my boss kept calling my wife to find me … and now he won’t stop texting her apologies for all the calls

A reader writes:

I’ve got a bit of a weird situation going on with my boss, and I’m looking for some advice.

My boss often calls me on my days off to ask questions about one thing or another. I’m not required to keep my phone handy as an on-call type deal, but I always answer as promptly as I can.

A couple months ago, I saw a missed call from my boss while the wife and I were out. My phone was about to die, so I borrowed hers to call him back. After that, he started calling her whenever he couldn’t get in touch with me. He’d usually wait about half an hour, but a few times he called her within 15 minutes of trying my number.

I explained to him over and over that this wasn’t a second cell I had, it was my wife’s phone, and he shouldn’t keep trying to reach me at it. Her schedule is all over the place, so sometimes he’d be calling when she was at work, or when she was sleeping after a night shift.

My wife’s a very nice person, but she is no shrinking violet. She finally had enough about two weeks ago when he woke her up again. She cursed him out and told him to never call her again unless I’d died at the office.

That seemed to get through. He apologized to me profusely, and asked me to pass it along to my wife. But then he texted her an apology. And when she didn’t respond, he texted her another apology a few days later. Then he asked me if he could take us out to dinner. I said that really wasn’t necessary and also he didn’t need to send my wife any more apologies. Then he texted HER to ask if he could take us out to dinner.

My wife is fighting mad and doesn’t want to pay to block his number on principle. She wants me to take it to HR or the bigger boss and have them tell him to knock it off. My boss is really a great guy and I like working for him, but everybody at the office thinks he’s on the autism spectrum or something. I don’t want to get him in trouble, because I think he genuinely doesn’t understand what a boundary-pushing pest he’s being. BUT, he IS being a boundary-pushing pest, and it seems like no amount of explaining that is getting through to him. Maybe he needs someone in authority to tell him to stop.

How should I approach this? Keep trying to placate my wife and hope it blows over? Go straight to HR? Give my boss an ultimatum that if he texts my wife again, I WILL go to HR? Arrange a cage match between him and my wife in the parking lot afterhours?

I hope you can help me find a solution that doesn’t end in me getting fired or divorced (kidding) (sort of).

I like your wife.

I don’t think this is quite at the point of involving HR yet, and doing that risks making things pretty weird with your boss. To be clear, he’s the one making it weird (obviously), but you’ve got to work with him and he’s got power over your raises and assignments and overall quality of life at work, and so if there’s a way to solve this less awkwardly, it makes sense to do it. You can always go to HR later if that doesn’t work.

So … how clear and direct have you been with him? Sometimes people soften the message when they really need to be direct. Softer, more diplomatic language often does get through to people so it can be worth a try as a first attempt, but in a case like this where someone is missing an obvious message, you’ve got to get really, really clear. You might think that you’ve done that, but telling him that he didn’t need to send her any more apologies isn’t the same as “do not send her any more apologies.” And if you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t pick up well on subtext, he might have missed what you were really saying.

So if you haven’t yet, say something like this to him: “Bob, you have got to stop contacting Jane. I know you want to smooth this over, but the only way to do that is to leave her completely alone — no apologies, no offers to take us to dinner, literally nothing. She feels like every time you contact her, you’re pushing the boundaries more, and she’s leaning hard on me to ask HR to intervene, which obviously I don’t want to do. So really, the only way to handle this is to just not contact her again.”

The “she’s leaning hard on me to ask HR to intervene” language isn’t intended to be a veiled threat — it’s intended to be a clear statement of how pissed off your wife is, an explanation of where you’d have to go if he won’t stop, and a chance for him to stop it from getting to that point.

If you’ve already been that direct and it’s still continuing, then I would at least mention the HR part before you escalate it to them — like, “Hey, she wants me to talk to HR, which I really don’t want to do because I know you don’t mean offense — but if you keep contacting her, I’m going to have to.” Some people might object to the way this language (“I know you don’t mean offense”) gives him the benefit of the doubt, but (a) I am giving him the benefit of the doubt because you say he’s a great guy and just clueless in this area, and you know him and I don’t, and (b) he’s your boss so it’s to your advantage to preserve good will between you if you can.

If he ignores that very direct request and warning and continues to contact her … then yeah, at that point, ask HR to intervene. But this is pretty likely to take care of it.

{ 506 comments… read them below }

    1. Tired*

      Yes, OP’s wife is a superhero. I wish I had the guts to do the same. My husband’s boss is his brother, and he calls at all hours. And when he feels it’s urgent, and can’t contact my husband, he calls me. It’s irritating. But he’s not only my husband’s boss, he’s my BIL, so many more layers of ick involved… I’ve solved it to my own satisfaction by “not noticing” the calls. Don’t tell my huband or BIL–I’d get in trouble.

      1. Bored at work*

        Tired, you sound like a candidate for setting up that number straight to voicemail.

        1. Annon too*

          I have a few people who call my cell before my office phone. Those special people are awarded the straight to VM option. These are situations like OP’s, all work related where I called them once from my cell and they captured it forevermore. BuhBuy
          I still answer my cell for my in-laws and my kiddos.

      2. Kelly L.*

        I had an ex whose boss would do this. It didn’t help that we all kind of blurred the boundaries by being friends. But he would call me if he couldn’t reach Ex, and even if I explained that I was, say, out of town and had no idea where Ex was, Boss would keep grilling me for all this granular info on his schedule. Was he in the garage? At the coffee shop? Hell if I know! I’m in (city 2 hours away)!

        1. General Ginger*

          Former spouse also had a boss like that. He did stop, though he expressed surprise/confusion, and shared that more than one employee asked him not to call their significant others. Surprise/confusion, because in his mind, isn’t that just the thing you do, call the S/O when you can’t reach the employee? I don’t know if he is back to doing it, as FS no longer works for him, but he at least stopped with us at the time, so I hope it stuck.

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I think having the personal relationship actually makes it easier for you to speak up. Tell BIL he is abusing your familial relationship and he needs to stop.

      4. neverjaunty*

        Interesting that he doesn’t return your consideration by thinking “I need to be especially thoughtful of my SIL”.

      5. misplacedmidwesterner*

        The office manager at my husband’s firm (who is also head of HR) somehow got my personal email and my work email. So she started emailing me directly with all the invites to the family events (company picnic, children trick or treat through the office, etc). Most of the other spouses don’t work at this firm and it can sometimes be a little 1950s therefore, but it is slowly shifting. (The last two hires had working partners and I almost hugged them when I met them at the christmas party.)

        I yelled at my husband. If he wants our kids to go to trick or treating, he can get off work early, go pick them up from day care, wrestle them into costumes and cart them back across town to the office. I am not doing so. I don’t know what he told her, but the emails have stopped. I did get the kids into matching outfits for the family holiday party (different from the grown up booze fest holiday party). He bribed me to do so and I did it. (And then I didn’t do dishes or laundry for two weeks – worth it.)

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Co-signed. Wife is a gem; the boss is being a bit of a spaz; lines should be reinforced. The only thing more obnoxious than calling my phone repeatedly and waking me up in the middle of the night is texting me repeatedly after I cursed you out and told you not to contact me, ever.

      Maybe boss has a tic, but he needs to get a handle on it. Both the behavior that got him into this mess and the behavior he’s using to “fix it” are overblown and obnoxious.

      1. Not Australian*

        Umm, PCBH, ‘being a bit of a spaz’ is a really unpleasant thing to say; it has all sorts of ablist overtones that I think we could probably do without. Just a friendly FYI.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Thank you for letting me know. I wasn’t aware it was a slur, but now that I know it is, I will try to eliminate it from my lexicon. :)

          1. Wannabikkit*

            I can think of plenty of replacement words – prat, plonker, muppet, feckin’ eejit…

            1. brighidg*

              User is probably American and thus those words would not work. Spaz over there is used the same way ditz is.

  1. Falling Diphthong*

    It sounds like he’s calling a cell, and on those blocking the number is often a simple and free thing you do. On the phone, not via the carrier. (Re the part of the letter about paying to block the number–see if she can block it for free, and that might shove the aggravation down.)

    1. Naptime Enthusiast*

      At least for iPhones, you can block certain numbers by scrolling down under the phone number/contact and choosing “Block This Caller”, and it’s free.

      1. Audrey Puffins*

        You can block a number at phone level on a Samsung too. It’s slightly fiddly to figure out how to do it (I have to start from scratch every time) but it can be done.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Google Pixel reporting in, blocking is relatively simple and very much free to do on my phone.

            1. Barefoot Librarian*

              Samsung Nexus 5x reporting in (I know…I need to update lol). It’s super easy to block numbers using the “…” (ellipsis icon) next to the name or number. You can do it from the recent calls list or the text message menu.

        1. Miso*

          Especially if the number already called you, it’s quite easy: Just go to the details of the call, and then either long press on the number and choose block, or go via the three menu dots.

        2. Violet*

          It’s not that fiddly anymore! Once you have answered or declined the call, the option to block appears on the screen right after the call is ended. (I think this may have come in a recent update because I also remember it being difficult to get to.)

      2. The Original K.*

        Yeah, I was thinking “I’d have blocked him a while ago” because I have an iPhone and didn’t make the connection to the cost. I’ve blocked numbers before and it’s very simple.

        1. Kuododi*

          Verizon Droid owner here…. definitely np to go into call log and block numbers on a case by case basis. IDK if that works for the text feature.

        1. KTZee*

          It doesn’t actually block the call, though – it just sends it straight to voicemail. I got so excited thinking that finally CVS’s neverending robocalls would stop filling up my voicemail box, but alas. It does, at least, not ring, though.

          1. SavannahMiranda*

            I had an app at one time that instead of blocking a number (although it could do that too) would give the caller the “doo-dee-doo this number has been disconnected” mantra.

            It was absolute gold in getting certain ridiculous calls to stop. I think it cost maybe $2.99 and I would have paid $29.99 at the time.

            1. Karyn*

              Robokiller! That’s what I use. You can set it to all sorts of hilarious messages, including the one you mentioned. I have mine just to give them radio silence (once in a while a legit call will slip through the spam filter and I don’t want to scare off potential job leads or such things).

      3. loslothluin*

        Call blocking has been on android for years. It’s why I ditched my first iPhone. I couldn’t block numbers, and it wasn’t something I was willing to do without.

      4. Joe*

        Any phone on Verizon, ATT, Sprint, T-Mobile allow you to block any number, free of charge. Google your phone and model and ask how to block a number and you’ll get the answer.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse*

          Not necessarily. I have a phone on Verizon and I can’t block–because it’s a monthly paid amount I prepay. I had to get a blocking app.

    2. Bored at work*

      I think it varies based on phone/carrier, but often there are workarounds. I know on my cell I can send a number straight to voicemail…not sure about texts.

      I like your wife too.

    3. Antilles*

      Yeah, I was thinking the same thing – on the iPhone and most Android phones, it’s as simple as going into your Recent Calls list, selecting the number, and then clicking ‘block’.
      If he’s calling a landline, then it’s a bit more complicated and might require contacting the phone company (via their website, most likely), but as far as I know, basically all phone companies let you block a few numbers for free.

      1. soon 2 be former fed*

        For Comcast Infinity landlines, just log into your account and checkmark the numbers you want blocked, based on call history. There is a limit to the how many numbers can be blocked at one time, but it is fairly high.

    4. Ashley*

      If you can’t block on the phone you can usually assign a phone number it’s own ringtone so you might be able to make it silent for that call. This is a secondary solution for the issue, but will probably help while you deal with your boss.

      1. Kate*

        Right, and you can assign silence as the ringtone, so it doesn’t bother you unless you’re actually looking at the phone when it rings

    5. RabbitRabbit*

      This is all true, but the problem is that the wife DOES want to know if her husband dies/is injured/etc. at work. So I can understand being reluctant to use blocking rather than actually addressing the issue.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        And I see I just assumed a male OP. (Since I literally just 2 weeks ago got a call about my husband being sent to the ER, that stuck with me, apologies.)

        1. KHB*

          Contrary to popular belief, there is no rule here that one must never assume anyone to be male.

          I hope you’re husband’s doing all right – that must have been scary!

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            I know, but inclusion is preferable to non-inclusion. I have married lesbian friends so I should know better than to jump to conclusions; it’s certainly more common these days after legalization in the US, and assumption of the ‘default’ isn’t the best choice.

            And thanks. He’s doing better than I could have ever hoped but also having surprising setbacks and obstacles, so it still weighs on my mind heavily.

      2. Lemon Sherbet*

        You’d think there would be a general office number that could call her for an emergency situation. Surely someone else there has a phone who could call her.

      3. Bea*

        The boss can call from the office phone to report an emergency.

        But HR would be calling a spouse or emergency contact if there was an accident at work. The managers usually don’t get that info around here! It’s a fluke his boss has his wife’s number right now.

      4. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Right, but the boss never had her phone number before LW used her phone to text the boss, so presumably HR has an emergency contact on file for this sort of thing.

    6. soon 2 be former fed*

      Yeah, I’ve never heard of paying to block a number. Why not just delete it if that is the case?

    7. NerdyKris*

      LW said she didn’t want to block it on principle, and she’s sort of right. They shouldn’t have to block the bosses number while finding a workaround for real emergencies. The boss shouldn’t be calling her. If she just blocks him, it really doesn’t solve the issue with the boss not respecting boundaries. LW needs to talk with him.

      1. Les G*

        She doesn’t want to pay on principle. I can’t imagine why she’d not want to block it on principle. “I always use a free and low effort method to stop creepy boundary crossing dudes from contacting me” is a pretty great principle, actually, and one that I heartily endorse.

        1. NerdyKris*

          Right, but this isn’t a stranger she’s dealing with, this is her spouse’s boss. Blocking doesn’t really work if the boss still has to interact with her spouse. It solves her problem, but not the letter writer’s problem. LW still needs to set a firm boundary first and escalate to HR if it continues. The issue really isn’t the money, it’s the boundary violations, which are going to be there regardless of putting a band aid on the phone harassment issue.

          I’ve seen this happen before, where a manager was harassing an employee’s significant other, and all it does is redirect the problem back into the workplace. It doesn’t do anything to solve it, since only one of the three parties involved are able to walk away. LW would still have the same problem, probably worse.

        2. ginger ale for all*

          If she blocks the bosses cell phone number, this boss sounds clueless enough to resort to the office phone to call. She needs to stop the bosses pattern of behavior. The boss needs to learn when it is and is not appropriate to call her.

    8. TootsNYC*

      I would block his number for a month, and then unblock it (so he could call if hubby died at work).

  2. OlympiasEpiriot*

    Depending on the phone and service, I’m pretty sure a number can be blocked at the phone level and wouldn’t incur any charges for that.

    What a pain. I would probably have responded the same way…being woken by a non-emergency phone call is a terrible thing.

    1. Jadelyn*

      Especially an unwelcome non-emergency call from someone you’ve already asked to stop calling you.

  3. AdAgencyChick*

    I want to see OP do what Alison suggests AND ALSO see whether he can reset boundaries with their boss (going to try not to assume a heterosexual marriage here) to a better place than before boss knew the wife’s number.

    OP has trained the boss to expect them to respond on their days off! (“I always answer as promptly as I can.”) That’s not okay either! I guess if OP is paid well enough that they are okay with this, sure, but…I wouldn’t be. Now that the boss is in a place of contrition, it might be a good time to talk to the boss about expectations for days off. I dare to hope that the classic AAM conversation of “When I’m off, I really need to be OFF; what can we do to make that happen?” would get some results for OP.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Hah. And I clearly forgot to change the VERY FIRST pronoun in my post to “they”. Derp.

    2. Seriously?*

      That’s what I was thinking too. They need to be less available when off the clock because boss seems way too dependent on constantly being able to get ahold of them. They do not have to be on call so they need to retrain their boss to not expect that.

      1. EddieSherbert*


        This goes beyond their boss calling their spouse. Days off are DAYS OFF. If OP is hourly, they need to be getting paid for the time spent “on call.”

    3. Courageous cat*

      Agreed. The problem of the boss contacting the wife is only half of the issue, the other half is … why is he infringing on your time off like this? Some jobs you are expected to be on call 24/7, sure, but is this *really* one of them?

      1. Elspeth*

        OP says in the letter that his job is not an on-call type position, so I think he’s just gotten into a very bad habit of responding to his boss on his days off. I also agree that OP needs to reset those expectations, so he can actually have time off without having to respond to non-emergency calls.

      2. myswtghst*

        Yes, this. It’s bad enough that the boss is contacting OP’s wife, but if this is truly not an on-call position, there shouldn’t be any reason the boss feels the need to escalate after only 15-30 minutes on the OP’s day off.

    4. New Phone Who Dis?*

      I was curious if anyone else had this take.

      Boss obviously has boundary issues and understanding appropriate behavior, they OP makes it sound is that VERY clear and direct language isn’t punished, and there’s and attempt to incorporate it into future actions. Seriously if it gets to swearing and the person wants to apologize rather than get mad there really looks like there’s room for a reset on out of work calling.

      Hell, Boss could even do better if there’s less clearly spelled out reasons to call. Less chances for them to feel like they are messing up or making OP and wife angry again.

