summer intern is awful, boss wants me to make a PowerPoint for her raise request, and more

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

1. Our summer intern is awful

We are an extremely small satellite office of larger company which hires a paid intern every year. Usually, these interns have just finished graduate school in our field, and the internship has been a launching board for a number of successes, including many of the current employees. It’s not a coffee-fetching internship; it’s basically a temporary job doing the same creative work as the rest of us.

Our current intern is Not Great. It feels like having a high schooler in the office despite her being in her 20s. She makes rookie mistakes in her work, she takes an extra hour-long break just about every morning and often schedules appointments during work hours, and she just really doesn’t seem to care about making a good impression, doing the best possible job, or this field in general. The rest of us have been trying really hard to make sure that she’s having a positive experience and gaining as much experience and knowledge as she can, but she’s not great at accepting constructive criticism and hasn’t really adapted when we’ve brought up problems. She doesn’t seem willing to work hard and improve, which is what internships are for.

I don’t know if she hates us, hates the job, or just isn’t ready to have a real job with constraints and responsibilities. We have to work with her every day, just the few of us, so anything much harsher than “you need to be fixing these mistakes and behaving professionally and here’s some advice on doing those things” might cause problems for the next several months. Our manager is across the country, so he hasn’t experienced most of the problems firsthand and having him speak with her seems like it wouldn’t be useful. If I had the authority to, I’d be thinking about firing her, but I don’t.

Do we just have to suck it up? Is there a kinder way to say “if you don’t behave professionally and work to improve, this is a tight-knit industry and without recommenders you will leave this internship with worse employment prospects than you came in with”? I know that this is a short-term irritation, but I feel less charitable toward her every day and that makes it harder to keep wanting her to gain everything she can instead of just letting her be unhappy and do mediocre work for the remaining time and then never communicate with her again.

Talk to your boss, lay out the problems, and ask if he’ll deputize one of you to manage her — definitely including giving her clear and direct feedback, and potentially including ending her internship early if she doesn’t make sustained, significant improvements. (Or if he’s a good manager, he could handle this from afar — managers are increasingly managing people remotely, and there’s no reason he can’t address this himself.) If I were your boss, I would be pretty dismayed to find out that no one had told me about these problems.

Beyond that, though, any of you could have the kind of talk with her that you propose — the “hey, this is a small industry and you are hurting yourself professionally and here’s how to fix it” talk. You can frame it as “I want to see you succeed, and I hope someone would say this to me if I were in your shoes.” But I don’t think you should worry about that causing tension for the next few months — you’d actually be doing her a favor by saying something, and it’s unlikely that she’s going to go into a months-long snit. (Although if she does, at that point you can pass that on to your boss as well, and also stop going out of your way to help her out.)

2. My boss asked me to make a PowerPoint to support her raise request

I’m a temporary/contract employee at a medium-size company. When hired, I was told that my position would be temp-to-perm, but was later told that they cannot bring me on as salaried/permanent staff at this time due to budget issues.

Today my manager asked me to create a PowerPoint deck for her. She specifically noted that the deck was confidential. The text she sent me for the deck revealed that this is a personal project for her, as she wants a visual aid to bring to a meeting with HR and senior execs, where she’s asking for a significant raise and a senior role in the company.

Ethically, this feels very wrong. This is a personal project for my manager, which she’s asking me to complete on company time. Personally, it feels like a punch in the gut. Just last month this same manager told me they couldn’t afford to bring me on permanently, and now she’s asking for a raise? (Also, many of the things she’s noted under her accomplishments are tasks that I completed or did the bulk of the work on, but she’s taking credit for!)

My friends say to tell her “No way!” or let her know that I’m not comfortable completing this task. But I need this job to pay my bills, and I’m a temp in an at-will state. My manager could easily say, “We don’t need you anymore” and let me go. (Maybe I could fight it, but that’s still weeks or months where I can’t pay my rent…) What are my options here? Doing the project, quietly billing my time for it, and keeping my mouth shut seems like the only option … but it leaves a really terrible taste in my mouth.

How much time is it going to take? If it’s pretty quick, I’d just do it. It’s an inappropriate request, but that’s on your boss, not on you — and as you note, being a temp makes your position particularly precarious.

But if it would take a significant amount of time that would interfere with other work, try saying, “I’d need to bump back X and Y to fit this in today — do you want me to do that?” The more assertive version of that is “I’ve got to finish X and Y today so won’t have time to do this Powerpoint by when you need it” … but whether to go that way depends on how reasonable your boss is about being told no.

You can also ask, “How should I bill my time for this?” if you’re supposed to log your time to specific projects (but someone who would make this request is likely to tell you to bill it to admin or whatever your general overhead category is).

If it makes you feel better at all, I actually don’t think it’s inappropriate for your boss to spend her own work time on this; making a case for how she’s paid is a work activity (especially since she’s presumably exempt). It’s gross for her to ask you to work on it for her, but if you’re having major ethical qualms about this being her personal project, I do think it’s different from if she was asking you to spend company time doing her kid’s homework or something like that.

3. My boss is insisting I disclose my miscarriage

I became pregnant in the spring. It was a high-risk pregnancy so I didn’t want to disclose it to anybody at work until after the first trimester. At my most recent ultrasound, it was determined that there was no fetal heartbeat. I’ve scheduled an appointment with my doctor to deal with the aftermath. I put in a time off request under sick leave, stating that I had a minor medical procedure that day.

My boss keeps asking what I’m having done, and I keep declining to tell her, just reinforcing that it’s a minor thing and I’ll bring a doctor’s note stating it’s okay for me to return. At the end of the day, she said she wouldn’t approve my request because she “didn’t know when I’d be back,” even though I only requested one day. Per company policy, if I call out after my time-off request has been denied, I’ll be disciplined. What am I supposed to do? This is hard enough for to deal with.

What the hell? Your boss is being awful. Try saying this: “It’s a private medical situation that I don’t want to discuss. Skipping the appointment isn’t possible; it’s medically necessary. Are you saying that I need to disclose private medical information in order to have the time off?” If she says yes, talk to HR if you have them; they should intervene. If your company is small and there’s no HR, I’d seriously consider making up another medical explanation; she’s not entitled to honesty about something that’s none of her business.

4. Etiquette when the wrong person is included on an email

What is the proper etiquette when you are on an email on which someone put the wrong person (e.g., added Billy Smith but meant to add Billy Jones)? Is it better to alert them in private, add the right person yourself, ignore it, or something else? Does it make a difference if the person who made the mistake is your superior, your peer, someone unrelated, etc? What if you are the wrong recipient?

Email the person back and say “I think you meant to send this to Billy Smith but it went to Billy Jones.” That way she can fix it herself and do any follow-up with Billy Jones that needs to be done (to say “hey, please ignore this” or whatever).

If you are the wrong recipient, it’s fine to just respond back with “Wrong Billy! I think you meant this for someone else.”

You can handle it like this for people of any rank relative to yours — although if it’s someone above you, it wouldn’t hurt to also add “I’ll forward it on to Billy Smith.”

5. Should I apologize to my former boss for my role in our bad relationship?

My boss and I always locked horns. She is very good at executing her job but terrible when it comes to managing people. Long story short, I quit. I miss the benefits and the pay and feel like I shot myself in the foot. I haven’t had a job on that level since I quit.

Should I write her an apology for the part I played in our sour relationship? Even if one person is a demeaning jerk, it takes two to tango. I let her bad management bring out the worst in me. I wouldn’t want to work for her again and would mainly be apologizing because it is the right thing to do.

I don’t know enough about what happened between you to know if you have anything to apologize for, but if you believe you do, then yes. There’s no harm in being gracious about the situation, and it could potentially help you in the future (for example, if she happens to know someone who you’re applying for a job with).

I’d just be careful to word it in such a way that you’re not reopening old wounds — don’t rehash the details of what went down or get so into explaining your actions that you put her on the defensive. Focus on the “taking responsibility for my actions” part.

{ 397 comments… read them below }

  1. Gwen Stefani-Shelton*

    OP #3, I am so sorry. This completely sucks. Your boss is being a real jerk and I think “Are you saying that I need to disclose private medical information to have the time off?” should be accompanied by a deadly eyebrow raise. I hope your boss backs way off about this. I’m so sorry.

    1. Artemesia*

      This is such a difficult thing to go through; congrats to your idiot boss for making it even more miserable. I strongly endorse Alison’s suggestion to lie if you can’t get HR to handle this for you. So sorry you have to deal with this on top of your personal loss.

      1. Anonymouse*

        As I suggested below you can say gynological appointment. Sound defensive and reluctant to keep up the cover.

        But it sucks you even have to consider doing this.

        1. Sharon*

          I would make it something less close to the truth and way more embarrassing for the manager to know. Like an appt to get hemorroids taken care of or something.

          1. Anonymouse*

            I’m guessing this boss is nosy enough to Google the doctor.

            You’d want something in their wheelhouse if they insist on the name before seeing them.

            But yeah, boss is a jerk.

    2. Willow*

      I’m wondering if the boss picked up on the pregnancy and thinks it’s an abortion, and is trying to impose her views.

      1. Anonymouse*

        That’s a thought that’s even worse.

        Even if it was the case OP can decide her own medical care for her body and make her own choices and beliefs.


      2. Anonymous for this*

        This was my first thought. The boss may have picked up on the high-risk pregnancy and assumed there was prenatal testing with results that led to “a procedure,” meaning termination for medical reasons. Of course it’s possible I’m projecting, since this is unfortunately a situation I found myself in.

        I’m so sorry for your loss, OP. Pregnancy loss is horrible and your boss’s actions are the opposite of what is helpful right now.

        1. Anon for this*

          That was my first thought too, because one of my exes had his boss do it to him. Deep South, deeply religious boss, ex’s wife was pregnant and actually carried to term and the kids are now in their 20s. Can’t remember what made the boss jump to the conclusion that the wife was getting an abortion, but he told a bunch of people in the ex’s office. Ex walked into the office one morning to death glares from everyone for no reason he knew of. He was furious when he found out, went to HR, and they came down on the boss pretty hard.

        2. Mike C.*

          Holy shit, this is incredibly messed up. I thought I couldn’t be shocked at the crap managers pull but once again I’ve been proven wrong.

      3. Foreign Octopus*

        Just when I thought this letter couldn’t get worse, it did. I really hope that this is not the case.

      4. Apollo Warbucks*

        That’s an absolutely horrible thought, I really hope the OPs boss isn’t doing that.

      5. Allie Oops*

        Unfortunately, this was my first thought as well. If that is what boss thinks, and OP decides to invent an alternate reason, I really hope boss doesn’t double down on jerkiness, assuming she’s right.

      6. Sans*

        One time I had to take a day off for a breast biopsy. (Turned out okay.) But I just told my boss it was a minor medical procedure. Found when when I got back that he was wondering out loud to several people whether I was having an abortion and was asking people I was close to if they knew why I was out.

        There was no reason to think I was pregnant in the first place. And for him to speculate to others was disgusting. So, yeah, that’s what I thought of here as well. It’s possible she thinks it’s an abortion and is trying to put her two cents in. Which is indefensible.

      7. LadyL*

        Oh god, sadly I could believe that. There are far too many people out there who believe defending “the unborn” should come at the expense of the already birthed person in front of them.

        Even if that’s not the motive, what a horrible boss.

        1. Chinook*

          Please don’t lump us all together. I am one of those who believes in defending the unborn but I know enough to understand that a)there are reasons for abortions that have nothing to do with ending a life (which is what the OP is doing – aborting a pregnancy, not a life), b) it is none of my business why someone is going to see any type of doctor, and c) even if I was against why she is going to go to a doctor, refusing her the opportunity and risking her employment by doing so is not going to change her choice.

          OP, you boss is an idiot and isn’t going to change. Tell him you are having a growth removed (non cancerous but causing issues) or going on a follow up. Both are still correct, give enough details to keep the nosy happy but vague enough that you don’t have to deal with any emotional fall out.

          I also hope you take time off for yourself because you are experiencing a loss and need time to process without being surrounded by an idiot.

          1. Agnodike*

            The OP is not “ending a pregnancy.” Her pregnancy has ended. She has had a miscarriage. What an insensitive way to frame her loss.

            1. Candi*

              Medically, it is considered a non-viable pregnancy until the procedure is done. A miscarriage is when the child is no longer in the womb and can not survive on her own.

              In any form, it SUCKS. And the boss is the lowest level of gutter crawling scum sucking bottom feeder.

        2. JoAnna*

          I am staunchly pro-life, as well as someone who has had 3 missed miscarriages and 1 natural miscarriage, and I am appalled by this boss’ behavior. The proper response when an employee requests time off for a medical procedure is, “Yes, of course. Let me know if you will need more recovery time.”

          Period, end of story.

      8. Gwen Stefani-Shelton*

        OMG, it never would have occurred to me that that might be the case. I’m now even more horrified, and especially that more than one boss has apparently jumped to this conclusion and felt within their rights to speculate about it in front of other employees! People really can be the worst.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      A hell yes to the deadly eyebrow raise. I think a dead-eyed, frosty tone would also be merited.

      I am so sorry that you’re going through this experience, OP, and I’m sorry your boss is being a controlling, prying jerkwad. I hope the frostiness will get her to snap to her senses. If it does not, then I agree that a lie is in order. But I really hope it doesn’t get that far, because I don’t want her to feel like her bad behavior led to her “winning” on this issue or on her approach.

      1. Myrin*

        Completely agreed. I, too, am so extremely sorry for your loss, OP.

        In case you’d like some pointers if it does get so far that you feel like you have to make up something, feel free to use my very own experience: I have a lot of moles and sometimes they change shape/size/colour; that isn’t super swell in and off itself but my family also has a history of skin cancer, so I have to monitor these spots pretty carefully.

        I’ve had to have big moles removed a couple of times now – it is always a procedure that needs to happen fast but not necessarily too fast (so it would be far enough in the future that, like you, I’d know beforehand to request time off), that is somewhat exhausting in such a way that I’d need a whole day off, but also not horrible in any way so that I’d be able to be at work again the next day no problem. In other words, it’s the perfect excuse!

        That being said, I agree with the Princess that I hope it won’t get that far and maybe your weirdo boss will then want to see the scar but then this turns into a whole ‘nother problem altogether!

        1. Natalie*

          My ex had a mole removed from his butt. If for some reason the boss wants to see the scars, just say they’re somewhere you can’t show.

          1. Annony For This One*

            I have had spots removed from my cervix…the biopsy was way worse than the removal. Nevertheless, it’s an excellent thing to say to embarrass the boss for asking such a ridiculously impersonal question. Also, I would take a couple days to yourself OP

            1. Anon for Now*

              Whoo, I’ve had that twice…the first time, I made the mistake of going back to work afterward. One of my coworkers who knew marched me back to the door and told me to go home. I can’t imagine my boss getting that nosy about something so personal. OP, your boss is ridiculous.

          1. Lora*

            Had a college friend who had to re-schedule a seminar and our genetics prof was giving her heck about it, and she finally told him, “I’m having an anal fissure repaired, you don’t need to tear me a THIRD a**hole, I’ve already got two!”

            1. Southern Ladybug*

              I am very sorry for your friend, but I did laugh at this. It’s a great comeback. And in the moment!

        2. Breda*

          I was going to suggest this lie as well: having a mole removed, or a basal cell carcinoma. Hopefully, of course, the boss will back off at the implication that she’s doing something both rude and illegal, but if not, this can be an easy self-protection lie.

        3. Red 5*

          I’ve had a couple different biopsies and had skin growths removed because I’m fair skinned with a history of skin cancer. This actually is a decent lie because it’s a procedure that you have to get done sooner rather than later, but doesn’t require a lot of time off to take care of. And only one of mine has been in a place that could be displayed in a professional setting, and it happens to be the one that didn’t scar anyway because it was so small.

          There is always a risk with lying to a terrible boss, and to add that to the situation you’re already going through is awful and I’m sorry that you’re dealing with this OP. I’m sorry for your loss, and I’m sorry that you’re not able to find the support you need at work, I hope that your partner and your family can fill that gap. Please take care of yourself, and spare no thoughts for this boss besides what you need to get through this awful situation.

    4. Jane*

      OP3 I’m so sorry for your loss. I recently went through the exact same thing, and it caused some similar nosiness/negativity from my boss. I talked to my company’s EAP and they gave me advice very similar to Alison’s. While the advice helped, the situation made me realize my boss is a jerk who is not going to change, and I’m now job searching. I hope things turn out better for you. You’re in my thoughts.

