telling my friend’s boss how overworked she is, dating the head of HR, and more

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

1. Can I say something to my friend’s boss about how overworked she is?

I’m hoping you can give me some advice on how to handle a situation. A close friend of mine is totally overworked: 70+ hours at her demanding job plus another 20+ hours a week taking classes.

Lately she’s been so stressed that she can’t sleep, can’t eat, and is now throwing up from anxiety. While I think there are some larger issues at work about why she chooses to do this to herself, in the meantime I’m worried about her health.

Her boss has no idea that she’s working so much — and knowing her boss, he would be upset about it. To be honest, my friend brings a lot of this on herself, simply taking on too many projects and not delegating when appropriate. She doesn’t seem willing to make the changes to simply work “only” 50 hours a week.

I hate seeing my friend do this to herself. My questions are what you might suggest I say to her, and if you think it’s out of line to mention it to her boss (who I know socially from before they worked together).

Ooooh, no, you can’t say something to her boss. That would be interfering in her professional life; that’s totally off-limits to you. She is a grown-up, and you have to respect her to ability to handle her working life herself. You can disagree with her choices, but you can’t overrule them by going over her head. It doesn’t matter that you know the boss socially; this one just isn’t yours to intervene in like that.

All you can really do here is to be a friend to her: Express concern, tell her what you’re seeing, ask if she’s happy with how things are and, if she’s not, what she thinks she could do to change them. You could also share your opinion that her boss would want to know how much she’s working. But that’s really it.

2. Comparing yourself to other candidates for an internal promotion

What is your advice for applying for an internal promotion, when you pretty much know who the other applicants are and you know that while you are qualified, you are not the best candidate? Where’s the line between showing interest /being willing to grow and wasting the interviewer’s time? And when this is the case, how do you answer the question “Why do you believe you are the best candidate?”

“Well, I can’t speak to the other applicants, but I think I’d excel at the job because _____.”

Asking you to compare yourself to other applicants is BS. Reframe it as the more reasonable “Why would you excel in this position?”

3. I’m dating the head of HR and am annoyed that he keeps things from me

My boyfriend and I work in the same organization; he is higher up. We don’t have a direct reporting relationship and in fact work in completely different areas. But he is the executive director of HR, so can potentially have influence over my job.

The problem isn’t so much at work, but between us. Or more accurately, with me. Because he is so senior to me at work, he of course has access to a lot more sensitive information than I do, some of which may affect my job. He refuses to discuss any of it with me, which is perfectly appropriate (however much it may annoy me).

The problem for me is that because of some things that happened in the past, I have ongoing trust issues with the management and senior leadership of our organization. Now he is part of that cabal and I’m finding that it really bothers me. I know that he knows things before I do, and that he sometimes has to keep things from me. On the one hand, I can understand why he feels the need to do this. On the other, it hurts that he doesn’t feel he can trust me with work-related information that might be contentious or sensitive. I wish he felt he could talk to me about work and could trust me to be discreet. But of course he has to be careful.

You can see I’m quite divided over this situation. How do I navigate these circumstances? Should I perhaps just look for a job elsewhere?

Yes, that’s exactly what you should do — or your boyfriend should. He has a major conflict of interest; the head of HR should not be dating an employee at all, no matter how conscientious the two of you are about keeping work out of your relationship (which he seems to be, but you’re pushing him not to). This is really not okay for the reasons described here and here (different situations but the same basic concerns).

If you want to continue dating, one of you should find a different job. But until that happens, realize that by asking him to share confidential information with you, you’re asking him to do something that could and should get him fired — and which is totally contrary to his own interests, the requirements of his job, and the commitments he’s made to your employer.  You’re asking him to betray his word, his reputation, and his professional credibility. Stop stop stop stop stop.

4. Should I tell my interviewer about a typo in the company’s LinkedIn profile?

A company that I am interviewing with today has a typo in their LinkedIn profile. I just noticed it. Do I tell their internal recruiter about it?

No. It’s not a big enough deal that it’s imperative that someone be alerted to it, and you risk it making the person you tell feel defensive — which is not a price worth paying to point out a typo. (Note that when this came up in 2010, I was more wishy-washy on the subject, but now I’ve settled into a no.)

5. We’re not getting paid for time spent on our self-evaluations

I hate to ask a “Is this legal?” question, so I’ll stick with “Is this fair?” I’m a non-exempt employee. This year, writing down our self-evaluations and goals are optional. However, it is highly encouraged. Our (tiny) yearly pay raises are performance-based, so self-evals are one of the few places to advocate for ourselves. Plus, I’m pretty certain that my manager would be upset if I didn’t fill one out, despite it being optional. All together, it means I’m better off filling one out, right?

Well, since it isn’t mandatory, my company has decided that they will not pay for us to write our self-evals! If we decide to write one, we have to do it on our own time. My opinion is that if I’m still doing work (and I certainly consider writing self-evals and setting goals work), whether mandatory or not, I should be getting paid for it. I asked one of HR reps about it at a meeting recently and she just reiterated that it wasn’t mandatory, so we weren’t getting paid for it. What is your take?

Lots of things aren’t mandatory but still require you to be paid if you do them if you’re non-exempt — like working late to finish a project or answering work email over the weekend or re-organizing the file room even though it’s not your job. The question isn’t whether something is voluntary; it’s whether it’s work. This is.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act is really clear on this. Your state department of labor can back you up. And you have a highly inept HR team.

{ 286 comments… read them below }

  1. PEBCAK*

    #1 — You can also suggest she talk things over with a therapist or consider using her EAP or something of that sort. Lots of times, a totally neutral perspective can be helpful on something like this.

    1. The IT Manager*

      If you know her family, you can tell them and perhaps they can help her. Frankly this doesn’t sound like a problem originating at work since she’s voluntarily taking on extra work and topping it off with 20 hours of class. There’s something else going on with her that needs to be addressed.

    2. The Strand*

      Came here to agree. All you can do as her friend is kindly talk to her and suggest therapy.

      I have a friend who has been doing the same sort of thing to herself since college. She has options: she just continues to burn herself out and make herself miserable. She landed in the hospital with exhaustion a couple years back.

      I really, really feel for your concern for your friend. Ultimately she has to make the decision to take care of herself.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I too agree. Some people have this sort of “martyr” syndrome (don’t know the actual term for it) where all they know is to work work work, and never say “no”. It’s almost impossible to get them to slow down without professional help. She may not want to slow down, despite how it’s affecting her, or she does, but it’s so deeply ingrained she can’t by herself.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          I had an employee like this and it was almost impossible to manage. Not matter how much I tried to go over her projects/workload I couldn’t get her to step back.

          She saw every offer to help as “taking something away from her” and would constantly ask if “she had done something wrong.”

          I would have other managers stop by my office and say, “I saw Petunia here on Sunday and she looked very stressed, can you help her workload?” which was very frustrating because all I could do was smile and say, “thank you for letting me know.”

          1. Darth Admin*

            I have a similar situation/employee. My solution has been to go over her list and then, yes, “take things away”. I’m also very careful before assigning something new to her. She does play the martyr and some of the projects she works on are getting the half- or three-quarters-ass treatment because she has too many. I decided it was better to take this tack rather than have the whole team suffer. This also will let me see if her performance issues are because of her workload or something else.

            1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              In retrospect, I really should have done exactly that and “taken” some of her clients away. She was meeting expectations and was considered the most “senior teapot polisher,” so it was hard to explain to other departments why she wouldn’t be on the project team for a returning client.

    3. Jeanne*

      Therapy would be wonderful. EAP can be great. I just don’t see this person taking the time for therapy. Her boss will be made aware of everything after she has a stay in a hospital. It looks like she is headed that way. Support her the best you can and be ready for when she crashes. She will truly need you then.

  2. ITPuffNStuff*

    #3 — couldn’t agree more. if the man can’t be trusted to keep his word @ work, how could he be trusted to keep his word in any other context (such as the relationship)?

    bugs me that the OP seems to be framing this situation as “my boyfriend doesn’t trust me enough to keep secrets he should not be telling me in the first place, he needs to trust me more and tell me whatever i want” instead of “i’m making a totally inappropriate request of him, my own insecurities are driving an unreasonable expectation that he would share confidential information with me, and i should try to deal with those insecurities in a more positive and productive way”.

    in any case, trust is not binary — it’s not “i trust you 100% with everything including my life” or “i don’t trust you at all”. there are degrees of trust. even if there were no ethical issue here, anyone who would pressure you to break your word has not earned the extremely high degree of trust that puts your job in their hands.

    1. ITPuffNStuff*

      and PS — the real issue here is not the boyfriend. the real issue is revealed in this sentence:

      “The problem for me is that because of some things that happened in the past, I have ongoing trust issues with the management and senior leadership of our organization.”

      That is sufficient reason for OP to update the resume and start looking around for a job elsewhere, regardless of anything else the boyfriend does or doesn’t do. With that said, it sounds like trust in general is an issue for the OP; perhaps he/she would benefit from speaking with a counselor to help unpack what’s driving that and find more productive ways of coping with it. Otherwise it could plague all relationships, both personal and professional.

      1. Mimi*

        Agree with all of this, and….I’ve been in this exact same situation. And I felt the exact same way OP does. The relationship did not survive, and I had some serious growing up to do. I feel for you, OP, I really do. But what you’re asking is not reasonable. Work should be verboten as a discussion topic. And if you two are serious about the relationship, one of you should start looking for another job.

        1. RVA Cat*

          “I had some serious growing up to do” — I am getting this vibe from the OP as well. This may be an unfair assumption, but I am guessing that in addition to their different roles in the company there is a substantial age difference as well – or at least a maturity difference from what I’m hearing in the OP’s insecurity and expectations re: confidentiality.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Eh, not so sure about that. After all, maturity has nothing to do with age. I know plenty of middle-aged adults who have this same attitude.

          2. OP3*

            Actually, we’re only 5 years apart in age (in case you’re that interested – I don’t imagine you are).

      2. MsM*

        Completely and totally agreed. And in the interim, LW should probably remind herself that if she were to engage in the politicking herself by pushing her boyfriend for information she’s not supposed to have, she’d just be making an already messed-up situation worse.

          1. HB*

            I’m sure it’s really tough to come here and read people’s thoughts about you being that it’s never easy to be criticized. I think, though, it does sound like you are pushing him for info and he’s resisting. These two sentences gave me that impression:

            “On the other, it hurts that he doesn’t feel he can trust me with work-related information that might be contentious or sensitive. I wish he felt he could talk to me about work and could trust me to be discreet.”

            You do outline both sides – that you wish he could tell you but know he can’t. Know that trusting you and feeling he can talk to you are going to be very different in your shared work situation. Perhaps he really does trust and confide in you about the more-personal (arguably, more important) elements of his life and this is just not an area where he can share.

            Again, perhaps you don’t think you are pushing him, but that’s how it may read in this letter.

      3. nani1978*

        I hope OP #3 does find another job soon. Even though she frames it as a “one hand, other hand” situation, she understands she is really pushing the boundaries here, *and* add to that that she is less than happy with her job.

        The guy sounds like a keeper, and I am rooting for their romance! If he can stick to his ethics and commitments (and, yes, the law ;) ) so openly, I hope she learns from him to feel comfortable doing the same and setting a good example for other friends and employees.

          1. nani1978*

            You had the guts to write in. That takes a lot, and I am sure many of the responses from us strangers have been a smack in the face, and not really provided much more advice than “get out,” which you certainly already knew and which doesn’t give you much practical advice for how to handle tomorrow and Friday, or next week. I really wish you both well.

              1. EBC*

                OP3- I really feel for you on this one. I think it’s so easy for outsiders to read this and respond as if it’s so out of line of you to expect that he’d share these things with you, but I think your feelings on this are so completely valid,. You realize it’s putting him in a bad spot but it’s still frustrating that there’s this weird secrecy and power dynamic in your relationship. I agree with those that said that your best bet may be to find a new job. Which is obviously so much easier said than done. I consider myself an extremely ethical person but it would likely drive me nuts if this dynamic existed in my relationship. It’s easy to be so super ethical in the hypothetical. Something about some of the feedback you’re getting feels condescending to me. You clearly understand the law and the ethics of the situation- it doesn’t make this feel any better for you. I really feel for you on this one and wish you both the best.

    2. UKAnon*

      It reminds me of an excellent line from ‘Yes, Minister’.

      Sir Humph: Can you keep a secret?
      Civil Servant: Yes.
      Sir Humph: …So can I.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        My sister and I still use lines from Yes, (Prime) Minister all the time, which I guess dates us. But it’s so useful and still relevant!

        Sir Humph: So, nothing to worry about?
        Sir Frank: Nothing for *me* to worry about.

        1. Merry and Bright*

          Apart from the clothes, it hasn’t really dated like some sitcoms. (Says she who owns the boxsets!).

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            I should look into that! I just have copies I burned on CD from the VHS tapes we had of recording it off the television. :)

            1. Chocolate Teapot*

              One of my favourite comedy programmes of all time, and still very accurate.

              Jim Hacker “How can HB pencils be a security risk?”
              Sir Humphrey “It depends what you write with them.”

