bringing a boyfriend to company’s family events, scared to resign because boss will explode, and more

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

1. Can I bring my boyfriend to my company’s family events?

My company holds several events throughout the year (like a crab dinner and race) for employees and their families. I am a single 29-year-old woman with no kids, so showing up solo to these family events seems a little awkward. I do have a serious boyfriend. Do you think it would be okay to bring him to events? Should I ask for permission? I’ve only shown up to one event so far, which was a race, and some people did show up alone there. I’m not sure about the dinner events.

I have serious social anxiety (and that’s a whole different can of worms), so more likely it would mean going with him vs. not going at all.

If these events are explicitly for employees and their families, I’d think it would be fine to bring your boyfriend! If you feel weird about it, just ask your boss or a coworker whose judgment you trust — but I’d be really surprised if it were an issue.

2. I’m scared to resign because my boss will explode

I have been at my current job for almost four years. When I started at this company, the boss I am working for owned the company and asked that I give her six months notice. I was shocked then, but I had no plans on leaving so I agreed. About a year ago the company changed ownership, but my boss still stayed and not much really changed except she was no longer signing my checks.

Now it is time for me to leave as I have no more growth potential (and haven’t had any for the past 3+ years) and I am ready for a change. PLUS she has been over managing me and demeaning me for years and I have finally hit my limit. Good news is that I have a pending new offer with growth potential, a raise, and better benefits but I am scared she will go ballistic on me. When I have seen previous employees leave and give their two weeks she called them “unprofessional” amongst other rude names and is horribly mean to them. To top all of this off, she will be on vacation in a few weeks and my two weeks notice may run into that vacation (she is gone for three weeks) as well. This complicates things even more as I manage her bills/home/life while she is out.

I am trying to do what is best for me without burning any bridges. Should I turn down this offer because I am scared? The new company may be flexible enough to give me an extra week but that wouldn’t be much help as she will already be on vacation.

Take the offer. Six months notice is absolutely unrealistic in most fields, and frankly anything more than two weeks is unrealistic with a boss who behaves like this one does. You know she’s going to react badly, so just brace yourself for it and let her explode. If she crosses any lines you’re not comfortable with, say this: “I very much want to work these final two weeks and leave things in good shape, but I’m not willing to be talked to this way. We either need to work together civilly, or today will need to be my last day.”

It’s really not your problem that she’s on vacation for part of your notice period. Give two weeks notice and don’t be talked into giving more.

Under no circumstances should you turn down this offer simply because you’re scared! Being scared that your boss will explode at a completely normal part of doing business is all the more reason to get the hell out of there.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Store manager is charging employees for mistakes to fund a dinner for herself and the company owner

A girlfriend of mine has a full-time job but also works part-time for a large luggage company in retail sales. Recently, the manager of her store has begun to “charge” employees money for what she (the manager) refers to as poor performance issues, like if ann employee does not dust or sweep or merchandise isn’t displayed properly or someone has incorrect paperwork, etc.

She claims that the manager intends to use the funds collected to take the owner of the company out to dinner, solely to ingratiate herself with the company heads. She has collected quite a sum to date. I believe this is tantamount to extortion and is in all likelihood, illegal.

It doesn’t sound like extortion, just bad management and possibly a huge violation of the company’s own policies.

Whether or not it’s legal will depend on your state law. Federal law only says that your employer can’t make any pay deductions for things like errors if it would bring your pay below minimum wage. But many states forbid employers from docking pay for this sort of work error, sometimes unless you’ve provided your explicit consent. (Of course, if you refuse, they could discipline or fire you, so it’s hard to say how much that really counts for.)

If I worked there, I’d contact the regional manager or whoever the next step up from the store manager is to check whether they’re okay with this being done; it’s highly likely that they are not.

(Also, the whole “taking the company owner to dinner with the funds” thing is really weird — because it’s obnoxious for the obvious reasons, of course, but also because few company owners would let an employee pick up the check in that situation anyway.)

4. A question about two recent letters

Ok, so at the risk of looking a bit obtuse, I am going to draw a parallel between this week’s post about the woman who received trash as a “gift” and the woman from last week who was looking up her coworkers’ deceased relatives and sharing obituaries, personal details, etc. Everyone was more or less in agreement that the professional response to the latter was something along the lines of, “Jane, I’m sure you were trying to be kind, but this is hurtful. Please don’t share my personal info.”

This post about the garbage is interesting to me because I see people being rude and thoughtless to someone in pain. In this case, it sounds like people think it’s more acceptable to say, “What gift? I only got garbage” and let the rude offender face their own awkwardness.

What is the delineating factor? If anything, I feel like the obituary lady is worse that the garbage-givers, who may have been trying to get a laugh out of OP. I think both are bullying and inappropriate, so I don’t understand handling them differently. Could you clarify if you have a moment? I would really like to understand the nuance here.

It’s about the difference in what the letter-writer wanted to get out of each interaction.

With the person digging up details about deaths in coworkers’ families, the goal was to get her to stop, with a minimum of tension. It’s not that what she’s doing isn’t hurtful or that it shouldn’t be called out; it’s that in work relationships, when you want someone to take a specific action, it’s usually more productive to start out from a position of assuming good (or at least not bad) intent. You can always escalate from there if you need to, but there’s no reason to not start out in a place that lets the person save face if that can get you the solution you need.

With the garbage-givers,  “I’m sure you were trying to be funny, but this is hurtful” is certainly an option (and in fact, one of the options I suggested in the post was directly saying that it was cruel). But it really depends on what the letter-writer’s goal is. She may want to say that, or she might not feel like making it into A Big Deal in the way that a more flippant “what gift? you gave me garbage” doesn’t.

Additionally, in that first case, you’re making a direct request (“please don’t share my personal info”), so you need to be direct about what you’re asking for going forward. In the second case, there’s no need to really ask for anything; you’re just letting them know that you’re not amused.

While we’re revisiting recent letters, I want to say that I erred in not immediately telling last week’s letter-writer who had racked up $20,000 in personal debt on a company credit card to talk to a lawyer. I appreciate that commenters pointed out that need, and I added it to the post, but I want to acknowledge the initial oversight.

5. Responding when an interview is delayed due to the interviewer’s family emergency

I have a question about professionalism and unexpected emergencies during the application process. A third-round interview for a position I am very excited about has been repeatedly delayed over the past few weeks. The manager who I was scheduled to meet with is out of the office for a yet-undetermined amount of time dealing with a family health emergency, according to the HR rep I have been corresponding with during the scheduling process. I am unsure how to respond politely–my gut sense is that I shouldn’t get too personal, especially since I’m not in touch with the manager himself. Yet simply thanking them for the update and expressing my continued interest seems cold/gauche. Is including an “I’m sorry to hear that” overstepping?

Not at all. That’s a perfectly reasonable and kind thing to say. Overstepping would be sending a sympathy card or sending multiple emails expressing your concern that everything is alright or going into detail about your own difficult experience with family health issues — but including one sympathetic line in an email about the business at hand is totally appropriate.

{ 274 comments… read them below }

  1. neverjaunty*

    OP #2, your boss is a horrible, professional person and is abusive. It is so, so common for abusers in a position of power (like a boss who controls your paycheck) to completely screw up your view of what a workplace should be like and what behavior is and isn’t OK, so that you become entirely focused on keeping them happy (i.e. not blowing up at you) and have no emotional or mental energy to do what is best for YOU.

    Insisting that an employee stay for six months, going ballistic on people who give the entirely normal two weeks’ notice, demeaning you, forcing you to manage her home life, and making you afraid to leave because she will explode? This is an abuser. You should do whatever you need to do to get out ASAP, and if that means leaving without two weeks’ notice or waiting until she’s on vacation to leave, do it.

    1. KarenT*

      I’ll truly never understand those who get angry when people quit. Have those people only ever had one job?
      I do have to say most people who have told me they are resigning seem a bit nervous. I guess it’s a bit of guilt? I’ve only ever reacted postively–I’m genuinely happy for those moving on to their next chapter in life. It probably helps that I have no intention of working where I work for the rest of my career.
      I did get mad once–a woman in our department quit with two days notice. Our while team was scrambling there. ..

      1. Panda Bandit*

        They never grew out of the spoiled toddler mindset. Or they take an employee leaving as a personal insult. Possibly both, if my current boss is anything to go by.

        1. Cheesecake*

          If they take it so personally and explode – i am sure they are actually the reason employee is leaving

        2. Ann Furthermore*

          My boss has a tendency to take people’s resignations very personally. She actually only ever has had one job — well, not one job, but she has spent her entire career at one company. Anytime anyone has left, chances were that she’d kind of make snide comments about them in passing whenever their names came up. It’s surprising, because she’s not that kind of person otherwise.

          A few months back I gave her some very carefully worded feedback in a 360 review, and said something about how I’ve heard her make comments about former team members that were completely different from my own experiences with those individuals, and that even though I was not privy to her dealings with them, it was a good reminder that there are 2 sides to every story, and the truth usually lies somewhere in between. Another co-worker submitted a comments about how she’s normally “very disappointed” when people leave the team, or something like that.

          To my boss’s credit, I believe she took that feedback to heart, because I have not heard her talk about former team members as much as she used to. Once, she said something about a guy on our team who quit, and just said, “He had his own ideas about things,” which I took as a tactful way for her to say that he disagreed with her about whatever it was we were discussing.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              If I was a customer and heard something like that from a vendor/service provider, I wouldn’t be a customer of theirs for much longer.

            2. Revanche*

              One of my toxic bosses did this routinely. Everyone who left was a horrible person and disloyal and so on. They made it hugely uncomfortable for everyone else because they expected you to chime in with agreement and further bashing so they could rant for a while.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Some people think the way they do things is the only way. They suck. I’m sorry I can’t be more articulate about that, but it’s true. Major suckage.

        3. manybellsdown*

          At my husband’s previous job, his boss once told him we were not allowed to have anyone at our house who had left the company. She literally said we couldn’t invite people over, to our own private home, if they’d quit. He was there for 12 years; most of his friends were people who had worked there. Of course we ignored that. I’ll invite whoever I like to my home, thanks.

          1. Prismatic Professional*

            I don’t…can’t…what? I…can’t form complete thoughts around this one. O.o

        4. Ruffingit*

          I think this is a lot of it – they take it personally, which tells me they have massive insecurity issues because they seem to think they are the reason the employee is leaving. Which may well be the case actually. I also think people who explode like this likely have some sort of issue that should be worked out in therapy because it’s a hugely overblown reaction to a normal life event. Whatever the case, the best thing to do is get away from folks like this. It’s not worth the mental exhaustion of dealing with them and whatever issue they have.

      2. Mike C.*

        The bosses/owners feel like employer you is an act of charity on their part and thus feel entitled to the complete and total loyalty of their employees. I’ve been through this, it’s gross.

        1. themmases*

          Definitely. I had a boss like this who didn’t seem to think that anyone under him was marketable or really had any options to go elsewhere, and when you heard him talk about his career path it was total projection. He got an MBA because he was in a super insecure field, left his high powered stereotypical MBA job due to stress, and had been in this position as a division director at a non-profit ever since– 10 years! He really never had moved up anywhere or made a job change that was an improvement.

          He missed the part where no one *under* him was moving up because he always fought it.

        2. Lizabeth*

          Funny thing is…loyalty is EARNED, not given on demand just because you’ve been hired. Much like respect…most employers don’t “get” that their words and acts are also evaluated at any given time by the employees.

          That said there is MAYBE one employer in my work life that I have any loyalty whatsoever. The rest? None…

          1. Solid B*

            “Funny thing is…loyalty is EARNED, not given on demand just because you’ve been hired”

            My current boss so does not get, cannot comprehend, refuses to understand this and it poisons my job significantly.