      1. constablestark*

        I would say the same thing. OP3’s boss has revealed themselves to be a nosy jerk, and with those folks, it’s only a matter of time.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        My boss and big boss were wonderful when I had miscarriage … PA to CEO not so much. She didn’t know details, but when I told her I was sorry but would be unable to attend a formal office party that night (within an hour of getting home from hospital- thinking it would be thoughtful tnot to leave her hanging), she sent a very snotty, passive aggressive email saying amongst other things that it would have been nice to have been told before she’d ordered the meals.

        She’s the only person in my company I actively dislike.

        1. Cranberry*

          Maybe I’m just too obnoxious for my own good, but in that situation I would have sent her email (if it was clearly overly passive aggressive) to my higher ups and mention that it was inappropriate for the situation. I know my boss would stick up for me and is even pettier than I am for this kind of thing, so ymmv, but I don’t think people should be able to get away with that kind of nonsense.

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            At the time I didn’t have energy – did kind of fantasise about having some kind of conversation at a later date, but I felt it was way too late to do anything. Just very thankful that her interactions with IT are minimal and even fewer with me personally!

        2. Purple snowdrop*

          I would have been sorely tempted to reply “I’m sorry to hear that my bereavement has inconvenienced you”, just to make a point (and whether she knew about it or not). But probably wouldn’t have actually since it. :(

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            I had wording come to me later on “I would like to assure you that I will make every effort to refrain from having a miscarriage on the morning of the next year’s party.” … or something along those lines… but at the time I just saw it, cried and ignored it.

          2. Red 5*

            Yeah, I would have written that email and then not sent it, because I’m like that. I’ve written a lot of angry emails and then deleted them, because I try to make myself wait at least ten minutes to send anything angry.

            Which is also what the woman complaining about one extra place setting should have done. What a jerk. Akcipitrokulo, I’m sorry you had to deal with that on top of what was already a terrible experience, I’m sure.

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              Thanks :)

              Yeah I’m glad I didn’t send something like that. Would have been counter productive… but was helpful to get wording of what I *would* have written.

      3. TheBeetsMotel*

        At OldRetailJob, I had a coworker who miscarried. We all kind of worked out why she was out for a couple of days, but even the assistant department manager had the tact to say, to anyone most enough to ask, “she’s going to be out Wed and Thur, and that’s all anyone needs to know.”

        The store director? Spread around that it was a miscarriage like so much butter on toast. It was awful.

        That store director didn’t last long.

    5. President of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club*

      I am very sorry for your loss as well. I hope that you have HR at your company who can help you deal with this, but if you don’t have HR and she won’t back down, I would take Alison’s advice and make something up. You could say you’re having a colonoscopy, or having a benign cyst removed (from some body part that you can’t show her), or a cystoscopy (bladder scope) done. Those are all things that only take a day, and have nothing to do with pregnancy, and are hopefully personal-sounding enough that she’ll stop asking questions.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Thank you; these are good practical suggestions for a plausible medical lie.

        OP3, I am so sorry this is happening to you. The medical side–without the horrible boss–happened to me, and it’s very hard and like Akcipitrokulo you don’t have extra emotional reserves on top of physical reserves to deal with people being nosy and horrible.

        1. Infinity anon*

          Another option is to double down on not disclosing the details. She said that she can’t approve it because she doesn’t know when you will be back. I would get a note from my primary care physician that I am having a minor medical procedure done on X date and will be able to return to work the next day. Absolutely no additional information but it addresses the objection that she raised. I’m sure she wants the details, not just reassurance about the time frame, but she has no right to that information.

        2. Akcipitrokulo*

          Definitely. Self-care is so important – there is no way I would have felt able to handle a difficult boss at that time. op – you’re doing incredibly to have managed so far, and lots of best wishes for getting through this.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        Excellent practical suggestions, and an excellent user name as well (Jesus loves winners!)

      3. blackcat*

        Another option is to say something like, “I need to have a minor surgery done ASAP. It’s not an emergency or life-threatening right now, however if I don’t have it done soon, I could get a very, very serious infection.”

        It’s easy to blame that on a cyst or similar, if the boss asks further, but the above is true. If you can stomach the words “necrotic tissue,” I might use those.

        I am so, so sorry OP.

      4. ExceptionToTheRule*

        If it comes down to lying – these are great options, especially the colonoscopy, because you can easily say everything came back normal but they had to remove a couple of polyps to explain away looking/feeling a bit emotional the next day. OP, I’m terribly sorry for your loss & terribly sorry that your boss is an insensitive ass.

    6. Akcipitrokulo*

      I am so sorry for your loss. It’s a dreadful time and you don’t need cacktail like boss making it worse.

    7. Gatorade*

      I find the difference in expectations/norms around sick leave between countries fascinating. Here in the UK you have to let your boss know why you’re off sick, you would never be able to get away with a ‘it’s none of your business why’ as they expect to know the nature of your illness so they can predict when you’ll be back/how long it will last/any accommodations they may need to make. I don’t ethically have an issue with that either; if they’re paying you while you’re not there, I think it’s fair for them to know what the reason is you’re off. I’ve noticed some US companies have a bank for sick and vacation leave though so maybe that’s the idea, if you’re choosing to be off it’s irrelevant why as it would be inappropriate for them to ask why you’re taking vacation.

      Anyone in the US have a similar system to ours where you need to give a reason for your sick absence? Or is it pretty much allowed to be kept private across the board?

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I’m in the UK and have absolutely never shared details of some of my time off, you can self certify for a week after that a doctors note is needed, the only note I’ve ever had simply said “post op recovery”

        Normally I’d explain the sickness in vague terms such as upset stomach, flu or a bug and that’s always been enough.

        1. Clewgarnet*

          I’m also in the UK.

          Our timesheet system asks for a reason for sick leave from a drop-down box, but it’s as vague as ‘Cold/flu’, ‘Injury’, ‘Oncology’, and there’s never been any fall-out from just putting ‘Other’.

          The only time I’ve had to go into more detail was when I was signed off for six weeks and, at that point, the insurance system kicked in and needed all kinds of stuff.

          The idea of being denied sick leave is unthinkable, and I can’t imagine what OP is going through.

          1. Red 5*

            I’m in the US and our timesheet form also has a drop down for sick leave and the options are basically “doctor’s appointment” and “illness.” When I first saw the spot that said “reason” I started to get mad until I saw how incredibly vague they were, and I could see the difference between requesting time for a doctor’s appointment and for an illness. One has a definitive start and end, the other is more open and your boss might want to know that.

            I think anything above that really should be up to the worker to share or not. I have a chronic illness and I take a LONG time to say that to new employers because it’s been used against me in the past.

            1. Lefty*

              Also in the US- our timesheets have 4 options, but are very vague: “Appointment- Self”, “Illness-Self”, “Appointment- Other than self”, and “Illness- Other than self”. We have been told this distinction is to help with FMLA processing. Most of us generally seem to like it because it’s vague enough to give us privacy but specific enough when it needs to be categorized.

              1. Red 5*

                I was thinking the categories might be helpful for FMLA, but having not used FMLA myself I wasn’t actually sure. That makes sense to me, there’s a lot of regulations about it and they do need a lot of info.

        2. Narrator for bad mimes*

          Same, UK and never had to explain sick leave or time off. Which is good because some of it has been for attending interviews.

          1. AJHall*

            Any UK firm who has a general form (that is, a form the circulation of which isn’t confined to HR) about the reason for sick leave is probably breaching the Data Protection Act with respect to processing sensitive personal data and risking fines which are due to rise to astronomic heights after 25 May 2018 when the new law comes in.

            Coming from that background, I think OP3’s manager is behaving appallingly.

        3. Tau*

          Previously in the UK, and my experience has been the same as Gatorade’s – there is absolutely no way I’d have been able to get away with refusing to provide an explanation for sick leave. Hell, I once tried to stay vague when calling in sick (“I’m not feeling well and won’t be able to come in”) to be told that I needed to be more specific.

          That said, I don’t agree that it’s OK and am very much hoping new employer will not pull this nonsense.

          1. Ekat*

            This is also my experience in the UK. We need to be specific e.g. ‘I have a cold/vomiting/headache/back injury’ etc. not just ‘I am not feeling well’. The reason for the absence is recorded on our leave record.

          2. Gatorade*

            Thanks guys (Tau and Ekat), I was starting to feel like it looked as though I was exaggerating or making it up. Or that somehow all of my workplaces have been abnormal in that sense, which doesn’t make any sense.

        4. SarahKay*

          I’m another UK person, and I suspect it varies by company.
          About five years ago my company introduced ‘Return to Work’ forms that had to be completed by the sick person and their manager, including listing what was wrong with you. My manager at the time happened to manage most of the women on our site (my site skews heavily towards male Teapot repairers and female teapot admin staff) and he was probably more unhappy about the form than we were. Specifically, he was heard saying to our HR leader in a horrified voice “But if I ask them, you do realise that they’re going to tell me?!? In detail!”
          And he was right *evil grin*. Most of us were in our thirties or above, so not shy about giving really detailed information that tends to have men saying TMI!
          The forms are confidential – only your manager and HR will see them, and I know my company is very serious about staying with the law, so I have no doubt that it’s legal for the company to enforce completion.
          However, that’s the UK. For OP#3 it sounds like her boss is outside the law, and unreasonable besides!
          OP, I recommend either the frosty look to go with Alison’s wording, or else a lie about whatever embarrassing ailment you think will most make your boss regret asking.

      2. Llama Wrangler*

        My current job is very laid back and I work from home so it isn’t really an issue. My previous job was with a large global company. We had a bank of PTO with no separate sick time. My boss, who was VP of Compliance (amongst other things) and a very regimented play by the rules kind of man, would actively cut you off if you made any attempt to explain anything remotely medical. He believed it was none of his business and beyond knowing you wouldn’t be in and whether or not it might require more than a day or two off, he did not want to know any details. I appreciated his approach so much!

        1. Red Reader*

          yep, my previous boss was like “Please do NOT tell me the details of your illness, just tell me that you’re going to be off and when we should expect to see you again.”

      3. Mike C.*

        No, that’s absolutely crazy. Paying you for time does not entitle the employer to private medical information.

      4. Purplesaurus*

        What?! No. Think about it; using this logic, your employer is entitled to know how much you drank or how much sex you had while they paid for your vacation.

        1. TheBeetsMotel*

          And what charities or political parties I might donate money to, seeing as it’s THEIR money that THEY gave me?!

      5. WellRed*

        Is your company more more qualified to determine when an employee will be back than the employees doctor? No. This is such a violation of privacy. Not to mention, everyone recovers differently.

      6. Health Insurance Nerd*

        “you would never be able to get away with a ‘it’s none of your business why’ as they expect to know the nature of your illness so they can predict when you’ll be back/how long it will last/any accommodations they may need to make”

        Ok, but she explained she was having a minor procedure, and only needed one day. The details of what she is having done are truly none of her bosses business, and the expectation that they are is a total invasion of privacy. It isn’t the responsibility of the company/boss to predict when someone can return to work, that’s what a doctor does.

        1. Koko*

          Yes, we’ve had letters here of boss’s whose predictions sharply differed from the employee’s doctor – in both directions, with bosses who were trying to make employees take more time than the doctor recommended and those who insisted the employee come back sooner than the doctor recommended. In either case, the doctor’s recommendation is what should be heeded!

      7. Akcipitrokulo*

        Yeah, UK here – been at some companies where they would want details, but for the most part “was ill” “minor op” “had cold” has been enough.

        When was off for a few weeks had to explain more – but that’s reasonable I think to give a general idea. Current company was awesome (I had depression/anxiety) but hate to think how a couple of previous ones would have reacted.

      8. aebhel*

        That’s nuts. If they need to know those how long the employee needs off or what accommodations they’ll need when they get back, they should ask those things. Unless the boss has some medical expertise, telling them exactly what procedure you’re having done wouldn’t actually give them that information anyway.

        My sick time is part of my compensation, anyway. It’s none of my boss’s business how I use it.

      9. TheFormerAstronomer*

        That’s not really normal in the UK – the only time I’ve given any information other than ‘sick today’ is when I had swine flu, so that they knew I’d be off for several days.

        If your workplace is asking you for this information it’s worth interrogating to see whether there are any other norms-that-aren’t-really-norms, maybe.

        1. Justme*

          I definitely told my boss when I had bronchitis or my kid had strep because it was going to require more than one day off. But I have never once said why I needed to take off for my yearly women’s clinic appointment, just that I have a medical appointment.

          1. Koko*

            Yep, my colposcopy was just a “minor medical procedure” when I requested time off for it. I really don’t want to discuss the ins and outs of my cervix with my boss.

        2. Gatorade*

          TheFormerAstronomer, it really is normal in the sense that in twelve years of work across multiple workplaces from small independents to international corporations and the government I’ve never had an employer who did not require that information from me, I can’t imagine all of those places somehow were against the grain when they’re so wildly different from one another. Fair enough I’m seeing others here who are stating that it’s not been the case for them but I don’t think that makes my experience from all of these companies not normal.

          1. TheFormerAstronomer*

            I honestly, honestly think that your experience is the exception rather than the rule. I would seriously push back if any of my employers (since 6th form!) had ever pried into my personal medical situation – but fortunately none ever have.

            But hey, not looking to get into a big discussion about it here. Just wanted to say that your original comment about this being the norm in the UK didn’t match with my experience at all.

            1. Gatorade*

              That’s fair, I don’t think there’s a way to get consensus on this (though it’d be really interesting to do a survey or something to see what people’s experiences are across the board), though a couple of people upthread in the UK echoed my experience since I last commented.

              I guess we’re both bound to assume our own experience is the norm especially if it’s been overwhelmingly that way in all of our jobs, if only there was some data.

              Hope this isn’t too off-topic Alison, didn’t intend to take away from the OP’s dilemma.

          2. Anion*

            American who lived in the UK a total of almost ten years here. And yep, my husband’s company didn’t require that much info, but we knew several people whose employers did. It’s definitely not abnormal in the UK, at least, not in the area or industry in which we lived/he worked.

      10. Gatorade*

        Wowzers! I’ve had many different jobs (around fifteen so far) in various industries from finance to retail/healthcare/food etc. and I’ve never had an employer who hasn’t required that staff tell them what’s wrong with them when they’re off sick. The difference to vacation time (for the poster who said it’s the same as them wanting to know how much you drank on vacation) is that vacation time is mandatory, you must take it, and what you do with it is not your employer’s business, whereas sick leave isn’t something that you are expected to take unless you are unwell, people don’t tend to see it as ‘I have four weeks of sick so I need to make sure I take it’, in healthy workplaces anyway. You’re entitled to take vacation for anything you like, but you’re not entitled to take sick leave for anything you like, eyebrows would be raised for example if you took it without being actually unwell (though you could lie about having something simple like a cold if you wanted to).

        Thanks to the posters from the UK for their perspective, I was clearly incorrect to say it’s this way at almost all UK workplaces given that some of you have had difference experiences. I can only say it’s been that way for all of my workplaces and those of my friends.

        When you get back from work you have a return to work interview where you discuss the reason for your absence and if you anticipate any problems at work/need any accommodations. It would be super weird in my experience to sit there and say ‘it’s private’, it just wouldn’t fly for anywhere I’ve worked (major corporations as well as smaller places).

        You can self-certify for one week without a doctor’s note but it’s still necessary to tell your employer when you call in sick what’s wrong. You can be vague in some workplaces (stomach bug, broke a bone) but you still need to give a reason. And if you’re off longer than a week you need to provide a doctors note and that clearly states what you’ve been signed off with so you couldn’t withhold that from your employer anyway.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Oh yeah, you definitely need to give a reason :) just doesn’t have to be detailed in most places I’ve been. We get back to work interviews if either there’s a reason to be concerned (eg even if I’d been off a few days with depression, they’d want to check what they could do to help) or if we’ve been off >20 days in a year, or if we’ve been off on >5 separate occasions. And yes, at that stage you’d be expected to give a bit more detail.

        2. Koko*

          But OP did provide a general reason – she said “minor medical procedure.” The boss is pressing her for more detail. It sounds like “minor medical procedure” would have been acceptable in your office.

        3. Purplesaurus*

          if they’re paying you while you’re not there, I think it’s fair for them to know what the reason is you’re off.

          This was the line I was responding to with the vacation comment, meaning if you have to give specific details about sick time then it follows you could be asked for unwelcome details about vacation time. Of course this is different in the US and even among US employers, as our vacation time is not mandatory and often paid by the employer like sick leave.

