update: manager says I need to wear different socks

Remember the letter-writer whose assistant manager told that she wouldn’t get promoted if she kept wearing novelty socks? (#3 at the link) Here’s the update.

After reading the response, I decided to let it go. She was leaving the next day, so I didn’t need to put up with her much longer. I thought it would be over and done with, and no need to take further action. I was wrong.

The commenters were absolutely right: my assistant manager (let’s call her Emma) and I had an inappropriate and toxic friendship.

I am a very generous person and I’m in a position in life were I have a decent disposable income. On the other hand, Emma had troubles with money, so I would often buy her food and treat her to movies, and she was pressuring me to let her move in to my place for a few months. (That should have been my first red flag, and it was looking up how to deal with the situation that introduced me to Ask a Manager.)

My manager (let’s call her Priya) started to suspect something was wrong, and took me aside a few times to talk to me about Emma. When I told Priya that I had been loaning Emma money to buy lunch, Priya asked Emma and I to stop. Being naive and protective of my friend, I started buying or bringing Emma physical food. All of the talks Priya had with me went right over my head. 

Eventually, I got annoyed about having to be Emma’s caretaker and started standing up to her. I stopped giving her food, I suggested that us living together wouldn’t work out, and I acted more professionally at work.

As a result, she lashed out at me and I became her next target. She started restricting what jobs I did and constantly put me down in front of customers and employees. One time I stood up to her, resulting her in giving me the silent treatment for a week (which I did not catch on to until she outright told me). And like the commenters suspected, she also started feeding me intentionally bad advice. She would tell me things like: don’t wear those socks, stop interrupting her to ask questions, stop giving every customer the full exchange policy because they tune you out (doing so is actually a company mandate due to the fact we do not offer refunds).

She also started badmouthing me to Priya. Priya went on vacation for two weeks, leaving Emma in charge. When Priya came back, Emma lied to her about my work performance being terrible and that I was being insubordinate and delegating to coworkers.

The day after you posted my question, Emma cornered me and bluntly said, “I’m done with you.” She then went on a rant about how she had been responsible for making me into management material, and that I had become insubordinate and ungrateful. She left me in tears, and as I collected myself, I remembered the AAM advice and found my resolve.

I went straight to Priya and asked her if I had been insubordinate. Priya was shocked, and told me that though Emma told her I was, she didn’t see it. Priya also got very upset when I told her Emma claimed to be the one who made me into management material. When I said that Emma told me I wouldn’t be promoted if I wore novelty socks, Priya’s jaw dropped. She instantly looked down at my socks (flamingos that day) and blurted out, “Why?”

Priya then assured me that everything was fine with me and I should have told her what was going on. She told me that there wasn’t much we could do as it was Emma’s last day, but she did pull Emma aside and tell her to stay away from me. Priya finally told me she loved my socks, and to keep wearing them (I’m wearing BB-8 socks as I write this.)

Emma didn’t speak to me the rest of the day, but I did hear a snide comment from her to a friend which she made sure to loudly say while I was in earshot. She left work at the end of the shift, walked out of my life, and I never heard from her again. I’m happy with that, and my only regret is that she should have paid me back more money and kind of stole my lunch bag when I loaned it to her and she never gave it back.

Sadly, I did not end up getting the promotion. Not because of my socks, but the other candidate had management experience and a degree in fashion. Promoted Coworker is a lovely person and a good boss, and there’s always next time. 

I would like to thank you and all the commenters for helping me realize what was going on between Emma and me. I have used this to grow more of a backbone and start standing up for myself. I hope that next time I’m in the running for a promotion I’ll get it. Thank you all, very much.

{ 46 comments… read them below }

  1. MissDisplaced

    Wow OP, Emma sounds like a person with a number of toxic problems overall. It’s good that she was leaving and that you finally dealt directly with your boss about some of this. Fortunately, you seem to have a reasonable and level headed boss who does not take the word of another employee, but looks at the performance of employees herself.
    It sounds like you have a promising future at your company, or at least a good chance for experience and growth.
    I guess overall, this is a good lesson learned.

  2. Kyrielle

    I’m sorry it didn’t work out better for you situationally, but I’m impressed how well it worked out for you self-growth-wise. The way you describe missing out on the promotion and the person who did get it is *awesome*, and while Emma was a terrible person to have to deal with, it sounds like you have learned a lot and grown from it.

