update: my boss wants to be my work mom

Remember the letter-writer in July whose boss was pressuring her to share personal information about her life? Here’s the update.

I know how much everyone loves updates, so I thought I’d send you mine.

First, I just have to say that antidepressants are AMAZING. I had no idea! I started them in August and they have made a huge difference. I’m feeling so much more like myself, and they made it much, much easier for me to handle my current job and manager and ramp up my job search.

After I wrote you, I tried to implement your advice (and the advice in the comments, which was awesome) – and then my manager started lecturing me in our 1-on-1s about being open and communicative with the team. She made it clear she didn’t like my lack of sharing. So…I elaborated with as much bland details as possible. I also started consistently lying about not having plans. It was just easier than explaining where I was going over the weekend and why and who I was going to be with and what I was planning on eating…

Well, about a month ago, I requested a particular Monday off due to an out-of-town Sunday party for my grandparents’ 60th anniversary (which I did explain). I checked with everyone before hand as we had a company event that day, did everything I could in preparation (which was 95% of the work) and made sure everyone involved was okay with my absence. It didn’t matter, though – she threw a fit. I was lectured incessantly about what working on a team means, about supporting other people, and that one shouldn’t just up and leave if there’s an event. She even went so far as to suggest I ask my family to move the party to another day so I could go to work on Monday, and that was the breaking point – I was not going to ask my entire extended family to move a party that’d been planned for weeks just so I could attend a work event (where, it turned out, my presence wasn’t needed or missed)!

After that I job searched like crazy. I ended up getting a job in an industry I’m much more familiar with and passionate about, and I start in a week! :) I made sure to ask about managing styles and company culture during my two interviews, and I’m really looking forward to working with everyone there.

Thanks to you and all of your wonderful readers for the advice and encouragement.

{ 99 comments… read them below }

  1. Falling Diphthong*

    This combines two of my favorite update aspects, a happy ending and realizing that the only way to fix working for crazy is to go work somewhere else.

    1. babblemouth*

      There is something particularly satisfying about bad managers getting their comeuppance in losing a good employee. That’s something this site has taught me: I might go through the effort of staying despite having a bad manager, but chances are, my best colleagues won’t, and this is going downhill no matter what.

      1. Not Rebee*

        The last part of your comment is a really good thing to think about when you’re putting up with an awful workplace. Yes, you may tough it out and stick around, but your best coworkers won’t so not only is your company/boss not getting better, but the more people leave the worse things get for those left behind. It’s amazing how fast a company can slide when a few key employees leave (even ones you might not have realized are key), so if you’re willing to stay and tough it out it’s good to think about this and see if you’re also willing to tough it out once the sliding has started. I am on the opposite side of this issue right now; two coworkers and I left our jobs over the course of this calendar year and found employment elsewhere (in various fields). There’s absolutely no way any of us wishes we had stayed, and from the sound of it things have only gotten worse since we left. Definitely glad to have gotten out when we did, but I feel bad for the coworkers who were toughing it out and got stuck with the downward spiral because we left.

  2. Louise*

    Isn’t it great when terrible managers make decissions easy? I had an office manager job at a company that I was starting to not love… and then the CEO tried to convince me not to fly overseas to visit my dying grandma. Let’s just say that made my mind up pretty quickly.

    1. Murphy*

      Right? When you’re not sure if you can continue putting up with a situation and suddenly become VERY SURE that you cannot.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      That’s INSANE. Like, holy motherforking shirtballs, who does that? If you sound like an Inspector Gadgett villain, it’s time to rethink your life choices.

      1. Louise*

        Oh yeah, and then THE DAY I got back (after ~36 hours of travel) they asked me to take a pay cut, to which my response was “hahahahahahaha no.”

      2. Alli525*

        Love your The Good Place reference! My night was semi-ruined last night when I realized I’d forgotten that the mid-season finale was last week and we won’t get new eps until 2018.

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          There’s a Fake Eleanor commenting here as well. OT, but I told my friend I was jealous she’d saved them up and binged a couple days ago!

        2. Kate H*

          I feel your pain. I knew that last episode was the mid-season finale because my fiancee told me. Naturally, I forgot and started looking forward to watching it on Thursday. Cue disappointment all over again.

      3. Trotwood*

        Dear Prudence is fond of telling particularly atrocious letter-writers that they’re behaving like a villain in a Reese Witherspoon movie. I do wonder if it ever gets through to them.

