my boss is constantly telling me how to run my personal life — and called me insubordinate when I pushed back

A reader writes:

I work in an office of only 3 people, and my boss is constantly getting on me about my personal life. She gets upset if I don’t set up the doctor’s appointments she thinks I should have, or will make comments about friends and family if I’m planning to spend an evening (my personal time) with them instead of activities she’s suggested for me to do.

Last week, we got in an argument because the car I’ve been driving needs work before it will be safe to drive again. I made plans to buy the parts this weekend (which I did), but she cornered me after the other coworker left last Thursday and told me I should take the car (that I paid for) from my mother and use that till the other gets up and running. Please know I’ve not missed any work days and have been using cab services to get to and from work with no issues. I told her I wouldn’t do that to my mother and all I got in return was talk about being insubordinate. I left feeling helpless.

I have told her several times in the past to please stop prying, because it’s stressing me out and making the workplace a very unhappy place for me. I’m writing you now at 1:30 a.m. because I’m losing sleep over the fact that I’m dreading going in tomorrow. I have a feeling she discussed this argument with the other employee, who just started working with us in February, and I feel that puts both the new girl and I in a precarious situation and was very unprofessional of her. How do I know this? She did it to the previous employee we had before she quit, except I was in the opposite position having the boss venting to me about the other employee, which was uncomfortable to say the least.

I am just frustrated. I dread when our third employee isn’t around, because I feel ambushed and interrogated over things I feel are none of her business. It’s affecting my job and, as you can see by my restlessness, my personal life as well.

Your boss is way out of line. She’s your boss, not your mother, and you’re not a minor child who she’s parenting.

But I don’t know that you’re going to be able to change her. You’ve told her directly to stop prying, and she hasn’t.

However, you can do the following:

1. Stop giving her information to work with. If she doesn’t know about things like your car issue, she can’t have an opinion about them, right? Stop sharing anything about your personal life, which should take a big chunk out of how much opining she can do.

2. When she offers unsolicited advice (about things she already knows about, like the car, or her ideas for how you should be spending your time outside of work), shut her down. Refuse to engage with her about those things. You do that by both being clear that it’s not up for discussion and by redirecting the conversation to work. For example:

You: “I have the car situation under control. Can we talk about how I should be approaching Issue X with Client Y?”
Prying boss: “You don’t have it under control! You’re taking cabs to work. It would be better to use your mother’s car.”
You: “I have it covered and really would like to talk to you about Issue X with Client Y.'”

Prying boss: “Did you ever call an allergist like we talked about?”
You: “I don’t want to discuss my medical care at work.”
Prying boss: “But it’s so important, health blah blah.”
You: “I don’t want to discuss my medical care at work. Did you have a chance to take a look at that data I sent you on Project Z?”

If she accuses you again of being insubordinate (!), say this: “I am happy to take direction from you regarding my work. But my personal life is not up for discussion here, and I need you to respect that.”

But while this may rein her in somewhat, I’m not sure she’s someone who will ever completely stop. You may ultimately need to decide whether you want the job if this is part of the package that comes with it.

{ 287 comments… read them below }

  1. Tasha*

    Captain Awkward has awesome scripts for these kinds of conversations (not that Alison’s versions aren’t also ok).

    1. llamathatducks*

      In particular, this: “Thanks, I’ll think about it.” And if the advice is repeated, “Yeah, I understand, in your opinion the best thing to do is X. I’ll take that into account.”

      And then you can think about it exactly as much or as little as you want and make any decision you want.

      The advantage of these scripts is that they don’t give the other person something to argue with you about. I agree with Alison that it’s better to tell your boss you don’t need any advice, period, than to argue about the merits of her particular advice, but I think it’s even better to not even state any disagreement at all, because if you do, an argument may follow. Whereas if you just acknowledge what she says – without agreeing with it – there’s not much for her to argue with.

      1. ScaredyCat*

        That’s a great idea! Tell your boss that you’ll think about her suggestions, and then just change the subject.

        In an ideal world, people would understand the boundary issue the first time around, but if they don’t, just tell then what they want to hear. Or you know, something vague enough, that could be interpreted as agreement.

        1. QAT Contractor*

          I don’t think this will solve the issue though. If you acknowledge the advice and give the boss any reason to think that you are actual thankful for her input, she will just continue to engage on whatever she can.

          Following Alison’s advice is the best bet as it’s a clear and direct shut down to the topic/behavior.

          1. ScaredyCat*

            Alison also said that this behavior is not likely to stop entirely (“I’m not sure she’s someone who will ever completely stop”). So giving the boss replies like AMG suggests below, is likely to make such a conversation stop earlier.

            Maybe the boss knows that this kind of thing is annoying, if she’s done this to a previous employee, and is getting a kick out of doing it anyway, cause she’s the boss and can get away with it… for a time at any rate.

            1. QAT Contractor*

              A fair point, it likely won’t stop the boss from doing it completely. But it also won’t promote that you are OK with her doing it.

              I guess I feel the approach of sort of half-assedly telling her it’s not OK in a confirming way will be read by her that it’s still ok to keep prying even though she’s being gently brushed off. Some people just don’t pick up on that where a firmer approach/stance will get the point across.

          2. SevenSixOne*

            People who deliberately push other people’s buttons BECAUSE they know they can get away with it are the worst kind of people.

      2. AMG*

        1. I’ll consider that, thanks!
        2. Still working on my options.
        3. I never thought about it that way before.
        4. Good idea!
        5. Interesting…I’ll have to think about that.
        6. thanks for your perspective on that.

        I also had a boss who would twist your words and use them against you, and you could never be right. I finally started winning agruements (because sound logic just didn’t cut it) when I gave him as little info as possible:

        Mr. Always Right: Did you consider x, y and z when you made this, because it doesn’t look right to me.
        AMG: (Pause, resist urge to reiterate sound logic and approach): yes, I did.
        Mr. Always Right: (Makes face like he just smelled a fart): You did?
        AMG: yes.
        Mr. Always Right: (Makes fart face, says nothing)
        AMG: (Fixes face so as not to appear smug and triumphant)

        Rinse, repeat.

      3. Marzipan*

        Yeah, I came to suggest ‘Thanks, I’ll think about it”. It’s gloriously bland, and it gives very little to argue with.

        1. WorkingFromCafeInCA*

          +1 Based on my extensive experience watching Friday Night Lights (the show), Coach Taylor always politely acknowledged peoples’ unsolicited suggestions with: “Thank you, I’ll take that under consideration,” or “I appreciate you saying so, I’ll consider that.” And then he quickly changes the topic away from himself.

          If anything, this dilemma is an excuse to watch (or rewatch) FNL :)

          1. CAsey*

            My 6th grade teacher always used to say ‘thank you for your input’ with a pointed stare and then would change the subject. It worked fairly well on 12 year olds!

      4. BeenThere*

        I came here to comment that this is exactly how I deal with my overbearing in law. My spouse suggested those exact phrases when I was in tears:
        – “Thanks, I’ll think about it.”
        – “Yeah, I understand, in your opinion the best thing to do is X. I’ll take that into account.”

        I consider both to be magical spells and visualise myself saying them much like one would invoke a patronus charm.

        1. NJ Anon*

          When my MIL gave me advice I didn’t ask for, I always “yes’d” her and went and did whatever I wanted to anyway.

        2. Michele*

          I grew up telling people “that’s nice” as a response to unsolicited advice or criticism. It is pretty effective.

          1. Editor*

            Is that the “that’s nice” that’s based on the Southern Belles joke? If so, it’s also a subversive diss to people who don’t know the joke.

      5. mirror*

        “Thanks, I’ll think about it.”
        “I understand, you think I should do X.”

        My dad is one of those people who must tell someone how to do something. Or he’ll die. Or something. He’s trying to come from a good place….Sadly, these phrases do NOT work on him. He will just keep pushing.

        “Thanks, I’ll think about it.”
        “Ok..but you ARE going to do it, right?”
        “I said I’ll think about it…”
        “But you dont need to think about it. I told you exactly what you should do.”
        “I know, I just want to check out all my options.”
        “What options? What do you think is better than what I told you?”
        (Sigh)(Nothing I say will be better according to him) “Nothing.”
        “Ok, so why’d you say that? You just don’t want to listen to me?”
        blah blah blah
        blah You’re right blah blah Okay, Dad.
        “Alright, so you’ll do what I said?”
        “Yeah.” (Leave. Do whatever I want).

        My best technique (because I cant never talk to him again about anything) is to agree with everything he says right from the start. But I have to vary up my responses or he’ll get annoyed. It’s a lot of “Okay,” Yep,” “Alright,” and “Uh Huh’s.” If you over heard me on the phone with him all I’d be uttering is “Okay” every 20 seconds.

    2. M-C*

      +1 Captain Awkward is the best for advice on how to resist those boundary-trampling characters. Although really, in such a small office, you are likely to be leaving soon, especially if you’re up at 1:30 thinking about it..

  2. brighidg*

    If you’re being called insubordinate – and 1.) you’re not in the military nor are you 2.) actually refusing to do any work – then it’s time to leave that job.

    Boss is crazy, can’t be helped.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Yes. LW, I’m sorry you’re in this situation, but I think Alison’s last line holds the key. You boss does this to you after you’ve asked her to stop. She’s done this to your predecessor. She’s a small business owner with a staff of two so there’s no one else to reign her in. I think you’re going to have to quit, but until then do your absolute best to keep it strictly professional at work and offer nothing personal up.

      1. Jaune Desprez*

        Yes, this. Back in my twenties, I worked for two separate small business owners with control issues and no boundaries. After the second of those, I started limiting my job searches to large organizations. Plenty of people wind up with terrible, horrible, no good, very bad bosses while working for large companies, but there are usually some limits on the level of dysfunction, and more opportunities for escape or redress. When the org chart goes straight from Little Big Boss to you, you’re SOL.

