my boss thinks we’re best friends, including social media on a resume, and more

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

1. My boss thinks we’re best friends and I hate it

Previously, I was having problems with a coworker and thanks to your advice, things have improved greatly! But now, since I had to go to my boss more than once about the initial situation, my boss now thinks that we are best friends. It has come to the point that I am disgusted that I even let it get this far.

First things first, ever since I had to go to her about my coworker, she now thinks that everytime I go into her office, it’s time to have a gossip session. I normally just shake my head and try to change the subject, but she constantly gossips and tells me about my coworker and everything she messes up on, including anything that my coworker tells her.

She is also helping me study for a certification but every time I go into her office to study, she will ask me “instead of studying today, do you want to go shopping?” which I always decline but she still continues to ask. Lastly and most inappropriate, she is constantly buying me things! One time I told her “cute shirt!” and I guess that night she went and bought the same shirt and brought it to me the next day and in response, I didn’t even know what to say. She has tried to buy me clothes, food, my son video games, and items for Christmas. Any time I decline her items, she says “I’m your boss and elder, so you have to accept them!” and then walks off. I feel disgusted and completely violated. Should I go to HR? I’m afraid if I say something to my boss, she will completely turn around and treat me badly like she does other people that have complained about her.

Can you stop having study sessions with her? It sounds like that would help, as would minimizing your contact with her in general.

The next time she tries to give you a gift, say this: “You’re so thoughtful to give me things, but I have to be honest — I don’t feel right accepting them, since you’re my boss. I wouldn’t want it to look unfair to anyone else. I hope you understand.” If she tries the “I’m your boss and so you have to accept it,” say this: “That’s really exactly why I don’t feel I can. Thank you for thinking of me, but I don’t feel right about it.” And if she persists beyond that, just take the stuff and donate it.

When she tries to gossip, say this: “I probably shouldn’t hear this about Jane. But can I ask you about (work-related topic)?”

Ultimately, though, you’ll have to decide how much you can set boundaries without facing her petty retaliation. Often if you say this sort of thing warmly and cheerfully, you can stay in the petty person’s good graces. But other times, you can’t, so —depending on what you know of her and what you see as you try to start setting boundaries— you may need to accept that dealing with this is the price of staying on in this job.

2. My coworkers want to make my job harder in order to make their jobs easier

I’ve been having issues with my ex-team-members since an organizational restructuring saw my job better suited to another department. One issue I am having is they have asked me to change one of my processes to make theirs easier, except it will increase my currently high work load. I have explained this to them and tried to offer alternatives but they won’t consider anything and keep emailing with their request to make the change.

Am I wrong in refusing to do this? Is their disregard for my job and the constant emailing me edging into bullying and harassment to get their way? As I have already given them my answer with fair reasoning and possibly solutions would it be inappropriate to just stop responding to their constant requests? Unfortunately they are known bullies in our organization and it seems nothing ever gets done.

This sounds like routine workplace conflict, not bullying or harassment. It’s also the sort of thing that in most jobs you shouldn’t decide on your own; you should talk to your manager and find out how she wants you to proceed, unless you’re 100% sure that you have the authority to say no.

It’s possible that from an organizational perspective, it actually makes sense for you to do what they’re asking. Sometimes something will cause more work for one person but still be the right call for the organization. For example, you might be understandably annoyed that coworkers were sending you messy expense reports, causing you to have to spend your time cleaning to up, but it still might make sense for the organization to have you do that rather than to have highly-paid VPs spend their time on that instead of bringing in new business. There are all kinds of examples like this, and you won’t necessarily know if that kind of thing is in play without talking to your boss.

Also, if you talk to your boss, it might turn out that she fully backs you in saying no, in which case you can refuse with more confidence, and you can tell your coworkers that you’ve discussed it with your boss and she agrees you shouldn’t do it, and that they’d need to talk to her if they want to change that. And your boss is also better positioned that you are to talk to your coworkers’ boss if that becomes necessary.

3. I was sent more work after my internship ended

While I was interning at a legal think tank, a research fellow assigned me and another intern some work on a Wednesday. I informed her that my internship would be getting over the very same week on Friday. She acknowledged that and stated that the other intern would be present the next week and I could help her out if I wanted to, though it was up to us two interns and she would not get involved.

The work we did on Thursday was junked as she changed the format and the method we were to follow while searching for certain cases. In effect, I only worked on it on Friday (my last day), and I wasn’t particularly productive that day as I had taken up some other work from another research fellow which I was to submit the next day.

The next week (several days after my internship ended), the other intern contacted me and asked me to help her complete the task. Further, the research scholar puts a note on the document saying “get Fergus (my name) to do this.” Am I being unreasonable in denying to continue working on the project?

No, not at all! I’d approach this as if the scholar just forgot your internship ending date (which she really may have) and as if the other intern didn’t realize your internship was over. Say something like this, “Actually, Friday was my last day of interning, so I can’t help with this anymore. Good luck with it!”

If after that they for some reason they ask you to work on it anyway, that would be really audacious and weird and you do not need to comply. In that case, you could just respond with, “Now that my internship is over, my time is committed to other projects. Sorry I can’t help!”

4. Are you obligated to disclose a workplace romance?

I’m curious about your stance on whether you should disclose a workplace romance. If two peers report to the same manager and have no supervisory duties, is there an obligation to disclose a long-term relationship to their manager? In this case, there is no workplace policy on dating coworkers.

If neither of you has authority over the other — and that includes even little tasks, not just being the person’s boss — I don’t think you’re obligated to disclose. Lots of people date coworkers and choose to be discreet about it, and if it’s not impacting the work or subjecting your employer to legal risk, it can just be your business. But you do have to be prepared to disclose if something happens that would change those conditions, like if you were asked to oversee your significant other on a particular project or even just to give feedback as part of her performance evaluation.

5. Including social media on a resume

I was wondering about how to showcase public social media to employers. I’m a university student studying a directly vocational degree. I’ve been advised to start and maintain a public social media presence (Twitter and blog) for the particular subset of my discipline that I would like to pursue. I’ve started doing this, and it’s rewarding in its own right, but I’m definitely doing it with an end goal.

