my manager wants to be cc’d on all my emails, using sick days after years of perfect attendance, and more

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

1. Is it normal for a manager to want to be cc’d on all your emails?

I am a first-line supervisor at a 24/7/365 workplace. My boss is a relentless micromanager. This is annoying, but something that I can deal with because I truly love my job and she is very competent, overall. Today things came to a head. She usually arrives 4-5 hours after I do. I forgot to cc her on an urgent request that we got yesterday that I started working on immediately, before she arrived. Last night, she wrote me an email reminding me to cc her on everything. CCing her on every single thing seems a little overkill, but that’s fine, no problem. She also wrote in the email to slow down and wait for her to ring in on these kinds of things. If I receive a request at 7 am, I cannot wait until 10 or 11 to get her okay before working on it.

She’s incredibly defensive, so having a sane and rational conversation with her is not bound to go well. Basically, I need a reality check. Is it normal for a manager to want to weigh in on every single thing we do (it’s not personal, she is this way with all of my colleagues as well), even if it’s time-sensitive and she isn’t here? Before her, my other manager was also a micromanager, but he was literally available 24-7 (I don’t think he slept, ever!), so it wasn’t really a big deal. The decisions we are making when she isn’t here are not unreasonable, as we all have more experience than her. I would rather that she trust us to handle things, and then if we did not handle things the way she would have, to discuss it with us afterwards so that we have the tools to do things to her specifications for the next incident. I’m a very motivated employee overall, but this is so de-motivating! What do you think?

No, it’s not normal to need to cc your manager on every single email you send. A good manager would train you and give you enough guidance that she’d trust you to send emails on your own, and if she found that you weren’t sending competent emails, that would be a sign that either she hadn’t trained you well enough or you weren’t right for the job. It’s not a reasonable solution to settle on “just cc me on everything forever.” (And I can’t imagine how she can do her own job if she has to read all of your emails too.)

The same is true for oversight in general, aside from emails. You train people well enough that you trust them to carry out their work without constant supervision, and if you find that’s not working, you take it as a flag that they either need more training/guidance or there’s a performance issue you need to address.

That doesn’t mean that managers should be totally hands-off and never check in or watch work playing out, so I don’t entirely agree with your “just trust us to handle things and then talk about it afterwards if it goes wrong” proposition. Sometimes things are high enough stakes that that’s not realistic. What managers should do is work more closely with you when something is new or high-importance and spot-check the rest, and actually manage (agreeing up-front on outcomes, checking in along the way, asking probing questions to gauge progress/spot problems, giving feedback, debriefing work afterwards). Doing the work of managing takes away the need to micromanage; that’s the whole point. Your manager sounds like she’s not managing you, just controlling you.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. How can I start using sick days when I haven’t taken one in years?

I’ve been at my current job for six years. In this time I’ve not called in sick, ever. There have been a few instances, less than five total, where I’ve left in the middle of the day due to a migraine or worsening illness. I’m not one to get sick often, and when I do come down with something contagious I have the ability to work from home.

I’m afraid that I’ve created an expectation that I no longer want to live up to. I’d like to feel okay about taking a sick day here and there to actually rest up when I’m under the weather instead of working from my couch.

My company has a generous paid time off policy, combining sick and personal time. While I do take plenty of pre-scheduled vacation, I still have over 100 hours stored up that I could use. My manager was a physician previously, is a bit judgmental about what people classify as “sick,” and never takes a sick day herself. Also, due to the relaxed nature of our office and her medical training, she is used to knowing the general health details of our team. It would come across very strange to her if I just said “I am sick today” without providing any context.

How to I transition out of my perfect attendance record, and into a more healthy balance of taking the occasional day off — guilt free — when I’m not well?

I think you … just start doing it. It’s unlikely that there’s a way to make her suddenly not judgmental … or at least it’s going to be easier for you to decide not to care if she feels a little judgy. And the way to do that is for you to really internalize that it’s completely normal to take occasional days off. In fact, it’s better than “normal”; it’s actively good for you. It’s good for your employer too, because it will relieve stress and help you stay at your job long-term rather than burning out at some point.

If your boss pressures you to provide details of your illness and you don’t feel like expending the energy and capital to push back on that, you are entitled to use a cover story (provided that you’re only doing this occasionally and not, say, monthly). Someone who abuses their power and violates boundaries forfeits any right to expect complete transparency. But if you did want to take it on, you could say something like, “I’d actually prefer not to get into the details.” Or, if you want to have a bigger picture conversation with her: “In the past I’ve sometimes felt pressure to share medical details with you, but most of the time I’d prefer to keep my medical information private. And we should probably be careful that people don’t feel pressured to share info that they might have a legal right to keep private.”

Also, it’s okay to just say “I’m sick today” and let it be weird. In fact, the only way to get it to stop being weird is to just say it and let her stew.

3. Do I have to invite coworkers to my wedding if they’re throwing a shower for me?

I’m getting married and our reception is going to be in June. It will be small, mainly close family and friends, but I planned on inviting the three people on my work team, but only them. No other coworkers are going to get an invitation.

Recently, however, I’m getting vibes from my supervisor where I feel as if there is something going on behind the scenes that I’m not aware of, but involves me. It’s a long story but the feeling is that the Powers that Be at my job are looking for any reason to not renew my contract in the spring. As far as I know, my performance is satisfactory, but I am getting chastised by my supervisor for minor mistakes that are first time offenses and she is using language that seems to indicate that I had better not slip up again.

However, despite this, my supervisor and two team members are excited for the wedding and have even already scheduled a brunch for me in April for the four of us to celebrate.

But, since I’m feeling iffy about the behind the scenes stuff, is it in poor taste for me to not invite any of them? If what I’m feeling is true, I think it would be awkward to have them there once I’ve moved on. But, I’ve read that etiquette is that if someone throws you (or attends) a shower, you’re supposed to invite them to be polite? Does that apply to coworkers, too? The reason I’ve determined to not invite all of them is because I don’t want to just not invite my supervisor and word get back to her that my two coworkers got invites. Should I just say, if they ask, that it was just family and very close friends?

Yep. You’re right that normally you shouldn’t invite anyone to a shower who isn’t invited to the wedding, but there’s an exception for showers thrown at work. The rationale is that you might have a ton of coworkers show up for the shower and you’re not expected to invite all of them to the wedding. Work plays by different rules in this regard.

So you can indeed skip the invites. I can’t tell from your letter, though, whether you’ve already given them the idea they’ll be invited. If you have, I’d proactively explain (rather than waiting to be asked) that you’ve decided to keep it small and are just inviting family and very close friends.

4. I can’t do one work task well, but it doesn’t come up much

What should you do when you’re struggling with an embarrassingly basic function of your job— but you only do it once in a while anyways?

I’m a 17-year-old girl, and I’ve been in a retail job I love for a year and a half. As my skills improve, I’m finding that I’ll occasionally finish my nighttime closing tasks before we’re ready to leave. In retail, there’s always something somewhere that needs to be done, and on the nights I finish early I’ll ask my managers what I should do and they assign me something.

One of those nightly jobs I sometimes get left with (maybe once every three or four weeks) is sweeping the whole shop floor. The problem is, I can’t sweep large spaces like that — I can sweep out the bathrooms or the dressing rooms with a small broom, but I have some issues with motor control and spatial reasoning that mean it’s very, very difficult for me to do the whole floor with the large push broom. I’ve tried to do it a couple times, but it takes me a very long time and I miss significant parts so someone else has to step in and fix the rest.

What should I do? Given it’s such an infrequent thing, it doesn’t seem like a situation for the kind of big picture conversation I’d have if sweeping was a more essential task for my position. But if I refuse to do it or try to shirk it whenever it comes up, I look like I just don’t want to for no good reason. What’s your advice for handling this?

Talk to your boss and say this: “I have some issues with motor control that mean it’s very difficult for me to sweep the whole floor with the large push broom. I’ve tried to do it a couple times, but it takes me a very long time and I’ve noticed someone has to step in and finish it afterwards. I’m happy to sweep out smaller spaces like the bathrooms or dressing rooms, but I wonder if someone else can do the shop floor.” If your sense is that your boss is the type to think you’re just trying to get out of work (a not uncommon type of boss in retail), you could add, “I think you know I’m always happy to pitch in wherever I’m needed and I’m glad do something else to make up for it. This is just about a physical issue.”

A reasonable manager will be glad you explained the situation and will be willing to accommodate you. An unreasonable manager may not be — but you’ll have raised it in a professional and reasonable way.

5. Who am I to expect references from people?

I’m a college sophomore, and I’m terrified of asking my professors and past employers to be references. It feels so rude and presumptuous — I’m telling them to take time out of their lives, just to say nice things about me? Who gave me the right? I really, really don’t want to be an inconvenience, and my dumb brain blows the whole thing out of proportion. It’s internship application season, and I’m nearing the point of missing deadlines because I don’t want to annoy people.

How am I supposed to ask for references? Is it supposed to be this terrifying? Will it get easier once I’ve had a real job?

The answer to “who gave you the right?” is “the entire system of employment and its customs and norms.”

It’s really, really normal for professors and managers to give references. It’s just part of the job. They expect to do it, they don’t find it an imposition (many of us actually like it, because we like the opportunity to help good employees!), and any decent professor or manager would be horrified to find out that you’re nearly missing deadlines because you’re so worried about asking them. In fact, if you want to work with the shame and guilt your brain is producing here, tell yourself that your managers and professors would be annoyed with you for (a) worrying about bothering them for something so routine and (b) waiting until the last minute, when they’ll have less time to do it. (But ideally you’d get rid of the shame and guilt altogether because they’re entirely misplaced here.)

And yes, this should get easier once you’ve done it a few times, because you’ll see how utterly normal and routine it is, and that’ll (hopefully) reinforce itself in your brain each time you do it.

{ 371 comments… read them below }

  1. Ye old*

    OP1 – hilariously, my boss, who has gotten 20 + people reporting to him and asked to be CCed in everything recently asked us to be more selective on CCing because he couldn’t cope with his emails anymore
    The monkey paw definitely curled one finger on his request, the poor fellow.

    1. Essie*

      I just don’t understand bosses who do this.

      I cc my manager if she needs to be in the conversation or sometimes to signal her agreement with something. If I had to cc her on everything it would remove the ability to bring her in in a meaningful way.

      1. sacados*

        I get it in certain circumstances, but not the kind of role it seems OP has. I am technically CC-ed on all (most) correspondence from the people I manage. But this is because my industry is very project based, so we have a mailing list that contains all of the production management team assigned to the project. And that mailing list is supposed to be CC-ed on all project related emails.
        So even though I am in charge of the overall project and overseeing the work of the coordinators who handle specific areas of project production, both I and my boss get CC-ed on all the correspondence they send/receive.
        It does mean a fairly large number of emails, but there is a clear understanding that this is mainly for information sharing purposes. As a manager, I want to make sure that I glance at each of those email threads but for the most part it consists of just confirming the issue is going smoothly and/or not something that I need to worry about, and then flagging any items that I do actually need to take action or follow up on.
        And the coordinators I manage are certainly not waiting for me to weight in on every little thing.

        But this sort of workflow is something fairly specific to my industry and not something that seems to apply to OP.

        1. Jasnah*

          I agree that in some cases, CCing your manager on most/all emails/all emails regarding X can be useful if you want to keep them in the loop on something. If you have a micromanager it can sting your pride but it’s not more work to CC anyone.

          What I find very odd is the manager wants OP to wait for her to weigh in on every single issue. In effect the manager would be handling everything herself and there’s no need for OP in all. If the manager’s ideal is for emails to come in, manager gives her opinion, and that’s what is sent out, what is OP’s role (besides email scribe)?

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            In effect the manager would be handling everything herself and there’s no need for OP in all. If the manager’s ideal is for emails to come in, manager gives her opinion, and that’s what is sent out, what is OP’s role (besides email scribe)?

            This is what I was thinking.

          2. OP 1*

            This is a really great point! She has several first line supervisors that she manages (I’m one of them)- and we all have made this point in the past- basically, “why are we here if she wants to do everything?”

            It’s actually led us all to just do less over email… not to undermine her purposely, but for efficiency. She takes a truly incredible amount of leave (it wouldn’t be a huge exaggeration to say that she has never worked a full week.. I’m sure she has.. but I can’t remember one) and rarely checks emails from home, so we cannot wait 3+ days for an “OK” from her. So, at this point, whenever possible, I just pick up the phone/ walk upstairs to do my job rather than use email. It feels really shady, but it’s the only way to get anything done efficiently. When she returns to the office I’ll then fill her in with what happened in person. The other supervisors have resorted to not filling her in at all, which I don’t think is fair, because as our director she does need to know what’s going on.

            I just read this over and it sounds like we all hate her and are conspiring against her (ugh, I hate that), but we all actually like and respect her a great deal, we just see no other way to get our job done. Any ideas would be appreciated!

            1. Jen*

              Wow. At least my micromanaging boss was a hardcore workaholic so she did respond to things pretty quickly.

              My boss also thought people were always trying to undermine her or go around her and that was just incredibly frustrating. I think she was ultimately very insecure and it came from a very sad place. But I got so burned out so quickly that I fled. I am in no hurry to get back into management.

            2. EPLawyer*

              Why do you like her and respect her a great deal? According to you, she is a micromanager (which is not a good thing for a manager to be), she takes a great deal of leave (leaving you without any direction) and you have all banded together to work around her obstruction because you can’t wait for her okay on every little email. These are not signs of a good manager.

              So what makes her so wonderful?

              1. OP 1*

                Good point. I’m starting to think that I am just convincing myself that I like her because I am desperately trying to make strides in my organization regarding morale, decreasing organizational anxiety.. etc. She is very intelligent, and when she isn’t being insane she has some really good ideas. I also enjoy talking to her casually – we’ve even gone out for a beer once or twice and had a great time- but I realize that none of this makes her a good manager.

                I’m officially amending the record to state that I like her as a person but she is a pretty terrible manager. :)

                1. Quackeen*

                  I’ve had managers like that. It’s really hard when you like someone as a person but they’re not a good manager. It’s probably better than having an effective manager who is a garbage person, but not by much.

                  I’ve frequently said of my previous manager, “I’d love him as a next-door neighbor, but he was terrible to work for.”

                2. The Other Dawn*

                  “I like her as a person but she is a pretty terrible manager.”

                  This is exactly how I feel about a former manager of mine and it’s valid. My manager was a complete micromanager, could be really condescending to people (not me for some reason), was always “on” (not a bad thing, but really annoying when you add the other items I mentioned) and was very Type A and could be pretty rigid. I absolutely couldn’t stand working for her, but I liked her as a person. She was a great source of information, very smart, and easy to talk to (when one could get a word in edgewise). I recently spoke to her to get some professional advice and it was a nice phone call. But yeah, I’d absolutely never ever work for her again.

                3. teclatrans*

                  I do not manage because I am pretty sure this would be me (liked as a person, great ideas and knowledgeable, bad at managing). Is this …whats that called, the Peter Principle (?) at work? Did she do such a good job in a technical role and get promoted to management where she is floundering?

                4. media monkey*

                  yep, i’ve had more than one of those! the problem is that you end up cutting them some slack and “understanding”/ excusing their crappy behaviour because you like them socially.

              2. Solidus Pilcrow*

                “What makes her so wonderful?”

                I call this the WonderBut phenomenon. As in, “This person is so wonderful, but… they’re a horrible micromanager, they ask favors but never do anything in return, they clean out my candy dish, they lie about me to our boss, they take credit for my work, they say they’re going to show up and never do…”

            3. Alfonzo Mango*

              What happens when you let things sit and wait for her? Or, have you told her ‘By waiting on your response for each step, we are wasting valuable time to complete the job’?

            4. MassMatt*

              It doesn’t sound as though you hate her and are conspiring against her. It sounds as though you are having to work around her to get work done. This is dysfunctional.

              I return to my point about how working for someone like this can warp your ideas of what is normal. There’s an old cliche about how a frog won’t notice it’s being boiled if the temperature in the pot is turned up gradually. Well, sadly, you are the frog in this story.

              I recommend reading The Missing Stair, referenced often at another advice site, Captain Awkward. (Ordinarily I wouldn’t mention another advice site but Alison has mentioned her frequently). See how much of it resonates for you.

            5. Artemesia*

              I’d be inclined to escalate it to her boss if you have a mission critical task and can’t get in touch or approval for 3 days. ‘The Fergus account is expecting the project to be completed on Friday but I can’t proceed without Lazybones approval and have not been able to contact her this week. How should I proceed.’ Every time the director is not available and work needs done, contact the director’s boss for instructions.

              I don’t care how ‘nice’ this non managing manager is, she is incompetent and ought to be fired. You can be scarce and empower your staff to get it done or you can micromanage and be available — you can’t micromanage and not be available and her boss needs to know just how unavailable she is for critical decisions (that she has made critical).

            6. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

              I would really encourage that you talk to her, even if you feel she will take it personally.

              Could you perhaps frame the conversation to be what process she wants you to follow when she’s not available and an issue is time sensitive? And to be honest, if she still demands that you wait, I’d probably escalate this to your grand boss. Because if a situation is time sensitive your boss really only has three choices. The first is to either let you manage it yourself, the second is to be available 24/7, and the last is to be available during the majority of business hours and when she’s not available to have a designated person to manage in her stead when she’s not available.

              1. OP 1*

                A few of us have tried to talk to her and it ended… poorly to say the least. But I am going to try again, thanks to all of you wonderful commenters! One time when I tried to talk to her about how my staff were feeling (demoralized, anxious, etc), she got angry and said “I don’t care how anybody feels about anything.” But then a week later she confided in me that another supervisor annoyed her by taking too hard a line on something and cited the persons feelings. It’s basically constant whiplash around here.

                Grandboss isn’t an option- he’s located more than 50 miles away and we are one teeny tiny speck on his radar. He also has made it incredibly clear that he is 100% against going outside of the chain of command.

                Thank you everyone for all of your ideas! I am truly taking them all to heart and I appreciate the support so much!

                1. BuildMeUp*

                  Have you tried having the conversation purely in terms of work impact? If she says she doesn’t care how anyone feels, would it work to give her just the facts about how waiting for her okay would negatively affect a project? If you can give her a rundown of how much longer a project would take if you waited for her response, especially if there are potential missed deadlines, that might have an impact.

                2. Gazebo Slayer*

                  “I don’t care how anybody feels about anything!”

                  Wow. I’m surprised you like her as a person!

                3. Jasnah*

                  OP, this issue goes way beyond just CCing on emails! You have to work entirely around your boss in order to get anything done, and she’s never there to do it!