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          Yep. I did the same, for the same reason. There’s no crazy like small business crazy.

      2. neverjaunty*

        What they all said. LW, if this is your first job or first “real” job, you may think this is just how the workplace is. Believe me, it isn’t, and your boss is way, WAY out of line. Job hunt ASAP.

    2. Adam*

      +1 It’s come up many a time in recent weeks that one of the best predictors of your happiness in the workplace is your relationship with your boss. Based on what OP wrote here, at 1:30 in the morning because sleep and anxiety don’t mix, it’s time to blow this Popsicle stand.

      1. delurking*

        This is me, actually. I was called insubordinate (is there really something wrong with that word outside the military?) and finally entered therapy after a solid week of insomnia a few months back.

        I haven’t left, and am concentrating on molding myself into the everchanging mold they lay out for me, but yeah, from this particular hell all I can say to the OP is that when it’s all you can think about at night, it’s time to move on. There’s a better life out there.

        1. brighidg*

          I think it’s very typical of American working culture. I told my friends who live in the Netherlands about it and they just thought it was too bizarre that being “insubordinate” is actually a thing.

          And while common, personally I think it’s stupid. Insubordination means something in the military. Outside of that context, it’s two adults disagreeing.

          1. Colette*

            I think there’s a difference between disagreeing and refusing to do something g (work related) that your boss has asked you to do.

          2. A Minion*

            I may be wrong, but I don”t think insubordination outside military is stupid.
            Boss: Minion, I need you to complete these reports and have them to me by Friday. (Seriously…I SO wish my boss would call me Minion…that would be awesome!)
            Me: Sorry, Boss, I’m not going to do that.
            Boss: Is there something wrong? Some reason you can’t complete them and get them to me?
            Me: Nope, nothing at all. I’m just not going to do it.
            Boss: I see. Well, in that case you’re fired. Not just fired, you’re SO fired it’s actually getting a little hot in here. Oh, yeah. Fired to infinity, maybe even beyond. Seriously, are you still here?

            See? Insubordination.

            1. LBK*

              I think the percentage of times that the term insubordination is used to describe behavior that doesn’t match this scenario has watered down the definition. People throw it around to mean any time an employee does anything but passively comply with all directives from a boss.

              1. esra*

                For real. I’ve had way too many people in management call even asking questions insubordination. Not even disagreeing! Just asking a question = insubordinate. At that point, like sorry you work with humans and not robots.

                1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

                  Agreed. Im a very inclusive manager and people readily give me all sorts of input, and I would almost never call question asking (even passionate question aksing) a huge problem. That said, i do enjoy amazing cooperation and willingness from my employees. The very few times I’ve dealt with absolute refusal to do work, I could bring myself to use the I word. It’s so…power hungry sounding? I prefer “you are refusing to do part of your job, and that is not okay”

                2. Bartleby*

                  +1000. I am going insane right now from the “how dare you have a different opinion than mine, you are insubordinate” direct boss I have.Ugh. And I’m supposed to be in a knowledge industry.

              2. Maxwell Edison*

                This. I was called insubordinate back at Toxic Old Job when a process was proposed that was very cart-before-horse and was going to require a lot of work to keep track of and time spent fixing problems later down the road. I stated why this was a bad idea, got shot down, and made the mistake of reiterating my misgivings. Bing! I was insubordinate (but in true fashion at Toxic Old Job, I didn’t learn this until months later in my review).

                And that was when I started looking for another job. I wager that 9 times out of 10, “insubordination” is just a way for management to cull you from the herd, as they don’t need to provide any real proof to back it up.

              3. brighidg*

                Yes, I was called insubordinate for pointing out that I could not do the work of three people in a third of the time.

                Eventually I left and the person who took over my workload could not handle it so that work was distributed to three others including my replacement.

              1. A Minion*

                I imagine that exact scenario is not a common occurrence, no.
                It was meant as a light-hearted illustration that the concept of insubordination can apply to circumstances outside the military. I’ve always viewed insubordination in that way – I specifically ask my direct report to do something and she either refuses or simply doesn’t do it – I would consider that insubordination.
                I’m sure, as LBK pointed out, the definition has certainly been watered down and some insane managers consider things like questioning and disagreeing to be insubordination, but that really doesn’t change the fact that the concept does apply outside the military.

          3. JM in England*

            The employee handbook at OldJob actually had insurbordination on the list of misconduct offences!

          4. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think there are times when the word fits. I searched to see where I’ve used it to describe behavior and found these:





            1. brighidg*

              Out of those, only the first I agree with as being a clear-case insubordination and even that needs more information. If the person is moving upwards in the company, it’s just silly and yes, insubordinate, that they don’t want to train their replacement. If they’re being pushed out, then I understand why they don’t want to train their replacement as that is a slap in the face but then they should just leave. You’re on your way out anyways, just go! What are they going to do, fire you?

              #5 could be the employee being an entitled brat or it could be poor management. Did the manager care about the cellphone use before it was called to her attention? Why is it an issue if it’s not impacting the employee’s work? Is it the manager’s boss or superior who is noticing this phone usage?

              #1 is just a gross overstepping of boundaries by the employer (and the former co-worker). Assuming they’re American, the employer does have every right to ask to review the reference but that doesn’t make it okay nor does it make it ethical. Refusing to comply will get you written up for being insubordinate but, again, that doesn’t mean the rule itself is just or right.

              And the last – everyone in that letter is wrong.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yeah, in all these cases we need more info — but they’re situations that could be insubordination. Which to me says the word does have appropriate use in the workplace.

          5. abby*

            Last place I worked, a co-worker was let go for insubordination. I had never heard of that actually being a reason for firing someone. It was, indeed, stupid, as it was two adults disagreeing and the owners of the company, unfortunately, sided with the ridiculous one.

          6. Armchair Analyst*

            Yeah, let’s review:
            Your boss thinks your opinion on how you should handle your own personal issues is insubordination.

            No, this is not normal or OK.

        2. KS*

          “I was called insubordinate (is there really something wrong with that word outside the military?) ” When it has nothing to do with work? That is INSANE. Like, I’m about ready to internet diagnose this boss with NPD.

    3. A regular who has referrred others here...*

      We recently fired someone for insubordination. He called our boss a “clueless c—” to her face and told HER boss to “f— off and die”.

      Insubordination in a civilian environment is a real thing. What the LW is describing is not insubordination.

  3. Folklorist*

    I have to say, in this position I would lie my ass off. “Yes, the play you recommended was amazing! Thanks!” Or, even a lie by omission.

    Boss: “Did you go to that play I recommended last night?”
    OP: “I had a great night, thanks!”

    And then stop feeding information.

    1. OriginalYup*

      I’m a big fan of deflecting with people who are nosy and/or inappropriate and don’t respect the ‘please stop asking me X’ boundary setting. Initially it can feel impolite to not answer someone’s direct question — what’s up with your car? did you make the allergist appointment? — and feel especially awkward when that person is your boss and you’re used to giving full and complete answers as part of your business role. But someone is seriously out of line, as the OP’s boss is, then I fully support just shutting down by refusing to engage. “Did you make the doctor’s appointment?” “It’s all handled, thanks for asking! I have a question for you about the Pinsky account…”

      1. YandO*

        I had this convo with my boss:

        Boss: How was your weekend?
        Me: Great!
        Boss: What did you do?
        Me: Or you know, just hung out (this is actually true)
        Boss: Just hung out? (very displeased tone, wanting more information)
        Me: Yep

        Boss walks away and annoyed with me all day.

        1. Retail Lifer*

          On the rare occassion I share what I did, I get judged because it wasn’t cool or fun enough. I’ve even been told I need to get out and do more things.

          I answer just like you do now.

          1. TeapotCounsel*

            Think how much fun you can have with that — just make stuff up.
            “I went to Furry convention. You know about Furries, right?”
            “My church had a retreat. Which reminds me, have I talked to you about the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?”
            “Oh my god, I have the worst medical problem. My big toe has this fungus that makes the nail ooze and smell. It’s super-contagious, too. Want to see?”

            1. Ineloquent*

              My boss did that last one a week or two ago. Only it was a finger infection.

        2. kozinskey*

          This is why I always answer “Great, how was yours?” rather than give any details about my weekend.

          1. AnonAnalyst*

            Yeah, this is my go-to approach too. Luckily, it usually works for me as, by the time they finish detailing what they did, they’ve sort of forgotten that I didn’t provide any details and we can all move on. Win!

          2. Michele*

            Ah, yes. Deflecting back so the person gets to talk about themselves. Good call.

        3. AMG*

          Or go into the thrilling details of taking dogs to dog park, sleeping all weekend, or how you love your brand new lawnmower!

          1. stellanor*

            If anyone asks too many questions about my weekend they get a very long explanation of the incredible benefits of my new steam cleaner.

            I love my steam cleaner. Other people do not love hearing about my steam cleaner.

            1. Jamie*

              You aren’t talking about a carpet steam cleaner, right? Because if you’re talking about the handheld steamcleaner which is the most amazing tool for cleaning EVER I would love to hear about it because my beloved dirt devil finally died last weekend and I’m researching her replacement.

              I cannot believe there are people who don’t own these…someone doesn’t wipe up the stove immediately you don’t have to file for divorce, just steam the hardened gunk in seconds and wipe it off without scrubbing. Ditto spills in the fridge, bathrooms, grills, some flooring…

              See your little plan wouldn’t work with me. I care nothing about small talk about weekends and have perfected my “that’s nice” while politely extracting myself from the conversation, but you’d have drawn me in.

              1. Melissa*

                Yes, but Jamie, you are also probably not the kind of person we’d be wanting to avoid/deter with the steam cleaner talk :D

              2. esra*

                My mom swears by her Dyson.

