updates: my boss talks to me like I’m a baby, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. My boss talks to me like I’m a baby (#2 at the link)

I thought I’d better provide an update because things took an interesting turn in the weeks after I published the letter. My company began a massive restructure, which caused some slight upheaval and fear that jobs would be lost, but luckily I was retained and (unluckily for me?) so was my boss. However, another manager was brought in to be my boss’ boss (let’s call her Sally) – just another layer of management between my boss and the CEO. I wasn’t sure about her at first- I find her a bit cold and not easy to warm to, but she shortly became my favourite person!

My boss’ comments about my height were still continuing, both just to me and in front of other people. I mentioned that usually they happened in context, e.g. I couldn’t reach something or I did something that exaggerated my short stature. Well, one day she said to me, totally out of context, in a meeting between her, Sally and a few others, “Did you get all that, Shorty McShort Face?” I, understandably, gasped- and so did Sally. She said to her, loudly and firmly “In this office, we do NOT make fun of people for their physical appearance!” My boss looked taken aback, and blushed. She was clearly embarrassed about being told off like a naughty child at school, and acted like one- rolling her eyes behind Sally’s back and whatnot.

The next day, Sally called me into her office, and handed me a written apology from my boss, apologising for the patronizing comments and promising to rectify her behaviour. it was great, but the fact that Sally gave it to me, and not my own boss made me feel uneasy and I sensed something weird. So I asked where my boss was. Sally just smiled and said that my boss had been reassigned to a different role, where those kind of comments are less inappropriate (the only place I can think of where those comments are appropriate are in a pre-school, as suggested by a commenter, but I don’t think she would’ve gone there!) I thanked Sally profusely and got on with my work, patronizing-comment-free. It’s a bit disappointing that I never had a chance to confront my boss about it myself and deal with it, but I’m relieved that I won’t have to hear the comments anymore and can just be treated like a normal person!

2. My office doesn’t give us computers — we have to use our own

Thank you for answering my question last year. Hearing you explain how crazy this situation was really helped me (especially as almost everyone around me seemed to think it was normal!).

The job just continued to get worse and worse. Very quickly, my lack of a work computer became a very small problem, the workplace was incredibly toxic and I spent the next few months being screamed at, treated like a child, and working hundreds if not thousands of unpaid overtime hours (also I still have unpaid expenses pending that will likely never be paid). Promises in regards to working remotely for the last few weeks of my contract were also rescinded at the very last moment, I refused to rearrange my personal schedule, and thus was terminated. Needless to say, I worked my butt off for such a bad ending, but with such a toxic workplace I now realize that was inevitable. Thankfully I have a former supervisor who is more than happy to give me a great reference that recognizes my hard work and that I truly was a great employee dealing with an awful scenario.

So in all honesty, the computer problem was not really a problem at the end of the day (talk about not seeing the bigger picture!). Thankfully my ex-employer was not smart enough to install any type of monitoring software/have any sort of policy there.

I have a great new job that I found after taking a month off to mentally heal from this toxic workplace. It is obviously not perfect, but a huge step up both in money and responsibility and I’m so thankful to have found it. It’s also a great example of the impact that good mentors, supervisors and bosses have – it’s amazing how much more you learn and develop as an employee when you’re not yelled at every day! I definitely have been working on not apologizing so much, nor being so fearful of authority, but baby steps. I hope everyone takes this as a daily reminder that industries that look glamorous from the outside rarely are so.

Thanks Alison! Still a daily reader/podcast listener/bought your book the week it came out!

3. I think my life coach is giving me bad advice

I’m the person who contact you about my life coach giving me bad advice back in August. Since then, things started to pick up and everything has changed for the better. Around two weeks after my letter was published, I started getting invitations for job interviews. I ended up having one interview a week for five weeks, all of which were out of state, and none of whom telepathically communicated their schedule with each other, so I did a lot of traveling.

I also learned a lot because the interviews were very different from each other. (One was six hours long, which included 4 hours of working on live copy, which was paid so I didn’t care and another one wasn’t looking for somebody with my skill set at the time, but that wasn’t made clear until I was at the actual interview.)