          To answer your question from my own experience, yes we typically give some sort of reason (medical procedure, I caught a virus, etc.) and it’s usually good to estimate how long you’ll be out. But divulging specific medical information, like exactly what kind of procedure you’re having, is up to the individual and none of the boss’s business. But I don’t do it because the employer owns my time, and that’s what I’m arguing against.

          1. Anna*

            Yep. Just because they’re paying for the time, it doesn’t mean they have a right to the information. Much like if I give someone money, it’s really none of my business what they do with it after I give it them (unless it’s a government agency :).

        4. KellyK*

          Wow. For most illnesses, it’s usually not that private to say that you’ve got a migraine or a stomach bug. But the idea that a woman who’d had a miscarriage (or an abortion, for that matter) is expected to inform her boss of something that deeply personal is really appalling. Or other things that are stigmatized, like STDs or mental illness.

          I hope this doesn’t read as me being critical of *you.* I really appreciate your telling those of us across the pond what the norms are in the UK. I just think those norms are pretty broken if someone can’t, at the very least, say “It was a minor medical procedure for ‘female issues’ and I’m really not comfortable talking about it in detail.” And here I thought that, in general, the Brits were way bigger on privacy than Americans.

          1. Gatorade*

            No, not at all critical of me!

            If it’s an issue you don’t feel comfortable disclosing to your own boss for any reason (maybe fear of reprisal, awkwardness about female/male sexual issues or something embarrassing) then in some places I’ve worked you can request to have your return to work with one of their peers of a different gender or failing that, HR, and have it kept confidential from your boss. But doing that too often would raise some eyebrows I think.

          2. Purple snowdrop*

            Hilariously when I had a miscarriage everyone already knew I was pregnant (baby died a week after my 12 week scan) so everyone knew anyway, but I’m pretty sure my sick note said miscarriage. Mine have said depression, anxiety, bereavement. No keeping secrets for me!

            1. Purple snowdrop*

              Hilariously said with a major pinch of salt and a side of bitterness, hopefully obviously. It was the most devastating thing I’ve ever been through. Just in case anyone thinks I’m being too light hearted. :-/

        5. Kathleen Adams*

          Every place I’ve ever worked (this is in the US), all I’ve ever had to say is “I don’t feel well.” If it’s something that’s going to take more than a day or two (e.g., the flu or something), I’ve been more specific just so my supervisors realize why it’s more than a day or two. But nobody’s ever been nosy enough to ask for specifics of what exactly is wrong with me.

      11. Akcipitrokulo*

        I think if there is a situation where they are demanding details rather than “got bug” then it’s a symptom of something else – but if they have doubts about your honesty or that you are skiving, should deal with that.

        1. Gatorade*

          Yeah, got a bug would be fine as you’re stating the reason for your absence, your stomach bug. I’m seeing a lot of people say that they don’t even have to give a non detailed reason though, just ‘I’m sick and I’ll be back on this date’ which I’ve never experienced as being acceptable in the UK.

          We have back to work interviews for literally every absence, but it’s generally a case of a couple of minutes ‘yep it’s a migraine’ or ‘yep it’s a flare up of that disability you already know about’ tick box exercise. But it’s a good opportunity to inform the workplace if it’s something you think will continue causing issues or you need support for.

          You could outright lie, easily, but you still couldn’t say ‘nope, not saying’.

          I dunno, clearly I’m in the minority here but I have no problem with my employer expecting to know why I’m not there if they’re continuing to pay me, and I’ve experienced having to tell them it’s due to diagnosed depression or explain something gynaecological to my male boss. If they were to use that info to pressure me or punish me that’s completely outta line, but it makes sense to have that information so that they’re able to monitor an individual’s sick leave usage and address any issues that arise as a result.

          And by monitor I mean that if you take a certain amount or in a certain pattern you start hitting trigger points for further support, everyone’s is monitored as standard. Not pointlessly nosying around in ‘ooh, what’s she off with this time?’ malarkey.

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            Ah, think may have been talking cross purposes – I thought you were saying would have to provide details as standard in UK, not that you have to give some idea. Yes, of course you have to say general area of illness but not details (usually). And BTW interviews after every absence to me is overkill – as above, ours are a lot harder to trigger – but have seen that with friends.

            1. Gatorade*

              I’m pr0bably communicating really poorly today!

              Yeah it’s just a general idea, like you could say you had a stomach bug but not really need to identify which end the problem was with (thankfully), but for most short term illnesses there isn’t a great deal of detail involved anyway I guess.

              I do think a lot of this cross purposes stuff is to do with the sense in the US (correct me if I’m wrong) that sick leave is an entitlement and you have the right to use that number of days in any way you wish. Whereas here we do have sick leave (and wayyyy more generous amounts I think) but the employer still has a right to monitor how you’re using it, implement actions and requirements if you use too much or in certain patterns and so forth. The employer still sees it as their business why you’re off in a way they wouldn’t with vacation time. I guess it’s due to how some places have a pot of days you can use for either so the norms for vacation bleed over into sick leave, but that’s truly just a guess.

              Totally agree it’s overkill. At my sickest, I was having a day or two off at a time every week or two due to a severe chronic pain disability, so most of the days I was actually at work involved a return to work. In the end they let me know I was actually hurting myself by trying to be at work as often as possible as it was triggering loads of short term absences, and I should just go off for a few weeks at a time. But they didn’t seem to understand I couldn’t afford to do that as I’d ran out of paid sick leave.

              1. Lily Rowan*

                Oh no, the general understanding in the US is that sick leave is to be used for your health, generally including routine appointments.

              2. Jessie the First (or second)*

                ” the sense in the US (correct me if I’m wrong) that sick leave is an entitlement and you have the right to use that number of days in any way you wish. Whereas here we do have sick leave (and wayyyy more generous amounts I think) ”

                Although some employers have one pot of PTO that workers can use as vacation or sick, others still have separate sick and vacation banks. And all employers I have ever seen would expect that a same-day call-out use of PTO would be for an unavoidable sickness issue, and you’d have to say “I’m sick, migraine” – not “I’m randomly not showing up and I refuse to tell you whether it’s because I am sick or not!” :-)

                The posts about “it’s part of my comp, so I should use it as I see fit” don’t mean to imply that you can use it any way you wish. Sick leave is sick leave – we are bristling at the idea that an employer would ever need to know more than “I have a minor op that day.” If I am sick, I am entitled to use my sick time. This comes from a US culture in which work-life balance is seriously a problem – plenty of employers push employees to come to work sick, and have the notion that it’s bad to use your sick leave *even if you are sick*.

                Also, of course, some employers offer no sick leave at all. It’s not just that the UK is more generous with sick leave – it’s that sick leave and vacation are mandated benefits in the UK. They are entirely optional in the US (at the federal level, any way; some states are beginning to require sick leave be offered).

                1. Jadelyn*

                  Although in some states it’s not…precisely disallowed to ask employees to tell you why they’re calling out (in general terms, like “headache”, “got a cold”, etc.), but it’s a best practice to just leave it be unless it goes on for several days or shows to be a pattern, since investigating why an employee is calling out could be construed as “discouraging” the use of sick leave, which (at least in California, where I am) is now a protected benefit that employees can’t be retaliated against for using. I haven’t heard of it being tested in court yet, but I’ve seen a number of opinion pieces by labor attorneys advising employers to not require doctors notes or ask why someone is calling out for the first 3 days of an absence, just to avoid the possibility of discouragement claims.

          2. Akcipitrokulo*

            (In general, I tend to tell the details anyway and get told “just “sick” is fine!”)

      12. neverjaunty*

        Good grief. If you get paid leave of any kind as part of your compensation, it’s none of your company’s business precisely what you are doing during that leave, any more than it’s their business how you spend your paycheck.

        I’m so sorry, OP.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          I’ve had the opposite problem–coworkers calling out sick and telling me in elaborate detail just what was wrong. You’re sick, I’ll pass the word that you’ll be out, I don’t need to know every last symptom you have.

          1. Jessica*

            I suspect the TMI tendency comes from previous experience in jobs with bosses who were highly suspicious of anyone calling out sick, and insisting on people coming in no matter what their illness. Lord knows every service industry job I ever had was that way–no matter how sick you were, you were never really “sick enough” and calling out sick was almost always a write-up. I still find myself over-justifying that I’m genuinely “sick enough” to justify not going in. Same kind of boss is usually the kind to do things like not give time off for one’s own graduation ceremony, or complain about father attending the birth of his own child, etc.

            1. Liz2*

              First real world job, super bad manager- I went in kinda sick and by halfway knew I was in no condition to work. Approached boss about heading home early and ended up coughing, he said “You don’t have to fake it, just take the time.”

              Sigh, same guy who wanted me to make a copy of a fax before I “sent it out.”

            2. Akcipitrokulo*

              This. Current job is full of grow ups. Previous job…. wasn’t. It takes time to readjust!

          2. The Strand*

            I cosign Jessica’s comment completely. Some fields, including medicine, you are expected to work when you are merely sick, so you must be extremely ill, sick or dying not to make it in. Retching? Well, if you’re retching but can still type… you should be at work.

            People at my current location get penalized if they have an unscheduled sick day (i.e. you didn’t plan to take the time off more than 16 hours ahead); if they have more than one a year, their supervisor can get penalized.

      13. Purple snowdrop*

        Gatorade just wanted to back you up, I’ve always had the same experience.

        The only exception, funnily enough, was when I had an abortion, which I was extremely vague about. My boss back then was an utter shit but he never asked anything. Small mercies and all that.

      14. Arjay*

        There’s a difference here between keeping this information from your employer and keeping this information from your boss. We don’t have to provide details for minimal sick time, but if disability benefits or FMLA comes into play, your employer/HR may need some details. Your boss would only need to know the expected duration of your approved absence.

      15. Clean Bandit*

        I’m in the UK (with family in the US). I’ve never had to go into detail about why I’ve been off sick. I’ve just said “I’m feeling unwell and won’t be able to make it in today” and I’ve never had anyone press me for further information in the workplace. When I’ve returned to work the most I’ve been asked is “Are you feeling better?” and that’s about it.

        I think it is extremely invasive of the manager to ask OP to supply details of her medical procedure. There’s no way that that’s any of the manager’s business. She is NOT entitled to be privy to private medical information.

      16. nonegiven*

        Your boss does not need to know your private medical information. The only thing they need is how much time your doctor says you need off.

    8. Nicole*

      OP#3 – First, I am very sorry this is happening to you. Second, I am sorry people are unintentionally making it more difficult.

      I’ve been in OP#3’s situation but fortunately had a very understanding manager at the time. Please go talk to HR and talk to them about taking FMLA leave. You may be able to do this in conjunction with your sick leave, in case something does go wrong OR you don’t feel up to coming back emotionally. It takes a hormonal toll that is difficult to predict.

  2. TL -*

    OP1: I have been in a work situation where people withheld major feedback because they “wanted a smooth working relationship.” Not surprisingly, the issues didn’t improve, there wasn’t a smooth working relationship, the problems got worse (much worse because everybody had the same issues with this person), and the person left soon afterwards anyways. (Actually, everybody left soon afterwards anyways.)

    And I have also been in a work situation where I had to have serious talks with a coworker about their performance issues and a serious talk with my supervisor about the issues and… things got better and after my manager stepped in, I was much less stressed about it, as was other coworker, because it was no longer our problem. The working relationship became much smoother after the conversations.

    If it’s an issue, avoiding it is only going to make it exponentially worse. You’re not saving yourself months of awkwardness, you’re giving yourself months of escalating awfulness. Bite the bullet, talk to the intern, talk to your manager, and be very clear about the fact that the intern is way underperforming.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Very much agreed.

      I also think it’s really important to remember that even if you don’t have hiring/firing authority, an intern is not your peer. There’s still a hierarchical relationship there, and part of that relationship involves providing critical feedback. If your intern seems uncommitted and listless, I think it’s ok to probe why she’s disappearing, underperforming, etc. (And I think Alison is right about framing this as an “I’m concerned for you” set of questions.)

      For example: We had an awesome cohort of interns, but one (bright, qualified, highly recommended) intern was an absolute pain to work with. If you were the Legal Director, she’d do amazing work and go above and beyond. If she saw you as being irrelevant to her personal ambitions (i.e., me and other attorneys she perceived as “low ranked” in the organization), she was lazy, turned in laughably subpar work product, and was exceedingly patronizing. If you gave her feedback indicating that she’d misunderstood the assignment or needed greater exposition of issue A, she would very condescendingly explain why her work product was correct and adequate. After 6 weeks of trying to provide coaching, we lesser attorneys stopped giving her work or feedback (she didn’t notice).

      What she didn’t know is that we were required to evaluate interns at the midway and end-of-term points. So, without any coordination or discussion, all of the “low ranked” attorneys provided feedback about what we broadly described as the “attitude problem” to her supervisor (a Senior Attorney) and to our boss (the Legal Director). We explained exactly how it affected performance. Because the managers couldn’t wrap their heads around it, we included her emails and work product as examples. Once they saw that side of her, she was no longer in the running for hiring, and she received a lukewarm recommendation.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Always assume that the people you want to impress will form their impression from your interactions with everyone around them, not just with them. Some of original Miss Manners most useful advice, yet perpetually shocking to people who need it.

        1. Lance*

          Especially direct reports. Good bosses trust these people, and vice versa, so if you make a poor impression with them, the boss is very certainly going to hear about it.

  3. Purple snowdrop*

    #3 as if having a miscarriage isn’t bad enough. Your boss is adding insult to injury. I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this. I hope you can take the time you need to recover (not necessarily time off work… just time to look after yourself).

  4. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 You’re not doing her any favours by withholding feedback. It’s entirely possible that she just doesn’t know enough about work norms. The key thing is that someone needs to explain the specifics of how she needs to improve, because concepts like professional behaviour aren’t necessarily clear to someone who’s just starting out.

    I think someone – perhaps your manager as Alison suggests – needs to ask her what she wants from the internship, talk about why she’s perhaps not achieving that, and what’s expected e.g. with working hours.

    The not great work is a separate issue to the professionalism issues and harder to correct, but it does make me wonder why she was hired for the internship in the first place if she lacks the required potential?

    1. OP #1*

      She came off as very professional and excited in the interview, I guess!
      I commented separately about the feedback thing, but I think I’ll take her to lunch today and try to get her to really think through why she’s in this internship and what she wants out of it (aside from fulfilling her last school requirement).

      1. Zip Zap*

        That sounds like a good approach.

        A few thoughts:

        – Maybe there’s something going on outside of work that’s having an impact on all of this? Sometimes when people come across as unprofessional, it’s because of other stuff that they’re dealing with, or a medical condition, or something else like that. I’d approach it in a way that leaves open that possibility and gives her a chance to talk about it if she wants to.

        – She might just not be interested in this career path. But maybe there’s a middle ground where she could take on extra projects with more relevance to things she’s interested in, provided she tries to do better with the work she’s been assigned.

      2. nonymous*

        Don’t be surprised if her goal is really just the minimum to fulfill mandatory requirements but she wont just come out and say it. Or that she hates the reality of working in this field (and won’t say it). Both experiences are pretty common at this point in a career.

        1. Chinook*

          I agree that OP #1’s intern may have decided to change career paths and doesn’t see the point in doing her best where she currently is at. thing is, that shouldn’t matter and she needs to be told that.

          I work with co-op students yet I am not their manager nor am I an engineer. But, their supervisors give me free reign with them because they know I am showing them how to be good colleagues. If any of them start to show resistance to my help, I point out that I am showing them how not to be “that coworker” (you know, the one everyone hates to work with).

          Even if they plan to never work in the industry ever again, they still need to have a certain level of professionalism because you never know when someone from your past will pop up in your present. Plus, everyone should have a certain pride in what they do and attempt to do it well, if only so they aren’t making life miserable for those around them.

  5. Anonymouse*

    What the heck is wrong with your boss?
    Medical means it’s an issue about your body and you can keep it as private as you like.

    I can get she’s concerned if you’ll be out possibly for longer than you’ll say or expect. But you’ve already said you’ll bring in a medical note that says you’ll be back and pressing to know exactly why is icky.

    Asking why once is conversational and normal or “is there anything I need to be concerned about?” Is normal. Pushing past that shows either A) you don’t believe the employee is telling the truth and trying to get a “free” day off or B) really don’t understand boundaries and what you are or not entitled to know.

    If she really pushes and there’s no way to not give some kind of answer I’d say a gynological appointment. Technically true and enough info that she won’t ask for more details. Hopefully.