    3. Sadsack*

      Yeah, the other side of this would be, “My girlfriend. whom I work with, keeps bugging me to tell her stuff about work when she knows that my work is human resources and is strictly confidential. She keeps making it about her and how I should trust her. Should I dump her?”

      1. OP3*

        Hey, Sadsack – you’ve totally misinterpreted the situation. You’ve also done so rather unkindly, which I don’t appreciate. If you’re interested, please read my reply to TotesMaGoats. Otherwise, please keep your tactless remarks to yourself.

        1. Sadsack*

          I do want to apologize for the “dump her” part – seriously. I was really just offering another perspective, but I was not intending for it to be a personal attack on you. I realize now that what I meant as an off-hand remark was really kind of mean. I am sorry.

    4. Graciosa*

      I agree that trust is not binary, but I have a hard time seeing this as a trust issue the way the OP does.

      There are some things you just don’t share about your work, even with a spouse. I am an attorney, and I don’t get to come home and tell my family all about the privileged information I heard at work today. This is true regardless of the level of trust – the option is just open for discussion.

      For the boyfriend in this case, the issue is one of integrity rather than trust, and he seems to have it (which is a relief after some of the stories we’ve read on AAM!).

      I do think there’s a trust issue with the OP, who cannot seem to trust that her boyfriend is not using the requirements of confidentiality on the job to betray her. I could very easily use my job as a cover for all sorts of bad behavior, and I have a built-in professional excuse for refusing to provide details. I would never do anything of the kind – but it does require trust to believe that.

      In this case, the OP is worried about a professional betrayal rather than a romantic one, but the principle is the same.

      And if you can’t trust your partner, the relationship is basically doomed.

      Which would be a shame for the OP, because the boyfriend sounds like a great guy (from the limited amount of information we have – maybe he’s terrible about globbing up the sink with toothpaste!). On the other hand, I’m not sure a breakup wouldn’t be better for the boyfriend in the long run if the OP really can’t get past this. Trying to maintain a relationship with someone who is constantly pressuring you to be less than who you are is a terrible strain.

      1. Laurel Gray*

        “For the boyfriend in this case, the issue is one of integrity rather than trust, and he seems to have it (which is a relief after some of the stories we’ve read on AAM!).”


        1. A Bug!*

          Absolutely. It doesn’t matter if Boyf trusts OP. What matters is that Boyf’s employer trusts him not to share confidential information. Trust doesn’t mean “I trust that I will never find out you have broken your word.” It means “I trust that you won’t break your word.”

          OP is the one who needs to trust Boyf, not the other way around.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Yes, and not only that, if he were to divulge confidential information, he is betraying every other employee. Is that the type of person Op wants to date? Or, like you said, would she rather be with someone that has integrity?

      3. Colorado*

        Trying to maintain a relationship with someone who is constantly pressuring you to be less than who you are is a terrible strain.
        THIS! Very well stated Graciosa, great post!

        1. OP3*

          Colorado – that is not what I am doing at all. Please read my response to ToteMaGoats.

          1. EBC*

            I’m getting really frustrated for you, OP3. I commented above but the more comments I read, the more frustrated I’m becoming. Some of these responses are coming off as so holier than thou to me. Would it really not drive the rest of us bonkers if our significant other was the Director of HR at our job and knew all kinds of inside info about work- that may include our future at the company? That doesn’t mean he should be divulging secrets but it’s still a shitty situation for OP3. I wish I had better advice than look for a new job because that doesn’t really help in the moment. Maybe try to accept that this part of your relationship is just super awkward and shitty but doesn’t need to be that way forever and since you don’t seem to love your job anyway- maybe finding a new one is a goal that can provide some light at the end of the tunnel. It sounds like a relationship worth keeping and I really hope you can get through this one.

            1. Marcela*

              Yes, I feel the same thing: the more I read, the more annoyed I am. Somebody said in one comment that this is a blog about career advice, not relationships and that’s the reason people is so focused in the inappropriate nature of the relationship. My problem is that it is NOT helpful to keep telling the OP that the relationship should not be. What, do they really expect her to break up with him just because we say it’s not appropriate for him, in HR, to date somebody in the same company, in special when they were publicly dating before he was promoted? Yeah, I’d do that. Sure. The relationship exists and that’s a fact. Let’s use the reality to help OP, not our idea of what should be.

              And some comments are really poking an angry spot of mine, which is talk about a relationship or situation involving multiple persons, like only one of them is responsible for everything: the other is just there with the same initiative and power of decision of a chair. My grandmother and mother used to play that game when I was playing with my cousins. If they or us did any mischief, I was always the mastermind and the one that forced them to misbehave. They could not have thought anything bad by themselves. In here, yes, it’s she who is writing about the problems they have now. But he was perfectly aware of the bee nest when he applied/accepted the new position, and while we are playing the [sarcasm] very useful [/sarcasm] game of “you shouldn’t have done that!”, nobody asked why he accepted the role knowing it was very conflictive. It’s not useful either, but both of them are in what we are calling an inappropriate relationship and entered with big, wide eyes.

              OP3, I’m truly sorry. People here is very caring, compassionate and wise. I’ve learned more from them than from any other place in the vast Internet. Your letter was a perfect storm, where the necessity of being concise forced your words to sound different of what you meant, and the hundreds of comments make impossible to read all your updates. I guess they are lucky in not understanding, because this is a very shitty situation to be. Many hugs and I hope things get better.

      4. ITPuffNStuff*

        i would say the BF has a measure of integrity — high enough not to reveal privileged information, but not high enough not to date employees (not appropriate given his position). that level still doesn’t seem very high to me.

      5. OP3*

        Graciosa – please read my response to TotesMaGoats. Your other posts on this blog are insightful and articulate, so please reconsider your opinion of my original post.

        1. Jeanne*

          I’m a little concerned that you don’t seem open to reading others’ take on the question. It is possible some people attack too much. It is also possible that some people have insight you don’t have. Try to read the responses and let it sink in a little while. Then see if there might be something for you to learn. Can you understand why some are siding with him or was your only goal in writing in to convince him to spill his secrets?

          1. Op3*

            Of course I’m not trying to get him to “spill” anything. I am taking away the helpful and insightful things that some people have to say – which I appreciate. I’m also trying to weather all the assorted bitchiness that’s coming my way.

    5. Anna*

      if the man can’t be trusted to keep his word @ work, how could he be trusted to keep his word in any other context (such as the relationship)?

      I think this is a little bit of a false equivalency, but no he shouldn’t share things with her about work.

  3. PEBCAK*

    #2 — Are you feeling like you aren’t the *best*, but still a reasonable candidate? Or are you talking about applying for something that is way too much of a stretch, just to show your interest in a future career path? Your letter kinda implies the latter, and if so, you are right, you can both waste the interviewer’s time* AND call your own judgment into question.

    A better option is to talk to your boss about your future career path, or the hiring manager for this position in an informational-only capacity (I saw a position for a Teapot Manager, and while I’m only a Teapot Apprentice right now, the position sounds like what I’d be interested in doing in the future. What would you recommend I do in the next 2-3 years if I wanted to grow in that direction?). It’s fine to use this job opening as a conversation starter.

    *Lots of big companies have that weird policy where every internal applicant gets an interview. This is dumb, and wastes everyone’s time, and I don’t know why they continue with it. Even worse, to avoid getting too many applications, sometimes the position requirements are over-written, and then, if/when it goes to an external posting, they miss out on good candidates.

    1. OP #2*

      I am a reasonable candidate, but not the best. And when this promotion occurs, the person who gets it (assuming its not me) will be my boss.

      I guess I’m feeling weird about applying because I know who the best candidate is, I’m worried about backlash when the best candidate finds out I applied against him, especially since he will be my boss. But at the same time, there is one key piece to this new position that he strongly dislikes (the location), and if he were to decide at the last minute he didn’t want it, I would kick myself if I had not thrown my name in the hat. But, barring that, he’s the way stronger candidate.

      Mostly I want to interview so I get the face time… the other candidate will be retiring before my career is over, and I would eventually want to slide into his role. So I would like the experience of interviewing, in preparation for that day.

      1. GOG11*

        Unless this other candidate is really insecure or there’s some history here we don’t know about (like you promised that you wouldn’t apply and then did anyways), I don’t get why he would take it out on you if he got the job. If he is the best candidate to lead a team, I’d hope that he would be professional and mature enough to understand that another employee applying for a job isn’t personal.

        Additionally, your assessment may be accurate, or you may be lacking information that the hiring committee/manager has. That’s why you interview – so the people who know what they want best can determine who is the best fit for the role.

        I’m not a seasoned professional, so maybe there’s something I’m not thinking of here (like a cultural component specific to your org that says this sort of thing is Not Done…?), but your reasons for applying seem really reasonable and I hope you go for it.

      2. KathyGeiss*

        This adds good context. Definitely go through with the interview and answer the questions as Alison suggests.

        If the other person gets the job, be cordial and professional and work hard to work well with them. Even if they know you applied, what matters is your ability to do your job and work with them.

        Good luck!

      3. Ad Astra*

        Is there some requirement that all internal applicants must be interviewed? If there isn’t, that means the decision makers choose to interview you (or not) based on their own assessment of your qualifications. Applying for a job you think you’re capable of doing well isn’t wasting anyone’s time.

        If this other guy is truly the strongest candidate, I would hope he has the professionalism not to throw any kind of backlash your way if and when he discovers you were interested in the same role. You’re not doing anything wrong or sneaky by applying, so it would be extremely weird for him to view/treat you negatively for this.

      4. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        I worked in a position where we often competed against each other for promotions, and where someone who was your teammate last year might be your boss the next.

        A few times, I was surprised when the person we thought was the *best* was not promoted, but was always impressed by that persons work. So I think if you are qualified, it is always worth throwing your name in the hat.

        Additionally, I went through this process, did not get the promotion, but did get a call a month later offering me a different position that was a much better fit, but had not been posted at the time of my interview. It is always worth the face time with upper management, as they may have things going on behind the scenes.

        1. Graciosa*

          I just wanted to echo your last line about the importance of face time with your superiors. Applying for jobs (even if you don’t get them) is a signal that you want to move up in the organization. It is extremely rare that you will know when you apply that you’re going to get a position, so waiting until that happens would be foolish.

          Applying makes people take a closer look at your work, and invest a bit of time considering your strengths and how they fit the needs of the organization. This is hugely helpful to your career regardless of whether or not you get the role that’s currently open.

          – And if the other candidate would behave badly just because you also applied for the job, he’s not qualified for it.

      5. Stranger than fiction*

        I totally agree with all the others that you should apply. It’s impossible to know if he’s truly better. Maybe he looks better on paper, but they’ll think you mesh better with the team. You just don’t know. It’s similar to when I hear candidates write in that they’re so disappointed they didn’t get their “dream job” that they thought they were a perfect match for. Again, on paper, the job ad may have looked perfect, but sometimes there’s those nuances or soft skills, or that certain “something” they’re looking for that you’re simply not privy to.

  4. Artemesia*

    Nothing undercuts someone’s professional career or reputation with management than someone ‘talking to them’ about protecting their health or fee fees or whatever on the job. It infantalizes the employee immediateley — it is like having Mommy whining to the boss that Little Bobby should get special treatment. Worst idea ever. The friend’s career at least at that company will never recover from this sort of meddling.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I would be beyond angry if someone took it upon herself to interfere in my work life in this way; we would not be friends again for a long, long time.

    2. Venn*

      And OP could actually cause problems — boss might not know that the friend has taken on 20 hours a week of classes in addition to whatever hours the friend is working in the office (which might or might not actually be 70+ hours).

      It’s entirely possible the friend’s anxiety and overwork is nearly 100 percent due to the 20 hours a week of classes plus the additional hours of work those classes require outside of actual class time. Which would be another reason why the friend wants to hide the juggling act from the boss for the time being.

      OP can advise the friend — maybe it’s the classes the friend would prefer to scale back on rather than the livelihood? But this is really on the friend to balance.

    3. bridget*

      I definitely don’t think that the OP should involve herself in this matter, but it can be super helpful when someone from management is aware of these things. My supervisor relatively frequently asks about my work-life balance, because we’re in a profession where it’s easy for work to become overwhelming and get burned out (law). Then we talk about my workload, whether it’s sustainable, and what I can do about it to keep it in check. I don’t feel infantalized; I feel managed. If no one ever said anything, I’d probably always assume that I’m under pressure to work more more more, since I’m junior and need to prove myself. Being affirmatively told that that is not true is very reassuring.

      1. bridget*

        Ah, looks like I read your comment wrong – it’s just bad if someone ASKS management to protect the feelings of someone (themselves, or another)?

        1. TootsNYC*

          Yes, it’s the interference from outside that is the problem.

          You’re right–a good manager should have a sense of how hard their people are working, even if they’re not necessarily there to see it.

          I had a subordinate once who was staying at the office really late, and I knew that her workload didn’t warrant it. So, was she wasting time during the day? Doing other things for other departments (allowable, but secondary to her official duties)? Doing personal stuff after hours and “blaming” workload?

