I get embarrassingly emotional when criticized, boss is yelling at me for using my phone, and more

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

1. I get embarrassingly emotional when criticized

I recently finished grad school and I’m in my first full-time position and I start managing twelve employees next month, and I’ve been reading as many books and blogs in managing as possible.

My question for you is this. I love feedback and I’ve been accustomed to giving and receiving it in grad school. Usually it’s over email and addresses written work. In my new position, which I’ve been in for about two months, my boss and I have established a great working relationship and given each other positive feedback and constructive criticism.

The thing is, when I’m constructively criticized, I get embarrassingly over emotional. We’re talking, tears over emotional. Over something not tear-worthy. Something like, “Oh, you made an off comment and you might want to know that it came off kind of weird.” It’s incredibly embarrassing and really it’s a remant of having a childhood with a parent who was emotional and psychologically abusive. I love feedback once I can take a few minutes and digest that, but when it’s given in person I can have an immediate gut reaction of “Ohmygosh I’m so sorry how can I fix it?” In the past I have used constructive criticsm in my professional development plan to improve. Supervisors have complemented and shown appreciation for that in the past. So the last thing I want is for my supervisor to feel uncomfortable giving me constructive criticism.

The tears don’t happen often and I was able to keep from crying in front of my last boss, but was on the verge many, many times. I don’t have a poker face so I’m sure they can tell I’m upset. How do I manage this embarassing thing in a professional way?

I think the first time it happens, I’d address it proactively — either in the moment if you can, or soon afterwards. I’d say something like, “Ugh, I have a weird reaction sometimes with criticism, but please know that it doesn’t indicate I don’t want to hear it — I actually love feedback and really value getting it. I’m working on getting the embarrassing visible reaction under control, but meanwhile I don’t want it to deter you from telling me where you think I could be doing better. I know how important that kind of feedback is to hear.”

And then, really do work on it, possibly with a therapist if you’re not already, because I think it’ll greatly help your quality of life and peace of mind. (And realistically, there will be managers who give you less feedback because of this and/or perceive you as overly sensitive, and you don’t want that.)

2. My boss is yelling at me for using my phone — but I’m using a medical app for diabetes

I am a contractor at a government agency. They have tried to hire me every year but they can’t match my salary so they just keep renewing my contract. I have been there for almost 11 years.

I am a diabetic. It has always been well controlled with pills until recently. I started using insulin, but I had a lot of trouble with figuring out the dosage, what to eat, etc. My doctor suggested an app on my phone, which has helped enormously. I plug in the info and it helps me figure out what I need to do. In order to keep my levels normal, I test about every 1.5 hours. I type in the info and the app does the rest. It takes less than two minutes each time. I only use my cell phone for this purpose while at work. I don’t take calls, text, or play games.

Here’s the problem: I got assigned to a new manager. He saw me on my cell and said in front of everyone, “Do you have enough work to do? Every time I walk by, you are on the phone.” I was so taken aback I just kind of stammered and tried to explain, but he said I don’t care and told me to put the phone away. It was very embarrassing. A lot of people around me heard and asked me what happened. So I don’t leave it on my desk anymore. But I need to have the app help me, so I take it out of my purse when necessary, enter the info and put it away. I man a phone line for techs to call in so I can’t leave my desk to do this. I kept a log of how long I was on my phone and it averages 21 minutes a day.

Yesterday he came by again and started screaming at me. He said, “I saw you on your phone again. You deliberately disobeyed my orders and I am VERY disappointed in you. I have to think about what I am going to do.” Once again I tried to explain what I am doing. He wouldn’t listen. He did this in a public place in front of my coworkers. Very embarrassing! But I put the phone away as I was afraid he would fire me on the spot. I just kind of guessed with my medication. That didn’t work out so well. My levels were all over the place. So I am going to get a doctor’s note and ask for reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

What makes me angry is that any given moment you can walk down the aisle and see people on their cells phones texting, posting on social media, taking/making personal calls. My coworker (a full hire) posted on a social media site nine times in 45 minutes today. She has five children, a different ring tone for each one, and they call her constantly. He has never said anything to her that I know of and she sits right outside his office so I am sure he hears the calls. He has never seemed to like me and I feel I am being singled out. I do something that is highly technical and I make a lot more money than him. I know this because as a government agency they post everyone’s salary on a website so anyone can look. Granted, he probably doesn’t know what I am doing on my cell phone. But isn’t it discrimination to single me out for something everyone else is doing? I think he wants to fire me. I have never been disciplined ever at this company. In fact I just got a review and received an above-average for performance. If I were fired, could I claim discrimination? I am hoping it doesn’t come to that but I am worried.

Treating differently employees differently is only illegal discrimination if it’s based on race, sex, religion, disability, or other protected class.

This guy is being a jerk, but as of now it sounds like he doesn’t know that you’re using your phone for a medical reason. Tell him. Tell him now. If he’s not letting you get a word in, then send him an email. Clearly explain the situation because it changes everything. You should also loop in HR, if HR there deals with contractors.

Depending on what type of contractor you are, the Americans with Disabilities Act might not be in play here. (If you’re a 1099 independent contractor, it doesn’t cover you. If you’re a W2 contractor — employed by a contracting company, just not be the agency you’re working in, which I suspect is the case — you’re covered.) Either way, though, explaining to your boss what you’re doing and why is the urgent next step here.

3. Does this application need to be handwritten?

I’m helping my husband with applications and he asked me a question. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer for him. The applications are for government positions. He was the senior supervisor and project manager for a military-contracted logistics company for the last 4 years. This will be his first opportunity to apply for a non-military position in the “real world.”

The application states “please print.” So does that mean he has to handwrite the application or can he still print it on the computer? He has terrible chicken scratch for handwriting. I, on the other hand, print quite neatly. But it would be obvious if I filled it out for him.

I think printing it out from a computer would be fine. If they specifically wanting handwriting, (which would be quite unusual — so unusual that I’d think they’d make it very clear) they’d be more likely to say “please hand-write.”

4. Mentioning in a job application that I worked full-time during school

I’m applying for jobs right now and not getting any bites. I think it speaks well of my determination and work ethic that I put myself through night school while working full-time. It’s evident from the dates on my resume that I was at least doing these things simultaneously, but I wouldn’t fault someone for not putting that together from a screening-level glance. Is it okay to mention or even emphasize this in a cover letter? I think it’s more about hard work than sob-story, but I’m wary.

Yep, you can mention it. I wouldn’t make it a major focus, but a sentence about it is fine and could be compelling. Also, on your resume, you might note “(while working full-time)” next to your degree.

5. What does this restructuring mean?

Recently my supervisor announced that she will be leaving her position and gave the standard two-week notice. This happened right after I had my two-year review, in which she gave me a glowing review and a raise. I sat down with her and she asked me whether I was interested in her position and I let her know that I would love to take on more responsibility. She told me she would talk to her supervisor and proceed from there.

Well, the following day my manager came to me to let me know she was hiring a temp to cover for me while I learned all about my supervisor’s position for the next two weeks. I took this as a good sign, but I heard from one of my coworkers that my manager was thinking about restructuring my supervisor’s position but that my manager was waiting until another coworker from our department got back from vacation.

Now I’m wondering if this means that they will give half of the duties from supervisor to me and the other half to our coworker and completely eliminate the supervisor position. In your opinion, is restructuring code for getting rid of a position? Our company is quite big but they are widely known for low salaries and employee dissatisfaction.

It can mean getting rid of a position, but it can also mean all kinds of other things, like keeping the same people but reorganizing some or all of their roles.

At a minimum, it sounds like they want you to be able to cover for your supervisor until a more formal plan is in place.

You can actually ask! It would be fine to say, “I’m excited to be learning X and Y to fill in for Jane, but I wonder if you can tell me what you’re thinking the long-term plan will be and where I’ll fit into it.”

{ 338 comments… read them below }

  1. Uyulala*

    #2 – definitely talk to the boss about this. Not about other people on the phone, since that’s not relevant and will hurt your argument, but about the med app. And don’t wait until he is mad from catching you on your phone. Talk to him during one of the 90 minute gaps you have between uses. Then, if it doesn’t go well you can still get a doctor note and go to HR for accomodation.

    1. Vicki*

      And if (when) he says “I don’t care” or “I don;t want to hear it”, pause, wait for him to finish spewing, take a deep breath, and then continue talking, patiently, as if he never said anything at all.

    2. BadPlanning*

      Yes, I was going to also suggest talking to the boss at some relatively calm neutral time. I would avoid using the 21 minutes metric — just because I would guess this boss would blow it out of proportion.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      Yeah, OP, the onus is on you to be proactive about this. If he doesn’t listen in person, then email him and cc HR. Actually, I would go to HR first and ask them how you should handle it. But like Uyulala wrote, do not mention other coworkers using their phones; it will not reflect well on you.

      1. Sharon*

        Agree but I think it’s a little harshly worded. Just to clarify, the onus is on the OP because she needs to prioritize her health. Never, ever let a jerk boss endanger your life, and that’s basically what’s happening here.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah, I’m not usually a proponent of running to HR, but this guy had two chances to listen to the Op, so I’d say go immediately. Or, email HR requesting a meeting immediately. However, I find it hard to believe that both times she attempted to tell him what she was doing, that he didn’t hear any of it. Even if he kept screaming, it seems like he should have heard enough of her words, even just “…Diabetes…”, unless I misunderstood her attempts to tell him and she truly couldn’t get a word out of her mouth. Anyhow, this is maddening, he is a A-hole, and HR needs to be aware so he can’t continue to bully the Op. He’s already making her life miserable, so at this point, I wouldn’t care about ratting out my boss…plus, if she waits, he might trump up more ammunition to get rid of her and then when Op tries to bring it up, HR could be like “well, why didn’t you ever bring this to our attention earlier?”. One last note, the time she’s spending to test her sugar, is exactly two 10-minute breaks, so really she’s not even taking additional time out of her work day. (that is, if she does this in lieu of taking a break)

      1. JeanLouiseFinch*

        As a type I diabetic, I know that the emotional stress from these tirades will make her blood sugar irregular and harder to control. The HR person needs to know about this issue and perhaps, can assist with setting up a meeting with the LW, even if the ADA does not apply. I myself would be tempted to give this guy a large shot of insulin in the butt and let him suffer the consequences!

      2. Anna*

        Hi, I am the person that wrote about not being able to use my diabetes app. Wow, so many people replied with great advice ! I ended up going to the Director and he was great. As a contractor I don’t have the option of going to HR. He asked if it was possible to get a doctors note which I did this past Saturday. (My doctor has clinics every other Saturday and they got me into the office) My doctor wrote a very specific note saying I needed to test, take insulin as needed and USE MY DIABETES APP. I put the note on his desk first thing Monday morning. Late Wednesday afternoon he came to my desk and thanked me for the doctors note and said “I didn’t know you were diabetic and you can see where I am coming from because I kept seeing you on your phone. ” He sits in a different part of the building and I only see him about every two weeks. I use the times I test as my breaks. I want to be fair to the company and not take advantage so that is why I do that. We are not required to restrict our bathroom breaks to lunch or our two 15 minute breaks. So that works out well for me. When I first started reporting to him, he had a one on one with me and I told him at that time I was diabetic. When I tried to tell him I did kind of stammer as I was so shocked. My co-worker heard the whole thing and she heard me say something about my diabetes. I truly don’t remember what I say because all I could think of was I was going to be fired.

        1. jamlady*

          So glad things worked out! I’m still not a super fan of your manager, but at least this will no longer be an issue. Health comes first!

    5. M-C*

      Take to heart the ‘in writing’ part of AAM’s advice, #2. If this guy is not going to let you finish a sentence, explaining things calmly at a better time is not really going to be an option. And whether or not you’re formally covered by the ADA in your contractor position, I’d still loop in HR for this (urgent) email, and slip in an ADA mention. Because they need to know that he’d be getting them in big trouble with someone who was covered.. And because he needs to know that what he’s doing is largely illegal as well as inhumane. I agree with Stranger than Fiction that the word ‘diabetes’ should have stopped him in his tracks.

      Let me also remind you that as a contractor you technically shouldn’t be forced to any specific work conditions. You shouldn’t be held to any specific work hours or place, is there any way you can work remotely at least some of the time? You may also wish to emphasize your point after this explanatory email with a few days of sick leave (even unpaid..) “to stabilize your previously fine blood sugar level”.

      But this brings up a larger issue.. You’re dealing with an out-of-control bully. One who’s possibly envious of your pay level. You say you do highly technical work, it should not be too difficult for you to find another position somewhere. Your job status does not offer the usual protections of a government position, so don’t get complacent about longevity. Eleven years is too long for anything 1) in tech 2) contracting, so you’re actually not helping yourself in the long term by remaining in this position. And it sounds this guy won’t stop till he’s demolished your mental and physical health. Please, please, do yourself a favor, and start looking around..

      1. Anonsie*

        Take to heart the ‘in writing’ part of AAM’s advice, #2. If this guy is not going to let you finish a sentence, explaining things calmly at a better time is not really going to be an option.

        Agreed. She can try talking to him in person again if she wants, but definitely send it in writing and definitely loop in HR if they apply to you as a contractor and, if you’re under another company and hired out to this one, also contact whoever is in charge of your contract there and let them know what’s up.

        This guy has, two times, called you out in an exceptionally inappropriate and aggressive way, in front of other people, for something that was always allowed before and is evidently allowed of others*, and didn’t stop when you explained that you needed it to help manage your diabetes. As others have said, there is no way he didn’t hear you trying to explain it to him whatsoever. This guy is an ass.

        *I agree you shouldn’t point at your coworkers and say “but she posts x times in y minutes all day!” or anything like that, but noting that you’re the only person for whom this new no-phones business seems to apply to is relevant.

  2. Vicki*

    I would also suggest having the note from the doctor in hand when you go to the manager. Don’t wait. Don;t assume that telling him will help. Have it with you.

  3. Anna*

    I got a doctors note. I am not an independent contractor so I am covered by the Disabilities act. I put the note in an envelope on his desk on Monday morning. Wednesday afternoon he came by my desk and said “Well, you can see where I am coming from, I didn’t know what you were doing.” The day after I got yelled at I ran into the Director of the department in the hall. I asked if I could speak to him. We went into his office and I explained what happened. He said ” Yeah, he (my manager) was in here and he was pretty angry. Can you get a doctors note?” I said sure and asked “I was sure he wanted to fire me.” The Director said” well now that I know why you were on the phone that won’t happen.” So I was right. During the conversation my my direct boss he said “For what we are paying you to work here you shouldn’t even take time out to breathe, HA HA” So I kinda got an apology. Just as I am thinking we have it all straightened out he spoiled it by asking ” How often do you think you will use the App? I think twice a day is reasonable”. Yep, a jerk.