    Whereas Emma…is probably still out there having to deal with being Emma, somewhere.

    1. neverjaunty

      Yes, this. You’ve learned a lot, OP, you have a great attitude, and Emma is…. apparently not taking away anything useful from this.

      1. Chaordic One

        Yes, you’ve handled yourself and the situation in an astute and mature manner. Moreover, you’ve positioned yourself for something good in the future.

        Well done!

        1. KR

          Also – chances are the manager noticed how she handled the situation and might be keeping her in mind for future promotions!

          1. OP

            Well, she was, and I have been assured several times that the company wants to promote me. The problem is that management positions only open about once or twice a year, and get very competitive. A promotion recently came up, and I lost out to another girl. We are evenly skilled, sou it ultimately came down to seniority, and she’s been at the company 6 years, while I’ve been there 2 1/2. As for my manager, she got promoted to District Manager of a different city, but our new one has always adored me.

            I know I’ll be promoted someday. At this point it’s just a matter of waiting.

      2. Ruffingit

        I don’t think it’s possible for Emma to take anything away from this. She appears to have very little self-awareness so it may take years, if ever, for her to “get it.”

  3. F.

    Setting boundaries is appropriate in any situation, whether personal or professional. I made the mistake of befriending an “Emma” who was (and unfortunately, still is) a next door neighbor. When I had finally had enough of “helping” her (and her grown daughter) out, they turned on me. As a result, I have been subjected to a great deal of active and passive abuse by them and their cohort of so-called friends for the past nine years. While they have moved on to other victims, they continue to spread their hatred and vitriol about me. To hear them tell it, I am the neighborhood b*tch. Anyone with half a brain, though, can see that I am a good, quiet neighbor who follows the rules of our trailer park and who simply expects others to do the same. Fortunately, I do not rely on my neighbors for my social needs nor my sense of self-worth, much to the abusive neighbor’s chagrin, so barring actual property damage, I just ignore them. You are lucky that your “Emma” moved on and out of your life.

  4. Kat M

    So glad you came out of this on top, with a good relationship with your manager, a newfound spine, AND your fun feet intact!

    1. Red

      Cosigned! (And not only do I wear novelty socks, but I almost always deliberately mismatch them. For important occasions I wear an owl sock on ine foot and a Merida (from Brave) on the other, for luck. :)

      1. Kay J

        Mismatched socks buddy! Why should they always match if you’re not in a formal setting? A little whimsy doesn’t hurt.

        1. Vanishing Girl

          That makes three of us!

          When I started doing this in high school, my parents disapproved. But now they think it’s an amusing characteristic of my personality. I’m totally okay with that.

          1. Kay J

            Oh yeah, my mom used to disapprove when I was a teen. She finally gave up and started buying me the packs of 10 colorful non-matching socks Journeys used to sell. Moms learn what they can change.

    2. Shelby Drink the Juice

      My coworker wears interesting socks, well for a professional dress area. He has great socks with stripes and such. I love them. Adds a little flare to boring professional dress. I wear open toed shoes most of the time, so lacking in the sock department.

      1. KR

        My brother works at a law firm in a big city where he’s required to wear business/business-formal attire every day. My Christmas present to him every year are fun, crazy dress socks. Apparently he doesn’t even like buying them himself anymore – I pick out the best ones.

    3. myswtghst

      Like 80% of my current socks are novelty socks (mostly Marvel, including chibi Avengers). If they’re in my work boots, no one can tell. :)

  5. Erin

    …You’re welcome for trying to be a generous, decent person! For heaven’s sake.

    Glad that’s over with, and you’re armed with some solid experience to carry with you going forward. You’ll be better equipped to handle these types of situations now.

  6. Andrea

    Kudos from a fellow novelty sock wearer. (Did you get the BB8 ones in a Lootcrate? That’s where I got mine.) Today is neon polkadots. Good for you for standing up to Emma!

  7. KR

    I’m glad it worked out for you in the end, even if you didn’t get the position. I’ve heard that if you stick with it and you’re good at it, retail management can be rewarding with many chances to move around/up in the company. Good luck.

