my boss doesn’t believe in migraines, employee cries whenever I give her feedback, and more

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

1. My boss doesn’t believe in migraines

I have been a migraine sufferer since my early 20’s (I’m in my 30’s now). I have a medication that helps and can generally avoid my biggest triggers, so for the past several years they have been under control. I have had to call out of work with a migraine only a handful of times in the four years that I have reported to my boss.

However, lately my migraines have gotten worse and my medicine is not helping like it used to. I have had to stay home or leave work early due to a migraine four times in the last two months, which for me is a lot. I get very light-sensitive, so being at my computer can make them worse and I also get very nauseated. I have an appointment with my doctor to talk about it and see if I need to switch medicines or do any other kind of testing.

Each time, I have called or texted my boss (texting is her preferred method of communication in this case) and her response has been a simple “ok,” versus the few times I have had to stay home due to other sickness, when she would add “Feel better soon!” or something to that effect. While discussing my migraines with a coworker, who also gets them, she commented, “It makes me mad that Boss doesn’t believe that migraines exist.” When I asked her to clarify, she said our boss had told her at one point that she didn’t think migraines were a real thing, just a bad headache.

Would you do anything differently about calling in sick for this boss? Get a note from my doctor that I do in fact suffer from migraines? Or just chalk it up to the fact that some people don’t understand them and continue as I have been? I generally have a good relationship with my boss and am the highest performer in my department. I’m frustrated already with my health situation, and my boss possibly not taking it seriously makes me even more frustrated.

How ridiculous. I’d just stop telling her the reason for your sick leave; she doesn’t need to know if it’s a migraine or a cold or food poisoning. Stick with “I’m under the weather and will be out today” or “I’m dealing with an ongoing health issue that I’ll have several appointments for this month” or whatever. If you feel like that won’t fly (although it should), you could even just describe the symptom rather than the cause (nausea, for example).

Or, you can continue on as you have been and decide that it doesn’t really matter if your boss takes it seriously or not, as long as it’s not impacting anything concrete. (It’s also possible that your coworker isn’t fully accurately representing your boss’ viewpoint, which is worth considering too.)

2. My employee cries whenever I give her feedback

One of the people I supervise is “Mary,” a woman in her early 20s. Every time she gets critical feedback (even very mild and accompanied by praise), she turns bright red and starts crying… like, a lot. Tears streaming down her face. Other than that, though, she responds calmly and rationally. She carries a handkerchief and just mops up the tears and continues the conversation. One of the first times this happened, I asked if she was okay, and she said that it’s “just a physical response to stress” and confided that she’s getting cognitive behavioral therapy to learn to control it. Honestly, I think she’s handling the whole thing with a lot of professionalism and maturity.

I am her direct supervisor, but she also reports to two of my (male) colleagues, one of whom is a VP in my company. I recently overheard them talking about Mary, saying that her crying is uncomfortable, unprofessional, and “stupid.” Mary is a great employee, and I want to do whatever I can to protect her job and reputation within the company. Should I say something to my colleagues? Should I advise her to say something?

How about saying this to them: “I agree the crying isn’t ideal, but she’s an excellent employee, and she’s consistent about listening carefully to feedback and incorporating it into her work, more than many other people are.” (Or whatever — don’t say that last part if it’s not true, of course.) If you’re comfortable with it, you could also consider adding, “You know, there are some real gender-based differences around emotions in the workplace, and I think we need to be really careful about how we talk about this.”

This is a little tricky because, well, crying every time she gets feedback is actually pretty problematic. You’re comfortable continuing on in the conversation, but a lot of managers wouldn’t be, and it’s the kind of thing that’s going to generally make people uncomfortable and create the impression that she’s not able to handle stress or challenges. That said, she clearly recognizes that it’s an issue and it sounds like she’s handling as well as possible, given the circumstances, and it would probably be smart to try to shift your colleagues’ perceptions a bit if you can.

Read an update to this letter

3. Is it weird not to meet with the hiring manager?

I have been invited to an in-person interview with a really great company — I’m super excited! This comes after a 30-minute call with a recruiter and a 30-minute call with the hiring manager. The recruiter emailed me today to let me know the in-person would last about three hours, and I would be meeting with five different people — four coworkers (one above the role in seniority, two at the same level, and one a step below) and someone from a different department who the person filling this role would work closely with.

I thought it was weird that I wouldn’t be meeting the hiring manager in person, so I responded to the email asking if he would be there too. The recruiter responded, “He might stop by if he has time but is not scheduled to meet with you.” Is this weird? As far as I know, this would be the last interview in the process.

Is it the last step in their process before they make a hiring decision? If so, it’s pretty weird, and it would give me concerns about your would-be manager, if he’s willing to hire someone after just a 30-minute phone conversation and isn’t even willing to take advantage of you being in their office to talk with you in person. I’d also be wary of taking a job without more of a chance to talk with the person I’d be reporting to.

But if there’s another step after this where you’d talk longer with the hiring manager, then this wouldn’t worry me at all. It’s actually a great thing to have an input-from-others stage, as long as the actual manager is going to spend more time with finalists at some other point in the process.

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Should I go to an event my boss is being honored at?

I work for the CEO of an organization, and she is an officer of an industry-specific organization. Next year she is being appointed the president of the organization (a one-year term). They are in the process of planning the induction party, and my boss invited me to the event. I’m wondering if I’m informally obligated to go? I know they can’t force me, but I’m just looking for whether or not I should? It would be on my dime, mainly gas and a hotel if I chose to stay overnight, so I’m really not worried about that, I’m primarily convened with what the impression would be if I don’t go.

I don’t know your specific context, but in general I wouldn’t think so. If it were local, maybe (although even then I don’t think it would weird to have a scheduling conflict). But far enough away that you’d consider an overnight stay? I think you can nicely bow out while congratulating her for appointment.

Also, I’m having trouble thinking of any industry organization where this kind of appointment requires an induction party planned a year in advance, unless she’s temporarily taking over the ruling of a small country or something.

5. How likely am I to be a top candidate the second time around?

I interviewed with a company this past month, was flown out for an interview cross-country, and everything went well. The recruiting manager then called me and said that while they were still interested in me for the position, they were extending the offer to another candidate who they felt had more experience. I thought that was the end of it, but she made a point to tell me that they are still hiring for more slots in this role but it would be another month or so before they would hire another one. She told me I received nothing but positive feedback, other than my being more junior at the role, and to keep in touch as they were still very interested.

While I know that doesn’t mean that I will be hired in a month, if and when they start hiring again, I want to know my chances of still being a top candidate. I plan to follow up in about three weeks to see if there is any news in the process and restate my interest. However, from your perspective, are employers more likely to hire from a pool of candidates they have already interviewed who they liked or would they want to interview more people? The position is still listed on their website (understandable as they would still need a pool of applicants regardless) so I also am worried if I would have to restart the interview process again.

It depends. If they loved you and you were their second choice in this round and they’re confident that you’d be their top choice in a future hiring round, then it’s possible that they might just offer you the position. But it’s also very common to interview more candidates; after all, they want to make sure they’re hiring the best possible person, not just the one person they already know about who seems pretty good.

There’s really no way to know from the outside, and it’s a recipe for making yourself crazy if you speculate, so I’d just move forward with the rest of your job search and let this play out however it’s going to.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 416 comments… read them below }

  1. Sherm*

    #1 Ugh, my sympathies, migraines suck (and I only get them very rarely). I’d rather have 5 colds than 1 migraine. I had one recently in the late afternoon; it was like I had looked at 100 cameras flash at the same time and was dealing with the afterimages (and the headache and the nausea). I wondered how I would get home. Fortunately, it was slow at work, so I closed my eyes for 30 minutes, which helped a lot.

    1. Connie-Lynne*

      My migraines take a long time (more than an hour) to fully manifest, and often are just nausea and auras for many hours. I’ve had other migraine sufferers disbelieve that I was sick because I could talk or drive myself home.

      My sister got them in high school and had teachers accuse her of lying.

      It’s bullshit. I wish I looked on the outside the way I feel inside when I’m having an episode.

      1. Knitting Cat Lady*

        Migraines, like many other things, exist on a spectrum.

        I get auras. They are annoying. Especially if I’m trying to sleep.

        I also don’t get too much of a head ache. Sure, it’s bad, but it’s not debilitating. Sinusitis give me way worse.

        The other symptoms are worse, though. Everything is too loud, too bright and too smelly.

        I can work through it, though.

        Migraine != terrible head ache. It’s the other neurological symptoms that make it a migraine.

        1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

          Exactly! I’ve mistaken migraines for seasickness and for morning sickness, but both times something else happened (vision changes in my left eye and joint pain in my right hand for me) that made it clear I was dealing with a migraine.

          I’m one of those who cannot work through one, particularly an unmedicated one (which all of mine are now that I’m drugging for two). I get stupid. Really. Stupid. If I’m quick on the draw, I can manage to drive myself home, but I better do it fast.

          1. MashaKasha*

            I get the really stupid kind too! I’ve been on migraine meds for close to ten years. I finally caved in and went to see a Dr about them after I made several bad mistakes at work in a row, due to being distracted by the migraine. It makes me pretty much incapable of thinking.

            I don’t even know if what I have is a true migraine, because at its onset, it feels pretty benign compared to what migraine sufferers usually describe. But, unless I nip it in the bud right away with a prescription pill, it gets worse and remains progressively worse for several days. I once was snowed in at a town one hour from mine, without my migraine pills. Day 1 was fine, but by day 3 I stopped talking, because I was afraid I’d throw up if I opened my mouth. It was terrible. It was during a long weekend, so I didn’t have to work through that, and can’t imagine how I possibly would’ve.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          My husband had some sudden vision changes in one eye while we were watching the news one morning. We immediately called his eye doctor, and she had him come in. She couldn’t see what was going on, so she called ahead to the emergency room and had us go there. She though he might me having a stroke. The hospital ran a series of tests which were inconclusive, but the doctor on duty said that my husband was most likely experiencing migraine symptoms. My husband protested that he didn’t have a headache, and the doctor said that headache isn’t always one of the symptoms, which I never would have known. Until then, I was one of the people who thought migraine = bad headache.

          1. MsChanandlerBong*

            I get the same thing. In my case, I was diagnosed with ophthalmic migraines. My vision blurs/goes double, and I feel a little odd, but I never get a headache with it.

          2. OP #1*

            Yes! Years ago, I worked with a woman who got migraine symptoms but never a headache. She’d lose part of her vision, get extreme nausea and light-sensitivity. But her head would never hurt, so she never thought it was a migraine until she described it to a doctor.

            1. Catherine from Canada*

              My son started having vision problems in grade 6. Got glasses which didn’t really help. In high school, he started having random joint pain, causing him to give up biking, snowboarding and a lot of other activities. In university, he started having severe nausea, so bad that he was throwing up four or five times a day. He to so sick, he dropped out of uni – 145 pounds on a 6’4″ young man is not a good look. He’s been diagnosed with salt deficiency, chronic vomiting syndrome, lupus, MS, and tested for brain tumors and a host of other things. None of which turned out to be correct. Because he’s so sick and looks so terrible, if he goes to emerg, for instance, for the joint pain or a broken bone, he gets turned away because the docs think he’s an addict looking for meds.
              In the meantime, he’s gotten married, is the manager of a Apple Genius bar, and has – barely – managed to maintain a cheerful outlook.
              Finally, finally, finally, when his family doctor was out of ideas, she referred him to a neurologist who listened to his history and said, “Yup. Atypical migraines.” On the one hand I’m relieved, he’s not going to die! on the other hand, I’m furious. Nearly twenty years to get a diagnosis!?!
              He’s on an SSRI and doing so much better. Now all he has to deal with are the consequences of being malnourished for the last 15 years because he couldn’t keep anything down long enough. And he can get a script for medical marijuana (which was the only thing that helped with the nausea) and I can stop worrying about him getting arrested.

              1. Amber T*

                That is so frustrating! I’m so happy for you and your family that you finally got a diagnosis, but holy canoli 20 years??

                One of the most frustrating things about migraines is that they never present themselves the same way in different people. Hell, my symptoms can change each time I get a migraine.

                This is breaching off topic and I’m sorry, but out of curiosity, has anyone heard of Todd’s Syndrome/Alice in Wonderland Syndrome? It’s not very well known but doctors think it may be associated with migrianes. It’s a very weird thing that I only just heard of a few weeks ago but I think I’ve had for years. It’s one of those things I didn’t think was real and that I was just super weird for experiencing.

                1. Catherine from Canada*

                  He came over Easter Sunday to make pancakes for everyone.
                  His special lets-pile-on-the-calories recipe. Not buttermilk, whipping cream; not vegetable oil, melted butter; not just eggs, extra egg yolks and beaten egg whites. Fried in butter and soaked in maple syrup as soon as they came out of the pan.
                  Now, my kids can eat. (they’re all 6′ plus, even the girls.) No-one, except him, managed more than three….It’s so nice to see him pink instead of grey-ish white!

              2. lfi*

                OT – but this recipe sounds AMAZING (and i can’t reply to your comment below)!

                My mom gets migraines where she is down for a few days. Hers usually are caused by stress… I remember at my sister’s HS graduation she made it through the service before having to get sick. Le sigh.

              3. Laura*


                *Please* disregard if you’re sick of hearing others weigh in/butt in on your son’s condition, but just from a friendly fellow commenter and chronic Lyme disease sufferer, if he hasn’t been screened for Lyme disease by what’s considered a Lyme-literate physician, it’s something he might want to consider?

                I was tested with the most basic Lyme test repeatedly in my odyssey to figure out why I was losing weight rapidly and had joint pain and other weird symptoms, and each time came up negative. I then went to a thyroid specialist who was starting to branch out in Lyme, and she did a more sophisticated test and I met the criteria. I’ve still under treatment, but am TONS better. Conventional medicine is still a little mixed on how to diagnose Lyme disease, and treat those who need longer-term treatment and don’t respond to the usual 2 weeks of antibiotics that cures others, so don’t be discouraged by what you see out there in the literature, or if an MD has blown him off in the past.

                Or disregard, I definitely get how annoying and intrusive even well-meaning advice can get from strangers when dealing wiht

          3. ThursdaysGeek*

            These are really good to hear! I’m pretty sure now that husband gets ocular migraines, and it’s good hearing other examples where the only symptom is sudden vision loss. It was scary when he first told me, but he said it had been happening since he was a teen, usually when he was extra tired.

          4. many bells down*

            Me too! Or at least I can usually head off the headache, if I take medication at the first sign of aura. But the aura is so bad I can’t drive or see so I end up in bed anyway until it’s gone.

      2. Cambridge Comma*

        I had the same problem at school. Once the aura started, I knew had 60 minutes to get home, but aside from a slight visual disturbance, I seemed normal and could walk home without a problem.
        After the third or fourth time, Matron decided I was faking, so she wouldn’t let me leave, but made me sit at her desk where she could see me.
        I was still sitting there when the projectile vomiting started.
        After that, she always let me leave straight away.
        I don’t know if this is a possible tactic for OP?
        Otherwise, just call it a chronic neurological disorder.

        1. ExceptionToTheRule*

          I had a similar thing. Boss didn’t believe in migraines. Then I threw up in her office trash can and that pretty much settled the matter.

          1. Elder Dog*

            I missed and accidentally threw up on a disbelieving boss’s shoes. Never questioned whether I was sick again, but a new boss did. Didn’t mean to repeat history, but again, never questioned again.

            1. M-C*

              :-). Sad though, that. throwing up in person would be necessary to have your health taken seriously..

              Personally, the most trouble I had health-wise was a female boss who didn’t get cramps, one of the scant handful of women like that I’ve ever met. She assumed I was a shirker of the highest order. I never got into the details of my fibroids with her though, figuring over-inflating health problems is never good policy at work.

        2. KR*

          I used to get anxiety induced migraines in school and my teachers were so tolerant when I got sick – but my symptoms were usually accompanied by a panic attack or physical symptoms so I was lucky in a way. It sucks when people don’t get that you feel terrible and in pain and that you don’t want to have to go home, but you really do need to right now.

          1. Windchime*

            It’s weird that the boss “doesn’t believe in migraines”. I don’t like to wish bad things on people, but if this boss could experience just one day of migraine, that might help her to believe.

            My migraines can also be anxiety-induced. I have different “levels” of migraines. Usually I can continue to function (with the help of a prescription medication). Occasionally, they are bad enough that I am vomiting and confined to bed until they’re over. Rarely, I have to go to the doctor for an injection to get them to stop. I have only had an aura one time, but my son gets them every time. He gets the aura (badly enough to the point where he can’t read or drive). Then the aura goes away, and he has about 30 minutes symptom-free until the headache and vomiting start.

            It’s interesting that people have described migraines that occur without headache. There are times that I feel like I’m having one but my head doesn’t hurt; it’s good to know I’m not crazy.

        3. anonanonanon*

          This used to happen to me in school. It was the same situation with cramps because of my endometriosis. The nurse always thought I was trying to get out of class because of “cramps” or “migraines” until I started vomiting.

          Part of me can understand why school nurses are skeptical since there are students who use those excuses to get out of class, but I wish they wouldn’t punish everyone for a few people taking advantage.

          1. many bells down*

            My daughter had this problem and she’s got a documented medical issue AND a 504 plan. But the nurse was out that day, and the staff in the office wouldn’t let her in the room (she has a digestive disorder and has to lie in a specific position to allow the blockage to clear). So she ended up vomiting in the attendance office instead. I told her to lie in the middle of the floor next time.

        4. CheeryO*

          Same thing happened to me in middle school. Went to the nurse, and she sent me back to class since I didn’t “look sick.” Came back after the next period and opened my mouth to tell her, “No really, I need to go home. I had an aura and now I am extremely nauseous and light-sensitive and I’m going to throw up,” when I had to run for the bathroom to puke. I got to go home after that.

      3. Annie Moose*

        My dad’s can be somewhat similar–he’s had times where he’s only had the auras, in fact, and the pain either doesn’t show up for a long time or never shows up at all. Which I guess if you have to have a migraine, is probably about the best way to have a migraine, but unfortunately he gets the kind with pain too.

        1. Cecily*

          I actually infrequently get auras with no other symptoms (maybe fatigue/general disorientation) and always dismissed them! I had no idea that they might be a legit migraine, just without pain. The auras can actually be a massive problem for me as I rely on my vision at work (I’m both a bike courier and artist), even without other symptoms.

          1. Cecily*

            (it should be noted both my mom and my sister get NASTY migraines, so there’s a family history there)

    2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      I’ve had one migraine in my entire life and that was just enough for me to have all of the sympathy and understanding in the world for migraine sufferers. I would have been glad for someone to lop my head off with a scythe to just make it stop.

      Everybody should have just one and then they would know.

      1. Rainy*

        The one migraine I had was accompanied by a severe aphasia aura. Being unable to explain to your spouse what you needed (wanting one thing and getting something completely different – what you’d verbally asked for) on top of all that pain was the worst.

        Not that I’d ever doubted migraine sufferers, but I certainly never have after that. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, except for people who think migraines are made up. People who refuse to believe in symptoms they’ve never had and label people complaining about them as lazy are the worst.

