my boss spends all his time on the internet, I’m in the middle of a coworker’s crush, and more

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

1. My new boss spends all his time on the internet

I have a new manager at work (about two months into the job). The thing is, increasingly, he spends pretty much all his time browsing the internet, clearly on non-work-related sites (easily 90% of the time, except when something work-related actually demands his attention).

Our workplace allows “occasional” internet usage, and I’m no angel during quiet times (e.g., AAM), but this seems way over the top. Due to the way the desks are laid out, only I have this perfect view of his constant intenet usage (nobody else passes by or behind his desk) so I don’t know if anyone else knows. In his defense, I can’t point to things he has neglected or ignored as a result of this (nor do I know what his goals are), but he does do a lot of delegation of tasks and I am sure his time could be used more productively.

So, what do I do? If it helps, I’m not necessarily that senior but I have been here a long time. My current view is to do nothing (however much it irritates me to watch someone doing what amounts to five hours work a week), on the grounds it’s not my business or concern.

Yeah, annoying as it is, you don’t really have standing to intervene here; that’s the nature of hierarchy. But if he’s truly doing no work, and the managers above him are good, at some point that’s going to become clear to them. (And if they’re not good, there are bigger problems anyway.)

The only exception to this would be if you have a very good and somewhat close relationship with his boss. In that case, you could discreetly say something like, “It might be worth checking in with Bob about how he’s getting acclimated. I might be misinterpreting, but I see him spending what looks like most of his time on the internet, and I wonder how well he’s adjusted to our workflow.” But again, that’s only if you have strong rapport with that person and talk frequently enough to make this not weird (and to trust they’ll handle the information discreetly).

2. I don’t want to be in the middle of my coworker’s crush

Justin is a new coworker who just joined my small team and is in training for the same job I do. I am not in charge of him in any way, but have been showing him parts of the work we are required to do and am involved in the training because I do this work and a lot of the training is on the job. While working on some training, Justin told me that he has a crush on Britney, who is in another department, and began asking some pointed questions about her status and making comments about trying to pursue her romantically.

I have no problem with what Justin does on his own time. These questions and conversations in the workplace do, however, make me uncomfortable. Especially because this conversation involves another coworker who I know only on a professional level. Our team is small and we do occasionally share things about our lives and maybe what we did over the weekend, as well as funny stories about kids and partners on occasion. I really don’t want to escalate this in any way, and the last time I just kinda answered and then “bean-dipped” to another subject. I don’t want to overreact on this, and I am concerned that I am. I want to be able to appropriately respond in a way that is polite and doesn’t damage the relationship. I also don’t want it to feel like I am reprimanding him for poor behavior or anything. I would appreciate your insight on how to handle any further remarks in this regard.

Ick, yeah. I don’t think you’re overreacting. If he wants to ask out Britney, that’s his business, as long as he does it in a work-appropriate way and immediately takes no for an answer. But by talking to you about it, he’s making you part of your colleagues’ romantic concerns in a way that’s inappropriate at work. (It’s also a really high school thing to do. Any chance he’s very young? If he’s not young, this is actually creepier because he should know better after a certain age.)

If he brings it up again, I’d say something like this: “I feel uncomfortable hearing this about a coworker. Can you leave me out of it?” Or, “Sorry, dude, I’m not up for talking about your crush on a coworker. So about (insert work-related topic)…” And if he asks you questions about Britney, tell him, “You’re going to have to talk to Britney directly if you want to know that.” Or, “I don’t feel right having this conversation about a colleague, so please leave me out of this.”

I know you asked for polite, and these might not feel super polite, but it really is a little gross for him to be doing this (not the potentially asking her out, but the making it A Thing with coworkers without her involvement or consent), and you’re doing him a favor by pointing that out.

3. How to thank my office for helping my sick nephew

I’m writing in to you because I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to thanking my coworkers, my boss and my company for what they did for me. My nephew had been sick for a while and he needed surgery to save his life. Even with insurance the cost was too much for his parents and our family to afford. Family and friends chipped in and there was a GoFundMe and some fundraising to help. It was a stressful time for everyone.

My boss called me into his office. He mentioned my nephew and gave me a check for the outstanding amount on behalf of the company and my coworkers. The owner of the company also pulled some strings to get some free rooms at a hotel by the hospital so his parents and some other family would have a place to stay while my nephew recovered. I didn’t believe it was happening. I had told some of my coworkers what was going on but I never asked anyone here for money because I didn’t want to push the boundaries at work. My coworkers gave what they could and the company handled the rest. The total donated by my coworkers was $3,000, and the company $27,000.

The surgery was a success, my nephew is better and he started school for the first time this year because he has his health back. I gave a card to each person at my work who donated and I thanked everyone but it doesn’t feel like enough. I am beyond happy. But I don’t want to go overboard into un-professionalism. I never expected anything like this and I don’t how I can ever thank or repay everyone.

How effusive have you been in those thanks? Assuming the thanks didn’t feel perfunctory, and I suspect it didn’t, I think you’re probably covered here! But you could always go back to your boss and say that now that some time has passed and you’ve had a chance to really process what the company did for you, you want to express again how grateful you are, how much of a difference the help made to your family, and how much it means to you to work for a company that did this.

You could also circulate a photo or two of your nephew looking healthy and happy, with a note about how they made it possible. But beyond being a good coworker who pays it forward when you see opportunities to do that, I don’t think you need to worry about finding a way to repay people. People do this kind of thing not as a tit-for-tat, but because it genuinely feels good to help someone in need. As long as you express sincere and open gratitude, you should be good.

4. Are executives coaches worth it?

I was recently at a professional conference where a panel of directors were talking about their experiences getting to that level and the challenges they encountered once there. Not surprisingly, many talked about dealing with their own impostor syndrome issues. (Woohoo! There’s hope for me after all!) One of the directors mentioned her issues were so bad she found herself freezing up and unable to make even small decisions. She then talked about how she started working with an executive coach to get through this.

Now, I have been working on my own impostor issues of late. So this really caught my attention and has made me interested in executive coaching, but in talking it over with my partner they stated their belief that “it’s a scam and waste of money.” So I was wondering what you thought of it and what your experiences, if any, have been? Is it just a scam or does it work? I’d also like to hear from the readers if they have experiences they would like to share.

It depends heavily on the coach, and on what you want to gain from it. There are some coaches who focus on very practical, concrete skills (like helping you delegate better, or plan better, or stop acting like a jerk and alienating all your staff). There are other coaches who are more about mindset or “leadership” generally. Some of those are very good, and some of them are more touchy-feely than I think is useful to most people. On the other hand, there are people who love touchy-feely! So it depends on what you want to get out of it.

I think the keys are to get really clear about what you want, and then screen rigorously for people who are good at that thing in particular. Pay attention to the person’s professional background (because anyone can hang up a shingle and call themselves an executive coach), and look for someone who can speak in specifics about how they’ll work with you and what outcomes you can expect. (There’s a lot of fluff out there. You’re looking for concretes.)

But no, the whole industry is not a sham, and lots of people attribute working with a coach to significant improvements in their professional lives.

Also, keep in mind that at a certain professional level, your company may pay for a coach. You’re not likely to get that at junior levels, but as you move into senior positions, you may be able to make a case for it.

5. When someone you recommended sends an angry, unhinged response to a rejection

I’ve just read the question you answered in July about telling someone that the person who used them as a reference sent an unhinged response to a rejection (#3 here). What advice would you give to the reference upon receiving this information? Should they talk to the applicant about it? Would it be okay for them to flat-out refuse to be used as a reference again?

To some extent, it depends on the relationship they have with the applicant. But assuming they know each other pretty well, I’d recommend contacting them and saying something like, “Teapots Inc. told me you sent a pretty angry response to being rejected for the job there. I was concerned by what they shared, since I’d vouched for you. What happened?” Then, unless you hear something exonerating (like “my brother sent that message posing as me and I’m mortified and have been trying to clean up the mess ever since”), you’d say, “I have to tell you — I was taken aback by the message. When I serve as a reference for you, I’m putting my reputation on the line, not only about your work, but about your judgment too. After seeing this, I need to let you know that I can’t be a reference for you in the future.”

{ 303 comments… read them below }

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      That’s a bit harsh. It’s really not great for morale when your boss does this – it means you’re kind of working for a hypocritical slacker (as presumably it’s their job to assess your performance etc). It can be really disheartening!

      I’ve had two bosses like this. One where we found out after he left that he spent a lot of his time looking at motorbikes on the internet. And one who used to assign himself work and then not do it (and would never let me assign it to someone else until the last minute).

      The key thing is whether it affects performance (e.g. as with the second boss I mentioned) or if it’s an annoying quirk. For the LW it seems like an annoying quirk. Is it possible he doesn’t have enough work to do and is bored? Is he delegating anything he shouldn’t be?

      1. JamieS*

        Yeah, it may be disheartening but it’s still not the OP’s job to police their manager’s internet usage even if it is excessive. If the manager wasn’t performing well it might give OP firmer ground to go above his head but based on the letter it seems like it’s more the principle of it than anything. I’m admittedly not that sympathetic to OP though since I’m the type who truly doesn’t care what my higher ups do as long as I get what I need from them when I need it and they aren’t doing something most people would consider morally/ethically reprehensible.

        1. PM Jesper Berg*

          I agree with JamieS. If this internet usage is hurting the boss’ performance, sooner or later than will come to the attention of *his* boss. Conversely, it could be that this boss is the leading sales guy in his company and brings in millions of dollars. Which means that, yes, he gets some slack.

          It’s also observe that “using the internet” isn’t always the same as “goofing off.” I read tons of business articles during the day. They’re not always 100% on point to what I’m working on, but they allow me to speak about industry-wide trends when we’re pitching for client work. 15 years ago we’d all have been reading the Wall Street Journal in print instead, and no one would remotely suggest that was goofing off.

          1. Kitten*

            The OP did note that the manager was new though (though not whether they were new to the organisation as a whole)

            I agree that ordinarily, we should only care about our bosses’ work habits to the extent that they effect our ability to work, but I wonder if there’s additional concern here as the OP’s last boss presumably had a greater workload, and s/he’s concerned that they’ve not fully understood their job role yet.

            In that sense, calling it out with the Grand Boss, as per Alison’s response, is a reasonable action. It might be that the manager needs coaching (if only to understand that it’s frustrating if you end up doing overtime, but your boss always appears to be on downtime).

            1. Lil Fidget*

              I think the boss being new is part of it. There’s a lull in a new job – and 2 months is about right – where you’re done with training but people aren’t coming to you for things yet. Sure, you can advocate for more tasks, but sometimes this gets irritating to everyone, and sometimes it’s best just to be available but keep yourself occupied however. I’ve definitely been there.

              The real issue is the crappy workplace set-up where a subordinate can monitor their bosses’ screen 24/7. I hate open offices.

              1. myswtghst*

                The real issue is the crappy workplace set-up where a subordinate can monitor their bosses’ screen 24/7. I hate open offices.

                Yeah, agreed on this. I’m in a shared office setup where my coworker is behind me, and while I don’t goof off much (other than occasional AAM browsing) and we get along well, it’s an odd thing to have someone in a position where they could inadvertently be monitoring everything you do all day long, especially in a more senior, salaried position.

            2. Specialk9*

              “I wonder if there’s additional concern here as the OP’s last boss presumably had a greater workload, and s/he’s concerned that they’ve not fully understood their job role yet.”

              That’s very generous. But my impression was that they were upset because It’s Just Not Right. Which is just not the OP’s concern.

              OP also clarified in the comments that they thought it wasn’t ok that the manager delegates work that he could be doing. But that’s a fundamental misunderstanding of his role. Managers manage – deal with all the tedious, infuriating, and irritating details that workers don’t want to, and deal with personnel issues and make sure the final product is up to snuff, and troubleshoot when stuff goes wrong. They don’t do – teapot building isn’t their focus, except at the highest level. He’s not one of the team, he’s leading it – doing something totally different.