                She would totally have a fun steam cleaner convo with you, stellanor.

                1. Jamie*

                  I will get back to you by the end of tomorrow – I’ve got it narrowed down and am researching reviews.

                  The first time I used one I wanted to weep for all the years I cleaned in darkness not knowing this miracle existed. Also nice for those who have sensitivities to cleaning products as it’s just steam with no additives.

                  I rarely get excited about things but I got shivery feelings of happiness the first time I:
                  Had my children
                  Met my husband
                  Logged into a server as an admin
                  Drove my first Mustang
                  Cleaned a gross stove top with my steam cleaner

                  Levels of happiness not necessarily in that order.

                2. fposte*

                  @Jamie–can you either post it in the open thread or require Alison to? As a hardened gunk-hardener, I find this highly relevant to my interests.

                3. Delyssia*

                  I have seriously been shopping for a handheld steam cleaner. I’ve had one sitting in my Amazon cart for a few days now, but I haven’t quite pulled the trigger. I’m mainly commenting so I can get any follow-ups on which one is the *right* one to buy. :)

              3. TootsNYC*

                OK, I’m going to go get my steam cleaner out. Maybe it’s bulkier than yours, but I’m going to try it on the stove.

                Can you find a link to one that’s similar to your old one? I’m curious what size yours is.

                1. Jamie*

                  I am not talking about the kind of thing you use for carpets and upholstery – this is a handheld steamer which just directs steam at the dirt. It doesn’t suck anything back up or have any kind of added chemicals like the ones for carpet.

                  This is a youtube vid of someone using the model I had on grout –

                  It is not me, had I made a you tube vid it would have been a before an after of a gunky stove as that’s the most cathartic for me.

                  I loved mine but I always wished it held more water so I didn’t need to refill as often and it wasn’t weighted properly and would sometimes tip over when not full, which was annoying.

                  Now I want to go home and clean my house.

                2. Editor*

                  I have a Shark hand-held steam cleaner (with numerous accessories) that I got at Target years ago. It’s been wonderful in the bathroom — no fumes. To use it on the stove, I can put the unit on the counter, plug it in, and go to work with the attachments — I don’t have to also hold the cleaner like I do when I cleaning the tub surround.

                  I haven’t had trouble holding the unit, but I find that if it needs to be refilled twice in one day, then it’s time to rest my arm. Having a long electrical cord and fairly long hose attachments make a real difference in how easy it is to use.

                  I wear heavy cleaning gloves to do dishes and to use the steamer. I used to wear Bluettes, which are available a lot of places, but now I wear gloves I get at Williams Sonoma, mostly because I can get lavender gloves and I really like the color — which is soothing, given that I really don’t enjoy cleaning. I only enjoy the results. So far, I haven’t melted anything with the steamer, and I haven’t burned myself. It’s not equipment to use if you’re careless.

                  Lately I have been researching steam mops. People seem to like them, but there’s some question about whether they take up dirt that’s in the floor cracks or just blast steam out. I want some kind of floor cleaner that shoots out steam, scrubs, then vacuums up the dirt and does a final blast of steam once the dirt is out of the way. I don’t know if anything like that exists outside of commercial cleaning equipment. Maybe the secret to using a steam mop is to vacuum thoroughly, then steam.

              4. JB (not in Houston)*

                I use a handheld steamer for my clothes because ironing, yuck. I have occasionally used it for cleaning, but it’s not made for that. I’m very interested to see what kind you end up suggesting.

              5. teclagwig*

                I too want to know what you find. I use a steam mop for the floor, and just love the thought of not needing cleaning products all through my house.

          2. YandO*

            I always want to answer “had sex all weekend,” but that would be completely inappropriate.

    2. fposte*

      This may also be a good moment for running her until she’s tired, conceptually. “Who do you think is the best mechanic in town?” “What’s the best way to do car maintenance?” “How do you think people should manage allergies?” If you time it right, you can turn just about every directive query from her back into a request for a rambling discourse that you can ignore. And you can always ask for repeats–“What was it you said people should do for allergies again?”

      The problem with doing it at work is it accepts the premise that she’s entitled to tell you this stuff in the first place. But if more reasonable and work-centered responses don’t work, this might keep her fed.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I like this as an alternative if shutting her down as Alison suggested (and as I often suggest to friends, usually for overbearing parents) is getting a lot of aggressive pushback from the boss.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, this is great for parents and other relatives; it can be adapted to work know-it-alls sometimes too, but it has to be a situation where their droning won’t stop you from actually working.

          1. NJ Anon*

            This doesn’t always work. Some people want to tell you all about whatever it is!

            1. fposte*

              But that’s the beauty–you’re getting her to scratch her itch and leave you out of it. It’s like taking a young dog or horse for a run to get the ya-yas out. And in the meantime you assemble your grocery list or mentally rearrange your closets or whatever.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                The problem comes when they expect you to stand there and listen to their discourse. I had a boss who would do that–it took him three times through to tell you anything, and if you tried to excuse yourself or kept working while he was talking and “Mm-hmm”ed him, he’d get mad at you.

      2. hildi*

        I love this suggestion. I have always thought the person that is the quietest in a conversation is the one with the most power. By doing this she’s now responding to you instead of the other way around (you’re not taking her bait, in other words) and you have regained control of the interaction. Even if you have to listen to her blather on.

      3. I'm a Little Teapot*

        That’s an awesome idea. Depersonalize the whole thing and make it abstract, so you avoid intrusion and she gets to be a know-it-all and run her mouth the way she wants.

    3. Manders*

      My first thought when I read about the doctors’ appointments was, “She’s just given you the perfect excuse for whenever you need to go to an interview during work hours.”

      In a situation like this, I think lying or deflecting is a short-term solution until you can find another job; a boss with boundary issues this severe is probably not doing a great job of managing in other ways too.

        1. Serin*

          Perfect, because when you first start getting allergy shots, they’re 30 minutes twice a week.

          1. M-C*

            Oh yes, yes, yes :-)! And maybe regular visits to the chiropractor, the acupuncturist, the shrink… Whatever will get you out of there on a regular basis, so that you have lots of time to job hunt..

          2. Salyan*

            Not to mention that if you actually get an allergic reaction, you have to wait around while they administer Benadryll and the effects of the allergy (and the Bendaryl!) wear off completely. 3 hours, easy. ;-)

      1. AW*

        “She’s just given you the perfect excuse for whenever you need to go to an interview during work hours.”

        OMG, that’s BRILLIANT!

        1. neverjaunty*


          Second interview = “Oh, sorry, I left but then when I got there they said the doctor had to cover an emergency and rescheduled so I’ll need to go back again Wednesday.”

    4. kd*

      Deflecting can be an art form after awhile. I do this with anyone I feel is asking too many questions and I don’t feel it is their business.
      Most people want to talk about themselves. If I am asked how my weekend was ( I know this is minor and not a big deal) I say great! how was yours? If I am asked “What did you do on your weekend?”, my answer is “not much, how about you?” and away it goes…
      Personal questions like health issues, I use ” oh you have experienced this? someone you know, etc”… Mainly because anyone asking about my health issues was actively over hearing or eavesdropping. I don’t share a lot with the general populace of my office.
      I know answering a question with a question is awful and annoying also, but you catch on how many people are actually paying attention or really care what you did on your weekend. Not many. And the few that do catch on, I find most likely are are kindred spirits.

      ps. I am not an old crank (really), but over the years I have had some fantastic questions asked of me regarding family, marriage, making babies, gyno questions, how old am I, etc. (I am older then I look and it bothers some people) My friend had a terrific reply to the age question, one I never had the guts to use. “I’ll tell you how old I am , if you tell me your weight”.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        I saw a video of an older woman giving a funny speech at a dinner, and the first two things she said was 1) “I’m 72 years old” and 2) “I weigh 140 pounds”. She said that’s what people always want to know, but are usually too polite to ask, so she just gets it out of the way first.

        A little off track, but it was a very funny video.

  4. The P is Silent*

    Wow, this is mind blowing. If she owns the business, obviously start looking for something new. If she reports to an owner or board, I would consider talking to them candidly about her behaviour.

  5. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’m not defending your bossy by an means, but this is probably the only way she knows how to relate and communicate with her employees.  It’s completely ridiculous, inappropriate, and plain stupid, but that could be all she knows how to do.

    My ex boss was not as bad as your boss, but she was bad.  There was an unspoken expectation that you’d share some trauma with her.  I never did not because I didn’t have any trauma but because she’s not my friend and that type of sharing isn’t my thing.  Believe me, I got punished for not acting stereotypically female.  She really targeted me, and it got so bad that I didn’t even want to tell her I got married because she would always snap at me every time I opened my mouth.  (I wish I’d been reading AAM at that time because she flipped OUT once she found out I’d been married for months and whined nonstop about it because everyone else knew.)

    I left, and I think you should do the same.  It isn’t fair, but she is the boss.

    Funny thing is men were exempted from her emotionally sharing requirement.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      The man exemption doesn’t surprise me considering the different ways men and women are socialized in a lot of cultures (men–hierarchical, women–we don’t compete, we share!).

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*

      There’s really no excuse for a grown adult not to be able to communicate with other people in any way other than this. And a boss expecting all her female (and not male) employees to share some sort of trauma with her is horrifying. Even if she doesn’t intend it as discriminatory treatment, it’s pretty grossly discriminatory in addition to being just plain gross.

  6. Ive BeenThere*

    What a fricken control freak! Doubt you’ll be able to change her, but advice about shutting her down may help. Remember most people are instinctively friendly and share things, and now you have to fight that in yourself and cut her off.

  7. YandO*

    I am in a very similar situation. When I made a point to separate my personal from professional, my employer called me rude and our relationship went from friendly to cold and tight. I was able to keep my job because I am good at it and because they have gone through 5+ employees in a few years before me.