          2. Artemesia*

            You are right. I have had generally good luck with bosses who have always been encouraging about my career both within an organization or if there were opportunities outside. My second to last boss even recommended me for a couple of excellent external opportunities that I would have jumped at 10 years earlier in my career — I was then at the point where jumping to a CEO type position was more work than I wanted to do. He also promoted me from within, so I don’t think it was a ploy to get rid of me. There are people who are happy when their proteges or employees have options and encourage their careers. Even my worst bosses were did not act in this negative way towards those who were making their way.

            And one result of having good bosses is that they do engender loyalty. I would go to the mat for several of mine and have had the opportunity to assist a couple of them in their careers along the way.

          3. Melissa*

            And the other thing is that loyalty doesn’t mean that you’ll eschew your own best interests to stick around. I like my workplace and my coworkers, my supervisor is really great – really, they are the best part of the career field I’m in. That doesn’t change the fact that this career is simply wrong for me and I’d like a change. They could be magical unicorns and I’d still want a different job because I don’t like what I do every day when I come to work!

          4. FormerEditor*

            +1 so true!
            I got so many mixed messages at my first job out of college (a small family-owned business).
            When I started, the owner sat me down and explained that they hired “kids” right out of school, gave them experience for a few years, and then most of them moved on. He told me they treated their workers well, and they were a family.

            On the job, he had amnesia about that conversation! People who gave 2 months’ notice were fired on the spot. We were expected to work crazy hours for no overtime, and no raises were given out in 3 years. Loyalty is earned, but it took me a long time to work up the nerve to not feel guilty about giving notice.

            1. Suzanne*

              Funny how many times I’ve been lied to about what a job involves or how many hours I’ll be working. Well, not funny, but sad.

              1. Ruffingit*

                Same here. So many lies. I now just assume that what I’m being told in an interview is not likely true. If it is, it’s a pleasant surprise.

        3. KJR*

          I have too, it’s really awful. The boss I had it happen with wasn’t even paying us on a regular basis, which is why I had to leave. She made my life a living hell until my last day. She was even an hour late for my exit interview, which she insisted on having at a restaurant. One last power play!

          1. Artemesia*

            No way I wait an hour for this. And I think Alison’s perennial advice to leave immediately if the boss acts like a jerk during the two week notice period is golden.

      3. MashaKasha*

        I quit with zero days notice once, because my boss was a controlling jerk (kind of like OP2’s) and I knew that a two weeks notice would mean I’d work two weeks without pay. I got paid in cash, put the money in my pocket, and told him this was my last day.

        There was a lot of yelling and name-calling. He said that what I’d done would come back to bite me. It certainly did, if by “coming back to bite me” he meant that I’d find a new job for 3x the pay and 10x the growth potential, within a week, because that was exactly what happened. As for him, six months later, he still didn’t have a replacement for me. It’s a small town and everyone knew better than to work for him.

        It happened 20 years ago and is now a funny story to tell at parties. Same goes for whatever reaction OP2’s boss is going to have. OP2, just make sure you’re paid everything they owe you, and let her rant. Not your circus, not your monkeys. Best of luck at the new job!

      4. Ed*

        My manager is relatively young and this is the only “adult” place he’s worked post-college. He used to be really offended when anyone left. He even made a comment to me once “I know for a fact that people who have left instantly regret it”. Really? Because I stay in touch with most of them and they love their new jobs and don’t even think about this place. Earlier this year he seriously considered leaving (actually took the job, announced it to us and then stayed after a counter offer) and now he gets it. People have different goals and no company has jobs, not even at a Google or Microsoft, that are universal dream jobs for everyone. We had an important team member leave a few months ago and my manager actually told me he understood why he left and hopes he is successful.

    2. Artemesia*

      Wow. This. I cannot imagine how damaged and beaten down you must be by this jerk to even be able to write ‘should I give up an opportunity for a new job in order to remain in an abusive situation where my boss will explode — because I am scared.’ I’d be scared to stay another day.

      Take the job. Give two weeks notice. Use Alison’s script if he behaves badly and leave that day if he doesn’t immediately cool it.

      1. Sherm*

        +1. I hope you can re-read what you wrote, and that it will make you angry instead of scared. Don’t let her browbeat you into staying longer. If you fear you are going to buckle, leave immediately.

        1. Rose*

          Amen. Your boss has made it literally impossible for anyone to leave on good terms, taking advantage of your good nature and making you feel terrible about leaving. Your only choices are to leave in bad terms or stay with her forever. I hope reading these comments will give you the strength and clarity to see what’s going on here.

          When I was 24 and 25, I used to have a very similar, very terrifying boss. I would call my mom in tears before meetings with her at least once a week, knowing I was about to be berated in the worst way. One thing my mother told me that really really helped: she can’t LITERALLY kill you, Rosie. I started repeating it to myself before every meeting.

          I knew she would likely scream and rant and tell me I sucked. I was terrified of being fired and not being able to pay my bills. But that’s not an issue for you now! All she can do is yell, and the best part is if she does, you can walk away right then. Use Alison’s scrip and just WALK AWAY. don’t wait for it to get extra nasty or for her to say something really really bad. When the inapropreit behavior starts, use the script and get out right then!

      2. Mike C.*

        This is what being in a toxic environment does to you. It is in many ways like being in an abusive personal relationship. You might not be physically attacked, but there’s certainly the mental/emotional control issues and the economic control bosses have over their employees.

        1. Ethyl*

          Two things — abusive relationships do not have to involve physical violence for them to be labelled abuse. Also, an abusive boss isn’t “like” an abusive personal relationship, it IS an abusive relationship full stop.

          1. The Strand*

            Cosign this, especially when you consider we can see more of our colleagues than of our family and friends.

        2. SerfinUSA*

          What is sad and enraging is that there isn’t really much acknowledgement of this, and assistance getting free of the abuser. Obviously 99% of people working are doing so out of necessity and can’t just bail. But it seems like the system is rigged to enable abusive behavior by people who control the financial survival of someone’s household.

          I have a union job in higher ed, and even with all the contractual agreements, HR department, codes of conduct, sensitivity training, etc., bosses are allowed to be terribly abusive to lower level workers.
          The response to complaints is usually ‘if you don’t want to work here, there’s the door’. But it’s pretty much impossible to replace an income just like that, so people just accumulate hit points.

          1. I'm a Little Teapot*

            Well said. Our entire economic system enables, and our culture tolerates and often glorifies, abusive behavior against people in financially subordinate positions.

            People who quit jobs because of abusive bosses should be eligible for UI. And abusive managers should be fired, even if they’re supposedly otherwise good at their jobs.

            Sadly, a lot of the most abusive managers are owners themselves, so there’s no one to fire them.

      3. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Yes. This is heartbreaking. Don’t stay any longer. This horrible person has no right to control your life and your future.

      4. Sabrina*

        I wonder, would it be possible for you to have a third person in the room with you during this conversation? Somebody on your side or at least on either side, just to make sure that the tone stays “sane”.

    3. Cautionary tail*

      Yes this is an abuser. It reminds me so much of when I lived in an apartment building and we constsantly heard the guy next door smashing his girlfriend’s head against our common wall. We even called the cops several times about the situation but since the people would not open their apartment door the cops couldn’t do anything. The girlfriend was so scared to leave that she didn’t and just continued to endure physical, verbal and emotional abuse. When we moved out the two of them were still there and there was nothing more we could do.

      Traumawise, Op’s situation sound like a workplace version of this.

      1. Chinook*

        “We even called the cops several times about the situation but since the people would not open their apartment door the cops couldn’t do anything. ”

        Really? I though that cops could enter through a locked door if they believe someone’s life is in danger. DH the cop knows that domestics are one of the most volatile situations and, if it is loud enough for neighbors to call in (especially repeatedly), they treat it as a violent situation. I once called DH, while he was on duty, about hearing a scream and a wall rattling thud and he insisted I call 911 and his entire shift (there were only 6 on at the time – small town) showed up and carefully approached the condo from all angles.

        He has dealt with the frustrations of abuses going back to the abuser but he always ensures that they have been separated and the option to leave as police interference is a sure trigger for the behavior to escalate. I think this is standard for (modern) Canadian police forces where they aren’t allowed to ignore such a complaint 9even if the abuse denies it).

        1. Cautionary tail*

          All this may be true now but the situation I’m referring to goes back decades.

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            I remember, back in the late 70’s when I was six, our neighbors calling the police to our apartment because they could hear my step-dad beating the living daylights out of my mom. I also remember, quite clearly, them telling my [bloodied, bruised] mom that there was nothing they could do because (A) she was his wife, and (B) she was still alive. I remember cowering in my room, crying [quietly], and thinking to myself, “That’s it. We’ll never get out of this alive. He’s going to kill us all.” Thank goodness the laws have changed since then.

            P.S. She unloaded a pistol into him not two years later, sadly not killing him. (Bad shot; she only nicked his temple, grazed his shoulder, and split his, ah, ‘dingaling’ in two). Luckily, the shrink she had been seeing was also frequently called by the D.A. to be a professional witness (or whatever it’s called) for the state. So he made one phone call after my mom’s arrest to the D.A., told him it was a clear-cut case of self-defense, and she was released without any charges within the hour. She actually went on to the office that day, after having called her secretary from a neighbor’s house sometime between shooting step-dad and waiting for the cops to show up to let her know she’d be “a little bit late” that morning. Helluva way to end an abusive relationship. :-)

            1. I'm a Little Teapot*

              Every antifeminist idiot should read the first paragraph of your post. The police couldn’t do anything because she was his wife and still alive? Good God.

              Also, your mom sounds totally badass. I’m glad she got out…with such style too. :-)

    4. OP2*

      Hey All! Thank you for all of your kind words!! Your support has encouraged me to go ahead and go forward with it and “bite the bullet.” I will keep you all informed on how it goes!

      1. Golden Yeti*

        Hi, OP2. There’s a quite a bit of overlay between your situation and mine, so I’ll give you my plan for when my day comes: I’m going to get my hubby to mock exit interview me as my boss.

        This is because I know there will be a huge guilt trip coming my way, and I want to go into that big meeting ready for anything.

        If you’re not resigning immediately, I’d say find someone you know who is a good devil’s advocate. Ask them to basically argue with you as you’re “resigning” to them. If they don’t know your boss, give them an overview and some examples, and let them go nuts. On this side of things, I don’t know how effective it will be, but I can imagine it being very helpful in keeping yourself from getting thrown by the boss’s comments.

        And, as many others have said, if you have a great offer, take the job. A toxic work environment is only going to weather away at your soul more and more the longer you are there. I’m sure you’ve done more than enough looking out for them; now it’s your turn to look out for yourself.

        1. OP2*

          Great advise! I should be resigning in about a week or so… just waiting on the paper offer! Practice will definitely help in bracing myself for the storm!

    5. AnnieMouse*

      Give two weeks’ notice. If she explodes, leave the room. You don’t have to take any abuse.

    6. Ed*

      You’re basically shackling your employee to her job because almost no employer will hold a job for 6 months. I would have agreed to this in my younger days but I wouldn’t agree to it at this point in my career. I would probably say “I’ll give you as much notice as possible but I’m not turning down job offers because they won’t let me give you 6 months notice. How would I ever be able to leave?” A month is at least a realistic length of time but even that is too long in most cases. I’ve had jobs in the past where I gave my manager a heads up they should be thinking about my replacement but I would only do that if I have a good relationship with them and I have witnessed firsthand how they treat people that resign. OP’s boss would get no more than two weeks from me and I would probably clean out my desk before resigning in case she flipped and I decided to just walk out with no notice.