        2. Say what, now?*

          This is my take too. Is he available when you need him? Is he making sure the work is at least delegated to the correct person? If the answer is yes to these, I’d say leave him be. The potential for backlash is way too great for you to take the risk of going to higher ups just because it’s annoying.

          Also, for what it’s worth, he may be doing exactly his job. I manage a small team, but I was brought on to deal with the occasional inter-personal conflict, communicate with clients in regards to changes in procedures, and co-ordinate the workflow not do it. (I do occasionally go in and help them out because I’m nice and I don’t like to see them stressing to meet an SLA, but that’s not my job.) Since I worked hard in the beginning to make sure that everyone on my team knows what they’re doing and worked hard on the inter-personal issues, I end up with a lot of time on my hands between client emails. Your boss may be in a similar position.

          1. Koko*

            The flow of my work changes from season to season, but there are times I use the internet a lot at work, too. The reason it doesn’t impact my performance is because:

            1) I’m waiting for reports that take a long time to run, I can’t move forward with my work without those reports, or I have 30 minutes free between meetings, or I’m waiting for a decision from someone else, and it doesn’t make sense or in some cases isn’t possible to work on something else in the meantime when I’m going to have to change gears again in <30 minutes. (For instance, our database doesn't save query results after the user times or logs out, so there's no point in me starting to run a query that takes 15 minutes to run if I'm going to have be logged out before it's finished.)

            2) I'm reading articles relevant to my work, something I explicitly set aside time to do every day. I'm in cause marketing, so I read both marketing industry blogs as well as regular news media that's related to our cause. Keeping current on both of those sectors greatly enhances my efficacy.

            3) My main projects that day are creative work and I'm feeling uninspired, and I'm explicitly relegating that project to the back of my mind and doing something easy and mindless in the meantime, which is a proven tactic for prompting creative inspiration. If inspiration doesn't come, I'll be working a 12-hour day because I'll spend 4 agonizing hours at home finishing what I didn't get done in the office, because I have to meet my deadline regardless.

            4) I just got done working a lot of overtime to meet a big deadline, my next big project hasn't quite kicked off yet, and I feel that I've earned some additional downtime in between projects to help me mentally recover so I can go into the next project fresh and energized.

            There could be any number of things going on. If LW isn't having trouble getting what he needs from Boss, I'd give him the benefit of doubt that his internet use is reasonable, and that his manager would step in if it wasn't.

        3. dr_silverware*

          I agree with JamieS on this front. I also think it’s simply not a good idea to start a working relationship on this foot. Making your boss feel kind of watched–whether that’s warranted or not–seems like a really good way to get your boss peeping at your internet use as well.

          1. Kathleen Adams*

            I agree. In addition to all the fine reasons mentioned so far (e.g., he’s the boss, so let it goooooo), it’s generally neither healthy nor helpful to try to police *any* of your coworkers unless they report to you or what they’re doing is negatively affecting their coworkers.

            In my experience, having a coworker of any level appearing to goof off isn’t nearly as disheartening or destructive as fixating on someone else’s apparent goofing off. Worry about that kind of stuff too much – again, unless it actually affects other people – and it will poison each and every day. It will make you miserable. So again, let it goooooo – unless it starts to affect others.

            1. Say What, Now?*

              Yep, having someone going Big Brother (not that the OP is doing so, it would seem that she has only just casually observed this behavior from the boss) is the worse offense. When you start policing, people start to lose trust in you. They also start to avoid you, which can make work a lonely place.

      2. Turquoise Cow*

        My first thought was that he’s new and doesn’t have a lot of work or doesn’t know what the work he’s supposed to be doing is (or how to do it). I’ve been at many a job where I sat there twiddling my thumbs for weeks because I didn’t know how or what I was supposed to be doing and the person who was supposed to be training me didn’t have time yet.

        Also, OP is not at the same level as the boss, so is not in a good position to complain about him; she doesn’t know if his work is getting done or not. And optics are tricky in an office. I’ve had the unfortunate luck of being branded a slacker because almost every time the grand boss walked by was when I was *not* actively working. Looking at what I’d actually done would prove otherwise, but it’s easy to have confirmation bias at that point.

        If he’s really not doing his work, someone will figure that out and take measures. I once sat near a guy who was above me but I thankfully did not report to, who spent all his time on the phone for non-work-related business. He had started up a support group type thing for people out of work while he was unemployed. Unfortunately, when he returned to work he still spent lots of time talking about the group, making plans for future meetings, wooing more members. When he was let go, there was actually an interview in the paper where he claimed it was due to age discrimination. The guy never bothered to close the door, and everyone was pretty fed up with him by the time he left.

        OP, if there’s a way you can discretely or perhaps anonymously report this, go ahead. But I wouldn’t risk capital on looking like a whiner.

        1. Anon for this*

          My husband is one of those people that is beyond efficient. Robots could be modeled after him. I’m incredibly jealous of it. He can do two days worth of work in about 3.5 hours. No job will have enough work to keep him fully busy. Even when we clean our house, he has (thoroughly) cleaned the entire downstairs before I finish the second upstairs bath.

          1. Lora*

            Yeah, I ran into this at LastJob: I had lots more experience in a specific task than the other people at my level, so they couldn’t wrap their brains around how a task that they struggled with for weeks only took me an hour once I set up the document templates. They had never had any training and were trying to make it up as they went along, whereas I had been doing it for years, had specific training and had a whole method worked out with checklists and whatnot.

          2. Mrs. Fenris*

            I am like that a lot of the time too. At my previous job I spent much of my time insanely busy, filling more than one role at once. My new job is a little quieter, but mostly it’s just that I’m only doing my one job. So if several tasks get dropped on me, my natural inclination is ZOMG GET EVERY BIT OF THIS DONE AT ONCE and next thing you know, I’m done. Shortly thereafter, I am reading continuing-education articles, and if at that point someone sees me it probably looks like I’m goofing off.

        2. serenity*

          Also, OP is not at the same level as the boss, so is not in a good position to complain about him; she doesn’t know if his work is getting done or not.


      3. Jan*

        I previously had a boss like this – even if you think others don’t notice – they notice. Your boss might be doing his job but he’s doing the bare minimum most likely. If he’s anything like my old boss, he’s reactive. He gets a task, he completes the task, he surfs the internet. He gets another task, he completes that task, he surfs the internet. Sure those tasks were getting completed but as a manager there is a lot of proactive work he could have been doing: planning, organizing, networking with others around the organization. He did none of that. I was really demoralized about it because I wasn’t getting new projects or seeing any great planning being done in our group. I thought for sure no one else noticed – but they did. He has had all of his direct reports removed and he got a fairly bad review this past year.

        So keep moving forward. It’s not your job to report him but also don’t lose faith that you’re the only one who notices his slacking. Chances are that if they don’t yet, they will eventually. Just do your own job and try to be as proactive as possible in what you do.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          I did have a boss who spend 99% of their time on fantasy sports sites. It wasn’t subtle. They were nearing retirement anyway so I think they felt like they’d earned it (but I do cringe to think how much they were probably making those last few years, relative to someone mid-career who was really hustling every day!).

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      I’m with Mes and JamieS. We don’t know that Boss isn’t getting his work done, or that Boss’s online time isn’t work-related or work-adjacent. We just know that OP doesn’t like and is irritated by the optics, and that OP likely doesn’t have the standing to complain about said optics. OP is in danger of conflating “that doesn’t look great” and “that’s wrong and a real problem.”

      OP likely needs to stand down unless and until the issue actually interferes with OP’s work, at which point OP can address the actual effect on OP’s work.

      1. Sam*

        The optics alone could be a real problem, though. If OP is the only one who knows about it and she doesn’t tell other people, maybe not. But I’ve seen this kind of thing dramatically impact staff morale, so I’m less quick to dismiss this as a non-issue. Was my ex-boss actually doing some work instead of being on facebook all the time, as it appeared? Probably. Was she actually internally processing issues discussed at meetings she attended instead of just writing personal emails? Maybe. But that wasn’t apparent to the staff, and resentment definitely built up toward her over time.

        1. PM Jesper Berg*

          There are perfectly legitimate reasons for using Facebook as a work-related tool. If you’re scheduling a meeting with a potential client or business partner, Facebook is a great way to learn about that person’s background, interests, and views, as well as mutual acquaintances. I use it all the time, and it tells you things that LinkedIn does not.

          OP has absolutely NOTHING to gain by going over her boss’ head and talking to the grandboss. Even assuming facts in the most favorable light to OP — her boss is indeed goofing off and is not a company star — the boss is unlikely to be fired for this alone so early in his tenure. I can’t think of a worse way of getting off on the wrong foot with a new boss.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Okay, but no one is saying “never use Facebook.” The question is about a boss who doesn’t appear to be doing any actual work 90% of the time. For the purpose of answering the question, I think we need to take the OP at her word about what she can see the boss doing (which she says is “clearly non-work-related sites”).

            1. The Supreme Troll*

              Yes, Alison. I agree with you here absolutely. OP#1’s feelings are definitely not unreasonable, and it is totally normal to want to see fairness at work.

              1. serenity*

                Alison wasn’t advocating for “fairness”, and as others have mentioned OP may not have any good idea of whether the boss is completing their work satisfactorily or not. She simply has no standing to address this.

                1. The Supreme Troll*

                  Serenity, I don’t think that OP#1 should go to her boss’s manager about what she is seeing just yet. Not at least, until she starts to notice problems that are affecting her own work (that the OP would be directly responsible for) because of the boss’s indifference or negligence.

                  Still, I don’t think that it isn’t normal for the OP to notice these things that she is observing about her boss, and it is natural for the OP to not easily ignore them. But, yes, they are not things to be reported to upper management unless (and if) upper management asks her directly about them. (Which in that case, upper management already has concerns and suspicions about the OP’s boss).

        2. Lora*

          You know what I found helpful: I am usually in some sort of open office and the interruptions are THE WORST. So what I do for my staff is catch everyone in the morning when they first get in and quickly run through what all they are doing and whether they need anything from me, and tell them what I am doing all day quickly and when is a good time to find me for questions. “Hey guys, I’m just writing up the Whatchamacallit specification for the Gizmo until lunchtime, but then my afternoon is full of scheduling meetings – if you need to get a hold of me, try to do it in the morning, OK?” Because yeah, it looks like I am staring blankly at a bunch of websites and sending emails, but usually that’s to vendors, or to internal teams who are collaborating, or to one of my colleagues at another company who might be helpful.

      2. a Gen X manager*

        I agree Jen S.2.0, Mes, JamieS.

        OP1 needs to stop observing, evaluating, judging – it’s not OP’s place. It sounds like OP may want the authority of being a manager (and maybe even that job?!) – not that OP would necessarily want the actual job, but they are let’s say “overly certain” about a lot of “shoulds”. Some self-reflection by OP about why this situation is triggering such a critical response in themselves could be very beneficial. It is also revealing how OP describes the predecessor as “a former, excellent and dedicated manager”.

          1. a Gen X manager*

            Other than saying OP needs to MYOB, I was making points *to consider*, not psychoanalyzing anyone.

            1. Anna*

              Even if you’re bringing up points “to consider” you’re stretching it a bit to get there. OP is concerned that her boss isn’t working. I’ve been in that situation with a supervisor and guess what. It became apparent he wasn’t doing his job. The funny thing is, often, these things are obvious to the people reporting to the manager before it becomes apparent to the people the manager reports to. It’s reasonable for the OP to wonder what’s going on and I don’t think advising her to just tune it out is going to serve her in the long run.

        1. The Supreme Troll*

          Yeah, I never got a vibe that OP#1 is secretly after her new boss’s job. And I think that even she realizes that she has no standing to complain about him. But they are things that are noticeable and are simply hard to ignore. And it is natural (though not always useful or appropriate) to compare the patterns of the new boss to the old one.

          OP#1 though, does need to overlook some of the things that she is observing about her new boss (at the moment)…until/unless problems start arising that are affecting her own work directly, or if she happens to be asked directly about the direct boss’s internet usage from the boss’s manager(s).