    It’s a dreadful situation. OP I really feel for you and I hope you will start looking for a new place.

  8. Laurel Gray*

    OP, I’m sory your are going through this. Your boss is a complete control freak. The lesson learned here is to be cognizant of over sharing in any and all settings. You boss may mean well but you signed up for her to be your boss, not your mom.

  9. fposte*

    Strongly seconding 1 here, because that’s the thing you have the most control over. I can see how you would share these things when you start, because you don’t know they’ll be used against you, but at this point substitute the blandest of platitudes for information. “What did you do this weekend?” “Oh, you know, the usual. It’s nice to have the break, but it goes so fast, doesn’t it?”

    1. Trillian*

      Also, no personal calls from the office, no personal emails through your work office, nothing whatsoever within her hearing or reach.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, good point. Those will definitely be overheard/overread and then used as fodder.

  10. Ann Furthermore*

    Wow, that is terrible, OP, and I’m sorry you’re dealing with that. I would start looking for a new job because someone that nosy and overbearing isn’t going to change. In the short term, though, stop sharing all personal information.

    It could be that your boss has no life outside of work, and therefore expects her employees to be a stand-in for family.

    1. some1*

      I guessed the boss is an empty nester. I have experienced similar concern-trolling from older coworkers.

      1. waffles*

        “Concern-trolling” — what a great term. :)

        Sorry OP! I hope you can get out of there soon.

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      This could explain why she cares so much about what a coworker does with her car.  When I was wedding planning, I ran into this same personality type.  I’d love to know why some people care so damn much about minor things like centerpieces.

      Never in my life have I ever wondered about such minor details or questioned why a person does X instead of Y on a Saturday night.

      If it were anyone else, I’d advise the OP to ask, “Why do you care so much?”  I used to ask my sister, “How does my decision on when to come home after a party affect your life?  What am I doing tha

      To the people who do care so much about mundane details of decisions that have zero effect: GET A HOBBY!

    3. JB (not in Houston)*

      Good point. I also wonder if it’s a case of an employer being very controlling of what she thinks she can control to compensate for the anxiety she has over what she cannot control.

      Or she could be just a jerk.

    4. FormerEditor*

      Aaaaand this is why I run for the hills when people say their coworkers are “like family”

    5. BananaPants*

      I was thinking that the OP works for my mother. I love her but being overbearing and ignoring boundaries pretty much describes the woman. It is not going to change and I’ve found from hard experience that I cannot share things with her or it just invites a long-winded diatribe. It’s better to shift the conversation to something I don’t care about and just let her ramble to get it out of her system.

  11. Retail Lifer*

    I’m a really private person and I don’t share much of my personal life with people at work and now I feel a whole lot better about it. This boss clearly had no sense of boundaries, so I think the only thing you can do immediately is stop feeding her information. Don’t give her any new ammunition.

    In theory quitting would be the easiest way out, but if you wind up in the same boat I’m in and can’t find a new job after applying to anything and everything for months on end, you might have to find a way to deal with it for now. If it were me, and I fully admit to not always handling things in the most professional way, I’d probably lie just to shut her up. Yes, I totally made that doctor’s appointment. My mom needs her car, but she’s paying for the cab so don’t worry about it. Yup, I did that thing you recommended I do in my spare time and it was great. Now can we talk about work?

    1. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Lying in response to an outrageously intrusive question is completely acceptable, especially if a “none of your business” answer would imply an answer or anger the person asking (who’s your boss). A long while back this came up on another post and I gave the examples of someone asking a chemo patient “Is that your real hair?” or a homophobic boss asking if you or your coworker is gay.

  12. ExceptionToTheRule*

    I see the former boss from my part-time job has moved on to your employer. It doesn’t end well when you try to pull your personal life away from her. She’s a busybody & control freak. She thrives on this kind of drama and being the victim of your “insubordination.” It will start to bleed into your work life. She’ll start to micromanage the stuff that you’ve been doing just fine without supervision for years as a means of gaining control back.

    Fortunately for me, my resident busybody/control freak retired after she spent a morning berating me because I hadn’t paid a bill by it’s due date and it came to light that it had been sitting on her desk the better part of three weeks and she hadn’t given it to me to pay before said due date. If your boss isn’t close to retirement, I’d start getting my resume together and look for something else.

  13. Graciosa*

    What strikes me about this is what an old-fashioned idea of management the boss has – dating back to factory towns and the idea of the benevolent boss (or feudal landowner) who visited his workers at home to offer advice (and the occasional holiday turkey / food basket) – always with the best intentions, kindly doling out the wisdom of life obviously inherent in the superior position he held.

    The modern version of taking care of your employees involves providing training, opportunities, and decent pay.

    I’d be tempted to turn this one around along the lines of, “My personal life is in good shape, thank you, but I was really hoping to talk to you about this professional development opportunity I’d like the company to pay for. There’s a two week seminar in Hawaii – “

    1. Serin*

      Yeah, we don’t really believe our bosses are automatically our “betters,” do we? Most places I’ve worked, if I needed advice I’d be better off asking the maintenance guy. (Those guys know things.)

      1. Graciosa*

        LOL – They really do! Facilities workers and administrative assistants know much, much more than they’re given credit for.

        1. Michele*

          Always be on the good side of the admins. They know everything and can always help you out of a bind.

          1. Rana*

            And if they don’t like you, there are a million tiny ways of effing you up. I firmly believe in treating all admin staff like gold.

      1. OriginalEmma*

        “What are you talking about over there? Speak up! I must have my say!” I’ll remember that line from the mini-series P&P until I die, I think, re: Lady Cathrine De Bourgh.

        1. Judy*

          I was thinking of the (summarizing) “Look at this closet, we put shelves in there because Lady Catherine said it would be useful.”

          1. Judy*

            Because it obviously is important to my boss what my guest bedroom closet looks like.

          2. martini*

            Doesn’t she also visit the villagers to ‘scold them into harmony and plenty’?

      2. KT*

        I was JUST posting how I felt like a huge dork mentioning it, but that the boss sounded JUST like Catherine de Bourgh.

        Thanks for proving there’s more literary geeks/geniuses in the world!

        1. Cath in Canada*

          Totally off topic now, but my Mum recently gave me a book called Longbourn, by Jo Baker, that tells the same story as P&P but from the servants’ perspective. I haven’t started it yet – I have a massive list of unread books waiting for my attention – but I’m looking forward to it very much indeed!

  14. Berni*

    Ok.. How I’ve handled nosy nellies… I just keep getting them the same.. The EXACT same … story. Embellish!!! Especially if it isn’t true. Eventually they will avoid you like the plague.

    When a different co worker finds out it isn’t true.. Nosy nellie looks like a rumor monger…

    In the meantime… Job hunt.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Ooh, that’s a good idea. And the repeated story should be really, really boring – like a very detailed retelling of all the laundry that was done over the weekend or something equally fascinating.

      1. brightstar*

        Something along the lines of Steve Carrell’s character in the 40 Year Old Virgin telling the gripping tale of how he made egg salad over the weekend to discover he didn’t have any bread.

        1. Berni*

          Exactly. Drama. Cry. Eventually she will notice if she leaves you alone you simply… work.. with out salt stains on her shoulder.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        Or the Grandpa Simpson approach….

        “So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on ’em. Give me five bees for a quarter, you’d say.”

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Daniel Radcliffe did something similar to foil paparazzi when leaving after doing theater. He wore the same shirt every day so the next day’s picture would look exactly the same, and they got bored and left him alone. Nothing to see here. :D

  15. Catherine in Canada*

    Pet peeve here.
    Rain: Water falling from the sky
    Reign: What kings and queens do
    Rein(s): What you use to control a horse, or out of control boss, or child: “rein them in”.

    Okay, peeve off

    1. Mike C.*

      Reyne: A great House originating from Castamere that was destroyed by Tywin Lannister during a rebellion.

    2. MegEB*

      Reign: a hilariously terrible CW TV show that my friends and I have turned into a drinking game. Over the course of an episode, we take a shot every time we spot an historical inaccuracy. It’s typically a very short game.

  16. Mike C.*

    Yet another crazy small business owner. I know they’re not all like that, but too many are.

    1. lionelrichiesclayhead*

      Amen to that! All my best work stories are from when I worked for a small business owner.

      1. Adam*

        As someone who has worked both with small businesses and decent sized organizations (100+) I can definitely confirm that crazy does not discriminate on size. But it might be a tad worse in a smaller business where it’s a lot more intimate and you’re around each other a lot more.

        1. Mike C.*

          It seems to me that with larger organizations the crazy can be diffused rather than concentrated.

          1. Kelly L.*

            And a lot of times, in a small business, the crazy is related to the owner, so they never get canned.

          2. LBK*

            There’s also often fewer levels and branches to separate you from the crazies – if there is a crazy in any role in a small business, you’re bound to interact with them often. If there’s a crazy in another division at my multinational corporation, there’s almost no chance I’ll ever see or speak to them, never mind have to work with them.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes — this is what I’m always arguing when people say there’s a correlation between small nonprofits and crazy. It’s small employers (not always, of course) and for the reason you describe.

    2. Cat*

      This letter actually reminded me of clerking for a federal judge – though given that federal judges are appointed for life and have basically absolute control over their chambers, that is not necessarily dissimilar to a small business.

  17. Amber Rose*

    OP, get out. Go be in a place where the boundary between boss and mom is respected.

    I am a pretty open person at work, but even for me that kind of insistent “advice” would be impossible to handle. Like being at war every day with a live action caricature of the worst mother-in-law ever. It’s almost surreal how your question reads like bad sketch comedy, by which I don’t mean to undermine the trouble you’re having, but the opposite. People get used to terrible stuff and start to lose perspective. From the outside, I’m telling you, this boss is bonkers and your situation completely awful. It’s ok and advisable to leave.

