employee cries when she’s frustrated, my boss felt “personally disrespected” by me, and more

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

1. My employee cries when she’s frustrated

I have an employee who’s response when frustrated by a problem is to cry. It started to happen last summer when we were working through her visa renewal process. It was extremely stressful for her and she was worried about not being able to work or getting deported. She was also trying to plan a rushed wedding around this time. I would cry too if in I was in her position, so I made the decision to support her as much as I could. It was uncomfortable for me, because it was a lot of crying sessions, and talking her down from the ledge. Luckily the problem has been happily resolved.

A couple of weeks ago she started crying about a job-related issue. It was a new type of work for her, but one that majority of the department has done and, given that she’s 15 years in the profession, it was a disproportionate reaction to the problem. I talked with her about the source of the problem and have tried to clarify work processes and work with some other project members to manage expectation and deliverables. What concerns me is that between the visa issue and this project issue, it’s been almost a year of crying. I think I am have created a pattern of “cry and Jane will fix it” and I have to manage a project that isn’t mine to begin with.

I talked to my boss about it and he suggested that this employee may need coaching or resources on how to handle stress in a more professional way. I am not sure how to address this the employee. Saying “you cry a lot and it’s uncomfortable or unprofessional” doesn’t seem compassionate, but at the same time I am starting to dread when she comes to my office door.

Yeah, occasional crying is one thing, but if it’s becoming a regular occurrence, that’s disruptive. It sounds like it’s getting in the way of the work discussions you need to have and making you spend time managing her emotions, and you’re taking on work that should live with her. I don’t think it’s your job to coach her on how to handle stress, but you can (kindly) flag for her that it’s something she needs to try to control.

If I’m understanding correctly that this latest bout of crying has been multiple times and not just once, start by asking her what’s going on: “You’ve seemed really upset lately. Is everything okay?” Depending on her answer, you might then say, “I’m sorry you’re having a tough time! I’m sympathetic to what you’re going through, but I also need to make sure we can have the work discussions we need to have. Is there anything I can do on my end to help with that?” Who knows, maybe there’s something you can do that would help. (You can’t agree to, say, never give her critical feedback. But you could agree to try ignoring the tears if expressing sympathy makes them worse, or so forth.)

If it keeps happening after that, the next time she cries, I’d say, “I can see that you’re upset. Why don’t you take a few minutes and get some water, and let me know when you’re ready to talk later this afternoon?” The idea here is that you’re signaling, “We need to wait until you’re calmer before we tackle this.” Or you could say, “I can see you’re upset and I don’t want to be insensitive to that, but we do need to talk about how to move forward. Can we do that now, or would you rather resume tomorrow?” If you do a few rounds of this and it’s still happening, then there’s a bigger discussion you need to have — but I’d start here and see if this solves most of it.

2. My boss felt “personally disrespected” that I booked vacation dates without checking with her first

Last month, my boyfriend and I were discussing taking a trip to see some relatives of his and I found a really good deal on flights there for about eight weeks later. I booked (knowing that I should have run this by my boss but also feeling comfortable if I did have to pay more to switch the flight). When I was next in the office, I asked my boss about the two days off I would need and she disclosed that she had planned to begin working on a large new proposal and that there would be a large meeting for it during the time I had planned to be away. She asked for more information about the trip and I mentioned that I had flights already but that it was no big deal to change them. It sounded like an exciting new direction for us and I thought it was the end of it.

Two days later, she called me in to discuss it again and opened by saying that she found it personally disrespectful that I had booked the travel and stated that she is my boss and tries to make my life good so I should give her more consideration/respect for that. I was absolutely stunned. I apologized for the situation, reiterated that it was not my intention to have her feel disrespected and that it was no problem to change the flights. I guess my question is — am I right to feel weird about the language of personal disrespect? Because while it was definitely not 100% the best idea to book the flights without prior approval, I’m feeling a little lost at the magnitude of a reaction I got from her.

Calling it “personally disrespectful” is over the top. I can see why she’s annoyed that you booked the flights without checking with her; even though you were willing to change the dates if you needed to, that does put pressure on her to approve those dates even if they’re inconvenient. But on her side, she needs to take you at your word that you’re willing to change the dates if you need to, and feeling “personally disrespected” is overblown. (I’m betting she’s a newer manager and/or a particularly controlling one.) Ideally she would have just said, “In the future, please do try to check with me before booking dates; I don’t want to be in a position where I have to ask you to incur change fees when we could just quickly touch base beforehand.”

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Should I tell a freelancer she’s not charging enough?

Part of my job involves hiring freelancers and approving their invoices. Our company has set hourly rates for a few different types of work, and we generally trust the freelancers to be honest about how many hours they spent on a project.

I recently hired a new freelancer I hadn’t worked with before and was very pleased with the quality of her work and her communication. But when she submitted her invoice, the amount seemed quite a bit lower than I expected given the size of the project and the type of work. I follow this person on social media and know that she freelances on top of her full-time job, and that she is younger than I am and still paying off student loans. I want to let her know she could be billing more on her invoices, since I’d like to work with her again, but am struggling to find a way to say this that is tactful and also doesn’t sound like I’m encouraging her to lie about her hours, or that I think she didn’t spend enough time working (she clearly did). I am just worried she might be rounding down her hours, or not billing for time spent doing research related to the project, or that she was trying to avoid overbilling a new client.

Would it be appropriate for me to reach out to her and let her know it is okay to bill more in the future? Or should I just leave it alone and keep hiring her for projects and consider it money saved for the company?

Yes, please let her know! It’s tough to set freelance rates, especially when you’re new to doing it, and freelancers are often flying blind about what’s reasonable to charge. I am still grateful to an editor who once, upon hearing my suggested fee, calmly said, “I’m going to put that in at (the number I’d named plus $300).”

Since she’s already invoiced you and you’re worried she’s rounding down for her time, one way to do it would be to say, “Is this the full bill — including research time, etc.? Normally we’d expect to be billed around $X for this work and I can approve that if you’d like to resubmit it.”

4. I didn’t tell my coworkers about my divorce and now don’t know how to bring it up

In 2014, I initiated the process of getting divorced after 11 years of marriage. While I know divorce happens every day to many people, it was a deeply traumatic experience for me and I was embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, etc. To make matters worse, I had been in a new job for about three months when all of this happened. I hated having the stigma of being the divorced person hanging over me, even though my coworkers, friends, and family were never anything but supportive.

Then I met someone, fell in love, and got engaged. And then I got a new job in a new city in a completely new career. The people in my new job just knew me as the person who was engaged and getting married, and so I never mentioned my ex-husband in the course of conversation. I felt so relieved no one knew and so happy that it wasn’t a part of my story. But of course, it is part of my story.

Now, a year and a half into my new job, I feel like I’ve been less than honest. In the course of everyday conversation, I feel like there are 11 years of my life that I just can’t talk about. Or if I do, I’m lying about them. It isn’t anything that impacts my job and maybe I’m making too much of it, but my work group is pretty chatty about their personal lives. And now I think I’ve made it weird, although I admit it is probably just weird in my own head. For example, one of my coworker’s is planning a trip to “Narnia.” I’ve been to Narnia five times because my ex-husband was from Narnia and we would go to visit his family. I know a lot about Narnia. And my coworker is like, “Why in the world do you know so much about Narnia?” And I’m like … um?

So what do I do now with this lie? Do I just start peppering my ex-husband into conversation? Do I tell the coworker I’m closest to and then let word trickle through the team? Or do I just go on as is and pretend 11 years of my life didn’t happen?

Oh my goodness, no one will think anything of this at all. Loads of people are divorced and remarried and it is not a big deal to people who know them, least of all their coworkers. This will be a far less interesting fact about you than most other things.

You don’t need a strategy or a big reveal. When it would be relevant to mention your ex, mention him. Example: “Oh, I went to Narnia with my ex-husband a bunch of times because his family lived there.” That’s it! Your coworker might say something like, “Oh, I didn’t know you were married before Cecil,” and you will say, “Yep, for a while” and that will be it.

It sounds like you had/have a lot of shame about your divorce and think it’s embarrassing, but unless you live in 1942, none of your coworkers are going to care or think it’s a big deal that it didn’t come up before now. Plenty of them are probably divorced themselves, have divorced loved ones, etc. You don’t need to walk around with a scarlet D to pinned to you.