    3. Nox*

      That was also my thought too, Mes. But I’m also felling very cranky this morning so 90 percent of my responses to everything are MYOB.

      The joys of being a NYer.

    4. Temperance*

      Eh, it is a bummer when you know that you’re working your tail off and getting paid less to make someone who is basically useless look good.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, it’s wrong for lower-paid employees to be held to a higher standard than their managers (who are after all being paid more). If the whole office is very loosey-goosey and everyone slacks off, that’s one thing, but if only the highest paid employees get to slack….?

    5. AliceW*

      My subordinates have very little idea of the projects that I work on or that I get in the office at 6:30 am in the morning to address the global issues that arise overnight. Nor do they know about my conference calls at9 or 10 at night or my weekends spent on work. They only work 9 to 5. Given my firm’s global business the work often has to get done outside of normal hours because that is when the other sites are open. If I also worked all day 9-5 I would be working 80+ hour weeks much of the year. So there are days when I do spend quite a bit of time on the internet on non-job related sites. If one of my employees ever went above my head to complain to my boss about this, I would be furious.

      1. Esme Squalor*

        This is a really good point. I’m sure it’s frustrating for the letter writer to see her boss apparently slacking, but so many factors could be in play that she’s unaware of. I’m in the camp that critiquing your boss’s behavior should be reserved for very serious matters (sexual harassment, illegal activities, major breaches of industry ethics, etc.). Getting a reputation as the person who goes over her boss’s head to report on his daily activities just seems like potential career suicide. Especially if mitigating factors like the ones you mention turn out to be in play. The letter writer just can’t know all of the reasons why her manager shapes his day the way he does, and she risks majorly putting her foot in it if she tries to tattle on him, and it turns out he has an arrangement with his own boss, or something along those lines.

        To the letter writer: vent to your family/friends/significant other about your lazy boss, but don’t mention it at work. You really don’t have a whole lot to gain here.

      2. Anna*

        If your employees don’t know what you do and it looks like you’re doing nothing, that’s on you, not them. I’m guessing, however, that they do have some inkling of what you deal with before and after hours because you’re working together toward common goals and your work is getting done. You’re responding to them and their work and giving feedback and doing all the things you’re required to do when you lead a team. If that weren’t the case, and they went above your head with their concerns, I don’t think you’d have much of a leg to stand on.

        1. PM Jesper Berg*

          “If your employees don’t know what you do and it looks like you’re doing nothing, that’s on you, not them.”

          Um, no, it’s actually not. Sure, good organizations will try to make sure information doesn’t get siloed.

          It doesn’t follow that OP is obligated to share her entire daily agenda with the entire office.

      3. PM Jesper Berg*

        “[My subordinates] only work 9 to 5. Given my firm’s global business the work often has to get done outside of normal hours because that is when the other sites are open. If I also worked all day 9-5 I would be working 80+ hour weeks much of the year. So there are days when I do spend quite a bit of time on the internet on non-job related sites. If one of my employees ever went above my head to complain to my boss about this, I would be furious.”

        110% right.

        There was a great scene in Star Trek DS9 where Major Kira disagreed with Captain Sisko about something (and something important, unlike, frankly, here) and went over his head to Admiral So-and-So. Captain Sisko came back and said, “if you do that again, I’ll have your head, on a platter.” OP would do well to re-watch that.

    6. Soon to be former fed*

      Yep, you don’t actually know what boss is looking at or reading or doing unless you stop doing your job to watch him all day. I have never liked the “narc” types, who feel compelled to monitor and report on others when that is not remotely their job. My experience has been that such individuals feel that they have the bestest work ethic ever! Not saying OP is like this, but it’s generally a good practice to keep your side of the street clean and let go of trying to control others when it doesn’t really matter or affect you.

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, please feel free to push back firmly and often. Your new coworker’s experience is pretty tone deaf right now, but if he persists, he’ll be in solid “creeper” territory. And what he’s doing is uncomfortable for you and likely other coworkers. I’m not saying he’s in sexual harassment territory (he’s definitely not based on your letter), but he’s on the very end of the spectrum of behaviors that can contribute to an uncomfortable/inappropriate work environment.

    I don’t know if that will help you feel more or less empowered to push back, but I don’t think you’re overreacting. You can be extremely kind when you tell him to stop. How he responds will help you figure out if he’s simply immature/unexperienced, socially awkward, or a creep, at which point you can adjust how you respond if he persists.

    1. PM Jesper Berg*

      I respectfully disagree with PCBH. It sounds to me (and yes, I’m aware that we don’t have a blow-by-blow transcript of the conversation) that Justin has basically confided in a new work colleague that “I like Brittany; do you know if she’s seeing anyone? Do you think she’d go out with me.” And this happened in a workplace where married co-workers do seem share information about their families, so why do singles get singled out if they indicate an interest in seeing someone socially. By all means, LW should decline to answer these questions if they make her uncomfortable. But without more, I don’t think this is creepy at all.

      1. Panda Bandit*

        PCBH didn’t say he was creepy. She said depending on which choices he makes the LW can figure out what’s going on and then tailor their response to fit the situation.

      2. Apollo Warbucks*

        PCBH said she thought the behaviour was at the end of the spectrum that could contribute to an uncomfortable working environment. That seems like a very reasonable and balanced assessment of the situation to me.

      3. Colette*

        I don’t think repeatedly talking about a crush on a coworker and trying to get information about her life would be ok if he were married.

        People date coworkers, but there is presumably mutual interest. This is one-sided (at this point) and there is no reason to involve coworkers. In fact, many people don’t want their coworkers to know they’re dating someone from work, at least at first, and it’s possible that Britney is one of them.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think ‘repeatedly’ is the problem. One “Huh. Do you know if she’s seeing anyone?” might be allowable, though one is allowed to respond with a blank “No idea.” But he’s misread OP’s interest in helping him plan his campaign. And the general office appropriateness of assuming any of his coworkers want to hear about his campaign–this can be annoying to your friends, too, but they’re not required to be civil to you in exchange for a paycheck.

          1. PM Jesper Berg*

            We don’t really know how “repeatedly” it is, though. All we know is that “while working on some training, Justin told me that he has a crush on Britney, who is in another department, and began asking some pointed questions about her status and making comments about trying to pursue her romantically.” Possibly this happened more than once, but that’s not made crystal clear.

            To me, this sounds like, “is Britney seeing anyone”? Which is a question people have been asking intermediaries since time immemorial and in no way involves inherently involves harassing anyone.

              1. OP#2*

                OP #2 here. Yes, I can confirm that this was not just one question and repeated over the course of one day, and the first day we had ever really worked together (Justin was in corporate trainings up to this point, this was the second week of employment for them). Since then, they have engaged in other work inappropriate conversations (asked me if I wanted to touch them in order to feel the texture of something, repeatedly asks other questions). The discomfort came with repeated questions and further pushing of the subject after I tried to redirect conversation. It clearly didn’t work, and then I began to question if I was just being a prude. One question I would attribute to not being familiar with office/work place norms (they are also on the slightly younger side, since AAM asked, but they are over 25 and have worked in an office before. I am not much older than they are for reference).

                1. OP#2*

                  To clarify, the subject came up several times. This was not a “they asked about it once situation” which is why I made it plural. They continued to pursue the subject, and have brought it up again in the intervening few days since I posted the question.

                  Thanks to AAM, I do feel a little bit more confident about what is an appropriate response and that I’m not totally off base here.

                2. Polaris*

                  OP, I would escalate this, to either your manager or HR. It sounds like Justin is beginning or has already caused an uncomfortable/bordering on hostile work environment for you, and Britney also doesn’t deserve to have someone prying into her personal life and gossiping about her to other coworkers. If she’s not aware of Justin’s interest, then he’s making things uncomfortable for everyone else, and if she is, and isn’t interested, then he’s making things uncomfortable for her and everyone else. It’s possible I’m on edge after the letter last week which shows the extreme workplace harassment can go to. But I would head this off and try to protect her and you if at all possible.

                3. BedMadeLie*

                  This is a pretty gross imposition and it’s not cool that he’s attempting to make you a non-consenting participant in his attempted lovelif

                4. Anion*

                  OP, is it possible that Justin is simply lonely?

                  Hear me out here. I don’t mean that as an excuse for him being overinterested in a coworker, I mean, perhaps his old workplace was a place where everyone was more social with each other, and he’s feeling a little lost and has kind of glommed on to you because you’re closer to his age and are someone he knows. Maybe he’s just used to a more casual environment.

                  I ask because I was that “inappropriate” person at a job once; my previous workplace had been a place where we were all good friends and hung out after work, etc., so when I started a new job in a new city I tried to form the same kinds of bonds with my new co-workers, not realizing that the environment was different. It’s possible he overheard people talking about their families etc. and thought this was a place where he could be as casual with others, or he’s just trying to make a connection because he’s, well, lonely.

                  I don’t say this to excuse creepy behavior or to imply you’re prudish or wrong. Just that things like the “touch him to feel the texture of something” sounds exactly like the kind of thing I did at my new job, because it would have been standard, perfectly okay behavior at my last workplace and I was really trying (too hard) to find that kind of comfortable standing with my new coworkers and make friends in a new place.

                  You know your own situation best, of course, and again, I’m not trying to make an excuse for creepy behavior or imply that it ought to be overlooked because “that’s just how he is” or whatever. I’m just saying that the fact that he’s worked in an office before doesn’t automatically mean he knows how things work in *your* office, and that he might be innocently overenthusiastic and trying to form friendships rather than an actual creeper. Maybe if you come at him from that angle–find out what his last workplace was like, find out, if you can, if he has friends outside work–and gently explain how things are different in this office, you might be able to put an end to the behavior without feeling like you’re being harsh or prudish and without making him feel like he’s being accused of something.

                  (My boss at that second job–not my second job ever, but the one after my great all-friends workplace–pulled me aside one day and yelled, literally *yelled,* at me for being too casual with my co-workers and told me I needed to “grow up,” while I sobbed from homesickness and shame. It was an incredibly painful conversation. So…that’s where I’m coming from here, if it seems I’m being too generous with Justin.)

                5. PM Jesper Berg*

                  OK. Since this *is* happening repeatedly, it’s appropriate to escalate this matter to your boss. Also, have you expressly told Justin you don’t want to discuss Brittany (or social matters generally) further? If not, you should tell him as much before escalating.

                  Justin’s other odd behavior also changes my reaction. If this were only about inquiring about whether Brittany is seeing anyone, then yes, I would say it’s, if not prudish, at least an overreaction. But if there are other red flags that something’s amiss, then it’s not, and I would trust your instinct.

          2. SignalLost*

            Yeah. That’s what I find potentially worrying about this. If Justin is missing cues that he’s making OP uncomfortable, I don’t have a lot of faith he’ll be an ask once and drop it kind of guy if/when he approaches Britney. It isn’t that I think it’s never okay for coworkers to be in a relationship, it’s that this guy seems potentially really pushy about his interest, and that doesn’t make for a reasonable working environment.

      4. Oryx*

        Justin isn’t getting singled out because he’s single and is talking about someone he wants to date.

        Justin is getting singled out because he is talking about someone *they all know and work with and is doing all of this talking about her among coworkers presumably without her consent.*

        I’ve been the Brittany in a workplace. I’ve had coworkers have crushes on me and one took it a step further and sent another coworker to come talk to me to gauge my interest and it was so awkward and uncomfortable and the first thing I thought was “Great, so Jon told Sansa he had a crush on me. Who else has he been talking to about me?”

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          Justin isn’t getting singled out because he’s single and is talking about someone he wants to date.

          I agree with that point, if Justin was talking about his weekend plans like going to see a film or have dinner with a date then it wouldn’t be such a problem talking about someone everyone knows makes it so much more awkward.