My question is, how do you appropriately highlight this to prospective employers? Is there room on your resume to put a blog URL or Twitter handle?

Sure. You can put the blog in an Other Experience section. If your traffic numbers are impressive, include those too.

Twitter probably isn’t weighty enough to go there, but it could go under your contact info at the top of your resume.

And this is probably obvious, but keep in mind that anything you include on your resume may be scrutinized. You want to make sure the writing is polished and you’re not posting things you wouldn’t want an employer to see.

{ 128 comments… read them below }

  1. Cambridge Comma*

    For #5, you could consider making it prominent on your blog/website, if it isn’t already, so that people who go there will also see it.
    Perhaps Alison’s advice that Twitter isn’t substantial enough for your resume might be different if the vacancy had specific social media tasks.

    1. Optimistic Prime*

      Also depends on the field – in mine Twitter is pretty heavily used, so it wouldn’t be at all weird to include it. People put it on their business cards and in presentations.

      1. Fake Eleanor*

        Mine, too, but it would look odd to do more than include your Twitter handle as a way of contacting you, similar to email or phone number.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Right — if it’s in the content part of your resume, it really needs to be about an achievement, so simply listing your Twitter account there would be weird, unless you can put it in some sort of broader context.

          1. Bureaucrat with a Side of Coffee*

            There’s a lot you can put there – avg. impressions/engagements per month, followers, etc.

          2. thebluecastle*

            My apologies if this is a question better suited for tomorrow! I can totally repost it then if this is the wrong format. I have a similar issue as OP #5, I am applying for a position at a nonprofit that deals with refugee artisans creating let’s say, handmade teapots, who is looking for a program manager to help with social media. I have a decent social media presence in this field since making handmade teapots is a hobby of mine. I want to highlight this in my cover letter. Should it only go in my cover letter or should it also be on my resume, and if I do include it how do you list an Instagram account? Do you write out the entire

        2. OP#5*

          This makes sense. I suppose the way I’ve been using Twitter is more to engage people in the field, respectfully and constructively (with a little bit of engaging in another academic area that I have a non-vocational interest in).
          So, a thing is being discussed quite publicly which involves a subset of my field that I know more about than the average student (because of a previous qualification). A modification is being proposed which is, to the mind of many, a knee jerk reaction. I say something along the lines of knee jerk reactions have been shown in many instances to create bad policy. (This is my most “liked” tweet to date, but it’s indicative of what I try to do)

    2. OP#5*

      Thank you! (At the moment I have a “links” section- blogroll, resources related to my field, that sort of thing, and I’ve put a link to my Twitter profile in there)
      If I were applying for jobs right now, neither Twitter nor my blog would at this stage be substantial enough to include on a resume (they’re both fairly new), but I’m at a fairly early stage of my degree so I’m not too worried about that at the moment. My question was more for 6-12 months in the future when I start to apply for vacation work or similar (I didn’t know how long the lag time on Alison’s answers was, if my question were to be answered at all, and am surprised at how quick the answer was).
      My discipline isn’t terribly socially media heavy (there are some exceptions), but the subset I’m particularly interested in doesn’t have a great number of opportunities to get experience/ credibility before the point where you need experience, and one way of gaining credibility (I’ve been told) is to blog in particular. I will say, it’s a broad, vocational discipline- there are areas where there are lots of opportunities, money to be made, etc, and there are areas that are much more passion-based. I’m (unfortunately?) more interested in the latter. I will say though- and I’m not sure this is the right move, but it’s probably more conservative for now- I’m publicly keeping my options open. I gather that displaying values/ passion too prominently can look bad to the more commercial employers, so, although I have very strong political views which inform why I’m doing what I’m doing, I’m trying very hard to keep them to myself.

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        Keeping your options open before you finish your degree is absolutely the right move. One area has your interest now, but you may learn something about other areas that hook you.

        1. OP#5*

          Oh, for sure. I was surprised this year (my first of three years). The subject I thought I’d hate and be terrible at rather grew on me and I turned out to be in the top 5 in a cohort of over 200 people. It’s certainly made me consider more options.

  2. Cambridge Comma*

    #2, is there anything in your current workload that the coworkers in the request coukd take responsibility for in return?

  3. Panda Bandit*

    LW #1 – I’m dealing with similar and I feel your pain. My boss suggested we go on vacation together. I would have liked to run out screaming, never to return.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I love my boss, loved my last boss, and loved the boss before that—both as professionals and as fantastic human beings. You could not pay me enough to go on vacation with any of them.

        1. ZucchiniBikini*

          Most bosses I have had I would 100% endorse this, but I do have one ex-boss who became a personal friend after we were no longer working together, and we have been away together as part of group weekend trips! But a) that was years after she was my boss and b) it was in a group of 10-12 people, not one on one.

        2. Quackeen*

          I even have a (mild, manageable, nothing-to-see-here) crush on my boss and vacation sounds like a nightmare.

        3. Amber T*

          I feel like anything *fun* that extends overnight (obviously professional conferences and the like don’t count) is just a big ol’ NOPE from me. Thankfully it seems to be the case for everyone at my workplace as well.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        “I’d rather have another root canal than go on vacation with my boss.”

        Serious question: Does the boss vacation come with Vicodin? Because when I had a root canal, they gave me some Vicodin, and that’s the only way I can imagine getting through the boss vacation.

    1. anon for this (sorry, team)*

      I’m a new manager and would rather serve as a mosquito buffet than go on vacation with any of the direct reports I inherited.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I’d rather eat a mosquito buffet than go on holiday with any of my colleagues or my manager, even though I like all of them.

        1. Specialk9*

          Ha ha gross, but me too!

          I read once, as a preteen, that eating lotsa mosquitos makes one sweat something that repels mosquitos. I have no idea if that’s a real thing, but I spent a lot of time weighing my options if I were in the Amazon without repellant, and whether I could get diseases that way.

    2. krysb*

      My boss and I went on vacation together last year. We visited 14 states in 8 days. Of course, our relationship is such that this isn’t weird.

