’m not a huge music fan but I found that listening to music helped me escape the work world (and the people in it) particularly during high tension times. For lunch, go somewhere and read a book or watch a TV show- lose yourself in it. And if you can, work from home or take a mental health day. Also, try meditating- I have an app called Buddhify that’s pretty good.

    It can be really stressful having to work so closely with someone you’re not getting along with (even if it’s only for the moment). The key is to stay as product as you can and stew as a little as possible.

  53. Emmy*

    Excellent advice from AAM and many commenters. I also want to add that OP, you should consider learning some new skills to handle conflicts. Behavior like the silent treatment, using “olive branches” and some other stuff you mentioned comes across as manipulative and ineffectual. That kind of behavior generally makes problems worse, and can really harm your interpersonal relationships, both in the workplace and personally. Learn better practices like open communication and accepting responsibility for your own choices and mistakes will be very beneficial.

  54. Joey*

    Op, have you always had difficulty accepting critical feedback? Getting defensive and attacking/redirecting the conversation seems to me to be the real problem here. Although you’re really grasping at straws in your attempt to rationalize the problems with your work.

  55. Except in California*

    It’s normal to get upset at work, but the *only* thing you should do when you are upset is update your resume, then file it. Don’t send emails, don’t give anyone any kind of treatment except kindness and respect, and make yourself hold those emotions in until you get home. Updating your resume makes you feel like you are doing something about the situation, and it’s something we all need to do but put off, so channel that negative energy into something positive for you.

  56. Theatre Director (Liz T)*

    This is what I wish I could tell my slightly-younger self: you’re not broken, and most of this heartache is actually pride.

    I was also perpetually single. From age 14 to age 27 I never had someone I could call a boyfriend, and very, very rarely dated someone even for a few weeks. I now have a wonderful life partner, but my point is NOT “don’t worry, you’ll find someone.” But I realize now that MOST of the unhappiness over this was from feeling like I SHOULD’VE been in a relationship, and that there was something wrong or bad about me that I couldn’t seem to make that happen. And that sucks, and that’s natural, but I wish I’d been more aware of that at the time.

    Not that I was constantly unhappy–I had a LOT of fun in my 20s that, honestly, many of my never-single friends didn’t. I also saw some friends get into relationships with people they only kind of liked, just because they didn’t know how to be single. I wanted to be with someone I’d hang out with even if we weren’t attracted to each other, and I was confused to see people “round up” for the sake of having a relationship.

    This probably doesn’t help, per se, but it’s something to think about.

  57. MR*

    I think the OP needs to read all of the comments, and also read and re-read Alison’s comments many, many times.

    I had a lot of concern for the OP (as most others have), as I read the original letter. Then the OPs response right at the top has me even much more concerned, because it’s as if he didn’t even acknowledge what Alison originally said.

    None of what the boss spends her time on has any concern with you, unless it directly interferes with your work. Her discussions about extracurricular activities do not fall into that category – at all.

    Quite honestly, you need to be thankful that you are still employed, and I’d recommend that you start looking for another job. I strongly have my doubts that you are going to get over this and as a result, your boss will likely let you go if you are not able to put this behind you (and also not allow another petty issue get in the way of your work). Good luck!

  58. Leah*

    1) I get having a tough time when people are doing well in an area where you’re struggling. I turned off all notifications from LinkedIn, because my job hunt is going poorly so I’m not excited to hear about people getting jobs or promotions. Recently, I saw on Facebook that an acquaintance got a job I’d applied for so I sighed and kept scrolling. If I had found out in person, I would have just gritted my teeth and congratulated her as sincerely as possible. As mentioned by a number of other commenters, it would be helpful for the OP to have someone (unrelated to both work and social circles) to talk this out with. A credentialed therapist or clergy person (if applicable). I have a friend who put off telling most of his friends and family about his engagement because a friend of his had “banned” everyone around her from making any happy announcements (engagements, babies, houses, new jobs, nada) for 2 months because she was feeling crappy. He’s very sweet and a bit socially awkward, so he actually complied. I’ve never met this person and I never ever want to. The email the OP sent is putting her on the path to becoming that person. Not a bad person but so overwhelmed by her own unhappiness that it multiplies on itself and other people flee.

    2) Any advice for talking to someone who is similarly immature/inexperienced about office behavior? If I didn’t know her current employment situation, I could have sworn the letter was written by an acquaintance of mine. She and I tend to drift together and then apart over time. Two periods when we were close, she had more 9-5 jobs and she never stopped complaining about them and how awesome she was and how awful anyone in authority was. In the most recent job, I actually knew the person she was complaining about as it’s a small but well-known organization in our area. He is not the messiah but he’s also not a very naughty boy. She was telling me about why and how she’d quit and I tried to gently nudge her towards seeing things from a more self-aware and broad view to no avail. In my head, I was shaking her and repeating, “It’s not them, it’s you!” Luckily (and unluckily) for her, her parents are well off and seem to be fine supporting her as she flits around doing various projects.