        2. Say what, now?*

          That sucks. I’m firmly of the mind that if you can’t talk to someone you shouldn’t even think about dating them. It’s a way to skirt rejection, I get that, but it’s also very detached and if you want a relationship the last thing you should appear is detached. If you don’t want an impactful rejection, don’t make the asking public. Just say something like “Hey, I’ve enjoyed our interactions and would like to get to know you better. Can we get coffee some time?” If she’s not wildly excited that you asked, you know that you might need to let it drop.

          1. SignalLost*

            Yup. Going the long way around might seem more comfortable for the crush-haver, but it’s adding drama to an ordinary question, and that drama is not indicative of good professional judgement.

          2. Gadfly*

            It also is gross in that it feels like trying to pressure the person into a date through public opinion/peer pressure.

            Like big public proposals–the thought being no one can say no when everybody else is looking at them.

        3. Bleeborp*

          I feel like it’s weird to be shocked that people talk about you, period. That just seems very unrealistic- humans are going to talk to to their other friend humans about who they think is cute, dumb, annoying, cool or whatever. I’m certain I’ve had coworkers say I’m all of the above! Unless explicitly told by someone “DO NOT RELEASE MY RELATIONSHIP STATUS!” I assume that’s not a piece of information that requires their “consent.” Their address, their kids names, their medicals conditions, sure, that’s private. But married or single is something many people literally wear on their finger. Of course it’s all about knowing your audience and the OP seems like they are neither friendly enough with this person to want in on this discussion and perhaps like they are a little uptight about personal stuff at work (which differs person to person…if someone wants to tell me about a crush, PLEASE, it’s a nice little diversion.)

          All of that being said, the OP described further their coworker who is starting to seem more and more inappropriate so rescind my defense of them specifically but I don’t think it’s weird to develop a workplace crush and ask someone you’re friendly with if they know that person’s relationship status (I know I’ve liked a guy at work from a far but had very little work-related reason to talk to him and was an awkward person in general so I definitely remember asking a work friend what his deal was.)

      5. Roscoe*

        This was kind of my thought. I guess I’m not clear where the line supposedly is. Can he not ask “Hey, is Britney single?” or “Do you know anything about her interests?” This what it is seeming like to me based on the letter. Now if she is all he ever talks about, sure, thats problematic. But this seems more like questions and her and there.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          I think you get a pass with one question. Maybe if he got (or thought he got) a warm / encouraging response from the coworker he asked, I could see how he thinks this is a fair-game topic – but I’d say bringing it up more than once is crossing the line of professionalism.

          It’s also just kind of a weird thing for a new employee to be so openly preoccupied with – I’d rather he seemed like he was really focused on learning his job.

          1. Roscoe*

            I get that. What I think also may be happening is Justin is seeing his relationship with the OP a little more friendly than it really is. She is just doing her job and helping him learn his. however, if he is new and spending a lot of time with one person, its easy to think they are a bit more like “friends” than just a trainee relationship. That type of thing is an easy line to blur when you start someplace.

            1. Lil Fidget*

              It’s true, starting a new job can be deeply awkward and he may be trying to build a relationship with OP based on sharing a secret (which can work actually). But he’s going about this wrong and OP should discourage him from it.

          2. starsaphire*

            Yeah, I think the one-question level is fine. I would even think, “Aw, how sweet!” and my little matchmaker heart would go all pitty-pat. I can imagine others might feel similarly.

            But repeated, multiple questions plus the other things the OP is describing = yellow flag time. Not red flags, not yet, but definitely getting there.

          3. Anon anon anon*

            Yeah, it’s extra weird because it’s his first day. I’ve told people I was friendly with outside of work about my outside of work crushes. After they told me about their crushes. And very casually. “Our friend is cute! I have a small crush on him!” That usually wouldn’t be hurtful if it got back to the person. But at work? No. That just crosses all kinds of lines and causes problems.

            I’ve been the crushed on coworker. It was awkward. It’s harder to turn people down at work because of all the potential for drama. I mean, crushes are normal, but if it’s a coworker, get a grip. Proceed with caution. Test the waters first. Don’t involve other people.

            Anyway, this guy sounds like someone with bad judgment or issues with boundaries. It could just be that he comes from a more friendly and casual work place. But if it comes across to you as creepy, it probably is! Trust your instincts.

        1. Brittasaurus Rex*

          No, it’s been stated that the new guy has asked repeated questions and it is more than awkward.

      6. Specialk9*

        ” why do singles get singled out if they indicate an interest in seeing someone socially”

        I’m pretty sure that if married people were using work as a meat market, that would be unacceptable as well. I think you’re projecting a pet complaint here, where it’s not applicable.

      7. OP#2*

        This is a good point. Since you aren’t aware of the inner workings, there is only one other married coworker in the department (team of 8). Other team members are attached and some have live-in partners, but there are other single people in the department who might mention things like “I went on a date this weekend” and we do talk about their lives that don’t revolve around a partner/significant other/family. One member lives with and is a caretaker for her mother and she shares about that on occasion, for example. I don’t want to exclude single people at all from the conversation, which was part of my hesitation and questioning whether I should feel uncomfortable with this.

        I reflected on this a lot the last few days. My discomfort didn’t come from the fact that they expressed interest in seeing someone. It was expressing interest in a coworker, who I’ve only interacted with professionally, and whose personal life they have not shared with me. That, in conjunction with pursuing the subject after I tried to get away from it, is what made me uncomfortable (amongst other commentary that they have made since then at this point). I think it would be different if they were talking about someone outside of the purview of work or a mutual friend. I might ask that we discuss it outside of working hours. I would have no problem with this among my friend’s group or in another setting.

        1. Anon anon anon*

          I would respond by suggesting they either drop it or talk to the crush directly. I would respond to requests for info by saying, “I’m not sure. Why don’t you ask her?” And if he makes an excuse not to talk to her, just say, “Yeah. This isn’t really that sort of workplace. I understand,” and leave it at that.

    1. Artemesia*

      It means you change the subject by re-directing. ‘Oh I don’t know about Cicely’s social life, hey, have you tried the bean dip, I think they put cilantro in it and it taste wonderful.’

        1. BePositive*

          Oh my! This made me chuckle. I also didn’t know what bean dipped meant and then saw underboob


      1. Specialk9*

        It’s from Etiquette Hell. It’s shorthand for redirecting the conversation when others are being rude. You don’t have to talk about what others want you to discuss.

        1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

          I saw that and I knew immediately the OP had to be an EHellion or EHell adjacent. It’s a useful, but very specific term!

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Yep. “Hmm, I’m not sure about that. Hey have you tried Sylvia’s bean dip? It’s really delicious.” Obviously you adjust it to the situation, in case there is no Sylvia and no bean dip.

      2. Liane*

        Captain Awkward once had an example of redirecting using “…what’s the recipe for this Potato Salad of Subject -Changing?”

    2. The IT Manager*

      By context of the letter it means to change the subject. I googled bean deal and change the subject a few results came up confirming that is a reasonable interpretation.

      I guess you say “hey, look at that bean dip” to make an abrupt change if subject.

      1. LS*

        I think it’s a US thing. In my country we don’t even have bean dip. The first time I read it I imagined someone dipping themselves into a tub of beans :)

        1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

          I think ‘bean dip’ is a US / uniquely Etiquette Hell term for ‘hummus’…

          1. Delyssia*

            No, bean dip is absolutely not hummus. I mean, yes, technically hummus is a dip made with beans, but no one I know would ever refer to it as bean dip. There’s actually a Wikipedia article on bean dip. Link to follow in my next comment (so this comment can avoid the moderation delay).

            1. Specialk9*

              Hummus has tahini and is made with garbanzo beans/chickpeas.

              Bean dip can be white with a Mediterranean slant (cannelini beans, olive oil, lemon juice, white wine, garlic, salt) served with pita…

              or black with a Mexican slant (black beans, cumin, oil, chili, lime, onion, cilantro, garlic, salt) served with tortilla chips.

              It’s literally just “throw it all in the blender et voila!” And then of course nom noises.

              1. the gold digger*

                Pinto beans dip, as is found next to the Fritos in the grocery store. A staple of any party in Texas, at least in the ’80s. (It is sometimes supplemented with hot sauce.)

                I want some bean dip.

                1. Specialk9*

                  Me too! I’m just torn which kind.

                  I have white and red kidney beans, chick peas, and black beans in my pantry.

              2. LS*

                Those sound delicious. I eat hummus often, in fact we made some today. But I’ll definitely be trying those others you mentioned @specialk9!

          2. Snark*

            No, it’s a term for a puree of pinto beans. By definition, hummus is a chickpea puree made with tehina – the word itself Arabic for chickpeas. No chickpeas, not hummus, not called hummus.

            If you ever feel like trolling someone and are very brave, call a bean dip “white bean hummus” around an Israeli. Best case scenario, they will have Many Feelings at you, about you, and about the topic, all of which they will share with you in an explosively eager fashion bordering on scary aggressiveness.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            I agree that in America bean dip is not hummus even though I get that hummus is made with a type of bean! But we would say hummus for hummus. Bean dip is explained above.

            1. SignalLost*

              Of course, it could be fun to literally bean-dip, as in “you’ll have to ask Britney yourself, I’m afraid. So do you think hummus is covered under the term bean dip, or are you more of a purist about your dips?”

              Also, hummus is hummus, and bean dip does not cover it, even though technically accurate. :)

          1. Snark*

            So, is Bleminda seeing anybo…..oh god what are you doing where did you even get a Jacuzzi full of pinto beans

        2. Antilles*

          I’m from the US and I have never heard this term, so it’s definitely not a US-wide thing. Bean dip exists here, but I’ve never heard anyone call “redirecting awkward conversations” bean-dipping.

          1. Artemesia*

            It is used on several internet sites that discuss social situations. It may have originated on Etiquette Hell but I don’t read that and have seen it several other places.

          2. JessaB*

            It’s the current version of the earlier baseball subject change.

            Yadda yadda yadda

            Eh, whatever, how bout dem (Cubs, Mets, whoever.)

        3. a1*

          I’m in the US and I’ve never heard it used this way. (I gleaned it from the context, though, but did think it was odd).

    3. Jesca*

      I just can’t stop laughing at this whole thread. And I never realized that people didn’t know what bean dip was.

    4. OP#2*

      Yeah, it’s redirecting the conversation through a neutral topic. I’d seen it around on internet forums and heard it in practice on a few occasions. Didn’t realize it was so unknown!

      I’m dead with this thread though. Thanks for making me laugh so hard you guys!

  2. Sami*

    Regarding letter #2: Would it be a good idea for the OP to give Britney a discrete heads up? Something along the lines of, “Justin has been asking me about you quite a bit. Example A. Example B.”
    I know I’d want to know so I could have a few responses ready.

    1. JamieS*

      I’d say no. That seems too “Billy asked Jane to ask Suzy if Suzy would go with him to the Spring Formal” to me even if the intent is to warn Britney.

    2. Myrin*

      OP already doesn’t want to be involved in this whole situation, though, and actions like that would just involve her even more.

      1. PM Jesper Berg*

        So let her say “I don’t want to be involved,” and be done with it. She may face inferences that she overreacts easily — which was her question — but them’s the tradeoffs. Odds are that’s the last she’ll hear of it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Can we not label shutting down somewhat icky workplace behavior as “overreacts easily?”

          Again, this wasn’t one “do you know if Britney is single?” comment. This was multiple questions and multiple comments about his interest in her.

    3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      No way. Talking to her would spread the awkward. “Jimmy was asking about you” should be left in high school where it belongs.

      1. MashaKasha*

        I had someone do it to me in a meetup group: “What do you think of Varys? You know, he likes you”. All it did was make me want to avoid both Varys and the person who told me. Varys was pushing 50, and could’ve asked me himself.

        I cannot even begin to imagine being on either side of this conversation at work, with someone I only know in passing through work. Extreme awkwardness all around for years to come.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I would not mind if someone said “Hey, Steve really likes you,” in a social situation, if Steve and I were already dating and they were good friends with Steve and were just squeeing over it. But if they were asking FOR Steve, that would be too high school.

          And no, the second one does not belong at work. I’m not sure the first one does either.

