my boss sent my client a flirty message from my email account

A reader writes:

I work at a small company and the owner monitors my email while I’m on vacation to eliminate a backlog of tasks, which is helpful normally. However, I was recently on vacation (gone two working days only) and my boss composed an email about a project I was working on and signed my name at the bottom. The email was: 1) grossly inaccurate and poorly written (he’s aware of the project but knows no specifics) 2) written in a flirty way (I am a 29-year-old woman and the client the email went to is a 42-year-old man) and 3) totally unnecessary (he sent it on his own, without any prompt from the client and no deadlines were missed).

This client, my boss, and I had just gone to lunch the day before this email was written and he wrote for me that “I had such an awesome time at lunch yesterday!” and that “I really enjoy connecting with you” and signed it off as “Have a great weekend, I hope to see you again soon.” (We meet face to face maybe twice per year.) The overall tone is just flirty too; he wrote about this project like it’s the our little secret together and even mentioned us working together “in the background.” Really, I’m just the only one who knows how to work around their (quite old and clunky) website.

I would never write something like that, ever! Maybe to a girlfriend after brunch or something, but as a young woman in a professional setting, I have always intensely avoided any hint of flirtation in a business environment. Also, it was a perfectly normal, mundane lunch with a client. There was no “connecting,” we’ve never even been overly friendly to each other! Why make me sound like a smitten teenager?! I’m really trying to believe that he was just trying (and went overboard) to be friendly and not using “my” flirtation as a way to help keep a customer … but I honestly can’t see what else could have possessed him to write such asinine email without at least getting some details first.

I spoke to my boss about it and told him I was upset and asked to tell me before he sends any other emails on my behalf. He said he was just trying to help (?!?!) and he didn’t want to bug me on my vacation (although he text me about other work things while I was away).

How do I handle this with my client? Either I look incompetent or I tell him I didn’t send it and make my boss look incompetent. Also, and probably more importantly, how do I make it clear I was not flirting? Just ignore it? I’m so uncomfortable and I don’t want to jeopardize this client relationship.


I can’t tell if your boss has sent other emails on your behalf, since you said he monitors your account when you’re gone. If he’s done it before with your blessing, I’d be willing to believe that he just messed this one up, but without weird or creepy intent. (Although what do you know about your boss’s normal writing style? Is he that effusive in his own emails?)

But if he’s never sent an email as you before and just randomly decided to send this rather familiar message to this client … well, again, ick.

This would be problematic even if you weren’t worried about it coming across as flirtatious. It’s inappropriate for him to pose as you without your okay, and it’s especially inappropriate for him to do it to send personal statements about “connection.” It would be one thing if it were a quick “here’s the file you were asking for.” But stuff about connecting and what an awesome time you had at lunch? Noooo.

You also said he spoke about the project inaccurately. That sounds like something you really can’t let stand, but you’re right that saying “oh, my boss sent this” is going to look incredibly weird (because it is incredibly weird). I would be awfully tempted to blame it on an intern who overstepped while still being trained!

Maybe you can correct it without blaming anyone though — maybe there’s a way to just say something like, “I’ve been out the last few days and a colleague was handling some of my email in my absence. This email shouldn’t have been sent — please excuse it. As you know the correct details are XYZ. Apologies for any confusion, and that shouldn’t happen going forward!”

It’s going to be a little weird in that you’re not explaining why a colleague sent the message for you in the first place, but he’s not likely to want to dig into the details and it’s not likely to haunt him forever or anything. Most likely, he’ll think “huh, weird” and then move on.

And yeah, make sure your boss is absolutely clear that you don’t want him sending emails as you ever again. (And frankly, it might be worth spelling out for him the reasons you don’t talk to clients that way, and how his message could have been misunderstood and have caused real problems for you.)

{ 267 comments… read them below }

  1. Not All*

    Personally I wouldn’t be willing to let it stand, but I would go with a generic “someone” as in: “I’m so sorry about this email. I was out of town and the person monitoring my account while I was gone didn’t understand that they shouldn’t pretend to be me and weren’t familiar with the specifics of your project. The matter has been addressed so it won’t happen again. The correct information is ….”

    And gah! Your boss is awful!

    1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      Yeah, I’d go for being a little more open about what happened. I feel like Alison’s script (“This email shouldn’t have been sent — please excuse it.”) could read as if the LW had drafted the over-friendly email but didn’t mean for it to be sent. Even if she doesn’t want to throw the boss under the bus, something like “A colleague was trying to help me manage my work and email while I was away” could indicate that this email was someone else’s failed work.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        Agreed. I can picture the client imagining her drafting that email at a poolside bar while on vacation and then someone else hitting “send,” thinking that the draft was just overlooked… and then her panicking & saying, “That shouldn’t’ve been sent!”

        I’d suggest direct language like “a colleague wrote this email,” but I wouldn’t say they “didn’t understand that they shouldn’t pretend to be me” — that’s unnecessary. You can make your disapproval clear in much less loaded language by simply following that with Alison’s script, “This should not have been sent” or something like, “The protocol around email has since been clarified.”

        1. AnnaBananna*

          But HAS it been clarified? ‘Just trying to help’ is defensive posturing – I really don’t think the guy understands what he did wrong and why it can’t continue.

          1. ChimericalOne*

            Well, maybe she needs to lock things down with her boss before she says that, but it’s still generally good framing (assuming he’s on board — and she should consider going above his head if he’s not, since this is almost certainly against their IT policy, at a minimum).

            1. Sally*

              And how can she make sure this doesn’t happen again!? I suppose she could set up an out of office message that would automatically go to everyone who emails her. But even then, if the boss impersonates her again, the recipient is probably going to think that she just responded while on vacation or out of the office. Grrrrrrrrr! So angry with your boss on your behalf.

      2. Tangerina Warbleworth*

        If it were me — and I am a royal bitch, so take it a grain of salt if you’re not — I’d have another meeting with the boss, to calmly say, “I’m still confused by this. You said you posed as me in order “to help”. Help with , what, exactly?”

        Then let him turn red and sputter, because of course what he’s trying to help you with is to land a man and have babies, like all women want (FLAMES!! Flames on the sidse of my face!!), but he’s realizing that maybe he shouldn’t be doing that.

        Then you can put him out of his misery by nicely but firmly saying something like, “My personal life is my own.”

        Argh! THIS! In the 21sy century!!

        1. Annette*

          Who said anything about babies? Boss behaved poorly. But his motive = unknown to us. Why add wild speculation.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Yes, it is. However, there’s one thing which is not speculation… it’s either fact or not, and although we don’t know which it is, the OP will. That is whether or not the boys use that type of flirtatious language to male clients and colleagues when he is *not* pretending to be a woman.

            If he does, then this whole thing looks no worse than being really out of touch with professional communications norms. But if he’s specifically and solely out of touch with professional communications norms when posing as a woman, and not in his own voice, then it says some deeply troubling things about how he views women in the workplace, and how he believes they are likely to speak and behave.

            It doesn’t really matter *why* he thinks that women in the workplace are inevitably flirtatious with male clients or colleagues. It’s plenty bad enough if he simply *does* think they are, so universally that he felt a need to present that way himself when pretending to be one.

            If he does it all the time himself, in his own voice, then that’s a different but much lesser kind of bad. I rather think it’s unlikely to be the case, but it doesn’t matter what I think is likely or not… that part is susceptible of proof either way. And the OP, having seen his business communications before, will know which it is.

            1. Meyers and Briggs are not real doctors*

              I also read it like this as well.

              I’ve had countless encounters with ick men and their weird ways they come up with to discuss my parts and what they do, and their particular interest in those things. It never ceases to make me feel yucky.

              I’m a bitch. I would have done it the exact same way. But, I like when men do icky things and are called out on them by authority figures or superiors, because it proves they knew exactly what they were doing and it was inappropriate, and of course he knew that when he said/did it. I don’t mind at all being the loudmouth in the room. :) The satisfaction.

              Boss also doesn’t realize that this is a safety issue here. Don’t let him play off being clueless, he knew this was inappropriate.

              Definitely put me in the “losing my shit” category. Trust would take a lot to rebuild for me in this situation. It was inappropriate AND done behind my back. I’d personally be pushing for sexual harassment training.

            2. Meyers and Briggs are not real doctors*

              This is exactly how I read it as well.

              I’d be losing my shit over this. Men that make inappropriate comments about my parts and what they do in a work setting? And behind my back thru email to a client? Uh, no no. I’d be a loudmouth pushing for sexual harassment training. This screams unsafe on many levels. The satisfaction of being a loudmouth – to see him yelled at by superiors. The part where they admit they knew it was wrong and inappropriate and then said/did it anyway is my favorite part. Which is what Tangerina is saying – these icky dudes get away with these icky things because they can and they *know* they can.

              Please don’t play this off on a clueless boss. He’s not clueless. Don’t give him that cop out, OP.

              It would take a lot for this boss to rebuild trust with me. This speaks to major judgement issues and I’d be concerned what else he has done that I don’t know about.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                The thing that bothers me most is the breach of boundaries. He sent an email *pretending to be you and flirting with a man*. It indicates a disrespect of your privacy, your personal life, your personhood. Like it’s ok for him to arrange your life without your consent or even knowledge. It’s not!!!

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  Also, monitoring your email and pretending to be you are not the same thing! He could monitor your email and send anything necessary *from his email as himself*.
                  If I was a client and found out one person at my vendor was pretending to be another in email for any reason, that would creep me out. I doubt I’d ever fully trust them again.
                  Is this email from OP, or someone else pretending to be her? Who do I call to discuss this?

            3. JSPA*

              Its possible he doesn’t think of it as being flirtatious when he receives this sort of thing. Its possible that his model for female communication is his teen daughters. Its possible this is how he hears OP’s tone in the office with friendly colleagues, and assumes she only has that one level of professional speech. Even allowing him that much benefit of the doubt, he’s at best problematically tone deaf and he’s overstepping all kinds of boundaries.

              It could also be something much worse, admittedly. There are a whole bunch of “clueless” options, so I wouldn’t automatically spring into job-search mode. But I’d be prepared to do so if some further digging uncovers a big pile of ick.

            4. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

              Eh, I wouldn’t rule out this just being his idea of how sales should work. I briefly worked in sales, and had more than one male colleague advise me to flirt in order to land sales, and on guy in particular would advise everyone to do this, saying that they always flirted with clients as a strategy. This was door-to-door sales, by the way, and he seemed completely oblivious as to why a 5-foot-nothing woman might have more reservations about this strategy than he had as a burly 6-and-a-half-foot dude.

