my boss has romantic phone conversations that bother me because I’m single

I’m off for Memorial Day, so here’s an older post from the archives. This was originally published in 2012.

A reader writes:

Longtime reader, first time question asker! I work in a small, two-person office for a nonprofit, was was hired on only a little over 2 months ago. Before me, it was just my boss, the executive director, by herself for a year.

I have really loved my job and boss up to this point and have been great at my work, but my relationship with my boss hit a big snag at the end of last week. I raised my voice at her a bit when she hinted that she doubted my thoroughness on a task that I had worked on for hours. I went home that day pretty annoyed and wrote a long and admittedly somewhat unprofessional email to her, explaining two of the factors that had likely culminated in my raising my voice: 1) feeling that she doubted my work ethic and meticulousness, two qualities I take great pride in, and 2) the frequency of her romantic phone conversations with her significant other while I sat only 10 feet away. I explained that the romantic phone calls had become increasingly annoying over time, as the conversations put my focus in the office on my “singledom,” while I ought to be focusing on my work instead. That might sound like I need to grow a backbone, but I have been single for over 7 years—a long time when you’re in your late 20s—which is the most distressing aspect of my otherwise happy life. I explained all of this in the email and that those reasons made her lovey-dovey conversations extra distracting. I asked her to please consider not having the phone calls while I’m around the office, as they negatively affect my productivity.

My boss sat me down for a tough conversation at the beginning of the following workweek, addressing the unprofesionalism of my email, the need for me to better understand my role in the organization, and that the concerns I had laid out about her managerial style were unacceptable to express. Regarding the romantic phone calls, she was defensive, claiming that they weren’t “recreational” in nature (which was a total lie). She said I should put on headphones if I didn’t want to hear her personal conversations.

The atmosphere in the office was pretty tense for the next two days, as I ended up giving her the silent treatment for what I considered her callousness in addressing my concerns. At the end of that second day, she had one of those romantic phone calls, and I ended up walking briskly out the door without saying goodbye to her. My silent treatment was probably not the most professional or mature way to handle the situation, but it did work to some extent, with my boss trying several times to extend “olive branches” to me, which I was unresponsive to till the middle of the week (I could tell this really frustrated her). Even though she had tried to be nicer to me to close out the week and I had warmed up to her again, on that Friday she had another one of the romantic phone calls. In response, I gave her mostly silent treatment again for the rest of the day, though she didn’t take the bait this time and actively tried to not let my attitude bother her, continuing to act happy and nice (though also emailing me to inform me that she was going to add more structure to my role by making me fill out timesheets). Before she left the office, she tried calling her significant other again but it went to voicemail. She ended up bidding me a warm goodbye, which I acknowledged as minimally as I could without being a complete jackass.

I would like to figure out a way to peacefully put an end to the phone calls, since I’ve been unsuccessful so far. I believe that my boss having them while knowing they affect my productivity in a negative way is borderline harassment. However, I don’t feel very comfortable telling her that because she has interpreted concerns that I have with her managerial style as being unprofessional. How should I approach my boss if the distracting phone calls continue unabated?

Some more clarification: The relationship I’ve had with my boss had been very friendly and sociable up to that point, but her response so far to adverse situations like this has been to be more of a hardass. I feel that she probably believes I don’t respect her authority, which could not be more untrue. I work better and am more focused and productive when there is a culture of workplace harmony and open communication, and when I’m able to be completely accountable to my boss without hating her at the same time. My boss, on the other hand, has never managed people in her career till now and seems to have taken my concerns as a sign that she needs to consolidate her power and add more structure to my work experience—which she feel might be a good move on her part but is exactly the wrong direction from how I best work.

Working in a two-person office is hard. There are other complications in the relationship as well, such as the fact that my boss and I coincidentally know a lot of the same people from both during and outside of work hours. My best friend, for instance, is one of her longtime friends and the brother-in-law of one of her best friends. Also, another one of my good friends serves on the same nonprofit board as her significant other. I could go on. I’ll also add that I had already been to my boss’s house by the third weekend after I started—for a non-work-related party—and that my boss and I have been Facebook friends since day one and ‘like’ each other’s posts from time to time. We’re both young people who share a lot of the same interests, both related to and not related to work. I have greatly respected and looked up to her up to this point, because, until I blew things up with that email, she was very easygoing. I have much less respect for callous power-hoarders, but as a new manager she seems to have headed gradually in that direction, a bit wary perhaps that her direct report might be increasingly insubordinate or nipping at her heels (neither of which have ever been my intention).


This is probably not the answer you are expecting, but you are wildly, wildly out of line here.

You cannot give your boss the silent treatment. That is … well, it’s extremely unprofessional and, frankly, would come across as prohibitively juvenile to most managers — and by prohibitive, I mean a good manager would be questioning your fit for the job. (And if your manager is not, it’s likely because of her inexperience.)

Moreover, you can’t dictate the content of other people’s personal phone conversations. You can certainly let them know when you’re having trouble focusing because of their calls, but when it’s your boss, she gets to decide whether she’s going to modify her behavior or not. And you absolutely cannot tell people at work that their happiness is making you feel bad and so they need to rein it in around you, let alone your boss. Your unhappiness about your singlehood is so far, far afield from anything approaching an appropriate line of argument in professional situations that I am having to strongly resist typing this paragraph in all caps and making it flash at you like a Geocities website from 1999. I am having heart palpitations over how inappropriate this all is.

And when you throw in the social connections and the attending parties, this whole thing sounds like a clusterfudge to me. She erred by not establishing professional boundaries from the get-go, but you’ve taken that broadening of boundaries even further, and you’re not seeing your boss as your boss.

As for the calls themselves, I have no idea how frequent they are or how lovey-dovey. If they’re seriously mushy, yes, that’s inappropriate. But it is not your place to insist that they must stop.  Many bosses do annoying and even inappropriate things, but unless they violate a law or jeopardize your safety, it doesn’t fall in the category of “things you have the standing to insist they stop doing.” Sexual harassment would fall in that category, but unless these calls are sexual (and I’m assuming you would have mentioned it if they were), this isn’t harassment.

Look. She is your boss. That means that she decides what does and doesn’t fly in the office. You can ask her nicely, once, if you’d like something handled differently, but then she gets to make the call, and you need to respect that call. You can decide that you don’t like it enough that you’re going to find a job somewhere else, but being cold or rude to her, giving her the silent treatment, or raising your voice at her (!!) are not acceptable responses. If you are not able to control those responses, then you need to find a new job, because You Cannot Behave This Way.

While she appears to be tolerating this somewhat, I would not assume she will tolerate it long-term (and the fact that she’s already pointed out — correctly — that this is unprofessional is a sign that she won’t tolerate it forever). If nothing else, eventually she’ll mention the situation to a more experienced manager, who will urge her in the strongest of terms to shut it down and to seriously reconsider your fit for the role. And even if that never happens, this is still Very, Very Bad because you are learning terrible work norms that you will carry to your next job, where they will make your life significantly harder because this kind of dynamic will feel normal to you but will be unacceptable to those around you.

So. You need to cut this out. Stop trying to punish your boss for her phone calls or to force an end to them. Be pleasant and professional. Establish a boundary between work life and social life. Put some headphones on if you don’t want to hear her calls, as she suggested. And apologize to her for how you handled this.

Your job is not just to do your work. It’s also to be a pleasant coworker/employee and not to be a source of drama in the office. Right now you are failing on that score, and you must fix it.

{ 206 comments… read them below }

  1. Uncle Bob*

    OP: Start looking for something else now. You are miserable and making your boss miserable, and are on the path to get fired anyway if you don’t quit.