    4. Fiennes*

      I would say no unless (a) Justin’s behavior has already definitely crossed the line from “clueless” to “creepy” and it seems like Britney might need a warning, or (b) there’s some other dynamic that might make this especially fraught for her/her workplace. Otherwise best to let it lie.

    1. babblemouth*

      What a wonderful company to work for. If I saw my bosses doing something like this for one of my coworkers, they would earn my loyalty for a very long time.

      I’m so happy your nephew is better!

    2. Specialk9*

      Yeah. Amazing. LW, there’s no way to even up that kind of score, and it’s not necessary (in fact would dampen their glow). You’ve given a personal thank you, and I’m sure given effusive thanks. From here, I’d focus on giving nephew updates – occasionally (1-2/year) share an email with what your nephew is doing. Or post a bulletin board outside your cube/office with nephew update. Because your nephew being alive and doing well is the real thanks.

      I’d also post on Glassdoor and Yelp. Other people would like to support or work for a company like this.

      Also, this was amazing and incredible and life changing. But you can still switch jobs in the future. (Not sure if you have my “but loyalty!” issues, just in case.)

      I’m so glad your nephew is well. Here’s to a future with universal health care for all.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Yeah. OP, if you share the news that your nephew is recovering and in school for the first time, there may be a vast upwelling of dust in the company.

    4. OrganizedHRChaos*

      I need to remind myself to be cautious when reading AAM while putting on non-waterproof mascara in the morning. This story was just lovely and helps to restore some faith in humanity.

      1. Your Weird Uncle*

        Oh my gosh, for me this is right up there with the OP who was contemplating getting a service dog from their company for heartwarming office stories. Truly lovely, and I’m so happy for both OP and their nephew.

    5. SarahKay*

      OP3, Add my office to one of the ones with far too much dust making me all teary!

      It’s lovely to hear about such a wonderful boss and company, especially when so often (by it’s nature) we see so many awful bosses in this column.

      I definitely recommend an update, with picture, when your nephew starts school, but I don’t think more is needed. I know for me that’s all the thanks I’d want, after your first thank you.

      1. PM Jesper Berg*

        “It’s lovely to hear about such a wonderful boss and company, especially when so often (by it’s nature) we see so many awful bosses in this column.”


    6. Samiratou*

      I was going to come in and ask if anyone else found it dusty in here…

      I very much needed that this morning, what with..everything else.

      Another thing I might suggest for LW #3–if the company is on Glassdoor or something, give them a positive review. Presumably you’re also happy in your job, so you can talk about that and about how the company really cares about their people and went above and beyond for your family.

      1. SignalLost*

        No, but there are apparently onions being chopped nearby, which is only worrying because I’m in the car killing time.

    7. Marillenbaum*

      Right? I’m all here for good news and happy endings. I hope your nephew enjoys a wonderful school year, OP!

    8. Turquoise Cow*

      Yes. I’m so glad to see a feel-good story today. This is the nicest thing ever.

      No, I’m not crying. You’re crying.

    9. Rebecca in Dallas*

      I know, that was so sweet! Especially since a nephew is extended family, not even immediate family. I definitely agree with sharing an update with your coworkers, the best thanks they can get is seeing how their generosity made a difference.

    10. Lunchy*

      My mouth literally dropped open when I read that. A company taking care of its employee’s family (and not even immediate family! I got push back for wanting to use bereavement leave for my grandmother’s funeral!), and coworkers pitching in to help. Such camaraderie makes me cry happy, happy tears.

      I agree with Alison, OP. People love to see the positive impact of their contributions, so sending some pictures around would be a great idea. Pay the kindness forward when you have the opportunity, and be (keep being!) an awesome coworker. I’m so happy for you and your family OP ;_;

    11. Birdbrain*

      Me too: everything about #3 warms the cockles of my cold, dead heart.

      I like the idea of circulating a photo/update of your healthy nephew: it’s not “necessary,” but it’s a nice way to acknowledge their help and show that it made a difference.

  3. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 I think there’s dust or something in my eye as I can’t quite see to type this…

    I’d just let your boss and the company owner know that your nephew started school, if you haven’t. Otherwise, I think you’re good.

    1. Artemesia*

      I agree that a picture and update on the nephew is the ‘thanks’ I would want if I had pitched in on this. And the news update will remind everyone of your family’s gratitude. Great story, so glad it worked out for the child. I know people in Canada with a child born with a serious heart defect; my friend said ” We didn’t have to worry about anything but (child); we didn’t have to worry that we would go bankrupt or lose our house because of his need for surgery.” In most western countries a family would have few bills with a serious health issue with a child like this.

      1. Al Lo*

        I will occasionally see a GoFundMe or similar here (Canada) but it’s typically for the extra costs — for a family with an ill child, it might be things such as lost wages for a parent, childcare for other siblings, travel/lodging costs to a different city with a more specialized hospital, cost of hospital parking, paid wifi or extra data while at the hospital, etc. There are certainly some medical costs that aren’t covered here, and the extra life cost of being sick is still a factor, but it’s on a much different scale.

      2. TL -*

        Yes the USA doesn’t have single payer health care. Can we stop bringing it up every time medical bills are mentioned? It’s really a much more complex subject than most of the questions need addressed.

        1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

          I’m sure it’s frustrating to see it come up every time, but you might not appreciate the depth of cultural difference that is making the concept of an online fundraiser to pay for a necessary surgery to save a child’s life so shocking to non-US readers.

          1. TL -*

            Given that I’m living in a country where there is single-payer healthcare, I’m appreciating the depth more every day. I really do understand it’s shocking. It’s just a) not relevant to the question b) not something that will help the OP nor new information to anyone and c) mentioned almost every time anything having to do with medical stuff comes up on this blog.

          2. Anononon*

            Nope, I think we get it, thanks. Many of us find it horrifying and shocking as well, especially considering that we’re living it.

        2. Specialk9*

          I get a lot of things from AAM other than just work advice. I just started watching the tv show Younger, after someone posted here. I learn different slang and cultural norms. And yes, learning how other countries handle devastating illness is interesting.

          My friend in Canada had breast cancer while unemployed (well, substitute teaching) – I was blown away that she got all the chemo, and then the mastectomy, and then… Just went on with her life. No crippling debt, need to lose all remaining assets and destroyed credit score. (I had watched all that happen to an American friend.) Living that experience with her opened up my eyes.

        3. Yorick*

          I kind of appreciate getting a reminder that this kind of financial ruin due to medical problems doesn’t happen to everyone everywhere.

    2. Puffyshirt*

      OP, how wonderful that your nephew is doing so well! It sounds like you have a very special team and employer. I agree with Alison that it would be sweet to send a picture with a very brief update on your nephew in several months. I had someone at work help me in a life and death situation my father a few years ago. So when I have a picture of him holding a new grand baby or his 70th birthday, I share those milestones and thank him that my father is still around for these things.

  4. LS*

    OP1, I would also find this incredibly annoying but I don’t think you can do much about it. Is this a new role? What was the person in this role previously doing with their time? Are there things that are clearly being neglected?

    One thing that you can reasonably expect is for him to manage you properly, so ask for one on ones, feedback on your work output, or whatever is relevant for your environment. That may remind him that he’s there to actually be a manager.

  5. LS*

    OP2 I think it’s okay to be grossed out by this. I think you could also say something like “I don’t know anything about Britney’s personal life. You should speak to her directly, but maybe check with HR first on the policy about dating in the office.”

    Polite, not unfriendly, draws some boundaries and makes it clear that it may be frowned on by the company.

  6. LS*

    OP3, what a wonderful story. I got teary when I read it. I’m so happy for your family.

    I love Alison’s idea of sharing a photo of your nephew, perhaps on his first day at school because your company helped him get to that big day. Beyond that, it sounds as though you have already made heartfelt and sincere thank-yous. Ongoing thank-yous might be fatiguing for all of you.

    1. Onions*

      Make sure if your family sends holiday cards with cute kid photos, you include your office on the yearly list – easy and people will love to see him looking like a plain old regular kiddo.

      1. Another Lawyer*

        I agree – I love a good happy ending and there’s no better happy ending than a kid being a kid. Also OP#3, what an awesome company.

    2. Agent Diane*

      I agree with the first day of school photo: it’s something that really illustrates how much the support helped.

      I’d stick to just the one update though. In five years’ time people who contributed may have moved on and new joiners will wonder why they are getting updates.

    3. Janice in Accounting*

      If your nephew ever comes to your city, you might bring him up to the office for a very short visit. I know if I were a coworker in this situation it would thrill me to no end to be able to shake the little guy’s hand and say hello!

  7. persimmon*

    #5: if you ever listen to the podcast Startup there are some interesting episodes that were basically taped sessions with an executive coach. It sometimes got a little cheesy/woo but you could see how this would be helpful.

    1. ITAnon*

      The coach featured on Startup also has his own podcast “The Reboot Podcast” although I do think it gets a bit touchy-feely.

  8. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 I’m not an executive, but I have had an experience with coaching. I had one session with a coach I already knew personally – I booked it to help with interview technique (I’d been self employed for years and interviews had changed – being asked to “tell me about a time when…” was new and scary) then unexpectedly had a short-notice interview and got a job offer before the session. So I used it to address my imposter syndrome instead and it was actually really helpful. We looked at some of the beliefs and fears I might take into my new job with me, and she asked questions that prompted me to strategise really practically so I didn’t just go in and self-sabotage. It was great.

    I’d say an important question to consider is whether you actually need a coach or a therapist. If you need to work through difficult experiences from the past, or you are experiencing something like anxiety or depression, a coach isn’t going to cut it.

    1. A Person*

      I agree in terms of figuring out what is best – for me personally, I found that working with a therapist ended up helping with imposter syndrome / work anxiety. There are also therapeutic frameworks that can help you in the day to day of work.

    2. a Gen X manager*

      I’ve worked with an executive coach for the past 6 years and it has been thoroughly life-changing. Just as with therapy, you can’t choose just any coach, you need to find the right fit. Alison is so right about being clear about the kind of coaching you’re looking for – goal oriented/accountability vs. “processing”. I read recently that younger leaders tend to seek out the former, while leaders further in their careers are more like to want the latter.

      Consider a coaching by phone relationship – there is a lot of value in having a complete separateness from your real life. My coach lives 9 states away and I’ve never met him in person, and yet it is the most valuable professional relationship of my career.

      More than anything, I’d suggest making sure that you find a coach that is smarter than you are, because otherwise they can’t truly challenge you to reach your full potential.

      I think sometimes people think that coaching is like an alternative to a PIP, but in fact it’s the opposite. It can provide guidance through difficult times, but mostly it elevates performance and communication from good to outstanding.

      One last thought – I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get approval for the company to pay for the coaching, even though they’d never offered it as a benefit before (and it’s expensive!).

      1. Specialk9*

        I’ve never heard of coaching in light of a PIP! I’ve only heard of it in the context of someone being awesome and proactive in figuring out new roles and how to adjust to them.

      2. OP #4*

        Thanks those are some good suggestions of things to look for and thank you for sharing your experience.

        Can I ask if it helped you go from middle management to a more senior level or were you at the senior level when you started coaching?

      3. PM Jesper Berg*

        @GenX Manager, I’m looking for a good executive coach. Is there any way you could share the name of yours (while still maintaining your own anonymity, of course)?

    3. OP #4*

      It sounds like you had a good experience. I’d like something like that. Something that focuses on work issues rather than just anxiety in general.

    4. alison*

      I think a therapist would be helpful either way. Plus there’s the advantage of knowing they are professionally licensed and credentialed to do what they’re doing.

    5. Kelsi*

      Yeah, I personally know a coach who gets some pretty incredible results. I haven’t had one-on-one coaching with her (I’m…pretty unambitious professionally, and very happy where I’m at), but I often help out with her seminars, and several of her clients are in my “professional acquaintance” network so I’ve been able to see the before/after. She’s good at drilling down to the specific things they need help with, then working out an action plan.