          It took me a little while to realize how pervasive it was, but I was aware pretty quickly. And I acted on it.

          So I think the friend’s manager really has an obligation to know how late his people are working, and whether they’re taking unnecessary work home, etc.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      I partially agree. While I think she should never specifically reach out to the boss about this, and like I said above, this may be just her personality type to always go go go, I don’t think it would be the end of the world if, say, they were all at a party and she were having a convo with the boss and it just sort of came up naturally. That is the only circumstance in which I could see it being reasonable to say “so yeah, if Jill weren’t working like all the time, maybe I could see her more…”

  5. Ann Furthermore*

    #3: I’m surprised that the HR director is even allowed to do this, or that his job isn’t at risk for dating another employee. Alison is absolutely right. It’s unfair to place the expectation on him to share sensitive information with his SO, or anyone else for that matter. It’s a way bigger issue than just being “in the know” and having the inside scoop on all the company gossip.

    In addition, OP, this could well be a case of “be careful what you wish for.” What if you found out that layoffs were imminent, but couldn’t say anything to anyone? What if you found out that the company was on the verge of bankruptcy but couldn’t tell people to start updating their resumes? What if you found out that the company was involved in something illegal? You could end up finding out things that put you in a very difficult position. On the one hand, letting people know what’s going on feels like the morally right thing to do, but on the other, sharing that information would create a very precarious situation for your SO. It probably wouldn’t take much to trace the source of the leak and follow the trail right back to your boyfriend. At best, his credibility and trustworthiness would be called into question, and at worst, he could lose his job and his reputation could be irreparably damaged.

    Alison is right. You need to consider looking for a job elsewhere, if you’re both truly committed to the relationship. And even then, you shouldn’t expect him to share sensitive information with you. The above would still be relevant, assuming that you still have friends and colleagues at your company after you leave.

    1. Melissa*

      These were my thoughts, too – particularly on a more personal level. OP3, what if you found out something that did directly impact or affect your job in a negative way? What could you do or say? You couldn’t react without revealing that it was your boyfriend that inappropriately revealed this information to you, putting both of your jobs in danger. It’s not necessarily helpful – and can be definitely detrimental, like a double-edged sword – to have this additional information on hand.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      It reminds me of a situation long ago, where my spouse and I worked at the same company: he as a manager, me as a worker in another section. There were layoffs coming, and he knew it, and couldn’t tell me. He was sick about it, I could tell something was wrong, but he wouldn’t talk. All he could say is that he couldn’t tell me what was wrong. It put tremendous pressure on him to not be able to talk to me.

      So, OP3, think about him. This relationship does put a lot of pressure on him. If you want what is best for him, one of you getting a different job will help him as well as you.

    3. Elizabeth*

      My employer’s HR director also employs her daughter, daughter-in-law & granddaughter. She’s fully able to separate the professional relationships from the familial relationships. The only unusual rule she’s had about it is that she strongly discourages her family members from working in the same department, just to keep the Family Drama from being an issue at work and Work Drama from being an issue at home. She always responds to questions with “work is work, family is family. When we’re at work, we’re colleagues. When we’re at home, we’re family.” I’ve only ever heard of one person questioning her professionalism and it was done in such a way as to deflect questions about his own professionalism and competence.

      It’s possible to have the situation & handle it professionally. It requires a very strong person to handle it well and not have it affect the personal relationships.

      1. ITPuffNStuff*

        even if there’s no nepotism actually happening, the fact is this HR director has to deal with the appearance of nepotism, which must make her job more difficult.

  6. Blurgle*

    #4 – I can see one exceptions to Alison’s advice: if the typo is embarrassing (e.g. “Certified Pubic Accountant”). Even then I would wait until after I was either hired or eliminated.

    1. Merry and Bright*

      In my experience, employers who do things like this often stress the importance of accuracy and attention to detail in their job ads. The irony is probably lost on them though.

      1. bridget*

        Is the job to write linked-in profiles, though? Some jobs/parts of jobs really do require perfect accuracy, and others don’t. If I write a job ad, I’m willing to call it “good enough” reasonably early, but maybe I’m hiring for a position that would produce writing that is more important, prominent, or permanent, and in that case I’d want the best candidate to be better at the potential job than I am in writing the job ad.

    2. Cucumberzucchini*

      In that instance, if you really want to help them out and point out that mistake but don’t want to be “the messenger” you could create a generic gmail account and email them anonymously.

    3. OP#4*

      It’s a very simple typo. Someone put “r” instead of “t” in a word where only t can be used. Think tool vs rool.

      I have not said anything to them. I guess I will wait until they make a decision.

      I’ve reported typos anonymously before, but in this case it would be hard to do.

    4. Nashira*

      I once had a class taught by a lawyer who had submitted a brief, to an appellate court no less (!), that talked about pubic schools. It was a good ten years before tbe class and they were still ashamed from the dressing down the lead judge gave them.

      1. TootsNYC*

        No spellcheck dictionary should contain the word “pubic.” If I get elected to Congress, that’s going to be one of the first laws I propose.

        1. cuppa*

          Even better, there should be a flag for potentially embarrassing words (“did you mean to say pubic?”)

          1. Connie-Lynne*

            I like this idea better than TootsNYC’s notion. On the surface “never have ‘pubic’ in a spellcheck dictionary” seems useful, but then I think about how all my friends send me angry text messages about “Duck this” and “Duck that” and “This has been a great ducking day” and think, “hmm,” maybe not.

            * Not a reference to the recent “duck club” thread.

            1. Book Person*

              The day I realized one could add expletives as “shortcuts” on autocorrect and never have to say DUCK again was a beautiful one.

    5. ginger ale for all*

      I once had a co-worker would would abbreviate assistant as ass. No one wanted to speak up about it until one day, my boss said something about it in our open office setting with everyone there trying to look like they were working but actually trying to hear everything that was being said. She argued with him that she was correct and he was wrong for quite some time. We worked in a library so they both went and got several dictionaries to try and verify their viewpoints. To this day, I cannot think of her without thinking ‘ass’.

      1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

        Whyyyyyyy would you do this? So if someone was, say, the Assistant Director of the company she would abbreviate it as the Ass. Director? When do you ever need to abbreviate the word assistant in the first place?

        Ass Director

        1. Joline*

          I once had a manager who abbreviated “analysis” to “anal.” Made me really nervous opening files on the server.

          1. Windchime*

            I had a multi-page Excel document open the other day, and one of my sheets was named “Teapot Analysis”, but because I had many tabs, it read “Teapot Anal”. I renamed it.

            1. Joline*

              I would do the same! Which is why it was so disconcerting to come across files named things like “Percival Anal.”

  7. TheLazyB*

    Speaking as someone who’s suffered badly from anxiety in the past, work intervening isn’t the answer. My work happened to be very supportive, but it was me who had to see a therapist and deal with my issues (still doing so 5-6 years later… although it’s much better now) and generally help myself. It wasn’t my boss’s place to intervene.

    1. Panda Bandit*

      Yes, this. In the case of anxiety the nicest boss in the world can’t fix her issues. Her best move is to talk to a professional.

    2. OfficePrincess*

      Agreed. And it sounds like OP’s anxiety may be contributing to a pressure to “do it all”. Having the boss intervene and tell her to do less could easily turn into a spiral of needing to hide how much she’s doing and get it all done without showing any cracks or weakness or stress, which only adds to the anxiety and pressure. Been there, done that.

    3. TootsNYC*

      And when that’s the case, a *friend* is actually in a far stronger place to help or influence than a manager would be. A friend can perhaps say, “You don’t seem happy–and it looks to me like you’re harming yourself. Would you please do me, your good friend, a favor, and go talk to someone about this?”

      Or, just repeatedly “reflect” her problems back to her, as Carolyn Hax so often suggests: “You have this complaint often.” “You don’t seem happy.”
      And when she complains, the really great: “What are you going to do about it?”

      A manager can’t really do that.
      When the problem is her, and not the manager, a friend can be the ally that a manager can’t.

  8. Merry and Bright*

    On #1, what stares me in the face is that the good managers I have had have all been aware of their staff’s work loads, what extra projects they are working on, and so on. And if a report was working such crazy hours and becoming physically ill they would act to restribute the work load. This manager might be a nice guy who would be concerned about the OP but he doesn’t strike me as an effective manager to let things go this far. Does he have his eye on the ball? Worse still, if he is aware why hasn’t he acted already? Even taking it from a purely business point of view, this is doing nobody any good. OK, the OP’s anxiety is her issue to tackle but the problem seems wider than this.

    1. CAinUK*

      I would normally agree, but having had close friends (and co-workers) go through this, it isn’t always easy to see at work. In fact, one manifestation of this anxiety is sometimes *hiding* this behaviour (think: “I must be perfect/meet expectation/etc. – and that includes not letting on how stressed I am and appearing effective and efficient”).

      1. Merry and Bright*

        I agree that it can be hard for a manager to see how a staff member is becoming ill. But I do think that a good manager should be aware of how much work her team is handling. Apart from anything else, if it all starts to fall apart it will come back on the manager in some way.

        1. Frustrated*

          My boss, who is there about two mornings a week (though I know he works away from work) has the salaried people – who put in at least 50-60 hours per week, often at odd hours – fill out time cards “so he knows we worked.” (Since it’s not clear from the bylines in our publication, apparently.)

      2. MaryMary*

        I was thinking along this line too. OP’s friend could be spending time on work she doesn’t have to do and that wouldn’t be apparent to her manager. Double/triple/quadruple checking things, additional research or reading, detail work that no one notices… Putting aside issues of anxiety and maybe even OCD (not internet diagnosing, just a thought), a lot of perfectionists have difficulty balancing perfect versus done. Work can be completed to a perfectly acceptable level without it being perfect.

        When my boss creates a powerpoint, he spends hours choosing art and graphics, fiddling with color and shading, adjusting the layout, etc. The finished product looks great, but honestly, it would still look great if he spent 10 hours less on it. He’s at a level where no one is going to tell him how to manage his time, but it’s also not apparent to most people how much time he’s invested. If OP’s friend is spending time revising and tweaking, or reading the WSJ from start to finish every day, I wouldn’t expect that even a good manager would have line of sight to that.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Yeah, but even if he’s not aware the workload, per se, isn’t he aware of her hours?? Or is he remote? Otherwise, how does he not see (or hear from coworkers) that she’s there early and stays late every day? Or maybe the Op works from home?

          1. MaryMary*

            If OP’s friend is doing the sort of extra, non-required work I’m thinking of, she could easily be doing it at home or somewhere else other than the office, even if she doesn’t work from home regularly. She’s also fitting in 20 hours of class somewhere, a flex schedule could muddle things up too.

            There are several scenarios where the manager should have noticed that OP’s friend is working an excessive number of hours. But there are situations where it would be difficult to tell, especially if she’s exempt and the company doesn’t track billable hours.

    2. Observer*

      If the employee is exempt and not filling in time sheets (or fudging them, which could easily happen in a case like this) then it’s easy to see why a manager might not realize. Also, if the manager isn’t getting a lot of face time with the employee and / or the employee puts up a good front, then even if the manager realizes that she’s putting in a lot it’s not hard to see that he might miss how messed up things are, especially if he doesn’t know about the 20 hours of classes.

      Regardless, it’s the friend’s problem to fix. And, talking to the boss is probably the worst idea I could think of.

      1. cuppa*

        And if there is an extraneous reason that all this overtime is happening, it could be less apparent.
        I am exempt and work at a different site than my manager. I have a peer who constantly works overtime, is always overworked, etc. I know what her workload theoretically is (as does my manager, she used to do the same job), and I know that it doesn’t take that kind of time. Sometimes, it’s on the employee to deal with the issue, because that is where the issue is coming from.

    3. Artemesia*

      You are assuming the problem is the work or the boss. In my experience, highly anxious employees are highly anxious. It is about them not about the situation. This employee has a demanding job and has chosen CHOSEN to have 20 hours a week of classroom demands. She has CHOSEN to put herself in this untenable position.

      1. Merry and Bright*

        I acknowledged above that the friend’s illness was her issue to resolve. But I am happy to stand corrected on the other points.

    4. The Strand*

      What we don’t know is whether the boss has already done this – asked her to take time off, get more work-life balance – but the friend is not doing what she needs to do, appropriately.

      There is a workaholic in my present department. I know that our big boss has told him to take some time; he even made it a major comment in one of our “all hands” meetings, that all of us had to consider work-life balance. That does not, however, mean that the workaholic is following suit and taking time off.

    5. TootsNYC*

      I agree–the manager may not see that the employee is still at the office at 9pm; or may not see that the employee is sitting at her dining room table working on a report. But the manager can see *the report*–the finished product. And ought to be able to see the fact that the people who -should- have been “delegated to,” are in fact not doing those tasks.

      1. Observer*

        Not necessarily. For one thing, it’s not always obvious how long specific items should take, so it’s not obvious that is Suzie did x and y this week on top of her normal workload she must have been working overtime. And, depending on what the job is and how the results are being presented, it’s not always obvious that delegation is not happening.