      1. Vacationing Boss*

        My boss vacations with one of my peers and one of their direct reports. It is not weird for them. It is incredibly weird for the rest of us.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    Am I misreading #3? It sounds like OP explicitly told the research fellow that her last day was on Friday, and several weeks have passed. I assume her co-intern also knows. Should she still approach as if they may have forgotten that she’s no longer there?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Thanks so much! I see now that (as Topher notes) I had totally confused how much time has passed. I feel like I have a better grip/understanding on the response, now.

    1. Toph*

      It sounded to me like her last day was Friday, and several days have passed, not weeks. I think it’s the following week (as of when they wrote in, don’t know about now). I’ve known enough managers who are told something Monday and forget it by Wednesday that I think it’s entirely possible the manager did not retain the whole “last day Friday” conversation, and while the co-intern may have been well aware of it, if Manager said to ask, they might have auto-pilot done it, not thinking to push back or remind about the last day (or possibly thinking Manager knew something they did not). So I think Allison’s suggestion is still a reasonable place to start.

      1. Mookie*

        I’d normally agree (interns do come and go at odd intervals, sometimes, and those managing them may not reliably pencil in each internship end-date on their diaries), but this bit —

        She acknowledged that [I’d be leaving] and stated that the other intern would be present the next week and I could help her out if I wanted to, though it was up to us two interns and she would not get involved.

        struck me as maybe the fellow is just crap / conflict-avoidant at managing and figured she might be able to wring additional work out of the LW under the guise of You Two Work It Out (Get ‘Er Done Though)? This is no longer the LW’s problem, I feel, unless she’s got drafts or notes or templates or something useful to the other intern that can be readily passed on as a good faith gesture.

        1. fposte*

          I don’t think it changes what the LW does: treat it as a forgetting, alert people that since you’re no longer working there you won’t be doing the work, and move on.

        2. Ego Chamber*

          “I could help her out if I wanted to” is the squidgy part that makes me feel kind of gross about the situation, because it sounds like the fellow was suggesting LW’s options are (a) volunteer to finish the research and help out the other intern, even though LW’s part of the internship is over, or (b) refuse to help someone who will clearly need help, since the fellow is flaky with their instructions on how the research should be done and clearly doesn’t respect how much one intern can get done in X timeframe.

          1) Something will go wrong with this method. 2) Whatever goes wrong is not LW’s problem. 3) LW should consider mentioning this to whoever is in charge of the internships, if s/he can do so safely without retaliation from the fellow whom s/he worked with (I’ve never done an academic internship so I don’t know how this works).

    2. Nicotene*

      This was weirdly common in my experience. I think companies figured since my labor was free anyway (to them), there was no cost to trying to get me to do more after the period ended. In several cases I did end up wrapping up tasks after the period of performance was over, because I wanted a good reference or was hoping there might be a job offer down the line. But it’s crappy. In one case I tried to push back because the term had started and I was buried in schoolwork – and the woman was really irked at me for declining, and got my adviser to insist that I put in another week. I almost failed my first exams because I was working when I hadn’t planned to, sigh. The life of an intern.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        “got my adviser to insist that I put in another week.”

        What the figurative hell is this nonsense?

        1. Nicotene*

          Well, it was an internship I had got through the college, so she knew my advisor who had connected me to the job. I’m sure he thought it was worth making me do it to maintain the connection for future interns.

  5. Engineer Girl*

    #2 – You definately need to run things by your manager. Bring your workload to her and explain that the other group wants you to do x, y, z. Tell your manager that you don’t feel you have time to do your current work plus those tasks too. Ask her how to handle the task loading. Also let her know that the other group did not contact you through their manager but peer to peer. In short, they are trying to task you.
    There may be budget issues at play too. If your manager has you do the work she’ll want part of the other groups budget to do that work.
    “It’s easier for me if you do it”‘doesnt always work at work. Never accept tasking unless it is in your command chain. Even then, always let your manager know.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      BTW – the correct response to anyone outside your command chain is “I’ll have to run that by my manager first”. Say it with a helpful smile and you’ll have appropriate boundaries.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is bang on. I was kind of surprised to hear OP was just saying “no,” and I’m curious about whether they’re the end of the line for their department or whether there are higher-ups whose approval is required to categorically just deny a request like the one currently being made.

    3. TL -*

      It does depend, though! If this is Finance/Accounting or Purchasing, or a department like that, then I think you don’t have as much sway to push back – if Mary from Finance emails me and tells me the forms have tripled in length and I need to fill them out in triplicate instead of depending on the Finance department to fill out things on the back end, I can’t really say “Oh, no, talk to my manager; that’s extra work for me and I can’t approve it.”

      If it’s someone who is upstream or downstream in the same process, then you should loop in your manager and talk to them (and also tell them all work process changes need to involve your manager first.) But, yeah, you shouldn’t pick this battle on your own. Get your manager involved and have her talk to their manager if needed.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        A process change needs input from all stakeholders. Finance just can’t arbitrarily change it without coordinating with other departments. If it means more work for the others then there needs to be a change in the operating budget. So I would argue that it still needs to go to the manager.

        1. TL -*

          I’ve always worked in big enough places that a process change isn’t being reversed because one (or ten or twenty) person doesn’t like it, so that’s definitely influencing my comment. But everywhere I’ve worked, if I went to my manager with a complaint about process change like that, they would just shrug and say that’s what is required and bureaucracy stinks.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, buy-in from stakeholders on a process change isn’t a thing at my workplace, either.

            1. Chinook*

              Mine either, half the time. When it comes to our parent company, processes will change that greatly impact the end user without input from the end user about we also need (think new form with all sorts of new fields but missing the one field that would make them useful for the end user to find in the new system or a database where you can’t sort by the person who filled in the form on behalf of someone else). I have learned to a) suck it up and live with annoyance and b)only complain when the new process makes it impossible to do our job and keep complaining up the chain of command until I find the person in charge of the process and pitch what we need for the next update (which has always worked once I can figure out who the correct person to complain to is).

