when I didn’t answer a call, my boss worried I’d attempted suicide and he called my mom

A reader writes:

I am in a situation that I have no idea what to do with. I recently had to use sick leave due to mental health difficulties, which I informed my boss of.

On a day off, it seems that the boss attempted to call me to ask a work question. I was asleep when he tried to call, and I woke up later in the morning to no fewer than 60 phone calls and messages from different people (I wish this was an exaggeration). It was a mix of people from work, my partner, and my mother calling me. I called my mother first, then my partner, and deduced what was going on. Apparently when my boss had failed to reach me, the first thing he did was call my mother. She works for the company but in a different state, which is how he had her contact details, but she is definitely not my emergency contact. She and I don’t need to interact, so to keep boundaries we never even mention each other at work.

He told my mother that he was worried that I had attempted suicide (based on no real evidence, just that I had “mental problems”) and he was unable to reach me. Of course this caused my mother to panic, and she called my partner (who is my actual emergency contact and wasn’t called), who then also panicked.

This culminated in one of the most stressful and embarrassing days of my life, as my mother did not know about the mental health issues I was facing and had now been informed by my boss. I feel like this violates so many boundaries and I don’t know what to do now with my boss. I understand that he might have been genuinely concerned, but contacting my mother still is a step out of line to me.

Less of an issue, but still concerning to me, is that my boss also shared his fears about my “state” to my entire team. I can’t even stomach the idea of going back to work with anyone there now. I need help because I have no idea how I can deal with any of this, or how I can save face with my team. I would be grateful for advice you have.

This is ridiculous. Your boss made weird, indefensible choices at every step here.

First, why on earth did he panic just because he couldn’t reach you on a day you had off from work? It’s quite normal not to pick up the phone when you’re off work, and it’s bizarre that that sent him into hysteria.

Second, calling your mother was not only a huge overreaction, but also a huge overstep. It’s possible that he was already worried about you (some people leap from “mental health issues” to “a possible danger to yourself”) but even if that were the case, there was nothing to warrant that call to your mom.

And then sharing his concerns with your team? Why? Another huge overstep.

You’re absolutely entitled to feel violated by this.

I don’t know what you’ve said to your boss about the situation so far, but one possibility is to say, “I’m really taken aback by what happened the other day. There was no reason to be alarmed just because I didn’t answer a phone call on my day off — it was a day off. Calling my mother and telling her you thought I was a danger to myself was a huge privacy violation, since there was nothing to indicate that. Your call set off a chain reaction where she called my partner and it resulted in a huge amount of stress and fear for a number of people — all because I didn’t answer a phone call on a day I wasn’t working. And then you spread those concerns to the rest of our team, so now I have to combat those perceptions as well. I’m really concerned that you’d share the limited amount of info you had about my health — which I want to stress was quite limited and didn’t warrant the leaps you made. Can you help me understand why this happened?”

Depending on how that goes, you can also say, “It’s important to me that you not share my private medical info with others. I’m sure no one on their team would want highly personal speculation about their health shared with others.”

It’s very likely that he’s going to say that he was just terribly worried, blah blah. Deliver this message to him anyway. Even if it’s defensive about this situation, he might make him think twice before doing it again.

You should also talk to your HR department if you have a decent one. While this likely isn’t a legal issue (most medical privacy laws like HIPAA apply to medical providers, not employers), good HR people will be alarmed by this and will stress to your boss that it can’t happen again. (One reason for them to be alarmed is that while HIPAA won’t protect you here, the Americans with Disabilities Act does have some privacy protections that could come into play, depending on the details.)

As for moving forward with your team … One thing you can do is ask your boss to correct the record with them and explain he completely misread the situation and was wrong. Depending on how many people we’re talking about, you could also address it directly with people one-on-one yourself, saying something like, “I’m not clear on why my not answering a phone call on my day off led to Bob’s worry, but I’m fine and there was never an issue.” (This is going to make your boss look ridiculous, as he should — and puts your coworkers on notice that he’s not entirely reliable or trustworthy.)

I don’t think there’s much you need to do beyond that. If he’d wrongly told people he feared you’d been hit by a car, you’d just correct the record and move on. Mental health issues can feel more shameful, but they don’t need to — and people will probably take their cues from you. If you shake it off and act normal, they’ll likely do the same. (But that does not mean shaking it off where your boss is concerned; he needs to hear how out of line he was.)

{ 611 comments… read them below }

    1. Liane*

      I have lost count of the number of times I posted, or thought about posting, here, “There are no words, not even unprintable ones…”

      1. Matt*

        I have plenty of words. However, most of them are of the four-letter variety.

        I would absolutely go to HR about this and consider going to your boss’s boss as well over this. And I wouldn’t ask my boss to correct the record- I would DEMAND it.

      2. Cathy Gale*

        Yes. I can’t even… Sometimes the best I can do is just read the latest letter to my spouse so I can share the speechlessness with someone in person.

    2. RUKidding*

      This guy was soooo out of line. Telling her coworkers?! What?

      There are people who would quit their job rather than face the humiliation they feel (not that she should feel humiliated, but people be funny like that) after someone “outs” them like that.

      Dude bro needs to fix this. And calling her mom? Is she 10 years old?! Ugh!!!!

      1. Artemesia*

        The co-workers thing has poisoned the well for her in that workplace forever — no one will ever forget. If he had ONLY called her emergency contact/partner — bad judgment but terrifyingly bad judgment — all the rest was horrifying and pretty much guaranteed to blow up her life. This should go to HR to her boss’s boss and he should be making a statement to the co-workers — but of course none of that erases what has been done.

        1. Formerly Arlington*

          Totally agree! But I would say that as a coworker, I would be most alarmed by how inappropriate the boss was once the full story came out!

      2. OP*

        OP here, that was my first instinct. Actually my first instinct was to never show up there again- and I am still considering that as a possibility. It all feels so overwhelming sadly.

        1. Coder von Frankenstein*

          I wouldn’t blame you one bit for quitting; I would do it too in your position. But if you can stomach it, giving two weeks’ notice will be better for your professional reputation.

          And adding to what everyone else has said: Your boss was wildly, utterly, horribly in the wrong here. This is not normal or reasonable behavior from him. Do keep in mind, however, that your team does not necessarily share his views on how to behave. Some of them may have wrestled with mental illness as well – it’s far more common than a lot of people realize. You know them better than we do, of course, but anyone with the slightest bit of empathy would be mortified at the thought of going through this.

        2. Traffic_Spiral*

          To be honest, I think you’ll be fine if you tell the truth when people in the office bring it up, “Boss got upset when she couldn’t call me on my day off, so she went and told everyone I was suicidal. No, I don’t know why.”

          Also, is this stupidity or malice? Does the boss regularly get paranoid, or does she get vengeful when people have a few boundaries?

        3. FiveWheels*

          I know I’m in late, but I had a thought on language you could use. Would it help if you told your colleagues that you took the day off to de-stress or something along those lines? That absolutely comes under “mental health” but it’s also very normal and reasonable and most workers have done it, even if their official reason for calling in is just “I don’t feel well.

          I’m at a loss. Your boss was completely out of line. I work in a law firm where shouting and (non physical) threats are commonplace and even I’m horrified!

        4. PlainJane*

          Totally understand why you wouldn’t go back, but it might not be so bad in the long run. Your co-workers will remember, but most people have short attention spans and will probably treat you normally pretty quickly if you can make yourself act matter-of-fact about it. Also, I’m guessing this boss has done other bizarre things (most people don’t go from sensible to this ridiculous out of the blue), which means people will be somewhere between eye-rolling and furious on your behalf.

    3. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms*

      From your username to God’s ears, honestly. This was exhausting just to think about.

      1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        I wouldn’t trust him with even the most basic of information anymore. I wouldn’t trust him to get my lunch order right!

        OP, if I were you I would:
        1) Inform HR
        2) Talk to your boss
        3) Set the record straight with your coworkers
        4) Start job searching

        I would do 1 because holy crap this is so outside the bounds of what is ok, they need to be informed

        2 and 3 I would do because you need to be able to face each day you are there while you are job searching.

        I’d use Alison’s script for talking to your boss, but I would probably also add that not every mental health issue mean someone is a risk for self-harm or suicide, and that assuming that is not only ignorant, it is the reason stigma continues to be attached to mental health. He needs to educate himself and stop jumping to ridiculous and harmful conclusions.

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          If you do decide to stay, you need to pay close attention to how he treats you vs the rest of the team. As others have mentioned, if his first thought at ONE missed phone call was suicide, he has some prejudice going on, and that will come into play in projects you are assigned, promotions, etc. whether he means it to or not. His over-the-top reaction means he can’t be trusted to manage you properly, IMO.

          Have the initial talk with HR about what happened. Then, document, document, document going forward.

          1. mr. brightside*

            Yeah, this speaks heavily to the way he views the LW, and also to the way he views mental illness in general. He needs someone to tell him that he’s wrong. That ideally should be HR. Because I can see this as an insidious bias that he feels responsible/paternal/whatever and so overreacts horribly, and also you just know that everything down the line is “oh, LW? she’s *whispers* sensitive.”

            1. Phoenix Programmer*

              Agree. Huge overstep. Not ok!

              But I want to push back that making this very wrong leap automatically means boss is a horrible person(tm) with extreme prejudice against mental health struggles. We do that a lot on this blog recently.

              For all we know boss has ptsd and flashed back to that time their son took a mental health day and killed himself.

              Or he’s a prejudiced jerk.

              We really don’t know either way the motivation for his actions. Only that his actions were wrong.

              1. Quackeen*

                For all we know boss has ptsd and flashed back to that time their son took a mental health day and killed himself.

                That’s a very kind and generous view of the situation. I do have a close friend who has lost a few people to suicide, and her reaction used to be this kind of panic (maybe not for 1 missed call, but if someone was unexpectedly unable to be reached for a few hours). Thank you for reminding us that it might not be malice/prejudice/terrible intent on the boss’ part.

              2. pancakes*

                “I need to try to save the life of everyone I suspect, no matter how tenuously, of self-harm” is a type of prejudice.

              3. Lilian*

                I also thought about this possibility – the boss might also be struggling with anxiety or he might have been suicidal in the past and was triggered, if that’s the case I would be inclined to give him a chance.

              4. aebhel*

                I mean, I had an ex who threatened suicide constantly as a way to control my behavior and even attempted it a few times; I am, let’s just say, not the ideal person to be talking about suicidal ideation with, and even I wouldn’t do something like this. No matter what Boss’s issue is, they overreacted massively and inappropriately.

              5. ocd anon*

                I have OCD and one of my obsessions is that people might commit suicide (even when they’ve had no history of mental illness). Not that it’s remotely okay, but I can understand how someone might rationalize crossing that gigantic boundary and call the mom (or do something like call the police and ask them to do a welfare check). What’s bizarre to me is telling the coworkers. If OP were suicidal, how would that accomplish anything?

                I wonder about the boundaries in this workplace. Is OP normally expected to be accessible on days off? Are coworkers expected to have super chummy relationships (like one big happy family, etc.)? Maybe I’m projecting my own experience onto this post, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are deeper underlying boundary issues here.

                1. OP*

                  Well we are a close team, but it isn’t enforced in any boundary crossing way (there is a certain amount of separation between us and my direct supervisor).

                  I haven’t taken time off work before actually, so I don’t know what his expectations were. I have never had to be on call once my work day is done though.

          2. Boston Para*

            Right. ONE missed phone call. Maybe OP was in the bathroom? It happens, you know. People really do go to the bathroom…without their phones! Maybe OP could say “I took a mental health day” because she did, and it’s something that lots of people say when they need a day to de-stress. If somebody goes to the boss’s desk and he’s not there, do they call the CEO to say they think the manager committed suicide? This whole thing is utterly bonkers and I’m so sorry OP has to deal with the debris field created by her manager.

          3. Totally Minnie*

            IGTK makes a really good point, and I’d mention it when you have your meeting with HR. If he overreacted this strongly to your mental health, he needs a serious talking to and some hard core training before he can be trusted to manage you effectively.

          4. Kit-Kat*

            Ohh this for sure. I’d definitely involve HR.

            OP, your boss sucks. My reaction was “WTH” but also not surprised; as someone with chronic medical problems since childhood, this type of person is why when I discuss anything about my medical history with anyone who’s not my doctor, in any capacity, I emphasise that I want to keep it private (/what my parents did for me as a child). Because some people have noooo sense of boundaries! I’m not ashamed but like, don’t need the whole office playing 20 questions or whatever. Anyway, I definitely agree with Allison’s script for how to talk to the other people in your office and I’m so sorry this happened.

        2. Artemesia*

          With current mental health issues it may be a hard time to be job searching; she may want to see what she can do where she is before taking the energy that will take to do, but she definitely should be thinking about how to go about that when she is ready.

        1. Quackeen*

          An attorney would not be of any use here. While it’s a terrible, horrible situation that OP’s boss has caused, there are no damages to sue for.

            1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

              Very hard to prove. You not only have to prove what is said isn’t true but prove damages if I understand it right.

              1. Traffic_Spiral*

                Pretty easy to prove she wasn’t suicidal, and also kinda easy to prove that telling everyone she’s suicidal was detrimental. That being said, suing costs time, money and effort.

                1. Foxy Hedgehog*

                  Easy to prove she wasn’t suicidal, but essentially impossible to prove the boss knew she wasn’t suicidal. That’s the legal barrier here–telling an intentional falsehood (i.e., saying something that you know at the time to be untrue).

                2. Traffic_Spiral*

                  No, you can also be liable for spreading a story “with reckless disregard for the truth,” or often even “acted negligently in failing to ascertain whether the statement was true or false before making it.”

                  Basically, you can’t prove that I 100% *know* you aren’t the Baby-Eating Bishop of Bath and Wells, but if I go telling people that you are, a judge or jury can still decide that I was a jackass for spreading the story that any reasonable person would have examined further before telling.

            2. JSPA*

              Legal standard varies drastically (US, UK–idk about Canada and Oz). And (problematically) further – stigmatizes “the state of being temporarily believed to be suicidal.”

          1. paxfelis*

            Are you saying the OP’s boss has done no damage to the OP’s professional reputation by spreading private health information?

            1. Foxy Hedgehog*

              I think the poster is saying that boss has done no legally actionable damage, which is different than doing no damage.

    1. Aleta*

      Agreed. That’s such an absurd, over the top reaction to something completely and utterly normal even for a 100% healthy in all ways person. I would just not be able to trust his judgement in other matters.

    2. tink*

      Yeah, I have no idea how I’d come back to work for someone like this, other than with a resentful and grudging attitude.

    3. Uncle Bob*

      Be looking as soon as your boss calls you on your day off and panics when you are not available. The rest of it is look for a job times 1000.

    4. Antilles*

      +1 for all sorts of reasons
      1.) He’s shown absolutely zero boundaries or judgment. Calling you on your day off is questionable in and of itself, but fine, sometimes you need a quick answer. But anything beyond a quick call and leaving a message is straight up absurd.
      2.) He’s shown he can’t be trusted with information. Even if he was truly scared about your safety, why did he need to mention it to the rest of the team? What use could they possibly have for that information?
      3.) Given his outlandish reaction, I absolutely believe this guy is going to be quietly judging OP for their mental health issues. You immediately jumped to “suicidal” based on one scheduled day off? Like, there’s no way this guy isn’t making all sorts of unfounded 1975-era assumptions.

      1. beth*

        #3 in particular–assuming that ‘mental health issues’ = ‘suicidal’ is weird. It shows a real lack of understanding of mental health, and suggests that the person might have some very odd ideas about people with mental health issues. He might not realize he’s judging, but I strongly suspect that he isn’t thinking of OP as a confident, competent employee capable of handling the same stuff as everyone else.

        1. CanuckCat*

          I didn’t bat an eye when I went to ask my doctor about a mental health issue and she asked about suicidal ideation… because she’s my doctor and that’s her job. There’s just too many different types of mental health concerns that can have a wide range of negative symptoms for boss to automatically be jumping from ‘mental health problem’ to ‘suicidal.’

        2. Jadelyn*

          Drives me up a wall when people do that. Most of the time when I’m having mental health issues that make me need a day off, it’s not that I’m any kind of suicidal or a danger to myself or anything – I’ve just pushed myself too hard trying to keep up with neurotypical expectations, and I’m exhausted to the point where I can’t face the idea of having to be “on” all day. So I take a day, retreat into my house and do low-effort stuff all day like reading books or playing video games that lets me hide from the world. I just need the extra rest time; the 5-and-2 day split of work/rest each week doesn’t give me enough time to fully recuperate, so every week I’m starting with a little less energy and coping capacity, until I’m down to empty and need to take extra time to refill.

          1. kilika*

            I have actual depression, but I’m not suicidal. Even on my worst days, I might be staring at the wall crying nonstop and have no motivation to get out of bed, but I’m not harming myself.
            Assuming that people are suicidal based on no evidence is just way out of line – in general, assuming people are suicidal is not something one should go about doing, or noising about.

      2. media monkey*

        exactly this – i think he might actually not be doing it quietly either – he will be discussing it with everyone and constantly asking OP if she is OK, herding her away from open windows and sideeyeing any bags from pharmacies or doctor’s appts.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          Oh, yeah. I can see that. “What’s in the CVS bag?” “I had a craving for dark chocolate covered pistachios!”

          1. mr. brightside*

            I am abruptly reminded of a coworker who suddenly decided I had a specific medical issue because she never saw me eating. And would NOT let it go. And announced it to the entire group.

            1. General Ginger*

              Because she is everywhere you are at all times, and you can’t possibly have ingested anything outside of her presence, and it’s absolutely her and everyone else’s business? Ugh.

        2. JSPA*

          We’re all assuming boss is actually solicitous, even if the concern is misplaced. Isn’t it also (admittedly, remotely) possible that boss is uncomfortable with mental health issues (or avoiding perceived associated costs) and is looking to drive OP away? I…would not give him the satisfaction, if so. (And if that were the intent — hard to prove, but who knows what others will document — that might (?) open up legal avenues. Now or in the future.

      3. Anon for this*

        I think you’re right. It sucks, but there is just so much wrong with the boss’s reaction on so many levels that I don’t think working for this person anymore is a good idea. Even if you’re able to smooth things over and carry on, there’s no way he isn’t looking at you through a bizarrely distorted lens. Which reflects poorly on him, not you, to be clear. You have nothing to feel ashamed about.

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

      I wouldn’t. I’d make it my life’s mission to see that he’d be the one looking for a new job. I’m stubborn like that and believe in standing my ground. I’ve already outlasted two massive a-hole superiors (not my direct boss — he’s awesome) at my job over the last decade. One was a VP and one an ED so it is possible to keep your job if you love it and it has all the benefits you need AND rid the a-holes from your life.

      1. Observer*

        That’s not always possible. But, I agree that if the OP has the option to turn it on the boss, they should. This was such an overstep, that he really does present a problem.

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

          I realize not everyone has the fortitude to stand up to a bully, or simply outlast them, but it really doesn’t take “doing” much to refuse to be intimidated, never allow yourself to be baited into sinking to their level, and make sure you document all work-related problems and don’t just keep quiet. It’s important NOT to turn it into a “feelings” issue and keep it to a “work getting done” issue.

          So, I didn’t do much really — other than outlast them and refuse to back down and run away, and we have a…chaotic is the best word…HR department. The VP was the stereotype of the 1950s old boys club sexist but smart enough to keep it on a low flame while meeting the goals of his job, but eventually his liability exceeded his value to the university — and some serendipitous timing allowed the university to retire him during a reorganization. The ED was a bully (took credit for others work, sabotaged her peers, had unreasonable expectations, took everything personally so that it was her feelings that were “hurt” constantly, never responded to emails so that there wasn’t a paper trail of what she was doing — tip: continue to send emails and follow up all conversations with an email — required her reports to BCC her on ALL of their emails…) and that reputation eventually caught up to her as well.

          1. Yorick*

            I don’t think it’s about “fortitude.” For most people, it woudln’t make sense to stay in a bad situation for the YEARS it might take to outlast someone who makes the workplace toxic.

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

              For most people, it’s just not practical to leave every job that has a jerk in the office. The ratio of jerks to the rest of the population is probably high enough that you’ll have at least one jerk (of some variety) in every 100 people, so the odds are good that you’ll leave one jerk behind only to find a brand new variety. Looking for a new job is such a nuclear option; not only is it super stressful to apply and interview, it might it impact things like access to benefits, loss of any sort of seniority, and doing it too often might affect professional reputation. Toxic is so overused it’s sort of lost meaning. As big of jerks as they were, the work I do and the compensation I make are nice enough that I’m unlikely to find comparable elsewhere without having to uproot my personal life too. In instances where the majority of the office, or the work itself, is so awful and there aren’t any upsides, sure, leave and find someplace with only 1 office jerk.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Agree. I’ve done the same. For the last 20 years, my workplace motto has been “if you ignore a problem long enough, it’ll go away”. Granted, when the entire place is rotten to the core, that will not work. But one isolated jerk does eventually go away. And, honestly, none of us can safely guarantee that a new jerk isn’t going to work through our office doors tomorrow. Jerks are people too, they have families to feed, and need jobs. They apply for jobs, and (sadly, more often than not) charm the hiring managers enough to get hired. Or they apply for a transfer and get it. Or there’s a reorg, and you come into work one morning and there’s a new jerk on the org chart where your awesome boss used to be.