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        The first migraine I ever had… I didn’t know what was going on. There wasn’t a lot of pain, but I remember thinking that I would feel better if I had something to eat, so I went to leave the building. But I kept bumping into things, there was a whole slice of my vision that was just gone. I looked at a sign and it was like the middle of it wasn’t there. I felt like crap. I can’t remember if I ate something or not but when I came back into school, the pinwheels had started and they were somewhat entertaining in a “wow, that’s kind of cool… wait a minute, that shouldn’t be happening!” sort of way. I thought I must have a brain tumour. Someone must have noticed that I was acting weird because they asked me what was wrong and I said “I think I’ve got a brain tumour, there’s these little pinwheels in my eyes” which made them laugh and say that I was having a migraine. I don’t think I had ever heard the word before. I was so out of it that when they suggested I go see the school nurse, I didn’t argue and just went. I don’t think she gave me any Aspirin, but I remember lying down on the thing (not a couch, or a bed, what do they call those doctor office things that are also not massage tables?) in the dark and having a nap. I don’t remember what happened after that — how long it stayed with me.

        I didn’t have another one for years. Mine seem to be triggered by extreme stress and sometimes barometric pressure. But now they aren’t as “colourful” as the first one. It takes a long time for me to realise that I’m having one because the first symptom is loss of appetite and generally cruddy feeling, which could be a cold or maybe forgetting to eat lunch. I am fortunate though in that if I get a good night’s sleep — and sleep is pretty much all I want to do — they’re usually gone by the morning.

        But yeah, if you’ve never gone through it, I can see how it would be hard to understand what makes it different from just having a headache.

        1. Adonday Veeah*

          Barometric pressure! Yes! That’s what brings mine on! Either I’m not crazy, or we both are! Either way, I now feel validated! Thank you!

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            And here I thought it was just me! It has to be a severe change in pressure for it to happen, but it’s happened more than once when everything else was pretty much “normal” and there was no reason to suddenly not be able to look at a computer monitor, feel nauseous on an empty stomach and then just not be able to stay awake.

      3. It's me heh heh just didn't want to be searchable for this*

        Me too–one classic migraine, and I never want another one. That was the worst thing ever. Plus, I was some distance from home, and I had to have someone drive me back for thirty minutes, and I thought I’d just be dead before we got there.

        I do get headaches I suspect are migraine-related; they typically last for a couple of days, involve pain in/near one eye, and it’s difficult to read or watch TV or look at the computer when I’m having one. The only thing that will mitigate them is to lie down and go to sleep. If I get one at work, I try to go home early because I’m pretty much worthless for the rest of the day anyway. A coworker at Exjob got them and couldn’t come in at all–I never gave him crap because I knew how he felt. :(

        1. Windchime*

          Your headaches do sound like migraines to me, Elizabeth. Mine are usually located behind my left eye and they feel like they start in the back of my neck. Fortunately, I have medication I can take and that will knock it down, but they usually last a total of 3-4 days before it goes away completely. So I would bet that you are having migraines.

      4. Rene*

        Yes. I’ve had a few that were bad enough that trephining started sounding like a *good* idea. Oddly, one of my signs that a migraine is on the way (officially the ‘prodrome’) is having a super, weirdly wonderful day the day before.
        I’ve also had visual migraines, where I simply can’t read-the words don’t make sense-but I don’t get the headache. The stupid migraine hangover is the same, though. :-P

    3. Liane*

      Yes, they are sucky. And not everyone has auras. Mine start with severe nausea and other GI symptoms (eg, gas). Then I get the headaches and light sensitivity. Often sensitvity to noise and/or some smells.

      1. Jinx*

        I’ve noticed that on days I get a migraine, I feel sleepy and have trouble focusing like I didn’t sleep enough, even if I did. Then a couple hours later I get vertigo, then a couple hours after that the pain starts. I can usually make it through work, but man is the drive home brutal.

        1. KR*

          I used to get sleepy and tired when I got them too! I probably still do, but I have more control over my time and my work is more forgiving then school so I don’t notice as much.

        2. Ife*

          I just have to say that it’s been very enlightening to read all the experiences people have with migraines. I had one migraine with all the “classic” symptoms (splitting headache, aura, light/sound sensitivity… Jesus, I thought I was dying). After that, I started getting bad headaches regularly that made me sleepy, dizzy, and unable to mentally focus. I wasn’t sure if “migraine” was the right term for those. I asked my doctor about it, but he didn’t really say whether they were headaches or migraines (he did get me off the medication that was causing them, which is what I was more concerned about. But it did always bother me to not know).

    4. Trainer*

      Saying migraines are just bad headaches is like saying Chron’s disease is just a bad stomach ache. I get migraines and I’ve always found that people who don’t simply don’t get it.

      I also have fibromyalgia and people constantly say things like it’s just life’s aches and pains, just growing pains (I’m 38!), just getting older pains (again, I’m 38!), that I’m overreacting or being dramatic or making it up. It’s incredibly obnoxious when other people decide for themselves how someone else’s body must be feeling.

      1. MayravB*

        Fellow fibromyalgia sufferer, with nothing to add but commiseration! People can be awful. In my experience, migraine pain and fibro pain just don’t feel like anything a healthy person feels. They feel fundamentally different.

        1. MayravB*

          Also, in the vein of not telling people the whole truth, I generally told all of my professors, bosses, and peers that I had “some joint problems, so it’s hard for me to….” Worked well.

          1. Trainer*

            I haven’t told my boss specifically either. I usually just say I’m sick of I have to. By some stroke of luck my job just became WFH and I think that’s going to improve my comfort levels infinitely.

            1. knitcrazybooknut*

              Just wanted to say that I do not have fibromyalgia, but I too am sick of I have to!

              (I’ve noted your typo as such but want to take it literally.)

        2. Allisonthe5th*

          I am sorry to see so many people with similar afflictions! I am also a sufferer of chronic migraines and fibro. I am on several preventative and migraine abortive medications, but still I have migraines that last for months at a time. I’m currently working through a 4 month migraine. Most days I want to curl up in a dark, cold room and never come out. However, I’ve had this since I was a small child and at some point I realized my migraines were ruling my life and I had to learn how to deal. I have since gotten married and have a successful career, but in my teens and early twenties I NEVER thought that was possible! Hang in there!

    5. Michelle*

      When my migraines make an appearance, I have to quickly get home, medicate, get my bedroom freezing cold and get until a pile of blankets. Something about the combo of my head being really cold and my body being warm helps tremendously. Nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, wanting to rip my head off- I get the the whole shebang if I don’t get home QUICK .

      The worst is when they start at night and wake me up. If I get a night migraine, I’m down at least 2 days. Just thinking about a night migraine makes my head hurt.

      1. alter_ego*

        The cold on my head helps me immensely as well. I keep a bunch of reusable ice packs in the freezer, and I just sleep on them in rotation.

        I recently had a migraine and went for an icepack, and my roommate had forgotten to put the ones he uses for his lunch in the freezer the night before, so he took mine instead. He didn’t understand at all why I was so pissed at him. I NEED that cold if I have a migraine.

        1. Windchime*

          I haven’t tried that combo. I will sometimes put a heating pad around my head and that helps, as does a hot shower. But talking myself into getting into the shower during a migraine is tough.

          1. heatherskib*

            Hot showers are one of my releases, too. I know several people who swear by the two temp packs. Just position them in whatever format works best for your head.

    6. GreenTeaPot*

      I used to get migraines on the first and third days of my period. They were accompanied by auras. Juice, candy or something salty helped. I usually muddled through, but sometimes I had to leave work. Thank God for menopause.

    7. Kim in Fargo*

      As a migraine sufferer, I find it difficult to express what it feels like when a migraine is happening. I recently ran across a section on Excedrin’s website that shows how 4 volunteers coped with aura symptoms using a Migraine Simulator. That was eye opening.

  2. SAHM*

    #2 I feel your pain! I had migraines through highschool, college, and halfway through my twenties. Besides being a literal pain, it’s tough when people blow off a migraine as a bad headache when you’re going blind from basic daylight and want to curl up in a dark corner and vomit. Weirdly enough, my migraines went away when I cut sugar from my diet, not that I’m suggesting that you cut sugar (because GOD ALMIGHTY it is Hard! There is sugar in everything!) but it was a weird side affect that I was NOT expecting. Migraines were just a part of life, I never even considered they could just go away …. Anyway. Good luck!

    1. Hellanon*

      I’m experimenting with the ideas that sugar is a migraine trigger for me as well – I knew it gave me headaches, but hadn’t realized it might be kicking off migraines. But the other ones – hormones, stress, aren’t issues, so: worth a try. And motivational on the label-reading front, because yes, it’s in everything (evaporated cane juice, my ass.)

      1. roisindubh211*

        I used to get them and sugar was my trigger – I used splenda for a few years instead. However, I’ve also nearly stopped getting them (it’s gone from 3-4 a year to one every 4-5 years, and I don’t seem to get most of the symptoms, just aura and blindspots or moray effect); I know they often fade away with age.

        1. roisindubh211*

          ETA, weird tip – nicotine gum (such as Nicorette) helps stop them in their tracks.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Makes sense; nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it constricts the blood vessels. It’s believed that some of the symptoms of a migraine are caused by dilation of blood vessels in the brain. (I was going to say that the dilation sometimes causes migraines, but apparently that thinking is a few years outdated.)

            1. FiveWheels*

              Nicotine also has been known to help other neurological issues of mine, which makes sense as it’s a stimulant. When inhaled I assume it’s very short acting which means it’s easy to get the dose right.

              Alas, it does lead to other health problems!

              1. sunny-dee*

                Actually, if you can limit yourself (and, obviously, that’s difficult) there is no increased cancer risk if you smoke 8 or fewer cigarettes a day. A natural-health doctor was talking to someone with mild anxiety, and he recommended smoking in extreme moderation because there are fewer side effects than medications like Xanax — but only if you stay below that threshold. And, of course, if you don’t have other conditions that could be worsened by smoking.

                (Uh, in case it’s not obvious, I am not a doctor.)

                1. caryatid*

                  what about emphysema and all the other terrible problems that are associated with smoking?

                2. fposte*

                  Unfortunately, the studies I’m seeing suggest that light smoking still raises your risk of cancer and other diseases considerably compared to nonsmoking. It’s possible that light smoking is more on a par with extensive secondhand smoke exposure than with heavy smoking but smoking under 10 cigarettes a day still seems to nearly triple your lung cancer rate and rate of coronary artery disease, quadruple your esophageal cancer rate, etc., etc. I haven’t seen detailed work on nicotine patches, but what I’m seeing suggests they’re not associated with the same raise in lung cancer and coronary artery disease, so they’re probably your best bet for nicotine delivery. (I suppose vaping is another possibility, but it’s too early to note longterm effects there.)

        2. FiveWheels*

          Sigh, I think my phone deleted my post.

          Anyway – to the people improved by removing sugar, does that also included removing fruit and other “healthy” things with sugar content?

          For me it’s the other way round, sweeteners generally make me very unwell and the phrase “no added sugar” is like a skull and crossbones sign.

          1. Hellanon*

            Nope, fruit is fine, although I don’t drink much juice anyways. It’s the added sugar, honey, even overly-sweet wines, that seem to be causing most of the problem. I stay away from artificial sweeteners for the most part, as I don’t like that chemical taste, but they don’t seem to be a problem.

            1. Mreasy*

              Sometimes fruit juice can be borderline, but since the sugar in fruit comes with fiber/etc., it doesn’t have the same effect. Alternative sweeteners like barley malt or brown rice syrup can be okay as well, since they’re very slow to hit the bloodstream. I have also heard that chemical sweeteners are a migraine trigger for many.

              1. Parent of T1 Diabetic*

                Apologies for taking this thread further OT…just wanted to respond to the implication that the sugar in fruit juice, brown rice syrup etc. somehow have a different effect on the blood than other sugars. They don’t. In fact, the recommended fast-response remedy to a blood sugar low (a dangerous condition that can happen to diabetics) is to eat 11 Skittles or drink 4 ounces of orange juice. Both are almost pure sugar.

                1. Hlyssande*

                  A hypoglycemic friend of mine now carries glucose gel at conventions for that exact situation.

          2. SAHM*

            I stick to no added sugar stuff, I like Stevia as a sugar replacement, it doesn’t bother me like Aspartame (sp?) does. The new 000 Oikos yogurts are my favorite breakfast and snack because they have no added sugar and use stevia to sweeten.

      2. Mreasy*

        Eliminating dietary sugar also eliminated the debilitating twice-weekly migraines of my ex (who is now a close friend) – and he’d been having them since age 6. It’s certainly not an easy path, but it’s worth a try if they’re really bad.

        1. Jinx*

          Hmm, I quit caffeine this year (which I got mostly from soda), and noticed that my migraines became less frequent. I thought my caffeine addiction was triggering them off, but maybe it’s less sugar. I didn’t realize sugar could be a trigger.

      3. Annie Moose*

        I used to get migraines as a kid, although it took me until adulthood to realize that I’m pretty sure sugar’s my trigger too–but I have to have a lot of it before it triggers one. I was a weird kid who didn’t eat sugar much, so it took me a long time to put it together, but finally I realized in retrospect it happened after birthday parties where I’d been stuffing my face with frosting, one of the few times I went crazy with sugar!

        Only have had one as an adult, thankfully. They run in my dad’s side of the family, though, so I’m always worried they’ll come back!

    2. Vicki*

      My father’s migraines went away after he had a very mild heart attack and the doctor put him on heart meds.

      I think the problem with migraines is that we don’t yet understand the cause and therefore, don;t really know how to treat them. There could be so many different possible causes depending on the person.

      1. Headachey*

        Several beta blockers and calcium channel blockers are commonly prescribed as migraine preventives – they do work for some.

        Your second paragraph is exactly the issue, though I’ll clarify the terminology a bit, if you don’t mind – we don’t understand the cause and don’t have specific medications developed to address that cause. There are also many different triggers, depending on the person, and depending on the exposure to/accumulation of triggers. Trigger != cause.

        1. A Non E. Mouse*

          Yes this is the trouble with migraines – the triggers, symptoms and treatments are different for every.single.person.

          Mine were severely exacerbated by hormonal BC (I would get one nearly every month, on day 2 of the placebo pill. It was awful.); thankfully after our last child my husband had a vasectomy so I didn’t need it any longer. I got migraines at other times of the month – I could just set a calendar by that week of Placebo pills.

          Now I only get them occasionally, still the same symptoms but MUCH reduced: where in college I would literally faint from the pain – I had about 30 minutes from the “uh, I might be about to get a migraine” to get home before my eyes quit working and I’d pass out – I now get about an hour’s warning. I don’t pass out, I just wish to!

          I’ve also found a medication (after many, many tries) that works for my particulars – Midrin. Pop two, drink a Coke, and I can usually avoid pain and eyesight issues. If not, one more each hour until the other symptoms are gone, or I can be home and hide in bed.

          My most annoying symptom, that I retain even with Midrin in my system? Super-Sonic hearing. I can hear someone think about dropping a pin three miles away. It’s usually the first symptom I notice, and the last to go away. That one I could live without!

          1. simonthegrey*

            Ugh. One of the BC pills I was on caused migraines and I never want to go through that again.

    3. Mabel*

      I have discovered that sugar makes my back hurt, and it also can affect my stomach. Knowing that makes it a little easier to avoid, but I agree that it is hard!

    4. Kate*

      A few years ago, I went through a real spell of migraines. Like one a week for three months.

      My husband was initially quite understanding, but by the last month, he was really starting to get skeptical of it. Can they really be THAT bad, etc.

      They thankfully tapered off, and I went back to my more typical one-migraine-every-two-years pattern, although not without a lot of muttering in his general direction.

      …guess who got his first-ever real migraine a week later?

      I haven’t heard a peep about the legitimacy of migraines since!

    5. DeskBird*

      My husband’s trigger is chocolate. When he was a kid and had them all the time they basically put him on a diet of just rice. Then a week later they added one food, then the next week a new food – until they gave him chocolate and BAM Migraine. It’s a long, hard process but unless someone lies to him about food content he almost never gets them anymore – so maybe you could talk to a nutritionist?

      Also there is a piercing a friend of mine got that is suppose to help with migraines? It’s unconventional but she says it’s worked great. She got them all the time and was desperate.

      I’m a little boggled that someone could not believe in migraines – It is a recognized medical issue. Plus I know so many people that get them – that have been diagnosed with them who take prescription medication for them – I figure it’s common enough for everyone to know someone that struggles with them. But maybe that’s just me and they are not as common as I think?

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        Unfortunately there are also those who know perfectly well that migraines are a real thing but suspect that people claiming to have one are misusing the term (that is, that someone with a terrible headache is incorrectly labeling that headache a migraine). This is related to the issue where people know perfectly well that food allergies are real but suspect that people claiming them are doing so because they simply don’t like $ingredient. The upshot is that people who do have debilitating migraines or dangerous food allergies are less likely to be taken seriously. If everyone would just believe people’s reports of their own health issues[, yes, there might be some fakers or mistakers slipping through the cracks], we wouldn’t have this problem.

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          Of course if I’d read downthread just a little further I’d have seen exactly this point made earlier (and even some examples of it).

        2. TootsNYC*

          And people should also rspect others’ food preferences! Nobody should feel they have to say, “I’m allergic to muchrooms” in order to get food without them, or to get other people to shut up about why they’re not eating the quiche.

          1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*


            “I don’t like ____.” is a perfectly valid reason to not eat something.

    1. Ignis Invictus*

      Good luck OP3! Also coming in with my two cents: The hiring manager may have personal stuffs going on (like a death in the family) but is concerned about having his/her headcount budget yanked if they don’t move on hiring a well qualified candidate soon. They may have highly respected peers covering for them. Additionally, Alison alluded to this, but it could also be the second of three *planned* interviews. Finally, take a deep breath, remind yourself how much you have to offer any employer, and prepare to do a whole lot of awesome!

    2. chocolatechipcookie*

      At my company, the hiring manager will usually have a short meeting with a candidate or talk to them over the phone, but it’s not unheard of to delegate or skip an in-person meeting if they’re really busy or out (I’ve had to fill in, although I made clear I was filling in). The hire decision is based heavily on the input of the technical people doing the interviews, who would likely be the people working directly with the candidate. Although the hiring manager has final say.

      Anyway, good luck!

      1. Brett*

        I was hired by an identical process. Once I was hired, I learned that my hiring manager was extremely busy. Instead, his most trusted people did the in person and he relied heavily on their input because they wanted to hire quickly. One of the other interviewers was actually the team lead I reported to on a day to day basis too.

  3. Mando Diao*

    OP1: Unfortunately, migraines have joined the ranks of gluten intolerance, OCD, and general anxiety. People throw out the terms in conversation or self-diagnose themselves with any of these ailments despite not being clear on what these disorders really entail. Lots of people think every bad headache is a migraine. I wouldn’t be surprised if your boss’ viewpoint is more along the lines of, “Sometimes people call out of work citing migraines even though it’s just a normal headache because they don’t know the difference.” Doesn’t mean the OP is lying, but I don’t doubt that bosses have heard all sorts of made-up medical reasons for taking a sick day.