                  I think you definitely need to bring this to her as, “It’s not possible for tasks to wait until you do them” and ask specifically what she wants you to do when you have a time-sensitive task and she isn’t there. If she doesn’t give you a solution I would show her exactly how this will impact the business (orders delayed, clients lost) and then start letting stuff get backed up. “I’m afraid your order is still awaiting approval”…

                  If she doesn’t care that she is sabotaging the business, then honestly you have no choice but to suffer or get out.

            7. Michaela Westen*

              It sounds like the manager has unrealistic expectations of herself. My boss and I are also working with someone like that.
              OP’s manager apparently doesn’t understand that when her staff has to wait for her input, the work won’t get done – the product won’t get out the door – the customers won’t receive it – the customers won’t pay for it – there will be no revenue – the company will close.

              Maybe there’s a chance that someone could make her understand this.

              If not, the options are to work around her – which OP and her colleagues are doing – or let her fail. OP, what would happen if you all stopped and waited for her input as she requested?
              If you decide to do that, you might want to loop in your grandboss so s/he’s prepared to deal with the situation.

              1. Ann Nonymous*

                That’s what I would do – I wouldn’t do anything until I got the explicit Go from boss per her request. If it didn’t get done or done in the time frame, then that’s on her.

            8. That Girl From Quinn's House*

              I’m glad my former Sociopath Boss found a new job after she got fired from where I was working. This sounds exactly like her. Wanted to be CC’d on everyone’s emails, worked off hours, frequently absent, constantly meddling (including via the security cameras) so no one could get anything done without consulting her. Once you did consult her, she’d email a curt “Thank you,” and not sign off on her part, so literally nothing got done.

            9. NotAnotherManager!*

              I think your micromanaging boss used to run a department at OldJob. NOTHING got done without the department head’s specific approval. When they finally got rid of them, the new department head had to basically do deprogramming and reassure career professionals that she did not actually need to have any input into the day-to-day minutia that the former one lived for (and bottlenecked). I understand one of the long-term staff ended up in tears after being told they were smart, efficient, and perfectly capable of handling their own team’s work and supervision for the first time in a decade. (Because Micromanager was also Microcriticizer – the reason they had to handle everything was everyone else was clearly stupid and would have taken notes with a green pen had they not insisted on blue. Hyperbole, but not by much.)

          3. Super dee duper anon*

            I had this manager. I swear, it felt like she wanted to wear my skin. Or like she wanted to crawl inside my brain and operate me like I was one of those battle suits in Avatar. It was so incredibly demoralizing – and I had that exact thought – what’s the point of me being here if you don’t want me to do literally anything without you?

        2. kitryan*

          Yeah, I work on a team of two, with two supervisors, that handles a certain type of issue – like processing new orders. So we both get all the emails sent to the relevant email groups and our supervisors sometimes get them too, depending on the type of order. Sometimes people don’t use the group and send questions to just one of us, which messes up workflow, so we’re in the habit of ccing each other about 90% of the time when it’s not happening automatically.
          If it’s something like that, then it makes sense. Also, if the attendance was flipped – like the OP was the out a lot person or was a part timer and the supervisor would have to answer status questions on their work, it could be a sensible approach. But as described, it seems a bit much. Especially to wait for her every time. The reason both of the members of my team are on all the emails is so either of us can act immediately.

      2. Sloan Kittering*

        My boss insists that we cc an department-wide email on everything we send, and I *hate* it. It means I strip my emails of warmth and any personal messages – I’m also unlikely to apologize, since my literal boss sees everything. I know the people we’re communicating with hate it, because they have no idea who they’re talking to (or how many other people are seeing their message). They always want to email me directly with their question, not cc this unknown list-serv email that goes to the whole org. Technically, I’m supposed to cc the group email on my response, but I never do that because it feels disrespectful. The reason for all this is that we had hellacious staff turnover (surprise! other dysfunction!) and a lot of things were lost in the multiple handoffs. However, this is a really dumb solution for that if you ask me.

      3. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

        I think some managers are unrealistic about the amount of email that they will receive.

        My boss decided a few years ago that everyone in our department needed to cc each other into every single email we sent out (internal email, not external email) to help “improve our communication”. It lasted perhaps 3 weeks, until my boss realized that everyone receiving 500+ internal emails a day make our communication worse, as we included on emails that weren’t relevant, and then we were missing critical information in emails that were pertinent to us. It was a pretty big disaster.

        There are some managers who are control freaks. But, unless they have endless hours in the day and energy, or they only have one or two reports, eventually even they give up. Because the amount of communication can become overwhelming and completely counterproductive.

      4. Kitty*

        This came up recently at my work- we talked about creating procedures about when managers should be cc’ed on emails. I think it should be common sense as you describe above and I don’t know if a policy will help those who can’t figure out what is appropriate and what is not. But hopefully formalizing it and training will help.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      I had a boss like this and he really impaired our work flow. He was always undoing things everyone else had agreed on just to show he was giving inputs.
      Fortunately he started to get bombarded by sheer volume.

      But OP, your boss is a terrrible manager. You’re supposed to delegate and train up. Micromanaging does neither of those things.

        1. Claire*

          Don’t get your hopes up too high — I had a carbon copy of your terrible manager, she never got tired of being CC’d; she just simply stopped reading any of her email past page 1 and accumulated over 30,000 messages by the time I finally had to quit this past May…some red flags don’t settle themselves, unfortunately. Best of luck.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            Yes, my boss just … doesn’t really read them all. But she always knows she CAN read them, and she often spot-checks, which is just as annoying. But she’s had this system for years, I doubt she’s going to get worn down.

        2. DogTrainer*

          Yeah. When my previous boss asked to be cc’d on everything, I thought, “Ok. You want it? You got it,” in the hopes that she would finally ask it to stop. She never did.

      1. irene adler*

        “Impaired our work flow”

        I’m surprised no one realized the loss in productivity all this micromanaging caused (translation: lost dollars!).
        Someone higher up had to realize things were not getting done in a timely manner because of hold-ups by managers wanting to address things themselves that their reports could do equally well.
        Maybe because I work at a small company that we are keenly aware if someone is holding things up.

        1. Artemesia*

          they won’t know WHY unless the people managed by this twit go over her head every time she isn’t available to sign off on something time sensitive. It isn’t the boss’s problem now. Let it be.

    3. Thornus67*

      I worked for a partner at a very small law firm who did this. She required that all e-mails be CC’d to her. She set it up so that all incoming e-mails to the associates and support staff were forwarded to her account too. Then she required to be given every letter correspondence, phone memo, fax, etc be given to her first for review before they were sent out (or filed away), including stuff such as simple service of court filings letters. Oh and she also required to review all research memos and drafts of legal documents (including for cases which the other partner was supervising).

      She then complained at least once a week that we were giving her too many documents, and that she never had time to do any of her own work because all of her time was spent reviewing the work of three associates and three support staff.

      I wonder why…

      1. Cat wrangler*

        I feel stressed just reading that. Why create all that work for yourself, ‘triaging’ the work output – and what did it achieve?

        1. Thornus67*


          I can understand reviewing important letters, e-mails, and court filings since it was her business. But basic service letters, Notices of Appearance, etc? No clue.

          She then also demanded weekly one on one meetings to review the status of every case, which honestly would’ve been fine if she didn’t micromanage throughout the week.

      2. Tammy*

        I worked as a paralegal for a while, and the lawyer I worked for was fabulous. (We’re still friends). Once over coffee, I told her, “I appreciate that you don’t micromanage me, and you know, I’m always very acutely conscious of the fact that it’s not my law license that’s on the line if I screw up.” She just smiled at me and said “that consciousness is my warmest comfort.” Even in a field like law, micromanaging your people is an unnecessary waste of effort, and it boggles me why people do this. If you don’t trust the people working for you to do their jobs, why did you hire them?

    4. MassMatt*

      Demanding to be cc’d on every email is nuts. Who could possibly have the time to get any work done reading or even skimming all the emails from even a few people?

      Add to this demand her defensiveness and request that you slow down and wait for her to chime in on time-sensitive issues and, well, clearly she is deeply insecure.

      I doubt she can be effective at her job, if the organization is functional this will become apparent sooner rather than later and she will be fired. But that might take years. If the organization is dysfunctional then she might stay indefinitely, or even be promoted. I would recommend trying to move on if possible. This is not normal, and the longer you stay the more danger there is that your perceptions get warped into thinking it is. Good luck!

      1. Jen*

        My boss often cced me on everything and just inbox cleaning because a chore. It was helpful later because I saved everything in a data file and when my old boss ended up being out for a while, my successor was able to get records of things from me. But at the time it was overwhelming.

      2. OP 1*

        Thanks! We actually work for a government agency.. so while it’s certainly not impossible to get fired, it’s rather tricky. Also, we work in a satellite office about 50 miles from our HQ- so her bosses have very little interaction with her and essentially zero interaction with us. I’m sure they think she’s delightful, because she is! She is just slowly driving everyone insane.

        Our division is extremely dysfunctional. She didn’t cause the dysfunction but her micromanaging is definitely adding anxiety to an already extremely anxious/dysfunctional organization. I truly love my job and I love my staff, so my plan is to stick it out as long as I can – I love the organization and our mission and I have made some strides in decreasing some of the anxiety/dysfunction.. sometimes it just feels like one step forward, two steps back!

        1. Blue Eagle*

          What if you sent her the e-mail and mentioned your proposed plan of action and timetable. Maybe something like, “I’ll start working on this at 7am and plan to _______________.” And if appropriate add “unless I hear from you that you want something different”.

          Maybe do this on every single e-mail so that she understands the volume of what needs to be done and that you are on top of it. Hopefully like other commenters have said, she will be overwhelmed with the e-mails but will also know that you and your co-workers are on top of it.

          1. OP 1*

            Great idea! I am going to try this! It’s not always feasible because sometimes we get extremely urgent requests from other agencies. Urgent as in, sometimes, no matter how fast we get it done, it’s too late (this isn’t anyone’s fault, it’s the nature of the work). For other things though, I definitely have time to send this type of email. Thanks!

            1. CandyCorn*

              Why are you working so hard to cover for her ridiculousness? Let her hang herself on her own stupid policies. I’m a firm believer in not twisting myself in knots over bullshit that’s above my pay grade.

              1. PlainJane*

                This. She told you to wait till she weighs in, so do that. When other agencies complain that something bad happened because they didn’t get a response, and you get in trouble, produce her instructions.

        2. CR*

          Maybe I’m petty but in your case I think you need some malicious compliance. If you get a request at 7am, you write back and CC your manager explaining that you have received the request and you’re waiting for your manager’s approval as she requested before beginning to work on it. If something is late getting done, it’s documented that it’s your manager’s fault. If higher ups get concerned, you explain your boss’ policy of CCing her and waiting for her approval.

        3. MassMatt*

          I recommend you get out ASAP. Your boss has found a perfect niche for her dysfunction within a dysfunctional org. Why and how would she ever change?

          I get loving your mission and your staff but can’t imagine how this can be workable in the long or even medium term. How can your mission be served when a time sensitive request at a 24/7 agency comes in at 7am, and your boss says slow down, don’t respond until I “ring in”, which might be hours later? In that kind of environment speed and rapid response are essential.

      3. media monkey*

        this is insane. i have a team of 6 on one account and a split team of 2.5 on another and i would never expect to be cced on even most emails! my team(s) know they can let me know if there is a problem or worry they have and i will help them deal with it, whether that is to help/ advise/ coach them in writing an email or having a call (i don’t speak all the languages my team/ clients speak so not included on all calls) or to take over the conversation for them, depending on the issue. i expect them to tell me about problems or big things that might get escalated to me but i don’t need to know the minute details of everything they do for 40 hours a week!

        1. OP 1*

          You sound like a great manager! I am trying very hard not to react to my being micromanaged by being too hands off with my own staff. I am so afraid of micromanaging that I am worried that I’m not giving them enough direction (going too far in the other direction, basically). This blog has been insanely helpful in that regard, though.

          1. media monkey*

            thank you! you will work out the level of involvement that works for you, your team and the type of work you do. it also depends on the experience and personality of the team members. As my team isn’t too huge, i can tailor my approach to each person according to how much help and reassurance they need. helps that they are (mostly!) fab as well! i think being very calm and approachable helps so that people aren’t scared to just run things by you in case they get their heads bitten off!

        2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          I’m actively trying to get off of the CC line on a lot of emails.

          For some reason everyone and their brother thinks that I want to be on everything. I swear I am very selective on what I ask to be CC’d on. Only things that my staff has told me they are hitting roadblocks on and they need help to get past, things that are being sent to Director or above so if it comes back to me or I have to escalate it I can, or things that we are truly working on together (project type work). Really that’s it. I have enough of my own damn email to contend with, I really don’t want anyone else’s.

          I did have to train my team out of copying me on everything because their former manager (who was a wingnut) was a micro-manager and demanded to be copied on everything. In her case it was incompetence and the need to control what she was able to in order to appear that she was good at her job (Spoiler: She wasn’t good at her job).

          I’ve used her as an example before, but she was the same woman who insisted people leave notes with times and destinations when they left their desk. I had to ask one day when I had just taken over the team why everyone had post its on their desk with “Bathroom: 7:55am” and similar written on them. When I found out I shook my head and told them they were adults and I trusted them to use their time appropriately.

          So umm yeah, I don’t know what advice to give the OP except put up with it for as long as you want to/can and see if you can outlast her or find another group/org to work in.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I had two managers in a row who emphatically wanted to be cc’d on everything. I also had a long stretch of temping, where I was often asked to keep someone cc’d on emails just to give the returning person full project history. Many years and several managers later, I still have to consciously remind myself not to fall back into the habit.

      1. NYWeasel*

        I just don’t get it! I pass on projects to my team with a message “Please follow up directly with Fergus”, and it makes me nutty when they keep me on the discussion chain after that. I don’t have time to wade through 40 emails talking about spout color choices to find emails I’m supposed to respond to!

    6. chersy*

      I had two bosses who both requested to be CCed in all my emails out.

      The first one, I understood, because the nature of our job needed approvals from higher levels, so if the approval for something needed to come from Big Boss or the Grandboss, and they would ignore an email from lowly underling me, I could ask Boss to reply to all for follow up on my request. That was the only reason we would CC her.

      Second boss, on the other hand, wanted me to CC her in every email because… she didn’t trust me to make decisions or reply correctly. *shrugs* She would even reply on my behalf if the email was directed to me and she was pretty much a micromanager. I have no idea how she got all her work done, as it seemed her only job was to reply to all the emails of our team.

      1. OP 1*

        I am reading through all of these comments completely shocked at how common this is. I thought we were the only ones!
        I’m sorry that everyone has had to deal with this, but it does make me feel a bit better (misery loves company?)

    7. Turquoisecow*

      I copy my boss on I think about 90% of the emails I send right now, but that’s because we work pretty closely on this project together and I’m his only report. He probably ignores 90% of the emails I copy him on, but occasionally I get pushback that only he can really respond to and that saves the issue of me having to then forward it to him and ask for help.

      We basically are the only two people working in a requesting system where I normally take the requests and forward them to approvers. I copy him on these forwards so he knows they’re done and doesn’t think he has to do them himself.

      In previous jobs I’ve had, I only copied my boss if it was something I felt like I needed back up on, or they asked me to. And if I felt like I needed back up (like if the person hadn’t answered my previous request or if i worried they might not respond to me because I wasn’t important enough) I’d often say “is it ok if I copy you on this?” in advance and they’d be okay with it. In those cases though, my boss had multiple reports and if we’d all copied them on everything, in addition to other emails they were getting, their computers would have crashed trying to load all the emails!

    8. Like The City*

      A manager asking to be CCed on everything is bad enough but at my last job, the CFO, (who pretty much ran the company for the owner) tried to be sneaky about it. She had IT set her up to be CCed on all department managers’ emails without telling us. I found out through a friend in IT but other managers found out because she wasn’t very good at keeping it a secret, which was apparently her intent originally. She told on herself the first time by jumping in the middle of an email thread between two managers when neither had CCed her. Then she complained about being too busy to get her own work done plus she and the owner could not begin to fathom why turnover was suddenly shooting to the roof. (The email thing is just the tip of a very crazy iceberg!)

    9. OP 1*

      That is hilarious! She seems to have an endless appetite for emails, because this has been going on for a year and a half and shows no signs of stopping.

    10. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I don’t cc my manager on everything, only thing she needs to be on. Even with that, I know it’s overwhelming her inbox. I’ve told her that I will let her know if I need her for something, otherwise she can read it when she gets around to it. It’s not perfect, but it helps.

    11. Armchair Analyst*

      When my manager asked me to CC: him on all my emails, I literally added his email address to my CC as a “rule” in Outlook, so that I couldn’t email without him seeing it. Eventually, he asked me not to CC: him on all my emails.
      Not sure if this helps.
      Managers be crazy!

    12. AnonymousArts*

      OP1: if you can, run away. Seriously. I just left a job that was three years of micromanaging. I had amazing performance reviews, so I knew it wasn’t based on poor performance from me, and she did it to everyone in the office. I spoke with the manager about it at least 5 times, including in a performance review in the spring where the owner attended and also heard about it. Your manager is likely never going to change. It got to be too much and I finally left. She only got worse as time went on and she gave me more responsibility, instead of letting go of the reins.

      1. Jenny*

        Quit my last job due to micromanaging and general bs. I know it wasn’t me bc in every job I’ve had, that was the only one where they *didnt* like me using my brain. They also told me not to sign my credentials—when it is law in my state to sign them professionally.

    13. Jenny*

      This totally happen with an old manager of mine. She told me to cc everything. I was pretty peeved about it, so I partook in some malicious compliance for about two weeks. Ccing on every mundane email. Even if someone asked a question and I responded, “yes.”

      She made some passive aggressive comments about me emailing her too much and I backed off. It was pretty funny though.

  2. Eric*

    With #4, it strikes me that a third possible response from the boss is to try to work with you and train you so that you are capable of sweeping the shop floor (i.e. train you) . I’m not sure how you respond to that inclination.

    1. sacados*

      I think in that case you just repeat Allison’s script, stressing that it’s a PHYSICAL issue and therefore not something that can be trained.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I agree. This sounds like this edges on an issue that requires accommodation (even if it doesn’t rise to the level of ADA accommodation). Some practices are simply not acquirable, and I think OP should emphasize the physical constraints.