    1. seejay*

      When I had uterine fibroids and a whole host of menstrual issues that went with it, I just told my boss “womanly problems” and his response was “say no more!” and he didn’t want to no any other details. It’s one of the great benefits of a male boss that really doesn’t want to know details when you put it like that. Probably less effective with a female boss, but still might be a good enough indicator to strongly imply “BACK THE HECK OFF”.

    2. Jess*

      That’s exactly what is so amazing about the boss’s question here- she already knows it’s medical. That would be enough for most people to understand that you don’t push further b/c pretty much anything other than an annual checkup is something that someone might reasonably want to keep private. The boundary-pushing here is just unbelievable, and seems like an abuse of power. This is the kind of situation where I think I would have real trouble lying simply b/c the outrageousness of being expected to provide an answer at all would make me so angry that I wouldn’t want to dignify the question. But I’m good at biting off my nose to spite my face, so maybe not good advice.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Jerkboss is not owed honesty, at all – but if it happens, the OP telling the truth while breaking down crying in the boss’s office is exactly the awkward the boss asked for – along with the complaints to HR.

      2. Zip Zap*

        And the boss threatening to turn one day off into an extended leave with no end date makes it worse. So does the possibility of being disciplined for taking a day off without approval. OP is being threatened into revealing personal info. It is an abuse of power.

        I think she should document everything and make someone else aware of what is going on. She should handle this as professionally as possible and should not give the boss the requested info.

  6. CorporateDronesDontHaveMissiles*


    Last slide: This presentation designed and constructed by PermaTemp. If you considered giving GrossBoss a raise based on it, please consider hiring PermaTemp for a position ghostwriting all your presentation needs.

    (I take no responsibility for this ending horribly, unless for some strange reason it doesn’t)

    1. OP#2*

      SO TEMPTING! Or sending a message to my boss’ boss saying, “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get to Project X today, as I was busy working on this other presentation” so they know that I did all of the hard work on it. It’s honestly a little petty, and I’d never actually do it, but the temptation is there!

    2. Annony For This One Too*

      Years ago a friend found the color button and made a tie dye slide…

      Reminds me of the time I saw the sticky note with boss’s pay (3X mine) plus 4% raise, while the company froze everyone’s raises to 1-2%. They told me to be happy I got the 2.5%. Boggled my mind.

      OP – I feel for you and would make an attempt at the slides, but would not put a ton of effort in.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        It would be so tempting to create the ugliest, least legible, and most boring Powerpoint ever.

            1. Kathleen Adams*

              And use about 200 words per slide – and graphs with about 52 data points. People always want to do those anyway because nothing makes a PP slide more appealing than words and numbers that almost nobody in the room can read.

  7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    I apologize because this will not make OP#2’s life easier, but I don’t think creating a slide deck for the manager’s personal pitch on why she deserves a raise is the kind of “work activity” that allows using company resources for an individual’s personal benefit. If the manager were presenting on the company’s compensation policies or how that is affecting a particular group of employees, I would feel differently. I would also feel differently if she were invited to make a pitch or if this were a more formal presentation that’s similar to an internal promotion.

    But given what OP describes, I would feel the same way as OP—it feels like misappropriating employer resources for personal gain. Maybe I’m biased by a background in public service and nonprofits, but I’m pretty sure I would have received a “disciplinary” conversation if I expropriated a temp’s time to work on a project like this.

    Anyway, for OP#2: I’m not sure what the relationship or power dynamic is between you and your manager, but it sounds like you feel vulnerable and unable to be direct with her. If that’s the case, then I am a huge fan of asking a series of “innocuous” questions that would (hopefully) make the manager squirm a little bit. So I’d start with Alison’s question re: how to bill time. Then I would ask if the manager would like you to send the deck to others for review/input. Or you could ask how she’d like to credit you for the work accomplishments you implemented. Or you could ask her who/which project the deck is for, etc., etc. All of this should be done in a guileless, wide-eyed, “gosh, I’m just trying to be helpful and thorough” tone/demeanor.

    Either she’ll get super annoyed, or she’ll begin to get paranoid about hiding the “confidentiality” of the deck. It could absolutely backfire, but if you can brainstorm the right questions, it could toe the line just enough to make her as uncomfortable as she’s making you without also jeopardizing your contract.

    1. Green*

      Determining the appropriate compensation for individual employees uses employer resources all the time.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think you know that’s a logical slip. There’s a difference between a process of setting compensation levels and an individual advocating for their personal salary.

        1. PM Jesper Berg*

          I agree with Green. PCBH, by your logic, no sort of negotiation between an existing employee and the employer should take place on company premises or during working hours, because the employee is negotiating for her own interests. Clearly, that’s an absurd result.

          Also, we don’t know what role LW2 is filling; but if he or she is some kind of personal assistant to the boss, it’s not uncommon that PAs assist their boss with the odd personal project. Companies permit this because they’d rather have the executive focusing on company matters during the 15 minutes it takes to make a Starbucks run, or a “batteries for the remote” run, for that matter. If that’s LW2’s role, I don’t view the request as a “gross” one at all.

          And while I can see how LW2 thinks it’s unfair that the boss says she has no budget for a raise for LW2, organizations *do* pay different people different amounts. LW2’s boss may simply be valuable enough for her company that the company will find the money for a raise, when they wouldn’t do the same for LW2 herself.

          1. OP#2*

            Hi all,

            I’m a Project Coordinator (not an admin or assistant at all, but an independent role supporting our clients directly). Part of the issue here is that my boss *does* use me like her personal admin assistant, even though I’m not.

            I agree in retrospect that it’s not necessarily unethical (though I do think asking your coworker to help you get a raise, knowing she was denied for a permanent position, is seriously gross and rude). One thing to note is that right now at least, we are both paid from the same budget. Not sure what would happen if my boss got the requested raise, but I assume it comes from the same budget as well, as she’s not changing departments. So I do feel bitter and let down by the fact that my own (minor) request was denied.

          2. Koko*

            I agree as well. Another example is performance reviews. I spend several hours of “company time” every year writing my self-assessment in order to justify why I deserve a merit increase, positive review, promotion, or whatever. As does everyone else at my company.

            I also voluntarily seek out and accept speaking invitations for industry events, which is primarily an activity that benefits my own career, but because I’m representing my company when I speak, I work on my presentation largely during “company time,” bill my travel to the company, and do not take PTO for the time I spend traveling and speaking. This is also how it is generally done with others in the company.

            Managing your own career development within your current company is a valid work activity, even if it doesn’t directly contribute the company product. Staff development is ultimately beneficial to most companies, so they allow for development activities to take place using company resources.

            I agree with Alison that it’s icky the boss is delegating this particular task to her assistant, but that’s just about it being in poor taste. In terms of what’s permissible, a boss can delegate any work that they believe the junior employee is capable of performing, assuming there aren’t any specific policies prohibiting it, like needing contract-signing authority or security clearance that the junior employee isn’t permitted to have.

            1. neverjaunty*

              It’s not just in poor taste. Boss is taking credit for OP’s work, and not in the sense of “I supervised OP in doing X, Y and Z.”

            2. OP#2*

              Hi, I’m not my boss’ assistant. I report to her, but I’m not her admin!

              Makes that doubly icky in my opinion.

          3. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            The OP being a contractor makes this different than asking a regular employee. I had a manager who asked me to proof read papers for the class she was taking (I think for her MBA?), but I was her full-time regular employee. Specifically paying a contractor to do a personal project feels like a misappropriation of funds.

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            That’s really not my logic or my argument. Of course people can and should participate in evaluation and salary negotiation during work hours. But does that mean they should commandeer other assets (a subordinate’s time) to make a ppt? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t be bothered if the boss made her own ppt.

            The issue isn’t whether it’s ok or not ok to use OP’s time this way—I get that reasonable minds can differ. My point is that I understand OP’s feelings of ick, and I think it’s ok for OP to have those feelings. It may be that OP makes the deck, anyway, but I don’t think the initial reaction (specifically to making the deck) is out of the norm.

          5. Jadelyn*

            Do you really feel like it’s a fair comparison to talk about someone using their own working time for their own “career hygiene” activities (writing self-assessments, negotiating raises, etc.), versus someone assigning those activities to another employee as if they’re normal job-related tasks?

            That’s the thing – I don’t believe PCBH is saying that any work on personal-benefit activities during work time is misappropriation of company resources, just that dragging *other people’s* work time into your personal-benefit activities feels a bit off. Research salaries for your position, rewrite your job description to accurately describe what you really do, put together your pitch for a promotion and raise, those are all perfectly legit to work on at work. But assigning someone else to research salaries for you, or to create your pitch for you, that’s where it starts feeling icky, because you’re using other people’s working time for your personal benefit.

        2. KellyK*

          But those individuals advocate for their personal salaries on work time too. Both directly, in that nobody clocks out for a half-hour “here’s why you should give me a raise” meeting with their boss and indirectly every time they forward a “thank-you” message from a customer on to their boss, make sure their status report shows off their accomplishments, or work on any self-evaluation tasks for performance reviews.

    2. Another Consultant*

      I think this is workplace specific. At very large consulting firm, prepping on the clock for applying for promotion from very junior associate to senior exec is absolutely acceptable and uses a huge amount of internal resources. I had help making specific graphs for my PPT, probably used up over 100 hours of more senior execs on feedback and prep. This is done with full visibility and knowledge of the company. Just another perspective so you don’t think there is one way to approach this and everything else is violating some ethics.

      Also managers are supposed to take credit for their teams work. I am pretty sure everyone knows the 5 or 15 people working for me at a given time actually do the work with my guidance. However as a good leader, I publicly recognize my team members success, coach them, and advocate for their promotions. Sounds like that is the part missing with the OP.

      1. OP#2*

        “Sounds like that is the part missing with the OP.”

        Bingo! She constantly takes full credit for the work I do (including a massive month-long project where I worked overtime and won us a major contract– she won an award for it and never once mentioned my work to any senior execs).

        1. neverjaunty*

          Find a reason not to do this project so you can job hunt.

          This isn’t really about a slide deck. It’s about a boss who will keep you in her pocket to advance her own career at your expense.


          1. Kalamet*

            Yes, OP. It sounds like you are conscientious and good at your job, but you should be reaping the benefits of those qualities. Working under someone who hides your accomplishments will impact your career.

        2. Zip Zap*

          Ew. I would be really tempted to quit, but that’s just me. Do you have other options at this point? Could you request some time off and use it to job hunt?

        3. Bostonian*

          Geez, no wonder they think they can’t afford to have you, they don’t know how much value you’re adding because your boss is taking all the credit!

  8. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 If you are the wrong recipient, do send the suggested response – but only to the sender!

    We have two people with similar names – think Jane McLlama and Jayne McLlama. I’ve not met Jayne McLlama as she works at a different location but I have a really bad impression of her because she always hits reply all and says things like: “This is for Jane McLlama, not me – can you be more careful as I don’t have time to keep fielding these emails,” and it’s really not a good look as it feels like she’s trying to humiliate the sender.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I hasten to add I don’t mis-email her myself as I’m careful but I’ve been included on a number of these and it’s really awkward.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Ugh, that is such an imperious tone to use. Even if it the content were ok (let’s say this is the 20th such email she erroneously received), it would have been so much better to send that note directly to the sender. I agree that the “reply all” of it can create a humiliation feel.

      Even relatively benign corrections, when sent as a “reply all,” can make people feel embarrassed/humiliated.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I know right? I’m sure she gets loads of them, as Jane McLlama does. But she just forwards mis-sent emails with a polite note: “this was for you, you might want to let them know” which I only know because she used to sit next to me and I still sometimes pick up phone calls from people wanting Jayne.

        What I’ve never understood is why, if it irks her so much, Jayne doesn’t just auto-forward emails with the other spelling!

    3. Fiennes*

      I managed to get my firstnamelastname at gmail dot com, which makes things easy for me but guarantees I occasionally get email for everyone else in the world with my name. (Fortunately my name isn’t super common — but it’s not obscure or especially rare, either.) This includes work emails, either from people trying to reach a coworker on vacation or professionals reaching out to clients/customers. It is UNBELIEVABLE how much sensitive info I’ve received. Were I of a criminal bent, I might’ve done terrible things with people’s mortgage info, nursing home documents, etc. As it is, if the info looks important, I reply to let them know it’s the wrong recipient. Once I got testy when someone sent me medical info that was extremely private. That person at least was apologetic, but I can’t help but feel that people are much too incautious with emails.

      Tl;dr–no matter how careful you are with intra-office communication, be doubly cautious when emailing outside your work system.

      (You’d think there could be no reason to say anything so obvious, but experience suggests there is.)

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            Its a well know site with some really funny cartoons. I opened the link and it’s perfectly safe for work.

          2. Cassandra*

            Oh, man! You’re one of today’s lucky ten thousand!

            (Joining the chorus: it’s a webcomic, it’s nerdy, it’s generally safe for work, it’s usually good and occasionally ineffably great.)

        1. Blue_eyes*

          This happens to my friend all the time. She posts about them on facebook. She’s gotten all kinds of things – invitations to people’s birthday parties (multiple years in a row!), pizza delivery confirmations, interview requests for job applicants.

        2. RabbitRabbit*

          Hah, yes. There’s someone in a neighboring state who thinks that my (thankfully, it’s my ‘use for stores because they might sell your address for spam’) e-mail address is theirs; we share a first initial and an uncommon surname, and my email address ends in “1”. Perhaps they lucked out and got the non-1 version, and forget constantly, or perhaps they have “11” or something instead. You wouldn’t believe how many companies don’t bother to send a “click to confirm” e-mail.

      1. Gen*

        I was lucky enough to get initial.initial.surname at gmail and for the last four years a woman who seems to have decided that her email address would change with her marriage has been giving out my email to her friends and family. So far I’ve recieved- all her friends credit card details, vacation bookings, house sale documents, utility bills, PayPal invoices and pictures of her husband’s genitals. I always reply to the sender to let them know it’s wrong and you what the usual response from non-business is? The same email forwarded back to me with ‘omg Genie you’ve been hacked!’ It makes me want to weep. Though it’s the businesses who try to turn it into a business opportunity really skeev me out.

        1. hbc*

          I’ve got the same format for my gmail name, and I’ve had probably eight or nine people over time do this with varying levels of persistence. I’ve shut down Pinterest and Facebook accounts and asked a wedding planner to please, please call her client and figure out what her actual email address is because I’m going to be no help on selecting a venue.

          My “favorite” was the guy who kept shopping at confederate memorabilia stores, some of which have very lax security and allowed me to easily get his home address. I canceled an order and sent him notification that a donation to the NAACP had been made in his name.

          1. Zathras*

            This is awesome. This sub-thread is making me realize I’m lucky that my last name is so unique – I have firstnamelastname@gmail but I never get anyone else’s email there. I don’t think there is anyone else with my name.

            It did used to happen at the place I previously worked – my first name is common and there was someone else with that name who had been there forever. People were used to not really paying attention to their Outlook autocomplete when emailing her so for a while I got emails intended for her all the time time. It was funny because she was an expert in this very niche technical field that I know nothing about, so I would read the email, think “what? what does this even mean? I don’t know these words!” and conclude it must be for the other person.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              Ugh, I have firstinitiallastname, and there are two people who consistently use my address, “Luke Rowan” who does a lot of online shopping, and “Laura Rowan” who is getting none of the OnStar information about her new car. (She needs an oil change.)

              1. RabbitRabbit*

                Same. I have an uncommon surname but there is a “Rhonda Rabbit” (and her husband “Peter” who seems to just use her e-mail address) in the next state over who keeps misusing my first-initial-last-name e-mail for (wrong state, wrong party) political information, car buying searches, store signups, all kinds of things.

            2. Blue_eyes*

              Same here. I have too and I have a really uncommon last name. Even if I had firstinitiallastname I would probably never get anyone else’s email because my last name is so uncommon. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person with my first and last name combo in the world – there was one other woman with the same name, but she got married and changed her last name.

              1. Turkletina*

                I’m in the same boat, which is exactly why I didn’t change my last name when I got married. I have firstinitiallastname at gmail, and it’s never a problem. There was one person with my same first and last name but — unsurprisingly, since most people with my first name are elderly women — my namesake recently passed away.

                1. Blue_eyes*

                  That’s one of the reasons I didn’t kept my name when I got married too! I couldn’t get firstnamehusbandslast at gmail. And there are a number of other people out there with that first/last combo so I wouldn’t be the only one in the world anymore.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          My husband got into a lengthy back-and-forth with someone who maintained that he was a really persistent joker, and persistence would get him to go set up some lights at a church 1000 miles from where we live.

