my future boss won’t stop emailing me

A reader writes:

I don’t start my new job for another month. My new boss is already sending me emails detailing meetings I will have to attend after I start — sort of setting up a calendar for me with names, locations, things I am unfamiliar with.

At the moment, I am dealing with relocating and finding a place to live, which he is aware of. Can I ask him to stop? I am not even on the payroll yet; it seems not nice to bombard me with this stuff when I am already spending all my time setting up my life to just get my life situated to start the job. I don’t know if I can diplomatically say something now-and set some boundaries-or if I should just let it go.

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 62 comments… read them below }

  1. INTP*

    I think this OP’s issue – like many of the people who complain about getting emails after hours – may have been that they assumed they needed to act on emails immediately just because they were receiving them, while the boss was just sending things as he thought of them or as he was sending everyone else invites so he wouldn’t forget. I think it would suffice to just send a basic “Okay, thanks!” and then move all the emails to a specific folder, and on the first day at the job, go through that folder and add all necessary things to the calendar.

    1. myswtghst*

      I really liked Alison’s suggestion for a response – confirming you’re receiving the emails but don’t need to do anything about them til you start – and was thinking along the same lines as your last sentence. Since I use Gmail, I’d create a label/folder for all of the boss’s emails, and probably set up a filter to automatically label them (or potentially even to just route them to the folder, instead of my inbox). That way, when I started, everything would be in one place and easy to find, but it wouldn’t just be sitting in my inbox, clogging things up and stressing me out.

      The one caveat here is to make sure to at least skim those emails, in case the boss sends one with important day one / pre-start date details.

    2. Koko*

      Yes, especially if the boss is setting up meetings for OP’s first week. It’s unusual they’re coming to her personal email – unless she already has access to her work email? In my company that’s very normal. You want the employee’s calendar to be set up and ready to go on their first day, so their manager sends and accepts all the Outlook invites for orientations and regular recurring meetings in advance of the new hire’s start date. It’s just one less thing to worry about on Day 1/one more thing that can be smoothly in place for the new hire.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        That’s how my company works. In fact, after I was hired into my current position back in December (I didn’t start until mid-January), the hiring manager included me on all staff-wide emails that went out – I only responded to the Outlook invites for meetings. The rest of the emails went into a folder I created for division-wide emails without a response. Hiring manager never asked me if I read any of them either. I don’t think he expected me to before my actual start date.

  2. Kvaren*

    “This is a surrogate pregnancy, and I only plan to take a few days off after the delivery.”

    A few days isn’t very realistic though. The OP probably knows that, but just in case, anyone in any pregnancy should be prepared to take at least a few weeks off. I’ve done a four week leave, and that is the lowest I would ever go. And I think in the case of a c-section, the medically necessary time required for leave may be longer.

    1. Government Worker*

      I think we should answer the question OP asked, about how to handle the pregnancy in interviews, and leave her to manage the question of how much leave she needs with her doctor. It varies hugely by individual, and by the type of work – someone who sits at a desk all day and has flexible hours may be ready to come back to work sooner than someone who has to give a lot of lectures or travel to client sites frequently.

      Many surrogates have already had other children, so they have some idea of what their own particular recovery is likely to be like. And the sleep deprivation of caring for an infant and the physical demands of nursing prolong the physical recovery process, or at least I strongly believe they did for me. If I’d been able to sleep for 12+ hours a day after my unplanned c-section, I probably could have been back at my desk job in two or three weeks. With newborn twins to care for keeping me from sleeping more than two hours at a stretch? I was a wreck for much longer.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Actually, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to tack on a bit more time. Otherwise, the new employer will be like “yep, saw that coming. when she said four days in the interview i didn’t think that was realistic.”
        It could turn out that way, but you never know what sort of complication could arise.

    2. fposte*

      In the original post, it was stated that this was her third pregnancy. She can be fairly assumed to know what she’s doing there.

      1. Observer*

        Actually, I don’t buy that. No two pregnancies are the same. And, to be honest, if someone told me that, I would absolutely NOT believe them. I would think that they were saying what I wanted to hear.