        1. NW Mossy*

          I realize the reference is way dated (and long before my time, but anyway), but I’m a big fan using Snidely Whiplash as my go-to cartoon villain.

          1. Bigglesworth*

            I had to explain to my husband recently who Snidley Whiplash was…and he’a the movie buff, not me!

      4. Volunteer Enforcer*

        +1 to the motherforking shirtballs, I’ll keep that in mind as another alternative to swearing.

        1. Sweary McSwearerson*

          +1 for calling out the PC language….I read the initial comment as the R-rated versions and was shocked that Alison let it through moderation. Didn’t even notice the difference until I got to your comment in the thread!

      1. Runemarks*

        I was waiting for someone to make a James Bond reference. That’s my go to when I want to compare someone to a villain.

        1. SignalLost*

          Could also be Brian the Dentist, enemy of the British Dental Aaociation. :)

          “Now Flopsy’s dead, and never called me mother.”

  3. Augusta Sugarbean*

    Great job for trusting yourself, sticking up for yourself, and persevering. Very glad to hear you have moved on to a better place!

    1. whatshername (OP)*

      Oooh she was not very happy. As you know, she was very convinced I’d have a great career in HR. When I gave my two weeks she was pretty shocked. I focused more on the fact that I didn’t like the work, but I filled out the exit survey honestly. (Side note: she’s actually retiring at the end of this year, which I think will be great for the company.)

      1. Julia the Survivor*

        I’m so glad you were honest! People like that need to be called out. One of the reasons they’re like that is, they get away with it.

      2. RVA Cat*

        Work Mommy Dearest is more like it…

        I’m glad she is retiring so she can’t inflict her crazy on any more employees. If she’s have that bonkers at hope I worry about her spouse.

      3. Tiny Soprano*

        Also, high five for getting your meds sorted! How nice is it to have functional brain chemistry! :)

      1. TootsNYC*

        I go back and read that one from time to time, just for the amazement factor.
        It’s amazing how clueless and classist people can be without EVEN realizing it!

        It makes me remember to check my assumptions.

          1. Future Homesteader*

            I was in a terrible nanny situation when I read that book, and it gave me the courage to quit before the summer ended instead of waiting until I went back to school. It also just about gave me a rage stroke.

        1. Sabine the Very Mean*

          I’ve always been desperate for Alison to ask for an update from that LW but apparently he got eviscerated in the comments. I still want it.

          1. Observer*

            Yeah, he got eviscerated. But, really, he had it coming. On a scale of 1 -10 of cluelessness and “Trying to guilt someone for YOUR mess up” this guy was at 11.

      2. Jadelyn*

        What always gets me about that one is that not only did the terrible manager let a great employee quit rather than let her attend her freaking college graduation, but she doubled down on her belief that she did the right thing and wrote in to Alison because she wanted advice on reaching out to the girl to “counsel” her about “professional behavior”. Like. How can someone be that oblivious to the fact that they are acting like a cartoon villain, and expect other people to validate them?

        1. Bacon Pancakes*

          Lol you mean like the woman who felt like someone who had a family and didn’t want to participate in bar-hopping-lunches was a bad fit in her “diverse” team and they all made fun of her on Snapchat after she left? The first update she gave where she basically accused Allison of not siding with her was almost more astonishing than the original letter (although I commend her for the second update).

  4. Murphy*

    This letter (well, the original) also makes me laugh. My boss and I never talk about anything personal, almost to an absurd degree. I think I’d prefer that to this though!

  5. Jackie*

    I am so happy for you ! It’s not easy to escape a crazy-maker boss but you did it ! Good luck in you new job ! ! !

  6. Buffet Pants*

    Hooray for happy updates! I hightailed it out of one company when I was given an impromptu performance review for missing a day of work when my grandparent passed away. Good for you for being true to yourself and knowing you deserve better. Good luck!

  7. Cube Diva*

    This update makes me so happy! I’m restarting meds, and the hope AND ability to take care of issues is very encouraging. Yay OP!

    1. Future Homesteader*

      Good for you and OP! I recently restarted and couldn’t be happier. I had been miserable at work and convinced it was my job, but it turns out it was me – I’m now performing better and incredibly grateful and happy at work. Caveat: obviously meds aren’t for everyone, but I’m so glad when people are helped by them!

