should I warn my staff about a drug’s mood-altering side effects, getting paid for freelance work that wasn’t completed, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Should I warn my staff about a medication’s mood-altering side effects?

I manage a small department of 3, all of whom work very well together and with me. Whenever I’m in a cranky mood or just stressed out, I do my best to keep it off my staff. Methods usually include shutting my door, asking for particular topics to be discussed at a later time whenever it’s feasible, etc. I recognize that my moods impact my staff.

I am on an anti-depressant for anxiety, and my doctor recently upped my dosage. I am encountering a new side effect where my emotions are more intense. Whether it’s happy, sad, angry, excited, etc (but not to the point where I’m flying into a rage, thank goodness) The meds are doing their job, i.e. I am not an anxious mess, so I am hesitant to come off the drug because of this new side effect.

Is this something I could discreetly let my staff know? I work very closely with them, so it’s not as if I only check in a couple times a week so it wouldn’t matter. I try to be very cognizant of TMI and where to draw the line. This sprung to mind after last week where my reaction to something unpleasant was more intense than usual. I apologized to the employee later, as I could tell he was slightly startled. Or would it be better to just apologize in the moment as I done last week?

I’m slightly torn on this. I do think that it’s TMI to share that with your staff, and ultimately it’s on you to find a way to respond appropriately to staff members regardless; you really have to do that as a manager, and can’t resign yourself to not being able to. But on the other hand, if I were your employee, I might rather know what was up than assume that you were increasingly frustrated with me. I could also see feeling uncomfortable once I knew though.

But ultimately (that bit of wishy-washiness aside), I don’t think the solution here is tell/don’t tell; rather, I think you’ve got to find a way to interact with your staff reasonably calmly. You’re in a position of power over them and your moods will have more impact on them than if you weren’t, and so there’s a greater responsibility to manage those moods than there might otherwise be. That probably means that you do need to try talking to your doctor about the side effects you’re experiencing, because you’re in a role where it could have a real impact.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Should I get paid for freelance work that wasn’t completed?

Recently I was contacted by a new client (through an online tutor-student broker company that I’ve worked with for several years) who wanted me to deliver PowerPoint training for several people in his company. We had a couple of conference calls with another person at his firm to talk about the details of the training, and I had started working on the content. I spent about 5-6 hours on the project so far. They seemed very happy with my plan for the training, and it was scheduled for a couple of weeks from now. I got an email a few days ago saying that someone in their office is going to train their people on PowerPoint, but they want me to teach an Excel class for them in a couple of months.

Should I ask them to pay for the time I already spent on the PowerPoint project? On the one hand, I don’t like not being paid for my work, but on the other hand, there was no agreement that they would pay for my time whether or not the training went ahead. Also, I want to do more work for them in the future. I’m also wondering if I should let future clients know that there’s a cancellation fee if a project is started but not completed.

Yes, absolutely. You started work on the project after they gave you the go-ahead, and they should pay you for that time. You weren’t putting in that time out of the goodness of your heart; you were doing it because they hired you to do it.

Ideally as soon as they canceled the project, you would have said something like, “I had done X hours of work on this so far so I’ll submit an invoice for that and won’t do any further work on it.” (You can still say that now, of course.) Also, yes, it’s a good idea to note in your contracts that you’ll still bill for your time if a project is canceled before completion.

This is totally normal and standard, by the way, so you shouldn’t worry that it will get in the way of getting future work from them. I mean, that’s always possible, but it would be incredibly odd for them to balk at this; a good client isn’t going to do that.

3. How to explain I got fired for refusing to do something unethical

I got fired today for what is a kind of dumb reason (refusing to do something that I found to be unethical). My boss asked me to add the email addresses of people contacted by cold calling to email lists without having them consent first. I explained to him why this was a bad idea, but he ignored my reasons and insisted that I do so. I set up an email autoresponder to gain that consent and to explain the expectations of what we’d be sending people, and when asked about it, I said that I did so. And thus got fired for “insubordination.”

When applying for new employment, what’s a good way to say, “I got fired because I worked for a crazy person who assumed I was an idiot, and when he demanded that I do something unethical, I did not do it”? I know this isn’t on the order of “creative accounting” or any other blantantly illegal practices. It’s kind of small potatoes and I was definitely wrong. But I will say that he’s also a terrible boss who manages through fear and paranoia, and might be clinically insane. I want a good way to not necessarily absolve myself of blame, but to point out that I was in a bad situation and that this guy is nuts. There may not be a good way to do that.

I’d frame it this way: “My boss wanted to ignore the anti-spam emailing laws and fired me after I attempted to get people’s consent before adding them to our email list.” That’s honest and concise and doesn’t get into whether or not your boss is crazy or a terrible manager, all of which are too subjective when talking to a stranger who will be acutely aware that they don’t know the other side of the story. Short, professional, and factual is what you want here.

4. Checking about pre-scheduled vacation time when applying internally

There is a job posting for a position that is almost in complete alignment with my interests and skills in another part of my organization. I asked to be put on a specific project so I could work with this subject. The project culminates in July (my part will have been complete for a while at this point), and it would be a busy time for the people in the other department. The problem is that I have scheduled a vacation for the month of July. My family is going to Europe, and the tickets are purchased. Because this is within the same company, I would still have the vacation accrued, so that isn’t an issue. Would it be out of line to reach out to the hiring manager before I even apply to see if this would be a deal breaker?

No, but it’s probably unnecessary. Apply, see if you get interviewed, and if things progress beyond that, you can raise it then.

5. Am I being overly neurotic in waiting to tell people about my new job?

I have a written offer letter for my new role with all the details, have confirmed my start date, and they have confirmed that my references are in order. I have given notice at my current job, but have been waiting to tell people (my colleagues, other industry contacts) until I have an actual written contract in my hands. Am I being overly neurotic? My new job says they might not be able to get me a contract for a couple of weeks (I don’t start for 8 weeks) and it’s getting weird that I’ve resigned but haven’t told anyone.

What’s your guidance? Should I stop worrying and just tell people already?

I don’t think it’s crazy to wait until you have the written contract, if you’re more comfortable with that. If anyone asks you later why you didn’t tell them sooner, you can always just explain you were waiting for the contract to be finalized.

{ 218 comments… read them below }

  1. Eric*

    #2, payment for cancelled work:
    Does the answer change at all if you aren’t being paid by the hour, by instead a flat fee (e.g. $X,000 for the training, both prep and delivery)?

    1. Jessa*

      I would still charge for work done, even if I had to figure out some sort of compromise off the final cost. The work was done, the contractor was not fired for failing to do the work properly. There was no question that they’re satisfied, they want the contractor to do a different job for them. Labour standards mostly say that even BAD work needs to be paid for, good work especially should. And yes a lot of them don’t apply to independent contractors, but this is kinda normal. You do the work, they change lanes on you, you charge for what’s done and turn it over.

      For the future however, I do suggest contractors put into their contracts what will happen if the job is stopped by either side, but especially if work has been done and is satisfactory. There should already be a clause: If work is stopped after x time the amount is $, after y time the amount is $$, if it’s cancelled before it’s started and the notice is less than x days % of deposit will not be returned. This happens all the time, they change their minds, they go in house, it’s normal business.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Yup. Even if OP didn’t negotiate a kill fee as part of the contract, she should still speak up and try to get one now.

      2. Koko*

        Yes, this is why it’s so important to lay out a comprehensive quote for services! Specify exactly what your fee covers, and what you’ll charge for anything beyond that scope. If you’re a designer, how many re-designs are included in your fee, and what is the charge for additional redesigns beyond that? Most reasonable clients will probably never exceed the included amount, but you need to protect yourself against jerks who will make you do the project 12 times over because you charged them a flat fee and they now think they are entitled to unlimited hours of work from you until the project is exactly what they want but can’t describe. Specify your timeline for when you will deliver work. What is your fee if they ask for a redesign 12 hours before the planned launch and want you to turn around the redesign fast enough to proceed with the planned launch, even though you’ve specified a 24-hour delivery window?

        Try to detail exactly what you expect to provide for them and how, and try to imagine everything they could ask you for beyond the standard/expected scope, and every way they might screw you over and leave you holding the bag. Put prices on all of those things in your proposal.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nope, you still should get paid for the work you’ve done. (If anything, charging by the hour will make it easier to figure out what to charge for that work in this case.)

      The company told you to begin work, you did that in good faith, and you get paid for whatever work you put in on their go-ahead.

      1. OP #2*

        Alison (and commenters), just wanted to let you know that I emailed the client and told him exactly what you suggested, and his response was “I understand and will be back in touch soon. Thank you.”

        And thank YOU! :)

    3. A Cita*

      You need to break down your flat fee by how many hours you estimate the project would have taken to give yourself an idea of how much to charge for the work you did do.

      Sometimes it’s easier to negotiate a flat fee, but I prefer to charge out by work phase (rather than an hourly rate), in general (there are always exceptions).

      Put language in your contracts. Some language I use:
      1. scope of work, in detail broken down by phase;
      2. price per phase;
      3. half amount of total project due before commencing (or whatever seems reasonable);
      4. language about stopping work and revisiting contract/estimate if project veers beyond scope or particular phase (e.g., scope includes 3 rounds of minor [defined] tweaks/one major tweak, client asks for more; price per tweak established [for phase] and work stopped until new contract signed to include additional fees);
      5. full phase price due if client stops work, even during phase
      6. full invoice due on delivery of work
      7. invoice remit by net 30 (or whatever seems reasonable)
      8. interest accrued on late payment by x time (as seems reasonable)

      1. A Cita*

        Oh, also: add language about time lag and billing.

        Meaning: You set up your scope of work contract diligently that includes phases along an agreed upon timeline. Client suddenly needs to substantially delay before next phases (think month/s). You include language around billing out for remainder completed work during the lag. And then language about work stop on project if lag is x long (so you don’t pay opportunity costs waiting for client to come back with decisions).

        1. the gold digger*

          I don’t know how you address this factor, but when I worked at Fortune 100 Company X, they were notorious for late payments. My one-man shop marketing guy would call me asking me to call payables to pay him. They wouldn’t pay until 100 days out. I would think (and someone with more knowledge can give a better answer) that making sure item 8 above, about interest due, would be essential. I just don’t know how you enforce it.

          1. A Cita*

            Yes, charging interest is a key factor. I’ve had no problems enforcing it — it’s in the signed contract after all.

            Another key factor is walking the client through the contract before they sign to ensure clarity and to negotiate points, such as remit due date, as needed.

          2. Chinook*

            “My one-man shop marketing guy would call me asking me to call payables to pay him. They wouldn’t pay until 100 days out. I would think (and someone with more knowledge can give a better answer) that making sure item 8 above, about interest due, would be essential. I just don’t know how you enforce it.”

            I work for a large company that usually pays Net 30+ but has an exception for independent contractors (i.e. one-man shops) that can be applied for internally (and needs to be monitored to ensure that all the boxes are ticked in all the A/P steps). The key phrase in our contracts and on our invoices is to state that “payment is due upon receiving invoice” or “vendor is Net 0.”

            As well, the internal individual submitting invoices needs to flag these invoices as Net 0 so they are put on top of A/P’s “to do” pile rather than in the order received (or they figure they have a couple of weeks to get to it). For example, our Net 0 invoices are the only ones I hand deliver to A/P and look them in the eye when I give them to them (rather than submit them through interoffice mail or leave them at their desk). A/P deals with hundreds of vendors and has no reason to know which ones are special.

            Also, I recommend our one-man shops invoice more than once a month (so they aren’t caught short if something gets delayed) and insist on late-payment interest charges in their contracts and that tehy enforce them.