  9. Apollo Warbucks*

    #1 No you really can not say anything to your friends boss, regardless of the fact you know them socially. Encourage your friend to speak up and support them where you can, but thata as far as you can go.

    1. UKAnon*

      I think the one exception I can see to this is if the boss approaches OP because they are aware of the friend’s issues but aren’t able to get through to friend – at that point if it’s a genuine concern for her well-being, I think OP would be justified in talking to the boss as far as she is able without breaching confidences if they both feel that friend is genuinely in danger and needs their help.

      1. Artemesia*

        NO NO NO NO

        This is just beyond creepy infantalizing for a boss to be discussing poor Betty with her friends. Yikes.

        1. The Strand*

          Is there any situation where you might ease on this? Generally I agree with you, with two exceptions – if I thought the person was at risk of hurting themselves (suicidal or serious drug problem) or someone else.

          1. UKAnon*

            This. There comes a point (a not uncommon point with no stigma attached – or at least no stigma that should be attached) where somebody is so caught up that they need other people in their lives to support them, and often people only realise that point has been reached when they talk to each other. OP shouldn’t approach the boss. But if the boss approaches OP and OP thinks that point has been reached, *then* she shouldn’t be afraid to talk to boss and to friend about how they can support friend.

            1. TheLazyB*

              Nope. I still disagree. Boss’s discussions along those lines belong on work. OP’s belong out of it.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I’d probably demur on talking to the boss about Betty, but I’d then go to Betty and say, “Hey, your boss was asking me about you. She seems concerned. You might want to talk to her.”

          3. TheLazyB*

            If either Friend or Boss has concerns about her health, including if she is suicidal they each have different options to deal with that. I would be beyond skeeved out if my line manager and friend discussed me, no matter how genuine their concerns. I wouldn’t trust either again, and in this situation it seems that the friend needs all the help they can get.

            I have ‘friend’ referring to both OP and her friend but am too tired to rewrite. Sorry. Hopefully it’s clear enough.

  10. Apollo Warbucks*

    #2 Ifnore the fact that you know most of the applicants and answer the question that is truly being asked, which is what makes you a strong candidate / how your skills make you a good fit for the role. What they don’t want to hear is you saying I’m the best candidate or otherwise making comparisons as you cann’t do that with your limited knowwdge.

  11. Apollo Warbucks*

    #3 You are being completely inappropriate in expecting your boyfriend to share confidential information with you to prove he trusts you, it has nothing to do with you or your relationship.

    Confidentiality is about so much more than trust its at the very core of your boyfriends ethics, integrity and professional reputation. He can not use any information he gets at work for personal gain Period.

    If you have trust issues with management then you need to find away to resolve that doesn’t put your boyfriend in an untenable position.

    1. LBK*

      Agreed completely. I also think measuring trust by what information someone is willing to give you is completely backwards – you don’t gain trust by learning secrets, you gain trust by keeping secrets. A boyfriend that’s able to keep that vow of confidentiality is someone very worthy of my trust – if he came home and blabbed everything, I’d wonder what he was divulging about me to others, since clearly he has no regard for keeping secrets/promises.

    2. OP3*

      Apollo – please read my response to TotesMaGoats. People on this blog seem to have gotten a wrong impression about how I actually conduct myself. I should have done a better job of describing the situation and provided more context. Everyone seems to be focussing on the ethics of the situation, which is not what I was asking about – I know exactly what is wrong with what we’re doing. I guess I was looking more for relationship advice than professional, in which case this is probably not the right forum.

  12. Knit Pixie*

    In regards to letter 3:

    This is probably rude to say (sorry), but I am wondering how much of a gosh dang an HR executive can actually give about his word, his reputation, or his professional credibility if he is dating someone who is as potentially off limits as OP3.

    The man doesn’t even have to do anything untoward, there just to be the idea that he has/may have/will and he could be in big trouble. Seems like such a huge gamble for someone in his position to date someone in the same company, much less someone at OP3’s rank. How does one get to be the excutive director of HR, and not see this/care, or care that it could cost them both their jobs? I hope I am wrong, but I am just not seeing how this story could end without costing someone something.

    That said, I am glad OP3 wrote in for advice before doing something ill – thought out, if I were in their shoes I honestly don’t ever think I would have had the guts.

    1. ITPuffNSTuff*

      wow, excellent points KP.

      disillusioning that anyone with such poor judgment would rise to an executive level. it’s not just that his judgment was poor; it’s that the particular area of poor judgment is, theoretically, exactly his area of expertise. this would be like a CIO downloading viruses on their pc. just crazy.

      sigh. doesn’t do much for my faith in humanity that this guy got promoted so far up the chain.

      1. mdv*

        This all makes me wonder if they met somewhere more “social”, and he’s trying to make it work in spite of the big disparity in their positions. (Not that it’s working, based on the letter… I’d dump OP3, if I was him, just based on this story alone.)

    2. Allison*

      I think he does know it’s not a good idea, but by refusing to give OP3 information that’s not supposed to be leaked to employees, it does sound like he’s at least trying to maintain some boundaries in the relationship. Although I do agree with Alison’s advice, they shouldn’t both be working there.

      1. Sadsack*

        He’s maintaining boundaries, but is apparently not concerned about the perceptions of others, which he should be. To Knit Pixie’s point, he’s an HR executive, he probably has had tons of training about how even the perception of inappropriate behavior can be bad even if everything is on the up and up. He should know better.

    3. Jen*

      I agree. I was also wondering about how the BF handles confidential HR information that he would receive outside of work like say during the weekend. In HR things can come up at anytime and so there is probably communication that has to occur outside for normal business hours. How does he handle it if he gets a phone call that is about someone getting fired? Even if he steps out of the room or away from the GF she could still hear part of the conversation (and based on her letter I am not sure she could ignore it- I could picture her trying to listen at the door). This would be true of any partner but if you don’t work at the company than your interest level would probably be less than if you work at the company. I think there is less risk if items come in over email but the GF could still see emails as well. I am perhaps being hard on the letter writer but it seems to me that because the BF won’t tell her what is going on she seems to be more interested in what is going on. Which to me means that if information comes in and she is around she will try to find out as much as she can.

      1. OP3*

        Jen – to be honest, I’d probably really want to listen at the door and would tie myself in knots trying not to.

    4. BethRA*

      fwiw, this “Now he is part of that cabal…” made me wonder if they started dating before he rose to his current level. Still questionable for HR to be dating someone in the office, but he may have been promoted after they started seeing each other.

      1. Jennifer*

        My impression, too, and if he was primarily involved in, say, training or some other subset of HR that doesn’t work with as much confidential info or sensitive situations, it might have been less questionable before the promotion. Or maybe he’d been working in another department to broaden his perspective beyond HR before being promoted into the executive level. But it seems that at the point he was up for the promotion, that would have been the time to have a serious talk about the relationship and whether they needed to consider putting a hold on things (if it wasn’t a particularly serious relationship at that point) or whether it would be best for her to start looking for work elsewhere.

      2. Knit Pixie*

        I suppose it is possible that he could have been promoted while they were seeing one another, but again we get to disclosure. As his current relationship with this person would constitute a major conflict of interest in most companies I know, it seems unlikely that he would have been promoted to his current rank had the company known about his romantic attachment.

        If it is a matter of disclosure, they are both playing with fire, and what for? He should know better, even if OP3 doesn’t seem to. If he doesn’t, he has no business in HR. If he does, disciplinary action up to and including termination is a reality, as this could be seen as actively participating in a deception that puts the company at risk.

        So regardless if whether he started seeing OP3 before or after he was named XDHR, he has either not disclosed it, or the company doesn’t care at all. If they don’t care then I suppose it doesn’t matter. Just beware OP3, if things go South it just might be easier to replace you.

        1. OP3*

          I’m getting a little tired of people assuming that I don’t know how serious this is. Why would I seek advice if I thought everything was fine?

          As it happens, most people at work do know about our relationship – it’s been going on for a few years now. Even some of the interview panel who gave him the job knew about it when they offered it to him. So I don’t think he’s in any immediate jeopardy and I’m protected by a union.

          It’s the way that the imbalance of power is affecting us as a couple that I am unsure how to handle, short of finding a new job. I’m not opposed to working elsewhere; the barrier is that we’re both government employees and there’s a hiring freeze in effect at the moment. So presently, there are no opportunities for me to move to another job. Eventually, that will change. In the meantime, it’s tricky.

          I probably should have addressed my question to a relationships forum.

          1. EBC*

            I’m tired of it too, OP3. It’s amazing to me how many people jump to conclusions about how awful you are and how your boyfriend should dump you. Why? So he can date someone who is mean and judgmental like some of these commenters have been to you? It’s like Heathers around here.

            1. Knit Pixie*

              With all due respect EBC, I did not jump to any conclusions about OP3 as a person, and I did not EVER say her boyfriend should dump her.

              If you are speaking in reference to:

              “Just beware OP3, if things go South it just might be easier to replace you.” Allow me to clarify that I wasn’t refering to her personal relationship with her boyfriend. I was refering to her job, and I stand by it. I would not presume to comment on matters of the heart, especially since

              1. I have no vested interest.
              2. As OP3 points out this is a work forum not a romantic one.

              OP3 points out that she is protected by the union, so maybe her job is not in danger, and she has also mentioned there are circumstances she details such that her boyfriend’s job is not either. I am glad for this. I am glad there is no deception, and I am glad that nobody will lose their job over this.

              I still stand by my reactions for the context of this forum, in response to the circumstances in the original letter, that if this were many other companies they could both find themselves in major trouble. And I stand by my assertion that anyone who has reached that level of HR would know that (he probably does), and if they don’t then they are out of touch with commonly accepted norms.

              Fortunately in this particular case the commonly accepted norm apparently does not apply, so there ya go.

              OP3 knows what is best for her, and I am counting on the fact that she will do as she will, with my comments and advice, and ignore what doesn’t apply to her.

              As for you, I am truly sorry I was not clear and that what I said read as offensive you, EBC.

              I have never been called a Heather before!

              1. Temporarily known as "Heather"*

                … and I think I like it.

                (Sorry I know this isn’t contributing to the proceedings, I couldn’t resist!)

          2. Observer*

            You mention the you can’t find another job because you are a government employee and there is a hiring freeze. Even if there is a hiring freeze on entire government, it doesn’t mean that you cannot get another job. I don’t know where you live, but there are different levels of government in most places, and the different levels are not in sync when in comes to hiring and staffing. Furthermore, there is also the private sector. Sure, it’s different, but that’s not the end of the world.

            1. Op3*

              I have applied for a few jobs, but haven’t been successful so far. We’re in a smaller city that is a capital and centre of government, which means that private sector jobs here are very thin on the ground. We both have children in school, mortgages, family commitments,etc.tbat make re-locating well nigh impossible. Also, one of my children is severely disabled and is comfortably rooted in his school and other supports here. So neither of us has much mobility for now. I guess I’m wondering how to manage the situation until one of us (probably me, let’s be honest) can work elsewhere.

              1. GOG11*

                I know this is super late in the game and I know you may not be following the thread anymore, OP3, but I wanted to weigh in. Now, I’m not a counselor or therapist or relationship professional of any sort (nor do I play one on TV), but it seems like one of your big issues is that you don’t have a way to access your SO and help him process what goes on at work because you two can’t talk about it. This leaves you feeling that he is closed off from you and I imagine you feel a bit helpless in trying to help him cope with/support him through the stresses and challenges of his job.

                Again, I’m not a professional, but I wonder if you could find ways to support him and help him process things that aren’t centered on conversation (and, thus, you being left frustrated by vague answers and him being left frustrated in only being able to give vague answers). The thing that goes to mind for me would be something like massage, though I’m sure there are other things out there, too. You can’t be the person he unloads his tension with verbally, but you could help ease away some of the frustration and tension through a shoulder massage or belly rub or a good head scratching (like the kind you get at the salon, not the kind you give your dog, just saying).

                Aside from how you can still “access” and support him with work stuff, I think it would be helpful to focus on building trust through other areas in your life. I think others have mentioned counseling as a way to do this. You may not be able to talk about trust in the context of work issues, but you can use other contexts to build feelings of trust and intimacy/closeness that may ease some of the angst you’re feeling regarding your job stuff.

          3. Knit Pixie*

            I also wrote what you are replying to in response to someone else, and was not directly addressing you in that comment (which I am doing here now and have also below.) I am sorry that you are tired of people assuming you don’t know this is serious when I can only speak for myself; frankly I am not assuming anything about you personally at all, other than you are not happy right now.

            You will notice above that I wrote in my first post:

            “That said, I am glad OP3 wrote in for advice before doing something ill – thought out, if I were in their shoes I honestly don’t ever think I would have had the guts.” I am still glad you did, and I still think you have guts, though I agree with your assertion that a different advice column may have better suited to your needs.

            I am not sure why Alison published it, rather than replying in private (she may have addressed this somewhere, just hope she doesn’t think that is an attack on her) because quite frankly my first reaction was embarassment that you would find yourself in this position, and needing to ask help. Honestly that is how I would feel if I were in your shoes, but saying something to that effect previously, seems even more assuming/insulting than attempting to treat it hypothetically.