  18. Katie the Fed*

    She sounds like my mother. My mom – bless her heart – can be really overbearing like this, and give bad advice on things that she doesn’t understand that well. And if I don’t take her advice, or if I argue, then she gets really snappy and cold and then my dad calls me to tell me mom’s upset and…ack.

    So, handle it like I do my mother. “Everything’s great, Mom! Yep, I’m feeling fine. Yep, house is great. Car is great. Everything is great” Just be the most boring person in the entire world because everything is going just peachy, thanks so much for asking!!!

    And if you do get advice, just say ok. “you sound like you’re coming down with something. Make sure you take a multivitamin.” “OK, thanks mom!”

    It’s a much more peaceful life now :)

    1. TheLazyB*

      I sent my mum an email the other day saying ‘i’m not looking for advice or a solution, just sympathy’, because I’m sick of her treating me like a child. She replied by text message, sending me a solution. I’ve decided she is no longer authorised to hear what’s wrong with my life.

      I’m sad not to be able to vent to her any more but it’s not worth it.

      Thanks for posting this, nice to know it’s not just me :-/

      1. Anony-moose*

        This X 1,000,000. My mother and my partner’s mother. And when we say “hey, just want to talk” they both get mad. MAD.


      2. Chinook*

        Nope – not alone. I had a grandmother who was a nosey nelly and we grandchildren figured out at an early age to never tell her anything unless we wanted a lecture. And it was so fmaily wide that when we were on a large family trip with all her children and grandchildren and one of the little kids fell down some stairs (breaking nothing), when one of the adults said “don’t tell grandma,” the 6 year old just rolled her eyes and said “no kidding.”

        1. Tara*

          Sometimes there are no solutions. Sometimes you know what you need to do, but you need to hear someone say “Yeah, that sucks.” Some people (me!) need to talk things out to solve them, but don’t need any input on that other than “Mm, yeah…” Mind you, I know being rambled at is annoying so I try to keep it to my therapist.

          1. TheLazyB*

            Yeah, sometimes you need to whine for five before pulling yourself together and doing the necessary. I don’t do it much, which makes it worse when it doesn’t work.

        2. fposte*

          Heh. I’m an advice giver myself, so I get that, but we should probably remember that “What should I do?” is a request for advice, but “This thing sucked” is not.

          1. Editor*

            I like solving problems at work or with my hobby, and it spills over into giving random advice. Although I know I should stop, I haven’t been able to completely eliminate my tic but I have found it surprisingly easy to give up being invested in having anyone follow it. Best game of all for advice-givers: Try to introduce your advice or suggestion in a way the other person thinks they thought of it themselves (this only works if you don’t keep score).

        3. LQ*

          Because sometimes your solutions are stupid or impossible or assume we haven’t already thought of them.

          Most recent case for me was after telling a good friend I just needed him to listen about a horrible thing with health care and divorce and death that was settled just there were no good options he suggested I start a blog. No, just let me cry and say our health care system is messed up. Seriously.

          The real problem is though when people who always want to give solutions also always want people to tell them the problems. You don’t get to hear problems if you aren’t willing to just listen. (You used generically here, not you, your advice may always be on the nose.)

          1. TheLazyB*

            That all sounds awful. I am sorry.

            (Have you considered blogging?! *ducks*)

        4. TheLazyB*

          I am starting full time work soon and my DS will start school soon after that. I wanted to go on hols before I start as it will be our only ever chance to have a proper family holiday outside of school holiday time (when it is much, much cheaper), but my DH can’t get the time off. I wanted sympathy from my mum, not ‘we’ll pay for you to go on holiday in October!’

          Absolutely no solutions or advice were wanted or required and I told her that. It hurts me when she ignores that; makes me feel that she thinks I am incompetent and need her to fix my problems.

          Sore spot.

        5. Irulan*

          Telling you about their problems isn’t a request for advice unless that request is explicit. Talking about their day or activities, even those activities that involved a problem, is likewise not telling you about their problems. “I spend Sunday taking apart my lawnmower, I still don’t know what’s wrong with it,” is just a description of what someone did over the weekend, not necessarily a complaint. Forceful advice-givers seem very intent on interpreting even the most innocuous conversation as either a litany of complaints or requests, and it’s very draining.

    2. LizB*

      My housemate tends to lecture me and give me totally inane and unasked-for advice, and I’ve found that “okay” is the perfect response. Hear them out, then cheerfully say “Okay!” and walk away or change the subject.

      “You really need to store your yogurt on a different shelf of the fridge because blah blah convenience blah blah airflow blah blah when I was in college blah…” “Okay!”
      “You should try X strategy at work because blah blah article on Facebook blah this other time when I did [job totally unrelated to my work] blah blah in my personal experience blah…” “Okay!”

      It doesn’t imply that I have any intention of taking any of her advice, but I still avoid any debates. Works like a charm. (Two more months until I move out…)

      1. SerfinUSA*

        I have this kneejerk autoresponse to anything starting with “you need” or “you should” along the lines of “you should/need to have a conversation with the back of my hand (or other form of minor interpersonal violence)”. It’s funny when dealing with my partner, or certain very good friends, but so hard to bite it off when dealing with work people, esp when so many of them are clueless ‘experts’ i.e. faculty.

      2. Beth*

        See, to my ears “okay!” DOES imply that you’re going to take the action she advises.

    3. AnonAnalyst*

      My partner’s mother was like this. To be fair, she really was trying to help (and thought she actually was helping), but most of the time her “help” was either a tad preachy or just totally missed the mark.

      I eventually adopted a similar strategy for those chats, after butting heads with her for the first year or so which just seemed to create a lot of friction among all of us and didn’t result in her a) not asking inappropriate questions or giving advice where it wasn’t warranted, and b) not taking any of the additional information or perspective I provided into account.

      That said, I only interacted with her in limited blocks of time, so it was easy to tune out anything I didn’t think was helpful (and remind myself that our time together was limited if I started getting really frustrated). If I were stuck at work for 8+ hours a day with someone like this, I think I would eventually become aggravated enough to leave that job.

  19. Golden Yeti*

    I have a boss who’s a wannabe mom, too, so I feel you, OP.

    Seconding the suggestion to not give any new info. When I started, I would share “oh my spouse is having surgery,” or that kind of thing. Generic information. But the longer I was here, the more I realized any new information is just giving her another opening to pry. My boss has even asked me (in front of coworkers) when I’m going to get a pet, or a house, or have a child!

    Keep your answers one liners, as short as possible. As bad as it sounds, think teenager. How was your weekend? Fine. What did you do? Nothing much. How is your husband? He’s fine. When are you thinking of getting a house? Not sure.

    In my case, especially when I’m asked about my future, I’m struggling just to not snap at her, as my pay is barely enough to rent a place, much less own one. So, you may be able to expand your answers more than me and still avoid the prying.

    But, be prepared to go full on teenager answers if needed.

    And in the meantime, I’d recommend you keep your eye out for other opportunities. Prying bosses usually don’t get better with time.

    1. College Career Counselor*

      “When are you going to get a pet or have a kid?”

      “When you triple my salary.”

    2. Guava*

      I had a supervisor like this! She was awful, and I was too junior to realize that I was working for an adult bully, until some of my coworkers pulled me aside and said, “you know, this isn’t normal, it is actually verbal abuse.” Years after I left, the woman had the chutzpah to call me at home and try to bully me into buying organic pyramid scheme beauty products from her. After I said no, she harassed me via phone and email for the next three weeks.

      She ended up getting married…and named her kid after me. Talk about creepy. I hope that kid makes her life a living hell when he turns 13.

    3. Golden Yeti*

      @College Career Counselor- Oh, trust me, that’s exactly what I want to say! But I bite my tongue, since I don’t have any other offers at the moment. It’s crazy to me that she can add insult to injury like that (especially knowing what she does about my financial situation). But, even as Observer commented below, stuff like that is why nobody sticks around. I doubt if she will ever make the connection, but it will be the company’s undoing.

      @Guava- Yeah, your old supervisor sounds wacko. I know when I leave I will be the subject of a Huge guilt trip from mine. Bullying comes in all shapes and sizes, that’s for sure. Out of curiosity one day, I looked up traits of a sociopath ( Out of the 18 listed, one or both of my managers exhibited 13.

  20. LiveAndLetDie*

    You can try and mitigate this with some of the methods Alison and the other commenters here shared but I honestly don’t think this is something the OP can stop entirely. I’d start polishing my resume and applying to other jobs. The fact that OP is up in the night writing to Ask a Manager because they’re so stressed by this that they can’t sleep is a huge red flag.

  21. Sadsack*

    I would love for OP to be able to just ask, “Insubordination, but what do you mean by that?” Let the boss try to explain how OP is required to take her personal advice. That would be good for a laugh. Although, I don’t blame OP for not wanting to risk doing that.

    1. Jaune Desprez*

      One of my small business owner bosses used to tell me that the look on my face was insubordinate. I was young and naive and honestly thought I must be doing something wrong, but I could never figure out how to not look insubordinate. Strangely, the problem miraculously resolved as soon as I left that job.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Resting bitchface that only works on one person? :-)

        I once had a small business owner tell me the way I walked into/out of his office was unprofessional. Among many other bizarre nitpicks he framed as “doing you a favor mentoring you for your future career.”

        1. Jaune Desprez*

          Please, please tell me you were channeling the Ministry of Silly Walks.

  22. YandO*

    I just wanted to say that working for in a small business where my manager/boss is also the business owner has turned out to be my personal version of professional hell. They have no idea how to manage people, no accountability, no knowledge of professional norms. They are always fishing for personal information to use against their employees, they lie over and over and over again, they say “I want you to treat this as your own business” and expect you to care about their business more than they do, while providing no benefits, paying minimum and always looking for a reason to mistrust you.