        1. CastIrony*

          Maybe they can use a vacuum for the shop floor as an accommodation? I knew a janitor who used this trick to be more efficient. Then again, it’d have to be a small vacuum…

        2. Liane*

          Also, OP4, if there is pushback on your pointing out that it’s a physical issue, you can seek help by talking to a higher-level manager or the HR (personnel) people. The big retailer I worked for had information on how to do this on the same bulletin boards where they had the notices about wage laws, worker’s comp, etc. legal notices. If you don’t see it, ask a manager you get on with as a first step. Also, the local union rep if there is one, like where my kids work.

          And good for you finding and using this site so early in your work life!

        3. Maolin*

          I was thinking ADA accommodation, too. OP #4, check online to see if your motor control issue might be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act and ask your manager for a “reasonable accommodation.” There are many conditions not specifically stated but still covered because certain symptoms or limitations of a condition would fall under ADA. Search AAM archives – Alison has written many posts on how to research ADA, how to ask for accommodation, and next steps should you encounter challenges with getting accommodation. HR is really knowledgeable and will not want to run afoul of ADA requirements, so know that, too.

    2. Kit-Kat*

      I had a similar experience with my high school job. I was a library page, so our main job was to shelve books, but in the winter we’d rotate shovelling the entrance. I can’t lift enough weight to shovel effectively (I can barely lift an adult sized shovel! I am also not permitted to lift weights or anything like that so it won’t change). I was excused from shovelling. I addressed this when I saw it on the job description, though. I’m sure most reasonable people would be just as accommodating if you brought it up later, saying you’ve tried and it didn’t work.

      1. you want cheese with that?*

        I had a similar issue years ago. During closing procedures, there was one task that I was not great at AND I truly hated it. There was no task I disliked more.
        Unlike the OP, it wasn’t a limitation. I just didn’t like the task at all.
        I found it was quite easy avoid that particular task by actively volunteering for another generally disliked task.
        Basically, I volunteered to clean the restrooms or mop or trash or laundry, rather than do the hated task.
        ‘Hey Fergus! I’ll take care of the restrooms tonight! Will you handle sweeping?’
        Reasonable coworkers will often gladly trade tasks. Ask around. Maybe Fergus loves sweeping and is shaking with rage in the corner when he gets assigned trash instead.

    3. RUKiddingMe*

      I think a boss that would respond this way would be pretty … clueless (I guess?). It’s a physical limitation. It’s not like OP doesn’t know how to sweep. But, it’s retail so who can say how the manager will respond…?

      1. Liane*

        In my experience, retail managers (and HR) are like managers in any other field I’ve worked in. Some are great (one of the top 3 bosses I’ve had was in retail), others not so much. Then there’s the Suck & Won’t Change crowd.

      2. SignalLost*

        I hate to say it, but if the manager reacts by offering to train the LW, it’s probably coming from having to teach other employees of a similar age how to sweep. I’ve had to do that in retail. So I agree that she should emphasize the physical limitation part if need be.

    4. Blunt Bunny*

      I would say it’s about the physical constraints of my body and I know from personal experience that there is no way to complete this task in a reasonable amount of time without causing me pain/discomfort. Some other solutions I see is if they could do it with someone or they start sweeping areas as they shutdown or as the store closes, or they do the bits where customers see or are most likely to be dirty. If your manager complains about you not being a team player, maybe volunteer to do a job everybody hates in return?

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Something that would really count with me is that OP tried. She isn’t just guessing. (The older and more experienced you are, the more likely you are to have a nuanced take on exactly what your limitation allows and doesn’t, and how to work with and around it.) And being able to sweep small spaces like the bathrooms indicates that she isn’t just rejecting anything sorta janitorial–it’s a volume issue.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, she tried, and she can confirm that her trying to do the task just leads to someone else having to finish, so why not assign her to other stuff from the start? Like everyone has said, a reasonable manager will go for that, but there’s no guarantee her manager is reasonable.

    5. Sparky*

      You’ve been there over a year so you should have a general idea of what needs to be done — clean the bathroom, straighten the shelves, wipe the counters down, empty the trash, etc. During your shift, keep an eye out for what may need attention that day. When you’re done with your till, go to the manager and ask if you should do task A, B, or C? And sweeping the floor will never be on your list. Not only will you not appear to be getting out of work, but actually they’ll likely appreciate that you’re noticing what needs to be done. Good luck!

    6. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I can share my perspective. As a manager I would be head tilting at the OP’s situation. Not out of malice or not believing or anything else nefarious. But I would be wondering why a person who didn’t seem to have any other limitations including a different version of the same task couldn’t do the one task. Honestly I’d have a lot of questions (I have a lot of questions and I’m not this person’s manager). I do not expect the OP to answer these and am taking it at face value that there is a problem… but that doesn’t stop the questions. Like, is it the push broom? Is it not being able to go in a straight line? Are there ways to give ‘cue’ yourself on where you’ve been? Honestly these questions wouldn’t be asked in the sense of … ‘I don’t believe you’ sense and more in the ‘Huh, that’s weird, are there ways we can adapt this to make it work for you?’ sense.

      Now there could be a perfectly good reason why a person could paint green tea spouts but not blue ones (to borrow an example) and sometimes it’s obvious*, but I’m not getting that sense from the letter.

      I’m sure that this is coming out all wrong, but as a manager I would expect an employee to tell me if they are having difficulties with a task, whether it be sweeping the floor or running a large project. I’m going to ask questions and will try to help the employee past the problem and as a last result I will work with them on alternatives.

      *I’m rolling my eyes at the manager of the short person who couldn’t reach the top shelves

      1. valentine*

        It’s not green/blue, but more like front yard versus back field. I am thinking she can possibly sweep aisles and between registers, but only the latter might make sense for her to do. (Or she would need a barrier at least at either end to either.) To sweep the main aisle, I think she’d need it blocked off into smaller bits. It’s much faster for someone else to take the large broom to the entire area.

      2. Me*

        I don’t think it’s a problem to try to troubleshoot the issue, but I do kind of question the intent here. You say it wouldn’t be nefarious but its questioning an employees judgement of their own capabilities which can be pretty undermining. This is an employee by all appearance is a hard worker who actively finishes tasks early and then actively asks for more work.

        I would head tilt a known work shirker, but a good employee? I’m going to take them at their word. Especially a minor task that’s assigned as an additional one after duties are complete. Putting time and effort into trying to make this employee do something pretty minor instead of just having them do a different task doesn’t seem like an effective use of my time or theirs.

    7. mazarin*

      One way of dealing with this is just to continue to do it the best of your ability (and badly). Your manager will eventually notice that it has to be redone every time you do it, and they will either come talk to you about it, or just ask other people to do that job. As a manager, there are certain jobs I will not give to certain staff. They just make mistakes, no matter how hard they try. So if I need15 teapots, but 13 or 17 is ok, I might ask them to do it- But if I . Need.15. Teapots, then they will never be asked.

  3. Essie*

    #5 You know, you’re not telling them to take time out of their lives although I get that it feels like that. You’re actually just asking them to do something that’s part of their job, for which they get paid and can take time to do.

    It can be a really daunting thing to ask if you’re not used to it, but it is absolutely ok. Good luck!

    1. KarenT*

      This, and also the distinction between asking and telling means your reference may decline–and OP, this is a good thing. It means those who are too busy/can’t be a suitable reference will opt out.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      It’s absolutely critical that you learn how to do this. This is a critical life skill needed to be a successful adult.
      It’s hard the first few times, harder still when someone says no. That said, it gets easier.

      And stop with all the negative self talk!!! I don’t know who pumped that in to you but I want to throttle them. They are controlling and not nice. You are worthy of being treated just like anyone else.

    3. Jasnah*

      This kind of reframing usually helps me: “thank you, brain, for encouraging me to be considerate of these people and to not be a jerk. I have researched the issue and concluded I am being considerate enough, thanks for checking in but you’re not needed here!”

      1. Parenthetically*

        Ahhhh this is so great, saving this kind of script for my husband who has very similar brainweasels to LW5

    4. AcademiaNut*

      And the other thing to consider is that this is the kind of thing that you pay forward. They had people write references for them back when they are applying, you’ll do the same at some point in the future (or, if you change fields, something equivalent in training the next generation).

      1. HR Jeanne*

        Yes, this! I am happy to give references to good employees, and I know that I’ve had mentors and former bosses give good references to me. You’ll most likely be able to pay this forward, and you’ll be glad to do it.

    5. BigTenProfessor*

      This is 100% an expected part of my job.

      You can make it easier by making it really clear what you would like from me.

      Fine: Professor, can I list you as a reference?
      Excellent: Professor, can I list you as a reference? I’m applying for a number of manufacturing jobs and I’m hoping you can speak to my ability to work in teams with people of a different skill set. When I was in your CLASS101 last fall, I had two teammates with very different majors and we successfully completed our project on XXXX.

      1. AES*

        Yes, seconding this: providing such references is literally in my job description as a faculty member. But students can help make the process so much easier by providing the faculty member they’re asking (and same would apply to other professional contexts) with some background info and a rationale.

        In addition to everything BigTenProfessor said, I also appreciate when students understand that writing a good reference takes time and I will be far better able to help them if they give me a few weeks’ lead (with the understanding that sometimes last-minute opportunities do pop up). It also helps a ton if, once I’ve agreed to provide the reference, students provide me with a copy of some written work they’ve done for me to help me remember them better and, when it’s relevant, provide me with a copy of the personal essay or application statement for the program they’re applying to so I can tailor my letter for them.

        One last piece of advice to the OP: build relationships with your faculty! I’m able to provide much more persuasive references for students who have stopped by my office hours once or twice during the semester to say hi and let me get to know them (and them get to know me) as people, or who have been active participants in class. Building those relationships lets me speak to more than a student’s grades. I think once you have those relationships, you will feel far more comfortable asking for reference letters.

        1. Frozen Ginger*

          This this this.
          Also, go with professors from smaller sized classes. Even if you’re an active participant or go to office hours, if it was a class of 300, they’re probably not gonna remember you unless you did something to really stand out or had a number of 1-on-1s with them.
          And for the most part, you’ll ask professors whose field is related, but don’t count out other fields if they can speak to your skills. For example, when I was applying for my software job, I got a reference from an economics professor who I did data research and analysis for. A friend of mine who was applying to Aeronautical Engineering PhD programs got a recommendation from his Numerical Linear Algebra professor.

      2. Oxford Comma*

        In addition to the second script, which I really, really like, you can say “I will of course provide you with a copy of my resume [and if it’s for a specific job] and a copy of the job posting.”

        If your professor doesn’t have time to write you a reference or feels she cannot provide a good one, she will tell you. If you want to make really sure, go ahead and ask “Will you be a good reference for me?”

        Do not shoot yourself in the foot here. I knew someone who had worked on a special project for a professor for 3 months. At my urging, he did ask for the reference, but he basically tanked himself by adding in, “I know I only worked with you for 3 months and you cannot speak to A,B, and C and you really don’t know me, etc.”

        We do this all the time. Don’t be afraid to ask and do not be self-deprecating.

    6. CDM*

      “You’re actually just asking them to do something that’s part of their job, for which they get paid and can take time to do.”

      While that’s true for professors, it isn’t true for a lot of managers or supervisors at the types of jobs a college sophomore is likely to have held in the past.

      My previous job, where I worked with many HS and college students, had a strict “all references must go through HR who will only confirm dates of employment and eligibility for rehire” policy.

      Every reference I gave was on my own time and on my own cell phone or my home computer. And, most memorably, on my driveway when stopped by a FBI agent conducting a background check while I was trying to get my kid to an orthopedist appointment.

      My bosses who were willing to be references for me also did so on their own time and on their cell phones. Giving a reference on work time and using work resources could have gotten us fired for violating policy.

      Fortunately for me, everyone who asked me to be a reference was someone I was more than happy to recommend. Being a reference wasn’t an inconvenience, I was pleased to be in a position to help them further their goals.

    7. TootsNYC*


      Especially professors, but even former bosses. GIVING references is as much our job as GETTING them.

      And sometimes, if we work with rookies in the working world, it’s even MORE our job.

      One other point–some of us really LIKE to give references. I do. I love the opportunity to think about someone’s good points, and I love the chance to help them along their road.
      It makes me feel like a superhero. (I definitely read too many comic books as a kid.)

    8. A Very Smart Airhead*

      OP5: I supervise students at a university and I LOVE giving references to good students! If you’re doing a good job (I have a hunch that you might be; every student employee I’ve ever encountered with this level of self-depreciation was totally awesome at their job, probably aided by always trying to be better and working with impostor syndrome), then your bosses and professors are going to be very happy to help you out. To be honest, it’s one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

      Like other commenters said, be sure to build relationships with professors and supervisors (even if you’re just dropping in a professor’s office hours to ask questions about your projects, etc.)… the easiest references to give are the ones where I know the person’s work well enough to give examples and really link their abilities to whatever they’re applying for.

      Be kinder to yourself! And best of luck with your applications. :)

    9. master of all sciences*

      In university, it is part of the job of the professors to write recommendations for the students.

      It is much more problematic when you are a senior. In my field is was usual that seniors had to demonstrate their skills with their achievements, and you do not use references and recommendations to get a senior expert or management position. However, I lost my field and had to change to apply elsewhere, and many employers require official reference letters when applying for a job – not just a formal certification of employment but personally written letter for the case. I feel very embarrassed to go to my previous bosses to ask for recommendations, particularly for random applications. Even worse, most of them have retired or changed employer and cannot talk for their previous organization. (And those in the academia feel I betrayed them when I took a job elsewhere with their rival.)

      And I do not want to shout around that I am applying this and that. I think it is against good manners to give someone’s name and phone as references to be called without explicit permission of the person for the explicit case.

      What to do?

  4. nuqotw*

    OP 5 – I am a professor and I LOVE getting these requests. It’s great to be able to help someone get to the next thing, whatever that may be for you!

    1. nbsp*

      Same in every respect. Reference letters are a very minor time investment and an enjoyable part of my job. To write them, I get to pull all the fun fancy adulatory adjectives that I know out of my brain and basically just gush about my students. I almost always become fond of my students easily, so this is a task which nearly completes itself. And then I get to celebrate with students when they come back with good news. It’s a joy.

      1. Birch*

        Yes! I have written recommendations for research assistants who have worked with me and I LOVE getting the opportunity to explain just how great they are and help them get what they want! I love knowing they think their experience with me was useful and important enough to want a recommendation from me, and I love gushing about all the things that make them great. I try to let students know in the moment when they’ve done great work, but it’s so rewarding to be able to tell someone else all about it, too. And even better if I can say the student has had a great attitude and showed interest in the subject–that will get you a long way.

        OP, can you imagine yourself writing a recommendation for a younger classmate who you really admire and want to succeed? Have you ever tutored someone and felt really proud of their progress, or taught someone how to do something and felt happy at their success? That’s what it feels like to be on the letter-writing side.

    2. Gingerblue*

      Same here! I’m working on a batch of recommendations right now, OP, and I’m glad to have the chance to say nice things about these students.

    3. ProfsRUs*

      Ditto – another professor here. These kind of requests are normal and expected parts of the job, and we do like supporting our students.
      Sometimes it’s paralysing to know how to ask, so if you want a formula:
      1. remind the professor who you are (I was in your teapot finishes class last semester, and I did a project on crackle glazes)
      2. be very clear about what you need (I’m applying for an internship/program/etc with Pots R Us, and need a supporting statement about my skills)
      3. and be clear about time and processes (the statement needs to be received by COB Friday 1st, send it to internship@potsrus)
      4. say thanks, and if you want to give a professor and extra warm glow, something that you liked or remember about their class.
      Good luck!

      1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        Something my mom (also a professor) always recommends is a current resumé, to help with the memory-jogging and complimenting. I have no idea if that’s just a her thing or if it’s common, but I always sent one to professors I asked to be references.

        1. tra la la*

          I ask for a resume/cv too. It helps give me a sense of how what the student did in my class relates to their other activities and goals — that context can be really helpful for tailoring the recommendation.

        2. MtnLaurel*

          This is a good habit to get into. Whenever I’m asked to be a reference (which I love, BTW), I always ask for an updated resume and job description so that I can tailor my reference to the person and the job. It’s honestly a great part of my job and I do love it! you’ll need to keep doing this for probably every new job you go after, and what’s great is that later you get to do it for others!

      2. TootsNYC*

        also: if there’s any specific thing you want me to mention–either something you thought you did well, or an aspect of the job you think you’d excel in, or even one you think you might need to be able to make a particularly good case for–tell me that.

        I won’t lie and say you’ve got a great mind for details if you don’t, but I might be able to tease out something that will help you more than you know!

    4. I, me and myself*

      And I’m a manager and have an intern who’s hopefully about to get a permanent job with another team in the company. I enjoyed meeting with that team’s manager and telling him how great Intern is. It’s nice getting to remember the good things someone’s doing and talking about them.

    5. RUKiddingMe*

      Likewise. Except the professor thing (no thanks) as I work only as an adjunct “lecturer” and only sometimes. I do however get requests from time to time and I really do like being able to write them and help people progress. If nothing else I see it as paying it forward for alllll the letters that were written for me through the years.

    6. Humble Schoolmarm*

      Writing the odd reference letter is actually something I miss since I moved from teaching high school to junior high. I especially loved writing them for students who weren’t the top academically, but had tons of other skills to recommend them for whatever it was they were applying for. These kids were awesome people and I was glad to be able to let people know that.

    7. Nye*

      To add to this, if you want to really make a reference-writer’s day, let them know later if you get the thing (job, internship, grad school acceptance, whatever) they wrote the letter for! It is totally normal to write these letters, often many for the same student, if it’s someone you’ve worked closely with. But it’s more unusual to get follow-up, and whenever I do, I am absolutely delighted.

      1. TootsNYC*

        agree! Let me know how it went. Even let me know if you did NOT get the job, and tell me why you think so.

    8. Doctor Schmoctor*

      Serious question: Do you know all your students well enough to be able to write any kind of reference for them? I remember when I was a student. There were 1 or 2 professors who could name a few students in their classes. The rest had no idea who was who.

      1. BigTenProfessor*

        It doesn’t matter; it’s still expected, but I may need a reminder of who the student is. I gave this example upthread:

        Fine: Professor, can I list you as a reference?
        Excellent: Professor, can I list you as a reference? I’m applying for a number of manufacturing jobs and I’m hoping you can speak to my ability to work in teams with people of a different skill set. When I was in your CLASS101 last fall, I had two teammates with very different majors and we successfully completed our project on XXXX.

        Even if I couldn’t pick this student out of a lineup of two, I would pull up the gradebook from that semester, verify what she was telling me, and be ready to talk about it if contacted.