      Nobody will debate that good employees leaving can be devastating for a business of any size but it’s just the way the system works in this country. OP’s boss reminds me of the crap some shady landlords pull in their lease agreements. They can kick you out with a weeks notice but you must give 3 months so they can find another tenant. I would never get confrontational in an interview but I would be thinking “so then I have your guarantee I’ll get 6 months notice if you ever want to terminate me?”

  2. Observer*

    #2 Why would you even consider not accepting the offer if you get it? Are you going to swear fealty to her and never ever do anything again the she won’t approve of? I don’t know you personal circumstances, but even so, it’s easy to envision dozens of scenarios where the right thing for you to do would displease her. Are you going to buckle and avoid her explosions?

    And, after all, what can she do? Blow up? Call you names? Act like a combination of an overgrown spoiled toddler and witch with a capital b? Worst case, it’s only two weeks, best case, you Alison’s script and get out of there. Fire you? Well, you’re gone. Give you a bad reference? That’s a given no matter what you do.

    So get out of there.

    1. Alison Read*

      Exactly! While she’s blowing up just keep reminding yourself, “It’s only words.” If there’s any way you can remove yourself enough to see her for how completely wrong she really is, that would help.

      You really are not obligated to manage her personal business while she’s gone. You do realize that, right? Don’t let that perceived obligation catch you up. If your leaving causes a conflict for her, that is her problem.

      Once you are free you will look back at this and shake your head. Sometimes it is just so difficult to see the extreme dysfunction when you’re in the middle of it.

      Leave as soon as you can and please write AAM with an update!

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        This. While she’s blowing up, let your mind wander to how nice it’s going to be at your new job when you’re not putting up with this sh*t anymore. Try not to smile too much while you’re thinking of that :-) I was in almost the same situation a few weeks ago with my beloved boss’s terrible wife. She acts like a spoiled child instead of a professional. The last time she was berating me over some inconsequential minutiae, I realized that I was going to really apply for some positions that I’d been merely vaguely keeping in my awareness before. When I got the idea to really, truly quit, I think I smiled a little bit, because in the middle of her rant, she said, “What’s that look on your face, Mallory? What’s that look?!”

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          It was the look of me being DONE. I bet you have a similar look. :-) I encourage you to use it!

        2. OP2*

          Mallory – I will definitely keep my mind on the “I will be free of this!” I am smiling now just thinking about it! Great advise, everyone! I truly appreciate it! I will let you all know how it goes!

          1. Jesse*

            It will feel amazing after you give notice! I’ve quit some terrible jobs, and it’s hard to stop smiling for those last two weeks.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            It makes me happy to know that you can take a little strength from my story, OP2. I hope you’ll give us an update after you give your notice. Be strong!

        3. The Strand*

          Priceless advice. And you can take it even if you merely work in a crappy environment, or you’ve hit the ceiling at a present position… abusive boss not required.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Also, I’ll bet that the OP is subjected to tirades and tantrums no matter what she does, especially based on how she manages the boss’s HOME life while she’s on vacation (WTF?!??!?), so just think of this as taking the next one you were due for a little earlier, in exchange for never having to put up with her tantrums again.

        1. MegEB*

          That’s the part that made me do a double-take. She manages her boss’ bills?! This does not sound like a productive professional relationship.

          OP – you should give your two weeks as soon as you have accepted the offer, regardless of whether or not she’s on vacation. She gave up any expectation to advanced notice when she showed you how she treats other departing employees. It might even be stroke of good luck that she’ll be on vacation, since at least she won’t be there to verbally harass you.

      3. Artemesia*

        This. Do NOT be finagled into managing her personal business on this vacation of hers. Give notice, let her know you will be gone during her vacation and thus she will need to make other arrangements for that. Full stop. Seriously. Do not agree to manage her personal business during your two week notice period. “I’m sorry but that won’t be possible, you will need to have someone else do that.” “I understand, but since I am leaving, I won’t be available to do that.” rinse and repeat. Don’t explain. Don’t bargain or ‘compromise’ or do it the first week or whatever. ‘It won’t be possible, you will have to make other arrangements.’ Period. Full stop.

    2. themmases*

      I agree with your first paragraph so much. People feel guilty about it all the time but, even in the best of circumstances, staying in the same job forever when you could get better pay and career development elsewhere is a huge sacrifice to make just to avoid inconveniencing people temporarily. When you add in the elements of a toxic workplace, it’s martyring yourself to voluntarily stay. Unless they work for Doctors Without Borders, I doubt most people look at their industry, their company, their boss, and see the thing most worth sacrificing their health and happiness for.

    3. OP2*

      Mallory – I will definitely keep my mind on the “I will be free of this!” I am smiling now just thinking about it! Great advise, everyone! I truly appreciate it! I will let you all know how it goes!

  3. snuck*

    I’d have said for No. 5 you are spot on. Acknowledging it without going into detail would be perfect. Trust your instincts!

    1. OP #5*

      Thanks! :) and thanks, Alison, for your reply! The extra confirmation was very helpful and I went with what I’d suggested doing.

  4. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. I know quite a few people who turned up to work social events with a boyfriend or girlfriend, whilst others had their whole family there.

    Not wishing to feel left out, I did once bring the office mascots. (cuddly toys)

    1. Elizabeth West*

      LOL I love this.

      Exjob just said plus-ones for the Christmas party–the only stipulation was that your guest had to be a legal adult (because alcohol). The only interesting part of the whole deal was seeing who people showed up with.

  5. De (Germany)*

    I’ve never heard of family events being restricted to married couples – some people just never get married (or can’t because of certain laws) and should still be able to bring their partners.

    (That said, I am not a native speaker of English, but I was very confused by the beginning of the letter – I didn’t call myself “single” when I was not married to my boyfriend. I’m honestly just curious – is that a “standard usage of the word single?)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There are two different usages of it in English, or at least in the U.S.: Sometimes “single” is used to mean solely “not married,” but without indicating whether you’re in a relationship or not. For instance, on government forms you’d be “single” even if you’re in a serious relationship. (That’s a very formal example, but that usage sometimes carries over.) Other times, though, people use it more informally; in those cases, “single” would indeed mean “not in possession of a boyfriend/girlfriend,” not just unmarried.

      In the letter, I think the OP is using it to refer to her official legal status, likely because she’s concerned that that’s the part that will matter to her employer. (I think it won’t though.)

      1. De (Germany)*

        Ah, okay, thanks. In German, we’d just “single” (yes, we adopted that from English, so that’s where the confusion comes from…) for the second case and “ledig” or “unverheiratet” (unmarried) for the first.

      2. Merry and Bright*

        The two usages are the same in the UK. Back in the day it pretty much meant “unmarried” but now it is used both ways.

        1. UKAnon*

          Really? I’ve never come across that before! I would say ‘in a relationship’ or ‘cohabiting’ (if it’s got that far) I’ve only ever known ‘single’ used exclusively as not in a romantic relationship.

          1. Daisy*

            You definitely have, if you’ve ever filled in an official form. They always give “single” “married” “divorced” “widowed” as the options. If you have a boyfriend but aren’t married you’d tick “single”, wouldn’t you? It’s only pretty recently “living with partner” is sometimes an option.

            1. UKAnon*

              As far as I’m aware I’ve come across co-habiting on official forms. Although the only official forms I’ve done when I haven’t been single and therefore would be looking for an option are tax forms, so that might be why. I’ve never hit the dilemma of going for single vs married, though.

              1. Chinook*

                “Although the only official forms I’ve done when I haven’t been single and therefore would be looking for an option are tax forms, so that might be why. I’ve never hit the dilemma of going for single vs married, though.”

                In Canada, “single” is a legal status that implies never married while common-law is used for cohabitating couples not married but meet certain conditions (like share a child, have lived together for a specific amount of time and/or have filled out certain paperwork) but, when you break up, you are considered single, not divorced. I have seen forms that state “married/common-law” without a distinction between the two, probably because they just want to know if you are legally tied to another adult. “Divorced/widowed” are often paired together like as well (because both imply previous legal relationships which have now ended but with different implications – namely you can go after the other divorced spouse for any issues but not the dead one.) “Separated” is its own category because it means there are still legal ties but separate lives.

                In casual conversation, though, you are either single, dating, common-law or married (because it only matter whether or not their is a partner that should be invited with you and/or you are available to be dating yourself).

                1. Cath in Canada*

                  I love that common-law status is almost completely equal to married status in Canada! My husband and I lived together for several years before we got married, and he could have sponsored me for permanent residence (Canadian green card) via our common law status in exactly the same way he could have if we were married (we didn’t do it via sponsorship in the end – I qualified in my own right, which was a bit more expensive, but faster and more satisfying). It meant that people could sponsor their same-sex partners even before marriage equality laws took effect.

          2. Merry and Bright*

            Sorry, UKAnon – it was early morning. I was thinking more of conversation etc – e.g. saying you are single meaning you aren’t in a relationship. But I agree that on forms etc single translates as unmarried.

      3. eemmzz*

        If you live with your partner in the UK there is also cohabiting status on most forms now which helps. I use to always have to choose single a while back.

        1. Melissa*

          Some forms in the U.S. do say stuff like “cohabiting,” “living with partner,” or “domestic partnership,” but not all of them do.

      4. Anonforthis*

        I wouldn’t be so certain it’s ok. I work in the US for a publicly traded company and only your spouse and actual family (including parents, etc) can be your guests to our events. No boyfriends or girlfriends, nor even if you’re engaged. I know it’s highly unusual, but it’s a practice that can be out there (I am in a conservative field). I’d start by asking a coworker who regularly goes to the events and has been with the company in good standing for a long time.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Ugh–on top of everything else, that’s a surefire way to make sure same-sex partners are excluded, depending on the state. Probably not illegal, but gross and rude.

          1. Judy*

            Many, many companies have domestic partner policies, so I’d assume that would handle the same-sex partners. I’ve certainly been invited to corporate events that are restricted to legal dependents, but it’s been spelled out on the invitation.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Absolutely–it just sounds like this particular one draws the line at marriage and marriage only.

              1. potato battery*

                I would delight in showing up to an event with such a policy with my lawfully-wedded same-sex spouse (just because I assume the mindset of “only legal family” probably goes hand-in-hand with diaspproval of the gays).

                1. Judy*

                  I figure the “only legal family” goes hand in hand with “bring all my aunts uncles and cousins to this cool event”. I’ve seen it declared over 20 years. Sometimes is was “bring any adult plus any of your legal dependents under the age of 18”. For family events I’ve seen, at amusement parks and the like, the company doesn’t want to pay for someone to bring 20 random kids.

                  One company did say employee + another adult + either legal dependents OR 2 other kids.

                2. Connie-Lynne*

                  Eh. Sometimes it just goes hand-in-hand with being super cheap.

                  Although it probably does end up contributing to an overall less inclusive workplace culture.

                3. Chinook*

                  “just because I assume the mindset of “only legal family” probably goes hand-in-hand with diaspproval of the gays”

                  See my comment later – not necessarily (atleast in Canada). It can come down to needing to limit benefits, and expenses, and those family members whom you are considered legally responsible for is definitely a clear line and easily defensible when Bob wants to bring his 2 cousins who are visiting at the time of the party.

              2. Chinook*

                “One company did say employee + another adult + either legal dependents OR 2 other kids”

                Man, am I ever glad my dad’s company never did this. Then again, we would have seen clearly which of us 3 kids were my parents’ least favourite. :)

        2. BRR*

          My dad works for a super conservative company and I could see them not allowing unmarried significant others. Oh and yes it will reflect poorly on you to not attend. The CEO is an ass who places an importance on traditional families.