5. Employer asked me for feedback on their hiring process

I’ve applied for two jobs in the past year and made it to the final round of interviews (no offers, unfortunately). However, I’ve recently received surveys asking about my interview experience. Like any candidate, I have Thoughts. My question is … do HR departments and hiring teams receive and/or use this feedback? Is there any value in me spending quality time providing feedback? Or are these just automated tools where responses disappear into the ether?

It could be either — it depends entirely on the company. But if you have thoughts on the experience, go ahead and share them. Don’t spend a ton of time on it since it’s not your job to improve their hiring process. But 10 minutes or so? Go for it.

{ 437 comments… read them below }

  1. Ariaflame*

    As someone who cries under stress (usually this is when I’m in an area where things are really going pear shaped or are related to a hot button topic for me – dealing with unfamiliar challenges etc.) it doesn’t seem to be something that I can control. Believe me, it would have made my childhood years a lot easier if I could have.

    It usually doesn’t affect my main work, it just happens in meetings sometimes, and certainly for me, usually the best thing (and the usual thing) my boss can do is to politely ignore it. (It’s tears trickling, not out and out sobs).

    Occasionally I do say in the moment, “sorry about the tears, please ignore them”. If I went beyond the trickling and into sobs I’d probably appreciate if my boss asked if there was something wrong that I needed help dealing with, that they could help with, but most of the time the best thing is as Ally has suggested, either ignore if it’s not full on, or offer a length of time for them to collect themselves.

    1. WS*

      +1, I’ve been better in recent years but it still sometimes happens and is very frustrating! The best thing for me is to take a few minutes to drink water and compose myself, then continue as normal. If the employee is not being manipulative (and it doesn’t sound like she is) ask her how she would like this handled.

      1. valentine*

        I’m a crier and rehashing upset keeps me in that space. OP1, while I understand your wanting to help, that’s best left to “Take a few minutes maybe twice a day to cry in my office” (if there’s no other private space). Your employee needs to learn to self-soothe, just generally, and because she’s unlikely to have another supervisor like you. If she’s been quoting you chapter and verse, you’d do well to start by telling her to dial that back to broad topics that intersect with work stuff you can help with, like PTO.

      2. wittyrepartee*

        I’ve described it as “face leaking” before (assuming I’m not sobbing or anything). “Oh, please don’t mind the tears, my face leaks when I’m stressed.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      It could be medical too. I had a severe vitamin B deficiency and was crying at everything. It was totally involuntary.

      That said, it needs to be addressed no matter the root cause.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          It was decades ago, I’m sorry. I had to get a shot and then prescription level vitamins for several months.

      1. Kuododi*

        For me, getting the “weepys” is typically one of the first signs for a return visit with the endocrinologist to chat about adjusting the hormone levels.

      2. Mel*

        A friend of mine had a severe vitamin B deficiency (and some other semi-related health issues) I literally thought she was going insane because it changed her personality so much. It was such a relief when a doctor got her on a treatment plan.

        1. LENENE*

          PSA: B12 deficiency is frequently overlooked and can be a huge problem! My mother had a severe deficiency that caused burning all over her body and scattered thoughts which ultimately put her in a deep depression. For YEARS, doctors told her it was all in her head and she ended up suicidal and in a mental hospital. She lost her job, her home, and her independence. Finally a doctor figured out the deficiency, and she takes a B12 shot every day and has been perfectly fine for the past decade. Some doctors can be dismissive, particularly of women’s symptoms. You have to be a strong advocate for yourself.

          And now I’m crying! :)

      3. Sophie before she was cool*

        I’m a crier normally, but birth control pills caused me to cry at *everything*. Almost any time I had a conversation with someone where the stakes were higher than “how’s the weather” I cried. It was involuntary, but also professionally debilitating.

        1. NothingIsLittle*

          I have hormonal anxiety and depression. I no longer need to be medicated for it, but before I used to cry for literally no reason. Couldn’t consciously feel anything that would make me cry, no stressors going on, and still my college roommate would tell me I was crying even though I hadn’t noticed. I had a summer job and I needed to tell my manager that I had a medical condition and sometimes I just cried, that there was no reason for it and that I would really appreciate it if she just ignored it every time it happened. It was so embarrassing to cry at work, especially since I was only in college and felt like everyone was judging me for it.

          It might be worth it for OP1 to ask what’s going on, because even if it seems like the high stakes stressors are what’s setting her off, there may be other contributing factors that mean it’s not as big a deal for the coworker as it seems. Or, perhaps, it’s a much bigger deal than OP1 realizes, especially if the coworker has some sort of medical condition that would exacerbate the crying. (I don’t know if ADA would cover non-citizens, cursory research suggests it would.)

        2. pms*

          I had the opposite. BC smoothed it out for me, before that, it was like “do not talk to me about anything the first Sunday or Monday of the month.” I remember crying once because the parking garage charged me $8 instead of $6 and I could NOT calm myself down enough to ask the attendant why.

          1. Ariaflame*

            Yeah, it smoothed out my pms symptoms a lot too. But I am on it for PCOS so there I had a hormonal issue that the pill is actually the medication for.

      4. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Wow, I’ve never heard of a VB deficiency being responsible for crying. Who knew? Glad you figured that out!

      5. Michaela Westen*

        I felt much better when I started taking B-50 every day. I’m not a crier though. I felt better with energy level, hormones, and mood.

      6. Batgirl*

        For me it was vitamin b6, caused by the Pill. Something to do with tryptophan? Even when something made me laugh, I ended up crying. Started to feel dead inside in a way that freaked me out. Amazing that a vitamin pill made it go away instantly.

    3. Gleeze*

      I am the same. I cry when I get really angry or stressed and have cried at work many times both in private in front of my manager. It’s truly a physical reaction that I can’t stop from happening. I can calm myself down but can’t stop the initial crying from happening. I have anxiety and attend therapy regularly but still have this issue. I’ve always flagged with managers that I physically react this way and that I am aware my reaction isn’t proportionate to the situation 99% of of the time. I also assure them I am really not as upset as I appear (I’m often only mildly bothered by the issue but my body reacts differently)
      My managers have been pretty good about it and usually ignore the crying / don’t try to fix the situation.
      I think ignoring it is the best option (like if someone was nervous and sweating you wouldn’t point it out to them) or giving her time to calm down. But don’t engage her by trying to “fix” the situation or talk her down. If you have to do that to make progress, its a much bigger issue.

      1. Mel*

        Same. It’s so frustrating. I feel like the older I get (I’m in my mid 30s) the less I’m able to control it and then I’m even angrier because I can’t!

        1. AnnieMousse*

          I never used to cry much and then I hit peri-menopause and now I cry at everything. EVERYTHING. I hate it. It’s humiliating and I can’t make it stop.

      2. Linzava*

        Yes, sometimes it’s not controllable. I’ve absolutely cried at work, once, because my grandmother died, a few times because toxic boss had pushed me past my acceptable stress limit, when my cat died and once when my fiance was leaving town for a trip. Didn’t help the toxic boss was being rude about the crying when my grandmother died. It only started after going to therapy and opening that door. It’s actually really healthy to cry, but not convenient for a typical 9 to 5, but life happens, even at work. I wish it wasn’t seen as a sign of weakness or something that made others uncomfortable, but I’ve learned that even the healthiest workplaces have unhealthy expectations on those of us who need to deal with our feelings when they happen. I can still get work done while I’m crying. Others ignoring the situation is the best way to handle it for many of us.

      3. Seifer*

        Yuuup. I used to be really bad with frustrated/angry crying when I worked in a restaurant. The tickets would be piling up and I’d be expo’ing an endless stream of food and managers would be nowhere to be found to help out. Then I’d just. Burst into tears. While grabbing food and putting it on trays.

        The kitchen guys would start shouting, “Seifer, don’t cry!! It’s okay, don’t cry!!” And I’d have to yell back at them, “I KNOW, I’m just frustrated, DON’T LOOK AT ME, just keep it moving!!” all the while ugly bawling. We all knew shit was crazy if it pushed me to the point of frustrated crying, and then we’d all just put our heads down and get it done and I’d be fine afterwards. But it would’ve been sooooo much worse if they came around and started trying to comfort me.