    4. Meredith*

      I hire instructors to develop and deliver online trainings. Our standard agreement is to pay them x rate for development of the course and y rate for teaching. That way we can pay them for their time if the class is cancelled. This person needs to be paid for work done, ideally that’s negotiated up front.

  2. Jessa*

    #5 I don’t think it’s weird at all to wait. Regrettably things do change, and I’d hesitate to tell people something until I had a firm confirmation.

    1. Mephyle*

      I agree, and besides, there is no reason even to share enough information to let them know that you waited. “I got the job, and I’m starting on X date!”

  3. Ann Furthermore*


    It’s kind of small potatoes and I was definitely wrong.

    I disagree, OP. What your boss wanted you to do was definitely unethical, and possibly illegal, so you were right to refuse to do it. That being said, I’m sorry you got fired. That completely sucks. But don’t let yourself believe that you were in the wrong, because that sentiment may come across in interviews, which might impact your chances of getting another job. IMO, an interviewer will respect you more if you just honestly state what happened (in fact, I would use Alison’s exact words) and own it, and you may even be able to turn it into a strength. Just about any decent, reputable company out there wants honest, ethical employees.

    Also, don’t go into any details about what a psycho nutjob your old boss is. It will almost certainly come across as bitterness, even if it’s completely true, and that will lessen the impact of stating that you were fired for refusing to do something unethical.

    I once refused to do something I felt to be unethical, and flat-out said in a meeting that I would not do any work on the request until I saw something, in writing, from someone at our parent company that said it was OK to do what was being proposed. It was an idea about handling journal entries that I felt would have resulted in misleading financial statements. Even if it was not technically a violation of GAAP, it appeared to me to be an attempt to conceal or obscure an underlying issue, which did not sit right with me. The person who made the request was, of course, pretty ticked off at me, but I didn’t care. And I told my boss about it as soon as it happened, so she wouldn’t be blindsided if it happened to come up later. Thankfully, it never went any further than that.

    1. MK*

      While I agree this is not “small potatoes”, the reality is that it’s going to strike many people that way. Most won’t even know about anti-spamming laws and won’t think it was a big enough deal for the OP to risk her job over it, or go against her boss’ intructions.

      I am not so sure about the OP doing “nothing wrong”. I mean, she certainly did nothing unethical, but when your boss tells you to do something, you raise an objection and he overrules you, then do something else which you know he probably won’t agree with, well, that is insubordination. It sounds to me that the OP was trying to present the boss with a done deal, hoping he would accept it with less fuss at that point. It would have been more straightforward to ask if she could do this and, if he said no, refuse to do it. She would probably still be fired, but the boss wouldn’t be able to truthfully site “insubordination”, which he now can.

      1. Short and Stout*

        Eh, I’m going to disagree on the anti-spamming thing not being well known (especially by companies that are spamming or interested in doing so). My own company researched this intensely, and we’re the farthest thing from a savvy marketer. If I recall the fines are just too steep to be breaking the law willy nilly.

        1. MK*

          I meant that the OP’s future interviewers might not be informed and thus not see the boss’ request as a big deal.

          1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

            I agree. I’m imagining a small company sending out a newsletter or something. They don’t see themselves as career spammers, and probably don’t think this is (a) a huge deal or (b) something that applied to them. And honestly, your own clients aren’t that likely to report you as a spammer.

          2. Chinook*

            “I meant that the OP’s future interviewers might not be informed and thus not see the boss’ request as a big deal.”

            I disagree – a small company might appreciate that they are hiring someone who actually knows about this law and its implementation. Every time I bring up our responsibilities surrounding member email addresses (I am part of a charitable organization), I either gets sighs of relief that someone knows about this or surprise that it affects even our small group of 100 members.

            And really, if a future interviewer thinks that the OP was wrong and should have listened to her boss and ignored her own ethics, is this really a person the OP would want to work for?

          3. Koko*

            But if they aren’t aware of the law, surely her saying, “He asked me to violate federal anti-spam laws,” would make them aware? I’ve worked at a very small shop before and even with people who know nothing about email laws or practices, “violate federal law” is a phrase that would get attention and be taken seriously.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            To clarify, I meant that in general terms. I don’t think what OPs boss was asking was illegal, more like somewhat unethical.

            1. Iro*

              It is illegal though. You can not add email addresses to promotional lists without their consent. My spouse worked at a non-profit who was really bad about this and they ended up getting complaints filed on them to the FCC.

              Additionally, when mobile phones are involved, the penalties for texts and emails can be steeper since the phone owner can incure charges for the reciept of these emails sent without their consent.

              1. Karowen*

                +1 – generally, the people you’re emailing need to either be clients or need to have opted in (or at least have been given the option to opt out).

              2. Persephone Mulberry*

                Nope, not illegal, companies buy e-mailing lists and send unsolicited promotional messages all the time. What the CAN-SPAM Act defines are the rules around how the promotional message must be formatted and what information must be included (including how to opt out of future messages).

                1. Chinook*

                  “What the CAN-SPAM Act defines are the rules around how the promotional message must be formatted and what information must be included (including how to opt out of future messages).”

                  What companies and orgs. need to realize, though, is that what CAN-SPAM requires used to be considered best practices for mass emails and protecting personal information. Once you have a process in place, it really isn’t that hard to keep up.

                  And what the OP did by stopping her boss from mass spamming peole who didn’t want to be cold called could actually help the company’s reputation. How many of us are turned off or see as less reputable a group that sends multiple, unwanted email messages with no way to get removed from the list?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If we want to split hairs, I think you could indeed argue that it was insubordination. The OP was right to refuse the request, but then she went ahead and did something the boss explicitly told her not to. Ideally she would have refused, discussed it with the boss, and maybe reached a stalemate — but going ahead and doing it a different way, a way the boss had specifically told her not to do, is basically insubordination. Refusing was reasonable, but taking steps the boss didn’t want taken probably wasn’t.

          I don’t think it matters here, and employers aren’t likely to care, but if we’re debating that specific point it’s worth noting.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      It was definitely wrong to set up the auto responder. The OP didn’t just not do something the boss wanted her to do, she deliberately did something she was told not to do, and that something went out to potential customers. Taking that action was not okay.

      The Utterly Ethical thing to do would have been to say, I can’t add these email addresses and if you require this of me, we must part ways.

      The Somewhat Ethical thing to do would have been to clearly warn the boss why it’s a Bad Idea and then follow his instructions exactly and see what happens next (while looking for another job!). As an email marketer, I can tell you, nothing good would have happened next. We are ethical email marketers, with our own internal email sending program. We follow all the rules and we still have to fight black lists (because of ijjits who are too lazy to unsubscribe when they don’t want to hear from us anymore but that’s a rant for another day and not the point.)

      The *point* is that you cannot prosper as a legitimate business if you have bad email practices. You piss off customers, and god forbid you get blacklisted. Getting blacklisted is easy and not hard to happen and then you are crap out of luck for sending more marketing emails (and sometimes, ANY emails to recipients).

      If the OP had written in before this happened, I would have advised to just do it while looking for another job because she would have only been proven right.

      In looking for another job, I don’t see why the OP has to mention the auto responder. She meant well. She just went too far. If she thinks the boss will mention it when called, then I’d spend the effort on explaining how she made a compliant campaign without emphasis on the part where she did something deliberately that she was told not to do.

    3. INTP*

      But the OP didn’t just refuse to do something, she went behind the boss’ back and did it her own way, with visibility to customers. I would consider that insubordination and I assumed that’s what the OP meant when she said she was wrong. If I knew the whole story I would be hesitant to hire the OP – I want people working for me who will not

      1. INTP*

        Ugh, pressed enter prematurely. I meant to say that I would prefer to have people working for me who would flat-out refuse to do something rather than go behind my back and do something else. I don’t say this to pile on the OP – I get that we all make mistakes and in a toxic environment where you’re treated unprofessionally, it’s easy to lose your sense of what professional is – just to be honest. OP should definitely reframe it somehow, not tell her whole story in interviews.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          You do make a valid point. In the OP’s position, I would have just refused to do what my boss was asking me to do. But I can also see the OP’s point of view too. The boss wanted those emails on a mailing, so s/he came up with a way to handle it that wouldn’t run afoul of any anti-spamming laws, and also (IMO) created an opportunity to build goodwill with potential customers by first asking permission to send emails rather than just starting to bombard those accounts with unsolicited messages. Would it have been better to get permission? Probably, but it doesn’t sound like the OP did something out of the ordinary. I should note though, that this really isn’t my area of expertise — I may be way off base.

        2. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!*

          I think in this case, it’s possible that OP was trying to CYA by notifying their customer base that their emails will be used for e-marketing.

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      I agree that OP was right, and I would also suggest framing the reason for the firing in terms that don’t make it look like OP doesn’t get along with the boss. Maybe “I was asked to use people’s email addresses who had not consented to being on our list, and I wasn’t comfortable doing that, especially because we might run afoul of anti-spamming laws. Unfortunately, that meant I was let go.”

  4. OP #2*

    I’m relieved to get Alison’s advice on this! The client wants to set up a meeting for today, so I think I’ll meet with them and say what Alison suggests, and I’ll see what else they want to discuss (probably the new Excel training, but these folks have been quite professional, so it’s possible they’ll tell me to bill them for my time spent before I have a chance to say anything). It’s just a big relief to know that it is completely usual and expected that I would be paid for those hours. My main job is full time, salaried, and exempt, so I haven’t had to deal with this kind of thing very much. My other corporate client has hired me to do group training sessions (that have gone as planned), and I actually ended up telling them the complete cost afterwards because there was follow up work I offered to do, and they were fine with that. To answer Eric’s question (above), if I have given a client a flat fee for a project, and it didn’t actually happen as planned after I started working on it, I would add up the hours I worked and multiply by my usual hourly rate, but I’m interested in what Alison would advise.

    1. Chinook*

      “, I would add up the hours I worked and multiply by my usual hourly rate, ”

      Keep in mind that your usualy hourly rate as an employee is not what you should necessarily be asking for a contractor. You are still responsible for all the payroll taxes and overhead costs for doing this work. The rule of thumb I have been given for contract work is twice what they would pay an employee to do it. It seems like a lot when you start charging it, but it helps if you keep in mind that 50% of that should go into a separate account to pay income tax on it and any business expenses (with whatever leftover at year end being considered profit.)

      1. OP #2*

        Yes, sorry, I meant my usual consulting rate, which is much higher than the hourly rate my day-job salary works out to.

  5. Mike C.*

    #3 I don’t know who to send it to, but you might want to turn in your old boss for breaking the law. You know, if you get bored or something.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Eh, what the OP described isn’t illegal in the US, unless I’ve missed something and in which case please point me to it.

      The CAN-SPAM law covers a number of points, which the OP’s boss might not have been in compliance with, but the OP didn’t mention any (that I’m aware of being illegal).

      And I’m 99% sure the recipient of an email in violation is the one who has to report it.

      1. Short and Stout*

        It sounded like the commercial email described met the very definition of what falls under CAN-SPAM, as these weren’t customers making inquiries etc but totally unsolicited. But I really don’t know much, other than that it’s $16K for each violation.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          CAN-Spam doesn’t cover who you email. It covers, among other things, how you let people opt out of email after you’ve emailed them.

          Not an expert (as an ethical emailer, I don’t have to worry about being on the wrong side), but someone needs to link to where what the OP’s boss did is illegal because as far as I know, it isn’t.

          I’ll link to the FTC CAN-spam page as a reply to this post.