            By the way I did concede above it was possible that your company knows of your situation and could care less. I was glad to read it doesn’t seem to matter, and furthermore that you would not be accused of any deception due to this. I am also glad for you that this situation may not be as sticky as it appeared to be in original letter.

            Regardless of what you do, and whose advice you ignore/follow I still advise caution in your situation, on your part and on the part of your boyfriend. If for no other reason that it cannot be stressed enough. I truly hope you will not have a problem with my saying so.

            Good luck.

        2. Knit Pixie*

          Hey OP3 I just read what you wrote below, and I will risk the wrath of Katie the Fed by saying that it could be a different situation then I thought, since it has come to light that you work for the government. I am willing to concede that they might not care.

          … that is … until they do.

          I have worked in the government before as well, and have seen some things that would be completely egregious in the corporate world fly with no problems there. I have also seen people turn a blind eye to what is considered policy. Until they can’t anymore. Until it is handed down from above that it is time to make an example of someone.

          And for the record, I saw people fired, and these people wound up married. It didn’t matter how their immediate bosses felt, when the pressure was on and the higher ups learned they broke policy they were both fired. One was absolutely ruined professionally.

          I get you were trying to preserve your anonymity by not mentioning all details, and that you feel you were misconstrued. I still give you kudos for writing in and was surprised you did, because I kind of knew this would be people’s reactions; but mean, nasty what have you, these were honest reactions, and hopefully you gleened something from them other than we are all out to get you.

          I saw how upset you are with how everyone here is treating you, but really they cannot do anything to you. You and your man’s bosses can, and they don’t have to be civil either. Do not react this strongly if you find yourself faced with something like this at work. If you find it hard to find a job while you already have a job, imagine if you are terminated and your next employer needs a reference.

          Nobody knows who you are here, and only you know you wrote in, so take it with a grain of salt and at worst consider this practice for a trying situation; the bottom line message though: tread carefully, both of you.

          Good luck, god speed.

  13. Apollo Warbucks*

    #4 My dad told me that I’d miss spelt my employers name in the body of what I’d written on my LinkedIn profile after is started my current job. I appreciated that but I can’t see how telling your interviewer about a mistake on their profile will benefit you, and if it comes across as you being a smart arse or know it all it will actually hurt more than it helps.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      One of my job interviews consisted of lots of grammar/typing/MS Office testing. They gave me a proofreading test, and told me there were 8 typos on a document and to find and correct them. I found 9 and I wasn’t sure what to do. Since I had no idea which was the “extra” one and I didn’t know if it was by intent on their part, I just fixed all 9. The person who gave me the test seemed annoyed, but I got the job. And hated every minute of it!

  14. Apollo Warbucks*

    #5 if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck. The performance review sure looks like work to me and as such it needs to be done during work time or you need to get paid overtime.

    1. Al Lo*

      I read, “if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it needs to be paid like a duck,” and thought, well, that adds a whole other level to the duck club.

      Quack, quack.

  15. Paul*

    #2, I think what this question is really getting at is “Do you have any unique/uncommon experience or skills that you can bring to the job?” So think about anything you have that it’s *likely* other candidates don’t. If that doesn’t apply to you, it’s frustrating, but if you can pull something out of the bag here, it’s great. It is slightly distinct from “Why would you excel?”

    1. Jeanne*

      Good thought. The best candidate is so many factors. If you have something different, technical or people skills, tell them!

  16. hbc*

    OP2: “The problem for me is that because of some things that happened in the past, I have ongoing trust issues with the management and senior leadership of our organization. Now he is part of that cabal and I’m finding that it really bothers me.”

    So because *you* don’t trust *him*, he has to trust you 100% and prove it by giving you information that you’re not supposed to have, putting his job on the line? In essence, you’re asking him to do something untrustworthy to prove that he trusts you. Please tell me that you see how messed up that is.

    The reason that you’re torn is that your rational and irrational sides are battling it out. If you can’t get your irrational side under control on this one, you need a new workplace, a new ex, or a counselor. Possibly all three.

    1. LBK*

      Yes, exactly, this is what I was trying to get at above. Betraying his trust to someone else shouldn’t be a positive sign of his integrity for you.

    2. OP3*

      hbc – please read my reply to TotesMaGoats. You’ve misinterpreted the situation, which is probably my fault for not being clearer and providing enough context.

  17. John Vinall*

    #2 – I’ve been in this situation. I went into the interview knowing there were at least 2 candidates in the pool who could do a better job than I could (this was an internal-only promotion from 1st line to 2nd line) but got the job anyway.

    What I and the other candidates *didn’t* know was that as well as looking for someone who could do 2nd line support they wanted someone to rapidly shift up from there into 3rd line support – so whilst they were looking for someone who could do the job for 6 months or so they wanted someone who would stretch to fit the 3rd line / sysadmin criteria as well. (for reference they didn’t want to state this explicitly because then they would create an expectation that the role would definitely lead to the 3rd line position)

    Just because you might not be the “best” candidate looking at the criteria provided doesn’t mean you might not be exactly what they are looking for for their future plans. Just because you can think someone else is better doesn’t mean they will too.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      This is great advice.

      Also, OP, don’t walk in assuming you’re not the best. Don’t tell yourself you ARE the best either, but even if you’re not the strongest candidate on paper, you could have other qualities that make you a better fit for that team than other internal applicants. Maybe Fergus has more experience, but is a known prima donna, and Lucinda is an all-around great worker but, unbeknownst to you, makes 30% more than you do and the hiring manager doesn’t want that salary charged against her team’s profitability.

  18. Katie the Fed*

    #3 – I can’t believe the company would allow the head of HR to date an employee. Ack. At least he seems like a trustworthy guy since he’s not sharing anything he shouldn’t. But…ick.

    1. ITPuffNSTuff*

      i thought he seemed trustworthy until i read Knit Pixie’s comments above. if he’s so worthy of trust, what is he doing dating someone at his own company? doesn’t he see the conflict of interest?

        1. Elizabeth West*

          If it is, he may have gone ahead thinking he could keep it a secret–people have done more risky things than this in the name of love (or sex or whatever). But if the OP is this paranoid, I’ll bet it doesn’t stay a secret for long.

          All these workplaces are where people meet and date and join duck clubs and get married and have babies, etc. etc. etc. are starting to piss me off.

          1. Anna*

            Why? You spend MOST of your time with your coworkers and if you’re single, there’s a chance you’ll find someone interesting enough to date. I met my husband at our place of employment. Granted, I stopped working there before we started dating, but it’s silly to think that as soon as you find someone attractive and go on a couple of dates, one of you will just quit your job.

            The duck club is gross, though.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Nothing ever happens at my work, that’s why–at least not to me! (Duck club, eww; I’ll pass, LOL)

              No one would quit after two or three dates. But there is clearly a conflict of interest here–and many companies have policies against dating higher-ups even if the lower-level employee isn’t a direct report.

              As for secrecy, I’ve known people who dated at work and they kept it quiet just to avoid incessant questions from nosy coworkers, or annoying crap like “Did you see your bf talked to Hermione in Accounting? They were laughing.. OMG are you worried?” etc.

    2. Anna*

      There’s nothing about the letter that makes it sound like it was a coercive relationship. As someone posted above it sounds like he had been promoted based on what the OP said. How about we not make giant leaps in assuming he’s a scumbag and she’s being exploited. It IS a conflict of interest, but it’s not the creepy thing everyone seems to want to make it out to be.

      1. ITPuffNStuff*

        hi anna,

        not sure if this was directed @ me or not, but if so (and in my own defense) — i wasn’t thinking anything untoward was happening. just that execs shouldn’t date anyone else @ their organization, particularly in HR. perhaps this would be different in a small family firm, but if this business is large enough to have more than 2 levels of management, i think it’s inappropriate for execs to date other employees, regardless of the relational context.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I haven’t seen anyone painting it as creepy or exploitative, but it’s wildly inappropriate for the head of HR and raises big questions about his judgment and professionalism. It’s not okay to do, period.

  19. James M*

    Why do you believe you are the best candidate?

    What an obnoxious question. I’d be tempted to shoot back “Why do you assume that I believe that?”.

    Assuming this question comes late in the interview (would it be worse than usual to get this one right in the beginning?), I would quickly touch on the positive points I made in the interview and finish with “Since I haven’t evaluated other candidates, I can only stand on my own merit and let you and your peers decide who is best.”.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      I don’t think the question is obnoxious, just badly phrased. What the interviewer is probably wanting is to hear why the candidate thinks they are the right fit for the job or what skills they have.

    2. Evey Hammond*

      It reminds me of the first interview I ever went to, when I was fifteen. I did an alright job up until the end- I was nervous, but I answered the questions well, was dressed professionally, etc. Then the interviewer capped off the whole thing with:

      “Out of all the people applying for this job, why should we give it to you?”

      I stared at him for a second, then squeaked, “Um… I don’t know, maybe you shouldn’t?”

      (Didn’t get a callback. Can’t imagine why.)

  20. SandrineSmiles (France)*

    OP #3:

    Wait, what ?

    Just because you are in a relationship doesn’t mean you’re entitled to know everything BF does. Would you be just as hurt he wasn’t telling you about his company if he was working somewhere else ?

    Just stop asking and stop thinking about it. And like others said, I do also think, from the language in the letter, that finding a new job might be the better option. Just because you’d get gossip from HR doesn’t mean you’d feel any better about your job.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Just because you’d get gossip from HR doesn’t mean you’d feel any better about your job.

      This is a good point. Even if OP’s job is not in jeopardy from layoffs, etc., she clearly has some animosity toward it. For her own peace of mind, regardless of what happens with the relationship, she should probably start looking.

    2. OP3*

      Sandrine – at no point did I ever say I felt entitled to know anything. Moreover, I never said I wanted to hear gossip. You’ve leapt to a lot of wrong conclusions, like just about every other person who has commented here. Clearly, I should have done a better job of describing things. If you’re interested, you can read my reply to TotesMaGoats. Otherwise, save it.

      1. OP3*

        Excuse me? What exactly do you mean?

        Posting to this blog has been a huge mistake I won’t make again. Very few people have had anything kind to say. Most have been self-righteous and downright nasty. If you care to know more about my situation, you can read my reply to TotesMaGotes. Otherwise, shut the f**k up.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hey, OP, I’m going to set your comments to moderation for the rest of today because the way you’re talking to people here isn’t okay. I understand that it’s tough to be on the receiving end of this kind of criticism, but you do need to be civil when posting here and right now that’s not happening.

          I agree that the comment you were responded to here was too much of a pile-on, but telling people to “shut the fuck up” is not okay. No one is requiring you to interact here; if you prefer not to, you don’t need to.

          1. Nervous Accountant*

            Maybe my own comment was too much, I admit that, but I don’t think anyone else here was piling on, not in the least. Everyone else has been civil and helpful.

            And I did read the reply to Totes MaGotes before I made my reply; I’m not sure what exactly you wanted to get out of this exchange here since almost every single reply has just been directed to that post and it doesn’t really change most people’s read of the situation.

          2. Jeanne*

            Thank you. I was getting frustrated. I haven’t even found the reply to ToatesMaGoats. My ipad doesn’t search on the page.

            1. Loose Seal*

              Off-topic but the iPad does search on the page. Type the search word in the search bar and hit enter. When it brings up the list of possible searches, the last one will be “on this page.” It’s not as easy as searching on the computer screen but it’s doable.

  21. Richard*

    On #5 – We had this with a company I was at, but not with non-exempt workers. Exempt workers there still need to fill out timesheets, and need to use leave if they work less than 40 hours a week. Self evaluations that took more than 30 minutes were considered optional, not work directed by management, and not chargeable. There was grumbling – as people weren’t being “paid” for the time – although, as exempt employees, we weren’t being directly paid for our time anyway.

  22. BRR*

    #1 This is definitely something that if you’re concerned about, you only say it to your friend. It sounds purely like an issue with how she manages her own schedule.

    #3 While you mention multiple times understanding that he needs to hold sensitive information, I don’t think you actually understand. Really you should be thrilled to be dating someone who has a lot of integrity about the responsibilities of their job. I’d be far more concerned if my boyfriend was sharing confidential information with me.

    1. ITPuffNSTuff*

      #3 — agreed that OP doesn’t seem to understand, or at least is using this as a justification for his/her own trust issues (which i speculate would be there regardless), but i don’t agree the BF has a lot of integrity. i mean, integrity enough to keep things confidential, but … not enough to eschew dating employees (as an HR exec, he should certainly know better).

      1. BRR*

        I guess I meant it more like the op sees the confidentiality as a negative trait but it’s really a positive one. Definitely it’s an issue that they are dating though.

  23. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-Be a friend first. Don’t tell the boss anything. If you are in a place where you can give her some solid advice about how to better manage her time or work then do it. If not, then just be a friend.

    #3-You either need to get another job or break up. Your BF is doing the exact right thing by his company, his position, his reputation and YOU by not telling you this stuff you want to know. I get not trusting senior management. Really, I do but you should count this as a positive character trait not a flaw in your BF. My husband has a clearance. He can’t tell me anything about what he does. (TBH, I probably wouldn’t understand it anyway.) The most I get is office politics and “I had a good/bad day”. I have to be happy with that. You need to look to yourself and do some work there with your trust issues and not take it out on your BF.