      2. anonymous 5*

        I teach at a small school (so no TA’s, even for labs; max 18 students per class) so I know all of my students by name by around the third week of the term. That said, even with my rosters typically including a fair number of students whom I’ve had in other courses before, I don’t trust my memory more than a term or two out. So I’ve started including in my grade spreadsheets a column in which I can jot down noteworthy things about the student besides their purely numerical results in the course: a particularly perceptive question, a monumental improvement after they started doing xyz, the ambitious topic they chose for their final project, etc.

        More directly to LW5: I echo the many faculty here who have already said that writing recommendations can be a real pleasure! Best wishes for this round of applications, and continue to get to know your faculty members: we want our students to succeed in our classrooms and beyond. :)

    9. ursula*

      One more same (though not a prof). When I work with someone junior to me who shows promise, helping them grow and advance by speaking up for them is literally one of my favourite parts of the job. If you did good work for them and were good to work with, please believe that you were a rare treat and most people will be stoked to help.

      Honestly if you’re sure you performed well for someone but they act like giving you a reference is an inconvenience (which happens sometimes), they are being a massive weiner and forgetting how many people had to stick up for them to get where they are in their careers.

    10. Ella Vader*

      I agree!

      How you can make it easier for me to write you a reference and also get me to write you a better one includes the following.
      If I politely demur, especially “you might be better off asking someone else who knows you better” that might mean either that I don’t know you well enough to give examples of your good qualities, OR that I have seen some things that are not completely positive. Pick up on that hint. Thank me and go ask someone else, if at all possible.
      Especially if I haven’t taught you recently, feel free to remind me why you’re asking me and why you want this job/scholarship/grad school place. “I first became interested in this field because of the individual study you supervised when I was in second year.” “I’m applying to a job in a completely different field, but it involves a lot of data analysis and I remember learning how to do stats on experimental results in your class.” Offer me your resume and the job description. Ask if I’d like you to send me an updated transcript (I might not be able to access it without your permission). Feel free to give me some additional info that I might use in writing about the bad results on your transcript (“I know I didn’t do well in your first-year class, but since then I’ve { } and have been getting better marks and carrying a full course load.”) Where possible, give/repeat all this information in writing, because I probably won’t be writing your letter today and I might forget.
      Give me advance notice. Tell me when the deadline is and ask if/when I’d like a reminder. If you’re asking “can I use you as a reference in general”, then give me a heads up when you’ve given my contact name to an employer – that also lets you give me more info like “When I went for the interview, I found out that they also want someone who can do X, and I was so excited because we learned that in your labs”.
      I prefer to write reference letters that the student doesn’t get to see, so if you can check a box to waive seeing it, consider doing so. (I might still tell you some of the good things I said, especially if I think you need a confidence boost.)

      If you get the job, the scholarship, the professional engineering registration, or the grad school place, let me know the good news and thank me. Please don’t give me a present for writing you a reference – I find that embarrassing and I have to worry about hurting your feelings if I turn it down. If you don’t get what you applied for, you don’t have to come tell me – just check in with me when you want another letter.

      This advice mostly from a Canadian academic context, and five years old.

    11. anon for this*

      And for a bit of a contrast: I’m a prof and I kinda hate writing letters of reference, but I do love helping my students, so it’s a wash :) The students who make it easy (easier) provide lead time (but then can throw in last-minute requests after the initial one is written), give me a written list of programs and deadlines if it’s grad school applications, provide a resume and info about highlights or lowlights in their college career, and let me know where they go next.

      I guess I’m in a slightly different position than some writers here, in that this season I’m uploading close to 100 letters of recommendation, so it really is getting hard to keep it all organized — it gets annoying when I’m clicking through to upload a reference letter and the email doesn’t even say what program the student is applying to and they didn’t actually tell me (business? math? finance? statistics?!) and it’s 10 pm the night the thing is due…. that’s unnecessarily stressful and easily avoided. Also, if I don’t reply to your email within 24 hours two weeks before your deadline, don’t call my boss and email my coworkers to get me to respond.

      Please ask, and if you provide the useful stuff up front your recommender will be happy and write nice things!

    12. Parenthetically*

      I was a high school teacher for 10 years and it was SUCH a pleasure doing recommendations for students! I still do them for former students — just got a request for one yesterday from one of my favorite graduates, and was delighted to say yes.

  5. Sami*

    “The answer to “who gave you the right?” is “the entire system of employment and its customs and norms.”

    I am so glad you actually addressed this.

  6. Ye old*

    OP5 – if you are worried about the imposition, I suggest in your original request, you can ask the professor whether or not it is okay for you to draft something for him. I had ex-bosses who basically told me to write the recommendation letter for them, and then they will check and sign on it.

    1. scooby snack*

      Nooo, don’t do this unless they ask you to! Giving a bullet list of what you’d like to highlight is fine, but someone new to the work world is likely to either do a really poor job of assessing their own skills and writing them, making it transparently NOT from their recommender, or force a conscientious prof to rewrite, which takes just as long and is doubly annoying. (Not to mention that someone afraid to ask for a rec may be even more uncomfortable tooting her own horn in a letter.)

      1. Flash Bristow*

        This. Don’t offer to draft something, apart from anything else the tone may sound too much like your own in the cover letter and the employer might think you faked it! And as the referring prof, I’d be thrown. Do you think I’m not capable of writing your recommendation? So why are you asking me? Plus the prof might have insight you’d be missing. I was extremely depressed thru school and uni so I underestimated my personal skills and abilities (everything except that which was academic and scored, basically).

        Remind them how they know you. As stated above. Including things you enjoyed about their classes if possible (to add info on who you are, not *just* to arselick). And what you’re applying for and what you’d like them to speak of.

        If they want guidance they will ask. Don’t offer to draft it for them, nooooo!

    2. Beth*

      I think this is a lot more normal for bosses than professors. I’ve never had a professor ask me for this.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        I have, but at a higher level than the OP (that is, I was a PhD student applying for a post doc). It’s fairly common in higher education at graduate level.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Exactly what I as thinking. For something at the level of post Doctor sure. For a second year undergrad, especially one that thinks they have no right to ask? I can’t see that as being helpful.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Ugh short I really need to revamp my short cut keys. It was supposed to say “post d o c.” Except without the spaces…

        2. anon for this*

          Only in some disciplines. In mine it would be seen as unethical. I have friends in other fields who see it as normal.

    3. Asenath*

      I don’t think that’s at all common in academia. I ran into it once – and that was a situation in which I knew the professor well at one time, it had been many years since we met, and I was signing up for a course which required a statement that I was academically able to handle it, but it had been so long since I’d taken a university-level course that I didn’t know many professors who might remember me. We decided on a rather short statement that I could handle university work, I typed it up and she signed it. I have no idea why the receiving institution wasn’t satisfied with my transcripts! I would say the other suggestions here are a far more common approach – remind the professor of which course(s) you were in, ask for the reference, state something about who it’s for, what they’re looking for, and how they want the reference submitted. There’s no need to be shy about it, although I can well remember how nervous I was the first few times I asked for a reference. It’s a perfectly normal request for a university professor to receive, and they’re usually quite happy to respond – if it’s someone who doesn’t want to give a reference (doesn’t know you well, has some concerns about your work) she might say no, but if you pick professors who do know you and in whose courses you did well, everything should be fine.

    4. Hiring Mgr*

      Yeah, i do this all the time for LinkedIn recommendations when people ask…sounds like it might not be as common in academia

    5. Doodle*

      No, don’t do that with a professor. It’s really out of step with academic culture and, coming from a sophomore, will make the OP seem arrogant. I suggest below the kind of written statement you can provide, however.

    6. Rec Letter Ghost Writer*

      Going anonymous for this one – I am an admin assistant and some of my bosses have asked me to write the recommendation letters for them, even though I have had very little / no interaction with the student other than the student showing up in my office saying “I talked to Professor about a recommendation letter for grad school and he said to talk to you?” I usually ask for a CV and a brief paragraph summarizing their projects (if they were doing work in the lab) or stuff like that. I probably shouldn’t be writing the letters for the professors but otherwise, they won’t do it themselves (and they won’t simply decline when the student asks). The vast majority of letters are very broad / generic – “Suzie was in my Chocolate Teapot 101 class in Spring 2018 and showed much enthusiasm for the field. She has a solid understanding of teapot design and would succeed in your graduate program” – but apparently the letters are helping students get into Top 3 Chocolate Teapot programs so I guess a) the students are strong candidates to begin with; and b) nobody really cares about recommendation letters.

      For non-student letters, like tenure review letters and the like, the professors sometimes asks the subject to provide a draft. Obviously, not all professors are the same – some would be appalled with the student or subject writing the letter themselves. But I think it would be helpful for all students/subjects to provide the letter writer with some bullet points of what can (should) be highlighted in the letter.

      For my college application (for a major in one of the arts), I had to provide recommendation letters – the people I asked didn’t know me for very long (only 2 years) but I had worked with them a lot in those 2 years. They could write about my ability, my potential, my general citizenship, etc. I’m not sure why these students are asking my bosses, when they have had such little interaction either inside the classroom or outside (e.g. academic advising). I guess the students don’t have people they can ask.

  7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I have nothing to add to Alison’s advice. I just wanted to send sympathy ~vibes~ because this situation sounds incredibly tiring and frustrating.

    1. OP 1*

      Thanks, it is! I appreciate all of the support from everyone and Allison’s advice was great (as usual).

  8. professor*

    OP5- AMA is right on, it’s our job! Most professors will be perfectly happy to do this, so long as you get them the info they need and provide enough time to do this. I’d recommend providing them with a copy of your resume/CV and allowing at least 2-3 weeks for them to complete this. Details about the job/application/etc. helps too.

    Good luck!

    1. Gingerblue*

      This is great advice. If possible, I like to have a conversation with students about the thing they’re applying for. If I know the details of the opportunity and how they’re pitching themselves, I can write a letter better tailored to support them.

    2. CastIrony*

      OP #5 is my best friend and me! We have anxiety so bad over this that we have actually missed deadlines!
      That being said, what do you do if you know your reference/professor is going through a busy time or a rough patch in their lives? Would it be best to not ask them then?

      1. Shannon*

        The way they’ll 100% say no is if you never ask. Just ask, they’l say no if they can’t do it. If you know they’re swamped then have a Plan B in case you don’t hear from them.

        1. Flash Bristow*

          “The way they’ll 100% say no is if you never ask. ”

          This! Go ahead op, the worst that can happen is they say they don’t feel they can help. I’d bet it’s less likely than you think tho.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        1. No reason to be anxious. At all. This is a normal part of academia.
        2. Have a plan B and a plan C. Ask anyway.
        3. Make sure you give them as much lead time as possible, especially if you know they are having life things because you will need to give as much time as possible to your plan B/C if they can’t help/don’t get back to you. ***

        *** This is a good idea in general. One should have an idea if a given professor would be willing to write a recommendation. However there can be that outlier who for no discernible reason … because your class work/assignments/projects/tests/etc… are all outstanding and above par by every measure, refuses to write you one because she simply doesn’t like you.

        Yes, I am still angry 20 years later. Why do you ask?

      3. Jessica*

        This is where asking as far in advance as possible helps! I’m a graduate student and this semester I was applying to lots of grants that all needed letters of recommendation. It’s pretty expected that the professors on your dissertation committee will write letters for you, so I didn’t really have to “ask,” but I e-mailed early in the semester to give them a heads-up: “I’m planning on applying for X grant due 10/1, Y grant due 10/15, Z grant due 10/15 — will you be able to write those letters?” (In a slightly nicer tone, of course.) Then when I had more specific information for them (like where to submit the letters) they were already aware of the timeline.
        I don’t think I would have had the foresight to do this as an undergrad, so don’t feel bad, but just know in general that more information earlier is always best!

      4. Parenthetically*

        An important rule for adulthood: don’t try to manage other people’s schedules for them pre-emptively! If a prof is too busy to get to a task that will likely be a pleasure and take, like, 20 minutes AT MOST, she will TELL YOU this using HUMAN LANGUAGE. Ask! Ask!

        “Good morning, Dr. Smith, I’m writing to ask you if you would be willing to write me a letter of recommendation for the Quetzal University Llama-Grooming summer internship. I’m very excited to hone my skills in llama grooming, and as you know, QU’s program is world class and would really build on the llama hair and llama hoof knowledge base I’ve acquired here at Itza U, including in your classes! Please let me know if you’re able to provide this letter and if you have any further questions; the application deadline is February 20 and I’d like to get the materials sent in no later than February 13. Thank you! Sincerely, CastIrony”

      5. Bulbasaur*

        As others have said, give plenty of notice and let them make the call. If it’s going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for them, they can always say no (and you can be clear that you’re fine with that as an answer if you like). On the other hand, perhaps it will be a welcome diversion from whatever else might be going on for them. Don’t assume the worst!

        1. Rec Letter Ghost Writer*

          Some professors won’t straight up say no, though – they’ll say yes and then just not do it. So you have to do some mental calculus of who might flake.

    3. Mrs. Dean Winchester*

      Absolutely! I teach high school overseas, and we’re often asked by students to write recommendations for their university applications. I love doing it. The only time I’ve been annoyed is when a student asked me two days before the deadline and also expected me to just allow someone else to do it using my name. (In this country, it’s common for students to hire “application managers” who do all the work of filling out applications and references).

  9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, please forgive me for being dense, but I don’t understand why your manager’s prior life as a physician entitles her to the details of your health or your decision to exercise your sick leave. Frankly, the fact that she’s even assessing whether or not she thinks someone is sick enough to get to use sick leave is a really toxic and hostile attitude toward a benefit that employers should (but often don’t) want their employees to use.

    I agree with Alison on simply saying, “I’m sick today” and letting it get/be weird. Does she have any control over your ability to take your leave? If not, she’s going to have to live with the fact that she’s not entitled to everyone’s health info.

    1. Jasnah*

      This! She may be A doctor, but she’s not YOUR doctor… do you mean you’ve been casually asking her “hey does this rash look serious” at the office? From what I’ve heard most doctors hate that (maybe your boss doesn’t) and it sets up this weird dynamic as you’ve identified where now you have to take a day off for your rash after your boss/doctor told you it wasn’t serious.

      So I think the answer is twofold: use more sick days as you please, and don’t casually ask your boss to weigh in on your health, especially if you don’t want her to weigh in on your health!

    2. WS*

      A lot of healthcare professionals are unfortunately completely unreasonable about sick leave, or any kind of illness or injury, including to themselves. There’s a “suck it up” attitude (and it’s even stronger regarding mental health and chronic conditions) because they’ve always seen someone worse off.

      Is it a good or productive attitude? Hell no! But I understand what OP #2 is saying. The only way to deal with it is just carry on with what you would do normally and remember that their understanding of illness is seriously skewed.

        1. pentamom*

          I have a friend who had to leave a job as a service coordinator at the American Cancer Society because they couldn’t deal with the frequent absences caused by a chronic illness. It hadn’t even yet reached the point where the absences were so frequent that it really interfered with the job, it was just beyond the sick leave they were willing to allow.

          This agency exists to assist cancer patients with dealing with the non-medical aspects of their illness. And they fired somebody for being sick too much.

          1. pentamom*

            Let me say I don’t want this to be taken as a bash on the ACS. This could have been a purely local issue or something that doesn’t reflect badly on the organization as a whole. I probably shouldn’t have mentioned the agency by name, sorry.

            1. Zona the Great*

              Nah, I think most of us understand what you’re saying here. The fact that the ACS has some bad actors illustrates the irony of our societal expectations.

      1. Slartibartfast*

        A large portion if that is there usually isn’t anyone else to cover for you and the work can’t wait, and we’re”helper”personalities who put everyone else before ourselves. The guilt of forcing people to reschedule when it’s hard to get in, or knowing your coworkers are going to muss lunch covering for you, we’re more miserable at home than we are muddling through. Especially if you’re the doctor. The whole office shuts down and people get sent home without pay, and you’ll probably be overbooked for days squeezing patients back on to the schedule.

      2. Jen*

        I am a doctor’s kid and he was pretty strict about not letting us miss unless he thought we were really sick. I think due to the job, doctors and nurses get sick a lot themselves and have to power through.

        A boss and a parent aren’t equivalent though and a.boss should not treat an employee that way.

        1. Rebecca*

          My Mom was an RN. There were no “sick days” for me from school when I was a kid unless she thought I was truly sick. I so envied my friends who could fake it with their less medically educated parents.

          1. Hamburke*

            My mom is also an RN. No sick days for me, the oldest, unless I was really sick (and so I ended up at school twice with walking pnemonia) but younger sibs were allowed mental health days as long as they didn’t abuse the privilege…

            1. Flash Bristow*

              Yep. No medic in my family but a strict mother. Go to school. If you’re REALLY ill, the school hosp can call (or ideally take care of me till she could be arsed to answer the phone and show up).

              I sympathise with people who couldn’t take time when they needed general rest and recovery.

              At my first “real” job, I called in once with depression. Trying to explain I wasn’t *sick* sick, but I couldn’t get out of bed. I was amazed when it was accepted. And that day off helped me regroup in a way that working on auto pilot couldn’t have done.

          2. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

            Yep, same here. It was always “suck it up Sally” unless I had a fever. Boy was she put in her place in elementary school though when I projectile vomited all across the nurses office and on to her metal cabinets!! HAHAHAHA And because of that, I went into the workforce after college thinking I had to work no matter what. When co-workers sent me home because I was coughing, sneezing and looked awful, I just couldn’t understand what the problem was, I didn’t have a fever. Now in my 40’s I know better.

        2. Book Lover*

          My kids only stay home if they have a fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. But if they stayed home that would mean scrambling for childcare or that my patients would all need to reschedule, so…. My parents were pretty casual about sick days for me when I was a kid, and I am willing to do the same for mine when they are old enough to stay home, as long as they are getting their work done.

        3. Minocho*

          My mother is an RN, and she would think we were lying about being sick all the time. So we were the kids who got sick all over the classroom, explosively sick down an entire flight of stairs, or were sent to school while actively breaking out in chicken pox because it was all in our imagination.

          (I got a second bout of chicken pox in 6th grade, after an extremely mild bout in kindergarten. Which really sucked. Especially going to school that day with it.)

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            If you absolutely MUST send your kids to school or other obligations sick because you have no way to care for them otherwise (which is still awful, though not necessarily your fault), at least don’t tell them that their feeling terrible or their symptoms (especially visible ones like chickenpox, wtf) are all in their heads. That is gaslighting and really, really damaging, insulting, and infuriating. Few things enraged me more as a child than being told things I experienced were all made up. If you really have to send a sick kid to school, tell them the truth about your shitty employer’s policies and your country’s shameful lack of worker protections.