    The point is that is the boss isn’t speaking with OP about it, it’s not her problem to solve, nor does it mean that the boss thinks OP is lying.

    1. Polar*

      I agree. I get cluster headaches which hurt and require a nap. They hurt a lot and most people who claim to get migraines are actually getting cluster headaches.

      My sister gets migraines that require prescription medication and are debilitating. Taking the migraine medicine means she’ll be unproductive for the rest of the day, and maybe the next one as well.

      People who say,”Ow, I have a migraine,” but are not either in the hospital or asleep after taking medication contribute to actual migraine sufferers not being believed.

      1. Mando Diao*

        I admit to being skeptical whenever someone claims to be experiencing a migraine. I can see how the boss’ similar skepticism could be twisted into, “he thinks migraines are made-up.”

        1. Florida*

          I’ve had migraines since I was in elementary school. They are much less frequent than they were as a child/teenager. However, when someone says they have a migraine, I am also a little skeptical. I have no doubt that migraines exist, but I always think several things could be happening:
          a: this person is actually having a migraine.
          b: this person is having a really bad headache that might make it uncomfortable to work.
          c: this person does not feel like working (for non-medical reasons) and a headache doesn’t seem like enough of an excuse, so they inflate it to a migraine.
          I have seen all three of those happen at different points.

          OP, I’m not doubting that you have bona fide migraines. I’m just saying that I can understand your boss’s skepticism. I like Alison’s suggestions of focusing on the symptoms (I’m feeling pretty nauseous, etc.)

          I can also understand your boss’s irritation. Sometimes when an employee has a chronic condition, it does become irritating. I might have no doubt that an employee is calling in sick because they had another ____ (any medical condition), but it is still irritating because life is easier when all the employees come to work. I’m not blaming you for skipping work, nor am I suggesting you should go to work when you have a debilitating headache. I’m just saying I can understand where the boss is coming from.

          1. OP #1*

            Yes, this makes sense. Work was very stressful around this time, we had a new program rolling out and her mother was also in the hospital. I felt awful that I was probably causing her even more stress (and of course the stress was not helping my migraine situation)! I updated below, but things are much better now!

        2. FowlTemptress*

          What the hell? Why not give people the benefit of the doubt? Or maybe it’s what I’m starting to expect and you purposely enjoy having a contrary view here.

          1. sunny-dee*

            I think they point they’re trying to make is that people frequently misuse or misunderstand medical conditions, and “make up” their own diagnosis. Cold = flu, headache = migraines, I binge-ate pizza = gluten intolerance. Some people are being intentionally deceptive, most are just a little ignorant, but it means that people who actually have a condition are somewhat discounted because of the people who, ahem, misdiagnose that same condition.

            1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

              I agree that this the point they were trying to make.

              Too often people hear self-diagnosed medical conditions, or misused terms, which, unfortunately, can lead to bias. Or hear disabilities used as common descriptors. Look how casually terms like OCD, bi-polar, and mental are used in casual conversations.

              My friend who has celiac’s often complains about the rise of people who claim to have a gluten allergy but have never spoken to a doctor. Mostly because it has led to an overall disbelief in gluten allergies and put him in some pretty dangerous situations where people did not believe him.

      2. jamlady*

        One of my coworkers used to say she had a migraine all the time until I finally had to set her straight. She actually had no idea a migraine wasn’t just a really bad headache. Exhausting.

        1. Boop*

          Oh man, this just made me realize I might have cluster headaches! I usually call them sinus headaches caused by weather changes since they do follow that pattern, but it is a nagging, persistent, relatively low-level pain in the forehead above the right eye. Just like the picture! I also refer to them as migraines since they don’t usually respond to medication and leave me utterly useless and exhausted.


          1. Jinx*

            Huh. My headaches usually happen around one of my eyes, but I also get the migraine symptoms listed on that section. I’ve always gotten stress-related headaches, mostly in high school and college, but the kind of headaches+nausea+room spinning I get now are a completely different animal. My doctor diagnosed me with migraines just based on my description of what it feels like, there wasn’t any specific test. So how do you identify the difference between Cluster and Migraine?

            Admittedly, I’m not too concerned because the prescription she gave me works wonders, but I’m curious about the whole thing. :)

            1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

              This is interesting!

              Because I am allergic to a lot of common things (dust, pollen, mold, certain grasses) I have just always assumed any headache is sinus related.

          2. Tau*

            As far as I know, there’s two things that are supposed to be characteristic of cluster headaches, neither of which are on that chart:

            – the pattern: very regularly for [short period] every [long period]. We’re talking 10am every single day for several weeks, then nothing for a year. Ex, for fifteen years I’ve been getting two weeks of headaches once a year, sometime between March and July. I started off having headaches for around two hours every morning during those two weeks. Then it was once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Last bout, I’d hit three times a day, morning, afternoon, and middle of the night. (Which woke me up from a sound sleep, so I’d be in pain and horrendously sleep-deprived on top of it.) I haven’t been diagnosed with cluster headaches, but the pattern is weird enough and apparently typical enough that this is what makes me suspect it.
            – the level of pain. Apparently cluster headaches are among the candidates for Worst Pain Known To Humanity. This is the main reason I’m unsure my headaches are cluster headaches: sure, they’re agonizingly painful and definitely up there when it comes to worst pain known to me, but I haven’t had that many experiences with pain and have to shy away from comparisons like… childbirth or amputation. Which people make. Like, I only end up crying from the pain sometimes? I can generally manage to woefully faff about online? I can usually appear to semi-function at work while having one (with the help of a LOT of cold patches)? So I’m not sure they’re painful enough to be cluster headaches.

            And on that chart my headaches would probably be migraines – over the years the pain’s started covering more of my face, and now most of one half is affected. But no light sensitivity, no aura, no nausea up until recently and even now it’s just a minor queasiness, basically the only symptom is pain. That doesn’t sound like migraines to me.

            TL;DR – that chart is a pretty big oversimplification and I’d be careful jumping to conclusions based solely on where the pain is located.

            1. Liz*

              There’s also a close relative of the cluster headache called paroxysmal hemicrania. (It’s also technically a type of migraine.) It’s quite painful, but not the infamous “worst pain ever” of the classic cluster headache.

              In my case, they’re hormonal, and feel like a bubble of pain welling up behind my eye and in my temple, growing in intensity for a period of a few seconds to a minute, then slowly dying away again. I often get tears or a runny nose on the affected side as well. It’s a terrible pain, but not disabling — the other week, I managed to cycle home with one and didn’t die.

              Treatment is caffeine and NSAIDs — the stronger the better, but I get some relief with over the counter anti-inflammatories, so it might be worth a try for you.

              1. Tau*

                Huh! It’s interesting you say they’re hormonal, because last year was the first time I was on the Pill and it was also the first year I didn’t get them. I did have a weird bout in September, but that was like… every Saturday/Sunday and some odd day during the week for a month, not the usual clockwork regularity of every single day. I’ve been wondering whether I should chase that up.

                In my case, it’s a stabbing/shooting pain along my cheek, temple, brow and into my eye. Of late, it’s been sending tendrils into my ear and down into my neck as well. It’s dull pain pretty constantly, then those few seconds of intense pain every 5-30 seconds or so, time increasing as the headache wears off. I’ve never quite been able to suss out whether OTC painkillers help or not – I have this feeling that if I chug some down as soon as I feel a bout starting, I can sometimes avert it, but I’m not sure whether that’s my imagination. They definitely don’t seem to help much with the actual level of pain.

                What I’m really taking from this is that I should see a doctor. I never did, because when the headaches first started they mainly affected my cheek and I thought they were toothaches. Cue the trip to the dentist. A number of years and four removed wisdom teeth later, I re-labelled them as headaches, but by that point they’d become sufficiently normal to me that I didn’t really think of seeing a doctor.

      3. Tau*

        I might have cluster headaches too – never been diagnosed, but I’ve certainly been having horrible headaches that no other headaches even come close to in pain and that precisely fit the cluster headache pattern since I was fifteen – so I sympathise very strongly. It’s the time of year I usually get them and every twinge is making me worry they’re starting. The last few years I’ve been getting woozy and need to lie down when they start too, which isn’t great, because I’d really rather not miss work for two weeks straight if I can help it and before I could grit my teeth, cover half of my face in cold patches and do my best to power through them.

        I will admit that I can understand the confusion: migraines are sort of in the popular consciousness as ‘headaches that are way beyond regular headaches’, so if you’re getting a headache that is seriously in a class of its own it’s a logical conclusion to jump to. I thought I might be getting migraines until I looked up the symptoms and realised I was missing primary stuff like nausea and light sensitivity, and I still have people suggesting it might be a migraine anytime I complain of a headache.

      4. Connie-Lynne*

        Uh. I get real migraines that don’t put me in the hospital and the meds don’t always put me to sleep (but the pain does, eventually, if I don’t deal with things). Please don’t invalidate others’ experience just because yours is different.

          1. Tallyvoo*

            Yes, thank you. I get auras, light sensitivity, nausea and then the head pain. I tend to not take medication because it upsets my stomach further. I just try to sleep. What would a hospital do other than give me medication? It’s still a migraine.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Yep. I know what it is, I know it’s not life-threatening, I just want to be in a dark room.

              1. Polar*

                As do I when I get cluster headaches. Honestly, most people here complaining to have migraines likely don’t. Cluster headaches can come with light sensitivity as well. :)

        1. F.*

          I totally agree. I can’t take anti-migraine medications due to my antidepressant medication. The most I can do is take naproxyn sodium (if I catch it early enough) and go to bed for the rest of the day and pray I fall asleep. Going to the hospital would be fruitless, even if I could drive myself there. Please don’t pass judgment on other people’s experience just because it isn’t the same as yours.

          1. Hlyssande*

            Time to call my doctor. I started on prozac a little over a month ago and I use imitrex for migraines.

            I’m so glad you brought this up. I’m not sure my psych knows about that interaction. It’s also really weird that their system doesn’t flag that as a problem.

        2. Chocolate lover*

          Ditto. I have been officially diagnosed with migraines (infrequently, thank goodness) by a neurologist and neuro ophthalmologist (mine were ocular) but I haven’t been hospitalized and don’t always fall asleep. Heck, how an i supposed to sleep with that much pain? For me, it’s not even always head pain, there was some intense vomiting issues and some vision issues when I was diagnosed.

        3. Dangerfield*

          Agreed. No way I could take medication or sleep with my migraines – I was usually too busy throwing up! Mine were much more akin to a very bad headache than what many others describe – no visual involvement at all – but they were diagnosed by specialist doctors.

        4. KR*

          My GP initially gave me one medicine to try, but one of the main symptoms was joint pain which aggravated my TMJ so bad that it made the medicine not worth it. Not everyone has access to affordable healthcare or can afford to spend a sick day in bed when they get migraines to prove they’re suffering.

        5. justcourt*

          This is just what I was about to say. Sometimes I am in so much pain I have to take a sleeping pill and go to bed (toradol, iv infusions, and other pain meds do not work on my migraines). Other times, I can put on sunglasses and go about my business even though I’m in pain.

          Migraine symptoms and experiences are not cookie cutter.

          1. Windchime*

            I am so fortunate that toradol injections work for me. I’ve only had to get them a handful of times, but they work within just a few minutes for me.

        6. Coffee Ninja*

          And sometimes I can work part of the day (if I have to and/or I feel up to it) depending on when my migraine starts and where it is when I catch it with my abortive medication. Just because I’m not tied to a $250 bag of fluid in the ER (because Imitrex is Imitrex, wherever you get it) doesn’t mean I ‘m lying about my migraine.

      5. Scruffy Looking Nerfherder*

        Cluster headaches are actually pretty rare, so “most people who claim to get migraines are actually getting cluster headaches” can’t be true. I think most people who claim to get migraines just have above-average headaches.

        I find that if I take some aspirin when I notice the first symptom of a migraine (white flashes that make it difficult to read), it usually goes away before it gets really bad. Vigilance is the key!

        1. JaneB*

          I haven’t been diagnosed formally with migraines, but I get what I call a migraine-like headache 3 or 4 times a year: really bad throbbing head pain, coupled with light sensitivity, nausea and vomiting, and the cold shivers. If I lie down in a dark room they pass within 12 hours or so but I have a sort of hangover the next day, when I feel like I’m getting over a ‘flu. I get some warning – usually enough to get home from work, if I leave at once. When I’ve tried to put off leaving to go home, I’ve ended up vomiting in waste paper bins or laybys on the way home, it’s just not worth it.

          Never had a proper diagnosis because I’ve never sought one. But they really aren’t normal headaches…

          1. Jen*

            I think that’s the difference though. The need to just be in the dark room and recover. I roll my eyes a bit when I see people on Facebook saying “Oh man, I hate having this migraine!” – The one time in my life I had a migraine, the idea of sitting on my phone and typing a status update would have been impossible. There was no way.

            1. Kelly L.*

              See, that still doesn’t make it a fake migraine. I’ve stayed at work and (probably poorly) done my job with a migraine. It’s miserable, but sometimes you just plow through if you have no other option. And typing a status update takes like 3 seconds.

              1. Ashley (in PA)*

                Yeah, I’m really starting to eyeroll at all these migraine police.

                Jen – you’ve had one migraine in your life. If you had chronic migraines for any matter of time, you would realize that life must go on and we don’t always have the option to lay in bed all day when we have other things to do.

                1. SerfinUSA*

                  Yup. I started getting migraines at puberty, had them an average of twice a month, 3 days at a go, until menopause approached. You bet I worked through plenty of them, and barely staggered in my door to collapse in a pile of agony. Not sustainable, but definitely learned some pain-management skills.

                  Now I get 2 day sinus/ear/eye wallopers that aren’t much better :/

              2. Directionally Challenged*

                The past few months I’ve had 15 days/month with headaches. At least half those have been migraines. As long as I catch them early enough with meds, I can almost always stay at work and plow through. Migrained, I’m probably functioning at half-speed. My boss is OK with that – although my boss would also let me go home if I had a completely dysfunctional migraine, as happens occasionally. I’m having enough “mild” migraines that I can’t just stop my life every time one hits, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that happens to.

                1. AnonAnalyst*

                  Ugh, yes. I’ve also been having this problem for the past few months, so I can sympathize. My manager is very sympathetic and I actually have left a couple of times when things got really bad, but with the current frequency, it’s just not realistic for me to leave every time I’m having migraines. My work speed and quality suffers, but at least I’m getting some work done as opposed to none at all (and my boss is okay with this under the circumstances).

                  I’ve had migraines since I was a kid, and as an adult I’ve found that I seem to get them in cycles where I will get them rarely for awhile, sometimes for years, and then I’ll have a period of weeks to months where I’m getting them at least weekly or even several times a week. Then it will suddenly stop and I’ll go back to rarely getting them. Unfortunately, until that happens I have to push through and do the best I can in the meantime.

            2. A Teacher*

              Please don’t invalidate migraines based on your ONE experience. I’ve been diagnosed with them since college and get them in streaks. I can go a month without one but know my symptoms and you know what, life doesn’t stop because I have a migraine. I can’t take off work for the number of days I have one so I try to just bear with it through meds and caffeine (which help mine) as much as possible. Sometimes with auras and a throbbing eye while I teach.

              1. simonthegrey*

                I suffered a back injury in college that went untreated up to the point where I was having migraine symptoms. I called it migraines because it helped explain to my instructord what was was happening, but it was related to the injury. Nausea, sensitivity to smells and light, etc. I still had to go to my science lab and spend four hours dissecting a fetal pig and trying not to vomit in my mask. No, it isn’t the same as someone who has chronic migraines, but having lived through it, I know I can’t just lie in a dark room when I have things I absolutely have to do.

            3. Maeve*

              I get around probably an average of five migraines a month and I often still use electronics when I have them because what the hell else am I supposed to do? Can’t spend my whole life sitting in a dark room. Plus I have ADHD so lying still in the dark is hard for me. They’re still real migraines.

              1. starsaphire*

                My current solution for the what-do-I-do-here-in-the-dark: Old-time radio dramas! The ones with the creaking-door sound effects and stuff. I have a couple box-set CDs of them, and you can find them online too.

                I can keep my eyes closed with my cooling eye mask on, and listen to the mystery until my meds make me fall asleep. Helps with the anxiety too, because I’m distracted enough to avoid most of the anxiety spiral.

                Other than that: My late kitty Jacko used to jump up on my chest and purr to get me to relax enough to sleep, and petting him helped with the what-do-I-do issue. He was a great kitty for taking care of me when I felt icky. :)

                1. OP #1*

                  Oh, I have a snuggly kitty who is just the best when I’m not feeling well (migraine or otherwise)! He is so soothing.

          2. Ashley (in PA)*

            See I’m the opposite in terms of after the migraine goes away – I get a really strong “high” of sorts, I’m guessing my body is just so relieved to be recovered.

            I’ve been suffering since 8 years old. The frequency has definitely gone down (from 1-2 per week, to around 2 per year), but they have gotten worse in intensity to the point where I am completely blinded by aura when they come. This actually gives me a better warning since the aura begins before the pain and debilitation and I can get home if need be.

            1. Directionally Challenged*

              Interesting! Most of the time my post-migraine status is “tired don’t want to think” veering towards neutral, but on occasion I get the “high” as well where I do everything! at warp speed! as if I’m compensating for being so dysfunctional for the past bunch of hours. I think I need to take better notes to figure out if there’s a pattern for when I’m getting which of those. I’d almost forgotten that I used to get that “high” reaction, thank you for that.

        2. KR*

          I agree that catching it early helps a lot! I have pretty bad TMJ which accompanies my migraines, so when I feel that ache begin in my jaw and that weird fuzziness in front of my eyes, I know it’s coming!

          1. Jinx*

            Wait, is that a thing? I get an aching pain in the side of my face where the migraines occur before the headache starts sometimes, it feels like I need to pop my jaw but I can’t, and I’ve also been having intermittent popping in that ear. I went to a ENT specialist and they said there wasn’t anything wrong with my sinuses. He thought it might be joint-related but I couldn’t afford a follow up at the time to check that out. Maybe I should consider getting that looked at.

            I’m learning so many things about migraines today. 0_o

            1. Aunt Vixen*

              Oh my goodness yes. See a dentist and ask about your TMJ. I did and it changed my life. [/evangelism]

            2. KR*

              I’m not sure about you but my TMJ can totally trigger a migraine or a migraine can cause TMJ pain! My jaw doesn’t pop so much anymore since I got my wisdom teeth out, but I can feel the pain from the muscle tension anywhere from along my actual jaw bone and down into my teeth, up the side of my face, or in the actual joint by my ear. The wisdom teeth removal helped a lot, also ice and/or hot packs up against your jaw can help, and I’ve found Flexural can help a lot too. Apparently they can also do physical therapy on your jaw and for people who have issues with grinding their teeth or holding their jaw incorrectly, mouth guards at night can help too. Good luck!!!