    5. aebhel*

      My spouse is one of those, and on the one hand, I really wish he’d push back more about dealing with work issues on his off time–but on the other hand, a lot of those issues are the kind of things that would take five minutes to handle on the spot and would balloon into a massive headache if he left them until he was back in the office, and since they’re his problem either way I kind of understand why he’d rather take the easy way out.

      (They really need more people who are senior enough/experienced enough to handle these issues when he’s not around, but that’s a separate problem)

    6. Rectilinear Propagation*


      OP says they aren’t on call but if they’re expected to respond to messages within 15 minutes (!!!) that’s the same as on-call.

  4. Amber Rose*

    Yeah, I don’t think he’s intentionally trying to piss anyone off so going to HR is probably a bit much when just a straight “stop this now, it wasn’t a big deal and we’d all like to move on” should do the job.

    1. a heather*

      Do not say it wasn’t a big deal! That minimizes it and the OP’s wife is pissed. It wasn’t a big deal means you can do it again.

      1. gecko*

        I don’t think it means that, and I see it as more of a “face-saving” phrase than a “minimizing” phrase. To say it a bit more precisely, though, “If the contact stops from here on, that will be great, and it’s water under the bridge. But I mean it, no more–not even an apology. I can definitely tell her you’re sorry, but nothing else to her phone.”

        1. Seriously?*

          The problem is that the boss has already shown that he does not understand non-direct phrasing. I like your re-phrase.

        2. Sam.*

          I’d leave out the “it would be great.” I often use that in requests in a work setting, but I think we need to remove any softening language in this case

          1. Vicky Austin*

            Yeah, “it would be great” is not direct. You need to say “please stop contacting her.”

      2. Amber Rose*

        It wasn’t though. It’s not like he assaulted her. He was annoying. Yeah, OP’s wife was/is pissed and that’s valid considering how annoying this is, but that still doesn’t make this a big deal. Just because something isn’t a big deal doesn’t mean “stop this now” can be ignored. Boundaries are boundaries, regardless.

        1. a heather*

          I’m not saying it’s a big deal, but telling this specific person that “it’s not a big deal” is inviting it to KEEP HAPPENING. Not sugar-coating, face-saving, or minimizing the behavior is exactly what Alison is telling this person to do. So don’t include it. Be direct.

          1. gecko*

            I think those shades of meaning may fly over this specific person’s head ;) I think worrying over including “it’s not a big deal” creeps into “what are the magic words” territory. Being direct in both tone and phrasing can be really effective, but even so, there isn’t a magic combination of words that will make him stop–especially when getting down to this level of detail.

            1. Observer*

              This is true. On the other hand, what seems to be pretty clear is that any language that in any way minimizes the issue is likely to be taken incorrectly. So, in general it’s better to avoid anything that trends that way with someone like that.

        2. Elspeth*

          Reading over the letter, it looks like this is not the first time the boss has woken OPs wife after she worked the night shift. So it IS a big deal for someone who is attempting to get their sleep during the day.

        3. neverjaunty*

          I don’t understand this “it’s not like he assaulted her” standard. That he could have been worse doesn’t make his behavior ‘not a big deal’ and it DEFINITELY doesn’t warrant reassuring Boss Clueless with softening language.

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        Hopefully, “not a big deal” means “you can stop annoying my wife by apologizing and trying to buy us dinner.”

      4. EddieSherbert*

        I think Amber was just trying to use phrasing that would make him stop apologizing (he obviously does see it as a big deal right now since he’s trying to “make up for it” by taking them to dinner).

        But I agree this might not be the best phrasing for that purpose.

  5. AMPG*

    If you want an in-between step that’s more direct than “stop contacting my wife” but not quite “filing a complaint with HR,” maybe go to him and ask him to delete that number from his phone, immediately, in front of you. This both underscores how serious you are and makes it more difficult for him to do it again.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      I like that step. But he would also have to delete his call history or else he can do it that way.

    2. Arjay*

      This was going to be my suggestion too. Removing the number from his phone will remove the ability and the temptation for him to contact her.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Good suggestion.

      Just make sure he also deletes it from his call log.

    4. gecko*

      For me, also, if I’m getting anxious about a text I sent, it helps to delete that text. If the LW wants to and feels like they have the kind of relationship with their boss that would allow it, they could say, “You have to stop contacting my wife altogether. How about a clean slate–deleting call history, texts, contact information? If it’s an emergency, HR still has her number, and then it won’t be visible on your phone.”

        1. bippity-boppity-bacon*

          OP’s wife would still have it on HER phone though, if you’re thinking she would want it for proof for HR.

    5. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

      Was coming here to recommend just this. Possible script: “Let’s just avoid any potential confusion and delete her number from your phone right now. Want me to do it for you? I’m a whiz at this.”

  6. Tiny Tiger*

    I can’t say exactly why, but for some reason the fact that you told your boss repeatedly that the number WASN’T a second cell phone, but your wife’s phone and it wasn’t a reliable way to get a hold of you, but he ignored it and continued to do it sent up screaming red flags to me. The fact that it took an extreme (albeit more than understandable, I’m a nightmare to deal with if you wake me up) response from your wife for it to get through to him is concerning. And it doesn’t seem to have even really gotten through since he keeps trying to apologize directly to her. I’m wondering if he has any other boundary-pushing issues in the office, some that you may not have realized or seen with others since you say he is overall a nice person?

    P.S. I will totally buy tickets to an after-hours cage match lol

    1. Let's Talk About Splett*

      Yeah. I feel like the apology texts and the dinner invite are more about the boss than the LW & his wife. He is hoping the wife accepting his apology or hospitality will mean absolution &/or permission to do the same thing in the future.

      1. Aleta*

        Yeah, I’m autistic, and this feels WAY more like my parents’ “Oh Were You Upset By Something I Did? Well If You’re Going To Get Angry About It I Will Apologize Until You Acknowledge Me But Will Also Continue To Do Whatever Upset You Because I Was Just Trying To Be Nice” than any sort of cluelessness I’ve been. If anything, being angrily told “never call me again” would translate into “I can never speak to this person again,” not repeatedly doing what she said not to do. Like, if someone tells me point blank that something upset them and to never call them again (especially with swearing!), I’m absolutely never doing that again if I can help it.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Not autistic myself, but this has very much been my experience with the autistic people I’ve known. Unstated boundaries might be crossed because they didn’t subconsciously pick up on it the way most allistic people can, but once you’ve clearly and bluntly said “Hey this is a thing I need you to Not Do with me”, frankly most of the autistic people I’ve known are a million times BETTER at respecting explicitly stated boundaries than allistics tend to be.

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            Yup. Spectrum people tend to be very good at understanding a clear Do Not Do The Thing.

          2. Vicky Austin*

            P.S. Sorry I posted twice. Apparently there was a problem with the website.

        2. Vicky Austin*

          We don’t know whether or not the boss is on the autism spectrum, but he clearly is someone who needs to be directly told what to do/what not to do in as blunt terms as possible. You can’t be subtle with someone like him.
          I am not autistic, but I do have non-verbal learning disorder. (NVLD is somewhat like autism in that it makes it hard to process non-verbal and social cues, but it’s not quite autism because people with NVLD have no problem looking people in the eyes and other things that autistics struggle with.) I find that there are some times when people need to come right out and say, “Please stop doing X as it is making me uncomfortable,” rather than being subtle.
          I think neurotypical people often prefer the subtle approach because they feel it’s more polite; however, there are those of us who need a more blunt approach.
          For instance, I was recently having a conversation with a friend, and we disagreed on a topic. I kept trying to make her understand the topic from my point of view, and she kept saying things like, “Let’s change the subject,” and “I’m okay with us disagreeing about this.” It was her subtle way of telling me she was uncomfortable debating; however, I misinterpreted her and thought she was rudely shutting me down and refusing to consider my point of view. It felt like she thought her position was superior to mine and that she didn’t care about where I was coming from. I was puzzled and hurt, because that’s not like her at all to shut me down and dismiss me like that. It wasn’t until she came right out and said that she was uncomfortable debating that I understood where she was coming from, and finally agreed to stop bringing the topic up. I also told her, “In the future, if you’re uncomfortable with a conversation, please just say that you’re uncomfortable, because it feels like you’re shutting me down when you just change the subject without an explanation.” She agreed.
          Not sure if that’s relevant to this discussion, but it’s a clear example of how some people need to have things spelled out for them.

          1. alex b*

            This is a helpful comment for me, a teacher who works with all types of people; thanks.

          2. Khlovia*

            Thank you so much for the educational public service announcement! NVLD is coming as absolute news to me, and I think it may be relevant to some Issues I have been having for ages with a close friend. [wanders off to Google stuff]

        3. Vicky Austin*

          We don’t know whether or not the boss is autistic, but he is clearly someone who needs to have things spelled out for him as bluntly and directly as possible. Some people just don’t get subtle cues. I myself am one of them. I’m not autistic, but I do have nonverbal learning disorder and so I sometimes misinterpret subtle cues.

    2. Anonforthis*

      Same – the fact that he escalated it to going out to dinner via the wife’s number really creeped me out.

      1. Tiny Tiger*

        Definitely. When OP added that boss was trying to essentially bypass that “No thank you” to try and get a different answer, I majorly got the skeevies.

      2. Luna*

        I agree, something about this is pretty creepy. Almost like the boss is looking for excuses to keep contacting the wife.

        1. Nita*

          He’s probably not, seeing as it was OP that gave him access to the wife’s number to start with. He does have a major problem with boundaries in general, though. He might be doing the same if it was OP’s brother or roommate. Since the wife clearly doesn’t want to have anything to do with him, OP should tell the boss very clearly that he should stop reaching out to her. As in “my wife has asked that you stop contacting her,” not “don’t worry, no apology is necessary.”

          And depending on how OP’s HR department is, maybe going to them to get them to push back on after-hours calls and texts may be a good idea. In some offices it would not be a Big Thing, but I’m thinking it may help because some people hear things differently when they come from HR. Gives the matter a bit more weight in their eyes…

        2. Les G*

          Let’s not write fan fiction here, folks. This boss sounds like he’s driving a big ol’ bullNOPEzder over Jane’s boundaries, but that doesn’t mean he’s romantically into her. Just like the boy on the playground pulling a girl’s ponytail isn’t doesn’t like-like her, y’know?

          1. Luna*

            I’m not saying that the boss is into the wife in a romantic way, but more that he sounds like a Michael Scott type who wants to have more personal relationships (not necessarily romantic) with his employees & families than is appropriate. The constant calling on days off (to the point where he will call the wife within 15 minutes if the OP doesn’t answer), saving the wife’s number in his phone and continuing to use it for MONTHS while being told repeatedly to stop, then the texting, offers to go out to dinner, going behind the OP’s back to ask the wife about dinner after OP said no. It’s like the boss is just absolutely determined to have a relationship with both the OP & wife outside of work.

        3. Tuxedo Cat*

          I think it’s creepy but I don’t know if the boss is looking for reasons to contact the wife. What I think is happening is that the boss doesn’t like that the wife is upset with the boss and he’s going overboard with trying to absolve any guilt.

          Regardless, the boss needs to stop.

    3. Tardigrade*

      I definitely felt red flags too, and while I respect that OP believes his boss is a good person, I think the boundary-pushing described here at least warrants OP’s consideration.

    4. Mme Marie*

      My Midwestern upbringing makes me think the Boss is trying a passive-aggressive method to getting a response to make himself feel better about causing a problem, which in my mind totally unreasonable – OP and OP’s wife have no responsibility to make Boss feel better about this. Boss needs to just accept the f*ck up and move on.

      1. MaxR*

        It’s not at all unreasonable to expect someone to accept your apology assuming that it’s genuine and that what you did wasn’t extraordinarily egregious. A simple “it’s ok, I’m not mad at you” from the wife to the boss would go a long way. It sounds like she is too immature to do this, and the boss, instead of rightfully getting angry that his sincere apology about a minor thing wasn’t acknowledged, is doubling down in a rather pathetic manner until he gets the forgiveness he can reasonably respect. It sounds like the husband lacks the spine to tell his wife to accept the apology. If she did that then I think this would all end well. As for dinner, it would also be gracious to allow the boss to take them out once in order to show there’s no hard feelings.

        1. MaxR*

          Whoops: expect not respect. An edit feature would be nice. But yeah, the LW and his wife come off looking worse than the boss.

        2. Elspeth*

          How is the wife immature? She cussed the boss out for waking her in the morning after working the night shift – OPs letter makes clear it’s not the first time boss has done this. The wife is under absolutely NO obligation to make nice with the boss because he’s contacted her MANY times instead of doing what the husband said – do not contact my wife again.

        3. aebhel*

          1. It’s not a minor thing to repeatedly contact someone you have been told not to contact, especially when it’s to the point that it’s interfering with their sleep schedule
          2. She’s well within her rights to continue to be angry
          3. It’s not the job of the person who was wronged to smooth things over to everyone’s satisfaction.

          Literally everything you have written here is insane. Apologies aren’t a social contract that obligates the person getting them to make nice, and the appropriate response to someone telling you not to contact them again is to stop contacting them, not to double down on the exact behavior that you were told to stop in order to get reassurance that it wasn’t really that bad.

          1. aebhel*

            Especially considering that this woman has no reason to maintain friendly communications with this dude. It’s not like she’s tanking a valuable relationship over a misunderstanding.

          2. Tuxedo Cat*

            Exactly. While the OP may have used more passive language than his wife did, the OP did let the boss know that his wife’s phone isn’t his and that he shouldn’t be calling.

            Never mind the fact the boss is calling on days when the OP isn’t working- it doesn’t sound like the OP’s job is the kind where you might expect to be called for emergencies.

        4. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          “it’s ok, I’m not mad at you”

          Except it sounds like the OP’s wife is still mad. She’s under no obligation to accept the apology. Boss is not entitled to an apology acceptance. Why should the wife have to be gracious and allow the boss to take them to dinner. That is the polar opposite of what she, the one who was wronged in this situation, wants. If anything the Boss the is now acting like a petulant drama queen.

          1. aebhel*

            Right. An apology is an acknowledgement of wrongdoing and harm (yes, even a relatively minor apology). You’re apologizing because YOU screwed up, which means that it is YOUR job to make things as comfortable and non-awkward for the person you wronged, not their job to comfort and soothe your bad feelings about screwing up. And certainly not your right to keep harassing them until you get the response you want.

        5. Jessie the First (or second)*

          “Instead of rightfully getting angry that his sincere apology about a minor thing wasn’t acknowledged”

          It was not minor. He called her numerous times, even *interrupting her sleep after she worked night fists* and *even though he was told multiple times to stop*.
          He was told to stop, but he refused and didn’t. And didn’t. And didn’t. Eventually, she got furious and yelled at him.

          That’s not minor.

          Also, if you think the appropriate reaction to having an apology not accepted by the person you have wronged is righteous anger, you are doing apologies wrong.

            1. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms*

              For what it’s worth, I would absolutely watch a Kung Fu movie called Night Fists :)

                1. There All Is Aching*

                  Threat Level: Midnight 2: Night Fists!

                  Yes. I will be there too. With Twizzlers and Sour Patches for all, no company chip-in necessary.

            2. Khlovia*

              Well, I am pretty sure she was making a fist when she answered the phone that last time….

        6. Not A Morning Person*

          It might work if everyone could step back and take a breath and fall in line with boss’s weird demand for forgiveness. BUT, Wife has no responsibility to accept an apology for something the boss has been told to stop doing and then continues to repeat. Wife has no responsibility to make the boss “feel better” by acknowledging an apology. And Wife has no obligation to give up any of her precious personal time or potentially even sleep, to go to dinner with boundary-pushing boss. And it doesn’t seem helpful to impune the OP’s relationship with the Wife by saying OP should just “tell” the wife what to do. It could be a suggestion or a negotiation, but not a command.

        7. Gingerblue*

          No. No to every single aspect of this comment. In addition to what other people have said, it is really alarming that you think it’s normal for a husband to, uh, instruct his* wife on whom she is to forgive. Added to the assumption that a woman is “immature” if she doesn’t smooth things over after someone has behaved badly to her and that she should expect a man to get angry if she doesn’t, this whole thing makes my skin crawl.

          *Your assumption. We don’t know OP’s gender.

          1. aebhel*

            Yeah, my response if my husband ‘instructed’ me to forgive someone who had behaved this way toward me would be….. impolite.

            1. pope suburban*

              That would be a recipe for another cursing-out, I think, and it’d be at least as well-deserved as the first. She doesn’t have any obligation to manage this relative stranger’s feelings. She’s been bang-on right not to accept his “apologies” so far, because they are clearly not sincere, since he keeps doing the thing he was asked/told/profanely directed not to do. That’s not the behavior of someone who is genuinely sorry. It’s dismaying to me that anyone could read this and tut-tut at her like she’s an unruly child.

              1. AKchic*

                Right now, I am so spitting mad at the idea that the wife could possibly be in the wrong that the profanities I want to spew would get me banned from this site. And believe me, I am quite creative.
                My thoughts on a few certain posters on this particular subject are dark and unflattering, indeed.

        8. Jedao*

          Apologies are not a way to obligate someone to make you feel better about yourself once you’ve realized you’ve done something wrong. Apologies are not for the benefit of the apologizer. No acceptance or even response is required.