        3. CAA*

          Some larger companies do have policies around this. Back when I worked for one of the five largest companies in the world, they had a family day every year that was something like renting out an amusement park, or having a carnival with a concert by a big-name entertainer. Their policy for these events was that “family” is defined as the people who were eligible to be covered by the company’s health insurance and unmarried employees got to bring one guest in addition to their family.

        4. MegEB*

          I think cases like those are far outside the norm, though. The vast majority of companies allow boyfriends/girlfriends to family events. I work in a fairly conservative office as well and they just give us a +1 to events like this. I’m sorry your company only allows spouses though – that’s so restrictive :( What do they do about same-sex couples?

        5. JC*

          I agree that this is outside the norm, but my now-husband used to work for a company before we were married that drew the line at “cohabitants” being allowed at company family events that happened at the site. I couldn’t go before we moved in together, and could go afterwards. This was because staff had security clearances to enter the site, and they needed to file information about their cohabitants. But if your company had a restrictive policy like that, I am sure you would know about it already!

        6. Chinook*

          ” work in the US for a publicly traded company and only your spouse and actual family (including parents, etc) can be your guests to our events. No boyfriends or girlfriends, nor even if you’re engaged.”

          This is the rule in the Canadian military as well. They needed to draw a line when it came to benefits (especially who they pay to move or has access to on-base housing) and their explanation was that they will pay only for those whom you are legally responsible for (and fiancés aren’t in the category – hence us eloping the day after DH got his transfer orders). It helps, though, that you can apply to be common-law after proof of living together for 6 months (we had only known of each other’s existence for 5 at that time) or that you share a child and that same-sex marriage is recognized.

          1. Al Lo*

            Alberta has a funny thing that goes hand-in-hand with common-law, called an “adult interdependent relationship” — established (I think) in the days before same-sex marriage, but still around now that that’s legal. Like Chinook said, you can apply for it after a certain number of months — and by “apply,” they mean, agree in writing together that you live together, are in a significant emotional relationship, and are financially interdependent. My husband and I declared that status before we were engaged, not really living common-law, but in a joint financial situation. I’ve also seen long-time adult roommates or siblings with that status — it allows for certain benefits like being considered next-of-kin in a hospital or something. I don’t think it would apply to private insurers, but for specific situations, it allows for more rights and privileges.

            1. Chinook*

              “Alberta has a funny thing that goes hand-in-hand with common-law, called an “adult interdependent relationship” — established (I think) in the days before same-sex marriage, but still around now that that’s legal”

              I was going to mention this but deleted it. I actually like it because it recognized that sex is not a requirement to have an interdependent relationship, especially for things like “next of kin”. I also liked that it was something you still had to apply for otherwise you could accidentally end up in a legal relationship with a roommate you barely know.

            2. I'm a Little Teapot*

              I love that it can be a sibling or long-term roommate, not necessarily a romantic partner. That’s a great idea – some single people do have a primary platonic relationship like that which is very important to them.

        7. Stranger than fiction*

          Wow double ugh. So if you have coworkers that have been living with someone say 15 years or something they can’t attend together because they’re not legally married? What if they have kids? Blows my mind in this day and age conservative or not

        8. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          I would find it very, very weird to work for a company where it was all right for someone to bring their mom to the company picnic, but not their fiancé.

    2. Judy*

      I’ve gone to family events that are only company paid for “people on your insurance”. For example, an amusement park “family picnic” which costs $60 per person with lunch included, and the company pays half for anyone on your insurance (legal dependents) but allows you to pay full price for other people. But at least at the corporate jobs I’ve had, it’s been spelled out pretty clearly in the invitation.

    3. Ad Astra*

      If most people in the room/situation are married (often the case at an office), people tend to use “single” to mean “unmarried.” If most people in the room/situation are unmarried (for instance, in college), people tend to use “single” to mean “not dating anyone.” So it kind of depends on why, exactly, you’re pointing it out.

      Typically, though, people might avoid calling someone who’s unmarried but has a live-in partner “single,” since those couples tend to function much more like married couples. Not that it would be offensive, just that it might not accurately convey this person’s situation.

      Unless you’re talking about a bouquet/garter toss at a wedding. Then anyone who’s not married or engaged counts as single.

    4. Artemesia*

      When I was young, so very long ago, being ‘single’ meant being not married; so even if you were in a serious relationship or even engaged you were single. In my daughter’s generation if you have a serious dating relationship you are not single. It is a change in the use of the term. In legal terms e.g. when filling out forms, you are still single, but socially if you are coupled, you are not single.

      1. voyager1*

        Just another datapoint of someone who once worked at a place where if you were unmarried a guest was not allowed at the annual social. However this didn’t apply to unmarried parents or married couples. So yeah it is out there.

        1. Artemesia*

          I am laughing inside at the idea that the company event is such a hot ticket that rules must be enforced against the boyfriends or girlfriends of employees — they might get a free beer, OMG. I can see if with the amusement park rental and not wanting every person a judgmentless employee knows coming as guests — but for most office events, it is only fair to allow any employee to have at least one companion there to relieve the misery.

  6. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    Six months notice! That’s effectively saying, “You can’t quit with anything else lined up” – because very few potential new employers would hire someone but be okay with waiting six months for them to start.

    OP, you are not a bad person for not bending to this ridiculous request, even if you did get pressured into saying you’d do so years ago.

    1. NJ anon*

      There was a letter recently from a writer who had promised to stay at the job for a year but wanted to leave 6 months in. No sane manager to request or extract this from an employee!

      1. CAA*

        I think that was a bit different though. Being asked to give six months notice is not the same as “we generally expect new employees to work here for at least a year.” In most businesses, you can’t have staff turning over every 6 months.

      2. MK*

        The person you mention was given a raise as an exchange for not looking for another job for a specific period of time (as in, till January 2016). It’s not the same thing as demanding 6 months notice in general.

      3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        I think asking for a six-month (or year, or in some cases two-year) commitment at the beginning of some major change is reasonable. By “major change” I mean things like being hired, being promoted, or being given charge of a new big initiative. It’s one thing to say “We want the new person in this role to be around for a while,” and a very different thing to say “We expect to have six months of advance knowledge that you’re leaving.” Except for some specific careers, like teaching*, an employer-employee relationship in general is understood to be for as long as it suits both parties, and when it stops suiting one party, a few weeks’ transition time is expected.

        *Teachers usually sign a contract for each school year, and are expected to stay until June barring something dramatic. Contracts get renewed in the spring for the following fall, so schools do have about four to six months before they need to have a replacement. This is useful because often applicants teach a demo lesson as part of interviewing – something that is much harder during summer vacation! But this is the way the whole profession works; it’s not just one school putting unusual demands on their teachers.

  7. Stephanie*

    #1: I’m sure it’d be fine.

    Back in my senior year of college, I was interviewing for new grad roles. I interviewed at a F100 company and they flew me up for a final interview, which was one of those all-day affairs with multiple interviews. Hiring manager says he wants to take me out to dinner. He picks me up from the hotel and his wife and baby are in tow. We ate at a nice-ish restaurant (way nicer than I would have gone to, but not like Michelin starred). It was awkward, especially after a day-long interview. When there was a lull in conversation, I resorted to asking about the baby (she was a newborn). I may have resorted to cooing at her once or twice (which sigh at my interview naïveté). My best guess was that the would-be manager just wanted a nice family dinner on the company dime and I was along for the ride.

    Fast forward a few months. I didn’t get that job and am interviewing for a different role at a different site at the same company. Same deal. Fly up there, all-day interview, dinner with the hiring manager at a nice-ish restaurant. Only difference was that she brought her husband. And there was no baby.

    I’m guessing it was just a company culture thing where family members came on these interview dinners? It was odd.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      Maybe they were extending some hospitality to an out of town visitor. I’m assuming you were staying over night maybe they thought you would appreciate being taken out rather than going back to your hotel.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I know that at my university job, the professors in charge of entertaining a guest in the evening would bring their spouses to make the person feel welcome and help with the flow of conversation. The profs were mainly introverted and felt that their spouses brought more charm to the evening. Only the male ones, though, now that I think of it. The female profs would gather their additional dinner members from amongst the other faculty members.

      2. Stephanie*

        Yeah, that was my guess. While the company wasn’t quite a corporate cult where you had your laundry done on-site, it was big on fit and socializing, so I’m guessing as well that was to see how I acted in a less-buttoned up scenario.

    2. Juli G.*

      I do think that’s strange FOR YOU. We have a hard time getting people to come to our area – people like the company but hate the location.

      For a single student like you, I would have them go out to dinner with someone young in the area they are working in and tell them to bring some friends (and not just their significant other if they have one) so the can get a taste of life as a twenty-something and meet some people.

      Now, if I knew you were a young mother or father, I would have you go to dinner with another couple or two in the same life place. Likewise for whatever your situation – I always try to find people that could advise you and be an on boarding buddy.

      These matchups seem self serving to the managers and not recruiting oriented.

      1. Stephanie*

        I do think that was part of it–we could chat more about Potential New City outside a more formal setting. It was just a little awkward. The managers and their spouses weren’t that much older than me (maybe in their mid-30s?), but they were just old enough that it’d be like “Hmm, I think a lot of the college hires usually live in this neighborhood. Maybe? I know they like going to this bar sometimes. I don’t remember! Those days are behind me and we live in a boring suburb.”

    3. Artemesia*

      When I was doing a lot of hiring for my organization it was rather common for spouses to be invited to the dinners. Of course if the interviewee was on the final visit and had brought his or her own spouse, the spouse of the interviewer would be there. But it was also not uncommon if it were just the interviewee. When I was initially hired the interviewer brought her spouse to the dinner meeting.

      Later on when I was in charge of the search process, I usually invited a couple of other colleagues rather than having spouses, but it was not unusual to include spouses for some of these events.

    4. Demanding Excellence*

      I know of one company that does this because they are very “family friendly.” Most of their staff is married with children, and they tend to only hire people like this. I interviewed with the company and was told that the final interview would include my manager and his wife, and that I should bring my husband. The problem is that I’m not married. They wanted to make sure I was good culture fit. For what it’s worth, this company is pretty conservative (as am I) and has “traditional values” (you can read that as you like).

      I didn’t get the job.

      1. Kat M*

        Isn’t it illegal to make decisions based on marital status, because they can be seen as sex discrimination?

      2. The Strand*

        You know, it started out sounding like a great company (yay! they don’t discriminate against people with families!) and then by the end, the complete opposite.

  8. Anna Moose*

    #2 Did anyone else catch that OP2 manages her boss’ bills, home, AND life while the boss is on vacation? What the what???

    1. Sarahnova*

      Yes, I spotted that too and it only reinforced that the boss is abusive and that OP#2’s perspective has been warped into thinking this is normal.

      OP#2 – it’s at best very unusual for someone to have the job of managing someone else’s home life while they’re away and in this case, it’s a MASSIVE red flag and sign that your boss is controlling, abusive and unreasonable. Please do whatever you need to do to get out of this situation ASAP. If you don’t think you can manage two weeks after you give your resignation without taking it back, leave today. It’s not a great thing to do under normal circumstances, but these are NOT normal circumstances. Do what you need to do to get out and get your head straight.

      1. Natalie*

        Yes. There’s no reference to preserve here, so walk out the same day if you have to.

        1. Graciosa*

          That’s not really true. Even with a boss who amply exceeds the standards required to be a jerk, whether or not an individual employee conducts themselves professionally matters.

          The boss is not the only person involved here – there are always other people (co-workers, managers in other functions, customers, suppliers, delivery people, etc.) who see how the employee behaves. The world can be smaller that you think, and “Yeah, she really worked for a jerk, but then she walked out with no notice” is not a good reference. Leaving without notice can really damage you – I’m pretty doubtful about whether I’d take a chance on hiring someone who did this.