              But, I have also been on the other side where I have created new processes and expanded forms and gotten push back from one group (say engineers) who really want the fields to specify where weak point in a teapot spout using degrees but everyone else in the company (both those who make the spouts and those who test them for defects) use distance from the seam. The engineers were pushing me to eliminate the distance fields because they were irrelevant to them (and more work to fill out) but that information is vital to everyone else so I had to tell them no, all those fields stay (so I was like the OP’s ex-coworkers). It helps that a)I have the backing of my manager and can also explain clearly why everything that is there needs to be there, b)I have a reputation for not liking to do something just for the sake of doing it (so inherently lazy) and try to streamline processes as much as possible, and c)I am open to all feedback and usually make the requested changes if they make sense in the overall scheme.

        2. Momofkings*

          I wish this were true at my work. Our finance department is a tyrant and changes forms and processes on a whim and without notifying anyone, then bouncing back invoices submitted for payment when they don’t comply. It’s frustrating and time-consuming to deal with them and we’ve lost some vital items because of their antiquated and overbearing requirements.

          1. Chinook*

            I feel your pain. I just found out this week that they reduced the dollar amount limit for a certain approval by a significant amount back in January. I deal with 15 of these types of things a week and no one have bothered to tell me about the change.

            And then there was the time they automated a form during year end that didn’t take into account the different approval structure in our one entity (our Canadian processes and laws seem to confuse our American owners) that ended up requiring the president of our company to approve stuff where, the day before, it only required a manager. That was when I discovered that getting to know the IT programmer who actually makes the changes (who can then pitch the change to the person who can authorize the changes) and giving him direct feedback can actually work. I always couched it as “can you help me” instead of “I need this” and was very polite and not demanding. I swear I would have brought him all sorts of coffee and baked goods if we were in the same country because of how helpful he was (and how honestly surprised he was that I thought to ask him).

            1. JGray*

              My organization changed the way accounts payables is done so instead of having one program that I dealt with before I now have three programs. So its a big pain in the butt to figure out if a bill actually got paid. It also used to take at the absolute most a week to get someone paid now the time frame is up to 3-4 weeks. Pretty much everything that I do though has to be handled a certain way so I have to constantly go to them and say we need to change this and do it this way. & I would say that AP is actually only about 2% of my job so I have something that is such a small part taking up more and more time.

          2. nonprofit manager*

            Do you work where I work? Sounds like our finance department.

            In fact, the original question made me think of some “efficiency” changes the new finance team is implementing, which will make things easier for them but create a lot more work for everyone else.

        3. all aboard the anon train*

          In an ideal world, sure. But a lot of companies, especially bigger ones, don’t do that because if they did, nothing would ever get done because you’ll always have one person who disagrees with the change or doesn’t want it to happen. Which is why sometimes changes have t go through without input from some groups.

        4. Turquoise Cow*

          In my case, it would be likely that Finance did approve it with all the other departments, but my manager never bothered to tell me that the process was now more complicated and time consuming, just spoke for me in assuming that I could take on the additional/more complex task.

          But then, I’ve always been low enough in the hierarchy that I wouldn’t have been looped in on these big decisions.

        5. JGray*

          I agree with everyone else that input from all stakeholders isn’t a realistic thing in most workplaces. I have never had a job that did that- it’s usually just oh we changed this so now do it this way.

      2. hbc*

        I’ve tended to do that too much, and I’m just now realizing it. Finance/accounting can be good at sounding like something is Mandatory*, but sometimes when we dig we find out that it’s just to make things easier for them. Like in your example, they want/need three copies of the form does NOT mean that you, personally, have to hand-fill out three copies, or even take them to the copier yourself. That should be negotiated based on a number of factors, including what saves the most time to the company overall.

        *”What if the auditor wants the file and asks if it’s possible that both signatories teamed up to create fake sales and invoices?!?! Better add a manager sign-off.”

        1. TL -*

          I meant more things like processing a PO! Anything that sounds weird, I’d just say I’m unauthorized to okay and you should talk to my boss.
          In my experience, I’ve found things that I can get away with and things that only get done once everything is correct. Depends on the department/people.

      3. TootsNYC*

        But you can (and should) absolutely go to your boss and say, “Mary alerted me that the forms are longer. This is a lot of extra work, and it’s going to impact the stuff you’re giving me to do. How do we handle it?” Maybe the solution is that some of the other work goes elsewhere, but your boss is the one who decides that.

        Your boss needs to know when her assumptions about your workload or difficulty change.

    4. Naz*

      Just an update and thank you all for your comments. My boss was very involved and backed up my decision to decline this request……. to no avail. I have had quite a few other issues with this department increasing my workload with tasks that are specific to their job alone and thus the situation was becoming quite stressful. I ended up sending an email to their manager and mine stating that I would comply to a certain degree and they agreed to this. I have had a sit down with my HR and have made them aware of the situations where I actually have been in receipt of their bullying and we have agreed to monitor this closely, and involve my boss in all correspondence necessary. I should mention that I have not made a formal complaint, I have merely made it Known that this is going on and sought advice on how “I” handle it…. and I am not the only employee being treated like this from this department unfortunately.

      1. Mookie*

        Good and juicy update. Glad to hear your boss is both looped in and on your side and that HR is receptive to feedback about an unruly and demanding department. What’s their manager got to say?

      2. Engineer Girl*

        Under these conditions there is only one response. Just don’t do the work. Let them know that your boss said no and then back it up with action. Let them email. Respond with no. If they continue then don’t respond and let it sit.

        Your biggest problem is a lack of self confidence. The bullies will exploit that.

        1. eplawyer*

          What happens if you just say no — then don’t do the work? If it is their department’s work and it doesn’t get done, the department is going to get questioned about it. It will affect their performance, not yours.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, that puzzled me; I’m not sure what you mean by “no avail” here, Naz. Were you trying to make them stop even asking you to do the work? Because you had your boss’s backing to say no, and you don’t sound very happy with the compromise that you yourself offered.

        2. Lora*

          Yeah, it sounds like they have quite the track record. Just tell them no, or variations on no:
          “I’m sorry to hear that.”
          “Can’t do it, sorry.”
          “That’s very unfortunate.”
          “I’m afraid I can’t help you.”
          “That’s nice.”
          “Mmmm. Have a nice day.”
          “Bless your heart.”
          Then their only choice left is to escalate to your boss, who also told them no, and follow up the hierarchy, in which case it’s your boss’ job to explain to the Grandboss that you’re not doing it because it’s a ton of extra work for you and unless the Grandboss will be increasing her headcount to handle their precious request then they will just have to pull up their pants and deal. And then Grandboss has a decision to make, which is still out of your pay grade, but if I were Grandboss and I’d heard complaints about this group from multiple other departments, I would bump them higher up on the list of Who To Lay Off First.