    We’re not that close, so it might never come up again but any advice on maybe helping her realize her role in her work issues?

    FWIW, She seems to have similar issues in her personal life but she would never in a million years ask for advice in that area so I keep my big yap shut.

  59. Mena*

    “She erred by not establishing professional boundaries from the get-go, but you’ve taken that broadening of boundaries even further, and you’re not seeing your boss as your boss.”

    You are not in a position to dictate what or how your boss talks on the phone – and somehow making her conversations with her SO anything to do with your singledom is, well, a bit self-absorbed.

    It sounds like your boss provided (negative) feedback that you were surprised to hear, and are offended she offered. Your email rejects this input from your superior and then goes on to announced how her phone calls make you uncomfortable. Um, your boss didn’t ask for your feedback on the office environment. I think she handled this quite well by having a conversation with you but you’re still on getting that fact that you work for her (at least for the moment). Do your work and please keep opinions not related to work to yourself.

    Yes, your boss was too casual with this relationship in the beginning and yes you need quite a bit more structure and formality in a professional setting. I think your boss is seeing this, and that means you are on very thin ice. Do you want this job? If so, you should act like you do, do the job, never mind the FB ‘relationship’ and perform professionally.

  60. Lindrine*

    Here is the best advice I have ever gotten: Be Kind. No really – there are only two things you are really in control of: how you think about something and how you react to it. OP, I know you are in a frustrating situation now, but the important thing is you are learning from what happened. Best of luck.

  61. Better Not*

    Here is an old line from the military that applies here, “you don’t have to respect the person, but you have to respect their position.”

    I’ll give a personal anecdote to use as an example.

    My first job out of college was as a field engineer, where I worked for 2.5 years. The job had extremely high peaks and extremely low valleys. One of the upsides was that I worked for the best leader I’ve ever seen. I respected him so much, that nothing he did bugged me. He’d play solitaire during conversations, leave early when everybody else was busy, give confusing directions, talk on speakerphone while yelling so there was 0% chance of concentrating anywhere in a 5 mile radius, etc. In spite of all that, he was a great person to work for. I respected his hard working nature, his immense knowledge, his ethical behavior, etc. so much that it far outweighed the negatives. In short, I respected him as a person, not just because he was my boss. As such, I overlooked things like when he left early, even though I was doing a 16 hour shift.

    Fast forward, I leave the job because of upper management. I’m at a new job for 3 months where my boss works 1200 miles from me, and I see him once a month. My new boss has a ton of new flaws, with very little of the upside I described in my old boss. However, I just have to keep my mouth shut and do what he says because…. well, he is the boss. The boss says do X, I have to do X. I’ve found that questioning X in the way I would with my old boss (that is, respectfully and with a “I’m trying to figure out how all this works” attitude just results in my new boss sniping at me with emails. It upsets me, but as the boss, it is his right to do so, so I’ve toned down the questions and accepted new boss’s behavior. I show him the respect I have to because he is the boss.

    OP, it seems like you are longing for a situation like I had with my old boss, but since you aren’t there, you are just not respecting your boss at all. You don’t have a choice OP, you have to respect your boss enough to know that it isn’t your place to point out annoying phone calls. Your boss has been forthcoming with “olive branches,” which is better than what most bosses would do in this situation, so you need to sit down with her and give an honest apology.

    1. Anonymous*

      It’s hard to become accustomed to a job situation where people work things out as equals, since there are only two of you and you are ‘friends’ and then figure out, whoops, we aren’t equals. One person is the boss and one the employee. If you were co-workers, you would have to work something out about the phone calls, but you can’t do that to your boss. I hated getting smacked down like that as a younger worker, and I still don’t like it, but it no longer surprises me. What I do with this feeling, and what I hope you do, is realize that any time YOU are in charge, there are people who will have to do what you say because you are the boss. Are you going to be the boss who knows you could get away with stuff ‘because you are the boss’ or you are going to be the great boss who treats everyone with respect? That kind of boss does sometimes have to say ‘well I’m sorry everyone, but is how it will be.’ But that statement is balanced by at least 5x more instances where the boss took the heat for the team, made the hard decisions, stayed late and made it happen, etc. Your boss is offering olive branches. Accept them. A good boss and an employee who is willing to take criticism are a good combo. Use your newfound dedication to navigating the world of work, and don’t repeat any of your conversation with your boss to your workmates. Learning confidentiality at work is also very important.
      If the silence is a family pattern, one way to work on that is to think of the workday as a kind of performance. Monday through Friday, we have our little work rituals, and in a small office, you know each other’s. You each come in, say good morning, usually ‘good weekend?’ on Monday, and either have coffee or tea and chat, or work awhile, then take a break, etc. Think of the polite gestures and conversations as performance art, when your emotions are telling you to be silent. They are just what civilized people do when they must work in close quarters, even when things are tense. Good practice for a romantic relationship, by the way. `

  62. EmilyG*

    In one of AAM’s replies, she is implying that the OP is male, which, if true, makes me look at the issue a little differently.