        2. Meyers and Briggs are not real doctors*

          I agree with Tangerina’s read on this. (My reply got eaten but it appears Tangerina’s reply I replied to disappeared as well. But I was agreeing that men know their interest in our parts and what they do is inapproriate and not to let the boss cop out to being clueless, because he is not.)

        3. Someone Else*

          Boss makes no sense. If you’re monitoring email for an out of the office person and feel a client needs a follow up, you email them as yourself, noting that Usual Contact is OOO so you’re passing on the info in the meantime. In this case it makes even less sense as it wasn’t a response to something client asked for while she was OOO. It’s a completely unprompted follow up email lying about one’s identity. While it’s already questionable whether the client needed any communication from either of them at all at this point, there’s zero logical reason to pretend to be another person.

          1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

            Yes, I would NEVER pretend to be a colleague, even if I was covering their emails – protocol at my company is that you set an out-of-office auto-reply, and then also have a colleague covering your emails to reply to anything urgent.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Did Alison change her script? The one I see does in fact say “I’ve been out the last few days and a colleague was handling some of my email in my absence.”

        1. TheSnarkyB*

          Yes, but then it says the email “shouldn’t have been sent” which could easily be read as “the email was in draft and a colleague sent it” rather than “I did not write this.”

    2. EddieSherbert*

      I’d also probably address it directly like this. The whole thing makes me feel icky.

    3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      Yes, this!

      My boss gave me her e-mail login once, because our company changed some key dates to happen while she was on a vacation she’d already booked. I skimmed her inbox, answered only the relevant emails, and signed it with my name noting that she was out of office and I was handing questions in her absence.

      1. Works in IT*

        My coworkers and I use a shared mailbox and sign everything with our signatures to avoid this confusion.

    4. Anoncorporate*

      I like this script. I don’t think employees should have to take the blame for stuff their bosses or higher ups are guilty of. This happens too much at my company – higher ups trying to throw other people under the bus for their mistakes. I know it’s common for executive assistants to have access to their boss’s account and send messages from it, so this could potentially look like that

    5. dawbs*

      you know what would be awesome?
      YOu could CC your boss (quite obviously) on that email and it would be completely appropriate.

      1. DoctorNickRiviera*

        I would agree, if you CC or BCC your boss on the email, it would really drive the point home that this was a completely inappropriate thing for him to do, and that you’re now left picking up the pieces of his mistake.

        He might even be so embarrassed by this that he will think twice about doing something so stupid again!

    6. Also Curly Girly*

      I’m for emailing the client that ‘a colleague’ sent it, without any explanation for why ‘a colleague’ sent it.
      AND I’m sorry, but I have more red flags on this one. In my twenties, I had an older female DM trying to push me in indirect ways to ‘hook up’ with her boss, a RM. She was trying to ‘keep him happy’ while he was in town checking out our district. We had district ‘celebrations’ and dinners together. My DM kept trying to push me to drink, sit next to him, wear ‘something cuter’.
      As gross as this sounds, it took me a bit to pick up on why she was pressing and what was going on. She was just trying to keep him happy in her mind, but how sick is this? I was engaged at that time, too. He was married.
      If the OP’s boss knows that client better than her, there’s a chance he’s trying to encourage a bit of this. It could be the client mentioned interest? It could be the boss thinks ‘fraternizing’ would help seal deals? That’s just my take on it, having been pressed before. It’s not the first or last time I’ve worked with people who have ‘hook ups’ and literally create drama out of thin air. I hope this resonates with anyone who’s possibly do this by just talking about other women on their team in catty ways, implying the guys probably want to hook up with her, just because she’s younger, attractive, or anything. It’s disturbing and wrong. This crap affects people.
      If the OP’s boss illustrates anything more on this line of behavior, she should get out of there. He’s a jerk.

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

    “Either I look incompetent or I tell him I didn’t send it and make my boss look incompetent.”

    If I have a choice between making myself look incompetent or grossly inappropriate or making my boss look that way, I choose the boss every time. That being said, I’m not sure that it was “flirty” or if the OP is just reading it that way because she’s upset that an email was sent with her name attached to it. Just say, “I was on vacation and I didn’t send that email,” and then just let that stand without explaining who did.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, I went back and forth on whether it’s objectively flirty. That’s one reason why I asked if the boss normally writes his own emails that way. I think ultimately though, what matters is that many women purposely do NOT write professional emails that way because they’ve seen how it can be misinterpreted and cause problems. So whether or not the boss intended it be flirty, I do worry that it came across as overly familiar.

      1. Cobol*

        It could be worth OP talking to her boss about this. Assuming the best, he could have been just trying to capture her voice, without understanding all the necessary precautions women take in the workspace.

        1. irene adler*

          Exactly my thoughts.
          Bet boss will end up very embarrassed once he’s apprised of how his words “sounded” and the implications of trying to write as such in the OP’s “voice”.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          “Assuming the best, he could have been just trying to capture her voice.”

          This is what bothers me the most about this! If I were the OP, I would be thinking, “Is this how my boss thinks I interact with clients? Am I coming across as more overly friendly than I intend? Is my boss paying zero attention to what I do?”

          It reminds me of when my kids were little and they would be assigned to write about me, and would say my favorite color is pink [nope] and Jell-O is my favorite food [also nope].

          1. Cobol*

            IMO it’s too tough to even guess at. OP doesn’t mention other issues with her manager.

          2. Ick*

            Hi all, OP here. This is definitely something that bothers me (very much) about this. We have worked closely together for many years and I have never interacted with anyone in this way – either in person or via email.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              Is this kind of thing the way *he* regularly interacts with clients and colleagues, OP? You didn’t say anything about that one way or the other, but I’m assuming you’ve seen enough of his business communications in his own voice to know whether this is typical of him, or only something he does when he’s pretending to be a woman.

              If it’s the former, he’s simply not by professional in his style. If it’s the latter, it says some pretty troubling things about how he sees women as likely to speak and behave, especially since you’ve been very careful never to actually speak or behave even remotely like that in a work context. That he’s still seeing it as “your style” despite zero evidence other than your gender (and years of specific counterevidence that’s specific to you) is… troubling, if it’s something he does only when he’s pretending to be you.

      2. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Thank you! I intentionally keep my tone in email as professional as possible for this reason.

      3. Anonymously Lovely*

        For context: I’m a 25 year-old female working in a male dominated field. On the topic of being flirty, I have used the “it was great connecting with you” line many times but never thought the word connected signified on a ~*~deeper~*~ level. I always thought of it similarly to ‘it was great meeting/speaking’ or as an implied, it was great connecting…in person. I wouldn’t immediately think flirty from this comment.

        However now I’m hoping all of those times I’ve spoken this way wasn’t interpreted as differently than I intended…

        1. Blerghhh*

          If you consistently use that language in work emails I don’t think it would be interpreted as flirty outright. I would be concerned about the tone of this particular email as the OP because 1) it is markedly different from the language of emails she usually sends to this client ; and 2) it wasn’t just “connected”, it was that and the use of exclamation point and talking about the project like it’s some kind of shared secret. If you never send effusive emails to your clients, suddenly sending one is going to seem really strange and could possibly be interpreted as flirty.

          1. Ick*

            Yes, exactly. The client’s tone replying back to this email and others since have been markedly different…

        2. Iris Eyes*

          “it was great” not reading as flirty, that’s a thing people say. “I really enjoyed” leans much more on the possibly flirting side IMO its doubling down on the personal element.

          1. Emily S*

            Yes, somehow, “It’s always great to see you!” sounds like a meaningless business banality, while, “I really enjoy connecting with you,” makes it sound like I spend the whole year thinking of this person and looking forward to our semi-annual lunches.

            1. Tau*

              Oh, wow. I’d initially read that as “I really enjoyed connecting with you”, which I read as warmer than I’d personally be but still within the bounds of what’s reasonable for a business relationship. But I checked and your version is what’s in the letter… and yep, in present tense that’s way over the line for me.

              Language is weird.

              1. ChimericalOne*

                Ha, yeah. Just a few little letters change the sentiment from a casual “what a nice time!” to “oh, yes, I always have such a nice time with you…” *wink*

              2. Laika*

                I love these kinds of little quirks in English. It’s like getting an email from your landlord that says “we’ve arranged a plumber to fix it” vs one that says “we’re arranging a plumber to fix it”… You can bet they haven’t called yet if they send you that second email. :D

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          This is similar to the term hook up. A while back, I’d use that like connect, but it then became a term for sex, so I stopped saying that.

        4. Batgirl*

          No it’s the overall context here that’s flirty not just that one word. Using exclamation marks, using ‘great time’ and ‘connected’ when he’s speaking on someone elses behalf and when…. the OP didn’t particularly connect anything professionally because it was routine.

          I’d use the word myself, when *I* thought it was appropriate.

        5. Kiki*

          I always interpreted “it was great connecting with you” as something people picked up from LinkedIn or something? I don’t see it as flirty at all.

          In my experience, men who are looking for flirtation are going to project whatever they want onto you regardless of what you actually say or do. I have personally and professionally stopped caring (but I completely understand that is not a possibility for all women)

          1. teclatrans*

            But that wasn’t what the email said. “I enjoy connecting with you” is saying something about how she feels about him., As someone above said “enjoyed connecting” would have a different connotation. (Also, I trust the OP’s assessment that “connecting” isn’t the right description of what went on. If you spend 2 hours discussing business, that isn’t ‘connecting,’ and suggesting that it is invites the man to think she has…additional ideas about their relationship.)

            1. Kiki*

              I was responding to Anonymously Lovely’s comment where she was worried about her use of “enjoyed connecting.”

              I see the distinction by tense, but I personally get more of a LinkedIn vibe from both than flirtatious. I trust that the tone of the email was way off and the boss sending it was inappropriate. I was responding to Anonymously Lovely, who seemed worried she had been sending flirty signals inadvertently, which is not the case imo.

        6. CC*

          I email probably more “flirty” than this email (29 year old woman) because I’m trying to sound as nice as possible. So does my late 40s boss, though I do know he does that to absolutely everyone. I think Blerghhh is right though–it can read as flirty if it’s a big change in tone from previous emails.

        7. Anoncorporate*

          This is normal language used in business conversations and I wouldn’t think anything of it.

          I interpreted the OP’s version of events as that her boss leaned towards informal and almost giddy sounding language in the e-mail, maybe punctuated/accented by exclamation points and caps and stuff (I could be wrong about this.) One of the ways to initially indicate flirtation in an office setting is just casual – as opposed to formal – interaction. This is why sometimes women are careful to avoid this entirely so as not to open up to even more “informal interactions”. Some (many) men get the wrong message from even slightly casual interactions with women.