          In fact, if you keep on doing the wrong thing *because* your apology wasn’t accepted, your apology was pretty much worth diddly squat to begin with. If you meant it when you said “I’m sorry and I won’t do it again” then forking don’t do it again, the end. Seriously. Quit it with the “but they apologized why won’t X accept/forgive” garbage.

        9. Kella*

          Apologies are not a thing that you put in, in order to get forgiveness out. It’s not a transaction. You don’t apologize in order to get something from someone. You apologize because it’s the right thing to do.

          The second part of an apology is YOU STOP DOING THE THING YOU WERE TOLD TO STOP DOING. The boss has not completed this step. Until the boss completes this step, and stops crossing the wife’s boundaries, the issue won’t end, because the issue *is* crossing her boundaries. The wife does not control the boss’s behavior. The boss controls his own behavior.

        10. Rectilinear Propagation*

          It’s unreasonable to keep harassing someone because you didn’t get the answer you wanted, especially when the thing they’re upset with you about is harassment. You can’t expect someone to forgive you when you’re still doing the wrong thing.

          You owe someone an apology when you wrong them. They do not owe you their forgiveness.

          And the OP does not “lack the spine”. The OP disagrees with you on where the problem is. Note that the letter isn’t asking how to convince the wife to talk to the boss. I also don’t see the point in telling the wife to extend forgiveness when we all know she’d just say “no”. It’s not like they can make her.

        11. Massmatt*

          What? No! NO! The wife doesn’t work for the boss, has no relationship with him, is getting calls repeatedly from him after being told to stop, some waking her up, and now it is continuing by text. She has no obligation to communicate with the boss and it’s understandable she doesn’t want to do so, given the boss has shown he lacks/doesn’t respect boundaries. The boss needs to stop. OP, tell the boss to STOP. Be clear, be emphatic, be direct, don’t explain, don’t equivocate, don’t minimize. If he doesn’t, then go to HR as he clearly he has a problem.

        12. Observer*

          Firstly, what the boss did WAS actually pretty egregious. He REPEATEDLY contacted Wife, even after being REPEATEDLY told that this was NOT OP’s number, that it’s NOT a reliable way to reach OP and that he was disturbing her. He continued this over the span of at least 4 weeks! That IS a big deal.

          Then, the OP *did* accept his apology. But that wasn’t good enough. He needs to hear it from HER. Then he offered to take them to dinner. The OP declined – there is nothing “immature” about that! But, again, that’s not good enough. Why?

          Why does Wife have to keep responding to Boss?

          And, even if it would have been reasonable to expect a response from Wife, once it becomes obvious that she doesn’t want to respond, the ADULT thing to do is let it drop. You do NOT try to badger someone into “being friends”.

          1. Khlovia*

            The dinner invitation…or command performance…was what caused me to start snarling and growling. OP’s boss made me scare my cat.

            To punish OP’s wife for daring to prefer not to interact with him, OP’s boss wants to force her to spend an evening with him.

        13. Nicole*

          “It’s not at all unreasonable to expect someone to accept your apology assuming that it’s genuine and that what you did wasn’t extraordinarily egregious.” Yes, it is. You might hope that someone will accept your apology, but it’s unreasonable to think that you get to choose for that person whether s/he will accept your apology.

          “A simple “it’s ok, I’m not mad at you” from the wife to the boss would go a long way. It sounds like she is too immature to do this, and the boss, instead of rightfully getting angry that his sincere apology about a minor thing wasn’t acknowledged, is doubling down in a rather pathetic manner until he gets the forgiveness he can reasonably respect.” 1) She is mad. Why should she lie about this? Expecting women to forgive men overstepping boundaries and act like it’s fine is a major issue in our society, and you need to stop perpetuating this. 2) Lying about whether you are mad is not immature. 3) The boss has no right to be angry over this. He was the one who made the mistake. It’s not a reasonable expectation to think that you should automatically be forgiven just because you apologized, especially if your behavior has not stopped.

          “It sounds like the husband lacks the spine to tell his wife to accept the apology.” NOBODY GETS TO MAKE THIS CHOICE FOR THE WIFE EXCEPT THE WIFE. Why is it that you think both the boss AND the spouse get to decide whether she accepts his apology? This is incredibly problematic, and I hope that these responses are helping you to question your own thought process.

          “If she did that then I think this would all end well.” Sure, it might. And we’ll go in in a culture that expects women to act like men constantly overstepping boundaries is no big deal and to forgive and forget when neither is a reasonable expectation.

          “As for dinner, it would also be gracious to allow the boss to take them out once in order to show there’s no hard feelings.” But there are hard feelings, and that’s okay. The wife and her spouse have both been clear that dinner is unwanted, and they are the ones who get to make that decision, not the boss.

        14. Mme Marie*

          In no universe is it mandatory to accept or acknowledge an apology or provide forgiveness. While it may be a social nicety, it is also an antiquated thought to force acceptance or forgiveness on another person (especially an adult). It would be a controlling and manipulative action by OP to direct their partner on how to feel and act regarding anything, much less a incident that clearly caused a great deal of irritation.

          In this day and age, OP’s wife has no social contract or obligation to OP’s boss – it’s not 1950’s Mad Men when OP tells their wife to make nice, put on a pretty dress, and go out to dinner with the rude boss.

        15. myswtghst*

          “It’s not at all unreasonable to expect someone to accept your apology assuming that it’s genuine and that what you did wasn’t extraordinarily egregious.”

          Honestly, it kind of is, especially when you are apologizing for repeated unwanted contact via more repeated unwanted contact. If your apology is genuine, it shouldn’t be about making a fuss until the person you wronged takes on the emotional labor of soothing your feelings by telling you it’s okay – it should be about acknowledging that you messed up, followed by you not repeating the behavior you just apologized for.

          “A simple “it’s ok, I’m not mad at you” from the wife to the boss would go a long way.”

          Or it might make the boss feel like he’s all good to start texting/calling the wife again, because it clearly wasn’t a big deal after all, and they’re buddies now.

        16. bippity-boppity-bacon*

          “rightfully getting angry”? By continuing to insist on an apology, he’s continuing to DO the thing he’s supposedly apologizing for. Part of a sincere apology is stopping the behavior you’re apologizing for.

          And all kinds of wtf to the idea that the OP can and should tell their wife what to do.

        17. NextStop*

          Dude, your employee’s wife is not obligated to be your friend. Stop contacting her.

    5. Katastrophreak*

      I have regular, ongoing interaction with several teenagers on the spectrum. Some would understand immediately after the first “do not contact this number to reach me” and be apologetic. Some would need to hear it from the source itself (the wife, in this case; logically, the only person who knows how Any One Person feels about being woken up by random phone calls is That Person Themself and no amount of imagining yourself in to their place, roleplaying, pretending, etc. will convince them otherwise).

      This is entirely within the realm of ASD behavior. While everyone should of course be careful and protect themselves, ASD people are not a monolith and do not all act the same. That’s why it’s a Spectrum Disorder.

      Also, it’s also entirely possible this boss is just a jerk.

      1. Tiny Tiger*

        I can definitely understand the “I need confirmation from the Actual Person affected by this” side of it. What’s making me lean more towards the boss is just a boundary-pushing jerk and a creep comes from the wife telling him (very angrily) to not contact her again, but yet he keeps doing it. He’s heard it straight from the horse’s mouth at this point and in no uncertain terms.

        1. MaxR*

          From what the LW has written, the wife looks worse than the boss right now. I think she’s obligated to accept his apology and tell him there’s no hard feelings, and I think that would end this whole thing. But she apparently thinks she’s above accepting a sincere apology over a minor incident.

          1. Nonsensical*

            The wife isn’t obligated to do anything! The boss is the one who is causing issues here. The wife has a right not to be harassed by someone she doesn’t even work for. She is not the OP’s babysitter.

          2. Elspeth*

            No, the wife does not look worse than the boss. Boss keeps stomping all over boundaries here – the wife told him NOT to contact her again unless her husband was dying. Just because you may be OK with someone boundary stomping all over you, does not make it right for OPs wife!

          3. aebhel*


            What on earth makes you think that she’s obligated to accept his apology? His behavior was egregious, and he’s been compounding it by harassing her repeatedly after he was told to leave her alone. ‘Do not call me again’ does not mean ‘but it’s totally okay to send me a barrage of text messages demanding that I make you feel better about yourself.’

            Good grief.

          4. DecorativeCacti*

            I think this went beyond minor when the boss didn’t stop contacting the wife after the first request. It’s certainly not life shattering, but it has moved up the scale.

            No one is ever obligated to accept an apology. Forgiveness is earned; not required. For any apology given, you have to realize that “I don’t forgive you” is a valid response.

          5. AliceBG*

            You sound like you’re either the boss in question or you’ve done this type of thing yourself. Please listen to literally every other commenter here and take their testimony seriously.

          6. General Ginger*

            How on earth does the wife look worse than the boss? He’s the one continuing to cause friction.

          7. HRM*

            I don’t think the wife looks worse here, but if your point is something along the lines of “Do you want to be right or do you want all this nonsense to stop?”, I can see what you’re saying. The pragmatist in me fears the Boss is beyond absorbing a message and adjusting behavior, so I might just capitulate and send a note saying apology accepted. Thanks and bye. I totally understand the wife’s position and her reasons for it. But sometimes you have to be bigger than your reasons to get what you ultimately want, which in this case is to stop the most annoying person on earth from bothering.

          8. AnonNurse*

            Wow. No. Absolutely not. No one is obligated to accept an apology, especially when the offender continues to cross boundaries.

            Some people don’t think it’s that big of a deal to wake someone during the day who worked night shift. Except they would be furious is someone called them at 2:00 a.m. and woke them up with something they shouldn’t be calling about in the first place. They would be angry that their sleep was interrupted when they quite possibly have to get up for work the next morning. That’s what happened to this person and when the boss was told, in no uncertain terms, never to contact her again, he did not respect that request and has leaped over the boundaries while flipping them off on his way over. She has NO reason to accept the apology and in fact, has every right to feel harassed and put upon by someone she has not invited to contact her in the first place.

            Apologies are to be used when you sincerely feel badly about what you did and want the other person to know it. Apologizing does not mean the person who was wronged has to actually accept the apology and act like they don’t care anymore. If you really do think that’s how apologies work, you are seriously mistaken and are doing them very, very wrong.

          9. willow*

            What if we replace “boss” with “some random dude”? Because the boss truly is just some random dude that knows the LW; the boss is nothing to the LW’s wife.

          10. dawbs*

            So, a woman is given an ‘apology’ (by someone who is clearly insincere, as he continues to do the VERY THING he is apologizing for), and she ‘looks worse’ because her response isn’t “it’s ok dudebro, I understand your issue, even though you continue to ignore reasonable boundaries and do whatever you want in spite of clear indicators to do otherwise.

            Her response to say ‘it’s OK” would be taken to mean ‘it’s ok’, and you know what? it’s NOT OK. and it is fine for someone to have to live with the fact that they screwed up and something is ‘not ok’.

            It’s not the job of all women to ensure there are no jerks in the world who are unhappy about ‘hard feelings’.
            And telling women to put-up and shut up (which is what ‘accepting this apology’ would be) to not ‘look bad’ is problematic. really really ‘take a long look in the mirror’ problematic.

            1. Julia*

              And people in this day and age still complain that women never say what they mean. News flash: Every time we try that, someone tells us we’re wrong/mean/b-words etc.

          11. MaxR you are a jerk*

            OMG, you are absolutely, unequivocally wrong.

            Wife owes nothing to the boss who won’t stop harassing her. She doesn’t have any obligation to stop having hard feelings, and she has made it very clear she has no desire for a sincere apology.

          12. Observer*

            Why exactly is she obligated to accept his apology?

            He mistreated her. He apologized. What about that sequence of events requires that she accept his apology?

          13. Temporarily Anon*

            Actually, from what the LW has written, the boss looks significantly worse than the wife to a vast majority of those looking. Once the boss was told not to use the number (by LW), any use of it became him “looking bad” either because he didn’t understand the concept of not using the wife’s phone number to contact the husband or because he willfully ignored the request. He is obligated to pay attention to the multiple communications that have indicated that he needs to stop calling the wife’s phone. She has no obligation at all, since she has done nothing wrong except for the possible offense caused by cursing when provoked (I think he deserved to be cursed at, but my threshold for cursing is higher than some people’s). He needs to back the heck off and do what he’s been asked to do, which would end the whole thing. But apparently he thinks he’s above respecting the wife’s boundaries.

        2. nonegiven*

          Was he told not to contact her or was he told to stop calling her? He stopped calling her, now she needs to tell him to stop texting her.

          1. Elspeth*

            No – he was told to stop contacting her by OPs wife and also by OP. OPs wife is under no obligation to interact with him any more than she has.

          2. Tiny Tiger*

            I’m failing to see the difference here. OP told the boss repeatedly that his wife’s phone was not a good way to get in touch, OP’s wife has had to endure enough phone calls from boss that she (rightfully) got angry and cussed him out, and the wife has pointedly ignored text messages. This behavior should have stopped when OP told the boss not to contact him through the wife’s phone. I think cussing someone out over the phone is a pretty clear boundary not to contact them again, which the boss is ignoring.

            1. Tuxedo Cat*

              I think the only difference is that the boss might be falling on technicality for whatever reasons. For some people, a text is different than a call.

              Regardless, he needs to stop.

  7. Environmental Compliance*

    My last phone did not have the functionality to block a specific number. However – I did have a series of explicitly awful phone calls, and I had success calling up the phone company and asking for help (was told by the police dept that without a number or actual threats, they couldn’t do anything). They gave me 3 free months of CallWatch, which both unblocked the number harassing me AND I could block it. Might be worth calling the phone company and explaining the situation and asking if they can temporarily help.

  8. Sara*

    Your wife is awesome.

    Its not clear from your letter if your wife has been responding to his follow up apology texts or just still ignoring him. But perhaps if she just responses to him, ‘apology accepted’ he’ll calm down and leave her alone?

    I would definitely also tell him to stop contacting her at all using all of Alison’s advice as well, because this is 100% not her problem – its his, and he needs to be told to stop. I would be just as pissed as she is in her shoes. But sometimes ignoring is almost worse to someone not socially aware because they’re in ‘fix-it’ mode and not in ‘socially acceptable’ mode. I realize this is annoyingly passive advice though, so cage match may be a better solution.

    1. Amber T*

      I’d be wary of responding, because even if it’s “apology accepted,” “but then whyyyyy won’t you let me take you guys out to dinner?? You’re clearly still mad at me!!”

      1. MaxR*

        And the boss should not be forced to continue employing her husband.

        When someone sincerely apologizes to you over a minor incident, you have an obligation to acknowledge and accept the apology. I mean I can think of some exceptions to this rule, but your spouse’s current employer could obviously not be among these exceptions.

        1. Elspeth*

          Again, you seem invested in invalidating the wife’s anger over this. Continuing to text/call someone and wake them multiple times when they are resting after working the night shift is not a “minor incident”. Boss was told not to contact wife again, and he continues to do so – wife is absolutely NOT obligated to accept any apology!

          1. HRM*

            Wow. And no. No one is ever, ever obligated to accept an apology. Might be nice if they did, might even make the world turn more smoothly if they did. But “obligated?” No.

        2. Kelly L.*

          Are you suggesting that OP should be fired if OP’s wife doesn’t want to accept the apology?

          1. Middle School Teacher*

            I feel like an employment lawyer would have a field day with that.

            Lawyer: so, why were you terminated?
            OP: my boss kept apologising to my wife, and when she ignored him, he fired me.
            Lawyer: (eyes turn into dollar signs like in old Bugs Bunny cartoons, accompanied by “ch-CHING” cash register sound)

            1. sarah*

              Why would this be legally actionable? I don’t see how it’s based on a protected category. In most places, you can be fired for just about any reason whatsoever, as long as it’s not because of your race, gender, etc.

              1. Observer*

                Because a good lawyer will be able to make a pretty strong case that it’s sexual harassment through the wife. “You didn’t make your wife perform femininity to my satisfaction, so I’m firing you.”

                The employer might very well settle rather than take this to court.

        3. General Ginger*

          You really don’t have an obligation to do that. Really. Also, it’s not a minor incident. It’s a series of increasingly frustrating incidents after the boss has repeatedly been asked to stop.

        4. pope suburban*

          That is wildly excessive, and frankly unkind. Commenters here are instructed to act in good faith, and there is precious little of that evident in your remarks. I’m sorry if this letter probed an aching spot, but calling this poor woman names and suggesting that her husband should be fired because she’s not sweet enough about being harassed by a relative stranger is…a lot. I would recommend reading some of the other comments here, and Alison’s response, and meditating on the points therein. I mean, I can’t make you and you’re not obligated, but I suspect being a little more open to others’ perspectives could be helpful.

        5. Totally Minnie*

          Wait. Are you saying that in this boss’s place, you would consider firing an employee for no other reason than that you pissed off his wife and she won’t accept your apology? If that’s really what you’re getting at here, I hope you’re not a manager.

        6. Trout 'Waver*

          When someone apologizes for something but continues to do it, they are not sincere in their apology.