    In my past, I’ve encountered men who believe that a relationship is something that they “have,” like a nice car or a TV; that a relationship is something that they “deserve,” perhaps more than other people deserve one; or that’s “unfair” that they don’t have a relationship. It is not fun to be in a relationship with someone who thinks this way–they may not think of their female partner as a possession, but you can’t work with them to grow the relationship as an organic thing that exists between the two of you because they think of the relationship as a possession that you’re threatening. (Maybe there are women who think like this too, but I guess I wouldn’t know…)

    I got a bit of this vibe from the way the OP takes offense at his(?) boss having a relationship when he doesn’t. Why does that matter? It seems nonsensical, like being upset that someone else is religious when you’re not. It’s not that the boss “has” something that the OP does not. It’s just a part of life that you can choose to pursue or not as your own taste and personality lead you.

    1. Celeste*

      Agree. The OP has some issues, and maybe they are the heart of his dating struggles that have surfaced as a work problem.

      A relationship is a connection between two people. You can either draw people in or push them away.

      You are never entitled to “have” someone, because your partner is a whole person who can must choose you as well…not a thing that you deserve.

    2. Zillah*

      Yeah, ditto. I can understand being a little jealous, but the OP does seem outright offended. The fact that he called his boss talking to her girlfriend “borderline harassment” struck me in particular – it just doesn’t make sense to me. I think that there are women like this, too – who see a relationship as something to have, as a sort of status symbol – but I do see it more from men.

      This may not fit the OP at all, but yeah, it crossed my mind, too. As a sidenote, I also wonder how much of the slack his manager is cutting him over this behavior is influenced by gender dynamics.

  63. Gail L*

    I feel another point, that has not been addressed… is the way the phone calls were brought up at all. When I was reading OP’s letter, I felt like I was watching a fight in a relationship: “You did a horrible job with the dishes!” “Well YOU never take out the trash!” One has nothing to do with the other.

    OP, you took feedback badly, felt hurt, and then lashed out with an attack that had nothing to do with the feedback. The entire focus of this conversation should have been on the feedback about your meticulousness (or lack thereof). The phone calls have nothing to do with the feedback. They were brought up to retaliate against the boss in whatever way possible. You should never respond to criticism of any kind by criticizing the other person about something unrelated; instead you need to listen, agree or disagree, and present an appropriate defense or path toward correction.

    You should have listened to her issues with your meticulousness. If you disagreed with her, you should have approached her about it in person and said, “I tried hard to understand your feedback, but I felt I did everything possibly by doing X, Y, and Z. Can you help me understand how to improve in a way I’m not already trying so that I can meet your expectations?”

    Nothing about phone calls here.

    1. FatBigot*

      In fact, is this the reason the OP is single in the first place?

      1. Blows up at perceived criticism. (Does anyone else think Dunning–Kruger here?)
      2. Brings in unrelated issues to the argument.
      3. Finishes off with the silent treatment.

      Those are not the ways to build any kind of professional or personal relationship. I suspect that any potential partners detect this and run a mile.

      By the way, I fully agree that being a single male sucks when that is not the state you want to be in.

      1. Gail L*

        Probably can’t go so far from a single post, even a long one, but I *was* thinking “drama llama” while reading the post. Something about the retaliation, combined with overthinking the “silent treatment” and rejecting of the “olive branch” made me feel the priority was “winning” the emotional battle rather than solving problems and getting work done.

      2. Hummingbird*

        I think that is a little bit harsh to conclude from one incident that this is why “the OP is single in the first place.” Not knowing the OP, I think we should not make any rash judgement on her entire personal life.

        1. LJL*

          Seriously. We’re seeing one side of the one experience in the OP’s life. it’s hard to form judgement from just that snippet.

    2. AB Normal*

      “You should have listened to her issues with your meticulousness. If you disagreed with her, you should have approached her about it in person and said, “I tried hard to understand your feedback, but I felt I did everything possibly by doing X, Y, and Z. Can you help me understand how to improve in a way I’m not already trying so that I can meet your expectations?”

      I love this — great example of how to react to feedback if you disagree with your boss. And then listen carefully, because in 99% of the case, the feedback will have at least some merit, even if when we receive it, it sounds unfair to us.