          1. Iro*

            CAN-Spam does stipulate

            For email and texts sent to your mobile phone:
            •For commercial texts, your consent must be in writing.
            •For non-commercial, informational texts (such as such as those by or on behalf of tax-exempt non-profit organizations, those for political purposes, and other noncommercial purposes, such as school closings) your consent may be oral.

            For commercial email:
            •Your consent may be oral or written.
            •Senders must tell you the name of the entity that will be sending the messages and, if different, the name of the entity advertising products or services.
            •All commercial email messages sent to you after you’ve given your authorization must allow you to “opt out” of receiving future messages. You must be allowed to opt out the same way you opted in, including by dialing a short code. Senders have 10 days to honor requests to opt out.

            So the boss was in violation.

            1. Cat*

              I’m curious how broadly that applies – for instance, I work at a law firm and we occasionally send out news alerts to clients (e.g., “check out this new law that might apply to you”). Obviously we hope to get promotional value out of it, but it’s not an explicit sales pitch either. Is that something that needs explicit consent? It’s extremely common in the industry, certainly.

              1. IT Kat*

                Even the part about “For commercial email” is about mobile phones? Because it seems to me it would apply to the OP’s situation.

                And as far as that goes…. I get my email to my mobile phone. Do the senders know this? Nope, because how could they? So erring on the side of caution seems like a good idea.

                1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                  You have to read what Iro pulled out in its context. The context Iro took from is mobile phones. What I linked to further up is CAN-spam as it applies to regular email.

      2. YourCdnFriend*

        I’m not familiar with US laws but canada has some of the strictest in the world and I’m not even sure this would be illegal here. I’m not even confident I would consider it unethical. If the business got the emails from cold calls, doesn’t that mean that those called voluntarily provided their email? Even if it’s not explicit (which would be required by law in Canada), my ethical compass tells me that’s implicit consent.

        Maybe I’m misunderstanding how they got the emails though.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          You can buy cold call lists that include email addresses, for a pretty penny extra. All the list sellers provide them, including D & B (although not all names have email addresses many do).

          It’s technically “ethical” to send them one email. It’s not ethical to add them to your database.

          What it’s not is illegal although if a purchased email list, it would be in violation of your list agreement.

          1. fposte*

            I have a hard time figuring out how the bought lists work within the law. Is it that supposedly everybody on the list has consented in the “it’s okay if third parties send me stuff” way?

            Because nobody selling mailing lists would ever falsely bulk them up for greater profit, of course.

            1. Spiky Plant*

              I don’t know about other contexts, but in the non-profit world, lists are usually traded rather than bought. The exchange is conducted by a third party and neither party actually gets the emails; the third party facilitates your sending an email to everyone on the list that does not currently appear in your database. If someone responds, then you have their email (or, alternately, if someone unsubs, you add them to your db with a tag of “do not email” or something similar; otherwise, you’d probably just end up sending them another email a year later when you trade lists again. Adding them to your database with a tag ensures that you’re not inadvertedly emailing people that have requested not to be emailed).

            2. Spiky Plant*

              Oh! And also, as noted upthread, laws typically don’t stop people from emailing you, they usually just cover laws about unsubbing after receiving an email. So, basically, everyone gets one shot to email you.

            3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              You don’t have to consent to send an email, according to US law. It’s not illegal.

              There are a bunch of reason it’s a bad business practice to send someone an email without their consent, but it’s not illegal.

              What’s illegal is not making it easy for people to opt out of your emails.

              If you do send to people without their consent, while not illegal, other bad things happen:

              1) email services like Constant Contact close your account in a heart beat.
              2) your ISP could shut you down (with a lot of complaints, if you were an actual real spammer)
              3) your email server gets blacklisted and in addition to your marketing emails, your regular business emails won’t go through to whole sections of the US.

              Bad idea but not illegal.

        2. Chinook*

          “If the business got the emails from cold calls, doesn’t that mean that those called voluntarily provided their email?”

          Even if you give someone your email, in Canada, that doesn’t mean you give them explicit permission to give you non-business related emails (i.e. your car dealership can send you info on vehicle recalls without your permission but not about the new car models).

          In Canada, the permission needs to be explicit and can be opted out at any time. This also applies to non-profits and any organizatino you may be a member of. The reality is that this is easy to do from an organizational level – you put a tick box next to where ever they enter their email address asking for permission to contact them and then keep 2 separate email lists – one for required information (like meeting times and reminders about votes and budgets) and one for other emails.

  6. Oh baby, Lilly Munster ain't got nothin' on you*

    In re #1: speaking as a person who is on several medications that will occasionally – hell, frequently do – “alter my mood”, I’d say that you shouldn’t bring up the meds at all. I’m all for honesty and stuff, but if you start saying things like “sorry I got angry yesterday – my meds sometimes make me over-react” – that’s not really the kind of thing anyone wants to hear from their boss.

    As I believe Alison suggested above, the real solution here may require additional conversation(s) with your doctor, but the basic idea is to bring yourself under control. I’m sorry if it sounds like some bullshit your high-school coach told you (“rub some dirt on that and run a few laps, you’ll be fine”), but from personal experience, I can tell you that it is possible to do this.

    I don’t have a handy list of tricks and techniques, but it basically comes down to a matter of increased awareness. It’s like riding a motorcycle: most riders agree that it takes about 3x the awareness and alertness of driving a car. That seems about right. It’s really not very different from what you’d normally do as a good manager: listen to people, look at them and observe their mood, think before speaking, and pay attention to your own feelings. If you feel like you might react in some unpleasant manner, change the subject or cut the conversation short.

    Having said all that, you can still do some “cya” if you think it’s necessary. Ala you’re talking to a direct report and they mention that they collect wine, you can subtly drop something into the conversation about “I love wine, but I can’t partake much; my doctor has me on meds for a minor condition and sometimes they’ll make me moody, so: one glass, tops” or something like that. The idea being that you’re subtly mentioning the meds – but you’re not out-and-out apologizing for how you reacted the other day.

    Good luck with this. You can do it.

    1. misspiggy*

      Awesome advice. Significant people in my life have taken these types of medication frequently, and my understanding is that if side effects go on for more than two or three weeks, the advice is to tell your doctor and ideally try something else. There is now a reasonable range of these things available, and it’s worth finding out which ones have minimal effects.

      1. OhNo*

        I agree that it’s definitely worth finding a medication with minimal side effects, but I could also understand if the OP was hesitant to try multiple others, having found one that works relatively well. There’s nothing worse than the possibility of going back to high anxiety or depression after having gotten a respite, which may happen if they end up on a med that doesn’t work as well.

        That said, OP, definitely talk to your doctor. It’s possible that the strong emotion thing is a temporary side effect while your body & brain chemistry adjust, in which case you need only wait it out. Aside from that, all of the advice here so far is excellent – just try to be extra aware of how you’re feeling and how that might influence your reactions.

    2. BRR*

      As someone on this type of medication I would say it’s not completely working if it’s doing this to your mood and you should talk with your doctor depending on how long it’s been going on. I would make some acknowledgment of your mood though because it stinks having a boss where you never know how they’re going to react and also what Alison mentioned about making sure they know you’re not frustrated with them.

    3. John*

      Good advice. I think the OP needs to work with their therapist/doctor on strategies to navigate those difficult moments, including identifying the triggers so she can see them coming.

      Telling one’s boss is one thing; telling one’s staff is basically admitting, “There are times when I’m going to be deficient as a manager and I want you to know why I might seem mean or irrational toward you.” Direct your energies into minimizing those occurrences.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think this is excellent advice. I was on the receiving end of a boss with meds that needed to be adjusted, and his complete lack of self-awareness not only ruined our relationship, it led me to quit my job. I have been on anti-anxiety meds at various points in my life and dealt with some crippling episodes, so I was sympathetic to him. He was also candid with me at first, telling me he wasn’t sleeping and he needed new meds, but when his rages got out of control, woe betide anyone who later suggested he might apologize to the person he screamed at. And he screamed at me, to the point that I upped my job search and left. I later heard that he stabilized and was significantly calmer, and while I was glad for that, our relationship was totally broken– not because he had anxiety or rages, but because when those rages subsided, he refused to acknowledge their impact on anyone, even himself.

      My own anxiety created a lot of heavy situations, and yes, there was some cleaning up the mess when it was done. I apologized privately several times to people, friends and colleagues. It sucked, but I knew I had to do it, and I also knew that once I did that, they were on my side.

    5. fposte*

      It also sounded to me like the OP’s job might be pretty stressful as is–the description of having to put off topics due to current frame of mind seems like a social services kind of thing where you’re managing some tough stuff. In that case, this might blend in more with the existing landscape than it would in other jobs where that kind of management isn’t usual.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        The problem being if you are working in a volatile environment, being in control is imperative. Your well-being and that of the people around you depends on it. I have been punched in the face/stomach and I know, you cannot cry and you cannot lose your cool. This is tough, tough stuff for anyone.
        OP, if this is the type of environment you have be sure to let your doctor know exactly what you are facing each work day. Give examples of things that happen in an ordinary day, if need be.

        We were talking the other day about jobs that you must get to work no matter what. Well, there are some jobs where you must keep your cool no matter what happens. I am hoping this extreme does not apply to OP, but I think that talking to the doctor and using examples to make the points very clear is still a good idea.

    6. Pam*

      @Oh baby Lily Munster ain’t got nothin on you: Great, now that song’s in my head and I have to listen to it and hope nobody walks into my office and gets freaked out by it.

    7. Artemesia*

      I was happy to see the thrust of Alison’s advice here. It is simply incumbent on the boss to be professional; there are reasons but no excuses for inflicting these mood issues on employees. And it would be really unwise to excuse it with reference to medications. Once, you might get a pass on just apologizing, but routinely, you just have to manage it by either exerting very difficult self control or by getting the medication under control. It is a challenge but it is also necessary.

    8. Olive Hornby*

      Having been on the other side of this (though I think my boss’s fits of passion are pretty intrinsic to her personality), I definitely agree with Alison’s advice. But one thing my boss does if she feels she reacted inappropriately in a given moment is say something along the lines of, “Look, I’m upset that we lost that teapot account, but that’s not a reflection on your work, and I want you to know you’re a valued employee.” Of course, that isn’t going to work if these occurrences happen frequently, but if it’s a matter of an occasional highly charged incident, it makes me (and others in my office) feel more comfortable, and it doesn’t make me lost any respect for my boss (in fact, I’d say the opposite is true.)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is good stuff- simply, own it. If you over-react go back in on it and let people know that it was not personal, nor was it about their work.

  7. jess*

    #5 my former boss waited to share with everyone til the ink was very dry. she gave me a personal heads up that it was happening but couldn’t share any details a couple of times about 2 months before the actual move happened. it was totally understandable because anything could happen.

  8. Marzipan*

    #3, I’d say really watch your tone when applying/interviewing for new jobs – however difficult or frustrating your old boss may have been, and however hurt you feel by the outcome, you need to give all the crazy-clinically-insane-paranoid-nuts-fear-monger descriptions a very, very wide berth. A hiring manager hearing even a whisper of these sentiments will be doing some rapid mental calculations about whether the problem was a ‘bad situation’ or whether, frankly, the problem was you – and hearing bitterness and resentment about being fired may bring them down on the side of the latter. This is unfortunate because genuinely awful work situations do exist, and because bitterness and resentment are perfectly natural resonses to bring fired, but there you go.