    1. some1*

      TBH I think one of them needs to find another job regardless. The fact that the LW is asking this question in the first place doesn’t make it seem like she gets professional standards. I think even if she breaks up with him and it’s the most amicable break-up ever, I feel like she is always go see him and treat him as an ex-BF and not the HR Director.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        Someone needs to work somewhere else. Completely agreed but I think it’s the GF who should probably go. Just as a penance for not understanding how professionalism works. Now, BF shouldn’t be dating an employee but other than that it does sound like he’s treating a romantic work relationship properly.

        1. OP3*

          Penance? I understand perfectly how professionalism works – which is why I’m so conflicted over this. It’s really tough to love someone who also holds a position that influences your livelihood. I mentioned more than once how it’s clear to me that he can’t tell me anything confidential and I would never ask him to. A lot of people commenting here seem to have the impression that I’m pushing him to tell me things he can’t. That’s not the case at all – I probably should have made that clearer. We hardly discuss work at all when we’re together, which is as it should be. But it doesn’t mean there isn’t occasionally some tension as a result.

          Yes, I have difficulty trusting the senior leadership team – that’s a whole other (long) story. When we got together, he wasn’t part of that level of management. Things have changed somewhat now that he is. And really, that’s all I was writing about with my original post. Everyone here seems to have a wrong impression of what sort of person I am and what kind of advice I was really asking for.

          That said, I’m a bit disheartened by the lack of simple compassion among the comments here. My original post was simply about how the work situation is affecting the dynamics between me and my partner. We are in a serious relationship and we love each other. We’d like to get married. Also, we frequently discuss which one of us should get a new job – but right now, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for either of us. I should add that we are both civil servants for a government in the midst of a hiring freeze. So a new job is going to take some time.

          I probably should have provided that context to start with.

          As for integrity, the fact that he has it is one of the things I love most about him. My integrity is perfectly aware of how he needs to conduct himself. It’s my heart and emotions that struggle with the idea that he doesn’t feel he can confide in me. That’s the nub of my conflict – I wish he would confide in me, but understand all too well that he can’t. That is a difficult dynamic to manage in a relationship.

          Navigating this situation is what I was asking this community about. I wasn’t expecting personal criticism, unkind speculation on my character or motives or some of the judgmental and sanctimonious remarks I’ve been reading.

          I probably should not have posted in the first place. Either that or I should have been clearer that I was not asking for opinions on the morals of the situation, but rather that I was unsure how to manage things going forward. I suppose I was asking more about the relationship than the work environment.

          So here is my plea: If you think you have something useful to tell me, please do. But if you want to dump on me for what you see as immoral or unethical, please don’t. I’m well aware of the issues in play.

          And finally, to whomever referred to my “rank” – implying that I’m a lowly file clerk – know that I have a postgraduate degree and a position of some responsibility. This is not a boss / secretary stereotype.

          1. OP3*

            I should also add that since the promotion, he has been considerably more stressed and withdrawn. I’m the one person he should be able to unload to, but of course that can’t happen. That is a tough circumstance for even the strongest relationship.

            My question probably isn’t appropriate for this forum and after all the nasty things people have said, I’m wishing I’d never asked.

            1. Josh S*

              “… it hurts that he doesn’t feel he can trust me with work-related information that might be contentious or sensitive. I wish he felt he could talk to me about work and could trust me to be discreet. But of course he has to be careful.”

              I get it–it feels lousy when you’re cut out of the loop from what a loved one is dealing with, regardless of the reason. You think “This guy trusts me. He *says* he trusts me! Why can’t he just share some of this stuff?” and wonder if it points at a lack of trust.

              Or at least that’s how it reads. And from his perspective, I’m sure it hurts that he can’t share stuff even though he trusts you. Because his bosses and the company expect HIM to be as discreet about things as you claim to be. It’s not about trust, it’s about Who Needs To Know. And often, that circle is small and extremely limited. It’s not about “who is trustworthy”–it’s about “who, right now, has to be aware of this information?”

              It’s hard being on the outside of that small circle when a loved one is inside it. Doubly so when the information might impact you directly. You clearly have an urge to find out that information…it seems like it’s eating at you some.

              Kill the urge. Try to find a job somewhere else. Even if it doesn’t open up the circle to you, it will help remove the desire to satisfy that urge.

            2. Sarah Nicole*

              Hey, OP3. I know I’m a little late to the party here, but I just wanted to mention that things will likely still be this way when one of you finds a new job. If he is in HR, but at a different company, he might be able to be more general and confide in you a bit more, but it likely won’t be much different. So I was just here to suggest if there is any way you can find to try and let this go a little at a time and just move on with the understanding that you guys don’t discuss his work.

              I feel for you about the government hiring freeze – it can’t be easy to find a new job under those circumstances. So to help you manage this until one of you is able to secure a new job, I’d suggest simple things, like date nights where work conversation is off-limits (even from you, since you’re presumably able to talk about your job with him), trying to work on other areas of your relationship, and working on things for yourself. That last point is most important, I feel. My relationship with my boyfriend got so much better when I started taking care of myself and being my own person more. Not to say you aren’t doing that! Just that we can all do more for ourselves. :)

              Good luck navigating this situation. Yes, it is not ideal, and it is understandable that you were dating before his promotion, and no you are not a bad person or misunderstanding of what is professional. You’re just letting your personal feelings cloud the situation. You can get past it and move on with a great partner and hopefully a new job soon!

              1. HR Pro*

                I’m going to respectfully disagree with Sarah Nicole on one point. I would think that it would be a real improvement in the amount OP3’s boyfriend could vent to her/him if OP3’s boyfriend worked at another company. I’ve been the head of HR at 2 different companies, and my husband has never worked with me at either of those companies. I do have a stressful job and I can tell him almost everything. I just try not to name names in case he ever meets my coworkers. And sometimes my husband will say to me “I’m so glad you can vent to me since you can’t vent to anyone you work with.” So I think it would be quite an improvement if OP3’s boyfriend worked somewhere else. (Just to be clear, OP3’s boyfriend still couldn’t tell her/him about things that happened at the place where they both worked together, but OP3’s boyfriend could vent his stress about his new company.)

            3. PSophie Pseudonym*

              OP #3 I am wondering how you know there’s stuff your boyfriend isn’t telling you, since you’re not pushing for info. In other words, how is this issue coming up in your daily lives? Is it just that you know the nature of his position means some things are confidential, and that knowledge is bothering you?

              Or is he alluding to stuff, like “oh, this thing that’s happening, it’s so major and interesting… but no, I can’t talk about that in front of you.” Because someone doing that would make me feel frankly insane, and if he’s pulling that, you might want to tell him to cut it out. Anyway, that may not be your situation at all!

              1. Sarah Nicole*

                Oh, good point! I had a friend who would say things like, “I have this friend who’s bothering me in X and Y ways….but I don’t want you to think I’m a gossip, so I can’t tell you who it is.” Ugh, it drove me nuts! I didn’t really need to know before she said anything, but then I really wanted to know! If that’s what is going on, I’d probably be pretty annoyed, too.

                1. Op3*

                  It’s a bit of both, really. He’ll tell me he’s going to be in a stressful all-day meeting with various people I know and then refuse to tell me anything else. It’s a bit like being scooted out of the room as a child because the grownups need to talk about something important.

          2. ITPuffNStuff*

            Hello OP3,

            Thank you for taking the time to respond. Reading some of my own posts on this topic, I realize I was being harsh and judgmental, and for my part in it, I apologize. I’m sad to have played a role in making you feel this way and I hope you will forgive me.

            To address your question about how to navigate the situation — what I’m hearing you say is that you feel like your boyfriend’s inability to share confidential information is a reflection on how he feels about you (specifically that “he doesn’t feel he can confide in me”). I presume your brain is telling you this is no reflection on his ability to confide in you, but I get the impression your feelings on the subject are leading you to interpret it differently.

            The thing to bear in mind here is that “he doesn’t feel he can confide in me” is a statement expressing how *you* feel, and not necessarily a statement of his actual ability (or inability) to confide. If he doesn’t agree with the statement that he doesn’t feel he can confide in you, it’s counterproductive to project that on to him, because it will keep you focused on him and become a barrier to processing your own feelings in a positive way.

            The way to navigate this is to find a couple’s counselor you are both comfortable with, and use him/her to help you unpack what makes you perceive your BF as unable to confide, and develop strategies that you and your BF can use together that will help you feel better about him confiding in you without putting confidential work information on the table. I hope this is helpful to you. good luck.

            1. OP3*

              Thank you for your thoughtful reply – it has helped relax the lump in my throat that formed as I read this whole page. That is a very good point that in assuming that he doesn’t want to confide in me I’m actually thinking about how I feel rather than how he feels. Someone else also pointed out that it’s likely hard on him to want to tell me things about work but be unable to.

              As an aside, it’s not easy to get him to talk about anything emotional – so it’s an ongoing thing between us that we’re working on.

              1. Colorado*

                Can your BF talk with a mentor or coach? I don’t think it is wise for him to talk with you about sensitive info, you know that, but is there someone else he can talk with, someone with similar experience?

                1. Had Enough*

                  Possibly – that’s a very good suggestion. I don’t think it’s wise of him to share sensitive information with me, either. But I agree that he needs to talk with someone. Since this promotion, he’s been working much longer hours (understandable) and has been a lot more stressed and tired. I know a certain amount of that just comes with the territory, but a mentor would definitely help.

                  It sucks to see him so worn down and not be able to really do anything to help – or even know exactly what the problem is.

          3. Ad Astra*

            I guess I’m confused about what kind of feedback you were hoping to get here, OP3.

            You say you want him to confide in you, but you’re defensive when we suggest you’re pushing for information. You ask if you should find a new job, but when we say “Yes, absolutely,” you counter that there’s a hiring freeze and finding a new job would be difficult. You’re offended that we take issue with an HR director dating an employee, but it’s kind of really not cool for an HR director to date an employee. Additional context is certainly helpful, but it’s hard to know what to do with this.

            This problem is bothering you enough that you felt you had to seek formal advice. And the advice is pretty unanimous: You cannot fix this problem without finding a new job, no matter how difficult that may be.

            If you were to stick around this community, it would become clear pretty quickly that very few (if any) comments are posted with the intent to be unkind. We don’t know you, and we aren’t trying to assess your morality here (just as we tried not to pile on the guy from a while back who’s racked up $20,000 in personal expenses on his company credit card). We’re assessing the situation, which happens to be kind of bad. That doesn’t mean we think you’re bad.

            1. V*

              This. So much. We’re also not really a relationship advice / support group, so we’re looking at the work side of the issue.

              In addition to that, a lot of people here will respond based on the available information in the question; they’re not going to be reading 200+ comments to find every piece of information the OP added later. So you’ll get a lot of the same advice repeated in multiple comments.

          4. Observer*

            By the way, most of what people have been saying is equally applicable (or not, in your case) regardless of whether this is a stereotypical “boss / secretary” scenario.

            I do think that probably you picked the wrong forum to ask your question. From what you say, you don’t really have a workplace issue, but an issue getting your emotions aligned with good sense – and the stuff that your own brain is telling you. From the workplace problem perspective, your letter reads like “Why won’t my BF tell me this stuff? It really bothers me!” and that’s what people have essentially been responding to. What you really seem to be asking, however, is “MY BF can’t talk to me. It’s driving me bats, and I’m looking for a new job so we can change the situation. In the meantime, how do I deal?” That’s a very different question.

    1. OP3*

      Hey, NoCalHR – don’t get yourself in a twist. If you would like to base your remarks on a clearer picture of my situation, please read my response to TotesMaGoats. Otherwise, put a sock in it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hey. You’re starting to be rude to people here, and that’s not okay. These are strangers trying to help you with the question you asked. I understand that you don’t like many of the responses, but please be civil when commenting here.

        1. OP3*

          I’m responding to their rudeness, and I don’t agree with you that everyone here is trying to help. This has all been a huge mistake and I really wish I had never sent in my question in the first place.

          Why don’t you just take this whole article down and we can dispense with all this unpleasantness?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That’s not how this blog works.

            I agree that people certainly haven’t sugarcoated, but there have only been a couple of comments that were outright rude (one of which I just addressed). Most people are being constructive. The problem is that the message that people are pretty united on is one that you don’t like. I understand why that’s unpleasant and even unwelcome but it doesn’t make it hostile, and it doesn’t justify shooting back the sorts of responses that you’ve been leaving here.

            You’ve gotten a lot of feedback here about your situation; you can take it or leave it, but you cannot be nasty to other commenters. Frankly, I’d suggest moving on from the post, at least for today, because it’s clearly upsetting to you.