        7. Massmatt*

          MaxR your repeated comment about the wife being obligated to accept the apology is weird, and saying she is worse than the boss is bizarre. Why is it that the boss’s potential hurt feelings (which you may well be inventing/projecting, the letter isn’t from the boss) are the most important thing to you here? Your suggestion for the wife to contact the boss AGAIN to stroke his feeling would probably set off another round of texts and/or calls. This boss lacks boundaries, I question the sincerity of his “apology” because he is continuing to do what he is being asked not to.

        8. Observer*

          Firstly, no one is ever obligated to accept an apology. Especially when said apology is for a REPEATED misbehavior that the offender was told to stop MULTIPLE TIMES. Which leads to the second point, which is that Boss’s behavior was NOT minor. Repeatedly waking someone up after you were told to stop is abusive garbage.

          Lastly, there is no reason to believe that the apology is sincere. The OP actually did accept the original apology, but the Boss insisted that Wife must accept it in person. Why? There is no sane way that it’s because he’s really sorry for how much he disturbed her!

        9. AnonInfinity*

          What I’m hearing you say is that the wife has no choice but to accept the apology, volunteer her time to go to a forced dinner (based on your comment upthread) which serves solely to soothe the boss’s feelings and shift the emotional responsibility for the boss’s actions onto her, because the boss holds power over some part of her life (in this case, her spouse’s income and all that comes with it). Tell me more.

        10. Barbara*

          It is in the boss’s interest to carry on employing the husband if he’s good at his job. The matter with the wife has nothing to do with OP’s employment. It’s not the wife who works for the boss !

        11. Starbuck*

          I’m dying to know where you learned this norm of behavior, because I so rarely see someone so convinced about such an obviously ludicrous standard, and there’s usually some equally bizarre context to go with it. So, what gives>?

        12. Ego Chamber*

          Obvious tr0ll is obvious. Be a dear and either go find something worthwhile to do on your summer vacation or go back to 4chan and leave the grown ups alone, okay sweetie?

    2. Kuododi*

      Responding simply teaches him if he pushes to X degree, he will get a response which allows him to maintain the wild hope he’s on the right path toward getting whatever level of connection he wants. (Not going to speculate as to what that might be….my crystal ball is broken)

      1. OhNo*

        That was my thought, as well. If it took the boss a hundred phone calls and texts to get an “apology accepted”, he’s just going to keep pushing another hundred calls and texts until they agree to dinner.

        And frankly, at this point, the wife shouldn’t even be involved at all in clearing this up. It wasn’t her mess to begin with, and she’s made her position clear.

        1. aebhel*

          MTE. It sounds as though she’s washed her hands of this whole issue, which is what I would do in her position.

    3. Bea*

      She shouldn’t respond at all. Its her right as a woman to not speak to a man who is bombarding her with unwanted correspondence. No matter if it’s an apology or what have you!

      1. soon 2 be former fed*

        It’s anybody’s right as a human not to speak to anyone bombarding them with unwanted communication. Don’t understand making this a gender thing.

        1. TG*

          Because women are far more likely to be raised that they have to respond to the requests of men whether they feel like it or not.

          1. soon 2 be former fed*

            I’m 63 and a woman. That’s still a thing? I wasn’t raised that way in the sixties and seventies. Didn’t raise my daughter to defer to men either. Too bad, society hasn’t progressed as much as I thought it had, with so many of us in the workforce, with professional degrees, being financially independent.

            1. Q*

              Your experience is not the sum of the whole. I’m glad you never experienced that kind of subjugation yourself, and that you have protected your daughter from it. But it is a widespread phenomenon, or we wouldn’t have the #MeToo movement.

        2. Vallarta or bust*

          Because these interactions are frequently gendered in nature with the woman being expected to accept the unwanted attention and also smooth over the awkward she had no part in creating?

          1. soon 2 be former fed*

            That’s a personality thing. I am a woman who has always been a tad assertive and have never given a damn what is expected. Call me bitch, I don’t care, but I didn’t even defer to my husband. It doesn’t sound like women have made any progress based on some of the comments I am reading. Sad. I’m 63, thought younger women certainly wouldn’t think they needed to accept unwanted attention or do all the emotional heavy lifting in 2018. 1970 maybe, but we were starting to claim our power even then.

            1. Elspeth*

              No, that’s your experience – which is not the experience of many women, myself included.

        3. AnonInfinity*

          Kindly, read “The Gift of Fear” and “Whoever Fights Monsters,” and you’ll understand.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      Ignoring it is worse. My dad is, um, not socially aware, to put it mildly, and has done and said a lot of mortifying things because the victim didn’t protest loudly, and he interpreted the awkward-to-everyone-else silence as a green light. This needs to be handled head-on.

      1. Nonny*

        Putting the burden on the victim to “protest loudly” in order to stop inappropriate behavior is ridiculous. As posters above have said, responding just teaches him “if you keep trying, eventually you’ll get a response.”

      2. Luna*

        But it was handled head on. The wife cursed him out, how much clearer of a message can he need? Who then thinks it’s a good idea to send not just one, but multiple follow up texts?

      3. Elspeth*

        It’s nothing to do with social awareness. The wife did handle it head on – she cussed out the boss when he repeatedly called. She doesn’t need to do anything more. The boss is the one who needs to just STOP CALLING/TEXTING.

      4. Bea*

        This isn’t okay behavior and not due to social awkwardness. It’s abusive behavior and isn’t acceptable.

        This woman told him to FOAD. Then he’s trying to apologize. She’s not responding because he’s got issues, issues she’s under no obligation to deal with.

      5. animaniactoo*

        It has been handled head-on. By the OP. That the boss needs more than that is not something the wife should solve. It’s something for the OP to point out and make it clear how wrong ignoring OP’s word on this is. Before he gets cussed out by the wife again.

    5. TG*

      When someone is harassing you, no response is the best response if you never want to hear from them again.

      1. Maddie*

        Agreed TG. and why is boss so upset if she’s annoyed by him? It’s strange. So upset he feels the need to contact her over and over in the face of being told to stop. I wonder if there’s more here.

    6. Observer*

      I don’t think she should respond. *IF* she chooses, it should be ONLY to say “stop texting me.”

  9. Bea*

    What kind of cellphone carrier requires you to pay to block a number?? I just have to click in the call log or on a text and it gives me a blocking option. This is how I’ve ghosted people who won’t take a hint many times.

    Anyways, he sounds like he’s one of those nutjobs that over reacts when called out. Weeping and begging forgiveness, she’s denied his efforts and he’s turning it up further. He needs to stop acting like he needs to make it up to you guys, just leave her alone OMFG

    1. Jarissa*

      American Telephone & Telegraph requires me to pay a monthly subscription if I want verbal abusers to not be able to leave me a voice mail on my AT&T phone, which I pay for.
      I can block their calls ringing on my phone for free, using any among a number of apps; that just means they go straight to voice mail.

      If I was Wife of OP, to be honest, I would have told this guy by now that I am okay with Boss feeling bad forever about his having behaved inappropriately. That this is the consequence of choosing to behave in an unprofessional manner.
      (But I am very much Not A Nice Person, and I recognize that this is not a good thing for Wife of OP to do! I am glad that they have much better advice from all of you nice folks.)

  10. Foreign Octopus*

    Does anyone else remember the letter of the woman who opened a pay stub to find the address of someone to apologise to?

    I think she was suffering from pretty bad anxiety in that letter (not to armchair diagnose OP’s boss).

    The kindest, and most straightforward, thing to do at this point is as Alison says. Make it clear that your wife will consider it smoothed over if he just stops calling. He’s probably anxious because he hasn’t heard back from her and that’s sending him a little over the edge. Clearly stating what he can do to make it better will be the best thing for both of you but if that doesn’t work – please sell tickets to the cage fight.

    1. Bea*

      Omg that letter.

      Yes, I know the anxiety when you’ve pissed someone off royally and they won’t respond. You never get closure so it weighs on the mind. One of those pesky things we have to learn to deal with on our own instead of wanting others to shoulder the burden.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        Amen… it’s not for the OP or his wife to make this better. Boss needs to figure it out.

      2. myswtghst*

        “One of those pesky things we have to learn to deal with on our own instead of wanting others to shoulder the burden.”

        Yes, this, thank you. While I agree that it may be anxiety-driven, and that it may be helpful for OP to directly and clearly tell the boss to stop all contact with the wife, the boss is the one repeatedly behaving inappropriately here and the one who needs to own and correct that behavior.

      1. HRM*

        Was pay-stub woman fired for that egregiousness? I can’t remember. She should have been. Would have been in my place of work.

          1. Serena*

            How is that unfortunate? She should have been fired the first time instead of just transferred.

    2. Plague of frogs*

      Yes!!! I came on here to say how much it reminded me of that. That lady was scary, and this boss is scary.

  11. Justme, The OG*

    Can we all quit solutioneering with how easy it is to block a number? I am assuming that OP and their wife know how to block a number on their phones and carriers and that it is not free nor easy.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I honestly don’t know how to do it – was just prompted to see what my options were by this thread. I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to suggest, though hopefully it won’t be the only advice given.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      Why do you say that? I’ve never heard of having to pay to block a number, so it seems like a pretty reasonable suggestion to look into it more.

    3. soon 2 be former fed*

      Just skim by the posts you don’t like. Only Alison should be monitoring other posters.

    4. Bea*

      No. A lot of people haven’t had this issue and assume there’s cost involved.

      Or if they do have to pay, now they’re aware they shouldn’t and should shop carriers who don’t make people pay to block people who are blowing up their phone with this kind of crap.n

    5. Wendy Darling*

      Do not be distracted by the pretty ‘i have to pay to block a call’ sentence. I know it’s shiny and you might have a solution but it’s NOT what the OP was writing in about.

      And sure, AMA can moderate the comments and I can easily skip the comments that are unhelpful to the OP’s query, but honestly, why wade through this when it’s not what OP was asking about? (Rhetorical question.).

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Well, the OP is asking what to do about the situation–blocking the number might be one part of that answer..

        1. Wendy Darling*

          Maybe because OP specifically stated that the wife doesn’t want to pay to block the number and is therefore writing in for alternate solutions. I read that the OP is aware of blocking the number as a solution but it’s not currently an option they want to consider. *shrug*

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            Yeah it’s probably a minor point either way, but I understood the OP to mean that the wife didn’t want to pay for a block, not that she was opposed to blocking in general.

  12. SometimesALurker*

    You already know this OP, but just to echo it — your boss is way over the line. This is weird, rude and invasive behavior on his part.

  13. UtOh!*

    Literally take his cell phone and remove you wife’s number from it. Period, end of story unless he’s committed it to memory.

    1. WannaAlp*

      Ask him to delete OP’s wife’s number from it. While OP watches.
      If he objects, then he can be quizzed on why he is so determined to keep the number.

  14. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    If all of Alison’s suggestions fail, do arrange a cage match between your boss and your wife. And obviously root for her.

    1. Ladyphoenix*

      Sell the popcorn and place bets on your wife. Make her a luchidor outfit and help her find a fitting wrestler name.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            Well, I don’t live near you, so will you please order some drinks to be delivered to my home, at your expense? I mean, just to keep it *fair*?

  15. Dragonfly*

    I like the boss. The original message has got through to him, obviously, or why would he want to make up for having been a nuisance by inviting the couple out to a meal, and why has he been texting his invitation rather than calling? The onus, I’d say, is on OP to point the significance of these gestures of humility to his wife and ask her to either respond civilly or just ignore the texts. After all, text messages have been designed to be unobtrusive and easy to reply to in a cursory but still civil manner.

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      “The original message has got through to him, obviously, or why would he want to make up for having been a nuisance by inviting the couple out to a meal, and why has he been texting his invitation rather than calling”

      The other way to look at it – the way the OP’s wife sees it, and the way I see it, is
      WHY, after being told to stop, does he continue to be a nuisance by refusing to stop contacting the wife as he was explicitly told to do, and why did he continue to issue a dinner invitation even after being explicitly told no? Why is he refusing to drop this?

      The correct response to “do not contact me again” is to NOT CONTACT ME AGAIN.

      If the Boss got the message, he would stop contacting the OP’s wife.

    2. mythbri*

      A person who violates established boundaries is the one who is being uncivil, not the person whose boundaries are being violated.

    3. Lance*

      OP’s wife doesn’t have a relationship with the boss, though, and there’s no reason they should just because of something like this. It’s up to OP to at this point tell him to stop calling and texting that number, because even if the messages don’t have to be responded to, they’re still coming, and are apparently going to still come with or without a response unless OP shuts this down with their boss.

    4. Elspeth*

      Why should the wife have to respond at all? The boss already knows he’s texting HER phone and won’t stop. The onus is NOT on the wife to respond civilly to such a boundary-jumper.

    5. Drew*

      Not sure if this was meant to be humorous or not, but – it wasn’t. The wife owes the boss NOTHING and it’s kind of gross to say that the wife should treat this borderline stalkerish behavior as “gestures of humility.”

    6. Mme Marie*

      The boss had been told to not contact OP’s wife’s cell phone – at first quite nicely & repeatedly by OP, and then very directly by OP’s wife (albeit rudely, but I don’t think it’s unwarranted given the circumstance) – yet the boss continues to do so? OP doesn’t have to ask his wife to do anything – she’s was unwillingly dragged into this by the boss continuing to take an action he was asked not to. It is not up to OP or his wife to make the boss feel better about screwing up.

    7. Geneva*

      Strongly disagree. If someone is repeatedly pushing your boundaries, you don’t owe it to them to behave civilly. And if the boss were truly being humble, he would have stopped calling her the first time OP told him to.

    8. Catabodua*

      No, the onus is on the boss to respect her request to stop contacting her. Don’t tell women to be polite and respond to people after they have been told to stop contacting them.

      1. soon 2 be former fed*

        Don’t tell anyone to be civil in this situation. It’s not a gender thing.

          1. Catabodua*

            Well, sure, but as a culture it’s a thing to tell women to be polite in all situations. You don’t see men being told to be nice to their stalkers.

            1. SophieK*

              Well that’s just plain untrue.

              Women get away with all kinds of boundary pushing behavior towards men and other women that would be flagged as creepy if the perpetrator were a man.

              We as women need to model the behaviors we want to see in men.

              1. Les G*

                I assume you don’t mean that it’s women’s responsibility to stop sexism by showing men how not to be sexist, but…

              2. Elspeth*

                No, we really don’t. This is about the OPs wife – and she already told the boss not to contact her again in clear, unmistakable terms.

          2. Bea*

            Right. And nobody tells a man to be civil. They start calling her crazy and other nasty things.

            It is gendered. Deal with that and how it makes you uncomfortable.

              1. soon 2 be former fed*

                No, not “exactly” at all. No one of any gender or orientation deserves to be stalked. Why is this so hard for some of you to understand? Stalking is objectively bad behavior. There are a non-zero number of men who are stalked. Stalker men do get called names (crazy bastards).

                I hope that as nearly two decades of the twenty first century come to a close, society will finally make progress in seeing all people as humans deserving of respect. That’s what #metoo is about.

                Sixty-three year old WOMAN here, and I’m not uncomfortable about a damn thing. OP’s wife was right to go off on his boss, she had already been civil, she put up with it longer than I would have actually. It doesn’t matter that she was a wife and not a husband. Boundaries had been violated and that mess needed to be shut down. It is not a gendered issue, no matter if some of you insist on seeing it that way.

                1. Elspeth*

                  Where did anyone say that any person, regardless of gender, deserves to be stalked? This thread is about one woman – OPs wife – being harassed by her husband’s male boss. That’s it.

            1. SophieK*

              Yes they do.

              I’ve dated and been friends with several extremely hot guys at this point and all have had groupies offering themselves up. Most guys do not want to be mean, because they don’t want to get a reputation as an ahole.

              Many of these women ARE crazy, brazenly pushing aside the girl the guy is actually with and not taking no for an answer.

              Notice that groupies are exclusively women. You don’t see hordes of teenage boys screaming and crying at Katy Perry concerts. Yet grown women engage in this crap all the time. I won’t Internet diagnose but will refer you to Play Misty For Me, Fatal Attraction, and Single White Female. Yes men also stalk and can be mentally unstable. But when women do it it gets taken to a whole other terrifying level.

              1. Elspeth*

                Yes, and we don’t need you derailing the thread by blaming the OPs wife. This letter is not about groupies or “crazy” women – it’s about a male boss stomping all over the OPs wife’s boundaries – repeatedly.

              2. Left my username in Hollywood*

                Are you seriously holding up movies written by men as proof of something? Seriously?

                How about turning to science rather than Hollywood?

                Stalking affects seven percent of women (one in 14 women) and two percent of men (one in 50 men) in the U.S. at some time in their lives.

                Most (78%) stalking victims are female and most (87%) stalking perpetrators are male.

                While women are significantly more likely to be stalked by a male (67 percent) than a female (24 percent), men are just as likely to be stalked by another male (41 percent) than a female (43 percent).

                1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  Thank you for this. The citations to Hollywood movies as proof that Crazy Women, Look, They Are Everywhere had me rolling my eyes so hard I went blind.

                2. soon 2 be former fed*

                  Stalking is shitty behavior no matter who is doing it, or who they are doing it to. People attracted to the same sex stalk also.

              3. biobottt*

                Women take stalking to a level beyond killing the person they’re stalking? Because that’s something men have been known to do, so I don’t see how female stalkers are taking it to a terrifying next level.