I apologize for burying the lede but here it is: I received job offers from my two top choices last week. I’ve already made my decision and signed a contract. I’m excited to say I’ll be starting as a reporter with a small weekly newspaper in Maryland in a few weeks. Everybody seems super nice and friendly.

I also mentioned in the comments that I applied to a program to teach English abroad in Japan. While I did get into the program, I will be deferring until March 2020. Reporting is what I really want to do and this position with a newspaper is really interesting. I figure 15ish months should be enough time to give me a good idea whether or not this position and job are the right fit for me and figure out whether I still want to teach then.

I did continue to see my life coach after I sent the letter only because the next round of sessions were already paid for. Because of the interview schedule, the sessions were very staggered and didn’t really help in any way. Considering the next project was to list everybody I knew (literally everybody) and how I knew them so I could find a way to keep in contact with them and network, I’m glad.

Everybody in the comments was super helpful and nice and a lot of the advice from your column was very helpful in my interview process. I wanted to send this as soon as I could since I know the next few weeks are going to be super busy looking at apartments, moving all my stuff several states away and adjusting to no longer living with my parents.

4. My rude coworker owes me money and won’t pay me back

I really appreciated the reality check as well as the moral support I got from you and the commenters. It is true that Jane sucks but I was glad to hear it from someone else as well – it’s incredible how people tiptoe around bullies sometimes.

Long story short, I got the money… but it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

So, after reading your advice, I waited til an opportune moment (when she was playing nice for a moment) and said to her, listen, I need to get back the money by this Friday, I have a bill that needs to be paid by then. She said she genuinely didn’t have the money, and I said “well, can’t you borrow from someone else?”

The next day, she says she asked our coworker Fergus (whom she is friendly with) for the money. But instead of asking him to give it to her, she said I should be following up with him from now on. Next thing I know, he comes over to my desk and says, “so how badly do you need the money, I don’t have it on me, but if you need it badly you can come with me to the parking lot, I have left my bag in the trunk of my car”. Talk about awkward. He made it sound like I was asking around the office for assistance. I was getting annoyed and told him, you don’t owe me money, Jane does, and I’m not going anywhere.

I was so fed up at this point that I just gave up. I sold some of my stuff and over the next few weeks straightened out my finances – I had some back wages owed (our overtime in one specific category gets paid out yearly, and it was a very nice sum this year) and I barely remembered the whole event when she came up to me a few weeks later and handed me the money without prompting.

So, a happy ending after all. Lesson learned. On a side note, our office mates have since joked that they now know who not to lend money to, so. And, I have put most of my money cushion in a separate account that I am not touching, just in case.

{ 99 comments… read them below }

  1. Jadelyn*

    Holy crap, OP#1 – A+ management from Sally! If we were running a Best Boss of the Year voting like we do for Worst Boss, my vote would be for her.

    1. TurquoiseCow*

      Seriously. I’m super impressed that she called that out right then and there; didn’t even wait until they were in private, just shot her down in front of everyone. Even if the other comments were meant affectionately, “Shorty McShortface?” In an office with your boss? Mean and unprofessional.

    2. Liane*

      “She was clearly embarrassed about being told off like a naughty child at school” for taunting like she was in preschool! Is this irony, karma, or both?
      One of the best updates so far.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I think somebody in the company is. Or at least aware, that “extra level of management” was created to ease out boss without disrupting the workflow of an otherwise functional department. OP isn’t the only target of boss’ immaturity.

        1. Triplestep*

          Yes, I think this is a great outcome, but I wonder what else contributed. Maybe others came forward to say they’d heard derogatory remarks in the past, or maybe there was much more going on that we just don’t know about.

          I love that Sally addressed the specific incident with the OP though! She didn’t just quietly dismiss the boss without addressing at least part of why she was gone.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yeah, I’m very curious if anything else was happening behind the scenes because that seems like unusually swift action if the new boss only heard the one remark versus knowing it was an ongoing problem. Or maybe the old buss dug her own grave in a confrontation with the new boss after the one incident?

    3. BRR*

      I was thinking the same thing about best boss of the year. I really needed this update of good management today.

    4. Kit-Kat*


      (And I get that it can feel disappointing not to confront someone yourself. I had a boss stand up for me once too when I was insulted in front of a group. I had initially said something but the person kept going and that’s when my boss put a stop to it. I was a little embarrassed — but also relieved because it was nice to know someone was on my side!)