          1. Fiennes*

            I had one woman insist this HAD to be the right address, because she’d used it before and gotten the right person. I kept telling her, no, that’s not me, but she seriously sent four different replies telling me that I had to be the one getting it wrong. How she rationalized that in her brain remains a mystery to me.

        3. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms*

          When i was getting married, we put on the invitations rsvp to my email : First and middle initial maiden name Unfortunately, the script on the invitations was so curly it looked like ** and some other woman got half my rsvp’s! I tried emailing her to apologize and ask her to forward them, but i never heard back….

        4. Science!*

          I’ve had a couple of people who thought that first.last at gmail was different from firstlast at gmail. One person sent me the detailed itinerary of their bachelorette party in Scotland (detailed enough that I probably could have used the hotel room without trouble, if I hadn’t been across the ocean).

          But the worst, and one of the few that I replied back to was a woman who signed up to be a volunteer at a special camp for kids with disabilities. It was the kind where there is a 1:1 ratio of counselors to campers, and the mom of the camper that this woman was assigned to was given MY email and sent me a really long email detailing her child’s medical problems. Really detailed. I replied (and deleted the email) because I knew she would not feel comfortable having a stranger know so much about her child’s medical issues.

          1. Allie Oops*

            OMG, the period thing! That happens so often that I have an ongoing draft that I copy to send out with the explanation directly from Google’s help article about it. I get a kick out of it because it uses Bart Simpson as the example.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


        I’ve got a throwaway email address I use for things I think are going to send me spam… apparently there was a middle-schooler a couple years ago who didn’t understand that it wasn’t hers. I started getting a bunch of homework assignment information, and the teacher got So! Snippy! with me when I replied to explain that I wasn’t her student.

      3. nnn*

        OMG, I have my (very, very common) firstnamelastname gmail address too, and I’ve gotten so much stuff that’s none of my business. Proofs of academic articles for publication, invitations to baby showers in another country, invoices for lingerie orders, email money transfers, parents’ communications with their child’s school…

        There are at least eight people with the same name as me who are very, very lucky that I’m an ethical person.

        1. Chinook*

          If you are getting stuff from another country, I wonder if it is because there are gmail dot country versions of addresses. Mine is .ca but I don’t doubt that someone has written it as .com in their paperwork or when entering it into databases because I have done the same to other people even though I know better and always verify which gmail.XXX they are using.

          On the plus side, the other woman in this area with the same name as mine (who also uses the same pharmacy and was hiding from her debts) doesn’t accidentally send stuff to firstnamelastname at gmail dot ca and this makes me happy.

          1. nnn*

            Eep! I had no idea there was anything other than .com, and all this time when I have to tell people my email address verbally I just say “Firstnamelastname at gmail”, assuming there’s only one gmail.

      4. Allie Oops*

        I got firstnamelastname at gmail dot com as well, and have had INSANE mortgage shenanigans!

        First, I received mortgage documents for someone with my exact name (including all her personal banking info). That happened twice, but my name is really generic, so I guess it isn’t a huge coincidence.

        Then, apparently someone else with my same name recently became involved in the refinancing industry for a major bank. I’m on some kind of database and keep receiving automated mortgage information from bankers, real estate agents, and notaries regarding verifying private financial information. No matter how many times I respond with the correct info (which I figured out after 90 seconds of Googling, come on people!) someone new pops up the next day with another request. Why the heck is this chick conducting such sensitive business over Gmail, FFS?!?

      5. Gee Gee*

        I mistakenly received documents that I think were meant for a freelancer/subcontractor doing work for the defense industry. I was nervous and thus deleted the first few without saying anything, but finally responded when they started to get curt about the lack of reply. I was seriously wondering if I was going to disappear to a black ops site or something.

      6. Bryce*

        I keep a list of shenanigans I could have done from a similar email situation, helps keep me alert for my own security. I think the “best” one was a travel itinerary that included the person’s home address and it was in my area. Perfect for knowing when they’d be away to steal stuff. Sure I’ve gotten identity theft info and credit card numbers from other folks, but that was the clearest “I know exactly how to abuse this”.

      7. Pathfinder Ryder*

        I have firstname.lastname@gmail for a nom de plume I experimented with as a teenager – ten years later, it’s been getting membership and online shopping confirmation e-mails, but never with an unsubscribe. Eventually one happened to have the person’s phone number, so I had someone translate a “firstname.lastname is my e-mail, please check what you’re using online” message and texted them off an online service, and I haven’t had anything since.

    4. ginger ale for all*

      I think you have to reply all in order to get all of the recipients to leave you out of the further e-mail exchanges. So if an e-mail was sent to Bob, Jane, Sue, and Kris was meant to include Jayne and not Jane; Bob, Sue, and Kris need to know to correct their recipients as well in their replies, i.e. subtract Jane and add Jayne.

      1. Liane*

        Maybe so, but you can do that without sounding like the Office Jerk: “(optional friendly greeting if that’s done at your company.) I keep getting emails for Jane McLlama in xyz. Please change it. I forwarded this one to Jane. Thanks.”

      2. mreasy*

        Agreed on the reply all, though that can be done by the email author: “Oops! Adding the right Jane, sorry!” It’s so easy to be kind about this, though. Auto fill makes us all subject to this error & everyone is human!

        1. Koko*

          Totally, this is exactly what I always do. I never considered anyone would be humiliated by the mistake and thought I was making myself helpful but just tagging the appropriate person immediately, rather than causing a delay by waiting for the original sender to see my reply and then correct the mistake. I’d just say something like, “I think you meant this for the other Koko :) Tagging her.” (Hopefully the smiley hasn’t been scandalizing anyone either!)

      3. Breda*

        Yeah, if you don’t reply all, half the people on that email chain are not going to notice and will keep replying to you instead. But absolutely, do it politely, and if you have the right email address, add them as well.

      4. RJGM*

        I’m one of three Rachels at my company, and whether I reply-all depends on who else is copied. If there are 17 others on it? Nope. Only one other, but she’s my great-great-grandboss’ level? Absolutely not. If there are three others and they’re all approximately my level? I’ll reply-all and add the correct Rachel… then hope someone removes me from further replies on the chain.

    5. Red Reader*

      At my old org, my email was (shall we say) rreader2@, and someone else was rreader@. He never said a word to me, including forwarding any misdirected emails, but apparently he used to get super snotty with people who accidentally got him when they meant me.

      1. kitryan*

        I have this at work. About a year after I started someone with almost the same first name started (think Anne/Ann-both common spellings, both beginning the same way). Before this, no one misspelled my name in emails. After this they began to all the time. I get this other person’s emails fairly regularly (primarily because of autocomplete) and send them on to her. I never see the reverse happen, so I am left wondering if she also gets misspellings and misdirected emails but doesn’t bother forwarding or if I’m so -I don’t know- forgettable that the mix up only goes one way.
        Also, before this started, I would get emails from the CEO that were for an outside marketing consultant with the same first initial and calls/emails for an employee with the same first initial and last name who’s tenure overlapped with mine for about 6 months. I just want to be me!

        1. kitryan*

          Oh, I also have a yahoo email doppelgänger-one letter difference in last names. I’ve heard about this person’s school fees, semester abroad, honeymoon cottage, sneaker orders from the department store, received vacation pics from the person themselves, and most memorably, someone requested a consult on a teenage patient, including identifying information and symptoms. I was pretty pissed off about that last one.

        2. Blue Anne*

          In my old department we had a situation that was like… Emma Lightfoot, Emma Lloyd, and Amy Lloyd. All in similar roles in a small department of a large company where email addresses were based on first and last name.

          It was a problem. But very funny, because they took it well.

        3. Another person*

          People keep sending my e-mails to one of the university building managers, because I am and he does not have the 2 in the name. We also have almost the exact same first name (only the last letter is different). However, he does not send them on to me–although I’m sure he gets many more e-mails than I do– (I occasionally receive things for him and send them on to him) so sometimes I just don’t get e-mails that I’m supposed to get. Luckily by this point, most people have me in their address books and we don’t really overlap in any way, so it is unlikely that people would have both e-mails in their address books so it has mostly sorted itself out.
          In undergrad, my sister had the same name plus middle initial as a girl in the same major the year above her (and generally the same body structure/hair color/general appearance) and they just got emails for each other all the time and got pretty used to forwarding them on.

      2. Agnes*

        People get really bent out of shape about misspellings of names, of which this is a variant, partly because it gets annoying to correct, and partly because names are personal and people see it as somehow an attack when someone spells their name wrong.
        PSA on this: people are lousy spellers, even when it’s not arbitrary. I get plenty of emails with “tommorrow” or “comming” in them. Expecting someone you have non-daily interaction to remember that you are Kristen or Kristin is probably not realistic unless they happen to be a naturally good speller (which I am myself, but there are plenty of people who are not). Add auto-fill to the mix, and it’s going to happen.

    6. JJJJShabado*

      Right now in my 8 person department in a company of ~40, 3 of us (myself included) have the same first name. If I get an e-mail for one of the other Joey Joe Joes, I just forward a note to them saying I think its meant for them. I’m usually the wrong target. This really only is internal e-mails as my department is not usually the point of contact for external e-mails.

    7. Allie Oops*

      I have gotten snippy in this case, but only because 1. the sender kept doubling down on asking me to do X after I told them twice that I was the wrong person, and 2. what they were sending me was extremely sensitive/confidential and their carelessness could have led to major legal ramifications.

    8. KellyK*

      Wow, that’s really unreasonable. I’m actually in a similar situation. I share a first and middle name with someone in the same division, and our names even end with the same letter. If I’m Jane Eleanor McLlama, she’s Jane Eleanor McLamora. So, of course I get some of her emails. I just reply to the sender letting them know about the mistake. It takes like 30 seconds, maybe a minute if they apologize, and I reassure them that they’re not the first and won’t be the last. Jayne sounds like a pain.

    9. JessaB*

      Yeh, this can be done better by emailing the person who started the thread. NOT everyone. Reply all should only be used very carefully in any case. It’s not the language of the complaint I’d think, it’s the lemme yell at everyone

  9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, I agree with Alison that you should contact the person directly. I recently did this and was mortified, but I appreciated that the person who spelled it out sent their note to me directly and allowed me to try to clean it up (including by asking the person to whom the email was misdirected to please disregard and delete it).

    1. Cassandra*

      Tried to email my grant officer, accidentally emailed someone in our organization with the same name. Thanks LDAP!

      It wasn’t urgent, and at least it was an individual email so the poor misaddressee didn’t get caught up in any reply-all drama. Total headdesk moment though.

  10. Sarah*

    LW#3: Oh my goodness! Some humans are despicable.

    “I’m having the same procedure you did. They’re replacing my heart with an ice cube.”

  11. Engineer Girl*

    #5 – “it takes two to tango”. I always hated that quote, because it simply isn’t true!
    It takes two to make peace.
    It only takes one side to create conflict. It’s also possible that both sides create conflict. But to automatically assume that both sides have contributed to the conflict is unfair.
    Apologize because it’s the right thing to do.

    1. Gatorade*

      Yes. I hate that ‘two to tango’ phrase as it’s often used in abusive situations or domestic violence situations to imply that both parties are somewhat to blame, when actually it’s entirely possible for it all to be coming from one side.

      It’s like the idea that if a relationship is ended by one partner, the other definitely contributed to its demise in some way. When sometimes, people’s feelings just change and even if you’re a fantastic supportive faithful loving partner, your partner can still up and leave at any time.

      1. JessaB*

        Very rarely do domestic situations actually involve actions by two people. Usually the actions of the abused party are being unreasonably magnified by the abuser. Not to mention, it doesn’t matter how awful, annoying, whatever someone is, abusers don’t get a pass. I don’t care if you’re standing 2 feet in front of someone screaming, you shouldn’t, but they don’t get to beat you because of it.

    2. Candi*

      One person starts conflict. The other person then reacts, or not, in some way. It’s not a complicated concept, but it means that people can’t think, “If I don’t do X, then Y will never happen to me.” Stripping that sort of protective thinking away scares people.

      I go with, “It can happen. I’ll do X, Y, and Z to lessen the chances, then not worry about it. It’s not worth the headspace.”

      “Either of us can destroy the world. Only both of us together can save it.” Lord Janis to Lord Ethenia, Magelord: The House of Bairn (Literal, nuke-level magic destroy the world.)

    3. FreetobeMe*

      I respectfully disagree. There’s no tug of war if only one person pulls. At first I was confused, then I tried harder to be better. Then I got frustrated, defensive, passive aggressive which ultimately degenerated into a constant state of low grade anger/high anxiety. The situation was a no-win.

  12. Ann Furthermore*

    OP#5: Good for you for recognizing your role in your relationship with your boss. I had a boss once who really was an arrogant jackass, and we did not get along at all. But I didn’t always handle things very well, and I know that contributed to the tension. In addition to that, I was also pregnant, which certainly didn’t help matters either.

    In any event, after I moved to another department, we worked together on a project and did manage to rebuild a much more cordial relationship. It was a very valuable lesson for me.

    I think it would be a mature and classy move for you to reach out via email with a quick message saying something along the lines of, “I know that we sometimes had a challenging relationship. I didn’t always handle things or react to situations as well as I could have, and I would like to apologize for that. I wish you the very best of luck and continued success.” Even if you don’t get a response, you’ll still know you took the high road and did the right thing.

  13. Noel*

    It sounds like OP3’s manager isn’t going to approve the sick time. I assume that OP3 is still going to the appointment since it’s medically necessary and no one else’s business, but I’m wondering: If she is fired for not disclosing an incredibly personal medical issue, could she sue and win for wrongful termination? From what I understand, American employment law favours employers in pretty much every way, but could OP3 have a case?

    1. MacAilbert*

      I doubt it. In most of America, an employer is under no obligation to provide sick time at all. My city has a mandatory sick time statute, in which employers must offer 1 sick day per 30 hours worked, but that’s extremely rare. Unless she lives in my city, it’s a voluntary benefit that the company can refuse whenever it wants, unless the company is discriminating against a protected class, which it doesn’t sound like there’s a case for here.

        1. MacAilbert*

          It is a protected class, but the employer has no knowledge of the pregnancy, and so she probably can’t argue she was discriminated against on those grounds.

      1. Mpls*

        If an employer does offer sick time (has a policy, especially a written policy) they do have to follow their own rules about offering sick time and can be held accountable for not doing so.

        I don’t know what all the specifics are for proving what the policy is, but just because it’s voluntary to have one in the first place doesn’t mean the employer can disregard their own rules once they have set a policy. At least that’s my understanding.

        1. Natalie*

          I’m not sure that’s enshrined in law nationally, although it might be in some states/locales. Our labor law is fairly limited, and very little of it covers time off in any capacity.

          1. Nephron*

            But with benefits you are getting into contract law. The employee and employer have a certain agreement concerning employment and benefits and when LW tried to use those she was stopped by her boss and told she had to disclose private medical information in order to use it.

            Not a lawyer, but if LW was fired the company would probably want to settle because fired for going to receive treatment for her miscarriage is a really bad headline that could easily go viral.

  14. Student*

    #3 My condolences for your miscarriage. You should absolutely get to handle this as you want.

    However, since your boss is not making that possible, if you’re feeling like getting some revenge, consider a different tactic – use this to make her feel as bad as you possibly can about how she is behaving. Tell her it’s a miscarriage, that you didn’t tell her initially because you wanted to deal with the loss with privacy, emphasize how devastating this is for you, and bawl your dear heart out in front of her. Tears, snot, whole kit and caboodle, for as long as you can make it awkward for her. There are a few minutes in your life when you’re entitled to play the victim as hard as you can – these are your minutes if you want them. Bonus points if you can bring yourself to do it in front of, say, an HR rep, her boss, or in front of other co-workers, for maximum embarrassment of your boss. You’ve nothing to be embarrassed about here, from suffering a very common and tragic loss – the boss is the only one who should be embarrassed. Make it a sick leave to be remembered by, so that she never has the nerve to ask about something like this again.

    1. Junior Dev*

      I would not do this. The boss has proven she has no respect for normal emotional boundaries, and could well use such actions as a way to hurt OP more. OP doesn’t owe her a public performance of emotion. She should go to HR.

      1. JessaB*

        Not to mention this is private, once you tell obnoxious boss, I bet everyone will now know this thing the OP does not want ANYONE to know. You cannot trust that boss to keep their mouth SHUT.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      Since when do manipulative tactics fix things? It’s passive agressive and not very professional. And you lose the high ground.
      Playing the victim never fixes conflict.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Have you had this experience? Because in my experience, this is not how grieving a miscarriage works. It’s not a switch you turn on to put on a public performance for others, even if the goal of the performance is to shame, embarrass, or make awkward. I’m also squicked out by the idea that grief/pain voyeurism is a good tool/tactic to use to “get revenge” at work.