    Can I also say – and I don’t mean this as confrontational, but I do want to gently challenge you on it – that those terms you’ve used to describe your former manager came across to me as quite derogative about people with mental health problems (who make up a hefty chunk of the population, including today’s OP#1, and, at times, myself). I get that you were fired very recently, which makes the whole thing very raw; and I definitely get that your former manager was a difficult person. But, unless you have specific knowledge of any mental health diagnoses he has and know them to be absolutely relevant, the problem is just as likely to be that he’s just a bad manager and/or a challenging person to deal with. So again, I’d suggest avoiding these terms when job searching – you are very, very likely to come into contact with people who have some personal or family experience of mental ill health, and they may be put off by hearing them. It would certainly set off red flags for me to hear a potential hire speak in that way (though I should acknowledge that a non-judgemental attitude to people in difficulty is a specific requirement in the roles I recruit for). I know, of course, that you wouldn’t be planning to put things in quite the same way in an interview, but you get my point.

    Good luck with your job search – I hope it proves short and very successful.

      1. BRR*

        I also +100. I think Marzipan (yum) described it well as he was difficult and you could say he was a poor manager but let’s stop using mental health diagnoses as insults because that’s why people have a stigma about them and people don’t get treatment.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          Thanks, Marzipan! I eliminated an otherwise strong candidate recently for comments like that (it was relevant to the job). Also, if you absolutely must talk about someone’s mental health, “clinically insane” is really strong…sort of brings Hannibal Lector to mind, and it’s a totally different thing that “mental health issues” that someone might have.

      2. INTP*

        Agreed and it’s also clear that she does not have any special knowledge of these mental issues because “clinically insane” is not a thing. I know it sounds like nitpicking and the OP didn’t mean any harm but people who don’t know what they’re talking about (even though they think they do based on what they’ve picked up from media and other people) propagating ideas like this is a HUGE contributor towards mental illness stigma. Other people assume you know what you’re talking about and internalize, “Oh, ahole unethical boss behavior is often caused by mental illness. Therefore, mental illness often causes ahole unethical behavior.”

    1. OP #3*

      You’re right, of course. I wrote in when this was still very raw and I’ve calmed down somewhat. (I’m still mad that I got fired, but there’s nothing I can do to change that.)

      I didn’t mean to disparage the mentally ill and I really am just speculating about Former Boss’s problems. I should have chosen different language in my original question.

        1. TOC*

          I really appreciate this entire exchange between you and Marzipan. You both calmly took the high road and things ended constructively. Best of luck on your job search!

    2. GigglyPuff*

      Well put, “clinically insane” definitely irritated me, but wasn’t sure how to respond. As someone with an immediate family member with a major mental health illness, this type of language would’ve definitely been a red flag if I was interviewing.

  9. Jwal*

    #1 I’m on meds that do very similar, and can leave me an emotional wreck (bursting into tears over a KFC advert was the latest weird example), and that’s definitely awkward at work. What I have noticed though is that with meds these kind of side effects get better/more manageable over time so it may be that if you stick at it the problem will resolve itself.

    I second Alison’s advice though – there are so many things out there so maybe your doctor can reccommed something without these particular side affects. Good luck :)

  10. Blue Anne*

    #1 – I don’t disagree with Alison’s answer on this, but good lord is it discouraging. I’m on anxiety meds myself and probably will be for… well, possibly forever? (The last time my doctor asked if I wanted to consider coming off them, I had an anxiety attack right there in the office.) But I’m also very high achieving in my career and certainly intend to be managing people for as long as possible. I’d really hate to think that I could be in a position where I need to choose between my job performance and a successful treatment for my disorder.

    1. Colette*

      It’s not the meds that are the problem, though – it’s what they’re doing to the OP’s moods. I realize that mental health medications are more of a guess than some other medications that we understand better, but if they’re affecting your moods to the point where you’re unable to regulate your reaction to your emotions, that’s a problem.

      1. Zillah*

        Hmm – I’m not sure that distinction is super helpful, though. Side effects are part of taking medication, and whether they’re worth it is often a balancing act. I agree that if they’re affecting your moods, that’s a problem, but I can see where Blue Anne is feeling discouraged.

        1. fposte*

          I can understand that too, but I think some of this is the “identify with the OP and not everybody else” tendencies. If you’re the OP’s staff, trying to manage your own anxiety disorders and other challenges, how would you feel about your boss getting angry with you more frequently? How much would it help if you were told it was due to her medication? From the posts on AAM, it doesn’t sound like it helps a lot.

          Emotions affect other people so hugely when you’re the boss that I think managers really do have to find a workaround (some of which the OP has described) rather than just an explanation. I don’t think that means you can never mention that you have an anxiety disorder or other thing you’re being medicated for–it just means that’s not enough to compensate for behavior that makes your staff’s work life harder.

          1. Blue Anne*

            Yeah, as I say, I don’t disagree with Alison’s answer; I know that my boss being in a foul mood can really affect the whole office. And while there may be a reason, that doesn’t always mean it’s okay.

            It’s still a huge downer, though, because I identify very much with the OP’s situation here.

            1. fposte*

              Can you say more about why it seems like such a huge downer? I didn’t read it that way, but I think you weren’t alone in doing so, and I’d like to know more.

              1. INTP*

                I don’t want to put words in this OP’s mouth, but my take as a person who has dealt with similar issues is that it’s a downer to face the prospect of having to give up your career due to your condition. As a society we tend to be all about accommodations and not really like to acknowledge that even strong and ambitious people can’t always keep their jobs in the face of an illness and disability. It would be pretty heartbreaking to have to choose between treating your condition with an effective medication but stepping down from a career you have put years of hard work into or keeping your career but having to forgo treatment or choose a less effective treatment and face discomfort on a daily basis. (This could apply to any sort of mental or physical condition that affects well-being – migraines, chronic pain, etc.)

              2. Blue Anne*

                Hm. Thank you for asking, because I hadn’t really picked it apart.

                Putting myself in OP’s shoes… It would be a huge downer mainly because it’s something which could hold back my career and which I really have no control over. If I need to get a certification for my job, I can do that. Heck, if I need to get more confident at public speaking, I can join Toastmasters. But in this case I would need to either overcome my anxiety disorder or find a treatment with completely manageable side effects, which can be incredibly difficult, if not impossible. (And even if it is possible, I’m possibly facing a switch from medication which is mostly working for me, to months of feeling terrible while my doctor tinkers with my prescription.)

                And it’s all sort of insult to injury, really, because this is something which has already had a massive impact on my personal life. I pay $400 monthly for therapy, it’s very hard on my husband and mother, I’ve had to overcome visions of stepping in front of a bus, I still have weird symptoms like nightmares and skin-picking – and even at my best, I’m having worries about co-workers/employees, despite my being fantastic at my job even when I’m having a breakdown? Seriously? Can nothing be easy?

                And yet I do agree with Alison. I’m reminded of the conversations we’ve sometimes had about autism spectrum/social issues; yes, it can explain why someone is making you uncomfortable, but it doesn’t make it okay. The fact that I’m going through this doesn’t mean it’s okay to inflict it on others, especially those I work with. And even if I was comfortable telling my employees why I was feeling emotional, I would still have a responsibility to improve the situation. So no, nothing can be easy. Which is a very grim, hopeless thought.

                And that’s why it seems like a huge downer to me.

                (Quick side notes… Sorry for the long response. And I do realize I’m probably projecting myself onto the OP quite a bit here. Also, after thinking through all of this, I’m suddenly a lot more comfortable with the fact that I’m technically considered disabled under UK employment law.)

                1. C Average*

                  This is well-said, and I’m glad you took the time to spell it all out like this.

                  Sending you virtual empathy, hugs, better days ahead, or whatever else is appropriate here.

                2. fposte*

                  Thanks, Blue Anne–this was very enlightening for me. I appreciate that you were willing to explain more. And while I’m not dealing with the same set of challenges as you, I totally understand the “is nothing going to be easy?” frustration. I hope more things do end up being easy for you.

                3. Blue Anne*

                  Thanks folks. I’m actually quite lucky in all the wonderful resources I have to manage this issue. :)

                4. soitgoes*

                  My phrasing here probably isn’t going to be perfect, but I feel like I have something to add to this conversation.

                  We’ve all lost out on opportunities that we really wanted for reasons that had to do with our very selves but are still beyond our control. Is having certain job options eliminated due to an illness really all that different than losing those options due to not being smart enough, not being skilled enough, or not having the right personality type? I think all of us have experienced something like that, I understand how heartbreaking that is.

                  Maybe this should wait for a larger conversation about how to conceive of mental illnesses in an age where they’re thought to be just another aspect of who you are. Because if it’s just another human quality (provided that it’s being managed), it’s hard for people to participate in the discourse beyond saying, “Please don’t treat me badly, even if it’s not your fault.” Is it normal and neutral, like my inability to do math? Or is it something that we have accommodate no matter what, even to the detriment of others?

                5. Not So NewReader*

                  Very well said Blue Anne. Thank you for taking the time to write that.

                  soitgoes- I remember in one of my business courses a person needed accommodation to take a test. He needed more time. The prof said that he will have difficulty getting hired because business moves along and it is up to us to keep up with the pace. This lead to a discussion on accommodation. Businesses do not have to accommodate to their own detriment. Yeah, that can get tough to prove.

                  I do think that we as consumers can tell our doctors and pharmacists that a particular medication is causing too many problems and interfering with life/work/etc. That is an excellent starting point. The sad part here is this puts the onus on the person who already has a full plate.

        2. Colette*

          I’m looking at it from the perspective that it’s fine (and normal) to struggle with your own problems, but it’s not OK to expect other people to struggle with your problems, because they have their own.

          I do understand that medication for mental health issues is … finicky, I guess is the best word. It works for some people but not others, it stops working for no apparent reason, and it can have substantial side-effects. But … that shouldn’t be the OP’s employees’ problem. The OP has to come up with a plan to cope, even if it’s just being able to calmly say “I need to take some time to think about this. We can talk tomorrow” and walk away.

          (It also matters whether this is a temporary side-effect or whether it could be permanent – if it’s just a problem of adjusting to the medication, I’d be OK with an explanation of what was going on, but if it’s long-term, she needs to find another way to deal with it, either through changing medications or through coping techniques.)

          1. fposte*

            I also think we’re talking about medication for mental/emotional stuff because that’s what the OP brought up, but it applies to medications in general, and effects on mood can happen with medication for other stuff, too.

            1. Zillah*

              I agree with you both – I’m sorry if I came off otherwise! I was really only trying to say that I understand why Blue Anne is feeling a little discouraged, because sometimes, the side effects of medications that people need can have tangible consequences in the rest of their life.

              1. fposte*

                I certainly understand that–I’m experiencing that right now, in that a medication I’m on for my spine gives me some cognitive fuzz that is a real problem for me. But, as with most medication situations, going without would be worse, so I just have to find a way to work with it and around it.

              2. Colette*

                I understand, it’s discouraging to realize that the impact of an illness is more than just the direct symptoms, and includes what you have to give up to get effective treatment.

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      I am struggling with this response as well, as someone who has off-and-on long term health problems. I agree that you need to strive to respond appropriately. That said , when you aren’t well it can be really hard…or impossible…to truly be at your best. For me, it’s finding that balance between knowing it’s never okay to be a jerk, and forgiving myself for not being 100%. Occasionally I’ve landed on telling people something like, “I’m sorry, I’m not feeling my best this week” And doing what I can to be at 80% or so until I feel better. While I’m sure OP would like to feel even better than she does, it can take a lot of time/trial and error to get there, and I’d suggest being forgiving of yourself during those days or weeks, and not giving up! Also, can you work at home or otherwise take a bit or pressure off in the meantime?

    3. Serin*

      I’d really hate to think that I could be in a position where I need to choose between my job performance and a successful treatment for my disorder.