              4. Catabodua*

                So when this happens, the group of friends you are in are telling the man to be nice to these women? Because that’s what you are saying happens.

              5. Like what even*

                I really hope this is a joke, because not only are the tropes you’re referencing wildly innacurate, but are also deeply sexist and damaging to women.

                I’d love for you to do some research on rates of stalking and murder perpetrated by women vs men. It might be eye opening for you. And to clarify, by “research” I don’t mean watching misogynistic films.

            2. soon 2 be former fed*

              Why do you assume I’m uncomfortable? Not at all. I’m a woman, a pretty old one at that, who has seen boundary pushing/stalking done by both men and women. It isn’t gendered behavior. Stalker men get called crazy too, come on. Fair is fair. And I fully applaud OP’s wife for her decidedly non-civil response when she had enough. You are misdirecting your militant stance here.

          3. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Sure and when they do it’s because they “are a crazy bitch” and people don’t ask 7000 questions about what the victim did to attract the stalker’s attention or unintentionally lead him on or whatever.

    9. Middle School Teacher*

      Excuse me? “Point our the significance of these gestures of humility to his wife and ask her to respond civilly”? Yeah, no. This onus is not on OP at all. It’s on the boss to take the hint and and back off gracefully before he does something he regrets.

    10. Observer*


      The boss ignored multiple attempts to get the message across. It took the OP’s wife losing it on him to get him to stop.

      He then apologized to the OP who said it is ok. So then he decided that’s not good enough and started texting the wife. So then he invited them to dinner. The OP declined! The Boss then decided that that’s not good enough- AGAIN. That is NOT “humility” or “civility” by any stretch of the imagination.

      Wife owes him NOTHING.

    11. Jadelyn*

      I’m sorry, are you seriously suggesting that the person in the wrong here is the woman who is being repeatedly pestered and harassed by her spouse’s boss, and that the appropriate way to handle this is to scold her for wanting the harassment to stop???

      As if the only reason a woman might possibly be upset at being chased down by someone she’s explicitly told to leave her the hell alone, is because she just ~~doesn’t understand~~ how ~nice~ her harasser is really being, and if only she would stop being so mean to the poor man and prioritize his feelings of “being nice” over her feelings of “being harassed”, she would know she should shut up and then everything would be okay!

    12. Pollygrammer*

      Dragonfly: just in case this isn’t something you’re aware of—respected, unwanted, harassing contact is not “unobtrusive” just because it’s via text. This is not a thing that you should think.

    13. Not a Mere Device*

      No. If the original message had gotten through, he might be trying to make amends in a way that wouldn’t involve further bothering her, like handing LW a check for enough money for the two of them to have a nice dinner out, or even asking what charity she’d like him to donate to by way of amends. He wouldn’t be “I get it, I should leave you alone–so let’s have dinner together.”

      “I’ll buy you dinner” is an appropriate part of an apology/amends in the context of a continuing relationship. If someone was supposed to go to a concert with you, and didn’t show up with the tickets, an apology dinner might be appropriate. Or if they broke a vase you’re fond of. But the boss and LW’s wife didn’t have a social relationship to start with, and she has made it very clear that she doesn’t want one now.

    14. Stained Glass Cannon*

      1) The boss is STILL being a nuisance. You do not “make up for being a nuisance” by continuing to make a nuisance of yourself. He needs to stop. Completely.

      2) The boss is NOT showing “gestures of humility”. He’s showing that he doesn’t respect the wife’s wishes. Again, he needs to stop.

      3) The onus is NOT on OP or OP’s wife to soothe the boss’s self-hurt feelings. It is 100% on the boss to show the kind of courtesy he should have in the first place and stop trying to force interactions on them.

      Tl;dr boss needs to stop. Full stop.

  16. BadWolf*

    Is “digging a hole” in regards to making things worse when you’re trying to make them better a commonly known phrase around your parts, OP?

    A couple times, I’ve used something like “Hey, you’re digging a hole with a backhoe here, just stop” when someone seems to be spiraling like this. But perhaps the OP is past the point where this would work with the Boss.

    In a way, this feels like the other side of the letter with the OP who tracked down a coworker after a goodbye wasn’t acknowledged —

    1. Someone else*

      I think if the message hasn’t completely sunk in to boss from the very direct “do not contact me” from the wife, then even if that expression is known in their area it’s probably not an effective tactic merely because it is an expression. I think OP needs to leave any trace of ambiguity or room for interpretation behind and get really blunt and specific with the boss and rinse repeat it until the situation is fixed.
      Do not contact the wife unless I’m dead or dying.
      Remove her number from your device.
      The end.

      Anything beyond that seems likely to fuel boss.

  17. Narise*

    My guess is that even if wife responded ‘no thank you’ to the dinner or any other variation the communication would continue. Give him one more chance to stop contacting your wife and then you need to go to HR.

    However be aware that wife may be going to visit your boss on her own if she receives another communication-you may not receive forewarning. Cage fight may not be in the parking lot but in suite in front of everyone!

    1. Annie Moose*

      Yeah, I’m envisioning Wife going “no, I don’t want to go to dinner”, and then he finds some other way to “apologize” by offering to buy her flowers, or meet up for coffee, or get her a present, or buy her a gift card, or–

      For some reason, this guy is bound and determined to keep contacting Wife. And presumably LW through Wife. You’ve got to shut it down at the source rather than addressing each text individually.

  18. mythbri*

    OP, this is the third sentence in your letter: ” I’m not required to keep my phone handy as an on-call type deal, but I always answer as promptly as I can.”

    I think that along with everything that Alison has recommended that you do, you should also have a conversation with your boss about communication expectations FOR YOU during your off hours. Your boss is violating boundaries by continually contacting your wife, but I also think that it would be helpful for you to push back on the current expectation that you will immediately respond to questions and calls when you’re not at work. If this expectation is re-framed, it may also help to stop the unwanted contact that your wife is receiving from your boss and help you to maintain more of a work/life balance.

  19. Ladyphoenix*

    Your wife can document all tencalls and texts, including dates, time, and frequency. She can also block the dude’s number so he gets the message.

    If he asks, then tell him, “My wife feels uncomfortable by the amount of calls and messages you have sent her after she told you to stop. She has even requested I take this up to HR since the issue is still persisting. Please stop contacting my wife, or I will have to talk to the HR.”

  20. Autistic Farm Girl*

    I’m sorry but i’m incredibly bothered by this part of the letter: “My boss is really a great guy and I like working for him, but everybody at the office thinks he’s on the autism spectrum or something.”

    What does one have to do with the other?! You can be a great person AND be on the spectrum, it’s not mutually exclusive (unlike the way it’s written). And it would also explain in part the lack of understanding boundaries.

    I’d like to think i’m a good person (although i might be wrong!), and i’m on the spectrum, and i’m also a manager, and yeah, sometimes things aren’t clear, and when i feel like i’ve messed up i will apologise about 500 times, and i can pretty much guarantee that some people are bothered by my constant apologising. But unfortunately that’s a part of who i am, i’m not being difficult or apologetic on purpose and i’m sure that the boss there isn’t constantly apologising for the sake of being awkward or difficult.

    I’d go with what Alison said (although he might apologise for having apologised too much! I know i would) and hopefully it’ll work without having to get hr involved

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think the OP is saying the two are mutually exclusive. I think he was saying “He’s a great guy, but he doesn’t always follow social norms.”

      1. Disappointed*

        Not following social norms != autism spectrum.

        Sometimes, one can push boundaries and ignore them and NOT be autistic…or something. :/

      2. Hall or Billingham*

        I hope this doesn’t seem like a derail, but I think it’s important to clarify that it’s a misconception that being autistic/on the spectrum is somehow synonymous with not following social norms and/or pushing boundaries.

        I am sure the OP meant no offense but offhand statements that suggest that someone’s inappropriate behavior is because they have a disability can be very damaging and I think it’s worthwhile to keep in mind that behavior is a choice for everyone, neurodiverse folks as well as neurotypical folks.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I took it not as “he’s behaving like this because he has autism” but as general context on the guy more broadly. But I don’t actually know. In any case, this is absolutely worth noting (although I’ll ask that we not derail on it now that it’s been flagged).

        2. Vicky Austin*

          There’s a difference between people on the spectrum violating social norms and boundaries; and people off the spectrum violating social norms and boundaries.

          When people on the spectrum violate boundaries, it’s usually because they don’t know any better. Their disability makes it difficult for them to understand that they are doing wrong. However, once someone comes right out and explains to an autistic, “What you are doing is not okay, and here’s why,” the autistic understands and backs off.

          When people off the spectrum violate boundaries, they know full well that what they are doing is wrong. They are bullies who get a kick out of making people uncomfortable.

          1. Watson*

            I know you mean well, but as another person on the spectrum, I have to say “they don’t know any better” is a pretty poor, dismissive blanket statement to make as well. This is totally the soft bigotry of low expectations at work. I personally am VERY attuned to social norms and boundaries, because I think they’re important – I recognise that my own difficulties and natural behavioural tendencies can contribute to disrupting the social cohesion of a group I’m part of, and I know exactly what’s right and what’s wrong.

            For a lot of people it’s not actually a failure to recognise what is wrong and why, merely a failure to recognise that they’re personally doing it. What you say is true of some for sure, but always be aware – everyone on the spectrum is unique and has their own set of challenges.

            1. Vicky Austin*

              Sorry, I should have worded it differently.
              And now that you mention it; I, too, have known people on the spectrum who understand that violating boundaries was wrong, but didn’t recognize that what they were doing was considered violating boundaries.

              I should also add that I’ve known people on the spectrum who knew full well that they were violating boundaries but didn’t care because they were selfish jerks. Sadly, asshole behavior isn’t limited to people off the spectrum!

      3. fish*

        But that doesn’t equate to “is autistic” and it’s actually pretty shitty to do so.

        I hate the trend of men being excused for bad behavior because *other people* have decided they must be autistic. No. It’s not a free pass. (It certainly never gets to be a free pass for those of us who are autistic women.)

        1. soon 2 be former fed*

          So much gendering in this thread, it’s almost as bad as the ageism in some of the others! The behavior describe by OP is not acceptable whether or not the actor is male or female, neurotypical or not. No excuses for anybody.

          1. fish*

            Gosh, yes, a man pestering a woman continually because she won’t pay him the attention he wants — how silly of me to bring gender into it.

          2. Delphine*

            As fish notes, it’s very often not an excuse for everybody–just men. All sorts of excuses are made for men’s bad behavior, the vast majority of which never apply to women. Your insistence on avoiding the fact that men are privileged in ways women are not all over this comment area doesn’t change the fact that men are privileged in ways women are not.

          3. Liz T*

            soon 2 be former fed, this seems to be a big issue with you, and I suggest you drop it. Certain behaviors adversely affect women more often than men. I recommend listening to what people are saying rather than insisting that no one is ever allowed to mention gender at all.

    2. aett*

      I’m glad somebody brought this up. I understand (thanks to Alison’s explanation) what OP was likely trying to say, but it was definitely phrased poorly. My son is on the spectrum and I’m very sensitive about how people use certain words and expressions. I honestly feel bad for the boss because of all the gossip about him apparently going on around the office.

      1. Autistic Farm Girl*

        Ask a manager: then i’d say it was phrased poorly, or maybe i’m sensitive to it because i’m on the spectrum myself. Thanks for clarifying though!

        Aett: i thought exactly the same, as much as this situation is awful for LW and his wife, i feel sorry for the boss for the gossip going round the office (presumably behind his back too)

      2. Observer*

        I don’t – I feel bad for people on the spectrum who get saddled with this kind of label.

        The reality is that the gossip is clearly a direct result of the Boss’ ridiculous behavior, if this incident is anything to go by. I’m not excusing the gossip, but the boss IS a boundary crossing pest, as the OP puts it. That loses him the high ground.

    3. Student*

      If you already know that your method of handling problems is possibly creating more problems, like over-apologizing to the point of actually bothering people, and you are a manager, then it’s on YOU to figure out a better way to cope. Just like this boss guy in the letter. It’s on you to find a better coping strategy, whether you are autistic or not. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

      1. Autistic Farm Girl*

        Student: I’m sorry, is that directed to me?!
        Unless you’re autistic yourselfc, please don’t tell me how to deal with my disability and how I need to find better coping strategies, that’s massively patronising and rude.
        I’m doing my best at work, but sometimes my disability is an issue hence the need for reasonnable adjustments and extra support.
        I also can’t always think in a reasonnable and “normal” fashion when i’m overwhelmed and on the verge of a meltdown, but yes, afterwards i do understand that i overreacted/didn’t react well, that doesn’t change how i reacted though.
        In the same way, i also have ptsd and sometimes react differently to some situations than the majority of people, and at the time i have no idea what i’m doing wrong, i’m just trying to cope. But i guess that’s also my fault for not dealing with it and i need to do better because “heavy is the head that wears the crown” (unless you believe that people with disabilities should never manage any staff…)

        1. Barbara*

          Well said Autistic Farm Girl.
          I was also annoyed with the assumption that this boss must be autistic if he doesn’t respect boundaries.

        2. LGC*

          If it makes you feel better, Student usually gives pretty strong criticism. So it’s not just you – I wouldn’t get too upset over their post (although that’s easier said than done!).

    4. SometimesALurker*

      Thank you for pointing that out. That sentence was stigmatizing and unnecessary. If someone means “doesn’t always follow social norms” they should say that, not “on the autism spectrum or something,” like the way if someone is prone to sensory overload or to face blindness, we say that, not “on the autism spectrum or something.”

    5. I'm Not Phyllis*

      Whether the boss is autistic or not, hopefully LW can make it clear that this needs to stop.

      My sister is autistic and if this were to happen with her – she would be anxious and crying and apologetic after being told off by LW’s wife, and she’d literally be thinking about it for years to come, but one thing I can guarantee is that she would absolutely 103% not call back.

    6. JamieS*

      The described behavior sounds like something a jerk would do so I took that as OP saying “he really is a nice guy who legitimately doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing is bad.” More of an attempt to head off “he’s clearly a jerk” opinions than anything else.

      Although, that being said and this isn’t directed at OP specifically, it does annoy me that it seems often when someone (especially men) show a lack of self awareness when it comes to social norms or somewhat diverge from them that’s automatically labelled as being autistic or they are otherwise armchair diagnosed with some sort of mental issue. Sometimes people are just oblivious.

      1. BF50*

        Yes, it’s as if “on the spectrum” has become synonymous for “has poor social skill”, only one of those removes the blam and the need to work on fixing anything.

    7. LGC*

      Hi, fellow manager(-ish type) on the spectrum!

      With all due respect (and I’m not trying to be snarky), I get what you’re saying…but even being mildly autistic isn’t an excuse for his behavior. (I’m not touching the gender politics with a ten foot pole.) He might not understand subtle social cues. He’s also seriously making someone who he should have little relationship with uncomfortable and expecting more of LW themselves than is reasonable. Frankly, and this might sound really harsh, the boss is being selfish. At this point, it seems like he’s looking for forgiveness so HE feels better.

      It’s really on him to learn how to adapt to society – that’s a major function of his job if he’s managing people. And right now, he’s not doing his job.

      On your major point, I think others explained what LW meant (and how I understood it). The sentence LW used sounds a little bit patronizing – like LW expects autistic people to behave inappropriately and to not be able to learn how to behave appropriately – but I don’t think they actually mean to say that.

      1. Vicky Austin*

        “I get what you’re saying…but even being mildly autistic isn’t an excuse for his behavior.”
        It’s not an excuse, but it is an explanation.
        If he genuinely doesn’t realize that what he is doing is Totally Inappropriate, then he needs to be told so in the most blunt terms possible. Otherwise, he’ll just keep doing it.

        1. LGC*

          I mean…you’re right in that it’s an explanation, not an excuse. I did kind of read AFG’s initial post as saying that the boss couldn’t help himself, though, which is why I said that.

          And you’re right that he needs to be told in the clearest terms possible – with the caveat that LW needs to be compassionate, of course. I’m squirming a little because LW shouldn’t have to do emotional labor for their boss. (And the problem is likely that they’re doing too much emotional labor for the boss as it is, and not enough for their wife.) But I feel like an overly blunt response might trigger the “OMG LW HATES ME FOREVER I NEED TO APOLOGIZE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE TO FIX THIS” response from him.

          1. Vicky Austin*

            I’m not sure what you mean by LW doing emotional labor for the boss. LW needs to tell the boss, “Please do not call or text my wife anymore. Not to apologize, not to invite us to dinner. Not at all, except for a life and death emergency situation.”

  21. Darcy Pennell*

    I’m a bit leery of the advice to say “my wife is pushing me to go to HR but course I don’t want to do that.” Depending on the boss, that could come across as “you and I are sensible and we know this is no big deal but we have to placate the unreasonable woman, amirite?” Which the LW clearly doesn’t mean at all.

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      That articulates really well the slightly icky feeling I had about that phrasing! I agree. I know Alison did not intend it that way at all, but that’s still the way it reads to me, and the way I worry Boss would hear it. I think mentioning HR as the next step is a good idea, but without the “obviously” or “of course” language – just “my wife is pushing me to go to HR, which I think may have to be the next step” or something.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I would actually leave out the bit about going to HR being the wife’s idea.