      Maybe others are capable of this cunning. I just don’t see it. And I’m kind of glad I’m not capable of it.

      1. Somniloquist*

        I actually had the same thing happen earlier this year. Miscarriage, didn’t want to talk about it, but my boss really wanted to know what was happening and asked a few times.

        The last time she asked me in a weak moment and I gave her the clinical diagnosis. So rather than say “miscarriage”, I said I was getting a procedure for a blighted ovum. She has not asked for any information since, and has been scrupulous about me keeping my privacy.

        My boss is not a jerk, and I think she realized that was pretty personal. I don’t think someone has to blubber, but sometimes saying things in the right way does drive the point home.

      2. OP#3*

        I get where you’re coming from but I…can’t. That’s not me. I want this to go by as quickly, and unobtrusively as possible. It’s been super hard for me to keep it together as it is and IMO getting theatrical about it…cheapens? my genuine feelings.

        1. KellyK*

          Yeah, that’s totally reasonable. I think that’s the kind of thing that’s easy to fantasize about from a safe distance, but not emotionally feasible for someone in the situation. I’m really sorry both about your miscarriage and that your boss is making things worse for you.

          If your boss didn’t know that you were pregnant, maybe you could say that you’re having a DNC to address some female issues, and that you were initially reticent about it because it’s kind of personal and because people really don’t like hearing those kinds of details. None of that is untrue, but it avoids having to actually come out and say that you lost a pregnancy, which should be completely up to you to share or not.

          1. JessaB*

            The problem with DNC as a thing, is if the boss is actually wondering if the OP is having an abortion due to foetal abnormalities, they’re going to absolutely believe it if you say that because it’s a large part of most abortion procedures. Yes, it’s often used for completely other things but the anti-abortion proponents will absolutely think that’s a dog whistle for abortion. (I will not call them pro-life because most of the party platform on anti-abortion is to punish women for having sex, as once the foetus becomes a live baby they don’t give a damn.)

        2. Observer*

          I think “cheapens” is probably the wrong word. But I TOTALLY get you on not wanting to turn on the theatrics. Performing your loss is just icky, at it’s best.

        3. nonymous*

          So sorry for your loss.

          I can only begin to imagine how traumatic it must be to have to deal with the emotional labor of managing your supervisor on top of the grief and medical procedures. If your goal is to be quiet and unobtrusive as possible, try to find your company’s handbook and point to the documentation policy in really bland words (per policy #123, I am providing documentation X). If you can get your doctor to write a note, that really will take some of the pressure off (they’re really bland and never talk about medical cause, but can be customized with very strong wording that you need the time off). If anyone pushes, just repeatedly say that you are following medical advice.

          Since your workplace doesn’t sound very supportive, I’d suggest that your medical note be a little more open ended with timing than just for the procedure. It may be that you don’t need that time off for physical recovery, but there is a huge emotional component here as well. I had the experience of a co-worker coming back to work right after a miscarriage with the goal of “life as usual”. Honestly, she wasn’t very functional. As a coworker, the only info that is needed is that someone won’t be performing at 100%, so shared responsibilities like presentations and customer facing duties are covered (that, and would you prefer kind regards or silence?). Cutting back hours, even just from 40 to 32 for a week will help set that boundary when your supervisor doesn’t. There was a previous thread on AAM where some people mentioned delegating a trusted co-worker to spread the news (OP asked us not to talk about the medical, mmmmkay?), but that’s a personal decision.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Someone who has just had a miscarriage and is waiting on a D&C does not have the emotional and physical reserves to play act victimhood for an audience.

    5. Cambridge Comma*

      Bad idea, because now the manager knows that she wanted to be pregnant and so can fire her before she gets pregnant again.

  15. ManagerOfMany*

    About the Power Point presentation:
    While it isn’t great she’s asking you to do the presentation for her, I’d like to address a few things. As someone who runs an org of 15 people:
    Your boss getting or asking for a raise does not necessarily mean there aren’t budget issues to bring you from temp to perm. Raises and making someone a permanent employee are often coming from 2 very different buckets of money. And giving a current employee a raise to retain them is probably cheaper than bringing on a temp to perm and a company absorbing all of the costs it takes to add another head count i.e. insurance benefits, 401K match, state taxes to disability and unemployment, life insurance, commuter benefits etc etc etc. Companies often have hiring freezes and still give their current employees raises and promotions.

    Your manager putting work you completed is not necessarily taking credit for your work. A manager’s job is to get work accomplished through the people that report to them–that is the very definition of someone who manages a team. When my own manager asks me what I have done over the last 6 months for my annual and mid year review I am not giving him a list of individual contributor tasks, I am giving him a list of ALL of the things I was able to drive my team to accomplish. If I put “completed external white paper leading to 4.5% more sales” as a thing I accomplished MY BOSS knows I didn’t write the white paper, put the white paper in the graphic template, upload it to the website or even made the sales call. What my boss knows is that I moved out all obstacles to make sure a crucial white paper was done by my team, and that I identified that white paper as a thing that should be done to move sales goals. It does not matter that I did not do the thing.

    This is not a personal project for your manager. I do not think she should have asked you of courtesy and it is inappropriate for you to know the HR details of her employment status but this not so out of line that it should be a “gut punch.”

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I think you make some really good points here, especially about retention vs new hires.

      1. ManagerOfMany*

        Thank you!

        In my org we use a number of freelancers and on-site contractors but I have a hiring freeze until Q2 2018! I also just got an 11% raise and we are all on track to receive our bonuses.

        No freelancer/contractor should compare themselves to a regular employee. The company has budgeted comp increases/bonuses/promos for their current employees (unless times are recession era bad ) and that has nothing to do with people who aren’t actual employees yet.

    2. Lars the Real Girl*

      Pretty much what I came to say, especially about budgets. “We don’t have the budget for you” isn’t the same thing as “we don’t have money to spend” so them not hiring you on permanently and your boss maybe getting a raise are not related.

    3. Thin Blue Noose*

      BS. I’ve done the financials of temp vs real employee for many a project… temps cost the company much more money. That said, temps are easier to control since you manage them with a combo of fear (of job loss) and constantly moving carrot (of job offer). The point of growing a temp worker pool is to keep a Labor force of highly qualified/intelligent, desperate people at the ready (marked as second class citizens).

      1. Natalie*

        “Cost” isn’t just the weekly cost of payroll vs invoices from the temp company. Making someone a permanent employee commits the company to indefinite employment in a way a temp does not – not in a legal sense, of course, but just in the practical way that businesses work. There are plenty of positions where the flexibility of temps is hugely valuable.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Right. But adding a middleman (the temp agency) doesn’t decrease labor costs.

          Even though it is how business works to have temps and perms come from different budget categories, it does lack a certain amount of empathy to deny someone a raise or promotion for budget reasons and then immediately ask them to help prepare your request for a raise.

      2. Observer*

        I don’t know where you’ve done the financials, but it does not always work out that way at all. In fact, it’s quite common that even though the hourly rate for the temp is higher than the permanent person, the over all cost is quite a but higher.

      3. ManagerOfMany*

        My post was related to how costs are budgeted. Just because a temp cost less in the short term does not mean a company wants to put a full time hire on their books with a 5 year commitment to sustain that employee.

    4. Lehigh*

      I agree with this. OP, it’s a bit gauche of your manager to ask this of you specifically, since you were given financial reasons for your own lack of advancement/permanence, but if you are her go-to powerpoint preparer it otherwise makes sense for her to ask you to do this. Think about the time sink of your boss learning (or re-learning) to use powerpoint just to ask for a raise – probably much more costly to the company than asking you to do it if you already routinely create such presentations (or even if you don’t.)

      And yes, I think that most salary negotiations are done on company time–including the prep. In this case, she’s using your billable time instead of her own, but yours is probably cheaper so I can’t see the company getting upset about that.

      1. OP#2*

        I just want to clarify that I am NOT my boss’ admin! I report to her, but I am not her administrative assistant!

        1. Lehigh*

          Oh, yeah, then that part is weird. I can see how that makes it feel more like she’s asking you for a personal favor, which is icky.

          Glad to see from your update you’re confident in where you’re going with this, and seeing a potential silver lining. Good luck!

    5. OP#2*

      Thank you so much for your comment. This explains a lot that I was not aware of. I (like the comment below) assumed that it was more expensive to pay a temp agency than to simply bring an employee on full time.

      That doesn’t mean I’m not upset though. From the business side, based on your message and others, I see where they’re coming from. From an employee point of view, I feel deceived (I was told this was temp-to-perm and so far it is not), and also put in a very tight spot: I don’t get health benefits as a temp, no 401k, and have no job security. And it still feels like a kick in the gut to be asked to do this presentation, knowing that my boss is well aware of all of these things.

      So thank you again for your comment. It’s always good to understand both sides. But as a human being trying to make a living, the entire situation stinks.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        It does cost more money to temp than permanent, though, if it’s an apples-to-apples comparison. Adding a middle man doesn’t make it cheaper.

        Though, if you were hired on at the same total compensation level that company was paying the temp agency, your salary would likely go down to cover the expanded benefits.

        To put it another way, let’s say the company pays the temp agency $15 and the temp gets $10 in salary and no benefits. If the company directly hired the temp, the temp would get (let’s say) $9 in salary and cost $6 in benefits and overhead. If the temp insisted on keeping $10 in salary, it would cost the company $10 + $6 = $16, costing the company more.

        1. Candi*

          I actually came across a post from about three years ago, about a temp whose boss talked her into plotting to cheat the temp company, where temp compensation was rather thoroughly discussed. (Since the LW had been fed a load of hooey by her boss.) Basically, temp compensation shouldn’t go down,/i> when they’re hired to perm -but it likely won’t go up, either. The “different budget buckets” comes into play here.

      2. ManagerOfMany*

        This is certainly fair and you are entitled to your feelings! Thanks for hearing me out.

  16. Stellaaaaa*

    OP1: Is it possible that she misunderstands the nature of the internship? You have expectations of her that wouldn’t be Kosher if she were an unpaid student intern but are fine since she’s being paid. You might want to make that clear, that you’re allowed to expect real work from her.

  17. Rookie Manager*

    OP #4 I did this the other day… fired off a quick email to Bob.A@myorg apart from I didn’t check the autofill address and my “following our chat yesterday…” email went to Bob.B@partnerorg. Bob B forwarded it onto Bob.C@partnerorg (who I’ve never met) with a “is this for you? Rookie and I didn’t chat yesterday. Wrong Bob”.

    I sent an email to both saying “Sorry, I’m getting my Bobs muddled. Please ignore these emails” and got a very silly reply from Bob C saying “what emails, nothing to see here, I’m ignoring them, Bob B will too, hope you find the right Bob, nothing to see here.” This made me laugh and removed my acute embarrassment and sending internal emails to a partner.

    Finally I sent the original email to Bob A and got on with my day. Being friendly, gracious or kindly funny (ie not sarcastic) can make a huge difference to the sender but only reply to the sender. The exception would be if you are caught up in a “Reply All” situation in which case you need to kindly and firmly let everyone know there has been a mistake and to drop you from the chain.

    1. Hekko*

      One thing I would take from this: unless you as the wrong recipient know for sure who was the intended recipient, don’t forward the e-mail – return it to the sender to deal with. (Though Bob C was really funny about this, gain for you and no harm done.)

      1. kitryan*

        I once emailed the COO to ask for staples. Same first name as the mailroom person. Since the COO just forwarded the email to the mailroom person, then the mailroom person put the staples on the COO’s desk! Luckily mailroom passed by reception (which is why I couldn’t just get my own staples-can’t leave the desk unattended) and told me what he’d done so I could explain before the COO found them.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes really agree! It might not just be a case of wrong first name.

        Semi-related: we once had a reply-all meltdown that lasted for a week after someone accidentally sent an email to almost everyone in the company and then a million people reply-all’d saying “I don’t think you meant to send this to me.” I thought the funniest of those emails was one from someone named, let’s say Sue, saying “you sent this to the wrong Sue” when the original email had actually been sent FROM someone named Sue.

        1. kitryan*

          Oh my – I once *correctly* used an IT help email group, as we’d been told to do, only to have it email everyone in the company *and* everyone in the company’s global address book. As it was a performing arts org, this included all donors and I think, all ticket buyers, and subscribers. The group had been set up incorrectly, which then lead to my inbox getting overwhelmed with ‘don’t think this is for me’ emails, that no one would address – I had no idea if I should reply with an apology to everyone who emailed back or what! Not to mention that I had my own job to do and I hadn’t made the mistake in the first place.

  18. GiantPanda*

    Red Panda and I get mixed up all the time. It’s usually very obvious – we are the only two Pandas at the company, he works in teapot molds, I in spouts.
    After a while we just started forwarding these to each other, CC the sender, without comment. Works fine for us.

    1. snarkarina*

      Yes this – I work in a company with two other Janes and I often get emails meant for Jane Smith in HR when I’m Jane Doe in legal. The good news is that because of my position, I can be trusted to deal with otherwise confidential information that’s meant for Jane Smith, but there have been a few times when I’ve also had to explain that “yes, I did have to read far enough down in the email to realize that it wasn’t meant for me, and I’m sorry for that.”

      Jane Jones on the factory floor, luckily usually avoids that confusion–I think because the outlook feature often chooses the autocomplete based on recent recipients, and Jane Smith & I often deal with a lot of the same people (just in very different situations).

  19. MommyMD*

    I’m so sorry for your pregnancy loss. What a jerk your boss is. I’d be very tempted to tell her the truth just to make her feel terrible and tell her it needs to stay confidential. I’d also be tempted to report this to her boss.

    1. CoffeeLover*

      Unfortunately, I feel like a boss this nosy about someone’s private medical information seems unlikely to feel decent levels of shame.

      I would probably make up some kind of semi-gross medical condition just so I could describe it to her in vivid detail.

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        Colon polyp removal. Not too many people want to hear about it and it is urgent but not emergent.

  20. Akcipitrokulo*

    Re op4…

    “it wouldn’t hurt to also add “I’ll forward it on to Billy Smith.”” 

    I’d disagree with this. It’s telling Billy Smith that someone above you made a mistake. It’s also telling them, not asking them “would you like me to…?” cold be OK, but telling a higher up that you are going to do something which may embarrass them? Doesn’t sit right.

    I share first name with HR person. I’ve been sent all sorts of confidential things; my response has always been to tell sender and delete immediately.

    1. CoffeeLover*

      I agree with this. I worked in a job where we dealt with a lot of confidential client information and a really bad email system. It was connected to the global network and didn’t factor in “frequently emailed” people, so I would accidentally email people around the world – Hong Kong, Brazil, etc. – from time to time.

      Other people did it too, and we were all professionals in similar lines of work and would of course keep things confidential. Still, it would look pretty damn bad for me if this were to get out, especially if the client found out.

      I say don’t forward anything unless you’re in a situation such as Giant Panda described above.

    2. MommyMD*

      I would not forward it to anyone. I agree with you. I would send a short note to the original sender and that person can decide how they want to act on it.

    3. kitryan*

      I think the ethics/appropriateness of forwarding to the intended recipient vary based on office culture. At my office, it’s just how we do things – especially since the requests I’m getting are for things like ‘here are these parties to add to the client spreadsheet’ or ‘please pick up the documents for delivery to client x’ – almost always innocuous and time sensitive, so simpler to just send on to the proper person, just as you would drop off a mis-delivered envelope at their desk. Otherwise it may add more steps – tell the sender, sender resends to the proper recipient, recipient comes by to get documents – vs – tell recipient, recipient gets documents.
      But how this sort of thing goes could be different in a bigger org with more formal communication or for extended projects/email chains where everyone needs to stop emailing the wrong person.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Yeah, is context dependent. But without knowing, telling recipient a boss messed up? In general, I wouldn’t… but if it is accepted practice, then it’s good.

    1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      It depends on how the temp bills her time. If she bills directly to projects/grants A, B, and C and has no “general admin/fund” code, it is ethically wrong to bill admin work for the boss to any project/grant. That is why it makes sense to ask (in writing) what to bill the time to. If the boss says “Grant/Project B” then the LW is covered if she is ever questioned.

      1. Fabulous*

        100% of the many temp jobs I’ve ever had “bill” as if I were an hourly employee at the company. I’m at work, thus I get paid. There has never been a specific project or grant that I’ve been restricted to. Granted (pun intended) I’ve never worked temp at a non-profit so it may be different for those types of companies!