    1. INTP*

      Sounds like he resents you for making more than he does. You might point out when discussing acceptable usage that if he hates you doing it at your desk, you can always arrange to have someone cover your desk every 90 minutes to go do it elsewhere. Or get a book of tables and a calculator and run the same equations your phone does manually. You are handling this in the least disruptive way possible, he would appreciate this if he weren’t a jerk.

      Not that you should have to resort to this but maybe there is a browser-based app that does the same thing that you could use without being as obvious as using your phone?

      1. Artemesia*

        Those were the two things that occurred to me — could you get the same program on your computer so it isn’t obvious or could you do it in the bathroom.

        I think it is a bit of a problem that you didn’t go to him BEFORE he made a fool of himself because he now has to save face having alerted everyone in your workplace that he is a jerk. So not doing the thing publicly to trigger his embarrassment might be prudent for a bit. Or do it publicly twice a day, and in the bathroom the other times.

        1. LOLwut*

          If he’s going to have so much trouble saving face, maybe he just… shouldn’t be a jerk. OP has no responsibility for her boss’s behavior.

        2. AMG*

          This really does seem to be related to how much money you are making. And you have to be very, very clear with him about your medical needs. And I would definitely keep the lines of communication open with your Director!

        3. puddin*

          The OP had no responsibility to ‘warn’ her new manager that she manages her disease using an App because it takes less than 2 minutes on average per measurement, it can be done at her desk, and it does not interfere with anyone’s productivity. I think there is a reasonable expectation that she does not have to check with someone on this. It would be like letting someone know you blow your nose a lot, only with a phone involved.

          And I think getting up to go to the bathroom that frequently is more of a recipe for disaster than just doing some quick data entry on your phone. So no, do not do that. ( Many diabetics test their blood sugar every hour, better to sit tight and handle your personal business at your desk.)

          The manager was acting a jerk. Now you need to stand up and be very clear about your needs. Do not let this person steamroll you.

          This IS one of those times that you can play the ADA card. The doctor’s note is spot on. And you also have to make sure that you keep your phone strictly for this purpose because he will be watching.

        4. Observer*

          I see no reason in the world for her to try to help the boss save face. Of course, self protection is another thing.

          Going to the bathroom is likely to be more disruptive than using the app, and more noticeable. And, unfortunately, I would be willing to bet that the app does not have a web based counterpart. And, for it to be useful it would have to sync with the phone, as it easier to make sure that your phone is always with you than your computer. (And you do NOT want to do this on a web based interface on a phone unless you have a phablet, and even then, less than ideal.)

        5. I'm a Little Teapot*

          OP has absolutely no obligation to care about this jerk’s precious widdle feelings; if he’s embarrassed about screaming at her for a completely unreasonable reason, maybe he shouldn’t scream at people in front of their coworkers. This is 100% his fault.

      2. Anna*

        Unfortunately we can’t put any programs on our computers. That is their policy. We can’t go on the Internet either.

        1. Vera*

          Ugh. Unrelated, but I would hate to work for a company like this. I have never figured out how to ask this question during interviews without making it seem like I’m trying to do something skeevy. Perhaps for the govt org you work for it is warranted. But for a product/sales company, I don’t get it.

    2. UKAnon*

      I’m sorry he’s being problematic, but I hope he can respect your need for it now, at least.

    3. Scotty_Smalls*

      What a scumbag. I feel like you need to keep everything very matter of fact. Tell him that you need to use it every __ hours, or whatever it is and don’t let him badger you into lessening it. Don’t cater to him, you know you are a good worker and even if you were on FB, most reasonable people recognize the need for breaks. I am seriously disgusted by this dude. He may dislike you because you make more than him, but it was repulsive that he targeted your health (even if he didn’t know at the time.) If he gives you more trouble, definitely talk to HR or the director.

    4. Henrietta Gondorf*

      I’m trying to understand who the manager actually is. Does he work for the same contracting company that you do or is he the government employee overseeing your work or something else? (If you’re a federal contractor, is he your COR?)

      1. Xay*

        I’m wondering the same thing. If the manager in question is a government employee, you should work through your contracting company as well and make sure that this accommodation is on record with HR.

        1. HR Wannabe*


          If you are through a govt contracting company, you may want to ensure that your Program Manager knows what’s going on. After all, you don’t know what the govt supervisor is telling them. (seen similar to this happen before)

          If you are actually a 1099 contractor, this won’t apply though.

      2. Anna*

        He is with the goverment and he oversees my work. He even said he has no problem with my work, just thinks I use my phone too much. I normally don’t even use it that much but for a few months I have been having trouble with extreme highs and lows. That may be why he noticed because I am testing/documenting more that I normally do.

        1. Allura*

          I have a sneaky suspicion part of the problem is that some fed employees HATE contractors. They’re just nasty to them and they’re convinced that they’re all paid exorbitant amounts and of course the poor, put upon gov employee makes so little and has it so hard. Guess what industry I’m in? :) Anyway, do make sure your contracting company’s HR/program manager is in the loop, as they’re not going to want to lose you.

          Also, if they want to hire you at some point, you CAN start in the middle of a grade. Just ask. It’s so weird, because you’ll have to provide a pay stub and that’s so agains AAM’s advice, but it works. I just started at Step 5 so that I didn’t end up losing pay when I came aboard. And if you do go that route, it’s amazing how all the attitude from certain parties just disappears.

    5. Kelly L.*

      Yup. Big jerk.

      This story is another example of why my antennae always go up when someone is mad at someone else for “playing on their phone” without knowing what they’re actually doing. Phones do so much these days beyond “playing.”

      1. Artemesia*

        My husband’s hearing aids are driven by his Iphone. At concerts or movies, he will need to adjust the range and the base and treble sometimes very early in the performance. There is no noise but of course there is that annoying light — and he doesn’t linger on the thing — it is a 15 second or less deal usually. He has to get the ap up and make the adjustments. Often someone behind him will make a big fuss about texting during the concert. It isn’t clear what he can do about it, because you hardly want to make a big announcement to a bunch of strangers before the concert and of course the little contretemps about the texting makes more disruption that the quick adjustment. He does try to have it adjusted before the music begins, but it is not always possible to get that just right. We have sort of divided up the task — he quickly adjust the hearing aids and I explain to the person behind us who is huffing.

        1. Lady Bug*

          Unless he is recording the entire show on his ipad and blocking everyones view or his phone is ringing constantly people need to mind their own business. I go to 10+ concerts a year and people are always on their phones, its really no big deal.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I’ve seen people rant that “People in museums are always on their phones and why aren’t they enjoying the art instead of texting rawr.” Last time BF and I went to a museum, he was typing into his phone occasionally. He wasn’t texting. He was taking notes because he wanted to look up some of the artists later and hadn’t brought a pen and paper. But you wouldn’t know that unless you were peering at his screen.

            1. Kelly White*

              Last time I went to a museum, they had a phone number on the wall that you could call and get info about the particular painting or sculpture!
              I thought it was pretty cool- and there were bunches of people standing around on their phones.

              1. Career Counselorette*

                Last time I went to a museum, there was a young couple that stopped in front of every piece, pulled out their phones, and took a video of themselves making out in front of it. That got old REALLY fast.

                1. Cath in Canada*

                  Yeah, I saw a couple of people taking photos of every single item in some of the rooms of the British Museum earlier this year. They weren’t even looking at the objects, just taking the photos – snap snap snap snap along the whole display case, then they moved on to the next one. I saw them doing the same thing about an hour later in a different room, so it wasn’t just because they had a particular interest in antique clocks or whatever. Super weird!

                2. LabLady*

                  My mom has low vision, but she still likes going to museums. So when we’re allowed to, she takes pictures of things and then uses her tablet (still standing near the object or painting) to help her see detail she would otherwise miss while were at the museum. We have gotten snarky comments at times about how if we want all those pictures we could stay home and see it on the web and it can be slow going at the museum, but it helps her get more out of the visit and I think it’s probably worth it.

              2. mdv*

                That’s a GREAT way to get people more engaged with the art by using the tools they already have in hand!

              3. Melissa*

                Some museums I’ve been to have QR codes next to the pieces; they’re made for you to scan them with the phone and take you to a website about it.

                1. Jessa*

                  Which is incredibly awesome for hearing/vision impaired people who can either read the text on their phone or use their phone adaptively to have the texts read to them.

            2. TootsNYC*

              Reminds me of the person using her phone while waiting in a line, and the guy behind her made some comment about people wasting time with their phones; why didn’t they read a book or something. She was using the Kindle app on her phone to–read a book.

              1. Kassy*

                What is he doing waiting in line somewhere when he could be in a third-world country feeding children who are starving to death?!

                That line of logic never ceases to leave me dumbfounded.

                1. Ezri*

                  I’ve never understood the rage some people get over how other people spend their time. I remember the first blog post I ever wrong, back when I was in middle school. Some random person commented the next day about what a waste of time it was and that I’d have been better off ‘reading a book’. Thirteen-year old me was confused, because I DID read books. I visited her blog out of curiosity and found a several-hundred line transcription of a text breakup with an ex. 0_o

                  People, what a bunch of bastards.

            3. MashaKasha*

              I joined a new discussion-type meetup group a few months ago, and went to one meetup. The group organizer is a college professor. First thing he told the group was, “put the phones away”. One woman, who was more interested and more actively participating in the discussion than the rest of us, explained that she was taking notes on her phone, showed him the note-taking app with the notes she’d already started taking, explained that she didn’t have a pen and paper with her, and asked if she could continue taking notes. He thought about it for a bit and responded “no, I said no phones. No phones means no phones.” Frankly, that made me not want to go to any more of his gatherings, even though I wasn’t taking notes and wasn’t planning to, and didn’t plan on using my phone for anything during the discussions. It’s just that, I came there to have a thought-provoking discussion with a group of adults, not to get flashbacks to seventh grade. Makes me really wonder how this guy reacts to students in his class taking notes on their tablets, laptops, and such. Are those allowed, or is everyone expected to show up with a big old notebook, like we did when I was in college in the 80s?? Very weird and counter-productive!!

              1. The Strand*

                Yes, let me guess, the professor is older? Or whatever his age, a Luddite?

                Many classes, students use their phones, tablets, etc as “clickers” or to pull up reference materials.

                1. MashaKasha*

                  That’s the weird part, he looked younger than I am! I’d place him maybe in the early, mid-40s. Very strange! Must be a Luddite, then!

                2. Observer*

                  The Luddites were actually a bit smarter than this. And, please don’t implicate his age. It has nothing to do with this.

                  “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” Ralph Waldo Emerson

              2. Callie*

                There actually IS research that indicates that in general, people remember information better when they write it down on paper than when they type it on a keyboard.

            4. Elizabeth West*

              Last time I was in a museum, everybody had a phone because nobody carries cameras anymore.

              But I think it’s rude to be texting during a concert or in a theater or cinema. You’re there for the performance and your screen in the dark is mega-distracting to everybody else. So YES, it is a big deal.

              1. M-C*

                I agree, the light is -very- distracting to everyone around you. And I’m one of those people who’d huff at an adjustment early in the concert, because it’s better to nip the texting in the bud than fume for half the concert and then be more disruptive in the middle of it when you can’t take it any more. That said, I’ve promptly and sincerely apologized to the doctor-on-call types, and would of course for hearing-aid adjustments. No need for long-winded explanations on either side..

            5. Marcela*

              When I traveled to Egypt almost 8 years ago, smartphones were not that popular as today. I had a Zaurus then, some kind of PDA, and I used it all the time to take notes about what we saw and specially what I felt, because it was the trip of a lifetime. When in the museum in Cairo, I was listening to the guide, looking at everything, taking pictures, and making notes. People looked at me, I knew, but again, that was a dream come true, so I wasn’t going to stop recording it in every way I could. At the end of the visit, our guide told me that some people told her I was very rude for being playing games in such a marvelous place. And she replied that I was not playing, but being an exceptional visitor, because I considered what they exhibited so important, that I taked notes to remember everything after the trip, which nobody did. I guess that’s the point where I started hating this trend of judge people when they are on the phone. Many times my husband and I are eating out, completely immersed in our phones: probably people say we are so obsessed we can’t even talk to each other. The reality is we are talking to my brother, in another hemisphere, so we have been communicating!

          2. Her much reading hath made her mad*

            Depends on the concert, really. Maybe not if it’s something loud, but it’s disruptive when you’re at a classical event.

        2. BadPlanning*

          I think there are apps that let you adjust the brightness/tone of your phone. It might be handy to swap it to “night” colors prior to the concert if he has to use it — then it’s not such of a beacon of “I’m using my phone!”. One of my navigation apps does this automatically so when you navigate at night, it doesn’t blind the driver with the normal Bright Light of Power. It’s quite nice, I wish my whole phone would do it.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            My husband uses one of these apps to read on his phone in bed; it changes the format to white text on a black background, and hardly any light at all escapes his phone. This would be perfect for those hearing-aid adjustments.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Well, the background isn’t totally black, and the text is more off-white, so it’s easier on the eyes than a high-contrast black & white scheme would be.

        3. Gene*

          Not in the iPhone universe, but there’s an app for Android called Twilight that makes the display more reddish, and removes the blue. The level of change is adjustable, so you can go from just a little warmer to full-on, won’t hurt your night vision red. Prior to the concert, set it to full red and it’s likely no one will know he’s doing it.

        4. WorkingFromCafeInCA*

          On an iPhone, he can try inverting the colors before heading in to the concert hall or theatre. It basically switches all the white backgrounds to black and reduces the light from the screen dramatically, while keeping the text legible in a different color. It’s in the Settings > General > Accessibility > Invert Colors.

          1. Raptor*

            If you can’t do any of this, then carry around a card of red transparency with you. They make these for people who are dyslexia and they come in all colors. Just pick red, cut it down to size and slap it on your phone’s screen. Whala. Instant night vision screen.

      2. Ad Astra*

        I’m constantly using my phone for things a few seconds at a time to do basic math (the calculator function), checking on the weather when it gets severe, filling prescriptions, making quick banking transactions, tracking my food intake in My Fitness Pal, etc. These are all things I could do on my desktop computer without anyone batting an eye, so it’s annoying when people say “Oh Ad Astra is always ‘texting’ at her desk.” I don’t understand why people get so uptight about it.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Hah! I much prefer using Google Voice for texting, because it’s so much faster for me to type on a real keyboard than one on my phone. & I h8 txtspk.

      3. Beebs*

        I was recently volunteering at an event where the staff were very openly using their phones for leisure as well as business, and many other volunteers were using phones as well. During a quiet period when no one was around I took a moment to check my phone, and then a staff member who was not at all connected to my team passed by and lectured me about being on my phone. I apologized and said that I understood and immediately put my phone away.