      1. Cube Diva*

        Yay for you! My home life is absolutely chaotic right now, but I can definitely see it impacting my job. Here’s to everyone taking advantage of the best treatment options for them!

      2. TardyTardis*

        I have a schizophrenic son, and the day we finally hit Double Zero playing Pharmacology Roulette was a *very* happy time for us as (as was the time he watched THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE and asked if he was like that without his meds. He never missed them after that, bless the child).

    2. Jadelyn*

      I felt like a freaking superhero after I got on meds. It was like “…wait. Is this what normal people feel like? I can just…go to the store after work! On a whim! Without it being a huge deal or having to force myself to go! I can do laundry regularly and eat real food! Holy crap I can do ANYTHING!”

      They’re not for everyone, but when used appropriately, meds can change someone’s life.

      1. Honoria*

        It’s amazing, innit? Sometimes when the stars and my meds and my mood align, I can just DO A THING.
        Do they just . . .feel like this all the time? Wild.

  8. whatshername (OP)*

    Here’s part two of the update: I’ve actually been at my new job for a few weeks and I’m LOVING IT. It’s so nice to have a full time job with full time work, instead of spending 3-4 hours every day reading blogs.

    I moved back to a much more fast-paced industry, and it’s been an adjustment for sure, but so far I like my coworkers, the pay, and the benefits. It’s going really, really well. And no one cares at all about my personal life. :)

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

      I’m so happy for you!

      Please tell me you also did an exit interview, a Glassdoor review, or a letter to her supervisor to alert someone above her why working for this manager was untenable. No manager should be nosy, gossipy about private personal information, and retaliatory, but the fact that this was in an HR office makes it especially egregious.

    2. Let's Sidebar*

      Congratulations and thank you for updating! I love updates that include both an escalation of crazy and a happy ending.

    3. Indie*

      Sounds similar to my BFs work culture in a tech company; full of ‘personality people’, ‘people managers’ who don’t have tech skills (or people skills), enforced fun!…and precious little actual work gets done.

      My bf says they do little more than ‘smarm’ around the office. Meanwhile he gets into hot water for not wanting to go to a car park party. Yeah. Says if they really are at that much of a lose end for killing time he’d rather head home to be with real friends. He props up their figures singlehandedly and is still bored witless most days.

  9. Anon anon anon*

    I just read the original letter. I worked for a company like this! There was someone in every department who worked closely with HR and had some pseudo-HR-ish responsibilities. Not a bad thing, right? No. We were required to have meals with this person and they would dig for personal info. If you weren’t forthcoming, it was assumed to be a personality trait, one that your work assignments could be based on. There was a lot of personality testing and sharing the results and talking about them. I felt like I had joined a cult. Just let people do their jobs.

    1. SarahKay*

      Wait, what!?!
      You were required to have meals with someone and they would use this time to be nosy? That is a scary level of absurd nonsense. Hope you’ve escaped since!

      1. Anon anon anon*

        I escaped. The meals included after work dinners in another city.

        There was a lot of weird stuff going on there. I can’t say what industry because of privacy. I wish I could say more!

  10. Goya*

    “…and what I was planning on eating…”

    This makes me giggle. So true, some people are just that nosy…though I think they prefer if you call them caring and interested.

  11. mf*

    Good for you! Takes chutzpah to take charge of your mental health AND your job search at the same time–that’s admirable. I worked for a boss like this once: she was controlling and REALLY needy. You can can’t change a person like that–all you can do is leave

  12. MK*

    This reminds me a lot of a certain deputy director who thought that he’d throw a fit and complain about me to my boss at my first job because I couldn’t work a Saturday event they already had 200 volunteers for—I was one of two bridesmaids in a close friend’s wedding. What am I going to do…move the wedding??? Let crazy be crazy and move on.

    1. Observer*

      Why not? If OP was supposed to have the family move and existing anniversary (at least the boss didn’t expect her to time travel) you should be able to demand that your friend move her wedding. Young people these days! No patience! HMPH!

      (And in case it’s not glaringly obvious, I am being SARCASTIC.)

  13. SusanIvanova*

    For reasons that don’t need exploring at this juncture – the end point being a project completely unrelated to mine that was behind the schedule set by the CEO over the recommendations of everyone else involved – said CEO declared that nobody could take any days off until that was done. I was going to fly across the country to hold my grandmother’s hand as she went in for hip surgery, and Best Manager Ever said “Go. I’ll deal with the CEO.” I went, and never heard anything else about it.