    I don’t need advice, I am looking for my way out, but I just needed to share that. I will never ever ever again work for 1 – married couple, 2 – in a situation where owner is the only manager, 3- where 1 and 2 are combined.

    1. Observer*

      Actually small business owners DO have accountability, it’s just not accountability that you can directly tap into. And, of course, some folks never connect the dots, which is why you run into these types.

      What I mean is that when you treat employees this way it tends to have a negative effect on your business and profits, because you have a hard time keeping good staff. Smart employers either understand this up front, or they seek help when they find themselves unable to retain good staff, at which point they find out what needs to change. The not so smart ones complain about “young people today”, “popular culture” or whatever their thing is.

      1. SerfinUSA*

        Which is why it was so amazing when the crazy lady I once worked for lost enough major accounts to put her business back in her garage once those clients ‘somehow’ discovered she had been cheating them for years. Oopsie!

    2. Golden Yeti*

      Do we work at the same place and not know it? :) Because the majority of what you said would describe my situation, too.

    1. YandO*

      sad part?

      I did treat is my own business, which meant I worked really hard and was always looking for ways to make things better and improve and grow the business. Then I came in 20 minutes late due to traffic and he told me he wasn’t getting his “money’s worth”. Which, you know, his prerogative, but in that one comment he killed my motivation permanently.

      If my contribution is measured in how many hours I sit at my desk, then don’t expect me to treat YOUR business as I would my own.

  23. Monika*

    Let me guess, the boss is wondering why turnover is so high.

    I think the only thing you can do is changing jobs. In the mean time: This is not your fault, your boss IS crazy. I suggest the antropologist approach, pretent you’re a researcher visiting a strange tribe in Absurdistan.

  24. Rebecca*

    My manager actually refers to us as “her daughters” and we are a family, blah blah, blah. She is also very nosy, and tries to “help”. She also approaches us and asks “have you noticed that Jane is having problems? Maybe she needs to get some medication? She seems depressed” and “we need to keep an eye on her because [insert reason here]”, ad nauseum. I’ve stopped sharing all but the most basic information, like when requesting time off, it’s for an appointment. I don’t tell her if she asks, or I lie about it. If she’d put half the energy into actually being a manager, instead of thinking like a kindergarten teacher, our office life would improve a lot.

    1. RJ*

      The LW and anyone who is struggling with women in the workplace might consider checking out Pat Heim’s “In the Company of Women”. I am not traditionally feminine and I seem to receive a lot of flak from other women for it, and this book was extremely helpful in realizing why and how many women operate in the workplace due to social conditioning.

      It is wildly inappropriate and condescending for any adult to assume a parent-child relationship with another adult, especially in the workplace. I’m sure there are plenty of amazing managers who are women, but in my experience, every woman I’ve ever worked for seemed to utilize parenting techniques instead of management techniques, and everything turned into a power struggle instead of a functional workplace environment. One of my bosses who had been promoted despite zero management experience, bragged about discipline and punishment methods for her 4-year old, and then used the same discipline and punishment techniques on me — like describing taking away all of her daughter’s things to force her to focus on what the mother perceived as most important, and then taking away all of my projects except the boring rote busywork that she wanted me to prioritize — not because it was important, but to assert dominance that She Is The Boss. I had violated the Power Dead Even Rule by being seen as others as efficient and powerful, and she made sure I paid for my transgressions and learned my place.

      Some people, like presumably the LW’s boss, have extremely poor boundaries and don’t think that others should have boundaries, either. The LW should be prepared for extreme pushback and even sabotage when she starts enforcing boundaries, so I would strongly recommend that she starts looking for a new job immediately. One woman that I worked with became so enraged when I set boundaries and refused to listen to her inappropriate stories about her personal trauma at work any longer, that she spun an elaborate lie about me bullying her and then quit on the spot in an effort to get me in trouble. Nothing happened to me because I was too valuable to the company, and her claims had no merit, but it was stunning to see the depths of misery and hatred that this person possessed when she felt like I had violated the “Power Dead Even” rule that Heim talks about in the book I mentioned.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m sure there are plenty of amazing managers who are women, but in my experience, every woman I’ve ever worked for seemed to utilize parenting techniques instead of management techniques, and everything turned into a power struggle instead of a functional workplace environment.

        There are loads of men who do this too, and loads of women who don’t. I get my hackles up when I see these behaviors linked to gender, because they’re not.

        1. MommaTRex*

          Thank-you, Alison. I’ve had several fabulous female bosses who don’t try to parent, and who keep excellent boundaries. But I wouldn’t extrapolate that all female bosses are fantastic! It’s more about personality and training than gender.

        2. Observer*

          Thanks for calling that out. Not only is it unfair, but if you have REALLY never had a decent female boss, then it might be worth thinking about your role in the matter. Replace “female” with “male” and you get an equally true statement. (That assumes that you have had enough bosses to be able to make any generalizations.)

        3. Jamie*

          Thank you. Speaking as a manager who has zero trouble keeping her parenting to my actual children this particular stereotype grates.

          I have managed someone on a project who happened to have gone to high school with one of my kids. They were on the same sports team so I’ve inadvertently seen this kid perform at a million sporting events, graduate, etc. Not that I knew that at the time – I only pay attention to mine; I’m not big fan of other people. It never occurred to me to go all parental on even him. I figure if someone needs parenting they can address that outside of work because if I don’t have a story about how long I was in labor with you and a tax deduction for your tuition your parenting needs are not my problem.

        4. RJ*

          To be fair, I never framed this as a stereotypically female trait. I specified that this was my own personal experience. I have worked for an equal number of men and women, and I’ve never had a man treat me like his daughter. It is dysfunctional and inappropriate to treat employees like children.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I know you did, but it’s really harmful to frame it that way. It perpetuates harmful stereotypes about women managers and women in general.

      2. Judy*

        then taking away all of my projects except the boring rote busywork that she wanted me to prioritize — not because it was important, but to assert dominance that She Is The Boss.

        So you decided that what she asked you to do was unimportant? You knew everything she knew about the state of the business?

        I’ve certainly thought that my boss was prioritizing things inappropriately, but after my initial pushback, I did what he said if I hadn’t managed to change his mind. Some times the priorities were changed. And most times, he had more information than I did, and it turned out he was right.

        1. RJ*

          I ran the department for 2 years in an acting director capacity before she was hired, so yeah, I had a pretty solid understanding of the business needs. The head of the organization felt that I was too young to be promoted, and she misrepresented her previous experience as having management experience, which it turns out she did not have.

      3. LBK*

        Oddly enough, every female manager I’ve ever had or worked alongside was a no-nonsense, professional, sharp type that made them an excellent manager. All of my mentors and role models as an employee and a supervisor have been women. The only “let’s all be best friends/a family while I do nothing to actually manage” managers I’ve had were all men.

        1. esra*

          Same. I’ve had several men use the “We’re all family here.” Inevitably this came from someone near the top. I’ve never heard anyone closer to the bottom of the totem pole say it.

      4. Skylark*

        “It is wildly inappropriate and condescending for any adult to assume a parent-child relationship with another adult, especially in the workplace. I’m sure there are plenty of amazing managers who are women, but in my experience, every woman I’ve ever worked for seemed to utilize parenting techniques instead of management techniques, and everything turned into a power struggle instead of a functional workplace environment.”

        This! Oh, this! Last boss and current co-worker (who thinks she should be my boss) both tried to parent me when managing (or attempting to manage). ‘You know the answer’ (when obviously I don’t – or I wouldn’t ask!), ‘it was a management decision’ (when trying to ascertain whether certain information she didn’t know was taken into consideration during a recent reassignment of my duties – this from the coworker) – it’s just like a parent saying ‘because I said so’. Last boss used to weigh in on my personal choices of evening activities, too, and began questioning my requested time off once I got involved in an activity she disagreed with (i.e.: I purchased a gun. Legally, of course. ;-) That taught me not to discuss personal activities at work.

        Of course, on the other hand, I have a very nice current manager who is a lady, and doesn’t mother-hen me.

  25. K.*

    Completely co-sign the advice to share nothing (+1 on the “How was your weekend?” “Good, thanks, how was yours?” response; that’s standard for me) and polish up your resume. You can’t win here. I’m a private person, generally stubborn, and really try to keep strong lines between personal and professional so I’d run from this woman. I’m mad on your behalf. It’s not just that she’s all up in your business, it’s that she’s mean about it. She’s not like “Hey, hear you’re having car troubles, I have a good mechanic if you need one!” and then backing off when you, an adult, tell her you have the situation in hand. She’s downright nasty when you, an adult, don’t conduct your personal life the way she sees fit. Unacceptable. I’d go.

  26. Mel*

    I work for a small business and the owner is always trying to find out what my boss does with her time. Me, however, he added me on Facebook, so I make sure I share just enough to make him not ask (ie-filling my wall with recipe posts and geeky stuff about Doctor Who and Star Trek, with the occasional tagging of my partner so he knows we’re still together). Far from ideal, but at least he doesn’t ask me all the time what my plans for the weekend are and whatnot. Also, a part of me takes pleasure knowing I’m spamming his newsfeed with vegan food that he’ll never eat LOL

      1. Hlyssande*

        Yes, my friends have had a plethora of adorable kitty pictures since I adopted the boogs in January.

        I have become one of Those People and I am totally happy about it. :D

  27. nona*

    UGH. OP, Alison’s advice is good. I really hope this works out for you.

    Captain Awkward has some scripts for people having this issue with their actual parents. “I’m not sure what I’ll do yet,” when asked about plans, and “I’ll think about it,” when given advice, work wonders with family members IME. It might work with a manager.