      It does help people a lot with confidence/impostor syndrome, but it’s not a replacement for therapy–it’s a focus on getting different EXTERNAL results, not about working on the internal issues (except as they relate to one’s professional presentation and approach).

  9. LS*

    OP4, see if you can get a recommendation from someone you respect, who has worked with a coach and seen definite results. Also look for someone who is good at the type of coaching that you want. As Alison says, coaches focus on different aspects and won’t be good at everything. That will also help you clarify what *you* want to get from a coach.

    1. Alanna*

      OP #4 – another thing to look for is International Coach Federation (ICF) certification. They have training and skill requirements and a code of ethics.

  10. ExceptionToTheRule*

    OP3: I’m happy your nephew is on the mend. I think AAM’s suggestion of sending out a picture of your nephew with an update and a last thank you effectively closes any obligations of gratitude that may remain. I know the feeling of being overwhelmed by their actions and I think anything beyond risks getting weird.

  11. LS*

    OP5, I would definitely withdraw as a reference for this person if they have shown poor judgement and behaved unprofessionally. Do ask for an explanation first though, as you only have one side of the story.

    1. Artemesia*

      That was some excellent advice from Alison. I would probably have blundered in back in the day. It is really important to let them get in a word first in case there is something wildly different than it appears. In this case, ONLY the hacker brother would be an excuse to not drop him; being a ref for someone who would do this even provoked is a reputation killer.

      1. OP5*

        I agree, I had a feeling that would be the sensible way to go but I was curious in case Alison had other thoughts. I can’t think of any other excuse that wouldn’t make me want to refuse a reference.

        1. Mona Lisa*

          A former co-worker of mine once listed me as a reference for a job, but I could not speak to any of the skills he wanted me to address. (He wanted me to talk about a database implementation, which had mostly occurred before I started and in which I had no hand in supervising its success.) I told both him and the employer that reached out to me that I’d be happy to speak about XYZ work that I knew and his performance as a colleague, but I couldn’t address the other points.

          Apparently, by the time I got back to them 3 days later, they’d already decided to hire him so it was a moot point. He hasn’t requested a reference from me again…

          1. SignalLost*

            It’s possible he was able to get a better reference. Not that there’s fault with you, I’m just aware that I don’t have a managerial reference from an org that fired me to cover up some illegal dealings, so I have a colleague for that reference, which is not great and I know it, but I’m pretty in a bind since it’s my most recent industry-relevant non-contract gig. As soon as I can get a better reference, I’m going to drop her. That said, I will let her know.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Yes, allow for the possibility that the interviewer failed to mention propositioning the interviewee and just went to “they were so RUDE.”

      1. OP5*

        Oh my goodness, that didn’t occur to me. “The interview went really well and we were going to hire him, but then when I fondled his behind at the end he went bananas. So rude.”

        1. Specialk9*

          I read this fast and in my head there was fondling among a bunch of bananas, and instantly my mind snapped all these other details into place – a grocery store, two dudes in suits, while people walk past with shopping carts. My brain is a weird place sometimes.

          1. FormerEmployee*

            Thank you all for the laugh. After recent events, it was just what I needed.

            And specifically to Specialk9, all I can say is: Yes, we have no bananas…

  12. SleeplessInLA*

    OP #1– by your own admission, you can’t point to things he has neglected or ignored as a result, so I’m not sure what your manager’s time management has to do with you? Before I even looked at the comments my thought was “mind your business” for lack of a better phrase.

    You mention that it’s annoying re: using time productively but offices have hierarchies and one of the perks of being a manager (or in a Sr. role) is the ability to delegate tasks. I think mentioning it to your grandboss is likely to backfire and your best bet is to do nothing and simply stop making it a habit of looking at his computer monitor since it bugs you.

  13. Megan*

    Hey Alison, would you consider employment coaching? I’ve thought off and on about it for a few months but am very conscious of scams. At least we know you’re legit! Perhaps another service as well as reviewing resumes (which I also did and was incredibly helpful)?!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I actually do some coaching for managers (that’s my consulting work)! But I’m overscheduled so haven’t been taking on new stuff for a while now.

  14. BusyBee*

    My mother is an executive coach and has VP experience and 20 years at senior management level… Yes, she is definitely qualified and is flown all over the world by big companies to coach their leaders. So yes it’s not a sham! Of course you have to pay good money for good coaches like her but it’s usually the company paying not the individual :-)

  15. OP5*

    I just want to add that I have no connection to the original post and that I (luckily) am not in this situation myself. I read the original post and it started me thinking hypothetically what I’d do if I were the reference. I have had slightly difficult situations in the past with someone I was a reference before, but nowhere near this bad.

  16. OP#1*

    OP#1 here. Thanks very much for featuring my question!

    First, to those who speculate that it could be business-relevant internet browsing – no, it’s not (YouTube videos, sports, cars, online shopping, in a field where none of that is relevant). He’s also not in a unique sales position bringing in revenue – he is a middle-manager (hired to manage our team, and replacing a former, excellent and dedicated manager).

    I totally agree with those saying I don’t have the standing to raise it to his boss (and confirmation of that was my reason for emailing AAM!), but I am surprised by those saying it’s not my business. When a manager delegates things, there is an implication that they don’t have the ability to give that which they are delegating their full attention. So seeing someone evidently having plenty of spare time while delegating is quite disheartening.

    Since I emailed the question though, things have improved quite a bit. (Not great by any standards – but maybe 60% of the time spent messing around, down from 90%). As everyone says, the important thing is whether he’s meeting his goals or not. I’ve tried my best not to watch what he’s up to, but the arrangement of the desks makes it rather hard to ignore.

    I do find it hard to believe, however, that if his manager had the same view of his desk as I do, he would say/do nothing about it – even if he is meeting all his goals. He could, for example, accomplish the same goals with less delegation – or he may realise the goals themselves are too light. I guess that’s the case with lots of things, though, and that part, as everyone says, is indeed not my business.


    1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      The job of a boss is to delegate and supervise the results of the team. If an appropriate level of work is being assigned to the appropriate people, and the results are high quality and timely, that is what good managers do. If he did the work there would be no reason to have as many staff under him.

    2. Chocolate lover*

      Delegation could also be recognizing the best person on the team to do the job, which may not be the boss. I wouldn’t automatically assume it’s because they didn’t have time.

      1. a Gen X manager*

        Totally agree, Chocolate lover! “When a manager delegates things, there is an implication that they don’t have the ability to give that which they are delegating their full attention.” is way off base.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      One point I think is important here is that he’s new. There are often situations where new people can’t hit the ground running, for many reasons, including training. I’ve been there myself. People, even managers, often need time to grow into their roles, and the first few months can be excruciatingly slow. As long as things are getting done, this really isn’t your business. As Mockingjay said below, your manager might also have used his first couple of months to sit back and observe how things run; you can’t make changes or improvements unless you can see what needs improving.

      1. PM Jesper Berg*

        There is also the point that “war is hours of boredom punctuated by minutes of sheer hell.” Workflow can be like that too; there *are* lulls.

    4. Roscoe*

      I don’t fully agree with your opinion on delegating. Sometimes you delegate to get others experience doing something. Sometimes you delegate to people with a better knowledge on a particular topic. Its no just things that you can’t get to.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Agreed. Many things that have been delegated to me over the years turn out to be learning and growth opportunities. Sure, some of the things are just stupid, boring tasks, but many of them aren’t. The manager also needs to think about who the best person is to complete the task.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Yes, this. Typically a manager’s responsibilities involve looking at the big picture and determining overall strategy. It is perfectly normal for a manager to delegate tasks to the people that report to them.

    5. Zathras*

      Since it’s improved over time, maybe he just didn’t have all that much to do yet since he was new? It takes some time to have enough on your plate that there’s zero downtime. Youtube is still not a great choice in that situation, but not being great at finding work-related ways to keep busy is a lesser sin than watching videos when you have stuff to get done.

    6. Samata*

      I am glad you think it’s getting better, but I wonder if part of your issue isn’t just the internet usage, but this:
      and replacing a former, excellent and dedicated manager.

      Sometimes when someone replaces someone we are attached to, whether co-worker or manager, we hold them to different standards or latch on to something that makes them inferior to their predecessor.

      I have had to work on this hard in the past when co-workers have been replaced by someone with a different style. Usually it’s me that is the problem, being resentful of the change, even when it’s not a more difficult one.

      1. teclatrans*

        I am also wondering whether past awesome boss delegated very little, which would let him and everyone around him feel like he really pitched in, while also stunting growth opportunities and team utilization. And even if he didn’t get his delegation levels wrong, there might be a range that’s appropriate to this position. If OP assumed that delegation is *only* for times when boss is too busy, then she will have a really hard time with this boss.

        OP, I agree with what some others have brought up, your efforts should go into not having to see what he is doing every minute. Otherwise it will always be like a loose tooth you can’t stop playing with, and his internet usage will consume way too much of your attention (and likely make it hard to assess his actual effectiveness as a manager).

    7. Lil Fidget*

      I think you should really try to move your desk or your computer so you can’t see his screen. Or maybe you can discretely mention that you’re distracted by your bosses computer all day and he might get a screen reflector (makes it so that others can’t see). This is going to keep bugging you and become a distraction – and I think you have to live with it because of the power dynamic here. I worry you’ll start re-evaluating every thing he does based on this, where you should just be focusing on prove your value to the company and get promoted. If it were me, I wouldn’t want to know.

      I hate open offices!!

    8. Risha*

      Not to pile on, because I definitely get why this gets to you, but –

      I used to get dinged on my performance reviews for not delegating enough work. Part of being a manager is helping those around you grow, and to spend time your time managing instead of taking care of more basic tasks. If you keep most or all of the important work to yourself (or the work you can do in half the time of anyone else, or the work you don’t have time to write up the instructions for, etc.), you literally aren’t doing your job.

    9. Gingerblue*

      Honestly, I think that some of the replies you’ve gotten have been bizarrely scold-y in response to a pretty reasonable questions.

      1. Soon to be former fed*

        How is trying to manage your bosses’ productivity reasonable, serious question here.

        1. BuildMeUp*

          I think Gingerblue is saying that writing into AAM to ask about it is what’s reasonable, not that trying to do something about the internet use is reasonable.

    10. Stop That Goat*

      I really think you need to take a more active role in ignoring his screen since it’s not your business. Not to be too harsh, but how much of your own work time are you spending staring at his screen? If it’s enough to give confident estimates of how much work he’s doing, then I think it’s already too much.

      1. LS*

        Personally, I would find it extremely distracting to have YouTube going in my peripheral vision all day :-/

        1. Stop That Goat*

          How fast would it become ‘noise’ though if it was really all day? I don’t think very long at all.

      2. BuildMeUp*

        I don’t think that’s fair. Depending on how their computer screens are positioned, for instance, OP could easily have his monitor in her direct line of sight and be aware of what he’s looking at without needing to search it out.

        1. Stop That Goat*

          I don’t buy that argument. We are all adults and can look away from something when it doesn’t concern us. I don’t view this as any different than politely ignoring a cell phone user who has their screen in your view. Nobody is forcing her to look at it.

    11. Soon to be former fed*

      OP1, I just don’t get why you are so concerned with this, to the point you can assign percentages to your bosses’ internet usage! You don’t know if your boss works before you get in, after you leave, or on weekends.

      1. SleeplessInLA*

        THIS. The updated percentage is telling IMO and it seems that OP is actively making it a point to monitor her bosses work (which is backwards!)

        You hit the nail on the head about not knowing how often the boss is working when OP isn’t there to screen his productivity. Personal anecdote- There’s a strong chance that if I were to walk into my manager’s office she’s on Bloomingdales or At times she’s even asked me what I thought of a pair of shoes so there isn’t even an attempt to hide it. On the flip side, my manager wakes up 3 hrs before the workday starts and I regularly have emails from her before my alarm goes off. The same goes for as I’m eating dinner, well after the work day. So if she’s “goofing off” at times between 9-5 means, so what?

        It just *really* is not your concern and I think you need to let it go.