  24. GigglyPuff*

    Okay, I won’t go into how wrong #3 is, because other people have said some great stuff, but I can’t help but wonder if it is less about the trust issue and more about communication for the OP. (disclaimer: very little romantic relationship experience). But OP, is the problem maybe that you feel like there is nothing in common anymore, you can no longer talk about work with him? Since he can’t disclose details, I can see how, “so what did you do today?” can be pretty limiting, and the same for you. If you’ve had bad experience with work issues before, blowing off steam is always a vital outlet, but now you can’t really get that anymore, since he probably can’t just give a blanket, “oh yeah, that sucks, they are horrible” because he now is part of the mgmt. Maybe this change in how you both interact in this relationship is the real issue, and not the more blanket statement of, he doesn’t trust me.

    Okay, I do have to say it, stop pushing for information when he has made it clear it is confidential.

    Also anyone else getting a 90s suspense movie plot vibe? The lower level employee, seeing the upper mgmt employee, they learn something they aren’t supposed to and the company wants them dead :D

    1. The Strand*

      Gigglypuff, no disclaimer needed! I think everything you’ve just said would be as appropriate if it was the lady’s mother or best friend, rather than boyfriend, who just became the head of HR.

    2. OP3*

      GigglyPuff – when did I ever say I was pushing for information? That is not the situation at all. If you’re interested, you can read my reply to TotesMaGoats.

      1. GigglyPuff*

        Sorry about that comment. Usually when I comment, I read some of what has been said, then re-read the original post to make sure I didn’t miss something/clarify points, then post my comment, but this time I was short on time and didn’t re-read the original post, and took some of what other people had said and just re-iterated it in my post which was based on incorrect info. I do apologize.

        1. OP3*

          That’s ok – we’ve all done it. I don’t disagree with anyone who thinks one of us should be working elsewhere, but that’s not an option at the moment. Please understand that I NEVER ask him for information he can’t divulge because I wouldn’t want to put him in such an uncomfortable position. The tension arises from the mere fact that there’s such an imbalance of power at work that it’s difficult to keep it there and not let it affect the way we interact with each other outside the office.

          All that said, I am totally digging your idea for a suspense movie. I would like to be played by Maggie Gyllenhal.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That’s one of several reasons why relationships with professional power differentials are problematic. But that’s the reality of the situation right now. It seems like you have to either find a way to make peace with that, change jobs, reconsider whether you can find happiness in the relationship, or ….? I can’t really think of other solutions.

  25. Nobody*

    #3 – I think your emotions may be clouding your reasoning here, because you said yourself that you understand why your boyfriend can’t discuss confidential information with you, but you seem to want him to do it anyway.

    How would you feel if you saw the situation from a different perspective? What would you think, for example, if a coworker was dating the head of HR and getting all kind of inside information that you weren’t given (and possibly confidential information about you)? What would you think if you were another manager and the head of HR was leaking sensitive information to an employee who wasn’t supposed to know? I think you’d agree that the head of HR shouldn’t share this information, no matter how discreet and trustworthy his girlfriend is. I agree with the other comments that this relationship really isn’t appropriate at all, because even if your boyfriend never breathes a word of confidential information to you, people will always be wondering.

  26. AMT*

    #5: Who knew? The one time a letter-writer refrained from asking whether something was illegal, it actually WAS illegal!

      1. Knit Pixie*

        Oh yeah! Thank you for asking this OP5. I actually want to secretly print, highlight and distribute it amongst the HR and management staff at my office. They don’t seem to think this is work that should be paid for either.

  27. Ad Astra*

    OP #3 seems to think “confidential” means “It’s OK to tell your girlfriend this as long as she doesn’t tell anyone else.” That’s not how it works. He’s not keeping these things from her because she can’t keep a secret; he’s keeping them from her because it would be wrong for her to even know the information, even if she didn’t pass it on. It would be like dating a doctor and then feeling hurt when he won’t tell you which of his patients are taking antidepressants.

    I would encourage OP to think about why she takes this personally when she seems to understand intellectually that he must keep some information to himself. This sounds like an issue that will continue plaguing this relationship and any future relationships, even if she does find a new job. Trusting someone doesn’t mean telling them everything, even at the risk of your career or your friendships. And yeah, she needs a new job, like, yesterday.

    1. some1*

      Really good point in your first paragraph. Also, this goes both ways – the LW should not have to tell her BF if her friends at work confide something in her that HR might like to know (like her friend/coworker says they are looking for a new job or going on an interview but telling the company they have a dentist appointment).

  28. TootsNYC*

    From Question #1:

    And when this is the case, how do you answer the question “Why do you believe you are the best candidate?”

    “Well, I can’t speak to the other applicants, but I think I’d excel at the job because _____.”

    Asking you to compare yourself to other applicants is BS. Reframe it as the more reasonable “Why would you excel in this position?”

    I don’t think that question actually -means- “compare yourself to the other people you know (or think) are candidates.”

    Alison’s reply is spot-on. Just say why you would be good.

    Also–I wouldn’t worry too much about whether you are wasting the hiring manager’s time, or HR’s time. Here’s why:
    • Your interview might make the in-house hiring manager feel that she’s really scoped out what out there, so she’s secure in her choice–not good for you, of course, but [proof that you didn’t waste her time.
    • Most hiring managers who work in a company that promotes from within will see the interview as a chance to get to know you, and that’s a good use of their time. Because, in 2.5 years, maybe that position will be open, and you -will- be the best candidate. Or some other position will open up, maybe not even for them. Or maybe they’ll have an opportunity or need to interact with you on some other thing, and now they know more about you and your strengths.
    • The hiring manager can decide before scheduling the interview whether it would be too much of a waste of her time.

  29. Observer*

    To #3

    Think about what you said for a moment – You don’t trust upper management, so you want someone in upper management to do something fundamentally untrustworthy to assuage your mistrust. Do you really think that’s going to help you trust people more? After all, now you *know* that upper management trusts someone who shares confidential information. Why would you trust them any more than you do now?

    You have already gotten your BF to exhibit bad judgement – for a high level HR person to date someone in the company whose employment he can influence is a bad judgement call to start with. But, he’s trying to keep it ok. What you are asking for is for him to go from “bad judgement” to “Lack of basic integrity” and “fire-able offense in any halfway decently run organization.” Don’t go there.

    By the way, you should think about the effect on your career, as well. As it is, no matter how circumspect and appropriate your behavior and that of your BF is, lots of people are going to see your dating as a bid for influence. And, if you advance at all within the company, or weather layoffs etc, there is no way people are not going to assume it was because of you BF rather than y0ur work and qualifications. If you actually ARE the beneficiary of confidential information, as you want to be, then the mud will stick.

    If you are serious about your BF, then the best thing you can do for yourself is to start looking HARD for another job. Otherwise, break up with him NOW.

    1. Sadsack*

      How has OP already gotten her boyfriend to exhibit bad judgement? I hope you don’t mean because they are dating. I mean, yes, they shouldn’t be dating and working together as they are now, but I wouldn’t say that she got him to do that. Maybe I misunderstood you?

      1. Observer*

        I don’t (and didn’t when I posted this) think she “got him” to exhibit bad judgement. I was saying that he had exhibited bad judgement and what she seemed to be asking for would move his behavior from “bad judgement” to the other stuff.

  30. Helen of What*

    I once corrected something on an ad agency’s website in my cover letter for an internship: they misidentified a part of a skateboard in an ad for skateboards. It was when I was in college and didn’t realize how embarrassing that would be for all involved. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get a response to my application.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      In an interview once, I mentioned the company’s website–it had a lot of duplicate information, poor grammar, and dense writing. I framed it as I noticed this could use a little work, something I could offer the company, that I had mad editing skills, blah blah. The interviewer laughed and said, “Yeah, it’s pretty bad–our boss writes all that himself. It drives us crazy, but he won’t let Marketing or anyone change it.”

      Saying I saw something flawed that I could fix for them might have been a risky interview strategy, but the answer told me all I wanted to know about the company. I left the interview thinking that if she offered me the job, I really didn’t want to take it. Nobody wants to work with a boss like that.

  31. The Strand*

    OP #3, what kind of information are you hoping he’ll share with you regarding the company? Can you be more specific?

    Are you hoping he’ll tell you about general things happening in the future for the business? Or tell you the truth about some corporate scandal that may be occupying your mind?

    Or are you hoping he’ll tell you about specific people, programs, funding, etc? Or what your file contains?

    Either way he’s right to keep it confidential, but I think that the average person wanting to know more about the former is natural, and the latter is highly inappropriate.

  32. Erin*

    #1 – Say what you need to say to her and then let it go. You’re right to be concerned, but this is probably one of those situations where we have to recognize people are adults with free will and they’re going to do what they’re going to do, you can only help those who want to be helped, etc.

    #2 – I would still give it a shot even if you know the other candidates might be more qualified. You never know what the hiring managers are thinking, or if you’ll say something in the interview that will resonate with them. Think hard about things you can bring to the table that the others might not, even if they have more experience or have been with the company longer, or what have you.

    #3 – Yes, get another job, then you can be privy to all the workplace gossip/information that he can’t give you now. =P I understand where you’re coming from and folks shouldn’t be harsh to judge you for it. You get it that you’re not privy to this information, but it’s understandably hard to feel like you aren’t being trusted.

    My somewhat-comparable-situation: My husband is a big security nut, particularly with computer things (he’s an IT guy). I know without asking that he will never tell me his email password, bank pin number, etc. In fact, he’s the administrator on my blog and I’m sure there are things security-wise he keeps from me – on my own blog! That just popped in my head and I don’t know it for sure, but in any case. Even though I would not hesitate to give him passwords of mine, I don’t take it personally that he guards his with his life. Because I trust him. And he trusts me too – I know that he does, and that’s not what this is about.

    It sounds like you *do* trust your boyfriend and vice versa, but you do not trust the other higher ups in the company, and that will inevitably cause issues. As another commenter said, that’s the real problem here. It sounds like you guys have a really good relationship, so let’s keep it that way.

    #5 – I love how you rephrased the question to make it about fairness and Alison is still like, “Yup, that illegal.” Bahaha. When you bring it up to HR I would phrase it carefully so it looks like you’re giving them the benefit of the doubt, and are looking out for their interests and that of the company’s, not your own.

    “Hey, I’m certain you didn’t realize this, but I need to bring something to your attention. Not being paid for these evaluations is actually illegal, because…” And then when you’re done explaining, reiterate how you understand they didn’t realize this and you don’t want anything bad to happen to the company. Have the Depart of Labor’s phone number ready for them so they can follow up with this on their own.

    1. Ad Astra*

      My husband refuses to tell me who or what he votes for, just on principle. Even years after an election, he won’t reveal his choices. But of course I know him well enough now to take a pretty good guess. ;)

      1. Erin*

        HaHA! I didn’t know who mine voted for until six months afterwards, but same deal, I had a pretty good idea. =P

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*

      I don’t trust *anyone* with my passwords, and wouldn’t be offended in the slightest by someone else not trusting me with theirs.

      It’s horribly immature, insecure, and clingy of OP3 to be insulted that her boyfriend won’t share confidential work information with her. It isn’t hers to know, no matter what their relationship. She needs to grow up.

        1. OP3*

          It’s horribly nasty, immature and just plain ignorant to assume anything about how I behave with my boyfriend. My life isn’t yours to know about, no matter what you happen to think about it. You need to grow up.

    3. OP 5*

      Thanks for the the wording, Erin. Since I already brought this issue up at a meeting and got shot down, I’ve been trying to figure out how to bring it up again, politely.

  33. Somov*

    Re: #1, you have to allow her to hit her rock bottom. Interfering will only serve to delay that process for her, which in turn delays her ability to change her own life. Express your concern, of course, and be a loving friend, and then back off. Easier said than done, I know!

    1. TootsNYC*

      Oh, as someone who plunged, I have to say:
      It’s not kind or even necessary to let someone hit rock bottom. You -can- catch people before they “splat.”

      It’s difficult, sure, but you can. Reflect back their reality to them, so they -see- it; don’t accept their bullshit excuses, but challenge their rationalization; express your positive wishes for good things and good emotions to come to them/be part of their lives; encourage them to reach for help; even hand them phone numbers and call them nightly to see if they’ve reached out for help.
      Those are all things you -can- do. They might not all work; they aren’t all appropriate to every situation or relationship.

      But it is not necessary or kind to stand by and say, “Well, she’ll just have to destroy her life before she realizes that she’s got a problem.” You -can- be an early-warning system for your friend. And maybe she’ll heed it.

      1. Somov*

        I totally hear you and you’ve made some great points here. I’m not saying not to bring things to her attention, or to not try and be that early-warning system, but it’s ultimately up to the friend to change her behavior. Go around her to try to solve the problem for her is a mistake.

  34. regina phalange*

    #3 – please get a new job. Or one of you has to. He is keeping information from you because he is legally obligated. Nothing more.

    1. Op3*

      I am working on it and have even applied for a few, but haven’t been successful so far.

  35. HRish Dude*

    #5 – I love that when someone finally hesitates with asking if something is legal…it’s actually not legal.

  36. Employment Lawyer*

    2. Comparing yourself to other candidates for an internal promotion
    Be realistic and honest.

    It may be that you know who everyone is. And it may be that you know enough about them to answer some basic questions. In that case, you might be able to say “I believe I have spent more time working with our largest customer than anyone else, and have excellent relations with them.