      If the OP is a manager whose medication causes emotional overreactions, the choice she’s facing could, if the overreactions are bad enough, be thoosing between a successful treatment for her disorder and damaging other people’s mental health. A manager isn’t a parent, but a manager is in a position of power over others, and shouldn’t underestimate the harm that can be done if it’s impossible to avoid flying into a rage.

      It’s hard, and it’s not fair that people should have to face this choice through no fault of their own. I hope the OP and their doctors and therapists can come up with a solution.

      1. JB*

        Absolutely. From experience, a manager who cannot control their mood swings can have a seriously detrimental effect on the people who report to them. I’ve worked for people to whom I could say, “Hey, just so you know, flying off the handle and yelling at people because they came into your office to ask you a work-related question is maybe not ok.” And right now I have a someone in my department who is making our department admin miserable because she treats her so badly when she doesn’t take her blood pressure medication (and other medication? We don’t know) regularly and on time (and lately, she appears to not be doing so). She has my utmost sympathy for whatever physical or mental ailments she has, but it is not an excuse to make that our admin’s problem. The admin has no control over whether she sets off my coworker, so it’s not fair for her to bear the fallout. And if our wonderfully friendly and efficient admin leaves because she’s too miserable to take it anymore, then it is affecting other people as well. But our admin doesn’t feel like she can do anything about it because she doesn’t have the authority and because she frankly doesn’t want to set off another round of angry lest she get fired.

    4. Hlyssande*

      I know what you mean.

      I actually have informed my supervisor when I started new meds or switched them out when the possible side effects included mood or personality changes so she could let me know if she noticed anything strange.

      I think how much to disclose depends on your relationship with your employees. If you’re friendly with them and are of the sharing sort, I’d probably explain what’s going on to let them know. If it’s not as close of a relationship, something like what Ashley said above might be better.

      1. Blue Anne*

        I do the same with my managers. I have a spiel for when I get a new manager: “I have an anxiety disorder, it’s well-controlled, but I always need to go home on time on Tuesdays for counselling, and the best thing you can do to help me is let me know ASAP if you notice something strange about my behaviour.” Doing this has worked out really well for me so far.

        With employees, though… tougher call.

    5. nona*

      I don’t think anyone is suggesting that LW#1 choose between those two things, though.

      I’ve definitely experienced the over-sensitivity and reactivity that LW talked about (and it’s why I’m on one medication instead of the first one now). It really is something that needs to be either lessened or carefully controlled, although it’s very difficult.

      1. Blue Anne*

        I guess that to me, having to adjust away from medication with that level of side effect does sound like giving up a successful treatment in the name of career performance. But my experience is that pretty much every drug has side effects around that level – I’ve been taking citalopram for years and consider it a very successful treatment despite the disturbingly vivid nightmares I get when I’m taking it, for example.

        But, it does make me happy to think that others have such success that that level of side effect seems more major to them than it does to me! :)

    6. INTP*

      I’ve had depression most of my life, I have pretty serious ADHD…it sucks, but the inconvenient truth is that sometimes it really does alter your career plans and other things you pursue in life. I totally get what you mean about it being discouraging. However, when I started acknowledging that I’m not someone that can work 60 hour weeks at a high-stress job even for just a few years to start my career, it felt more liberating than limiting. It’s very taboo because I guess we like to pretend that illnesses and disabilities can’t actually limit people, but they can.

      Hopefully for the OP this won’t be necessary and it’s just a temporary side effect. I’m not suggesting anyone with any mental illness issue go out and redesign your life with less ambition. Just don’t run yourself ragged thinking that it’s “giving up” to acknowledge that something isn’t working well for you or takes too much out of you to pursue.

      1. Colette*

        And that’s true of more than mental illnesses, too. Many physical illnesses (even ones that are common – asthma, for example) limit what people can realistically do as a career or in life. So do disorders like dyslexia, or religious taboos (such as not being able to work for one day out of the week) or injuries (like concussions), or just a difficulty learning a particular skill. Everybody has limitations that affect the opportunities available to them.

        1. INTP*

          Yes, absolutely. There are many physical illnesses that could replicate the OP’s conundrum almost exactly. You have chronic pain that’s only relieved by narcotic pain meds but you work with machinery or human patients, you have migraines and hold an intellectual job that the migraine med brain fog interferes with, etc. There was an interesting debate on another site I use about not being able to attend company parties because of a religious issue with being around people who are drinking and the impacts on your career. You can get yourself excused from the party, but realistically, no law is going to protect you from every consequence of skipping out (lost visibility, opinions about your team player-ness being affected, etc).

          I think as a culture we tend to want to believe that no legally protected trait like an illness or religion or disability can hold anyone back, we can bootstrap or “reasonable accommodations” ourselves out of anything…but sometimes you just have to make an impossible choice (or get dealt a crappy hand and have no choice).

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Limitations. When a friend was diagnosed with diabetes, the doctor told her right away that she should expect LESS out of life. Not exactly what you want to hear.

    7. Jennifer*

      Honestly, one of the reasons on my list of “why I won’t try taking meds” is because I simply cannot go into my work with whopping side effects going on and still keep my job. If I am anything less than 100% smiling and perky and perfect, I get tons of crap and/or written up about it. If I had a whopping headache going on for three weeks or was snapping at people or crying? Forget it!

  11. AmyHG*

    #3 – Someone correct me if I am wrong, but I beleive it’s legit to send emails to someone from a call list, assuming they opted in. I still think your boss overreacted though.

    #1 – I agree with some of the others here. I think A’s answer isn’t very sensitive to those with mental illness. I think the best solution would be to explain (briefly and without too much detail) that the meds are affecting your moods.

    1. misspiggy*

      I think Alison’s answer may be trying to take many people’s lack of understanding and fear around mental health issues into account. While the OP may want to confidentially tell her manager, telling the staff she manages directly may have negative consequences. I liked the earlier suggestion of subtly dropping it into other conversation, though.

    2. MK*

      Insensitive though it is, the OP’s health is for her to manage. It’t part of her private life and it’s her responsibility to see that it does not affect her work. By telling her employees, she is basically telling them tolerating her moods are part of their job.

      That being said, I don’t think it would be inappropriate to explain a particular outburst with “I am dealing with some healtg issues right now”. But not making a general announcement or telling everyone and expect them to just deal.

      1. JB*

        I agree. I can be a lot more tolerant of temporary mood swings if it’s from someone adjusting to a new medication when I know about it, but at some point they need to even out. When it becomes a more permanent thing that we’re just expected to put up with then it’s no different from working for someone who is just a jerk. If your medication makes it impossible for you to handle management responsibilities, then sadly you maybe shouldn’t be in management, or you should at least look for a job that doesn’t trigger you so much. I am not unsympathetic to mental illness, given that I have some anxiety issues myself and so do many people in my family, but at some point it’s not fair to make others bear the brunt of it.

      2. JayDee*

        I think it’s a big jump from explaining to your staff why your emotional responses are magnified while working on a plan to address that problem to using that as a way to avoid dealing with the situation and developing strategies to control those responses or adjusting med doses or whatever. I didn’t get the sense from OP 1’s letter that she wants her employees to just deal with it and to use her meds as an excuse. I got the sense that she wants her employees to understand what’s going on and that “it’s not you it’s me (and my meds).” That doesn’t get her off the hook for figuring out a long-term plan for addressing her emotional magnification. But if it helps smooth things over in the short-term, that’s not a bad thing.

        1. JayDee*

          Wow, I messed up that first sentence something awful. Should be “I think it’s a big jump from explaining to your staff why your emotional responses are magnified while developing strategies to control those responses or adjust your meds to using that as a way to avoid dealing with the situation and excuse bad behavior.”

  12. Name*

    Dealing with anxiety is so difficult, especially in a professional setting. The worst are the people who don’t get it, who treat it as if it’s not a real illness. Please ignore every person telling you to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and “just” get your emotions under control by sheer willpower.

    Adjusting your meds might not be the solution either, since it’s so difficult to find one that actually works, and they take so long to kick in.

    Talk to your staff, imo, is the best solution for you personally. You don’t have to say what the meds are for if you’re not comfortable, considering the stigma of mental illness. So sorry you’re dealing with this!

    1. Marcia*

      I disagree. Anxiety is a real, serious problem, but it’s not an excuse for mistreating people or acting in a way that causes -other people- anxiety (anxiety disorders are common enough that one or more employees could be struggling, unbeknownst to their manager). People are perfectly capable of having strong emotions without reacting to then outwardly. If nothing else, one can always step away from things and take time to process their emotions before getting back into things.

      The fact is that this person is a manager and has more control over other’s lives. I believe that the OP can handle this. It may require extra help from a psychologist/therapist, but it can be done and needs to be done (of course no one should advise OP to stop taking medication, especially when it seems to be working so well).

      1. Not Today Satan*

        I totally agree. If a health condition is making you incapable of working or behaving in an acceptable, professional way, you should go on leave until you figure it out. I have anxiety and have also had other issues so I definitely sympathize. But I’ve also born the brunt of others’ issues and it’s not cool.

        1. Zillah*

          I agree, but I don’t think there’s a clear line between being capable and incapable of working or behaving in an acceptable, professional way. Some things clearly fall on one side or the other, but there’s a very murky middle, too, and it’s neither reasonable nor realistic to expect people to take leave whenever they not very firmly in the “capable” zone. Stress can seep into your work sometimes, and if you can struggle through it, you do. That’s particularly true when you’re struggling with a chronic condition – you often can’t simply go on leave every time it flares up.

          If the OP is yelling at her staff, belittling them, bullying them, etc – then yes, she should absolutely go on leave. However, if what she’s talking about is just being edgier than usual, or reacting more poorly than usual to bad news… no, that’s not ideal management, but most managers aren’t ideal 100% of the time. There are things she can do to mitigate the effect on her staff in the meantime.

          1. I'm a Little Teapot*

            +1. It’s not realistic to expect someone with a mental illness to go on leave every time she isn’t feeling perfect – I know I’d never be able to keep a job if I did, and having a mental illness doesn’t make your bills magically disappear.

      2. Zillah*

        I don’t see where Name said that anxiety was an excuse for mistreating people, though – they just said that they hate it when people don’t see it as a real illness. That’s not really the same thing.

        1. JustMe*

          I thought it was just me. I didn’t see that either, so I don’t know what Marcia was disagreeing with here.

    2. Blue Anne*

      “You don’t have to say what the meds are for if you’re not comfortable, considering the stigma of mental illness.”

      That’s a good point that hadn’t occurred to me. If you said something along the lines of “Sorry I’m grumpy, I’m on some meds right now that are having wacky side effects” there wouldn’t necessarily be an assumption that it was for a mental issue. Medications for physical ailments can have mental side effects too.

      1. OhNo*

        Keeping the phrasing vague, like you suggest, also leaves the option open that the grumpiness could be *because* of the side effects, not one of the side effects, which leaves it even more open to interpretation. While I wish that there was sufficient understanding on the topic of mental health to be honest about it, if you’re going to explain it, being as vague as possible is probably your best option.

      2. Hlyssande*

        Seriously. The BP med I was on for a few months (to treat migraines, failed utterly so I stopped) had major personality-altering side effects listed and you better bet I told my supervisor and coworkers so they could let me know if they noticed anything out of character.

    3. MK*

      Yes. All those “crazy” bosses people write to Alison about, it’s possible, even probable, that it is caused by real, serious problems of their own. What if one of the OP’s employees had written to complain about their boss trwating them badly?

      Also you know what else is the worst? Being a person around the one having the (physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, whatever) problem and being told you shouldn’t complain about your life being made intorelable, bacause “X is having such a hard time right now, how can you be so heartless? Just deal with it”. Usually by people who don’t have to do it themselves.