          Being able to say you offered the standard (in the U.S.) two-week notice is really, really important.

          If the boss really behaves intolerably *after* proper notice was given, it’s a lot easier to make an early exit with your professional reputation intact. Then the explanation is, “After I gave notice, it became clear that [my boss was unable to work professionally with me / whatever] during the notice period, so I was forced to leave earlier than intended, although I did [insert actions like preparing a desk manual, leaving files up to date, whatever] to ensure my successor would have as smooth a transition as possible into my former role.”

          But again, professional reputation is not (thankfully, in this case) solely dependent upon the boss’ opinion. I have given references to former colleagues in different functions that I am certain helped them obtain well-deserved opportunities – and in a few cases, get out of really bad working situations not of their making. However, none of them behaved unprofessionally. I would not have done this – and risked my reputation by recommending them – for anyone who walked out without giving notice.

          1. Natalie*

            Absolutely, that would be ideal. But it sounds like the bosses’ craziness has really gotten into the letter writer’s head, and in that situation I’m not sure being around the boss post-notice, when the boss is apparently going to be *even more* out of line, is healthy or safe. As Sarahnova said, these aren’t normal circumstances.

          2. Liane*

            This is why Alison suggests in these situations giving the 2 weeks’ notice but being prepared to say, “I need to be treated civily during my notice. If that’s not possible, then today will be my final day” then following through if it doesn’t happen.
            You gave an acceptable notice but your boss opted to have you leave sooner.

            1. Graciosa*

              A nice simple summary explanation, and much better than mine!

              The problem is that it is very hard for an outsider to determine that a candidate’s lack of notice was a reasonable response to extraordinary circumstances rather than an unprofessional tantrum. Putting future interviewers in this position by not offering notice hurts the individual significantly enough that I would never recommend it absent actual physical harm (accompanied by police reports!).

              In all other cases, offering the notice even if you end up leaving earlier is an infinitely better option.

          3. Elizabeth West*

            It’s absolutely fine for the OP to walk out if the boss starts screaming, throwing things, etc. She can cover her ass by saying what Alison advised –“I would like to work my notice period, but if we can’t do this civilly, this will be my last day”–but she is not obligated to stay and endure continued (and maybe worse) abuse. I think that is what people are saying.

          4. Marcela*

            The problem with this line of thought is that you should have gained your colleagues’ good references before you are put on the spot to leave without notice (I mean you offer two weeks, but the abuse gets so bad you have to leave inmediately after telling your boss you are quiting: not that you go to lunch one day and never come back). This is even more relevant if your whole office knows about the outrageous behavior of the boss. Because in the end, if my professional reputation is going to suffer such a blow because in a clear abuse situation I left without a notice, I’d think I didn’t have that good reputation in the first place.

    2. Rebecca*

      Yes, I was just going to comment on that! OP2 needs to get out of this ASAP. And the boss needs to manage her own life, or hire someone else to do it. That’s way to familiar for my taste.

    3. BethRA*

      I was just about the comment on that. So the Boss is unreasonable, abusive AND has inappropriate boundaries? Woohoo! Triple play!

    4. Lily in NYC*

      If OP is a personal assistant, then these are normal duties. I’ve had a few jobs where I worked in the corporate office but managed my boss’ personal life as well. However, if that is not OP’s role, then yikes.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I have some duties like this as my bosses’ office and personal assistant. I have his SSN, DLN, DOB, and every number having anything whatsoever to do with his life, and I can rattle them off like they’re mine or my husband’s. I occasionally have to pick up the kids from school or meet a repairman at the house, or drive him to the airport (in his personal or the company vehicle). If I use my personal vehicle for any of his errands, I get mileage. That being said, I don’t pay his personal bills (except the ones that are funneled through the office as a business expense, such as country club membership and stuff like that). I think a many times an executive’s assistant in private business becomes a personal assistant in some matters, as well. Not at the university, though, where the execs (AKA deans, department heads, etc.) would be in trouble for using a state employee for their own personal business.

      2. OP2*

        Nope… not a personal assistant. It is PART of why I feel demeaned at work. Plus at work she asks me to do all the things she just doesn’t want to…. like make her a plate of food. I was beyond MAD when that happened. WTF???

        1. MashaKasha*

          What on earth… ordering an employee to make them a plate of food? how do these people ever get promoted to management?? Ugh, sorry OP2, I’d feel demeaned too!

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            how do these people ever get promoted to management??

            Everyone else, upper management included, is probably afraid of Ms. Crazy McBossypants. I think people like that steamroll over boundaries because deep down they know that if anyone stopped to think about it, they’d realize how ridiculous their demands are.

            1. OP2*

              100% true. Plus she is passive aggressive which is awesome. (Sarcasm) Instead being passive aggressive just gives her more ammo and makes it more difficult to confront her.

          2. The IT Manager*

            how do these people ever get promoted to management??

            She was the owner of the business so she put herself in charge.

        2. Artemesia*

          ‘fix a plate’ is one of my hot button things for some reason. I have mostly encountered it in seriously sexist relationships where the wifey is expected to ‘fix a plate’ for her husband. Often this is demanded by the inlaws in attempts to get the wife ‘in line’. Fix a plate is a power play.

          And yes, I have fixed my husband’s plate on occasion like a family event where he is managing the kids meal and so I get his plate going through the buffet line. And of course each of us fixes the other plate at home since we serve plated meals rather than family style and so whoever cooks fixes the plates.

          But ‘fix a plate’ as in serve the other person because you are subordinate is well just plane creepy and definitely about power. I am obviously a bit of a crank on this topic.

          1. Melissa*

            I married into a somewhat stereotypical Southern family that kind-of has these expectations. The funny thing is that my husband does not, and actually hates it. So the conversation always goes with me asking my husband syrupy-sweet if he wants me to make him a plate, and him scowling and saying “No.” and then me just smiling. Because I’m being so submissive, see?

            …the thing is, I actually wouldn’t mind fixing my husband a plate of food (and do it all the time at home), I just don’t like the expectation that I’m supposed to put food on a grown man’s plate.

            1. Stephanie*

              Uggggggh, my parents are like this (also Southern). For the most part, I’d say they’re pretty equitable partners…but “fix a plate” is one of the lone holdovers. My dad grew up with his grandmother and various aunties who did this and still has this expectation at times. My dodge is just to feign ignorance (or be like “There’s some stew I made on the stove if you want some”) or intentionally make something I know he won’t eat (like a vegetarian stir fry–my dad eats like Ron Swanson). It does come to a head a bit when some of my relatives who really adopt this mantra visit and tell my mom “Why aren’t you making [Dad’s hilariously embarrassing childhood nickname] a sandwich or something? He said he was hungry.”

              Like you, I don’t necessarily mind on occasion, I just dislike the expectation. It’s like “Soooo, I managed to get into the kitchen and figure out a way to get myself fed. Can you do the same?”

              1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                I can’t help but fill in “dingaling” for [hilariously embarrassing childhood nickname] — from the other post today :-)

            2. Anonymusketeer*

              Yep. We usually make our own plates at dinner. I’d be happy to make my husband a plate if he asked, especially if he was tied up on the phone or working or really into his TV show, because I like doing nice things for him and making a plate is easy.

              But it sure as heck is not my *job* to make him a plate, nor is it my function in this relationship.

              You know who made my plates growing up? My mom. I am not my husband’s mother.

          2. Chinook*

            “‘fix a plate’ is one of my hot button things for some reason. I have mostly encountered it in seriously sexist relationships where the wifey is expected to ‘fix a plate’ for her husband.”

            I had one grandmother who was liberal for her time but would fall back into how she was raised without realizing it. Her reaction was priceless the first time DH and I stayed with her and she asked why I didn’t make him his toast. I looked at her, confused, and said “why? he is perfectly capable.” She laughed, said of course he was and never brought it up again. It was always odd to see how she was raised creep in out of no where. (This would be the same woman who asked me, at 28 and single, why didn’t I want to make her a great-grandmother. I pointed out I lived in a military town and, if she gave me 9 months, I could probably make it happen. She was speechless but never brought it up again.)

            1. Stephanie*

              (This would be the same woman who asked me, at 28 and single, why didn’t I want to make her a great-grandmother. I pointed out I lived in a military town and, if she gave me 9 months, I could probably make it happen. She was speechless but never brought it up again.)


          3. beachlover*

            Same here. When I was first married, my mom would ask me, aren’t you going to fix your husband a plate? My response was always “What did something happen to his feet since we got here?” Now, I would ask him if he wanted me to, just because it was something nice to do for him. But don’t make it my job or expect it. On the other hand, I do not usually let anyone fix me a plate, because I am choosy about certain foods and the way they are prepared. I will try almost anything, but I am particular about some salads, like Potato, and the way it is prepared.

          4. Marcela*

            It’s not exactly the same thing, but for my parents and my in laws, it is such an affront that my husband, not me, cooks at home. Because he likes it. When they visit, they ask me all the time what I’m going to cook, knowing I don’t cook, hence I don’t decide what to eat. Every time I answer “I have no idea. Ask [Husband]”. Once my mother offered me to cook, saying that she was willing to do it, so my “poor husband” didn’t have to. Politely, he said “no way”. And once we arrived to our place after work, only to find that my father in law’s girlfriend (they were visiting) had cooked dinner for the same reason. We were outraged and told them in no uncertain terms that they could not do anything at our home without asking (mostly because I hated what she cooked: she wasn’t a good cook).

            1. Artemesia*

              LOL. I think my mother dreamed of having a grown daughter she could trade recipes with (of course to achieve this she should have made cooking fun when I was growing up instead of fixing every mistake I made or redoing anything that didn’t look perfect which caused me to simply avoid anything she did — I don’t sew either.) When it was my husband who was the enthusiastic cook, it completely threw her for a loop.

              I will say though that even she didn’t ‘fix a plate’ for my Dad. He never cooked but if it was family style or buffet, he made his own dang plate.

              I did my career in the south where ‘fix a plate’ is just one of many ways women are kept in their place. One of the first times I was at an event where men ordered their women to ‘bring me a piece of pie’ or ‘get me another beer’ or whatever, I actually thought they were being silly and ironic. I could not imagine someone behaving like that in seriousness — silly me.

          5. Cath in Canada*

            My husband and I share the cooking, and whoever cooks usually serves the food for both of us. The only time I’ve ever “fixed him a plate” at a buffet was when he was on crutches with a broken leg :)

            1. Rana*

              Yup, that’s how we usually work it. The cook serves the food. If we’re at a buffet or potluck, we serve ourselves – though if one of us is doing something that makes it tricky (like looking after our toddler) the other person will bring back a plate for the otherwise occupied adult upon request.

        3. The Strand*

          Oh really?

          In light of that, I would say, 2 weeks be damned. It’s all about the money now. Once you get the offer, and you have the money you need, make sure you can line up someone inside who will give you a good reference (not your boss), make sure your coworkers have whatever they need to continue. Then quit.

          Someone this crazy cannot be depended on to give you a good reference or behave rationally. I think the only loyalty or concern you need to have now is on your fellow coworkers, within reason.

        4. Ruffingit*

          I once knew someone who worked as a receptionist and her boss not only required her to make a plate of food, but also to cut the food for her. WTF??? Unfortunately, boss was also owner of the company so no one to complain to.

    5. The IT Manager*

      YES! It’s weird. She says at one point boss was the business owner, but she’s not anymore (although the only difference seems to be boss is not signing checks).

      The managing her home life – does it only occur when she’s away? LW is this clearly part of your job? Does it makes sense given your position (executive assistant perhaps)? Or did this crazy, demanding woman just pile this on you because she can?