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

        Hmm, I’m a woman but I usually have to remember to soften my emails a bit lest I come across as demanding or curt. Although I think I’m a friendly person, I’ve been told that my emails are…perhaps overly brief and to the point. So adding in pleasantries like, “It was nice to meet you,” or “Have a great weekend,” to bookend my “I will need the information by noon on Friday in order to make the deadline,” have always been my go-to.

        1. Anna*

          This. Depending on how closely I work with someone, I’m going to be a lot chattier and more effusive in my email. I actually have to remind myself to say good morning or some other pleasantry because I have a tendency to be a little terse for business related emails.

          1. k*

            Just don’t go so far as to write “How are you?” or “How was your weekend?” in your emails. I hate when emails include a question like that. 99% of the time I completely ignore it and only respond to the work-related items.

            1. SmartestKidOnEarth*

              Yes! People always ignore those questions, and I never know how to respond to them. I usually go with a “I hope this email finds you well” before launching into business.

              1. Lucy*

                Such a difference between “I hope you had a good weekend/vacation/ conference” and “how was your weekend/vacation/ conference?”. They perform the same soft opening but phrasing as a question demands a response.

      5. Dragoning*

        The full text might well be worse–OP gave us what she thought were the worst bits, but it probably adds up to a worse picture with further context in other sentences, etc.

      6. Susana*

        I did too, Alison. And I came away from it thinking not that it was flirty – but that it was immature. Which is almost worse. I mean… “awesome” lunch? I would cringe getting that message from anyone over the age of 14.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Are you like 100? My 60 year old mother says “awesome.” She learned it from the (casual) office where we both worked a couple years ago, it was considered an appropriate word to use with clients and none of them ever cared.

      7. Hannah*

        Hi Alison
        I am a (youngish) woman and often send colleagues or seniors who have helped me emails expressing my gratitude or that I have appreciated their time. I might also wish them a good weekend. I am now horrified this might be interpreted as flirting!! Should this be avoided? I thought I was being grateful, friendly and recognising that they are humans with lives outside of work, eek! Thanks for any advice

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No. Those are normal things to say in business emails. The issue here was the overall, markedly more effusive tone than the OP normally uses in her emails — as someone else put it, almost giddy and much more casual than she normally would be.

        2. Tiny Soprano*

          I think the important distinction is the context of how your emails normally sound. If they normally sound cheery and friendly, it’s more likely to be chalked up to your personal email style than anything else, and it’s probably fine. The problem in OP’s case is that her emails are not normally like this at all, so it would make the tone seem flirty to the recipient. Does that make sense?

      8. Also Curly Girly*

        I’m wondering if there have been other lines crossed by the boss, in this awkward way. The OP explained there really didn’t seem to be a reason for the email being drafted/sent. It wasn’t a reply. Boss just did it.
        I smell a rat. Either he’s off, or he’s up to something. Why would he feel the need to draft an email for this particular project, without being prompted, with incorrect info…and add the extra personal-familiar bits?
        This adds up wrong.

    2. Oh, so very anon*

      Wait, what?

      “I had such an awesome time at lunch yesterday!” and that “I really enjoy connecting with you” and signed it off as “Have a great weekend, I hope to see you again soon.”

      Nope, flirty, no matter how you look at it.

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

        No, not really. I get that you interpret that as flirty, but I wouldn’t and I think plenty of others would see it as maybe too cheery or enthusiastic, but not sexual.

        1. Scarlet2*

          I wouldn’t necessarily call it “flirty”, but definitely overly familiar. If the rest of the message was more effusive than OP’s general style, it probably looks worse overall.
          Also, in the context of a young woman writing to a middle-aged man, “overly familiar” can be quickly interpreted as flirty, I’m afraid.

          1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

            Yeah, part of the problem here is that a non-insignificant percentage of men tend to interpret female friendliness as flirtation – to the point that many women make a point of avoiding anything that could be construed as ‘too’ friendly.

      2. feministbookworm*

        well, keep in mind that it seems like this is someone OP has exchanged several emails with before. If she’s been using a different, more careful tone in all the others and this one suddenly is much more friendly, the change in tone is part of the context that makes this potentially read as flirty

        1. ChimericalOne*

          Agreed. Which is why it’s doubly important that the OP make it clear not just that this email shouldn’t have been sent but that *she* didn’t write it. Otherwise, the client may well imagine that she wrote it while tipsy or something.

    3. Beth*

      It’s on the line–someone who wants to read flirtation into it will be able to do so, someone who isn’t looking for it probably wouldn’t interpret it that way.

      Unfortunately, the reality for women is that some men (yes, not all, but it only takes one or two to cause problems) are always looking for chances to read into the way we talk and act towards them, and then get mad at us for ‘leading them on’ when we reject them. A lot of women, especially in heavily male-dominated fields, are very careful to avoid even that gray zone.

      1. Yikes*

        This. We have to be so, so careful, because it only takes one weirdo to interpret something the wrong way to have a normal interaction spiral.

    4. Autumnheart*

      This also might be a fine hair to split, but it isn’t making the boss look incompetent in any case; it’s just not covering up the boss’s actual incompetence by taking the heat for it–which I would submit is not a requirement. At least, it certainly shouldn’t be.

  3. chi type*

    This would make me so mad. Is that how your boss sees really you? As some giggly girl? Is that how he WANTS to see you or wishes you acted toward him?
    As Alison said, ick, ick ICK!!!!

    1. One legged stray cat*

      This would tick me off too, and I would think the same thing, but I suspect it was his interpretation of a girl in general and not personal. Most people when trying to impersonate the other gender lean heavy into gender stereotypes and don’t actually imitate a real person at all. He probably just thought, “girls are friendly and talk a lot” and went with that.

      1. Van Wilder*

        Yeah, which also implies that he sees OP primarily as a “girl” and secondarily as a competent professional.

        1. JSPA*

          In that he got the details wrong, yes! But competent people can be bubbly or taciturn; they’re not correlated.

  4. Urdnot Bakara*

    Ew, it almost sounds like your boss was trying to, like, set the two of you up? In a Parent Trap sort of way? Weird and gross no matter how you look at it.

    1. Miss Astoria Platenclear*

      Yes, it does sound like a clumsy attempt.
      I sometimes fill in for a colleague who leaves her email open. If I use it to send an internal email, I put “(Miss Astoria Platenclear at Jane’s desk)” at the beginning of the email.

      1. Anne Noise*

        Outlook and Google systems both allow you to send something “on behalf of” an account you have access to. You may have to enable the option in your platform, but it’s a great tool if you’re in an account other than yours but need to respond for someone else.

        1. Bibliovore*

          This. And if you have a system that doesn’t allow that, or if your boss is reluctant to use it, perhaps you could instead get things changed so he no longer reads your email but that your out-of-office message says that if they have something that needs attention before your return to please email directly and to cc you for your awareness?

          1. Bibliovore*

            Ugh, sorry; that came out a mess, and there’s no option to edit it. “If they have” -> “If whoever emailed you has”; “to please email directly” -> “to please email your boss directly”.

      2. Totally Minnie*

        I’ve done that as well. If I have to respond to something through someone else’s email account, I always open the message with “Good morning, [Colleague] is out of the office this week and has asked me to follow up with you regarding…” and then I close it with my own name, and usually CC myself. It’s like answering a friend’s phone with “Daisy’s phone, this is Minnie speaking.”

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          Exactly. Not disclosing that you’re someone else emailing on behalf of a colleague is rude. Even more bizarre considering that the boss had the time to write this effusive email but not the time to add it was him writing on OP’s behalf…

    2. Annette*

      Real life doesn’t = romcom or sitcom. More likely boss was just trying to preserve client relationships. In a clumsy way as others note.

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

        +1 It’s a huge fantasy stretch to think that the boss was trying to set them up on a date.

        1. Andy*

          yeah, but i did think that at first as well. then i took a beat and was like, whoa there…really? why jump there, self? buuuuuut, that was my first thought: boss is trying to set her up or something.

        2. Urdnot Bakara*

          I mean… not really, given the situation and considering the content of the email. I absolutely assume most people are professional and respectful enough to never do something like this, but a professional, respectful person also would not have responded to an email in an overtly flirty way while impersonating someone else. The occasional romcom/sitcom totally bonkers thing does happen IRL.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Eh… I suppose it’s possible, but it seems to me that Occam’s Razor leads to the assumption that he was just trying to “sound like a woman” and had some nasty stereotypes in his head about what that actually means in terms of word choices. But it doesn’t really matter why he did it. It was completely inappropriate to pretend to be her no matter what his purpose… even if all he was trying to do was send the information without having to explain, “This is OP’s boss, she’s on vacation,” it’s still pretty horrid that he is so riddled with stereotypical impressions of female professional language that even many years of knowing OP personally and experiencing her own actual style would not override his expectations of women in general. And that’s the best case scenario.

        3. Nanani*

          Even if it’s a stretch, for a woman, the added danger that client will now see her as less professional (= career damage) or try to hit on her or worse at their next meeting (= actual, physical, danger) is not trivial.

          If you aren’t and have never been a young women working with older men, please consider shutting up and listening to why this sets off alarm bells in us.

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    I just find it so weird that OP’s boss is masquerading as OP. When my boss monitors my account when I’m out of office, she lets me know if something needs an immediate response, or she sends an email to folks who need an update before I return (signing her name, not pretending to be me) letting the person know she’s covering for me while I’m out of office. So OP, I think it would be helpful to have a conversation about: (1) why he shouldn’t be sending emails, period; and (2) assuming he pushes back, why he absolutely cannot pretend to be you when he’s responding on your behalf.

    Alison’s script for the client looks perfect to me, although I also think it’s ok to convey the “someone else was using my account” message next time you speak with the client by phone.

    1. 5 Leaf Clover*

      Agree – “Hi, it’s Boss responding from OP’s account while she’s away” would be much more appropriate (and take less time to write than all these invented feelings of connection!)

      1. dawbs*

        this is what my boss does.
        OR, even more common, bosses fwd themselves the emai & replies to the client, ccing the OP. Saying “Hey, this is BigBoss, I’m answering this while Helga is on vacation. BLahdeblahblahblah”
        All bases covered, everyone has ALL the information and paper trails.
        (Maybe I just have done to much work where we’ve needed papertrails, but that’s been the norm in my life.
        I was unespectedly out for 6 weeks this fall, and this is what happened w/ my stuff)

      2. Tiny Soprano*

        Even the one time this happened to me (a long story involving the office flu vaccines, me nearly fainting and my friend from IT being instructed to commandeer my email while I was on the floor and send out a last office-wide reminder to get the jabs before the nurses left) my colleague signed off that it was her on my behalf even though it was *just* a cursory email saying last call to get your jabs. It’s not that hard to make that disclosure and I’m really sideyeing LW’s boss for not doing so.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Yes, this. My next-higher supervisor has VERY RARELY and only when absolutely necessary responded on my boss’ behalf while he was out of town but it was very clear that the email was from her and not from our boss. And the tone was entirely different.