    4. lyonite*

      Same here. I’ve made some progress with control over the years, but OP1’s story reminded me of a similar situation I had (from the other side) a couple of jobs back. I had gone through a rough time, and cried in front of my boss at least once, and then, later, I had an interpersonal issue with a coworker (fairly minor), and when he brought it up with me I started to break down again. I could tell he was getting annoyed with me, but what I didn’t get a chance to explain was that I had just come from seeing my grandfather for the last time, and my resilience was at a low ebb. So, please, OP, give your employee a chance to explain herself before you assume she’s manipulating you; there may be things going on that you don’t know about.

      1. Anonymous today*

        This is so timely! I cried at work yesterday because not only is my workload unmanageable right now, but also my SO found out they have an incurable condition that will make them blind eventually. I tried to bring up the workload issue to my boss, and all I could do was sob. I didn’t reveal the health issue, but I am devastated. Maybe your employee needs some time off to gather themselves , OP – maybe I’ll take some time off to gather MYSELF.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          If your boss is a decent person, I’d let them know about the health thing — not in any detail if you don’t want to, but I’d be really glad to know that there were outside stressors in addition to the work ones, so I could be more sympathetic/not freak out myself if there’s nothing to do about the workload right now.

          Best thoughts to your SO.

        2. Observer*

          My sympathies on the both the health and the workload issues. I think you’re wise to think about taking some time for yourself.

          The thing is that for the OP, this is not all that useful. If the employee needs some time off then they should ask for it, and the OP should do their best to grant the time. But the employee needs to ask for this – it would be over-stepping to suggest it.

        3. Michelle*

          This was very timely for me as well, as I cried in a meeting today! It was embarrassing! Like you, my workload is unmanageable, and keeps growing. Plus, this weekend my family just buried a cousin and an aunt, my minor daughter was shuffled around the country by American Airlines on what was booked as a non-stop flight, and my dog just died. My hormone levels are off on top of it all, so I feel pretty unstable emotionally. And yes, I know I sound like a country song :)

          1. mananana*

            Oh, I’m so sorry for all of the losses you have suffered. I hope the memories of your loved ones, including your furry friend, bring you comfort.

          2. Anonymous today*

            I’m sorry for your family losses! And your dear daughter being flown around the country…..I hope it wasn’t too scary for her, but was probably pretty scary for you! And, finally your dog dying! Oh my, you have had a terrible time. I would say you are entitled to a good cry or two, Michelle. *hugs*

        4. Anonymous today*

          Thank you everyone for the kind thoughts. I did tell my boss today about the scary issue facing my spouse and me. She was most kind and assured me that easing my workload is in the works. She said she wondered if there was something else as I am not usually a crier and the conversation seemed really off yesterday. We are working out some time off for me so my spouse and I can figure out what to do next. I do feel a bit better today.

    5. Lena Clare*

      I’ve been in the situation when I cry when emotional and it seemed to happen A LOT, so it was uncomfortable for others. I was mortified. It’s gotten better over the years with therapy, and now medication too. I feel way more emotionally balanced.

      Anyway, the point is, if my boss had told me kindly to try to manage these emotions it would have felt like an unreasonable request because I COULDN’T. I was depressed and didn’t realise it. It only got better when I went to get medical and therapeutic help.

      So, it might be the jolt to your employee to get help if she realises she CAN’T control her tears, or it might not. If not, what then?

    6. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      I’m also a crying person. It doesn’t have to be anything extremely dramatic, I just cry easily. I can often control the amount of crying but not that it happens in the first place. I think that those people who only cry in extreme situations don’t always really understand this and think if someone cries, they must be extremely upset. It would obviously be a problem at work to be so extremely upset about things, but for people who cry more easily, that’s not what it means at all.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I read a thing a few years ago (sorry cant remember what/where) that basically said that some people are just criers.

        There doesn’t need to be some Major Overwhelming Thing(TM) happening either. Normal day to day stress/frustration will do it.

        I have since stopped feeling like something is Wrong with me.

        1. Slartibartfast*

          Yup, I will even get a little bit teary during commercials. I blame allergies “Sorry-allergies!” as I reach for a tissue. In winter, it must be my contacts bothering me.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Lately, the past test or that’s been happening to me. These are things that normal people might cry at/over/about so it’s not surprising that one might. It’s astounding that I do.

            Because while I am a “crier,” it’s stuff like stress, anger, etc., not emotional stuff. My dad died in 2000. I am yet yo cry… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      2. General Ginger*

        I used to be a crying person. It happened often, and easily, whether I liked it or not, and among other crappy things, such as it occasionally happening at work, my S/O could never believe that I wasn’t crying to manipulate them.

        I’m a few years into hormone replacement therapy, and am no longer a crying person; in fact, sometimes I’m feeling very strong emotion and want to cry, but it just doesn’t happen, which is its own weird challenge.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          Yeah, I’ve heard this from transgender men. The hormones seem to change their ability to cry, but not the feelings of sadness. Fascinating what hormones control.

          1. General Ginger*

            Yep, that is exactly my experience. Feelings of sadness/anger/whatever high emotion — there. Tears — nope.

      3. TiffanyAching*

        I’m the same, in any situation of moderate-to-intense emotion, of basically any kind, I run the risk of tears. Not like, sobbing uncontrollably tears, but the “yes my face is leaking, I’m fine, please continue” kind of tears. Very frustrating when you’re trying to let your boss know that you welcome the constructive feedback but it looks like you’re wallowing in despair.

        1. WTFmoment*

          Yup! This happens to me, basically any time I am feeling anything stronger than mild frustration, my eyes start welling up. Since it’s only my eyes and not actual sobs, I’ve just turned it into a joke “Sometimes my eyes water, but I assure you that I don’t feel particularly emotional about this, it’s just a quirk! Please continue explaining why we need to use X process”

          In truth, it IS because I feel frustrated, but it’s a very disproportionate amount and happens in situations that are emotionally neutral enough that I’ve convinced my boss to ignore it.

          I believe that there was a best boss ever comment here once about a manager that just grabbed a tissue (showing where they are) and excused herself to use the restroom when an employee was feeling emotional. I thought that was pretty perfect in that it gives them a way to save face and recover without needing to really address it.

    7. pleaset*

      If it’s happening at work a lot, I assume you have tried professional help. There could be medical reasons.

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I have what I call my ‘intensity detector ‘ and explain it that way. “My eyes leak with any strong emotion. I wish they didn’t because it made Junior High School miserable. Please ignore it.”
      But I think OP1 ‘s co-worker is well past that by the sound of ‘crying sessions’ and I’d be feeling awkward too.

    9. Non english speaker*

      I came here to say this.
      Is it possible that OP’s employee doesn’t want to be treated differently because of her tears, but is having a hard time in unrelated ways?
      I feel like OP is convinced the employee is intentionaly crying to get something or wants to be comforted, but maybe it’s not like that?

    10. Feline*

      My medical crisis last year left me with just enough neurological damage to end up crying when frustrated. Trying to talk in a 1:1 about how I am staggering under my workload and need help ended up impossible because the frustration-crying made me more frustrated and became an awful feedback cycle. I finally had to have the discussion by email to get it all explained and ask for the help I needed with work tasks. I can’t imagine crying to manipulate my manager; I genuinely needed help. Maybe OP’s employee does, too, and would be as mortified as I would to know it’s seen as that kind of manipulation.

      1. WTFmoment*

        I’m so sorry this happens to you!

        If it makes you feel any better, I’m well acquainted with the frustration crying because I’m frustration crying cycle and I’m medical crisis free.

    11. Autumnheart*

      I was thinking that maybe the employee isn’t normally a crier (presumably it would have come up well before now) but maybe the stress of the visa process and other stuff is really taking a toll on the employee? Being under enormous stress and emotional upheaval can have a lasting impact on one’s mental health. I’m not saying the employee has a mental illness per se, but maybe a call to the EAP, a thorough physical, and some sessions with a counselor might do her some good?

      A few years ago, I had a trifecta of stress where I was insanely busy at work, trying to finish my capstone for my degree, and the week I was scheduled to present, we had announcements for layoffs and it wasn’t immediately clear who would be affected. Most. Stressful. Week. EVER. I seriously thought I was going to have a breakdown. And honestly it took several months of taking it *really* easy before I felt back on my game. (I was not laid off, and my workload calmed way down after the re-org.) I didn’t develop a crying response but maybe that’s just how the cookie crumbles.