    1. NerdyKris*

      Given that this letter was originally printed seven years ago, I’d imagine the situation has resolved itself one way or the other.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I wish there was an update to this one. I’m pretty easy going but I’d bet real money that the email would have been enough for me. The temerity to think she has standing to “correct” her boss like this! Oh hell not. We’re not even giving that any chance to gain traction. All the nope.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          OMG yes. I don’t know how I missed this one since I’ve been reading since 2010 but wow. Hope the OP is somewhere cringing at her old behavior and has matured.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Agreed. I’d forgotten about this letter and how banana crackers it was. I remember that after peeling my jaw off the floor I thought, “whoo, therapy!”

          I wish there’d been an update.

          1. Myrin*

            There was! Lady Ariel posted a link below. I would, however, love to read a current update to find out where he’s at now.

          2. RubyMoon*

            “Whoo, Therapy!” is exactly what I said! Also, “What are you, 12?” and “Time to put on our grownup undies!

        3. AMT*

          Just FYI, in the comments and/or subsequent correspondence, the LW said that he is male and that his boss is a woman married to another woman.

          1. Sharikacat*

            If the LW is male and the female boss has a wife, I’d have to wonder how much of his frustration stemmed from not the phone conversations themselves but the surrounding factors regarding gender and sexuality and how that relates to his own relationship status. How might his attitude have been different if the boss was in a heterosexual relationship? Male boss in hetero- or same-sex marriage?

            He can feel however he wants about those factors, but it is his job to be professional and not get derailed by the reminder of those factors. If someone can’t do that, then that’s not the work environment for you.

          2. Edwina*

            Oh, well, I can FEEL what this is–(as a woman who has had a couple of really bad situations with male assistants who literally thought they could talk to me like this guy, too*). He’s a guy. He thinks he can tell her what to do because she’s a woman. He thinks he can define his own job. He has no idea what his situation is. Also, he’d NEVER even CONSIDER talking to a male boss like this. And he’s bothered because they are lesbians, so he wants them to stop.

            He’s gotta go. This is never going to get better. I do hope that boss gets her stuff together and cans his ass. He’s being ridiculous.

            *One guy was literally refusing to do specific things I’d assigned to him; when I called him into my office to explain that this was his job, and he needed to do it, end of story, he then demanded that I have a conference with HIM, in which he demanded HIS OWN OFFICE. After a series of these incidents, I started going to HR, who told me just to keep letting them know, have a paper trail. Finally I had to fire him, and he actually went to HR to TRY TO GET ME FIRED!!! (HR called me, laughing hysterically.)

            *Another job, another guy assistant: he simply refused to do certain things, saying they weren’t in his “job description” (they absolutely were). Again, after he repeatedly refused to do his job, I went to HR. HR called him in and told him, dude, this IS YOUR JOB. He still refused to do it! Finally, it became clear I had to fire him so I could actually get someone to do the job (I was producing a TV show and couldn’t function without a functional assistant). I worked out with HR that he got a 1-month severance pay AND SIX MONTHS OF HEALTH CARE COVERAGE! And he could also stay on the job for 2 more weeks as long as he didn’t cop an attitude. Next day he comes in and gives me THE GLARE OF DEATH. I called HR and told them to get him off the lot today (still let him have his severance). WHAT DO THESE GUYS THINK????

      2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        Given that this letter was printed seven years ago, I’m going to hope that the OP is twenty now and doing a lot better.

        I mean, this was written by a 13-year-old girl, right? Right?

          1. DerJungerLudendorff*

            The mental maturity can sometimes be frighteningly similar.
            – A dude in his 20s.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            Yup. I went and re-read the original.

            “I feel that she probably believes I don’t respect her authority, which could not be more untrue. I work better and am more focused and productive when there is a culture of workplace harmony and open communication, and when I’m able to be completely accountable to my boss without hating her at the same time. My boss, on the other hand, has never managed people in her career till now and seems to have taken my concerns as a sign that she needs to consolidate her power and add more structure to my work experience—which she feel might be a good move on her part but is exactly the wrong direction from how I best work.”

            Dude was trying to be the boss. He was dictating terms. SMH

            Hopefully now that he’s into his 30s he’s matured a bit. Not holding my breath…plenty of 30s, 40s, 50s +++ guys never mature and the general attitude of entitlement usually just intensifies, but…maybe?

            1. Anonymous 5*

              YEP. And boy howdy have I ever seen that from guys in their 30s/40s/50s. But the power grab/attempt to dictate the terms is something I see alarmingly frequently from my (college) students. Easy enough for me to shut down, but I’m not at all confident that people who come in with that level of entitlement ever actually outgrow it.

            2. Retailanon*

              Plenty of women never grow up as well, as we’ve seen from letter. (heck my mom still acts like she’s 14 more often then not. )

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                Yes, yes…”women too.” ::sigh::

                This however, the dominance thing, is overwhelmingly a male behavior.

            3. Jessa1*

              This is person specific in this case, not gender specific. I’ve worked with a female like this too.

    2. charo*

      LW is acting like a child in many of her actions. And her reaction to the phone calls may be very subjective, filtered through her own POV. Others might not hear them the same at all; and it’s the BOSS.

      LW is the poster child for people’s criticisms of Milennials.

      1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

        Well, LW is male, and also non-neurotypical, per his own words in the update, so maybe blanket statements aren’t helpful here.

  2. Matilda Jefferies*

    I assume there’s no update to this one – Alison would have mentioned it if there was. But I hope the years since this letter was first published have brought the OP some perspective, and a happier work situation.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      there was some sort of update — in the comments of that same post, maybe? But the LW’s response at the time, at least, was more doubling-down and less getting it. I also hope they’ve made some healthy and happy progress.

        1. Observer*

          Yeah, he definitely seemed to be taking it on board. So, hopefully things went well.

  3. Amber Rose*

    I remember this letter. It still blows me away. How could anyone think acting like a sulky child is appropriate at work? Giving people the silent treatment is something no adult should ever do.

    Good grief.

    1. dumblewald*

      And he’s in his late twenties?? It’s not even like he’s right out of college.

      1. valentine*

        I think it was largely because it was just the two of them and the boss is a woman. He was betting she’d want to keep the peace and not endure a tense silence.

    2. Sorrel*

      Because he has Asperger’s (he seemed to think he had grown out of it, but that generally doesn’t happen) he is a little out of kilter with social norms – it can also affect emotional regulation.
      So yeah – he needs to learn from this, but may need a bit more support than others to realise what is acceptable.

      1. Substandard Freddie Mercury*

        This. Please let’s be kind! It’s so, so easy to misunderstand social norms with Asperger’s. OP, i hope you managed to fix this and that you are in a better place now. Good luck. (By the way, i was was the boss, i would want to know about his condition. This would really help me to understand him and to handle this situation.)

      2. wittyrepartee*

        Yeah, the idea that you can grow out of asperger’s is an odd one. I’m ADHD. I’ll always be ADHD, even if I’ve stopped losing my wallet a few times a year.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          You don’t grow out of it, but what can often happen is that you develop enough coping skills that you no longer test as on the autism spectrum. This is why adults with autism are often evaluated based on both current and childhood behaviors to get a better look at their whole neurobiology. Sometimes I say I’ve “aged off” the spectrum, even though that isn’t really accurate.

  4. Fiona*

    I wonder if the letter writer ever sent in a follow up or update. I hope this was a learning experience.

    1. Sorrel*

      Someone above has linked to it – he has Asperger’s and seemed to take the feedback in his stride.