      1. Zillah*

        But I also think that it’s important not to project your own experiences with volatile, unstable bosses onto OPs who write in asking for advice in dealing with mental illness. There’s not indication from the OP that she’s treating her staff very poorly or making their work lives intolerable, nor is there any indication that anyone is telling her staff that she’s having a hard time so they’re heartless for complaining. You’re right, that does suck – but I’m not really sure why it’s relevant.

        1. MK*

          It’s about as relevant as Name advising the OP to not listen to other people telling her to just get over her illness, which no one suggested. Which is the comment I responded to.

          I am not saying that the OP is being a nightmare at work. But I do think a lot of people who are or become that start off with a sense of entitlement that others should accomodate them, that what’s best for them is what has to happen. So, I think that “it’s what best for you personally” cannot be a primary consideration when one is managing.

          1. Kathlynn*

            People here might not have said it, but it is one of the things frequently said to those of us with mental illness. So, yes Name’s advice is relevant.

    4. INTP*

      I deal with other mental illness myself so I totally understand how heartbreaking it might be fore the OP, but I don’t think unloading all of this on the staff is the best choice. Staff are concerned with their own careers and work environment and they’re likely to hear “I’m on a medication that makes me unfit to manage for awhile, but instead of taking some medical leave, I’m going to make it your problem and ask you guys to just tolerate occasional outbursts.”

      In the short term, I think it’s okay to manage it as best you can and say “I’m sorry, I haven’t been feeling well these past few weeks” where necessary (after being a little intense – not after being an outright jerk which isn’t okay) while waiting to see if the side effects will subside or persist. If they subside, staff will assume you were going through something personal and forget about it. But if they persist, then your options are to find a way to keep them from affecting your behavior at work or choose between your medications or career, unfortunately. It sucks – I turned away from a few possible career paths because I knew my own issues wouldn’t be compatible with the work environment – but it’s life.

  13. Kristinyc*


    AAM’s Resident Email Nerd here. It’s not technically a CAN-SPAM violation. The law is fairly open, and as long as they have a way to opt out the rest of the email is CAN-SPAM compliant, it wouldn’t be breaking the law.

    However, adding people that way is a pretty bad practice, and will hurt your deliverability. You’d probably get more spam complaints and a very high unsubscribe rate, and the emails wouldn’t likely perform well. I wouldn’t have wanted to add the people either – it’s just bad email marketing. (For future – if I were forced to do this or be fired, I’d keep them as a separate list in my ESP, send them a welcome series, the only move people who are actually engaging with it to the main list. Also, show my boss had badly that list performs compared to everyone else.)

    If you’re by any chance interviewing for email jobs in the future, I think it would be okay to just flat out tell the truth (in a concise, factual way). Real email nerds would get it. :)

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I didn’t win any friends with PTB a decade ago when I flat out refused to try a purchased B to B email list.

      I believe my exact words were: “I am not doing that.”

      I’d probably word it a little differently now. :p (but the net result would be the same. It is bad for business.)

      1. kristinyc*

        Good! Fight the good fight! :)
        I teach an email marketing class, and we spend a good 20 minutes (of a 2 hour class) going over why purchased lists are the worst. At a job a few years ago, our digital manager wanted us to do a 3rd party opt-in (where the checkbox on forms that says “Also send me emails from 3rd party partners!”), and I killed that pretty quickly.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          I did one of those once, but, don’t hate me! :) I did it 10 years after the Great Sit Down in the Sand where I refused to email to purchased list.

          The Great Sit Down in the Sand did get me a know-it-all-inflexible-re-email-opportunities reputation with the company principals so 10 years later, I adopted a neutral attitude and “let’s see what happens” approach when it was suggested to me.

          I used a well liked resource in one of our niche markets where I knew that our mails weren’t going to piss anybody off. The 3rd party ran the campaigns so I was at no risk to any other internal campaigns. We did great creative. Perfect offer, perfect landing, perfect time. Spent my $3000 or whatever the mail cost me and……….

          Then I had numbers to back up why we should never do it again. Subject closed!

          1. kristinyc*

            That’s usually my strategy when I get pushback on something I disagree with. “Sure, let’s test it and see how it performs…”

          2. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!*

            I’ve had this same stance on buying email lists. We’ve built our DB on people we do business with or have expressed an interest in our products. I just wish the darn people that want to sell me lists would stop emailing…I get them almost daily! Ugh!

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              It’s very expensive. It’s not effective. And every email you send to someone who doesn’t want to hear from you is either a risk to your reputation or the deliverablity of mail to the people who do want to hear from you.

              Other than that, it’s a great idea. :/

    2. Iro*

      But can spam does stipulate that you must provide consent for commercial emails.

      For example, if I go to a store, and purchase some furniture, and on the invoice they ask for an email. If no where on the invoice does it say “By providing this email you are opting in to promotional emails.” or something along those lines, and the clerk doesn’t ask me if I would like to opt in to such things, and they send me promotional materials it is a violation of can spam.

      1. fposte*

        Can you identify where that is? I’ve found a lot of stuff on CAN-SPAM hard to pin down.

        Mind you, I’ve also filed two complaints on companies that continue to spam me twice weekly, so I don’t think there’s a ton of enforcement on the small-potatoes side.

      2. kristinyc*

        Actually, CAN-SPAM goes by Opt-out rather than Opt-in. It’s a much better practice to get opt-in, and that’s what MOST email marketers do, for lots of reasons (primarily, better performance, transparency, building trust between your subscribers and your brand). CAN-SPAM regulates emails that are being sent, not how subscribers are acquired.

        Here’s full info about CAN-SPAM:

        CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam law) has stricter rules, and requires consent and opt-in.

      3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        It doesn’t Iro. As I said above, what you were looking at applies to mobile phones and is written for text messages, although also applies to an email sent deliberately to a phone.

  14. knitchic79*

    #3: I can completely relate to what you are going through. In my last job I was the assistant director of a day care/ preschool. I had a regional director who was asking me to use some unethical parent recruiting and staff scheduling practices. When I refused my immediate supervisor was told to tell me I would be demoted but not when that would be effective, a common managing tactic of hers…wait a number of months then say oh yeah that demotion we talked about starts now. I went home at the end of my day and cane back the next with a resignation letter. I did the bad thing, burned the bridge and did not give two weeks. Anyway I took a year and stayed home with the kids. When I did begin interviews again I kept my reason for leaving to, “I felt the company was operating in a way that was unethical towards the parents and staff, because of this I could no longer continue working there.” When asked if the company would agree with my assessment when they called I told them that considering it had been a year, turnover there has always been high, and the circumstances of my leaving I really couldn’t say.
    As luck would have it my current company places a very high value on operating with integrity so my answer hit the mark culturally. So I was able to turn a couple of potential red flags, work history gap and leaving w/o notice, into a job I really enjoy.
    I know you were unlucky enough to get fired, but saying something similar to what Allison said without getting into specifics should allow you to explain while not coming off bitter. Good luck!

    1. Cautionary tail*

      Assuming that you refused to do something unethical, and I won’t join the above conversation on the US CAN-SPAM law or it’s equivalents elsewhere and how your situation relates to it, then this can be a huge positive in interviewing. If you get some version of the question, “Why would I fire you [ugh]?; what is a weakness of yours, etc. then you can bring this up and answer truthfully that your company asked you to do something unethical and you would not do it and explain.

      I was laid off because I would not do something unethical and contract-breaking [but not illegal]. When I brought it up in job interviews, interviewers at ethical companies were impressed that I put the security of having a job and the well being of my family above acting unethically.

      It was really hard to be without a job after being laid off for refusing to act unethically, but what kept me going was my mantra that I would eventually get another job, but I could never get another me.

  15. Zillah*

    OP #1 – I’m sorry. That really sucks. As someone who grapples with a mood disorder, I feel for you.

    I agree that you do need to figure out how to keep the mood issues from adversely affecting your staff, but I’m wondering whether there’s a way to split the difference between TMI and leaving them completely in the dark. I like the suggestion above to work it into the conversation if it comes up, but you could also just bring it up on your own in much vaguer terms and blame the edginess on a side-effect rather than say it’s a side effect itself – e.g., “I want to apologize if I’ve seemed edgy lately – I’ve been grappling with a health issue, and the medication I’m taking to address it has some stressful side effects that I’m still figuring out how to manage.”

    A couple other thoughts:

    For me, I can often tell when I’m going to have a bad day, mood-wise. One thing that I’ve tried to do where possible is make it easy for myself to telecommute on those days. If that’s an option for you, it might be good to try it – it could help provide a little bit of a buffer between you and your staff on particularly bad days. If telecommuting is theoretically feasible but not typical at your company, you might want to research the ADA a little more – it could be seen as a reasonable accommodation for your disability, though I’m really not sure. If telecommuting isn’t an option, is taking a sick day an option?

    This might not be feasible at all, and even if it is it might not work all the time, but would it be possible to respond to disheartening news from your staff by saying, “Thank you for telling me. I want a little time to think about how to address this – can we talk about it [in an hour/at the end of the day/after lunch/tomorrow morning]?” You could make a point of it even when you don’t feel yourself starting to overreact – you might end up being seen as a little weird, but that seems better than getting frustrated at them.

    You have my sympathies, though, OP. Good luck!

    1. INTP*

      I really like this wording:
      “I want to apologize if I’ve seemed edgy lately – I’ve been grappling with a health issue, and the medication I’m taking to address it has some stressful side effects that I’m still figuring out how to manage.”

      It addresses the issue with an appropriate amount of transparency, apologizes, and states that you are actively looking for solutions. Much better than disclosing exactly what the illness is (might make people feel uncomfortable to know that about their boss). It also doesn’t come across like you’re making your illness their problem, which I think could happen if you just said that you’re having medication side effects without the clause about figuring out how to manage them (employees might hear “This is just how it’s going to be for awhile and it’s your job to deal”).

  16. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – if you think the mood issues will only be temporary, then you might be able to say something like “please bear with me for the next couple of weeks – I’m adjusting to a medication that’s screwing with my sleep patterns” or something like that.

    I empathize. When I started getting treated for my thyroid I saw a doctor who initially put me on a WAY too high a dose of thyroid medication – it made me paranoid, nervous, emotional, etc. I totally bombed a briefing in the midst of it because I was shaking from the medication and I was aware I was shaking and because of the emotional affects – god, not my finest moment.

    Luckily I did clue my manager in and got it adjusted quickly, so it stopped, but it’s a scary thing to not be fully in control of your own faculties.

    1. Artemesia*

      I wondered why my doc put me on a fairly low dose of thyroid meds and then worked up after blood tests to the current fairly high dose; now I understand. The only thing my meds did is make me feel ‘normal’ and not falling asleep in meetings. Thanks for the insight about that approach.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Yes! You have to titrate them. I dropped that doctor like a bad habit – I could have had a heart attack.

        1. fposte*

          More likely you’d have just felt like you were having one :-). While hyperthyroidism can lead to some heart problems, spontaneous heart attack isn’t one of them. The crisis thing to worry about is thyroid storm, which is pretty unusual. Mostly having elevated levels just makes you feel like crap in the way you describe; there are longer-term effects if it’s not corrected, but it usually takes a fair while for those to become a factor.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            OK, that makes me feel a little better. But I definitely didn’t enjoy the feeling of tripping balls.

            1. fposte*

              It’s freaking horrible. And then if you have it in a hot summer it’s exponentially horrible because you have no heat tolerance at all.