      1. Ama*

        Yes, and I’d just note for the OP that even though it seems like the original cause of the stress has been over and resolved with for a while that doesn’t mean her employee isn’t still struggling with the effects the stress had on her mentally and emotionally. I had the 2017 from hell, personally (I like to sum it up by saying losing our apartment because of a fire wasn’t even in the top 3 worst things for the year) and to be honest the true after effects really didn’t start hitting me until early 2018 and to be honest I still have some lingering problems when I get overwhelmed (I cried at work from sheer stress twice this year and I have never done that before). I sought out a therapist who actually said that’s pretty normal for people who are under intense stress to not fully process their emotions until the situation itself is resolved.

    12. mamma mia*

      I’m seeing a lot of advice in this thread telling the boss to just politely ignore the crying. Personally, I would find this incredibly difficult to do and think it’s way too much to ask of a coworker or a manager. I don’t think it matters why the person is crying, or if they’re not really that upset; watching someone cry in a workplace is viscerally uncomfortable for a lot of people. It doesn’t make a difference if the tears are intended to manipulate or if they’re genuine. It’s still 100% the crier’s responsibility to excuse themselves and get their shit together.

      I think OP1 has let this crying thing go on for too long and it’s going to be difficult to stop. I would recommend the strategies Alison suggests in the final paragraph but I think saying, “You seem upset. Is everything ok?” is only going to lead to more crying. Shut it down.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, I think it’s reasonable to ignore it if it’s just someone getting a little teary every once in a while, especially if you know the employee is going through something stressful. But this sounds like it’s way more than that: “It was uncomfortable for me, because it was a lot of crying sessions, and talking her down from the ledge.” It sounds like the employee is leaning on the OP for a lot emotional support, which is the bigger issue of which crying is a symptom. I think Alison’s scripts are great, and I think it’s important to signal to the employee that crying happens, but you can’t let it get in the way of your work.

      2. LQ*

        I think part of it is what kind of crying? Water leaking from your eyes or sobbing. I have someone who works for me who cries (the tears running down the face kind) during allergy season nearly constantly. It’s no big deal. Plenty of people have mentioned other face leaking stuff. Have a tissue and we’ll keep going. Sobbing is a different kind of thing. But if it is leaking eyes then yeah, you can expect a manager to ignore that and keep going. Managers can get over their discomfort and deal with it too.

        1. Observer*

          This clearly is not “leaking eyes” though – “crying sessions” and “talking her down from the ledge” is waaay more than that.

          I think we can trust the OP’s description here.

          1. LQ*

            The having to talk her down from the ledge is absolutely a problem. But I think that’s the problem to focus on. OP definitely needs to put a stop to that. And it’s going to be uncomfortable. You don’t get to be a manager and never be uncomfortable. Is the OP comforting what doesn’t need to be comforted is part of the question here. If the crying makes the OP uncomfortable and so OP tries to soothe the employee they need to stop. If employee is asking for soothing then OP needs to say that’s not their role and stop.

        2. mamma mia*

          I don’t think it takes too much intelligence to ascertain if a person is tearing up due to allergies or if its an emotional reason. I agree with you that a person whose eyes are watering due to allergies is not a problem and wouldn’t make me uncomfortable, but that’s clearly not what’s being discussed here so it feels more than a little disingenuous to bring it up.

      3. RabbitRabbit*

        Yeah, I think OP#1 needs to cut off those sessions with one of those “go compose yourself and come back” responses provided.

      4. Close Bracket*

        It’s still 100% the crier’s responsibility to excuse themselves and get their shit together.

        You can only control yourself, and that means controlling your reaction to a crying colleague. Just because you are viscerally uncomfortable doesn’t mean the other person is doing anything wrong. Crying as a stress response isn’t doing anything wrong. Maybe instead of referring criers to EAPs, we should refer the people who fall apart when they see a crying person to the EAP.

        1. mamma mia*

          I am aware that we can only control ourselves, but thank you for the reminder. I absolutely did not suggest that people who break down in tears are doing anything wrong but what is wrong to expect or want people to “politely ignore” you when you have tears streaming down your face; it is abnormal to cry in the workplace (or at least it would be in my office) and it’s simply not fair to your boss or colleague to put that kind of emotional weight on them. Literally, just excuse yourself and say that you need a minute. It is not complicated.

          I would not “fall apart” seeing a crying person but I would tell them that we could continue the conversation when they regain their composure. I feel like that’s reasonable but if you think I need to be referred to an EAP for it, you’re more than welcome to think so.

          1. Slartibartfast*

            Except, I can’t comply with that request. The only thing that is going to stop the face leaking is to get through the conversation. Even if I manage to stop it, it’ll just start right back up again. This is why I claim to have allergies (I don’t). Because the only other option is to hide in the corner and never interact with anyone ever.

          2. Aspie AF*

            This is profoundly ableist. I’ve spent most of my life with a neurological condition that wasn’t diagnosed until well into adulthood and I’ve been the target of discrimination many times. I’m not always a crier, but the anxiety mistreatment has manifested means I can’t even control things to excuse myself sometimes. This is much more of an emotional weight – it’s not fair either, although it’s also not simple. I’ve been to plenty of EAP counseling and guess what? It’s not designed for this level of complexity. People are complicated and being more open to that in others benefits us all.

      5. Lissa*

        Yup, every time this topic comes up we get dozens of people talking about their experiences with being an easy crier, so I get that it’s a very common thing – but I also think there’s different “levels” of it – tearing up, yeah, easy enough to ignore (I’ve been on both sides of that one.) Full on crying sessions/sobbing and having your boss engage with you the way it seems is VERY different from what a lot of people here are talking about. This also doesn’t seem like an issue of an uncompassionate boss when someone’s going through a one-time rough period – she was sympathetic when it happened before during something stressful, but I think it’s reasonable for her to not want to turn into the default fixer/comforter for an employee whenever there’s something stressful going on.

    13. RabbitRabbit*

      My eyes leak when I’m frustrated or mad too. However, it’s not a long weeping session and I don’t need to be talked down from anything, so the employee in #1 seems to have a lot more going on in her life, judging by that and everything she’s dealing with.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Hit return too early – so she needs to be told to go collect herself and come back, maybe given EAP referrals, that kind of thing. No extended emotional support/caving in/etc.

    14. MOAS*

      I’ve had two conversations in the past 4.5 years where I cried and I mean ugly-cried. Both times (first was my grandboss, second time was my manager) they ignored the crying but weren’t mean about it. They were just matter-of-fact about it.

    15. Anon Librarian*

      I suffer from hard-to-control crying too. It’s been an obstacle, professionally. The options for dealing with it aren’t great. There are medications that can help, but they come with a lot of side effects.

      I know I write this in response to a lot of posts, but I think this needs to start with an open-ended conversation. And one that doesn’t include any assumptions about her general emotional state. Some people have moments when they panic and cry, but are otherwise OK.

      This is what I wish people would have said to me. “We’ve noticed you cry at work sometimes. We want to support your success here. There is no need to share personal information, but we need to find some kind of solution. What are your thoughts?”

    16. CoveredInBees*

      I have this too and have had to tell people to ignore it. I generally just call it “a medical thing” and try to move on. It is many times worse if I’m tired. As someone who never got a proper night’s sleep until my late 20’s, this happened a lot. Ugh.

      The more people pay attention to it, the worse it gets. I remember the the assistant dean at my high school mentioning in passing that I had enough lates to school that one more and I would get detention. This was due to a particularly bad spell of insomnia, so my face turned into a waterfall. Concerned, she pulled me aside for a kind “is everything ok at home?” chat…which only made things worse. I tried to explain but I don’t think she believed me. She was also my French teacher, so it was awkward for a while.

    17. Mockingdragon*

      Exactly this. The most supportive thing you can do is ignore it and assume she’s competent even if she cries. I’ve been through several rounds of therapy and medication to try to stop being a cryer, wnd while it’s helped, it will never go away.

      The biggest reason i freelance is i don’t feel safe to have emotions in offices, and tryinf to hide my reactions was destroying my mental health. If she can do the work, please let her. I’d love so much to see the standard change of “crying automatically makes you unprofessional”

    18. yala*

      I’m very much the same way. I don’t know why it happens. Something about confrontation and frustration. Like, I handled my sibling having a traumatic nervous breakdown in front of me (that’s the short version, the long version is much worse) without crying until I was completely by myself. But get a meeting about how I’m doing poorly at work, and…I start crying.