  17. Mockingjay*

    OP1, how thorough is your company on boarding? Same as any other employee, managers need to time to learn company processes and tasks before becoming fully engaged. How much interaction do you have with him? Have you talked him about your work and where you want his guidance? “Bob, I have recurring problems at step X in the spout attachment process. We never have enough glue in stock to fill orders because the supplier delivers late. Can you talk to the supplier? Should I research new vendors?”

    He could simply be quietly observing what goes on to gain a full picture before making changes. Talk to him and find out what he thinks of the work environment and its processes. This is a opportunity to “train” your manager. Let him know what you want him to do for you. Then show him how you will support him.

  18. Rachel G*

    I love that Alison’s answer to LW2 can be read to imply that Brittney is going to immediately turn Justin down. I know it wasn’t meant that way, it’s just a funny read of it, and potentially true if this one sample of “Justin’s” game is representative of his broader personality.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I have some possible sympathy for Justin, if this is his first job. This could be mostly applying the chat-and-confide rules of college buddies to a new context where they don’t fit.

      1. PM Jesper Berg*

        Do you seriously think no one from a workplace has ever set a colleague up with another colleague? People form real-life relationships in contexts other than “college buddies.” Sure, there are manager-subordinate issues, etc., but that doesn’t appear to be the case here.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Workplace dating is perfectly normal. No one is arguing otherwise. But one coworker trying to set up two other coworkers? That’s different and that’s actually pretty icky in the workplace. Could work out fine if both people are interested, but if one isn’t, that kind of meddling risks making a coworker really uncomfortable.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          But OP doesn’t want to set her colleague up with her other colleague. And Justin is failing to pick up on the signals of OP’s lack of interest, Brittany’s hypothetical lack of interest completely aside.

        3. NerdyCanuck*

          Okay, but the social conventions and boundaries of an office are completely different, and this guy either hasn’t had time to learn that or is pushing past those basic boundaries with no indication from the OP that it’s okay to do so.

          If it’s the latter, doing that isnt okay in basically any context.

        4. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          The LW is pretty clear about not wanting to be involved. It also doesn’t sound like the LW and Justin are particularly close to one another, so that makes the efforts to get set up a bit awkward. Especially with Justin not catching the hint after more than one question about Britney.

        5. OP#2*

          I have no problem with them dating. I just really don’t want to be a part of the set-up process. I don’t feel comfortable doing that on behalf of someone else who I know through a working relationship who may or may not appreciate these comments/advances/questions in their work space.

          1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

            Which is totally normal. I’d even feel weird about it if they were both people I was friendly with at work. I’m not big on being matchmaker anywhere.

          2. Cassandra*

            Utterly reasonable. Your name is not Yente and you do not work in Anatevka. Go right ahead and shut it down.

  19. Roscoe*

    #1 Unless this is affecting your job, which it doesn’t seem to, its not your business. You are his subordinate. Plus, as you say, nothing is being neglected, nor do you know his goals. This would be just meddling for the sake of meddling.

  20. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    My former boss must have gotten a new job at OP’s place. I could have written this 10 years ago.

    My boss was a self-described “workaholic.” What it really meant was that he would make his one-hour commute and get in around 7:30 am, spend a large portion of the day surfing the ‘net, talking on the phone to whoever (personal), delegate a ton of work to me and to others, and then leave around 7 pm. We figure he did maybe four total hours of work a day. It bugged the crap out of me for the longest time, but eventually I just let it go: he was the CFO, an executive; he reported to the CEO, not me; I had no idea what his goals were and if he was meeting them; what his daily workflow actually looked like; and it wasn’t up to me to keep tabs on him. Eventually I found out that the CEO knew all this and it was one of the things that factored into him being let go. (I had a really close relationship with the CEO, so he confided in me after the fact.)

    So, you never know what’s going on behind the scenes. Someone may know perfectly well what the boss is doing, and they either don’t care or they’re quietly noting it. Or they may not know. Either way, and annoying and frustrating as it can be, OP should just ignore it unless it’s impacting her work. It’s possible that he’s getting all his work done and, being only two months into the job, just doesn’t have a lot of work yet. (Although one could argue he should be making it known to his boss that he doesn’t have enough to do.)

    1. Artemesia*

      I laughed at the workaholic description. It has been my experience that the people who are constantly at work late at night, carry home a briefcase full of work etc etc are often loafers who just spin out the tasks and time endless perhaps to avoid going home or because they are inefficient and don’t have a life. I have known many unproductive people who are workaholics and many very productive people who can produce twice as much in the normal work day or less. I have also seen people get dinged for not staying late who are more productive than the loafers who do and double that when the productive person is a woman and the loafer is a man.

      There are people who just work long hours and are productive and are very job focused. Lab researchers are sometimes like this. But plenty of people who work long hours are spending their days chatting, surfing and screwing around and then rush to get a few things done at the end of the day and are viewed as ‘workaholics’.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        “But plenty of people who work long hours are spending their days chatting, surfing and screwing around and then rush to get a few things done at the end of the day and are viewed as ‘workaholics’.”

        Yes, this was him! 100%. He would walk around all the time saying he’s a workaholic when really he spent a large portion of the day goofing off. Everyone knew it, but there was nothing we could do about it.

      2. overly produced bears*

        I worked with that person at a previous job. There was one memorable time she took a 2 hour lunch with some old coworkers and then came back and complained about how she was going to have to work so late to get stuff done. Um, maybe don’t take a 2 hour lunch, then?

      3. Elizabeth West*

        because they are inefficient and don’t have a life

        For some reason, when I read this I flashed on a scene in The Silence of the Lambs (book) where Clarice makes a quick run to talk to Lecter near the end of business hours and Chilton (the smarmy psychiatrist) says something like “Can we make this snappy? I have a ticket to [show].” And Clarice notes that he says A ticket, not tickets, and she sees his whole pathetic lonely life and he knows she sees it and it’s super awkward.

        That is good writing right there.

  21. Murphy*

    #2 That is uncomfortable. You’re not overreacting at all. I think Alison’s script is a good way to shut it down. I know you’re concerned about not damaging your relationship with your co-worker and I think tone of voice is key, while still being firm that you don’t want to talk about this subject at all.

  22. TheCupcakeCounter*

    Can I come work for your company? They sound like a place that really values their employees and the community.

  23. NerdyCanuck*

    OP1: If all of his work is getting done, his responsibilities are being met, his performance isn’t at issue, etc. then I don’t follow what you even want here – are you expecting your boss to fake being busier than he is for your benefit?

    (changing things so that his screen can’t be directly seen might be good, though, because confidentiality matters – coyld raise that issue with him as a way of letting him know you can see what he’s doing; don’t mention what you think, because there are actually a lot of job fumctions that look like goofing off to some people)

    1. Agent Diane*

      The confidentiality point is critical. When boss is looking at performance reports, if OP1 can see them then that’s inappropriate. For example, OP1 should not be privy to boss putting someone on a PIP. so, OP1, this is a good reason to raise the sight line issue. It also helps you upwards manage your boss by helping him learn his responsibilities.

      But don’t phrase it as “I can see you’re goofing off 60% of then time”!

  24. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    OP#3 – WOW. You really are fortunate to have such great people, great management – people who care.

    A good story to read.

  25. Mimmy*

    #4 – I worry about scams too, or even just those who overpromise. As with any professional service, it comes down to fit between you and the person you work with.

    On a related note: Are there non-executive career coaches too? I think I’d benefit from coaching, but not at the level the OP is asking about.

    1. Specialk9*

      Yes. My best friend had an amazing career coach as she transitioned careers.

      She also still raves about the Johnson O’Connor Foundation career aptitude testing. She was good at boring uninspiring jobs, and she wanted to move into something that was more interesting. Both the JOC test and career coach were a big part of her moving to a totally new career, which fits her and she loves.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        My grandfather was a big fan of Johnson O’Connor and liked to tell people how spot-on it was for his two younger children (he didn’t discover it in time for the two older). When I was just out of college he paid for the testing for me, and I thought it was interesting but wasn’t really ready to make any major moves in my career. A few years later I started doing some serious soul-searching, chose a new field and started applying to grad school… and then found my test results which showed my new field as their top match for me. And it really is a great fit for me.

        For anyone who’s not familiar, the tests aren’t personality-based or skill-based, they’re actually several hours of little in-person tests for different aptitudes – things like spatial problem solving and being quick with numbers and having good fine motor skills and having the ability to see fine gradations of color. They match your profile against their database of people who are successful/happy in different professions. It was pretty cool – they have a couple of different kinds of quantitative skills tests, and it was one of those “a-ha” moments when I scored really well on the kinds of quantitative thinking and problem solving that let me be a successful math major and data analyst and only average on the kind that lets you quickly calculate the tip in a restaurant or the percentage increase when you’re looking at a balance sheet. They’re actually different aptitudes, and it explained my frustration with certain tasks that people expected me to be really good at because I’m “good at math”.

        1. Specialk9*

          My husband took the JOC tests in his late 30s, and it basically said that no he didn’t need to go back to school and start over, his career was actually a good fit, but he needed to change the kind of company he worked for. It saved SO MUCH second guessing and wasted time and money!

          It’s expensive ($750) and takes a full 8 hours (over 1 or 2 days) but since we saved $70k in tuition, I’m cool with that.

          And the full benefit contrinues to sink in – he looks back and said, oh, THAT’S why that job didn’t work out, I’m good with my hands but not good at time crunches so timed equipment installs were not a good fit. I got a giant leg up on understanding this complex person I’m married to, so I can give better advice. We refer back to it surprisingly often.

        2. Mimmy*

          Aww mannnnn that price! :( This would’ve been PERFECT because I too am beginning to tire of self-perception tests because many responses are black-and-white and don’t take into account varying situations and, in my case, varying comfort levels on any given day. I am aching to figure out my true aptitudes (besides writing, which everyone praises me for) and use them!

  26. Allison*

    #1 As someone who does spend a good bit of time on the internet during my downtime, I’d be in no place to judge your boss. I can see why it’s annoying, but I think I’d only have an issue with it if he was, say, not responding to my emails or failing to give feedback.

    That said, you say he’s delegating a lot. Is he delegating tasks that maybe he could be doing himself? Or do you mean he’s actually doing his job, and just not putting in a full day’s work by using his extra time productively? Do you think he’d judge you for doing the same thing?

    #2 I agree you should shut it down, tell him you don’t want to hear about it anymore and don’t want to be involved. It’s possible he’s using you as a sounding board because he’s so enamored he can’t stop talking about her, but it’s also possible he’s trying to get you on his side so you’ll eventually encourage her to go out with him, which you don’t want and she probably *really* doesn’t want.

    1. Specialk9*

      I don’t really get this. How many people’s managers could do their work? Mine couldn’t. Going through my PMs in my head, we each had specialized roles, and we had only minimal ability to swap jobs.

      1. SleeplessInLA*

        My manager could easily do my work since she had the same job about 3 promotions ago and that’s very normal in my field. As a matter of fact, when I got laid off from Old Job, my old manager just absorbed my work until they were cleared to hire on freelancers.

        I don’t get how anyone can effectively manage a position that they’ve never held so this differs for everyone I guess.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        AwesomeBoss at Exjob could. In fact, she did most of it when I was on holiday. NextBoss probably could not have, but she was so overbooked she wouldn’t have had time, anyway.

      3. Bea*

        I can do the work of anyone who reports to me…it would be horrifyingly bad if I couldn’t, I have to back up if they’re out on vacation or if they decide to walk out one day and move to the moon. Not being able to do your reports job means you don’t know what’s going on and are at the mercy of someone who may get abducted by aliens one day and then you’re up the creek without a paddle.

  27. Rita*

    OP#1 – thanks for replying back to the comments. It can be really hard when you and your coworkers are working hard and someone else is slacking off. I deal with this issue too (only it’s a teammate). He spends most of his day on the talking/texting friends and family, online shopping, watching shows and playing games on his phone. It’s a direct hit to my moral as I’m usually very busy so I can be envious of his relaxed schedule. My mantra for this year is “Stay in my lane”. His slacking off doesn’t directly impact me so I have no room to complain. He completes his tasks when assigned and that seems to be enough for management. I just hate how his leisure activities makes our entire team look. So – I tell myself to stay in my lane and continue to focus on doing good work. It’s the only thing I really can do.