  64. JustMe*

    I’m guessing the OP is very young, in a professional sense. I too was once where you are. It takes time to learn how to play the game. You WILL make plenty mistakes, lose friends, make people dislike you, etc. The thing is every situation you go through is a learning opportunity. You’ll get better at handling situations in due time as you grow. It definitely isn’t something that you will, or even should just know. This is why blogs like AAM are so needed. Not everything that someone does or says is meant as an offense. It’s best to step outside yourself for a moment, think about what you need to do/say, then come back to it when you are calm and able to explain yourself in a way that will make the other person see your point of view.

    I once had a coworker ‘blow-up’ on me. The only thing she did was solidify her crazy, and made me lose the last bit of respect I had for her. It didn’t end well either.

    My 2 cents:
    1. Seek out a mentor, someone who is well respected, and far removed from the company/team/boss/situation.
    2. Find some pro development books to read for growth. Dale Carnegie comes to mind.

      1. JustMe*

        Yeah, I noticed that the other week as well. Funny though. Let’s flip a coin…heads or tails? LOL

  65. Clever Name*

    This reminds me of a past job where my office was a combination of people in private offices, shared offices, and open work areas. I worked in an open work area. My boss had a habit of taking all calls (loudly) on speakerphone. Thankfully, he normally closed the door when on personal calls, so I only had to pretend to not hear his side of the conversation. However, one time he had a personal call that the whole office could hear both sides of the conversation. His ex-wife called on the anniversary of their child’s death and was absolutely SOBBING into the phone. :( It was on speakerphone, and it was loud enough for all to hear. One of my coworkers even came out of his office confused and asked what the sound was. It was absolutely gut-wrenching hearing that. :(

    My point is, even after all that, nobody ever asked him to stop making (loud) personal calls. Because he’s the boss. We all just put in earbuds and kept our heads down and kept working. It sucked.

  66. MJ*

    (though also emailing me to inform me that she was going to add more structure to my role by making me fill out timesheets)…

    This is your boss trying to put boundaries in place because you are not observing proper boundaries. Take heed!

  67. Anonylicious*

    OP, the only thing I have to add to what everyone else has said is this: don’t take your ego to work with you. Taking things personally will only hurt you professionally.

  68. Kinrowan*

    One of the best things I’ve learned is to deal with my boss as she is and not as I would wish her to be. She has many qualities but she also is a very poor leader in many areas but I have let myself know that about her so now when she behaves in ways that anger me but that are totally within the norm of her behavior I can just tell myself “that’s boss” and move on and deal with the work issue that is involved. This has allowed me to have a great relationship with her. But she has not changed. I have.

    So bring the focus back on yourself – You are there to do a job. What do you need? You need quiet? bring headphones. You are having a hard time being single? that is not work related so deal with it in your own time. [I am much older than you and single for more years than you so I say this understanding how hard and painful it can be; but it’s not your boss’ business]. You need her to sign a report? make an appointment if she is not available. And so on.

  69. JaneJ*

    “feeling that she doubted my work ethic and meticulousness, two qualities I take great pride in”

    I found this comment interesting. I manage a small team, and, frankly, lots of people have a skewed perception of their own skills. Just because you feel you do a great job doesn’t mean you actually do. To me, this reads like “how dare you insult something I’ve declared myself superior at.” I’m sorry to say, but your feelings about your work are irrelevant if, in reality, the work is subpar.

    Separately, I have a habit of taking my work really personally, which it sounds like you do too. When you do that, hearing negative feedback can seem like a personal attack, and I completely understand the instict to want to repond with an equal personal attack. (In my younger years I once gave my boss the silent treatment too). Feeling that way about work is torturous. I was a ball of stress and constantly fluxing between happy about my job and angry/worried about some perceived personal affront. It’s difficult, but if you can find a way to be more subjective, work will be much less drama filled.

  70. Anon because I want to be*

    I’m going to give a different perspective: I was dating someone once and I thought things were going well with him, so I went to hold his hand. We were in public, leaving a movie theater, I think. I had a nice time at the movie and wanted to show my affection, so I reached for his hand. He threw it aside, telling me that he vowed never to hold hands in public as he spent many years alone and the sight of couples holding hands only served to rub it in his face and he could never do that to another single guy. I was hurt and confused. I had been single myself for a very long time and my intention had nothing to do with hurting other single people. Didn’t he like me? Why are the feelings of a nameless stranger more important than the feelings of his girlfriend?

    I don’t have a salient point to make here. This letter just reminded me of that.

    1. AMT*

      The salient point is that you dated a crazy person.

      I wonder what would’ve happened if the relationship had progressed. “Sorry, don’t want a wedding. What if a single guy heard about it?” “No, we can’t take little Tommy to the playground. I wouldn’t want to put the single guys in the park through that.”

        1. AMT*

          They’re jealously lurking in the bushes, ready to jump out at anyone they see holding hands.

    2. Celeste*

      This story gives me a headache right between the eyes. I can’t even imagine having lived through it.