  28. Michelle*

    Agree with all previous comments: share as little as possible, one or two word answers and start looking for other employment.

    When I began working for a small organization, I made the mistake of getting friendly with co-workers and managers and over-sharing. I learned rather quickly that they were all gossips and backstabbers so I shut down the info train. They were confused when I started doing that. For example, when I asked to be off for vacation towards the end of the year , my direct manager emailed me back and asked where I was going for vacation. My answer: nowhere, just trying to use my vacation days up before I lose them. Manager: You are not going anywhere for the holidays? Me: Nope, just staying home. I actually went to visit my father but I didn’t want their suggestions on where to stay, where to eat, what to do, etc.

    1. Anony-moose*

      I’ve started to learn this the hard way at my current organization. Our admin is very much a mother-hen type. If you are sick, everyone knows. If someone is out, she’ll loudly lament that we miss them. A coworker who I am friends with outside of work as well was recently in the ER and by the time she was back on Tuesday everyone knew. It was nothing serious but I’m sure she’d rather not have had the whole office know about her minor health problems.

      It’s taught me to be very vague with my personal life. I’m out sick (no ‘headache’ even). I’m on vacation. I’m leaving early. I’m naturally the type of person who shares a lot so it has been quite an adjustment.

  29. Lamington*

    I’m so sorry to hear OP, I had the same issue with a former manager. She saw me as her daughter, due to age differences, and criticized everything I did even my boyfriend. Trying to change the conversation didn’t work so I start looking for a new job. She was so mad at me! after all what she had done for me (in her mind).

    1. CheeryO*

      I have a coworker like that… luckily he isn’t my manager! Every time I have to talk to him one-on-one, he ends up asking me how much I’m contributing to my retirement account, and whether or not I’ve broken up with my unemployed boyfriend yet. He feels entitled to ask these things “As a Parent,” because I’m roughly the same age as his kids, and he always gives me judge-y looks no matter how I respond.

    2. NickelandDime*

      And I bet their relationships with their real kids are just AWESOME, based on hearing all of this…smh.

  30. Anonymousterical*

    I had a boss like this once. Small office, lots of backbiting, no boundaries. I stayed for nearly four years at that job, thinking the pay off would be having Boss as a fantastic reference…and she refuses to be a professional reference, because I left her company, and she’s still upset (it’s been over a year). So. Bosses like this are often not reasonable at any stage, so if your end-game is to make your resume look better, re-think and get out. It’s not healthy.

  31. MommaTRex*

    Run. Run like the wind.
    I had a boss once who actually brought up in my performance review that he thought I was too dependent on my parents (I was in my early twenties, and they helped with child care). It took every fiber of my being not to yell, “No. You are reflecting your own situation on me.” (His kids were too dependent on him.) Oh yeah, and what does that have to do with my work performance?
    One of the most memorable moments of my life was driving to my first day of work at my new job right after that one. Ah, the glory of not feeling like you are going to puke on your way in to work! Everyone should have this joy!

  32. TootsNYC*

    I totally agree with the idea that you should just agree with her.

    You can say anything you want. Just lie through your teeth!
    She says, “You need to borrow your mom’s car,” and you say, “That’s a great idea.”

    It’s just words coming out of your mouth.

    If she ever asks, you say, “Oh, it all worked out.”

    Be Teflon. Say as little of substance as possible.
    And, when she starts in on you, look at your watch and say, “Ooh, gotta go; I’m running late!” and grab your stuff and go.
    It’s not quitting time? You have to go to the bathroom really urgently. You just remembered that someone is waiting for an email answer from you.

    Otherwise, be sort of vague and absent-minded, and never, ever, ever bring up personal stuff around her.
    I had a friend who answered a “what are you doing this weekend” with “Oh, this and that.” Like what? “Oh, just some stuff.” She could wriggle out from under anything!

  33. Person*

    I had a boss like this, and Alison’s advice is very good. I also second shutting down the opportunities for involvement, but based on my experience, yes this person will see that as insubordination and punish you in other ways, probably. This is a good reason to leave.
    And when you get free of this and start somewhere new, try not to over-correct for this. Toxic environments can scar you in ways that you don’t realize; once you’re in a sane environment it’s ok to have breezy conversations, but I found myself very hesitant to share personal information, and I’m glad that I learned that lesson. There’s a balance there.
    I find myself summing up that situation as: just because a person is your boss at work doesn’t mean they’re the boss of you.

    1. Artemesia*

      LOL. Yeah you can overdue it in the other direction. After I lost my job in a merger, I got a part time job with a research institute attached to the larger organization and which was my point of entry to wiggle back into the employer. (not many options where I lived and I had uprooted my husband for the first move — his career couldn’t really take another repotting, it was completely not mobile and he had had to start over from scratch). I was obsessed with being ‘businesslike’ and professional and of course working part time had to really hustle to get the work done in the time I had. I guess I got a reputation of being unapproachable and having no life because I remember the shocked surprise of colleagues at a Christmas party that year. They were chatting about Christmas and kids and one of them said to my husband and me, ‘I guess you don’t have that to look forward too as you don’t have kids yet.’ I said — ‘well actually we have a 5 year old and a 7 mos old’ I thought they would do spit takes with the Christmas punch and when I came back to the office the next week, half a dozen people approached me with this surprising news and how amazed they were. so I was nursing a baby and my colleagues were unaware I even had kids. That is probably overdoing the privacy thing — although not if I had worked for the OP’s boss for sure.

  34. Malissa*

    OP–my sympathies!

    I once had a boss who thought she had the right to private details of my life. I shut her down. “Are you planning on having kids?” “Why, do you have a good recipe for cooking them?”
    “you and your husband should do X.” “No. Never going to do that.”
    She had an opinion on everything. She loved to gossip. She tried to get me to dish dirt on a fellow coworker should didn’t really like. She hated me. I never gave her any ammunition. She was also told to keep me happy because the owners of the business really liked what I was doing for them.–This made her hate me even more. She would never introduce me to outside vendors. She never gave me a raise–every raise I got was because of the owners.
    When I gave my notice she almost gleefully told the owners. One was so pissed he didn’t talk to me for a week. Turns out he was upset because I didn’t bring my issues directly to him.
    OP–chalk this up to a learning experience and plot your escape.

    1. Artemesia*

      In a small business it is the job of the owners to pay attention. He should not put a bullying manager in charge and then pretend it is on the lowly serfs to push back. He knew, he just didn’t care enough to change things.

      1. Malissa*

        He didn’t know all of it. The office manager was very two faced. It was a very complicated and weird place to work. I honestly appreciated every bit of my 18 months there. That place allowed me so much experience that I could never get in that short of time anywhere else.
        Also I had a very nice conversation with the owner about a month after I quit when I ran into him at the grocery store.

  35. Jamie*

    I have a bad feeling that people like the OP’s boss won’t be swayed from their self appointed task of auditor of all things personal any more than Lady Catherine would (tm Judy for the reference.) Some people take a hint, but usually those are the people who crossed a boundary unintentionally and didn’t mean to be intrusive. Like the person who asks how much you paid for your car because they would happily tell you what they paid for theirs.

    I would just try the non-answers for the stuff the boss already knows and then refuse to give up any additional information about anything personal. Everything is fine, 100% all the time, not one thing of interest in your life and you couldn’t be more content.

    The alternative would be inventing a wildly outrageous life where every day you had some new problem for her to help you solve. Roving bands of penguins interfering with your cable signal, a neighbor that blasts the Partridge Family theme song* 24/7 and the police aren’t helping, your house is haunted by a ghost who keeps changing your toe nail polish to brighter colors whilst you sleep, that jar of Miracle Whip in your fridge that replenishes itself – no matter how much you use you never need to buy more, every time you buy eggs they hatch before you can put them away and now you’re the foster mom to 119 baby chicks….

    Maybe not helpful at work, but it would amuse your co-worker anyway.

    *insult to injury it’s the inferior second version, not the clearly superior theme from season one.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I did something like that when I gave myself a black eye doing something dumb. I didn’t want to admit it to co-workers, so I made up three outrageous stories and told them they could pick one. As long as the lie I tell is so wild that it can’t be true, I have no qualms giving them one.

      1. Jamie*

        Is it dumber than splitting open your eyebrow and leaving a massive bruise because you were trying to throw the remote to someone across a large room and your hand inexplicably went the wrong way you threw it with that much force at your own face?

        I’m not saying I’ve done that, but when I did I told everyone I was reaching for something on a high shelf and it fell on me. Because I was honestly afraid if I told them the truth they’d think I was making it up and be needlessly worried about my personal life.

        Then again I knew someone who broke his leg doing laundry and was so tired of the teasing that he just started telling people it was a skiing accident to get them to shut up.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          How about shutting your sleeve in a dog treat jar (the kind that are like flour containers with the seal) and swinging your arm in just such a way that the heavy jar, attached to your sleeve, flies off the counter and smashes you in the nose. Yup, I did that. I went over backwards to the ground, jar broke open, dog ate all of the treats while I tried to stay conscious.

          1. Cath in Canada*

            Punched myself in the face at 4 in the morning.

            I’d been sleeping on my arm and it had gone totally dead, and my 4 am brain decided that I needed to touch that hand to my face to see if the feeling was coming back. The dead arm was unfortunately not fully under my control at that time, and whacked me right in the nose with extreme prejudice.

          2. ThursdaysGeek*

            That’s one where I’d tell the truth, because no-one would believe that!

            Sometimes the truth can be used in place of a lie, because no-one believes you, and figures you’re just making something up instead of saying you did something boring and dumb.

          3. Shell*

            Oh, if we’re exchanging stupid injury stories I’ll be here all week.