    1. Specialk9*

      Some people are slow-and-steady types, and some are saunter-and-sprint types. You know how to burn out a sprinter? Try to get them to run cross country.

      I’m a sprinter. I get more work done than the 3-person team I work with (like waaaaaaay more work)… But if someone required me to sit at a computer and do the same thing for 8 hours, I would hate life and find another job. And I need that downtime to recharge for the next sprint. So you’ll see me chatting, or reading articles, or whatever. But I *produce*, so my boss doesn’t care.

      Since this is a you problem and not a him problem… you can’t help but monitor and keep an internal tally, so you need to fix your side of things. Get a tall bushy plant right there. Move your computer so you’re having another direction.

      Maybe ask your boss about getting you a privacy screen for your monitor, then shortly after mention something you saw on his screen. (He should take the hint.)

      1. teclatrans*

        Oh, specialk9, me too! My “on” mode is hyped-up whirling dervish. I work at 200% speed, with precision, efficiency and accuracy. (Yay, ADHD hyperfocus.) But then I need mental downtime.

        And boy, did this get me into trouble when I was a legal secretary. No, make that a young, social-cue-impaired legal secretary. Basically, the lawyers loved me because I made them look good, pulled off their ridiculously late deadlines, and produced work they could trust. And I helped out when other teams were in need. But, I didn’t understand optics, so in my down time I did things like read magazines at my desk or go for a short walk around the office. Nowadays I would probably be reading AAM or Facebook.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Oh on, not facebook! That heavy blue screen is so obvious all the way across the hall (yah you can tell I live in open office hell). AAM is good because the page is white and there’s not too much on the screen. You have to look for other sites like that for discrete downtime.

  28. PizzaDog*

    OP3, what a beautiful story. You work with some incredible people.

    Do you think your nephew would feel up to writing a card, or if he’s younger, maybe a drawing for the office? Might be a sweet way for the office to have a little something from him.

    You don’t need to overextend yourselves with thanks – your boss and coworkers already seem like they get it. They did it out of the goodness of their hearts.

  29. It happens*

    OP4: I’ve had executive coaching, it was great. It was also very much a process. A new head of HR hired a team of coaches to work with the entire executive team. (Demonstrating a commitment to management development, a notable historical weakness.)
    The process included a 360 degree review – direct reports, peers, managers – some management style questionnaires and then a review of the results. These formed the basis of a plan that we wored on in weekly sessions for about six weeks and then a few more sessions over the next few months. Honestly, the input from those I worked with was very important – knowing if there is a difference between how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you is critical (you may or may not have impostor syndrome…)
    I thought it was a great process and I got a lot out of it, including techniques for coaching my own staff. I can’t give advice on how to find an individual coach, but the person and the process were both critical in my experience.

  30. a different Vicki*

    OP3: It might be a good idea to put a couple of family photos on your desk: your nephew, your spouse if you’re married, and your own kids if you have any. Or just a current photo of Nephew, maybe taken on his first day of school if they took a picture then.

  31. Lulu*

    #1 – I don’t believe you have any standing. I’m in a similar position as your boss, I have been working as an office manager for a regional office for about a year and I maybe have about 2 hours of work to do per day. I manage several employees as well. I remember when I first started I asked my boss (who does not work in my office, she works in another state) what I need to be working on and she responded “whatever you think is necessary.” So I gathered then that I just wouldn’t have much to do.

    If your boss is getting their work done, there’s no reason to say anything. Some jobs just don’t have much work to do but it’s necessary for someone to be in that position.

    1. LS*

      I’d go out of my mind with boredom in a job like this. In fact I left a pretty cushy job a few years for much the same reason.

  32. Not Today*

    Some years ago, before I had my ADHD diagnosis, I spent much of the day goofing off and playing Minesweeper (we didn’t have Internet yet).

    Then, after 5:30 or so, when most people had gone home and the office was quiet, I began my real work in earnest and sometimes didn’t finish until midnight or later. But I still came in at 8:30 or 9 in the morning because that’s when I was supposed to begin my day. I just could not concentrate while there were people around.

    Eventually my boss noticed the timestamps on some of my work, and we had a talk. She set me up to work from home where it was quiet. Ahhhhhh.

    (I have treatment for my ADHD now, and can work regular hours in the office. Thank goodness.)

    My point is not that OP1’s boss has ADHD. My point is that OP1 has no idea what is going on with her boss, what her boss is really doing and when, or how he manages his time. Nor is any of that subject to OP’s approval. OP should mind her own business.

    Perhaps OP’s boss will turn out to be a dud, but if so, the Internet use will still have been only a symptom – not the cause.

  33. N Twello*

    LW2, a really good skill to develop is how to communicate serious things in a way that doesn’t cause any unease or friction. In this case, you could say something like, “Too much information!”, look him in the eye, and smile. Leave a pause, and if he starts talking about her again, just smile and shake your head. If you can, say something positive about him in the ensuing conversation, just to let him know that you’re still on good terms.

  34. voyager1*

    If I were you I would say to him “ask her out already, I don’t know anything about her and I can’t answer any questions about her. She will either say yes or no… okay? I don’t want to have this conversation again.”

    But I am a guy and closing in on 40, so I find the whole high school vibe this guy is bringing to you quite ridiculous and I would have little patience for it.

  35. Statler von Waldorf*

    #1 – I’m going to disagree with the masses on this one. I had a similar boss once, though in his case it was his phone that seemed to absorb all his time and energy. I had been brought in to cover a one-year maternity leave for the bookkeeper (who was a friend and also who referred me), as well as modernize the work flow. I setup some servers, made a few tracking spreadsheets and electronic forms, and in less than eight months I managed to get things updated. (To be fair, I had been listening to my friend bitch about her job for years and planned those updates with her help, I couldn’t have done it that fast or well without her.)

    While all this was going on, useless-manager was being useless. The best thing I can say about him is that he didn’t get in my way. That would have required effort, and he was quite averse to that. He did try to claim credit for my updates when they were done, of course.

    After this, with about two months left, I met the owners for the first time. They were quite happy with me and what I had done so far. They mentioned that they were thinking about creating a new position specifically for me once my friend returned from mat leave. This is the point where I firmly declined, much to their confusion. When they asked why, I hit useless-manager with both barrels. I had no interest in working under him in the future, and was brutally honest about exactly why.

    To their credit, the owners listened, and actually dug into some of the things I had said to verify them. A month later, they let useless-manager go and offered me his job. That was my big break into management, and it was in big part because of me telling the business owners how s*** their existing manager was.

    1. JulieBulie*

      That doesn’t seem to be what OP1 is describing, though. OP says her boss is not neglecting or ignoring his work.

      It is possible that he doesn’t have enough to do, and it’s likely that he isn’t showing any initiative (from what OP can see – which may not be the entire picture), but that’s not the same as being useless.

      1. Statler von Waldorf*

        Yes, it is possible that he is useless because he doesn’t have enough to do. It’s possible that he is working a lot of hours outside the normal schedule. It’s also possible that he’s just lazy. From the limited information available to us, it’s impossible to tell.

        I’ll say flat out that Allison’s response is the safe one. If the OP can ignore it, they probably should. However, sometimes in life a calculated risk can bring rewards. If they can’t let it go, and this is going to be something that is going to bug the living **** out of them, I’ll argue that they would be better off making their case to their grandboss (once!) than stewing and fuming over it. They should just be prepared with a exit strategy if things go badly, which things definitely could.

  36. Polymer Phil*

    #1 – Sicne the boss is a new hire, I suspect his last workplace was the kind where they’re always either in crisis mode or taking it easy in between crises. He’s probably still in the habit of goofing off anytime there isn’t an emergency going on. This is why start-up companies have things like ping-pong tables in the break room that AAM readers frequently criticize as an over-the-top effort to give the appearance of a “fun” workplace (a charge that does have some merit).

  37. Quiet One*

    In regards to #1, maybe that’s all the boss really can do. Personally I’m on the Internet about 75% of my work day simply because I have no work to actually do. Everything I’m given, every daily task, all obligations, they’re all done in no time to the highest of standards. I even try to seek out additional work, but it’s not often available. So I have the choice to twiddle my thumbs until I go bonkers or occupy myself with writing and Internet. Considering going bonkers due to lack of work is why I left my previous position it’s not something I’m in favor of having happen again.

  38. AAM Reader*

    Related to #2… what are people’s thoughts re: pictures of significant others on desks/in cubes? I am a new grad in my first “real” job, and my family told me it was completely, totally inappropriate to discuss relationships at work or have a picture of my boyfriend in my cubicle, and that even if a coworker did try to ask me out, I should never deflect with “I have a boyfriend” (even though I do actually have a boyfriend). I work for a fairly young company and a good number of staff members have a picture of their S.O. on their desk. I put one up of me and my boyfriend, I didn’t really get why my family was telling me it was weird and/or inappropriate. It’s a regular couple picture, not scandalous in any way. What’s your take? If putting up little personal mementos is fairly normal in offices, I wouldn’t think a picture of a serious boyfriend/girlfriend or a spouse would be that odd.

    1. MoodyMoody*

      It depends on the workplace and culture. I work at a community college and another teacher uses the room in the evenings. I obviously don’t have anything personal there. However, you say that many of your colleagues do have significant others’ pictures on their desks, so it’s evidently accepted there. There have many examples of “don’t do what your parents say because things have changed” reported on this site, and that may be one of them.

    2. Pudgy Patty*

      This wouldn’t cross my mind as odd at any organization I’ve worked with. I’m struggling to think of an environment where it would be odd; I’m not sure I’d like it much.

  39. OP #4*

    Thank you Alison for answering my question.
    I really appreciate it. You are right about needing to be clear about what I want to achieve. I’m currently middle management at a small company and looking to move up. I’ve been feeling type cast as the quirky youngish person and feel like no one sees me as anything else. I fully realize my snarky sense of humour and quirky coping ticks are adding to this perception but I’m not sure how to grow beyond it as it’s such a part of my personality. I’m not sure I can without outside help.

    I also want to thank all the readers who’ve shared their experiences. I’m going to print them all out for my partner to read. Hopefully hearing some success stories will help them to see the value of coaching.

    1. Pudgy Patty*

      OP #4, FWIW, I used an executive coach after a period where I was getting a tremendous amount of anxiety for having to speak at meetings and present to senior leadership. Around this time, my company was working with a coach for a group team assessment at our organization (think Meyers-Briggs). I was so desperate at the time, I ended up taking on something like 4-6 sessions that were fairly pricey, thinking that she was vetted by my org, so she must be good. While I liked her a lot and it was nice to talk to someone, it ended up being a waste of money for me. I was also in counseling at the time, and there wasn’t much difference in what the coach was saying — I wanted practical, tangible advice from her in the work place. I wish I had seen this post about how to screen for coaches and to work towards a concrete output.

      There is a happy(ish) story for me: I think counseling ended up being helpful for my anxiety issues. It was much cheaper than coaching for sure. I have gotten much better at my public speaking/presentation at work, but I believe there’s no magic bullet. For me, it was a combination of: counseling, meds (for a little bit), getting to know my colleagues better, practice in lower-stress environments, positive feedback along the way, and time. Of course, YMMV!

  40. Bea*

    #2, You have my sympathies and I hope that you can shut down that awfully awkward conversation if it pops up again.

    I have been the only woman among many men and it’s a gross feeling when one of them did the “Bobby likes you”, high school whisper/giggle. It gave me flashbacks to adolescence that was very painful and full of Carrie like bad-jokes from men. So I shut down immediately and hated everyone involved.

    Justin needs to grow up and ask Britney himself if she’s interested in getting to know each other outside of work or keep his blabbering to himself and his buddies who aren’t involved in the work place. You’re not his wingman.

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