    3. Em*

      Yeah – if his boss DID change her behavior from the usual mushy romantic stuff, to being cold on the phone, it might cause tension in their relationship and questions to arise. I know if I was in a relationship and my SO told me that they couldn’t tell me they loved me anymore on the phone because a coworker didn’t like it, I’d be pretty annoyed that the coworker had the power to affect our relationship in that way. Important to put yourself in the other party’s shoes.

  71. Em*

    The advice above about how to handle your boss and change your work behavior/reactions is pretty invaluable. Whenever you have a problem, you have to deal with it in terms of what you can change not what someone else can, since you can’t control their behavior.
    The problem in this case seems to be that you’re single and don’t want to be. (FWIW I will agree with posters saying that being single can be awesome, but also understand if its not what you want then it doesn’t matter how awesome it is). That’s a problem you can address – join online dating sites, meetup groups, etc. If you know there is a reason you’re not getting dates or are worried you aren’t – address that by seeking counseling, getting a wardrobe makeover, etc. If you’re having self confidence issues start investing more time in yourself by working out, eating healthier, etc. Whatever it is you could improve on or try to help fix your situation. You have to give yourself some agency here, not just blaming your boss.

    1. Observer*

      You’re making some pretty big assumptions here. You have no way to even guess from this letter whether the OP is taking these, or any other steps to change his situation.

      And, really, it makes no difference. The fact is, he is single and it’s a major source of distress to him. That’s the current reality, no matter what he is, or is not, doing about that.

      And, no matter what he is doing about the the situation, it does not affect how he should be dealing with workplace situations.

  72. Let's Be Honest...*

    I can’t help but wonder how Ron Swanson would respond to this question… ;). I’m betting it would be nothing short of amazing.

  73. Gilby*

    The OP has no business telling anyone what they can and can’t do ( especially a boss).

    This is not about the OP’s feelings as it relates that she is single or the OP’s problem she had with the bosses opinions on her work. Or any other work/office anything.

    This is about someone who flat out thinks they can say and do what ever they want. I am baffled as to what the thought process is that
    the OP can just ignore her boss (silent treatment) when her wishes are not heeded.

    OP, you seriously need to examine who you are as a person to think you get to tell people what to do and expect them to follow it.

  74. Ruffingit*

    Anyone else think it’s just a little bit humorous that the posting that follows this one is how to make your new boss regret hiring you?

    1. AMT*

      Seconded! I would love to hear how the boss responds to OP’s apology and where the relationship goes from there.

  75. Except in California*

    “with my boss trying several times to extend “olive branches” to me, which I was unresponsive to till the middle of the week”

    So, she tried to make amends…next time, try to respond positively to changes another makes on your behalf. Think how frustrating it would be if you changed your behavior at someone’s request, and their response was continued silent treatment. Be kind to others, and good luck, OP.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Boss might not try a second time, she doesn’t have to. Hopefully, OP didn’t overplay that card.

  76. DrAto*

    Wow. If I were this OP’s boss I would seriously consider firing her (I’m guessing OP is a woman) or not renewing OP’s contract. I’m single too but I’ve never been jealous of a friend or co-worker who receives a romantic call from their significant other. Jealous much? The fact that OP has been single for 7 years has nothing to do with work. This is a personal issue that OP needs to fix or receive counseling for. If her boss has a healthy relationship (and as long as the phone calls don’t border on anything sexually explicit) OP has no right to criticize her boss for taking that call. That OP would send an email to her boss stating this fact is really crossing the line. This seems like a very odd work set-up. I actually feel sorry for the boss. If I worked in a 2-3 person office, I might want to become friends with my co-workers too (I’ve become great personal friends with people in my office in the past and it can work, but I realize this is rare and can lead to problems in most cases), but it seems like this boss underestimated the immaturity and problems in OP’s personal life. Unfortunately, the boss did not write to Ask a Manager, but I would advice this boss to really distance herself personally from OP and set more rigid rules on how OP can conduct herself in the office. The boss should actually forward that email to the director to put OP on notice. This is really unacceptable and OP really took for granted the informal/casual workplace atmosphere that her boss allowed up until this point. I now work in a conservative/hierarchical setting and wish I could go back to my previous work setup of being friends with some of my co-workers.

  77. KrisL*

    When your boss doubts your thoroughness on a task, ask for details. Ask nicely. There may be something that you’re missing.

  78. Anon*

    I’m a closeted, single gay person in an office of straight people who talk about their personal lives and take the occasional personal call at work. It’s a little bit frustrating sometimes.

    But they’re just going about their lives. Your boss isn’t having phone conversations with an SO *at* you.

    It’s OK. Chill.

  79. Sissa*

    This story struck a chord!