              2. Lilly*

                I think that you’re unintentionally coming across as a bit sanctimonious. A person’s ability to withstand the misery of interpersonal emotional warfare is not a matter that can/should be viewed as a value-holding character trait.

                1. moosetracks*

                  There’s also a big difference between a jerk and someone who tells everyone in your life you’re suicidal. There are also other options besides “ignore it” and “quit.”

          2. Cathy Gale*

            I would like to suggest rethinking the “fortitude” concept when it comes to bullying. There used to be an attitude that people who developed PTSD on the battlefield didn’t have “fortitude”, for instance, but sometimes a person can endure negative situations for a long time, and then just not be able to anymore. Sometimes it’s the nature of what’s toxic to an individual. Bullying situations also differ as much as the people who are targeted and the reasons why they are targeted. Someone who succeeds in a loud atmosphere where people yell at each other might not do well in a more subdued environment where the bullying and gaslighting are cold, not hot. Or vice-versa.

            Anyway, I think I made a mistake by focusing on my own “fortitude” at my last toxic job, especially since I wasn’t the direct target and it wasn’t the worst I’d ever lived through. Outwardly, I was strong and challenged the bully, staying calm even when being screamed at; the main target, who is a good friend, didn’t. But we both ended up on hypertensive medications and asking ourselves why we didn’t quit earlier.

            1. Mayati*

              This is very wise. I grew up with a bully for a parent, did a lot of work to recover and gain strength beyond just being able to endure bullying without breaking — a different kind of strength — and found that I was *less* able to endure a workplace bully than when I was still brainwashed from the child abuse. Maybe it was just that I had other options, maybe it was that I refused to slip back into the mindset of a “successful” abuse target with “fortitude” enough to stick it out indefinitely. The mentality it takes to endure a bullying situation is not a healthy one for most people. Sometimes it’s a marker of strength to recognize when a situation is abusive and take steps to leave. “Fortitude” often means taking damage and pretending everything’s fine, accepting dysfunctional workplace values or patterns as normal, and making yourself less able to be a good worker in a normal job (as well as less able to be good to yourself and others). This kind of stubbornness and “fortitude” kept my dad in an abusive relationship with my mom, and I used to think it was a virtue…now, not so much. Not when you have other options.

              It’s like exposing yourself to radiation at Chernobyl — if you’re lucky, you might be able to endure the radiation for longer than others without getting sick, but you WILL get sick eventually, and if you have any option at all you should get out of danger.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I agree, boss should be the one looking for a new job, but if the place is toxic enough that he’s still there, then LW should definitely find a new place or new boss to work under. I wonder if and hope that some of LW’s team members also mentioned this incident to HR. Would be nice for LW to know that LW’s colleagues are on the same side.

        100% this is the kind of boss who wants to know if his employees have diarrhea when they’re calling in sick.

        1. JSPA*

          We don’t know this. We don’t know if he is a generalized overstepper, a scheming jerk, or someone who made a series of bad decisions over a few minutes on one day. We also don’t know if he was only working from OP’s self – reported mental health issue, or if someone else or something else was winding him up on the topic. Thus the advice to make the boss explain and apologize and do the heavy lifting to undo the damage caused.

      3. Works in IT*

        See, I know that that would be very satisfying, but for me, personally, I would rather have the peace and serenity of not having to deal with an asshole supervisor.

        My manager shields my department from the assorted obnoxious people at my place of employment. I don’t know how he tolerates it.

      4. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Have you considered freelancing, getting rid of horrible managers like a reverse headhunter? We could send you to work with letter writers around the globe! I’d definitely fund that GoFundMe!

      5. Narvo Flieboppen*

        I’ve had similar results with dealing with a-hole VPs at my current workplace. It’s really a case-by-case basis sort of thing where you can outlast them. My current workplace is one where it can be done. It also helps to document the crap out of their shenanigans so when the inevitable happens, you can hand over verifiable records.

        My prior employer before this, not so much, because the owner & GM were swayed by who kissed the most butt and joined them for evening drinks rather than people with facts & figures. And my choice to not imbibe alcohol was also a black mark against me in their eyes. As much as I would have liked to make it my mission to drive them out, it wasn’t going to happen. My revenge was taking a job which had higher pay, better benefits, a lighter workload, and less stress. I’d call it a win.

    6. beth*

      Same, honestly. How are you supposed to work with someone who overstepped in so many ways? He violated your boundaries around work by expecting you to pick up the phone on a moment’s notice on your days off and by drawing your mom into this whole deal even though she’s neither part of your team nor your emergency contact. He opened you up to potential discrimination by telling a bunch of people that you’re dealing with mental illness (I absolutely agree with Alison that this is nothing to be ashamed of, but I also feel strongly that it’s something you should have full control over disclosing; the reality is that there are people who will make weird judgements about it.) And he massively, unforgivably violated your privacy by sharing your private medical info around the office.

      If you call him on it and he immediately takes full responsibility for this whole thing and actively takes steps to tell everyone he pulled in that this is 100% on him and he basically made it up out of whole cloth, and you’re completely confident that he’ll never do anything like this again, mayyyyybe the relationship is salvageable. But based on the fact that he pulled this nonsense at all, I’m guessing he’ll apologize but focus on how worried he was and maybe kind of hint that his reaction was understandable/reasonable given his concern. I wouldn’t be able to work with someone like that–I wouldn’t be able to trust their judgement or trust them to respect me and my boundaries in the future.

      1. Midlife Tattoos*

        I agree 100%. I would start with writing out what Alison said, so you don’t have to get into a “But I was worried! Doesn’t that show you I care?” and then following with the non-apology, “I’m sorry you were upset.”

        I would be in a full-on rage at this, and unfortunately, it’s this kind of scenario that keeps me from ever divulging anything sensitive at work.

    7. Snow Drift*

      I’d be working on my resume and a letter to Alison in two separate windows. You can’t unring this bell.

    8. OP*

      Letter writer here, I’ve already started my job search. No matter what is done to rectify the situation, I’ve lost all trust in my boss sadly.

      1. MJ*

        I think your colleagues should be “encouraged” to lose trust in the boss too.

        “Hey colleague, enjoy your day off tomorrow. And don’t forget to always be ready to answer your phone if the boss calls. You don’t want them calling your mommy and telling people you are suicidal just.because.you.don’t.answer.your.phone.” And then facepalm and shake your head. Make it in to a “crazy boundary-stomping boss” issue.

      2. It's mce*

        OP, I definitely recommend talking with HR and your boss’ boss about what happened. I’m so sorry.

    9. DarlaMushrooms*

      I would be worried about using him as a reference in the future. How could you trust that he wouldn’t say something like “[Employee] was a great employee despite her terrible struggle with mental illness”?

  1. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

    If you ever needed proof that mental health difficulties are still deeply stigmatized, here you go…

    Mental health difficulties do not equal suicide watch.

    I am so sorry that you are dealing with this, OP.

        1. Labradoodle Daddy*

          You can even be seriously depressed without wanting to hurt yourself– that’s not the only litmus for how depressed someone “really” is (source: my experience trying to get people to take my depression seriously)

          1. Zillah*

            This! And even if you are suicidal, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to make a suicide attempt or that an over-the-top reaction like this will be helpful.

            1. mr. brightside*

              I really wish people understood that. You mention a thing and people are like “oh my god if I turn my back on you, you could kill yourself!” That’s… not how it works.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              God no.
              Over-the-top reactions only make you realize with whom you can safely discuss it and who you can’t. The latter don’t get any more information, ever.

        2. RUKidding*

          Fourthed. I have had major droression (diagnosed) since I was 12…I will be 56 next month (omg when did *that* happen?!) and even though I have good/bad/better/worse periods of time, I have never had serious suicidal ideation.

          Fortunately when I pulled 99.99% back in Facebook my friends (people I know irl) didn’t freak out…even though they knew I was in a depressive cycle.

          What they didn’t do was call my husband.*

          *My mom died in 2008 so they couldn’t have called her if they wanted to.

          1. Anon for this*

            I’ve also been depressed since childhood – going on 35 years now. I sometimes *have* had pretty bad suicidal ideation, but I’ve never attempted it nor have I ever self-harmed. The concept of anyone who *knows* that about me assuming I was dead after a single missed call is laughable!
            This boss, assuming it from just a vague “mental health problem”, is making a giant leap, probably out of ignorance, maybe out of their own mental health problem (PTSS etc) – why doesn’t matter though, either way what they did is worth a severe talking to from HR.

    1. Doug Judy*

      So much this. OP’s boss needs some training on how to navigate things like this with his team. I am sure in their mind they did the “right” thing but it was the opposite.

    2. Peridot*

      Yes. Sounds like boss heard “mental health difficulties” and leapt right to “suicidal”, which is like assuming that all stomach aches must be a sign of cancer.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        OP, this is a great analogy here. If you had a doctor’s appointment does that mean to your boss that you have cancer and will die in three days?

      2. Oh So Very Anon*

        I have to wonder if maybe this whole scenario pinged an experience in the boss’s life that sent them into overreaction.

        Note to OP: Under no circumstances does that make what they did OK. I’m just positing ideas as to why someone would leap so far over the top.

    3. Alton*

      Yep, this was my thought exactly. The boss was probably genuinely concerned, but the fact that people sometimes jump to assumptions like that is indicative how how much stigma and lack of understanding there can ve.

      This is like jumping to the conclusion that an employee with diabetes must be in a coma if they don’t answer their phone right away.

      1. Observer*

        No, actually I don’t think that the boss was genuinely concerned. I think it’s notable that he skipped calling the OP’s actual listed emergency contact in favor of tracking down their mother who lives in another state! That’s not the act of a person who is trying to get help to someone NOW.

        1. Jennifer*

          I agree. It’s just high drama, imo. He doesn’t really care. If there were an emergency there’s nothing the mom could have done. Her actual emergency contact should have been called – IF there were an emergency.

        2. AKchic*

          I want to highlight that the LW wrote “partner”. I don’t know if this means “unmarried opposite gender partner” or “same-gender married partner”, but both have icky implications from the boss when the boss skipped over contacting the Listed Emergency Contact in favor of the mother who isn’t even really discussed at work or in the loop.

          1. LawBee*

            Yeah – regardless of what “partner” in this context means, the whole point of the emergency contact is that’s the person you contact in case of an emergency – not Random Family Member. wtf boss.

          2. Jennifer*

            How does he know that’s her mother? That was strange to me also. It sounds like they take great pains to not let anyone know that they have a relative that also works for the company. Does he already know her? That could be why he called the mom instead of the emergency contact.

            1. Just a thought*

              I wouldn’t go too far down this rabbit hole. If they both work at the company, it’s quite plausible that there was some matter-of-fact disclosure of their relationship at the start.

            2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              Almost every online job application I’ve filled out lately has asked if I have relatives working at that company- it’s very likely there’s an innocuous explanation like that. I don’t think it absolves him of not contacting her actual emergency contact though!

            3. RUKidding*

              Why he called her is irrelevant. I mean why even ask for an emergency contact if you’re just going to call whatever random person you want to call?

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Right and this is where I would hang my hat. The boss FAILED to follow instructions. OP instructed that their partner was their ICE contact. I would drag this complaint to HR. If boss had called the partner none of this would have happened.
          Instead, boss opted to yell fire in a crowded theater and set everyone on edge.

          OP, be sure to mention that the next time this happens people will be more apt to ignore the boss because the boss is irresponsible in this manner.
          How is far away mom going to be more help than close by partner???

        4. JM60*

          The boss may have been genuinely concerned, but an idiot. If someone is stupid enough to conclude that a suicide has occurred in this case, then they’re probably stupid enough to call a family member in another state instead of their emergency contact when they think a suicide happened.

            1. Observer*

              Except that it really is NOT the simplest explanation. Boss had to take a number of steps AND do a number of totally not reasonable things. Stupidity plus GENUINE concern don’t really explain the totality of his behavior.

              1. Jennifer*

                Some people do stupid things because they are stupid. It’s only complicated if you make it that way.

                Of course there are other possibilities but to me it makes the most sense.

            1. On Fire*

              “Hey, Sarah, I’m so worried! Sandra didn’t answer her phone. She said she’s been struggling with depression. Do you mind calling her to see if she’ll answer your call?”
              Then on to the next person… and the next… and the next.
              (Note, I’m NOT defending this, just that this is how I see the whole team finding out.)

                1. SS Express*

                  Of course it is, but that’s not the issue On Fire was addressing – their comment was about whether extreme foolishness could explain telling the whole team.

        5. Alton*

          Yeah, his actions were not very practical if he really believed that the OP might actually be dead.

          Having been in a situation where my mom and I worked for the same company, I had experiences (not like this, thankfully!) where I felt like my manager wasn’t very good at recognizing boundaries and that my personal relationship with my mom wasn’t relevant professionally (my mom and I didn’t work together, but shared a manager). But since the OP works in an entirely different state, it’s pretty baffling that her manager’s first thought was to call her mom.

        6. Totally Minnie*

          Solid point. If you’re actually concerned, you call the emergency contact on file. If you can’t get them, you call the police for a wellness check. What you DON’T do is start calling anyone and everyone you know who is connected with your employee and telling them about confidential medical information.

          Also, even if this did come from a place of genuine concern, would that concern be this immediate if the boss knew his employee had a different chronic illness? I’m guessing not.

    4. Anon for this*

      Yup. Also yet another reason why giving any details whatsoever about a health condition can wildly backfire on you.

    5. Trout 'Waver*

      Precisely this. Not being able to talk about mental health makes mental health issues worse. Doing what the boss did here makes everyone involved less likely to talk about it. And thus less likely to get better.

      OP’s boss is actively harming people and should be fired…..from a cannon into the sun.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Another great talking point to go over with HR. Boss was given personal information and randomly decided to discuss it with everyone in sight. The boss could benefit from a talk on how to use discretion.

    6. Thrown into the fire new manager*

      Not excusing anything your boss did with the information and after but if he is a survivor of suicide or the loved one of someone who committed suicide, it’s quite possible he panicked. Something in your situation may have pushed a button for him. It doesn’t excuse anything but it could give a different perspective

    7. OP*

      Thank you. It feels like there’s now an assumption about me that I’ll never be able to shake.

      1. JSPA*

        If you show up looking generally healthy, reasonably po-d at the boss (and whoever wound him up or helped spread the panic) and forgiving to the people who were tangentially swept up, it’s NOT you who will get the reputation!

  2. Flash Bristow*

    I… I read the mastectomy post to a friend yesterday because I found it dreadful, but now you trump it?

    I have no words.

    Stop the internet, I wanna get off.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      I still think the Masectomy one is the worse (since there is malice), but my god is this a close second. That’s like dousing gasoline over a forest fire.

      1. Dragoning*

        I agree. My reaction was more “I cannot believe this isn’t even going to make the worst bosses of the year list”

        1. Dessi*

          Why not? Couldn’t it? I think I once read we can’t mention worst bosses of the year, but dang I’d agree with you on making the list!

          1. valentine*

            We don’t mention them because look how early it is and there are already several. It’s unlikely these will even be in the top three by year’s end.

      2. Observer*

        I’m not sure that there was no malice here.

        I can’t get past the fact that he IGNORED her actual emergency contact and called her mother who lives in another state!

        I’m actually close to my kids, but if someone called me with an “emergency” about the one who lives overseas, I’d want to know why they are calling me rather than the local resources?

        1. Snow Drift*

          The mom working for the company plays heavily into this, I would bet. He felt he could justify it as “keeping it within the company” despite the overreach.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            If he plays that card then OP can just say, “We filled out a form for ICE. You need to use the contact on the form. No “buts”.

            What if the parent was a person who was dangerous for OP to be around? Just because there is a familial relationship does not automatically mean the relationship is positive. Back to the ICE form, this is why we have ICE forms so we can accurately find the correct person to call.

            1. Jadelyn*

              THIS! My mom and I don’t share a last name since she changed her last name when my parents divorced; I still share a last name with my father (and it’s a unique enough name you’d probably be able to connect us if you just googled “lastname state”). So if someone disregarded my emergency contact forms and just tried to find “my family” to contact, they’d come across my dad first.

              However, my dad is an abusive alcoholic who I went no-contact with 5 years ago because I couldn’t keep coping with his behavior. And if someone contacted him for an emergency with me, I would be LIVID, because that would open the door right back up for him to feel entitled to access to me and my life again, and I’d have to go through the whole painful process of pushing him out a second time.

              Also, it would be useless tbh – he doesn’t live particularly close by and his job has him traveling like 90% of the time. Whereas calling my mother, my actual emergency contact, would actually help because she lives 5 minutes away, has keys to my place, etc.

              Family does not equal trusted, close, positive relationship, any of that. Respect people’s choices of emergency contact and trust that they know better than you do who is best to contact if they need help.

        2. GRA*

          Agreed. I think the boss is getting a free pass as being “concerned” when in reality he was a huge jerk who overstepped every workplace norm as an actual concerned boss.

          1. mr. brightside*

            Yeah. Being “concerned” is a fig leaf for a major breach of protocol and the social contract.

            1. Rob aka Mediancat*

              The only thing “concerned” would give the boss a pass on to me is that it would mean he was well-intentioned, but honestly we have no way of knowing. Boss’s actions, though? This is like seeing someone take a single sip of beer at a party and assuming that they’re roaring drunk, then tackling them and hogtying them to a chair to stop them from driving home.

        3. Quoth the Raven*

          Agreed, too. I’m not sure there wasn’t malice here, and skipping directly to OP’s mum also feels, to me, like an implication she’s not capable of taking care of herself and should be under her parent’s care, which is absolutely not the case here.

          Nevermind the fact that there’s different reasons people choose someone in particular as their emergency contact that are not only related to their immediate availability — my mum’s not my emergency contact not because we aren’t close, but because I know she absolutely loses her crap in actual emergencies, and I am not confident she’d keep her cool long enough to actually help.

          1. RUKidding*

            “…and should be under her parent’s care,…”

            Which is sexist because dollars to donuts he wouldn’t have done this to a male.

          2. Jadelyn*

            Good point re the availability vs actual helpfulness. I have my mom as my emergency contact still, even though my partner and I live together, because my mom is much more level-headed in an emergency and would actually know what to do (and she knows to contact my partner as well). Calling my partner in an emergency would…probably not end super well.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          Malice. My first thought was, “Here’s a boss who loves drama and any drama will do. Even fake drama.”

          The boss showed a total lack of responsibility here with more than one action. It would be interesting to ask the boss what his goal was by involving so many people. Tell all of OP’s coworkers? What were they going to do, quit working and go out and look for OP? There was no logical point in doing that. The only byproduct there was drama/upset. Some people enjoy drama and upset. If this is that boss, then I say yes this is definitely malice.

          1. Jadelyn*

            This. This is what gives the lie to “but I was just concerned!”

            If you’re concerned, you call the cops for a wellness check, or you call someone’s emergency contact. What possible purpose could it have achieved re alleviating his theoretical “concern” to blab about it to a bunch of people who can’t do anything to help?

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

      I think the mastectomy one was worse. There’s just no generous, benefit-of-the-doubt read I can come up with on that one — the men of the office are looking at her breasts, and they don’t like what they see. This one…MAYBE the boss actually has a mental health issue of his own that caused him to massively overreact to a single unanswered call.

      1. Evan Þ.*

        But then, it’s barely possible that the boss yesterday had a mental health issue which caused him to overreact to things being asymmetric. (There was a letter several years ago about a person like that, whose bosses were overreacting by forcing LW and her coworkers to line up in patterns.) We don’t have any reason to assume either, and especially not for one but not the other.

        1. WellRed*

          That is pretty far out of the realm of possibility. Also, unless the boss was lying, he mentioned it bothered other people.

          1. valentine*

            Now that you mention it, I recall people saying here that this is a common lie to mask the fact the speaker is the one bothered.

            1. Midlife Tattoos*

              This is very, very true. I’m skeptical of anyone who says, “People are saying…” because I assume when they say ‘people’, they mean themselves. And it pisses me off when they don’t own their own opinions, so I generally ask, “Who is saying?”

          2. Marthooh*

            Nobody has a reason to think either boss misbehaved because of a mental illness. I think that’s what Evan was saying.

            This is getting pretty far off topic, though.

      2. Iris Eyes*

        If I had to guess my assumption would be that the boss has unresolved trauma from someone who was suicidal. It feels like the reaction someone might have to learning someone has chronic headaches if they lost someone to a brain tumor. That concept/symptom is still deeply bruised/burnt for them and so they react strongly when someone brushes against it.