      This does make quitting while she’s on vacation more difficult. It does, however, sound like it’s not part of your normal job description (since it is only when she is gone) so you could quit and still continue to do whatever you agreed to do for her that must continue ie feed pets, water plants, pay urgent bills after work hours. It’s just weird, but that doesn’t sound like part of a normal job; it’s the kind of favor you do for a friend and since you agreed to do it, you should follow through with what you agreed to do since she’s not around to get someone else. This bridge is going to get burnt, but I don’t think you should sabotage any of her personal business unless she gets in such a snit that she releases you from the duties.

      1. Anonymusketeer*

        I have to disagree with your last paragraph. Two weeks’ notice (or a week, since it sounds like the vacation would start during the notice period) should be plenty of time for the boss to find someone else to feed her pets or water her plants.

        This boss has demonstrated that she’s abusive and toxic. Abusive, toxic bosses don’t get the courtesy of help from a former employee who’s now working somewhere else.

        1. The IT Manager*

          Depending on the timing! If the boss takes a three week vacation, and LW gives 2 weeks notice on day 1 so she’s won’t be around for the last week of the boss’s vacation which has already started <– that's a potentially dick move. It depends if the stuff LW is taking care of can wait or not – I mean do not abandon pets you're taking care of.

          If possible LW should get out of the extra personal service duty now before the boss leaves on vacation and then problem solved.

          Problem is this duty is just so weird to be included as part of employment if you are not a maid.

          1. JoJo*

            Running the boss’s home life is not the LW’s responsibility. I’d wait until the Boss’s first day of vacation, give notice, if the boss gets abusive, quit on the spot. And don’t, under any circumstances, tell anyone at the office where you’re going.

          2. Observer*

            No, no no!

            Two weeks is enough time for the boss to find someone to do anything else that MUST be done, unless she’s left bills to the last minute, etc. In which case, that’s HER problem, not the OP’s.

            The only possible exception is the pets – IF and ONLY IF the boss is going to be in a place with no telephone reception. Boss may be crazy, but leaving pets to starve is cruel.

      2. Artemesia*

        NO NO NO. Absolutely do not continue to provide pet and plant service and bill paying on this vacation. She needs a clean break. When she gives notice, she needs to be clear that she cannot perform this function on the upcoming vacation. “I won’t be able to do that since I will be leaving halfway through your vacation, so you will need to make other arrangements.” “That is why I am letting you know now, I will not be able to do that.”

        And don’t do it the first week of vacation and then have to scramble to find someone for her or continue so Fido gets fed. This is OVER the moment notice is given so she has time to make other arrangements.

        Clean break. No personal bowing and scraping after the notice period.

      3. OP2*

        I was thinking about helping her through the end of this vacation, but I am definitely thinking that is a big NO NO now. Why? So she can continue to pile it large and high for an extended amount of time? I think a clean break IS the best way to go.

        I am also going to have to steel myself and become immune to the dreaded guilt trip. Not looking forward to that either…

        1. Artemesia*

          Have a few stock phrases starting with a pleasant but firm ‘Oh that is not going to be possible.’ And resist the need to explain why. Don’t let this job cling like dog crap to your shoes smelling up your new life indefinitely. When you leave, be gone. Leave a list of passwords, instructions etc and if anyone calls from the office refer them to it. After the first month block those calls.

        2. JoJo*

          You don’t owe her a thing. You’ve been taking crap long enough. Just leave. Her domestic arrangement aren’t your problem or responsibility.

    6. Lia*

      My mom worked for a boss like this some years back. By the end of her tenure there (maybe 3-4 years), mom was spending about 25% of her on-the-job time running personal errands for the boss (in mom’s car!) — everything from picking up dry cleaning and prescriptions to depositing boss’s paycheck into 4 different banks — cash it at one, then make deposits at 4 others. Mom finally snapped when she got in a car accident (she literally got hit by a bus — she is OK now!) on one of these errands and initially, the employer’s insurance refused to cover the costs because boss said mom had “offered” to do the errands and was not on the clock.

      It got resolved, messily, and then mom started looking for another job and luckily landed on her feet elsewhere. She offered 2 weeks notice, but walked after 2 days.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Wow, that’s horrifying. Making her do personal errands off the clock *and* then trying to get the company to deny insurance coverage when she was *hit by a bus* doing this because she’d “offered”?

        It infuriates me that someone that selfish, ungrateful, irresponsible, and just plain mean is a (probably well-paid and securely employed) manager.

    7. The Strand*

      Yes, hopefully the OP2 did not miss Artemesia’s great advice upthread about putting a stop to it while the boss is on vacation, the minute she gets the offer in writing.

  9. Cheesecake*

    These events are called “family” in the absence of a better name. It means “not employees only”. So yes i am sure you can bring your boyfriend or your sister, but in doubt ask organizer.

    I am a married woman and don’t attend these family events because ours target kids and are usually held somewhere at amusement parks or zoo (farm). And even though i love animals, i don’t want to spend my day off with kids (that is why i don’t have mine). Not a big deal. So i think you need to decide if you want/need to be there in first place.

    1. Jeanne*

      Not necessarily. My company had a “family” picnic. It was held at a place with lots of things for kids to do and had great food. People brought spouses, kids, and many, many grandchildren. I am not married and have no children. I signed up to bring one niece and they freaked out. They told me it was not allowed. I don’t believe boyfriends were allowed unless that was your only guest. I had no boyfriend. I protested because some workers were bringing 7 or 8 people and that was ok because they were direct descendants but one niece was taboo. The next year there were some changes to the picnic policy but someone had to speak up first.

      1. Cheesecake*

        Funny enough we had this case at previous org (also with the niece!). And the sole reason employee wanted to bring niece is because she was supposed to baby sit her that day, so she thought winwin. This was a big deal for the assistant who organized the event to the point that employee refused to come at all. Next year the job was given to someone else and this bloodline check nonsense stopped. But that is why i said “if in doubt – always ask”

    2. OP #1*

      Thank you for clarifying the “family only!”

      Unfortunately, I think it probably looks good to the company for me show up to these events sometimes. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother at all. My situation is that my day to day work is done on a client site with no interaction with my company. Now if they had an event that was ONLY aimed at kids, I wouldn’t go.

      1. Cheesecake*

        Ok, then i agree with you – do attend. In my experience in 90% of time “family event” does not mean your immediate family, but you obviously can’t bring 10 relatives along. But it never hurts to ask (or if you need to sign up – do and they will come back to you).

        I do attend other events with my husband like Xmas party (+1 allowed), but i must say i am not a fan because i need to entertain him since he doesn’t know anyone and it is not easy for him to chat to random “strangers” and can’t socialize with the colleagues same as if he wasn’t there.

        1. just another techie*

          The policy at my work is spouse/cohabiting domestic partner + as many of your own under-18 children as you want; or one guest who can be anyone.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        You can show up and eat and then bail for an “appointment.” :)

        I never showed up to Exjob’s family day at the kid-themed eatery, either. I figured, why bother when I didn’t have a family, plus my supervisor clued me in that if I showed up, Bosswife would expect me to work! Nope!

    3. MashaKasha*

      Agree. My current company doesn’t have this kind of events, but at old jobs, no one asked for a marriage certificate or anything. I actually think that our invites said “significant other” not “spouse”, but not 100% sure, as it’s been years.

      Many years ago, Old Job had a family picnic and I brought my husband and two children, ages 4 and 7 at the time. There were a ton of kiddie activities at the picnic, including a water ballon fight. Not even five minutes after we got out of the car, a water balloon landed in a mud puddle right next to my husband and exploded, like water balloons do. Poor Husband was covered in mud from head to toe, but didn’t want to cut the kids’ fun day short (we’d driven 30 miles to get there, so popping back home to change and coming back to the picnic afterwards was out of the question), so he sat in the car for an hour or so while our sons ran around and helped themselves to picnic food, and then we all left. So I agree, OP, you might want to check what kind of a “family” event this is, and skip it if it involves kiddie activities.

    4. Development professional*

      Yeah, a boyfriend, a sister, a niece, in most instances all fine for events marked “family”. What I do think is not always welcome is bringing a “date” i.e. I don’t want to go alone so I’ve picked someone to go with me, either a romantic interest or just a friend, but not someone I have an ongoing steady relationship with. It might be ok for a grownups holiday party, but not always even those. And I think it definitely could look weird for a family picnic kind of thing.

  10. Cheesecake*

    Burn this bridge with fire, OP2! Based on your description i am not sure you get anything from this arrangement apart from ongoing headache. No matter what you do your boss will be negative. Be professional in the way you handle your resignation, but resign.

    1. LBK*

      Yes, agreed – it doesn’t sound like there’s anything you could ever do to salvage this reference or keep this bridge in tact. Just get it over with; burn it down and move on.

    2. Kai*

      Yes! OP, give your two weeks, but have your belongings from your desk packed up ahead of time in case you need to leave the same day.

  11. Workfromhome*

    Since the two week notice period may run into Mr. Abusive Boss vacation take advantage of it. See if your new job will let you move the start date a few days to accommodate it.

    You could:
    1. Wait until the boss leaves for 3 weeks and then hand your resignation into the next in line person the next day. Serve out your 2 weeks and then be gone before they come back. You are under no obligation to respond to any abuse the boss hurls at you when they return regarding 6 months notice. once you are gone you are gone.
    2. I don’t advise it but some people may see waiting tll they are gone as cowardly (I DO NOT!) but you could resign face to face near the end of the day before boss leaves. Its probably going to be pretty ugly but at least you can feel you did it face to face ,deal with the one episode of ranting and then be gone before they return. Unless this person is over the top looney they won’t cancel their 3 weeks simply to make your last 2 hell. If they do then it would be appropriate to cut the notice short to avoid what is already an abusive situation.

    Get out of there. I would not be the least bit concerned about references. Somone who demands 6 months notice isn’t going to give you a good reference no matter what you do. Even if you gave them 7 months I’ll bet they would screw you over on a reference just bcuase its their nature.

    1. Camellia*

      And block her calls and texts, if she has your personal number, and her emails too. She does not deserve any of your time or attention after you leave.

    2. Dasha*

      If the boss is a bully then I think this is perfectly acceptable. Otherwise no, but for this situation it might be best. It sounds like they’ve really twisted your thoughts, OP. :(

    3. Anony-moose*

      Recently, a former colleague who worked for a very abusive boss quit to the second-in-command and made clear that she wouldn’t participate in an exit interview which really said “I am not willing to tolerate his abuse and won’t speak to him.” She didn’t report to him, so I imagine she was able to serve out her last two weeks in relative peace. It sounds like that’s not possible here, though.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        Wait. At your colleague’s company, exit interviews _have the boss present_?

        Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of an exit interview?

  12. Advances, None Miraculous*

    On #3, because I’d hate for one jerk to be outshined by another.

    Put yourself in the shoes of this manager. Taking money from staff who are paid less than you, with the explicit aim of spending it on someone who has zero need to begin with, for the dual purposes of ingratiating yourself and belittling others? Like, even if that were your thought process, to spell it out explicitly is all kinds of messed up.

    Since there’s a conflict of interest between the manager getting financially and socially rewarded and coaching/supporting their staff to do the right thing, it really makes me wonder how good the manager is at their actual job. If I were to take a wild guess, I’d say not very.

    1. Graciosa*

      I think the boss here does not realize that the goal of a good manager (even assuming this system of fines was involved, which it should not be, but just for the sake of argument) should be to have the amount of the fines in the pool be as small as possible.

      When things are not getting done in your area, you, as a manager, are ultimately responsible.

      Saying to the company owner, “Look at the amount I’ve collected in fines from every instance of work not being completed properly and on time” is saying “Look at the evidence of my inability to do my job.”