        I get that she’s not planning a regular maternity leave, and I do think it makes sense to address this up front. But maternity leave is NOT only about bonding with the baby although we like to pretend that it is. So claiming that she’s only going to take a few days is not going to ring true to anyone with experience.

        I don’t see the original post, but if the OP mentioned a c-section, then she is DEFINITELY wrong about being back to work within a few days. I don’t care how well you “know yourself”. It’s major abdominal surgery, and no one in their right mind goes back to work in a few days. Not 6 weeks, maybe, but still.

        1. fposte*

          The OP didn’t mention a C-section.

          When you request leave, you’re not asking for the maximum time that you’d possibly need. You’re asking for what your best guess is, and if you’re wrong you extend it. If the OP ended up needing more time, I’m sure she asked for more time, but if that’s the amount of time she needed twice before, it’s reasonable for her to make the same request initially this time.

          1. Observer*

            I think I found the original letter, which looks a bit different than the inc. piece.

            In any case, the OP is definitely being unrealistic, from from what I see. She’s assuming that these differences will be enough to let her take off only a few days. It’s just not true. Yes, it’s true that late night feeding, etc. mean that it takes longer to be up to going back to work. But not as much as she apparently thinks.

              1. Wehaf*

                I think it’s interesting that a lot of comments on the original post are in the same vein as those here – questioning the OP’s plan recovery plan – despite that not being what the question is about at all.

              2. Observer*

                I was looking at a different one and so, apparently, were the others (a woman who was being a surrogate and it was her third pregnancy.)

                1. fposte*

                  Yup, I absolutely was–my apologies for being confused and for leading you astray with me.

            1. Amtelope*

              I don’t understand why it makes sense for us to try to predict how long it will take the OP to recover from childbirth. That varies a great deal from person to person, and surely she knows more about her own body and her own experience with any previous pregnancies than strangers on the Internet do.

              1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                … especially since this particular OP has long since given birth and gone on with her life.

                1. NutellaNutterson*

                  What, you don’t think she had a three-year pregnancy while awaiting our opinions?! ;-)

              2. Observer*

                Maybe she does and maybe she doesn’t. But the reality is that it’s highly unlikely that any hiring manager is going to take her seriously. If she really can bounce back THAT quickly, she is totally and completely out of the norm.

          2. Kvaren*

            I’ve delivered four children. Baby to care for or not, asking for a leave of merely “days” seems insane to me. Also in my experience, as I aged, my physical recovery got more difficult with each child.

            1. Wehaf*

              I know plenty of women, some in their 40s, who went back to work within a week. Some of them were workaholics, some of them had no choice (e.g. lots of hourly workers). I think characterizing other women’s experiences as “insane” is maybe not a road to go down in these comments.

              1. AthenaC*

                No, I think “insane” is a fine word to use. Not that the women are insane, but that circumstances are such that many women are essentially forced to go without adequate recovery time.

                “If there’s nothing wrong with me, there must be something wrong with the universe.”

                ~Dr. Beverly Crusher

                1. Wehaf*

                  I definitely agree that when women are forced or coerced to go back to work rapidly (often far too rapidly) that’s insane – and a major societal problem. But that’s not how Kvaren used the word; she said that “asking for a leave of merely “days” seems insane to me.” and I think that’s unnecessarily judgmental of women who chose to go back quickly, or who hope to, especially when those women have had previous pregnancies (in the US, at least, it is extremely rare, bordering on non-existent, for women to become surrogates without at least one previous successful pregnancy – it’s an industry standard for very good reasons).

          3. Lucky*

            Agreed – she doesn’t have to plan for every contingency. If OP’s question had been about knee surgery instead of pregnancy, as in “I’ve had two knee surgeries in the past and am about to have my third knee surgery and plan to take a few days off for that,” no one would be questioning her.

            1. Kvaren*

              I don’t equate joint surgery with pregnancy. Pregnancy is a 9 month long period of extreme change to a woman’s body, so I don’t feel comfortable advising anyone to expect to snap back to working shape within days.

              1. Lucky*

                She’s not asking for your advice on how long to take off work after her delivery, so you are right to feel uncomfortable advising her about that.