        The reason I was checking my phone: my father was having a medical emergency overseas and was being flown home, and my grandmother had fallen and was in the hospital. My family was a little overextended at the moment and I was just checking in on a status update. Not that it matters.

        1. The Strand*

          But see, I think that when people start bullying and throwing their weight around in situations like that, you should absolutely say something and put it back on them. “Actually, I’m checking the status of two family members who are in hospital. I do have to check how they are doing.” This staffer had nothing to do with your team; bozos can receive a explanation, but they are not owed an apology.

          God, the nerve… Especially if you were a volunteer. You don’t disrespect people who are giving their time. That would be enough for me to put off volunteering again, if that was the general attitude of the staff, and I’d make a point of saying so.

          Now, the boss in this story is such a POS he made hostile comments about how much she was paid, and how often she should check her insulin (or AC1 or whatever), which means that he probably would still say something to try and “top” her. But my experience has been that if I point out a justifiable thing, most bullies become embarrassed.

    6. BabyAttorney*

      Yeah I had a feeling you weren’t a 1099. Make sure HR is aware and understand what your reasonable accommodation is, meaning using the app every 90 mins. And I would be sure to tell him very clearly if you didn’t already. “By the way, so you are aware, I take medicine every 90 minutes and will calculate dosage on my phone.”

      HR needs to be aware of your accommodation because they may want to screen/oversee your mgr’s actions to make sure retaliatory action isn’t being taken.

      Also, Alison, the ADA does protect against disability related discrimintaion in employment action though this is classically seen at the “should we employ you at all” stage, which is why medical needs should NEVER be brought up before an offer.

      1. Ani*

        I like this advice — especially as the manager seems to be under the impression that he might be able to arbitrarily determine what is a “reasonable” accommodation. (Maybe he can? But so far he’s been as gentle as a bulldozer.)

        1. Jessa*

          The only way they get to decide what is reasonable vs the employee is if they are saying that the thing the employee wants is too expensive or unreasonable. IE they can say that you can’t check your stuff every 90 minutes if you’re a driver, cause you can’t pull over that often (although I am not sure someone who has that kind of “must check” diabetes could get a CDL right now,) or that x item you need is way too expensive (small company $5000 of equipment or something,) although in a lot of states Vocational Rehab (or its equivalent) might pay for the items, in which case the company would have a hard time saying “no you can’t use that.”

          But I really can’t see any company no matter how small saying that stopping for a minute to check one’s blood sugar whilst still being able to work, is an unreasonable accommodation, even if they were call centre people who had to go “off call” for that period of time. The worst they could probably get away with is in states that do not mandate break time, to make you count it off against your breaks. ie it takes 2 minutes every 90 minutes to do this, that’s approximately 10 minutes, do you want to give up your morning or afternoon break for this? Or take two 10 minute breaks instead of two 15 minute breaks. And even that I’d say is nickel and dime-ing more than necessary.

          Having dealt with reasonable accommodations since the ADA was passed, I cannot think of a single job besides things like driving where it would be unreasonable to take 2 minutes every 90 to deal with a health issue. Oh, okay maybe high steel construction work (if you cannot show you can do it safely without having to go back to the ground level every 90 minutes.)

          1. nonegiven*

            Some jobs you have to demonstrate tight control, military, emergency services, drivers. The only way to do that is to test often and adjust insulin as needed.

      2. Anna*

        The funny thing is no one even knew I was diabetic until recently when I had to start using insulin. I have always had it under control but I have had it for over 20 years. For me, the learning curve with insulin hasn’t been easy. I was to afraid to take my phone out so after I tested I just kind of guessed about my insulin. I will NEVER do that again. My doctor said that wasn’t the brightest thing to do and I was lucky nothing worse happened.

    7. misspiggy*

      As he’s still being so hostile, I think I would get this documented. I’d send him an email, copying in the director, and making a mental note to pass it to HR if things get sticky later. I’d say something like, ‘Dear Ted, as you seemed keen for more clarification about the use of my diabetes phone app, which we discussed on Wednesday, I thought it would be helpful to give you a little more detail. You had a query about the amount of time needed to check the app. My medical condition currently requires me to use the app every 90 minutes, for a maximum of two minutes. I wanted to clarify that I make the time up during the work day, so that no time is lost to the company. I should also make it clear that I do not use my phone for leisure activities while at work. I assume that with this extra information you are happy to let me continue with the use of the app as before, but please let me know if you need any more information from my doctor.’

      1. Me too*

        YES. Please do this. I’d recommend that you don’t wait to send to HR, copy them too. You want to start a paper trail in case of retaliation.

    8. Juli G.*

      From my experience, you need to loop in your contact at the contract house as well. Since they are technically your employer, they can help with approving a reasonable accommodation and implementing it. My understanding is that they could be held liable for a violation of ADA so they have a vested interest in advocating (I could be wrong – this isn’t an area of expertise for me so feel free to correct).

      I’m sorry that this guy is being so unreasonable. It very much sounds motivated by jealousy.

    9. Barbara in Swampeast*

      You WHAT? You left a note on his desk??? Why are you not talking to him???

      Seriously, if you can’t talk to him about this, there is going to be more trouble ahead by your non-communication. You didn’t talk to him the first time so everything after that is on you. Even if you make more money than he does and know how to do things he doesn’t, that doesn’t mean you treat him this way.

      1. LOLwut*

        She clearly stated it was a doctor’s note that she left on his desk. She also stated that she tried to speak with him before and was shouted down.

        Reading is fundamental.

        1. BananaPants*

          Then HR or her manager at the contract house should have been brought in. I just don’t see how someone who’s already reacting irrationally and inappropriately is going to respond well to an employee dropping a doctor’s note on his desk without a word.

          1. AW*

            An irrational person is going to behave irrationally. The OP can’t stop that from happening.

            And OP already said up-thread that they’ve spoken to their director about this.

          2. Anna*

            My manager from the contract house does have an appointment with the Director next week. When I spoke to the Director he suggested getting the note and giving the manager a copy. I asked the director if I should set up a meeting with the manager and the director said that the manager was very angry and that he would talk to him, it would be best to let this blow over. I have no desire to get the manager in trouble, I just want to do my work, take care of my health and go home. I only went to the Director because I didn’t have the option of going to HR. I thought I was going to be fired or I wouldn’t have gone to the Director. When I had my one on one over a year ago with the manager he said if I ever had any questions/problems to go to the team lead. He isn’t one of those hands on managers.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          How condescending. OP has shown passivity about this from the start so that comment was not due to a lack of reading comprehension.

          1. AW*

            Are you saying that they deliberately ignored that the OP already tried to talk to their manager then? Because reading something and ignoring it isn’t much better than missing it.

          2. The Strand*

            I don’t think it’s fair to characterize this as passivity. Passive people do not approach the director and ask if they can discuss the issue privately.

            Again, the first time, the supervisor made a scene in front of other employees. She said she attempted to explain, and he apparently interrupted her, “I don’t care.”

            The second time, she describes him as screaming at her in front of other people: “Yesterday he came by again and started screaming at me. He said, “I saw you on your phone again. You deliberately disobeyed my orders and I am VERY disappointed in you. I have to think about what I am going to do.” Once again I tried to explain what I am doing. He wouldn’t listen. He did this in a public place in front of my coworkers. Very embarrassing! But I put the phone away as I was afraid he would fire me on the spot.”

            Is it passivity if, in avoiding another scene caused by the supervisor, she sought out and spoke to a person above the supervisor, and then, in answer to the request, provided the note in a way where another scene could be avoided? This person is irrational and hostile. How do we know that being strident might not set off another screaming match?

              1. LOLwut*

                That’s splitting hairs, not to mention irrelevant. She initiated the conversation and addressed it with the director.

                1. LBK*

                  I don’t think it’s irrelevant – it doesn’t sound like she had any intention of escalating it until she happened to run into him.

                2. Anonsie*

                  Ok LBK, we can sit here all day and argue what her specific plans were as to when she might have maybe gone to talk to someone to do something at some time but unless you’re psychic it’s pretty flipping irrelevant.

              2. Anna*

                Well, actually I made an appointment with his admin. She told me I couldn’t get in until the following week. I saw him in the hallway and took a chance. I was afraid a week later would have been too late. And I was right as my manger had already gone to the Director.

      2. BananaPants*

        Yeah, that was my thought as well. It seems pretty passive-aggressive to just leave a doctor’s note on a manager’s desk and is only going to make him go on the defensive, because now others have seen him acting like a jerk. It may not have escalated if the LW had proactively gone to him the first time this happened to say, “I have a medical condition that I manage using an app on my phone, per my doctor’s orders. It takes me 2-3 minutes every hour and a half. I do not use my phone for personal reasons during my work day. Here’s a note confirming this from my doctor, if you have any further questions please let me know.”

        I get that you make more money than him and he’s being unreasonable, but you still need to play the game even if you don’t like or respect your boss. He’s probably the one who decides if your contract gets renewed.

        1. Zillah*

          I think it’s really easy to say that with the benefit of hindsight and without actually experiencing the dynamics in the OP’s workplace. In a perfect world, maybe that’s what would have happened.

          But I have a real issue with the fact that you’re essentially laying the blame for this situation on the OP. While it may be a problem the OP needs to fix, it’s not the OP’s fault, and laying the onus of “non-communication” entirely on the OP’s door is absolutely absurd.

          The OP tried on both occasions to explain, and the manager cut her off by saying “I don’t care” on the first occasion and screaming at her on the second. That’s bad management any way you look at it, and having been met with hostility and explicit indifference when she tried to explain, I can see why she decided to leave the note on his desk rather than risk another hostile confrontation, particularly since I can see someone like this just throwing the note back in her face if he had the opportunity. I have a hard time believing that he’d have behaved totally rationally if the OP had just approached him in exactly the right way.

          People who behave irrationally do so because they’re being irrational, not because the people they’re treating poorly aren’t perfectly anticipating their every move.

          1. LBK*

            But having a separate conversation rather than trying to go on the defensive in the moment usually *is* a lot more successful. That’s not hindsight or blaming the OP – it’s from experience of people being generally more willing to listen when they’re not fired up about something.

            1. Zillah*

              I’d completely agree if she’d just mentioned the first incident – but when she mentioned him screaming at her and essentially saying that he wanted to think about firing her during the second incident, I lost a lot of faith in the idea that he’d have been more receptive in a different conversation.

              1. LBK*

                But it was still an in-the-moment defensive response, so I don’t see how you can use that as your yardstick for how he might have reacted in a separate conversation. Especially considering that for the second interaction, as far as the manager knew he was dealing with an insubordinate employee. That obviously doesn’t merit screaming, but there’s no way that conversation was going to go *better* than the first one.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Well, yeah, because the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. I would have thought the same thing as the OP–if I go to him again, I’m going to get screamed at. She very clearly said he did not even try to listen to her.

                  If I try to speak reasonably to you TWICE and you scream / bitch at me TWICE without listening, then sorry, but you’ve lost your chance at any third try. I am now going somewhere else for help.

                2. LBK*

                  I’m referring to the OP trying to make her case defensively in both situations. People like this tend to react REALLY poorly to defensive conversations but much better to proactive ones. You really can’t assume how someone will react in a totally separate conversation vs. how they react when they’re already upset because they saw you doing something they don’t like.

            2. Observer*

              Not with people like this. Furthermore, then next conversation she had with him proves that he’s not ever going to be any more reasonable than he is forced to be by his management. If you look at what the OP described you will see that he first “excused” himself by saying that she shouldn’t really even be taking time to breath, ha ha. Then, he tried to limit her use of the app to twice a day. That’s so beyond reasonable as to make it hard for me to understand why anyone thinks any of this is the OP’s fault.

          2. PontoonPirate*

            Yes, to all of this. Plus, if other people are very obviously using their phones at work, why should it have occurred to OP to proactively go to her boss regarding this? I wouldn’t have left the note, but I don’t fault the OP for doing so. It’s not passivity at this point, it’s declining to engage with a lunatic.

            1. LBK*

              Not as soon as he became the manager, no, but once he’d made it clear he wanted her off her phone, I think it was up to the OP to go to him after that rather that just continuing to do it. I’m not understanding how she expected to be able to basically just ignore what he said without there being any further problems.

              1. Zillah*

                I can see the OP’s rationale, though – the way I’m reading it, she thought that removing the phone from her desk would help alleviate the mistaken impression that she was constantly on it, not that she decided to just ignore him.

              2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                I’ve been around since Cain was an asshole to Abel. There are always assholes so learning to deal with assholes effectively is a life skill. Doing a little Monday morning quarterbacking on the OP doesn’t take away from the dude’s assholery, it just some strategy advice for the next asshole situation.

                1. LBK*

                  Exactly. You can’t stop someone from being a jerk, but there are ways to work around jerkiness so that you’re subjected to less of it.

                2. Jo*

                  Right, which is why others shouldn’t be directing harsh “advice” at the OP over her past actions, which she can’t do anything about now, but rather offered up respectfully to her and the general community for when similar situations happen in the future.

                  I think she handled it fairly well overall. Maybe not perfectly, but well enough to see a change in the end, and it seems like she learned something from it – not from outsiders jumping on her retroactively about “passivity” and “non-communication,” but from the experience itself, and in real time. I see evidence of her becoming more clearheaded and assertive by degrees as the situation progressed, step by step, until she finally reached an end result that she can live with. And she did it under a cloud of genuine fear that she might lose her job, or at least have to face more screaming as she tried to resolve the problem. It’s not easy to function optimally under those conditions.

            2. Anna*

              That is exactly it. I have been using the app for months. It just didn’t occur to me to ask permission. I mean, I wasn’t texting or making personal phone calls or playing games. There is a person in the department that is a full hire and he has diabetes. He tries to control his diabetes through his diet. When his blood sugar is high, he goes for a walk to try to bring it down. I know this because I offered him a cookie( don’t worry, I wasn’t eating them) and he told me he was diabetic. Sometimes we discuss the disease and he volunteerd that information. I don’t think logging in an app is as disruptive as that so I didn’t even think to ask.

          3. RVA Cat*

            This ^^^^ + 1 million!!!!!!!!

            That goes for every bully and abusive person, ever. This is as much about a cellphone as it was when Chris Brown beat up Rihanna.

            1. RVA Cat*

              That was meant for:
              “People who behave irrationally do so because they’re being irrational, not because the people they’re treating poorly aren’t perfectly anticipating their every move.”

        2. Anonsie*

          Ok. I’m really, really uncomfortable with how many people are putting the burden on the OP here to placate this guy after two reasonable attempts to deal with him acting completely unreasonably. What the hell is up with that? Since when is it your fault for not making a third try to talk to someone after they’ve told you they don’t care and won’t listen twice before?