            1. Minocho*

              Mom was a stay at home mom until I was in high school. She just believed we were lying / hysterical when we said we were sick.

              My brother was especially infuriated when he realized he was allergic to cats (which we’d had our whole lives), which was why he always had trouble breathing and problems with watery eyes and a runny nose.

                1. Minocho*

                  It was a real blind spot she had. I can only assume she thought we were lying about being sick to get out of going to school because she tried it. But my brothers and I are all serious nerds – we liked school!

                2. Gazebo Slayer*

                  Assuming your children are always lying shows a real disrespect and lack of care for them, and for anyone – especially an RN (!!!) to sincerely expect children will never be sick is flabbergasting. Like… no one is genuinely that clueless. It is always malice at that point.

                  Honestly, this kind of behavior reminds me of a horrific child-abuse case I heard about recently (which culminated in multiple murder-suicide). Early on, when an outsider noticed the children were overly thin and listless and one of them asked someone outside the family for food, the abusive mother said “Oh, he’s just playing the food card. Give him water.” Your mother may not have been a monster like that one, but what she did to you was abuse, and it’s not your fault.

                3. Gazebo Slayer*

                  (I don’t mean that your mother was that level of abusive, of course, but telling a child her visible chickenpox are all in her head is teaching her to doubt her own perceptions and telling her that her physical needs don’t exist in a similar way to “he’s playing the food card, give him water.”

            2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

              I feel like every person has that story about the time their parents didn’t believe they were sick and then it turns out they were so very sick and we all feel glee in telling it. That “HA In your face you are the parent but you were wrong, suck on that!” feeling we got as children that never went away. When you were fricken glad you were sick because of the sweet vindication of being proven right (something that happens so rarely for children).

              For me it was when I stole a whole box of cookies from the kitchen and ate them, then when I complained to my mom later that my stomach felt sick she responded with “Of course you feel bad – you ate a whole box of cookies – this is your own fault” and it turned out I had the stomach flu. As an adult I totally see her point, but as a kid it is so great to be proven right just once.

              1. Minocho*

                I definitely hang the “that time you – an RN! – sent me to school with visible chicken pox” story out for laughs!

          2. Jen*

            Now I am a mom, daycare will send kiddo home SUPER fast. Colds spread like wildfire and they want sick kids home.

            1. agmat*

              Oh yeah. I thank my lucky stars I found myself in a position that I can just text my boss that I’m only working intermittently because I’ve got a sick baby. I have sick leave hours that I’m entitled to use without “asking permission.”

          3. WS*

            Yes, my mother is also an RN, and a paediatric RN at that! All three of us were sent to school with broken bones at some stage!

    3. Troutwaxer*

      Maybe you can start by scheduling regular checkups for yourself? That means you’ve used some sick leave, but its also something your boss can’t question you about.

    4. Rebecca*

      Princess Consuela Banana Hammock, you said this much better than I could!

      OP, use your sick leave! If you go to the dentist for cleanings twice a year, schedule the appointments for early Friday afternoon, and take a half day. If you have a medical checkup, take a half day. Sometimes we need just a rest and relaxation day because we’re stressed! Take the time. It’s good for you.

      **I also rarely get too sick to work, I’m extremely fortunate, but I take all 5 sick days per year offered to me. Yes, only 5. But I take every minute.

    5. Good Vibes*

      “If not, she’s going to have to live with the fact that she’s not entitled to everyone’s health info”.

      I loved this. Not the OP, but struggling with this also. Satellite small office of larger org and everyone is deep in the trenches of everyone’s business. So refreshing and helpful to hear A’s and everyone else’s perspective.

    6. MLB*

      You’re not being dense. OP’s manager is being controlling. Regardless of OP’s boss’s profession, you should never have to provide specific details of why you’re calling out sick, unless you do it all the time and it becomes suspect that you’re abusing the sick leave policy.

    7. Loux in Canada*

      Right? Like, I rarely get *sick* sick, but I have chronic migraines and I sometimes call in sick and sometimes leave early if I have one. Really depends on the exact circumstances. If a boss tried to tell me I couldn’t go home with a migraine, I’d probably be really mad, because one time I *did* try to stay at work with a migraine, and I just started getting soooooo nauseous. I actually have a mild one today, but I stayed home yesterday for it and it’s on its way out and isn’t really bothering me anymore, so I came into work. Chronic illness life is fuuuuun.

      1. hayling*

        Yeah I decided to try to work through a migraine once, and the fire alarm went off at work (it was a false alarm). The flashing strobes almost made me throw up. As soon as we knew it was a false alarm, I packed up my stuff and left immediately!

  10. Auntie Social*

    #2: Back problems–and subsequent physical therapy visits to treat the back problem-are not unusual.

    1. Picky*

      Excellent thought. Back problems don’t typically manifest with external symptoms either, so she can’t “check” whether you’re sick enough.

    2. WellRed*

      Not a fan of this. Just take a day. No explanation. And what happens if you do make something up and she asks you specific questions about the PT that you can’t possibly answer?

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Just dealt with back problems myself and since the boss is a physician…that’s a risk depending on her POV. You’re often advised against bed rest for most back problems. She’ll just try to shovel do it yourself therapy at her. I can foresee a “Oh just make sure stretch every couple of hours! I’ve got a PT roller you can even use!” nonsense response.

      Don’t go down that path. Give her nothing to latch onto and get her opinion in on.

  11. Willis*

    OP #5 – I can relate to that fear soooo much. I remember being terribly nervous to ask professors to write letters of recommendation for grad school. I think most of it was because I didn’t talk too much in class and wasn’t particularly close with any of them, so I thought they may say they didn’t know me well enough to write them. But, of course they didn’t say that!

    Making these kinds of requests is probably new to you, but getting them certainly isn’t new for professors or supervisors. They’re used to it, and they know their students will be looking for recommendations or references as they move on to grad school or jobs. It’s such a normal thing to ask. Plus, university programs can benefit from having an a successful alumni network so it’s in their interest that your job search goes well too. Most people want to help out!

  12. This Daydreamer*

    When I was working retail I would sometimes get in trouble for “refusing” to straighten the books in the top shelves along the wall. After all, we had plenty of step stools! I’m five feet tall. I would stretch as tall as I could and there was still no way for me to reach. The lower shelves weren’t strong enough to climb. They only thought to suggest I use a step ladder after I had one topple over when I was standing on it, when I was using it in the back room with the cement floor. I simply could not convince my bosses that I wasn’t shirking, I was just short! Some of them even teased me about my height!

    I’m not going to even get into how horrible it was to deal with plantar fasciitis while being forced to be a cashier. Or having to be a cashier with a broken foot. No, there were no chairs or stools allowed. Ever.

    Anyway, I really hope you don’t have to deal with that kind of idiocy. I’m afraid it’s all too common in retail.

    1. Micki*

      I worked for a few months in a retail position where as soon as I was hired the person right above me quit, so I basically took over his position. But the manager never hired anyone to fill the position I was originally hired for. So I was stuck trying to do about 50 hours of work in 34. I am usually a pretty organized and very efficient worker, and I quickly figured out systems to do most of the work (mostly unpacking pallets and stocking shelves) as quickly and efficiently as possible. That made up for a lot of that gap in working hours. But I’m also about your height, and absolutely couldn’t shelve or front the top shelves without a stepstool or stepladder. That part always slowed me down, and it especially enraged the manager that I didn’t keep the top shelves as perfectly fronted as he would have liked because I couldn’t pull out a stepladder and step in front of customers in the tiny, crowded little shop. That’s a task I could only do when it was relatively empty, and had to shift the ladder every couple of feet.

      He never hired to fill that part time position the entire time I worked there. He was of course enraged when I gave my notice. (Most employees just walked out. I at least tried to give notice. It was that kind of place… super high turnover.) Sucks to be him! Store’s now out of business.

      1. valentine*

        No, there were no chairs or stools allowed. Ever.
        I don’t get this because I want employees to be comfortable.

        1. This Daydreamer*

          There is this view that a lot of people have about customer service positions that anything not required by OSHA is an expensive luxury and a sign of laziness. Those same people tend to believe that customer service employees will do anything to get out of work. Chain stores happily cater to that attitude.

          Heck, OSHA is sneered at all too often.

    2. Micki*

      Oh and yes the cashier thing. I actually really enjoyed being a cashier, and always have. (Those strange things you learn about yourself when you work retail or other similar jobs. I never would have pegged myself, a huge introvert, as loving that kind of public-facing job.) But sometimes the store would be dead for half an hour at a time, and still no sitting, not even on a high stool. He also balked when I wanted to wear gloves while opening boxes, because it was winter and the dry air + working with all that cardboard dried out my hands so badly my skin was cracked and bleeding. He finally shut up about it the time I handed him a packing list with a streak of blood across it. It wasn’t some passive aggressive gesture, but it’s just what happens when your hands are freaking bleeding all the time.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Maybe he thought she wouldn’t be dexterous enough to work efficiently with gloves on? Or maybe it was just a stupid “optics” thing like the lack of stools. Or a power play.

          1. valentine*

            I think customers take offense, even if you’re handling their filthy ID, and may panic, assuming there’s an outbreak you’re casually exposing them to.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          He sounds like a bully who thinks you’re weak or some nonsense for protecting your hands.

          “Look at all these calluses! That’s what hard workin’ hands supposed to look like, ya lil princess!”

        3. Micki*

          The gloves were “for” the people working in the produce department or filling bulk containers. Me wearing gloves to open boxes meant that he’d have to buy, like, an extra box of gloves a year or something.

    3. Good Vibes*

      Retail’s notorious for this sort of thing. Once got fired for having the nerve to have needed surgery, and not being able to move boxes, they no longer needed me. I think they put it on the books as a resignation. Fun stuff…

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, low-wage jobs mostly ignore labor laws because they know their employees are too poor to sue.

        Which is why we need proactive, well-funded enforcement agencies that do regular unannounced inspections/audits of every workplace (like restaurant health inspections) rather than dumping the onus and cost on the most vulnerable people, and a work council system for adjudicating complaints like some countries have. (Preferably also criminal penalties for egregious labor law violations. In my state, which is more sensible than most, refusal to pay wages is a felony.)

        1. Micki*

          Above manager once told us we were “lucky” he paid us for all staff meetings. Hah. I did get a chuckle when, a few months after I left, he mailed me a check for 80 cents, or something like that. I had reported him for a few hinky things, and I bet I wasn’t the only one. I am sure he must have been audited. In the end any hinkiness regarding my pay was obviously minimal, but I had a lot of schadenfreude imagining him having to go through the auditing process.

  13. Robin Q*

    LW #5- Captain Awkward has an excellent post about asking for recommendations from professors. I’ll post the link in a reply, but it’s easily findable with a google search!

  14. Beth*

    OP2: If you’re looking for good sick day ‘explanations’ (aka if you decide it’s easier/better to tell a white lie than to risk your boss’ judgement): you have a headache, you have a migraine, you have a 24 hour bug, you have a low-grade fever and need to sleep it off, your stomach must have disagreed with something you ate and you can’t go too far from the toilet today.

    Usually I fall pretty strongly on the side of honesty, but when your boss is so pushy and judgmental about something private like medical info–which she should know is private! she was a doctor!–I think that really dismisses any obligation to give her the truth. There are all sorts of low-grade ailments that might keep someone home and unable to work, but which don’t rise to the level of needing a doctor, and where the symptoms will naturally be minimal or gone by the next day. Feel free to fall back on them if you feel like you can’t get away with sticking to “I’m sick today”.

    1. Mongrel*

      My job is data based and requires attention to detail, it’s easier to get it right first time etc.
      Even though I work from home I’ve legitimately used “I have a and that disrupted my sleep, I need a day or two to rest up”.
      Admittedly, our work flow is “as long as it gets done by the end of the month” so YMMV

    2. Nita*

      Yeah, I used to have to stay home a few times a year due to a minor but very embarrassing health problem. Usually I went with “I’m not feeling well” but if I ever felt I had to explain more, I went with “just a bad stomach ache” which wasn’t even far from the truth.

      Oh, and I didn’t take a single sick day back then, because I could do my work remotely. It was pretty awesome because all that sick time became banked FMLA sick time – almost two months’ worth by the time I needed it. But when I got pregnant and felt awful every day for weeks, I needed to take some actual sick time here and there. So I just started taking it, and no one was surprised that suddenly, when I feel sick, I take time off. Mostly it was just an hour of sick time every few days so I could go home early. These days, I take a full sick day once in a while – if I’m not able to telecommute, I just let my coworkers know I’m out sick (rather than working remotely) so they don’t expect me to be wired and ready for urgent requests that day.

      1. Good Vibes*

        Just a little sympathy from someone who had to pull out “stomach problems” on absences that occurred about once a month.

    3. FuzzFrogs*

      When I’m calling in for something that doesn’t come across as clearly understandable like “I can’t stop vomiting,” I like to *imply* the grossness.

      *creaky voice* “I’m sick. Yeah, I’m feeling miserable, it’s just a whole…situation here. Yeah, yep, thank you, I will try to feel better. I’m going to go back to bed now. See you soon.”

  15. Jen*

    I worked in as situation almost identical to LW1 (manager wanted to be cced in everything and micromanaged hard). I wish I could say I found a solution but I did not. My assignment to middle management was a temp commitment and I returned to my base job, despite pressure to stay. It made me 100% crazy to work under those conditions (I called it the panopticon) but any attempt to get her to back off resulted in her asserting it more or accusations of insubordination. I was her fourth middle manager in 3 years. She actually gave me a very positive review when I left and tried to get me to stay. The experience was weird.

    Managers, trust your middle management or find someone you do. But do not do this. It destroys your middle manager’s ability to do their job.

  16. Beth*

    #5: Writing recommendations is actually part of professors’ job duties. It’s totally normal to ask for them, and not at all an imposition!

    If you want to be polite and helpful about it, here are some tips:
    1. Ask early. The earlier you ask, the more flexibility they have to fit writing it into their schedule. I aim for 4-6 weeks before the deadline when possible, but that’s probably on the more generous side. If you’re asking days before it’s due, though, that’s a tight timeline; acknowledge that it’s short notice and be understanding if they can’t do it. You can still ask, though, as long as you’re polite about it.
    2. Give them some info on what you need the recommendation for. What kind of internships? What kind of skills do you need to highlight? Be ready to talk about yourself too–even if you have a solid relationship with the professor you’re asking, they won’t know every detail of your experience. They might ask about about what relevant classes you’ve taken, what kind of work you’ve done in them (this goes double if some of the relevant classes were with them; reminding them of what you’ve done with them can be really helpful, especially if it was a year or two ago), and maybe if you’ve done any similar internships or jobs before.
    3. Thank them! Yes, it’s part of their job, so don’t go over the top on this. But a quick “Thank you for doing this for me, I really appreciate your support” is always nice. (This goes double if you asked late and they fit it in last-minute; in that case, they did go above and beyond for you, so make sure to acknowledge that.)

  17. Blue*

    OP2, I used to work with someone like you – years in the office without taking a sick day. She even came in after a root canal (like literally came directly from the dentist office). Everyone yelled at her enough for that one that she decided she should maybe start using sick days, but she had a hard time changing her mindset. The trick for her was to start with appointments. She scheduled a couple of routine appointments on one day and just took the whole day for that. It broke the precedent and made her more comfortable calling in the next time she needed it. May be one way of approaching it!

      1. SigneL*

        Could you go home early one day (maybe starting a headache? “My SINUSES!” or clutching your stomach?) and then take the next day?

        1. Quackeen*

          While I agree in theory, it sets OP2 up for constantly having to maintain a façade. Just starting from the point of not sharing details allows her to continue not sharing details, which seems to be her goal.

          1. SigneL*

            yes, I saw that – it seems like one way to ease into taking sick days would be to follow by taking the next day. OP could simply say, still not feeling great. Once OP has taken a few sick days, I think they won’t feel so weird about taking time off. It’s hard to change behavior! And it can feel weird at first, but that doesn’t mean OP shouldn’t take some sick time.

    1. Jilly*

      I went to work right after a root canal. Before the procedure I had been in agony for 3 days. As soon as it was done, I was fine. A little sore after the Novocain wore off, but 600 mg of ibuprofen took care of that. Well I did end up with a bruise on my cheek because I kept poking it to see if it was still numb. Apparently I was poking really hard.

      1. Blue*

        I’m sure it was a relief to have it taken care of! But she was not fine, ha. Whatever they used on her made her pretty loopy, and she wasn’t functional. I think that’s what actually made her realize that nothing bad would happen if she didn’t contribute for a whole day.

        1. Flash Bristow*

          I thought they made someone take you home after meds that make you loopy! And that person should’ve said “er, no work for you! You’re still a banana!” or whatever?!

    2. Good Vibes*

      I work with one of these. It makes it very hard to just take a normal amount of days off when everyone’s comparing you to that. I’m so glad you found a way!

    3. Ceiswyn*

      …I went to work immediately after a root canal all three times I had one.

      I guess there must be situations in which a root canal is more unpleasant or complicated or requires additional medication, but as a basic procedure it’s just like a long-drawn-out filling.

      1. Blue*

        They had her on some medication (pain meds, I guess?) that made her pretty loopy. The root canal itself was probably fine, but she clearly wasn’t in any condition to contribute that afternoon!

  18. Doctor Schmoctor*

    #1 All my sympathy. I’ve had some micro manager bosses who absolutely insisted that we copy him in EVERY email. I had a boss who told me that, before I send any emails to clients or suppliers, I had to send it to him first so that he can review and edit it. And he complained about having too much work to do. Hmmm… how about trusting your team to do the jobs that they have been doing for 8 years before you came along?
    I once replied to an email from a client where he asked a question and I answered it. Boss wasn’t happy. Apparently I had to discuss it with him first.
    I wasn’t very sad when he resigned.

  19. Jessica*

    Higher ed here. OP5, learn some skills for making these (absolutely normal and appropriate!) requests, and then maybe you can feel better about the fact that you’re one of the people who make it most easy and convenient for your old profs to do this part of their job.
    When you contact them, if it’s been a while, remind them who you are and how they know you. “This is Daffodil “Dilly” Bobolink. I was in your Teapots through the Ages survey course in fall 1973. I got a B+ in the course and wrote my final paper on Illuminated Teapots of the Spanish Renaissance.” Send your CV. Tell them as much as possible also about the thing you’re applying for, because hopefully you want their reference to be not just “Dilly Bobolink is the best!” but actually directed toward why you’d be good for the specific thing. And if you can make any connection between what you studied or the work you did with them, and the thing you want to do now, point that out. Finally, be sure to give them clear info on what to do with your reference (submit it online at link? Mail it someplace? Give it back to you in a sealed envelope?), and when the deadline is. And afterward, let them know how it turned out, especially if you get the thing you were applying for. They will be happy to hear of your success and will feel that their reference-writing effort mattered, and they will be glad to do it for your next thing.