    3. EPLawyer*

      that’s the really weird part. Why pretend to be OP? I mean it’s the boss, just say so.

      Then the OTT gushing. Just NO. That is not how you talk to clients.

    4. LawLady*

      Yeah, I’ve taken over a client for a colleague who’s on leave. I get his emails if they’re from certain emails. But then I respond, from my own email, saying “hello, I’m LawLady and I am handling this matter while Fergus is out.”

    5. kittymommy*

      This is the weirdness for me! I send out emails from by boss’s email all the time, and I can count on one hand the number of times I have used their name(s) on it – all times by their instruction. Most of the time I’ll send it from their account and my signature auto-populates. Granted we use Outlook so others may be different but you actually have to purposely change the signature in our system.

      I would probably make it clear that it wasn’t mean but not necessarily trow my boss under the bus.

    6. Anonymeece*

      Agreed that this is very weird.

      It also leads you open to some very bad scenarios, if something happens/is sent coming from your name and your email that’s not from you, but causes trouble down the line. For instance, if your boss – who you said isn’t familiar with this project – and messed up something major with a client, which causes repercussions down the road. Who gets blamed?

      I would put the kibosh on this right away.

  6. MommyMD*

    I feel so bad for you. No one should ever sign your name to anything. I had this problem at work once and only once. Alison’s script is good. Don’t explain too much. He will move on.

  7. DataQueen*

    I really think it depends on your personal style. I am a 29 year old woman and I would sent that exact email to a client with no hesitation… I don’t think it’s flirty at all! I might not use the word “awesome,” but I bet I wrote 5 times today “enjoyed catching up about XYZ… let’s connect this week and get the ball rolling!” or something like that. And I always say “look forward to seeing you next week”. Maybe it’s just my personal style, but I think it’s a perfectly fine email, and if a client read flirting from that, that client is a jerk.

    The bigger issue, i guess, would be if your boss wrote it that way because he thought that’s what a woman SHOULD write like to a client. Then there’s an issue.

    1. Liberry Pie*

      Yes, I was also surprised that the LW saw that as flirty. It just seems like he is trying to impersonate her and is doing a bad job of it. Maybe he’s writing the way he *thinks* a young woman would, without noticing that she doesn’t write/talk that way at all. Still wrong of him, but I’m not sure he was trying to flirt.

      1. pleaset*

        It’s possibly flirty. Which is enough for it to be problematic – some recipients might interpret it that way.

        1. fposte*

          I also think that from the OP’s response it’s *really* not her usual tone, so the contrast in its own right makes it more significant than it was her usual style.

          1. Someone Else*

            Yeah, like the juxtaposition that comes to mind is her normal email style might sound more like Captain Holt from Brooklyn 99, but the email the boss wrote sounds more like Princess Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      I suspect the boss was trying to sound like a younger woman (or what he thinks a younger woman sounds like) so it would seem believable that it was OP writing, not that he was trying to sound “flirty” specifically. Personally I agree that the chosen excerpt doesn’t really read as flirty but the bigger issue is that the boss was trying to impersonate OP rather than acknowledging that he was the speaker. That seems wrong to me.

      1. Blerghhh*

        Sure, maybe the boss’s motivation was not to sound flirty, but that could very well be how it comes across to the client… who is seeing a noticeable change in tone from the [alleged] OP.

        1. Washi*

          Agreed. I also read the message several times and didn’t see it as particularly flirty, but maybe compared with the OP’s usual writing style and other tone stuff not conveyed here and the fact that it was sent unprompted, not in response to anything, it would potentially read as such.

          1. Lissa*

            Yeah, I think debating about whether or not it “is” flirty is kinda beside the point because it’s ambiguous enough that OP isn’t likely to have much luck confronting the boss on this one – but there’s enough here that that aspect doesn’t need to come up! He shouldn’t be sending emails as her regardless, getting into tone is not likely to be productive (though I agree it’s odd that he was adopting a different tone than either of them usually use).

      2. Emily S*

        Yes, the bottom line is he spoke on her behalf in a way she was not comfortable with and would not have spoken herself. There’s no room to debate whether he was flirty or not – she has the right to expect she can represent herself the way she chooses and not be impersonated.

      3. Ick*

        OP here. Yes, this is what bothers me more than the tone. He could have waited two days, or texted a clarification. It was completely unprovoked!

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Have you explicitly asked him why he chose to impersonate you rather than simply written, “This is X, writing from OP’s account while she’s on vacation?” I know you said that he claims he didn’t contact you about it because he didn’t want to bother you, but none of that explains why he pretended to be you, when the options of either waiting till you got back (since you say it wasn’t urgent) or simply announcing who he was and why he was doing this, were both perfectly available to him.

    3. plant lady*

      Shoot, I agree, and now I’m doubting my own communication. I also write things like, “It was good to catch up!” or “I look forward to working together” to both men and women all the time without meaning or thinking anything by it. REGARDLESS, super weird and not okay that boss did this. I’m more so just curious if the fact that I’d send an email like this, without any intentions of flirting, is getting mis-read all over the place.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t think so, not by a reasonable person. But it’s also true that some men are primed to read anything remotely warm from a woman as flirtatious — but there’s nothing you can really do about that. I say figure out your own comfort level! But also it’s okay that the OP chooses to keep hers less emotive (and in some fields that would be the norm anyway).

          1. sloan kittering*

            I agree with others that it could also be partly a result of OP’s usually formal and impersonal emails suddenly sounding more personal and intimate that creates the issue. If your emails are always warmer, people have presumably already seen that you are not trying to increase intimacy as a result of your writing style!

        1. whingedrinking*

          And if our emails are insufficiently glowing, then we’re curt and cold. Wheee.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            100%. I’m generally rather concise in emails, but much, much warmer on the phone. If I had a quarter for the number of times a contractor has been really surprised at Phone EC after only dealing with Email EC, I wouldn’t have to work full time.

            Probably doesn’t help that my voice has a rather high pitch either, tbh. The joys of being a woman in a male-dominated field.

      2. Cobol*

        If it works for you, I wouldn’t second guess. I think for OP losing agency is the real Crux.

    4. ket*

      None of us have the email. You mention that you write, “Look forward to seeing you next week” and if you’re actually going to see the person in a week that makes sense — but the OP says she sees this client twice a year. And as someone wrote above, “I enjoyed catching up/connecting…” somehow reads slightly differently than, “I enjoy connecting…” And then there’s the stuff about working together “in the background”. I bet there’s a lot going on in the email that made the OP upset, not just about the word choices out of context but about the words in the context of the established working relationship.

    5. Shark Whisperer*

      I think if this was her usual style it wouldn’t be perceived as flirty, but it seems that it isn’t. I can see how if she emails this client a lot and her style is usually formal and then after having lunch the client got an email that was in a vastly different style, it could be perceived as flirty.

      That’s kind of a problem in general with flirting. One person’s flirting is another person’s personality.

    6. Bulbasaur*

      Maybe it’s just me, but I think there is a fundamental difference between the examples in this thread (which all strike me as perfectly fine, standard corporate social niceties, and not flirty at all) and the ones in the OP, which all have much more personal connotations to me. Maybe it’s because they lack anchor points to the work. In my mind there is a significant difference between “we have a meeting next week, and I’m looking forward to seeing you there” and “we don’t have anything scheduled for next week, but I’m still hoping to see you.” All the examples offered in this thread belong in the first category for me. The ones from the OP are in the second category.

      (That’s leaving aside the whole impersonation thing, which is really the bigger issue as others have said).

    7. Batgirl*

      +1 to your last paragraph.

      But I think “catching up with” is just chit chat and very, very different to “I enjoy connecting with you” unless some professional breakthrough came of the meeting. However I did have loads of misunderstandings with men in my 20s so my language is very exact.

      1. Scarlet2*

        Yeah, “I enjoy connecting with you” sounds oddly personal and emotional. Saying “It was great to catch up”, for example, sounds quite different.

        And the level of disagreement in the comment section shows that there is a non-negligible risk of it being considered flirty or inappropriate by the client. It doesn’t matter what our personal opinion on the supposed flirtiness is, what matters is the client’s perception, and comments show that a roughly equal number of people think it’s inappropriate vs innocuous.

    8. Aekiki*

      I would write like that too. 43 year old woman btw. But if I wrote like that from my development director for example to a client they would think she was flirting or had had a stroke. And if she sent someone the brief very professional emails she usually sends but from me they would probably think I was pissed at them because I’m usually so warm and friendly in mine. Which is why it’s better not to impersonate people!

  8. Daniel*

    My reaction to the headline: “WHAT?!?”

    Next…it is that bad to make your boss look incompetent? I would argue that this does in fact show incompetence…but there’s also the issue of having to deal with your boss on a day-in, day-out basis.

    I like the idea of sending a, “Oops, I was out, and the person filling in sent you bad information” type e-mail, but you really have to have a talk with your boss and ask him what happened here. Maybe something like, “The client and I agreed on A but you told him B, what happened?” given you need to maintain a relationship with your boss.

    1. Daniel*

      Also, OP: did you have an away message up? Is you e-mail client capable of sending them? If you didn’t, and it is, put one up. If you did have one up and he sent this e-mail anyway…ay yi yi.

    2. Angelinha*

      I would just call the client and explain. Then there’s no email trail for the boss to stumble upon. And in the future, change your password and set up your email to forward to your boss (and let people know in your out of office that that’s happening), so any replies come from his own account and not yours.

      1. JSPA*

        Email is safer. It ensures you only share exactly what you intend to share. And if there’s a bigger problem behind it, with boss or with client or with someone later questioning YOUR professionalism, you want the situation (and your careful, measured fixing of the situation) documented. I’d use the “someone monitoring my account in my absence spontaneously wrote this” / “details are wrong” / “won’t happen again” wording.

        If client is now more informal but not actually flirty, you could consider whether informal… can be good, if there’s no problematic subtext. If they are themselves now flirty, that’s already hugely problematic.

    3. Annette*

      It’s only bad because an incompetent boss can = a vindictive boss. Sometimes CYA really means CYBA.