      2. OP#2*

        I do bill my time to one of three different departments/projects. This presentation didn’t fall under any of those, so I did email to clarify (always get it in writing!).

        To clarify, since I didn’t in my initial letter to AAM, I am not an administrative assistant! This kind of work is not in my job description.

        1. Jackie Christie*

          I would be fired if the only work I ever did was in my job description.
          I’m going to guess you’re a little bit young?

          1. Candi*

            She’s contracted as a project manager, according to other comments, and being repeatedly saddled with admin duties, which healthy cultures/decent bosses regard as a ridiculous use of time and manpower. She’s allowed to feel perturbed.

            That’s not even getting into the ‘LW does the work, the boss pretends it’s her own stuff’ crap.

    2. Liz2*

      I don’t think it’s really a Big Moral Dilemma, but it is a Work Dilemma in that it may cause stress prioritizing around other projects and it mis represents work as the OP has noted the manager takes credit for OPs work with no mention of the actual involvement.

      And it’s just darn tacky- OP isn’t the boss’ admin, is in a lower status on every level at the company and already dealt with rejection due to budget. This is an egregious level of misusing authority.

  21. Mugsy83*

    OP3, I’m so sorry for the situation you’re in. Your manager is a terrible manager and person.

    It’s so frustrating when you act like a responsible employee by alerting your manager in advance that you need a sick day and now she’s giving you the third degree. Had you said nothing and just called in the morning of the procedure saying “I’m not feeling well, I won’t be in today,” there probably wouldn’t be this line of questioning.

    If you have an HR team or grandboss, I’d bring this up to them even if your terrible manager grants your day off. Employees shouldn’t have to make up excuses to use their paid time off, nor should they be strong armed into divulging information about personal issues of any nature.

  22. dear liza dear liza*

    OP #4- this happens to me all the time. I’m “Liza Featherstone”, and there’s a professor “Lucy Featherstone.” I’m listed first in the directory, and my email is, she’s In other words, it’s super easy for people to pull me up before they see Lucy’s info in the directory.

    AFAIK she doesn’t get email meant for me, but at least once a month I get something meant for her. At the start of semesters, I usually get a handful of students asking “Professor Featherstone” for x, y, and z.

    In almost all cases, I just reply, cc’ing Lucy, saying, “This is Liza at the library. I think you meant to send this to Professor Lucy Featherstone in Teapot Design.” Sometimes I just forward it to Lucy with a quick, “this is for you!” Easy-peasy!

    1. Justme*

      My friend and her husband both work for the same University as I do. Her email is their last name, his is his first initial and their last name. They get emails meant for each other all the time. Considering their relationship it’s no big deal to forward on to the correct person, but the person’s full name pops up in our email client so that people should know who they are sending it to.

    2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Same. I’m at a university and get misdirected emails meant for people either with my same first name (sender just starts typing first name and the directory autofills and they don’t catch it), or same/close last name (my last name is both very common and close to other common last names — think Hanson, Hansen, Henson, Nelson, Nelsen, Neilson, etc.) For anything that isn’t private or confidential I just forward to the correct person. For anything that might embarrass the sender, I reply to let them know.

    3. Kj*

      This happened to me in HS, since the drama teacher shared my very unusual last name (I had NEVER met and have not met since anyone with my last name other than family members). Since my first name came first in the alphabet, I got the drama department budget, casting decisions, etc. I would reply to the sender and tell them I was a student, not the drama teacher, but I would CC the drama teacher.

  23. MicroManagered*

    OP4: I disagree with AAM’s advice that it couldn’t hurt to add that you’ll forward it on to the correct Billy. Let the sender correct their own mistake, particularly if they’re at all the type to lose face over it or if the email is at all sensitive. (Or, at least be sure to read the situation and err on the side of letting the sender make the correction.)

    I think the exception would be if it’s extremely common to receive messages intended for someone else because of your email address. For example, I worked at a company where my email was but there was also a,, etc. We got emails meant for each other all the time and it became customary to just forward it due to volume.

  24. NotoriousMCG*

    As to OP2 – they also mentioned the boss taking credit for work that OP did and I feel like that wasn’t addressed? I completely agree that it’s icky for the boss to have someone else do it for them (especially one who was recently denied growth) but that it’s work related, but I’m wondering about Alison’s take on the assertion of taking credit

    1. Zip Zap*

      I agree. It has an, “I’m taking your money,” sort of feel to it. OP was denied growth and the boss is seeking a raise based partially on OP’s work, which they’re taking credit for. It is work-related, but I understand why OP is upset.

      1. OP#2*

        Thank you, this is a big sticking point for me.

        We had a massive project in the spring, that lasted over a month and required me to put in overtime. I worked incredibly hard, and in the end we won a new major client. I don’t take sole responsibility for that achievement at all, but I got ZERO recognition for my hard work. My boss collected all of the work that I’d done, added her part to it, and presented it to the execs as her own. She won an award for it. I never once heard even a “thank you for your work OP#2!” from anyone.

        And I get it. That’s the job, and it’s fine. It was actually a very enjoyable project, I learned a lot, and the work itself was very interesting. But now my boss wants a raise based off this and other projects that *I* did the bulk of the work on?

        That hurts.

        1. Zip Zap*

          I would get out and network and talk to people face to face about the work you did. Leave your boss out of it. Just talk about what you did and how you did it. Talk about it in a way that makes it obvious that it was your work. And mention that you’re looking for something more challenging. They’re under-valuing you and you can do better!

        2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          Time to find a new job. Even if you do go permanent, this sort of thing will keep happening.

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          I don’t agree that it’s fine! I think it’s not necessarily inappropriate for your boss to receive credit for a project that you worked on, because she was managing you working on that. BUT appreciation is important and if you aren’t receiving it that sucks a lot! Especially if she is leveraging your work into her own personal gain.

          Every quarter after we finish a big project, my grandboss forwards on an email from our CAO passing on her thanks and giving us his own and telling us how much he appreciates all our work. That kind of thing can make a huge difference when it comes to job satisfaction.

        4. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude*

          Yikes. You may be in an entirely different situation, but for me, independent contracting depends entirely on Get Thing Done; you have to produce whatever Thing is, and just as importantly, it has to be clear that you are the creator of Thing. I make teapots; if it looked like someone other than me was making my teapots, no one would hire me. They’d hire whoever appeared to be making my teapots, and I would be cast from the teapot-making world in disgrace.*

          Clearly you’re unlikely to be cast from this place in disgrace, but if the execs think she’s doing the work you are producing, what do they think you are doing? Will you be able to cite the work you’ve done when you move on from this place? Freelancing is a cold grim world, you’ve got to hold on to your intellectual property**!

          *Though I’d prefer to be cast in bronze.
          **Which, unlike regular property, is not so much theft as lawless borrowing.

  25. Sualah*

    #3 – I’m so sorry. I think Alison’s advice is spot on. One thing I do want to mention–at my work, unborn children passing is specifically mentioned in our bereavement leave, and might be in yours. If you feel you can talk about the miscarriage, that might be worth looking into. But that is the only situation where I could see that even at all being something your boss “needs” to know. If you’re going to go back to work, giving notice for the one day off is all your boss is entitled to and I’m so sorry your boss is making it difficult.

  26. Jen*

    #4. I was often the recipient of mail meant for someone else with my first name and last initial. I knew her well. We were both director level but in totally different areas- think engineering vs marketing. It was pretty obvious when I got an email for her or vice versa.

    When the sender was a peer or superior OR someone who obviously knew the different but made a mistake, I simply forwarded to her and copied the sender, with the note “must be for you!”

    When I thought the sender might not know they had the wrong person, or I wasn’t totally sure it was meant for someone else (happened rarely but every so often) I’d reply directly to them saying, “was this meant for (right person)?”

    On the flip side, there were two William Browns at my company. Will Brown worked for me, and William worked for a completely different business unit. Both very junior to me. William ignored emails I sent to him by accident, which drove me crazy!!

    1. Jen*

      One caveat that if it was extremely confidential, I’d replay to the sender saying “I don’t believe this was meant for me; I’ve deleted” and not immediately forward.

  27. SomeoneLikeAnon*

    OP#2: I would review your contractual obligations first. My take is that what you are being asked to do is probably outside of your contract, but it depends on the wording of your requirements and how strict the contract is about that sort of thing. Some contracts are strict about their contractors knowing HR details of an organization. I don’t think this request is a reasonable use of contract resources for an organization. Depending on what you find out with your contractual obligations will allow you to craft an appropriate respone to push back politely. Further, I think this manager is out of line asking anyone else to get involved in her personal negioations and do not think that having someone else create a “brag” deck shows sound judgement for a raise request; but, as Allison said, that’s on her.

    1. OP#2*

      Thanks SomeoneLikeAnon.

      I think I’ll follow Allison’s advice and get the project done. I know she asked me because I have advanced Power Point training, and that training means I can do this project without it affecting my actual work load too much. But I will take a look at my contract as well, in case this comes up again in the future! Better to be informed. Great advice, thanks!

      1. Zip Zap*

        Are you being asked to lie in the PowerPoint? Does it include giving her credit for your work? If so, is there a way to get it done without the dishonest parts? That would be the main issue for me.

  28. OP #1*

    OP #1 here! I see a lot of people saying that not giving her feedback is the worst thing to do, so I want to clarify that we have been giving her feedback! Lots of it! But she just really isn’t great at internalizing it and has this weird combination of knowing she’s made lots of mistakes and also thinking that she’s naturally amazing at her job and shouldn’t have to work too hard. But maybe y’all are right and we’ve been being a little too gentle and not getting across what the importance is – I’m generally a pretty caustic person and I may have overcorrected.

    1. Zathras*

      I think especially with interns, feedback needs to come with clear instructions for what improvement would look like. So make sure you are telling her what you want her to do, not just what not to do. If she reacts poorly, one of those things can absolutely be “You need to be able to take feedback and constructive criticism professionally.” This also gives you something to point to in future corrections – “Hey, you’re still putting these in the purple folders, even though I told you to put them in the blue ones. Why is that?”

      You do mention ‘rookie mistakes’ in the original letter – remember that she *is* a rookie. I wouldn’t ding her too much for that, a lot of what seems like common sense after a year or so on the job really isn’t when you are brand new to it. But if she’s making the same mistakes over and over after being corrected, that’s a different and much bigger problem.

      1. OP#1*

        I guess part of it is frustration because I am also a rookie – I’ve been on the job for under a year, and I don’t have the specialized degree that she has. Since it’s a creative field, the feedback is a bit more general by necessity. But we did have a long talk today, and since I’m not the one directly managing her (so I’m not as intimidating) I think she’ll be able to come to me more for advice and help and be a bit less defensive.

    2. Sibley*

      We have a former intern here who has been struggling, and attitude is a big part of it. She worked on a project that I was leading, and I got EXTREMELY granular in giving her directions and feedback. Things like, you need to re-read your work for typos and errors. You need to run spell check on EVERYTHING. You need to give me status updates on this frequency. Then when it didn’t happen, I would say, hey, this doesn’t make sense, you clearly didn’t re-read it for errors and there’s spelling mistakes throughout, you didn’t run spell check. I told you to do these things. What happened?

      In one way, it damaged the relationship because I was constantly giving her negative feedback (there really wasn’t anything positive, I tried). In another way, I’ve heard that she’s made improvements on subsequent projects, which resulted in less negative feedback and I think she’s made the connection that I’m not unreasonable. So while I don’t want to work with her (it made a tough project even harder and, yes, I’m still holding a grudge for now), she maybe won’t get fired for incompetence and poor work habits?

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Sometimes an intern realizes they don’t want to go into the field like they thought. They realize these references aren’t likely to matter and that they can drop the whole experience from their resume. A bad case of senioritis can result. The employer might as well just fire them since this has basically become a “mcjob” for the intern.

        1. Candi*

          That’s the thing I don’t get. Even if someone decides that teapot decorating isn’t for them, and they’d rather go into helping homeless llamas, there’s a good chance this internship will still be on their work history, and they’ll need a decent reference from it.

          Even if they don’t put it on their resume, network connections between fields do exist. The job someone decided not to bother doing well can come back to bite in unexpected ways. Human connections don’t exist in a vacuum.

  29. WhirlwindMonk*

    #1 – While I agree that it sounds like the intern is an issue and needs to be talked to, the line “She makes rookie mistakes in her work, … and often schedules appointments during work hour” made me raise an eyebrow a bit.

    What sort of rookie mistakes are we talking about? The kind of thing they learn to avoid in school, or the kind of thing they learn to avoid on the job? Because if it’s the latter, she might just not have had good internships before this, or any at all, in order to learn those things.

    And what sort of appointments are we talking about? If it’s her weekly hair appointment, sure that’s an issue, but if these are doctor’s appointments, or repair people coming out to her home, or whatever, that’s just part of life. This idea that we should be able and expected to take all personal things and handle them outside of work hours is pretty toxic, in my opinion.

    In short, my point is that when you talk to her, make sure the things you give her criticism on are actual professional issues, and not just frustrations that seem worse because of the actual professional issues. Telling her to stop going to the doctor’s during work hours is a bad plan for a number of reasons.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I don’t know, for a short, paid internship I wouldn’t expect an intern to be always ducking out. I know things happen, but for repairmen etc I think that’s a bit of an eyebrow raise around here.

      1. KellyK*

        If it’s a whole bunch of appointments and the repairs are minor or can wait, sure. I mean, there’s a difference between being home all day to wait for the cable guy and getting your stove fixed so it’s not a giant fire hazard.

        It would be reasonable feedback to ask the intern to try to minimize the impact of her appointments as much as she can. That means no optional (hair, nails) appointments during work hours, and asking for a morning or afternoon slot for the necessary stuff when possible. It might also mean putting off the necessary but not urgent stuff if there’s been a lot of urgent stuff. In general, I think taking the afternoon off to wait for the cable guy is reasonable if you can’t work from home, but if the intern already had three doctor’s appointments that month, it’d be better to put it off.

        1. Zip Zap*

          It’s hard to say. They could be medical appointments that she’s calling “hair appointments” to protect her privacy. Or hair appointments that she’s calling medical appointments so she won’t get in trouble. She could be having mimosas at the local bar or caring for a sick family member. It’s private stuff so I guess you’ll never know for sure, but to be fair, you have to allow for all the possibilities.

          1. fposte*

            Sure, but that doesn’t mean you can’t counsel or even terminate for absences excessive for a limited-term position.

    2. OP#1*

      Hi! To your questions: when I say rookie mistakes, I mean things that she definitely should have learned to avoid in school, including making factual errors. Of course there are also some mistakes that are just based on how our office runs, but those get corrected much more gently.
      And the appointments aren’t doctor’s appointments! I get that many doctors aren’t around during work hours and would never be irritated with someone for missing work for a necessity. It’s the things that are, like, having coffee with a friend for two hours in the middle of the work day (in addition to regular lunch break) that aren’t really okay.

  30. MI Dawn*

    #4: My name is Dawn, and there are several Dawns in my company. A few have last names similar in the beginning to mine (think Jones/Johnson/Johns) so even if people start typing the last name, MS Outlook will fill in with the last person emailed. We usually forward with “I think this is for you” and cc the sender, only. Recurrent errors will get a return email saying “please remove me from this thread, you mean Other Dawn”.

    #3: My sincerest sympathies. Go to your HR if you have one. FMLA only requires you notify of need for time off, not the reason for it – and in many US states, managers are not allowed to ask the reason why. My company would show me the door instantly if I’d done this with my employees. You can *offer* the reason, but they have to accept “medical procedure” with no other information, especially, as in your case, you will have a note from your physician clearing you to return to work.

    1. Erin*

      So at my current job my employer is telling me that I can’t schedule a sick day is illegal? Because my current boss said I can’t use a sick day to go to a scheduled doctors appointment.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Can you share what states you’re thinking of? I don’t know of any state (except maybe CA) that prohibits employers from asking why you’re taking the time off. Your company might have its own (excellent) policy on this, but it’s not typically the law.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        There is some case law at the federal level in which courts ruled that requiring doctor’s notes for regular absences must include a diagnosis or description of the condition could violate the ADA by forcing someone to disclose a disability.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            No, not with the OP, but from the employer’s perspective it is relevant. An employer does not know *know* whether a person requesting sick time is disabled or not, so asking for detailed medical information from people in general when they request sick leave could end up implicating the ADA. Now, of course in this case it doesn’t, but this could be what Dawn is thinking of from the HR perspective, and why the OP’s boss should not be making a habit out of asking for diagnoses from her reports.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Definitely, and that’s the point that I tried to make in that column linked above — that on the employer side they don’t know if ADA might be in play. But I don’t know of any state laws that specifically prohibit managers from asking the reason someone is taking a sick day, which I think is what Dawn was saying.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Meant to add – that was specific to doctor’s notes, and don’t address how far employers can go when they ask an employee about the reason for time off. But it’s related, and might be what Dawn is thinking of.