              1. Ethyl*

                Yeah as much as I’ve struggled to accept the weight gain that has been a part of getting my thyroid under control, I do NOT miss feeling like I’m crazy, having my hair fall out, heart racing, etc.

    2. Hlyssande*

      Oof, that’s rough!

      I was put on a high starting dose of a BP med to treat migraines and the pharmacist told me I should ease up into it instead of jumping straight in for exactly that kind of reason.

  17. Daniel*

    OP#1 As a professional with anxiety disorder myself, I am big fan of self-disclosure, and even pride for disability. While it’s not my identity, it plays an important part in my life, and I should not have to hide that.

    Yes, my anxiety makes life difficult for me, but it also gives me some pretty significant advantages; for example, I consider every possible outcome that could result from a decision-made; since I’m used to living in high-pressure, when the high pressure situations come, I’m able to stay calm, clear-headed, and focused on outcomes.

    Mental illness has negative connotations, but this is mostly due to ignorance, and the more people who self-disclose, the greater empathy and inclusion will be.

  18. Lily in NYC*

    #1 – I see most commenters are giving you advice re: the mood disorder and how to deal with it at work. However, to answer your question about if you should tell your staff – I say yes, tell them. Our general counsel is bipolar. I didn’t know it and when she called me and started screaming at me for something completely innocuous and I was like ????? what the hell just happened! Two hours later, she came to my desk, apologized, and told me that she is bipolar and having problems with her meds. She has since lost it in my direction a few more times and I always think nothing of it because now I know about her issues.
    Yes, I am aware that she shouldn’t take out her issues on staff, but that’s a problem that’s out of my hands. I am just grateful that I know what’s up so I don’t internalize it when she gets furious for no reason.

    1. Us, Too*

      I’m glad this works for you, but I don’t think you can assume that it would be that way for many people and I’d caution OP against making a similar assumption.

      I’m sympathetic to people struggling with illness of any sort, but I have to admit that if a colleague of mine “lost it in my direction” or was shouting, etc more than one time, that would be a catalyst for me to look for new work – either within the organization or outside it. To me, screaming at someone and “losing it” are not just unprofessional, but bordering on abusive.

      If OP was my boss and she told me that she was having medication issues, I’d tell her that I hope she sorts it out and wish her the best, but that would not make me feel any less crappy the next time I was on the receiving end of an outburst or mood swing of some sort. I deserve to be treated respectfully (or at least without abuse) at work. If someone is incapable of doing that, I don’t particularly care if it’s because they have a mental illness, or if their medication isn’t working or has side effects, or if they weren’t hugged enough as a child or they routinely have bad days because they hate their work/spouse/kids/life or because Venus is in retrograde with whatever. I come to work to get work done and if they aren’t able to do that, they need to leave. Or I do.

      I know this sounds terribly cold-hearted and I don’t intend it to, but I think this is likely the reality for many employees. So I’d reiterate to OP that she absolutely must find a way to mitigate the potential negative impact of her condition on employees. They are there to work and she needs to find a way to help them with that, not hinder.

      1. Artemesia*

        Agree 100%. People in authority over other people simply cannot be ‘losing it in their direction’ on a regular basis and a single incident of this requires abject making it up to them. It is deeply frightening to many people to have a boss with towering rages; this is not an acceptable workplace regardless of the reason.

      2. soitgoes*

        I agree. I think that the new-ish movement toward inclusiveness is necessary and wonderful, but oftentimes it comes with the assumption that anyone can do any job they want. Sometimes there’s something about you that makes you bad for the job. It could be a lack of experience, a lack of a particular talent or skill, an iffy personality, or a mental illness. Normalizing non-typical neuro stuff means learning how to say, in a neutral way, “This totally acceptable thing about you nonetheless disqualifies you from this particular role.”

      3. Not So NewReader*

        This. I have all the empathy in the world for people who are struggling. But I have to take care of me, too. In my personal life and work life I have seen folks really scream for reasons that probably had medical basis. My heart goes out to them, but I cannot keep working under those conditions. I am more than willing to look the other way if someone is going through a rough spot, but when there is no end in sight I must leave.

      4. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Yeah, I mentioned above that I don’t think not being at 100% should mean you shouldn’t be working, but there’s a difference between not being at 100% and being abusive.

    2. Joey*

      Well but at the same time losing it doesn’t become something you should dismiss because she has some med issues she’s sorting through. You should really let her boss know. For all you know the boss may think the issue is under control.

      Understandable, yes. Acceptable? Hell no.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Her boss knows. Everyone knows. She is notorious for her mercurial behavior. She will never get fired, which is why I tolerate her. I have no say in the matter and she’s been here 15 years. Silver lining: at least I no longer live across the street from her.

    3. Annika Potato*

      Your general counsel is unprofessional and should be fired. Full stop. Honestly, bad tempered, uncontrolled lawyers are so common that I doubt it’s bipolar that is causing her to be so unprofessional and probably just a huge sense of entitlement.

  19. C Average*

    My manager is moody as hell. I’ve struggled for a long time to put into words exactly why I dislike working for her and finally realized that’s a huge part of it–not the only part of it, but a contributing factor to just about every other problem we’ve ever had. She’s been away for several weeks and, during her absence, I find myself NOT living in the brace position at work, which is refreshing.

    I don’t think knowing the root cause would make much difference, honestly. I’d still have to gauge her moods and try to work around them. And I’d still be looking for an exit.

    Thanks for being self-aware enough to realize the impact your mood swings have on the people around you, and for trying to do something about it. Good luck!

    1. Us, Too*

      Exactly. Knowing the cause may be academically interesting to me, but in the end when someone is screaming at you, it’s unlikely to prevent an inner cringing feeling.

    2. Helen*

      I had one boss who was kind of cold, more critical than she needed to be, and just in general not the nicest. Then she was replaced by someone who was incredibly moody. Sometimes she was very nice, and sometimes she was very rude/mean. We never knew what to expect from her. It sucked. We all agreed that the prior boss was better to work for.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I worked in one place where we would greet each other with “which way is the wind blowing today”. Sometimes it felt like the world outside did not exist, it was such a struggle to get through the next five minutes. When I got to the point that talking to people outside of work was a bit mind-bending for me, I knew the time to move on had long since passed.

  20. SH*

    #1 I think disclosing that you have an anxiety issue that requires an anti-depressant is perfectly fine. As a subordinate, I would want to know why my boss was becoming emotional about business. However, I think you should also find a different anti-depressant. It sounds like this one is starting to impact your life in negative ways.

  21. Helka*

    #1 – A compromise position might be to let your direct reports know that you’re dealing with personal issues that have you a bit on edge and irritable — I don’t think you need to specify that the personal issue is medication side effects. What they really need to hear from you is “This is a thing that is happening, it is not related to you guys or your work, I am going to do my best not to let it impact the work environment, and I ask for your patience and understanding as I work through it.” Where it comes from is less important.

  22. OriginalEmma*

    As yet another AAMer with an anxiety disorder, I support diclosure – at least a “split the difference” kind as described by Zillah. You don’t need to go into specifics about titrating your meds or anything like that but certainly let your staff know you’re dealing with a medical issue that may affect your mood. I can’t guarantee it’ll be well-received by everyone, because regardless of the reason you’re still becoming over-emotional. It’s hard to be on the receiving end of that, even if you know it’s due to the other person’s issues. However, it might help frame the over-reactions for your coworkers and broach the topic of mental wellness in the office (maybe some of your subordinates struggle too?).

  23. Case of the Mondays*

    There are a lot of common medications that cause mood issues. Prednisone is the first that comes to mind as well as birth control. I have had 2 male bosses on prednisone before give me a heads up that the drug was giving them a real short fuse. They were so out of character that we would have been worried if they didn’t say anything.

    I lean towards discuss the issue without discussing the underlying condition/drug. Just say “I’m on a medication for a bit that is messing with my moods. If I seem out of sorts, that is why. No need to be concerned.”

    1. Artemesia*

      Good point. I was one of the lucky ones for whom prednisone was the best drug ever; I was full of happiness and energy on it and could have conquered the world (and with charm.) I had no idea it was mood altering and actually went out and bought a house while ‘high’ on this stuff. (good thing, we had been procrastinating about that forever) So there are lots of drugs that do have a psychotropic effect and doctors really ought to warn patients about that before they ream out their staff or go out and make half million dollar investments.

      I hope the OP’s side effects are temporary because dealing with this has got to be anxiety producing which seems counterproductive.

      1. SarahBot*

        doctors really ought to warn patients about that before they ream out their staff or go out and make half million dollar investments.

        This reminded me of the time that I was getting a medical procedure where I was going to be put into “twilight sedation” – I noticed that, in my consent paperwork, along with the normal liability language, there was a section to the effect that the doctor’s office and staff could not be held responsible for any online purchases made for the whole day after the procedure, while the sedation wore off.

        I asked the nurse about it, and it turned out that it was one of those situations where the language was in the paperwork because it had actually happened – one of their patients had gone home after the procedure, with the sedation still in their system, spent a couple of thousand dollars online, and then woke up the next day and remembered none of it.

    2. Hlyssande*

      Holy crap, I never got a warning about that on prednisone and I’ve been on it a few times for migraine-related issues. Moot point now since I refuse to take it again (triggers a non-problematic but super annoying heart thing).

      But wow, they really should mention that when prescribing it at least.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I never had either of these effects when I took a short course of it–instead, I gained a bunch of weight in a WEEK. I’m never taking it again.

        I think all the advice about discussing these effects with the doctor is spot on. A dosage adjustment might mitigate them, or the doctor might know another med that could work better. I think a lot of people just resign themselves to side effects and don’t mention it.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, a friend of my was on pred and became so vile her family had to put their foot down with her.
      I had a dog on pred once for infected ears. She actually tried to attack me. I knew it was the pred. I stopped giving it to her and she became normal again.

      Now I just say not thanks to pred.

  24. Zillah*

    I just want to make a couple quick points in response to some of the comments – Alison, if I’m out of line here, feel free to tell me to stuff it!

    The suggestion of taking a leave while OP #1 figures this out might be viable; I don’t know. However, I do want to point out that in general, if you’re dealing with a chronic health issue (mental illness or otherwise), taking leave every time something comes up is often neither feasible nor necessary. Sometimes, that is the best option, but IME, most of the time the issues can be managed. You may not be at 100%, but that’s part of being human, and your disability doesn’t need to be completely invisible for you to be a good employee or a good manager.

    I feel like in situations like this one, people can fall into the trap of projecting their past experiences with volatile/unstable/irrational/miserable bosses onto the OP. I get that, but at the same time, she’s not describing horrible or extreme behaviors, and I think it’s doing her a disservice and perpetuating unfair stereotypes about mental illness to assume that she’s just not aware enough to see it. For every person who acts really inappropriately and unpredictably in the workplace, there are many who have their conditions largely under control and who need advice on dealing with far less extreme behaviors.

    1. Annika Potato*

      I don’t know why you are over-identifying with this OP. I have an anxiety disorder (thank god for lexapro), I don’t identify as disabled or mentally ill either. Most people in the US have some level of anxiety. And mine is exacerbated by moody and unprofessional bosses. You don’t have to hit someone to abuse them. Bad bosses exploit the power imbalance and really small things can make a workplace unbearable.

      Bottom line: it is not the job of the OP’s subordinates to manage her moods. Part of being the boss means managing your staff and yourself. Unfortunately most people don’t. I work in a stressful job where nobody manages it well. People scream and make personal comments. Excusable, sure. Bearable, no. Please take this as a wake-up call if you use your anxiety as an excuse to misbehave in your workplace.

        1. Annika Potato*

          “You may not be at 100%, but that’s part of being human, and your disability doesn’t need to be completely invisible for you to be a good employee or a good manager.”