    1. OP

      I am on a nice track right now. Things are just really competitive when it comes to breaking into management ranks. Once I do that, it’s a lot easier to climb into higher positions.

  8. GigglyPuff

    Not asking the OP to say where they work, but I’m really interested in finding a store that sells novelty socks. I’d prefer to shop for those in-person not online, if anyone has any recommendations.

    1. VintageLydia

      Places that cater to the teen and young adult market like Forever21 and H&M will usually sell them!

    2. notfunny.

      Most of mine are from target. Highlights include socks with french fries, campers and trees, squirrels and tiny monsters (those are from the kids section).

      1. myswtghst

        I’ve got tons of great ones from Target too! They usually have lots of Marvel socks, plus plenty of random fun ones (bacon, Loch Ness monster, etc….

    3. Andrea

      Thinkgeek (retail stores in TX and Orlando, FL), and Gamestop are where I get my geeky novelty socks.

    4. socrescentfresh

      I get mine at Powells in Portland (OR)–they have a great Sock It To Me selection (dinosaurs! volcanoes! sloths! bacon!). I bet you can find that brand other places too but I haven’t come across it anywhere else.

    5. justsomeone

      Hot Topic sells them too. You could also see if there’s a Sock It To Me store locator – SITM is my favorite source for novelty knee socks.

    6. Bowserkitty

      I get mine from Halloween stores of all places – especially when it’s the day after. My entourage consists of Blossom, Bubbles, Mickey Mouse, Wonder Woman, etc…

      I also do Target when they have stuff on clearance, but definitely look out for the post-holiday sales. My nickname at the gym is “Socks” because of my massive collection, so I felt some definite compassion for OP!

    7. OP

      I’m not allowed to say where I work (I can get fired if it’s discovered I was talking about the company on social media) but let’s just say we’re a… Canadian based company.

  9. Kevin Thomas

    Wait, all of this other stuff was going on, and OP asked about socks? How come she didn’t mention these other issues?

    1. Joseph

      Yeah, really. I mean, some of the advice is just horrific – “never ask questions when someone is teaching you” and “you should really be violating company policy and confusing customers by not explaining refund policy” are my favorites.

      And really, it’s bad enough asking a subordinate co-worker to pay for movies, for a loan (!) or to move in with you (!!!), but then to be a jerk about it? This “friend” seems like a person who OP’s life will be much better without.

      “One time I stood up to her, resulting her in giving me the silent treatment for a week (which I did not catch on to until she outright told me). ”
      Based on how Emma was acting, I’m not sure this is a punishment. Wait, you’re going to be silent rather than openly insulting me in front of others and giving me terrible advice? Really? Could…could you make that permanent somehow? Please?

    2. Kira

      There was a point in the original comment thread where OP was explaining how she knew Emma wasn’t trying to sabotage her. While explaining, OP shared a lot of background, then realizes that there’s an overall trend going on there.

    3. OP

      There actually was a lot more to this update that Alison cut out that was centered on my relationship with Emma. Ultimately I realized we had an abusive relationship, and I only figured it out after discussing the pattern during the original post. At the time I was too blind to see what was going on.

  10. PhyllisB

    Glad to see I’m not the only one who likes novelty socks!! I used to have all kinds of bright-colored/patterned socks and my kids would make so much fun of me. I don’t buy them anymore (not because of them) but because I only like thick cotton socks, and the only colors/patterns I can find are that slick knit that keeps sliding down into your shoes.

    I never did the mis-matched thing because that wasn’t A THING when I was growing up, but my daughters and grand-daughters do (even the 5 year old.) And they made fun of my socks Hmph. Now I raid my husband’s sock drawer and wear his argyle socks. BTW, I’m 65. If an old lady like me can pull it off, all the rest of you should GO FOR IT!!!

  11. Stardust

    Glad to hear the outcome! Thank you for the update, OP! And so glad that you talked with your manager and found out that Emma was giving you bad advice. It sounds like a really toxic coworker/friendship.

    Speaking of cute socks, I’ve also seen fun ones at Earth Fare (a grocery store) with fun designs and sassy comments on them.

  12. OP

    If anyone reads this at a later time I wanted to let you guys know that I have a new update. I’m finally getting promoted! I plan to wear my fox socks on my first day as Third Key to celebrate.

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