              1. Aunt Vixen*

                This this this. I actually had braces on my bottom teeth for about 13 months to realign my bite to a place where I literally can’t grind/clench my teeth the way I used to. (It was a reflex when I was tired; I could stop doing it, but not until I noticed that I *was* doing it, by which point it was usually too late.) I also have bite guards top and bottom that I can’t really sleep without; I can doze off or nap but I can’t sleep deeply without them – it feels like driving the car without a seatbelt. Lizard brain says *but something awful could happen* and I have to get the safety device before proceeding. “Life-changing” is not an exaggeration. (Neither is “expensive,” but by me it was completely worth it.)

                1. KR*

                  I’ve been wanting to try a mouthguard for so long! I’m so glad it worked for you. I am not a teeth-clencher, but because of the soreness I’ve been holding my jaw really weird and it’s probably not helping. I’ll have to get a nice one made while I still have good insurance.

                2. Jinx*

                  This is fascinating stuff, I had no idea. My wisdom teeth are already out, but my bottom teeth have been overcrowded since my adult teeth came in. They actually removed one of my front teeth when I was younger, but they’re still crowding together and pushing the frontmost one out of whack. The jaw pain and popping started last year. It’s one of those things I keep meaning to get checked and putting off, maybe this will provide me proper incentive.

                  Thanks for sharing your experiences, everyone.

              2. MsChanandlerBong*

                Flexeril is the only thing that allows me to eat sometimes. Otherwise, my jaw pain is so bad that it hurts to chew.

              3. OP #1*

                Yes, I get what I’ve started calling “rubber band jaw” when I have a migraine. (It usually starts after the migraine pain, so I’m thinking it’s caused by the migraine, but I could be wrong.) It’s like the muscles get so tight that it’s hard to even open my mouth all the way! I do grind my teeth at night and have a mouthguard from my dentist.

            3. DuckDuckMøøse*

              It might be a trigger point, too. Look up TMJ and “trigger point” then either masseter (the cheek muscle involved) or sternocleidomastoid (another muscle, in the neck, that can cause problems) and you can find images that show the trigger point pain patterns that can mimic migraine pain and/or TMJ.

              I’ve had this happen to me twice this year (once on each side) The last time, I was able to do self-massage on the masseter to get it to stop, but the massage hurt like a sunavabytch ;( That’s how I was able to confirm that the problem was indeed there. I have trigger point problems in other locations in my body, so I knew what I was looking for. Massage (myofascial release) literally cut my pain in half, in about 30 seconds, once I found the right spot. Did I mention the massaging really hurt? ;) Not kidding, it pegged above the original pain while I was treating it. Then it transformed into a different kind of pain (a dull ache in the treatment area, like I had been punched in the face recently) but that was better than the original pain, and it resolved in about a day or so.

        3. Liane*

          “Cluster headaches are actually pretty rare…”
          They are also often the result of some other neurological issue, like a stroke. Ten or 15 years ago, my husband started getting cluster headaches, per the diagnosis. A few years later, he had a CAT scan as part of a workup for something else and it showed plainly that he’d had a minor stroke in the past, which his doctors were pretty sure caused the cluster headaches as well as some other problems.

      6. ThatGirl*

        My husband got an aura and then a severe headache and threw up on and off for about eight hours with sensitivity to light. I’m pretty sure that was a migraine.

      7. Apparatchic*

        A quick note, though – my cluster headaches are actually pretty severe/debilitating and require medication. With medication, they’re totally manageable, but until I got them diagnosed and found a medication that worked, they were sending me home from work, unable to do anything but lie in bed with the worst pain of my life. And cluster headaches are related to migraines in some way, although with different symptoms, at least according to my doctor, so I wouldn’t necessarily be dubious of someone dealing with those rather than a migraine.

      8. MashaKasha*

        Hmm, mine was diagnosed as a migraine (I’d actually hoped it’d turn out to be something else that there’d be a cure for), and I’m not either in the hospital or asleep after taking medication. I’m back to feeling well after taking medication… that’s what my medication is for.

      9. Chronic Migraine Sufferer*

        I’m a chronic daily migraine sufferer – on April 10, I actually hit year 16 of having a migraine every single day of my life. I’m not always sleeping or in the hospital because I’ve had to learn how to function with them to be productive and have some semblance of a life. You wouldn’t actually be able to tell that I have a migraine every day, but there are days when it’s excruciating and you can definitely tell but I will occasionally have to still sit at my desk and do my job because there’s no way around it and other days I curl up in a dark room away from all electronic light. It really depends, but just because I’m not in the hospital or asleep doesn’t mean that I don’t have a migraine and I’m not fighting through it.

        Over the past 16 years I’ve dealt with professors and HR people that didn’t believe migraines exist, but I’ve thankfully always had bosses who get it. I also always err on the side of oversharing when I’m out of the office. It can be weird when a person who generally says “feel better” just says “ok” but it’s really not an issue unless your boss begins saying “hey, I don’t believe you, please come in to the office.” It’s a quirk of your boss and they’ll never understand until they or a loved one experiences a migraine. Don’t let the burden fall to you of trying to educate them because in my experience it’s frustrating and doesn’t always work.

    2. Stephanie*

      Yeah, I feel like migraines are like bad menstrual cramps: it’s an affliction that people don’t always understand the severity of if they don’t have it.

      1. blackcat*

        You know, I found this comment funny, because for the longest time I just thought I sometimes have super weird period symptoms.

        Nausea. Extreme sound sensitivity. A splitting headache only on one side.

        After years of going through that, a friend said, “You seem like you’re having a migraine.” Indeed. And they tend to come with the bad periods (every 3-4 of them) which also come with cramps that are at the same pain level as a dislocated shoulder. Having dislocated my shoulder, which everyone recognizes as a particularly painful injury, means I can get people to be a bit more understanding.

        1. NotASalesperson*

          I get tension headaches with my periods, and those can devolve into mild migraines if I don’t head them off – exhaustion, light and sound sensitivity – basically no ability to do anything other than take medication and lay down on my bed with the shades pulled. I feel you on the cramps pain, though. I broke my foot recently and it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would…because my cramps have routinely been worse.

      2. MashaKasha*

        I could never understand the severity of bad menstrual cramps, until a friend who’d had them all her life, commented on labor pains after she had her first baby (without any painkillers, mind you): “Oh it wasn’t bad. It was just like the cramps I have when I’m on my period.” OMG WHAT WHAT. The people who have to go through this every month have all of my sympathy.

        1. blackcat*

          This was my mom’s experience. The positive part is that the cramps went away after she had her first kid.

          I do not expect childbirth to be that bad–if there are no complications, I expect it to be similar to the worst periods I have had.

          I also relocated my own dislocated shoulder. Pain does not phase me.

          But oof, migraines can keep me from being able to do anything!

          1. Cari*

            Childbirth is a wildly different experience for everyone… you may not get what you expect! And it’s different for every pregnancy too.

          2. Stephanie*

            I remember my mom saw me on the couch with bad cramps once.

            “Aw, I don’t miss having those at all.”
            “So they go away?”
            “They do!”
            “What stopped them?”
            “I gave birth to you.”
            “This isn’t indirect pressure for grandkids, is it?”

        2. Anxa*

          I admit I used to a little eye-rolly about people complaining about cramps. Now I know that some people have a really low threshold for discomfort and some people have really bad cramps.

          I had mild cramps for about 10 years, then I had my first bout of true dysmenorrhea with terrible cramps. I was on the verge of blacking out, on the floor, unable to stand up.

          I will dismiss them again.

    3. Is it Performance Art*

      I think a lot of it has to do with an outdated view of what a migraine is. We now know that a migraine is triggered by spreading cortical depression, something that’s a lot like a seizure and it’s basically a genetic disease. But for years, people thought that you got migraines because you were bad at handling stress or were high strung. If you were getting them, you were somehow bringing them on yourself. And the pain couldn’t be that bad, it was just that the people who got them were the type to overreact. When I was a kid, I had a friend who like to say “you’re giving me a migraine” when she meant you were annoying her. I’m sure it came from someone in her family.
      A lot of people get tension headaches and if the headaches are very painful and they’ve never had a migraine, they may just assume it’s a migraine. They don’t really understand that migraines have very distinctive symptoms.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        I have a feeling the notion of “bringing them on yourself” and the idea that was only overreacting, melodramatic people who got them has something to do with their being more common in women than men. That’s unfortunately a common belief about anything that primarily affects women: that the hysterical wimminz are imagining it or bringing it on themselves.

        1. JaneB*

          the root of the word ‘hysterical’ is the word for womb – literally it’s something only women do!

 says the origin is:

          from Latin hystericus “of the womb,” from Greek hysterikos “of the womb, suffering in the womb,” from hystera “womb” (see uterus ). Originally defined as a neurotic condition peculiar to women and thought to be caused by a dysfunction of the uterus.

          1. KR*

            Interestingly enough, when trains first became common men were weary of having women on trains because they thought the high speeds would cause their uterus’s to fly out of their bodies. I don’t understand how women put up with men for so long, really.

              1. Daisy Steiner*

                I don’t understand this! In almost all sports, surely men’s ‘equipment’ is vastly more exposed than women’s.

            1. Rebecca in Dallas*

              Hahaha, it was the same thing with distance running. I’m a marathon runner and some of my runner girlfriends and I joke about this. Sometimes during a particularly tough run, we’ll say, “I think my uterus fell out!”

        2. Aella*

          It probably really doesn’t help that one of the classic presentations in women (apparently) is that they start at puberty and end at the menopause. (Apparently my grandmother had this kind, my mother has headaches that only go away with migraine medication, though not the rest of the symptoms, and I am not a suitable candidate for the combined pill.)

          1. Cathy*

            My mother had migraines that began after she hit puberty. I had migraines *until* I hit puberty and I’ve been worried they will start up again now I’ve hit menopause. It’s been a long, long time but I still remember how horrible those headaches were and I don’t want to start them up again!

            1. Windchime*

              My son’s migraines started when he hit puberty. He would have 3 or 4 a year that were truly horrible (vomiting, trips to the hospital). They peaked around age 23 or 24, and seem to be lessening off now that he’s close to 30. I’m glad; his are so much worse than mine.

          2. Kelly L.*

            Hopefully, this gives me something to look forward to in menopause.

            (Mine started when I was about 10, reached their peak when I was in high school, and have either gotten milder with age or I’ve just gotten better at catching them early. First sign of an aura, pain pills down the hatch. I still feel “off” and weak, but can ward off the worst of the pain and avoid barfing.)

        3. TootsNYC*

          well, it’s also because pain is not visible. It’s a very common problem.

          When someone’s limping, or bleeding, you can tell they’ve got it bad.

          But pain is invisible; we don’t glow red to varying degrees where it hurts.
          And of course, there’s the difference in pain tolerances, plus the differences in experiences; jus ton this thread, there are people with different experiences with migraines, even.

      2. KR*

        Tension can also cause migraines, or tension headaches can morph into migraines! My migraines are usually accompanied by TMJ pain and vice versa.

    4. Daisy Steiner*

      ” Unfortunately, migraines have joined the ranks of gluten intolerance, OCD, and general anxiety. People throw out the terms in conversation or self-diagnose themselves with any of these ailments despite not being clear on what these disorders really entail.”

      Add ‘flu’ to that list. If you can make it to work, it’s almost certainly not the flu!

      1. FiveWheels*

        Not necessarily. I once played a lengthy sports match with what was later diagnosed as swine flu. Different people have different tolerances.

        1. Fish Microwaer*

          “Different people have different tolerances “.
          Truth. I suffer from debilitating migraines, with symptoms that vary. I nearly always have the severe headache but the accompanying symptoms range from nausea to visual disturbances to lack of focus and coordination so bad it’s what I imagine having a stroke is like. I often work through the migraines because they happen frequently and I can’t afford the time off work. Sometimes it feels like I am not believed because I do this .

          1. FiveWheels*

            Don’t get me wrong, I felt apocalyptically unwell, I became severely dehydrated due to fever sweat, by the end of it all I seriously wondered if I had done permanent damage to myself.

            I liken it to athletes who break a leg or hand or in a few cases even a vertebra but keep on going until the final whistle. Yes there may be consequences and yes it’s probably stupid, but sometimes it feels like the best choice!

            I have to force myself not to get annoyed when colleagues take a sick day for something I consider relatively minor. There have been times when I have without a doubt been feeling worse than a colleague, but they go home and I stay and do my work as well as theirs.

            Ultimately I don’t know their tolerance though, so I remind myself that maybe they’re lazy but maybe they legitimately can’t keep on going, and I try to suck it up.

            1. Murphy*

              It’s not just about tolerance, though. It’s about respect for your co-workers and their health. You also don’t know whether someone else in the office is immunocompromized or has another illness/disease that can make getting sick worse. Going home when you’re sick isn’t just about you; it’s about the other people who will suffer because you want to push yourself.

            2. TootsNYC*

              And, perhaps you shouldn’t feel any obligation to them, or to your employer, to work through.

              If you need the money and can’t afford the sick time, then you’re making a decision in your own best interests. But maybe the takeaway you should remind yourself of is that you aren’t required to sacrifice like that.

              1. FiveWheels*

                My job (law) means I don’t always have the option to not work through things – if there’s a hard stop deadline, in some areas nothing short of the office burning down would extend it. In some areas even THAT wouldn’t!

                The going home to stop infection spreading is something that interests me because I’ve never worked somewhere where it’s a consideration. It’s not uncommon for a cold or similar to spread through the office while everyone jokingly chooses a Patient X to blame. That said I was specifically thinking of non infectious problems in my above post.

      2. Just Another Techie*

        I’d really love to see an end to all attitudes along the lines of “If you can X you aren’t really sick!” It’s dangerous and harmful.

        Says the person who was just diagnosed (yes by an actual MD not by webMD) with severe anemia, in spite of continuing to force herself into the office and the gym every day. Some people are just really stubborn, or driven, or have a high pain tolerance, or whatever. Shockingly, with seven billion of us on the planet, there’s really high variation in what individuals are capable of and how different diseases present in different bodies.

        1. Daisy Steiner*

          That wasn’t my meaning at all – I apologise. I meant that I’ve so often seen people say that they have flu when they clearly have cold symptoms – I really believe many people think they are synonyms, or that ‘flu’ just means ‘a bad cold’. I wouldn’t ever think someone wasn’t actually sick, just because they did X.

          1. TootsNYC*

            But the only thing this indicates is that language can be indistinct in usage. It doesn’t mean there’s something horribly unethical or wrong with those people.

            1. Daisy Steiner*

              Again, I didn’t think they were being unethical – just imprecise, as you say. The same problem as we were discussing with “headache” versus “migraine”.

        2. Liane*

          Yes. We all differ in tolerances. My husband’s tolerance for pain is very high, for example. As I mentioned in the open thread, if he says, “This kind of hurts,” most anyone else would be screaming for morphine or something. So I have had to explain this to many medical professionals over the years on his behalf. Although he has gotten better at telling them that his “pain scale skews high.”

          1. Susan*

            My mom fell and hit her knee right before Christmas. A MONTH LATER she finally went to her doctor, who told her she had a break. He told her she was lucky she took her time to come in; if she had come in right after it happened, she probably would have had to have surgery.

    5. Persephone*

      And even if it is a “bad headache” it shouldn’t matter. Sick is sick. I get tension headaches which luckily I can subside with two Advil if I feel it coming on (most of the time), but if I don’t I’m out of commission for the rest of the day. Light and sound sensitivity, nausea, in rare cases vomiting. Just because it’s not a migraine doesn’t mean that I’m well enough to work. I can’t function.

      1. A grad student*

        +1 to this. I tend to get severe tension AND cluster headaches, both of which often come with a side effect of light and sound sensitivity, and sometimes the pain is bad enough I throw up. Luckily with what I do I can usually go to a dark and quiet room until the excedrin kicks in, but I can easily picture other sets of circumstances where I wouldn’t be able to make it through the work day.

  4. MillersSpring*

    OP #2, your employee’s explanation–“it’s just a physical response to stress”–is 100% correct, and you could add that to your conversation with your male leaders. It’s awesome that you have her back.

    Tears in the workplace are usually regarded as a huge no-no, but as long as workplaces have stress, there will be tears. I’m the same as the OP’s employee: it’s a physical response not an emotional one, and any leaders who think it’s stupid or unprofessional can SMIH.

    1. MK*

      Well, no. The “it’s a physical, not an emotional response” is 100% correct about this particular employee, but in many, if not most, cases it is an emotional response and it’ S not unreasonable to expect people to regulate their show of emotion in professional settings. Nor is it unreasonable to expect people to handle their stress and their reactions to it, so that it’s not disrupting to the workplace; “as long as there is stress, there will be tears” makes sense, if you mean that, since workplaces tend to be stressful, people will occasionally have intense reactions, but not that it’s normal for employees to have an outburst every single time someone offers feedback and everyone should just deal with that.

      1. Tyrannosaurus Regina*

        Is she “having an outburst” though? It sounds from the letter that while there are tears, she’s staying calm, wiping the tears away, and doing her best to soldier through it without making a scene. I’m really not sure what else she could do. In this case it sounds more like her crying is like uncontrollable blushing or something.

        1. MK*

          The OP says she turns bright red and starts crying with tears streaming down her face, which in my mind is an extreme reaction to critisism; whether it qualifies as an outburst isn’t really the point, since either way it’s a disruptive reaction in the workplace. As a boss, would you really just ignore the tears and go on to deliver the feedback? How about the way it looks to the other employees or visitors to the office, to see an employee crying uncontrollably while a manager talks to them?

          My point was, we are human and we will have emotional responces and also physical responces to stress and, yes, people should be overly judgemental about it. But stress is a part of life, especially of professional life, and we have to try to handle it somehow.

          As for what this particular employee can do, it appears she is already trying to find a way to deal with her reaction to stress with therapy. If that doesn’t work, I am not sure what the answer would be here, but a change to a less stressfull environment might be it, depending on the field. My own work is with the court system of my country; regularly having an employee in the office with tears steaming down her face is simply not an option. We can’t really go into the “it’s just a physical responce to stress” explanation with citizens who come in have their own problems and disputes solved by presumably clear-thinking and detached professionals.

          1. TootsNYC*

            ” As a boss, would you really just ignore the tears and go on to deliver the feedback? How about the way it looks to the other employees or visitors to the office, to see an employee crying uncontrollably while a manager talks to them?”

            Yes, I would–based on my comment elsewhere here about the doctor who treated me just this way.

            And I would count on other employees to react ALSO to the friendliness of my interaction with her, and the goodwill that she would demonstrate during and after the conversation. The crying on her part won’t be the only piece of evidence they have.

        2. TootsNYC*

          “it sounds more like her crying is like uncontrollable blushing or something.”

          This would be a good way to frame it for those other managers. And as w/ blushing, the best response is to simply ignore it and act as though it isn’t happening. Just go on with the conversation.

          (and I wouldn’t call it an outburst either. A more extreme reaction than other people’s, but not an outburst)

          1. MillersSpring*

            Uncontrollable blushing is a perfect comparison. IMHO, tears are usually due to “this is a stressful conversation” rather than “I’m so sad” or “I’m so distraught.” Yes, some people do get distraught, but the OP’s employee is calm, wiping the tears and asking the OP to continue. The leaders need to be educated on the existence and pitfalls of gender-based judgments and redirected to judge the employee on her performance and teamwork.