        So to the OP, if otherwise boss is pretty great my vote (for the nothing its worth) is to address the issue but attempt forgiveness.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          When a person manages people they have to push their own personal stuff to one side. If the boss can’t do that then maybe the boss should not be managing people.

          OP, even if the boss apologizes (and you did not indicate that the boss did apologize) you don’t have to forgive them. I will say though that anger can eat our insides, so do find a plan that helps you to calm down. For me, I like to figure out how I will report the person or take other pro-active actions to advocate for myself. You took a huge step here in writing AAM. So you will find more steps.

        2. Elspeth*

          Nope. Boss massively overstepped here. When there is an emergency, you contact the person’s listed contact, not a relative who is not named as ICE contact and who lives out of state.

        3. Midlife Tattoos*

          Nope. I don’t believe that OP should even think about forgiveness (I don’t understand the pressure to forgive people who do horrible things).

          1. RUKidding*

            Well if you forgive them they don’t have to have any negative consequences for their actions. We wouldn’t want that would we? Better that the victims just suck it up.

            1. Midlife Tattoos*

              Right? In my mind, it’s an odd agenda to push, particularly for something that just happened. If it was 25 years later and it was still having an impact, okay then maybe. But it seems such a common thing that people say and I just don’t get it.

          2. Iris Eyes*

            Its not like the boss beheaded their poodle and dropped the body where their kid would find it. I’m not saying its not a big deal but I personally wouldn’t classify it as horrible because it is just far too understandable of a mistake for an average human to make.

        4. Tinker*

          I mean, I kind of agree, but my idea of addressing the issue is that after either the boss is fired or I quit, I tell the ex-boss that they are no longer to contact me anymore either directly or through third parties.

          Even if their reasons are sympathetic — bottom line, if they can’t control themselves then matters need to be arranged so that this doesn’t cause harm to other people. And, speaking of trauma histories, part of that would be not having any avenue of legitimate contact with me.

        5. aebhel*

          That’s also my guess, but the boss mismanaged this so completely that I can’t imagine trying to work with them again.

  3. Four lights*

    This problem is 100% the fault and creation of your boss. You did nothing that caused this. Try to keep telling yourself that.

    Don’t worry about making your boss look bad; he did that to himself all on his own.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yes, no one will confide in the boss again. They see what happens when they do confide in him.

      I kept my mouth shut and after a bit I became known for keeping things to myself. (If I couldn’t keep it confidential I stopped the conversation to say that. The person could decide to continue or stop.) As time passed people would say, “I know I can come talk to you because I know first hand that you don’t tell everyone.” I learned amazing stuff but also people actually worked on their problems after we talked. Like anything else, I had to have boundaries and be consistent about the boundaries. This was also helpful.

    2. designbot*

      I’d not only not worry about it, I’d be on the phone to HR saying it was him or me. I’ve worked for several bosses where other people gave ultimatums like that but I worked with them just fine, which I mention so you know that I don’t say this lightly. This is where I draw that line. If he is still there on monday, I would not be.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Took the words right out of my mouth.

      How do people with, not even zero, but in-the-negative-numbers social skills get promoted to management? Rhetorical question, I’m afraid I know the answer.

      1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

        Early in my career, a senior and delightfully snarky colleague told me that “management is a cesspool–all the biggest chunks float to the top”. And in the 2 decades since, I’ve seen little evidence to the contrary.

        1. Midlife Tattoos*

          This makes me sad. I take my job really seriously, reflecting constantly and continually making positive changes, and I think I’d be devastated if one of my team felt like this.

          I’m really sorry you’ve had crap managers :(

  4. jenkins*

    I am furious for you, OP. What an ass your boss is. A well meaning and concerned ass, clearly, but OH MY GOD WHAT AN ASS.

    1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      100%. I also suspect this is also a guy who (maybe subconsciously) also just Loves Drama and uses his “concern” as an excuse to stir it up.

      1. Gail Davidson-Durst*

        Oooh, good point. This smacks of the scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary (the book) where they all freak out about where Tom is, but also Bridget realizes they’re kind of enjoying the drama of freaking out.

      2. Nobby Nobbs*

        I always feel so sorry for the drama-lovers who haven’t figured out the workaround of following advice columns!

        1. Jadelyn*

          Right? I’ll admit there’s a part of me that kinda loves gossip and drama, but that’s why I read advice columns. It scratches the itch without hurting anyone.

        1. Anonymous in US*

          yes, and these are the worst people because they think good intentions excuse all their hurtful comments and deeds.

  5. EmmaUK*

    I recently lost someone to suicide and I wonder if your boss had the same experience as that’s the only scenario that makes sense to me. Regardless the person he should have contacted should have been your emergency contact, not your mother or anyone else. It sounds like they panicked.

        1. Atalanta0jess*

          Well, she could have called and seen if the OP would take a call from her; she could have reached out to someone local to go visit, etc. She could have known that OP was at a doctors appointment, or was planning to spend the whole day with a friend and thus was unavailable but supported. There are lots of reasons to check in with someone with a personal relationship before you call the police, unless you have reason to think someone is immediate danger like, right this minute. (Which I guess he sort of did, but honestly calling mom was a way more reasonable response than calling police would have been, IMO. Calling her emergency contact would have made the most sense. If any of this made sense at all, which it doesn’t.)

          1. beth*

            I mean, calling the mom was probably better than calling the police…but only because the police have a really bad track record when it comes to handling people in the midst of mental health crises. It’s still a massive overstep and completely inappropriate. The only acceptable action the manager could have taken was to reach out to OP’s emergency contact (and I think even that would have been very odd given the actual circumstances at hand–there was no real sign here that there was an emergency afoot, it was entirely manufactured in the manager’s head–but that would be the appropriate step in an emergency situation). That’s why emergency contacts exist: so there’s a clear point person when something is wrong, and so the person is someone that the employee is comfortable with. It’s very inappropriate to ignore the designated emergency contact and go to someone else instead, no matter who the someone else is.

            1. valentine*

              He doesn’t know how close she is to her mom, but he knows the mom isn’t her emergency contact. Also, he either remembered this odd fact she may have had to disclose as a condition of employment or spent time digging it up.

          2. Evan Þ.*

            She could have known that OP was at a doctors appointment, or was planning to spend the whole day with a friend and thus was unavailable but supported.

            Except that LW’s mother lives in another state, so why would LW necessarily share details of her daily schedule? I’ve got a great relationship with my mother on the opposite side of the country, but if you asked her where I was, she wouldn’t have any idea beyond “well, he’s said he’s usually out with friends Wednesday nights…”

            That’s why, if you think one of your employees is in an emergency, you call their actual emergency contact who might actually know something or be able to help.

              1. Quoth the Raven*

                I live with my parents and, beyond a general idea of who I might be with or where I was headed (which I share because I want to, not because I have to), they wouldn’t know where I am or what I’m up to.

          3. Observer*

            Well, your response MIGHT work if it were Mom vs Police. But it was Mom vs local, listed emergency contact.

            I’m not buying “genuinely panicked”. He had enough presence of mind to find her mother, but not the emergency contact in her records? I also have a bridge to sell you.

            1. teclatrans*

              Meh. Part of panic is bad judgment. I have made some really stupid, convoluted choices that people couldn’t believe afterward when I was panicking. The way it works is that you make some sort of leap and then you just keep taking wrong turns that all seem like the best of terrible options. I think there may need to be some catastrophising in there — if you make the wrong choice someone will DIE (or whatever terrible panic thing your brain has latched onto), and each choice is fraught and terrible, but you power through.

              None of which excuses the boss or speaks to his capacity to manage human beings, but I am just saying that “did thing that seems illogical and a real stretch”=was premeditated or intentional” is a false equation.

          4. Ceiswyn*

            All of which assumes that the OP has a certain relationship with her mother; which the boss may not know.

            What if the OP has a difficult relationship with her mother? Or has cut ties entirely? Or even has a restraining order out?

            There is a reason that organisations ask employees to give a specific emergency contact. And if the boss believed that this was an emergency, that is who they should have contacted. NOT a random family member, what the even.

            1. Atalanta0jess*

              Right, I’m just saying there are good reasons to call a personal person vs. the police, in general MH concern situations.

              I’m not saying he should have called mom vs. her emergency contact.

              1. Ceiswyn*

                There are good reasons to call a personal person.

                There are not good reasons to call a family member who may or may not be a personal person, and who lives in the next state along anyway.

        1. TooTiredToThink*

          Yep; like I’ve told co-workers if I don’t show up and they can’t get a hold of me to call the police (I live alone and they are the ones that will notice that something is wrong); but on my day off? NO.

          1. Kat Em*

            I once called in sick (two hours before the start of my shift as required in the employee handbook), and since I was scheduled to be there at 7:30am, nobody was in the office yet, so I left a message, then shut off my phone to get some sleep. The next day I went in as usual and people looked at me like I’d grown another head. They had all assumed I was dead since I didn’t show up or answer my phone, and apparently nobody bothered checking voicemail that day. It was … bizarre.

            Then they made a new rule that if you were calling in sick you needed to keep calling until you reached a live person. This often meant calling every five minutes for nearly an hour, which is exactly what people wanted to be doing when sick in bed.

            1. It's mce*

              I called in sick one time where our reception answered … and forgot to relay the message. My boss overreacted and thought something happened to me and gave me a talking to. I got chided for this; the reception was like “oops, sorry.”

              1. Kella*

                yes this happened to me once as well. I called the night *before* to say I was sick and wouldn’t be in the next day, told a co-worker (who was a supervisor for god’s sake!) and he forgot to write it down or tell anyone. I got multiple phone calls the next morning asking where I was, and a little chewing out, though thankfully my manager gave me the benefit of the doubt and assumed I had just forgotten to call in or something.

            2. ThursdaysGeek*

              Ah, the joys of email, where I can send an email to my boss, co-workers who might be affected, and the guy whose cube is next to mine to ask him to put a sticky note on my monitor. And then go to sleep.

            3. Totally Minnie*

              This is why we have an email address that’s set up to deliver to all the supervisors in the building. If you’re going to be out, you send an email and six people get it, so there will definitely be someone in the office who knows why you haven’t shown up for your shift.

            4. it's-a-me*

              I once called the dedicated line to report I was sick and unable to come in to work. I then went back to sleep.

              I was awoken about 2 hours later, shortly after my shift would have begun, and the manager’s first line was (in extremely condescending tone) “did you forget you were working today?”

              I told her I had called in sick, to which she replied (in an equally as condescending tone) “Well I don’t have access to that line!”

              I had NO other contact details, and even if I did, the way our scheduling works I wouldn’t have known who the manager was that day. But apparently that’s my fault, for correctly following procedure!

        2. Bunny Girl*

          Right – I used to work in law enforcement, and we would get phone calls for welfare checks. They were mostly for elderly family members, which is perfectly fine. The only time we would get them for other situations is if the person hadn’t been heard from in weeks. Missing a single phone call isn’t warranted unless you have a pretty solid reason to believe that the person is in immediate danger.

          And regarding people who are mentally ill – A lot of police departments just don’t have the resources to handle those kind of calls. Our county had a mental health and wellness response team but they were stretched soooo thin that a lot of times it would be hours or days before they could respond. A lot of times police officers can only take people into custody if they are having severe mental issues or are suicidal.

      1. Lizorama*


        Please don’t call the police unless you are positive someone is in imminent serious danger and there is no other option to resolve the situation.

        Police are NOT well-trained to deal with people having a mental illness crisis and often escalate the situation, sometimes to fatal results. In fact 25% of people shot and killed by police were identified by police or family members as mentally ill, according to a 2015 Washington Post analysis of nearly 400 police killings.

        This applies doubly if the person is poor or not white. Please STOP calling the police unless it is the only viable option.

        1. Alexis Rose*

          Thank you so much for the caution here. I, as a person who tries really hard to recognize her privilege, didn’t even register that this would be a concern. I’m still learning and trying to fix my own biases. I immediately just thought that a “wellness check” conducted by police would be fine, full stop. I’ll keep this in mind in future.

          I do have a question though, are there any public servant type people that you could reach out to in order to do a wellness check? Like, could you call your non-emergency line and ask for a paramedic or a social worker or a fire fighter or someone else who is trained in first aid but doesn’t carry a gun? What advice would you have for someone like a boss who WAS genuinely concerned (f0r valid reasons, like didn’t show up to 3 shifts in a row and doesn’t have a history of attendance issues) and wanted to check up on someone out of concern?

          1. Zillah*

            I’m not sure re: other public servants – I’ll let someone else weigh in on that – but I just wanted to say thank you so much for this comment.

          2. Kate*

            It depends. Having used this resource for a stranger before, in my city there is a separate mental health hotline, but after hours they dispatch the police to respond. As a WW calling on behalf of a WOC in need of assistance, I tried to stress to the dispatcher that this person was not a danger to herself or someone else, and insert myself in the situation once the police got there until it was clear they were treating her gently and nonviolently.

          3. Bunny Girl*

            I mentioned this above, but it really depends on where you are and what resources are available in your area. I worked for a city police department, and our county had a mental wellness response team, but they were really stretched thin. Our team would go do wellness checks, mostly for elderly family members who didn’t have anyone close by and hadn’t been heard from for a while, but they would also do wellness checks for people who were having mental health emergencies. Most of the time, those ended in that person being transferred to the mental health facility for a hold. If you have concerns about someone, but you don’t think they are an immediate danger to themselves, I would probably contact a mental health hotline in that person’s area and ask what resources are available.

          4. It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's SuperAnon*

            I would think local EMS would be a better resource, but that’s not always up to the person calling for a check to decide who completes it. Different towns and cities have slightly different protocols. Our town has EMS, police, and fire in the same facility so any one of them could respond, but I believe that police would still be the first choice. Calling the non-emergency line is a good choice rather than 911, because then an appropriately trained public servant will usually respond rather than whoever is most readily available (911 calls are FIFO regardless of urgency). If it is called in as a potential suicide, both police and EMS will usually show up on scene.

            Source: my spouse is a first responder, this is all second hand knowledge and not personal experience.

          5. Atalanta0jess*

            Yeah, try a local hotline, they’ll know what the options are. If you must call police, state very clearly that you’re calling because of a mental health crisis. Ask for an officer who is trained in crisis intervention. Some departments have embedded social workers, but that varies, as does their availability.

          6. Alexis Rose*

            Thank you everybody for the suggestions! Sounds like these are the main options:

            1) calling a mental health hotline in your area to ask them what supports you may have.
            2) calling the non-emergency line for your city/area for a wellness check but stressing that the individual is not a danger to themselves or others and that you are simply concerned about them because of missing work without hearing from them, or whatever.

        2. Chocoholic*

          We have called the police for a welfare check before, but this was after 2 or 3 days of an employee not showing up for scheduled shifts/not calling back. Not a morning of missed calls. Sheesh.

        3. JSPA*

          This varies hugely from place to place. A few US police departments — and many, in other countries — have the training and staffing to do this well.

      2. Zillah*

        I just want to add my voice to the chorus of people saying not to call the police – having the police show up at your door can be deeply traumatizing no matter who you are, to the extent that it’s not just “better safe than sorry.” If I confided in someone about having mental health struggles and they called the cops on me, that would do massive long term damage to my ability to trust people and feel safe at home, and it would make whatever I was struggling with worse.

        You should have a very good, tangible reason to think that someone has made a suicide attempt to call the cops, not vague paranoia.

        1. Ceiswyn*

          Absolutely seconded. Speaking as a person who has struggled with mental health problems in the past, calling the police on me would absolutely have made my mental situation worse. Possibly to the point of causing myself harm.

        2. Midlife Tattoos*

          This is a very, very excellent point. I would be absolutely terrified if the cops showed up at my door.

        3. Kat*

          I have actually been in this situation, and it 110% made my situation worse. I had confided in a friend that I was depressed, and they decided that meant I was suicidal and call the police for a wellness check. At 2am. Having the police show up, unannounced, when I had zero reason to think they would ever show up, was shocking and terrifying and deeply upsetting, and having my trust betrayed like that and my words twisted prevented me from confiding in ANYONE for over ten years.

        4. Gazebo Slayer*

          Also chiming in as someone who has had something similar happen years ago. My glassbowl boss – who’d gone through multiple assistants in months, expected mind-reading, and criticized everything I did down to the way I walked while framing it as “helping you out for your future career” – fired me. I left crying and said something about how I hated being a financial burden on my family. (Not ideal, I admit.) He called the police claiming I was suicidal. They showed up in my apartment, and refused to believe my assurances that I was merely upset about being fired and had no intention of harming myself. They forced me to go to the ER in an ambulance, even though I was safe… and uninsured. And, yes, Glassbowl Boss did not offer health insurance and knew perfectly well that I was uninsured and not exactly rolling in cash.

          It was a humiliating, scary, and very expensive experience. If I were a person of color, it could have been a fatal one. DO NOT do this to anyone.

      3. LawBee*

        not the police! why in the world would the police be notified in this situation? She missed a phone call on her day off – that is NOT police-level anything.

      1. irene adler*

        And that’s the crux of this. Boss’ actions did nothing to help OP (assuming there had been an actual emergency here).

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Even then, I don’t think the boss is in any way justified or that his behavior makes any kind of sense. I’ve also lost people to suicide, and I cannot imagine behaving the way OP’s boss behaved.

      If someone discloses that they need time off for their mental health, that doesn’t provide sufficient information to assume that suicide is a realistic and probable concern. Even if someone said they have severe depression, assuming that their non-response means that they were a danger to themselves is gross speculation based in stigma and stereotypes about mental health diagnoses. If his concern were sincere, he should have contacted the emergency contact or requested that the police perform a wellness check. His approach is so inappropriate on so many levels (disclosing a private health condition to all and sundry based on his completely misplaced and unjustified assumptions about suicide).

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yes, exactly. If he has lost someone to suicide, that would explain his feelings of anxiousness or worry, but they would absolutely not excuse contacting the OP’s emergency contact (much less their mom).

      2. Tammy*

        And really, he should have contacted the emergency contact. Law enforcement unfortunately doesn’t have a good track record of making things better when they try to intervene with mentally ill people. I have a number of close friends with mental illnesses who have been down that road, and the involvement of law enforcement tends to result in a significant net increase in traumatization, and often escalates rather than defuses the crisis. According to a recent Washington Post article, a quarter of the 400 cases they looked at where police shot and killed someone involved mentally ill peopole, and in a healthy percentage of cases the police response to a suicidal person was to shoot them. (Link in the next comment).

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That’s definitely the case (re: law enforcement), and I don’t normally encourage folks to engage law enforcement in situations like this because of the high risk of death. That said, most cases involving law enforcement intervention involved someone calling for assistance because they were fearful of the person experiencing a mental health related episode or crisis. A wellness check is usually a bit safer, in part because you don’t have to disclose that the person has a mental health diagnosis, and because it’s routinely used for vulnerable populations.

          1. Alton*

            I was thinking this, as well. It’s still potentially dangerous, because someone going through a crisis might respond to police in ways that might result in escalation, but I think wellness checks can be approached in a neutral enough way that the police are less likely to go into the situation viewing the person as a suspect. That said, I wouldn’t trust this particular manager to have that sort of tact.

          2. aebhel*

            Yeah, that’s an important distinction, I think. Although it sounds like this boss would definitely have called to report a crisis situation, a wellness check is a different thing, and sometimes there are good reasons to do one.

            (My uncle died suddenly of a heart attack at 42, and the only reason his body was found reasonably quickly was that his employer called for a wellness check when he didn’t show up for work or answer his phone. Considering that he had no close friends or family nearby, I shudder to think of how long it would have taken to find him otherwise.)

      3. Observer*


        I get the potential concern about a wellness check, which I don’t want to get into here. But the boss actually had a perfectly good alternative! He had a LOCAL emergency contact who COULD have done a totally non-dangerous wellness check.

        And even if you turn yourself into a pretzel to justify the call to Mom, you simply CANNOT apply ANY of those excuses to telling the rest of the team. That’s pure, unmitigated gossip. Full stop.

    2. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      A single missed phone call on someone’s day off is not, in and of itself, alarming. If it had been a pattern of missed working days without explanation, or if LW had said something that was clearly threatening to herself, that would be one thing, but this isn’t that. And I’m saying this as someone who has both been suicidal and had to call in wellness checks on other people (including one that revealed that the friend who was the subject of the check had died).

    3. Dz*

      I always thought the emergency contact information was to be used in case there was an emergency AT WORK. Like if the employee lost an arm at work, or was a victim of a terrorist attack at work, the employer or emergency services would call the emergency contact to tell them which hospital to go to. I would never expect my employer to get involved in an emergency AT HOME by calling my emergency contact (or random family members, obviously).

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        I think that in a more reasonable version of this situation, where the person had been a no-show for multiple days that they were scheduled to be in, calling the emergency contact would be an appropriate step.