      1. LBK*

        Great point. Hopefully the boss’s boss is good enough to understand this gesture for what it is – a meaningless suck up attempt that ultimately underscores how incompetent the manager is.

    2. Anna*

      I’m trying to wrap my head around how these fines are being administered. Who collects them? Are they in cash/checks? If so, how on earth do you know it’s going to what the managers says they’re going to and not just in to her pocket? I can’t think of a single instance where this would be even remotely okay. This is one of those times when Alison’s oft suggested response of, “Oh! I didn’t realize you were being serious! How funny!” would be completely appropriate.

      1. Van Wilder*

        It sounds like the manager is just pocketing cash. I wonder if the owner knows that money is being taken out of her employees’ checks. It doesn’t sound like it’s going back into the company’s books. Are the employees going to be taxed on the full amount that they didn’t even get to keep?

        1. Anna*

          But it *would* be illegal if the manager was actually deducting it from their paychecks. Even a legal garnishment has to come with paperwork authorizing it from a judge. So the only thing I can think of is that she’s insisting they give her cash and that makes it worse; not only is she likely just pocketing the money (hey, thanks for the Starbucks!) but they feel like they have to give it to her and I get a feeling they do not. They should tell her collectively no, they won’t be doing that anymore. She can’t fire them all. I mean, she could, but it would be REALLY hard to justify it.

  13. Katie the Fed*

    #2 – I almost missed this gem! “This complicates things even more as I manage her bills/home/life while she is out.”

    Uh, whaaaaa? She’s using a company employee to manage her home life?

    She sounds like an absolute tyrant. Put in your 2 weeks today and don’t think a second thought about it. Have your important things removed BEFORE you tell her, so you’re free to bounce the second she says/does anything unprofessional.

    1. NJ anon*

      Indeed! LW, you will be amazed when you begin working at\for a normal work place. This is not normal! Steel yourself, get it over with, move on and don’t look back! Best of luck to you!

    2. Aunt Vixen*

      NB while the boss is out, OP2 should not, repeat, not move into the boss’s house, wear her clothes to a networking event, and steal her boyfriend. Not even if she manages to broker a captain of industry’s acquisition of a radio network.

  14. Ann Furthermore*

    #3: About the only courtesy you owe this harpy is not giving your notice while she’s on vacation (although man, I would be tempted to do just that in this situation). Stay as professional as you can, and then you can look back later and at least know that you maintained composure in the face of difficult circumstances.

    Give your notice as soon as you reasonably can, and like Katie the Fed said above, make sure you’ve taken all of your personal belongings home (or at least to your car) before you give your notice. That way if she explodes, you can scoot when her behavior becomes too bad to tolerate. And before you leave, try to create a list of phone numbers, passwords, and other training materials for the poor soul who does step into your job. That way, you can leave feeling good about how you wrapped things up, and you don’t have to look back.

    1. LBK*

      It would be really tempting to just disappear while she was on vacation – no notice, no nothing, she just comes in on Monday and your desk is cleaned out.

      1. Liane*

        Please, no! Remember, just a couple days ago, many commenters were all over an OP because, due to bad wording, it appeared they had cut notice short without communicating to anyone! Because yes, that would have been wrong and unprofessional. (For those who missed, this OP clarified they hadn’t said anything in person, but had emailed)

        So, please, take Alison’s advice, OP2, and then if it helps, fantasize about doing what LBK suggested (facetiously, I’m sure) and the resulting trouble you won’t have to endure.

        1. LBK*

          Oh, yeah, absolutely. I don’t think it’s a good idea to actually do it, but it’s a fun fantasy to entertain.

      2. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Yep. And to have her come back to a pile of unpaid bills, since you said you take care of her personal business. (I’d make sure her pets were fed, for their sake rather than hers, but other than that it would be soooo much fun to just disappear.)

    2. Observer*

      Why does she even owe the boss this? Two weeks is standard, and you really can’t expect her to put a new job at risk over this.

    3. Colette*

      I think she can give her notice while the boss is gone, if that’s when she accepts the other offer. Otherwise she’d have to delay her start date at the new job for potentially five weeks (3 weeks vacation + notice). I don’t think the OP should try to delay her notice to coincide with the vacation, but it’s possible that it will work out that way.

  15. Mutt*

    OP 2, could you make sure you have someone else in the room with you when you resign? Do you have an HR department, you could ask one of them to join you I the meeting?

    Having someone else there might temper her initial reaction. She’ll probably still find a way to yell, but at least with that first meeting, you can resign and set some ground rules with someone else as a witness so you’re not all alone.

    What you are doing is the most reasonable thing in the world, but it’s really hard to see when you’ve been abused for so long. It may also help to practice the conversation with a friend or family, and perhaps go to a counselor to help you recover from this nightmare.

    I’m sorry you’ve suffered through this for so long, but it’s time to go and discover a better future and a better, more assertive you.

    1. Mike C.*

      It’s not a terrible suggest, but with bosses like these, an audience only means there are more people to watch the temper tantrum.

  16. The Other Dawn*

    #2: As the Godfather would say, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” Give your two weeks notice, which is the norm for resigning, and don’t let your boss get to you. If she decides to go ballistic, demean you, and be a general ass hat, that’s on her, not you. She will be the one making it personal (and don’t even get me started on the fact that you have to manager her life while she’s on vacation!), not you. Repeat to yourself: it’s not personal, it’s business.

    And take that offer if it’s what you want. Take it and don’t look back.

    1. OP2*

      It is business and not personal…. but she blurred the lines years ago and made it so hard for me to see the distinction between the two. It is all becoming so clear now! If she doesn’t get it, that is her problem! *whew… that feels good to say!*

      1. JoJo*

        I wouldn’t go to her house ever again. It’s not your responsibility to feed her pets. Text her to find other arrangements and ignore any guilt trips.

  17. HRish Dude*

    #2 Outside of academia and like professional sports, six months is asinine. Most jobs aren’t going to wait six months for you to start. The entire point of a notice period to is to close out your current tasks and get everything passed along to the people who will be doing them after you leave. You don’t take on anything new, you don’t start anything new. You close out and get ready to move on. A mandatory six-month notice period implies that it is the company’s expectation that everyone be six months behind on their work.

    As far as asking whether you should turn the job down because your boss will explode…no. No. No. No. No. No. I had a terrible boss my first go out of college and even with a succession of amazing bosses, I still get worried that I will get crucified for each little mistake like I was at my first job with my first boss. As many stories as we see here, you have to remember that most people do not scream and yell and belittle their employees. People do not write Alison for advice about their behaving managers but believe me, while all managers have their flaws, I believe that most of them know how to human.

  18. Revolver Rani*

    #1 – I would definitely ask if you are not sure, as some of the other commenters have suggested not all companies take a loose meaning of “family.”

    My company has a big yearly event to which employees can bring guests. The policy is that you can bring one adult guests plus your own children. There is an RSVP form for the event (as there must be for your company’s dinner; you can’t organize such an event without a headcount), and it gives you room to specify your “one adult guest.” The company does not audit or care who your adult guest is.

    That seems sane and normal to me – it seems unnecessarily nosy-bodied and also discriminatory to exclude guests who for whatever reason don’t happen to be a legal spouse. But, my company is on the scale of things a fairly sane and rational and open-minded employer. Since other commenters have suggested not all are such, I think the safest course is, as Allison suggested, for you to ask someone you trust.

  19. Mike C.*

    RE OP2:

    Screw your two weeks notice. You know this boss will bad mouth you no matter how much notice you give, so just leave. I’ve been in your shoes, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, professionally, for the sake of my own mental health and those I lived with.

    Two weeks notice is for normal workplaces. Workplaces that don’t grind their employees to dirt with emotional manipulation and abuse, that don’t inspire fear. You’ve been worn down and on the inside for too long. Leave once you have that offer letter, block the phone and emails and get on with your life.

    This isn’t unprofessional, your boss hasn’t earned the privilege of a notice period.

    1. Graciosa*

      I understand your frustration, and I do empathize with the OP – but this kind of action will hurt her more in the long run.

      We are judged by our own behavior, including whether or not we provide the normal professional notice. Even when a company has universally fired anyone who offered notice immediately, the advice has been to offer the standard notice on your last day instead of two weeks earlier and wait two seconds for the inevitable reaction, knowing that you can at least claim to have behaved professionally.

      There are circumstances where the response to normal notice is so bad that it excuses the individual from working the full notice offered – but that’s after it’s offered.

      Behaving unprofessionally tells other people who you are. I want the boss to suffer the consequences of her behavior – being known as a $&*#, losing good employees – without the OP suffering as well. If she allows the boss to push her into behaving unprofessionally, the entire conversation changes. The boss can now say truthfully that the OP walked out without notice -a pretty grievous professional sin.

      As far as reputation goes, this would mean the OP loses and the boss wins. I don’t like that outcome.

      1. Anna*

        I don’t think in this specific case though the boss will EVER give the OP a good reference. I’m willing to bet the boss will view any notice that isn’t the 6 months she originally said it had to be as “not giving notice.” The OP should take the high road, but not for the reasons you mentioned. It would be better for her to know she took the high road, but there is not really going to be a professional reputation to salvage in this case. The boss is not rational so any discussion of a rational outcome isn’t really right for this situation.

      2. Mike C.*

        Can you explain to me why it looks unprofessional for someone to leave an abusive relationship without two weeks’ notice? Why should anyone sit through further abuse rather than just getting up and leaving right now?

    2. Graciosa*

      My original reply seems to have gotten lost, so I hope it doesn’t pop up later and make this a duplicate – apologies if it does.

      Short version: The OP is the one who will be hurt by this, for the reasons I described above. The damage she will suffer as a result of letting her boss push her to behave unprofessionally is not worth it. If the boss behaves badly during the notice period then she can leave early and keep her reputation intact – a win for her.

  20. Graciosa*

    To the OP in #2, you can probably see from the strong, clear, and universal feedback that we all agree leaving is your best course of action. I want to talk to you about what happens after – not the boss’ reaction or working out your notice period, but when you start your new job.

    You have been working in an environment that really screwed up your ideas of what is normal in an employment relationship. You probably understand that your current situation is not a good one and needs to change, but I’m not sure you fully realize how truly horrific it is.

    Once you get out of that environment, you may have moments of euphoria in your new one when something that would have triggered your old boss gets a normal – relatively indifferent – reaction from your new one, and you glory in the realization that you escaped successfully. You may have moments of panic and terror when your new boss says something that would – if coming from your old boss – have been a warning of the need to brace yourself for attack.

    These feelings may – oddly enough – be stronger now that you are actually out of the situation and it’s safer for you to feel them. You may suddenly find yourself frightened by the sense that your responses no longer seem to match what you perceive as cues from your environment. As odd as it is, a new job may be traumatic in its own right – as much as you hated it, your old job was predictable. It’s amazing how human beings can find ways to normalize truly terrible situations, and your normal is about to change again.

    I am NOT saying this in any way to discourage you from leaving – you must, must, MUST get out. I am saying this because you should not be surprised if you experience any issues with adjusting to your new job as a result of the abuse you suffered in the old one. I really hope you don’t – and I’d be thrilled if you only experienced the euphoria and none of the down sides – but you need a plan for coping with the change if you do, and it should not include wondering if you’re going crazy (you’re not) or re-experiencing trauma every time your new boss says something triggering, but perfectly normal.

    If your new job has an EAP, I would suggest you take advantage of it as soon as possible and find a good counselor to help you work through this. You have spent three years in an abusive relationship, and you’re going to have to jump into a new one immediately. A good counselor can help you devise strategies to cope with any reactions you have, and help you learn to assess what is appropriate to this type of relationship and manage your boundaries.