      3. hbc*

        I agree with Engineer Girl. Their emails on the topic deserve to be ignored, or responded to with some cut and paste “As we discussed and Manager agreed, this will not be covered by my department” and cc’d to their manager every time. Or forward your original answer back–that’s one of my favorite moves to show that this is an old and resolved topic.

        1. Chinook*

          “Or forward your original answer back–that’s one of my favorite moves to show that this is an old and resolved topic.”

          I agree. That is my favourite move when asked to do something that they were already told I am not suppose to do.

      4. TL -*

        Tell them you’re not able to comply beyond what was agreed upon and any further discussion needs to happen with your manager. Then, create an email filter for emails that contain the request. Send them to a folder that you don’t check. If it’s only happening in email, it’s pretty easy to make it ignorable.

        1. Colette*

          You’d want to talk to your manager first if that’s where you’re sending them so that she knows what the issues are and how it affects your work. Otherwise she may just say yes thinking it’s a minor change.

          1. TL -*

            The OP said she’s already talked to her boss and they’ve reached a compromise, but the other team is still pushing.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes — but if the OP then decides to just ignore all the requests, the boss needs to be in the loop that the other dept is continuing to push. If I found out later that the OP had taken our conversation as license to just stop responding to another team and didn’t even tell me that, I would not be happy.

      5. PB*

        Thanks for the additional information! I’m glad your boss and their boss are backing you up on this. I’ve worked some people like this, so I know what you’re going through. Good luck.

      6. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        From now on, I would just say, “if you want this to be done by me, discuss it with my manager since they already said that I am not supposed to be the one doing X.” You can copy your manager on the reply if you like. At this point they are trying to go around your boss’s “no”, not yours.

      7. The Other Dawn*

        Sounds like the two managers need to fight this out amongst themselves since the other one isn’t listening. There’s only so much you can do on your own. Good luck!

      8. AdAgencyChick*

        Oh man. Been there. At my last job an account person kept trying to push off a particularly tedious task onto my department. After I said no, she would sulk, not do the task herself, wait until the last minute, and then pull a song and dance about how it was the last minute, she had no time to do it, and she needed my team to do it for her.

        Like you, I had my boss’s support on not doing the task — and we even got HER boss to tell her she had to do it — but she still tried to get us to do it! The only thing that made her stop was when, in a meeting with several other people present, she tried passing the task off to my team AGAIN, and my response was, “The copy department will not be doing X. I have my supervisor’s full support on that.”

        I think maybe it was the “I have my supervisor’s full support” statement that finally made her shut up (at least to me — she ended up trying to get the project managers to do it after that). She wouldn’t speak to me for several days, but I was more than okay with that.

      9. NW Mossy*

        My directs get asked to do stuff for other teams all. the. time., often because they have a very diverse skill set and they’re the sort of conscientious people who hate the thought of a customer not getting what they need. Feeling positive and confident about saying “no, that’s the Llama Husbandry group’s task” or “you’ll have to get Mossy’s approval on that request” is probably the most universal thing I’ve had to coach people on.

        Say no. You have your boss’s backing to do that, so do it. You don’t have to be a jerk about it, but you don’t have to entertain unreasonable requests simply because someone asks. I push back in support of my directs a lot, because it’s part of my job to make sure that they’re filling their time with the tasks that add a lot of value for the business. Sometimes the request does add value and I’ll say yes; equally as often I see requests that don’t and I’ll say no.

        In your case, it sounds like this task has owners, but the owners just don’t want to do it. Which is fine, but perhaps a signal for the owners that if it’s a low priority for them, maybe it’s a low priority for others too and the company shouldn’t even be doing it at all unless they can find a way to do it cheaper.

  6. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 Why would you not advise going to HR in this situation?

    This stood out for me: “normally just shake my head and try to change the subject, but she constantly gossips and tells me about my coworker and everything she messes up on, including anything that my coworker tells her.”

    This is completely inappropriate and needs to be escalated somehow.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I advise going to HR for legal issues (discrimination, harassment, pay problems, etc.) but generally not for interpersonal issues. Their ability to intervene there is limited, and it’s highly likely to get back to the boss in a way that will cause tension in the relationship (and which HR often won’t be well-positioned to do anything about). Also, after a certain point in your career, you’re expected to deal with this kind of thing yourself.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I would at least advise going to another manager and not just trying to handle it by yourself.

        I just had a junior colleague come to me about problems with their line manager. I facilitated them talking to one of the managers in my team who gave them some advice. I think speaking to someone outside the situation really helped. In this case the manager was breaching HR policy, however, e.g. by repeatedly cancelling 121s (big no-no here) so it was actually potentially in HR territory.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          For some reason, going to another manager feels hinky to me. This probably varies a lot by workplace and field. But at least in my experiences, going to another manager would often be treated as escalating as going to HR or going to my GrandBoss—and that would not bode well for me with my boss (and former bosses).

          What OP is describing re: gossip is unprofessional, the gifting is inappropriate (although well-intentioned, it seems), and the chatty-shopping-times stuff is kind of obnoxious and boundary-pushing (but again, doesn’t sound malevolent). Because it’s not super egregious or illegal, yet, I think it falls within the “issues adults raise with the person who’s bothering them before escalating” box.

          I understand the power inequality concerns, the desire to maintain rapport with your boss, and the goal of avoiding retaliation or other backlash. But if there are innocuous, warm/cheery-sounding-things OP can do to try to reestablish boundaries, it seems like that should be the first step. But I’m not sure how much HR or others could do without introducing a lot more awkwardness (and likely frostiness, later).

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            By going to another manager I meant getting advice and support in a situation where someone felt stressed and isolated.

          2. Ramona Flowers*

            Also I’m not talking about a formal complaint! Just a chat!

            I talked to my grandboss for advice once when I was worried about discussing something with my manager. He was really kind and helpful.