  5. Falling Diphthong*

    My boss has romantic phone conversations
    Ah, one of those phone sex in the office problems.
    That bother me because I’m single.
    …Or not. Oh dear.
    I wrote a long and admittedly somewhat unprofessional email.
    Oh. Dear.

    … and you should just imagine the font of the ‘oh dear’ in response to each new tidbit getting larger and larger as we go through this letter.

    Long ago OP, you can object that your boss has phone sex in front of you. That’s both recreational and inappropriate. A phone call in which someone in the open office says “I love you too Schmoopy” is not an attack on you or your singleness, any more than a phone call in which they tell their kids not to microwave an egg (even if you want kids and don’t have them!) or ask their spouse if they remembered to call the boarding kennel (even if you want a vacation and can’t afford one, or want a dog but have allergies).

    Leaving aside the other pile of unprofessional head desking in this letter, people have lives. They are not having their lives AT you, and if you act like routine brief conversations with friends or family members are some sort of attack on you who don’t have those things, you’re the one out of line.

    1. Karen from Finance's Work is Full of Bees*

      I came here to post something very similar to your first paragraph.

      They are not having their lives AT you

      It’s amazing how often this line is appropiate and therefore I’m saving it in my mind for future use.

      1. Important Moi*

        Yes. Under the comments of another letter, a commenter noted they did not like the use of saying someone was doing something AT another person. I’m surprised at how useful a phrase it has become. I wonder if it’s tied into what I consider an uptick in the both sides are equal culture that seems to have developed as of late.

      2. becca*

        I spent most of my 20s unwillingly single, and I’m sure that at times I was imperfect at remembering that people weren’t having happy relationship lives at me. I knew it intellectually, but man, it’s hard when you’re lonely and sad and you feel like you can’t talk to anyone else about it because one of the things that’s underlining your sadness is how goddamn happy everyone else seems to be.

        But at least I never had those feelings at work, and never gave anyone the silent treatment. I have so much compassion for Long Ago OP’s feelings because I remember my own, but his actions were totally out of line.

        1. Working Mom Having It All*

          I had a coworker way back in the day who was going through a divorce, and who — due to an open plan office not unlike the OP’s situation — forced all of us to behave as if the entire world was being happy AT her. It was so frustrating. Especially because it went beyond people who were in romantic relationships (I was single for this entire period of time) to, like, mentioning certain bands. It was impossible.

      3. wittyrepartee*

        I had (past tense) a friend who was like this. She had some untreated depression. She often got mad when people talked about having significant others, or were close friends with her close friends.

    2. TurquoiseCow*

      Yeah, that last paragraph was my reaction. Boss is not having a romantic relationship AT you. The rest of the world cannot pretend not to be in relationships while you’re single – that’s just untenable. You can maybe ask friends to not be super lovey-dovey in your presence, and you can maybe tell your boss or coworkers that their personal phone calls are interfering with your ability to do work if they’re really long or there are a lot of them.

      But you can’t tell your boss not to have romantic conversations with her SO when you’re in the office. That’s trying for a level of control that’s not going to succeed with most people, but especially not with a boss.

    3. peacep*

      Truth but what’s terrible about not rubbing the love in other people’s faces. Boss wouldn’t be required not to be all lovely dovey around the coworkers with their partner but I’m not certain that being so means the boss is having their relationship at other people either. Both people seem in the wrong if one is only a little.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I have the feeling that single OP would be upset at anyone in a romantic relationship being affectionate, on any level, with their SO would be perceived as being mean. Because, you know, she’s siiinnngggllleee!

        1. SusanIvanova*

          He’s single. And there’s a very toxic culture that consists of men who blame society for their single state. Which isn’t to say that this guy was one of them, but it’s a *very* bad look to even act remotely like that.

          1. Susana*

            Well, it’s different though – if you’re a man, people think you can’t commit or just want women for sex. If you’re a woman, people think you’re too unattractive/difficult/insufficiently obsequious to catch the prize of the man. If you’re a man and not in a relationship, people think you’re a rogue or maybe immature. With women, people think you’re pathetic and tragic.

      2. Scarlet2*

        But how is boss “rubbing the love in other people’s faces”? Is she supposed to censor herself while talking to her partner because LW has hang-ups about their singlehood? Are other people also expected to refrain from announcing their engagement, kissing, holding hands in public?
        LW obviously seems to be hyper-focused on that aspect and they should be learning coping mechanisms instead of expecting everyone else to tip-toe around them.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I find the idea that boss is “rubbing their love” in others’ faces incredible. Unless this were a torrid love triangle, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to rub anyone else’s face in their love. If you’re unhappy about your love life (general “you”), only you can fix it. The world isn’t required to hide their happiness or be unhappy to protect the integrity of your one-man misery party.

        Based on OP’s descriptions and his extreme, inappropriate, immature and disproportionate response to the fact that his boss was loved up and didn’t hide it, I suspect boss’ convos were pretty normal and not obnoxious. I’d bet money that all that was happening was stuff like connecting on logistics, which probably included “how’s your day?” chitchat interspersed with “can’t wait to see you” and “love you” comments.

    4. HannahS*

      Totally. I’m also in my late 20s and single and yes it sometimes makes me sad to hear about everyone else’s partners and spouses and babies (in a “that sounds nice, wish I had that” way), but it’s also…drumroll…MY PROBLEM. Not anyone else’s! Ye gods.

      1. Karen from Finance's Work is Full of Bees*

        Right! Can you imagine not only using that jealousy as an excuse for your work but actually putting it in a written email as a valid reason for underperforming. Wow.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I found that, on its own, to be honest smacking. Like, how could that possibly seem valid or like a good idea??! And then to double and triple down on the least professional of your justifications with even more invalid and unprofessional tactics??

          I get that OP was in his feelings, but I wish he’d had someone in his life who could have helped him avoid all the self-sabotage.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Honest=gob. Not sure how autocorrect came up with that substitute.

            1. Marthooh*

              Honest is gob, gob honest
              That is all ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know.

              Autocorrect has been reading Keats, evidently.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          Yes, if you come to that realization- it should fill you with humiliation and should prompt a change of behavior. Don’t tell people about it and try to get them to change their behavior!!

      2. MOAS*

        Exactly. Good god almighty. This same line of thinking comes up when it comes to children. I am not single but I am struggling to conceive with multiple losses. With that said, am I going to fly in to a rage and be a jerk to my boss bc he’s expecting another one? Or when a coworker brings her baby in for a visit? No. You have the right to feel bad about your circumstances but you can’t lash out at someone just bc they have what you want.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Part of the problem in this letter is viewing it as a problem of the boss’s for the boss to fix, and not a problem of LW’s for the LW to manage on his own. Both in the global “people say ‘I love you’ to their partners on the phone” sense and in the “It’s your boss, the power dynamics are not that you explain your weird hang ups and then wait for them to adjust to accommodate you” sense.

        I recall this as a recurring theme on the “things younger me did that I now cringe over” open thread.

        1. HannahS*

          That’s a really good point. It’s very, “This thing you do bothers me, therefore it’s your fault that I’m upset, and you have to stop doing the thing that upsets me.” Which, like, I get, but it’s not always that straightforward.

    5. last_codon*

      It’s funny because I was immediately sympathetic when I read just the title. But then, I read the content…

  6. MommyMD*

    Sweet fancy Moses. I hope that LW grew up and matured a lot. It sounded like middle school.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I love ‘Sweet fancy Moses’ and will be using that expression frequently from here on.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It is a good encapsulation of the rule about how you don’t find a partner when you are emitting desperation at not finding a partner.

      2. Detached Elemental*

        In the update posted on the original thread, the OP revealed he had Autism Spectrum Disorder.