      And I HATE it. Because I’m not sobbing, exactly, but I also can’t *talk* very well when I’m crying. (Which is even more frustrating because a lot of our issues come down to miscommunications, and it’s hard to explain myself when I’m crying.) And I know it looks unreasonable and overemotional, and my super probably thinks I’m doing it to be manipulative, but if I had a way to NOT do it, I absolutely would (I did manage not to cry during our last confrontation, which is about the only good thing I can say about that).

      I think honestly, some folks are just wired that way (my therapist has recently suggested I might be on the spectrum, so I don’t know if that’s a factor or not). Loud, prolonged sobs at the office are a bit much, but if it’s just crying, please don’t think less of your employee, and either ignore it or ask if they’d like a moment to gather themselves.

      1. Close Bracket*

        my therapist has recently suggested I might be on the spectrum

        Trouble with emotional regulation goes along with the executive dysfunction that is part of autism. Maybe being on the spectrum is a factor and maybe not, but it’s certainly consistent.

        1. yala*

          Well, I recently got an ADHD diagnosis as well (I swear, I feel like I’m just running down the alphabet), and I know that often manifests as difficulty with emotional regulation.

          I really wish I’d started seeing someone about this years ago, because I’m finally getting treatment, but I don’t know if it’s going to be in time to help my job. Ah well.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I can hold it together when it’s someone else’s crisis like you mention with your sibling.

        My dad’s health scare rocked me and I only cried in private. My family were using me as the “support” for their open crying sessions. I can steel myself when I need to be in hero-mode.

        But if you start coming at my performance issue or tell me a dog died, I’m done. Done I tell you. Leave me here with snot all over the place.

      3. Aspie AF*

        There’s a link to Azpie Quiz in my name – it was what led me to being diagnosed. That’s a hard road in itself but self-diagnosis is generally considered as valid (except sticky areas like the law and employment).

        1. Aspie AF*

          Sorry, that should be “Aspie Quiz” and the link didn’t make it – it’s easy enough to search though.

  2. Ella*

    OP 4, the only time I’d be surprised by someone mentioning an ex-husband I didn’t know about is if it were a close friend or family. I don’t actually know even the current relationship status for many of my coworkers, much less their past relationship history. If any of them mentioned a previously undiscussed ex-spouse, at most I’d file it away under “random personal facts I now am vaguely aware of about my fellow employee.”

    1. Koko*

      Or if he is, say, Aslan. I say that because it came as a huge surprise to me to learn that a coworker’s first husband — I knew she had been married before — is a very big country music star who even I recognized, and I can only name a few.

      1. Ella*

        Omg, delightful. And yes, to the original letter writer, if your ex-husband is extremely famous and/or notorious, your coworkers might have a bigger reaction. if that’s the case, I’d encourage you to make a DRAMATIC REVEAL at some point, for the showmanship of it all.

        1. EinJungerLudendorff*

          Or just drop it casually and watch as they figure it out.
          It doesn’t sound like LW is comfortable enough about it for dramatics after all.

      2. Alli525*

        I wonder if we’re thinking of the same star – I knew a woman from a previous job, whose best friend is the second wife of a very big country star. His infidelity with her (“against” his first wife) made major headlines and it was very bizarre to see the more personal side of a celebrity divorce through the lens of my coworker’s social media feed.

    2. Esme*

      My husband and I were married two years ago, but I moved to a new city about seven years ago right after my first marriage ended. Most of my friends and colleagues have/had no idea that I was married previously. It comes up from time to time, and people are surprised (but not horrified). Some will rush to apologize, but I’ve found that if I’m matter-of-fact about it, it’s not a big deal for anyone. People are more than happy to follow my lead on this. If it’s someone I’m rather friendly with, I may joke that I’ll fill them in over a beer sometime, but I usually just keep it brief in a “Oh, I think it was a Tuesday” tone.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        I get the same reaction but for slightly different reasons. I have been married to my current (a.k.a. “final” – that’s one of our little jokes) husband for a very long time, but I was married for just a couple of years in my early 20s, which is not only a long time ago now but was also long before I knew most of the people I interact with regularly now. I mean, family and old friends know, of course, although I’ll bet they forget most of the time, but I too live in a different state and so most of the people I see often these days didn’t know me way back then.

        Since it was so long ago and far away, and we didn’t have kids or property or anything that kept us involved in each other’s lives, wellllll…he just doesn’t come up very often. (This would probably really bother him, BTW. Just a guess. But I digress…) When he does come up, I don’t avoid mentioning him or anything, but since there isn’t much reason to, it does sometimes surprise people that this woman they know as Kathleen, Who Has Been Married for Forever to Rob, is also Kathleen, Who Was Briefly Married to Someone Else.

        But hey, they get over it. It truly isn’t a big deal. It might be different for me if the marriage were traumatic in some fashion, however – even though it was long ago and far away. But fortunately, it was not.

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          That’s pretty much the exact situation with my husband. He was briefly married in his early 20s, and there wasn’t a reason to stay in touch after the divorce. It seems like an other lifetime ago. Sometimes I’ll have reason to mention “Husband’s First Wife” and while it may surprise people, it’s just a momentary mental adjustment and we’ve moved on.

        2. Turquoisecow*

          My husband was married once before. They were together for a while but married briefly and had no kids. After the marriage ended, he kept the cats and the house (which he sold) and gave her a lump sum as part of the alimony agreement. They kept in touch briefly as they sorted things out, but once it became clear they weren’t going to work out as friends (and as he and I started dating), they had less and less contact.

          Most of the time now, I forget she existed, and some of his relatives have said similar to both of us. It’s not really a shameful thing, but it’s over and in the past, and there’s no reason to discuss it except as anecdotes, same as with my exes.

      2. Anonish*

        Yeah, same. My husband and I have been together for almost six years, married for almost two, and I’m currently pregnant. I think most of my coworkers would be surprised to know that I was married to someone else for most of my twenties. I just say “my ex” or “my former partner” on the rare occasions he comes up in conversation.

    3. I haven’t had my coffee yet*

      And nobody’s going to think of it in such extremes, eg lying vs erasing part of your life, it’s just something you haven’t mentioned yet.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Or something you did mention but that they didn’t remember because who has time to keep all the details straight about coworker personal stuff?

        1. boo bot*

          Yeah, I was going to say exactly this – I’d probably be like, “Oh, right, of course! I remember, you’ve mentioned Edmund. I didn’t realize he was from Narnia, I’ve heard the Turkish Delight there is to die for!”

          The best part is, *I would probably actually think I remembered you mentioning Edmund.* And if I didn’t, I would absolutely assume I’d forgotten it, just like I forgot that Susan in HR competes in archery tournaments, or that Digory in accounting has an uncle who’s a magician on the weekends.

          I totally get why you feel like you’ve accidentally ended up hiding this, but I think it’s not going to be a big deal for anyone – there might be a ripple of “did you know she had a husband before Cecil?” if your workplace is super, super gossipy, but no one is going to be upset that you didn’t mention it before.

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            Ha! Apropos of nothing, Edmund was the one I had the biggest crush on when I was a kid! Like after he grew up and got all wise and stuff, and the kids showed up as grownup kings and queens in The Horse And His Boy, I was never the same, LOL!

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Right? Not hiving all and sundry a complete blow by blow if one’s life experiences is not lying or bring sneaky, or nefarious, or whatever. It’s fine…and normal even for people to not know everything.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Right on. I worked with a person for a few years and she finally mentioned that she worked for NASA at one point.
        I did not think she was lying/hiding anything. It just never came up before then. To her it was just part of her life story, not something to randomly mention to everyone she met.

        Likewise with your divorce, OP. It was a big deal for you but to other people, it’s just a part of your life story.
        We aren’t “accountable” to others for past lives. My reaction to your disclosure would be similar to the NASA story with my friend. I would just think, “Oh, it just never came up before. And it’s a part of her life story. She has moved on [ and in your case, I would add, moved on very well].”

        Going the other way, OP, I don’t think you would think I was lying/hiding something if I disclosed X or Y about me after we had worked together for a while. You’d probably be able to chalk it up to, “Well, it just never came up in conversation until now.”