    4. Sorceress17*

      This was my thought as well. I have a friend who lost one of her good friends to suicide, and a few years ago when I was going to through a tough time, she was all over me about letting her know if I having “bad” thoughts. I kept trying to explain to her I have clinical depression and general anxiety, but I wasn’t going to harm myself. It took a few conversations for her to believe me, but I understood why she was so concerned.

    5. Oxford Comma*

      That seems like the kindest possibility, but like you said, the boss still should have contacted the emergency contact and not someone else.

      LW: If you’re going to stay in that position, I think that needs to be part of the conversation with your boss, because you list an emergency contact for a reason and your choice should be respected.

    6. Kat*

      I would check into this as well. Not that it in any way forgives the absolute inappropriateness of his behavior (WOW WTF) or makes it any easier to have to deal with facing all that at work, but if he has had an experience in the past where his imagined situation was true, it could at least give you some sort of ‘ok, this is why it happened’ (and if so he should really look into getting some help for dealing with it, because this response is NOT OK).

      I saw this because I have been in such a situation where a normally very responsive employee didn’t respond (completely forgot it was their day off, my bad) and while I casually shrugged it off as ‘eh they’re busy’, they were dying. While I have better self control and don’t react like this boss when someone doesn’t respond, there is almost always a little shiver in the back of my head going ‘what if they’re not ok, what if you could help them if you knew?’.

      Regardless, this is a complete shitshow and he needs to be made aware of that.

  6. Akcipitrokulo*

    Wow. Totally unreasonable and you are 100% in the right.

    I hope he offers a sincere apology and helps to put right HIS mess.

    And yeah, escalate the privacy concerns to HR or his boss if you feel up to it. This is far beyond not OK.

  7. ElspethGC*

    For some reason, I’m really stuck on him calling OP’s mother. Clearly he knows she lives in a different state, since he got her contact details via the company. Why on earth would he not call the *actual emergency contact* if he really did fear for OP’s life?

    This smacks of attention-seeking to me, honestly, like the boss who showed up to all the chemo treatments and started telling people it was terminal when it wasn’t. (Can’t find the letter right now; bad internet connection.)

    “I’m *so worried* about OP, look how *caring* I am, I’m *so concerned* about OP’s health, I even called their *mother*, let’s all take some time to admire how dedicated I am to my employees, and let’s tell the whole team about it so that they’ll keep asking me for updates.”

    1. Aleta*

      I mean, I can see someone appealing to a loved one to ~intervene~ if they think someone is a danger to themselves, and I can also see someone placing undue emphasis on The Bond Between Mother And Child and going with her instead of contacting the partner.

      1. Aleta*

        However, I definitely agree that he was hugely dramatic about the whole thing, and tbh I think that fits with contacting the mom. He clearly doesn’t know a lot about mental health and suicide (and how they don’t automatically intersect), so him thinking “Oh! I must contact OP’s mother AT ONCE! With the great bond all mothers have with their children, surely she is the only one who can convince OP that life is truly worth living!” is just as likely as performative concern to me.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I am almost rolling my eyes here. It’s pretty common knowledge that some folks have difficulty with their parents for any number of reasons and contact is not a good thing. I’d find it hard to believe that the boss had never heard of such a thing. As a second problem why would the boss think an out of state mom is going to go over and check on OP? I mean if a person had seriously injured themselves then they may not be able to answer the phone no matter who is calling. Better to call someone local who probably has a key to get into the home. Calling long distance mom only delays physical assistance, if physical assistance is necessary.
          The boss’ actions are so poorly thought out, I lean toward saying the boss is a drama llama.

      2. Observer*

        Oh, come on. That’s just not believable when Mom is in another state.

        Once you combine that with the fact that he also told the team, that’s clearly NOT the case. @ElspethCG’s explanation is the kindest I can think of.

      3. Miss Wels*

        I have had someone do this before (I knew through them my personal life though, not work) where they contacted my mother about my mental health issues when I was an adult living independently, and I was FURIOUS. My mother and I live in different states and we are not close at all, I go out of my way not to tell her about my personal life and I moved to another state when I was 16 just to get away from her. I immediately blacklisted this person from my life because I felt so violated, they even tried to reconnect a few years later and although I accepted their apology, I just couldn’t take them back as a friend.

        I have no idea what I would do if my BOSS of all people did this to me, but there would be no way I could look at them anymore, let alone work with them.

    2. Yvette*

      Excellent point. If he was truly worried, why contact someone who is in no position (physically, never mind the estrangement (if that is too harsh a word LW, I apologize)) to do anything about it. Perhaps because he could get her company contact info from the company website and getting the emergency contact would have involved going to HR and he did not want to do that for whatever reason.

      1. Aleta*

        I didn’t get that their relationship was necessarily strained at all – just that they don’t talk to or about each other at work (because they don’t need to), and that OP hasn’t shared about the mental health difficulties. You can still have a good relationship with a parent without sharing every struggle.

      2. JustAClarifier*

        I had this exact thought. It’s quite possible he didn’t contact her emergency POC simply because he didn’t want to have to request it from HR, which would then prompt questions of him such as, “What are you doing.”

        1. Totally Minnie*

          Every job I’ve ever had, the supervisor has had direct access to their employees’ contact information, including their emergency contact.

    3. crochetaway*

      I’m also wondering if he had access to the emergency contact without going to HR? Every company I’ve worked for, emergency contact info has been handled by HR. So he goes to the person he knows he can contact (the mom, since she works there) because he knows that what he’s doing is sketch.

      1. Krabby*

        That’s actually a really great point.

        I’m in HR and I constantly tell our employees that if they fail to call in when they’re out sick, my gut reaction will be that they are dead in a ditch (we actually had someone get stabbed by a rando on his way home from work once — he is fine now, but he understandably did not call in from the hospital). But, I would call them and email them twice (usually give them an hour to respond), before speculating and calling their emergency contact. To do what he did on top of making the immediate leap to imminent danger is just… not something a rational person does. A competent HR team likely would have stopped him in his tracks.

        1. Peter Nagy*

          I think that is a great way to handle it, but only when they are out unexpectedly. The OP had the day out scheduled. There was absolutely no reason for her boss to react this way.

      2. Jadelyn*

        Yeah, our managers don’t have emergency contact info. If they need an emergency contact called, they call one of us and tell us what’s up, and we reach out to the emergency contact. Which means he opted to contact someone he could get to without requesting actual emergency contact be made. At least on some level, he knew that if he involved anyone who had the power to stop him, he’d get stopped, and so he avoided HR involvement.

    4. Ennigaldi*

      That’s a good point – I thought he was just catastrophizing, which is something I do when my anxiety is bad (“partner is late coming home, what if he was in a terrible car accident and is dead in a ditch somewhere?”) but to then tell everyone on the team and start calling family members…that’s going above and beyond.

    5. Decima Dewey*

      Not confiding in one’s parents about mental health issues isn’t necessarily an estrangement. When I’ve been depressed, not telling my parents was an act of self-preservation, as they’d make things worse with the best intentions in the world. “Are you depressed *now*?” No, not right this minute, Dad. And Mom would remind me of what was making me depressed.

      My brother has had similar mental health issues to me. When we were having a family dinner and he mentioned discussing his self-esteem issues in group therapy, I blurted out “You’re a Dewey. You have no self-esteem.” And he confirmed that was a standing joke in his group.

      1. Yvette*

        I misread the statement “She and I don’t need to interact…” as “She and I don’t interact…” taking it as a lack of any kind of communication at all, good, bad or otherwise.

        Again, my apologies to the LW.

      2. Cedrus Libani*

        This. While I have a good relationship with my parents overall, if I’ve hit a mental rough patch, the last thing I want is their “help”. My mom in particular…she’s a worrier, and needs constant reassurance. If I’m struggling with my own brain weasels, it’s hard for me to spare the energy to help wrangle someone else’s. But if she knows I’m struggling, her anxiety will be laser-focused on me, and it will become my job to fix it. So she doesn’t get to know, for both our sanity’s sake.

    6. Environmental Compliance*

      That stuck out to me, too. Why on earth take the effort to get the contact information for someone (while in the company) in a completely different location, who isn’t the listed emergency contact, bypassing the actual emergency contact? And then to spend all this effort panicking about a single missed phone call? That occurred in the morning?? On the OP’s *day off*??! And then tell coworkers??! No police welfare check?

      This is horrible and outrageous and confusing at all angles.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Still – you have to search out in the directory. It’s not just in the employee’s file.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I’m assuming the mother’s contact info was easily available in Outlook or similar, where the emergency contact was In The Files somewhere. (Whether or not the boss was consciously avoiding HR is a separate question, but it’s definitely easier to find someone internal.)

    7. Jennifer*

      My thoughts exactly. Like the people who make sure everyone knows that they sent flowers or visited someone in the hospital a certain number of times. It’s not about the other person at all.

    8. Serin*

      I agree about the attention-seeking. The only possible explanation I can find for this is that the boss’s (unspoken, unacknowledged) thought process is, “How can I make use of this situation to make people look at ME and think about ME and how CARING I am and how SERIOUSLY I’m taking this mental health issue?”

      OP, is your boss always this self-involved?

    9. boo bot*

      My extreme cynicism asks, is the mother higher up than the boss, important or highly visible within the company, potentially romantically attractive to him, or otherwise someone he might have leapt at the excuse to contact?

      “I think your daughter might be trying to commit suicide,” isn’t the best elevator pitch, but some people will take an in wherever they find get it.

      (My extreme cynicism also thinks, if the partner is a same-sex partner, that the boss decided that relationship didn’t “count.”)

    10. OP*

      I think you might be right here. My boss likes to tout how protective and concerned he is about his employees, so I can see how that could have come into this.

      1. ElspethGC*

        Yep. Performative concern. It wasn’t enough to just be concerned for you and to make sure that you were okay, he had to make sure that everyone *knew* he was concerned for you, even if that was clearly not in your best interests, because otherwise how would anyone know that he was *such* a good person?!

        The letter I referenced in my initial post isn’t really the same situation you’re in, but there are a few interesting comments in there about, quoted from one commenter, “intrusive faux helpfulness” that sound like they could be relevant. Hopefully linked in my username, if my internet doesn’t conk out again while I’m posting this.

  8. JB (not in Houston)*

    Geeze louise. Your boss is beyond ridiculous. It’s inexcusable that he put you in this position, and like Alison said you should absolutely shift the awkward back to him. And if I were your coworker, if the boss’s disclosure hadn’t already clued me in that I shouldn’t share *anything* with him, your talking about it the way Alison suggests would, and that’s a warning I’d appreciate having.

  9. JokeyJules*

    I very much hope he learns his lessons with this one. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this.

  10. Murphy*

    I have nothing constructive to offer, but I’m so sorry this happened to you. This completely sucks.

    The part about calling my mother would have my particularly steamed.

    1. inlovewithwords*

      Ditto on lacking anything constructive, just horror and sympathy. Alison’s said anything I could have thought of and more, and with less hysterical frothing at the mouth. LW, please have internet cookies, it’s really all I’ve got.

  11. Been there*

    This is horrifying on so many levels and I don’t know if I could re-establish my relationship with my boss after a shitshow like this. My experience wasn’t as invasive; I have MS, manage it well, but don’t discuss it since it’s not relevant most of the time. A new employee was hired with relapsing-remitting MS and my supervisor excitedly told her to “check with” me about support groups and such and the next thing I knew this new employee was trying to sign me up for bike rides and photo shoots and other things that are GREAT for some people to be involved with but not my jam.
    Since this is a mental health issue you are struggling with, I also think you’d be within your rights to tell your boss that his actions exacerbated your struggle, but that’s up to you. And I wish you the best in your recovery as you move forward!

  12. MuseumChick*

    I would have a script ready in case any of your team members approach you about this. Maybe something like:

    “Fergus really over stated what was happening. I don’t feel comfortable discussing medical issues at work so all I will say is I shared an issue with him and it got blow way out of proportion. I’d really appreciate it if we could drop the subject completely.”

    If anyone keeps pushing: “I don’t discuss personal medical issues at work.” repeat as needed.

    1. The Ginger Ginger*

      I think even that is adding more emphasis to the health issue than is really called for. Simply saying, “Boss wasn’t able to reach me while I was napping on my DAY OFF, and made a very strange leap based on no real information. Nothing was wrong, and the whole thing was a huge misunderstanding on Boss’ part.” Then if needed, follow up with “There’s really nothing here to discuss.”

      1. Four lights*

        Ooh, yes, bring up the nap! “Well, I was taking a nap and Boss called me. When I didn’t pick up the phone he decided I must be committing suicide.” Sounds as ridiculous as it is.

        1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

          Maybe even a snarky warning: “so, y’know, don’t be unavailable to Boss on your days off if you don’t want everyone you know to get horribly freaked out for no reason.”

        2. Anonadog*

          The danger with this is that the boss might double-down when he hears the OP said this. Boss could say to the group in his defense: “Well, OP acknowledged being suicidal [not true, but we already know he conflates a mental health challenge with being suicidal] so of COURSE I worried and did everything I could to ensure OP was okay.”

          1. Marthooh*

            Boss might double down in any case, no matter what OP says. Trying to figure out ahead of time how such a fool might react is a waste of precious brainpower.

        3. LawBee*

          ding ding ding this one. It is exactly what happened, and puts the weird right where it belongs. If there was a way to bump up comments, I would be bumping this one up so hard.

      2. Myrin*

        Yeah, I also think there’s unncecessary emphasis there (in a way that might actually make people curious about the situation even if they weren’t before) – Alison’s script (“I’m not clear on why my not answering a phone call on my day off led to Bob’s worry, but I’m fine and there was never an issue.”) sounds totally sufficient to me.

      3. Birch*

        Agree, OP the more you can state this as “wow, what a weird and absurd thing Boss did! Isn’t that just bizarre?!” the better.

        I personally would not bring up the health issues or the nap. Napping and having sleep issues are also often stigmatized and associated with being incapable of “adulting” or having a breakdown. You never know when someone is not convinced by your story and is trying to read between the lines about what is “wrong” with you. I’d just say “I didn’t think it was necessary to answer my phone because it was my day off, and somehow Boss got this bizarre idea and violated a whole bunch of boundaries, including telling you all a lot of stories. I’d appreciate it if we could leave this weird situation in the past!”

        1. Zillah*

          Napping and having sleep issues are also often stigmatized and associated with being incapable of “adulting” or having a breakdown.

          YMMV, but I’ve never come across anything resembling this mindset, and I’d find it absolutely bizarre if I did.

          1. Myrin*

            Yeah, this is the literally the first I’ve ever heard of this. Doesn’t mean that mindset doesn’t exist – I don’t know and haven’t encountered everything there is, after all – but it can’t be that pervasive.

          2. valentine*

            There are people who think daytime sleeping can only mean laziness, incompetence, or severe depression.

            1. Birch*

              Thank you–I’m glad that others have not experienced this kind of judgment but it’s a real and embarrassing thing.

          3. Birch*

            Eh as you said, YMMV but I have gotten comments like this and also had comments made to me about others–people think you are less responsible or less mentally stable if you don’t match whatever sleeping patterns they think are normal. It’s less prevalent if people think you have a “legitimate” reason to be tired, like having kids or working the night shift. I don’t think OP should be paranoid about this, just trying to point out that if we’re discussing not disclosing the reason for the off day, we might as well skip disclosing anything else drama-mongerers might latch on to or use to try to explain the boss’s behavior. There’s no reason they need to know the details because it doesn’t matter that OP was napping–they could have been in the shower, at the grocery, doing yoga, on the phone with someone else, or just choosing not to answer because it was their day off.

        2. JSPA*

          Napping or sleeping in on a day off are… totally normal. So’s putting the phone on “do not disturb” for a nap, and forgetting to remove it. If you also fall asleep in meetings or at your desk, people may add “napping” to that pattern. But by itself? Hardly.

      4. Onyx*

        I agree that I’d leave the health issue out entirely. Probably also the specifics of being asleep, since it’s really not the relevant part:
        “Bob called me on my day off and panicked when I didn’t pick up immediately. I don’t know why he assumed the worst just because I didn’t have my phone on me at all times. I’m sorry to hear that he dragged you into it as well.”

        And I would definitely use the description “panicked,” not “was worried,” etc., or anything that implies he was acting at all rationally. (Logically, “freaked out” ought to have the same “Bob was acting irrationally” implication, but for some reason the colloquialism of “Bob freaked out” doesn’t emphasize it as much to me.)

        I’d be very tempted to add “He seems to have contacted everyone except my actual emergency contact who knows how to get ahold of me in an emergency.” But that really wouldn’t be constructive at all and just drags the coworkers into it further.

        1. Marthooh*

          OP apparently got a whole lot of calls in a few hours: “It was my day off, so I had my phone turned off. I don’t know why boss panicked like that!”

    2. Anonymous in US.*

      I disagree. A lot of people get more nosy when mental health issues are at play.

      The more boring you can be the better. I like Four light’s wording. Really makes boss sound ridiculous.

      If they keep pushing about mental health, you can say (in a boring, offhand voice), “oh, I meant a ‘metal health day’, the kind we all take to rest and recharge.”

      1. valentine*

        I’m wondering if this is what OP said, and it’s all the worse if they’re in a country where this is SOP.

    3. Chuck*

      A script is a good idea, but that wording–“it got blown way out of proportion”–might cause people to assume there was cause for concern in the first place when there really wasn’t.

      1. bonkerballs*

        I agree. This script kind of confirms that boss’s interpretation of events was correct, if a little overblown. Better distance yourself from it entirely (since needing a mental health day in no way equates to self harm and/or suicide) and make it clear that boss had no idea what he was talking about.

    4. beth*

      I don’t think OP has to validate the concerns about mental health at all. I think they can just say something like, “I’m not sure where Fergus got his concern from. As you can see, I’m totally fine. I wasn’t answering my phone because it was my day off and I was busy with other things. I don’t know why that made him think that I was in danger, and I’m really shocked and dismayed that he blew things so far out of proportion.” This is all on OP’s boss, and I think they should feel totally free to pin it all on him when talking to team members about the situation.

      1. boo bot*

        Yes, for real! Don’t use any softeners like overstated, exaggerated, concern, worry – he imagined, fabricated, panicked, and acted outrageously and inappropriately.

        It might help to imagine that he assumed you had been eaten by a mountain lion, or kidnapped in a case of mistaken identity. Like, sure, it happens, but is it really your go-to scenario for a missed phone call?

    1. Adalind*

      I don’t even know what else to say about this. Inappropriate on SO many levels. I’m sorry you have to deal with this, OP.

  13. Can You Not?*

    I can absolutely sympathize with this as something similar happened to me in college. I had relayed some medical concerns to my supervisor at my part time job about mental health issues and needing to change my schedule to attend therapy. She then sent an all staff email to the department telling everyone to send me their thoughts and kind words because I was going through a crisis! It was so embarrassing and humiliating that I left and took another job on campus.

    I hate that you were put in this situation and I absolutely hope that nothing like this ever happens again.

    1. UnderwaterOphelia*

      Woah, they sent an all staff emial because you wanted to change your schedule! Plenty of people go to thereapy!

      1. Can You Not?*

        Yes, I will say that my supervisor was an older student (college senior) so looking back I can kind of take that into consideration. The student workers had set schedules around our classes so maybe that’s another reason why she wanted people to know. But overall very ridiculous.

    2. Decima Dewey*

      “Yes, I was having a crisis. Right after my supervisor treated a doctor’s appointment as a reason to send a DEFCON email to all and sundry.”

    3. CM*

      This story and the OP’s are perfect illustrations of the advice Alison often gives here — be very cautious about disclosing mental health issues, because your disclosure may be unfairly used against you.

    4. TC*

      I had a boss once who, upon learning I had recently started taking anti-depressants, once yelled out across the office, “I really like you on medication!!” Sheesh lady.

  14. Spartan*

    I hope that you get to talk with your mother about the mental health issues. NOT the specifics at all. Just to tell her that they are not suicide level serious and that you are treating them appropriately. If she trusts you that should be enough. If she doesn’t and is like my mom she will continue to question and you will just need to be firm in that you are taking care of yourself and do not require her assistance. It’s hard but it’s the only way to make sure you control your health and wellness not a 3rd party. While you can’t fully put the genie back in the bottle you can make sure it’s not hovering over your shoulder and becoming a routine topic.

  15. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I know this probably won’t give you much comfort, OP, but…

    If I was on your team, I wouldn’t think any differently of you. I would, however, be completely rethinking everything I knew about your boss. I would also be less likely to share any information with him, no matter how innocuous, lest he completely blow everything out of proportion like he did with you. I would keep that boss at an emotional arm’s length, keeping everything strictly business as usual and that’s it.

    Then I would take you out to lunch and tell you how sorry I am that you had to endure that, nothing was your fault, and you’d be completely justified in looking for a new job. Behind your back, I’d also be correcting the record on any assumptions about your mental health and I’d be redirecting all attention back on the boss’s behavior.