        While I’m not condoning his behaviour, knowing he had ASD makes it more understandable, and also makes me uncomfortable at posts like this, which reads to me like it is mocking him.

        1. sunny-dee*

          It’s not mockery so much as a legit statement, I think — it’s also the first thing I thought of. Who would want to be in a relationship with someone that narcissistic and with mood swings like “best job ever” to stone cold, multi-day silent treatment over things that have literally nothing to do with him?

        2. Darcy*

          Yeah, I’m also autistic and in my mid 20’s, yet have avoided giving people days long silent treatment! Blaming shitty behaviour on autism lets jerks off the hook and also reinforces negative stereotypes about autistic people.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            As another ASD person, +10000

            (Also, jerks on the spectrum tend to target other people on the spectrum in my experience- especially the creeps and clingers.)

        3. wittyrepartee*

          It’s not the ASD that’s getting in his way, it’s the immaturity and the expectation that everyone should tiptoe around his very very raw nerves.

  7. Observer*

    I really wonder what happened to this OP. While her focus on the Boss’ possibly inappropriate phone conversations is bad, the rest of it is even worse. To the point that Alison’s response may have been a bit under-done. The OP was not “learning in appropriate workplace norms”, they were exhibiting behavior that was barely acceptable in High School.

    I mean, they RAISED THEIR VOICE to their boss, then wrote an unprofessional email (and it must have been some doozy if they are admitting to that), excusing that behavior because the boss is “flaunting their romantic life” while they are single AND because their boss had the temerity to question them! I’m not sure which is worse, bit both are not ust unprofessional, they are extremely childish.

    >sigh< I hope they did some growing up and found a new job where they could do a reboot.

    1. Gadget Hackwrench*

      I hope he did too… but part of me worries he fell down the incel rabbit hole, since he’s already showing signs in the letter, what with being so obsessed with their ‘singledom’ that they consider someone talking to their SO on the phone where they can hear it is “flaunting” their relationship AT them.

  8. MissDisplaced*

    Oh man, there was so much going on here.
    The LW was behaving very immaturely and inappropriately, along with some odd notions about power… BUT the inherent closeness of the office and fact that they shared friends outside of work seems to also be complicating this situation. This did not seem like it was destined to end well.

    Wonder whatever happened?

  9. Liane*

    Ugh, the Letter Writer isn’t someone I’d want to work with, but I don’t care much for the “manager” either. And, unless the “romantic” talk was just an “I love you too Schmoopy” (And I love that, Falling Dipthong), it seems like there’s enough blame to be shared.

    1. a1*

      Yeah, that’s probably the one thing I can “fault” the manager with. Who takes or makes personal phone calls in the open where everyone can hear? Close the door, step outside, something. Even if it’s fairly benign, it is distracting to others. It’s just polite, imo, whether in a large office with multiple people or just one other person around. But this is really a small thing compared to all the LW was doing and how they were acting. They really blew it way out of proportion.

      1. Bee*

        Yeah, I started out somewhat sympathetic to the OP, as it didn’t seem like his boss was doing a great job of maintaining professional boundaries, but they lost me with the sulking and the silent treatment.

        1. valentine*

          Who takes or makes personal phone calls in the open where everyone can hear?
          Someone who’s not saying anything untoward, doesn’t have a door to close, and possibly works through the calls. The objection isn’t even to the content itself, but to the content in relation to OP’s relationship status being single for a length of time he deems too great. If the boss asked him what his status was, how long it had been such, and how negatively he felt about it, she’d be way out of line, just as he was for reporting all that, but how else would she know when to take those calls elsewhere? It’s an outrageous, preposterous ask that only affects work because OP lets it.

          OP could’ve thought of headphones on his own (advice he never took) or asked to work in a different room (which I can see resulting in the revelation that just the existence of the calls hurt him), but, no, he expected a woman to (1) go out of her way to (2) soothe him.

          1. a1*

            Did you read my whole comment? It seems like you didn’t or you wouldn’t “refute” it with this since I said the LW was wrong.

            But this is really a small thing compared to all the LW was doing and how they were acting. They really blew it way out of proportion.

  10. Lindsay gee*

    I would like to add that working on something for HOURS doesn’t guarantee its’ quality. That was the first mistake.

    1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      I had a boss who’d tell his boss that he was working for “hours and hours” on something.

      In reality, he’d get into work on Mondays 10 minutes before his boss and copy-paste last week’s Thing into this week’s Thing, then print it out and bring it to his boss like he’d spent all weekend doing it. And because he’d copy-pasted without checking, of course, the Thing was riddled with mistakes.

    2. Observer*

      That is so true. The OP did clarify that the boss was wrong in that, according to the OP, the information she wanted was actually in the piece he’d written. But that is a TOTALLY different issue than “I spent hours.”

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I thought it was telling that OP took the feedback as an attack on his character. That’s not out of the norm when you’re frustrated with someone, but he could have so easily deescalated his emotional response with a cheerful “Oh! It’s in there at paragraph 4.”

      2. Lilo*

        But that does suggest you may have a writing clarity issue if a crucial piece of information isn’t obviously in there.

  11. Falling Diphthong*

    To get away from the phone calls to the inciting incident: OP, you say that your boss doubted how thoroughly you had done a task. In response, you say that you a) spent hours on it b) have a work ethic c) consider yourself meticulous. None of those things rule out messing up the assigned task. Maybe you didn’t understand the instructions. Maybe you spent a long time massaging the presentation rather than double-checking all the data, or vice versa. When your boss–especially your great boss whom you have liked up until now–expresses doubts about a task you’ve done, the professional thing to do is figure out where the doubts came from and either allay them (“I did double-check those numbers”) or address the problem (“I didn’t realize I needed to get an estimate for all three parts; I’ll do that and have it to you tomorrow”).

    At some point in work, all of us mess up. Sometimes it’s a legit “how was I to know?” and sometimes you really kinda shoulda double-checked, but your response to questions about something you completed shouldn’t be an enraged “How dare you attack my meticulousness?!!!!”

    1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      Frankly, given the rest of this letter, I think the odds are against the OP being anywhere near as meticulous as she thinks she is.

      1. SMH RN*

        “I am meticulous”is one of the catchphrases my most error prone colleague has tbh

        1. Allonge*

          I have one of these too! They made 5 mistakes on a list of 30 hotel reservations. I point this out and the response is ‘I am meticulous!’. Grrr… not that I see!

  12. RUKiddingMe*

    “…without being a complete jackass.”

    Oh, I think that ship had already sailed.

      1. a1*

        “Your phones calls are distracting me and I can’t concentrate and therefor it’s your fault my work isn’t up to snuff!!! ”

  13. Luna*

    I know this is an old letter, but I am just baffled that the OP went off to ‘whine’ about their being single to their boss. If the angle of the ‘your romantic conversations are distracting me from work; at least try to keep these personal phone calls limited to your break time. Or step outside, if you must answer’, I could understand that because it’s affecting OP’s work… based on it being a distraction, and not a reminder of, “I’m single…”.

    I do hope that OP has since left this job and found some other place to work. Especially if they ‘let’ personal matters like singledom affect their work so much.

    1. Archaeopteryx*

      True, if this is how they react to conflict in a work setting, they’re not ready to have a healthy relationship yet anyway.

    2. LGC*

      I like seeing things from the archives before we figured Alison out and every letter became Game of Teapots. I’m not gonna lie, I really loved how the LW’s behavior became worse and worse, and then they were still like, “so, I’m justified in this, right?”