    1. OP 1*

      It’s funny you say that, because all of us have resorted to doing as much as we can by phone/in-person. It’s not always the most efficient way, but, to be fair, all of the extra facetime has really improved some working relationships! We also use messaging services a lot when communicating internally/with other departments that use the same instant messaging service

  20. pcake*

    LW4, neither my husband nor I can sweep a floor so it’s really clean. I end with with a little line of fine dust where the edge of the dustpan meets the floor while my husband seems to miss stuff always. I mention this because we’re both normal over-50 adults, no diagnosed motor issues, can do lots of normal things.

    Perhaps the problem is the broom, though, and the other employees go over the floor repeatedly to get it clean.

    1. SigneL*

      In my opinion, brooms don’t really do much except push the dirt around. I’d always prefer to vacuum (not that that makes a difference to your problem – totally agree with Alison there).

      1. TootsNYC*

        brooms don’t really do much except push the dirt around
        You have exactly described the intended purpose of a broom.

        What else would a broom do EXCEPT push the dirt around? That is exactly their purpose, and their ONLY purpose. That’s what they were made to do.

        They push the dirt around into one single pile, and then they push it into the dustpan.

        As for that little line of dirt–there will always be such a line, no matter which dustpan you use, and no matter how practiced or skilled the sweeper is. I think the intent is that you sweep that little bit of dirt into a corner somewhere, or disperse it, so that it’s not particularly visible. (At home, I get out the hand vac and suck it up–that keeps the vacuum cleaner bag from being filled up unnecessarily.)

        1. TootsNYC*

          the advantages of a broom over a vacuum are:
          They can handle many sizes of things (vacuums can’t handle big stuff).
          They don’t take electricity and so don’t drag a cord behind them.
          They don’t need a vacuum bag, so fewer costs.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        I’ve used both and I’m more comfortable with brooms. They seem easier than dealing with that big, heavy, noisy, dirty vacuum.
        For the line of dust it helps if you put the dustpan at a right angle to it and sweep it in. Then there’s only a little bit of dust and you can turn the dustpan at an angle again, and keep doing that until you can’t see it anymore.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      I can’t either. I have an Aspergers diagnosis with some spatial/mathematical impairment and executive function issues, but I don’t know if that’s why.

      The above problems definitely interfere with one of my jobs, but no way am I disclosing. I have never had a good outcome from that – and a large part of me thinks this diagnosis is BS and I am just dumb, lazy, incompetent, and not trying hard enough.)

      1. Flash Bristow*

        Sympathies. It must be hard to have a diagnosis you’re uncertain about.

        Just remember that accommodations are there to help you, not embarrass you, so use them if you need to.

        And a diagnosis doesn’t change who you are. You’re still you! It’s just that now, there’s a way for others to better understand how you might think or be.

        I’m not saying agree if you don’t, but maybe you could look at these things in another light? Even if you disagree with the diagnosis, it’s saying “you behave a bit like people with this diagnosis” so it will help other people have a way to begin to understand you.

        Well, just a thought.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Thank you. Honestly, I’ve long refused accommodations because either they were humiliating or I thought they gave me an unfair advantage over others. And on the rare occasions I have asked people (in work or other situations) to be understanding/accommodating, they aren’t. They may be polite about it in the moment, but they don’t follow up.

          1. valentine*

            I don’t think an accommodation can give you an unfair advantage. Whatever you think you’re getting is either offset by the reason others don’t need it or isn’t necessary to the job. Someone who can stand when I’d collapse can probably still walk further and with less pain than I can after any amount of me sitting while they stand. Guiltlessly get whatever help you can and consider if there are better workplaces and colleagues for you.

    3. BadWolf*

      I’m guessing there’s the aspect of really wide broom vs big area with obstacles (versus a big square room where you could methodically go up and back). I can be hard to track where you’ve swept. And depending on your height/arm length you may have a hard time wrangling the broom around corners/obstacles, suddenly you’re paying attention to getting the broom around the candy display and not whether you hit all four sides of the candy display.

      As others have mentioned, if you turn down the sweeping, try to suggest something else. Or start with suggestions when you say you can do other things. “Hey boss, I’m done with my assigned tasks. Should I sweep the store for stuff left in the wrong spots?”

    4. Environmental Compliance*

      I have a deep dislike of anything I have to forcibly push around that has any weight. I have nerve issues in both elbows which gets aggravated through a pushing motion. A small broom I can handle. A large broom I would not be able to do without pain, and it wouldn’t be done well. I’m in my mid-20s. It does suck to have to explain why I can’t do certain things, because it’s often followed by “but you’re so young!!!1!” Yep, and my elbows are possessed by demons. *shrug*

      I am in much agreement with preferring vacuuming over sweeping.

  21. mkaibear*

    OP#2 I’m going to take a different tack with this than most of the other commenters, above.

    I’m someone from a medical family who has absolutely no problem sharing medical details with people because, meh, it’s not that big a deal for the usual stuff (quote from previous performance review “one thing I’ve learned from working with you is the correct way to spell diarrhoea”) – so actually I’m probably the polar opposite of the situation most people seem to identify with of a pushy boss and reticent worker – but if you’re like me and actually don’t really care about your boss knowing the details of why you’re feeling ill one solution might be to rope her in to it.

    Most medical people and ex-medical people have at least a passing interest in health so you might consider the next time you need to take a self-care day telling her why you’re feeling crappy and ask if she’s got any advice on what you could do. If she’s the kind of person who likes to offer advice in this area then it’ll smooth the way to stopping her feeling judgemental – after all how can she judge you if you’ve asked for her help?

    Or, you might not have this kind of relationship with your boss at all and that’s ok too, because when you’re ill, you’re ill, and you don’t really owe her any kind of explanation other than “I feel ill”! Give yourself permission to use the sick leave you’ve got available!

    1. Quackeen*

      quote from previous performance review “one thing I’ve learned from working with you is the correct way to spell diarrhoea”

      That seems like a very weird thing to include in a review. Was that conversationally, or did your manager actually write that?

      1. valentine*

        telling her why you’re feeling crappy and ask if she’s got any advice on what you could do
        OP2 shouldn’t coddle the manager, especially by trampling boundaries and asking for free medical advice.

      2. mkaibear*

        Conversationally. As part of the review. And yes objectively weird but in context fine (we were discussing a couple of bouts of sickness I’d had and she said she appreciated my openness about what was wrong because it made it easier to “justify” time off if asked from higher up – no-one wants someone with gastroent symptoms around them in the office!)

    2. MLB*

      Even if you’re comfortable discussing medical conditions with managers, it’s really not necessary to disclose details. Good managers treat their subordinates like adults, which includes accepting “I’m calling out sick” as a reasonable explanation of why they’re not coming into work. Unless someone is clearly abusing the sick leave policy, details are not needed.

      1. catwoman2965*

        This! 100%!!!!! In my younger working days, I always felt the need to explain WHY I was calling in sick, but now that I’m older and wiser, I don’t. I doubt anyone really cares, and it’s no one’s business but my own. My immediate boss is good; he doesn’t want to know, and a simply email saying “not feeling well, not coming in today” is more than sufficient.

        His boss though, well, she’s the type if she doesn’t feel well enough to come in, including having the flu one year, and pneumonia another, she will “work from home” Nope, sorry. If i’m that sick, and can’t come in, I’m not working. I rarely get sick, so my boss knows if i do call in sick, i’m either sick, or (and I’d never tell him this) I just need a mental health day. But he never questions me on any of it. She on the other hand, I kind of suspect may expect this from us as well, but nope. not happening.

      2. mkaibear*

        At what point did I say it was *necessary* to disclose details?

        You appear to have missed the parts of my comment where I said “if”, repeatedly. It’s a tack which will only work if she’s got the right relationship with her boss, *and* she’s happy doing so – if she’s not happy doing so then I was quite clear that she shouldn’t do it and that she’s should have no qualms about just saying she’s sick.

        But she was quite open about the fact that she’s worried about being judged by her boss and violating her office norms and what I suggested would be a way to avoid that for the most part – whereas just saying “I’m calling out sick” is going to be doing precisely the thing which she was worried about doing in her letter.

  22. Kitty*

    Re: letter #1, does anyone have any tips for dealing with a suffocatingly micromanaging boss while trying to get out? Any advice for staying sane when I’m not trusted to do anything on my own and feel no investment in my work as a result is appreciated!

    1. londonedit*

      I’ve been in a similar situation and I found that just trying not to care was the best way to deal with it. I turned up, I completed my work, but I didn’t let myself get emotionally involved. It was like I was acting the part of someone who would smile and nod at the awful manager’s insane micromanaging, and I just tried to be as dispassionate as possible because I knew whatever I did would be pulled apart or discarded or changed at the last minute. It helped that a) it was a temp contract, so I knew there was an end in sight, and b) the manager in question was awful to everyone, not just me, so I was able to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t personal and it was just a sign that she was a particularly horrible person and therefore not my problem. It was still a terrible situation to be in, and I hated every day I worked there, but I just put my head down and tried to care as little as possible.

    2. Jen*

      I gave up and turned into a bit of a robot for a while. When I got one of the “why Didn’t you ask me about [random normal task I do multiple times a day]” emails, I just acknowledged and didn’t let myself get upset. Fighting just made it worse. Not a good long term strategy but it let me last a couple months.

      1. OP 1*

        What are your strategies for not letting yourself get upset? I admit I am a highly sensitive person/overthinker- so things that wouldn’t bother some people will drive my insane for weeks (months, years! – Just kidding.. sort of )

        1. OP 1*

          This reply was actually meant for anyone on this thread- several of you mentioned not letting yourself get upset. I’m just getting the knack of commenting (frequent lurker on the site- rare commenter).

          1. Jen*

            Not going to lie, it was hard. I vented trusted friend outside the structure. My regular boss also made sure I got to return when my detail was up (they kind of just leave people there sometimes) so having a firm end date helped a lot.

            But I also just told myself, “That is just her being her” and moved on. It did help knowing others in my position had received the same kind of responses so I knew I was good at my job (plus she would keep telling me I was good at it. As I said it was bizarre. A bit Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde)

            1. OP 1*

              I like “this is just her being her” – and mine is also like this with everyone, so that definitely helps to remember that all of us aren’t terrible employees, so she must be the problem.

        2. londonedit*

          I think the ‘looking at it from the point of view of an anthropologist examining a strange and slightly terrifying culture’ is a good strategy! And as Jen says…you just have to become a bit of a robot. You already say you don’t have any investment in your work – see if you can use those feelings to become even more dispassionate about the whole situation. Train yourself to not care about any of it. It’s not your problem, it’s nothing to do with you personally, it’s her being a dick, it’s not your fault. Just smile and nod and let everything else go straight over your head.

          1. Kitty*

            The problem with not caring though is I worry I’ll become so checked out that my work quality will go down and I’ll look like a slacker and not be able to get a good reference… I’m having trouble finding the balance between caring too much which results in me getting upset, and checking out completely.

        3. First Time Caller*

          I find that having an end date in mind helps (I am going on maternity leave). The other thing that helps is honing my other professional skills so I don’t fall into the trap of letting myself believe I’m incompetent or unreasonable just because my boss treats me that way.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            I also decided to work on my professionalism so I could get a better job. That helped a lot!

        4. Michaela Westen*

          When I was working for the most horrible person I’ve ever known and didn’t want to keep venting to my friends – they can only take so much of that – every Friday evening I vented into a Word document on my computer. I did this for two to three years, then didn’t feel the need anymore. I was there for 5 years altogether.
          I deleted the document and cleared the trash when I got rid of the computer.

    3. Can be rainy*

      My advice is threefold: 1) urgently preserve your self-esteem; 2) kindly wean them from micromanaging; 3) call in sick at first sign of nausea/insomnia/stomach flu and explain the situation to your doctor. Lack of appreciation is so draining, and your phrasing indicates an understandably depressed mood.

      Keep your self-esteem and sanity by reminding yourself that THEY are the issue. Please make time for an esteem-building hobby with concrete milestones, such as sport, tinkering, cooking or knitting.

      My helper personality allows me to endure micromanaging bosses better than colleagues. I am a bit of a doormat (working on that!) but I also love to educate/ spread knowledge. So I consider as my personal little project to wean the manager from micromanaging. Usually, micromanaging is a consequence of distrust. So I actively build that trust. I project reliability by saying what I will do step by step (without prompting from them) and doing what I said (without derail) for all and every sub-task, i.e. “I will fold the letters, put them in 4 envelopes, add 4 stamps and mail them all before 4pm, is that all right to you?”. Whenever they comment on my work within my area of expertise, I -so politely- propose an even better solution, with lengthy explanation focusing on why it will be better in the long term, including looking good /being appreciated by the higher ups. Any tiny milestone reached -Yay they don’t check stamp alignment anymore!- is my personal private victory/milestone to internally celebrate. Of course, any positive feed back from higher ups hugely speeds up the process. Micromanager begin to trust me. Consequently they relent on the micro- in micromanaging. Our collaboration becomes more effective. They relax even more. This virtuous cycle accelerates. I have had glorious feed back from known micromanagers that allowed me to leave them (yay!) and join great projects based on “If notoriously difficult Micromanager thinks so highly of you, we are confident you can work with Hotshot Favorite project”. Unfortunately, this precise competence has led me to meet more than my share of ToxicManagers. I am working on detecting them earlier and protecting myself better.

      When all else fail, call in sick at first sign of nausea, diarrhea or insomnia, and rest/send CV’s. Please call in sick BEFORE you reach a point where you actually throw up at the idea of going to work. That level of fatigue will hinder your job search and you do not want that. Please don’t ask how I know.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        I also did my favorite hobbies and started a new one when I was working for the horrible boss. I had already noticed having something fun to look forward to makes a *huge* difference. Having fun a few times a week made my boss much more bearable!

      2. Kitty*

        I have no faith that she will ever change, based on how dismissive she is of any suggested alternatives in work projects, and how she basically deals with problems we bring her with denial. And frankly I don’t want to put in the huge amount of emotional labour to try to wean her off toxic behaviour she should know better than, so I’m focusing my efforts on getting out.

        Having a freelance project in my spare time where I’m respected and my skills are valued has helped a lot, but I still struggle while I’m at work to motivate myself to do the tedious busywork I’m given. And sadly most of it requires too much concentration to listen to a podcast or music to alleviate the boredom.

      3. Kitty*

        In fact, I’m actually kind of trying the opposite tactic of ‘malicious compliance’ like ok so you want to control everything? I’m going to ask you what to do on every single decision until you get so sick of it you actively encourage me to make decisions om my own.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I don’t know how big your organization is – is it big enough to transfer to a position with a better boss? If not, I think you’re right about moving on. If it was me I would enjoy telling them all about it in the exit interview. ;)

          1. Kitty*

            Haha yes I have thought about what I would say in an exit interview. I know for a fact that a former teammate left for the same reasons I am and was very explicit about this Manager’s failings in his exit interview. But nothing came of it. So at best I think it’d be a cathartic thing rather than change anything. I do worry a little about totally burning bridges with this organisation by being very honest, but the longer I’m here the more dysfunction I see and I don’t think I’ll ever want to come back even if I’m desperate for a job.

    4. Good Vibes*

      Well personally my inner dialogue goes something like- “I’ve seen worse, dealt with worse. Anything you throw at me can’t be as bad as that”. It comes off like I don’t care sometimes, but it’s better than spinning wheels. All I can say is to keep your chin up, go home and be as you as you possibly can.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      The mantra is “Micromanaging says more about [boss] than it says about my abilities.”

      Seriously, I’ve been working for 20+ years and have yet to see a correlation between micromanagement and crappy employees. I see a lot of correlation between micromanagement and crappy managers.

      There is also big-deal correction and little-deal correction. Don’t get into a power struggle (even internally) about someone who corrects your “OK”s to “okay”s, has a diametrically opposed philosophy on the Oxford comma, or other small things. Filter for big-deal stuff that actually needs to be fixed.

  23. AudreyParker*

    I had a boss once who didn’t want to be cc’d on emails — she wanted me to print them out, show them to her, then file them away. That gig did not last long.

    OP#5 I totally sympathize and commend you for working on this now. I never needed to deal with it in college (many years ago now!) and it screws up every job search as I try to find ways not to have to provide references. I’m pretty sure my current one has dragged on an extra year because I didn’t want to “waste” my only 2 on low-paying temp agencies. I finally bit the bullet, but apologized to them for even asking— I’m SO uncomfortable putting people on the spot and expecting them to take time out of the workday & come up with nice things to say just because I’m terrible at networking into a job… it just feels presumptuous to me. Hoping to internalize some of Alison’s advice myself!

      1. AudreyParker*

        Seeing someone else’s response upthread about working in a legal office, that was this woman’s background, so probably explains the behavior. It was actually beyond that: each client had a folder, I’d file the email THEY sent & include a blank cover sheet with a tab, then note it in a log on the top. After my reply was okayed, that would get filed, tabbed, logged. Etc etc. Between this and several other unique job “features,” I was seriously sure there was a hidden camera and I was being punked. Needless to say, it was a poor fit!

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          This is someone who could not adopt their chronology file methodology to modern technology. There is some historical precedent to the way they were doing things, but it was based on the exchange of paper letters. Thank goodness most firms use electronic filing now, too.

    1. TootsNYC*

      “I didn’t want to “waste” my only 2 on low-paying temp agencies.”

      If i’m giving a reference for someone, it’s because I wish them well. And if they’re struggling to land a longer-term gig, I’m happy to say nice things about them as often as they need.

      One thing to remember: research has show than when you ask someone else FOR a favor, they like you more and want to be more helpful. It’s backward from what you’d expect (that people like you once you’ve done something for THEM), but it’s pretty powerful.

      So stop hesitating.
      Warn us that you’re going to be applying for several temp agencies at the moment, so we’re prepared. (For one thing, I might give a less detailed reference in such a situation, which would save me some time but still make you look good. If it’s a job in your own field, I’ll wax on a little bit more.)