        “My wife and I have both asked you to stop contacting her, and you keep sending her texts and trying to invite us out for dinner. This is not appropriate. You need to stop contacting my wife. If you keep contacting her, I will need to take this up with HR.”

    2. swingbattabatta*

      I agree – I wouldn’t lay the blame for the reaction on the wife. This makes it sound like “I don’t mind, but she’s freaking out so I need to handle it”, instead of “this is a super inappropriate level of contact that I’ve asked you to stop multiple times, and I will escalate it if I have to.” Do your wife a favor, tell your boss to quit it or you are going to HR because that is the appropriate cause of action, not because your wife asked you to. Your boss already won’t leave her alone, please don’t make it worse.

    3. Fiennes*

      In this case, though, it’s the simple truth. While that sentence could be delivered in a tone that undermines the wife, I think Alison is suggesting this should be a statement of how mad she is and a warning that OP is willing to take official steps in future. Given the OP’s understanding of/support for his wife, I think he can be trusted to say this exactly the way he means it.

      Boss may mishear it! But that’s on boss, who seems to mishear a lot.

    4. Elsajeni*

      I agree on this — I would drop the idea that going to HR is the wife’s suggestion, if I were going to use that line, and instead just say “Look, I know you don’t mean offense and I don’t want to go to HR over this, but if you don’t stop RIGHT NOW that will have to be my next step.”

  22. Susan1*

    Has the wife said, thank you for the apology, and maybe, a dinner is not necessary but thank you for the offer ? If not I am betting that this will nip it in the bud. I think it’s a control issue and he wants to know that he fixed the problem.

    1. Nonny*

      Why should she have to? For any reasonable person, “please stop contacting me” after having been called so many times they were driven to cursing that person out should be the end of the story.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This is what makes the letter interesting though (at least to me): He’s the boss. So you might not have the same leeway to handle it as directly/assertively as you would otherwise. I still think it can be handled perfectly assertively (as per my response in the post), but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with recognizing the relationship and looking for ways to get the outcome you want that let the boss save some face and preserves the relationship.

        Obviously if the wife is traumatized by this, that’s different. But if she’s just annoyed, I don’t think it’s outrageous to say “hey, spend one minute on this to make it stop and help out my relationship with my boss.”

        Again, I still recommend a different approach (the one in my answer), but I think this is a reasonable point of view too.

        1. animaniactoo*

          I just posted below – in other situations, I would agree that it would be reasonable to just reply to settle it, but here I think would confirm a problematic dynamic that has set in and I do not think they should go that route. In fact, I disagreed with some of your suggested language based on that alone.

          Primary issue: Boss does not trust OP’s word on their home life and how the issue should be handled, what is necessary/not necessary. OP needs to address that as primary and focus on self, not wife’s feelings/desires/etc. Not sure if it extends into other areas of work life but if so, it is something to look to address there as well.

          1. Susan1*

            It would confirm a problematic dynamic but could also end it. He is apologizing for it. If it continued after that point, I think further action e.g. a talk with the boss or with HR could be warranted.

            1. Observer*

              Actually, under almost any realistic explanation of the Boss’ behavior, it is so unlikely to end the problem that it makes no sense for the OP to expend personal capital trying to convince Wife,.

            2. animaniactoo*

              Here’s the thing: OP is looking to avoid going to HR. Which means they cannot allow the boss to “save face” by getting wife to do this rather than addressing the bigger picture issue about accepting OP’s word on what is or isn’t necessary. It would be completely counterproductive to that primary goal here.

              There is nothing to be gained on OP’s side here by allowing the boss to save face. When you have someone who violates a boundary as a one-off, sure, work to accept the apology and allow them to clean up the egg currently decorating it. When you have someone who routinely violates stated boundaries, allowing them to save face basically ensures a repeat. Boss has already had several opportunities to save face here and is passing them all up because he simply won’t accept what OP has told him about wife’s phone, need for apologies, or need for a dinner. So getting wife to “accept” the apology this time is just kicking the can down the road to a point where OP has to go to HR then and making it worse by allowing the dynamic to become more entrenched than it already is.

        2. Observer*

          I think the fundamental issue here is that if Susan1 is correct, then doing this doesn’t get the results you want in the long term. In the short term, perhaps. But in the long term Boss has now learned that he CAN badger wife and get what he wants with no consequences. Not good.

          1. Susan1*

            Not really, he just learned straight from the horse’s mouth (her) that she appreciates his apology and is not interested in further contact.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I feel like if the genders were reversed, this would not be a repeated point in these comments.

      The correct response to “do not contact my wife again” is to NOT contact the wife again. Full stop.

      1. Susan1*

        Likely if the genders were reversed, this wouldn’t even be happening in the first place. I’m not sure I agree with you re: the suggestions would be different, though.

        1. Fiennes*

          Agreed. People of all stripes who try to assert boundaries get hit with “but whyyyyyy can’t you be NICE?” It shows up a lot more with women, though, because they get put in more situations where people ignore boundaries.

        2. Vicky Austin*

          “Likely if the genders were reversed, this wouldn’t even be happening in the first place.”
          Not necessarily: I’ve known women who repeatedly violated boundaries, stalked their (male) exes, etc. even after being told to stop.

    3. anonarama*

      We all want things in this life but that doesn’t mean we get to badger virtual strangers until we get those things. Good grief. The number of people suggesting appeasement is appalling.

    4. Elspeth*

      No. It wouldn’t fix the problem because the boss’s massive overstepping of boundaries is the problem. It’s not on the wife to “nip” anything in the bud.

    5. On Fire*

      I can’t imagine my husband’s boss even *thinking* of doing this, by my gut reaction to the flurry of text messages would be a text reply saying, “I TOLD YOU TO STOP CONTACTING ME. DO NOT CONTACT ME AGAIN. EVER. BY ANY MEANS. LEAVE. ME. ALONE.”

      (And yes, it would be in all-caps.)

    6. Observer*

      You’re probably right that’s it’s a control issue. But that’s all the more reason that Wife should NOT respond. When someone is control freak, to use a colloquial expression, you do not get it to stop by responding to it. That just feeds the problem.

      He needs to know that he cannot control wife by badgering her into responding the way he wants. Because if she DOES respond the way he wants, next time he wants something he’ll start the badgering all over again.

      1. Susan1*

        Maybe… I don’t think he would. But if he did perhaps that would be the time to go to HR. At this point I think it’s too soon.

  23. animaniactoo*

    OP, I think you have a bigger picture issue here and for that reason I would NOT say that your wife wants you to get HR involved. I would not mention whatsoever what your wife wants or anything else in this convo.

    The bigger picture issue is that you told your boss something several times, seriously, and he did not take you seriously.

    1) You told him that was your wife’s phone and it was not a good way to reach you (probably should have straight up said “Don’t call that if you’re looking for me”, but it should be taken as read that if you haven’t called back, you’re not available at that moment and you are off the clock and he has to wait on your convenience).

    He kept calling. That ignores 2 things. That it was your wife’s phone AND that you were unavailable during your non-working hours.

    2) He asked you to pass along his apology.

    He did not take it as done that you did so and it was settled.

    3) You told him that it was not necessary to send her any more apologies or take you guys out to dinner to apologize.

    He ignored you and went back to her.


    Now maybe all that is about his not reading social cues and his anxiety about having done “the wrong thing” or some such. But you need to resolve the issue whereby you tell him something and he ignores it.

    Towards that, I would start with: “Boss, I told you it wasn’t necessary to take us out to dinner or text [wife] anymore. I don’t understand why you then contacted HER to ask. What gives?”

    But keep the focus on YOU. Anything you ascribe to wife (she’s getting upset that you have done x), you emphasis that this is an issue for YOU regardless of wife’s feelings.

    You can be as polite and civil about it as you like. But you MUST explain “unacceptable and why” in no uncertain terms if your suspicion is that this guy just doesn’t get social cues. On the flip side, you also have to get him to start trusting YOUR word on things that relate to you and your personal/home life. That’s a hard boundary and that’s the first “unacceptable” to start with – it is unacceptable that he does not take your word for how/when/who he should contact or receive information from when it comes to things dealing with you and your wife. Because otherwise, what he is doing is treating what you say as untrustworthy – in an area of your expertise – and it means he is ignoring the actual information he needs to handle the situation. Let it go. Do not take out to dinner. Do not keep apologizing for doing it. Just stop doing it. Done.

  24. blink14*

    Perhaps approaching this from a general after work/days off boundaries will solve the problem. Say you and your wife accept his apology, but in light of adjusting personal responsibilities/down time, etc, you will no longer be reachable on your days off or after work and stick to that. Don’t answer, your wife shouldn’t answer if he calls her etc.

    Continuing to respond to the boss’ calls during off time reinforces that he can reach you. Once you sever that communication, he should hopefully realize that you mean you are not reachable and will keep any contact to your work hours and stop bothering your wife.

  25. Jules the 3rd*

    Thank you Alison and AAM for reminding me again, in a timely way: don’t keep pushing… (I am not the boss)

  26. AngryBunny*

    If you genuinely think your boss is on the spectrum, then you need to be MORE assertive with boundaries, not less. For those of us on the spectrum, trying to figure out the true meaning of some softened and roundabout phrasing is a headache and a half. It’s much easier to deal with hearing “hey, what you’re doing is not ok, knock it off”. I know the power dynamics can make that tough, but your boss will most likely appreciate the forthrightness. And if he doesn’t, then it’s not an autism thing, it’s an asshole thing.

  27. Sleeplesskj*

    Also just wondering – OP says wife doesn’t want to pay to block him – but I don’t know of any phone carriers that charge for blocking a number – is that really a thing? It’s a simple solution although the onus absolutely should not be on her. (I kind of vote for the cage-fight. She’d take ‘im.)

  28. Chriama*

    Honestly if you really think he’s on the spectrum then I think you need to go towards “uncomfortably direct” before you go towards HR. Alison’s wording is good. Bluntness is something I’ve heard other people mention as important for those on the spectrum. Often times what seems polite to neurotypical people is just confusing and unclear to neuroatypical folks, and it’s possible the cursing from your wife got across not because of the cursing, but because it was the first time anyone had been explicitly clear with him.

    However, he could just be a boundary-pushing jerk. Sorry to stereotype but I’ve got an image of him being interested in your wife for… reasons. You seem convinced he’s not and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Either way, I hope commenters don’t get up in arms about the autism spectrum thing. A diagnosis is not an excuse but it can provide a useful framework for problem-solving. Let’s keep things at that level.

  29. Gotham Bus Company*

    I must disagree with giving Boss the benefit of the doubt. (To misquote a certain rapper, “No benefit, no doubt.”)

    Boss IS being a pest by contacting Wife. Therefore, he KNOWS he’s being a pest and should be reported to HR.

  30. Student*

    OP – tell the boss that all your wife wants is for him to delete her number from his phone, so she’s not involved in your work matters again. Then ask him to delete her number, and hopefully he’ll do it right there in front of you immediately.

  31. Happy Temp*

    I am surprised by people saying “Oh, your wife should just respond to him and that will fix everything.” The wife has zero relationship with her spouse’s boss! She is under absolutely no obligation to negotiate a relationship or somehow placate the boss. And as others have pointed out, responding NOW simply tells a boundary-pusher “okay, send me ten texts and seven phone calls and I’ll break down and respond.” The wife has firmly established a (completely reasonable) boundary: DO NOT CONTACT ME, and the boss has repeatedly violated that boundary.

    This is why I’m surprised at the script of “My wife wants me to go to HR.” The wife doesn’t work for that company; OP does. OP should be the one who wants to go to HR, because this is a problem between OP and OP’s boss. Would an employee say to their boss “My wife wants me to XXX” about any other topic? No.

    OP stated this has been going on for a minimum of two (“a couple of months ago…”) months, and two weeks after the wife set that hard boundary, the boss continued to contact her. To me this is veering into harassment territory. I second/third/etc. the suggestion to at least document every attempt to contact her (plus the specific dates and times both the wife and the OP have told the boss to stop). OP needs to shut this down and shut it down hard. I understand that OP needs to work with his boss to keep their relationship genial, but the boss is the one that is undermining that. OP–and more, OP’s wife–shouldn’t be held hostage to “Oh, well, if you push back against this with your boss, what about future raises/promotions? Just tell the boss to stop one more time.” Boss has been told to stop and is not stopping.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In principle, sure, absolutely. But if there’s a way to get the same outcome — the boss stops contacting the wife — with a less adversarial approach, there’s no reason not to use that, given that they have to continue working together. If he can’t get that outcome, then he does need to escalate it. But I suspect he can get it with the approach in the post.

      1. Happy Temp*

        Thank you for your response! I’m still stuck on the “tell your boss that your wife wants you to go to HR” part of the advice. This just makes it sound like the wife is the bad guy in the situation, not the boss.

        This has been going on for at least two months, and the boss has already been given a firm “DO NOT CONTACT” from the wife (if not the OP) whom the boss has absolutely no reason to contact ever again. I feel like the boss is getting so much benefit of the doubt here and the whole “Your boss can make your life miserable, so tiptoe carefully around his feelings” seems unlike other advice I’ve seen here.

  32. Tangerina*

    This is why I’d be a terrible spouse. I’d go into her phone and block the number for her.

  33. AKchic*

    OP, I’m not sure what you do for a living that would require you to be in such demand by your boss that he would call you on your time off that you would answer him even though there is no actual requirement to do so.
    I’m also not sure why you’ve trained him to think he is so important that he can harass your wife like he has been. Had this been a stranger calling and texting multiple times, after being told to *Stop* calling and texting, you would be calling the police, looking for an attorney to discuss options, and looking at a restraining order.
    What is so important about your boss that is worth protecting over your wife?

    This has nothing to do with being unaware of social norms. Lets stop pretending that people unaware of social norms are automatically diagnosable, and that those we suspect of being diagnosable are all socially stunted or otherwise socially clueless.
    No, in many cases, the socially “hapless” feign their haplessness in order to get away with their poor behavior (we see this in nerd culture where certain types prey on vulnerable women, for example). What your boss is doing is manipulative, controlling and abusive. Your wife has a better read on this situation than you do and she is right: It needs to stop immediately. Follow Alison’s guide immediately and stop pretending that your boss is a Good Guy (TM). He’s not. He is feigning the act of Good Guy (TM). He is probably closer to a M’Lady with Fedora (TM) than Good Guy (TM).

    1. Lora*

      “He is probably closer to a M’Lady with Fedora (TM) than Good Guy (TM).”

      Hahahahahaha yes this is perfect.

  34. LGC*

    I’m just afraid that the boss is going to show up on LW’s front yard with a boombox and a poster that says “I’M SORRY”. And possibly flowers for the wife.

    That said…like, I sympathize with the boss a little. A lot of people (I’m one of them) feel shattered when someone gets Mad At Them and just want to find the magic words to undo their mistake. But also…he is seriously violating boundaries and has been since he started using LW’s Wife’s Phone as a second way to contact LW.

    And possibly before – it almost reads to me that he expects you to be on call when you’re off work, LW! You should have THAT convo and set some boundaries for yourself. And don’t respond ASAP unless it’s super urgent.

  35. SkyWalkerIV*

    If anyone is in need of some type of help, it’s you and your wife. I believe this is a perceived problem in your head, not a real one. You won’t report him to HR, AND you’re too cheap to block his number? Seriously, how much could that cost?? I can do it free in my phone.
    What you aren’t telling us is that you are too afraid of losing your job to take any real action, so suck it up and deal, or squeal. Those are your only two choices.

    1. Dee*

      This comment seems unnecessarily harsh. You have no idea if there’s something the OP “isn’t telling us.”

    2. Anon Accountant*

      Sometimes companies can be unreasonable. I hope the LW talks to the boss and this stops. But some places will make it as miserable as possible when you push back. Idk if LW Company is like this but just another viewpoint.

  36. Cait*

    OP – maybe this is a great time to reset expectations with your boss.

    1. No more calling/texting your wife’s phone
    2. No more off hour calls unless it is a true emergency

    You could expand the conversation to broadly talk about how/why/frequency he contacts you outside of work.

    Goals of the meeting would be:
    1. No more contact via wife’s phone number
    2. Define emergencies

    But you need to stop responding to him. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.

  37. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    OP: So, I’m going to say that it doesn’t matter why the boss keeps contacting your wife. He could be clueless about social norms, doesn’t understand subtlety, or chooses to ignore boundaries and limits. You need to be the one who stops this. Be blunt.

    “Hey Boss, I need to talk to you. It’s about you contacting my wife. It must stop. There is no reason for you to call, text, or otherwise contact her. You’ve been asked repeatedly to stop and you must do it now. That means no more contact with her. If you need to reach me the only number to use is mine. All other numbers need to be deleted from your phone.”

    Now if you’re curious you could also ask why he has continued to contact her (I know I probably would). The key is after whatever your boss comes up with you just respond with “Thank you for explaining, but that doesn’t change the fact that the contact stops now”

    I would also just block the number or I would change the ringtone for your boss to not actually ring. If you do that you could see if it actually does stop or see if you need to escalate it.

  38. Trevor*

    I totally understand the concern, however I am a bit lost on the fact that you have to pay to block a number. You can block numbers on cell phones for free! You can block a number on a landline for FREE! This is simple. Block the number, have a brief conversation with him about expectations and boundaries and move on. Way to much energy is being lost on this issue
    Enjoy the day!