            I feel like having good management has warped my thinking the opposite way from the usual warping.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Ohhhhh, then I agree—in many places, seeking advice from a different manager can be helpful/appropriate. I was thinking a more formal sit down than an informal advice session.

            2. MK*

              Unless you already have a relationship with another manager that makes it plausible that you went to them with your concerns, it can really backfire.

    2. Artemesia*

      Going to HR is often professional suicide; she has to make a judgment in her particular setting. And many HR departments are very weak.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I agree with this. Many times going to HR puts a target on your back. Only do it for a really good reason.

      2. Paul*

        I know in our organization for something like this we’re explicitly supposed to tell the person no first, then their supervisor if they do it again, rather than starting with HR (and now that I type that out I wonder how many times this happened for us to develop a policy?). But generally we’re supposed to work the chain of command for stuff like this, not start with HR. I was under the impression that was kind of the norm but maybe I’m mistaken?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          This has been my understanding/experience, too. I’ve always thought of HR as the place you go when there are legal issues related to employment and discrimination, whistleblower concerns (so compliance, which is a different legal bucket), questions about your rights or labor/employment issues, and straight up employment-related issues like your benefits or direct deposit or privacy/security clearances.

          But most places I’ve worked use the same framework you described for issues that don’t fall into the buckets described above—you have to start with the person with whom you have the conflict, then escalate through the chain of command. There are rare exceptions, but I don’t think the problems OP has identified meet any of the exceptions I’m used to seeing.

          1. Mookie*

            Agreed. I understand the LW’s trepidation because she’s seen first-hand the retaliation from this boss directed at others, but I think it’s more reasonable to give a manager the opportunity to respond (badly or otherwise) to a firm and unyielding “no” + [return gift / change conversation / leave when appropriate] — not just about the presents, but the whole icky shebang. I can’t imagine a third-party being receptive to a complaint that was never actually lodged with the person being complained about, whereas a particularly violent reaction from her would better support the argument that someone of authority needs to intervene because all other good options have been exhausted.

            I agree with Ramona Flowers, however, that consulting a trusted peer of the manager (provided there’s already a relationship here) to feel out a company’s culture regarding this kind of boundary-nudging could be useful, particularly if the LW intends to escalate under certain conditions as this might help her to tailor her complaint for maximum success.

            1. Channel Z*

              I agree. She is worried about retaliation, but that hasn’t happened yet. It is better not to escalate at this stage, only if and when it gets worse. There is a chance here that with continued boundary enforcement, the boss might back down. A firm, and calm, No thank you to gift, left on her desk is a good place to start. Repeat “I can’t accept this, I’m sorry” if she protests, then no more conversation and walk away.

            2. OP #1*

              This is very true. I haven’t thought about it like that. She definitely retaliates too and it’s so wrong. The girl that I was having a problem with when I first started is now treated so terribly and she always tries to show me favoritism in front of this coworker, kind of like a “in-your-face” kind of thing. It’s sick. For example: my coworker has medical issues and instead of letting her work through lunch or come in early, she makes her use sick time even though she knew this coworker would eventually have to use FMLA but yet, she approved me to work through lunches to leave early to attend school and be there on time. I didn’t even know about this until my coworker said something, almost in tears. She also tries to write my coworker up for ANYTHING and threatens to write her up if she even comes into the office 10 minutes early to get things ready for the day. She has been making her life miserable ever since my coworker went to HR over a situation that involved my boss before I even started working here over a year ago. I wouldn’t have went to my boss over this coworker if I knew how she was being treated.

              1. Lora*

                It sounds like your boss just sucks. I’m sorry. Maybe time to vote with your feet and find a new boss?

                1. Specialk9*

                  I came to say this. OP, get the cert and get out. She will likely turn on you if you won’t gossip, but nasty gossiping will be bad for you, professionally and personally. You’ve got to go.

              2. JulieBulie*

                OP, I had a grandboss and a coworker something like this. The coworker was getting on my nerves and I casually mentioned it to the grandboss. Next thing I knew, the grandboss wanted to spend all our time together trashing the coworker and trying to get me to divulge all kinds of dirt on her in the hopes that she could get rid of her.

                As I got to know the coworker better, I felt really sorry for her. I didn’t like what the grandboss was doing, and I never gave her any dirt (wouldn’t have even if I’d disliked the coworker – it’s icky). I didn’t participate in these conversations any more.

                Soon afterwards, there was a mass layoff, and both the coworker and I were included. I couldn’t accuse the grandboss of retaliation because lots of other people were laid off, there was nothing on the record, and there’s no way to prove anything.

                So my only advice is to proceed carefully. Do your best to withdraw from the ickiness, but also let someone else know what is happening because it’s really helpful to have a reality check. Let your boss be the one to escalate, but try to have a witness, too.

                1. JulieBulie*

                  I agree with Lora – transfer if you can. (I couldn’t, nor did I even think of it.)

              3. TootsNYC*

                I might suggest that you say, “I’m really uncomfortable with this sort of conversation [with any gifts]. Especially since I asked you to intervene with my colleague, it’s really important to me that I feel everything is based on professional norms, and not on any friendship or personal regard between us. Could I ask you to keep it really professional between us? It will help me and my colleague to trust that you aren’t playing favorites or placing one of us above or below the other just because you like us better.”

                1. Specialk9*

                  Absolutely don’t tell the boss to stop gossiping! This is a mean retaliator. That would just set OP up as the next target.

              4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Wow, this is really awful, OP. I wish there were a way for you and your coworker to transfer out, because what your boss is doing is so wrong and so nasty. Is there any indication that HR would back y’all up if you complained of retaliation?

                If not, then my advice would be “GET OUT!” This sounds like a really toxic environment, and your boss sounds like a really bad manager, and possibly a bad/petty/mean person.

    3. JGray*

      Take is from an HR pro that unless the boss is blatantly violating some policy, procedure, rule, or law there’s not much that we can do. Supervisors are allowed to manage in the style they want and sometimes it does end up being that a supervisor is gossipy (although this does go both ways where the employee is gossipy and the supervisor doesn’t like it). But the gift thing HR would probably tell the supervisor that it isn’t a good idea especially if the employee has asked her to stop. But again HR can’t force the supervisor to stop. We also have instances where a supervisor will call HR about a problem employee and when asked if they have talked to the employee the supervisor says no. It really doesn’t help to call us in that situation because we will tell you to go talk to your employee first.