      That said, on second read it’s not that shocking that the LW handled things like that…if you consider them friends with their boss. Which they basically were, or at least they were fairly close acquaintances. Also, I kind of think the singledom is a red herring for having to share workspace with their boss constantly – the problem isn’t LW being lonely since 2005, it’s probably the proximity itself. Ask me how I know.

      1. valentine*

        before we figured Alison out
        What does this mean?

        Expecting his friend to change their routine so he doesn’t have negative feelings is possibly a less outrageous, but still preposterous, ask.

        I kind of think the singledom is a red herring for having to share workspace with their boss constantly
        If so, given his attitude, I’d expect him to tell her to work in a different room.

    3. dumblewald*

      I think part of the reason they felt they could do that was because they had a sort of friendship/casual acquaintance prior to working together. It wasn’t as formal as if they didn’t know each other and there was a significant age gap. And my impression of small nonprofits when I used to contract with them is they are generally pretty informal, bordering on unprofessional at times.

    1. Jessen*

      OP’s comment update on the original mentioned that – he said he did intend to seek counseling, but that his health insurance had not kicked in yet.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      True! Kind of a theme this month: “Now that I’ve been here a couple of months, I’ve decided I can start telling everyone senior to me where they’re failing…”

  14. Aphrodite*

    Aside from the various communications that took my eyebrows to the roof, I was especially blown away by their relationships–good friends in common, a brother-in-law, Facebook, and more. I wonder if any or most of those relationships were used when this OP got the job and how the ending, which I presume was not good, affected them.

  15. ENFP in Texas*

    I would love to know if this letter had a follow up. Because if this person still has a job, I will be amazed.

    There is so much wrong in this letter that I hardly know where to start. You don’t raise your voice to the boss. You don’t tell the boss that their phone calls are bothering you. You sure as heck don’t write unprofessional emails to your boss when you’re at home and then send them. Especially when you’ve only been there a whopping 2 months.

    Your singleness is not the boss’s problem.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Type those suckers into a word document–so you don’t accidentally hit send–and then delete them.

      1. valentine*

        Especially when you’ve only been there a whopping 2 months.
        And are still probationary.

        Type those suckers into a word document
        I wouldn’t do this because sitcoms have me expecting it to end up as a breaking-news Senate filibuster.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Um. If you look at the link to OP’s response at that time, you can get more background.
      I don’t think “being this dopey” is helping this person or anyone in a similar position. OP knows he needs help to work this through. That’s actually smart thinking.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Do you know what OP’s user name was? There are over 500 comments on the original thread I got tired of looking for the OP… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  16. Lilo*

    Wow. There *might* be a way to ask your boss to limit personal conversations. But that is not how you do it.

  17. MOAS*

    Whatever “wrong” the boss did by having those conversations is wayyyy overshadowed by the OPs behavior. Not taking the bait bc boss is continuing to act happy? Noting when she leaves a voicemail??
    I feel like if you’re paying so much attention to someone, you may not be focusing on work as much.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      “I feel like if you’re paying so much attention to someone, you may not be focusing on work as much.”

      But he’s meticulous!

      1. valentine*

        Not taking the bait bc boss is continuing to act happy?
        The boss didn’t take the bait: She ignored the silent treatment instead of trying to pacify him.

  18. Grace*

    It’s interesting how both in the original and this repeat, the majority of comments – if they use gendered pronouns – lean female.

    As OP noted in his follow-up comment ( he’s a he, and it’s interesting how many people automatically went the other way. I know that we generally tend towards using female pronouns as default on here, but most people seem to stick to gender-neutral when talking about OPs if it’s not specified.

    1. Myrin*

      but most people seem to stick to gender-neutral when talking about OPs if it’s not specified.

      I don’t actually think that’s the case. I would have to specifically count, of course, but I reckon the majority of readers (myself very definitely included) use “she” for OPs and people mentioned in letters alike unless another gender is clearly stated.

    2. Incantanto*

      I thought that was odd: OP read to me very much as one of “its the whole worlds fault I’m single” type men which populate the internet

      1. sunny-dee*

        I knee-jerked to “she,” but mainly because I had a friend in college with this mentality and I just assumed the OP was also a she.

    3. fposte*

      Alison’s own policy is to refer to managers as “she” unless gender is stated; the commenters generally, though not universally, therefore use “she” as a default pronoun for everybody involved. It doesn’t mean anything specific about the read on this letter.

    4. LGC*

      Like, as someone who is EXTREMELY MALE on here…honestly, I just assume everyone else here is female unless otherwise stated. Plus, although this is a…memorable letter, a lot of us are newer here (like I fell in the wormhole last year or at the end of 2017).

      (I’ve tried to not gender people explicitly in comments, but nine times out of ten I’ll write “she” before catching myself and writing “they.”)

      I kind of disagree with fposte that it doesn’t affect the interpretation – given the societies most of us live in, I’ll admit that finding out the LW is male is more troublesome to me. (Fairly or not, his behavior reads as him feeling entitled to control his female boss’s behavior.) That said, the response is the same – his behavior is infantile, and he should stop immediately.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t mean gender doesn’t matter to the behavior; I just mean the use of “she” in comments doesn’t necessarily suggest that there was a particular lens that made people use it. One thing I like about the default “she,” which I definitely embrace, is that it takes away the “guess what gender this person is!” game is when writing about it, much as a default “they” would.

        1. LGC*

          Sorry for misinterpreting – in that case, yeah, I agree. (I’m still preferential to “they” because I’m drunk off my own “wokeness” a little wary of misgendering the OP, but the default “she” is also good.)

          I did find it interesting that finding out that OP IS A MAN not only affected my perspective, but others’ as well.

          1. fposte*

            I snickered at your strikethrough. I think there are arguments for changing to “they,” but I grew up in an era of default “he” and I kind of like redressing that balance for a while.

            1. valentine*

              It doesn’t redress the problem of the male default and, when referring to specific people, is needlessly misgendering.

              I’ve found I can’t even trust a “he” in a comment because, more than once, it turned out OP used “they”.

    5. Courageous cat*

      Yeah, and some of these “it was a guy” corrections (not yours) are getting tedious, especially since it’s not like it would change the advice really. I almost wish we had more of a Captain Awkward format where OP specifies pronouns to reduce this.

      1. valentine*

        For the incel-related reasons explained below, it matters it was a guy.

        I think OPs here have the option to share their pronouns. Some have said they didn’t use them because they didn’t want it factored in the advice.

    6. KayEss*

      I actually remembered this letter from reading the archives, and was like “is this the one where the writer was a dude and it had a weird incel-y vibe?” but then in re-reading it I was second guessing myself… I think what throws off the perception is that he doesn’t express any attraction to his boss in the letter, and also the whole spiel at the end about being Facebook friends with her and travelling in the same social circles. For whatever reason, that constellation of characteristics just reads as more of a woman-woman dynamic to me. (Like, are dudes regularly friends with their bosses on Facebook? I feel like 99% of the time I hear about that situation it’s exclusively women involved, since women are socialized to stress out more about Facebook connections.)

    1. dumblewald*

      I initially thought the commenter was female. Because I thought this, I found the tone/behavior typical of some females (passive aggressiveness, romantic jealousy), as bad as that sounds. I was quite surprised to learn that the OP was male! But yeah, I’ve only seen this type of insecurity from “incels”.

    2. D'Arcy*

      Yes, the OP absolutely came off as a borderline-incel type with his utterly entitled attitude regarding, “I’m unhappily single, therefore my boss having completely normal conversations with her partner is HORRIBLY OFFENSIVE AND INAPPROPRIATE!”

      The way OP feels he has standing to lecture his boss that her management style doesn’t *fit him* is also very, very masculine-coded. Treating a female boss like she’s actually a junior peer? Classic man logic.