      2. LQ*

        She turns bright red and tears stream down her face, but she’s other wise listening and accepting criticism. Uncontrollable stress response.

        The other people she’s reporting to are also having a stress response, where they go out and talk and complain about it because they have uncomfortable feelings about it. That is completely controllable. They need to control their stress response better.

        1. KR*

          I agree that it seems like she’s handling it by continuing on as usual despite the tears. I cry a lot when I laugh or get excited and giggly. I can’t control it, it just happens. I wipe my eyes and carry on as usual.

        2. Kelly L.*

          Yup. Turning red is a physical reaction too. Some of us turn red over everything. If someone knows how to turn off the redness faucet, let me know.

          1. Murphy*

            I shake. I take everything in and I remain calm on my face, but my hands shake and my heart races. Aside from literally sitting on my hands (which is way more obvious) there’s nothing I can do to change it.

          2. Anxa*


            I admit I get red usually due to a moment of embarassment, but I cannot hide it and move on! If I eat too much sugar, have hot food, feel all eyes on me, exert myself a smidge, I will look beet red.

            People often confuse rosacea and a wonky ANS with with severe stress and try to calm me down, but I’m usually already pretty calm. It just takes time!

      3. TootsNYC*

        I would say that even for this employee, it is an emotional response.

        She’s feeling stressed–that’s an emotion.

        It’s just that the emotion she’s feeling isn’t the one we normally associate with tears.

        I had a doctor once who handled my crying the best possible way. He handed me a tissue, and just kept talking as thought I wasn’t crying. It felt so respectful–I was having emotions and a reaction, and they were MY business to manage, not his. His job was to talk to me about the health stuff; my job was to deal with my emotions.
        It might be a smart thing for your male colleagues to develop this approach as well–another tool in their toolkit. To identify when it’s their problem–which in this case it absolutely isn’t.
        Sure, she shouldn’t cry, but they can manage their reaction in a way that’s best for everyone–the business, the employee, and them.

    2. NotMyUsualName*

      I have had this happen twice in my working life (the second one was only this January… I’m still cringing) and it genuinely was a physical reaction from stress. The first one was at an older job and was definitely more emotional as it was a slightly toxic workplace. Each time it happened I felt mortified and apologised shortly afterward but it’s a shame there is such a stigma around this. It doesn’t help that I am soft and even a slightly sad advert can make my eyes water.

      OP: Good on you for showing empathy. This isn’t an easy thing to deal with from experience and it seems like your employee is managing this in the best way she can. Hopefully it won’t limit her career progression at your company, hopefully her work is otherwise stellar as this will help people not focus on the crying aspect too much

    3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      Hmmm, okay I’m the first person to support some tears in the workplace being NBD, but the employee in #2 has an issue that is going to hold her career back unless she gets a handle on it. Given the employee’s otherwise calm and productive response to criticism, her boss should have her back but this is a pretty big quirk that will keep her from advancing like, ever, if she isn’t able to change. IDK if therapy or biofeedback or [other things I’ve never researched but probably exist] are the answer, but she’s going to have to be able to control this to move ahead.

      Now, I’ve cried in the workplace and I’ve supported other people who’ve cried. The times have been limited but I won’t be ashamed of some water leaking out of my eyes under these specific circumstances and I’ve told male colleagues who thought it was big deal to bite me and go pound a wall or whatever it is their body natural did to respond to [whatever] circumstance.

      However! One must allow that another person’s response to the employee’s crying (extreme discomfort) is also valid. Once in a blue moon, the other person can suck it up and get over it, but chronically? The employee is going to be viewed as the weak one in the herd for the rest of her career so she’s going to have to figure out how to get past this, for herself.

      1. Stephanie*

        That was my take as well. I empathize that it’s a stress reaction and am glad she’s working on it. But having that response all the time is enough of an outlier response, that I imagine it would impact her negatively in the long term.

      2. cat*

        But she is working on it! She’s getting professional help, she’s been clear to her supervisor about how she would like the supervisor to respond (keep going as normal). Even though the crying is still happening, she seems to be managing it very proactively and I think that’s the message for the other supervisors- it’s not an easy situation for anyone but here’s how we’re all managing it.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          I did miss the line about the cognitive therapy, thanks.

          It doesn’t change my answer in that I would protect her pretty fiercely but I can’t blame other people for having issues with that much crying. It’s natural for the other people to then dread giving feedback because, inevitable tears, and cause/effect, not want to assign projects that will produce feedback that will then produce tears they have to sit through.

          It sounds as if the OP can’t strategize how to keep the employee’s issue private because the other two colleagues are also giving feedback to the employee directly. If she could keep Mary’s crying out of view to anybody else, until Mary can get a handle on this, that would be ideal.

        2. Big10Professor*

          I would actually be concerned about how close we are getting to ADA territory, here. If she is getting counseling for something, i.e. has a diagnosis of anxiety or something similar, it seems that “ignore the crying” is a reasonable accommodation.

          (I know that crying on its own doesn’t meet the threshold of something that interrupts daily activity; I’m wondering if it counts as a symptom of something that does. In any case, I’d err on the side of caution)

          1. TootsNYC*

            Even if she’s not getting treatment, “ignore the crying” is a very reasonable course.

      3. Bwmn*

        I’m with you on this. If the response to criticism was to turn bright red, clench their fists, breath heavily/erratically, furrow their brow, or other physical signs of anger – but otherwise still adopt criticism well and be responsive and say it’s just a stress response…… It’s still an inappropriate overall reaction that reasonably makes people uncomfortable. Sure, it’s possible to find an understanding boss and in some cases crying or getting very openly angry is considered acceptable, but it’s not mainstream professionalism.

        I think it’s one thing to support this colleague and hopes she’s able to address this through therapy. But I also think it’s worth saying that until this issue is better managed she’s going to be hampered in the realm of growth and development opportunities.

        1. Roscoe*

          That is what I was going to say. When people can’t control their anger (an emotion) its seen as a problem. But people want to defend someone for crying about everything? That seems a bit much.

          1. TootsNYC*

            awell, anger can be pretty aggressive; it’s often linked to aggression.
            Crying is not. So it’s uncomfortable for us IF we feel that we need to fix it.
            But if we simply understand it, it doesn’t have to be as uncomfortable.

            Also, I don’t think anyone is saying that crying like this is NOT a problem–just that it’s not intolerable to put up with as she works it out.

            Also: she’s not crying about everything.
            She’s crying about feedback on her performance–a time when she is very specifically targeted for evaluation and correction. When other people’s opinions of her are being impressed upon her.

            1. Bwmn*

              While anger is linked to aggressive, tears are also linked to emotions of being sad or upset. In the context of a manager being scared of making someone sad or angry, it can be seen as manipulative.

              Anger does have an aspect of physical violence which is definitely different than being concerned of making someone upset. However, my example of someone not yelling, but still displaying other reactions of anger – but stating that there are no actual emotions of anger in place, I see that as being difficult to manage long term and no different than tears. Depending on the position, is this someone where there is a concern of meeting with clients, vendors, partners, etc?

              I comment the OP for trying to shield the employee for a period while working this out – but I think the amount of time that exists to manage this is going to be limited.

              1. Roscoe*

                I agree, many people see tears as a form of manipulation. Assuming that isn’t the case, it would definitely come across either manipulative or not in control of your emotions if tears start streaming at any minor feedback

                1. TootsNYC*

                  I know that people think crying is manipulative. but I have yet to meet the person who can cry on command.

            2. Roscoe*

              Ok fine, she is crying about everything performance related, even if minor. That is still excessive.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yes, it is excessive. It is a problem. However, she’s working to fix it, and it’s crappy of those colleagues to be trash-talking her over it.

                1. Roscoe*

                  I think saying they are trash talking her is a bit much. Sure, saying it is stupid isn’t the best word choice. But it IS uncomfortable, and while it can be debated, I think many people would also call it unprofessional. I think they were having a normal conversation about an issue that they have with a subordinate, and made a poor word choice

                2. Bwmn*

                  As I read the letter, they’re not just colleagues but also two other people that this woman reports to. Stupid is trash talking for sure, but uncomfortable and unprofessional isn’t exactly what I’d describe as “trash talking”.

                  If this is a loud conversation in a hallway or another place where it can be overheard, that is also a professionalism problem. But finding the crying to be uncomfortable and unprofessional on its own isn’t what I’d call trash talking.

    4. TheAssistant*

      I’m a Mary, too. I do tend to tear up when receiving criticism or just when frustrated, and it is honestly infuriating to be betrayed by one’s body like that. I’m otherwise behaving rationally and in a problem-solving manner, and I’m usually able to explain it away the first time, but it does mean I’ve cried in the office more than I prefer. I have noticed over the course of my work life (six years) it has improved, without therapy, so hope for all the Marys out there.

      1. Kea*

        Agreed 100%. I deal with anxiety and crying at the workplace, and it does feel like a betrayal of your body. It’s incredibly frustrating. When I was younger, 22-24, I could barely have a serious conversation (of any content) with my boss without turning bright red and crying. Not an “outburst”, but silent streaming tears. I’d hype myself up and tell myself to stay calm but it was my body’s decision, not mine. Now that I’m speeding towards 30, I do think I’ve mostly grown out of it except for the most stressful of situations. I had a therapist tell me that being sensitive was a gift not a punishment. I’m not sure I agree with that, but having ongoing anxiety issues means I’m not always in control of how I appear. And I have experienced backlash from it at work. But it’s also not a switch I can turn off (as much as I’d like to).

      2. Annie Moose*

        I am so relieved to hear there’s other adults out there who cry! I’ve managed to avoid overtly crying at work in front of other people thus far, but it’s been so, so close a few times. (as in, sniffling and very damp eyes, but not straight-up sobbing like I feel like doing) I’m normally fairly talkative, but in situations like that, I can’t say a word or here comes the waterworks! I have had to go have a silent cry in the bathroom a couple of times afterward to take the edge off before I go back to my desk, though.

        For me, it’s very much a direct reaction of “mildly upset or inconvenienced? BETTER START CRYING!” I’ve been this way my whole life, and it’s terribly annoying, but (fortunately? unfortunately? :P) I got teased enough about it in grade school that I learned to control it a little. My mom was the same way as a kid, so I guess it’s genetic! She’s also gotten much better about controlling it, so I’m hoping I continue that trend as well.

      3. Someone*

        I know this response is late, but for any other latecomers who are reading this – yes, uncontrollable crying over minor things is a thing, for some adults. Me, for example.
        I second the notion that it’s betrayal by the body and that it’s infuriating. When someone criticizes me and I start crying, I might LOOK like I’m devastated – while I’m actually cursing my tears and broken voice. I’m very much aware of how it looks from the outside, and I HATE it. Really, truly hate it. I’ve been a “crybaby” ever since my childhood and luckily I’ve managed to improve a little, but the “stress tears” are still there and its worse when I’m tired and/or generally stressed out. I generally tell people that it’s a stress reaction and they should just ignore it. My pet peeve are people who don’t take that seriously and act all sympathetic and try to calm me down, which accomplishes exactly the opposite. It’s like part of my mind says “Oh, so it’s actually really a big issue!!! Crying is a very rational response, people pity me! Open the gates!” – and the tears get worse and worse.
        Just ignore my tears please, like I told you – I’m fine. I’m doing my best to control my tears, and that’s easiest if you just ignore my stupid emotional response.

    5. Roscoe*

      I don’t know. I could see it happening for very serious issues, and I could be sympathetic. However, if for even mild criticism she is crying, that is a problem. Every emotion isn’t acceptable in the workplace at all times. Its great that she is getting help to get it under control. However, lets be real, if it were to come to a promotion that she was up for and would be going to a different manager, I think she is going to have problems. I wouldn’t want to manage someone who cried because I told her she forgot to add the cover to TPS reports or something minor. Because it has bad optics, especially for men. If every time she were to leave a mans office, it was clear she had been crying, his reputation would take a hit too. Why open yourself up to that? I don’t want to get into the debate of how controllable crying is or isn’t, but I will say I wouldn’t blame someone for not wanting to deal with that either.

      1. TootsNYC*

        And the OP#2 agrees with you; that’s part of her concern–how to help Mary so this doesn’t become a problem for her.

    6. Callie*

      I have a student who occasionally does this. She’s crying, but it’s just the tears and she can still have a conversation and do things. In contrast, my crying involves a lot of wheezing and coughing and forget about talking or doing anything. (I’m an angry crier.)

    7. Salyan*

      I have a similar (though not as extreme) reaction. When under stress during a meeting with a manager, my voice will ‘tear up’ – I won’t actually cry, but it sure sounds like I’m going to. I hate that my voice does that, and will soldier through it like the OP, but I have no control over it (as in, I can’t just shut it off. Believe me, I’ve tried.). It does seem to be improving with time.

    8. Brigitte*

      I think the bigger issue here is that feedback ideally wouldn’t trigger that much of a stress response. Feedback is a gift, and if you’re working in an organization that spends time helping you improve, you’re in a good place.

      I was listening to a Manager Tools podcast on feedback today, and they said something I completely agree with. The appropriate response to receiving feedback is to lean forward, and say thank you.

      I wonder OP if that’s the bigger issue to address here — reframing what feedback means for your employee.

  5. Graciosa*

    Regarding #4, I would go if it were reasonably possible unless you know the boss well enough to know you really don’t need to and you already have a good relationship.

    Look for cues about how reasonable she is about this sort of thing (for example, is she understanding of people who want to go home after work rather than attend after-hours events) to make your decision. It isn’t reasonable to require you to give up your personal time and money for an optional event – but bosses are human too. She is probably proud of the achievement, and thought well enough of you to invite you to share it with her.

    This is undoubtedly an extra – but investing in relationships at work is generally worth it at the upper levels. I would err on the side of doing so if it’s reasonably possible.

    But take “reasonably possible” just as seriously as anything else. If going would cost too much (in time, money, or strain on your family) then assume she will understand and decline politely –

    If you do decline, remember it never hurts to send a handwritten note of congratulations or do something similar to show you understand the importance of her achievement.

    1. TootsNYC*

      probably you will end up having a lot of contact w/ folks at this professional organization, and you may do a lot of the administrative-support type stuff for your boss in that role. So some of the relationships you would be “investing in” are w/ folks at that org.

      If money is really the biggest hurdle, be sure to mention it, so that your boss can see if she can find other sources of payment for you.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      I concur.

      In addition to supporting your boss, it’s likely a career opportunity to meet/deepen relationships with other players in the industry. If it’s not an undue hardship (and it’s definitely not last minute notice!), you should do this.

    3. Bleu*

      Yes, I would try to go. Not only to recognize that this is a real honor for your boss and organization, but — hey, your boss is going to be the president of an industry association, not only is she a big player in the field, she could be especially helpful at expanding your professional network this next year (and such a ceremony is the ideal kickoff/debut for you too).

      This is an aside, but all sorts of national industry associations (or associations of elected leaders — governors, lawmakers, etc — from all 50 states routinely select presidents or chairs or vice chairs or treasures etc for 1 year terms with fanfare, and many times have the positions structured so that the vice chair will become the chair after 1 term of 1 year or 2 years etc.)

      But no, you almost certainly don’t HAVE to go.

      1. TootsNYC*

        And if you ever decide to move on from work for your boss, all the folks you’ve interacted with in that organization will be potential sources of info about new opportunities, and people who might speak well of you to others.

    4. OP4*

      Thank you all. If it helps, I work in political government. I am leaning towards going, always had been, but when I mentioned it to a couple of friends they thought it was crazy to go and good old self doubt started creeping in. I’ve only been here a little over two years and this is a new happening for me. The possibility of me staying the night is mire about me being lazy and hating to drive than anything else.

      Also, yes it is party of a conference. Should have mentioned that, sorry!!

  6. neverjaunty*

    OP #1, my money is on your co-worker actually being the one who is skeptical of your migraines.

    1. Julia*

      Or the co-worker doesn’t have real migraines and that’s why the Boss is sceptical?

  7. jamlady*

    Ah the migraine topic. Chronic migraineur here, and this El Niño has made the last 6 months absolute hell. I agree with AAM of course – your boss doesn’t need to know why you’re out. If there’s some company policy where you have to start providing proof for missing X number of days, go ahead and grab a doctor’s note and explain the situation. If for some reason your boss is still in disbelief AND you start getting in trouble for it, that’s when things will be bad. For now, it sounds like you just have someone in your life who is misinformed but it’s not totally impacting your work life – let’s hope it doesn’t get worse than that!

    And hang in there – I get 2-3 a week and have for the last 10 years. It sucks haha but it always helps when people in your life are understanding. Maybe you’ll reach this point with your boss.

  8. MsMollyD*

    Re: question #4:
    “Also, I’m having trouble thinking of any industry organization where this kind of appointment requires an induction party planned a year in advance, unless she’s temporarily taking over the ruling of a small country or something.”

    I think this is pretty normal, actually. I’ll use my own profession of librarianship as an example. The ALA annual conference is so big its location is planned close to a decade in advance. Then the president of ALA is elected a year in advance and spends a year as the president-elect, before being inducted as president at the annual conference. So if the OP’s boss was elected this month for a position starting next summer, they’ll already know the dates of the annual conference and probably the specific day during that time frame the induction ceremony will happen. Conferences with multiple thousands of attendees adhere to pretty rigid schedules. Here’s a press release about the last ALA election. The current one is happening right now to elect the president for 2017.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Yes, the conferences and AGM of a professional association I belong to are planned several years in advance as they are held in different countries. Being able to attend is quite a different matter though.

    1. Teapot Society Induction Committee*

      I’m part of an organization where they plan officer installations several years in advance – including raising five-figure sums of money. They’ll have golf outings and other fundraisers years in advance. Interesting, to say the least.

      By the way, I agree that the OP shouldn’t feel obliged to go.

    2. Jozie*

      Absolutely what I was thinking. I’m on staff at an association and while our annual conference is not planned quite as many years out (2018 location has already been confirmed), our 2018 president has already been selected per our bylaws on board positions. The induction component of the annual conference is quite a big, invitation-only affair.

    3. Stephanie*

      Yeah, I was reading it as OP’s boss was being inducted as the head of a huge industry organization. All the ones I’ve been involved in, the president induction is HUGE (well, relatively speaking…huge for the industry/organization).

    4. Ponytail*

      Yeah, my own field of librarianship was the first thing I thought of – we do this in the UK too.

  9. OrganizedChaos*

    #1 – I have coworker who suffers from migraines and often has to give herself several shots throughout the day to cope with the pain. She requested FMLA and uses it on an intermittent basis as needed and it protects her job and pretty much quieted her boss. It honestly doesn’t matter whether someone believes an illness is real as long as they respect the law and you should look into FMLA since your letter indicates you most likely have reached a three qualifications for it.

    Your Boss might just not really have an opinion at all about migraines vs. calling sick for other reasons but regardless, having documentation from your Dr., may smooth over any real or otherwise perceptions.

    1. Tagg*

      Was coming down in the comments to say the same thing! A friend of mine has intermittent FMLA for her migraines. FMLA gives you protection from retribution on your boss’s part. It doesn’t matter if they don’t think migraines are a real thing, all that matters is that your doctor does.