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      The immediate intervention, followed by a written apology and transferring the bad boss… Sally deserves all the slow claps (and the fast ones, too).

    6. Kali*


      Like LW1, I’m really short. I’m also in a blue-collar, 95% male industry where everyone is in each other’s business and non-PC comments are the norm. And yet, your old boss’s comments *still* appalled me. My boss might laugh a little if I’m trying to reach something as he comes over to help me, but he’d never insult me or make me feel bad about it – it’s big-brotherly. This boss on the other hand just seemed to *want* to demean LW1 in that “oh, you know I’m just joking!” way that really has a current of cruelty running underneath it. It’s especially obvious because it was influencing how LW1 felt about the boss and working there, whereas a true joke wouldn’t create that negative feeling. Not cool.

      What is cool is Sally’s response and her refusal to allow that. If only all bosses were this tuned in!

      1. Kit-Kat*

        Agree! I’m short too and I have work friends I joke about this with, even some who are superiors. The difference is, I’m in on the joke. The funniest one lately had to do with the huge floor sweepers maintenance drives around our building. A group of us were walking somewhere when somebody riding one came up behind us and didn’t stop. Cue me running around trying not to get hit. After we were all safe we laughed about how the driver probably couldn’t even see me because those things are so tall. It was super absurd once it was over hahaha

        1. Kali*

          Exactly – there’s a big difference between joking together and being made fun of!

          And I have had the almost exact same thing happen to me with those sweepers! XD I think if they’re in use, everyone under 5’4″ gets issued a sparkly, light-up wizard hat that stands a couple feet tall or something.

          1. Theres someone walking down here!*

            I know a woman that was issued a different colored hardhat to make her stand out.

            Few construction sites have people under 5’, so it really could be an issue and shes management so not a regular fixture to be easily remembered either.

            She just got the 3rd company color woth the regular logo. Nothing “girly”

            But its never not funny when she gets asked why she has the unusual color. “Im really short and dont want to be squished!”

    7. kittymommy*

      Dang, Sally is freaking awesome! That was some pretty swift and comprehensive handling right there.

    8. Autumnheart*

      Sounds like OP’s boss has been reassigned to a radio monitoring station in the Arctic Circle, and was given just enough time to pack before being bundled onto a plane. Sally is awesome!

      1. Sara without an H*

        Personally, I’m betting on Antarctica. It’s the only place where the boss’s comments would be “less inappropriate,” and only because penguins don’t mind being called “Shorty.”

    9. Sara without an H*

      When I first read this, I had some doubts about the propriety of calling out Rude Boss in public. Then I reread the posting, saw that there were several other people in the meeting, and I changed my mind.

      There’s just no way Sally could have let that remark pass without giving the impression she condoned it. This is definitely one of the few situations in which a humiliating public smack-down is appropriate, necessary and, probably, quite satisfying to administer.

  2. Aleta*

    As someone who quit an otherwise pleasant delivery job because I just could not deal with “oh, company is doing child powered delivery now!” and other child labor “jokes” anymore, I’m glad #1’s boss felt consequences. Short jokes were old when I was still a child, much less now.

    (While my face looks young-ish, I’m from an ethnic group that tends to be very short, and I know gangly, short twelve year olds bigger than me, so those comments are usually motivated by my tiny stature.)

  3. Yeah Buddy*

    Ride Sally Ride!

    Fantabulous update for the OP whose supervisor made comments about her personal appearance!

  4. Detective Amy Santiago*

    These are all ultimately positive updates ! I am especially impressed with OP #4’s restraint in not punching Jane in the face. Why was Fergus willing to cover her debts? Did she explain to him what was really going on? Did you? I hope no one ever lends her money again.

    1. PB*

      Also, Fergus asking OP out to the parking lot so he could get the money out of the trunk of his car was weird!

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Does anyone else here think that Fergus believed he was lending OP the money, and was going to come back for it to OP later? And yes, I did want to punch Jane in the face when I got to that part.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Definitely. It sounds like Jane indicated OP needed money, not that Jane owed OP money. What a weird and icky scenario.