          I’m just getting a really strange vibe out of this that I’ve definitely heard used to defend abusive and bullying behavior before, where the onus is on the target to soothe the person who’s going after them over and over and over or else it’s their fault for not fixing it. Never the asshole’s fault for being an asshole in the first place, somehow.

          1. LBK*

            It’s not about trying to placate an asshole, it’s about maneuvering through the situation in the way that’s most likely to have the best outcome for the OP. There’s really only three realistic ways this plays out:

            a) The OP adapts her work style to this jerk, which maybe means being more proactive about things that might upset him and not getting defensive.

            b) The OP doesn’t adapt and continues to be subjected to his anger.

            c) The OP quits and finds someone to work for that’s not a jerk.

            There’s no scenario where the OP says “Stop being such a jerk!” and everything gets resolved. It is absolutely his fault for being an asshole, but the OP doesn’t have the power to change that. She does have the power to take some steps to navigate around him and maybe avoid being the subject of his ire.

            1. Anonsie*

              That’s not the attitude that’s coming out, though, it’s that she was being somehow inappropriate in talking to the director and not talking to him directly and trying to calm him down about it.

        3. Marcela*

          ” because now others have seen him acting like a jerk”. Well, OP does not have any responsibility in this. If you don’t want others to see you acting like a jerk, it’s VERY easy: don’t be a jerk.

        4. Kathy Spence*

          I swear I once worked for this boss’ clone! Sometimes you must initiate the conversation with a note, a doctor’s excuse, something other than a third attempt at talking that would likely be shouted down. I find nothing wrong with her approach?

      3. The Toxic Avenger*

        The OP said she tried to talk to him, twice, and got shouted out each time. He wouldn’t let her get a word in edgewise.

      4. LBK*

        I’m totally with you. I get that in the moment he didn’t want to hear it, and I agree that this guy is a jerk for the way he’s handled all of this. But the OP didn’t make any other efforts to explain the situation when the manager wasn’t so fired up, relying on him to somehow psychically know that she had a medical requirement for using her phone. Dropping the doctor’s note on his desk without saying anything seems extremely passive aggressive. I agree completely that continuing to have a relationship where you’re too scared to speak to him (about something that is literally life and death for you!) is only going to make things worse in the long run.

        1. UKAnon*

          All of this. I do completely understand why the OP acted the way they did and they are in no way being as or more unreasonable than the boss, but sometimes life requires you to be the more mature person, and in this case a little goodwill on one side would have gone a long way. I am glad the OP seems to be getting it sorted, but hopefully this will help them next time they find themselves in a similar situation.

          1. ella*

            +1. I’m glad dropping the doctor’s note seems to have gotten the job done, but talking to the boss (not in the moment when he wouldn’t let her get a word in, but sometime later) after the first incident would have been a more efficient course of action. And it was, basically, Alison’s advice (“Tell him. Tell him now”).

        2. Sammy*

          I think a salient point is that others use their phones for way less crucial reasons all the time, and the boss is well aware of this. He is singling the OP out. I hope we get an update in a few weeks, because it’s not about the phone use and never was. Everyone who is telling the OP they should have said something to the boss in person, how does that conversation go in your head? I’ll tell you how it goes in mine:

          OP: Boss, I know you’ve been concerned about how often I use my phone during the day. I wanted to let you know it’s for an important medical reason: I have diabetes and I use an app to calculate my medication.

          Boss: Blather that translates to: How dare you make me look bad in front of everyone! These awful optics are your fault! (Note that according to the OP’s response up top, this is exactly what he did say.)

          >one week later<

          Boss: OP, you are constantly several minutes late coming back from lunch. Don't let it happen again. Now if you'll excuse me, your coworker with five ringtones left to "grab a sandwich" an hour and twenty minutes ago, so she'll probably be ready for our meeting soon.

          1. Zillah*

            it’s not about the phone use and never was.

            Here’s how I see that conversation going in my head:

            OP: Hi, I wanted to follow up on what you said yesterday about my phone use. I’ve actually been using it to –
            Boss: I told you not to use your phone. I don’t care what your excuse is. That’s the end of this conversation. Stop challenging me.
            OP: I’m sorry, I’m not trying to challenge you. I have a doctor’s note here explaining that –
            Boss: You have a doctor’s note telling me I have to let you use your phone? Wow, you can get doctor’s notes for everything these days! I don’t care about your doctor’s note. If I say you can’t use your phone, stop using your phone. Get back to work and stop wasting my time.

            Like… I agree that the OP needs to figure out a way to address this, but this “If the OP had just gone to him to talk to him, none of this would have happened” is absurd. It’s not about the manager “psychically knowing” that the OP was using the phone for a medical reason, and presenting it in that way is unnecessarily dismissive of the OP. You don’t need to be psychic to give people the chance to explain what’s going on.

            The OP needs to figure out a way to navigate this situation, but I’m really startled by how many commenters are blaming her for the situation exisiting in the first place.

            1. LBK*

              Except he did (sort of) apologize and was (at least somewhat) understanding once the situation was explained, so I don’t know where you’re getting this impression from.

              1. Kelly L.*

                Nope. The sympathetic words came from the director. OP’s immediate boss made further snarky remarks instead.

                1. LBK*

                  Ah, now that I reread it I see you’re right – but either way, the point stands that he didn’t reject the doctor’s note or say he didn’t care once it was explained, so I don’t understand Zillah’s hypothetical. I could equally argue that leaving the note on his desk was a bad move because he could’ve just thrown it out and pretended he never saw it.

                2. Melissa*

                  @LBK – He didn’t reject the doctor’s note because OP went to his boss, the director, about the situation. He had no choice.

                3. LBK*

                  Do we actually know that, though? It sounds like the director didn’t push him either way given that even after the manager came to the director angry, the director told the OP to get a note – I’d think if the director were telling the manager to just let it go, he wouldn’t have encouraged the OP to get documentation.

                4. Zillah*

                  I could equally argue that leaving the note on his desk was a bad move because he could’ve just thrown it out and pretended he never saw it.

                  You’re totally right. There wasn’t a foolproof way to handle this – the fact that you could argue that him throwing it away was also a possible scenario illustrates that. I’m not arguing that putting the letter on his desk was a foolproof way to deal with it – just that I can understand why the OP decided to do it that way given the possibility of another confrontation when she’d already been told that he wanted to fire her.

                  Do we actually know that, though? It sounds like the director didn’t push him either way given that even after the manager came to the director angry, the director told the OP to get a note – I’d think if the director were telling the manager to just let it go, he wouldn’t have encouraged the OP to get documentation.

                  I don’t think that the director requesting that the OP get a note indicates that the director took a hands-off approach. I don’t know one way or the other, but if the director did want to address the issue, I can definitely see wanting documentation of a disability, particularly when someone is as angry and resentful as the OP’s boss seemed to be.

                5. puddin*

                  Annnd I would hardly call that an apology. It was more like a defensive admission of assery.

              2. MashaKasha*

                I just scrolled back up and re-read the updates. He only apologized after OP went over his head. And he still managed to not apologize all the way. (“how often do you need to use the app, I think twice a day is reasonable” – oh, he’s a medical doctor now?)

            2. LBK*

              Also I thought I made it pretty clear that I completely blame the manager for the way the first interaction went, but maybe not? I’m not blaming the OP for anything. That doesn’t mean I don’t think she could’ve handled it a little better.

              1. Zillah*

                But the OP didn’t make any other efforts to explain the situation when the manager wasn’t so fired up, relying on him to somehow psychically know that she had a medical requirement for using her phone. Dropping the doctor’s note on his desk without saying anything seems extremely passive aggressive.

                This really came across to me as blaming the OP, particularly when you claimed that she expected him to “psychically know” that she was using her phone for a medical reason and accusing her of being passive aggressive. I’m also seeing a lot more criticizing the OP for what she did both in that comment and in others (not just by you!) rather than offer her advice on how to handle the situation going forward, which to me comes off as having more interest in lecturing her than helping her.

                1. LBK*

                  Don’t criticism and advice kind of go hand in hand, though? If I say something was a bad move, I would think that implies that doing the opposite of that thing would be a good move. I guess not.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yeah, I agree. You can’t expect your manager to magically know that the thing he’s objecting to is actually something you’re doing for a medical reason if you don’t tell him, and that fact does change things. I totally agree the guy sounds like a jerk, but there were some actions the OP could have taken that would have made this easier on herself.

                1. Anonsie*

                  I do expect him to know not to loudly dress people down in front of their coworkers and then tell them you don’t care when they try to tell you what’s going on, though. I expect everyone to know better than that, and I expect people who do that are going to be hard to deal with.

                  So yeah, talking to him in his office some time about it may have worked out. Talking to the directer also worked out, and based on the manager’s prior behavior I really don’t think it was unwarranted, either. So I’m not sure why there’s such a strong insistence that she should have tried to talk to him one on one given his prior behavior.

                2. Observer*

                  @Allison, you are right that that’s her context. And, in that context leaving a note on his desk rather than trying to talk to him makes some sense. No guarantees, but at least she won’t get yelled at.

            3. Sarah*

              Yes, exactly, if even strangers on the internet with no direct interest in this are being this hostile, imagine how someone who actively resents her already would be.

              (Also, why the assumption dropping the note on the desk is passive aggressive? It could equally be that she came to see him and he wasn’t at his desk, so she left it to be as efficient as possible. It would be FAR more passive aggressive to do it in front of other employees eg)

          2. LBK*

            It sounds to me that the OP might be the sole contractor in the department, so maybe that’s why the manager is more concerned about paying for non-work activity? I’m not sure what the arrangements look like throughout the department in terms of how everyone is paid but it might not be wildly unreasonable for him to be more concerned about how she’s spending her time than those who are employees of the company.

            Look, I’m not by any means saying this guy isn’t an asshat. Being unwilling to listen in the moment, then blowing up at her publicly, then still being a jerk after the issue was “resolved” are all bad signs. But I don’t think the OP acted in her best interest here either.

            1. Zillah*

              But I don’t think the OP acted in her best interest here either.

              I agree that the OP didn’t the situation in the most ideal way. I think that after the first incident, she probably should have gone to talk to him – or, barring that (because I doubt he seemed approachable or reasonable even before this), to the director.

              But I also don’t think that the OP handled the situation in a particularly poor or unreasonable way. I can see a lot of people not being proactive like that, particularly with a manager who had probably come off as fairly hostile in general (because this sort of thing doesn’t just happen out of the blue), and saying that the OP didn’t “act in her best interest” is a lot more extreme to me than just “Yeah, the OP could have handled it better.” And, as I just said in another comment but which I think bears repeating: I’m really confused about why the focus in this subthread is “OP, you screwed up by not communicating properly [with someone who thinks it’s appropriate to scream at you] and should have handled this better!” rather than “OP, here’s advice for going forward.”

              1. LBK*

                I’m really confused about why the focus in this subthread is “OP, you screwed up by not communicating properly [with someone who thinks it’s appropriate to scream at you] and should have handled this better!” rather than “OP, here’s advice for going forward.”

                From my perspective those are pretty much the same thing, so maybe that’s why we’re at odds here. Outlining the missteps in a situation sounds like a normal way to give advice to me.

                I purposely used the phrase “in her best interest” because I want to make it clear that this isn’t about accommodating a jerk – it’s about what is most likely to have the best results for the OP.

              2. BananaPants*

                Fair enough. FWIW, for the last 4 years my manager has been a guy who’s well known for having a mercurial temper and very intense manner. New hires rapidly learn that when he gets started on a rant, the best thing to do is shut up and take it, because trying to defend oneself only exacerbates the tension and makes him madder. This is especially true if there’s an audience; he never blows up in private but if he feels like he’s being made to look bad in front of others he gets seriously pissed. The best solution is to wait until he’s calmed down and then go to his office to talk, and if he thinks he’s been unfair or too harsh he’ll apologize.

                He thinks of himself as a benevolent, but absolute ruler of his fiefdom. He’s not the sort who would be upset about someone using their cell phone, but in general I could see him getting seriously pissed if he’d clearly told a direct report “Don’t do that anymore” and then he saw them doing exactly that without any follow up or explanation. I’ve learned the hard way that the best way to avoid blowups is to be as proactive as possible in communicating with him.

                1. LBK*

                  Yep, I worked for someone a lot like this, which I think is informing my comments here. Being proactive is crucial, as is maintaining an even keel and never appearing defensive (which comes across as emotional, which comes across as invalid). Direct, concise, matter-of-fact statements work best.

        3. joeee*

          Yeah, I agree. For future incidents with this guy, if he’s blowing up in the moment, try to go talk to him later to explain whatever you need to explain during a calmer moment when he’s not blowing up and thinking he’s caught you doing something inappropriate. He sounds awful, but if anything, that’s all the more reason to try to work on your relationship with this guy.

        4. AW*

          Dropping the doctor’s note on his desk without saying anything seems extremely passive aggressive.

          So what? If the manager wants people to come talk to them then they shouldn’t be yelling at people and telling them not to talk to them. They literally told the OP they didn’t want to hear it.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Well, because we’re talking about what would get the OP the best results here, not how it should work in a perfect world with a reasonable manager.

      5. AW*

        Wasn’t there already a long thread in the past week about not being a jerk toward OPs who post follow ups?

          1. Jo*

            I think taking a tone of “oh my gosh, you WHAT, why would you do it that way?!” (when you could say, “instead of doing it that way, next time, try it this way because …”) and calling her out for passivity and uncommunicativeness when she was struggling with something scary and serious, is a bit jerky. There are kinder ways to approach it – like the language you used in your original reply.

            1. ella*

              I don’t think anyone’s being over-the-top condescending or disrespectful, so it may be in how you’re reading them, not what’s actually being said. (Or maybe I’m skimming too fast. Or maybe it’s because I before coming here this morning, I was over on reddit, where people regularly call each other shitlords and twatwaffles, and by comparison everyone here is a gentleman/woman.)

              1. The Strand*

                Ella, you disagreed in a way that was very polite and got your point across without impugning the motives of the OP, or misrepresenting the actions she described. You gave her honest feedback, and the OP can come away with something from your comment.

                Both Jo and AW are referring to a specific comment that was very hostile. You must have skimmed that one.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Which comment are we talking about — Barbara in Swampeast’s? I agree it was pretty blunt and could have been stated more kindly, but I don’t think it was inappropriate. People here can be blunt, disagree, have unpopular opinions — that’s all fine. Outright nastiness is not, but I don’t think this was in that category.

                  Regardless, I do think it’s become derailing so we should move on!

          2. AW*

            I see victim blaming, like everything after that is on you, as jerk behavior. It’s one thing to disagree with how someone handled things, it’s another to say that someone deserves to have something bad happen because they didn’t handle things perfectly.

      6. Jessa*

        OP is not talking to him because he continuously shows that he will not listen. Talking over OP, not letting OP explain.