    It is just as important to get professional help in making sure you’re properly healing from an injury to your psyche as an injury to your body. If you don’t need any, that would be fantastic – but please make sure you get it if you do.

    Take care of yourself, and please follow up with Alison and let us know how you’re doing post-transition.

    1. Liane*

      Thank you for providing this. Now OP has good advice for what comes next as well as their first step of getting out.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I second that.

      I was at one company for 17 years and it was mostly great. The business closed unfortunately so I had to move on. I then spent 10 months of misery in a job I hated for many reasons. Then I got out and into a great company with a great team and a fantastic boss. But in those short 10 months I learned to be wary of and avoid the boss, ask permission for things I shouldn’t need to, be a clock watcher, be careful about certain things, etc. It took me awhile in this new job to adjust and my boss kept telling me, “No you don’t need to ask/tell me, just do it!” I’m now OK after 6 months, but the first couple months were tough.

    3. Dana*

      This is amazing to point out. I was in a controlling/abusive relationship and then moved into a completely normal and healthy one (and still am!). My new boyfriend and I went to the theater to see Avatar in 3-D the last weekend before it was released on DVD. He bought tickets, bought snacks, we got in our seats, but they ended up screwing up the dates and not being able to play the movie. They told us to just give our ticket stubs to the concierge to get a refund. New boyfriend had ticket stub, but for the life of me I couldn’t find mine. I nearly had a panic attack because old boyfriend would have been FURIOUS and this would have been a major fight. I think I was hyperventilating and sat on the floor and dumped my purse out searching for it and was seriously considering sifting through the trash can for my ticket stub. New boyfriend was pretty confused and horrified at my reaction and told me it was only $X, it wasn’t a big deal. I was so warped that I was close to tears when we went to the concierge and they gave him cash for his ticket and a movie pass for me (they just couldn’t give cash if you didn’t have your stub).

      I had to work hard to stop a lot of weird habits that were from the bad relationship but I’m much healthier now.

      1. Petronella*

        I know exactly what you’re talking about. I’ve experienced the going from abusive to good, in work and in personal relationships.

      2. Lindsay J*

        Yeah, I had a moment like that.

        I was recently out of a bad relationship, and was meeting a new guy after work. First, I got stuck at work late. Then, as soon as I got to my house to see him, my manager called me and made me run across town to run an errand. My ex would have thrown a fit, and probably wouldn’t have been there when I got back from running the errand.

        I was braced for anger and ready to apologize 100 times when I got back.

        Instead, he was fairly indifferent. He empathized with me that my boss was annoying, and then we got on with our evening without a second thought about it.

        It took me awhile for me to be able to breath when I was a minute late for something or I spilled my drink or some other minor gaffe that would have been a major one in my previous relationship.

    4. OP2*

      Thank you for this! I had not thought about how traumatic this might be in my next job! Great advise!

    5. Katherine*

      Thank you for this post. I am about to leave an abusive job and have been worried about how I will feel afterward. This is helpful for me to be prepared for some conflicting/ out of proportion feelings.

  21. Ty*

    #3 The behavior of the manager bothers me — a lot. This is the luggage store where the person is working part time? And that worker is being charged(!) — CHARGED! — for what sound like really arbitrary things. Anyone can say this display needs to be dusted more, or, repositioned like this. And what paperwork does a retail sales person selling luggage need to complete that can possibly be the incorrect paperwork? I don’t know. This really sounds wrong to me. I’ve worked so much retail (as well as in hospitality) and never once come across an employer who “charged” for any mistake, nevermind for things like this.

    1. Ty*

      I just wanted to add, there’s so much difference between office workers and service workers that it’s shocking. I wonder if the answer to OP #3’s question would be different if the manager were charging an office worker for every time they caught them on Facebook or any non-work-related website, or for not putting the receipts for a check request in an envelope, or for failing to put the scoop to the ice back in this place instead of that.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        The manager’s _stated actions_, namely, using the fine money to wine-and-dine her boss, is pretty much just “pocketing the fines” with a different name.

  22. Yep*

    #1 – Yeah, you should be totally fine. I have a coworker who has been with her boyfriend for over eight years with no marriage plans – I would be shocked if someone tried to stop her from bringing her boyfriend to a work event. Not that you’ve necessarily been dating your boyfriend for that long, but for all they know you might have – it’s no one’s business. I’ve also seen people bring their niece or another family member to an event. As long as your boyfriend doesn’t get wasted or something, I’m sure it’s A-OK. ;-)

    #2 – Please don’t let your jerk of a boss stop you from taking this offer. The bottom line is this is going to be a really sucky conversation, but it has to happen. Maybe have plans for that evening to treat yourself a little, so you have something to look forward to after the s*** hits the fan. A drink with a girlfriend, a movie with your SO, etc.

    1. E*

      Just noticed for #2 that this is a “pending” offer. I’d wait until it is final and in writing. Then you might let the new job know that there might be a possibility of starting in less than 2 weeks if your resignation is not taken well. Or you might end up with a nice quiet 2 weeks to yourself between jobs.

  23. Anonymusketeer*

    I would not want to work at a company with such a narrow definition of “family” that a serious boyfriend would be verboten at what’s supposed to be a fun work event. I also wouldn’t love a “family day” that was pretty much exclusively kids’ activities, but I could get over it, I guess.

  24. Cheesehead*

    Re: #3, how ‘official’ are these fines? That is, do you have to pay them out of your pocket, or are they deducted from your check? If they’re out of your pocket, can you refuse to pay them or ‘forget’? No matter how they are supposed to be paid, I think that you can ask for written documentation about the policy. “When I was hired, I was told that my compensation package would be X. I have never seen any written documentation about the extra deductions, nor clarification on the specific things for which I would be fined or the amounts of the fines. Should I be contacting Corporate HR about this or do you have a written copy of the policy?” You can add that, “I’m sure you understand….I need to know the policies beforehand so I can do my best to follow them, and if I’m not going to be paid my full wages, I need to know the exact reason why.”

    Sounds like this store manager needs some polite pushback. Sometimes people like this count on the underlings just falling in line, but they back down when they’re questioned and asked for clarification b/c they know they don’t have a leg to stand on. (Note my casual mention of ‘Corporate HR’.)

  25. Alice*

    Does anyone else hate all the ads as much as I do? They are distracting, there are so many of them and they keep scrolling my page down when I am reading and typing.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Alison’s gotta “pay the rent”, as they say. She doesn’t have to defend it – but I will.

      The ads allow her to continue operating this page.

      1. Alice*

        I understand that completely, however, they seem to be acting up. I don’t think my comment needed to be defended against. She always says to speak up when something doesn’t seem to be working technologically on the site. This morning I got so frustrated because the page kept refreshing or something and I couldn’t read anything and reading is the whole point of the site. I was just curious if anyone else had the same issue or new a way to get around it I guess.

          1. Alice*

            Thanks! This is actually helpful. I don’t always know much about computers so this may be obvious to to others but wasn’t to me.

        1. Dana*

          Not a computer person, but I read about a trick to keep ads from autoplaying recently. It’s for Chrome: Settings -> Show advanced Settings -> under Privacy click the button [Content settings…] -> under Plugins click “Detect and run important plugin content.

          I don’t know if that fixes everything, but I have seen a tremendous difference across all the sites I access.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, I’ve alerted my ad network, but it does seem like some degree of imperfectly working ads are always going to be the price of having them at all. I share your frustration, believe me, and you have my blessing to install an ad blocker if you’d like to.

      (And thank you, The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2!)

  26. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I see a lot of job:dating analogies AAM’s threads, so I’ll use one here.

    Quitting a lousy job and going to a better one is like dumping a lover because you’ve found someone you’re more compatible with.

    The breakup meeting can be painful. Then there’s a brighter day ahead. Think of the brighter day. If you get screamed at, walk out.

    We hear all these managerial guides, and online pages – about being professional when leaving a position. Unfortunately, because they’re written (often) by managers who tell you what they expect, they never deal with “what happens if the manager throws a tantrum when I resign?”

    Well, they wouldn’t throw one if they didn’t value you. And they are scared of the consequences of your departure. Most of all, they’re petrified over what you might say in the exit interview.

    Don’t sweat it. Just go. Look forward.

    1. Lindsay J*

      I almost think this is one of those areas where dating and work are different. (Though most of your point stands, I’m just taking it even further in that direction).

      Just because, I would feel like a person in a relationship that was always shopping around for “something better” was being a bad lover.

      However, a person in a job always shopping around for a better job (within reason) is perfectly acceptable.

  27. The Strand*

    For the OP with the crazy boss, I want to add on to Marcela’s comment about how, at this point, worrying about coworkers’ opinions of her professionalism isn’t necessarily worth 2 weeks more of this crap.

    The OP should focus on cold hard cash. In other words, do you have what you need? Don’t leave your coworkers hanging if you can, but no one says you have to do that from the office, or that you can’t write up a Word document covering all the things they’ll need to know. Not when you are so scared of your boss and her abuse that you’re actually questioning whether you should go to another position! (OP, are you seeing someone to talk about this? If you’re religious, do you have someone like a pastor or rabbi you could talk to?)

    I had a coworker at my last position who left under bad circumstances. His supervisor did horrible things, a passive-aggressive campaign to force him out… Reading other people’s annual review out loud to him, and telling him that he needed to be like other workers, was just the beginning.

    He was never going to get a reference from her, two weeks or not. I provided a reference to him before as did another employee, and it was right for him to quit when he did, even though he didn’t have something lined up. Within weeks he had lost a lot of weight, stopped needing so many metabolic drugs to manage his blood pressure, etc., and was doing much better. And he moved onto other positions. When I say that he didn’t have a heart attack because he quit when he did, I’m not being facetious – he had major personal and family risks that made him very, very sick.

    The terror campaign conducted by the OP’s boss is worse than what he was dealing with. So I’ll posit this. There comes a time when 2 weeks doesn’t matter, because you’re under so much emotional and physical stress.

    At some point you have to cut the crap and stop worrying about letting other people down, because you have to take care of yourself. Holding onto the “2 week notice” because it’s standard procedure, in a case like this, isn’t necessary. If you’re dead from a heart attack, brought on by stress and emotional abuse, how will your professional reputation with your colleagues matter?

    No, you should not run screaming through the office with a sword like Sulu in that episode of Star Trek. Or put a machete into a desk like that Captain Awkward letter. You should strive for professionalism. But I think OP, you’ve been through so much that unlike merely crappy locations to work, where you grit your teeth and keep showing up until the offer comes in, you could not be faulted for just. quitting.

  28. The Strand*

    For #3, had anyone considered that because – as you said, Alison – management wouldn’t let the supervisor pay for the meal anyway, that the supervisor would probably just pocket the moolah?

  29. Saucy Minx*

    OP2, can you drop the personal assistant stuff immediately, giving STB ex-boss notice that you will no longer be performing non-work activities for her benefit? If such things are not your duty, then have a practice run on the harpy by jettisoning her ridiculous demands.

    Also, do not endure a tantrum from her. If she so lacks dignity that she starts to indulge herself, that doesn’t mean you must participate or form an audience of one. Either leave immediately, or hold up your hand like a traffic cop & tell her “Stop! This is not acceptable. When you are in control of yourself, we can talk.” And then leave. If she pursues you, keep walking until you reach either HR or her own boss’s office & invite her to step in & explain why she thinks she may behave this way to a colleague.

  30. Kate*

    Wow. Would OP #2’s boss give them 6 months notice if OP #2 was going to get laid off? I doubt it. I would give the notice of my pay packet; so if I get paid monthly, I would give a month. If I got paid weekly I’d probably still give 2 weeks though.

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