  9. SierraSkiing*

    Oh, ick ick ick. Does the boss normally write really warm e-mails like that? If he always writes warm e-mails, then maybe he just did a terrible job pretending to be OP, and OP’s relationship to her boss is probably salvageable. But if the e-mail was much warmer than his or OP’s usual, then it is more likely he decided to use flirtiness (as OP!) to keep a customer and that is *super not okay*.

  10. disconnect*

    This is the boss’s problem to fix. I’d go back and tell him, “When you sent that email from my account and didn’t make it clear that I wasn’t the one sending it, you were speaking on my behalf. This isn’t how I would have written these emails, because in my opinion it implies a connection that I don’t want to have. I don’t need you to understand what it’s like to be a woman, but I do need you to believe me when I say that this email can create a problematic situation for me. In the future, if you need to send email from my account, please clearly indicate that it’s you writing on my behalf. Can we agree on that?”

    1. Name Required*

      I second that this your not your problem to fix, but the whole “I don’t need you to understand what it’s like to be a woman” is over the top for me. It implies that all women have the same experience and would never write this type of email, which isn’t true — I’m a woman and use the type of language in a non-flirty way all the time. Other women in this comments section have also said the same. (I believe OP when she says that it sounds flirty, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the boss thought this type of language isn’t flirty for some other reason than not understanding what it’s like to be a woman.)

      I would go back to the boss and say, “Fergus, this email contains inaccurate information and doesn’t sound like my voice. I need to correct the information in this email and I suspect that the client already knows this email was not me, since it does not sound like something I would write — how do you suggest we approach letting the client know that someone else sent this email? I can’t pretend that I wrote this email and need to correct myself, as it undermines my credibility and trustworthiness.”

      1. Tau*

        I agree that I’d take out “I don’t need you to understand what it’s like to be a woman”, because it seems tailor-made to end in an unproductive digression about how DARE you accuse the boss of being sexist, no one would read the language he used as flirty, etc. etc.

        That said, I’d worry that going to the boss before contacting the client would lead to him demanding OP throw herself under the bus and pretend she wrote the e-mail. I’d use Alison’s script to contact the client and present him with a fait accompli: OP already told the client it wasn’t her because obviously she was distressed at finding an e-mail she didn’t send containing wrong information and wanted it corrected ASAP.

        1. Name Required*

          You’re right. To kick the hornet’s nest back but you’d have to be comfortable ignoring a directive from your boss to throw yourself under the bus. Which, on second thought, this boss would probably ask her to do. I added a separate comment on calling the client, which is in similar vein of “solving” for the bizarre email with the client directly.

          As an aside, if OP’s boss is the “rainmaker” sales guy type, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least by this behavior.

        2. Lissa*

          Yeah “unproductive” exactly is how I see getting into the tone or flirtiness or sexism in the office – it’s not that these things aren’t important! They absolutely are. But I really think that getting into that digression is unlikely to get the boss to change his mind or make the situation better. It’s bad enough he sent an email as her with misinformation. Debates around “tone” get heated even here, because it’s all up to interpretation. I agree with you in your second para too – contact the client first and be matter of fact, “oh I didn’t send that, someone else did, here’s the correct information.”

          In some ways having incorrect information actually helps because that way you can have a “good” reason to say “I didn’t send that email!” whereas if it wasn’t there you’d have to just straight up send an email to say “this innocuous friendly email was not sent by me!”

    2. Batgirl*

      I would kinda go there if I thought it might bring on a productive mailing of awkwardness back to sender. “Were you trying to sound more feminine here? You don’t normally dot your is and js with little hearts. Why is my email signature in Barbie Pink. Whats going on?”
      “Ok, don’t do that”
      Know your audience, obvs.

    3. Ick*

      OP here. This is a helpful suggestion. I use this on any emails I send from his account so it’s a very reasonable request while still good way to (hopefully) ensure this NEVER happens again.

  11. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    Sounds to me like two things at play here. One, your boss was trying to get your “tone” and his mind, a young person speaks casually. And two, he was trying to speak like a woman, and well, yeah, he sucks at that.
    Is your boss a douche in other ways? Please look carefully, because this email doesn’t lie. It’s who he thinks you are. (Or option 3, it isn’t who he thinks you are wants to sabotage you). Look closely at your relationship with him.

  12. Ann O'Nemity*

    The client did not email the OP first. The boss totally initiated the communication; it wasn’t a reply. So even if the OP uses Alison’s suggested wording, the client may wonder why in the heck the person monitoring the OP’s email would send the email out of the blue. If the client hasn’t worked or met with any of the OP’s other colleagues, they may put 2 and 2 together that the boss was the one who sent the email because they all just had lunch.

    1. Cat Fan*

      Exactly, it is hard to understand how sending that email was meant to legitimately help the OP in her absence. I think I would find it hard not to grill my boss a little further on this whole thing. If it gets uncomfortable, it’s good for him to know how uncomfortable you are over this. He really crossed the line.

      1. Tau*

        Oh yeah. I would be tempted to force the boss into the most awkward conversation ever. “It looks as though while I was out, you initiated conversation with [client] making it appear as though it was from me. I’m really not clear on why you thought that was necessary. Can you explain?” Cue stare, cue letting the awkward silence lengthen. Any explanation get picked apart, and do not let yourself get distracted from the fact that he impersonated you.

      2. Blue*

        Maybe it’s the boss’s standard procedure to send a follow up email after client meetings and thought he’d help her by doing that on her behalf…? That’s pretty much the only explanation I can imagine that would genuinely fall under the “I was trying to be helpful” category, but it still seems like a stretch.

    2. Marthooh*

      It sounds to me like the boss is showing the OP how to use WomanlyWiles(TM) on a client. Since apparently she doesn’t know how.

  13. CatCat*

    It’s just so bizarre to pretend to be someone else at work. Whhhhhyyyy.

    I would be LIVID to be honest. I would need the boss to commit to never pretending to be me again.

    I think Alison’s script is perfect for the client.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Riiiiight? And why, if the boss felt that the client needed an email from either of them, didn’t he send the email himself from his own email account AS HIMSELF?????

      OP, what if you change your email password so that your boss can’t get into your account anymore? Or does he need access just in case?

  14. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    One other aside, my boss has sent messages from my computer and my coworkers’ as well when she is showing us something and it’s just easier for her “drive.” If she contacts someone from our account the message begins with “This is Boss typing from Karma’s email. Explanation for message.”

    1. MoopySwarpet*

      That’s basically how I handle it when someone insists an email come from their account if I’m on monitor duty. I prefer to forward it to myself and respond as myself. Either way, I say “Jeff is out of the office this week, but asked me to respond on his behalf.” Blah, blah, blah. If I’m writing from their account (usually because they want the signature block info handy and on there), I sign off “Moopy, on behalf of: Jeff [with his signature block of too much info].”

  15. Tammy*

    I think the key thing here for me is that whoever’s covering for you in your absences shouldn’t be sending emails as you, no matter who it is. (In my larger company, that would be a significant violation of our IT policies). What I’ve done in the past when I’ve had to cover someone else’s email is to start replies with something like “This is Tammy; I’m Jane’s manager and I’m covering her email while she’s out of the office.”

    It could be that it didn’t occur to the boss to do this. It could also be that he was trying to imitate OP’s writing style rather than being transparent that he was covering her email, and failed miserably at the effort. It could also be that he was trying to be creepy and inappropriate, but I don’t know if that’s objectively true or just the way OP is perceiving the email. Either way, I think the avenue of “you shouldn’t ever pretend to be someone else in an email; if you’re covering for me and have to respond to an email, just be explicit and say so” is the way to handle this.

  16. Oxford Comma*

    While I wouldn’t read the text as flirty, so much as overly enthusiastic, I’m more troubled by the fact that OP’s boss felt it was okay to impersonate her and send an email.

    1. ChimericalOne*

      “Overly enthusiastic” can be read as “flirty” when coming from a woman to a man. Especially if someone is not normally “overly enthusiastic” in their tone…

      1. Oxford Comma*

        Well, it can be read a lot of ways. Young is one. Flirty is one. Unprofessional is one. I get the OP’s concern entirely.

        I just keep coming back to the boss went ahead and impersonated her.

  17. Mel*

    Change your email password now, and set up autoreply when you’re on vacation. Your boss should not have the ability to impersonate you in the first place.

    1. Kimmybear*

      This was my first thought. Forward emails and set up an out of office; don’t give access to your account.

    2. Leta*

      He likely can have IT get him into her email. Your work email isn’t your’s. Most places your boss has access to your email. They just usually don’t use it unless they have to.

      1. Mel*

        Most companies have policies that involve not sharing passwords.

        Certainly, at a corporate level, the company can access all your emails all they like. You should never do anything private with a corporate email. That said, a business owning your email is very different from an individual in the business having access to that email. That’s an important distinction to make.

        1. Environmental Compliance*


          While my boss technically ‘owns’ the ability to get into my emails if need be, it would be under IT supervision and permission. Never by their own powers for giggles. That’s been the case at any of my past places of work.

    3. Ick*

      OP here. It is an extremely small company, there is really no way to stop him from accessing my email – he has backend access as the owner of the company. This is the first and only time it’s ever been an issue.

  18. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’m going to make a bold assertion here so bear with me…

    There was an interesting discussion on Jezebel about how female journalists are written in movies and how male filmmakers perceive women on the job. An unfortunate characteristic was that women journalists sleep around as part of their job in a lot of movies, which doesn’t reflect reality. There’s a concern that this is what men *really* think women do at work: use sex and/or sex appeal to get the job done.

    Even if your boss never said or did anything sexual towards you, I think the logic of objectification applies: you’re a woman in the workplace so why *wouldn’t* you act like a flirty teenager to a client? Because in his mind those tactics always effective, right?

    You need to reevaluate how your boss sees you. Does he think you’re capable and professional? Does he think that because of the results you produce or because you’re a woman who could flirt if she wanted to? Does he assume you’d act like a schoolgirl with a crush on a teacher because that’s how he thinks women act all the time? Does he think that’s how you talk to clients when he’s not around? Why does he think you’re successful?

    You might think I’m nitpicking but I’m not. I don’t believe this is a one off for him; I believe it’s a deeper look into how he views you, not an employee who is a woman but as a woman who is an employee.

    1. KD*

      These were all my thoughts as well. OP’s boss was trying to pretend to be a woman, and he probably thinks this is how all women write. Or, when/if he’s been a client/customer, this is how he liked to be spoken to by women.

      If I were OP, I’d actually be concerned that my boss would even prefer that I conduct business this way. That the boss thinks she should be more flirty when speaking with older men.