    10. Sammy*

      I’m not seeing a kinda apology in any of that. What an asshole.

      My dad’s diabetic, too. Years ago his doctor changed his treatment from injected insulin to pills. While he was trying to adjust, he would fall asleep at his desk. Like you, he had a long record of excellent performance. His boss, who is not an asshole, brought up his concern and my dad explained it was a medical issue. They both came away with the plan that he would continue to do an excellent job and sometimes fall asleep while he tried to figure out when he should eat a Snickers on this new regimen.

      That’s what you do when you have a great employee you want to keep, because even if they have an unproductive hour or so, they’re still adding more value to the company than anyone else would, or at least could within the period of time the company wants to invest in a new person. My dad still works there. He went back to straight insulin and never falls asleep anymore.

    11. Erin*

      Oh my gosh, this is outrageous.

      This clearly isn’t about you using your phone too much at work, considering A) everyone else does it, and I’m assuming B) your work is not being affected, and C) there aren’t clients coming in. But even if there were a flow of clients, again, everyone is using their phones, so he’s obviously not concerned about the perception of how that would look to others.

      He’s clearly out to get you and looking for a reason to fire you. I would suggest getting another note from your doctor specifying exactly how often or how many times a day you need to be using this app (assuming it doesn’t say it already).

      My husband not long ago had to have a doctor rewrite a note for him to get out of a martial arts class commitment because of an injury – the original note said, “can’t do martial arts for the foreseeable future.” He had to have it rewritten to specifically say, “can’t do martial arts for at least the next six months.”

      And honestly if this crap continues, you wouldn’t be out of line if you confronted him about it in a professional manner. “Hey Bob, we’ve discussed my medical app before but I can see you’re still unhappy about my needing to be on my phone. I wanted to ask, what’s your real concern here? If you’re worried I’m not getting my work done I’m happy to provide more frequent updates for you.”

      You could also – since he’s difficult to talk to and cuts you off – email him. And then, your efforts to resolve this would be clearly documented. “Hi Bob, I know we’ve discussed my medical app before but I get the feeling you’re still unhappy about my needing to use it so frequently. I got a second, more detailed doctor’s note, attached, that I’m hoping clears up the situation for you. If I can do anything else to alleviate your concerns regarding this please let me know.”

    12. EB*

      You definitely need to tell him that your doctor has told you to use it every X minutes. If I were you I would follow up with a neutral email to both the Director and the supervisor saying that you are happy that you are receiving the accommodation and that your doctor has said to test yourself and use the app at least ever X minutes and more if you feel sick, and that the app is the only reason you use the phone. Do it in writing so there is no way that the supervisor doesn’t know what is going on and more importantly, his supervisor knows the score. Ask them specifically if you need to get the number of times in writing from the doctor.

      If you don’t notify him and let his “twice a day” remark stand without clarification – his “twice a day” remark leaves him room to start yelling at you again for being on the phone more than twice a day.

      1. Erin*


        Make it crystal clear how often you need to do this, and do it via email (preferably with a scanned updated doctor’s note as I mentioned in my above comment).

        Having difficult conversations instead of taking the easy way out to email is something I am personally working on, and would typically advise others to do the same.

        But in this case this needs to be documented. He’s looking for a reason to fire her and she needs to start covering her butt right now.

      2. mee too*


        Do this it is very important. Your manager does not seem to get it and is going to try to push you on every step. Also, I don’t think there has been enough emphasis on how important it will be to keep the director in the loop by CCing communications like this. Let your contracting agency and HR know.

        This is HRs actual job. Even if you are not an employee they need to work with the manager about how to handle medical accommodation correctly with all employees. Trying to minimize or restrict a needed accommodation is not the way to handle it.

    13. Stranger than fiction*

      Did you mention the other lady that is constantly on her phone and receiving calls from her kids? Others don’t think it’s relevant, but I do, since he singled you out. All the more reason I think he’s resentful of your salary.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Also, this should still be documented with HR, who knows what he did with your Dr. note.

      2. LBK*

        I don’t think it’s irrelevant, I just think it’s unlikely to have any positive effect on the conversation. There’s almost no chance it’s going to cause him to genuinely consider whether he’s treating the OP unfairly, so I don’t see the benefit of bringing it up.

      3. fposte*

        No conversation is ever improved by “everybody else gets to!” Stick to the reasons why this is a valid use.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Yeah I guess I see what you guys mean, it just makes me angry when crap like this happens

        2. Anonsie*

          I think there is some relevance to the fact that this isn’t a blanket policy but apparently an OP-policy. However, I agree this conversation was better narrowed to the valid use portion of the argument this time.

    14. JeanLouiseFinch*

      This guy is a real dirtbag. Tell him you will use the app exactly as much as you need to, for your health. Do not let him put restrictions on you. If this is an app telling you how much insulin to take, you might look into getting a pump. The pump I use has something called the “bolus wizard” that calculates your suggested amount of insulin based on how many carbs you are eating. Then you can just press a button and it will deliver that amount of insulin.

    15. not telling*

      Since your OP brought up ADA and discrimination, I would like to point out that ADA only requires employers to make ‘reasonable accommodation’ and case law determines that at least one criteria of ‘reasonable’ is that the employee inform the company of what that need is. I.e., it does not follow logic that an employer is discriminating against you because of a medical condition, if they didn’t even know you had a medical condition in the first place.

      For that reason, you really need to document this conversation you had with the director and manager. In writing, emailed to HR. It doesn’t need to be a complete blow-by-blow. Just a ‘for your records, I am informing you that I have spoken with my manager and director about my need to take periodic breaks every 90 minutes to test my blood sugar using a phone-based app that is accessed via my personal cell phone’.

      And as others have said, it may just smooth things over if you step into a hallway, unused conference room, or bathroom to do this. Just so you’re not in your manager’s face about it.

      P.S., for all you know, your coworkers’ kids and family have some kind of medical issue that results in them getting frequent calls. You never know what troubles other people are dealing with (even if you think they’ve told you every detail of their life). If you don’t want others to make assumptions about your phone usage, you should probably afford them the same latitude.

  4. carlotta*

    #3 Please print? As in “Name: (please print)? That means capital letters but I don’t think it means hand write necessarily. Or maybe I am missing the full context.

      1. Joline*

        This is what I always assume with forms with that instruction. That they want print (either by hand or computer) vs. cursive. For the most part it’s more legible and fits better in the little spaced boxes those forms often have.

      2. ella*

        Yeah. I always interpreted “Please print” as “Don’t write cursive” (since cursive is harder to read oftentimes). Also, someone hasn’t updated their application form in at least 15 years, it sounds like.

    1. Sparkly Librarian*

      I was also thinking that more context would help. I’m used to seeing “Name (please print)” right before or right next to “Signature”, and it doesn’t have to be in capital letters; it just means that instead of a stylized scrawl, the name should be easily read. If the form says “please print” somewhere at the beginning, I would take it as a guide to make your writing legible, and not to use cursive. Typing out the answers into or onto the form would be an acceptable option.

    2. Sophie*

      It could have originally been a physical form, that has been uploaded on to their website without any changes. So if you were applying on a paper copy, you would use uppercase letters to make sure it is readable and clear – however in this case it seems filling it in digitally would be fine, then printing it out. All they want is to physically be able to read the words on the page.

    3. lawsuited*

      I think “Please print” just means “please make the information you’re about to put on this form legible”. In which case, computer type is a much better option than chicken scratch!

    4. TootsNYC*

      yeah, “please print” doesn’t mean capital letters. I don’t even use capital letters inside boxes on forms, not unless there are instructions to do so.

      1. Joline*

        I admittedly usually do all caps. Not because I think that that’s what the form is requiring but because I feel that for me it is most legible.

    5. Jo*

      Please Print is code for No Cursive/Script. Earlier generations, many of whom are still in the workforce, learned to do most of their handwriting in cursive.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        I never saw the point of cursive. It’s harder to write, and much harder to read. I’m only 33 and my horrible 5th/6th grade teacher (who was like a teacher equivalent of some of the worst bosses we see on AAM) required us all to write only in cursive, which I was bad at and loathed. She claimed all writing in middle and high school had to be done in cursive too, which was fortunately a lie. I’ve never used cursive since for anything other than my signature.

  5. "Computer Science"*

    #3, I usually take “Please print” to mean “Please don’t write in cursive.” A typed submission should absolutely be fine.

    1. UKAnon*

      I have known some applications which still require actual handwriting. Is there any way of finding out further information to make it clearer – are there other job listings where the application makes it clearer for example?

      1. Merry and Bright*

        Me too, and they seem to ask for black ink too (to make scans or photocopies easier, I suppose).

          1. Cruella DaBoss*

            This may not be true any longer but Blue and Black ink were once considered “legally acceptable,” as inks of other colors were not. One could not sign a contract, or even a check, using any other color ink.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I thought most scanners that can recognize black ink can recognize blue. They may not want green.
          The purpose of wanting blue is because it used to make it easier to tell that it wasn’t a photocopied forgery.

  6. James M*

    I’ve always assumed “please print” means it’s either a legal document or illegible writing will be summarily round-filed.

  7. KT*

    For #1, this is a problem I deal with too. It’s embarrassing and awful, but it can be controlled!

    Therapy is a good idea if you think there’s deep-seeded issues behind it. For me, I just react with tears for no reason.

    What works for me is pretending to be someone else (seriously, I know it sounds cheesy, but it works). I’ll channel someone I think is cool and calm and perfectly professional in the face of fire–Claire Underwood, evil as she may be, is often who I focus on since she’s the ultimate ice queen.

    By channeling another person, it detaches me from the criticism for a moment–not meaning that I don’t hear it, but I can hear it objectively without it being a remark on me as a person and I can process it. By focusing on how Claire would react, I can be calm, cool, and collected–then go bawl in the bathroom when it’s done if need be.

    1. Ani*

      I really wish, in addition to general banking and finance education so that young people don’t find themselves by their early 20s in massive debt and no savings, high school or college prep programs also provided a few basics about office etiquette, how to plan for a career and advancement (including pros and cons of pursuing advanced degrees), and maybe some pointers on how to and the importance of controlling emotions in professional settings.

      1. Bekx*

        I actually had this class in college. It was unfortunately taught by a major slacker who would show up to class 20 minutes late and let us out 15 minutes early (1.5 hour class). I wrote a scathing evaluation at the end of the class because he promised to teach us how to interview, how to dress…He promised us that we’d have mock interviews where he taped us and gave us feedback so we can see what we were doing wrong. None of that happened. I wish a different professor taught it.

        1. When the day is done I will bring you home when the sun is gone*

          You rock!

          Do you know if it had any effect?

          Regardless – these days when college is expensive as hell, I’m a big fan of people not settling for shoddy service.

          When I look back: in-state tuition was like $3000/semester. Nowhere near as outrageous as costs are today, but nor was that chump change circa 1980. While I feel I got a pretty good education out of it, overall, there were still a few classes that I wish I’d raised a stink over. Although I don’t know how well that would have gone over in that day and time.

          1. Bekx*

            Mine was ~40,000 a year. Ugh.

            I just checked my alma mater and he’s still an instructor. I’m not really surprised. Rumor was the only thing evals affected were raises. He apparently was some big shot project manager at one point — I think he just burned out really quickly and decided teaching was something to do.

            1. Natalie*

              In most places they affect whether or not a person is offered tenure, but if he was already tenured of course that ship has sailed.

        2. Sarah*

          What did you major in? I majored in a technical discipline, and there was very little “career” training. My business major friends had some classes that covered at least some of “how to act in an office” type topics.

          1. Bekx*

            The department was Journalism/Marketing/Advertising/PR/Video/Web and this was a required course for seniors.

      2. Jenna Maroney*

        Eh, there might be some people who would benefit from the bit about emotions, but I think for people like the OP it wouldn’t help. I also think “controlling your emotions” and “not crying” are not really the same – I think of the first one as things like not yelling or being rude when you’re angry or in a bad mood, but for a lot of people the second one is a physical reaction. It sounds like OP is pretty good at controlling her emotions – she doesn’t respond defensively, she takes feedback to heart but in a positive way, and she generally doesn’t let her lizard-brain reaction color her conscious reaction.

        (Lizard-brain is not an insult – I have an abusive parent in my backgrou d also and similar responses and for me it’s been useful to think of them as ways my lizard brain has been conditioned since childhood to respond to stress but which I, not a lizard, don’t have to allow to be the last word. That doesn’t help with the crying though, although I’m lucky that it’s mostly stayed out of work.)

        1. Letter Writer #1*

          Indeed, if you are familiar with StrengthsFinder one of my strengths is positivity. I often receive feedback that I’m the most positive person people have met. Of course, not everyone likes a Chris Traeger (Parks & Recreation).

          And to other readers, yes there is definitely a difference in “not crying” versus “controlling your emotions”. If only I were skilled in both, not just one!

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            When I first read your letter I was like ‘wow that’s unusual’ then like half hour later I got my feelings hurt because my boss didn’t inform me of something she should have and I began crying for the next half hour!

          2. Ad Astra*

            I love Chris Traeger because he’s relentlessly positive but, as far as I can remember, never invalidates the other characters’ feelings by telling them to perk up. Having positive, cheerful people around is awesome; being told “It could always be worse” or “Look at the bright side” is really far from awesome.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Lizard brain is just the primitive part of your brain that controls survival reactions. Everybody has one! :)

          I do the same thing; if people start yelling at me, I immediately want to run like the wind.

      3. Muriel Heslop*

        I taught high school for several years and I think students could benefit from four years of a finance and careers course. If we want people to succeed financially we can’t rely on what they learn at home about savings, earnings, and what jobs and careers are available.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Yes I’ve been saying the same for years and especially because credit card companies start sending recent high school grads offers as soon as they’re 18, and they even show up on college campuses. It’s like they’re encouraging those that don’t know any better to rack up debt…as if theyre not already racking up enough debt with their student loans!

        2. nona*

          My high school put that in Civics & Economics. It was really helpful. We even had a computer game where you made minimum wage, budgeted a month, and watched it play out in a few minutes.

        3. Ad Astra*

          I learned how to write checks and balance a checkbook in 4th grade, learned some basic economics in 9th and 12th grade civics courses, and learned a bit about interest rates in high school algebra. Personal finance education can do lot to level the playing field for kids who come from low-income households, where many parents don’t have the knowledge to pass on to their children (not that poor people can’t manage money; it’s that people who’ve been broke for decades don’t have as much experience stuff like car loans and mortgages).

          The trouble is, according to the public school educators in my family, that high-stakes testing makes it almost impossible to fit anything into the curriculum that isn’t reading or math.

        4. Anx*

          I still am not sure how helpful a class would be. I took 2 business/finance related classes in high school, and it turned out to be very unhelpful for me. Of course, I think part of this has to do with taking the classes in 2003 and graduating college at the end of 2008.