    You have to trust, and I hope you do, that his behavior makes HIM look bad. It really does, especially if you’re calm, cool, and collected about the whole thing. “I don’t know why Bob went to such great lengths the other day. I was fine. I just missed his call. What’s up with that?”

    1. Yvette*

      “If I was on your team, I wouldn’t think any differently of you.”


      This is all on your boss.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        YES. I’ve disclosed my anxiety and depression to a few select people, including people at work, and they were all, “Pfffft everyone medicates. Want to order nachos?”

        This is so common and is absolutely no reflection on you as a human or employee. Your boss is a reckless shithead though.

    2. Environmental Compliance*


      Same here, OP. If I found out a boss did this to a coworker, I’d honestly probably bring it up to HR myself, because as someone with mental health issues, I would be really, really, REALLY off-put of ever sharing any information with my boss again, because I wouldn’t want to be put in that situation either, and that would make me very concerned with any ADA-relevant accommodations.

      Boss would be very firmly in the Holy Shizz What The Ever Lovin’ Heck Is Wrong With You group for….probably forever.

    3. hbc*

      That’s pretty much what I came here to say–any impact this incident would have on my opinions about people would 100% apply to the boss. Maybe I’m more cold than most, but even if I knew you had mental health issues, my immediate reaction to his Single Missed Call Suicide Detection System would have been “That doesn’t seem like the most likely explanation.” And my second thought would have been, “How does me getting this information help anyone?”

    4. mr. brightside*

      I agree with this. I’ve got a boss who tells people about other people’s medical stuff. It’s icky and I hate it. I also tell him as little as possible about me, because I know he’ll spread it around. If he started going on about another coworker’s deal, I know the issue is with him, not coworker.

    5. Jules the 3rd*

      +1 to ‘I’d not think differently / badly about you’

      But yeah, not everyone is going to be reasonable about it – see exhibit A, your boss.

      Good luck.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Yep, this.
      I would probably ask the boss, “Are you sure that OP wants us all to know this? It sounds like private information to me.” If the boss was talking to several people, that would not stop me from saying it.

    7. Lucille2*

      Add another one to the list of hypothetical coworkers who would question Boss’s judgement, but not think any less of OP. I don’t think OP even needs to mention anything to coworkers about mental health. It’s really not their business. All that needs to be said are the facts: OP took a planned sick day off, Boss tried calling but panicked when he didn’t reach OP and it all escalated from there.

      On a much smaller scale, this reminds me of a time when I returned to work after attending a conference to finding my coworkers had thought I was fired. Apparently, a colleague had overheard a phone call between my boss and another manager and drew the conclusion I had been fired and that’s why I wasn’t in the office. Other Manager was upset about a Thing that involved me, but the Thing was not really much of an offense and my boss told Other Manager so. People wondered about the Thing how close I was to getting fired for about a week and then it fizzled quite quickly.

      I bet OP’s coworkers’ attention will be on the crazy boss who panicked over a missed phone call.

    8. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      Yes, I would judge your boss too. I worked somewhere where people were somehow incapable of understanding time off scheduling requests. Let’s say someone took a week’s vacation, August 8- August 15, it was approved, and put on the calendar. Their first day back was also noted on the calendar as August 16.

      Inevitably, a manager or two would be running around like a chicken with their head cut off on August 14, “OMG we haven’t heard from Fergus in a week, we have to put in place a coverage plan since we have no idea when he’s coming back,” and would be pelting poor Fergus with emails, phone calls, and texts, and also harassing everyone in Fergus’s department asking if they can be coverage for Fergus on the 16th and 17th since no one’s heard from Fergus!

      Meanwhile, poor Fergus was camping somewhere there’s no reception, and when he turned his phone back on, it blew up with all this nonsense. He’d walk in as scheduled on the 16th and everyone would be like “Surprise you’re back! We didn’t know where you were!” Or worse, he’d walk in on the 16th and find someone covering his duties, and that someone wouldn’t budge, so he’d get annoyed and go back home and take an extra vacation day.

    9. aebhel*

      This. My ex-boss actually called the cops to report that a coworker was suicidal when she was just (reasonably!) upset about the boss’s bullying behavior, and even though my coworker was the one who got walked out of the building by police and taken to the hospital for a mandatory mental health check, the boss was the one who came off looking like an ass.

  16. Sara without an H*

    Your boss is an imbecile.

    Do everything Alison outlined in her response. You might actually be able to have get some fun out of clearing the record with your co-workers — how often does anyone have the opportunity to politely and professionally make the boss look like a fool?

    A couple of commenters have suggested that you look for another job. I think that depends on how things develop from here on. IF your boss seems to get the fact that his conduct was way out of line, and IF you have a reasonably competent HR department and/or grandboss who will take the situation seriously, THEN it might be worth while to give it another shot. But I’d have serious reservations about tying my career long-term to a manager whose judgement is this questionable.

  17. Mrs_helm*

    Let wants to know “how I can save face with my team.”

    You need to change how you’re thinking about this. your BOSS need to save face for jumping to conclusions and violating privacy. Boss was being ridiculous, and not following any kind of protocol (like emergency contacts).

    Imagine you were home with the flu, and he’d reacted this way because “some people die from that”. It’s ludicrous to begin with…but even if they had some intuition about it, they still needed to follow protocol. This is all on them.

    1. Anon for this*

      Yes! You have every right to be angry and it’s your boss who should be ashamed, not you.

    2. Zillah*

      Imagine you were home with the flu, and he’d reacted this way because “some people die from that”.

      Perfect analogy.

      1. OP*

        Thank you – I was really focused on recovering my “reputation” from being outed. You all are putting it into context that this is not something that “I” should be embarrassed about, but is my boss demonstrating poor judgement and dramatic tendencies.

        1. Anonybus*

          Exactly this. There’s a manager at at my workplace who has the same tendency towards overly dramatic “worry” and oversharing around other people’s health issues (for example: called a welfare check for someone who turned out to be using a different workstation about two cubicles down from their normal one – the manager would have known this, had they asked anybody about colleague’s whereabouts), and that manager is pretty much universally regarded as a source of second-hand embarassment. Their poor judgement never reflects badly on anybody it’s being pointed at.

  18. Anonymous in US*

    OP, this is terrible. I have a diagnosed mental health illness and do not ever share it with anyone I work with or for, because I’m afraid of situations like this and even lesser violations of privacy.

    I agree with Alison’s advice. The situation may also blow over more quickly with your coworkers if you can be bewildered and boring in your tone of voice when you talk with them. “I don’t know foggiest idea why he overreacted; it was a day off.” If they ask specifically about mental health, you can say (in a boring, offhand voice), “oh, I meant a ‘metal health day’, the kind we all take to rest and recharge.”

    Seconding the suggestion to look for another job. I don’t know if boss is a boundary pusher, but boss seems like a total Michael Scott. I sure hope he understands how bizzare and unethical his behavior was, but I’m not optimistic.

  19. Fenchurch*

    And it’s What-The-What Wednesday. OP, I am so sorry you had to deal with this. Mental health breaks from work are important, and should be treated as normal care for human beings.

    I definitely agree with Alison’s advice. If I were a coworker of yours and you told me “Fergus really over-reacted here, there’s nothing going on” I’m gonna take your word for it.

  20. Julia*

    LW, the more nonchalant you are with your coworkers, the more ridiculous your boss will look here – so give a shrug and a smile and say “I slept in on my day off, no idea what he was so worked up about”. (To *him*, of course, it would make sense to articulate clearly your serious concerns about his egregious conduct.) I wouldn’t recommend not addressing it with people – if you treat it like a secret, people will assume there’s actually something to your boss’s interpretation. (Although I’d bet that a boss whose judgment is this seriously compromised has damaged his credibility with your team in other occasions and they’d be less likely to trust him on this.)

    And I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

    1. sunshyne84*

      I agree. I’d also throw in that it was a regularly scheduled-clearly needed mental health day.

    2. Chatterby*

      I’d aim for incredulous, annoyed, or terse over nonchalant. Downplaying too much makes people suspicious, but everyone either gets out of the way or agrees with righteous indignation.
      “Can you believe him?!” is more understandable than “Eh, it’s ok and not a big deal.”

  21. Detective Amy Santiago*

    My instinct here would be to consult with an employment lawyer and see if you can negotiate a generous severance package so that you can leave this place behind and job search. This may be an overreaction on my part, but your boss was so incredibly out of line and I honestly don’t think I could continue working for someone who did this.

    I am so very sorry that your boss’s actions likely exacerbated your struggles with your mental illness. It infuriates me that mental health issues are still so stigmatized by society and your boss’s behavior here is the type of thing that sets back the efforts of the mental health community’s efforts towards removing that stigma.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed. I’m almost sure that this would edge on an ADA claim, which gives OP additional leverage if they want to negotiate a severance. I cannot imagine continuing to work for a boss like this—at the minimum, I would want to transfer departments/bosses.

      OP, I’m so sorry you had this experience. It’s unacceptable on every level and really not ok.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Me too. I don’t think I personally would be able to go back and work with him. Potentially by him. (At least, that’s my initial personal gut reaction.)

    2. animaniactoo*

      I agree this would be a good option for OP if they can manage it. Mostly with the emphasis of “I can never again take a nap on my day off without wondering if this chain of events is going to happen again. Because even if there are clear rules and guidelines in place – he didn’t even call my emergency contact, which WAS the clear guideline if there was a potential problem. I can’t trust what he will do the next time he panics, and I need to NOT live with that hanging over me.”

    3. Zillah*

      I agree. As someone who sometimes struggles with depression, I’d find this incredibly traumatizing.

  22. MechanicalPencil*

    Your boss is an idiot, to quote House.

    If he were truly concerned, he would have reached out to your *actual* emergency contact first. Then called for a wellness check. He would not, I repeat, *not* contacted your mother who lives in a completely different state and would have had no way of checking on you. He wouldn’t have shared his concerns with the team. He’s being a drama llama who can’t be reasonable in a potential crisis situation.

    If I were on your team and I knew all of the dominoes that fell in this situation, I would be furious on your behalf and give your boss some major side eye. Mental issues can mean a whole multitude of things. There’s so much that’s happened that is illogical that I don’t know how your boss manages to function, let alone *manage*.

      1. Four lights*

        You call the police and ask them to go check up on someone. They knock on the door, ask you if you’re okay, if you’re suicidal. Can be done for elderly people, or if you haven’t been able to get in touch with someone for a long time.

      2. Atalanta0jess*

        A wellness check is when police go check on someone.

        Some areas have local crisis teams that might be willing to contact someone and check in about a crisis. I’m sure it varies from place to place whether they are willing to cold-call or visit someone. But I’d suggest checking that out before asking police to check…police aren’t mental health professionals and don’t really have the training to accurately assess someone’s risk level. That said, if there is a level of urgency, like you think they may be committing suicide RIGHT THIS MINUTE, of course you’re going to call 911.

      3. Yvette*

        Most local law enforcement will send a uniformed officer to knock on the door and make sure the person answers and then inform them of the fact that someone is worried. “Hello Mrs Smith, your son has been trying to reach you and is worried.”

        We have had to do it for my MIL one or two times when we could not get a hold of her for several hours and there was a real chance of her having fallen or something. (We live about an hour away and yes, she now has an alert system.)

      4. Sleepytime Tea*

        A wellness check is when you contact your local police and tell them you are concerned for someone’s wellness (because you haven’t heard from them in awhile, generally) and you would like them to go check on them to make sure they are ok. You have to have a good reason to be concerned for their well being. So in this case, the boss would have called the police and said that he was concerned because he had reason to believe (in this case, completely off base and ridiculous reason, but he felt it was a reason) that the employee was a danger to themselves and he couldn’t reach her. Would they please go drop by their house and make sure everything is ok? Police frequently get wellness check calls from parents on college aged kids when their parents haven’t heard from them and they haven’t been able to get in contact. It can be kind of the first step in determining if a person is missing, as well.

      5. Octopus*

        Thanks everyone. I have heard of people calling the police to check-up on people but had never heard that called a “wellness check” specifically. Generally I hear this practice being discouraged if you’re worried about someone for mental health reasons because the police are *not* trained to handle mental health issues and are generally not trained in de-escalation tactics. This is especially true if the person you’re calling about is black. (There have been many cases in the US of black men being shot because someone called the police to report them as suicidal and request help, which is so many kinds of awful.)

        I was asking because I thought MechanicalPencil might live in a country/area where there *are* responders trained specifically to handle mental health crises and I wanted to learn more about that.

  23. Michael*

    This might be have a legal issue attached. In the UK (not sure about the States) a workplace should not contact an employee in their off-time without express permission. Of course, a single instance isn’t going to trigger anything but the manager should be made aware that he crossed a legal line that should not be crossed again.

      1. SarahKay*

        For sure GDPR issues, probably throughout the EU, not just in the UK – if the OP’s Mom wasn’t the named emergency contact then boss has no right to tell her medical information. Sadly, GDPR won’t help OP in the US.
        On the other hand, OP, if you want a feeling for how *OUT OF LINE!!!* your boss was, they’re so out of line it would be illegal in the EU. It’s not you; your boss is a total over-stepping, interfering, absurd-conclusion-jumping jerk! I’m so sorry this happened to you.

        1. GingerHR*

          The emergency contact shouldn’t get medical information in the UK either, unless it there is an absolute requirement that overrides the individual right to privacy and protection of their info. Which still doesn’t help the OP. Or change the fact that OP’s boss has acted like the village gossip – the kind who thinks they have a natural right to access to all information and people at any time. I think you named the boss rightly SarahKay. Sorry you’ve had to put up with this crap OP.

    1. Antilles*

      Nope, unfortunately, there’s no such law here in the US. Your company can contact you at any time for any reason. If you’re non-exempt, they might be legally required to pay you for that time, but they can certainly do it.
      Obviously, good managers generally don’t do this unless there’s a very good reason, but it’s not a legal issue.

    2. mark132*

      Out of curiosity, do some UK companies make that a condition of employment, that they are allowed to contact you off hours? (Or is that even legal?)

      1. Magenta*

        I’m fairly sure the UK doesn’t have a law saying that your company can’t contact you on a day off, although there may be something around not bothering people if they are signed off sick. I’m a manager and would hope that at some point someone would have told me I’m not allowed to contact people out of working hours. Also it would have to work both ways and would mean I wouldn’t have to deal with calls and texts from my team when I am off!

        My firm has a culture of respect for boundaries etc but also realistically there are times when you need an answer that only someone who is not in can help with. We would try to keep this to a minimum and have things set up so that knowledge isn’t siloed. This has been the case for all of my career and I would imagine that only very small companies would differ.

        My contract specifies a 0900-1730, Monday to Friday, 37.5 hour work week, but says “You may on occasion be required to work additional or varied hours as are necessary for the proper performance of your duties.”

        There are limits to how long people can be made to work, but most jobs make opting out a condition of employment. My contract opts me out of the EU Working Time Regulations, which limit working hours to 48 in a 7 day period. But the only time I ever did close to that, maybe slightly over was when I was project managing an office move and wanted to make sure things got done, it would have been fine if I had pushed thing back or dropped something else and gone home.

    3. GingerHR*

      It’s not true in the UK, either. A workplace can contact you – not excessively, but they can contact you. Otherwise, no business would ever be able to call a member of staff and say ‘hey, Lancelot didn’t turn in today, are you free?’. You don’t need express permission as this would be ridiculously hampering, and could lead to Lancelot turning up when the office was closed due to a power cut, simply because he’d never given permission.

    4. UK lawyer*

      It’s not illegal in the UK to contact an employee out of hours, provided it does not amount to harassment.

      It *is* a breach of data protection law to disclose sensitive personal data without consent and in circumstances where none of the exemptions (probably) apply.

  24. Lady Phoenix*

    I heard of jumping the gun… but your boss decided to taking an effin pirouette off the BFG didn’t he?

    (BFG= Big Funking Gun)

    It would take every ounce of my being to tell my coworkers, “No, guys, I’m perfectly fine. Boss is an idiot.”

    Definitely go to HR and explain that not only did he massively step on your boundaries, but he also revealed your medical details AND is giving others the wrong idea about mental disability that could potentially lead to harassment.

    1. media monkey*

      not the Big Friendly Giant? cos i have to say that was ag reat mental image – i imagined him jumping off his ear!

  25. SigneL*

    Once when I was out sick with a migraine (having called in “sick with a migraine,”) my supervisor called my father and tried to get his receptionist to pull him out of a consult to ask when I would be coming back. True. I was, you know, 32 at the time and there was NO work-related reason that I couldn’t take a sick day.

    Really, what is it with people?

      1. SigneL*

        They didn’t call my father Stormin’ Norman for nothing. But I’m not sure my supervisor ever really understood how invasive it was.

        1. BookishMiss*

          If my boss called my dad when I had a migraine, I would insist on listening to the call recording. It would be hilarious.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Did your father work for the same company? If not, how did your boss have his contact info?

      1. SigneL*

        This was a long time ago, in a hospital in a small town. I worked in medical computing, not in an area remotely connected to my father. But everyone knew I was Dr. Smith’s kid, and there were times when people would ask for favors (“I’m worried about my Mom, can I talk to your father?” which he would do and point them in the right direction – as I said, this was a long time ago). But even then, the idea of calling his office to ask when I’d be back to work was ridiculous.

    2. Mockingjay*

      I once left work early when I came down with gastrointestinal flu. (you don’t want details.) As I am feebly packing my bag, the senior engineer begs me, “but you can still work from home, right?”

      Bless my manager, he gave the engineer the death stare and flatly stated, “she’s sick, she’s going home, and she’s not working. Leave her alone.”

      1. Spartan*

        I once left work early while passing a kidney stone (driving myself home was a very stupid idea) and my boss called me 13 times in an hour and wouldn’t accept that I could not help her with something that my counterpart knew how to do.

  26. Akcipitrokulo*

    It sounds like one of the main things preying on your mind is the rest of the team’s reaction and how to handle it. Which I completely get, and would be mine too.

    Preparing can help. Also, there is no need to go into any detail – or even mention – your personal and private health issues.

    “I have no idea why he panicked? I had nap, he put 2 + 2 together to make 3000 and called my mother?!?!? No, not dead yet!”

    (If you have colleagues who are Pratchett fans, making a sign that says “I ATEN’T DED” and putting it in visible place on your desk will probably help everyone treat it as a funny “wtf, boss?” story.)

    1. Dasein9*

      If there are still people who have yet to enjoy Pratchett, an alternative might be Mark Twain’s “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

    2. TooTiredToThink*

      Definitely OP needs to have a quizzical look on their face when talking about it with co-workers.

    3. OP*

      It might seem silly, but my initial instinct was to apologise to everyone on the team profusely. Looking at the comments I can see how going ahead with a nonchalant and “boss is an idiot” approach would really be the way to handle this.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Not silly at all! It’s a normal reaction. But you have nothing for which you need to apologise. He’s a numpty and deserves to be seen as such.

        You had a nap. He went red alert. WTF was he thinking? is good response!

  27. Storie*

    OP, I really feel for you. Your boss is an asshat and hopefully your co-workers recognize this.

    I hope you or someone (HR) can make him understand what a serious violation this is.

    But I keep thinking how, if you already weren’t feeling great, this certainly does not help. Please take all of our collective outrage and support to heart! And try to focus on yourself.

    Please update us after you’ve returned to work and let us know how it goes.

  28. R*

    Just wanted to say that a coworker a few years ago had a breakdown and ended up taking FMLA. At the time, I didn’t think they would be able to come back from it, professionally speaking, due to the stigma around mental health issues. But she did come back, everyone treated it as if she had just been ill for a while (which she had been), and it was surprisingly normal. Just wanted to share so that you know it is possible to come back from this type of thing, and to not be embarrassed. There is hope that it will all be fine when you go back! Here is an anecdote that proves it!

  29. Lexi Kate*

    I’m not saying this is in any way your fault OP, because honestly I have sat here for about 20 minutes with my mouth open because I really don’t have words for this. My only thought is when you told your boss you have mental health issues was it framed around suicide or depression? Even if it was your boss went off the deep end.

    I have an employee with depression and she has disclosed it to me and we have talked about who I can contact if she is having a bad spell or if I cant get a hold of her and I am worried about her health. Ours did stem from an episode she had where she didn’t show up to work and before I knew what was going on the entire department had mobilized and were calling hospitals and a few went to her home to see if she was in a car accident or if something had happened. So I get that people care and want to be sure you are OK but announcing that you think they have committed suicide vs something may have happened this isn’t normal is mind boggling. You work for an idiot you need an new job.

    1. E.Maree*

      > Ours did stem from an episode she had where she didn’t show up to work and before I knew what was going on the entire department had mobilized and were calling hospitals and a few went to her home to see if she was in a car accident or if something had happened.

      I don’t doubt that your team had good intentions, Lexi, but this is equally as invasive as what the boss did in this post. Having the entire department panicking and colleagues showing up at your door sounds absolutely mortifying for your employee.