    1. nonegiven*

      My landline, I have to pay $10/month for a package with caller ID, call waiting, etc. that lets me block 10 numbers. To add a number to the block list, I have to delete one. It isn’t free.

    2. AKchic*

      My landline charges me to block numbers. Annually. I also have to pay an annual fee to make it “unlisted” in the hard-copy phone book, and that won’t guarantee my number being unlisted online. If it’s not unlisted online, it defeats the purpose as my stalker doesn’t look my number up in a hard-copy phone book, he looks it up online. I went without a landline for years because of that issue. Now I have kids who aren’t old enough for cell phones who want to talk to friends on the phone, so a landline is somewhat needed. I know the calls will start up again. We’ve already started looking at alternatives (a “home” cell phone, digital pre-paid, etc.), anything to keep us as “off books” as possible.

  39. Observer*

    OP, there has been some mention of this, but I want to highlight one thing. I have no idea whether your boss is on the spectrum or not. Nor do you, really. What is important here is that you do not bring this up AT ALL. Not even a hint or implication. Not when you talk to your boss, and not when you talk to HR, if it comes to that.

    This is both a matter of appropriate behavior, and also as a practical matter. It’s not your business to armchair diagnose. You also don’t want to give anyone any openings to make excuses for truly inappropriate behavior.

  40. Hiring Mgr*

    Maybe this is off topic a bit and if so feel free to ignore, but while I agree the boss’ behavior is weird, it also seems the wife cursing him out was a bit over the top… But i agree overall w/Alison’s advice–just be very clear that no more contact with the wife’s phone is necessary

    1. Elspeth*

      If I had been contacted several times while I was sleeping after working the night shift, I’d cuss the boss out too.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        No, i don’t typically associate with that type. Perhaps that’s why I’m not seeing this clearly

        1. AKchic*

          “That type”? What exactly constitutes “that type”? You’ve never associated with a nurse or doctor or anyone in law enforcement? People who work the night shift aren’t just waitresses, bartenders, night stockers, clerks/cashiers, hotel workers, and janitors. Never spoken with an on-call plumber, HVAC person, an EMT, firefighter or any kind of emergency responder?
          Even people with insomnia and parents of small children or those who care for the sick/elderly work night shifts and are tired and sleep during the day at times. People who are sick, dealing with medical treatments – they also sleep during the day at times.

          Sorry. I shouldn’t be hostile here. But “that type” really rubs me the wrong way.

          1. Observer-Shadow*

            Agreed. I worked oncall 24/7/365 (except for vacations) for 17+ years. Even when some1 else was the primary oncall person, they’d call me (because the turnaround was quicker on resolution) That didn’t bother me so much. What git under my skin was when the primary would just tell the caller to call ME (without trying to fix the problem)

        2. aebhel*

          Imagine someone who is essentially a stranger calling you repeatedly at 3 AM on a work night for a non-emergency issue related to your spouse’s job.

          1. Anon Accountant*

            I learned this when I called a friend at 2pm. She worked night shift as a nurse and I didn’t give it any thought she might be sleeping.

            She kindly pointed it out it’s the equivalent of she calling me at 2AM for something non-urgent.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*


            Hiring Mgr is always missing that sarcasm tag, and Alison has asked them specifically to make their jokes clearer. I think we just need a campaign where whoever is FIRST! to comment on one of HM’s comments includes the /s tag. As a public service. (I’m grinning, but I’m not sarcastic here. This will fall on our east-coast brethren more, of course.)

            1. Hiring Mgr*

              Sorry, didn’t mean anything by that..Just that i don’t know anyone who works overnight. Of course nobody wants to get a call in the middle of the night, or anytime they’re sleeping–unless of course they’ve overslept and the call functions as a kind of an alarm clock

          2. AMPG*

            I think it’s pretty crappy that they’ve been warned several times about trolling and have clearly decided they don’t care.

            1. Hiring Mgr*

              Truthfully, I didn’t think this would be a derailing commnet, it was just a small joke..but i suppose if I’m joking in anyway whatsover, i should put the /s after every comment…point taken.

    2. animaniactoo*

      This starts at “A couple months ago […]”

      has a long bridge of “[…] over and over […] sometimes he’d be calling when she was at work, or when she was sleeping after a night shift.”

      and ends at “[…] about two weeks ago when he woke her up again”.

      After about 6 weeks, I think she’s perfectly justified and within human and social norms in getting to that point and there was nothing over the top about it.

    3. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      haha… that’s the part of the letter I could most relate to.

      Eons ago I was at a job with an on-call rotation. The desk making the calls knew that they were pretty sure to get an earful of curses in the background as I brought the phone to my ear. I warned them that it was involuntary and that I’d be perfectly fine and curse free by the time I said my greeting (which usually came out “this..shfhmblllllrel is shmghhgmelug..omusername”).

      Regardless of the being woken part.. here’s the thing, you (global you) call me… you get what you get. I don’t have any obligation of niceties when you call my personal phone. The sole purpose of my phone is for my convenience not yours.

  41. Grey*

    This probably doesn’t need more than, “Hey Boss, my wife saw your apology. It’s all good. Ok? Cool”.

    1. Oy vey*

      This 100%. End drama.

      Completely effective in functional work relationships…. but that’s not why we’re reading here. Right?

  42. Maleah Hammons-Gumienny*

    Ask for his phone. Delete Wifey’s number. Give phone back. My husband is on the Spectrum with some of his behaviors. Sometimes removing the temptation is best.

  43. nonegiven*

    I have a ring tone called ‘no ring,’ the phone lights up but there is no sound.

  44. Erin*

    Oh boy, glad I read this on lunch, literally laughed out loud a couple of times.

    Nothing to add to the great advice – good luck!

  45. Salamander*

    Yep. This. This guy’s behavior is a problem, and it doesn’t matter one whit what’s driving it. He needs to stop harassing your wife, because that is what it is. Harassment. Doesn’t matter what he *intended* or what a great guy he is, etc…he needs to stop.

  46. John*

    The easiest way is to block him
    It’s a good to have a piece of mind and pay for it if you need it

    I suspect your wife likes the phone calls and texts otherwise she could have told him to stop and she could have made him stop it right away without blocking
    I’m about 80% sure there is something going on between them

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Wow. Of course, you’re ignoring the fact that the wife DID tell him to stop – in fact, yelled at the boss and cursed at him. And you’re ignoring that she actually wants OP to report the boss to HR for all this. You pretty much ignored the entire letter in order to impose blame on the wife here.

      The fact that there are actually 3 such people who have contorted into a pretzel in order to find a way to blame the wife here is depressing.

        1. Pollygrammer*

          Yeah, I’ve noticed that too. It’s like a game: Sarcastic Salacious or Sexist.

          1. Bones*

            The only comment section besides AAM that I can read without going insane is also overwhelmingly female. Not a coincidence. Male commenters don’t @ me- deal with the discomfort the truth brings you.

        2. Rectilinear Propagation*

          This seems to happen after Alison gets a lot of press. Newcomers show up and decide to try it in the comments and eventually disappear after their comments get moderated away.

    2. Elspeth*

      Wow. You obviously didn’t read where OPs wife cussed the boss out for waking her up after working the night shift. Way to go trying to derail by posting such a spurious argument!

      1. AKchic*

        Naw… he can just stay away from them in general. We would really prefer it that way.

    3. Amber T*

      Ah yes, the old “woman clearly likes being stalked” kind. Glad you made yourself known, John. For the record, in case the above comments have too big words for you –

      “NO” means no
      “STOP” means stop
      “She cursed him out and told him to never call her again” means she cursed him out and told him never to call her again

      It’s usually just creeps who glance over those words and ignore them.

  47. What's with today, today?*

    My husband is a criminal defense and family law attorney in our small town. I get Facebook messages after hours and during weekends all the time from folks asking my husband to call them. Some are his clients, some not. We ignore them, except one time when one of his *best* clients sent me a facebook message that said: “Please make your husband aware that my husband just shot our son-in-law, and we’ll contact him Monday.” He called them pronto.

    *Note* No criminal charges were filed, hubby’s client shot the SOB in the leg. SOB was beating the hell out of his wife/the shooter’s daughter.

    1. Observer*

      I know that this is totally not funny. But I have to laugh at the message they sent.

      And, I hope the SOB got out of their lives forever.

        1. What's with today, today?*

          Oh, if you knew these people, it would be even better. They really are good folks. A bit rough, but really nice people. We laughed later!

          *update* SOB was well known to local law enforcement for generally being a drug dealing, gang banging SOB. He had warrants, so left the hospital and went straight to jail. He does have a baby with the daughter though, so he’ll always be around at least sorta kinda maybe.

          1. Narise*

            He won’t be if the father’s aim is better next time. Lol kidding sort of kidding.

    2. tangerineRose*

      Did they give the client a medal and tell the SOB he’s lucky the guy didn’t aim higher (or the SOB might be singing soprano)?

  48. Lew*

    This reminds me of the Seinfeld where Jerry is dating a masseuse who doesn’t like George, and George just cannot let it go that someone doesn’t like him. He keeps escalating and escalating, trying to get her to to like him, to the point of ruining his own relationship, and it just makes Jerry’s girlfriend madder. Like with George, here it’s clearly about the boss’ discomfort and not about actually satisfying the wife, who would clearly rather just be left alone.

    1. NextStop*

      Or that Frasier episode where 11 people from a focus group of 12 like Frasier’s show. So he stalked the 12th person to find out why, and ended up burning down his business.

  49. another scientist*

    I feel like we all have seen such a boss – who will blow past normal boundaries, but you always think they might just not be aware of what they’re doing.
    Would love an update on this story!

  50. Jill*

    But here’s what I didn’t care for…the OP’s coworkers *assume* the boss is on the spectrum. Can we please not assume that chronic boundary pushers are all on the spectrum?? This makes it too easy to slide into “Oh well…we can’t say/do anything ‘cuz he’s on the spectrum and can’t help it.” Plenty of people push boundaries just to be bullies or just because they have no sense of manners. Some are straight up creeps. It’s dangerous territory to start assuming every boundary pusher has a disorder, etc., that we can’t reproach.

    1. Thlayli*

      Firstly, OP didn’t say that boss was on the spectrum BECAUSE of the boundary pushing. OP just gave that as background info in case It was relevant to Alison’s reply.

      Secondly, there is a rule here that we take LWs at their word and assume they know more about the situation than we do. OP works with the boss day in day out and had a lot of contact with him. He’s much better placed to guess whether boss is on the spectrum than you are.

      1. Observer*

        Yes, but from what the OP says, they really do not know. So, it is MUCH healthier to leave that kind of speculation out.

  51. Morgen Kirby*

    I think the OP should go to HR, without further attempts to address it with the boss. It’s been addressed, repeatedly and by both OP and spouse, and the boss hasn’t stopped. I think it’s possible that the boss could start trying to penalize the OP as a means of getting a response.

    OP, you’ve said the boss is a great guy… but is he a great guy, or has he just never done anything to you before? Is this behavior, or similar behaviors, something he’s done before to other people? Are you trying to downplay the severity of what he’s doing because you’re hoping it blows over with nothing more severe than anger and upset?

    I’m not convinced that telling him once more to cut it out will work. I think you need to get over the concept that you’re tattling. I think you’re going to need more authority than you’ve got, and I think it’s possible that you’ll need help in preventing backlash against you.

  52. Observer-Shadow*

    She really shouldn’t have to block him. What if there’s a “genuine” eergency? (Your hubby has collapsed at his desk, sorta thing) I think wifey should respond to his text & ask him, politely, not to contact her again for business he has with hubby (UNLESS DIRE LIFE THREATENING EMERGENCY!) Her ignoring him is making him more antsy. I know some folks reading this understand what I mean. Some guys get that way when they realize they’ve majorly screwed-up. They want to “fix it” & doing nothing (in their minds, can’t possibly fix it) This is the same thing that happens in relationships when guys are ignored. Wifey, according, to the post, “cursed him out” He’s embarrassed & just wants to smooth things over & she’s ignoring him & not providing an outlet for him to do so. That’s what I see, others obviously see differently.

    1. animaniactoo*

      And if the stepping over the boundaries thing were a one-off kind of thing, I could see giving him the closure.

      The problem is that this guy has overstepped boundaries repeatedly and only when called on the carpet has it made him take notice.

      So… in this case, that’s really on him to figure out how to handle – and OP might be able to help some – without involving the wife *further*. Not for her to provide the outlet for him. He’s gotta get comfortable with the fact that there’s no outlet there, there’s no fixing it by doing or saying anything other than letting it go. That’s all work that *he* has to do, so that somebody else doesn’t have to solve his issue for him. When it’s a one-off, you do it as a matter of courtesy and acknowledgment that we’re all human and we all make mistakes. When it’s repeated… the person on the other end is perfectly within their rights to have “heard” without “responding”.

      Fwiw, this is exacerbated by the fact that there pretty much is NO relationship between wife and boss. There is a communication point and a something in common. That’s it. The person boss needs to deal with is the person he has a relationship with – OP.

    2. Observer*

      Part of life is dealing with stuff for which there is no easy and straightforward outlet. It’s not Wife’s job to give him that outlet. Under some circumstances I would agree with the poster who said “do you want to be right or do you want to be effective” and say “give him what he wants”. But given his behavior pattern, giving him what he wants is likely to lead to further boundary pushing. And it’s just not reasonable to expect or even suggest that Wife open herself to that.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Well it becomes a question of effective at what? Getting the boss to drop this today? Or getting the boss to pay more attention to coloring inside the lines going forward?

        Getting her to say she accepts his apology is only going to be effective at one of those, and I don’t think it’s the right one to be effective at.

        1. Observer*

          I agree. Although I would put it more strongly than “coloring in the lines”. And that’s why in this case I would not suggest trying to convince Wife to “accept” the apology to get his to shut up.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      I think it’s just fine for him to marinate in that embarrassment. It may stop him the next time he thinks he can just try harder to make contact with someone. I know that’s the only thing that works for some people: they had a very bad outcome that they never want to experience again.

  53. There All Is Aching*

    I agree with the threads on deleting the wife’s number from the boss’s phone and call logs. Fwiw, with unwanted callers for my own phone, I just enter them in my contact list as “Ignore” or “Do Not Answer” and assign them to the no ring/silent mode list as needed. Has saved me stress and confusion, and — bonus — has made more than one friend laugh.

    1. Wendy Darling*

      I like this solution and am definitely adopting this moving forward for those situations. Thanks!!

    2. Star Nursery*

      I do the same.Also once Ignore fills up with the max number of phone numbers, I name the next one Ignore 2.

      1. There All Is Aching*

        Wow, I never thought about listing the numbers under the same “Ignore” — love it!

      2. dawbs*

        I always name mine ‘z-bad’ so they’re at the END of the contact list.
        I’m fairly sure there’s an old phone where it’s all saved under ‘z-*insert obscenities here*’

  54. Anon attorney*

    Hmmm, I don’t love the wording of AAM’s script, actually. Depending on tone, it could come off as “she’s hassling me to sic HR on you so can’t we sort this out man to man first”. The issue here is or should be your relationship with your boss, not your wife’s relationship with him (given that she quite rightly gave him very direct feedback about calling her, she is able and willing to maintain that boundary directly) and the focus should be on you and him, not her and him. I might be inclined to say something along the lines of “Not only does my wife not want to hear from you any more, I need to ask you to stop trying to contact me via her in future, no matter what it’s about. I don’t think that’s an appropriate way for us to work together. If you need to reach me when I’m not on the office, it has to be direct to my cell [or whatever you want]. Let’s talk about when it’s ok to do that out of hours, and what options we can agree on for when I’m not available – because calling my wife isn’t something I can agree to in future, and if we can’t work this out I will need to ask HR for input.” And then you negotiate whatever out of hours contact boundaries you want and can agree on.

    Also, I suggest you put to one side any ill informed speculation about “the spectrum” and just deal with your boss in the way you usually do from your knowledge of him. Any alleged diagnosis has nothing to do with this issue.

    (I’m beyond sick and tired of “the spectrum” being cited in any and all cases of boorish and insensitive behavior. It’s insulting to people who have a legitimate diagnosis and do not behave rudely, and stops rude people from receiving the kind of direct feedback they, and the rest of us, need then to have.)

    1. Anon attorney*

      PS I’m not directing my last comment at OP who I understand is not suggesting boss is on the spectrum but reporting that others do. OP seems to have a good handle on boss and a kind and constructive outlook on this issue. I was making a general observation about what seems to be becoming a regular mention of ASD here and elsewhere, which I really dislike.

    2. Observer*

      You are right. But I, as much as I don’t like Alison’s wording, I think that as a PRACTICAL matter, it’s more likely to work. Your script is reasonable and would work with a reasonable person – but even giving him the benefit of the doubt Boss is NOT reasonable. Keep in mind, he WAS told that he needed to stop trying to reach OP via Wife, and he continued to do it. So, at this point, the threat of HR *has* to be part of the conversation.