        2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          Yes! “Fergus, OP keeps asking me for money, but I don’t have it. Could you please lend it to her to get her off my back? Thanks so much.”
          Fergus to OP,: “so how badly do you need the money, I don’t have it on me, but if you need it badly you can come with me to the parking lot, I have left my bag in the trunk of my car”.
          OP: MIC DROP

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        It was really, really weird and my first read was “in exchange for a service”–but I now think that was just Fergus responding to “OP needs $200 NOW, she’s really desperate” and his wallet with the emergency cash stuck behind a museum membership card was in his gym bag in his car.

        1. Dweali*

          I was figuring either a “service” or busted kneecaps so you’re more generous than I am…or my imagination is running very wild today (probably both :-) )

        2. Oranges*

          I was thinking this also. I could see myself making Furgus’ comment because that’s how it would come out.

          Then I’d be confused about why the person was looking at me funny…

        3. JSPA*

          Yes, almost certainly. Borrower probably lied by omission: “OP really needs money and I don’t have it today. Do you happen to have a cash stash somewhere to tide her over?”

        1. Autumnheart*

          Maybe, but on the other hand, maybe Jane steals too, and that’s why his bag is in his car and not in the office.

        2. OP 4*

          Oh no, this part is actually completely innocuous.
          I’ve known this coworker for years and he didn’t mean anything by it. He was leaving and wouldn’t be returning into the office and didn’t have time to go back to the office to give me the money.
          The only bad part is feeling like I was the one asking for a favor.

      3. Airy*

        Yeah, that part… may just have been a man being clueless about what sounds suspicious or alarming to women, because they don’t spend their everyday lives vigilant for creeps and predators, but as a woman, yikes.

        1. JSPA*

          Not intrinsically scary to me at all, and I’m female. Someone asked unexpectedly for something may have to go get it. If they’ve been told that it’s super-pressing, they may offer to hand it off instantly, if you come along. Any awkwardness created by the problem borrower playing both for fools.

            1. OP 4*

              Not clueless in this case – we have been coworkers for years and he has given me rides a few times in the past.

  5. Micromanagered*

    OP1 What a great update. It’s so rewarding to work under leadership you can feel confidence in and feel supported. Wish we could be flies on the wall in the meeting of Sally and your boss. Immediate demotion over “Shorty McShort Face” alone seems a tad heavy-handed, so I can’t imagine it was the only issue. I bet your boss trying to walk back “Shorty McShort Face” with how ok it is because she does it every day was pretty priceless!

    1. LaurenB*

      Bet you Sally was brought in to replace the old manager and this gave them the impetus to just do it already.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      How SuckBoss handled it in the conversation with Sally may also be part of it. If SuckBoss was ‘it’s just a joke! OP1 needs to have a better sense of humor’, then demotion is pretty much the only good response.

      But also, insulting a woman (esp subordinate) over a physical trait that is more likely to be a female trait (shortness) is pretty risky – if it’s not addressed, OP1 could leverage that into a hostile workplace complaint. Might not be strong enough to win, but still a pain to deal with. Waaaaaay better to move the actual problem, SuckBoss.

    3. Engineer Girl*

      I’m not sure. Insulting a subordinate in front of a new boss (when you are trying to make a good impression) shows a level of cluelessness about professional boundaries. Most bullies bully in secret. The fact that she was this bold says a lot.

      I suspect that a lot of Sally’s apparent coldness was just professionalism (something OP was unused to). A pure professional wouldn’t put up with those kind of antics.

      1. Pomona Sprout*

        I can’t help wondering how much Sally might have already heard about in advance (since it sounds like Sucky McSuckface boss was tossing off those insults frequently and didn’t care who else saw/heard). I kind of like to think Sally may have been biding her time, giving that boss a chance to behave herself and preparing to act when/if she didn’t.

        Maybe…maybe not…but it pleases me to imagine such a scenario.

  6. Falling Diphthong*

    I worked my butt off for such a bad ending, but with such a toxic workplace I now realize that was inevitable.

    This is a wise insight. I think a lot of us–especially if we have goody two-shoe tendencies–get stuck in a loop where if we just TRY HARDER everyone/everything will stop being unreasonable and it will All Be Fine.