      2. MI Dawn*

        Could be my employer. We outsource any leaves so internally we are told we are *not* to ask about medical leaves or PTO day requests. I’m in NJ.

    3. Jessie the First (or second)*

      MI Dawn, FMLA is different than sick leave. FMLA applies only in specific circumstances, and can in fact involve medical certification of the need; taking a day to go to a doctor’s appointment does not implicate FMLA. Regular sick leave is NOT regulated by the FMLA. The OP here is talking about using sick leave. FMLA is not relevant here at all.

  31. Old Admin*

    OP #3, I’d like to add my condolences for your child passing.
    I’ve done some work with expecting mothers, and understand how fragile you are now.
    I also understand that snarkiness, putting on a victim show, passive aggression etc. are much too hard now, and also may well backfire. Don’t force yourself to do anything like that.

    May I suggest you tell your boss this is a procedure for a condition that else could become very serious or even life threatening? (As in a miscarriage not handled medically can endanger the mother.)

    If your job is on the line, and no support from HR forthcoming, perhaps a variation of my own response (when my sister died in a terrible way) could work:
    “Boss, my child died. I have to go to the hospital right away. I can’t talk about this any further.”
    Put your mental armor on before you go to Boss. Say this quietly, don’t blow up, don’t be passive-aggressive. Just look at her sadly if she drills more, say no more, and get out of the discussion.

    I wish you strength and all the best.

  32. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-Someone needs to be managing this person. I imagine she’s probably not learning a ton and making all of your team’s work more difficult. Talk with your manager.

    #3-What the holy hell. No, just no. Do what Alison says although there is a part of me that says be brutally honest. I doubt it would teach boss a lesson but it’s probably what I would do. Hugs to you as you go through this. I had 1 non-viable premature delivery and 3 miscarriages at my last job. Thankfully, I felt comfortable telling my boss and my coworkers who were wonderfully supportive. My boss also had fertility issues, so we supported each other.

    #4-I’ve got a VERY common last name. I tend to get lots of emails that I really shouldn’t. Things about firings and pay raises and such. I just send back to the sender that the proper person didn’t get the email and then delete. If it’s not sensitive info, I’ll forward to the right person but otherwise, I get out as fast as possible.

  33. OP#3*

    Thank you all for the support. Just to clarify, the person being nosy is just a director covering for my direct boss while he’s on vacation — my actual boss wouldn’t have asked me about it at all. This one gets a little power-trippy.

    I ended up having my doctor send me over a letter on hospital letterhead, stating that I was scheduled for an outpatient medical procedure on 8/18 and would be able to return to work on 8/19 as long as there are no significant complications. The hospital letterhead prevented her from knowing what kind of doctor it was, which I’m sure annoyed her. I also sent a copy to HR so they were aware of the situation.

    She’s been icy to me, but I have other things to worry about. I’ve never been disciplined at work, and UsualBoss comes back on Monday so this whole thing should blow over.

    1. KellyK*

      I’m really sorry for your loss. Miscarriages are awful. I’m glad this is just your boss’s temporary replacement, and your real boss is much more reasonable.

    2. Cucumberzucchini*

      I would consider telling your real Boss about the behavior of the power-trippy director who covered for him.

      1. Nea*

        Seconding this. Real Boss needs to know that Cover Boss basically threatened your performance rating over a non-performance privacy issue.

        I’m so sorry for your loss, and the letter was brilliantly done.

      2. Observer*

        I agree.

        Also, brilliant move on the part of your doctor. I’m so glad that you have one who has some sense and sensitivity.

    3. NEW YEAR, NEW ME*

      Hugs to you OP. I agree with telling your UsualBoss about what happened when he/she is back. He/she should be made aware of AD’s behavior toward you.

    4. Emma*

      I’m sorry that you’re going through this. I had a miscarriage a year ago, and it sucks. It seems like you handled this beautifully. I’ll be thinking of you.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      I’m so glad to hear this isn’t your usual boss. It sounds like you have handled this very well, though I’m sorry that you had to deal with something so ridiculous at all while you’re already dealing with your loss.

    6. Candi*

      I am so sorry for what you’ve lost.

      Your doctor is brilliant, and CoverBoss needs a compassion infusion.

    7. Annonymouse*

      The only way this could be better is if on the copy for your temporary “boss” the Dr managed to find a professional way to say:
      “Go eat a bag of dicks you nosey piece of Schmidt.”

      Say something to your regular boss when they come back about how temp boss was trying to get you to disclose personal information about your reasons for leave while you were dealing with a sudden health crisis.

      It was not for them to push, you provided notice and relevant information as well as letting them know it was a short term thing with a definite return date. That their being a power tripping ass made it much more stressful than it needed to be and they threatened your job by not approving leave you medically needed.

  34. Anne of Green Gables*

    #3–Add my condolences to those that have come before. I am so sorry that on top of everything, you have to deal with a boss who is being a jerk.

    When I was in a very similar situation in terms of miscarriage, I was told by my doctor to be out of work the day after the procedure as well. In retrospect, I wish I had scheduled a half day for the second day after, but I worked 10-hour days at the time and had a fairly physical component to my job. I just wanted to mention that in case you want that option, though I would only do that in your case if you do in fact have an HR department that can support you. I am so, so sorry that you have to deal with thinking about someone else’s reactions right now.

    1. OP#3*

      I thought about taking the second day but as long as I can handle it I want to be as “normal” as I can.

      1. anon_for_this*

        I had what I think is the same procedure, and to be honest, it wasn’t the next couple of days that were the hardest. It was like a couple weeks later when the weight of it all hit me, and I was the worst grief-wise.

      2. J.B.*

        I am so sorry. I hope you find peace.

        Practical note, as someone who has been there. I went back to work the day after a D&C for a few hours. Keep in mind though that you will probably be in physical pain at that point. Also, if they prescribe you motrin – that prescription will probably be for 3x the dose on the bottle. So you may want to take the horse pills or if you start with the smaller dose from the container double up as you need.

        1. Candi*

          Just don’t do this for more than a day or two. Motrin and related drugs are hard on the kidneys.

          I got the lecture on the effects of both drugs from my last doctor after double-dosing on Tylenol and Advil to handle a migraine. Yeah, don’t do that. (I’m infernally lucky it’s food trigger migraines.)

  35. AnotherNPRGeek*


    “In January 2007, Rachel P. Salazar was living in Bangkok, Thailand. Ruben P. Salazar was in Waco, Texas. They were 9,000 miles apart and completely unaware of each other’s existence. But when an email meant for Rachel accidentally went to Ruben, it wasn’t long before an ordinary mistake began to look like an extraordinary stroke of luck.

    At StoryCorps, they remember how an errant keystroke led to an enduring romance. ”

  36. Kms1025*

    OP #3…tell your idiot, power abusing boss that you need to take care of a severe hemorrhoid condition. And that is truthful because your boss is a severe pain in the ass!!! I am so sorry for your loss. You deserve kindness and compassion, not the vile treatment you are getting. I’m just so sorry.

  37. Editor Person*

    Re #4 My mom and I worked for the same company for a while (until she retired to move to her hometown and look at seals) and the email convention across the company was firstinitiallastname at company dot net. My mom and I have the same initials so when I got hired my email is the first two letters of my name then lastname. We were in completely different departments and locations so outside colleagues (and some inside ones) could work with me without ever knowing that my mom also worked here. This, obviously, led to her getting a lot of my email. Her method was to forward it to me, write “hey I think this is for you” while CC-ing the original sender. Then I could follow up with the sender and take my mom off the email chain. There was a little song and dance with “omg so sorry!” and “no problem, happens a bunch,” laughing about it (“haha my fault for same initials lol”) and moving on.

    It happened in reverse a couple times and I only ever felt relief that this email that I could not even begin to parse was not intended for me. Not my circus.

  38. DCompliance*

    OP #3- I am so sorry for your loss. I go for my 1st ultrasound on Friday and my husband have fertility issues as well, so I know the whole process can be worrisome and that you can carry this worry long before you hear the bad news. Honestly, I am at a point were I would still go to HR.

  39. Adam K*

    #2 feels so icky… Like, the manager is saying “We don’t have the money to bring you on. In unrelated news, help me get much more money from the company.” Or if you prefer, “Money for me, and not for thee!”

    1. TootsNYC*

      I might be really tempted, after I’d done the presentation, to say, “If they’re able to give you this raise, does this mean there might be budget to bring me on permanently?”

      Just to have it sort of out there that she’s eating in front of a hungry person.

    2. (Different) Rebecca*

      I mean…so the optics aren’t great, but different salaries *could* come from different parts of the budget. One raise might have nothing to do with one permanent hire. It’s definitely on the mean side of things to have the bereft (OP) write for the person who will benefit, but there’s not necessarily anything that said person can do.

      1. nonymous*

        It could also be that the company has funds for wages (either the raise or OP’s salary) but not enough for the benefits/taxes/unemployment insurance. But the boss is pretty tone deaf to handle it this way.

  40. OP#2*

    OP#2 here!

    Thank you to everyone for the fantastic advice! I really appreciate it. I know that I’m adding a lot of my personal emotions to this situation, making it more complex than it already is– bitterness over still being a temp far past the expected time, etc. I’m also not an administrative assistant, which many people assumed I was, so being asked to do this presentation would not be a task I’d normally expect to do in my job.

    That said, Allison’s advice is really spot-on! I can do this project without any major disruption to my actual work, and confirmed in writing where my boss would like me to bill this to (as it’s not a task that I have a billing department for).

    And who knows… maybe if my boss gets this raise and a big bump in responsibility, they’ll need someone to take over the responsibilities of her previous position? I’ll keep my fingers crossed and maybe this will lead to the perm gig after all!

  41. Cyberspace Dreamer*

    #2 Not exactly the same dilemma, but at oldjob I had an IT admin position, yet the Division head asked me to contribute to an updated job description for the IT Department head position. The department head I worked under had recently “retired” (office politics 101. I made my contribution from a technical perspective, but I cannot remember what made the final draft. The irony is that the next IT Department head was partially responsible for my eventual departure, and that person was less technical than the predecessor.

    #5 Related to the same situation above. I also worked with another manager who played a part in my departure. This manager did not get along with the Department head #2 and I got caught in the middle. Our working relationship ended on a sour note but recently she reached out to me LinkedIn and we have a brief but cordial exchange. I had always wanted to clear the air because unlike the department head, the issues with this manager were never personal. ANYWAY, I decided to send her a “bury the ax” message explaining why I left and that I understood the untenable situation the division head put her in. But I did tell her that what finally pushed me to the edge was an email forwarded to me by her that included false statements about me from department head #2 which confirmed my suspicions about what they were up to. As it is I have not heard back and If I don’t I am ok with that.

    1. FreetobeMe*

      Unfortunately Dear Manager’s bad behavior was learned and to some extent encouraged by Dear Dept. Director (her boss and mentor). The job itself was okay. I just couldn’t endure it anymore. It was really bringing out the worst in me. I had major anxiety.

      1. Cyberspace Dreamer*

        That is when we have to make that command decision. When the situation starts to affect our character something has got to give.

    2. CM*

      That sound less to me like burying the ax and more like airing grievances.

      I think if OP#5 wants to clear the air, going with a straightforward apology, and nothing that could be construed as blaming the ex-boss, would be the only way to do it. Ann Furthermore has a great script in her comment above. But saying, “We both did things wrong, and I want to clear the air by apologizing for my part of it” is not an effective apology.

  42. GarlicMicrowaver*

    Re # 3:
    “If your company is small and there’s no HR, I’d seriously consider making up another medical explanation; she’s not entitled to honesty about something that’s none of her business.”

    Allison, I respectfully disagree. Making up another medical explanation only reinforces the atrocious behavior of her boss. It sets the precedent that it’s OK to disclose medical information in every instance.

    If there’s no HR, is there any legal standing? HIPAA violation? What kind of company penalizes for not disclosing something that is private?

    OP, my thoughts are with you.

    1. Observer*

      No HIPAA here – that’s only a matter of what medical practices and insurances (and related organizations) do with your data.

      If there is no HR and no one above the boss who can be spoken to, then the OP needs to focus on what will work for her, not what’s theoretically right.

      In this case, the boss doesn’t need “reinforcing” – she’s dug into her outrageousness. The OP doesn’t have any moral obligation to be penalized because her boss is being a jerk. Unless you have a way for the OP to get her boss to just grant the leave, she has nothing practical to lose by just doing what she needs to do either.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nope, no legal standing in that case (unless the ADA were in play, but it’s not). Which is why, as Observer says, the OP would just need to do what gets her the best outcome.

      1. Noah*

        Why isn’t it an FMLA violation to not allow her leave for a medically necessary procedure?

        For that matter, if she can prove a disability (and I think not having a deceased fetus in your body is almost certainly going substantially limit at least the major life activity of becoming pregnant), why isn’t this an ADA issue?

        1. Colette*

          I don’t think a one-time procedure (for one day) is typically something that FMLA is typically used for, and it will take more time than the OP likely has to get the paperwork done. If there’s a more efficient way to get the leave, that’s where the OP should focus.

  43. FreetobeMe*

    Hi. I’m OP #5. Thanks for addressing my question. The details are obnoxious. To sum up, I worked under a blonde Kim Jong Un. She always had to be the smartest person in the room, spoke to me and the other two coordintaors as if English was our second language and we ahad the collective IQ of a shoe. She would criticize over the most innocous things such as my use of post-it notes, which to her was a “waste of paper” —only to use them herself! Total hypocrite. We all sat in cubicles and she would gossip loudly over the phone about other employees. She would gossip to each one of us about each other! Anyway, you get the pitcure.
    Here is what I ended up writing to her:
    Dear [redacted]
    I’m writing to apologize to you over the way I handled things on the job when we were working with each other. For what it’s worth I wish we could have gotten along better to make the strengths we had in common work for us as opposed to allowing weaknesses to deteriorate our professional relationship. I let situations bring out the worst in me and for that I sincerely apologize. I wish you all the success you deserve.
    I haven’t received a response (nor do I expect to) but I feel at least there is some closure to be gained from enduring the poor management and personality flaws of someone directly above me for the past 4 years. I only regret the absence of the paycheck and benefits.

    1. nonymous*

      I could totally see BKJU reading this and thinking “See? I was right about those post-its. FreetobeMe has finally come to her senses.”

      I hope you feel better for having written this.

    2. CM*

      “I wish you all the success you deserve” is some A+ shade.
      Seriously, I think that’s a nice and appropriate message even if you’re unlikely to get a response.

    3. The Supreme Troll*

      FreetobeMe, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but I really don’t know how much writing a letter like this could help you. From the letter you wrote and your response above, I don’t think this was a situation where it took “two to tango”; you’re boss was a classic jerk, and you (and any reasonable employee) would want to get the hell out of there ASAP.

      Just my opinion, but I don’t think that her “bad management brought out the worst in you” – her bad management will cause many of her employees to leave with no regrets. And I don’t think you should have any, either, and I don’t think you really would want to interact with somebody like her again.

      1. FreetobeMe*

        Well, I was laid off from my most recent gig (post Dear Mgr) back in Oct of last year and it’s been hard I’d get connecting with another steady position. I figure–even though she was such a royal pain to work with– I’d get some good job karma points by extending an olive branch. You sum it well though. Thanks for your support. :-)

    4. anyone out there but me*

      I worked for someone similar and it’ll be a cold day in hell before I apologize for anything I did or was driven to say/do. You’re a better person than I.

      1. FreetobeMe*

        Lol, I don’t know about that but thank you. I don’t know if I can say whether she deserves the apology but doing so has allowed me to move forward emotionally/spiritually. That’s what matters most to me in this situation.

  44. Noah*

    Re OP#3, this part is not getting enough attention: “because she ‘didn’t know when I’d be back,'”

    What??? That is not a valid reason to deny medical leave. Basically she is saying: “If you need a medical procedure with an uncertain recovery time, you must either ask for way more leave than you could possibly need or you cannot have the procedure.”

    If she persists with this position, call a lawyer with ADA and FMLA expertise.

    1. nonegiven*

      Yeah, I don’t think this is something that can be put off that for as long as that would take.

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