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          Exactly. And even if we assume that this is a particularly chatty environment where some people would be surprised they haven’t heard of the ex-husband yet, the “yeah, I was married before for a while – I don’t often mention the relationship” angle should be enough to signal that the OP’s ex belongs to the deeper layers that only come out sometimes.

      4. londonedit*

        Absolutely – while I know some offices can be full of people who talk about every detail of their personal lives, others really aren’t. I know a few details about my colleagues’ lives, but nothing more than superficial stuff really. Someone mentions that their dog hasn’t been well – oh, they have a dog. Someone else mentions going on holiday with their sister – oh, they have a sister. My colleagues know roughly where I live, and they know I’ve been to visit family recently, but I don’t think any of them could tell you how many siblings I have, or for that matter whether I’d ever been married. We’re just not the sort of office where people talk in detail about their personal lives, apart from the odd moment where something crops up in conversation.

      5. Mel*

        Yeah, I think it’s more surprising if you’re young. I knew a couple people in college who were actually widowed/widowers and that always got a stunned reaction and a couple people who were divorced before the rest of our friend group were even in serious relationships. But, if you were married 11 years, you’re not in the age bracket where it’s surprising.

        1. That Would be a Good Band Name*

          I was the divorced-before-others-had-even-dated-seriously of my friend group. When I was 21, it was weird and awkward. Now that we’re in our 40s and I’ve been married to my second (final) husband for nearly 20 years, it never comes up. And so many people in our age group are on their 2nd or more marriage that no one would even think twice. I do get a mild surprised reaction if someone knows how long I’ve been married and my age, but that’s because of how young I was when the first marriage happened.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Youngish widow here.
          I kind of thought that people were actually startled were actually concerned such as, “What would I do if this happened to me?” It’s a heavy thought to get hit with out of the blue.
          Time is kind. I look a little older now, thanks to the whiter hair. Since he has been gone a while, there is less and less reason to mention him. I am not sure what people assume and I don’t really care enough to ask. It’s less and less of a thing now.

          OTH, a good friend announced she was getting divorced. I said, “He’s a fool.” She said, “thank you.” She’s good people. Makes one wonder what is up with some folks.

          It’s okay for people to be startled by a life event in someone else’s life. I would be worried if people had no reaction. We don’t think about it much but when our friends/cohorts have good news we can feel genuinely happy for them. It goes both ways.

      6. Emily K*

        I actually have a really fond memory of the night my best friend confessed to me that she’d been married before we met. We’d known each other about a year at that point and she told me deep into a night of the kind of epic binge drinking that was common for us back then, and I use the word “confessed” above because she said it with so much shame and apologized for never having mentioned it before. Truly, I wasn’t the slightest put off by it and I found her embarrassment about the matter a little bit naive and endearing. We all have a past, some things take a while to come out. I never felt like she was lying or hiding something – and she was my best friend, not just a coworker! – but just that she hadn’t had the need or desire to mention this mostly irrelevant piece of trivia about her past until then.

      7. Kathleen_A*

        Yeah, I can’t imagine anyone interpreting your not mentioning this person who has no relevance to your life at all as “erasing part of your life.” I mean, there are a lot of things that are very important when they occur but that we don’t think about that much once they’re in the distant past, and a marriage that is over and done and has no effect on your life now is indeed one of those things. People might be surprised, but eh, they really will get over it, and pretty quickly too.

        In my experience (I was briefly married in my early 20s but have been married to another guy for, like, for*ever*), people who have never been married tend to be a little more surprised than those who are or have been married. Make of that what you will. But they, too, get over it.

    4. DaffyDuck*

      Yeah, like Alison said, it isn’t 1942 anymore. Being divorced has no stigma at all in the huge majority of social circles. Unless you work in an *extremely* conservative, religiously-affiliated company no one is gonna blink.

      1. MsPantaloons*

        Honestly I would think “Huh. Can’t believe I forgot Jane was previously married! Gotta make sure I file it away this time so I don’t say something dumb…”

      2. drinking Mello Yello*

        Exactly! I mean, divorce is so normal! I don’t know if the stats are still “1 in 2 marriages will end in divorce”, but I’d bet a good chunk of LW4’s (and, well, most anybody’s coworkers) have been divorced themselves.

        1. LaurenB*

          The stats were NEVER “ 1 in 2 marriages ends in divorce.” Someone noted that the number of divorces in a given year was roughly half the number of marriages and erroneously concluded the the divorce rate was 50%. But that’s incorrect bc the base isn’t how many marriages occur in a given year, but the total number of existing marriages at the time which is obviously far larger. This mistake got picked up far and wide and a lot of people repeat it just like you did. The real rate is more in the 15% range.

          Analogy: suppose Smallville had a hospital and a morgue and no one ever moved in or out. There were 100 babies born last year and 50 deaths. You wouldn’t conclude the death rate was 50% because you know the base is all people living in Smallville, not just those recently born.

        2. Jaybeetee*

          Well, the “1 in 2” stat was always a bit skewed – I think that came from the 1970s/1980s, when no-fault divorce came into law in North America and divorce just started having less of a stigma. You had a lot of miserably long-married couples who took advantage and finally got divorced, and it created a “surge” at the time that suggested that 50% of all marriages were ending in divorce.

          These days, in Canada and the US I think the stat is closer to 1 in 3, but even that needs some unpacking – some demographics are more prone to divorce than others. For example, people who marry after age 25 and have post-secondary educations are less likely to ever divorce than those who marry younger than that age without a post-secondary education, for a host of different reasons. And by now, a lot of Millennials aren’t bothering with marriage in the first place, which will likely continue to skew those stats.

          All that said, I agree with your fundamental point – divorce *is* common, and not the scarlet letter the LW perceives it as, unless she’s running in particularly conservative circles. And yes, she likely has colleagues who are themselves divorced, or share custody with an ex they never formally married, or what have you. If one of my colleagues mentioned an ex-spouse in conversation, I wouldn’t think twice about it.

            1. Alli525*

              I would love to see a new study on the divorce rate ONLY based on first marriages/divorces. It might shut down some of the talking heads who keep insisting on the “dissolution of the family” line.

            2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

              And population. The divorce rate was calculated by dividing the number of marriage licenses issued in a given year, by the number of divorces granted in a given year.

              But people don’t divorce uniformly over their life span! So if you have a situation where you have a large generation followed by a small generation, like we did with the Baby Boomers and Generation X, you’re going to have more people in the age/stage of life where divorce is common than you have in the age/stage of life where marriage is common, skewing the statistic upwards.

          1. Kat in VA*

            An odd side note – I was born in California and lived there for a long time. Upon moving to Virginia, I was astonished to discover that while divorce is technically no fault here, the hoops you’re made to jump through are pretty…extensive. Like living apart for a year and some other stuff. I guess to me, being married meant that you can also be unmarried just because you feel like it, and if neither of you is getting along and you agree to call it quits, it’s over and done with fairly quickly. Not so in this area.

            *disclaimer, no – I’m not getting divorced. My search was prompted by someone noting that their “year of separation” was almost up and then they could “finally get” divorced and I was like WHOA WAIT WHAT SOMEONE HAS TO GIVE YOU PERMISSION?

      3. cmcinnyc*

        Also, most of the stigma around divorce happens in dating–and the OP is past that. She’s remarried. One’s coworkers are probably not looking to date/marry their already-married colleague (most of them–there are always a few who would go for it).

      4. President Porpoise*

        I will say, if I find out you’re on husband 6 at 40, well, I will be surprised. That’s a lot of husbands, and I think anyone would agree.

    5. Ms Cappuccino*

      My coworkers don’t know I am divorced. I don’t try to hide it and I am not ashamed. It is just that the topic never came. We all get on well but tend to know little about each other personal life.
      You don’t own your coworkers an explanation about your marital life.

    6. DiscoCat*

      I got totally flustered once when a colleague mentioned visisting her ex-husband with her son: I assumed it was her child’s father, whom she’d talked about, but then told me that it was another man. This bit of additional insight into her private life threw me off a bit- I am an intensely private person, a bit awkward around personal matters and don’t really care to know about other people’s drama unless we have that kind of relationship.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        But surely you recognize that’s not on her? If she was open about it, she probably doesn’t see that as “drama”– to her, it’s just the way her life has gone.

        1. Karen from Finance*

          Agreed. It even sounds like the opposite of drama, if she has a good enough relationship with the ex-husband that she’s visiting him with her kid.