          You keep suggesting that putting up with the OP’s mood swings are somehow the responsibility of her coworkers as part of “managing her disability”. I disagree. Bosses who make subordinates “manage” their moods are bad managers.

          “She’s not describing horrible or extreme behaviors”

          Behaviors don’t need to be extreme to have ill effects. As I said above, the power balance amplifies any negative behaviors. It’s really not ok for the OP to fancy herself disabled and then rely on other people to change their behavior. Especially since many people in her office are likely to suffer from anxiety or depression themselves.

          1. Zillah*

            That is not what I said, and it’s so far from what I said that I honestly feel like you’re not making a good faith effort to understand me.

            The OP’s employees are absolutely not responsible for managing her mood swings. However, I also think that it’s important to explore options other than taking leave, and I think that in many cases, there are options other than taking leave that are not “sucks to be you, haha, manage my condition for me!”

            Also: you can and should identify however you like, but mental illnesses are generally considered to be disabilities. If the OP considers herself to have a disability, that’s pretty reasonable, and the ADA does apply to mental illnesses too.

          2. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

            I’ve read Zillah’s comment like half a dozen times trying to find any hint of what you’re extrapolating from it, and I think I’m more confused than when I started. Also, as someone with a few different mental health issues, I’ve got to say I’m really offended by the idea that the OP is “fancy[ing] herself disabled”. Come on now.

            1. Annika Potato*

              I already stated that I have an anxiety disorder which is medicated. It’s not a disability. I work in a profession where a majority of people are probably clinically depressed or anxious. There are people with very hard to manage anxiety – the OP doesn’t sound like one of them. Honestly, I am probably biased because something in the OP’s tone really struck me as being disingenuous. She minimizes the impact of her moods on her staff and seems to have poor boundaries. I know a LOT of bosses like this and most of them cause anxiety disorders, rather than the reverse.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Based on the OP’s updates in the comments, I don’t get that sense from her at all!

                I want to be careful about not reading unflattering things into letters that aren’t actually there. (If anything, I’d like to err on the side of being generous to letter writers, who have made themselves vulnerable to a bunch of strangers by writing in.)

              2. OP#1*

                I am confused by your comment. Minimizing the impact of my moods is a bad thing?

                All I wanted by asking this question was whether it was TMI, because yes, I was leaning towards TMI and wanted a second opinion. Not judged by people who don’t know me, don’t interact with me or my staff, or know me whatsoever. I’m sorry I came across as “disingenious” but that is your perception. Perception is not reality.

                Since I am having to clarify against Annika Potato repeatedly, I am do not expect them to fix it. My intention was to provide them to have the ease of mind that if I am ruffled, it’s not about them. I am doing the best I can to manage my moods. Sometimes that’s the best you can do.

              3. Zillah*

                Annika, as I’ve said, you can identify however you’d like. However, mental illnesses are legally considered to be disabilities. That’s just a fact.

          3. OP#1*

            I do not fancy myself disabled nor do I expect my staff to manage my behavior. Where in my question does it even imply such an offensive assumption?

  25. Joey*

    1. I think you should tell your boss. And I also think you need to come up with some techniques to minimize the chance of an outburst. Maybe it’s waiting until the next day to deliver critical feedback. Maybe it’s scheduling a reoccurring meeting to allow you time to gather your thoughts before you address concerns. Maybe it’s stepping away when you’re feeling negative.

    If it were me I’d tell my staff Im working out some medication issues that affect my moods. And if I’m not my normal self to please bear with me as I’m committed to minimizing the impact to them.

    1. AnonPi*

      “If it were me I’d tell my staff Im working out some medication issues that affect my moods. And if I’m not my normal self to please bear with me as I’m committed to minimizing the impact to them.”

      I think this sounds like a good way to phrase it. Let your staff know something’s up, but not go into details about it.

  26. AnonPi*

    Oh yeah, prednisone and I don’t get along either, lol. Which is funny as I think most of the people in my work group has been on it at one time or another, and I’m the only one that reacted badly to it. But I did mention to those around me that I was on it and was moodier/irritable than normal, and just to call me out on it if I become too bitchy, and it was fine. But I’m in a work group where we all have some health issues, so we all kinda know we’ve got stuff going on, and let each other know if we’re having a bad time due to flair ups, new meds, etc. May not be for everyone/every work place, but its worked out ok for us to operate that way. Probably better than not knowing too.

  27. RubyJackson*

    OP #4, that seems to be putting the cart before the horse. Even if it’s an internal posting, I would think it’s weird that someone who hasn’t even applied would ask if their scheduled vacation might be a problem if they get the job.

    Also, in the future, consider buying travel insurance with ‘cancel for any reason’ coverage. You never know when you might need it and it will protect you from losing a lot of money if something does happen, good (a new job) or bad (job layoff).

  28. JMegan*

    #5, I agree with Alison that it’s perfectly fine to wait until all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed before you say anything – if that’s what you want to do. But this

    Should I stop worrying and just tell people already?

    sounds like you’re really ready to tell people your good news! And it’s perfectly fine to do that too. You have an offer letter and a start date, so unless you anticipate any surprise dealbreakers in the contract, it sounds like everything is good to go.

    I say, if you’re ready to tell people, tell them. The general reason for not resigning until you have a confirmed offer is so you don’t jeopardize your current job in case things don’t work out, which in this case doesn’t apply since you have already resigned. In the worst-case scenario, if you don’t end up getting the job, you’ll have to tell people that it didn’t work out. Which will be a bit of a letdown, but most people will be sympathetic to that situation.

    TL;DR – it’s okay to keep it a secret if that’s what you’re most comfortable with. But if keeping the secret is causing you more anxiety than sharing it, there’s also nothing wrong with sharing it. Congratulations on your new position!

    1. KH*

      I told people about my new job in stages:
      1. When I got written offer: Close friends and family
      2. When I actually started the job: second closest friends and networking contacts who helped me during my job search
      3. About 2 weeks after doing the job and convincing myself it was going to work out: everyone else – more distant friends, Facebook circle, people in my network who I didn’t specifically ask or receive help during my job search, etc.

      This way, it would be easier and more face-saving in case things didn’t work out and I had to fire up the search engine again. I don’t care as much about egg on face for people who are closer to my inner circle.

  29. soitgoes*

    #1 is rough. A lot of medications for physical illnesses also cause mood changes, so OP could avoid TMI and stigma by just saying that she’s on a medication that makes her moody, it’s not them it’s her, etc…except that might not work if this medication is a permanent addiction to her mental health maintenance. There is going to be a permanent change in OP’s demeanor, and Alison is right that her employees are probably going to notice. I don’t want to jump off a bridge here, but no one would want these employees to show up at future job interviews and say, “My manager just…changed and became more emotionally-driven, and it affected my working style.” OP should wait and see how she handles her emotions in the coming weeks (the side effects may stabilize), but she may have to consider whether she can stay in her current role without making any adjustments or delegating any of her current duties. It’s unfortunate, but a manager who (for whatever reason, valid or not) cannot control her emotions isn’t always the best fit.

  30. OP#1*

    Hi, all.

    I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who has to deal with this. There are a few things I thought I’d clear up:

    1) I’m not flying into a rage or mistreating my staff. Yes, the example I gave was where I got irritated, but other examples include intense happy reactions to good news. Those usually aren’t as noticeable, though, since they’re positive emotions. (Even though I worry that it makes me look socially “off”).
    2) Considering telling my employees was not a way of saying “deal with it.” I am a context person, and since I work so closely with my staff, it was logical to me that context, albeit more vague context that I described, might be useful. Writing in about this issue was very illuminating, because after Alison’s and others’ responses, I can see why it can easily be construed as that way. Especially since I wasn’t the clearest in that this affects both positive and negative emotions.

    That being said, I’m still on the fence. I like some of the approaches that others have suggested and am considering those if I do decide to mention this. I agree that a more vague “I’m dealing with a health issue, please bear with me as I work on minimizing its impact” would be better than what I initially suggested. In the meantime, yes, I am trying to be as acutely aware of my temperament as possible and coming up with ways to deal. Another idea I came up with was using my breaks to take walks around our complex. Those tend clear my head, even when I’m feeling ok. : )

    I have a medication follow-up in a couple weeks, so I’m going to take one day at a time and see how things are when I’m talking to my doctor next. I never wanted to minimize the importance of that, even though part of me feels like if the meds are fulfilling their purpose, then I need to figure out to deal with the side effects. But again, I’m going to talk to my doctor.

    Thanks for the thoughtful responses.

    1. Annika Potato*

      Maybe I am the outlier here but I really think these conversations are TMI.

      Overly happy: look, so you are more intensely happy. Moods are affected by a LOT of things. I was more intensely happy when I started running in the morning. Other things that affect mood: diet, sleep schedule, family problems, weight gain/loss, new girl/boyfriend, time of year, time of month(!), favorite new TV show, new hobbies, moving house, illness and so on. I doubt people are really noticing and I think drawing attention to it will just make people feel awkward and second guess every interaction from now on.

      Overly irritated: But for the negative interactions, I think Allison hit the nail on the head. You don’t have to be yelling at people in a rage to be unprofessional. You said your employee was startled, which suggests that you were treating him badly. Honestly, I just think you should try to fix it. Plenty of people find things irritating and work through it – mindfulness, exercise, empathy. I really think asking people to be mindful of your moods is selfish and may backfire. You are opening yourself up to speculation and judgment re your decision making. Do you want people to discount things you say, assuming that you didn’t mean them because of the medication? Do you want employees who complain about you to have extra ammunition? Or open yourself up to gossip?

      1. soitgoes*

        I agree with you. While it’s helpful to understand the reasons behind someone’s hurtful actions, it doesn’t make it okay.

    2. Annika Potato*

      Also, it may help not to think of these as side effects. When I went on anti-anxiety medication, it was like a fog lifting from a lot of interactions. Honestly, what emerged was really closer to my real personality. I became more curious and positive. Maybe you found these people irritating before but the anxiety was dulling your response?

      I bet that trying to second guess every emotion as “real” or “side effect” is exhausting and anxiety inducing. Why not just work on making sure you are a person you like? There’s nothing wrong with being happy or excited. If you are getting irritated or angry, well, get online – there are millions of tips, tricks and remedies to becoming a calmer and happier person. I’d do that before getting medical intervention.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        I really don’t think advising someone to trust a bunch of crap on the internet about how to become a “calmer and happier person” instead of seeking medical intervention is appropriate.

    3. Zillah*

      Good for you, OP – it’s admirable that you’re so aware and are taking steps to control your condition, and I’m really glad you’re finding coping mechanisms that work. I hope that the side effects straighten out soon!

  31. Alma*

    Alison, I would find it helpful (a blessing!) if you would consider posting on the topic of issues regarding mental wellness (therapy, medications, disclosure, etc) including what might be appropriate in the way of accomodation. (I had never heard of accomodation for mental wellness issues until I read it on AAM!! Thank you!!) It would be personally helpful to hear some more on what to disclose in the interview process, and upon receiving an offer letter. What is legal? What is discrimination? And what are options if the supervisor or employer make an issue out of “did you take your pills today?” (Just an illustration…)

    I am afraid to make changes in my mental wellness prescriptions because of the uncertainty of the effects of transition and the length of time the adjustment may take.

    1. PlainJane*

      In addition to reasonable accommodation (which I think is what Alma alludes to), I suggest addressing FMLA and especially intermittent FMLA as an option for someone with a mental health condition. It seems especially suited for challenges related to med changes, which are often temporary but can be miserable to endure.

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