      1. AudreyParker*

        Thanks for weighing in! I’d actually figured I’d only register for one agency so as not to generate “reference fatigue” and just keep my fingers crossed (although honestly, it’s as tough getting a temp agency to respond these days as it is when you directly apply for a job!). I guess I feel like there’s nothing I can do to reciprocate, and people are busy and don’t need to be saddled with my job search issues, plus it’s just embarrassing when it doesn’t pan out… although I’m also the first to volunteer to help OTHER people network if there’s anything I can do to help. I also don’t like to force people to come up with good things to say – for all I know, there’s not much of note to discuss. Job search is going on 2 years now, though, so obviously my reluctance to drag other people in is not doing me any favors!

  24. Grand Mouse*

    Hello #4! I am a custodian and I struggle with a pushbroom. I think my issues might be different than yours, but it doesn’t go well for me. Unless I have been specifically instructed to use a pushbroom, I use a regular broom and get the same results. Could you suggest that? See if you can get a trial run of using another way to sweep the floor. It might be worth it to ask for more training to see if there’s an easier way to do it, but no shame if you can’t. Good luck!

    It’s also fine to decide that this won’t out for you. You’re 17, you’re not locked into one job (no one is, but younger people have more flexibility).

  25. ken*

    I had a job where I never had to cc my boss because my boss would not let us have our own email addresses. It was a 4-person office. She had to be able to access to everything, but we were only supposed to open the stuff that pertained to our work in the organization. Sometimes it wasn’t all that clear who needed to read what, and the boss would throw a fit if you opened something intended specifically for her. You were somehow just supposed to magically know from the subject line and sender which emails were off limits. The thing was, I quickly realized there was information I needed in those emails, so I took to opening and reading everything as fast as I could first thing in the morning when I knew my boss was driving and then marking the ones I wasn’t supposed to see as unread.

    It was also really awkward when you were trying to establish a business relationship and the contact would say, “No, can I have YOUR email?” when you gave them the generic address. Needless to say, I did not last long with that company.

    1. Michaela Westen*

      Smart of you to read them and mark them as unread! I doubt I would have thought of that. I probably would have just said, “this is bananas” and quit.

  26. Shoes on My Cat*

    OP4: push brooms can be awkward! I’ve found some are easier to pull (like a standard broom) towards you. Some I actually can push but I used to miss a line if I was walking back & forth across the floor. At some point I got to flail about with the large rectangular mops janitors use with water/cleaning solution and the dry floor vs shiny wet floor made my route clearly visible. Once I got the hang of that, the push broom was much more successful as an expansion of that. Another option might be to get 4 cones and literally cone off/mark a smaller section of the shop floor-a square if possible. Do that. Move the cones to an adjoining section. Do that. Repeat in that direction until you get to the other side. Cone off the next adjoining g section/line and continue back along that line. Like the cartoon characters eating a row of corn on the cob at a time. You may find that it helps to section out the giant floor into doable chunks-regardless of the type of broom you use.

  27. Kisses*

    OP4, I’ve supervised st 2 shops that had the push broom (and mopping!) as a nightly duty while the other clerk put stock up and straightened. I also started in that position myself- as one of the closers who would push the broom. I found as time went on it was more about just getting the big dust bunnies and any trash on the floor. In general, yes, store upkeep is important but the store always looked good- typically because a different person was assigned the duty every night and therefore it seems like nothing was missed. (Behind the counter, the fitting rooms, and the bathroom were swept normally). If the broom is basically just walked behind, all that needed to be done was walk the floor.
    Being as its a physical issue, I never had a problem as a supervisor switching around the duties or even doing them myself. Hopefully a good manager will do the same. If not, just try to use the time to walk the floor, get the dust bunnies and any trash, and look for things out of place. The pace will pick up. At 17 you’ve got a bright future having already gained experience. And I think everyone should have retail experience.

  28. Asenath*

    I’ve never been asked to cc a manager or anyone else on everything. I do, of course, cc people (not just my managers) when I want their input, or to confirm that I’ve followed up on something and this is the result and on other similar occasions. As for keeping track of what I’ve done – ALL my work email goes through a non-personal office email address – one of those standard ones like One other person has access – partly because there’s one big set of tasks we collaborate on and partly in case I get hit by a bus – no need to go through IT, someone can take my work over immediately. And when I’m replaced, the next worker will have access to all emails and all saved documents.

    If OP’s manager wants cc, there’s not much to do but provide it, but if she’s insisting on waiting until she gets in before time-sensitive work gets done, maybe there needs to be a meeting pointing out this is causing problems, and perhaps she could set guidelines in place (I know, it sounds like this isn’t needed, but the suggestion might make her feel cooperative) so that work can go ahead immediately?

  29. Asenath*

    I’m generally a great fan of “I’m not feeling well” for routine sick leave (and, yes, you can just start taking it, OP2). I have been more specific sometimes with people I’ve worked with for years in special situations. Personally, I don’t think the boss being a doctor means that they need more specific information – I’ve worked with doctors a lot, and never casually discussed my health with them, although some of my co-workers have. I have consulted a couple of them professionally, but in those cases I went through the usual procedures of making an appointment and seeing them in their offices. I tend to think that doctors don’t really need or want to be waylaid outside the clinic with details of my bad cold, or a request for a prescription, but YMMV.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’m generally a great fan of “I’m not feeling well” for routine sick leave

      Me too. I will sometimes give more detail (like you said, someone I’ve worked with for years) but I’m not dealing with anyone who thinks they deserve more detail. You’ve just got to become comfortable deflecting the interrogation.

      “I won’t be in today, I’m not feeling well.”
      “Oh, what’s wrong with you?”
      “Who knows, but I feel absolutely awful so I’m staying home. Hopefully I’ll see you tomorrow. Kaythanksbye.” {click}

      1. Flash Bristow*


        What a straightforward way to put it, yet one I never thought of. Hope it helps the OP. And OP if your medically trained boss pokes for more info, to try and diagnose or whatever, just say “I’m sorry, I said I wasn’t well, I have to go back to bed now, bye” and hang up. She cannot realistically complain about that at all.

  30. Delta Delta*

    OP4 – I’m going to take a slightly different view here and suggest you stop asking for tasks. It sounds like you know the kinds of tasks you can do during your down time. Do those tasks. Sweep the small areas (which might include small areas of the shop floor, need the door, etc), clean the fitting room mirrors, etc. If your boss asks you to do the big floor, either a) explain that there are reasons it’s difficult for you or b) do what others have suggested and see if there is a way to divide the space and use a smaller broom so you can manage it.

    I learned a long time ago in retail that sometimes the trick is to always look busy. Do that.

    1. TheOperaGhost*

      Way back when I worked in retail stocking shelves overnight and was sick and tired about covering other people’s slack, after I finished my section, I would simply walk around the store with a purposeful stride, and leave a cart or two of trash by my section that I would grab at the end of my shift to toss as a “sign” that I wasn’t quite done yet.

    2. TootsNYC*


      The great thing is that you are willing to do more once your assigned tasks are over.
      But start assigning YOURSELF the tasks: “Joe, I’m done w/ the changing rooms; I’m going to tackle the bathrooms now.”

      You still get the boost of “being proactive” and “being a team player,” but you ALSO might get a boost from “taking initiative.”

      You know what there is to do; assign yourself those jobs.

  31. NYWeasel*

    OP#2: I understand your situation, as our team has been in crisis mode for over a year, and as a supervisor, I’m trying to break everyone of the “work crazy OT” habit we’ve all developed as a result. Even I struggle with packing up and leaving on time, and it makes it super hard to convince my team to head out when they see me still toiling away at my desk. My problem is that we’re still developing processes, so my team rightfully comes to me all day long for input/guidance, but it means that I still need 1-2 hours after they leave to button up my tasks before I head out. The longer they stay, the longer it takes for me to start to wind things up, bc as long as I’m there, they pop over to ask questions.

    I’ve been working on my own confidence to walk directly out at the normal end time, even if I’m leaving tasks undone. My manager is luckily 100% supportive of this, which yours might not be, but the biggest obstacle I’ve found is my own internal reluctance to even try. Think of it like any workplace skill you are working on—if you don’t start trying, you won’t get feedback on how to get better at it. If your boss is unreasonable the first time, you can use different approaches that have been outlined here to try and get better results. Good luck!

  32. Thomas E*

    #5 Everyone who you ask to do a reference has had to ask someone else to write them a reference to get the job they’re working at…

  33. Rebecca*

    OP#1 – first, keep that email! She put it in writing that you are to wait for her before acting. What would happen if you did just that, and she took several hours to tell you what you should do or to agree with what you proposed in the message? Perhaps if she has to explain to her boss why things are late, not getting done, there are people standing around not working, etc. she’ll reconsider or her boss will tell her to reconsider her stance.

    1. Anonny*

      Malicious compliance. It generally works as long as there’s at least one person in the authority chain with an ounce of common sense.

    2. OP 1*

      This is a good idea and I wish I had the courage to do it! I am going to consider doing this in the future though :-)

      1. Minocho*

        Since you and your coworkers are attempting to keep things moving despite your manager’s demands to stand in the middle of everything, you all are working harder in order to minimize the damage her poor management causes. You’ve said you like the mission you are supporting, so I completely understand why you’re doing that – but unfortunately this is the strategy that is least likely to change your current situation.

        Malicious compliance from you and all your coworkers will likely cause problems in the short term, but if

        1. You all have your manager’s instructions to CC her on everything and wait for her input before acting on everyday action items, and
        2. You believe that someone above her is likely to be reasonably able to do something about her once they notice the serious degradation in productivity

        It may be worth having all of you suddenly comply with your manager’s instruction in full. Given her short average work week and the sudden volume of items requiring her attention and input, either she will realize the untenable position she’s placed herself in, or someone above her will begin to investigate and enact some sort of change, either to their direction of her or her current position.

        Good luck!!!

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      …forward that email to your boss’s boss and ask if they agree that this is the correct way to operate?

      1. valentine*

        That’s insubordination and harms her relationship with her boss, to whom she has not said, “What are we meant to do whilst we wait (hours or weeks!) for your instructions?”

    4. whistle*

      This is pretty much what I was coming here to say. OP1, your boss has essentially give you conflicting goals. Your company wants you to resolve issues in a timely manner. Your boss has stated (in writing!) that you are not to resolve issues until she reviews them (which is hours after you are in a position to resolve them). You cannot win here.

      If you are not willing to actually delay resolving issues in accordance with your boss’s guidance (which would be an understandable position to take), can you point out the discrepancy to your boss? “Boss, I appreciate your assistance with these issues, but I am concerned about how the company would view my responsiveness. To be clear: are you saying that I should not address an urgent matter that I receive at 7 am until I have received your guidance several hours later?”

  34. ssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    I was hired in an administrative position where there was also a senior administrative person. I was instructed to c.c. the senior person on all my emails to ensure that I was doing all the steps and details correctly.

    She read them all as they came in and jumped on every tiny “mistake” that I made on the spot, resulting in me feeling annoyed and then incompetent (despite my many more years of employment than her) and then fearful. I started rereading each email three to four times hoping there was nothing minor for her to jump on. This was not very efficient.

    Why not save the comments and review once a week instead unless it was a critical mistake?

    It just occurred to me now, reading OP’s letter, how busy could she have been, this “senior” person when she had time to jump on my every email right away?

    1. Hi there*

      I often think this kind of micromanagement is a substitute for doing any real work. It is far easier to critique others’ work than generate your own.

  35. Ilikeyoualatte*

    #1 I had a micromanager that wanted to be ccd on everything too (do we have the same boss??).

    You know how I fixed it? I over communicated everything and prepared reports he didn’t ask for and created plans for the project unprompted and described it in extreme detail. I went overboard on everything. Within a few months he finally trusted me and didn’t care to micromanage me anymore.

    1. OP 1*

      This is great! I’m glad that worked out for you- I’ll try it!

      Ironically, this same boss once complained to a colleague of mine that all of us (her direct reports) are like “jack russell terriers” – she was basically saying that we were always jumping up and down for her attention. When she works 2-3 days a week and we have to run every tiny thing by her.. it’s kind of impossible to avoid being a jack russell terrier.

      1. Doodle*

        Your boss is kind of an A$$, OP 1. You say she is very competent overall, but this kind of controlling behavior says to me, not as competent as she should or could be.

        Frankly, after that remark I’d be tempted to come in wearing a dog collar and literally yapping at her when she rolled into the office.

      2. Ilikeyoualatte*

        Haha yeah I know how you feel. This guy was so up in my business and wanted to be ccd and involved in everything (not just me, the whole team like you) – I was finally like…okay if that’s what you want that’s what you’ll get. And I flooded him so much that he completely left me alone and stoped micromanaging me (still kept on with teammates tho). For the entire time I worked from him then on he started telling everyone how amazing I am (his boss, customers, coworkers etc.) when really I was actually equal to everyone else.

      3. Marthooh*


        I’ve been reading through your comments, OP 1, and I have to say, your boss doesn’t sound competent or intelligent or good at her job. She sounds lazy and self-satisfied. I’ll take your word for it that there’s something likable about her, but that just means she can deploy enough charm on her supervisors to get away with this crap.

        I don’t know what your situation is at work, but I wish you and your fellow supervisors would stop managing your manager. Use email for communication. Cc your boss on everything. Let her inefficiency manifest itself on the job. Stop begging for her attention, because I think that’s what she really wants here — to feel wanted and needed.

        1. Flash Bristow*

          “managing your manager”

          Excellent way to look at it. OP does that help any? I also like the comments about asking her if you should wait with urgent issues until she is able to check… The malicious compliance idea… And when it goes wrong, if she doesn’t acknowledge that and change things, going to her boss, ideally with a group of you.

          You should not have to manage your manager but you are.

  36. Cassandra*

    Hi, OP5. Another university instructor here.

    Who are you to ask for a reference? Just your brief note to Alison makes clear that you are a kind and conscientious student with professional-level writing chops. I’d lay a large bet that you also take your classwork seriously and excel in it. That absolutely makes you worthy of a good reference from someone like me — and there’s so much I don’t know about you, but your instructors do, or can learn it from your resume!

    Many other commenters have told you that recommendations are our job and we enjoy writing them, as well as having our own little tricks to get them done in record time. It’s all true! I just wanted to add, quite sincerely, that you — you yourself — deserve good rec letters.

    A suggestion, too: when you land the Amazing Teapot Internship, drop an email to your recommenders saying so. We dearly love to see our students achieve; your email will make their day. It’s not required or anything, but it’s certainly kind and gracious, and I hope it will make you feel better about asking for the rec letter!

    1. Frozen Ginger*

      Hell, you don’t even necessarily need to “excel” if you showed that you cared and were trying. Up thread I mentioned a friend who got a recommendation from a math professor for his engineering PhD application. He only got a B in the class, but he worked his tuckus off for that B and the professor was more than happy to give the recommendation.

      1. Cassandra*

        Absolutely. Take it seriously and work hard? That’ll net you a good rec. So will clear evidence of improvement during the course — we are well aware that not all our students come in with equal preparation, and we pay attention to people who come from behind.

        So will evidence that you can admit when you’ve messed up and make it right. I don’t mean begging for extra-credit assignments — this is not a thing that will endear you — but, for example… I had a student once who was involved in a campus sport and suffered a serious surgery-requiring injury during the semester. This student absolutely blew up at me in email over a course assignment — but came to my office a couple of days later work out the problem and say “I don’t want to be a person who behaves like that. I’m really sorry. This injury has messed with my head, but I am trying to be better.” Before that student left my office, I said, “If you ever need a rec for anything, please ask me. I am so impressed with how you’ve handled this.”

        And I meant it. Some students would have ghosted, or not bothered to apologize, or torn me a new one on anonymous student evals. This student adulted effectively in a highly difficult situation.

        Moral of the story: there are LOTS of ways to earn good recs. OP5, I absolutely believe you have done so.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, I used to use a prof who gave me a B- as a ref. I was underprepared for the class – the only person there who wasn’t majoring in that subject or something closely related – but I took it seriously, worked hard, and asked for help.

      3. AudreyParker*

        One of my college recommendations came from my math teacher, who I knew pretty well because a) I’d had him for at least 4 different classes, b) I barely passed any of those classes, but stayed after for help all. the. time. He certainly wasn’t vouching for my crazy math skills, I can only assume he talked about persistence in the face of failure and overcoming obstacles or something, but it worked!

  37. Overeducated*

    This has happened to me as well (not EVERY email, but most or all outside of my work group). The manager almost never weighed in or responded though, it was just a CYA measure in case he got asked about any details of what i was doing so he could call it right up and not look surprised. The perils of working in a very hierarchical and slightly paranoid setting….

  38. WellRed*

    LW 1, you asked for a reality check. You have now had 2 micromanagers in a row, which you recognize but say “OK fine.” Your current manager is not someone you can hope to have a “sane and rational conversation” with. Think about that! I think this workplace is slowly warping your sense of workplace norms.

    1. OP 1*

      You are definitely right- I recognize that I work in an extremely dysfunctional and anxious organization. I love my job and my staff and we do important work so I am not quite ready to move on. I have to constantly read outside resources (like this blog!) to make sure that I am being as effective as possible with my own team so that I don’t become part of the problem.

  39. Doodle*

    OP 5: Please, just ask your professors. If you want them to be happy to write recommendations for you, do this: Ask in person (unless you are in a distance ed program and can’t come to campus), ask WAAAAAY in advance, have all of the materials the prof needs to write a good recommendation (resume; description of the internship or job — the official posting is very helpful, as is supplying the URL of the office or employer; a written statement of why you are interested in the internship/job, how it will help develop you academically/intellectually/in terms of career/personally, what skills and experience you bring to the job/internship — this statement doesn’t have to be super long, but put some thought into it; write down anything you want to be sure the prof addresses). I myself always ask students to meet with me to discuss it before I will write a letter, and this is what I ask them to bring to the meeting. It helps me write a better letter, and it helps the students get some practice in answering interview type questions — I don’t interview my students, it’s very warm and supportive, but I do explain at some point in the conversation that these are the kinds of things they’ll want to be ready to talk about.

    Be sure to send a thank you note (email is fine, although again if you are on campus you can hand deliver a card — you may notice that profs and advisors and others on campus often display the cards they get. And keep your recommenders updated on how the process goes — let them know if you got an interview, if you got the job, and also if you didn’t get an interview or offer!

    AAM is right — most of us love to do this! You have a lot of instructors you could ask, but you asked ME! Very flattering!

  40. KWu*

    OP5: I am not internet armchair diagnosing at all, but wanted to mention that while you’re in college, you may have free access to counseling services (the mental health kind). I went a few times just to talk to someone about family and roommate stuff that was going on and it really helped, so that might be a good resource if you’re feeling really stuck.