          Still, a lot of the curriculum equated budgeting and responsible spending as the key to financial health. I think it made matters a little bit worse at times because I figured so long as I made responsible seeming choices I’d be okay, but that doesn’t fix the the not-enough-income-too-many-expenses problem.

          I’d advocate for a course like this, but I don’t think bringing back or expanding standard financial literacy classes are the way to go here. I could see there being some difficulty because there’s really no way to address basic finances without talking about systemic economic issues.

      4. TheVet*

        I attended HS in the previous century in a small town in the south. We had ‘tracks’ which meant all of our electives were based on a career path with your gen ed courses being tied to the track. I chose the medical path, so I took a lot of medical terminology and health occupations courses. My gen ed requirements went beyond bio and chem and extended into human anatomy and physiology.

        A portion of our classes were on professionalism/etiquette and career planning based in addition to budgeting and finance. We had guest speakers and went on field trips every from hospitals to funeral homes. I thought this was normal. I also thought music, arts, and sports (for credit, not competitive-I took gymnastics) classes in place of phys ed were what everyone did in HS. You could graduate with an AA and go to college or you could go the tech school route (there was an automotive section with a garage for boats and cars on campus next to the welders and woodworkers).

      5. Today's Satan*

        I firmly believe that taking acting classes in high school, and being in several plays, helped me once I got into the business world. Being able to pick a personality to present to someone was incredibly helpful.

    2. Letter Writer #1*

      This is such a good idea! I do this for other situations but I never thought of doing it for this one. Thanks for the advice!!

    3. TootsNYC*

      “pretend to be someone else”

      That reminds me of the Neil Gaiman speech about “make great art.” In it, he tells of a young woman who said, “We want to make ebooks, but we don’t know how,” and he told her, “Go pretend to be someone who knows how.”

      We do a lot of make-believe play as little kids. I think there’s value in tapping those skills as grownups.

  8. DisenchantedinDC*

    Is your boss your contractor boss with your company, or your client? This sounds like some of the messed-up dynamics and environment created between government and contractors to me.

    1. Nashira*

      Ayah. There’s a bunch of rules in my office that only apply to my fellow contractors and I, based solely on the govvies’ assumptions about our pay and benefits. It is unpleasant and I look forward to working someplace less dysfunctional in the near future.

      1. Judy*

        Even in the private sector, there are usually rules about W2 contractors vs employees, things like if there’s a team lunch, you have to pay them, since it is “work”, so many times the team gets fewer team lunches when there are contractors as part of it. Also, many of the company communication meetings, the large meetings that talk about the state of the business, the contractors are not invited.

        1. Judy*

          I’m remembering the Dilbert where the contractor is carrying his own oxygen, and they’re trying to figure out how they can stop him from using their gravity.

  9. NinaK*

    @#1; This happens to me, too, but I think it is worse than what you are describing. I am a ‘rules’ person – I like them, I follow them, I like chain of communication and always being on the same page with people – so when I hear that people think did something wrong or I perceive that people think I did something wrong my frustration makes me emotional. I am 44 and have worked since I was 15.

    If I get emotional during a conversation with my boss, I will say “I am sorry I am being emotional about this, it is how I express my frustration. But, I know that people probably avoid difficult conversations with me because it makes them uncomfortable. It is important to me that we have the conversation even if it I find it frustrating.”

    A few years ago one person (levels above me but not my boss) said “don’t apologize for being upset. It is kind of nice to know you really care so much. Most people don’t give a shit.” Made me feel a little better.

    @KT, I am sooooooo going to channel my inner Claire Underwood before my next meeting with the boss. Love this!

    1. TootsNYC*

      I once started to cry in a meeting in which I was complaining about the seriously unprofessional behavior of a colleague and its impact on productivity and morale.
      I started to cry.
      My (female) overling said, “Don’t cry. Get mad. It’s OK to let the anger show. But don’t cry.”

      It helped. I found that trying to suppress the frustration and anger was what made me cry.
      Once I focused on *controlling* the expression of frustration (i.e., letting myself raise my voice and use an angry or frustrated tone, but keeping the volume down), I didn’t cry as much.

      Maybe that would help. It’s OK to be frustrated at yourself, interested,

        1. ancolie*

          Yep! I have a physiological response to *any* intense emotion: tears. Anger and frustration are inextricably connected to crying. But so are profound joy and love.

          Maybe phrasing it in a medical/anatomical and needlessly jargon-y way would work!

          “In interpersonal communicative events which feature significantly heightened affective aspects of consciousness, I will often experience an autonomic nervous response wherein a clear saline substance will be secreted by my nasolacrimal ducts. This response is not to be seen as one of significance. The only accommodation necessary is to continue the discussion normally.”

      1. Sarah*

        I was going to comment about frustration too.

        When I was younger, I used to have this problem too – when I felt like I wasn’t being heard, or my valid concerns weren’t being taken seriously I’d get frustrated, and then I’d get angry, and the way I was brought up, that anger is bad, it’d turn inwards, and come out as tears. It didn’t help that I have a medical condition that means I’m really bad at processing adrenaline rushes if my blood sugar is off balance.

        How I handled it in the moment was explaining to my boss that this does sometimes happen, that it’s a physical reaction, and what would help me is if he ignored that I was crying, and continue to the conversation – to look at it like eg I started sweating or something like that. I stressed that I didn’t want to seem manipulative, and I didn’t want him to feel he couldn’t tell me I’m wrong etc, that I appreciate the criticism/feedback. He was great about it, and once it had happened maybe twice, and we just continued the conversation, it happened a LOT less, partly, I think, because next time I got frustrated, I wasn’t having to deal with a side order of being terrified I’d cry.

        With my next boss, I brought it up in advance, but it hardly ever happened, again in part because I wasn’t adding pressure NOT to cry. But talking about it with my first boss helped me unpack what was actually going on, about anger and frustration and to have strategies to deal with those situations.

        Of course, this might not help you, OP, because it sounds like your problem is when criticism comes out of the blue. I don’t know if there’s any chance of being able to role play with a trusted friend, ask them to surprise you with a criticism in a safer place than work, and see if that helps at least work out what it is about the scenario that freaks you out? Is it the way they start the conversation that takes you back to a bad place? It took me YEARS to work out that my fear-spike when someone wants to take me into a small room because we need to talk about something was directly connected to how my parents told me they were going to divorce (a real d’oh! moment for me when I did) but once I did, it helped me deep breathe and try to relax when it happens.

    2. Letter Writer #1*

      I think what you’re describing is also part of what I experience. While I love a playfully breaking rules in games, I really do not want to in the workplace. Usually its me feeling bad, but sometimes, I do get the sense of just crying from frustration. It’s helpful to know that I’m not the only one out there so thanks for commenting NinaK!

    3. Elizabeth West*

      This only works if the boss actually cares too. Otherwise, you just get chided for getting frustrated. At least, that’s how Exjob was. No matter what I said or to whom, I got no action on stuff I needed to do my job. The only way I could cope was to just stop caring and do what I could to prepare materials. Then when I finally got what I needed, I could send them out quickly.

      FWIW, I HATE crying at work when I’m talking to someone. I’m going to try that pretend thing if it ever happens again.

  10. NewDoc*

    For #1 – this does not fix the underlying problem, but if you pinch the top of your nose (the part closest to your face, NOT the bone) you’ll obstruct the lacrimal duct so the tears won’t come out. Obviously it’s not super-subtle (why are you suddenly pinching your nose?) but it can give you a minute to get control in situations where you really don’t want to have tears running down your face.

    1. The Strand*

      Maybe on Friday we can arrange a group test (we can all put “The Notebook” or similar ) and see if it works…

  11. Coffee Ninja*

    #1, I totally get where you’re coming from. I’ve struggled with this too. Weirdly, I’m not a teary person when something *actually* sad happens. For a long time, the only way I could get through any work conversations involving feedback or voicing my concerns about something was to pinch my thigh hard. If you’re sitting with your hands in your lap/down at your side and you do tiny pinches, it isn’t noticeable. It sounds weird, but it redirects your brain from tears to “What the hell?”

    Of course, Alison’s advice is also excellent.

    1. Letter Writer #1*

      Coffee Ninja, Thanks for the advice, I’ve tried this and unfortunately, it doesn’t work for me :(. It just resulted in a bruise and in some instances a blood blister. But I appreciate the advice!

    2. Anx*

      I’m similar. I cry at television and a few (very few) movies for sadness/happiness reasons, but in my everyday life I don’t cry when I’m sad about something related to my own life. Death or terminal illness hitting close to home? No crying.

      But when I’m frustrated or embarrassed, I’m much more likely to cry.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        I’m the same way! I cried last winter when I had to walk two miles in the middle of the road with cars honking at me because the sidewalks hadn’t been cleared and all the public transit was shut down, but I didn’t cry when my grandmother died. I felt *sad* of course, but I didn’t cry. But then several days later I was alone, watching the episode of Call the Midwife where the baby dies and there’s a horribly sad funeral with a little baby coffin, and THEN I cried.

  12. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

    #1 I have a similar reaction to criticism, even if it’s totally innocuous (“could you reprint this label, it didn’t come out straight” and the like) though I don’t know why. I’ve gotten better at controlling myself over the years but one thing that has helped is requesting as much of the critique as possible in writing. Then not only can I digest at my own pace with or without getting a little weepy but it is also there as something I can go back and reference with a clear mind, not one that was focused on what my face was doing.

    #2 This makes me so angry on your behalf (I’m the girlfriend of a diabetic). I hope you’re able to come to an understanding with this guy, and that you’re able get your dosages sorted out.

    1. Letter Writer #1*

      You know this is a good idea. I tend to process things better when they are written down anyways. What are the actual words you use when you request critiques in writing (I’m assuming emails)? I find myself getting nervous and its helpful (THANK YOU ALISON!) to have a sentence carefully crafted before I speak when I’m asking for something like that.

      1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

        “I’d like some feedback on this, would you mind sending me an email/dropping me a memo?” I know it sometimes depends on what kind of work you’re doing- most of what gets reviewed for me is exhibit labels and since my writing is being edited it’s just so much easier for everyone to do it on that piece of paper rather than try to verbally go through everything. It doesn’t get me out of yearly verbal performance reviews because that’s a policy over our head, but it does mean I get most stuff in an email.

  13. Graciosa*

    Regarding #4, take a look at your resume in total and see if you can find other ways to improve it.

    I mention this because it seems unlikely to me that your resume is having the impact you want in every other way and the *only* reason you’re not getting interviews is that employers don’t realize you were also going to school while you achieved the fantastic results shown in your resume.

    To be honest, as a hiring manager I don’t care that much about the fact that you were working and going to school simultaneously. Yes, it’s hard and requires some juggling, but a lot of people do it – not necessarily all that well.

    What would impress me would be a record of accomplishment. Did you achieve the highest sales every month you worked at the store? The fastest turn time repairing computers? The greatest discount with a supplier?

    If I’m seeing those kinds of achievements, you’ll catch enough of my attention for me to note that you were in school at the same time whether or not you write it in the cover letter.

    If your resume lists your job duties instead of accomplishments, there is nothing to tell me your performance is likely to be superior to that of the other applicants – the fact that you were in school at the time won’t change my overall impression.

    I’m not saying this to be cruel or downplay your hard work, but rather to make sure you’re focusing on the most important aspects of your resume in order to help you find the job you deserve. Alison has a lot of good advice on fashioning your resume and writing good cover letters. Review it and see what else you can do to improve your changes for a great job.

    Good luck.

    1. Jesse*

      I wondered if they are applying for jobs that require work experience, but presenting themselves as a recent grad. It could be as minor as putting the jobs at the top of the resume, and education down below. This is on my mind because I’ve just hired for a position that required some work experience, and most of the applicants were recent grads who only worked part-time in school, when I’d rather someone who already has the experience of going to an office five days a week for an extended period.

      1. OP #4*

        Hi! Thanks for your input everyone up & down the thread! I actually hadn’t even considered the work experience element – I do live in a city with a crap-ton of colleges & recent grads. I had assumed that it was clear that I had regular-type work experience, but considering that I’ve been on interviews where they thought I was German because I did an internship there, I guess I shouldn’t assume. Unfortunately, my new degree (MS) is in a different field (well, same field, vastly different skillset) so merely swapping experience and education sections is not exactly the right move, but I will definitely think about how to pull a similar trick.

        1. Re #4*

          Oh my goodness… the same thing happened to me several years ago. I spent a short time abroad, but otherwise stayed in the same region pretty much my entire life. I went on a local interview. The guy thought I would speak with that accent. I don’t even have my own region’s accent! Too much.

    2. INFJ*

      Graciosa’s perspective is valid, but I wanted to point out that others may think differently.

      I once had a job interview in which the hiring manager was very impressed that I worked full time while going to school full time. I had mentioned it in my cover letter as evidence of my drive.

    3. Erin*

      This occurred to me too, that that isn’t the real reason OP isn’t getting hired.

      OP by all means, emphasize that you worked full time while in school; that is significant. But while you’re at it, really take a look at your whole resume.

    4. kt (lowercase)*

      I think this is great advice. Seems like it can never hurt to re-evaluate that stuff, regardless.

  14. Re #4*

    I was actually wondering about something similar myself.
    During College 1: Promotion from HS job. I worked, on average 36 hrs/wk. Basically, they didn’t want to make me FT, but it was close.
    During College 2: That job on a limited basis during the school year, plus work-study. Later, 24 hrs/wk ish plus work-study. More during breaks.
    (I also worked PT during high school & on a 30ish hour week during the summer, but I’m too old for anyone to care about that, I think.)

    There was a hot second where I mentioned this was all concurrent in my resume, but I didn’t know if that was something people did, so I took the mention off. I just figured people would look at the dates and understand, but should I spell it out for them? The jobs themselves and the dates are on there.

    1. Career Counselorette*

      If by “mentioned it was all concurrent” you mean a full sentence like “By the way, these were all happening simultaneously,” I would say that’s unnecessary. The dates are self-explanatory enough. But I agree with Graciosa above that it makes a bigger difference if your bullet points are written as accomplishments rather than job duties.

      1. Re #4*

        No, I just had something like: (Concurrent with employment) next to the degree. I can’t remember exactly, but it was a very short notation, not a full sentence, and in parentheses.

        Graciosa’s comment didn’t show until after I refreshed- but of course, very helpful for my situation, too. Thanks for your thoughts as well! I have plenty of accomplishments from that era & it would be foolish not to include them. I figured a good Hiring Manager would be able to cross-reference the dates, but if it just made things easier to understand or faster, I’d go back to mentioning it.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I think people can look at the dates, especially if there aren’t a ton of them, if your résumé’s pretty simple.