    I also have had some problems in my life that had much more bigger of an impact at work than I thought. What I thought were just “bad times” might have been varying degrees of undiagnosed depression, anxieties and stress, and I carried all that to work with me.

    It’s sometimes good to take a step back and look at whether you’re happy with your life, and regardless of what goes on at work (I’m advocate of the “work to live” mentality, as opposed to “live to work”), try to improve how you feel. Not necessarily by trying to find a relationship because you feel that being single sucks, but by learning how to deal with the issues that you might have. Therapist might be a good first step. :)

  80. Jessica H*

    Thank you for your response to the OP. I haven’t had anything of this magnitude, but lately I’ve noticed myself getting a bad attitude towards some of my bosses habits. It’s a good reminder that I can make one polite request, but ultimately, it’s his decision on what to do in his office, and a good call to action that part of my job is being generally pleasant to work with, amenable to bosses decisions, etc.

  81. Jennifer R.*

    It seems the real problem here is that since you are working so closely with her in a two person office, on some level you are seeing her as your equal. Even though you call her your boss, for some reason you have the idea that you have some authority over her. You don’t.

    She shouldn’t be having long personal calls at work. But she is in charge and can do so if she pleases. I personally walk out of the office if someone takes a personal call to honor their privacy, and if my absence is mentioned I would say I am not comfortable hearing those calls.

    The email you sent was extremely out of line and unprofessional. If a subordinate sent me an email 2 months in, spurred by some valid criticism and went a step further to criticize my management style, they would not have a job on Monday. Period. I have no idea how you were not fired.

  82. Question Asker*

    Hi again, everyone. This is the OP.

    Thanks so much for all of the advice. Most of it was extremely helpful and even the comments that were worded more harshly I was able to easily digest, because I know I didn’t handle this situation the right way at all and have no qualms with being told that.

    I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of responses this post has gotten, and while I don’t have the time to respond to them all I’ve read every one of them and truly appreciate it. I wanted to be able to respond to each post throughout the day yesterday, but I didn’t want to be spending my work time on that. :-) I also didn’t have time to respond yesterday evening, as I did not get home till 1:00 in the morning.

    So, I’ll just respond with a post that addresses everyone. Below are some of my takeaways from your comments, as well as from my own self-reflection:

    1. I need to better separate my personal and work issues and not let them interfere with one another.
    My comments: This is something I’ve struggled with in the past because separating my personal and work lives is not my ideal (my boss has told me that she had struggled a bit with the same thing but is getting better at it). I absolutely cannot let my personal issues interfere with my professional life, as I was hired to do my job, not to project my personal issues onto my boss or onto my ability to do my what I was hired to do.

    2. I should go see a therapist to help deal with my problems with being perpetually single.
    My comments: I will definitely look at taking advantage of that as soon as my health insurance kicks in about a month from now at the end of my probationary period. As one of my ongoing work tasks, I’m responsible for researching and signing up for a company health plan for my boss and me, so as soon as I get all of that paperwork done for us (did a bit of that yesterday with the help of my boss) and my coverage begins, I’ll seek out a therapist to help me deal with my personal issues. I’ve had therapy in the past, when I was in college and still financially supported by my parents, but they were not very excited about paying for it. I’m an adult now, though, and one of the great things about being an adult is the fact that I can spend my money on whatever I want, whether it’s on therapy or anything else. I’ve done online dating for many years, but the results haven’t been that great for a host of reasons that I won’t get into here. I haven’t given up on it, though.

    3. I should be happy that my boss has been as understanding as she has.
    My comments: Definitely. As some commenters have mentioned, less easygoing or more seasoned managers would have likely canned me for my behavior, starting from that email and especially for the silent treatment. To be honest, I don’t think my behavior would have manifested the same way with those managers because I would have kept much more of a distance with them to begin with that wouldn’t have had me ever even remotely consider those managers as friends, but the point stands. The mutual friends I have with my boss had tried to help me understand that my behavior was unwise and that most bosses would not have tolerated it. They were getting seriously concerned about my lack of clarity last week but have since become more relieved that I’ve been able to see things from the same perspective that they as outsiders had been able to see from the beginning.

    4. I need to work on my tendency toward self-absorption.
    My comments: Absolutely correct. Remembering that the world doesn’t revolve around me and that people aren’t purposely trying to hurt me is something I need to better realize. My boss isn’t trying to rub in my face that I’m single and has at least somewhat shown that she’s willing to take bathroom and food preparation breaks in the other room of our office to have those conversations and even maybe tone down the sappiness of her phone calls a bit. It would be unfair to her significant other for my boss to tell her not to call during the day because her employee was having a hard time not projecting his personal issues onto their calls.