    1. Cercis*

      BTDT and at 45 I’m finally learning to say “that won’t be possible” and walk away if necessary. It’s hard, but I’m now self-employed and I can pick and choose more. I’d still like a regular job, but until I work out whatever it is in me that 1) attracts bullies and 2) feels the need to pacify them, leading to 3) feelings of inadequacy when I can’t (and I’m seeking therapy for this) it’s probably best for my career if I wait.

      1. Flash Bristow*

        Yep – identifying the issue is the first step to finding a solution! Congratulations on having such insight and self-awareness – and then following self-care in not getting sucked back into that environment.

        I wish you all the best success!

    2. OP #2*

      Thank you! You hit the nail on the head — sincere goodie two shoes tendencies where I just try harder to make all of the crazy go away :) thanks for the well wishes everyone!

  7. BadWolf*

    On OP4 — what a jerk move, to make some weird money lending triangle with Fergus. I’m glad you shot that down!

    1. CM*

      Yeah, really — sounds like a situation where someone normally might be flabbergasted and not know what to say in the moment, but OP#4 handled it perfectly. I’m guessing the same as others above — Jane probably told Fergus “OP#4 needs money” rather than asking to borrow the money directly from Fergus.

  8. Rainbow Roses*

    “Sally just smiled and said that my boss had been reassigned to a different role, where those kind of comments are less inappropriate ”

    I wonder where she was “reassigned?” I can’t think of anywhere in a company where that’s appropriate so I wonder what that smile was all about. Hopefully somewhere with no people around.

  9. HBucket*

    Fergus just added to the ridiculousness of this. Yes, don’t let money you can’t afford to never see again… I had to learn the hard way too.

  10. The Green Lawintern*

    Hi OP #3! As a former JET, I would suggest dropping the teaching position unless you plan on focusing on East Asian issues in your reporting, moving into a career related somehow to working in Japan, or going back to school. While working and living in Japan was a fun experience, it essentially put my life on pause for two years.

    1. The Green Lawintern*

      Edit: I just read your comments in your last post, please ignore everything I just said…

      1. OP #3*

        It’s okay! The teaching abroad thing was definitely more of a whim than anything else. Not my most well thought out idea.

        I was starting to realize that I wouldn’t have anything to do for several months if I decided to take the teaching job (and the idea of driving in Japan when I had only just gotten my license was scaring the crap out of me.

        I probably wouldn’t have pursued the opportunity if it weren’t for the life coach…So I’m not sure how I feel about that.

  11. Observer*

    #1 I really would not be surprised if you were not the only one who suffered from your boss. It’s obvious that Sally herself was clearly not going to stand for this kind of nonsense, but being able to transfer someone out so quickly says that this must have been in the works already.

    In any case, hurray for effective management!

    By the way, did Sally say “where this kind of comment would be less inappropriate” or “would be OK”? I’m curious, because the two are different.

    1. Carpe Librarium*

      Perhaps Sally got transferred to somewhere she has no managerial responsibilities and everyone in her new department is much taller than her.

      OP#1, you don’t happen to be in a field related to professional basketball, do you?

  12. Observer*

    #4 – Where do you work? If you’re in the US, it’s not legal to wait to pay you your overtime once a year. But, even if it’s legal where you work that’s not a good practice. It feels like a workplace where taking advantage of people is the norm.

    1. Shad*

      Maybe it’s different if the company’s overtime policy is more generous than the legal requirement, with that greater payout framed as a bonus? Eg, if the legal requirement is time and a half, employees end up getting double time, but the last half time is counted up and paid out as a year end bonus?
      But idk, IANAL.

  13. Flash Bristow*

    OP#1 that’s great news! Sally sounds great, I guess the initial coldness was getting to know a new team and not wanting to seem too matey with her reports.

    I wonder where your boss went…. maybe he oversees the office crèche, or she hired him as a babysitter? If ever there IS a time when writing lines as a punishment is appropriate, this is it!

  14. nnn*

    the next project was to list everybody I knew (literally everybody) and how I knew them so I could find a way to keep in contact with them and network

    I mean, facebook basically already does that for you…

  15. knitcrazybooknut*

    #4, this wasn’t about the money. It was about control. As long as she didn’t give you the money, she was pulling a power play on you. She was just messing with you and Fergus as well. As soon as you stopped caring, she did too.

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