  7. Channel Z*

    #4 At one of my old jobs, two engineers started dating, and at the start they kept it quiet because while they didn’t work on the same team, if they had one of them would have had to change teams. When they finally made it public, everyone had already figured it out. So chances are, people already know or suspect, so it might be better to disclose so there is nothing to gossip about.

    1. Halls of Montezuma*

      That’s consistent with what I am used to – any dating or family relationship means at least a different first level supervisor for the people involved, as well as the obvious not letting one manage the other.

    2. LW#4*

      There have been times that I thought management was suspicious, but we have never been asked directly. Pretty confident immediate coworkers are clueless. We do not office in the same location at this time. My partner does not wish to disclose, but we have agreed that it would be disclosed if there were ever a conflict such as supervising one another.

      Alison’s response about little tasks and feedback, however, has me thinking because we do work closely at times on various projects.

  8. Grits McGee*

    Related to OP5- what would you define as an impressive number of hits? I write blogs for my job that get 500-2000 hits per post. These aren’t big numbers objectively, but they are several orders of magnitude higher than blog posts other staff members post that are related to our work.

    1. Ego Chamber*

      I don’t know what Alison will say, but if it’s not impressive numbers in the context of The Internet, I would put the numbers in the right context for what you’re trying to say: “consistently increased traffic by xx% compared to entries written by other staff” or some such thing. You don’t want to act excited about getting 1000 hits (compared to your coworkers’ usual 100) but neglect to mention the parenthetical to a potential employer who then thinks you think 1000 is a big number when it isn’t.

  9. Roscoe*

    #2 This is a perfect example of why I think the terms bullying and harassment get thrown around way too much, because people think anything they do like falls into that territory. As far as your question though Alison is completely right. Talk to your boss. I’m actuallly not sure why you haven’t yet, unless you feel that she may agree with your co-workers. And if they are senior to you or have more “important” roles, it very well may make sense to ease their workloads, even at your expense. I’m in sales at my job, and trust me, every few months there is some new change I have to do to make my job a bit tougher in order to make it easier for others in my company who deal with customers down the line.

  10. Employment Lawyer*

    3. I was sent more work after my internship ended
    …The next week (several days after my internship ended), the other intern contacted me and asked me to help her complete the task. Further, the research scholar puts a note on the document saying “get Fergus (my name) to do this.” Am I being unreasonable in denying to continue working on the project?

    Ethically, you’re fine.
    Legally, you’re fine.
    Practically, you may be making a mistake.

    Most of the value of an internship is to get stellar recommendations, to network impressively, and to be seen as a future hire. Why jeopardize your past work? You would probably be better off if you combine them: Make sure everyone knows your internship is over (like AAM said) but do some work anyway, thereby impressing the folks you’re trying to impress.

    1. Observer*

      The question is whether that’s going to work, though. The people who give stellar reviews are the ones who pay enough attention to know what’s going on, and have enough decency to treat interns reasonably well. This manager is off on one of these two qualities.

    2. SJ*

      I dunno, it feels like a weird lesson to be teaching interns who already don’t have a lot of power to say no. Work hard during the internship, of course, but asking them to do extra work after the internship is over leans into that “gumption!” category for me.

      And then where does it stop? If the intern does some work on this project, then what’s to stop the boss from asking for more? How does the intern say no? “But you said yes before! What happened to your gumption?!”

      1. Nolan*

        It also assumes that the intern actually has the time to do the work. This was a planned end date, so there’s a good chance the op’s time is already spoken for. A simple “sorry, but Friday was my last day. Since my internship is over, I no longer have the time to do work for Company X” should do.

      2. Employment Lawyer*

        If it was me as the employer, I wouldn’t demand it. If it was me in my intern phase of life, I might do the work.

        In this context, I don’t care about changing the manager and I don’t care about changing social dynamics. I am focusing less on the principle of the thing, and more on the long-term interests of the OP. The fact of the matter is, sometimes it is sensible to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains–even if it is unfair.

        And so in THIS CONTEXT, it is quite possible the OP should suck it up and do the work.

    3. Case of the Mondays*

      I was thinking along similar lines. I’m always impressed when my legal interns reach out post internship to see if they can attend an argument for a brief they worked on or to find out how a case they worked on resolved. Lines can get blurred because some internships are for class credit or in government, they are unpaid. If the internship was paid or for class credit and you already earned your credit, you should request (politely) to be paid for any additional work you do to comply with the FLSA. Some interns get the benefit of having their name on something that is published. If that’s the case, you want some control over the finished work product and to be able to call it yours.

      If you have moved on to a different job, that’s a different story. If you are just enjoying summer break, negotiate a way to get the project done with some benefit to you.

    4. Gaia*

      It would not impress me if an intern did work after their internship ended rather than remind me that their internship had ended.

    5. JulieBulie*

      If this were a special project that Fergus had worked on for months and it just needed some finishing touches, I would agree. But it sounds as though Fergus is being asked to do routine work. Fergus should not have to do additional work outside his internship to get a good recommendation. And if the research scholar would withhold a recommendation for Fergus over something like that, then the research scholar is a power-abusing jerk.

  11. ChrysantheMumsTheWord*

    #1 – You have my deepest sympathies as I have been there. For 10 years I was managed by a director who did this – not just to me but multiple employees. She would rotate between her “favorites” and we would all commiserate because there was no higher or outside person to stop this behavior. All it would take was going to her office with a simple signature request and you would be stuck listening to whatever gossip she wanted to for hours without being able to escape.

    It isn’t a healthy solution, but as Allison says – sometimes you have to decide if the job is worth playing the game and going along with it. When I left after 10 years, she made my resignation all about her (it was definitely a big factor) and was crying about “How could I do this to her?” I immediately unfriended her on social media, which was a boundary crossing I ALWAYS regretted accepting, and she has in the year and a half since still stalked my page, tried to tag me on FB and sends me friend requests and messages. Now that I’m in a position to I ignore all of this.