        2. Kathleen_A*

          I also agree. Try to think of it, DiscoCat, as being dramatic only if the person telling you about it is being dramatic. What you have here is “Ex-husband wants to see a kid he’s fond of,” and that’s not inherently dramatic. It’s just kind of nice.

        3. Lissa*

          Yeah, I really don’t think that’s “drama” at all – just facts about her life and what she’s doing. I know people here skew much more “never talk about your personal life at work” than I’m used to in my life but it would never occur to me that mentioning the existence of an ex was drama or even personal at all.

        4. DiscoCat*

          Never said it was on her and clearly referred to the cause being more due to my awkeardness around personal matters with people I barely know! Geez people!

      2. JSPA*

        No stranger (or more private) than if she mentioned she was traveling with her corgi to see a friend who breeds corgis. Maybe you’d assume that the friend was the breeder of her corgi, and find that was not the case…and then, so what?

        Basically, you know that she has a son fathered by someone other than a man she was married to at one point.

        You still, strictly speaking, only know for sure that she’s had intercourse at least once in her life, assuming that the kid was conceived the old-fashioned way. (The marriage could, for sake of argument, have been companionate.) That’s really not knowing a lot about her private life.

        For that matter, you may not even know that the kid wasn’t adopted.

        So basically, the problem isn’t that you know too much. It’s that you’re uncomfortable with knowing there are things that you don’t know, and might not want to know. That’s…kind of an unavoidable part of life.

    7. Blue*

      I have had newer friends unexpectedly drop ex-husbands into conversation, in exactly the way Alison suggests. I was surprised but assumed they didn’t like to talk about it and just accepted it without asking questions. I think most reasonable people would follow your lead in terms of discussing this (though there are, of course, some totally unreasonable people out there – but I think if you act calm and unperturbed, it’ll blow over).

    8. Gerta*

      100% agree. It’s not entirely clear to me what OP has said – she clearly feels she has lied, but it seems to be more by omission than anything else. Unless she has made up some elaborate cover story to explain her knowledge of Narnia in a way that will make no sense once she mentions her ex-husband’s connection, I think this should be a non-issue.
      Next time it comes up in the course of conversation, throw it in there casually. If you don’t act like it’s scandalous, they won’t see it that way either. The only way my curiosity would really be sparked by this ‘revelation’ is if you acted like there was something unsual about it. And if someone asks why you never mentioned it before, you can just say – honestly! – that by the time you arrived at this job the marriage was over and you were focussing on making a fresh start, so you prefer not to dwell on it. Any reasonable person will understand that digging into the facts of a colleague’s previous marriage would be highly insensitive and inappropriate.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I have had it happen more than once where a friend said, “When I went to x place then I did y activity.” A while later I learn that she went x place with her ex-husband/bf. I see it often enough that people drop their exes right out of the storyline and just tell the part of the story that is theirs.

        The point of what they are saying is to talk about the place and the activity. It’s not tell me their whole life story and leave no detail untouched. If we told our stories to include every single detail, our stories would have no ending. We’d talk way too long.

    9. AnotherAlison*

      I knew someone who had a close family member surprise him like this!

      My son’s friend is 22 and his sister is ~24. Last year, they were looking at family photos with their mom and dad, and asked who some guy with their mom in some pictures was was. Turns out, their mom was married before and over 20+ years, they never knew. The kids were kind of floored, and asked why no one told them. Their mom and dad just said, “Well, it never came up.”

      1. The Original K.*

        Yeah, I had a college friend who found out that his father had been married once before when he (my friend) was in high school. His father and the ex-wife had no kids together and weren’t in contact at all, so there was no reason for it to come up. It wasn’t salacious. I found out that my aunt’s widower was actually her second husband when I was in my teens; she’d been married and divorced very young, before I was born and nobody in our family had seen him since. Again, not salacious, not deliberately kept from anybody; it just didn’t come up organically for a long time.

      2. kittymommy*

        The same happened in my family. One day my mom, uncle, and I were talking with my grandmother about my deceased grandfather and how they met. She mentioned the woman he was separated from (but not official divorced) when they first met. She casually mentioned how that divorce was a lot different than his first divorce. I thought my mom and uncle were going to have a stroke. Turns out grandma was his third marriage. It wasn’t some sort of secret, in fact my grandmother thought they all knew. The “truth” came out about 22 years after he died. It was quite funny for me and my grandmother.

      3. Alli525*

        My mother ACTIVELY lied to us as kids – I didn’t know until I was 19 or so that she had been married before my dad, and it explained soooooo much. She would also lie about that fact to their marriage counselor, which is a whole ‘nother raft of issues.

    10. CupcakeCounter*

      On the opposite spectrum, a coworker got divorced recently and no one really knew anything until she needed the day off to go to court to finalize the paperwork, custody agreement, name change stuff and put in her OOF “I will be out today MM/DD/YY. Effective Monday my updated email will be First.MaidenName@company.” We all had met him on several occasions (company picnics, department outings, etc…) and she started here right after they got married so it was pretty out of the blue for us. They were married over 10 years as well.
      No one went all Septa Unella on her (shame, shame, shame) we just said we were sorry she had to deal with all that stuff and moved on.
      At least 25% of the people I work with in my small department are divorced or on their 2nd marriage (we think one person is on their 4th but aren’t positive). Its really a fact of life so unless your feelings of shame and guilt are because of something you did to implode the marriage, your feelings are misplaced. Feeling sad and disappointed is fine but your feelings seem next level and I wonder if some therapy is in order.
      Even if you decide not to reveal you have an ex-husband, most people have a romantic past so you could have said “my former SO/partner is from Narnia so we traveled there several times to see his family”.

      1. OP4*

        Actually, this is actually how I have handled things that have come up. My ex or just my ex partner (leaving out the ex husband part) and I guess that’s more why I thought I was lying. I think some of my the un-comfortableness comes from comments some of my non-divorced and recently married co-workers make about divorced folks (mostly younger co-workers) who don’t know/think that I am also divorced and, therefore, one of the people they are talking about.

        I don’t work in a conservative industry and live in a fairly liberal city so the comments are surprising and I never react or participate and usually just put headphones in because I am also decidedly non-confrontational. (Like I would never confront any of that head on or look someone in the eye and say “well, I think your comment is inaccurate because I’m divorced,” even though I know the advice here is often to directly address something.) But those comments have played into the sense of lying.

        I love the suggestion to just drop it in OR as someone mentioned below just keep saying my ex. :-)

        I also was raised in a very, very, very conservative environment and while I no longer hold any of those beliefs, my sense of shame 100% is a relic of that. And, yes, I have a great therapist. :-) :-)

        1. Dr. Pepper*

          There’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying “my ex”. It’s true. That person IS your ex. No lie there.

          People make unthinking and inconsiderate statements all the time. People also have A LOT of opinions on things they’ve never personally experienced. It’s 100% a reflection of them and nothing to do with you. I shared an office with a guy who would make sweeping generalizations and go on rants about things that he did not realize applied to me but absolutely did. One day he went off on how much he hated Well Known City and how everyone from there was a (racial slur) or a (homophobic slur). I looked him dead in the eye and said, “that’s my hometown”. The look on his face was priceless and the backpedaling was a sight to behold. I just thought he was a clueless a-hole.

        2. Le Sigh*

          Dr. Pepper is totally right, but I also feel you. Not quite the same thing, but I have family I would like to be closer to, but they make broad, sweeping comments about women. They also fully support me in my career and life (there’s a real disconnect there). But what I don’t think they realize or have thought about is that by making those comments about women, they’re sending a message, even if they don’t mean to — and well that is about me in a way. And it makes it really hard to be closer to them or open up, and puts a distance between us.

          Of course, you don’t need to be close like that to your coworkers, just commenting on how throwaway comments people make can have unintended consequences. I don’t think you have anything to feel guilt or shame over and it sounds like you’re handling it fine.

        3. JSPA*

          If they’re mocking or trash-talking divorced people in general, they’re being at best immature, and at worst, discriminatory.

          You’re under no obligation to teach them a lesson that would be awkward or painful for you.

          But you’d probably be doing them, their future careers and any future employees of theirs a favor, if you felt like shutting that stuff down, hard. After all, the next person to hear them “divorce shame” may be a (divorced) boss or hiring manager.