    Other than that I agree that you should not guess, but I think you should be more direct about why. People like directness. For example, something like this:

    “I haven’t seen their resumes or applications, and I’m not their manager. So I’m not really familiar with anyone else’s qualifications. I don’t like to claim knowledge that I don’t have, and I don’t think it would be fair to guess. However I would excel at the job because ____.”

    That signals integrity and good analytical ability, which are appealing in their own right. Simply skipping to “I would excel at the job because…” isn’t bad but misses an opportunity, at least IMO.

  37. Raine*

    I have just tried to figure out how OP 1’s friend could take classes 20 hours a week AND work 70+ hours at job and can’t see it (with just class and work alone we’re talking 12-hour days 5 days a week and 15-hour days on Saturday and Sunday). That doesn’t include anything else — travel, sleeping, eating, STUDYING for the 20 hours of classes, etc.

    1. Ad Astra*

      I would assume that 20 hours of classes means 20 credit hours, which might not really take up 20 hours of real time in class, especially if it’s a program designed for working adults or if some of the classes are online.

      That doesn’t really mitigate the insanity of this schedule, though. When does she wash her hair? What about laundry? (I would assume only the absolutely necessary chores get done, but still, how?) The only explanation I can fathom is that she’s also studying at work or doing work stuff in class and maybe switching gears a lot during the day. This is insanity.

      1. Raine*

        Yes, it’s got to be crazy whatever the actual breakdown is! But this is so clearly not the boss’s doing — well, at least the classes part of the craziness — that it almost makes me nervous about the OP’s actual intentions in telling the boss about this?

      2. Laurel Gray*

        It is almost impossible to be taking 20 credit hours (each course is what, 3 credit hours on average?) and working 70 hours a week at the same time. The OP’s friend would barely have time to attend these classes (or log in if they are online) let alone do the assigned reading, homework and projects. I took the 20 hours to mean the amount of time needed to spend on the class(es) she is taking, and I assumed no more than 2.

      3. Jeanne*

        20 credit hours is more than full time. But it is usually about 20 hours of class time for 20 credit hours. Even those MBA courses where you go every Sat and Sun aren’t 20 hours of class I don’t think. I can’t see how it’s possible either but you never know. Maybe it includes study hours?

  38. Isben Takes Tea*

    Adding the thought that yes, OP#3 should be looking for another job to preserve the integrity of the relationship, but with the understanding that her boyfriend still couldn’t share information from his company . . . the confidential information is dependent on his job, not hers.

    1. Anna*

      Yeah…I don’t know a single person who would tell a partner they aren’t talking about the office because their very livelihood depends on it. Oh wait. Except for the guy in the Air Force I used to babysit for who spoke Russian and flew on AWACS airplanes.

      1. fposte*

        Really? It’s pretty common in my experience. For a start, it’s everybody in health care and in education.

        It doesn’t mean you can’t talk about the job at all, but it does mean that not everything at work is shareable. Which doesn’t seem all that onerous to me.

        1. Anna*

          Meh. People I know do share a little in vague non-specific ways. I was reacting more to the tone that even if they weren’t working together THERE WOULD BE NO CONVERSATION which has never actually happened I think unless you do work for the CIA. Or in military intelligence.

          1. Isben Takes Tea*

            I can see how you took it that way, but it wasn’t my intention. I was just trying to emphasize that getting another job many were suggesting wasn’t the key to getting the confidential information OP wanted. Of course people talk about work, but many jobs (for any publicly traded company, for example) have information you’re supposed to keep confidential, even from trustworthy spouses.

            1. OP3*

              Isben – please, I’m not trying to interrogate my boyfriend for the contents of people’s personnel files! That’s not what I meant at all. I don’t want to hear every lurid detail of senior management shenanigans. I just wish that I could be a more supportive partner by listening to him talk about his struggles and stressors – but I can’t.

              Even if I did get another job, he still wouldn’t be able to tell me much because I know most of the people he works with. Anyway, it’s not that I actually want to know all the political intrigue. I just don’t like feeling so shut out of such a big part of his life.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                But the thing is, it’s not possible given the current circumstances. So then the question becomes: Knowing that, what makes sense for you to do from here?

              2. Isben Takes Tea*

                Hi OP,
                I wasn’t assuming you were digging for “juicy bits” or anything, just that whatever information he couldn’t share now he still wouldn’t be able to share even if you were working somewhere else.

                I agree that it is difficult to be as supportive as you want to be when such a large part of a significant other’s life is “off limits.” So knowing that, and knowing it’s not going to change, you have decide what’s best for you. I wish you luck!

  39. OP #1 Here*

    Hi, I’m the person actually asking for a friend. I’m not surprised by the response, and I appreciate the supportive comments from other people who have seen a friend go through this. It’s really hard!

    I have talked to my friend about this repeatedly. Her boss is a really nice guy , but my friend won’t tell him about her workload and won’t delegate to others. My understanding is that there’s just more work than the department can really handle given their staffing, and she’s taken it on herself to do all of it. I’m not in the office with them but I do get the sense that she’s hiding how much work she puts in, since she knows the boss would be upset if he knew about it.

    At this point it’s negatively impacting our relationship, since she’s not really present in her life due to all of her work. It mostly makes me sad and I wish she cared more about herself to stop doing this. I worry about how bad things are going to get before she makes a change.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      It reminds me of when we’re working with teens at our church — we often spend our own money on things. Our pastor says that is fine, but he still wants to know how much we’re spending. Because some day, we won’t be there, and he needs to know what resources will be needed when that happens.

      Your friend needs to let the boss know, partly so the boss isn’t totally blindsided if and when something happens and she’s not there. That’s not fair or nice to the boss. The boss will be much more upset something happens to her, and he suddenly finds out that all sorts of things are going to be late, because he didn’t know he didn’t have the resources to handle it, and didn’t have time to get those resources.

      Of course, you already know that. :(

    2. Raine*

      You said she’s also going to class 20 hours a week. A lot of the juggling she’s doing and what she’s hiding from the boss might have to do with just the class schedule alone.

    3. Jenn*

      Just to offer another perspective: I love work and school a lot and in my 20s I often acted as if the extra work was required by my bosses when I was talking to my friends because they don’t understand wanting to work this hard and for this many hours, and because I lacked the personal confidence to be vocal about my decisions. Now, in my late 30s I’m very comfortable loving work and as my friends start having to make tough choices about family (ageing members and young children) and their own paid and unpaid work it’s much easier for people to accept my priorities even if they wouldn’t make the same choices for themselves.

    4. MsM*

      Unfortunately, like other types of -holics, you may just need to let her hit bottom. Or at least keep your conversations with her focused on the fact that you miss her and she doesn’t seem present in her own life, rather than trying to offer solutions she doesn’t want to take and then getting frustrated when they’re ignored.

  40. Anna*

    Can we stop telling people to break up with their boyfriends? It seems a little bit like trying to manage a personal decision when in reality a simple professional decision would suffice. It feels icky. “I know better than you do how to live your personal life.” Well actually, you don’t. What you know is that it’s a bad idea for them to work together and she should start looking for a new job. That’s the extent of it.

    OP #3, it would be wise and probably give you great peace of mind to find a new position. It sounds like your BF was promoted and that has changed the nature of your personal relationship. A person’s job shouldn’t have that much influence on what they do in their off time. You’re spending a lot of time thinking about work when you’re with your BF and that sucks. Get a new job, make it easier for you to have an actual conversation with your BF and for you to stop worrying about what’s happening at work. Plus if you work somewhere else, all he’s sharing is office gossip. ;)

    1. ITPuffNStuff*

      hi anna,

      don’t you think the original post has at least a little bit of a flavor like “my BF doesn’t tell me *absolutely everything*, therefore there must be something wrong with our relationship”? it seems as if the OP is looking at it that way, and if so, that would be harmful to any relationship, regardless of whether they worked together or not.

      now, does that mean they should break up? nope; it just means they have something to work on and improve in their relationship.

      one point to consider, however, is how long it takes to find another job. if you’re not willing to take just anything, it’s not unheard of for a job search to take 6 months or a year. if it does take that long, should these 2 continue dating given their professional relationship?

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Wouldn’t it still be inappropriate for the BF to share confidential information with her wherever she worked?

      And yes, I agree with ITPuffNStuff that the original post sounds very much like “my BF should be telling me *absolutely everything*, even *other* people’s secrets.” That’s not a healthy way to look at a relationship at all.

      1. fposte*

        Yup, absolutely on the “inappropriate” thing. It may be less of an issue when it’s no longer information that directly impacts her job, but he’s always going to have to keep this stuff from her.

        1. Anna*

          Nope. Find an HR person who states they never share stuff with their partner ever and I’ll call BS every time. People may say they would never, but that’s not really how it works out. “They’re thinking of a huge lay-off” or “We had to fire someone for looking at porn” or “They found illegal photos on a company laptop and I spent all day in meetings with legal.” So what you think would never come up in conversation probably comes up a lot.

          1. Sarah Nicole*

            Yes that’s probably true, but what I think the other commenters are pointing out is that if he’s this conscientious now, he may (and probably should) always continue to be. While HR pros may mention things in general terms, he may still hold back quite a bit since she knows all of the players. It’s tough to say, “oh some folks in accounting are going to be laid off” because she probably knows some of them. It would sound general to a stranger, but it would be more specific to her. So, judging by his behavior now with being careful and keeping things confidential, it sounds like he may continue to do so and this is something that won’t change.

    3. LBK*

      Eh, I’m kind of on the fence – this isn’t a relationship blog, so relationship advice is a little tacky, but on the flipside this isn’t really a work question. It’s a situation that’s complicated by the OP and her boyfriend working together, but the core of the issue is about her trusting him, and I think that kind of issue invites comments about the relationship.

      1. Anna*

        I’m responding to the at least two people who have advised the OP to either find another job or she MUST break up with her boyfriend. That is not really good advice and certainly not pertinent. “Break up with someone who you might be planning to build a life with. Or you know , you could find another job.”

  41. Ed*

    For #3, I used to date the best friend of the HR Director and we double-dated with her and her husband all the time. As a result, I heard a TON of juicy stuff I never should have heard. This is actually the primary reason we didn’t keep dating. I held back from getting too close to her friend because I didn’t want the details of my personal life getting back to my HR Director.

    That also reminded me that you have very little expectation of true privacy once you disclose anything to another person. The person you tell might tell people they trust but then those people will often tell people they trust and so on. An ex-boss once told me a story about this right after telling me he would “attempt” to keep something confidential. He said he was once called into a super secret board meeting and was “quietly” let go. It was just decided earlier that day, no details were to be released to the organization and he got his previously agreed-upon severance package. “We decided to part ways” was to be the official statement the following day. Five minutes later, on his way out from that same meeting, the building’s parking garage attendant shook his hand and wished him luck :) So much for confidentiality.

  42. K*

    I feel bad but I had to laugh at #5 because as soon as someone says “optional but highly encouraged” I think of it as a 37 pieces of flair situation.

  43. Marcela*

    OP3, I get it. It’s not like you are asking for information; it’s that one night you’ll see him annoyed, worried, tired, and naturally you’ll ask him “what’s wrong, honey?”. And he won’t be able to say anything about what’s worrying or conflicting him. He’ll try hard to pretend he is all right, but you’ll feel the tension, the worry, and keep reacting as if the source of it is you, the relationship or even something as silly as you are wearing a dress in a color he hates. He will tell you you didn’t do anything wrong, but you can FEEL there is something wrong and can’t help to react to it.

    Sadly, there is not so much to do. I read in one of the comments that the same thing is going to happen if you move to another job. It’s not like he can’t talk because you might know the people involved. He just can’t -shouldn’t- talk. In another place, the rule will be the same. I guess one possibility would be to get counseling. Not because there is something to fix, but because sometimes we need to learn strategies to deal with what we can’t change. Another would be talk to him and get to some agreement about what to do when he is in that “bad mood”. In my case, when my husband can’t share, we do not spend time together. It’s easier this way to remember it’s not my fault, I didn’t do anything wrong, we are not fighting.

    PS: please, keep in mind that people many times do not read the comments -hehe, I’m thinking about all those times people only read the title, thinking we should be grateful in here at least we read the posts-, so many of them didn’t see your reply and longer explanation. I don’t think they were trying to be rude, snarky or anything similiar, but it’s difficult to be empathetic when you are trying to find a solution. That’s why I’ve forbidden my husband to find solutions for me when I am complaining :D

  44. Zelocity*

    OP #3, I think part of the tension that you are experiencing while reading these comments is because all of the commentators are focusing on the workplace aspect of your situation instead of the problems you outline in your relationship. Everyone here is pretty united in the fact that is incredibly irresponsible for an HR director to be dating someone within the company. You seem to be asking about how to navigate in this relationship, which isn’t something that the commentators here are focusing on because this is a career blog, not a relationship blog. You can’t blame them for focusing on the workplace aspect of your problem, because that is what they are here to do. I think that might be why it feels like people are picking at the same issues over and over again.

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