    1. OP #1*

      She definitely used to do this to more than one person but they have since turned her down and she has now focused on me. The negative that they have now, is that she hates them which is almost worth it. Here recently, she was at my desk and she was locking up the drawers. She saw a paper in my drawer where I keep my keys and was like “is that a resume?!” I swear she was about to cry but it was just a paper for my sons school. She has really crossed the line as well, telling me she wanted to help pay for my wedding. Her intentions are not malicious but I was offended. My parents are pretty poor financially and I pride myself on not asking them for help and being able to pay for this myself and for her to so easily try to involve herself on something that is so personal was just disgusting to me. I have’t even known her a year.

      1. ChrysantheMumsTheWord*

        It’s sad if you think about it…because obviously there are things lacking in her own life and relationships for her to put this much personal pressure onto you.

        I definitely think Allison has the right idea with turning down the gifts and offers for $$ – because the more you accept the tougher it will be to get this monkey off your back!

        Best of luck to you.

      2. cheluzal*

        Ooof, how annoying.
        Have you ever considered just pushing back more? “Jane, stop it. It’s a paper for my son and you’re being ridiculous.”
        “Jane, stop offering me money. This is weird.” *walk away*

        If a resume has her near tears, she might not want you to leave so you have a smidgen more leverage to just be more direct. I think a lot of us want to be professional and nice, etc. but sometimes the direct approach is all that gets through.

        I had a co-worker buying me gifts. She’s an uber people pleaser and it felt so icky and I just had to say “stop” and it did.

  12. Cleopatra Jones*

    If you do have a work place romance, please please please do NOT subject your co-workers to your relationship conflicts. It makes us all uncomfortable when Joanie is mad at Chachi, and we’re stuck in the middle of the bickering. Ugh, it’!

    1. paul*

      Yep. Honestly, reading this blog has made me more understanding of why employers may ban workplace relationships within departments.

      It’s one thing in a big shop where your paths rarely cross and neither has authority over the other but man, in a small or mid sized office, I don’t think I’d want to.

    2. LW#4*

      Pretty confident that team members are clueless, so we are ok there. :) This is also one of the reasons I do not want coworkers to know. I do not want any sense of favoritism/cliques nor do I want anyone to feel uncomfortable should everything go sour. I do not want coworkers to know, but I feel somewhat obligated to disclose to our manager. My partner does not want to at this time.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I would say letting HR know would be a good idea to cover yourselves JUST IN CASE. But it’s really no one else’s business.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          This is a “know your company” piece of advice! :) If your HR is Becky With the Good HR, go ahead and tell them. At the last place I worked, disclosing to HR would be the fastest way for everyone to find out and HR was not tactful about it. (Storytime. In a conversation where “Jane” was mentioned in the context that she had just done some stellar work on a project, HR rep says “You’re talking about Jane from Rob’s team, right? Jane who’s f&cking Tim from Accounting?”)

  13. Elmyra Duff*

    I had a similar boss as #1, except any time I went to her about anything (which was a lot because she was the only person who had any answers in the department), it would turn into her bitching about the CEO, the president, the other managers, whoever. Eventually, she realized she’d told me too much and fired me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  14. Kat M.*

    Oh, I’d never even thought about adding one’s social media handles to a resume.
    I’m assuming this is one of those things that would depend on your industry and how you’re using social media? I can definitely see a marketing manager wanting to see your social media presence, but maybe not so much in accounting …

    1. OP#5*

      My chosen field is often quite corporate and traditional, but has subsets that are less so, and there’s a movement towards more public outreach (particularly but not just in those subsets).
      At the moment, as said above, I use social media to engage with people in the field (and ask hopefully good questions and/ or contribute to discussions) as well as promote my blog. My blog so far explains areas of my field that affect everyone in a way that an educated layperson should understand and/ or hopefully have opinions about. (As time goes on I plan to specialise- there are definitely professionals in my field who write within their specialism, but I’m choosing not to for now because I don’t want to pigeonhole myself).

  15. Shadow*

    I can’t tell if op4 is in the relationship or sees two co workers dating and wonders whether to report it.

    The safest thing to do is always going to be to ask your boss even though you’re not required to do so. Depending on your profession and company it may be viewed as unprofessional to date a co worker. And, if it were me I’d rather my boss find out from me rather than hearing it through the grapevine.

  16. Shadow*

    Is op 4 in the relationship or is it peers she’s thinking of reporting?

    The safest route is always to ask your boss if it’s an issue although that’s not required. If it were me I’d rather my boss find out from me than hear it through the grapevine

  17. Gibberish*

    So my question is somewhat related to #2.

    I work a job with a ton of paperwork, tracking, and multiple steps to every single thing I do (some of which makes sense, some of which is redundant, frustrating and outdated but still required).

    A new manager was just hired into another department that some of my work comes from. Not only is she completely technically incompetent, she’s unwilling to learn how to use the existing tools to get the information she needs, but wants me to create additional work for myself to pull it for her, and track additional things that aren’t necessary – she’s even said they were “just for curiosity’s sake” and we reviewed how the information she asked for would have no impact on any part of our work. During my meeting with her, I explained that the information that does matter (about 15% of what she’s asked for), is available by looking in x y and z places. She said she was too frustrated to learn more about how x y and z work and that it would save her time if I just did it instead. This extra work will slow down every step of my process, including delaying all other work I have due to other departments.

    I’m also in a unique position – she is not my supervisor, and I take work from a number of departments; I’m in a more advanced position than all of their direct reports, but not a manager myself. I need to let the other managers (one is verrrrry nominally my supervisor) know exactly what’s going on, because how many of these projects I complete is the nearly the only thing on my annual review.

    How do I say “Jeyne Westerling has asked me for additional reporting information, but even though I’ve explained in detail that it is complicated and time-consuming to create, and will not be used for any known purpose, she has insisted on it”…in a way that doesn’t sound blamey or inappropriate for a subordinate.

    It also doesn’t fit with out work culture, we are super, incredibly accommodating, and when someone pushes back, to my knowledge, it has always been with very good reason. I’m even known for “saving” my push back for when I really can’t make something happen.

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