      1. Tinybutfierce*

        Same. As someone who’s lived with severe depression most of my life and occasionally had it impact my ability to work in the past, that amount of attention and widespread knowledge of what was going on with me would have been BEYOND embarrassing and anxiety-inducing for me.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’m not sure it helps to find reasons for why the boss may have jumped (leaped) to his conclusions? It doesn’t really change the advice for OP, and given how stigmatized and misunderstood mental health is (including boss’ reference to “mental problems”—wtf?), I’m not sure it helps OP manage or frame disclosures.

      1. Lexi Kate*

        I don’t think it helps, it would make more sense though. I don’t think anything would help this, this boss is most likely a lost cause. Its just so far out there for the boss to go that far to call the mom and tell everyone about a potential suicide it’s a script for the office.

  30. Anonandon*

    As others have said, your boss is an officious moron (are you sure his name isn’t Michael Scott?). If he was truly concerned, he would have contacted your emergency contact and then possibly the police to do a welfare check. I’ve been through situations where there was a possibility that an employee might hurt themselves, and my first recommendation is ALWAYS to call local law enforcement to do a welfare check. They are trained professionals who can assess whether someone really is a danger to themselves or others.
    I’m sorry you had to go through this. If it were me, I don’t think I could continue to work for that person and I’d be looking for another job. I’d also report his stupid behind to HR.

    1. Lexi Kate*

      This one and the mastectomy both made me think maybe they were the office scripts that even Steve Carrell was like nope too far.

  31. I Work on a Hellmouth*

    Nooot ooooookaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! I can’t believe he called your mom!
    I agree with everything Alison said. Especially about being firm with your boss. And shaking it off and just acting very normal with your team after Panic Boss and/or you correct the record (just try to fake it as best as you can–once you get past the initial hump of abject mortification, things will normal out–I’ve been in a lot of mortifying situations and can attest to this). If I were you, when I corrected the record, I would try to convey maximum exasperation, disgust, and eye rolling. You should not make things comfortable for the ridiculous person, or in any way help them soften just how ridiculous they look.

    I know mental health issues can be embarassing, but I promise you, if you are matter-of-fact about how you just didn’t pick up the phone on a day off and you have NO IDEA WHAT YOUR BOSS MUST HAVE BEEN SMOKING and then go carry on all business as usual, no one is even going to think/wonder/focus on anything going on with YOU. They are going to be thinking “JFC, if I’m on the other line and can’t take Panic Pete’s call one day, is he going to assume I’ve been taken hostage and will the SWAT team break down my front door or will he call my estranged father and tell him that he saw me eating a cookie the other day and he fears I have slipped into a diabetic coma and will an ambulance show up OMG WHAT IS WRONG WITH PANIC PETE.”

    1. OP*

      Thank you so much for this! I am cracking up, WHAT IS WRONG WITH PANIC PETE might be my new mantra.

  32. animaniactoo*

    OP, the main thing to know here is that there is no “face” to be saved with the team.

    Your message to your team is simple: Yes, I do have the issue he shared with you about. I am deeply uncomfortable that he shared it with you since I only told HIM because he’s my manager. There’s nothing big or scandalous about it, I just prefer not to have people go off a cliff edge when I’m taking a nap. I have no idea why Bob reacted as strongly as he did… I could maybe understand if I was supposed to be somewhere and just didn’t show up. But I was taking a nap on my day off.

    And you basically shrug. Your tone throughout is low-key and bewildered and very no big deal.

    1. Essess*

      Nope. No reason to confirm or deny health issues that aren’t the co-workers business. A simple “I was taking a nap ON MY DAY OFF and boss behaved inappropriately.”

      1. animaniactoo*

        I could be wrong – but if I understand what OP has said here, boss shared their fears about OP’s state *because* of named mental health issue.

        At which point it is going to be near to impossible for OP to handle this with team without acknowledging the truth of the base claim – OP has mental health issue – in order to make boss’ overreaction AND oversharing as clearly out of line as they were.

        Normally, I am all for advocating that someone decides to share or not share on their own basis. In this case, OP has been “outed”, and while they COULD say “Put it this way: If I do have X issue, it still doesn’t mean that taking a nap on my day off should lead to my boss jumping to the conclusion that I’ve committed suicide, sending up the Bat Signal, practically putting out an APB on me, and sharing my personal info with lots of people I haven’t told.” the truth is that co-workers are still going to wonder and they’re going to look to how OP is managing the situation to evaluate it for themselves. In which case, denying or refusing to acknowledge the issue will likely make it a bigger thing in their minds. Is it fair? No. Is it real? Yes. So OP’s focus needs to be on managing the *reality* of the situation, whether it is fair that they have to do so or not.

        Of course, having written the whole statement about the Bat Signal, I do think that would be a better opener for OP with a tone of slight frustration.

        1. beth*

          I don’t think OP actually needs to either confirm or deny having a mental health issue. Unless their specific issue includes suicidal ideation, I think they can honestly say “It was my day off and I wasn’t at my phone when Boss called. I have no idea why he jumped to the conclusion that I must be committing suicide–there was absolutely no reason to assume that.” After all, most mental health conditions really aren’t reason to be concerned about suicide risk, and any reasonable person would know that. I think this is completely out of the blue even knowing that OP disclosed the existence of mental health issues to their boss.

        2. Observer*

          I doesn’t matter that the OP originally shared information with the Boss – his reaction was totally not grounded in the information he had.

          So it’s either “I have no idea what Boss was smoking” or “I have no idea why Boss went off the deep end when I didn’t immediately answer the phone ON MY DAY OFF.” If anyone has the audacity (or stupidity) mention the mental health issue, the answer should look something like >raised eyebrows< "Seriously? You mean you'd expect him to call my Mom if I told him I had the flu and I didn't answer the phone? I mean, people die of the flu, you know!"

          This is not denying anything. It's putting the focus on the fact that the boss totally over-reacted and nothing else is anyone's business!

        3. JSPA*

          Unless the disclosed mental issue was “current intense suicidal ideation,” the disclosure is irrelevant.

          If it was “self harm,” OP can fault themselves, if they wish, for disclosing too much or too little, in the sense that people who don’t know about (e.g.) cutting, may only know that as an old – fashioned term for suicide–as in doctors asking if you have thoughts of “harming yourself,” back when the prevailing belief was that saying the term “suicide” could itself be a trigger. So…
          Yeah… don’t use “self harm” or “thoughts of harming myself” as a reason for needing mental health time off, unless you want to either expand the details (not a great idea) or qualify the term (“minor” or “problematic but not dangerous”). This isn’t to blame OP if they used it!!! Just to point out that we do not all, culturally, use these terms in the same way, and there’s a big barrier against asking for clarification. One person can be talking about cutting and the other is hearing a conversation about suicide risk. None of which explains the resulting actions (except, panic).

          It would still be completely fair to say that boss massively misconstrued a conversation and then panicked when OP didn’t answer the phone on their day off.

    2. Observer*

      Way, way, way TMI.

      This has nothing to do with the issue the OP shared, no matter what the boss says. This is completely on the Boss – the KINDEST interpretation is that he’s a major Drama Lama and fond a good excuse to play the hero. And that’s how OP should address it. Either that or the line about “I don’t know what boss was smoking”

    3. LawBee*

      ” Yes, I do have the issue he shared with you about. ”

      Not necessary at ALL. If the coworkers ask about it specifically, well, it isn’t their business and OP doesn’t need to address it beyond “that’s private information that should not have been shared with you and not up for discussion”. This is 100% on the boss, and OP is free to say as little as she wants. As far as what Boss did? “Weirdo freaked out when I didn’t answer my phone on my day off. Let this be a warning to you, coworker, he clearly has no respect for boundaries.”

      1. Kit-Kat*

        This. There’s no reason to confirm or deny your diagnosis and you can always say this if someone’s being pushy. (Or, if you’re really uncomfortable, you CAN deny… I mean it’s not like your mental health diagnosis is necessary info for your coworkers.)

  33. Trek*

    I would add the following to the conversation with the boss. “Going forward I will not be sharing any personal information or reasons with you for my time away from the office and I ask that you not speculate as to the reasons why especially with my coworkers.’ Then I would find someone on the team that you trust and let them know why you are taking days off so they know if the boss starts in they can help shut it down.
    “No OP is not in the hospital she’s helping a friend move, or she went to a silent retreat.”

    1. Liz T*

      Except if that happens once, boss will just always bother that coworker. If OP looks a little tired one day, boss will ask coworker if OP is suicidal.

      1. Trek*

        I don’t think boss will address it with OP. I think he’s trying to create drama and he can’t if OP is present. The only reason coworker would offer up why OP took a day off is if the boss started asking or stating something untrue to coworkers about OP. Otherwise if the boss comes to coworker they should say “she’s out and she’s fine. What do you need help with?’ and not offer the information.

  34. Justin*

    Reasons why, despite knowing it would be a good idea, I don’t take MH days off and say as much, #1.

    (Not blaming you! I hope you are okay, otherwise.)

    1. Cat Fan*

      It is perfectly legitimate to take a mental health day, but I agree I would not put it that way to my boss. From now on you’re just taking a day off.

      1. AKchic*

        Taking a mental health day can be as much for “if I don’t take a day off, I may snap and say something we all regret” or “I am having trouble coping with X” (X being anything under the sun and may or may not be related to the job and it doesn’t matter). I have mental health issues but I took a mental health day once because I had “sunitis”. Yes, it was nice and sunny and warm and I felt I needed to get out and enjoy the sunshine after a lot of bad weather. I spent the entire afternoon laying under the tree in my yard, reading a book.
        Some mental health days are better than others. I enjoy the ones where I can sit under a tree on sunny days. They are much better than the ones where I don’t want to leave my bed.

    2. Lucille2*

      I’m “feeling under the weather” encompasses all things relating to being unwell. If it’s a planned day off, then it’s just “I’m taking a PTO day on Fri.” Keep it simple.

  35. Jaded*

    Having worked for a very unpleasant controlling person in the past, it is not a big jump to ask whether this was retaliation for you dating to take time off for mental health issues and then not answering the phone.
    Calling your mother to escalate the amount of embarrassment and upset and then involving the rest of your team sounds like a punishment strategy intended to humiliate you make putvyou in your place. You should definitely inform HR and probably look for another job since this person is clearly not somebody you can trust to treat you fairly.

    1. EmKay*

      Ugh, I hadn’t thought of this, but now that you mention it… and if it is the case, it would make the situation so much more appalling.

    2. Tinker*

      Dang. Yeah, you may well be right.

      My mother had a pattern of behaving somewhat like this — it’s not the sole cause of my not having contact with my family, but an instance of it was the precipitating event. Based on that experience, I’d say that it can potentially be intentional in the sense that the person is thinking “how can I embarrass this person, here is a way”, but there can also be a thing of — sort of really being “worried and concerned”, but it’s because they have decided to push the notion or to some degree believe that they must always be your first priority and hence if you are unexpectedly unavailable when they want you then you clearly must be dead.

      Either way (or even if the matter is just them having sufficiently poor judgment to think that reactions like this are reasonable), this sort of thing is untenable to work with.

    3. Snarl Trolley*

      Dear god, that is sadistic. Seconding the looking for another job; this is so far beyond the pale I can’t even wrap my mind around it. I’m so sorry, OP. Your boss has a terrifying nailbat of karma in store for him, and I for one can’t wait for it to knock him upside the head soon.

  36. Foreign Octopus*

    I think everyone has covered the outrage well here (and I’m also outraged on your behalf: this is a ridiculous act done by a man with no thought to the consequences and as someone who values privacy in all aspects of my life, I would be beyond furious if this happened to me). I just wanted to suggest that you treat it with all the ridiculous contempt this act deserves. When you go back to work, act baffled and confused by the whole thing; laugh it off.

    Mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. You’ve done nothing wrong. More people need to be free to take mental health days without worrying about blowback (or this stupid situation). Talk to your boss in the clearest possible tones, also write an email (having it in writing will be helpful), and then get yourself down to HR.

    I wonder whether escalating it to boss’s boss would also be a possible thing to do? I ask because I haven’t worked in an office in ages and don’t know if this is something grandboss needs to be looped in on.

    Overall, OP, I’m sorry and I hope this hasn’t exacerbated anything for you (beyond well-justified rage).

    1. Veger*

      Exactly! The boss was totally out of line in their response. There are so many inappropriate choices that I don’t know where to start. The boss is the person who has lost face, not the OP.

      If I was the OP, I’d take the position of nonchalant bafflement when talking with coworkers. “I took a scheduled day off. Boss called while I was taking a nap. I’m not sure why he panicked over one missed phone call. Everything is fine.”

  37. Alton*

    I’m so sorry that happened to you. As someone who has hesitated in the past to seek help for mental health issues due to stigma, I can imagine how horrifying this this could be. But this was a big overreaction on your boss’s end, and if I were one of your coworkers, I wouldn’t look at you differently. I’d feel bad that your boss shared your personal health information and overreacted so much.

  38. It's mce*

    I would definitely share what happened to you with HR.

    I had an instance when I was a teen at a retreat where I vented some personal problems I was having (heartbroken over a crush, being treated horribly by mean girls) and I felt I was in a safe and respectful to do so. Back at school, I got called to the guidance counselor’s office out of concerns that I was suicidal. I wasn’t. I was just not fitting in at school. The school called my father too. I was embarrassed; he was furious. Even though I’m 25 years out of high school, any letter from there seeking money go right into the garbage.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’m petty, so I’d reply to every one with a note saying “after the way you treated me, I will never give you a dime”.

        1. It's mce*

          They also lost my high school diploma. They asked me to call the students listed before and after me in spelling to see if it was attached to them first. Finally, I got the damn thing after badgering them to pay for its reprinting. Thankfully, I already was accepted to college.

    2. Tigger*

      Oh my god, a similar thing happened to me on a school retreat! I opened up how hard senior year was and how I don’t think I can take any more stress – my dying grandma was living with us and it was hard. I also had to help my mom get her comfortable before I went to school so I was late once a week, and my grades were slipping from a-b to having 1 or 2 c’s sprinkled in.
      That confession on top of an idiot guidance counselor resulted in me being pulled out of class, being yelled at for lying about a dying family member and being told I need to take a drug test to stay in school cause I was smoking weed to cope (that was a huge jump in logic) and my Prom ticket was being canceled. Thank god a few of the other teachers stepped in and called my parents before I was suspended for sticking to my story lol

      1. BookishMiss*

        Something similar happened to me on a group camping trip – another girl copied out (admittedly depressive and angry) pages from my journal and shared them with HER mom, who shared them with not only my mom but the whole group.
        I don’t talk to those people anymore, and this is only the most minor of the reasons.

        1. Zillah*

          Oh, FFS. I don’t know about y’all, but I usually write in my journal when I’m feeling particularly depressed. It’s not a good reflection of my overall emotional state, it’s a reflection of me at my most upset and paranoid and dramatic.

    3. mr. brightside*

      Nearly exactly the same thing happened to me. It wasn’t at a retreat but … yeah. It was really bad and I still haven’t forgiven the school official who punished me, nor the girl who tattled on me.

      Mental health stigmatizing gets under your skin with everyone just ~~means so well~~ and why are you ~~so sensitive~~ and they must help or otherwise you’ll throw yourself off a building, don’t you know they just care so much.

      1. Tigger*

        Exactly! Feeling overwhelmed when applying to colleges while living with a dying grandparent is normal. Mix in normal high school aged angst and feelings and bam that person is unstable. I know that experience has stopped me from getting help now

    4. I'm in the Wrong Story*

      My eldest had to deal with the best-possible-intentions version of this *yesterday.* Because being a 13-year-old girl isn’t hard enough.

  39. Sue D Nym*

    Using a pseudonym because this is against the sentiment here, but…

    I have about 2% sympathy for the boss and 98% thinking “what a fool he is”. This is because I used to work with someone who died during the night. She lived alone, worked from home part of the time, and three days went by before she was found. She worked on a dispersed team, and while her friends wondered where she was and did call the police after day 1, it was still another day before she was found. After that, others of us who weren’t always in the office and lived alone exchanged contact and emergency info just in case.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      That is an entirely different situation.

      #1 – your coworker was presumably expected in, so it was an actual concern that they did not show up
      #2 – they called the police to do a wellness check and did not stoke up panic in everyone who knew her

      LW was OFF and under zero obligation to take boss’s phone calls.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        And also, this whole thing took place over a COUPLE OF HOURS. That’s the part I don’t feel is getting enough of commenters’ outrage.

        1. valentine*

          There’s no amount of time that could pass where it’d be appropriate for the boss to contact OP’s mom or to rile up the team in this fashion.

          Having contact information isn’t going to stop someone dying in the night or necessarily lead to them being found earlier. I wouldn’t take this on for anyone, especially not colleagues.

      2. Sue D Nym*

        Yes to all that! The only reason I give him 2% sympathy is that it’s possible he’s got something similar in his background that is a trigger for him.

    2. Thursday Next*

      I’m sorry about what happened to your coworker. That must have been frightening, too, for the rest of you, to think about dying unnoticed for so long.

      1. Sue D Nym*

        Thanks! It was so sad. We were told she died in her sleep and didn’t appear to have suffered, thank goodness. I never met her in person, but she did good work.

    3. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

      Except that the OP did have an emergency contact on file, which the boss ignored. Even if you think “employee doesn’t answer the phone on her scheduled day off” means “something is wrong” rather than that the person might be napping, or taking a long bath, or at a movie or gym with the phone turned off (etc.) there’s no good reason for ignoring the designated emergency contact in favor of a relative who lives in another state.

  40. Goya de la Mancha*

    I want to state that I in no way shape or form agree with how the boss handled this.

    But my family dealt with a situation like this that did end in suicide, so it’s hard for me to not to “see” the other side of things. Because of this, I still tense up when I receive personal calls from my family at work, even several years later. My only thought is that maybe the boss has dealt with a similar situation that makes them fear the worst when those things happen?

    1. Tigger*

      That is true, but instead of calling an out of state parent why not call the police to do a well fare check. The out of state parent can’t really do anything if the op is sleeping and not picking up their phone.

    2. Not All*

      It really really truly doesn’t matter…if the boss was that concerned, then he should have called the emergency contact. You know, the person who is local and can actually check on the OP as opposed to someone from out of state?

      Informing coworkers is 100% completely out of line. Period.

      (And yes, suicide is sadly something that has happened both within my family and with people in my broader work organization)

    3. Winter Red*

      That may be. Doesn’t excuse their actions in the slightest. Their paranoia, catastrophising and over-reaction is theirs to handle. If you genuinely fear for someone, you call their ACTUAL EMERGENCY CONTACT. Whatever the rationale, the boss behaved appallingly.

    4. Cat Fan*

      Then he should use the emergency contact info, not call the person’s mother who is in another state and is not the emergency contact. Imagine how she felt having no idea what’s going on and no feasible way to go check on her child herself.

    5. Goya de la Mancha*

      Again, not justifying what he did! He was 100% in the wrong. I just offered a point of view as to WHY he might have jumped to such large conclusions so quickly.

      1. It's mce*

        He caused unneeded stress on a third party whose relationship with her son/daughter is unclear. I feel like he was going I’m a superhero/savior mode and escalated this issue. He should have called the emergency contact first.

      2. Totally Minnie*

        I can see why he may have made the assumption he did. It’s his behavior after that assumption was made that I have a problem with. It honestly doesn’t matter why he assumed OP was in imminent danger. What matters is that he did the exact opposite of what he was supposed to do, even if he had been correct in his assumption.

        I’ve had an employee not show up and not answer my calls. Inside my head, I was frantic. I was not, however, frantic outside of my head. I did not share details with his coworkers that were not mine to share. I did not call relatives who were not listed as being okay to contact in the case of an emergency. I know how terrible it feels to be worried that someone you care about is in danger, and I know that it’s possible to feel that way and still not blow up that employee’s life.

    6. Observer*

      Nope, nope and nope.

      For one thing, the boss had no reason to actually fear something like that – tensing up is one thing. Actually taking action is another thing.

      For another, if Boss actually had any legitimate concern, he would have handled the situation totally differently. He would have called the OP local actually listed emergency contact. Followed by asking HR to call the police / ems for a wellness check (or contacted the police himself for the wellness check.) Someone actually trying to help someone they think is imminent danger does not bypass those LOCAL resources to contact someone who lives in another state!

      1. Goya de la Mancha*

        Since we don’t know the boss, we are unable to say what his reasons were or how he would react in a legitimate crisis. Just because it’s how someone SHOULD handle a situation does not mean that’s how they are going to handle it.

        1. learnedthehardway*

          All I can say is that people don’t USUALLY get to management levels when they have such astoundingly poor judgement and decision-making abilities. Which makes me wonder whether more is going on than meets the eye? Eg. the boss has a real bias against people who have mental health issues, and figures blowing this one up will get the LW off his team, in one way or another. That’s a hypothetical, but it’s fascinating to me (and not in a good way) that someone who makes business decisions that affect the bottom line can have such an appalling lack of common sense.