              2. Amtelope*

                But no one is advising the OP to expect that. We’re just saying that it would be best to respect the OP’s own assessment of when she will likely feel ready to return to work. She didn’t ask “based on other people’s experiences, how long does it usually take to recover from childbirth?” Different people’s experiences are different, and the OP is the best judge of her own situation.

              3. Elsajeni*

                But the point isn’t “if a few days would be reasonable for knee surgery, it’s also reasonable for childbirth”; it’s “if you would trust her to predict how much leave she’d need for knee surgery, you should also trust her to predict how much she’ll need for childbirth.” She’s had two previous pregnancies and births; she knows how her own personal recovery timeline went then; it is not unreasonable for her to predict how this one will go based on how the other two went.

            2. Connie-Lynne*

              I wasn’t working at the time, but after I had my daughter (who did not live with me after birth), I was going out again for fun in less than a week.

              The episiotomy made walking fast difficult , and I had to bring a pillow to sit on, but my experience leads me to believe the OP’s time estimate.

    3. Lia*

      A good friend of mine had delivered 2 children of her own with easy recovery, then carried a surrogate pregnancy. She wound up pregnant with twins and on bedrest from 7 months onward. She had a c-section and was back at work 4 weeks later, the minimum time her doctor agreed to due to the bedrest complication. So, despite best efforts, she wound up out for close to 3 months in total — not what she had initially promised her employer.

    4. CR*

      Yes, I’ve never given birth but I can’t imagine just bouncing back to work 48 hours after pushing a human out of my vagina.

    5. AMT 2*

      Everyone seems to have quite firm opinions on this, but I’d err on the side of trusting the OP to know her own body and the most likely scenario – of course things may go terribly and you may need additional time off, but that can happen with a routine outpatient surgery as well, you aren’t expected to ask for two weeks off just in case the two days of recovery you planned didn’t work out like you though. From a personal perspective, my second child was a C-section, I was at home the next day and at work with the baby when she was seven days old – everyone is different.

    6. AcademiaNut*

      It would be fairly simple for her to say that as it’s a surrogate pregnancy, she won’t be taking maternity leave, but will only be off for the time it takes to recover from the childbirth. That makes it clear that she won’t be taking extended leave to look after the baby, but doesn’t involve an extremely optimistic view of the time she’ll actually be taking off.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This is a good way to say it, since no one can really predict the outcome even if they’ve had children before. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe one of the requirements of being a surrogate is at least one previous successful pregnancy and at least a moderate level of good health.

  3. Bee Eye LL*

    #1 – Ask the manager who you need to report your time to for reading the emails and updating your calendar. I am guess you haven’t official started yet so you aren’t even on payroll yet.

    1. 1023*

      I don’ think that advice would get the OP off to a good start with her new manager. It sounds confrontational when doesn’t have to. She should start with AAMs good advice.

  4. Pwyll*

    This happened to me once, and I wrote back asking how much time they were looking for me to put in reviewing the information they’d sent as I was still wrapping up things for my former employer, and IMMEDIATELY got a call from my new boss apologizing because he thought he had been sending this information to my new work e-mail address (that I didn’t have access to yet) for me to review on my first week.

    So, I wouldn’t necessarily assume it’s all work meant to be done prior to starting.

    1. myswtghst*

      Your last sentence is exactly what I was thinking – the boss probably thinks they’re being helpful by sending everything the new hire will need to know once they start, when they think of it. I file all my emails pretty strategically, so I wouldn’t think twice about sending stuff as an FYI, but I also would not mind an email from the new hire confirming they don’t need to worry about any of this yet.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Yeah, I was confused as to why the OP was receiving these emails at a personal work account. It would make more sense for NewBoss to send this to the new business email, then OP can review during the first week on the job.

    3. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      This! I desperately try not to schedule people into meetings their first week, other than 15-30 minute intro meetings with other departments, but sometimes things come up. But, if I do, or if there is a company meeting schedule, I try to send out information about the meeting agenda, participants, and expectations (for example, my boss is an “I expect everyone in the room to have an idea” guy).

      I try to use subject lines like, “FYI: First Week Schedule” or “FYI: XYZ Company Meeting Scheduled for your first day.”