      1. Lissa*

        This is actually the vibe I got, rather than that he wants to set up OP and the client – it’s REALLY not OK, but it’s also a very difficult problem to address because it’s underlying sexism the boss probably isn’t aware of, so OP is not likely to be able to “fix” that. But yeah. I thought it was “this is how boss thinks women write!” as opposed to “this is how boss thinks OP writes.” Which is still yikes on bikes but not as personal, so harder to really address head on.

    2. MeganK*

      I don’t think this is fair, for a couple of reasons.

      First of all, regarding the ways that female journalists are written in movies: I’m not sure we can say that it’s definitely indicative of how male filmmakers perceive women on the job (or even women journalists on the job). It could also be fantasy/wish fulfillment for them. Declaring that male filmmakers all see women in the workplace this way is a big stretch.

      Second, while it might be true that OP should take this as a cue to examine how her boss might see her at work, let’s be super clear that if the boss is viewing her through a sexualized lens, that is THE BOSS’ PROBLEM. There is zero indication that OP is encouraging this or in any way behaving unprofessionally. She’s writing in worried that people aren’t taking her seriously as a young woman professional – let’s not make that worse by telling her that if people don’t take her seriously, that’s her fault.

      Sorry if I misunderstood what you’re saying, Snarkus Aurelius, but in this case it really seems like in your paragraph that starts “You need to reevaluate how your boss sees you,” at a minimum you’re putting the onus for fixing this issue on OP, when the onus is 100% on her boss.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Oh no I never meant that at all. What I meant was that if she thinks everything is okay with her boss, she needs to rethink all of that. It’s not okay. If he is sexualizing her, of course it’s not her fault.

        The last thing I wanted her to think was that this was a one time thing. Given the details, I don’t think it is at all. That’s what I wanted her to see.

      2. Close Bracket*

        > if the boss is viewing her through a sexualized lens, that is THE BOSS’ PROBLEM.

        It’s OP’s problem bc she works for a boss who sees her through a sexualized lens. How OP’s boss sees her affects how he interacts with her and, evidently, how he represents her to others. You can’t just write it off as his problem when it affects her on so many levels.

        > Declaring that male filmmakers all see women in the workplace this way is a big stretch.

        So, common tropes are NOT a reflection of underlying attitudes? ‘k.

        1. MeganK*

          Sorry, Close Bracket, I think I wasn’t being clear. Taking your second point first, of course you are right and common tropes can absolutely be a reflection of underlying attitudes; I guess I just meant that we shouldn’t assume 100% that they are? Idk, maybe it’s because I always found the tone of those movies so odd. I think we can chalk this one up to me being overly pedantic and/or focusing on the wrong thing.

          To your first point, maybe we could agree that it’s a problem for OP if her boss views her this way? I 1000% agree with that! It’s a huge problem and it’s absolutely going to affect her at work. I just wanted to say that, given how conscientious/concerned she seems to be about appearing professional in the workplace, we should not tell OP that she _caused_ this problem. The boss caused it by being a jerk. She does still have to deal with the repercussions of it.

    3. Batgirl*

      Huh. Weirdly i got most of the ‘misunderstandings’ as a young out and about journalist. I never put that together before. It doesn’t happen in the educational field and women feel free to be really friendly.

  19. KR*

    I feel like a backlog of tasks could easily be avoided by having boss check your email and then draft the reply from his own email – and have it be from him instead of pretending to be you. “Hello client, I am Fergus covering for Hilda. The answer to your query is X.” Or whatever. Or put up an email away message saying “For urgent tasks please email Fergus at” and deal with the non urgent backlog when you return. Or an auto forwarding from certain email addresses.

  20. Jerry*

    I use the words “connect” and “awesome” regularly in professional communication and am now concerned that people think I’m flirting with them.

    1. Iris Eyes*

      IMO it wasn’t so much the “connect” as the “really enjoy” and the sum total of all of the references rather than just one line. And there are always going to be people who see flirting at the barest suggestion and others that are entirely oblivious.

      1. Catleesi*

        I think it could also be concerning that the one is so different from previous emails. If you always communicate with these words and phrases it’s one thing, but a much more personal email out of the blue could definitely be seen as something flirty.

    2. Archaeopteryx*

      “We can connect later about that” or something similar reads a lot differently than “I really enjoyed connecting with you”. The latter makes ‘connect’ sound like bad dating-world jargon.

      1. TechWorker*

        And as others have pointed out ‘I really enjoyed connecting with you’ = ‘a good meeting’ and ‘I really enjoy connecting with you’ = something closer to ‘I like spending time with you’ which is super weird for someone you only interact with every 6 months! Tense definitely matters…

          1. Batgirl*

            It’s fine phrasing when it’s a genuine use, but lets be honest its not phrasing you’d use out of context, entirely as the main topic, while pretending to be someone else though is it?

  21. Jennifer*

    I’m not sure if the email is flirty but just more friendly than the OP wants to sound with this client. If I’d received this I wouldn’t have thought it was flirty at all, but that’s just me. It sounds like the OP and the boss have vastly different writing styles.

    Unless the client says something, which is doubtful since nothing all that inappropriate was said, I’d just let it ride. I think it will make the company look really unprofessional if the client learns the emails he could be receiving may not be from the person he thinks is sending them.

    It was handled with the person it needed to be handled with – your boss. He shouldn’t be sending emails as you. If he sees anything urgent while you are out, he should follow up using his own email account.

    1. Ick*

      OP here. Maybe I am being overly paranoid about the flirtation, but based on our emails since this email… He certainly took it as flirtatious. His tone has completely changed and I want to die inside every time I have to communicate with him.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        That makes it really imperative that you tell him the truth, then. You may not need to say it was your boss, but you do need to say it was not you, and that you’re not clear on why your colleague did this. Keep your tone level and professional, just as you always interact with this client, and model the way you want your client to continue perceiving you.

        THEN go to the boss and have that talk about what he did and what the hell he was thinking. But it should come after you repair things with the client (and it’s okay to frame it like that in talking with the boss: “I’ve done my best to repair matters with our client, but you put me in a very bad position and I have no idea what you were trying to achieve by writing to our client in my name instead of in your own.”)

        1. MeganK*

          YES this is a great suggestion. Ugh OP this is one of my nightmares; I’m sorry it happened to you.

      2. ch77*

        Oh I’m so sorry. Yes, then I think you need to address it with the client – that you did not send the email – and use one of the texts used above. Regardless of if the boss meant it to be flirty, client took it as flirty, which is awful. This is a nightmare

  22. Hiring Mgr*

    To me the big thing here is not that your boss sent a possibly flirty email, but that your boss is answering emails as you in the first place. I’ve never heard of this, but you can see why it’s absurd.

    Even if the boss needs to monitor your email for some reason, why wouldn’t he just do so and then respond if needed but from his own email?

    1. No Mas Pantalones*

      Or sign his name and indicate he’s answering email on OP’s behalf. I send emails from my boss’s account occasionally, and I always sign it “No Mas Pantalones, on behalf of Jefe Pantalones.” That way, it indicates the sentiment is his, any screw ups in diction, spelling, etc. are mine.

      This is just weird. Like… icky weird.

  23. KayEss*

    Frankly, I would be looking for a new boss.

    I worked for a woman once who absolutely would have done this—in fact, when an employee resigned to become a full-time mother, the boss edited her neutral out-of-office “I am no longer at LlamaCo, please contact Fergus” autoreply to reference her pregnancy and how much she looked forward to being back in the office. (???!!?) It was DEFINITELY not the only place that boss was prone to delusional overstepping, and I bet that’s true for the OP’s boss, too.

      1. KayEss*

        Ehhh, the situation was a bit more complex than I made it sound—I don’t know for sure how clear the employee was up-front with the boss that she wouldn’t be returning after her “maternity leave.” She privately told some of the rest of us that she did not plan to return, but the boss… had to be handled carefully, as she was prone to flying off the handle emotionally and had a history of taking departures extremely personally. When someone told her about the edits to her message, she just laughed because it was such a classic move on the boss’s part. Plus she was free and clear of the company and wouldn’t have to deal with any “so where’s [employee]?” follow-up personally.

        Also FWIW, that was a workplace where we all had to share our email account passwords with each other so we could cover “in an emergency”… which I have come to think is overall an indicator of poor client management procedures and/or someone in management having control issues.

  24. Episkey*

    Oh, I would totally throw my boss under the bus, I don’t even care! Maybe I would try to get away with being generic at first and say “someone/my colleague” etc but if the client asked further, I would just say it was Fergus. I have to monitor my own boss’ email at times and if I send something from her account, I sign the email “Episkey (for Susan).” Unless she specifically asks me to send something as if I was her.

    1. Jennifer*

      But this could make the entire office look weird and dysfunctional. I would wonder what other weird stuff was going on behind the scenes.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        If the OP tells the client nothing, the client will continue to think that the OP behaved bizarrely, inappropriately, and incompetently — and that’s his primary contact at this company. It’s not just the weirdly personal email that he has no way of knowing didn’t come from OP at all, it’s that there were major errors in fact in that email… mistakes it would be deeply weird for OP to make (because OP didn’t make them!)

        Given all that, I’m having a hard time concluding that it would be any *worse* a risk to his view of the company for OP to tell him the truth. The worst he’d be likely to think of he knew isn’t significantly worse than what he’s vet likely to think already, based on the false info he currently has.

      2. Working Hypothesis*

        The entire office is going to look pretty weird and dysfunctional if the client’s primary contact appears, from the evidence he has, to have gone suddenly off her rocker and started sending him gushing personal email with all the business facts wrong, isn’t it?

      3. Ego Chamber*

        OP’s boss is actively catfishing clients using OP’s email address. What about this isn’t weird and dysfunctional?

  25. Phony Genius*

    If the content of the e-mail is something that could cost you your job, “I didn’t send it” may not fly with management – even if your boss cops to it. Optics are important. Our policy here is that nobody can access any other person’s e-mail account for any reason – if it was sent from your account, you are 100% responsible. If our e-mail must be monitored while we’re away, we have it automatically forwarded to the boss so they can respond under their own name.

    1. ChimericalOne*

      If someone uses your email account without your permission to send something inappropriate, the blame is absolutely on them (and I can’t see anyone getting away with holding the employee responsible for the boss’s actions if the boss cops to it).

      Also, I would guess that IT could tell which computer an email was sent from. Not to mention that the person was away on vacation at the time. Now, maybe if the person violated IT policy to give their email password to their boss, they might be responsible, but even there, I’d suspect that inappropriate pressure was applied to them by someone with power over them.