          1. Goya de la Mancha*

            “people don’t USUALLY get to management levels when they have such astoundingly poor judgement and decision-making abilities.”

            This site is full of people with bosses like him.

        2. Observer*

          Nevertheless, it is true that when someone acts in ways that defy sense and decency, it’s not reasonable to try to find excuses for them. Especially since none of the factors you mention do anything to explain the sheer inappropriateness in EVERY respect of the behavior.

          I’m not going to say that it’s impossible that this boss is an utter and abject moron. But it really is not the most likely explanation.

          1. Goya de la Mancha*

            I’m not excusing anyone’s behavior. He was wrong, 100%. Seeing someone’s point of view is does not mean agreement. I can also see the some trains of thought that someone would have committing a crime, that doesn’t mean I think they should be allowed to act on those or be excused of any consequences.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Well if he can’t follow company policy under stress then maybe he should not be a manager.
          The company has a list of emergency contact people. Procedure is to call the designated ICE contact.
          That is not what he chose to do. He decided to run his own random program.

          If he can’t follow procedure then he can’t do the job. This is pretty straightforward.
          Managers have to work under pressure and stress, so really stress is not a good reason for making such a wildly poor decision.

          1. Goya de la Mancha*

            “Well if he can’t follow company policy under stress then maybe he should not be a manager.”

            Absolutely! But that does prevent people from hiring him (and those like him) into such roles, everyday. Also, not many who would be willing to take an honest look at their shortcomings as a manager and step down if they know they aren’t the right fit.

  41. Observer*

    One thing you should emphasize – especially if he claims that he was “just worried” or some such, is that if he had a legitimate concern, he should have followed policy – which he didn’t. Even if there is nothing in the personnel there is still an implied process. You have an emergency contact on file – and your mother is NOT your emergency contact. If you know that your concern is valid, you don’t ignore the actual emergency contact someone gave you in favor of tracking down someone else (parent or not.)

    1. The Ginger Ginger*

      YES. This. If he comes back with the “I was just woooorrrieeeeed” excuse, ask this very question. If you were that concerned, why not call my emergency contact or ask emergency services for a welfare check? That’s what an emergency contact IS FOR.

  42. loons*

    Ooof, this in a nutshell is why Alison advises people against giving any specifics beyond “health issue” when needing time off for any sort of reason. Your boss is a mess.

  43. MassMatt*

    OP I’m very sorry this happened to you.

    I was very close to a woman with an incurable illness. She was very involved in combating the stigma and improving treatment for people suffering from it. And while she was not nearly at death’s door, sometimes she just wanted to take a break from the stress, sleep, and watch TV. On multiple occasions someone (who was really not a close friend)would call her, get the answering machine, and jump to the conclusion that OMG something is WRONG, and call basically everyone she knew. The end result was much like yours, 60 panicky messages on her answering machine. Now instead of relaxing and taking her mind off the stress, she has to have the same conversation about her health with a bunch of people. No one wants to spend hours explaining no, they are not dead. People really need to think about the kind of burden they are putting on someone who is sick by asking, even demanding, that they be reassured about their health.

    1. Anonymous in US*

      “People really need to think about the kind of burden they are putting on someone who is sick by asking, even demanding, that they be reassured about their health.”

      +1 mil. A lot of times people aren’t reacting to the fact that the person is sick; they’re just not able to self-soothe their anxious feelings around the person’s illness. Obviously they never heard of comfort-in, dump out.

  44. Not A Manager*

    I’m very curious why Alison didn’t suggest speaking to HR first, before or instead of speaking to the boss. This sounds so egregious that I hope HR would be completely shocked and would ream this guy sideways. Putting aside all the other issues, by spreading such serious and alarming gossip he’s setting his team up for dysfunction.

    If I were OP, I would speak to HR and/or to my grandboss before even thinking about what to say to Boss. Also, I’m with the Detective that a stern chat from an employment lawyer might be helpful.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      1. Not everyone has good HR, which is why I’m always caveating advice to talk to them with “if you have good HR.” If your HR is the bookkeeper who got stuck with HR duties too, she’s not going to have any power and it’s not going to help.

      2. I can’t imagine not talking to the boss directly about this.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        > If your HR is the bookkeeper who got stuck with HR duties too

        I’ve seen you use this phrase a couple of times now recently, and thank you! It will probably help alleviate the conversations with people who argue that (professional) HR are always the good guys. Because there’s “HR professional” and there’s “the person doing HR duties” and they get named the same but are so not the same thing.

  45. I'm A Little Teapot*

    Very practical bit of advice: never, ever tell this idiot anything again about your personal life. He is NOT to be trusted with it. You’re taking a day off? “I won’t be in today” “Why not?” “I won’t be in today. I will be back (whenever).”

    1. BookishMiss*

      Yep. Suddenly develop a deep and abiding love for hiking or gardening or smelling antique books, if necessary.

    2. Just a thought*

      At this point, though, I find it hard to believe he wouldn’t automatically jump to the same conclusion. It’s not that I don’t think grey rock is the right approach (it absolutely is when the person in question is a boundary pushing jerk), just that I wouldn’t consider that fair protection at this point.

  46. cwhfstl*

    This is so egregious I almost don’t have words. I can not understand at all actively choosing not to call your emergency contact if he had concerns (which were of course ridiculous) and calling your mother (aside, this sort of inappropriate approach of calling a parent for concern about an adult seems to happen most often to younger women in letters I’ve read which I am sure is no coincidence). Is he often drama/attention seeking? That’s all I can imagine. You have nothing to save face from. He is the ridiculous one and should apologize to you and the team publicly for his inexplicably ridiculous behavior. I would never tell him anything again.

  47. Jennifer*

    It’s so odd to me how many people nowadays seem to have no in-between. They are either like the OP’s boss or apathetic to the point of negligence. I’ve read about situations where an emergency contact should have been called and was not, like when a reliable employee fails to show up on a normally scheduled day of work and doesn’t call in. Then you have people who cause multi-state emergencies over missing ONE phone call on A DAY OFF!!!

    I am so sorry you experienced this OP. And I’m so sorry your partner and your mom went through this also. I imagine that’s a call no loved one ever wants to receive. How awful they had to experience that.

    My advice would be to start looking for another job, if possible. I would ask that your boss send an email to everyone on the team that he alarmed and apologize for overreacting and remind people that your “mental state” is none of their business.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Bosses who are doing their jobs well will not appear in AAM. Nor will they be in newspaper headlines.

      But yeah, OP, your health (mental or physical) is no one’s business. Additionally, people OFTEN chose not to answer their phones on their days off. It happens. I had a boss who did not answer his phone after 5:30. Never. This happens, too. Boss needs to make many, many adjustments in his thinking.

  48. T*

    I cannot imagine a more horriblely unproffessional thing to do. OP, to any rational person this makes your boss look really, really bad and should not reflect on you….if I worked there and my boss behaved this way and disclosed this kind of (incorrect) info about another coworker, I would think he was a complete ass. This guy should not be a manager, period. I am so sorry this happened to you.

  49. Cat Fan*

    I agree with everything Alison suggested. Another reason to go to HR is that they should explain to the manager the proper course of action if there really is an emergency. The manager should know how to find emergency contact information for his employees. I’m wondering what he expected the mother in another state to do about her missing kid if she doesn’t even live nearby.

  50. Feline*

    As someone who is just this week returning from a month long unexpected medical leave, I’m especially irate with OP’s bad, bad boss for sharing information with OP’s team. I’m dealing with that now where word of my hospitalization got passed around person to person like a game of telephone, and it was none of their business. If OP has an HR department, I’m sure they will take a dim view of this behavior and judgment when it’s brought to their attention.

    1. JSPA*

      But… being ill and hospitalized for a month is surely far better, professionally, than voluntarily leaving for a month unannounced, with work not covered and people not notified? Or are people sharing inappropriate details rather than the fact of the hospitalization itself?

  51. Micromanagered*

    OP, ALLLLL the shame and embarrassment belongs on your manager here, and not on you. With that said, I can understand how the thought of facing your coworkers could be troubling.

    I think you should be very open about what a wild overreaction your boss had. I’d say something like “Fergus wayyyyy overreacted. I called off and was honest about needing a mental health day and he called my entire family saying I was suicidal!” Let him look like the total asswipe he so obviously is.

    1. Elspeth*

      No, LW doesn’t need to confirm anything. All LW has to do is say that she was on a SCHEDULED DAY OFF and didn’t hear her phone.

  52. not my real name*

    Survivor here. My attempt was back in 2010. Only 4 people at my work knew why I was out for 12 weeks when it happened (2 in HR, my boss and his grand boss).

    I would be mortified if something like this had happened to me. My biggest fear when working there afterwards was that the story would get out, luckily it never did. I am in the USA and my attempt involved a firearm, which for obvious reasons would make the truth coming out even worse.

    I am sure the manager meant well, but meaning well doesn’t mean everything ends well. Additionally like someone else said up thread, situations like this is why we have emergency contacts.

    I would strongly encourage LW to find a new job.

    1. Veger*

      Thank you for your story! I also hope that you’re doing well now. For whatever this is worth, a random internet person is glad that you’re alive.

  53. Going incognito for this post*

    Oh, OP, I’m so, so, so sorry this happened.

    Which brings me to a story. At one point in the past, I had an employee no-call no-show. I was worried, and so was the team – way out of character. I called their cell and left a message – “Hey, we haven’t seen you, we’re concerned, please get in touch.” Different folks in my team and other teams that knew the employee socially reached out with similar messages. We were worried, but knowing this employee to be a pretty private person, we knew that an over-the-top reaction wouldn’t be welcome.

    When the employee surfaced a couple of days later, it was to tell me that they’d been hospitalized after an attempt. It’s probably the most heart-breaking moment I’ve ever had as a manager. But other than my own boss, I’ve never told a soul at work about why that employee took leave – I simply said “so-and-so is out, return date undetermined, let’s figure out what they have outstanding and take care of it.” It would be such a gross violation of their privacy, and it’s the sort of narrative that the protagonist should control.

    So, knock it off, OP’s boss. If I can deal with a direct report’s actual suicide attempt in a privacy-preserving manner, you can deal with someone not answering their phone on their day off without making into this level of dramatic. Trust me – dealing with it in reality makes it clear that you would never want to playact it.

    1. Coder von Frankenstein*

      I just wanted to say that you are awesome for handling that scenario so well. I can only imagine how hard it must have been. (And it says a lot that your employee trusted you enough to tell you what happened.)

  54. Professor Ma'am*

    I feel like it’s not trivial for the OP to speak with his colleagues as just correct it and move on. I think it’s true, if you treat it like there’s no there-there then people will follow but I cannot imagine how one could pull that off. It’s’ clear from the letter that the OP is having a LOT of emotions and stress and anxiety about this (as expected!). Add to that the very real mental health stigma… I just don’t know what kind of person could pull off this advice. I know I couldn’t.

  55. Oh no*

    Going to respectfully disagree here (although I agree that calling the police is also a bad option). What if she were estranged from her mother and now the mother wants to claim that the daughter is a threat to her own safety? I think if there was actual cause for concern (and I don’t think there was) the emergency contact would be the only appropraite person to contact.

    1. Observer*

      Who are you disagreeing here? Allison certainly agrees that the Boss grossly overstepped, and so do most of the commenters.

      1. Oh no*

        This was meant for whoever had said that calling the employee’s mother was better than calling the police.

        1. Statler von Waldorf*

          I strongly disagree. Neither should have been called in this case, but I would never call the police in this situation unless I was completely convinced that there was absolutely no other option.

          If the daughter is an adult, it doesn’t matter if her mother claims she is a threat to her own safety. There is a legal standard to meet when people are confined for their own safety, and (in my jurisdiction anyways) it involves psychiatrists and judges, not concerned mothers.

          40% of all civilians killed in Canada by the police are having a mental health crisis.

  56. AnonyMouse*

    We’re not even ten days into 2019 and we’ve already got multiple candidates for worst boss of the year. This can’t be a good sign.

  57. AKchic*

    This was not concern. This was concern-trolling. At best. Mostly, this was drama and shit-stirring.

    LW, you said “partner”. I don’t know if that means “same-gendered married partner” or “opposite-gendered unmarried live-in partner”, but either way, it is icky that your boss chose to ignore *that* established relationship, especially when it is the Established and Listed Emergency Contact in favor of your out of state, limited contact mother.
    The sharing of medical information to all coworkers simply because he couldn’t reach you with one phone call? That was extremely inappropriate.
    You were on a SCHEDULED mental health day. That does not say “suicidal”. That says “I just need a day off to recharge my batteries”. HR certainly needs to be involved. This was hysterical.

    You can do damage control. If anyone brings it up, be good-natured, but annoyed. “Yes, I heard you all were told a highly-colorful tale. How dare I take a mental health day to recharge and have the audacity to nap with my ringer off! It just goes to show that even managers need better training on how to handle what they think is sensitive information. To confirm – I got my nap, I’m fine, and if there really *were* sensitive information, he shouldn’t have shared it with anyone because it would have run afoul of the ADA, and if he were truly worried about me and not just trying to stir the pot because he was upset at my not answering his call, then he would have contacted my emergency contact and not a relative who works for the company. Now, do you have that teapot report?”

    1. valentine*

      It could mean different-gendered, married partner or various other things, but there’s nothing to say boss is disrespecting that relationship, versus going to the non-police extreme.

    2. OP*

      It bugs me a lot that he did not contact my partner – partially because they are a psychologist and would have probably put my boss in his place before he could finish his sentence. Also my partner lives with me so would be the one able to check on me without causing multiple anxiety attacks. If only.

  58. LawBee*

    So many boundaries?! ALL OF THEM. ALL THE BOUNDARIES. omg, OP, this is terrible and I am so angry on your behalf. Going forward, your boss gets NOTHING personal because clearly he cannot be trusted. What the ever loving duck.

  59. Sans*

    The boss is one of those people who have no understanding of mental health issues. When he hears “mental health” he probably immediately translates that to “crazy”, “out of control”, and “suicidal”. It’s bad enough if that’s how he thinks. But to spread your private info around like that (how would telling the team help you if indeed you had attempted?) is unbelievable.

  60. Utoh!*

    I’m probably the only one who is going to post that I think we don’t know enough about the situation to condemn the OP’s boss for what they did. Is it usual for the OP’s boss to call when OP is out sick, or was this is a case of them calling to check up disguised as a work related call due to concern about the OP’s mental health? What was the conversation between OP and boss as to why OP was taking a sick day? In our current climate, there is so much focus on suicide and suicide prevention, and who is to say the boss has not had experience with suicide (as someone else had posted) which lead them to their unrestrained panic? I am in no way coming down on the OP, just interested in why this would have escalated to this point, especially if it is so out of the norm for the boss to be this involved (or not).

    1. beth*

      Even if OP’s boss was legitimately concerned (which, from OP’s account, I don’t see any reason he would be, but let’s assume he was for the sake of discussion), his reaction was still completely unacceptable. There are some pretty clear-cut norms around when your employee is in danger. You reach out to their emergency contact (in this case, OP’s partner), and you may reach out to the appropriate emergency services depending on the situation (in this case, that would likely have meant a police wellness check, which I don’t think is actually a great idea given the way police in the US tend to handle mental illness, but is probably the official next step). There are also specific things you don’t do. For example, you don’t call random people who have no bearing on the situation, you don’t share private medical information with anyone who doesn’t absolutely need to know.

      OP’s boss did the opposite. They ignored OP’s emergency contact, reached out to OP’s mom (who they only had the contact info for on a technicality, and who had no ability to provide assistance, and most importantly who OP had not designated as any kind of contact) instead, spread OP’s medical info to a bunch of people who had no reason to need to know, and tried to check on OP via getting various people to call instead of via any kind of official channel.

      Absolute best case scenario, OP’s boss is incompetent in a crisis and probably shouldn’t be in a leadership position. Worst case scenario, OP’s boss did know better and intentionally ignored the proper channels for their own reasons. Neither of those is good.

      1. valentine*

        Panic isn’t a useful starting point. Boss is not OP’s personal first responder and isn’t entitled to OP taking all his calls (humanly impossible), but even if he were, this is a single unanswered call which the boss snowballed into 60+ messages, none of which saved OP’s unendangered life. It wouldn’t matter if the boss were the world’s foremost expert on the subject. He was objectively wrong and astoundingly extreme.

    2. Observer*

      None of that in any way, shape or form changes how grossly inappropriate the Boss’ actions were, nor how little benefit of the doubt we can give him.

      Even if it’s typical for the boss to call people on their day off, acting as though a person not answering the phone is a sign of grave danger just makes no sense. Even for a boss who would crazy enough to write someone up for this grave offense. Furthermore, anyone who has actually ANY concern whatsoever about suicide prevention etc. knows that the first place you call is the LOCAL, LISTED EMERGENCY CONTACT. Which he failed to do. Then you reach out to local authorities for a wellness check. Instead he dug out information he shouldn’t have had and called someone who LIVES IN A DIFFERENT STATE. These are NOT actions designed to help someone in imminent danger. He ALSO shared this information with other employees! There is absolutely NO excuse for this.

      The bottom line is that there is no information I can think of here that would make this Boss’ behavior understandable or excusable.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        These are really good points. “I was worried about OP” and “I assumed a scary thing about OP and I panicked” do not align very well with “and so I shared my assumption with OP’s teammates, which, if the assumption were true, would’ve made OP’s condition infinitely worse”.

    3. Lucille2*

      I think what stands out to me is that OP took a scheduled day off to manage their well-being. To me, this would be a good sign. Not answering a phone call for even a few hours is a totally normal thing, especially when taking a sick day. I get the sense that Boss panicked and all reason went out the window, but that doesn’t make it ok. And I don’t now how the OP can save the relationship with the boss at this point. From now on, OP will feel obligated to immediately respond to Boss or risk Boss jumping to unfortunate conclusions.

  61. Christopher Edward Ezold*

    Employment lawyer here. The medical information OP provided to her employer appeared to be provided due to an employment-related inquiry (i.e. for leave/sick time purposes). It would be covered by the ADA’s requirement that such information be kept confidential.

    This may not be worth making a claim, however – but it certainly seems to be worth bringing to HR, so they can counsel the manager and other managers on the issue. If he did it, then it’s more likely that the corporate culture is such that managers are not aware of or do not take seriously the ADA requirements here. HR may be able to address that, to protect OP in the future and other employees.

    Of course, going to HR brings its own risks, and if OP takes that route, she should document any retaliatory behavior and then talk to an employment attorney.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You’re the lawyer here, but I want to flag that it’s not a given that the OP’s condition is covered by the ADA; it’ll depend on facts we don’t know. (For people unfamiliar with the ADA, it doesn’t cover specific conditions but instead covers things based on the way they affect your major life functions. So we’d need to know more about the OP’s situation before knowing the ADA is definitely in play here, although it certainly could be.)

  62. Parenthetically*

    I’ve called someone’s mother worried she’d attempt suicide. Among the many differences between that situation and this are: She was a dear friend of more than a decade. She lived with her mother, who was intimately familiar with her mental health issues. She had been saying increasingly troubling things with increasing frequency over the course of several days. Finally, she stopped responding to my texts and calls. THAT was the point at which I contacted her mother.

    Your boss is dangerously incompetent in areas that directly impact you and you would be well within your rights to walk into his office and quit on the spot tomorrow. I know few people are in a position to do something like that, but whatever you choose/are able to do, I wish you the very best.

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      My husband once contacted his brother’s employer to find out if he’d been coming to work because he got upset after a family argument and cut off contact with everyone. But there were other reasons to be worried, and my husband didn’t say anything specific about why he was calling. He just called the office and asked if he was there. No details on why we were worried.

  63. MarieR*

    What is happening these past few days?? From the coworkers who did not appreciate the mastectomy job (!), to the coworkers who reverted to HS and gossiped and the boss who advised someone for wearing too much black, and now this? Did people lost common sense at midnight on New Years somehow?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Some of it is that I hardly printed any new letters in December because of all the updates, so I’ve been sitting on letters that I normally might have printed faster because I’d be outraged by them.

  64. Anonomo*

    I dont think these kinds of situations are actually “well meaning concern” Op. That phrase gets used a lot to brush off bad behavior, but the boss did absolutely nothing to show good will. He chose to, at minimum, set off a hive of bees instead of.. waiting? calling your actual emergency contact? He had no good intentions here, and I firmly support Alison’s suggestion to make a firm stand on this that it can never happen again by returning his awkwardness straight back to him and not accepting excuses in lieu of apologies.

    1. DJ*

      Yes of course he could have waited and followed up with a neutral text later on. Also given its a DAY OFF why the need to call an employee anyhow. Let alone make assumptions rather than purely thinking they’ll get back to me

  65. Ryan*

    OP – this is appalling and I’m so sorry it happened! Echoing other commenters, I’d be looking for a new job – your boss is a red flag in the flesh.