        1. My boss is an idiot*

          I do NOT recommend anyone look it up on the Internet, unless you want to be traumatized. Also, you are rude.

          To Ponyboy: the manosphere is a collection of blogs run by guys who identify as “incels” (involuntary celibates) and they are a special brand of sexist, misogynist creepos.

          1. TangoFoxtrot*

            I’m even more worried about people who look it up and are NOT traumatized—the ones who stumble on a few tame articles first and think, yeah, these people have some good points, maybe I should listen to the rest of what they have to say.

            It’s better to have some background on the manosphere *before* you Google it.

    3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Yes. If it weren’t for the update, I’d have been worried for the boss.

    4. AngryOwl*

      YES! That was one of my first thoughts. But he sounds less so in his update, actually sounds like he got it so I hope all is well for him and Boss now.

  19. Elizabeth West*

    I’m glad to see the OP’s response (comment link upthread) because HOOOOOOOOOOOOBOY

  20. dumblewald*

    Whoa. If I had a boss like this, I would go home and joke about the stuff she says on the phone with my roommates (because being able to overhear my boss’s phone conversations with her bf might be funny), but I wouldn’t say anything to her face! One of the tenets of keeping your job is making sure your boss likes you, or at least can tolerate you.

  21. Pommette!*

    Oh, the silent treatment.

    I haven’t had to experience it since middle school (and found it incredibly distressing at the time), and gladly assumed that it was just one of those things that adults don’t do (especially not at work). But I keep hearing from friends who encounter it from colleagues. People with real jobs, in real workplaces, who ignore their colleagues over small personal slights. People who don’t actually lose their jobs or get disciplined and go on expressing anger by selectively ignoring the human beings with whom they work. It’s a real thing! How is it a real thing?

    Anyways, I hope that the OP (whose response to the original post sounded thoughtful and promising) has moved on from this behaviour, and is in a better place than he was seven years ago, both personally and professionally.

    1. Koala dreams*

      I actually associate it more with adults and less with kids. Kids usually don’t stay quiet for too long, and also, they often change their feelings from day to day. Mostly I hear about spouses that do the silent treatment, actually. No idea how that became a thing.

  22. StaceyIzMe*

    The components of emotional intelligence are comprised of 1) self-awareness, 2) self-regulation, 3) awareness of others and 4) management of relationships with others singly and in networks. What does that mean for you, OP? 1) You can only take action that is conscious and effective to the extent that you practice being aware of your emotions and thoughts (and to the extent that you can regulate these). 3) You can be aware of your boss insofar as her behaviors impact you, and you can even ask for 4) appropriate accommodations (wear headphones/ move to another spot if accessible to work). You might have been able to ask for a reduction in the frequency of duration of calls if you hadn’t sent the email and followed up with silent treatment. Now, that ship has sailed. (And honestly, it’s debatable whether it would have worked.) You and your boss have both been extremely unprofessional. You can only control yourself. You’ll advance in your career and have standing to ask more of the people that you work with to the extent that you practice good emotional intelligence across all four aspects. It’s a good idea to sit yourself down, reflect on your errors in judgement, and use them as a learning opportunity. Then, implement the changes that will be helpful. (Don’t write unprofessional emails, don’t make other people responsible for your feelings, don’t use the silent treatment and don’t mistake sociable energy for a level hierarchy in professional settings. Really, REALLY think through what your goals are and be disciplined, diligent and strategic about using good emotional intelligence to get where you want to go. It’s as much a factor in personal and professional success as are good skills and a robust network.

  23. Belle8bete*

    Someone linked to the OP’s reply in the comments from the original post. He has aspergers, which puts some of this into context. But WOWOWOWOWOW.

    1. Observer*

      Fortunately for the OP, he seems to realize that this is not a useful framing. His behavior was wildly out of line, and he was at a point, according to him, that he should have been able to recognize it himself.

      1. Anon Librarian*

        I hope they were able to work out a solution and move past this. Since he was young, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt and guessing that some education on workplace norms and how to communicate well would help. We all start from different places. There’s a lot that they don’t (typically) teach you in school.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          He was in his late 20s. Sure that’s young to me now, but at what point do we stop giving a pass (or a partial pass) because “young?” IMO he should have known better by that age.

          1. LGC*

            It’s pretty thorny because…you’re right that age isn’t a pass, and – to add onto that – this is more a “general social norms” thing than a “workplace norms” thing. (I mean, yeah, he describes himself as having had Asperger’s, but he also threw a days-long tantrum.)

            But I don’t think that the real issue is that the LW was young at the time (he’s roughly my age), it’s that the letter is old. Like, I feel like the appropriate response is that LW was a jerk, not that he currently is a jerk per se (since he got slapped down on the internet and actually…acknowledged his jerk behavior). And to me, it read like some of the comments slipped into the latter framing (there were some comments speculating that OP could be an incel, which is…a pretty loaded term, to say the least).

            I’m reading his response right now, and…like, I’m not sure what to think. He did acknowledge a lot of the issues that were brought up (which were similar to what’s getting brought up now. But on the other hand, maybe I’m way too skeptical/cynical, but I’m not entirely sure if he actually took it to heart or just said what he though the commentariat wanted to hear.

            (On the other hand, I’m just Judgey McJudgerton on the Internet. And to be honest, my opinion doesn’t matter here – it was really between him and his boss.)

            1. Observer*

              Well, we can never know what a person REALLY thinks. And he wouldn’t have had any reason to post such a long response if he didn’t mean it at least a little bit.

              He certainly WAS being an idiot, and you really can’t blame the aspergers – as you not a days long tantrum and insisting that it is ALL the boss, even HIS admittedly unprofessional email, isn’t an “aspergers thing” or “ASD thing.” Hopefully he’s much less of a jerk, because the first step to changing is to admit that there is an issue. And he really did seem to understand that.

              1. LGC*

                Good point – I think I’m also being a bit cautious because I felt like I was excusing his (terrible!) behavior by saying it was five years ago. Which…to be honest, I do think the age of this letter made me less angry at the LW because this happened a while back, he was being petty, and I felt like there wasn’t much use in getting mad at him over the internet. (AAM already told him he was a jerk five years ago.)

                That said – I agree that his diagnosis isn’t an excuse! (As someone who is also on the spectrum and terminally single, he’s out of line. As a person who was raised in a society, his behavior was totally out of line.)

    2. Luna*

      As someone with asperger’s themselves, I cannot see myself reacting this way. I might have asked my boss if they can try to lessen the personal phone calls during work hours or step outside, if they have to take the call. But that’s because I would consider the private talks to be very distracting from work itself — not a painful reminder of being single. But then I don’t put that much worry or emphasis on being in a relationship, so I might not understand OP’s viewpoint much in that aspect.

      1. Aleta*

        I mean, sure, but autism is a spectrum and we all bear it differently. I’m with you – I don’t care, and combined with ADHD, I am extremely good at just ignoring all things relationship (like, I couldn’t tell you exactly when Valentine’s Day is, though I know it exists and I think it’s in Feb?). But it’s not even remotely strange to me that someone on the spectrum WOULD care about being in a relationship, and get fixated on it, as we do. It’s certainly not great, but it’s absolutely plausible.

        1. JSPA*

          Yep. Learning human interaction intellectually & at a more advanced age, rather than by osmosis throughout childhood is like eating all your meals smorgasboard-style. Unless you’re really methodical about it, you miss entire sections (especially if they don’t seem relevant)… but different people miss different sections.