      1. Phony Genius*

        “if the person violated IT policy to give their email password to their boss, they might be responsible”

        – You are correct. That is the policy here. Giving your password to anybody, including your boss, is a fireable offense.

    2. Marthooh*

      I think the issue is not that it could cost the OP her job, but that this is how the boss thinks the OP should be doing her job.

  26. Beth*

    There are a lot of people poking at whether this email is actually ‘flirty’ or not. I think that’s actually beside the point here. The point is 1) OP’s boss posed as them without their permission, and 2) while posing as OP, OP’s boss sent an email that OP is unwilling to stand behind (partly because the tone is off from OP’s standard, but also because they included inaccurate info).

    With that in mind–OP, I think you should send an email to your client to the effect of something like: “Please ignore the previous email; it was sent by my colleague, who was filling in for me while I was out of town and misunderstood how to do that effectively. Here is the correct information.” This is justifiable because there were inaccuracies that presumably need correcting; the fact that it lets them know you don’t stand behind the email, and also brings your tone with them back to your normal tone, is an added bonus.

    I also think you should tell your boss that you’re deeply uncomfortable with him sending emails under your name on your behalf. If he ever has to send an email in your absence in the future, ask him to send it under his own name:
    “Dear Client,
    This is Boss filling in on behalf of OP, who is out of office at the moment. Answer to question, blah blah blah.
    Sincerely, Boss”

    1. The Ginger Ginger*

      This is where I’d land too. I think you need to make it clear that not only didn’t you send it, you didn’t even write it.

    2. Kiki*

      I agree that bringing up the “flirtiness” of the email is not the way to go. If this email were unambiguously flirtatious or inappropriate, I would feel differently, but with the email in question, all that would happen is a debate with your boss as to whether effusive emails are flirty emails. What matters is that your boss needlessly did something weird by posing as you for a client.

    3. sammy_two*

      Thank you. I think we all should believe that the LW has the context to determine whether or not the email that was sent in her name could be interpreted as flirty.

    4. Tau*

      Agreed. The flirtatiousness, although egregious, is a red herring. It would also be a huge problem if the boss sent an e-mail that was brusque, or one that mimicked OP’s style.

    5. Ick*

      OP here. Here is the issue: we are a very small company and the client knows this. There is no plausible way to say that this came from anyone else inside the company besides my boss (the owner of the company). I don’t want the client to lose faith in the company as a whole because of this.

      Also to clarify: since first writing this email, the client’s tone for all email communication has changed. He certainly did think it was flirtatious, and I want to die everytime we need to communicate. (I dearly hope I am being paranoid, but his tone has changed) I haven’t actually addressed/clarified the specific details/errors mentioned in the email yet. I am putting it off until I can figure out how to deal with it…

      1. Not A Manager*

        I think you need to cut this off at the knees. Bring the client’s new (and old) emails to your boss, tell him that the client seems to have “misinterpreted” his email as flirtatious, and tell him that he needs to fix it.

        If that’s not safe for you, then I think you need to immediately contact the client and tell him that the information in this email is incorrect, and explain why that happened. You don’t need to specifically mention your boss, but if that’s the only possible inference the client can draw, well too bad.

        The errors in the email actually work in your favor here, because they give you an EXCELLENT reason to let the client know that you didn’t author it. If your boss had sent completely accurate information, it would be trickier for you to contact the client just to tone police your boss.

        I don’t believe that your boss had goodwill here. I think that he was either trying to set you up a la rom com comments above, or he was trying to pimp you out (figuratively). I wouldn’t be shocked if you showed the client’s changed email tone to the boss and his response was, “Excellent! “

      2. Working Hypothesis*

        OP, I doubt very much he’ll lose faith in the entire company because your boss did something stupid once, but I would worry a whole lot more that he would lose faith in the entire company because “you” put inaccurate information into an email when you really should know better!! You can and should tell him the truth even if it’s entirely obvious that it’s your boss who sent that… because otherwise you don’t just look flirtatious, you look incompetent. And if his contact at the company is coming across to him as incompetent, that’s a while lot more likely, IMO, to make him lose faith in the entire company.

      3. Former Employee*

        If the client is likely to figure it’s the boss, I think you need to be a bit more diplomatic, but can still correct the situation. Just make it clear that you were out of the office when this email was sent on your behalf and that it was the result of a misunderstanding on the part of the colleague who sent it. While the client may assume it’s your boss, it’s possible that type of wording would lead the client to believe that you have a colleague who sometimes covers for you, but the reason he [the client] doesn’t know that person is due to the fact that this colleague is not normally involved with his account.

        Just an idea.

      4. Beth*

        So the thing is, your boss legitimately did mess up here. He told your client things that aren’t true (and also–intentionally or inadvertently–gave an incorrect impression about the kind of relationship you want with your client…but I’m going to focus on the factual errors for the moment.)

        With that in mind, I think your only options are A) take the blame yourself, pretend you made these errors, and correct ‘yourself’, or B) let your client know that your boss sent this email but wasn’t fully informed on the project. Neither of these is exactly faith-inspiring on a business level, but I actually think B is better than A–at least your boss isn’t their closest associate at your company and legitimately might not know their project so well. B may give the impression that your boss is a weirdo who doesn’t know how business norms for communication work, but A gives the impression that they’re in incompetent hands with you right now, which I think is worse. Plus, I don’t think you should take the fall for your boss’ incompetence. But it’s up to you which you do, ultimately.

        To go back to the flirting bit…I actually think this will eventually resolve itself no matter what you do about the email. If you tell your client that your boss sent that email, they’ll likely realize that it wasn’t you ‘flirting’ and drop their new behavior. But even if you don’t–keep your own tone strictly professional, ignore any flirtiness on his side, and hopefully he’ll get the hint. If he does escalate and ask you out, act surprised and tell him that you have a personal policy (or a company one, even, if your company has a rule on this) against mixing personal and professional relationships.

        Your client’s behavior does give you extra ground to tell your boss that what he wrote was unacceptable. Your client clearly got the impression that you were flirting; your boss’ impersonation of you has now negatively impacted your professional relationship in multiple ways, both by making you look incompetent and by insinuating that you’re hitting on your client. You have solid grounds to be pretty upset with him about this.

        1. TexasThunder*

          I wouldn’t rely on “hints”.
          The recipient will just be confused and possibly irritated by the apparent inconsistency.
          No, best to just say…”Hey, you probably noticed that mail used a different tone… my boss sent it.”

          1. Marthooh*

            “You probably noticed that email got several details wrong. That’s because my boss sent it out under my name while I was out of the office.”

            No need to mention the tone.

  27. ChimericalOne*

    OP, I think it’s important to not just make it clear that you didn’t *send* it but also that you didn’t *write* it, either. “A colleague was handling some of my email in my absence. This email shouldn’t have been sent” COULD be read as, “A colleague sent you something that I typed up after a few cocktails & had saved in my drafts folder and they shouldn’t have sent that because it was flirty & drunkly wrong in some details; I meant to delete it.” You want to convey, rather, “A colleague who was monitoring my email address in my absence wrote the email you received with the intention of helping me while I was away. I have asked them not to do this again. As you know, Project X is actually Y and Z.”

    If I were you, I would absolutely clear the record anyway you have to. You’ll be brooding about this for a long time if you don’t, and it (the email or your discomfort) may well damage your relationship with this client.

  28. Arctic*

    Definitely correct any inaccuracies. But, unless there was a lot more to it, I really don’t think anyone would construe that as being particularly flirty. I could see myself writing that. And I am a woman in a field with more men (in my sphere) who was young not that long ago.
    I would also subtly inquire why this happened. This is your boss. Does he think you don’t follow-up with clients quick enough? Ideally, in most industries, there should be some follow-up after a face to face. So, you could go into it saying “If you’d like I can be diligent about following up with in one business day of meeting a client. But please don’t send them on my behalf.”

  29. Kate R*

    I am so immensely weirded out by the boss signing OP’s name. More so than the actual contents of the email. I just don’t understand this. My boss and I seem to disagree on how frequently to contact customers without badgering them, which means sometimes he will just go ahead and email them even when I’m on the point person for the project. It’s his prerogative, and the customers don’t seem to mind, so I don’t either. But he would never sign off as me! They always know he is the one contacting him. That just seems so weirdly deceptive. If the boss felt the need to contact them, why not just email as himself?

    1. TechWorker*

      +1 especially since he was *at the lunch* so if he thought a weirdly effusive follow up was necessary he totally could have done the weird effusiveness as himself and avoided this whole thing…

  30. Adminx2*

    You’re the only one who can work the website, he texts you on vacation and sends emails with bad info to client under your name, then gives flimsy excuses instead of solutions. Lots of flags here. Correct the “miscommunication” with the client and find better work!

  31. Name Required*

    This is a total phone call situation. Call the client and let them put the pieces together. “Hey Client. As you know, I was out of office on [Dates]. I was confused to see the response that was sent to you on [date email sent] when I returned to office — I thought you might be too, as it was missing important details on the project. Fergus was monitoring my email box while I was out, but he typically would not send emails on my behalf. I’m writing a more thorough update in response to your question now, but thought it would be best to check in on this email with you first.” Then pause, let them speak. If the email was as bad as you say it was, then I’m sure you’ll get a response like, “Yeah, that email was weird. You’re right, I was confused. Thanks for calling.” You’ve also called your boss out without specifically calling your boss out. Then reply back as if the previous email never happened with the guiding line, “Thanks for speaking with me today, Client. Here is the update we discussed …”

  32. The Ginger Ginger*

    It’s bizarre that your boss thought it was okay to impersonate you in an email during a TWO DAY absence. It wouldn’t make sense during a two WEEK absence, but at least that would be slightly more understandable. Two days? What the heck. He should have sent the email as himself. It’s weirdly deceptive, and somehow makes it seem like he thinks you’re being out of the office is something to be hidden. Completely weird.

    I’d send an email saying the colleague covering for you misunderstood how to do that effectively and composed/sent the email in error. Clarify the correct details and let them know the confusion won’t happen again.

    I can totally understand why you feel weird with them thinking you wrote that email. Clear it up in your normal tone and move on like it’s weird, but not a big deal. They’ll shrug it off with that basic explanation if you will. Plus you’ll feel 1000x better.

  33. Seeking Second Childhood*

    This is not just a possible problem for OP but for the company as well!
    We all jumped on what if the client starts to flirt back. But the flip side, the client could as easily be offended and consider taking his business elsewhere.

  34. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    It’s so bizarre to pretend to be you. I monitored enough boxes over the years,I’ve always signed my name and told them “Jenny is on vacation,I’m monitoring her box while she’s out.” It’s the way to let people know if I’m effing up somewhere, it’s pinned on me, not Jenny. Also it’s always best to be open with clients, no funny business. But I’ve created clients relations for so long, I’ll die on that hill.