  66. DJ*

    I’m absolutely astounded that a manager would tell team members about an employers medical condition. And call a non emergency contact.
    It’s also more astounding that employees medical conditions aren’t covered by privacy legislation. It’s like that in Australia as well.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I am not even seeing an indication that OP had listed her mother as a contact at all. It appears that Boss got the mother’s contact info from the company directory. I’m speechless.

      They might be. They would not be covered by HIPAA, because HIPAA applies to the medical professionals (i.e. if I work for an insurance company, I cannot go to a tabloid with a celebrity client’s medical record; which is something that apparently happened multiple times). There’s got to be other privacy legislation, I just don’t know of it, because it’s not my area of expertise.

      1. dreamingofthebeach*

        While not a violation of HIPAA as not (that we are aware) medical professionals, in addition to ADA protections on disclosure, the company may have their own policies in place regarding inappropriate release of personal information. It was one of the policies I made sure my new handbook included, so that I had true recourse for termination (and protection in some respects) should something ever happen like that here.

      1. All Outrage, All The Time*

        I am in Australia too. The website of the Fair Work Ombudsmen might give you some info. Your boss was way, way, way out of line in what they did and said. If you have decent HR you might want them to take it up with your boss so they don’t do it again to someone else.

        This is a great opportunity to get in some eye rolling, head shaking and tsking and feel free to wonder out loud if boss was projecting because of their personal issues.

  67. Stephanie the Great*

    Okay, is it just me or have the posts for the first 9 days of 2019 been especially ridiculous???

    1. DJ*

      Alison said she’d mainku posted updates in Dec so the worst of the worst employee of the year emails have banked up

    2. FabTag*

      Yes! I commented below t’s only January 9 and we already have multiple contenders for worst boss of the year!

  68. Three Flowers*

    Wow, between this and the breast prosthesis police, the competition for worse boss of 2019 is off to an *epic* start.

  69. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    So who of us here is excited that to use the newest addition to the Dictionary Commentariat not only the same day it appeared, but in the very next post? Yes, your boss is a Chaos Muppet. He leaves discomfort and dysfuntion in his wake. Using “But I was concerned about YOU.” to absolve himself of any responsibility. He’s an ass and you are for the sake of your mental and physical well being (I mean in terms of losing sleep over this jack ass, not that he’s a threat) speak up and say, “not cool, not right and not acceptable.” Except use the words Alison said!

  70. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

    Holy overreaction, Batman! Even if the OP was explicitly taking a mental health day it would be entirely reasonable to assume that might include sleeping in, not answering work calls, going out for a walk or something with no phone, etc etc. Jumping straight to “suicide!!! Must call Mom!!!” is really unfathomable to me.

  71. leighanneg*

    This needs a follow up.

    I just can’t even on this one. Who hears mental health issue and immediately assumes that someone scheduled a day off to commit suicide?

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      Seriously. Mental health education everywhere needs to be upped, improved, and spread far and wide if this attitude is still prevailing in the workplace.

      1. Observer*

        This guy doesn’t need “education”, unless you mean a clue-by-four. (Or to get fired. Explicitly fired for grossly mishandling a perfectly normal situation.)

  72. Adereterial*

    Just to reinforce how serious this is – this sort of activity could result in criminal charges in the UK, require reporting to the government, and fines starting at £10 million. I over exaggerate, to an extent, but any unauthorised disclosure of personal information that has the potential to cause harm is potentially reportable, and potentially fineable.

    It’s also a breach of Equality legislation – you can’t treat someone differently because of a protected characteristic, or an assumption that they have a protected characteristic. Would he have done the same to someone he didn’t know was having mental health difficulties? Unlikely. Another breach.

    If I was the managers manager, they’d be dismissed. No questions. The potential reputational damage to the organisation plus the potential for discrimination allegations would be enough. If I could not secure dismissal that individual would damn well be demoted out of any position of authority and access to any kind of personal or sensitive data.

    I’m astounded that US laws don’t treat this sort of thing with similar concern. This stuff matters.

    1. Statler von Waldorf*

      Echoing this, but for Canada. A disclaimer, I’m a HR and payroll veteran, but I am not a lawyer. That said, I count no less than three violations of the Privacy Act of BC in this letter, and if this happened here, the company in general and the manager in specific would be open to severe legal penalties.

      As someone who has mental health issues myself, my heart goes out to you. The stigma facing those who suffer from mental health issues is real and it sucks, and now thanks to your boss’s glass bowlery, you are going to get even more of it, I’m sorry.

      Quitting a job without notice is never the best plan, but if you feel like you can’t go back there, I wouldn’t blame you even a tiny little bit for doing it. This is the kind of thing that you can explain in an interview in very general terms and reasonable people will be horrified and understand completely. Best of luck to you.

    2. OP*

      I am actually in Australia – and don’t have much information on the legal ramifications here for this, but it is a really interesting point and worth looking into.

      1. Mel*

        Op – I am from Australia also and our workplace laws a very very very very very different to the United States (as I’m sure you know)

        I used to work for an organisation that worked with other organisations to help them better understand and promote positive mental health in the workplace, and this is running so many red flags.

        If you do have a HR team, I would suggest referring them to HeadsUp: https://www.headsup.org.au

        There’s a great section on responsibilities (for employers and employees) https://www.headsup.org.au/healthy-workplaces/legal-rights-and-responsibilities
        And it CLEARLY states that they cannot disclose this information about you without your express written permission.

        Good luck

  73. Just a thought*

    In looking for more perspective to throw into the ring that covers more than the very correct censure of LW’s boss…

    LW, are you a threat to your boss?

    I could very easily read this as a ham-fisted character assassination attempt. He called LW’s mother, yes – who works in another state but, importantly, at the same company. Does she have any kind of leadership role? He also disclosed this information to LW’s coworkers with no purpose (e.g., LW’s out for an indeterminate time so we need to cover the work). He didn’t contact the emergency contact on record. If he needed to go through HR to get it, attempting to quietly destabilize LW’s position may have been a good reason to avoid doing so.

    He used phrases like “mental problem” and “state” and cited a suicide attempt without any reason to believe that was in any way related to LW’s mental health difficulties. Mental health stigma is very real, as LW fully understands, and introducing that element into a professional context could be expected to have a very destabilizing effect. The things LW is afraid of, in needing to “save face” for, are real concerns! LW shouldn’t have to save face or deal with this, and the comments here have great suggestions on how to frame and address it, but it’s disingenuous to believe it’s not a thing.

    Because of that, it feels very plausible that boss is wielding this situation like a weapon. Why, I don’t know. Is LW up for a promotion soon? A transfer? Does he need to prove to someone that he’s deeply involved in his team’s lives as some sort of twisted measure of his ability to be a boss? (Not that this is AT ANY LEVEL an appropriate way to show that, just that boss might have interpreted that need as a call for this kind of action.)

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Interesting. I would say it was a stretch, but in light of the absolute inappropriateness of the boss’s actions, that would be under-reacting to the situation. I think the LW definitely ought to be considering what you brought up, and it’s all the more reason for vigorously pursuing redress within the company, and setting the record straight.
      Another reason – she doesn’t need colleagues and other managers remembering her as the employee who might have tried to commit suicide, if they’re ever called upon to offer a reference.

  74. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    If I learned medical information about a coworker from my boss in a context where it was not crystal clear that coworker was okay with the info being disseminated in that way, I would be deeply, DEEPLY uncomfortable and would never mention it to my coworker unless they brought it up. At least some of your coworkers wish almost as much as you do that boss had kept his big mouth shut.

  75. Snickerdoodle*

    There have been a lot of letters on this site over the years about bosses calling family members (or vice versa) appropriately or inappropriately because they were concerned about an employee’s welfare, but this is a first. Anyone who jumps to “OMG suicide” when the employee spent their scheduled day off not at work and not answering the phone is not someone I would trust again. The whole thing makes me doubt the boss’s judgement in every area.

  76. Andy*

    I once had the opposite thing happen, kind of. A friend’s mother called me to let me know that she (the mother) would be calling friend’s boss to let friend’s boss know that friend was IN CRISIS (related to mental health) and the mom’s justification was that the boss was a psychiatrist.
    not friend’s psychiatrist, friend’s boss, but his profession was psychiatrist….so the mom thought that this would be good.
    It was not.

  77. Common Welsh Green*

    Along with all the at work issues, the boss has also damaged the writer’s relationship with her mother, who is now more than worried about the mental problems she didn’t even know her daughter has, as well as hurt and dismayed that she had to learn about them from a stranger. If her boss had called me to say my daughter might have committed suicide and I found I couldn’t reach her, my next call would have been to the police, asking for a wellness check. Waking up to a couple of officers banging on the door wouldn’t have been much fun for her. There’s no way OP can ever trust this boss again. Time to start a job search.

  78. learnedthehardway*

    I thought only my mother was THAT ridiculous. She was convinced I was the person who was shot at a festival in our city, shortly after I moved to the city from my hometown 25 yrs ago. Called my roommate, my job, everyone she could think of to check on my well being. Insisted my roommate stop in at my work to check on me (amazingly, my roommate did this).

    For the record, there were over 2 million people living in the city at that point in time. The festival was not even remotely on my radar.

    Thankfully, my mother had the sense to not tell my manager why she was trying to get ahold of me, just that it was urgent that I called home. I guess she did BETTER than the manager in this OP’s life.

  79. Granny K*

    I keep thinking that the boss has had a former employee attempt or succeed at suicide. That doesn’t make this right, or is even in the realm of appropriate, but there it is.

  80. Dinopigeon*

    Maybe it’s just the way my employer is structured, but I would not even attempt reconciliation with my boss under these circumstances. I’d go immediately to his boss and HR (at the same meeting, if possible). This is not “try to have a polite conversation to explain why what he did was wrong” territory. And frankly, someone who behaves like this will not be receptive to being told to stop behaving like this. People who cloak their abominable overreaching in a guise of “concern for your health” never learn, because they think they have the moral high ground.

  81. MustardPizza*

    Something similar happened to me at a job I used to have. The background is a long story, but essentially I had been asked to come in as additional support voluntarily, and around 6am that day my boyfriend called and said he was picking me up to spend a day in the city. I called and left a voicemail for my boss saying I wouldn’t be there and left. (This was before cell phones). I came home around 10pm to every light in my apartment on and about 50 messages on my answering machine. I guess my boss woke up to my call at 6am, and in his half asleep state, deleted the message and promptly forgot about it. When I didn’t show up or answer he called my mother (2 states away) and when she said she was helpless to do anything he called the police who got my landlord to open my apartment so they could search it. It was horrible and invasive on every level. My boss just shrugged and said “oh well, I was concerned”

  82. dreamingofthebeach*

    Wellness check, bad boss! You call the police, sheriff, etc (NOT emergency line or 911), and they go around and knock on a door and check on the person. No one needs lots of details on why, just the “haven’t heard from the person and that is not normal” generally is sufficient. They don’t tell you what they found, but it then is in the hands of proper authorities should something drastic have occurred.

    1. LawBee*

      Not even, in this circumstance! This all happened while OP was napping – so, what, two hours at most? On her day off? Boss should have done NOTHING.

  83. Anon Anon Anon*

    There’s a stereotype about women, especially young women, being suicidal. Every time I post anything online about anything going less than great in my life, I get messages asking me not to kill myself. “My landlord illegally raised the rent. Does anyone know of any helpful resources?” “Anon, it’s ok to reach out. Don’t do it. We’re here for you.” “Uh, what?” Meanwhile, I’ve known guys who took their own lives after people ignored really obvious warning signs such as talking about it publicly. This ties in to a bigger problem. I wish the OP well with this situation, and let’s all remember to relate suicide risk to actual warning signs and not the person’s demographics.

  84. Anon attorney*

    Although the boss was 100% wrong in his actions, rather than attributing malice to him it strikes me that he may have his own anxiety issues. His behavior is something I could easily see a family member with untreated anxiety doing. To them every unexplained situation must have the worst possible explanation and they see death and destruction in the most everyday scenarios. Even if this is the case his behavior is still totally inappropriate and I’m not suggesting anything about it is acceptable but if LW thinks this may be part of it, it may help in reframing the situation?

    Like others, I think it is the boss who needs to worry about his reputation now and not LW, if that helps. I used to work for someone who gossipted about employees’ health (and other things including their performance etc) and I know that everyone in our division regarded her as unprofessional and the employees as blameless. And this person was a senior HR manager!

  85. Super Anon*

    What this boss did is NOT OK.

    I want to add that I was recently in a situation that I have never been in before where someone’s well being was not known. I am omitting details because it could potentially be identifying, as it was a unique situation. I really didn’t know what to do when I learned of the situation. Police were already involved when I found out, so calling them would not have made a bit of difference. What DID happen, though, is that lots of people – including workplace people – made lots of phone calls to lots of different people because there was a lot of worry. It turned out there was a mental health issue and a significant safety issue. This person ended up being embarrassed and felt very much like they didn’t know how to face people after the incident. From what I know (I have not seen the person since this happened), everyone is treating them normally and being supportive when appropriate. Everyone involved in this particular situation did not want to see the person’s life in jeopardy (it very much was), and because the situation was unique to everyone involved, we didn’t really exactly know what to do so we did what we thought was right to help our friend.

  86. Mimmy*

    What in the ever-loving…..

    I’d have one foot out the door if it were me. Meanwhile, your boss needs to CLEARLY understand that this was extremely upsetting and stressful for you as well as your family and coworkers.

    Please keep us posted!

  87. Lilysparrow*

    “Yes, I’m completely fine. I was fine the whole time. It was my day off and I wasn’t expecting a call.

    Thanks for your concern, but I have no idea why Fergus acted that way or told you those things. There was absolutely no reasonable basis for any of it.

    I’m at a loss to explain it, because it has nothing to do with me.”

    The Idiot Bus is out front, and you should have no compunction throwing your boss under it. This is the absolute truth, because there is no reasonable basis for his wild assumptions.

  88. OP*

    OP here, I just wanted to address a few of the comments and give some background.

    I had 2 weeks of scheduled leave, and my boss had pushed for a medical certificate and then said he could not approve the leave without a brief explanation of my medical condition (unreasonable yes, but I needed the time or else I would have been in a much worse place). I kept it simple and said that it was for mental health, backed up with a general letter from my doctor (no specifics).

    I know there is a little bit of speculation on the nature of my illness, and I am comfortable sharing that I have been diagnosed with complex PTSD, which is debilitating at the best of times. The complete panic that this situation caused cannot be understated, but I appreciate everyone’s thoughtful and kind comments.

    1. sacados*

      I really hope things work out for you so that you can come back at some point with a satisfying update involving a new job and/or boss having been roundly and publicly shamed!

    2. All Outrage, All The Time*

      Next time, your doctor can give you a certificate that says you are off work between such and such dates for medical reasons. No explanation of the nature of your illness is required to your employer by Australian law and they can’t ask you. I promise.

    3. Veger*

      Your boss is a hat wearing donkey. Time off could have been approved with the general letter from your doctor. Unreasonable is an understatement!

      Personal story: I once took a medical two week leave of absence to address my mental health. The doctor sent a general note to my company’s HR department. It only included the time that I was taking off, and my expected return date. That’s it. (I live in Canada)

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Oh wow. I thought there was nothing at this point that could make your boss look worse in my eyes, but here it is! He divulged the personal information that he had forced you to provide? I am speechless.

    5. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Rather late to commenting, but, just wanted to chime in and say I am so sorry you are dealing with this.

      Hope to read an update eventually telling us this horrible boss was fired and you were in a completely different job somewhere else.

      Best of luck.

    6. Where do y'all get those wonderful user names*

      In the US. HR told me that providing details of my medical condition is not required.

  89. Mel*

    So something similar happened to me. After my very first cat had to be put down unexpectedly, I needed a few days off work (first job with PTO in years, and I didn’t know what to do with all that time anyway). The problem was I left my phone charger *at work*, my cordless phone had died because I had it next to me for a few days in case they needed to contact me, and I hadn’t checked my email in a few days. We had established that I would definitely need off Monday to Wednesday, but on Wednesday when I hadn’t checked in to confirm I still needed more time they got worried. One of my bosses even dropped by my house to check, but my anxiety was so high that I couldn’t answer the door. A few hours later the police came by for a wellness check. I then emailed my bosses, explained what happened, and said I’d be in on Monday. I then brought fancy bakery cupcakes in for my boss who had dropped by and her assistant, as they spent a lot of time making sure I was okay. I was actually very concerned they’d judge me for needing to take an entire week off (effectively sitting shiva for my cat), but they were incredibly understanding.

    1. Observer*

      I’d say your experience was markedly DIFFERENT.

      For one thing you pretty much fell of the map. They didn’t start panicking till you missed and AGREED UPON check in point. And they didn’t tell the whole world. They also did reasonable things to deal with the situation. Your supervisor tried one reasonable means of contact and when that failed, did another reasonable thing (ie wellness check.)

  90. Ginger Ninja*

    I just want to let you know that if you were my co-worker, this wouldn’t alter my opinion of you and I wouldn’t judge you in the slightest.

    You were using a sick day, whatever you needed to recover from is your business and no one else’s. The fact that it was mental rather than physical is irrelevant, everyone faces trials and tribulations. There are NO grounds for said trials to be turned into a public event by your Manager.

    The person I would judge, am judging, harshly, is the Manager. Not you. While I am sure this is mortifying, please consider that most reasonable people are going to understand that this is the Manager’s problem and not yours.

  91. Zev*

    No matter what the reasons were behind this behavior — if he was concerned, or panicking, or drama-mongering, or trying to hurt your reputation, or whatever — that doesn’t change the fact that it was *the wrong thing to do.*

    His behavior hurt you. And the *impact* of that behavior does not change based on his reasons behind it.

    Remember that, if he tries to play the “I was just *concerned* so you shouldn’t be mad” angle. A screw up is a screw up is a screw up, and it is *his* (and only his) responsibility to fix it.

  92. Lanon*

    Depending on the severity of your mental issues the boss knew about, he may have been trying to do you a solid there. Usually the process if you credibly believe someone might be suicidal is to call in a wellness check with police. Often times that is accompanied by a mandatory 72 hour mental health hold in a hospital. Many people react poorly to those, and often times they can cost thousands and thousands of dollars. So maybe the boss’ thinking went:

    “I think they might be suicidal, I need to help” -> “But hospital bills, and being drugged up in a hospital for 3 days is a very unfortunate experience” -> “I know, I know their mom. Maybe she can help out!”

    1. aebhel*

      He still should have called LW’s emergency contact first (and he had no credible reason to believe that LW was suicidal; it’s not that weird to ignore a phone call from your boss on your day off).

    2. Elspeth*

      Except that LW states this was a scheduled day off – so there was no need for boss to contact her in the first place.

    3. Observer*

      That really, really doesn’t fly. Never mind the fact that routine wellness checks are NOT “accompanied by a mandatory 72 hour mental health hold in a hospital”. It should never have gotten to that point. Unless the OP actually told the boss that they are suicidal (which they didn’t) AND the OP had agreed to be on call there is no way that a single missed call during TIME OFF could reasonably lead to “I think OP is suicidal.” So that’s a problem right there.

      Also, and most important, the boss had a simple usable alternative at hand – they had the OP’s actual EMERGENCY CONTACT. It’s interesting that the OP’s mind went to “call Mom who is out of state” and “tell everyone in the office” (the part you left out), but did NOT go to “call the emergency contact”.

  93. Wren*

    Honestly, if I were the boss’ boss, I’d be so appalled at their lack of judgement I’d be seriously re-evaluating their suitability for management.

    I can’t even imagine the most anxious person doing more than phoning the emergency contact and saying, “I’m probably being totally ridiculous, but I can’t reach OP… do you think that’s cause for concern?” Anything over that is such poor judgement it’s astounding. And from there, the emergency contact is likely best positioned to decide how to act if the answer is anything other than, “I’m sure everything is fine. Send email if you want, but it’s OP’s day off, so I don’t know if they’ll respond.”

    1. Kyrielle*

      I could even live with calling the emergency contact without any disclaimer, totally worried – it’s over the top, but it’s the *right procedure* at least. Calling the OP’s mother? No. TELLING THE TEAM? That’s pure gossip. No to the tenth power at least.

  94. Trilby*

    This is a situation where I would consider bringing my boss’s boss into the conversation. Like, my email to HR would be cc’d to my boss’s boss. I did that once before, in a situation I really thought warranted it, and I’m glad I did in hindsight.

  95. Where do y'all get those wonderful user names*

    Call me cynical, but my first reaction was that boss was highly irritated that she couldn’t reach LW on her day off. She notified everyone and anyone out of anger, not concern. Boss wanted to send a message that when she calls, LW had better jump.

    I had a coworker who tried to reach me once when I was on my way to a meeting. I had my cell phone with me, and yet she didn’t call me directly. Instead, she called the receptionist where the meeting was to be held and said that there was “an emergency”, and that I needed to call the office right away. The way that the receptionist relayed the message, I thought that the building was on fire. The big “emergency” was that my coworker wanted to remind me that she was going to lunch after I returned from my meeting.

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