  14. Q*

    Good for you for seeing what am incredibly toxic workplace it was. I once had a boss get mad at me for not sharing I had broken up with my long term boyfriend. I kept it to myself because I didn’t want to talk about it, and well, it’s work. It’s great to talk to people and get to know them, but I am very much about keeping work and personal life two very separate things. I hate it when bosses use their position to make it seem like you’re not a team player for not sharing intimate details. Newsflash-it’s none of your business unless it interferes with my ability to do my job.

  15. Birdie*

    I really wish there were a way to let these people know that one is leaving because of them. Yet so often, it seems that people leave “without burning bridges”. I do wonder how much better places would be if people consistently were honest to bad managers and let them know the real reason of why they are leaving.
    I am glad that the news overall is great. It would have made me even happier if the OP could have actually told this manager how over the line she is.

  16. Anna*

    Reminds me of my boss when I was a teen. I requested Memorial Day Weekend off for my Grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary that was out of town.
    My boss told me I needed to get my priorities straight.
    I put in my two weeks notice that day.

    1. Becky*

      “You’re right, I do need to re-examine my priorities. Family is much more important than this minimum wage after-school/summer job! Thanks for helping make that so clear to me.” ;P

    2. The Supreme Troll*

      When making a “suggestion” like that, what rational/reasonable boss would be surprised to receive a response such as the one you gave. You definitely did the right thing here, and so did the OP.

    3. ZarinC*

      I am surprised how common this is! I got fired from my part time job in college because I couldn’t come in on a Saturday to “help them move”. It was an office for a small non-profit society and I only worked 12 hours/week doing various office tasks like filing, stuffing envelopes, answering membership requests, etc. at a salary that was slightly higher than minimum wage.
      They found a new office space a few blocks away, and decided to save money by not hiring movers. We were expected to come in two Saturdays in a row (note that the office was always closed on the weekends, and weekend work was NEVER discussed when I took the job). I came in the first Saturday, and spent 8 hours packing and moving boxes. The boss berated me for my unprofessional attire (I was wearing sweat pants because you know…moving?). The second Saturday I had previous plans so I could not make it. Apparently I was the only hourly part-timer who didn’t come in, and when I came in the following week they told me that I needed to get my priorities straight and that I wasn’t a team player and when I argued about the insanity of expecting part time college students to come in on a weekend to do work that was way outside of their job description , they fired me.

  17. Taggett Strange*

    I was thinking that when I read the first post, that “grey-rocking” basically be boring to the emotional vampire, would not work. Oftentimes, these people are suffering from a personality disorder* where others exist only to serve them, and they don’t have lives of their own (expecting your WHOLE FAMILY to move an event just to make her happy, for example.) I am very familiar with these types of people which is why I suspected it right off, and am not surprised she was proven to be irrational. *note I am not a physician nor am I attempting to diagnose anyone.

    1. Anon anon anon*

      Yeah. They usually see straight through grey rocking or exploit it as a weakness. Your best defense is to avoid them and warn other people about them. And, argh, they seem to be common in all of the “interesting” jobs – things that are creative or especially challenging or innovative or involve doing challenging things in order to help people. One reason I like working by myself.

      1. starsaphire*

        OK, I googled “gray rock” and OMG do I need to learn this strategy!!!

        Thank you for sharing this term. I will henceforth be practicing it with the toxic family types.

  18. New Window*

    In my experience, managers who want to dig into your personal life and know all the juicy personal details? They only want it so they can gossip about you and hold more power over you. (Rule of Gossiping #1: If they’re gossiping about everyone else, they’re gossiping about you, too.) It’s skeezy and slimy and way beyond the boundaries of professionalism. And even if you don’t have any mental health issues, the stress from having to be on guard and prepared for the prying questions can wear you out.

    OP, high five on getting out of there and into a situation that doesn’t drag you down!

  19. Janelle*

    I agree no on the Xmas party just because it’s such a small office and in small offices, inevitably, people know a lot more of your business. Just for your own sake if it doesn’t work out you don’t then hear them asking about it constantly later on.

  20. Samiratou*

    Wait, so…your boss threw a fit because you had the temerity to take a vacation day? W. T. F.?

    Glad you got out of there, OP!

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