  24. Anon Librarian*

    Stuff can be distracting and affect your productivity. There are professional ways to bring it up. You have to be constructive and avoid getting personal. She could have brought headphones and explained that it helps her focus. If that wasn’t an option, she could have said, “I’m facing a challenge. I work more productively when there are no conversations in the background, but of course this is a shared office and we all talk. I’ve thought about solutions. Could I work from home for part of the day? Could I step outside and work from the courtyard when I need some quiet in order to focus?” Something like that. Talk in person and try to meet the other person half way.

  25. Ms.Vader*

    I am perpetually single…comedically so according to my friends (we need a thread on horrible dating stories and I can fill it all) but i have never once thought my coworkers discussing their couplehood or having calls with their SOs were in any way distracting for the sole reason that i am single and they are not. Oh lordy this letter writer. I feel some therapy would have been warranted. How exhausting to have your entire self worth drilled down to your relationship status.

  26. Akcipitrokulo*

    I was *so* impressed with the response – yeah, original letter just showed he didn’t get it, but the response was one that showed he’d listened and reflected on it. Which is a good thing!

  27. Whippers*

    I really do not like the response to this letter. Not because I condone the OP’s behaviour but because of Alison’s continued insistence that a manager has the right to basically act whatever way they want, “unless they violate a law or jeopardize your safety”.
    I’m sorry but I can’t get behind this; being a manager does not give you carte blanche to do whatever you want. Would you say that it’s fine for a manager to shout at their staff on a daily basis? Because that technically fits the parameters of what you say a manager can do without repercussion.

    1. Observer*

      Nope. That’s not what Alison is saying. But there is a difference between “you don’t have standing to address this”, which is true in this case and “This is OK”, which Alison explicitly does not say.

      When a manager is doing something that is not illegal or unsafe and they are not doing it “at you” then you don’t have standing to address that in most cases. And “yelling at you” doesn’t fall under that category AT ALL.

    2. JSPA*

      Whatever else it may be–and really, we don’t know what aspect struck LW as “mushy”–it is not a license to manage from below.

      It is also not OK to frame what could have been a potentially- reasonable request (“I find personal phone conversations unusually distracting; how would you like me to handle that, when you’re taking a personal call?”) as a combination of a) complaint, b) shaming, c)discussion of one’s own emotional landscape, d) demand and e) insubordination and f) punishment.

  28. Ponyboy Curtis*

    Wow…as someone who has seen real results from seeing a therapist, I have to say that the comments on here are extremely insensitive. LW is not “bananas”. LW has a problem, and problems can be solved.
    Yes, the LW had an inappropriate reaction to a conversation that did not involve him. Yes, his email response and silent treatment was even worse: he made it all about him, which was not appropriate. It could have cost him his job. Here, due to an extremely understanding boss, it didn’t.
    My initial reaction was “this person needs to get control of their emotions.” This happened to me last year: I am EXTREMELY unhappy in my work situation. And it seems the harder I try to get out of it, the more it seems like a life sentence. This unhappiness at work went into my personal life, which is the opposite of what happened to LW. I would never, ever allow myself to lose control and blow up at work, not at a coworker, and definitely not at a manager. I bottle it up, and take it home and withdraw from everything, often drinking more than I should to unwind. This is not a strategy I recommend.
    My epiphany was driving down the interstate screaming extremely colorful obscenities at the idiot blocking the left lane in front of me. I realized that is not how a healthy person reacts to the all too common presence of idiots in the left lane, and I called my company’s EAP line.
    What my therapist and I have concluded is that if I can get my professional life in order (i.e. find a job I don’t literally have to drag myself out of bed on Monday mornings), and the issues in my personal life will probably work themselves out.
    Not being a therapist, I predict if LW sorts out the issues in his personal life, he will be easier to deal with at work. It doesn’t surprise me to read in his update that he is indeed on the spectrum, and his recognition that he could benefit from counseling.
    I wish him all the best, and can sympathize.

    1. Detached Elemental*

      Agreed. Also, in the comments of the original story, the letter writer disclosed they are a person with Autism.

      That’s not “bananas”, that’s someone with a disability.

      I’m not saying their behaviour was appropriate, but when you understand the has ASD I think that reframed how you respond.

      1. Observer*

        None of his behavior had anything to do with Autism. Yes, SOME of the emotional reaction may have been related. But raising your voice to your boss, writing emails that you KNOW are inappropriate, deliberately giving your boss the silent treatment are NOT typically a result of ASD.

    2. Isobel*

      I started using “bananas” in conversation after noticing I used the word “crazy” pretty often and never wish to offend or hurt someone with mental illness. I would not be inclined to call a behavior directly caused by any diagnosis bananas. But I also firmly believe lots of people, whether they have a diagnosed mental illness, or are neurotypical, or have autism, sometimes behave in rude or outrageous ways. And people are going to tell those stories. I’m not arguing for my rights to use “bananas,” of course. Just wondering how to talk about weird extremes of human behavior.

      1. Isobel*

        I myself have mental health diagnoses. And I myself, on a number of occasions, have definitely behaved in ways accurately described as bananas!

        1. valentine*

          Bananas is synonymous with crazy. We can avoid synonyms and use, from your post: rude, outrageous, weird, extreme.

  29. Yvette*

    I think the best letters are the ones where Alison’s response starts out along the lines of “This is probably not the answer you are expecting…”

  30. WMM*

    I hope OP has learned more about how to support his mental health and build healthy relationships of all sorts. The silent treatment is incredibly destructive to relationships of any sort.

  31. SezU*

    My eyebrows were ALL the way up in my hairline by the time I got done with this one! Holy smokes!!

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My brain locked up after I got to “and then I gave my boss the silent treatment”, and I was unable to read any further.

  32. Why are we pretending this is normal*

    OP sounds like a dream compared to a recent 20-something co-worker I had. She had a lot of emotional problems/daddy issues outside of work and laid the responsibility of ALL othat on her colleagues at work. If she didn’t get her way or was slighted she would impose silent treatment and hold obvious (quite comical) grudges. She baby talked, had inappropriately close relationships with students, expected the boss to be her mommy (no, it is never ok to ask your boss if you can have some alone time UNDER HER DESK when you’ve been ”triggered”), meddling in co-workers family lives/relationships, dissing the boss’ husband to his face, etc. When she gave her notice she was upset that her resignation was accepted and the boss didn’t fight to keep her. Yeah, you can’t make this stuff up. I do wish our manager had been strong on that front. I’m so glad that coworker’s special blend of TOXIC soup is far, far away.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I shared an office with someone like that for a while. Granted, it was my second job/second year in the US, I was just barely out of my 20s, and had a lot of messy stuff going on at home, so I know I did a lot of stupid things myself, but that coworker was something else. She overshared, expected others to do the same, called her family and friends from her work phone at her desk and was on the phone with them for hours every day with even more overshare-y stuff. We had a third coworker sharing the office with us, and you could tell she was wearing him out too. Finally she found another job and left. Wasn’t until a year later that Coworker#3 told me that Ex-Coworker used to talk to him behind my back about the affair I had with my boss, like it was a known fact (there was no affair). I think she tried coming back at one point, and everyone in the office was, OH, PLEASE NO.

  33. What the What*

    OP sounds like a dream compared to a recent 20-something co-worker I had. She had a lot of emotional problems/daddy issues outside of work and laid the responsibility of ALL othat on her colleagues at work. If she didn’t get her way or was slighted she would impose silent treatment and hold obvious (quite comical) grudges. She baby talked, had inappropriately close relationships with students, expected the boss to be her mommy (no, it is never ok to ask your boss if you can have some alone time UNDER HER DESK when you’ve been ”triggered”), meddling in co-workers family lives/relationships, dissing the boss’ husband to his face, etc. When she gave her notice she was upset that her resignation was accepted and the boss didn’t fight to keep her. Yeah, you can’t make this stuff up. I do wish our manager had been strong on that front. I’m so glad that coworker’s special blend of TOXIC soup is far, far away.