      1. addiez*

        Funny to think about how differently places work – at my org, we schedule a bunch of meetings for the first week to get new hires acclimated. I really loved it because I felt like I was learning and wasn’t useless!

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Agreed. It’s rare that a new hire can do much useful during the first week, and a week spent meeting people and learning about what’s going on (via meetings) is better than a week twiddling your thumbs in front of a computer.

  5. themmases*

    I am a graduate research assistant, and I read a ton of these ads and have applied in a few rounds. I think OP 2 should also adjust the job ad itself– both content and where it is shared.

    After having that many employees on this project, the OP should have some idea of who turned out to be a good fit. They should get people to self-select out by putting it right in the ad: stating a preferred degree program or area of study, preference for experience with certain processes or software, or other requirements or strong preferences. If you can get enough qualified people by preferring major A, there is no reason to stay open to those two great people from major B. They will find something else. I would also not say in the ad that they are hiring 20 people. That makes it sound like a huge data entry or collection project that lots of people outside the topic area would be qualified to do, and like everyone has a good chance.

    The OP should also look into sharing the ad on program-specific lists only. Not only will fewer people see the ad, it will be targeted to those who might have the skills and interest to be good at it. Even if people from many backgrounds could do the work, probably only people from specific programs would benefit professionally from working on the OP’s project, or see it as CV material and treat it accordingly.

    1. myswtghst*

      “After having that many employees on this project, the OP should have some idea of who turned out to be a good fit.”

      I really like this point. LW could take a look at the strongest hires from the current group (or the last few groups) and see what behaviors / skills / etc… they have in common, then figure out how to select for those things in the job ad and in the interview process. They could also take a look at the people who had to be let go / struggled a lot, and see if there were any competencies they lacked which you could specifically ask for examples of in an interview or could test for with a skills test. Not a guarantee, by any means, but could help with the process if you notice people have to be really good at prioritizing or using Excel or whatever in order to be successful.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        However, they are hiring over half the applicants in what is, essentially, an entry level position. With that acceptance rate, you can’t really take only the best applicants – there will be some who are borderline and may work out or may not.

  6. StephThePM*

    I’m guessing that the new boss is sending calendar invites so that she/he (new person) gets on the calendars of some busy people, or ensures that the new person is included in scheduled future meetings. The new person can then transition those to his/her own calendar or ask to have the invites forwarded once she/he starts and gets her own email address. I actually think that this is really good/proactive sign about the manager – not anything to be feared or annoyed about. That being said, I think that AAM’s advice is good as it acknowledges that you’ve received the information and aren’t thinking or doing anything about them in great detail until you start.

  7. PizzaSquared*

    I like it when new bosses start setting things up for me before I arrive. This avoids the situation of arriving on my first day and having people scramble to figure out what I need to be doing, who I need to meet, etc. It also sends me the signal that they’re excited to have me join, and that they are actually investing time in making sure I can hit the ground running. I think these are all awesome things! This doesn’t mean that I spend a ton of time reviewing the emails before I start, but I like knowing that they’re there. In my career, I’ve seen a very clear pattern that companies who do this are much more organized and effective about my onboarding than companies who don’t.

    That said, I wouldn’t want them emailing my PERSONAL email account for any of this stuff. For a variety of reasons (sanity, legal issues, security, etc.), I don’t want any work-related email in my personal email accounts. When I’ve had this happen, it’s because they set up my company email early (sometimes they gave me access to it right away, other times they just sent stuff to it for me to receive on my first day). I’m obviously ok with pre-hire stuff like interview scheduling, HR paperwork, etc. going to my personal email, but I draw the line at any company confidential information. This can open a big can of worms…

  8. Rocky*

    Wow, #1 and #5 could both have been written by me a few years ago.

    #1 happened to me when I started my current job. It made me think I was going into one of those no-boundaries workplaces. Just a bad impression all around. I sent some “I look forward to following up on this when I start in February” replies, and that was fine. Turns out it was a combination of my boss wanting to move things off of his plate and out of his inbox, and some misguided notions about inclusivity and showing how excited they were to have me join the team. It still happens (other colleagues have been asked to call in for meetings before their hire dates) and it’s annoying, but it doesn’t come from a bad place, and no one has an issue if you push back.