      1. Judy*

        A co-worker’s husband was diagnosed with cancer. She was using her vacation time to take him to chemo. (It was caught early, and he’s continued to be fine 5 years later.) Even though she had enough vacation to cover all her absences, since she had worked there for 20 years, a “little birdie” suggested she apply for intermittent FMLA. I’m pretty sure it saved her job at the time, because at that place, once you had been there 20 years, if you hadn’t moved high enough into management, they’d find a way to move you out. At least it kept her employed there for another 3 years.

    2. Dynamic Beige*

      A neighbour of mine has really bad migraines — days in the dark kind of thing. It was recommended to her by her doctor that she try Botox for them, so she did and it worked.

    1. misspiggy*

      That’s interesting, particularly as the article describes sufferers learning to control their reactions. Which they would need to do if, for example, they worked in surgery.

      I’d agree with Wakeen’s Teapots above that, while colleagues should be encouraged not to be judgmental, the person will need to find a way to control the tears if she wants to progress. It’s a difficult one – can her manager say this to her without appearing sexist? If her manager doesn’t say anything, will the employee think everything’s fine and she doesn’t need to work so hard on it?

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        Yeah, I mean you can keep somebody’s job by defending them “physical response” but you can’t get them promoted/advanced that way in most circumstances.

        A person who faints at blood needs to stay away from jobs involving blood. A person who cries at any feedback needs to ______ ?

        I’m team Mary. She’s young and addressing this so, rooting for her.

      2. Anxa*

        So, I actually do suffer from fainting.

        Oddly, I spend most of my day discussing some of the same things that used to trigger me (or would in other environments).

        I’m 30 and still faint. I am trying therapy, but applied pressure doesn’t work for me well (trying to squeeze my muscles forces me to think of my body, and bodies are triggering in and of themselves).

        Maybe one day I’ll be able to go to a specialist, but that requires moving to a big city and having money. Therapy can be expensive.

        While I’ve opted out of many careers (pretty much anything in clinical health care), I don’t mind doing what I do know because it’s impossible to avoid bodies and blood at any job. I still try to work on it, but it’s very difficult to do without professional help (and it may just be impossible to overcome).

        I couldn’t imagine trying to avoid ‘stress’ at a job. How many options would that give you for developing a career?

    2. Bwmn*

      While I don’t faint at the sight of blood, I have my own vasovagal syncope issues – and no matter how medical the situation, fainting regularly at work will never be “just a thing”. When it happens, and no matter how many people know – it’s still scary. It still raises questions of “is this just a vasovagal thing or something else”?

      For me, vasovagal syncope responses are definitely impacted by stress, but also impacted by dehydration and strong chemical smells. Should there be a spike of issues, sure there may be a greater response – but it is also something I can influence and impact. I can drink more water, make sure I get more fresh air, and speak up about assorted chemical smells that are particularly difficult for me. And should it ever get to a point where I couldn’t manage it, there are also medical interventions to reassess my needs.

      Fainting regularly at work would be hugely disruptive. So while medical understanding and empathy during a bad period to get it under control would make complete sense, it would also make complete sense to see such a person have limitations on their growth potential until it’s better managed.

      1. tenure track academic*

        Help me out here.
        I had an employee who cried at the slightest negative comment. As in Betsy, I didn’t receive the TPS report yesterday. As you know they are due on Thursdays at 4:00.
        I am of the camp that any criticism should be one-on-one and not in public.

        Unlike the letter writer’s report, this employee was not exemplary and had multiple performance issues.

        Tears would course down her face and I would say, do you need a break to compose yourself (as advised by HR)

        She would say no, its just a physical response.

        I found this very disconcerting and more than a little manipulative. I dreaded our one- on-ones.

        1. fposte*

          I understand that it was disconcerting, but can you explain why you found it manipulative if she was still able to have the conversation? Would you have felt the same way if she had blushed the whole time instead of crying?

          Look, I think people should limit their crying at work, and I think she should, like the OP’s employee, put some work into trying to reduce that response. But tons of people cry at stuff without its being manipulative, as you can see just by reading this thread, and the facts that you’re really uncomfortable and that you don’t like her don’t translate into manipulation. If she’s a crappy employee, do the work to terminate her, and then you won’t have to worry about whether it’s manipulation or not.

            1. AB*

              I’m glad you’ve taken fposte’s comment on board. I usually cry out of frustration, and it isn’t in any way manipulative. It’s just what my body does, even when I’m telling myself “you need to stop this, there’s no reason to cry, you’re embarrassing yourself.” Sounds like Mary has the same reaction – and just talking to me as normal and ignoring the tears is the best way to deal with it. I promise we’re not all trying to make you feel bad!

  10. I'm a Little Teapot*

    Regarding 1: why would a bad headache that wasn’t a migraine not be a legitimate reason to call in sick? If you’re in too much pain to work, for whatever reason, you’re in too much pain to work.

    1. MK*

      Well, it should be noted that theOP’s boss isn’t pushing back about her absences, or even mentioned anything about it. If her thinking migraines aren’t real only means that she is less sympahtetic, it’s hardly worth bringing up.

    2. JD*

      I think it’s just the assumption that if someone has a regular headache in the morning, it’s because of their own actions the night before, whether they stayed up way too late or were drinking too much or whatever. In my last job it was an honor system with the local management, and you would get guys calling in sick because of a hangover. Giving them a sick day for it just gave more benefits to that behavior(some positions could also benefit monetarily by being sick long enough to miss being assigned work that offered a small bonus, and miraculously becoming well when it would get them work with a bigger bonus, could be several hundred dollars difference for pretty much the same amount of work). It is really just a case of a few ruining it for everyone.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      This is a very good point. I get horrible headaches. My triggers are many and varied, and often these headaches are entirely unpredictable. They are also completely untreatable unless I want to go back on migraine meds, which I don’t (side effects were worse than the headaches). I have worked through the pain many more days that I can count, but sometimes, I just can’t do it. At my old job, where I had plenty of coverage, I actually made a New Year’s resolution to call in every time I woke up with a headache. Made my life so much better. I wish I could do that now, but unfortunately, I’m basically a team of one. And sometimes I go on with these headaches and I am next to useless.

    4. Florida*

      I think having a headache that isn’t a migraine is a more than legitimate reason to call in sick. However, probably everyone knows of someone who used a headache as an excuse when they could’ve worked. Usually, you don’t look sick or sound sick when you have a headache, so it’s easy to pull off.

      If OP’s boss has had several employees who did this or do this, then I can understand his skepticism. I’m not saying that he is right. I think if someone doesn’t feel like working (even if it is their own fault, like a hangover), then I don’t want them at work. I’m just saying that I can see why OP’s boss might be skeptical.

    5. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think this is a very good point. I don’t get migraines (I get really bad headaches sometimes but I know the difference and I count my blessings!), but if I had a boss who didn’t “believe” in them, I’d just describe my symptoms (“sorry, can’t come in today – headache, nausea, looking at a computer feels like driving a metal stake into my head”) without using the “M” word.

  11. Artemesia*

    5 my daughter was a runner up for a job with a small company and got that same response. They kept in touch, hired her for some contract work, hired her full time when they could and she is now the CEO. Don’t assume it will lead to anything, but sometimes it does.

    1. OP #5*

      Thanks! From what I’ve heard from everyone from the recruiting manager to people I interviewed with they will be hiring more people. However the office is a remote one and super small (less than 20 people) so makes sense why they couldn’t onboard more than one person. My concern was just if I would still be interested after the time has passed. That insight is helpful thank you!

      1. TootsNYC*

        One other thing to remember is to not take your status as front-runner for granted. In fact, capitalize on the fact that you already familiar with the opening and the company, and have more detailed questions this time around. That’s your “leg up on the other folks.” They’re starting from a lower level of knowledge. You can ask questions that show you’ve been thinking more in depth about the position. That’ll make you even more appealing.

        1. OP #5*

          Thanks! I will keep that in mind if I have to interview again. If they end up sticking to their month timeline I doubt they would fly me across country again for interviews but who knows, I will definitely keep that in mind.

      2. M-C*

        And a friend of mine had the same thing happen. Was a finalist late last year at an organization she really liked, was sorely disappointed not to get it. Several months later they called her back, and last week she started with them in a position even better suited to her skills :-). Don’t lose hope!

  12. Stephanie*

    #3: At FirstJob and CurrentJob, I didn’t meet with the hiring manager during the interview process.

    FirstJob, I was hired as a part of a mass hiring and put in a training class with all the other Teapot Analysts. It was a job most people hadn’t done before, so the training class gave everyone the basics. Problem was, Analyst School was like eight months (yeah, we had people resign for different jobs before they were even done with training) and you got used to working under your Training Boss. And then we were sent to our regular bosses and had to learn to work under Regular Boss. The way the job was set up, your boss approved all your work, so there would often be a disconnect between how Training Boss wanted things and how Regular Boss wanted things.

    CurrentJob, I interviewed with HR, a dotted-line boss, and my grandboss…but not my actual boss. My actual boss is ok, but it was a little weird that I never met him until my first day (compounding the weirdness was that he was two hours late).

    1. AnotherFed*

      I don’t think I’ve ever had a job where I met the hiring manager in person before starting, unless you count internal transfers. Everywhere I worked for internship/entry level tended to have one or two people coordinate hiring for all the openings, and we got divided up to the different groups behind the scenes.

  13. Susan*

    Sounds like #2 has depression. I’ve struggled with it before and crying easily is one of the symptoms.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      Actually, based on everything else in the post, it doesn’t sound like that at all to me. It sounds like a physical response to particular situation and not connected to her emotional well being.

      So, it either is or it isn’t but since the employee is reporting it as a physical response, I’d take her at her word and not guess at depression or deeper things.

      1. Susan*

        People are very good at hiding other symptoms of it. It’s not normal to cry at the drop of a hat. It’s good to hear that the employee is getting help. Hope she knows to exercise too, which can be very helpful in reducing symptoms.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          It doesn’t help Mary to be guessing at underlying conditions when Mary says that’s not the case, that’s where I’m going here.

          The OP’s primary problem is the negative opinion that’s being formed of Mary by the male colleagues. Mary says that it is a physical response and she’s undergoing cognitive therapy to address it. Absent significant other signs that Mary’s not telling the truth, the right play is to believe Mary and back Mary, and how she wants her truth presented, with the other colleagues.

          1. Artemesia*

            I sure would be reinforcing the idea to Mary that it is important to commit to that therapy and fix this. It is extremely difficult to manage someone who makes the process so aversive. Most managers have trouble providing regular feedback; it is the major failure of management as most people are promoted into supervisory positions without necessarily the temperament or the skills and understanding to provide regular feedback. Most managers are simply going to avoid managing someone who makes it this punishing. This is a big deal. She does need to get it under control. So I’d be stressing the important of and praising the fact that she is doing therapy. FWIW Cognitive therapy is in my experience personally and in dealing with others one of the most effective ways to restructure negative behaviors. Hope it helps her.

            1. MillersSpring*

              If the OP gives Mary such advice, she should emphasize that it’s meant as helpful mentorly advice not as an employment warning.

        2. Colette*

          Crying is absolutely a stress response for some people. I don’t see any reason to believe the employee has untreated depression, but even if she does, the OP is not able to diagnose her and should not attempt to do so. She most certainly should not speculate about whether her employee has a medical condition to other managers.

          1. Minion*

            Yes! And, for heaven’s sake, please don’t suggest to Mary that she get some exercise! Lord have mercy. Armchair psychiatrists.
            I understand that when you’ve suffered from something and finally found an answer, you can go into Instant Evangelist mode and suddenly you’re seeing that disorder in everyone around you. But there’s a reason that psychiatrists, psychologists and medical professionals spend years in school and internships and residencies and all the other things they have to do. You can’t just stamp “DEPRESSION” on the forehead of everyone who cries inappropriately.

            1. Susan*

              Actually I am also a trained mental health professional.

              In any case please relax… I am only meaning to help. I am not diagnosing her just saying that it could be a symptom. And everyone should get some exercise so there is nothing wrong with this suggestion. Doctors and even psychiatrists do not play up the value of exercise enough so I thought it would be helpful for anyone who may be undergoing something similar.

              I guess my issue is that the suggestion was that there is a difference between men & women, when really this is almost certainly not the only reason behind this and serves to paint women in an incorrect light.

              1. fposte*

                I’m pretty sure AAM’s point was that women often get judged harshly for crying and that the male employees needed to be aware that their response to this could be colored by gender.

                There *is* a difference between men and women (and different countries/cultures, too, which I think is interesting) when it comes to crying, but more workplace relevant is making sure that you’re not unintentionally punishing somebody for discriminatory reasons.

                1. Tara R.*

                  Interestingly, I thought that the idea of *biological* differences when it comes to crying was BS– but my trans friend, who used to cry every other week at least, hasn’t shed a year since going on testosterone since six months ago.

                2. fposte*

                  Yes, there’s definitely indications that that’s the case–there’s a Dutch researcher who’s delving into crying right now, and it’s really interesting. But it’s also hugely socially conditioned–while women cry more than men in just about every country he sampled, the norms are, literally, all over the map, with Nigerian women crying less than US men (while Nigerian men were on the high end for male crying). Which is a big reason why I resist the sometimes-offered notion that you have no control at all over how you cry, because if that were true, we’d cry at roughly the same rate globally. But we don’t.

        3. hbc*

          It’s not normal, and it’s worth looking for other abnormalities, but that doesn’t mean it’s part of a big picture. I’m not an overly emotional person, but I cried through my entire goodbye party at my last job, cried during most of my belt tests for martial arts, and have had some really, really close calls during overwhelmingly positive reviews because of a couple of “there’s room for improvement”s. It’s just a combination of perfectionism, shyness, and easily-triggered tear ducts.

          So not “normal”, but nothing that’s part of a larger Issue that needs outside intervention.

          1. Susan*

            Your examples seem to be on the normal end and I am the same, but this employee is doing it at every feedback meeting which is why I think it’s beyond just a personality thing. I agree that it’s not necessarily needed to get outside intervention; there are many ways to deal with this.

        4. Elle the new Fed*

          I used to cry as a stress response, especially when I was young and just entering the workforce. It wasn’t related to depression but rather my first response to any criticism. I–like Mary–worked at it and no longer have that reaction.

          1. twig*

            Elle, can you go into any details about how you deal with stress crying? I am still trying to figure this out and I’m almost 40.
            I’m in treatment and am medicated for anxiety — so it’s not nearly as bad as it was. BUT when I’m under stress, the tears just start flowing. It’s as if when given a choice between fight or flight, my body’s response is to leak tears instead.

          2. Susan*

            To me that seems like it comes from a feeling of anxiety. It’s definitely something that can be worked through. I don’t think it’d be fair to say that women in general should be expected to have that reaction because they are more sensitive. That is my issue with the answer provided by aam.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Whoa, wait, I’m not saying women should be more expected to react that way. I said, that there are some real gender-based differences around emotions in the workplace, which is pretty well documented. That’s aggregate data, though, not something that dictates what to expect from an individual person.

              1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

                that there are some real gender-based differences around emotions in the workplace, which is pretty well documented

                I started to tear up in a meeting where I was being railed on by a boss pretty early in my career. He looked at me and told me (with more colorful language) that if I was going to cry to leave the room. I then spent the next 6-12 months having to prove that I wasn’t “overly emotional” and was “capable of managing my responsibilities.”

                1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

                  IME this affects women disproportionately (significantly!) with (in my opinion) overly severe judgement/reactions from men disproportionately (significantly!)

                  Now, I have ripped out and handed back the livers of anyone who has tried to pull the “overly emotional” crap on me for the 5 to 8 times I have tear leaked in the 25+ years I’ve been here. I don’t tolerate it and I don’t tolerate any similar judgement of women who work for me who have a very occasional issue also.

                  I agree that you shouldn’t have to be afraid to give feedback to an employee lest she cry, but you’re not going freaking melt from a little eye water on a rare occasion. And it does NOT speak to or call in question the value or fortitude of the women in question.

                  So, anybody in my world, if you want to keep your liver, do not freaking panic if there’s some eye water now and again.

    2. (different) Rebecca*

      I’m actually good at hiding my depression crying. What I’m not good at is hiding my ‘someone I respect is criticizing me oh no what do I do now holy schnikes my eyes are leaking’ crying. So, yeah, armchair diagnoses aren’t necessarily accurate.

      1. Susan*

        They could be related, though. Depression makes you less able to control these reactions.

        In any case I am actually not a fan of diagnosing people in general and that is not what I was doing. Many many people have mental health issues and diagnosing to me implies a power differential and often leads to things like medication which is not necessarily required and may do long term damage. Everyone needs to take care of themselves and do things like exercise and take time to relax. I’m just saying that I don’t think it’s right to expect that this be a normal reaction in women.

        1. M-C*

          Then you should probably refrain from offering tentative diagnosis, especially online and when they’re not really pertinent to the problem being discussed..

    3. LQ*

      I don’t know that it has to be depression. When I get very tired I get tears streaming down my face to the point of dehydration. It’s frustrating because I have no control over when and how much it happens, but my body is like, hey did you know you’re super tired? Here’s the weirdest reminder. I don’t get yawney. I just get tears running down my face for hours. And usually when I’m super tired is when I have to be at work for a long time because lots of work needs to get done. (Luckily for me that is usually work I’m doing alone at this job.)

    4. LiveAndLetDie*

      There is a policy here at AAM to refrain from armchair-diagnosing the LWs, just FYI.

      That said, crying easily is not only a signal of depression. It is also present in people who are highly empathetic and sensitive in general — I’m definitely not depressed, but I cry very easily in certain situations that get me right in the empathy bone, as it were. She may just be an emotional person. It sounds like she is very self-aware about it, since she’s getting cognitive therapy.

      1. Susan*

        I’ve replied to similar comments above. It sounds like the employee is doing this at every meeting, which to me seems like a disorder, however mild; my point is that this shouldn’t be considered/taken to be normal for women. I’m glad that the person is working through this.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think you might be misinterpreting my answer in the post! It’s not a typical reaction for women or anyone else. It’s unusual and it’s problematic for the reasons I gave in the post.

    5. OP#2*

      I guess my attitude here is that if she has a mental health issue, her therapist is in the best position to catch and treat it. Her behavior is my business but her diagnosis isn’t, unless she chooses to confide it.

  14. Erin*

    #1 – I’d continue as you have been. You’re only hearing this info about your boss second hand, and even if you think there’s good reason to believe it’s true (that she thinks migraines are just a headache), I still think it’d be best to forge on as if you didn’t know that.

    You’re doing what you’re supposed to do – taking time off as needed, giving your boss the head’s up, etc. If she hasn’t asked for a doctor’s note, I wouldn’t offer one. Just do what you need to do.

    Maaaaybe if you end up in a good place you could give an update to boss and/or coworker since you’ve already been fairly open with them. “After some trial and error, I have the right meds to combat the migraines, so I’m feeling much better! Should be more under control than before.” But really, you don’t even have to do that.

    1. OhNo*

      “If she hasn’t asked for a doctor’s note, I wouldn’t offer one.”