    5. I need to be able to better take criticism and feedback.
    My comments: From the standpoint of not taking it as personally as I do, yes. I normally react fine to constructive feedback and have sought it out since I started my job by asking my manager to give me ongoing feedback when she saw fit. My manager hadn’t made a single significant negative comment about any of my work or about my attitude until this all blew up, so maybe I was caught a little off guard? I’m the type of person who’s really hard on himself and I do internalize criticism more than I should. I need to quit doing that so much. This might sound like a no-brainer, but I’ve found that responding to criticism happily has helped me lessen any negativity that I might feel about it.

    6. I need to have realistic expectations and not default to perfectionism, whether it’s with my job or the relationships I have with people.
    My comments: So true. I think having overly lofty expectations (like I had about my job and boss) just sets oneself up for disappointment. And when one is not able to come to terms with that disappointment, things like disturbing emails and silent treatment happen. I’m kind of an idealist, so I need to be more cautious in my optimism. I hope that when I do eventually find myself in a romantic relationship that I really enjoy, I don’t end up doing the same thing to my significant other as I did to my boss. Because that would really, really suck.

    Some clarifications:

    1. I’m a man. I found it interesting—and maybe a bit sad, when thinking how often we associate certain behaviors like drama with particular gender identities—that everyone thought I was a woman.

    2. The friends I talked to and sought out advice from on these work issues (we’ll call them Friend 1 and Friend 2) are closer to me than they are to my boss. They’re in my inner circle, which is why I went to them in the first place. My boss is a few years older than us, so while they’re her friends too they’re not really in her inner circle—in other words, she wouldn’t be hanging out with them nearly as often as she would with her own inner circle of friends (which include Friend 1’s sister-in-law and Friend 2’s coworker). I think this is important to clarify, so that it doesn’t seem like I’m going behind her back to draw mutual friends into our work problems.

    3. My boss’s feedback that had caused me to raise my voice at her was her prerogative, of course, but it was also mistaken feedback. She had said it wasn’t clear in a short narrative I had sent her that a relevant detail had been included. My raising my voice was in reading the line where I had indeed included the relevant detail that she thought was missing.

    4. Our office is set up in an open format, with a couple different “rooms” but only doorways separating them. The only interior door in the office is the bathroom door. Otherwise, the layout is completely open. My boss sits probably no more than 15 feet from me in the same room. There are no cubicles or dividers of any kind. When we talk throughout the day, we just turn our heads or look up from our computer screens.

    5. I’m not fine with being single—and it’s really the most significant hurdle I have yet to overcome in my otherwise happy life—but it’s tolerable most of the time, as I have a decent social life and enough interests and hobbies to preoccupy myself. It’s one of those things that happens in cycles. Little things can trigger me into being deeply unhappy with my singledom when I otherwise might not have given it as much thought. The personal phone calls with her significant other that my boss has (which are not sexual in nature but could definitely be considered “romantic”) have been one of those triggers.

    6. I grew up with Asperger syndrome. While I most likely no longer fit the diagnosis as an adult, some of the “legacy” issues that come with being a childhood Aspie probably still manifest themselves in ways that shock and surprise the neurotypical people whom I’m friends with or work with. I’m definitely not using any of that as an excuse, just implying that psychological reasons might occasionally explain when otherwise normal people deal with certain things in oddball or head-scratchingly immature ways.

    Some updates:

    1. I have not yet apologized to my boss. I want to do so when the time is right, which I think might be this Friday, since we have our weekly update meeting that day. Letting this all blow over is something my boss seems to have been willing to do (even if I hadn’t) as early as ten (yes, ten) minutes after we had the difficult conversation at the beginning of last week. I’m going to roll with that till then. But I think it would be great to apologize as well, as Alison and many of you have recommended. I made a really unprofessional mistake that most managers probably would have fired me for (especially when the person in question is just 2 months into his job), and an apology is definitely warranted.

    2. My boss and I got along well yesterday, just like the old days (if “old days” can exist in a job as new as mine). I’m still just a bit more cautious than usual, which she can probably see, but we were able to joke around and talk like before. She even had one of the phone calls with her significant other yesterday, and I just let it blow by. I have the choice of what attitude I want to have in responding to her personal calls, and I chose to keep a positive one. Today has been less “jokey” since she’s really busy with her work, but I let her personal call this morning blow by again with a joke soon after she got off the phone. I hope good things continue.

    1. AMT*

      Wow. Very mature response. I think you’re going to do fine. It seems like you’re committed to working on some of the behaviors that have caused you problems. I can see how having Asperger syndrome could exacerbate the kinds of work situations that require a lot of social finesse — kudos to you for being proactive about acquiring those skills.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      OP, I applaud you for reading and absorbing and not freaking out over what everyone said, because some of these were pretty harsh!