            Let’s see, in no particular order:

            -scraped the shit out of my cornea washing my face
            -stabbed myself with a durian
            -got peppermint oil in my eyes trying to put contacts in
            -permanently (ish) screwed up my knee tussling with my then-boyfriend

            I could go on for a very long time. I am a source of much amusement for my friends (once they’re sure I’ll survive).

                1. ThursdaysGeek*

                  Uh yeah, that’s another where you might as well tell the truth — it’s a better story than any lie you can come up with, and less believable.

        2. I'm a Little Teapot*

          I once knew a guy who gave himself a concussion playing Guitar Hero.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          One of my coaches once broke her leg skating in a show. What was she doing? A double Axel? Throw triple Salchow? Nope–she was in a line of skaters and they did a stop in unison and she fell with her leg buckled under her and broke it. She said, “I wasn’t even doing anything cool that I could brag about!”

          Monday night when I got home, I was so tired and jet-lagged, but I had to go get groceries. I walked out the front door and slipped on my (damaged) front steps and tumbled ass-over-teakettle all the way down to the lawn and broke one of my lights. :P

      2. Mephyle*

        Keep them coming; these are great!
        I opened a big cut under my eyebrow. As well as the external bleeding, it bled subcutaneously into the surrounding tissue and then pooled downward, so I had a dark black bag under my eye for about about a week – it basically looked like a black eye. My siblings-in-law thought it was hilarious – “What did my brother [Mephyle’s husband] do to you?” each one said in turn when they saw me. They were clearly prepared to make it a joke that never dies, so I told them each that they were allowed to say something once and then no more.
        It happened because I walked into a glass wall at the gym (I knew there used to be a wall there, but I thought they had remodeled since I had been there last and taken the wall out, because it was totally invisible – it was perfectly clean, and there were no reflections from my angle of approach, either). The wall didn’t break, but the impact pushed my glasses against my face, and the edge of my rimless lens delivered the cut.

        1. cataloger*

          I did this at the bookstore one time. The next time I went in, there was a large plant blocking the glass.

      3. Hlyssande*

        I know that feeling.

        I can roll an ankle standing still or sprain it badly while walking across a nice flat road. I’ve thrown out my back simply by reading in bed while propped up at exactly the wrong angle. I almost broke my mom’s nose when I stood up just as she bent over to look at the thing I had been looking at.

        I also almost lost an eye when I was a kid due to someone else’s stupidity (who the hell decides to whack golf balls around the back yard when there are 10+ little kids running around?!), but that was through no fault of my own, so..

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          I once sprained my ankle stepping off a sidewalk and another time threw my back out by sneezing, so I feel your pain. :P

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*

      This is brilliant. And hilarious. And…Jamie, have you ever considered humor writing? Especially humorous SF or fantasy? Or writing bizarre surrealist short stories? Because I get a feeling you’d be good at any of those things.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      Oh, and I totally want a miracle jar of Miracle Whip. One that will replenish itself until the rains come again.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        And, to make it back on topic, any of these episodes can be embellished and used with the nosy boss, if you decide to go that route.

  36. Jipsy's Mom*

    I like the idea of stopping the flow of personal information moving forward. For instances where your boss already knows about things (your car), I think some advice from Captain Awkward might be helpful to apply here. Boss “You should do blah blah blah about your car.” You: “Thank you, I’ll think about that. [Change of subject.]”

    What you don’t say is “I’ll think about that for a tenth of a second and discard your advice,” but that’s what’s running through your head.

    Just because someone gives you advice doesn’t mean you’re beholden to them to follow it. Nor are you obligated to explain why their approach won’t work. This approach lets you mentally move on, cuts your boss off from any more explanation, and eliminates any appearance of ‘insubordination’ from you. You say you’ll think about it, you think about it and discard the idea, you both move on. Good luck!

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      When I became an adult, my mum told me that she would like it if I would listen to her advice, perhaps even consider it, but I was under no obligation to take it. I was now responsible for my own decisions, and my only obligation was to be polite when she was giving advice. That was really good advice, and I took it.

  37. Squirrel Nutkin*

    I’m at the point where I can’t really talk to my boss at all about anything that isn’t work related. When I started working here, I made the mistake of engaging him in conversations on all types of subjects. Before long, I realized that he turns Every. Single. Conversation. into something about himself. Even if he asks me (or anyone else) something about my life, he will find a way within 5 minutes to make it all about him. And then he’ll go on and on for anywhere from a half hour to an hour.

    And you can’t change the subject. Because if you do, he’ll remember exactly where he left off and say, “As I was saying…” I can’t redirect to work topics because this is a very slow workplace and there’s very little to do.

    If anyone has any advice, please let me know.

    1. Maxwell Edison*

      I think your boss is my cousin, who does the exact same thing.

      Just tune out and think about other things while throwing in the occasional “And then what happened?” and “Wow” and “I did not know that.”

    2. TeapotCounsel*

      Your boss is a narcissist. My father in law is the same way.
      I wish I had advice for you, but I don’t. It’s a problem that can’t be fixed (by you).

    3. NickelandDime*

      I agree with Teapot Counsel, and I also know people like this. Nothing you can do, short of finding another job. One, your boss is annoying, and two, an annoying boss that has nothing to teach you, plus a slow workplace where you aren’t being challenged and building new skills, isn’t good for your career long term.

  38. pony tailed wonder*

    I think I will be in the minority here and this also may be why I am not making great strides in my career, but I would just pause after getting unsolicited advice and just ask “How is that any of your business?”. And then listen to what they have to say. I have the feeling though that the letter writers situation has gone past this point though. The reason I say this is that I used to work in an office where everyone knew a lot about each other and if I was going to get my car repaired at one shop, I would rather they tell me the horror stories about that shop than have to experience one myself.

  39. Steve*

    Boss is rude and out of line, however, it sounds like OP has some procrastination issues to work on.

  40. OP ~ Anonymiss*

    To Alison & everyone who replied,

    I want to sincerely thank you all for your words of encouragement. I cannot describe how liberating it is to hear that I’m not alone or crazy in regards to my work situation. Your advice has been so helpful and I plan to put it into effect immediately.

    I’m putting through applications for different jobs tonight (wish me luck!) and in the interim I’m not going to give her the ammunition she needs to get on me as she does. I would outright lie about what she asks, but I’ve always gotten the impression she does her homework, as she asks me things like “What play are you going to? What time is that? Where’s the theater? Who are you going with?” so she could catch me in a lie. When I had to take a day off to attend a family members funeral I got this same interrogation & she even went looking for the relatives obituary online.

    I have tried to brush her off at times with an “I’ll think about it” or “I’ll take that into consideration, thanks!” but she’s come back to me later and twists that around as if I had said a solid “yes ma’m!” to her at the time. Then I get the third degree for going back on what I said I’d do despite my response being non-committal.

    I think why I’m so divided has to do with the fact she’s helped me a lot in the time I’ve been where I work and for that I’m grateful for the opportunities she’s given me. So it hurts when she uses those “helps” against me, as if she’s keeping record to keep me in line. That was the break for me in that argument, with the final straw being her talking to the other employee about me.

    Writing to this website was the best thing I could’ve done. Hearing these things from a large collective of people has helped me to make up my mind and not be so on the fence about it. You’ll never know how much I appreciate your advice, words of comfort and the hilarious (but relevant) quotes from P&P! I’ll never be able to look at her now without seeing Catherine DeBurgh! lol

    Sincere thanks,
    Anonymiss ~ off to pack a a bag and arrange its contents in any way she wishes.

    1. Confused*

      “sometimes helps, sometimes uses “helps” against you” seems very controlling. Glad you’re looking for a way out of an unhealthy situation. Best of luck!

    2. TheLazyB*

      Good luck with the applications!
      “What play are you going to? What time is that? Where’s the theater? Who are you going with?”
      Oh my god. I would go with either ‘oh I can’t remember! I’ll look it up later’ or ‘I’m sorry, why do you need to know?’ with an expression of utter confusion.

      Or you know, just don’t tell her there’s a play :-/

      Looking up an obituary? That is so awful I can’t even.

    3. Ž*

      Does she like to talk about how much she helps you and how helpful she is? I had a “friend” who did that to me, always telling me how much she was helping me while belittling me and treating me like a child and eventually stealing from me.

      If someone is really helping you then they don’t need to talk about how helpful they are because it’ll be obvious. so i am always suspicious when a fellow adult talks a lot about how much they’re helping me.

      your boss has really crossed the line and I hope you find a new place to work soon.

      1. NickelandDime*

        It’s like they are making you doubt yourself – by insisting they are offering all this “help” to you, they are really making you doubt your abilities to handle your affairs. It is often easy to take advantage of people like this. It sounds like this is what your “friend” tried to do to you. Ugh. I hope the OP gets out of there soon. I got mad four lines into this letter.

    4. NickelandDime*

      Please send an update on how you handle resigning from this position. I’m definitely not trying to scare you, but control freaks often don’t react well when control is taken away from them. But you are doing the right thing by looking for something new. This is not normal, and not all workplaces are this dysfunctional. Good luck!

  41. Sarah Hughes*

    I Have a new Co worker who comes from Columbia ( I’m in Australia Melbourne) he is the most frustrating person I have EVER met!! He sits about 3 meters away from me and holds up pieces of paper., calling ” WHAT IS THIS SARAH???!!! WHAT IS THIS!???” EVERY. SINGLE. TIME HE RECEIVES A DOCUMENT!!! Firstly I am already busy, secondly I am NOT Superman with special x-ray-x-ray-magnified-x-ray–magnified-builtin-magnified-builtin-binoculars and thirdly GET OFF YOUR FAT ARSE, Walk over to me and ask MD politely. I am NOT your servant , nor will I be subservient. You are in Australia now so GROW UP and respect ALL people!!!

  42. Christine*

    My boss think he can tell me who I can and connotations talk to outside of work he also questions me on what I did and where I went after work and on the weekends

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