      While I agree with this 100% (I think you should never have to produce a doctor’s note, because you’re an adult, not a kindergartener), I wonder if preemptively offering one might be a way to limit any negative response from the boss for the sudden string of absences, especially if they are due to something the boss doesn’t think exists.

      OP knows their workplace best, of course, but I’ve definitely worked places where a sudden string of absences would be frowned upon no matter what the cause. Is it worth nipping any potential blowback in the bud? Maybe. Depends on the boss and the workplace’s attitude toward sick days in general.

      1. Erin*

        Yeah, it would have to be a judgement call for the OP. I went back and reread the question – Boss did change her responses from “Feel better!” to just “okay” which I think I missed before (I thought it was a fairly positive response each time).

        If it felt right, it would certainly be appropriate to say something like, “I apologize I need to take another day so soon – would it help if I got a doctor’s note for your records?”

        1. Allison*

          I hate when bosses just say “okay” when you need to take a sick day or work from home. I mean, it’s great that they’re allowing it and acknowledging that it’s happening, but gahh, it’s so neutral I never know if they’re actually cool with it or if they’re silently judging me.

      2. Chalupa Batman*

        I can see this as a good move depending on the workplace, but if Coworker is right and Boss doesn’t think migraines are a thing, a wonder if the note would be of any use. A lot of people have the perception that doctors will give wishy washy diagnoses to sell office visits/prescriptions, so a note with a diagnosis that they think falls in that category won’t carry much weight, and may even seem overly defensive. From the letter, I definitely think there’s room for interpretation error in the coworker’s statements, so it may benefit the OP to be ok with Boss thinking whatever Boss is going to think as long as OP’s getting the flexibility she needs to deal with it.

    2. OP #1*

      I updated below, but that’s exactly what I ended up doing! I don’t intend on doing anything extra unless she asks. Both my boss and coworker asked me how I was feeling after the last time I called in sick and went to the doctor, I let them know I had been given a different medicine and hopefully they would be under control. And (knock on wood), so far I haven’t had another one!

  15. videogamePrincess*

    I’m actually confused (really, legitimately confused) why #1 should continue to get accommodations but #2 cannot. They’re both just illnesses, aren’t they? Even if #2 isn’t an illness per se, it seems to be something, like migraines, which is out of control and affects her work. Why no mention of her getting reasonable accommodations under the law?

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      Well, first, it would have to be qualified as a disability under the law. IANAL, but for a qualified disability you’re looking for a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity (such as walking, talking, seeing, hearing, or learning). (I snagged the last bit from the EEOC website).

      So crying as a stress response, or fainting at the sight of blood, or blushing profusely at embarrassment isn’t going to make that hurdle. IANAL. <<< I am not a lawyer.

      1. FiveWheels*

        I don’t see how crying at work is an illness. It’s potentially a symptom of an illness but the OP’s employee hasn’t requested accommodations, as far as we know, so it’s a moot point.

    2. OhNo*

      While what Wakeen’s Teapots said about qualifying conditions is true, I wonder if the OP has ever mentioned the option to this employee. It’s possible that they do have a specific condition that would qualify, but which they haven’t shared with anybody.

      It’s possible that having the employee submit some kind of medical documentation might be enough to stop the other two supervisors from viewing it quite so negatively. “It’s a medical condition that I’m working to control” is a phrase most managers know how to deal with; “I cry a lot when I’m stressed” is not.

      1. Mreasy*

        I could see this actually not being that big a deal in practice, if everyone’s aware of it. “I tend to start crying as a panic response to intense situations, I apologize in advance if it happens but please do go on!” seems like a reasonable pre-emptive conversation she can have with supervisors. I cry all the time at work. I have panic disorder and all sorts of mental BS that sometimes lead to physical stress responses that seem emotional. But if we were on the phone & you didn’t see the tears, you wouldn’t know. Most people are used to it by now, and I am in executive management, so it hasn’t hurt my career. I do think the gender dynamic could be problematic, if male supervisors immediately think tears = freak out, which makes me hope that OP will get on her side and advocate a little with the other folks involved. (There are certainly women who would feel this way too, but on balance, women are more used to emotions showing themselves physically when they may not mean absolute freak out disaster inside.)

    3. MK*

      You say “even if it’s not an illness per se” as if whether it is one or not is an insignificant little detail that shouldn’t matter all that much; that is certainly not the case, as laws generally protect employees when they have a diagnosed medical condition.

      Secondly, OP1’s accomodations is being able to call in sick every so often, when she is too ill to come to work, something that is such a basic part of work life it barely registers as an accomodation. What would accomodations for OP2’s employee look like? It’s not possible that no one should never offer feedback to the employee, so that she doesn’t start crying. Should people learn to ignore the reaction? Do you really think it’s doable for a manager and coworkers to have to pretend not to notice when the person they are talking to has tears streaming down her face?

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      Even if #2 isn’t an illness per se, it seems to be something, like migraines, which is out of control and affects her work.

      How does it affect her work?

    5. OP #1*

      I’m not getting (or asking for) any special accommodations. I have not used any more than my allotted sick days.

    6. videogamePrincess*

      Ok, I think I see where everyone is coming from now. I was thinking that with #1, the issue with the sick days seems unsubstantial because even if the employer disagrees with the illness, the law requires that the company give her accommodations, but I guess that people are seeing this from a different angle, where it’s not an issue because the employer isn’t making it one.

      For #2, I was thinking of uncontrollable crying in the same way as say, if your hand got randomly paralyzed from time to time so you couldn’t type. Even if there wasn’t a specific name for the condition, it would still impact the work and there should still be accommodations for it. For what accommodations I was imagining–well, I’m not sure, but perhaps if it bothers everyone but one person, that one person could be the one to pass on criticism in a closed-door setting. But I guess this isn’t an easily resolved situation in the way that I would like it to be, and no accommodations exist that might really be reasonable. Thanks guys!

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        If your hand got randomly paralyzed that would be severely concerning as a neurological disorder and one would very much hope that there would be an identifiable condition behind it! (And more to the point, a paralyzed hand would be more recognizable as a disability affecting major life issues.)

          1. fposte*

            I think it’s an interesting notion. As described, it doesn’t sound like it would rise to the definition of a disability, but it’s not impossible that somebody could have a disability wherein random crying would be a symptom. But even if that is the cause, you’re only required to have a reasonable accommodation, and it doesn’t mean that never causing tears is the goal of the accommodation, any more than it would be to, say, make sure somebody with a painless hand tremor is never in a situation that elicits the tremor.

            And you can still fire your migraineur protected by the ADA if she takes too many days out of work, and you can still fire or not promote your ADA-eligible crying employee if you need her to participate in face-to-face discussions without crying.

  16. FiveWheels*

    Re #1’s boss, the idea that there’s such a thing as “just a bad headache” really annoys me. I used to get migraines and while they were debilitating I’d much rather have them than my severe headaches.

    My headaches were caused by an underlying neurological condition but even so! Boss sounds like something that would be bleeped out if I typed it here.

  17. WhichSister*

    It irks me when someone says something like “I don’t believe in migraines.” “I don’t believe in sick days.” I once had a young employee tell me “I don’t believe in divorce.” Guess what, it still happens. Every day. I have the paperwork to prove it.

    There is a Neil Degrasse Tyson attributed quote that is something like ” that’s the thing about facts, you don’t have to believe in them but they are still true. “

    1. MK*

      Eh, I don’t think these examples are relevant. People who say they don’t believe in divorce or sick days mean they believe divorce shouldn’t happen and sick days shouldn’t be provided by employers; they are not denying the existence of divorce or sick days. When someone says they don’t believe in migraines, they are actually denying their existence as a medical condition.

      1. WhichSister*

        My point is… just because you don’t believe in it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

      2. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Ugh, even people who “don’t believe in divorce” in that context are absurd. What do they want to happen instead, miserably married people to be forced to remain together against their will? Victims to never, ever be allowed to leave their abusers because Family Values are more important than their lives? You can’t just decree that all marriages will be healthy.

        1. Dan*

          Heh. Let me just say that “miserably married people” is probably the best case scenario. Worst case scenario(s) involves things much worse than that.

          My parents are deeply religious people, and I fully expected them to give me flak about getting my divorce. I was fully prepared to tell them to stuff it, because things were heading in a far worse direction, such that a divorce+strained relationship with my parents would have been a no brainer.

          Strangely, my parents had my back. Even my brother doesn’t quite get why they didn’t give me more pushback.

        2. Kelly L.*

          I think “people living apart while staying married on paper forever” is also a thing that happens in these scenarios, if both parties can manage to be civil about it.

    2. Minion*

      I’m pretty certain saying you don’t believe in divorce doesn’t mean you don’t believe divorce exists as a lawfully recognized way to dissolve a legitimate marriage or that people don’t actually get divorced. I attended a church for many years that doesn’t “believe in” divorce. It just meant that they believed divorce was a sin and was not recognized by God.
      You’re talking about two different ways of using the term, “I don’t believe in…”.

    3. Allison*

      Ah yes, but when someone says they don’t believe in stuff like that, they often have the power to disallow it or at the very least refuse to do it. A church that doesn’t believe in divorce can shun people for getting divorced. A person who doesn’t believe in tipping or recycling won’t do it, and often give people a hard time for doing it. And don’t get me started on politicians who refuse to believe scientific evidence . . .

      A boss who doesn’t believe in migraines can either tell someone “no sick day, suck it up” or choose to believe that a person missing work for migraines is a wuss, and choose not to promote them or give them a raise, or give them a hard time for missing work unnecessarily, or work to manage or phase them out when they’ve had enough.

  18. mull*

    “Every time she gets critical feedback (even very mild and accompanied by praise), she turns bright red and starts crying… like, a lot. Tears streaming down her face. Other than that, though, she responds calmly and rationally.”

    Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln….

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      IDK, that’s not hard for me to picture. If her response was her face turning red vs water out of her eyes, would that be easier? I don’t have a hard time imagining ever other response being calm and rational + water.

      But, generally, I take other people’s crying well in stride. I know that some people have a strong reaction to/aversion/horrification of other party’s tears.

      1. mull*

        The point is that turning red and crying uncontrollably are already not calm. That she’s not gnashing teeth and rending garments doesn’t mean she’s “calm.”

        I’m not horrified by crying or even that put off by it, but to insist that someone is composed and calm and not emotional when he or she cries frequently and uncontrollably is silly. Crying all the time is a clear sign that someone isn’t calm and composed, even if a full-on meltdown isn’t on display.

        1. CADMonkey007*

          The issue here isn’t that Mary loses control emotionally, it’s that her body has an over the top physical response to stress. Maybe that’s silly to you, but in my experience very emotional people are not rational people. The fact she remains rational and collected in her thoughts while crying says a lot.

        2. Sue Wilson*

          Well it’s not silly. If someone has tears streaming down their cheeks but their voice is even and unemotional, I’m going to say that they were crying but responded calmly.

        3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          People who care about their jobs often have some outward show when they are given less than “you did exactly what I would have done” feedback. I have one guy who blushes, for instance, and I have another lip biter. The guy who blushes turns beet red, but we both ignore his lobster color and have the same conversation we would have if he didn’t blush. I don’t think he’s more emotional than the next person, that’s just his physical response.

          “I would have handled the Ruiz opportunity a bit differently” << is going to produce some emotion. The supposition is that Mary has an uncommon physical response to the same emotion that other people are experiencing, not a heightened emotion.

        4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I wonder if you’re picturing “crying” as full-on sobbing and sniffling. It doesn’t sound like that’s what Mary’s doing in this case.

        5. fposte*

          The OP says she responds calmly and rationally, not that she *is* composed and calm. The point is that this person is able to discuss the feedback and talk about the situation despite what her eyes are doing. That’s huge, since that’s the goal of providing the feedback in the first place.

          So I’m with Wakeen in that I wouldn’t necessarily promote her right now but would definitely back her up. She’s got a problem and is working through it–she’s game and dedicated, and I value those qualities.

  19. CADMonkey007*

    #2 I’ve personally dealt with stress response crying, and it is horrible. I dealt with it when I was a teenager. The rational part of me always knew it was a silly, unnecessary reaction, but my body would just take over into full blown crying. I would guess the physical response is no different than a panic attack? Embarrassing! And the embarrassment just fueled the episodes. I’m glad to hear she’s getting therapy, because everyone wrote me off as high maintenance and rolled their eyes at me, and I had to learn to control it myself. (I think this is why I’m an apathetic, cynical person nowadays, but that’s another story…)

    OP, I commend you for seeing past the tears here, because Mary could probably use an ally to help her get through this. I think it’s fair to point out to Mary if or when the crying begins to prevent her from doing her job. In that case she’d probably cry, but understand all the same :) Encourage her when you notice improved reactions from her! As for the VP’s, reinforce that the crying does not impact her quality of work, and shut down any snide comments with positive comments about her.

  20. Boop*

    OP1 – if you’re in the US, you may be eligible for FMLA and/or ADA protection for your absences. Migraines can be a qualifying health condition under FMLA, and leave can be an accommodation under ADA. So even if your supervisor doesn’t “believe” in migraines, you would be protected. There may be some paperwork hoops to jump through, but it might be worth it if you feel your boss is starting to lose patience.



  21. TotesMaGoats*

    #4-actually I think you should absolutely go if you can afford it. It sounds like a major industry event so there is probably great networking but it’s a great way to build rapport with your boss.

  22. Allison*

    #2, I’m definitely a stress crier, and it did impact me at my first job when I was really frustrated that I wasn’t performing well, although part of the problem there was that I wasn’t getting clear feedback, I was getting a lot of mixed signals about whether I was doing well or not. It’s something I’ve been able to control in recent years, mainly because I work for better people and I’m better equipped to manage stress when it does pop up at work.

    It’s not just work though, anxiety anywhere could make me cry.

    Here’s the thing about the younger generation, there are definitely entitled brats among us, but most of us stopped getting participation trophies in middle school, and starting in junior year of high school we started facing enormous pressure to be perfect in order to succeed, to the point where really any small failure or negative feedback is gonna freak some of us out.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think this is a younger generation thing, though; certainly the OP isn’t framing it as one. I do think you’re right, though, that there are people who don’t have a lot of experience in self-soothing through setbacks and failure, and that that’s such a valuable and often critical work skill that it’s really worth working to develop.

    2. Rob Lowe can't read*

      Oh my gosh, are you me? I had exactly the same problem at one of my college internships. It wasn’t my first time in a professional setting (so I had expectations for myself and the environment), but my boss gave such unclear, inconsistent feedback, and he had really aggressive body language, so even when he was speaking in a relatively calm voice, it was accompanied by glaring and lots of aggressive hand/arm gestures. (Like, palm out, other hand upturned smacking against it as he listed things off.) It was terrifying because every single conversation made me feel like I was a horrible failure, even when it was really minor, easily fixable stuff.

  23. Katie the Fed*

    #2 – I haven’t time to read the comments, but if her coworkers know about this crying habit, then it’s not just happening when you talk to her. Or are you giving her corrections in front of them so she doesn’t have privacy? Either way – I think you need to coach her on not doing it front of her colleagues – excusing herself to use the restroom, etc. It’s one thing to get that flustered in front of your boss, but you really can’t be doing it regularly in front of coworkers.

    1. OP#2*

      I’m her direct supervisor, but she’s working on projects supervised by two of my colleagues. All three of us give feedback behind closed doors, so I think we’re the only ones who have seen her cry.

    2. TootsNYC*

      She can’t really be excusing herself to go cry–she needs to be able to deal with it right there.

      One thing might help is to strive to create the “informational” tone–she doesn’t cry when you say, “How do you think we should handle the Filberfarger files?” or “Joe Smith called; he didn’t get the Filberfarger memo. What went wrong? Can you figure that out and let me know?”

      If I were her cognitive behavioral therapist, I’d be coaching her to summon up that problem-solving mental framework in feedback situations.

  24. OP #1*

    Alison, thanks so much for answering my question!

    Just a quick follow-up if anyone is interested. I wrote this question about a month ago, which was the last time I called in sick. That same day, I was able to get into my doctor’s office and they gave me a different medicine (Imitrex) to break up the cluster migraines. The month or so leading up to this, I was under more stress than usual (both at work and home) and having trouble sleeping. I have thankfully not had another migraine since! My stress levels have much improved, plus I added a magnesium supplement and cut back on caffeine. I also started a food/sleep/exercise journal to see if I could find any triggers that I might not have known about before. I also have a few extra doses of Imitrex on hand in case another bad one comes back.

    I did not do anything extra like get a note from my doctor. I ended up deciding that because I’d only heard her opinion secondhand it was unnecessary unless she asked for it. If I have to call out in the future, I’ll just continue telling her that I have a migraine which is causing severe nausea/light-sensitivity and go from there.

    I just got back from a (much-needed!) vacation, so I am swamped at work and not sure if I’ll have time to read through any replies today!

    1. Windchime*

      I”m so glad that you’re doing better. Imitrex is a lifesaver for me. My mom (another migraine sufferer) calls it a miracle drug. She used to cry and sit with ice packs on her head for days before the advent of imitrex. I love that I can take it and in almost exactly an hour, my migraine is either gone or greatly reduced. Once in awhile I need to take a second one.

      I was so happy when it went generic a few years ago. Before that, it was $9 a pill (WITH insurance!), so I would ration it out.

  25. Sophie*

    for #OP2 – Would it be possible to start giving feedback on paper to your employee, and then setting up a meeting to discuss it instead? Even if she does cry about it, she may be able to do so in a more private place, away from disapproving colleagues eyes. That way, she is still receiving the same feedback, but knowing what it is beforehand and mentally preparing for it, rather than it being on the fly, she may be able to manage those emotions better when having a physical conversation.

    She obviously may still cry at the discussion, but if she’s already been able to ‘rehearse’ talking about it without feeling like she is being ‘confronted’ with the negative feedback that may work. You could maybe starting to add in a small amount of verbal feedback along with the written one, until it is no longer necessary.

    I would even ask her if there is anything that she has learnt about in her CBT treatment that you can implement in order for her to progress in this area.

    It is more than likely just a personality quirk – I’ve found myself welling up on multiple occasions from school age onwards. I was well behaved and intelligent as a child, so I generally was always praised about getting things correct, and having good work, and was never shouted at really, so when someone raises their voice just a little at me, I find myself feeling very emotional about it – I always wondered if this was because I didn’t have any siblings to shout and bicker with growing up so I would become used to raised voices and negatives. Even if it’s mild feedback, feeling like I’m being ‘confronted with my mistakes’ stings, so jumping into a professional world and receiving feedback which is not entirely comprised of praise was a bit of a hard transition for me!

    1. Another Lawyer*

      This was my thought too, at least an email that says I’d like to discuss X, X, and X with a brief outline of the feedback so she can prepare.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      The way I read the OP, our OP isn’t the only one giving feedback and thus can’t control the manner in which it is given.

    3. OP#2*

      These are great suggestions, thanks! She is in the “1st real job out of college” age group.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I like this too–because it’s easier to frame the follow-up conversation not as “criticism” or even “feedback,” but as “strategy meeting.”