      What’s most important in your situation is that you worked at the same employer for so long and got *promoted*. Especially if it’s the kind of job where they could have easily said, “We don’t need you this summer” to get rid of you.

      1. Re #4*

        Thanks a bunch! It’s so nice to have an outsider’s perspective.
        One difference between the OPs situation and my own is that I am (most likely) significantly older. So, it’s a two-pager. The block I’m asking about is actually pretty old, but I keep it on there because of the responsibilities, and because there are only two large blocks right now- the interim was temp work post-grad (which I listed to account for those years, and which I’m hoping will be obvious from the dates). Hence, the need for confirmation that people will actually do the math. Part of why it’s on there is to demonstrate the successful juggling.

        I had the academic kudos on there originally- Cum Laude and Dean’s List, etc, but I’d taken them off bc I’m not a recent grad. It is an accomplishment-based resume, but in the Volunteer section there are a few cases where I wanted to demonstrate transferable skills.

  15. Dasha*

    #1 I heard drinking cold water will stop the tears reflex- maybe someone more medical-y than me can confirm it. Maybe you could sport a bottle of water when you talk to your boss, it might still be weird but not as weird as crying. I’ve also heard to pinch yourself to distract yourself from crying.

    I used to cry fairly easily and it turned out one of my medications was the reason why. I’m not sure if you take anything but if you do please check ALL all your medications with your doctor. My culprit was actually a blood pressure medicine that had a bunch of other crazy side effects.

    I think therapy is also a really good idea and also I think you might also just get better in time. :)

      1. LVL*

        Not a medical professional, but I fhis cold water trick actually works!!! I didn’t know it was a ‘thing’. I use it when I am feeling really emotional or stressed from work. The water has to be icey cold, I find it almost shocks my system into submission and now it’s almost aPavlovian response, cold water = calm self. Perhaps you have a (non-alcoholic) beverage that keeps you calm, even if it is cup of tea, bring one to each meeting so you are prepared. If you are feeling emotional, take a sip, see how that works.

    1. Letter Writer #1*

      I am in cognitive behavioral therapy and on medication (crying isn’t a likely side effect). I appreciate your comment though! I hadn’t even thought of checking them for this particular side effect. I’m hoping that with age and maturity and experience working full time and being a manager myself that I’ll grow de-sensitized (is that even the right word) over time.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        Desensitized is a perfect word to describe this and gave me another idea. Maybe you can talk with your therapist about doing some role play with him/her and maybe you could do the same with some friends. They don’t need to be about things you actually do wrong / need to improve on they can be made up.

        So, I would say “LW #1, your TSP report was not in the proper format. You should know by now that you need a header for each paragraph. Please have the revised copy on my desk by noon tomorrow.” And you could practice responding with “thanks for letting me know. I will have a revised copy for you tomorrow” without crying.

        It might be easier to not cry when you know the criticism is fake. Once you get used to how to respond though maybe you will be able to apply this for real criticism.

      2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        LW, this has happened to be before too, and it is super embarrassing! I felt awful and like I was being completely inappropriate. In my case, this started happening all at once. Once I really thought about it, I realized that I was just totally overwhelmed with my life. I was mustering up every single bit of energy I had just to make it through the day. Because I was trying SO hard, and honestly, doing more than I could really handle – although not doing it all that well – I just could not handle someone telling me it wasn’t enough. As in – I was doing 80%, when I was capable of was 65% – and feeling pretty proud that I managed 80% – and then someone told me I needed to get to at least 90%. Meltdown.

        In my case I had to realize that I can’t keep going at the same pace AND manage a chronic illness, AND be a full-time caregiver for someone else, and, and, and. I was just too stressed. My therapist really, really helped me see my way through this spot. There were really concrete things stressing me out, but even if it’s not the case for you, talk to your therapist about whether you might just be overwhelmed and responding to that. Finishing school and starting work is a stressful time with lots of changes.

        Also, people cry in my office from time to time in response to feedback, being given a new task, etc. I don’t need details, but I do appreciate it if the person somehow articulates that they aren’t blaming me for their emotional response – which would mean that I have a new issue to address. Lots of things can work: “I’m sorry, I didn’t sleep well last night” or “I”m sorry, I should probably tell you I’m pregnant” or “I’m sorry, I’m just feeling very stressed in general lately and I’m not keeping it together. I’m working on taking better care of myself”. I can work with occasional out-of-place crying if people take responsibly for their own emotions – which it sounds like you are doing.

  16. When the day is done I will bring you home when the sun is gone*

    #1: *sigh* this reminds me a bit of an old Dilbert cartoon where the boss is telling Alice “You don’t take criticism well. And you argue with people who are smarter than you are.”

    Because I don’t want to pile-on, but: this crying at criticism thing is something that you really need to get control over. I’m guessing you’d want to find a good behavioral therapist (?). Maybe someone can chime in with a better recommendation? I’m not a psychologist / therapist, but I’m fairly certain that this is the kind of thing that can be controlled without drugs and without spending hundreds of hours talking about parent issues etc.

    Because this kind of behavior would be seriously career-limiting where I work. You wouldn’t get fired over it, but – you would almost certainly be passed over for promotion, and you would develop a poor reputation amongst your peers.

    Again: I don’t mean to pile-on you, but – don’t put this off. Maybe think of it as that one last class you need to complete your degree. Because you really want to avoid starting your career off like this.

  17. Jubilance*

    #1 – I can so relate to this. I’ve been working full-time for almost 10 years and I still have an emotional reaction to some feedback. Similar to you, it stems from my childhood. I’ve had good success with 2 things:
    * Being up-front with my manager about it, explaining why it happens and what I need from them.
    * In the moment, reminding myself that it’s not personal, and also having a distraction helps too. I will doodle the same thing over and over, or pinch myself under the table to distract myself from getting too emotional.

    Best of luck! With time, and therapy if you decide to pursue it, it will get better. I don’t have a strong emotional reaction very often in the office anymore, finally!

    1. Beezus*

      Yes on the pinching. I press my thumbnail into my index finger and focus on the pain. I can do that above the table and it isn’t really noticeable.

    2. Letter Writer #1*

      It’s so good to hear you can relate to this and you have finally found a way to not have such emotional reactions in the office, thank you Jubliance for your reassurance!!

  18. Career Counselorette*

    With regard to #1, my old supervisor had a similar comment about me in my first review- I don’t necessarily become teary, but I will get visibly excited and I tend to start overexplaining why I made whatever mistake I did, and my supervisor said that I can appear defensive. What I was able to explain to her (which is all true) is that I have an insanely high internal bar for myself and I take the constructive criticism really seriously, so when I’m told I could be doing better or I made a mistake, it’s coming from a place of “Oh my God, I screwed up, I can’t believe it” vs. “No no, you’re wrong.” Luckily she was a reasonable person and understood what I meant, and I’ve really been able to manage my reactions better since then. Even yesterday, my new supervisor caught me on a mistake I made several weeks ago that I don’t remember making, and when she asked me how I could have done it, I simply said, “I have no explanation other than oversight, but it was definitely my mistake and I’ll have to do X, Y, and Z next time.” In the end she asked me to run that particular thing by her before I complete it again in the future, but she also added, “This isn’t to police you, but it’s so I can learn more about the process. The mistakes you made were kind of a good learning experience for me.”

    1. TootsNYC*

      I wonder if part of your success is that you have your script ready.

      So the OP#1 could maybe have a few basic starter scripts for all constructive-criticism conversations. Something that part of her mind can be busy getting out and trotting forward, so she doesn’t feel “on the spot” for reacting. And that’ll keep part of her brain busy while the other part gets the emotions and tear ducts aligned.

      Maybe eliminating the “OMG I have to say something! React!” problem will give her more energy for the managing of the rush of emotions.

      It’s not uncommon for volume of emotions to cause tearing up.

      1. Letter Writer #1*

        I think both you and Career Counselorette are right and I need to work on a few stock sentences that I can say that don’t appear defensive and show that I’m able to maturely listen to the feedback, critically analyze it, and then move on. Thanks for your thoughts you two!

    2. ella*

      I’ve never been a crier, but when I get criticism it’s really easy for me to hear, “You are a terrible employee and everything you do is wrong” when what my boss actually said was, “Hey, you were a couple minutes late coming back from lunch, just make sure you’re keeping an eye on the clock please.” I have found that the combination of saying thanks, keeping the conversation with the boss to a minimum at the moment and giving myself time to digest the criticism before explicitly trying to address it have helped me a lot. And I have a couple friends that I vent to who understand that it’s not that I think my boss’ criticism is unfair or invalid, it’s just that I need to vent, and then I can move forward with a decent perspective. Sometimes I go back to my boss for additional clarification (this is probably something I need to start training myself to not need), but usually I can just move forward.

  19. limenotapple*

    #1 I have been there, and for similar reasons (similar background). I know it’s hard! I still remember times when my manager would be giving me feedback, in a nice, professional way, that really helped me, and I still cried. It’s almost a reflex. I can tell you that cognitive behavioral therapy worked wonders for me. CBT really helped me to examine what was going on in my head before the waterworks and how to make that better. It took a while to get over, but now things are much better.

    Good luck! I really do get what you are going through and I hope it gets better for you!

    1. TootsNYC*

      I loved CBT–my guy had me trigger the emotions deliberately on my own, in private, persona practice sessions, and then follow mental scripts and emotional coping mechanisms that he and I had worked in response. It really made a difference.

      So if you seek therapy, look into that, and see if you can get a CBT person who will help you focus specifically on retraining the auto-response.

      1. Letter Writer #1*

        TootsNYC I’ve been in CBT for over a year and the person I was seeing (seeing someone new now) never even did role playing. I’ll have to express that at my next session. This really sounds like something that could work for me.

  20. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-I used to be this way and it’s taken a lot of hard work to get less emotional. Part of my struggle is that I had some jackass bosses who didn’t give constructive criticism. So I had to learn to hold it in while getting verbal abuse. It takes time. Therapy might help but time is your key factor. I’m a crier too. At the dumbest things. So, explaining that this is how you react but you are working on it and you actually really like to hear feedback is a good stop gap measure.

    1. Erin*

      ^Same here with the verbal abuse. I had people at an old job literally scream at me, including one time a large, older male leaning over my desk yelling at me, physically close to my face, when it was only the two of us in the office. I wrote to a different blog for help on how to deal with it (wish I’d known about AAM back then!!!!) and people’s reactions were, “Really? You cried at work? That’s really unprofessional.” Yeah, thanks.

      Glad your issue got resolved over time – and good luck to you, OP!

      1. When the day is done I will bring you home when the sun is gone*

        I’m not sure I’d agree that “unprofessional” is the correct word for it. I’m not sure what the correct word *is*, though. There are some behaviors that fall into the category of (I guess) “career limiting”: being the person who always hangs out at the watercooler and talks for too long, or being the person who steals other people’s lunches from the kitchen, or the person who is too far along the autism spectrum to be pleasant to talk to. The sucky thing is that not all of these things are a matter of conscious control. Case in point, this ‘criticism reaction’ thing. And I feel like a shit for even bringing it up like that – except that I thought about it and decided it would be a bigger dis-service to not mention it. So I hope OP (and anyone else) can work past it quickly and easily.

        I’m sure it’s different at different businesses. I work for a large company, and there are some good things about it. Like: “large, older male leaning over [your] desk yelling at [you]” – that’s simply not tolerated. I find it difficult to even think about that without also picturing a huge cartoon-hammer landing on his head and pounding him into the floor. Because that’s more or less what would happen to his career. But along with that, there are also certain baseline levels of soft skills, stuff like ‘trustability’ and ‘maturity’ and ‘likeability’ and etc, and if you aren’t perceived as capable in those areas – it’s a bad thing.

  21. Erin*

    #1 – Not a real suggestion, but you have my sympathies. I actually take constructive criticism very well, but I’m otherwise an emotional person when I get frustrated or am dealing with something. I love some of the suggestions others have on here – try them out for a few months, and then write back with an update! Help the rest of us out. ;)

    1. Letter Writer #1*

      I’m a recent follower of this blog and I’m currently putting my mental health at priority number one to control over the next year now that I’m out of school. I want to have kids (eventually) and I can’t do that on my medication and knowing that I could pass on bad mental health habits or provide an unhealthy environment for that. I’ll write back in a few months and let you all know how these go!

      1. Erin*

        That makes sense. I’d like to speak further to this but don’t want to with my name on here linked to my public blog. :)

        I see you’re in CBT – by complete coincidence I started researching this literally today. This can only help your problem, I’m sure. As you and others mentioned, it’s probably just a timing thing – you’ll get there, it just isn’t going to be an overnight solution kind of thing.

  22. Graciosa*

    Regarding the “restructuring” comment in #5, I think Alison is absolutely correct that you should ask, but I do want to caution you that you may not get a very definite answer. Earlier in my career, I saw a lot of these from the employee perspective, and I’ve now been involved in more than one as a manager.

    To share the view from behind the curtain, a restructuring plan goes through more iterations than you realize if you’re not a very active participant. There was always a clear objective – how can we organize ourselves to be more effective? – but there is a lot of debate about how to accomplish that goal.

    On the positive side, all the discussions I’ve ever participated in were as far from PHB-in-Dilbert-like as possible.

    We were all genuinely trying to figure out how to get each team the best mix of skills – while also providing development opportunities for each individual – and cross-training in critical skills – and so on, and so on. We would talk about various proposals, think about it (and sleep on it) for a while, and then come back together to try again.

    Because of this, depending upon the complexity and the stage of the discussions when you ask, you may not really get an answer. If you do get an answer, it could change again before it becomes final (which is why it’s risky to share too much too early). Whatever type of answer you get, feel free to share your goals or concerns with your manager (“I really enjoy X / want to work toward Y / hope to move away from work doing Z”).

    You don’t know how much of an influence they could have if you share them, but you do know that your manager can’t take them into consideration if you don’t.

    Good luck.

  23. Mimmy*

    Hi OP#1, are you me?

    Alison, I have been waiting for a script like what you suggested. I have a problem with this as well, and I think it’ll really help. Thank you.

    1. Letter Writer #1*


      Nope, but really knowing that other people out there in the comments have this same problem seriously helps me feel less alone and less like I’m a total weirdo. Thanks so much Alison for your feedback and posting my question!

  24. Brett*

    #3 He really needs to call and ask if the application can be filled in and printed on the computer. Our local government public safety application (also 20 pages long, invasive, and totally ridiculous) must be filled in by hand. Believe it or not, this is intentionally part of the screening. A key phrase on our form is the phrase “must use black ink”, or sometimes even more pointedly, “must use black pen.” The majority of local government applications I have done had to be hand printed.
    In general, if the form is a fill-able digital pdf, then it can probably be filled in digitally and printed. Making the form digitally fill-able is an extra step that almost certainly means those submissions are okay. If it is not, that’s often intentional and you have to hand fill the form. Either way, calling and asking is the easiest way to handle that decision since there are definitely agencies that require a hand filled form.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      As you point out, though, yours specifies that it needs to be handwritten. I think this would would specify that too if it were required; it’s an unusual enough requirement that they’re going to be specific about it.