      You should like you have a really good head on your shoulders and clearly are working to address your issues. Trust me, we ALL have issues – it’s working to mitigate or address them that makes all the difference. And growing up with Asperger’s presents a very unique set of challenges as well. I wonder if that might be a little more of the problem with the phone calls – the sensory issues associated with being on the spectrum can make working around sounds like that more difficult than they might be for others.

      Best of luck – you seem like you’ll do well because you’re open to taking steps to addressing things, and it sounds like you’ll get past this current hurdle.

      And best of luck in your search for a relationship. I found my special someone after a REALLY long time being single (online dating FTW!) and I’m glad I had the experience being on my own first.

    3. Jamie*

      I agree with AMT – I think you’re going to be just fine. This shows a tremendous amount of self-awareness and insight.

      Everyone who has been working for more than 10 minutes has done things that we cringe when we remember. Learning from them and trying not to make the same mistake twice (because they wouldn’t leave me enough time for all my new mistakes :)) is the key. Sounds like you already know that.

      And on a personal note it’s difficult for everyone when they feel like somethings missing from their life. For some people it’s an SO and happy couples remind them of that. For some it’s money, or hearing about a pregnancy when you’re struggling to conceive or mourning the loss of a child, or any of the myriad of voids we all feel in our lives at different times. I’m not saying that to trivialize it, to the contrary to point out that you’re human and everyone knows what that sting of envy feels like.

      And fwiw I can’t imagine how stressful a 2 person office would be for me, no matter how awesome the other person was. That’s an awful lot of anyone – so I feel for you.

      Just put it behind you and move forward and you’ll have a funny story in a couple of years…I know I’ve got a “what was I thinking?” story that I’m almost able to tell without my cheeks burning in shame. Almost. :)

    4. AMT*

      Just wanted to add that, however embarrassing this incident was, you can always repeat this to yourself: “I have never crashed a bookmobile into a building. I have never caused a bookmobile to catch fire. I have never done anything remotely problematic with a bookmobile. I have generally minded my own business regarding bookmobiles.”

    5. Chinook*

      “1. I’m a man. I found it interesting—and maybe a bit sad, when thinking how often we associate certain behaviors like drama with particular gender identities—that everyone thought I was a woman.”

      I don’t know about others, by I always default to OPs being female unless it is obvious (and even then I don’t always catch the pronoun) because Allison’s writing style is that, if the gender is not known/not to be revealed, the the person is refered to as she/her because that is what AAM is. I can honestly say that I would make the same comments regardless of your gender, your boss’s gender and/or her SO’s gender.

      English is an imperfect language in that we do not have gender neutral terms and being insulted by someoen using the wrong one they have never met you is a waste of energy.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      OP, I echo what others have said here — you’re awesome for being able to absorb all this input and not get defensive over it. It takes a certain type of maturity to be able to do that.

      I’d love to hear back from you about how all this turns out in a few months and what your thinking is on it then! We’re all pulling for you.

    7. Zillah*

      Great response. I’m so glad to see that you’re able to take the CC for what it is and run with it. I also struggle a lot with internalizing criticism, so kudos! I know how hard that can be.

      Good luck!

    8. LJL*

      I’m heartened to see that response. You are certainly learning, and that’s what life is all about. Please let Alison know how it turns out a few months down the road.

    9. Aunt Vixen*

      Good for you, OP. I’m off to the Open Thread to see if you checked in with an update.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      Just seeing this. OP, your actions here are exemplary. Keep this attitude/approach and you will be a superstar at whatever you chose to do. Kudos.

  83. Sometimes*

    Wow, OP. I’m usually a serial lurker on the comments (but I love to read them) and I just had to comment to say how awesome your most post is. You’re taking feedback great, taking what you can use and not taking any harshness personally, and I wish you the best.

  84. Casey*

    When I first saw the title, I thought this was someone who was being sexually harassed. I had been in the past and thought I could offer some support in that area …

    Anywho, for this case, I really think you should not worry about the manager’s conversations with her SO. I think you can be civil and get things back on the right track – especially since things were good before writing the email and also since it seems like she is trying to reach you.

    In this case, you are the employee, they are the employer. They pay your salary. You are being paid to mold to them and not vice-versa. If it is something that bothers you so much, then I would seek a more professional environment to be a part of – but – I feel that there is no real cause for that.

    She has suggested that you listen to music – I would take her up on her word and still have a good day. No external action should control your mood or reaction.

  85. Allie*

    I agree with you. First of all it’s inappropriate for your boss to have romantic phone calls during work hours 10 feet away from you. Full stop. Second you have made her aware that it makes you feel bad being that you have been single for 7 years. She knows that it really upsets you, so wouldn’t a decent person stop? She can see her partner any time, she can talk to him any time, but you are lonely all the time. Doesn’t talking to him after work hours seem like a small sacrifice to make in comparison to what you are going through? Hugs, sorry to hear your boss is being so rude. Honestly if it were me I would just quit.

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