  55. Elle Kay*

    I’m not reading all of the comments here b/c I don’t have the bandwidth for it today but…. why would she need to pay to block his number? I thought that all cell phone’s/service providers (including mine) provide the option to block numbers nowadays? I know that some allow UP TO a certain number of blocks but, if it were me, blocking him would be MORE than worth it

  56. ActuallyAutisticWoman*

    People need to stop armchair diagnosing men as autistic because they won’t observe appropriate boundaries. That’s not an autism thing, that’s an entitled man thing. Autistic women would never get away with that shit. (people in general need to stop this, imagine actually being autistic and seeing your brain used to excuse all sorts of bad behavior. Use your empathy, I believe in you!)

    Allison’s advice is good, but your coworkers are being a problem on that front and it does in fact actively hurt people who are definitely autistic.

  57. Kimberly*

    Husband and & I worked for the same transportation company (different divisions) and not only was MY personal cell phone given to clients but our unlisted and unpublished house phone! This, in spite of the fact, he had a company issued phone!
    I was the one who stood in the middle of the office (outside the owner’s office) and loudly announced that the next client call for Husband on either number would result in my filing a lawsuit. Worked!
    I had to resort to that because the staff and owner ignored all other ways I tried – removing the numbers from calling lists, emailing, personally asking them AND the owner

  58. CM*

    Is it possible that the boss thinks he can’t CALL the wife, but it’s OK to text her?

    I know somebody at work who I can see doing this, and he interprets things incredibly literally.

    Just a thought. Before considering other actions, I’d say to Boss very clearly, “You need to stop contacting my wife in any way. Delete her phone number and do not text, call, or otherwise contact her again.”

  59. Janet*

    I have a slightly different take on all of this. Your boss wants to be forgiven. I would tell him that your wife appreciated the apology and said it was sweet of him to offer to take them to dinner but not necessary. If you tell him what he wants to hear, he may be able to stop this obsession. Expect one more text from him thanking her. Please tell your wife that this is your job and you’re just trying to smooth it over. (IF that doesn’t work, then follow up with a tougher response.)

    1. Elspeth*

      Yeah, no. The boss has shown that he can’t accept that OPs wife doesn’t want him to contact her. Even if OP says his wife accepts the apology, this boss isn’t going to stop.

  60. Happy Pirate*

    OP Maybe you can ask your boss to delete your wife’s number from his phone. And then watch him do it.

  61. Jennifer Thneed*

    Paging Dr. Nerdlove recently addressed a really similar situation, where a young man apologized for drunkenly sexting a colleague while continuing to send sexts to that colleague. The good doctor was not gentle in his replies.

    (URL linked in user name.)

  62. AnonInfin*

    There are a lot of red flags about your boss in your post, down to the “he’s such a great guy, but…” Is he? He sounds like a person who has trouble letting go and also like a person who needs control. He already controls you with all those after hours/weekend calls, which you jump to take. Now he’s harassing your wife (nothing less) and trying to control her. Control starts by finding the cracks in boundaries.

    Don’t go to dinner. Go to HR.

    And if I was your wife, I’d put principle, ego, and anger aside and get myself a second phone that becomes primary, while your great guy boss fills up the original phone with unwanted texts. It’s been months. It’s not going to stop.

    1. LGC*

      …you think she should change her number over what sounds like a couple of texts? I’m not sure if LW minimized it, but it sounds like he texted her on three separate occasions after she blew up on him. If she’s refusing to pay to block his number, I’m CERTAIN that she’d take a hard pass on changing her contact info and updating EVERYONE ELSE that has it unless he seriously escalates.

      On the main point (that the boss is abusive – at least, that’s how I’m reading what you’re saying, I might very well be wrong), you…might have a point. It’s uncomfortable, but the boss could be generally clueless about norms AND abuse his position of power over LW. (Calling back after 15 minutes for work questions when you’re off? LW, I hope you’re paid very well.) I do think that it’s worth a shot to try to reset things to more appropriate levels, but you’re right that LW should consider whether this is a person worth working for.

      1. AnonInfinity*

        Per the OP’s letter:

        The behavior has been occurring for “a couple months.” “After that, he started calling her whenever he couldn’t get in touch with me…a few times, he called her within 15 minutes… I explained to him over and over that this wasn’t a second cell I had… Sometimes he would be calling when she was at work, or when she was sleeping… She finally had enough two weeks ago when he woke her up again.”

        So, to sum that up: Boss called Wife an unknown amount of times over the course of “a couple months,” even after being told by OP “over and over again” to stop calling her. Two weeks ago, Boss started texting her – at least three times as described by OP, could be more. OP’s wife is “fighting mad.”

        When people show you who they are, listen; on that expert advice, yes, I’d recommend her getting a second phone. Others would recommend minimizing the Boss’s behavior. Agree to disagree.

        1. AnonInfinity*

          Also, I should add. You (general) can’t control someone else’s behavior. You can’t. You can only control what you do and how you respond. So, you can spend “a couple months” having spikes of anxiety and/or getting “fighting mad” every single time your phone goes off, or you can buy yourself a piece of peace of mind and cut the offending person out of your personal life without them even knowing. A lot of people let the principle of it get in the way (it’s real hard to swallow that pill), while the offending party skates on your emotional dime.

          I should also add: OP mentioned the big ol’ “D” word – DIVORCE. See that last line there that no one else has mentioned even once? DIVORCE (“kidding…sort of”). But a second phone (or a couple bucks or whatever to block a number or change a number) to eliminate the behavior from their personal lives? No way. It’s the (irrational) principle of it.

          But, hey, the boss is a great guy (“…but”), and he just wants dinner. Big whoop. I can’t even.

          1. LGC*

            So, there’s a LOT I need to unpack.

            1) We’re working from different baselines, but I’m willing to accept yours. (I was working off of when The Wife finally tore Boss a new one, and you’re working off of when Boss decided that The Wife’s cellphone was an acceptable way to reach LW.) For what it’s worth, I figured that my baseline was the first time that Boss had really heard that what he was doing was Not Okay. (He should have heard it sooner, but this was the first time we know he got the message.)

            2) I’m also willing to grant that blocking the number would be the easiest way to solve this. I still think that changing her number entirely would be the nuclear option, since that puts a huge burden on The Wife because of Boss’s inappropriateness. (And that’s what I was calling out.)

            3) And…honestly, I’m on the fence about whether she’s handling this reasonably. Taking LW at their word, The Wife is extremely angry, and the subtext is that she’s being somewhat irrational. But also, I had to think about it, but…The Wife is completely justified in being angry because not only is Boss interrupting her at odd hours to contact LW, LW…seems to be waffling.

            4) And further, Boss de-escalated his behavior after being called out on it. It was only in an extreme case (having a stream of expletives and insults directed at him for his behavior), but it seems like he did stop calling The Wife after that incident. There may be hope for him yet.

            Finally, on your closing lines in both your comments (bolding added):

            When people show you who they are, listen; on that expert advice, yes, I’d recommend her getting a second phone. Others would recommend minimizing the Boss’s behavior. Agree to disagree.

            But, hey, the boss is a great guy (“…but”), and he just wants dinner. Big whoop. I can’t even.

            To be real, I’m really not sure what to think. On one hand, we as a society give men the benefit of the doubt more often than we should (I’ll admit this). LW is almost certainly being more charitable to Boss than they should, considering that Boss harassed their wife for a few months. And it’s certainly not like people with autistic spectrum disorders can’t be malicious jerks either (and of course, this is assuming that Boss actually does have an ASD rather than being Kind Of Weird, which is what people too often use “autism” as shorthand for).

            We’re seeing Boss at one of the low points of his behavior. I’m not sure if this is his worst behavior or not. He very well may be caring and protective of his team at work, and willing to stand up for them as needed. He might be super supportive in the office. However, his behavior in this incident is…to be honest, rather alarming even under the most charitable scenario (that he’s just really needy, guys). And all of that can be true at the same time.

            IDK. Maybe I’m the worst person to answer this because this hits too close to home for me, but I feel like it’s either that Boss is a Nice Guy who just can’t control himself or that Boss is a monster who’s out to terrorize The Wife and LW, and I feel like there should be a middle ground. Maybe it’s that on the Internet, everything is black and white.

  63. Tiger Snake*

    Without more information or the boss’s perspective, its all speculation – but it [I]seems[/I] like there’s an added wrinkle here; Boss had a status quo. That status quo worked for them, and now its gone. So Boss understandably wants that status quo back, and the best way to do that is to Reduce the Significance of the event.

    So Boss probably feels bad. But underlying that, re-enforcing that bad feeling, is the fact that it forces Boss to move out of the comfortable rhythm and solution that they’ve got. They didn’t change their ways when OP asked because there was no incentive; it gave them only benefit to keep contacting OP and using their Wife as an escalation method. NOW, all that the subconscious money-brain wants is to smash the reset button and GET BACK the status quo.

    But to do that, Boss needs Wife to say something along the lines of “Oh, its no big deal”, or failing that an “Apology accepted” that gives him leave to hand-wave the entire unpleasantness away without changing his behaviour. Something that means the situation has been reset, Wife is no longer upset, and things can continue as they were before because what he was doing isn’t a problem anymore. This is the reduction I mentioned. The problem is accepting an apology or dinner while this behaviour is ongoing is exactly the same as saying ‘its no big deal’; it makes it seem that Wife was mostly just having a bad day and took it out on Boss.

    So, with that perspective; the problem is that Boss’ apologies and offers of dinner aren’t a remittance; they’re continuing to press the same status quo. That tells me that even if Boss swears up and down they’ll do everything absolutely right from now on, they’re going to backslide and any opportunity – and a single weakness in the boundary OP and their wife had set up will put them right back where they started on this mess.

    OP; follow Alison’s advice, but watch that boundary line carefully. Shut this apologies directly to your Wife down hard right now, and have a plan for how you will stop any future backslides before they reach this point.

    1. Tiger Snake*

      (More humorously, my instant want-to-be response – which is not appropriate when its your boss – was to say “Every time you contact my wife, I will add another 10 minutes onto how long I take before I answer your call”)

  64. Anna Stauffer*

    If someone repeatedly called or contacted me after my asking them to stop, why am I responsible for casting balm upon the waters they’ve troubled?

    If someone awoke me after a night shift calling or texting AGAIN after I asked them to stop, damn straight they’d get the rough side of my tongue. It’s a HUGE deal for shift workers to get sleep, and, depending on the work, can put people’s lives at risk if they’re not well-rested.

    If boss continues to contact wife after repeated instruction to not, HR should absolutely be brought in.

  65. Susan K*

    Ooh, I’m mad on your wife’s behalf. I also work a rotating shift schedule, which means I need to sleep during the day sometimes, and getting woken up by an unwanted call is infinitely worse than getting an unwanted call when you’re awake. It’s not just a waste of 30 seconds of your time to answer the phone — it could take an hour or more to get back to sleep. I leave my phone on when I’m sleeping because there are circumstances when I would legitimately want people to be able to reach me even when I’m sleeping, but not for something like this!

    Maybe this is stupid, but I wonder if you could offer the boss some other way to apologize. Maybe say that your wife is very busy and doesn’t have time to go out to dinner, but a hand-written note of apology would go a long way. He could write the note and get his closure on the situation — feel as though he has made amends and can move on (and stop texting your wife). Or, if he has some skill of value, maybe suggest that as an alternative to dinner (e.g., “We’re so busy that it’s hard to find the time to go out to dinner, but I know Jane would be thrilled to have a jar of your famous hand-churned llama butter/crocheted cat-hair scarf/beer cap mosaic.”)

  66. Nonyme*

    When I was 18/19, in the early 90s, I got a very early cell phone (the kind literally the size and weight of a brick) and gave it to my boss specifically so he wouldn’t call the home phone and bother my parents.

    Then I made the mistake of giving the boss my home phone # at some point or another, I forget why.

    And then the boss started calling me when the midnight person didn’t show up at this job (workplace was open 24/7) … usually around 2 AM … TWO AM … to come in and cover. Since I wasn’t on call and they weren’t willing to PAY me to be on call, and because I was a college kid who had classes every morning, I had no intention of showing up until my regular shift at 2 PM.

    I turned the cell phone off.

    You can see where this is going.

    Yup. Boss then started calling my PARENTS to ask THEM to ask ME if I would come in early … at TWO AM … SEVERAL TIMES A WEEK. He would call every few minutes, because they would answer the phone and I wouldn’t (and I could sleep through the house phone ringing) and eventually my infuriated parents would make me go to work just so he would stop calling and then they’d yell at me later to make him stop calling at 2 AM. Taking the phone off the hook was not an option, for reasons.

    And of course even when I told him DO NOT CALL MY HOUSE PHONE AT TWO AM he’d call it again the very next night because all he cared about was that he had someone show up so he could go home … he didn’t care how many peoples’ sleep he disrupted or how mad I was.

    I quit that job, partly because of that, and partly because the the grand-boss then shorted me on my hours repeatedly and deliberately for those mornings I DID go in early — because paying me overtime was also not in the budget and she kept saying she hadn’t authorized him to call me, even though he kept doing it and even though she’d see me at work in the morning when it clearly wasn’t my shift and when I’d be fretting about getting to class on time and not, like, tell me I wasn’t supposed to be there and send me home then. She also told me she couldn’t stop him from calling me at two AM because he “had a right to keep contacting employees until somebody comes in, but you could always just say no.”

    (After I quit I went to the labor board and got my overtime. I’d secretly made photocopies of my time cards and was angry enough to fight for the 50 hours @ $4.25 an hour that I’d been shorted … I also got an apology from the great-grand-boss and an invitation to return to work under whole new management, but I’d already accepted a job elsewhere.

  67. Laura*

    As someone who’s suffered with anxiety – I think it sounds like this boss has some anxiety issues which are making him react like this. He is of course being completely ridiculous and should just leave OP’s wife alone, but I think the most effective thing would be to make it super clear to him that it’s all fine, she doesn’t hate him, she understands that he didn’t mean to be a pain, etc etc. So he doesn’t feel this nagging need for reassurance and can move on from the situation.

    1. Elspeth*

      No. If boss does suffer from anxiety, it’s not on OPs wife to perform that emotional labor to calm him down. That’s on the boss to manage himself.

  68. Krystal*

    Does your wife’s mobile not just have the possibility to block numbers without paying, I can blacklist numbers on my android and they won’t come through.

    This seems like way overkill for saying sorry and your wife’s good for putting her foot down!

  69. at least you're already married so he can't crash your wedding*

    I *hate* your boss. I used to have your boss. Your boss IS NOT A GREAT GUY. Your boss might have mental problems that he refuses to get help for, but it doesn’t matter if he’s “on the spectrum” or quirky or just a JERK. There is SOMETHING going on in your boss’s brain that is making is go “hey! This woman is saying ‘stop contacting me,’ but KEEP CONTACTING HER ANYWAY.” It’s 2018, friends! If you don’t understand “no means no,” you are automatically disqualified from “great guy” status. Your wife set the boundaries, clearly and repeatedly, and he refuses to respect them. OP, if I were you I would physically delete my wife’s number from my boss’s phone myself to ensure this never happened again.

    My ex-boss literally crashed my wedding (YEARS after I’d stopped working for him) so he could corner me and ask me what my complaints about him as a boss were. Was I sitting there thinking “aw, poor guy, his untreated anxiety has made him so miserable, he doesn’t realize how inappropriate this is”? Uh, NO. I was thinking “man, what a selfish jerk. Can’t believe I’m putting up with this crap at my wedding and I wish I’d gone to HR when I had the chance.” You don’t get a free pass to treat everyone around you like garbage your whole life just because you refuse to go to therapy.

    1. Vicky Austin*

      I gasped when I read about your ex-boss crashing your wedding years after you no longer worked for him! That is just SO inappropriate, he makes LW’s boss look appropriate by comparison!

  70. LadyCop*

    “She cursed him out and told him to never call her again unless I’d died at the office.”

    This is literally something I would do. People react like you have three heads when you’re a woman who isn’t afraid to loudly call someone out on their bs…but it hasn’t slowed me down.

  71. Jahnudvipa das*

    WHile I understand the wife being annoyed, why is it necessary to curse him out? A simply stated “Please do not call this number again. I am not your employee. Thank you.” would suffice, and show a bit better taste. Depending on the boss, coarse language in such a situation could have repercussions for the employee.

    1. Temporarily Anon*

      While it may not be necessary, I think it’s understandable for someone to lack the filter to censor themselves when they’ve been jolted from sleep by a phone call from someone who has been given the message multiple times not to call. “Please do not call this number again” didn’t work, and it’s not the first time that boss called while wife was sleeping after her night shift (the letter said the cursing took place when “…he woke her up again,” which means this was not her first rude awakening based on him ignoring his employee telling him not to call that number.

  72. J*

    Oh jeez no do not say your wife wants you to go to hr. That’s 1. Going to be processed as a threat and 2. Is throwing wife under bus. You don’t have to pay to block anyone. You google how to block with your particular phone model. Then you do it. Then each time your boss brings it up say let’s move on, and change the subject. Make it impossible for him to keep going. He’s not taking no for an answer and that’s a power move, not an apology so recognize that. Also recognize that his calling your wife’s phone in the first place was a power move. Use that knowledge to set more firm boundaries in future and do not throw your wife under the bus please! He’s being a jerk trying to coerce your wife into a response. In the world of women that’s called harassment and maybe stalking? Pls see this guy’s refusal to ever accept a nonresponse for the bullying behavior it is.

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