    #5 happened to me a few years ago. To put it plainly, there turned out to be some confusion about who was doing a favor for whom. I thought I was doing them a favor by writing free content that their audience liked. They thought they were doing me a favor by giving me exposure – I think they thought I was an aspiring writer. I had a very awkward conversation with the editor about it, which made it clear that she was going in a different direction with the content. I said I couldn’t justify taking time away from other things to volunteer to write content that might not run. We agreed that she would ping me when she wanted me to write something and…she didn’t. So that was the end of that.

  9. Lillian McGee*

    Eep, I thought for one horrible second #1 was our new hire. But the email address her boss is bombarding is her new work email… which she doesn’t have access to yet. Phew.

  10. H.C.*

    #5 – This may also depend on the organization’s content workflow too. Unlike a personal blog, where one can easily write, edit and publish in one instant swoop, there might be editorial/approval/factchecking processes in place for the organization’s blog. (I work for a large nonprofit myself, we are advised to turn in blogposts a few days in advance so it can be edited, proofread, get internal approvals as needed & scheduled. Even for “breaking news & events” that have to be published that day – we generally have significantly portions already pre-written & approved well ahead of time.)

    Agree with AAM that you should talk to the one publishing the blogposts (or other blog contributors, if that’s not possible) to get a better idea of the blog workflow, and if there’s a way work with/around that. Personally, my team found “back planning” very useful – e.g. if we need a blogpost to go live by June 1, we know we have to turn it a polished final copy by May 30, getting an initial draft ready for edits by May 27 and so forth (& most importantly, getting some buffer for our editing/reviewing colleagues or letting them know ahead of time that this blogpost needs their immediate attention.)

  11. Ex-Adventist*

    #1, i had a boss do this before he was a confirmed hire for the university i was working at, at the time we still had several other candidates in consideration for the position. After he was hired, he proceed too discipline me for not sharing internal confidential information before he was officially hired, In the end nobody backed my position and i ended up leaving, so i would be very careful how how to handle a boss who does not see boundaries properly, i would not be too supprised if you get in hot water for not dealing with the e-mails, regardless of your start date.

  12. Wehaf*

    For the gestational surrogate (or really, for anyone else in that situation, since this is an old letter), one thing to consider is that a small but not insignificant fraction of the population is opposed to surrogacy; and some of those people are very strongly opposed. Sometimes it is for religious reasons, and sometimes because surrogacy is seen as against the natural order of things. So be aware that if you interview with someone like that, revealing that you are a surrogate may torpedo your chances. I’m not saying not to do it, but just be aware.

    1. Observer*


      I would say that if you can afford to, that’s a good reason to let them know, so they can self select out.

      The thing is that there is a good practical reason to divulge. If a woman says “I expect to be back at work in a week or so” most people are going to look at her like she’s nuts. If she says “I’m a surrogate and the baby isn’t coming home with me. I expect to be back at work in a week or so.” That sounds like it’s pushing it, but much more doable.

  13. Graciosa*

    Just a quick note on #1, you may be able to use rules within your email program to automatically route all emails from the manager into a designated file folder (in Outlook this is done with “rules”). This keeps them organized and avoids the need for you to sort them out manually (which is a potential irritant you might as well avoid).

  14. ScarletInTheLibrary*

    1: Several managers at my work have started to do this, but there is a good reason for all of this. Because we are paid once a month and are salaried, new employees either start the 1st or the 15th (at least on paper). Our division’s head pushes for people to start as soon as possible, and this has created some bad timing. Managers may be on vacation, at conferences, or off-site. These emails make sure employees have a clear idea of their goals for his or her first week. And sometimes one’s work profile isn’t setup that first day or so. Sending this info ensures the employee has access to needed information.

  15. Callie*

    I don’t start my new tenure-track job until August, but I’ve been getting a few emails from my new colleagues and department head. I like it! It’s going to my personal email, because I have to be on-campus to set up my .edu email and I haven’t moved yet, but it’s stuff like “If you know what book you want for Teapot Methods, I can order that for you,” and “here’s some things we’re planning for the state conference” because the registration deadline is before I get there. I like feeling included. :)

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