    2. TootsNYC*

      How *would* you fill in a non-editable form or PDF on the computer?

      I would think it would help the OP’s DH to practice his handwriting a little bit.

      And, to fill in the form legibly, maybe think of it as “drawing” a letter F, and not “writing.”

      1. Vanishing Girl*

        In Acrobat Pro, you can make text boxes and insert text in the correct areas and then save it or print it off. So your application would be an image file and you’d put text boxes over top of it. You could also do something similar in Photoshop or another graphics program, using the application image as the background.

      2. LizB*

        There’s also an add-on for Google Drive called DocHub that lets you write over PDFs. It’s awesome! I’ve been using it for tons of job applications lately, because hand-writing my whole employment history is a pain the neck.

      3. Observer*

        Just about every halfway decent PDF reader has a “typewriter” function.

        By the way, for a lot of people “practicing their handwriting a little bit” is not going to help much. In fact, for some people practicing their handwriting A LOT doesn’t help. This is especially true for adults who have really bad handwriting.

    3. Observer*

      Actually, in my experience, it’s not by intention that forms are not in fillable form. Most of the time, it’s because no one knows how to make it fillable, or they don’t have the tools. And sometimes it because people can’t / won’t take an extra few minutes to do this.

      But, generally speaking, if something needs to be handwritten, it says so or at least specifies the color of the ink or pen.

    4. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

      Wow. I’ve filled out a number of government application non-fillable forms with the typewriter function of Adobe. It never would have occurred to me that “must use black ink” would indicate that the form has to be handwritten, because I’m using a black font, so when printed it will be with black ink.

      Are these forms returned by mail? Do you expect people to print the form, handwrite them, then scan and return back by email / usajobs type interface? This might explain why I’ve never gotten callbacks from one particular office at which I’m well-qualified. Very interesting, thank you!

      1. Brett*

        For us, they are returned in person or by mail. Digital submissions and fax are not allowed. You actually have to get the application notarized too. I was just reading the instructions to verify this, and you are not even allowed to have someone else fill out the form for you. It must be handwritten in black pen in your own handwriting.

  25. LadyHope*

    #4- I’m in the same boat where I want to make clear that I’m doing my degree and working full time. I have it in my cover letter. I use it as a way of demonstrating that I can “handle simultaneous projects and overlapping deadlines” which is in a lot of job descriptions these days. I think I say something about “maintaining a high standard of work in my full time job at ______ while also completing my degree on my own time” or something similar.

    Working full time and completing a degree is in accomplishment. You work all day and then go home and work some more. It shows dedication, self-discipline, and a strong work ethic. It shows you can handle a high-pressure environment with lots of deadlines. It shows you can juggle multiple obligations successfully. Sell yourself on those accomplishments!

  26. The IT Manager*

    There is something about #2 letter that rubs me the wrong way a bit. I wonder if LW had an adversarial relationship with her boss BEFORE this issue escalated. He’s definitely in the wrong by not being willing to listen and being a huge jerk with the yelling. But I also think that the possibility of the LW ever having a good relationship with him is very slim now.

    The first paragraph seems unnecessary to the story except to point how that LW earns a very high salary that the government can’t match, and then later she speculates that her making more money than her boss is a reason why he doesn’t like her. And then the last paragraph shows that the LW has measured not only how much time she spends on the phone using the medical app but also her “co-workers” phone time too. She may have counted her “co-worker’s” posts to facebook after work, but still … (Government employees and government contractors can and will be held to different standards. I sounds like your office is a bit of a confusing mix of both, but there are different rules on how they have to be treated.)

    I’ve seen the updates. Boss now knows that she’s using the phone to calculate the proper dosage. Boss still needs to be made to understand that this must happen every 90 minutes.

    This adversarial attitude only hurts the LW. She can’t be fired for this, but her contract could easily not be renewed. A significant reason government contractors make more money is the uncertainty. Government employees likely make less money but get good government benefits package and security of knowing that as long as they screw up too badly they will keep their job. (Government layoffs are a rare thing.) Contracts are short term and can stop at any time. I also recommend the LW consider if this situation is bad enough that she would choose to leave on her own because it sounds like it’s unlikely this will be ever be a good relationship. She “won” because the law and facts are on her side, but the boss has embarrassed himself in front of everyone by being forced to accept what he made such a big, shouty deal about. Jerks are probably not very forgiving about that.

    1. MashaKasha*

      I was married to a government contractor. It’s an extremely weird dynamics that you won’t see anywhere else. There’s resentment on both sides. Contractors aren’t terribly appreciative of the fact that employees have iron-clad job security and even things like regularly taking naps on the job (true story) won’t get them in any kind of trouble. They’re even more upset because they’re not included in any on-the-job training classes that employees all have access to; and of course, because, anytime a project gets shut down or funding is cut, contractors are the first ones out the door, while employees happily remain employed. Employees, on their end, are probably none too happy that contractors make A LOT more than they do for essentially the same work. (It’s a known fact in the govt contractor circles that, if you want to apply for the staff job, you need to prepare yourself for a substantial pay cut.) So yeah, from what I understand, in that kind of workplaces, there’s plenty of adversarial attitude to go around. Most people are mature and professional enough to not let it affect their day-to-day interactions with their teammates and subordinates. And then we have people like OP’s new boss. (Which btw, reminds me – OP states he was a new boss that she’d just gotten transferred to, so I don’t see how they could’ve had a bad history.)

      I don’t see how OP could’ve handled this any differently – this is literally a life and death issue and the boss wouldn’t budge.

  27. TootsNYC*

    For #4, mentioning that you went to school while working:

    when you write that in your cover letter, tell me WHY I should care.

    Tell me what WORK SKILLS you gained out of it, how will I benefit? Not just the personality traints (“I’m a hard worker”).
    Tell me you learned how to prioritize. Or how to zero in on the true priorities. How to keep low-priority projects bubbling along even as you move them out of the way of the rush priorities.
    You completed several complex, long-term projects under severe time constraints using planning and implementation skills that easily translate to any field.
    Or how to switch from projects using different mindsets (college=cerebral; work=routine and detailed).

    Those are all a little long, but that’s the basic point. Think about what you did, and how it parallels something a boss might want from you at work, in terms of skills.
    Then distill something that’s one to two sentences (focus more on what you offer them from it, and less about you internally) and put that in your cover letter.

    Use the longer stuff you come up with to be your phrases and examples in the interview. And again, translate for them how it will benefit them.

    My standard interview advice is: Figure out what they want the ideal candidate to be, before you get there. The basic, generic “ideal candidate” for the most common version of that job (you won’t know that they want someone w/ a strength to compensate for a current colleague’s weakness, but you can know that they want someone w/ detail skills, or w/ visualization ability, etc.).
    Then look at your accomplishments and skills, and have a (short) story to tell about how you did that, or can do it.
    So look at your school&work juggling, and see how you can frame those accomplishments in business terms.

    1. Ad Astra*

      This is great advice. As a hiring manager, I want to know about your skills and achievements. Going to school while working full time is not by itself a compelling reason to hire someone. For all I know, this person did the bare minimum in school to graduate while narrowly escaping termination for sloppy performance at work. Don’t just tell me what you did, tell me what you did well.

  28. puddin*

    #2 I’m going to put this out there for those without a chronic illness like diabetes or the myriad of medical trials many of us face.

    I maintain that the OP did not need to warn her manager about anything for this main reason:
    You never know how much info to tell and how much to hold in a job situation when you have a chronic illness. If you over-share you run a likely risk of being labeled as difficult, playing the illness card, garnering sympathy, or just a bummer to be around. And this label can come from one office busy body, your boss, the director, anyone…and like all gossip once it gets legs it is hard to combat.

    If you ‘undershare’, you are often given the opportunity to clear the air. Which is what this scenario is. It is certainly a tale that tells more about the jerky manager than it does about the OPs willingness or ability to communicate her personal needs. She acted like an adult, he treated her like a child, and comes across as immature as well.

    I think those of us who do have a chronic illness have to walk this line ALL THE TIME. When does explaining become whining or special treatment? Who will think less of me because I need something extra to help me live a quality life and I make those needs known? What kind of ridiculous advice or criticisms about my disease am I going to have to suffer through if and when I do mention it? Why or when does doing what I need to in order to thrive cause other people so much angst?

    As I mentioned yesterday, I am a Type 1 Diabetic and have lived through every imaginable reaction to ‘coming out.’ It has taught me more than any other lessons of life, that I am responsible for me and I am not responsible for you or your reactions to me.

    1. Erin*

      I agree with all of this.

      I have a chronic disease (cystic fibrosis) and do struggle with explaining my constant cough, although otherwise I’m lucky/healthy enough not to have to miss work over it so it isn’t a *huge* issue, but yeah. I’ve been trying to use the term “chronic lung condition” instead so I’m not oversharing, but I can’t undershare either, because people do comment on my cough. I don’t want them to think I’m working through a contagious illness and why the heck did I come to work.

      I suggested to the OP to obtain a second doctor’s note specifying exactly how often the app needs to be used throughout the day. I think that way the situation will be transparent enough (not undersharing) that he understands what’s up (or a reasonable manager would anyway), but she wouldn’t be oversharing the actual details of the condition. Which are nobody’s business.

      1. ella*

        I have asthma and couldn’t get inhalers last winter, and that short experience was enough to really make me feel for people with conditions like CF that make them cough constantly (my asthma doesn’t make me wheeze, it makes me cough, especially after running or riding my bike, which I do a lot). So many people asking if I was okay, if I was sick, are you sure you’re not sick, you sound sick, ohmygod are you okay, just–SHUT UP I’M WORKING HERE. And not from myriads of different people, but like, the same 4 people, over and over.

        1. Erin*

          Haha you’ve hit the nail on the head! That describes the situation exactly. I constantly get asked if I have cold. Sure, we’ll go with that, now stop talking.

    2. Anonsie*


      I feel like I bring this up every time illness comes up around here, but people are not cool about it. They are not nice, or empathetic, or normal in any of the ways you assume they will be. There is a very pressing need to manage how much information about your illness people have.

      I really can’t emphasize this enough to people who don’t have experience with it. Most people see your illness as a character flaw. They blame you and try to put extra restrictions on you because they see it as you trying to get extras even if you’re not asking for a damn thing. It doesn’t matter what it is, people are nuts about it. And no amount of that behavior tiptoeing along the line of illegal discrimination is enough to scare companies off of it.

  29. Letter Writer #1*


    Thanks for your feedback, I so totally appreciate you answering my question. It was actually really helpful to have the conversation in the comments because I’ve got a lot of tips on different methods to try out now. I’ll let you know how they go after a few months.

    As for your advice, I’m literally going to take what you wrote and memorize it because it happens to fit my situation really well. In response to another reader/commenter, this type of thing won’t hold me back in terms of promotions because I don’t actually want to get promoted to the next level. I am lucky enough to say that I have my dream job now and a promotion would mean doing more administrative work and strategic planning and less of the fun implementation work that I do. I like being on the front lines. Though you have a point. If I want a raise, which is a promotion of sorts, its a monetary response to doing an excellent job and being valuable to the team (which, reasonably if I perform well in the next year or two) I could get, your right, I need get this under control. I love money (who doesn’t) and it would absolutely suck if I didn’t get a raise because I can’t take criticism well.

    Thanks everyone!

    1. Sarah*

      Good luck with it all – sounds like you’re doing the right things, and in my experience, just talking (typing!) about it was a step along the way of feeling more in control

  30. Mary*

    #1 My problem isn’t so much tears….my face gets scarlet! I can feel it getting hotter and hotter and it’s impossible to hide.

    1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

      This happens to me too and I have no idea how to fix it or what to do. Not helpful advice, but you’re not alone!

  31. Casidy Yatest*

    I’m kind of disappointed in the answer to #2. The writer explained she tried to tell her boss what was going on, but he was extremely disrespectful – he told her he didn’t care, he cut her off, and then he was actually SCREAMING at her! This really doesn’t sound like a situation where she CAN have a talk with her boss – he’s not willing to listen. So what else can she do?

  32. Anna*

    Okay, I have read all the comments. I have to say that I am suprised and disappointed in many of the comments. I have never had any type of run in with him before. He never really speaks to me. I have reported to him for a little over a year or so. I am the only contractor on the team. I wasn’t being”passive-aggressive” with him when I put the doctor’s note on his desk. I also gave a copy to the Director and my Manager from the contract house. The Director told me not to speak to him and let it blow over. I don’t like to tell employers about having diabetes because it is true, people discrimnate against you if you have a chronic disease. That’s why I didn’t tell him about the app. In the first conversation he DID NOT tell me not to use my phone. After he made the comment about not having enough work to do, I tried to tell him what I was doing. He said” I DONT CARE.” So I said I will put it away. I didn’t want to antagonize him so I keep it put away. It honestly didn’t occur to me to try to tell him again. So I would put my info in and then put it away. I had my back to the aisle so I wasn’t flaunting it. My doctors note said I need to use the app “as necessary”. It can’t be tied down to a number. Some days I will need to use it more often. Each time I got yelled at I let my boss from the contract house know. He said he would try to call the other Manager but he has reached out to him several times to introduce himself and the manager has never responded. My contract house manager has told me this before. The Director told me not to and I didn’t feel comfortable anyway. I have seen the Manager do this to other people. I said upfront he probably didn’t know what I was using the phone for. I also tried telling him the second time. But he has never been approachable. After he told me he didn’t care what the reason was I quit using it at work for a few days. I took too much or too little insulin because I didn’t use the app. I came to this website for help and a lot of people had constructive things to say and suggestions that will help. But a lot of people faulted me for not speaking to him. Come on people, he said he didn’t care! After the second incident it was too late. As a contractor the HR department won’t speak to me. I called and they suggested the Director. So that is what I did. I didn’t want to get fired. As a regular employee they would have had to write me up and take many steps before could be let go. A contractor doesn’t have that option. So this does teach me, I will continue to look for a full hire job. I mentioned the
    salary issue because that is the only reason I can think of. After reading the comments I feel like I am being blamed and this is all my fault.I am an adult and can handle criticism. I came here for help and the people that helped me were great. But I am really disappointed in the way others handled it.

    1. Observer*

      I would say that your boss from the contract house is a bit at fault here, as well. If your manager has not been responsive, then he needs to go up the chain. I get that for a general “let’s get to know each other he would not do that. But for something like this, he needs to go as high as necessary to give you the accommodation you need. I’m glad that things have worked out in the end, but if you something like this comes up again, you should keep it in mind.

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