  35. Not Australian*

    Yeah, there’s no way the boss should be writing an e-mail as if he was the OP, and I’d be tempted to throw the guy under the bus as far as the colleague is concerned. “Tarquin sent that out while I was on holiday and I didn’t know he was going to do it; I’m sorry for any confusion.” In this particular situation, boss has forfeited any right to the OP’s respect.

  36. Wherehouse Politics*

    He shouldn’t be writing emails on her behalf at all. At all. If there’s something he needs to convey to the client he can do it himself in his own words. I’d push back on my boss hard on this and wouldn’t open the discussion on what degree of flirtyness and/or how appropriate his words are. Just the fact that’s he’s doing it at all is absolutely unacceptable and it IS a hill worth dying on. That’s her reputation and accountability on the line.

      1. BethRA*

        If he won’t let go of checking your email while you’re on vacation, offer to set up and autoresponse with a forward that sends a copy to his inbox. That way if he responds, it’ll at least be under his own name.

  37. NW Mossy*

    While this doesn’t work quite as well now that the initial conversation has passed, a perfectly appropriate response to “I was just trying to help!” is “With what?”, delivered in a tone of warm curiosity rather than accusation. It, along with follow ups, can provoke the kind of self-reflection that leads people to think “Ooh, yeah, now I see the problem.”

    Whenever I’m struggling with that “GAH WHYYYYYYYYYYY?!” feeling about something someone else did that makes me wish the earth would swallow me up, I try to put myself in the frame of mind of a studiously professional newscaster who’s trying to interview someone about a patently ridiculous situation. Calm, emotionally detached, but yet knowing that the situation is inherently bizarre and desperate to elicit some kind of plausible explanation for WTH is going on:

    “And what prompted you to begin hiring llamas for your teapot-making business? Their work ethic and willingness to work for feed alone? That’s interesting. Don’t their hooves lack the dexterity needed to form the teapots? Oh, they have toes instead of hooves? I had no idea…. Do you see many challenges with their coats damaging the teapot coatings?”

  38. Secretary*

    If the boss is male, he may not realize how those things come across. Women in the workplace have to be very careful and watch their language all the time, whereas men don’t deal with that even close to the same amount. He might genuinely not realize that it came across flirty.

    1. Batgirl*

      I honestly think that level of ignorance is equally bad as intentional pimping of OPs appeal though. Why would he be in the dark as to how to professionally communicate? I doubt he speaks that way himself, he (should) know OP doesn’t, and he’s turned himself into a Gidget who doesn’t understand the project…because thats how he thinks women speak? Because charm outweighs competence? Because you can coo at clients without being informed when youre in female mode? Even if he is that style of communicator himself, why is he doing it in OPs name?

    2. LaDeeDa*

      It so wrong, he thinks he responded as a young woman would respond, it is wrong on so many levels.

  39. Exhausted Trope*

    OP, I like your solution: “… tell him I didn’t send it and make my boss look incompetent.” Anyone who would send an email like that is.
    Of course, that might jeopardize your company’s relationship with the client but…

    1. WhatTheActual*

      Whatever, the boss should be calling the client directly and explaining his mistake. Anything less than that, find a new boss, this one is an entitled POS who is so 0ut of touch with his employee’s he send flirty, inaccurate emails pretending to be them,

  40. Knope*

    The whole concept of “boss monitoring my emails while I’m out” is so strange to me (beyond the total weirdness of what this particular boss did). Why wouldn’t the employee just have an OOO auto-reply up that says “for questions about XYZ, please contact John or Jane”?

    1. Asenath*

      I often monitor an email box for others, and others do so for me, just in case we need to catch something right away. In addition, the trail of whatever we said and agreed to remains with the original email account for reference. What we never do is sign the other person’s name to our responses (although another office with the same employer has the habit of signing EVERYTHING “Llama Grooming Office” so you never know who you’re corresponding with and whether it’s the same person who was already dealing with your enquiry).

      It’s clear some people (including OP) thought the response was flirtatious; others, not so much. I don’t think it was really flirtatious, although the style was certainly one I would never use – far too informal and chatty. I think the big issue is that the wrong name was signed to the email, and I think that would be the focus of my complaint to my boss and correction to the client.

  41. nnn*

    A mischievous idea that occurs to me is, in the process of correcting the inaccuracies, to somehow imply that the “I really enjoy connecting with you” etc. was written by the boss on his own behalf, i.e. the boss really enjoys connecting with the client, and just accidentally sent it from OP’s email while checking her inbox during her absence.

    1. boop the first*

      I agree! If Boss thinks this is a truthful email, then he should have no issue with being the one to sign it.

  42. Ali*

    I think the top comment from Not All is spot on. Also, for the future see if you can change your permissions slightly depending on what email client you are using. My coworker was out on maternity leave and gave me access to her inbox but I couldn’t send as her or on her behalf. I know because it defaulted to being sent as her and I would forget to change it and Outlook would pop up a little box telling me that I did not have permission to send from that account – there is drop-down From box where I could change it to be sent by me.

  43. LaDeeDa*

    No. I wouldn’t let it go. I would email that client, and say I was away and that a colleague accessed my email and sent that message. From here on out, forward your emails, or put in you OOF to contact for emergency or time-sensitive requests.

  44. Risha*

    This is complete paranoia on my part, but I’d be wondering if my boss was trying to set me up (in the “creating a paper trail to get me fired” sense, not “get me a date” sense).

  45. Trek*

    Whenever someone in my office states ‘I was just trying to help’ my usual response is that is not an answer to why you handled this the way you handled it. If they persist on stating they were being helpful and go so far as too imply that I should be grateful for their help I usually follow up with “And you failed to help and now have caused this issue. So what are you going to do to resolve both issues, the original one and the new one created by your helpfulness?’ In other words I keep pushing it back to them so that they feel the weight of their mistake.

    You may want to paint a picture for you boss. Imagine someone sent an email on his behalf to a woman and it sounding flirty or at least as though it were crossing a line into personal territory. How awkward would that be for him going forward talking to this woman if she believed he was attempting to flirt with her? What if she or her boss complained about the email and found it offensive? You are not threatening to do so but just trying to paint a picture of how he would find it alarming to have that happen to him. Then recommend that going forward to avoid confusing clients with your different communication styles it would be better for boss not to send emails in your name. If he needs to reply he should reply as himself.

  46. Anon Anon Anon*

    I would be looking for a new job. That’s a creepy thing to do. Who knows what else is going on there. And yes, tell the client you didn’t write that email.

  47. GalFriday*

    After addressing this particular incident with the boss and client, I would set up a new process for handling emails while you are away.
    1. Change your password immediately.
    2. Next time you are out, set up auto OOTO reply specifically naming your boss and his/her contact info as the go to person in your absence.
    3. You can set up a rule to auto forward your emails to a your bosses email address or any designated person while you are gone.
    This way no one has to log into your email and no one can send an email under your name. Not only will this give you peace of mind, but your boss won’t even have to log in to check your emails – they’ll be forwarded in real time.

  48. boop the first*

    “‘oh, my boss sent this’ is going to look incredibly weird”

    Well, good? Inventing a new story to make the boss look good is a very kind thing to do, but it’s kinder than I would be willing to do in the moment. If the boss doesn’t want to be thought of as weird or dishonest, maybe boss should stop doing weird/dishonest things. People don’t learn anything when they’ve got someone cleaning up after them and protecting their mistakes.

  49. Michaela Westen*

    One of the many things my former and toxic boss did was try to tell me I should date her relative’s colleague – a big, angry, childish man who was the last thing I needed. This boss was always doing inappropriately personal things.
    To me it sounds like your boss is trying to get you and the client to date. That’s the only reason I can think of to do such a thing – unless he assumes you write like that to everyone, or to all men?
    I’m a cautious person who grew up in an abusive environment so I don’t know if I’m overreacting, but I would never let boss or anyone else near my email again. I would password-protect it and make sure it’s locked down, and I’d consider looking for a job in a more businesslike company.
    Meanwhile, when you’re not in the office you can program an autoreply asking clients to contact someone else in your absence, and you can make sure your clients know who to contact before you leave. That’s what’s expected in a normal company.
    I would also be watching for other signs of boss interfering in your personal life, and shut them down instantly. I find this frightening. Don’t leave your smartphone or purse where he can get to them.
    Good luck!

  50. CM*

    I think all the debates in the comments about whether this is actually “flirty” are missing the point. OP’s boss wrote an email pretending to be her, expressing sentiments that she normally wouldn’t in a way that made her uneasy.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about protecting boss — after all, he did send the email. I’d send a follow-up email saying, “Hi, I was on vacation last week and Boss sent the email below in my absence. (Normally he would not send emails from my account, and I don’t expect this to happen in the future.) I noticed a few details that I’d like to clear up. First, he said that the event was at 4 p.m., but it will actually be 5-7…”

    1. Anon Anon Anon*

      I agree. I also wonder if it’s legal to impersonate someone where she is. This would be a pretty minor incident of that, but it would be good to look up to get some perspective. A boss who thinks it’s ok to impersonate an employee is probably using poor judgment elsewhere too.

  51. JM in England*

    At OldJob, was told during my induction to NEVER let anyone other than myself have access to my email account, not even the CEO!
    Was also told to always lock my computer whilst away from my desk, regardless of how long for. This rule was introduced following an incident when someone left their computer unlocked and someone else used their email account to send a company wide message that made some quite disparaging remarks about upper management. To my knowledge, the perpetrator was never found.

  52. Rebelx*

    I don’t have much to add about how to deal with the situation at hand, but you have my sympathy LW, I would also be angry and a little paranoid if this happened to me.

    If it were me, I would be changing my email password and letting him know that for future absenses I would be setting an auto-reply to let people know I’m out of the office and directing people to contact him for any urgent/time sensitive matters. In my experience it’s a common way to handle absenses, anyway, and will hopefully signal to him that this was a serious overstep if he isn’t getting that yet. Regardless of your boss’ intentions, and even if the client thinks nothing of the email (which doesn’t seem to be the case based on LW’s comments above), I’d be wary of continuing to give someone access to my email when they’ve demonstrated a lack of good judgment when communicating on my behalf.

  53. CanCan*

    Yuck! Definitely flirty.

    “awesome” and “!” – No. This should have been “It was a pleasure having lunch with you yesterday.”
    “I really enjoy connecting with you” should be “It was interesting to learn the details of your work [or something more specific to work]”
    “I hope to see you again soon” – just No.

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