  41. peachie*

    I’m not a manager, but wow, the thought of getting 20+ extra emails per day per employee and having to determine which 4 are important is giving me secondhand anxiety.

    1. Ilikeyoualatte*

      If that’s giving you anxiety… my boss got ccd on 100+ emails a day from me alone, and there were 7 other team members

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      YES. If everyone who worked for me (even the direct subordinates only, not even their teams) CCed me on every email, I would lose my mind. The WHOLE POINT of having those subordinates is that they do things. Independently. I am always here for consultation, but I don’t need to weigh in on every single thing. Good lord.

      I have a team who is currently managing their whole group via email CCs, and it’s insane and important things get lost in the shuffle. When you have to sit with new people to establish foldering rules on Day 1, YOU HAVE A PROBLEM.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Seriously. That’s one of the reasons hospital-acquired infections are so common. (And the “suck it up” culture in healthcare makes them less compassionate toward their patients.)

  42. LQ*

    OP #5 I totally understand this feeling BUT when I got to do my first recommendation that all went away (ok, mostly went away) because when I get to be the reference (which you are giving people the opportunity to do) I feel so proud of the person, like I’m getting a chance to help them grow in a new way I wasn’t able to myself (not bad about me, just I’m only me, and you shouldn’t just work for one person forever to really grow), I get to take a few minutes of my day where normally I’m running around wildly and stop and look back over the course of someone’s growth and say, wow, they are so much better now and I got to play a role in that. That makes my day great. That is a really nice task that makes my work day better. Plus on my task list it is small effort big impact.

    Who are you? You are giving me the opportunity to have a good moment in my day, yes please.

  43. Mockingjay*

    For OP4 and OP5, can I just say how much I enjoy seeing questions from younger readers who want to establish good workplace habits.

    I wish you both well in your studies and future careers; I have no doubt you will be successful!

  44. Yvette*

    With regards to the shower issue “…normally you shouldn’t invite anyone to a shower who isn’t invited to the wedding, but there’s an exception for showers thrown at work.” I would say that also applies to showers thrown at your church, by your book club, etc. etc. Those showers generally are done with the aim of celebrating an important life event, more like having a cake for someone’s birthday. I have never been in a work or social group shower where the expectation was that we would all be invited to the wedding.

    1. Frozen Ginger*

      Right, think of it this way: if the shower isn’t really selective in who attends (i.e. everyone in a particular, large group), you don’t need to worry about selecting them for your wedding.

    2. BadWolf*

      I was thinking the same, at least in my experience in my US location, if your family or bridesmaid is throwing the party where you are planning the guest list, then it would be wedding guests.

      If some other group (work, church, hobby group) independently chooses to throw a party, it’s not an expectation that they would be invited to the wedding. In fact, it would probably be thrown to celebrate your wedding because they’re not attending.

    3. Margaret*

      Also, the way it’s worded in the original question is basically backwards – “I’ve read that etiquette is that if someone throws you (or attends) a shower, you’re supposed to invite them to be polite?” The “official” etiquette rule is that you shouldn’t invite people to the shower if they’re not already invited to the wedding. (With the exceptions noted for work, church, etc.). It’s the wedding invite that dictates (outside of the exceptions) the shower invite, not the shower invite that dictates the wedding invite!

  45. Narvo Flieboppen*

    LW #4 – Another option I didn’t see suggested is ask if any of your coworkers would like to trade and do the sweeping while you take over one of their tasks. When I worked retail, I loved doing the full floor sweep and would gladly have traded a task like filling bag racks or dusting for the floor sweep.

  46. PB*

    OP5, I’m sorry you’re feeling stressed about this! I promise, your professors 100% expect this. I even had a student request a recommendation from me while I was a TA in grad school. For them, writing references is part of the job, as much as teaching and grading. Your professors are there to help students succeed, which includes providing references so they can get internships and other work experiences.

    Good luck!

  47. Miss V*

    LW 2 is very relevant to me- as in, today I’m taking a half sick/half mental health day (as in, I don’t feel well, and while I could *probably* push through and go to work the thought of doing so just leaves me drained and exhausted).

    I started the job I’m at about 11 months ago and barring one time where I was dealing with a sick kitty and came in 2 hours late which I then made up I haven’t taken an unscheduled day yet. (Kitty is fine now, and sitting on my lap getting pets as I write). I was at my old job for four years and took two sick days the entire time and was miserable as a result of it. Old job made it very clear taking sick days was looked down on and honestly that’s part of the reason I left.

    It’s a hard mental block to get through but I just keep reminding myself that if I work while sick I’m doing subpar work, I’ll just exhaust myself which means my work will suffer for even more days, and I’ll burn myself out. It’s ultimately in my employers best interest if I take a day to rest and recover so I can come back in refreshed and ready to go. Don’t feel guilty for taking care of your health.

  48. Minerva McGonagall*

    LW3, remember your wedding is not your 3rd grade birthday party and you can invite whoever you please. You don’t have to invite your whole office just because you’re inviting a few of them. It’s very nice of your office to throw a shower and be happy for you, but work showers are different than the showers thrown by your parent/bridal party.

    1. T*

      THIS. I had a coworker from hell that requested her own work shower, then made her family do a separate shower for her relatives, then another for friends only. She constantly made comments about banking a ton of money and gifts from the three showers and potential wedding gifts. She ended up inviting the ENTIRE department we worked for, I think because the bosses were invited. I felt really uncomfortable at the wedding, like why the hell am I here? Everyone ended up leaving right after the dinner, people literally got up in a huge crowd and bolted for the door. The only people left in the banquet hall at 7:05pm was our work group and the wedding party. Really awkward.

  49. AnotherSarah*

    OP 5: Definitely ask! Alison’s right, a whole employment system is structured around this practice. A couple of tips, coming from a prof:
    -ask, don’t demand. It’s possible your professor won’t have enough time, or is for some other reason unable to write for you. That leads me to….
    -give a lot of notice. 3 weeks at least. It’s true that writing a letter only takes 30-60 minutes (for me), but sometimes thinking things through takes longer. And to be honest, a lot of profs don’t have a large chunk of time during the day to focus, so the extra notice helps a lot
    -when asking, explain what the position is, your interest in it, and attach your resume and any relevant forms (if there’s a standard evaluation form or something) and contact info for the org/company/program, and mention the due date. Don’t make the prof go looking for these things
    -your professor may ask you to remind them. I don’t like this practice, but I have colleagues who insist the students remind them the week before
    -you may want to send your professor a personal statement as well–whatever you’re sending the the job or program. We might know how you did in Psych 101 and that you’re very motivated, but we could also mention that you work at the childcare center you emphasize in your letter, if only we knew.
    -do follow up! Let us know how it went–did you get the job?
    -don’t be offended if someone won’t write for you. I’ve been asked a few times to give recommendations for students that really didn’t do so well in my classes, and whose comportment in class was also less than stellar. I’d rather not give a lukewarm reference to a B- student who was texting throughout my class–it’s not good for the student to have such a reference and it feels like my time would better be spent elsewhere. Profs who say no are generally trying to help you with their “no.”

  50. Robot With Human Hair*

    OP 1: My last manager ordered me to do this…and then maybe 3 weeks later yelled at me for doing it. So…yeah.

  51. Need a Beach*

    #3, given your situation, please resist the impulse to invite these colleagues to your wedding. Oh, how I wish I had listened to my own advice! I gave in to the pressure (it was a complicated situation, with some colleagues married into my extended family). One of my coworkers brought his four demonic children uninvited, one tried to sell MLM products to other guests, and one got so loaded that he tore apart a centerpiece and wore it as a hat.

    I was in a new job within three months, and now my reception photos are full of people who pissed me off and then dropped out of my life.

    1. Barefoot Librarian*

      THIS! I almost *almost* let myself be pressured into inviting my old boss who was a terrible human being who made people cry in meetings but for some reason took a shine to me. I am SO glad I didn’t do it even though it was a bit awkward. I ended up accepting a job out of state six months later and would have cringed every time I saw my wedding photos if she’d been there. Instead I just invited the coworkers that I not just liked but genuinely had a relationship with.

    2. Minerva McGonagall*

      Absolutely resist! Lots of people in my office tried pressuring me into an invite. I’m really not sure why they all wanted to go because they always excluded me from everything anyway (my birthday was ignored/didn’t get a office shower everyone else engaged getting one). Master the small smile and “Sorry, we’d love to invite everyone but the space is small/our budget is limited/we have big families/etc.”

      I ended up inviting one co-worker (the one I was closest to) and my recently retired boss, and actually quit that job for my new one after my honeymoon.

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      I hope you have photos of the centerpiece hat! That at least is funny.

      (My family’s weddings have definitely included colorful stories – there was the one where my cousin got arrested, the one where several guests got kicked out of a hotel lobby at 2 am for getting belligerent with the security guard…)

    4. Krakatoa*

      My fiancee and I both have big families, so we couldn’t afford to invite coworkers or very extended family. Honestly, I’d have been fine inviting them, but being upfront and saying we’re having a smaller wedding with just family members was understood by everyone.

      Though I work in a well functioning workplace with good co-workers.

  52. T*

    I have a boss who does the same thing…..yells to be copied on all issues and emails, then is swamped with so many emails she doesn’t respond to the one that actually needs her attention. I’ve learned you can’t win, even if you copy her on an email I get blamed for not “picking up the phone and calling me” or sending an engraved telegram. Personally my plan is to get a new job as soon as I get two years under my belt this summer. Micromanaging and then failing to act on issues is a bad boss, not a bad employee.

  53. Barefoot Librarian*

    Op5 – It is SO ridiculously common for college faculty to write recommendation letters for students and former students that even I, a faculty librarian, get called upon to do it a few times a year for students who worked or interned with me. Speaking for myself, I appreciate when students give me a heads up that they might need something as soon as they start applying. Writing a reference letter is something of an emotional intelligence task and having a bit of time to think about what you want to say is appreciated and you’ll get a better letter for it. That being said, if I know a young man (I work at an all men’s school) is going to be applying all semester/summer, I can put together one letter for him and tailor it to the job he’s applying for that week. Unless it’s vastly different, this is a huge time saver and means it’s not a hassle if he needs multiple reference letters.

    tl/dr: Just ask and ask as early as you can. They do it all the time. I promise!

  54. So How Sick Do You Get*

    OP#1, if your manager does continue to insist on being CC’d on every e-mail and you use Outlook (or Office365), you can set up a rule to automatically CC an address on every e-mail you send: under Rules & Alerts: (new rule, no filters, CC the message to people or public group).

    How do I know this? I may have had the same issue. I just included them on everything, and went about my day. No skin off my nose if they want to waste their time reading everything I send!

  55. Not an assistant*

    OP#1 – I can feel your pain. I had a manager do exactly the same to me when I was just starting out.

    This manager was known for some shady practices and skirting his own work, so perhaps it was just a way for him to look busy in front of senior management.

    In the end I left after a third party consultant shouted at me that I was HER ASSISTANT (I wasn’t), sent a long rambling email and my manager said nothing to disagree.

    In fact, looking back on that company now, it was all about the appearances up and down the chain. There was no actual substance to anything they did.

  56. HR Boss Lady*

    OP2 – Also important to note… if your vacation and sick leave time is combined, it’s probably not a bad idea to have time left over in case of an emergency. My company allows sick accruals of up to 720 hours, which is intended to cover us until our LTD benefit kicks-in.

    Of course, when you’re sick, use your time to care for yourself then, too.

  57. Krakatoa*

    OP2: In my experience, situations like “not taking a sick day in 6 years” aren’t generally noticed by people other than those that do it. We tend to think things like that stand out a lot more than they do, but you’re generally not making any significant expectations by not using them. As for your manager being nosy about sicknesses, which is the impression I get, that’s pretty far out of line and you shouldn’t feel obligated to divulge details.

    OP5: I feel your pain. I hate asking people for favors, so getting references for me was just like pulling teeth. When I actually asked, it was… very easy and not an imposition at all. I’d imagine there are situations where it could be a burden, like if you were applying for dozens of positions that would all contact them, but normally it’s not a real burden at all.

  58. Anon Anon Anon*

    #5 – I completely relate. I can’t stand asking for references. It seems like so much to ask for. However, providing references is a networking opportunity for the person giving the reference. They’re increasing the number of people they know in their field (or a related field). This is more valuable to some people than others, but the point is that it can be a win-win sort of thing. They’re not just doing you a favor.

  59. Jill*

    OP 4: when I was in the 4th grade, I was asked to sweep up an area where dirt had been tracked in. I never held a broom until that point and my teacher was relentless in her criticism and disgust. What kind of teacher bullies a 9 year old? Anyway, that’s a side note to what I really wanted to say. If you have to sweep, can you separate the floor into imaginary grids, and sweep little piles within each grid? You can then go back and sweep each pile into the dustpan.

  60. LCL*

    OP 1, here is a little different take on what is going on. I don’t have a solution that will make your boss knock it off, but I can see an underlying reason for this issue.
    You job is a shiftwork workplace. Your boss is trying to manage a shiftwork place working normal daylight hours. Managers fail at doing what she is doing all.the.time. when they think they can manage 24/7 workers while not working their schedule. You have run into the unconscious bias of the day shift boss who thinks the extra workers and odd hours are no big deal, she can just manage by email.
    If your company isn’t willing to put management on shifts, the responsibility should fall to the first line supervisor. That’s you. That’s where the micromanaging comes in-she won’t let you manage. The only hope I see for her is for someone to explain very clearly to her that she can’t manage 24/7, and email only goes so far, and she isn’t using the resources she has available. I don’t know who will do the explaining, though. I also wonder what has gone on behind the scenes-did her management recently expand her duties or responsibilities? Is it possible she has been put in a position where nobody could succeed, and she is treading water?

  61. Jake*


    I love being a reference. It allows me to help good employees in their career!

    It’s tougher when an employee or coworker is less than stellar, but even then I don’t mind because it’s usually less than 30 minutes of my life.

  62. Frogsandturtles*

    #5: Someday YOU will be the one who is asked to give a reference for someone else. Pretend it’s 10 or 20 years in the future where you are well-established in some great job or career you’ve always dreamed of having. One of your smart, competent young former employees asks you for a reference for a new job that could help set her on the same path you took. I bet you’d be super happy to write her one (as long as, er, she didn’t ask you at the last minute…and even then you might still be happy to do it since you remember doing the same thing when you were young : ).

  63. Noah*

    I have two employees I need to have cc me on everything and who I ask not to respond to serious questions until I’ve had a chance to see the questions. I don’t have any choice; they are not able to do their job any other way. I don’t have hiring/firing authority over these folks. Sometimes, such is life.

  64. coffeeee*

    Don’t have them cc you on everything. That’s the only true way for the broader org (your boss/hr/whatever) to realize there’s a problem (more training or bad fit like Alison is said) to address. You’re causing everyone extra work and frustration (including yourself!) in the long term.

    1. Noah*

      The hiring people are aware of the problem. They do other aspects of their job competently and re-staffing isn’t really realistic. This isn’t an important enough issue institutionally to change the person based on these problems.

      I’m not creating extra work, at least not net extra work. I’m saving the extra work I’d have to spend fixing these things if they went further and the time I’d have to spend explaining to other people internally why I didn’t review these things before they went out or catch them right away.

  65. Elle Kay*

    OP #3- Oh, I feel you SO much. I was invited to a former co-worker’s wedding that ended up being the Saturday after my last day of work. We were an office of about 5 so 2 of my other ex-coworkers were at the reception, the boss and her husband were at the ceremony (but not reception) AND I’d already agreed to bring the “office present” on behalf of the supervisor who couldn’t attend.
    Of course all of these arrangements were made before I’d even heard about the job that I ended up taking and, at the time that I RSVP’d I had no intention of changing jobs, but it ended up being so awkward. But, b/c I’d already RSVP’d and, at these things, I know they’re paying for my meal whether or not I show up…
    I don’t really have anything more than Alison said to contribute, expect agreeing with being honest and upfront. If you think you’re going to have circumstances change then do what you need to to make your wedding/reception the great day it should be!

  66. LaDeeDa*

    In one of the organizations my department supports, their CEO has to approve every single communication that is going out or that is being posted on their internal website. It is insane. I send my communication about an upcoming event- annual reviews launching, a training course being offered, a lunch and learn about X on this day, etc- to that organization’s communication department to have it translated into the various languages, and to have it emailed to the different employee groups, and to have it posted to their internal site- once it goes to the communication department about a week later I get an email saying “looks good, sending to CEO for approval.” WHAT! CEO has to approve it! WHY? There is no reason a CEO needs to approve every single communication tha goes out- do you not trust your leaders or the head of communications?
    I try to get things to them 30+ days in advance because of this nonsense, but that organization’s employees have missed a few great learning events, functions, and industry networking events because of the delays.

  67. Collingswood*

    Re asking professors for references, don’t stress. This is a very common expectation. I’ve even had professors I’ve used as references come back to me to ask me to be a reference for them!

  68. Ann Nonymous*

    LW1: I think I’d obey my manager to a T: cc her and then wait until I got her approval to start on a task, time-sensitivity be damned. If it didn’t get done or the time ran out, well she’s the boss and it’s on her. Tell her, “I got started on it the minute you approved it as you instructed me.” Make sure that you have a hard end time (dr’s appointment) so you can’t work overtime the first few times this occurs.

  69. Not An Intern Any More*

    Letter writer #5, your letter reminds me a lot of myself when I was first starting out. I had friends with careers — one of them recommended me for an open position with his company — who were trying to help me write my first resume after holding a retail job.

    I kept getting stumbled by the need to document my accomplishments: I didn’t think I had any. I thought it was lying to try to make myself look good, so I was vehemently against it.

    I got the job my friend referred me for, and after being in the professional world I began to see what it meant to have and document accomplishments.

    I think my issue was one of coming from a disadvantaged background. I had to learn to approach people as though I deserve dignity and respect, and am not a second-class citizen. I think once you start doing it, your fears will disappear.

  70. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #2 – as you age, you will take more sick days and medical leave. I started in my current position in 1996. For the first ten years or so, I think I only took three sick days, and one was planned (colonscopy). Never a problem ..

    Even when I had a virus, what was it, N2D2 or something, I just suffered from fatigue, worked at home, napped when I had to but didn’t miss time.

    Comes now my 60s. And my wife as well. More medical appointments, more procedures. Dental work, root canals, etc. Most employers will understand that as you age, you might be more susceptible to illness or absences due to one thing or another. Bereavements (both parents-in-law and one parent in the last several years). Wife had cataract surgery, both eyes.

    It’s understandable. You’re there longer, you’re older, things happen.

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