  34. anon for this*

    I completely agree with the advice, and I do think that discussions of gender and power dynamics are perpetually relevant and important, but I always want to squirm a little bit when the letters that get reposted are ones in which the OP is told they really need to change their own behavior. It always seems as if the comments are going to be “hey, who’s up for another round of scolding.” I hope the OP rethought things enough that there would never have been a time after the term “incel” became well known that it would have applied to him.

  35. Supreme of Salem*

    Yes Allison, this is the tone that your advice needs to start taking with these types of posts. I’ve already criticized your approach as being too indulgent and “nice” when you need to be more blunt and, unfortunately, “mean” so the message actually sinks in with these people that are dangerously oblivious about themselves and their jobs.

  36. I’m not normally this harsh...*

    Ugh. I know this is old, and I know he updated, but I can’t even. I’m not sure what bothers me more – that he raised his voice for ANY reason, or that he only brought up the phone calls after he had behaved terribly, as a justification for said behaviour.

    I have a feeling what he considers “romantic” is just regular couple conversations, but even if the manager was way, way out of line, it was not appropriate to yell, nor to raise it in that context.

    And I’ll just face palm the reference to sexual harassment. He’s clearly never experienced it. There could even be a case made (from her side) that she is experiencing it, although thankfully (?) the OP could probably show that his issues are so bad that he would be this inappropriate with a man, too. Although I wonder if he would have raised his voice and felt as threatened by the authority of a male boss, I’m guessing he would have felt slightly less entitled in that situation.

    Either way this is firable. It is so firable I wish I could fire him. I’ve had a few staff over the years with this kind of entitlement and I couldn’t show them to the door fast enough.

  37. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I wish we had a current update about how long this job lasted for. I would ire anyone if after 2 months they had the nerve to fire off such an inappropriate email.

  38. Don't get salty*

    Wow, so shocking the LW hasn’t had a relationship in nearly a decade. In just over two months, he’s shown an immaturity that is almost impressive for its boldness. This is supposed to be the on your best behavior/good impressions phase of the working relationship. And his workmate is his boss! How much to bet that when he’s on equal footing with someone in a relationship, his antics are amplified times 10?

  39. WickerBag*

    I’m sad this letter got reposted, because Alison must have known there would be a pile-on on the OP. I don’t think he deserves that. He reacted very maturely to the criticism, took all advice on board, gave background information that put things in perspective and agreed that he needed therapy and would be getting it once his insurance kicked in the following month.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Agreed. If anyone read his follow up comments they would see the thing worked into a non-issue, because OP took responsibility. We should be applauding OP, but some folks missed that part.

      I dunno, we all step in crap from time to time. It’s not the fact that we stepped in crap that is the problem, the real problem is when we don’t step up to the plate and take responsibility for our actions. I think OP listened and made necessary adjustments.

      OP, if you are still reading, I hope things are better for you and I hope you found a more professional work environment.

  40. gawaine42*

    I don’t remember seeing this, but I’m going through it with someone now – an otherwise really strong junior employee who’s decided that giving me the silent treatment or putting headphones on when I walk into her shared office is appropriate behavior. I think it’s corrected now, but I have to assume that someone, somewhere, is putting the idea in people’s heads that this is OK. Is there a TV series I missed, or an advice columnist who’s suggesting it?

  41. LaDeeDa*

    Whoa is all I could think. This letter is B-A-N-A-N-A-S. I wish there was an update on how the LW eventually handled the situation and if she has matured enough to be horrified by her behavior.

  42. records tyrant*

    I wish that this repost had included the follow-up response from OP linked further upthread. I understand the impulse to scold OP–I found his behaviour terribly off-putting and offensive as well!–but this post is from 2012, and at that time he took all of the criticism he received to heart and seemed committed to changing his behaviour and attitude going forward.

    I would be far more interested in receiving an update from OP now, in 2019, to see what his career looks like and how he has learned from this experience.

  43. Confused*

    I don’t get these comments. Yes, OP sucks and is being unprofessional with that email and the silent treatment. The boss also sucks for having inappropriate conversations at work and not having boundaries with OP. Why is OP the only one getting heat in these comments? The boss is just as bad.

  44. Complicated Spirit*

    This is one of those situations when someone couches their petty, jealous demands in terms of, “I think it’s rude and thoughtless for other people to demonstrate their happiness when others around them aren’t happy”.

    It’s the equivalent of, “I think it’s rude for my sister to be in a happy marriage when I’m in a miserable divorce” and “I think it’s rude for someone to do yoga in a place where I can see them while I’m still recovering from my accident” and “I think it’s rude for people to pray in public when I’ve rejected religion” and “I think it’s rude for my cousin to talk about all her fitness habits and goals she’s achieved when I’m in such poor health” and “I think it’s rude for my boss and coworkers to use voicemail when I hate it”.

    I could go on. And on and on.

    It all comes down to dressing up selfish, silly demands as mere requests towards others to be polite and “more thoughtful”. Instead of accepting that others have the freedom to exist and act as they wish (within reason, of course), they turn it into how everyone else is the bad guy for 1) Not knowing, without being told, what that individual person wants (usually presented as “Doesn’t my brother-in-law know that not everyone makes the money he makes, and so it’s cruel of him to invite me to his nice house?”), and 2) Not valuing those wants as highly as the person who has them.

  45. Astrea*

    Ooof. As a perpetually single 31-year-old, I’ve never liked being around people who are talking or acting romanticallywith others. Having to work in close proximity to someone who regularly has romantic phone conversations would make me…unthinkably miserable. I don’t know if I could tolerate such a job, and dread ever having to find out. (I feel the same envy regarding other peoples’ jobs, vacation travels, etc.) But I wouldn’t send them an angry, demanding message, having learned in fifth grade that this is a bad idea — as a budding environmentalist, I sent my teacher a letter stating a refusal to sit at a table with an “electricity-wasting” lamp, and got quite an angry scolding. For a while in college, I hit my friends with a plastic porcupinefish when they acted romantic or sexual toward each other, but that’s behind me now too. And work is stricter and more punitive than school about such things. I don’t think there’s much an envious person can do when avoidance isn’t an option. Just button up at the time and talk to a therapist later, if you can find a good one. That’s what I do.

  46. Flash Bristow*

    Alison, I am just wondering whether you touch base with the OP before reprinting an old post? If it had been me and this came up again now, it would kinda knock me for six.

    In a sort of similar vein I’ve been recognised in re-runs of a very old prog (on late night satellite channels) where I called out something from the audience which I now totally regret. Even though I’m now half the weight I was and with a totally different hair colour and style, people for some reason assume it was recent?! Just a heads up that it was being re-run would be helpful rather than coming out of the blue.

    Similarly if I’d written to you half a decade ago, I’d be thrown if I saw it pop up again – both out of embarrassment and to get the comments all over again when I’d done my best to move on. At worst it could be quite triggery.

    Anyway I’ll shut up – obviously it’s your site and you can do what you want with it, and I really do appreciate your work for us all! – but I would rather see re-runs of the worst secret Santa gifts, or whatever, than a situation where the OP is likely to be thrown by their history coming back to them.

    In short I was just wondering if you give OPs a heads up so the re-run doesn’t floor them, or similar.

    Thanks again for all you do – and that’s a genuine comment rather than trying to ameliorate my query.

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