      Because that’s how it ought to be at work–especially good employees should never have to worry about “getting in trouble”–it’s a course correction, and strategies, and alerts.

  26. Regular Reader*

    #5 – Yep, zero possibility really of knowing where you actually stand. I’d stay hopeful, though.

    One time, I was the second choice for a company. They held onto my resume and brought me back a year and half later to interview for the same position after that person left. (If they’d hired *me* I wouldn’t have left after so short a time! :P) Annnd got rejected again. Even though I was second pick before. Granted, they didn’t fly me out which definitely speaks to how interested they are in you, but still.

    It sounds like they truly are very interested and they’re being transparent about the hiring process, so all good signs, but as you said, no guarantee whatsoever. Hope for the best plan for the worst.

    Side note: I just had a second interview at a company and am waiting to hear back any day now. I was told I was one of a “handful” of final candidates. Hope I get it, and hope you get yours!

    1. OP #5*

      Thanks for the response! Sorry you were jerked around like that by the company, I know there’s never any guarantees but that sucks. Makes sense they would have you interview again after a year and a half, I wonder the appropriate time cap for reinterviewing?

      Good luck to you as well. My mom always says “if it’d truly for you then you will get it” good advice but it’s hard being let down when you put so much heart and energy into the interview process. :)

  27. OP#2*

    Thanks Alison and commenters for the excellent advice. I especially appreciate those noting that even if I can protect her from overt consequences, this could still alter perceptions of her enough to impact her career.

    A couple of other thoughts/questions:
    – she is Japanese, raised in Japan, so it’s possible that this is a cultural issue as well as gender? I really don’t know enough about Japanese culture to say.
    – in the 2 weeks since I responded non-judgementally, the problem has already gotten better – with me at least. That makes me suspect that the main thing stressing her out is the embarrassment of knowing she might cry. I had a similar thing with public speaking, where I was mainly nervous about appearing nervous.
    – when I say she’s otherwise calm, I mean her face is composed, her voice is steady, and her words indicate calm acceptance and willingness to work on the issue (and then she does). If I were giving feedback over the phone, I would never suspect that she was crying. Might be a good idea for my colleagues.
    – she doesn’t interact with clients the public at all. I’m pretty sure that we three supervisors are the only ones who have ever seen her cry.
    – would it be reasonable to suggest role playing with her… or like critical feedback practice? Or would that be overstepping?
    – she really is an excellent employee. Team Save Mary!

    1. TootsNYC*

      I think that role playing would be a reasonable thing for a mentor to do–and you’re in a mentorship position.

      I’m going to tell you my useful “crying in a stressful conversation” story.

      I had a legitimate complaint about a guy I worked with, and how he was treating me and others. Not only did I firmly believe I was in the right and he was WAY rude, but even more than that, I also believed that his actions were damaging the productivity of the rest of us. (If it hadn’t been a productivity issue for the whole team, I would have just decided privately that he was an ass.)

      So I went to the person sort of in charge of our department to tell her. And I started to cry.
      She said, urgently and directly, yet with a friendly “I’m on your team” tone: “Don’t cry, Toots. Don’t cry. Get mad, raise your voice, that’s OK, let that show. Just don’t cry.”

      It helped me SO much. Once I felt free to let my anger and annoyance show, I could control the crying.
      And, I could actually control the expression of anger! When I focused on the substance, and the natural reaction (anger and frustration), I found that I could actually express the frustration or anger, and also could steer it.

      It was the total suppression of the powerful emotion that was causing the crying.

      So if you can help her establish her confidence in having other negative emotions (fear, frustration, defensiveness), and in expressing them mildly, then it might be easier for her to not cry.

      1. Isben Takes Tea*

        THIS–for me, the reason I cry when I get upset is because I internalized the rule that it’s NOT OKAY to be upset. Having permission to be angry, or sad, or frustrated removes the urge to cry. Epiphany!

        1. Windchime*

          Wow, I need to try this. I’ve had several embarrassing crying jags at work lately.

      2. Oui*

        YES. I had a big stress crying problem when I was in my early twenties, but that was mostly because I had been taught not to embrace or express feelings of frustration or anger. So when something happened, it just turned to tears instead of ‘go f*** yourself’. Now that I feel empowered to say what needs to be said, the crying has almost disappeared.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Regarding your second point, that’s a really common thing. A lot of socially problematic issues can be self-fulfilling or downward spiral types — the fear of suffering a panic attack ramps up the likelihood of suffering one, and then the fear is reinforced so that the next time, it’s even more likely, and so on… It’s a very ugly cycle.

      I think roleplaying would be a great way to help her, if she’s receptive to it. Another thing you might do is ask her if she (or her therapist) has any suggestions that would help her work on it, and see what she feels would be the most useful.

    3. TootsNYC*

      One other thought–can you ask her to suggest things YOU can do that will make it less likely to trigger this reaction? On the idea that you want to provide a “reasonable accommodation”? Is there some tactic she’s using w/ her CBT that you can tap into as well? Like if she stands, does that make her feel more authoritative and therefore less likely to cry?

      Maybe she and her CBT “coach” can have some suggestions for you.

    4. Erin*

      Could you talk with her? Ask her if she’d like you to explain the situation to the other supervisors for her? It’s great you’ve noticed improvement, and I hope you let her know in an appropriate manner: (at the end of a conversation) Mary, I’ve really noticed an improvement with how you’ve handled my feedback lately. And then maybe ask her if you’d like to speak on her behalf to the other supervisors. It seems like she has control of the situation fairly well, so I would advise not saying anything too detailed without her consent.

    5. Katie the Fed*

      Ah ok – on the cultural thing, you might want to read up on the concept of face-saving. In parts of Asia including Japan, any kind of public criticism can cause you to “lose face” which is really terrible. So there probably are some cultural elements to why she’s taking it so very hard.

      Can you think of criticism not as criticism but as assistance? Like – you’re not saying she’s doing it wrong, but here are some tips for doing it better?

    6. K*

      Oh wow, I was already identifying with Mary before this, because I’m someone in their first job who also recently had embarrassing stress-related crying over something that wasn’t actually that big a deal at work, but I’m an American working in Japan. What a weird coincidence.

      There could be a bit of a cultural issue, or if she is rather new to living/working in America, she could be feeling already stressed out by life in general on top of her job (this has definitely been an issue for me, personally) but I don’t think it’s that necessary for you (OP) to speculate on that too much, TBH. As long as you are giving critique in a reasonably kind way (which it sounds like you are), I think she can and will adjust eventually, especially since she realizes that it’s an issue, and there is a therapist on board.
      Offering to role play conversations might be helpful for her (though that’s another thing that she could also do in therapy), but I think the best thing you can do is just continue to handle her crying calmly and and speak up if you hear other people complaining about it. You sound like a really nice person to work with. :)

    7. Brigitte*

      Is it kosher to recommend outside resources? I really love the Manager Tools’ series of podcasts on feedback, and there’s one on accepting feedback that’s for direct reports.

      Their view is that feedback is a gift (that’s now how they’d frame it, but I’d say it’s a good characterization), and that every manager should give more of it — both positive and negative.

      I don’t think the biggest issue is the crying, it’s that you have an employee who hears feedback and labels it “bad” as opposed to “useful.”

  28. Ponytail*

    Question from a UK employee – you suggested that a manager doesn’t need to know what’s wrong with you. That would NOT fly with my employers – you have to say what’s wrong with you when you call in, and you also have to fill in a sick form when you get back. Some forms even have tick boxes so you can just tick the type of illness that it was. Saying “Under the weather” would not be acceptable – would it be so in the US ?

    1. Allison*

      It is for many US employers, mine included. If I have a cold or the flu I specify, but for stomach stuff I keep it vague so no one pictures me doing unspeakable things. I also say I’m “not feeling well” if the issue is related to mental health, or anything else that feel too personal to discuss.

    2. CAA*

      Yes, most employers don’t need to know what’s making you sick. Most employees do end up telling me something like “got a cold” or “recovering from oral surgery” or whatever the case may be, but we don’t require that and I’ve never worked anywhere that does.

      1. Sarahnova*

        It’s common, but you don’t necessarily have to give any explanation more specific than ‘virus’.

        I think it’s partly because we have ample days of holiday, so the expectation is that if you want/need a ‘mental health day’ or similar you take holiday, and sick days are reserved for when you’re really not physically capable of working.

      2. Ponytail*

        Well, if it is a peculiarity, it’s one that my 17 previous employers shared, both in the UK and abroad ! In fact, in Slovakia, once you go over a couple of days’ you needed a sick note from the doctor AND then the doctor’s office would send someone out to check that you were actually resting at home rather than out gallivanting. If you didn’t respond to the door, you would be marked as out, and I believe the doctor’s office would then contact your employer.

  29. Melbot*

    #1 I realize I’m jumping to conclusions but.. please make sure you get to an eye-doctor. I had migraines for years with sensitivity to light, I also took medication for it. It turned out to be Uveitis.

    It’s such a rare condition that it gets ignored often and can lead to very serious problems.

    1. OP #1*

      I actually just had LASIK lately so have been to the eye doctor several times in the last few months for pre- and post-surgery appointments. So I’m fairly sure this is not the cause, but thank you! Glad you were able to figure out the root cause of your migraines.

  30. Erin*

    #5 – As both you and Alison said, there’s no guarantee and no way to know for sure. In addition to simple math where there’s many great candidates and one slot, you have no way of knowing what’s going on on their end.

    Two quick stories:

    I know of a woman who was up against a very attractive, but more importantly, more experienced and qualified candidate and she (original woman) got the job over this other person. After she’d been working there awhile she asked the men who hired her why, and they said it was because their wives came into the office often, and they didn’t to be given a hard time over hiring an attractive woman. (Not necessarily the right thing to do, but that’d be another discussion for another time.)

    And I know of another woman whose hiring manager later told her the deciding factor for hiring her was the fact that she had clean fingernails.

    Just testament that you really, really don’t know what they’re thinking, and there’s no way to know for sure so don’t drive yourself crazy.

    That being said, it sounds like you have a really good chance so I would be cautiously optimistic.

    1. OP #5*

      Thanks for replying :)

      Oh wow, those stories definitely highlight the quirks of the interviewing process. I wonder if the men in your first example were on good terms with their employee enough to make light of “you were less attractive so we hired you” or if the joke came across a bit crass?

      The second story made me laugh. I suppose when you have two candidates who are tied with skills, experience and personality that general hygiene would come next. Good thing I always get a fresh manicure before an interview, lol!

      I am continuing my job search still but hopeful something comes of it.

  31. OP #5*

    Thanks for the response Alison!

    Going to try to keep my mind busy by applying for other jobs and not focusing too much on it. The job description asked for 3-5 years of experience and I only have 2.5 years so understandable why they would think I was more junior but I am happy they still considered me a top candidate. They are being pretty open about their process so even if I am still being strung along I still feel very positively about the company.

    If my current department wasn’t so toxic (amazing resume booster) I would stay with my current company to get more experience. I’m kinda in the awkward early-mid stages of my career where I have too much experience for a junior role but not quite enough (especially in this competitive job market) for a more senior role.

  32. TootsNYC*

    I made this point earlier about how re-interviewing for this position can be a big advantage over other people they bring in to interview. You’ve hopefully spent some time thinking about how you might do this role, and you’re going to be more comfortable going into the interview, and operating with some knowledge already about how the work is organized, etc., etc., based on the last interview.

    Take those questions and comments to the next level; indulge in some mental “playacting” about the position (which you may have done already), and ask some next-level questions. That might bump you up in “perceived years of experience.”

    Also, I’m a fan of directly addressing things like, “I have 2.5 years instead of 3 to 5, and here’s why I think I can make you glad to have hired me, despite that.” Flat-out say it, and then make your pitch. I think people are really impressed just by the fact that you’ve identified potential problems, and ideal-candidate qualities, etc.

  33. Mary (in PA)*

    For OP #1: I’m so glad you’re feeling better. I hope the improvement continues.

    For all the other migraineurs out there reading this thread, I share my cautionary tale with you once again: if you ever have a migraine that doesn’t go away, or where you have different symptoms from the usual symptoms that you get, go see a doctor. I had what I thought was a bad migraine, but it took me a couple days to call the doctor, because I thought it would go away. He sent me to the ER and though they looked at me askance, scans showed that I had a brain hemorrhage and that I needed surgery to fix it. (It turned out to be a cavernous malformation and not, like, cancer or a tumor or anything. I’m doing way better now…though I have had at least one more migraine since.)

    Sometimes it can be easy for migraineurs to think, “Oh, this is just a migraine, it’ll go away eventually,” even if it’s more severe or more painful than your normal migraines. If you happen to find yourself in this situation, call your doctor — even if you feel silly and even if it turns out to be nothing more serious.

  34. Sharkey*

    #1 – I would have an open and candid conversation with your boss, unless you’ve gotten other info along the way that indicates he isn’t reasonable. You might say something along the lines, “Hey, I know I’ve had a few migraines pop up over the past little while and I wanted to let you know that I’m going to the doctor to see what we can do to get them back in check since the medication doesn’t seem to be working as effectively to control them. I don’t want you to think that I’m not showing up because I have simple headaches. When the migraines hit, they impact my vision and cause bouts of nausea. Unfortunately, they are also exacerbated by light which makes working at a computer not feasible when I’m in the grips of one. I’m hopeful that working with the doctor will get these back under control, but let me know if you have any questions or concerns about this in the meanwhile. I just wanted to let you know what’s going on since these absences are a bit out of character for me.”

    There are probably better ways to word that but I think just being open, not defensive, and not apologetic all you may need. It gives the boss an opportunity to understand how the migraines are impacting you, that you’re actively trying to work on it, and a chance for him to address any concerns. The last thing I think you should do is depend on another co-worker’s interpretation of how your boss feels about it, even if that coworker is someone you trust. It doesn’t mean that she’s correctly interpreting your boss’s take on this.

  35. Jessie*

    #2: I say this coming from someone who used to cry very easily in response to negative comments. I can’t really say how I got over it except that I was in the military for seven years and, as you can imagine, that’s not a great place to have that problem. I think that, eventually, I had just experienced enough bad conversations (some of which were deserved, some of which were not) that nothing ever shocked me enough anymore for it to bother me that much. I’m still a pretty emotional person, but I don’t cry in response to negative feedback at all anymore.

    So I think (just from my personal experience) giving your employee negative feedback (when appropriate) is a good thing. I don’t think you or your male coworkers should try to soften anything down. The one thing you can do is, right when it appears she’s getting emotional, immediately give her time to collect herself. Trying to hold it back can make it much, much worse. If you’re giving her feedback in your office and you feel comfortable doing so, I would step out yourself so she doesn’t have to pass by other coworkers. I wouldn’t even say you have to be ‘nice’ about it. “Let me give you a minute,” or “I have to check on something real quick, can you wait here?” both work without softening the message at all.

  36. Lauren*

    #1 Do yourself a huge favor and get intermittent FMLA leave. I have chronic migraine and had a boss who didn’t believe me and limited me to “two migraines per quarter.” I left my job soon after that, and made sure at the next one that I had a paper trail of this very real illness. Intermittent FMLA allows you to take off whenever you get a migraine. You have to use PAL for it, or take it unpaid after you use that up, but it is a lifesaver because they legally can’t make it an issue after that.

  37. Laura (Needs a New Name)*

    OP2, a helpful way to discuss this with the male colleagues might be to frame it as a “Medical Issue.” (I’m going to post a link to a paper about pseudobulbar affect below). It is possible that this is related to stress or depression and needing to learn to manage her emotions more effectively. If so, CBT should help. But there is also a possibility that there is an underlying neurological mechanism that she can do nothing about, and this is an involuntary response that she seems to be managing very well. In that case, it’s her job to communicate this to people (“I’m sorry, I have a condition that sometimes leads my emotional expression to be much more intense than my emotional experiences”) and it’s other people’s job to politely ignore it, like if someone has another unusual involuntary behavior.

  38. That Marketing Chick*

    #1 I also suffer from migraines, and received a less-than-stellar review one year after missing 9 days of work in a year. Even though my boss completely believed I had migraines, and even though I still got my work done, she dinged me for it. And after I went through an FMLA process so that I could use intermittent FMLA for future migraines so that it would not reflect poorly in my reviews, she basically told me that she didn’t care and would still hold it against me. One of the very few negative things I can say about that former boss. Happily, I’ve only had to come in late a couple of times at my current job until my meds kick in (I seem to wake up with them a lot)… and I wonder if some of my past migraines were actually stress-induced at Old Job.
    Try getting FMLA if your company is eligible so that it cannot be held against you (in theory). Best of luck getting it under control – I’ve had them for 30 years and still can’t figure out what triggers them sometimes.

  39. Jenniy*

    Obligatory “have not read all the comments” disclaimer.

    OP1 – may I suggest an anti-glare screen for your monitor? something like
    I had one at my old office and it helped.
    I hate trying to work with migraines, I missed 96 days of school senior year because of mine, and it was miserable. I have one of these screens on all my home monitors as well. It makes it much more tolerable, and triggers the migraines less.

  40. Been There - Done That*

    For what it’s worth, I have a co-worker whose migraines are triggered by corn and corn products. Food allergies and/or sensitivities might be worth looking in to for some people. Try eliminating foods eaten recently prior to the attack and see if you notice any patterns. Could also be some relationship to GMO foods?

    1. OP #1*

      I updated above but I’ve been keeping a food journal since I saw my doctor for this very purpose! It’s how I figured out that wine was a trigger for me many years ago, so I figured I’d give it a try again. I haven’t had another migraine since, but figured it wouldn’t hurt! I’ve also been noting my exercise and sleep patterns, too.

  41. Go Heels*

    #4– I work in local government, and a lot of our professional organizations have “president,” “president-elect,” “first vice-president,” etc and this is the order of succession so you typically know in advance who will serve as president for the next few years. The inductions are usually held at annual national/state conferences, so they are planned far ahead of time as part of the conference.

  42. Kathryn*

    For OP #2
    I’m a stress cryer or laugher. I vacillate between the two depending on the circumstances. They’re both symptomatic of stress and anxiety (I have PTSD) and the reaction comes out at the absolute worst times. I flush, get light-headed, and I start to giggle or well-up. It’s mortally embarrassing. and I’ve battled with it since adolescence. I’ve only received help in the last three years and it has gotten better with time. Some supervisors/colleagues have made it worse by negative comments or critiques, others have made life easier. Ask how she prefers feedback (which is a good practice to have anyway), and to ignore it when it does come up.

    CBT has done wonders for me, but also understanding how to regulate my crying/laughing with other, more subtle tricks. I’ve learned a lot about sympathetic and parasympathetic shock and how to identify them when they come on. I keep ice water near me most of the day, because a sip or two, or holding a cold container helps “shock” my system back into place and prevents the reaction. I’ll also do deep breathing exercises. Your colleague may find other tricks to help. What’s important is that she’s getting help and that she doesn’t feel ashamed.

    1. Mel*

      Ignore it? A better solution is to find a job and supervisor that doesn’t aggravate your problems/issues. And I’m assuming most people would or probably do avoid giving her bad news which is a problem in a lot of jobs.

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