          That’s true whether it’s actual prejudice or some misplaced meme. They well be they think they’re being playful about it (except it’s not funny); it still won’t help their careers if they continue to spout off with impunity.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          Uh, if someone is talking like they just assume you are x or y or z, that is on them and NOT on you.

          So if someone assumes you are on your first marriage, that is something they came up with on their own and you are not responsible for their assumptions.

          We all get caught by our own assumptions sometimes. We do survive. I never said it out loud but I caught ME assuming things about other people. One example that stands out in my mind is my assumption that I don’t know anyone who has been in jail or in prison. Well that was an error! It was my error for assuming that I knew people around me well enough to say, “No one I know has served time.” I got my comeuppance when I found out that was not true.

          [Note, the past is the past. I don’t care if people have been incarcerated in the past. What struck me is how willing I was to assume I knew everything about those around me and that was wrong of me.]

          It’s okay if people have learning experiences, OP. I have had learning experiences and so have other people here. We don’t have to help people through their assumptions, they can learn just like the rest of us. You are not responsible for what people assume about you.

    11. Antilles*

      I don’t actually know even the current relationship status for many of my coworkers, much less their past relationship history.
      This. Not only is it totally normal to have not discussed past relationships with co-workers, it’s pretty normal to not even know the *current* relationships of most of your co-workers.
      I’m certain that there’s maybe two people total in my entire company who know my wife’s name…and plenty of others who only even know I’m married because I wear a wedding band.

    12. kittymommy*

      I don’t actually know even the current relationship status for many of my coworkers, much less their past relationship history.

      – I “think” I know current relationship status, but I have no idea who has kids and who doesn’t. I have no clue if anyone has been divorced. I’ve actually never thought about it.

    13. facepalm*

      Same. I might be briefly surprised but then shrug. Lots of people have unhappy relationships they don’t talk about, so if someone brought up an ex they’d never mentioned for 11 years, I might figure they were opening up about an unhappy episode they hadn’t wanted to discuss but either enough time had passed that it wasn’t so painful, or they trusted our relationship a bit more. Either way, I’d feel closer for knowing the information, not judgmental or angry or deceived. Your coworkers don’t have the right to all the intimate details about your life, so anything you choose to share is up to you.

    14. Tupac Coachella*

      “If any of them mentioned a previously undiscussed ex-spouse, at most I’d file it away under ‘random personal facts I now am vaguely aware of about my fellow employee.'”

      Exactly this for me, too. An ex-husband is barely a blip on my radar, I probably wouldn’t even think about it again except in relation to whatever we were talking about (i.e., “hey, when you went to Narnia, did you and your ex do a gondola ride? Was it expensive?”). Enough divorces are contentious that they’re likely to drop it without a bunch of questions anyway. Granted we see examples here every day (almost literally) of coworkers who can’t MYOB, but the majority of people won’t pry about an ex-husband. It’s not that interesting, and asking about it has a realistic risk of dragging up painful issues, which most people don’t want when chatting casually with coworkers. And you still get to shut it down, even if those painful issues are more around divorce itself rather than the ex personally-if it gets past a comfortable zone for you, a simple “it was a long time ago” or “I don’t really like to talk about it” would register with all but the most obnoxious coworker.

    15. MsClaw*

      I think this is also another instance of assuming people care *way* more about you and your personal history than they do. You could either say ‘Oh, my ex is from Narnia’ or ‘I used to have family in Narnia and I’d visit them’ or even just ‘I used to visit Narnia occasionally’. It’s just….. not a big deal. Most likely, people will forget the answer ten minutes after you give it.

    16. Tricksie*

      If my ex-husband’s family lived in Narnia, I might not have gotten divorced.

      I’d wear a scarlet D if society made me. Better than being married to that guy. I hope you can be your whole and authentic self without feeling bad about things!!

    17. Hummus*

      I also think that if saying “ex-husband” feels like personal information you don’t want to share, “my ex” would suffice. That could be anything from college boyfriend to husband of thirty years, and it wouldn’t be strange if you had traveled with an ex-bf. “I had an ex from Narnia, so I’ve been a few times,” would keep the focus on your knowledge of Narnia.

    18. Tara R.*

      I didn’t find out that my MOM had been previously married until I was a teenager, and my reaction was just “Huh, weird”.

      (They were 19 and the marriage lasted like 6 months, so it’s not like it would have necessarily naturally come up at any point.)

        1. JSPA*

          Not my gut response (in that teen weddings instead of education, shotgun weddings, or even weddings-as-an-antidote-to-rape) used to be depressingly common. Guess it depends where and when you grew up?

  3. Engineer Girl*

    #2 – While it may be disrespectful to book without asking it’s inappropriate to call it personally disrespectful. To be personally disrespectful would mean that you did it specifically AT her, and her alone.

    1. valentine*

      It’s not disrespectful. It makes sense to seize on a good deal. The boss didn’t have to make a big deal out of it and wouldn’t have to feel guilty, even if fees hurt OP2.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, this.

        I can see why the boss would feel put off or a little bothered, but ticket prices are a madhouse and the OP jumping on a deal but being willing to change her ticket if work needs it is completely reasonable.

        1. Psyche*

          I agree. I would feel a little put out but not personally offended. Telling her boss that the tickets were already booked does add some pressure to approve the days off. If the OP were actually perfectly willing to change the tickets, she probably should just not mention booking them at all. But overall the boss overreacted.

          1. Curious*

            True. It was not necessary for OP to mention the flights, though, if she was willing to change them. If you are willing to change them, no need to add the guilt trip about it.

      2. Yorick*

        Am I correct that she asked for two days off, and it was eight weeks away?!!?!! That’s hardly an inconvenience for the boss.

        1. Midwest Writer*

          That’s what I was thinking, too. She wasn’t asking for weeks off. Two days is is minimal!

          1. Kat in VA*

            Hell, I went home very early today (got in at 0800, left at 1000) because I’m not feeling well and I probably won’t come in tomorrow, either. That’s super unscheduled and no one at work will even bat an eye.

        2. bonkerballs*

          “she disclosed that she had planned to begin working on a large new proposal and that there would be a large meeting for it during the time I had planned to be away”

          It is inconvenient for the boss and this is why you should check things first. The boss is being dramatic by calling it personally disrespectful, but to say it’s not inconvenient is incorrect.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            But at eight months out, it still wouldn’t be overly difficult to say, “I guess we’ll have that project meeting on Tuesday instead of Thursday.”

            1. valentine*

              OP2’s boss is squandering their best-case scenario: tons of lead time and an employee who’s fine with changing their plans.

            2. Joielle*

              I think it was eight weeks, not months, but still – plenty of time to plan a meeting for a couple days earlier or later. Even (in most cases) plenty of time to move a meeting by a couple of days if it was already planned!

            3. boo bot*

              Or maybe the meeting involves a bunch of people who are only in the same place when the thirteen planets align; the project is the only hope for saving the known universe; and without the OP, it is all doomed to certain failure!

              The boss still doesn’t have to be a jerk about it.

          2. Ra94*

            But it’s not inconvenient for the boss for the employee to immediately change her tickets, which she openly communicated she would. (And many tickets let you change them for no fee if you buy a certain fare, or change them quickly enough).

          3. Yorick*

            But why was an important meeting that’s two months away a secret? If it’s not scheduled yet, it can be another day. If it is scheduled, why didn’t OP know about it?

            1. Just stoppin' by to chat*

              Good point Yorick. Sounds like the boss was thinking about the upcoming meeting, proposal, etc, and hadn’t mentioned it to their employee yet. A good time to mention it is during a discussion about said employee taking time off around the “big” meeting, but in an informative “oh darn I’d been meaning to tell you about an important meeting on that date” way. Not an “I’m personally disrespected” way!

      3. General Ginger*

        After a few years in my job, I had a pretty good idea when it would and when it wouldn’t be a good time for me to take off, and would think nothing of booking a great ticket deal for a time I know business to be slower w/out first checking with my boss.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’ve been trying to think of a time when it might have seemed personal to me , and I guess it would have to be PERSONAL to the manager, not business-related.
      Like booking a flight in the week boss is getting married and you were invited. When she’s going to be 9 months pregnant. Or on Elvis’s birthday so he can’t take his 10th annual pilgrimage.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        So much for editing my grammar when insomnia-posting… I dropped off the “to Graceland” punchline.

        1. Nicelutherangirl*

          I completely understood what you meant without the punchline because I thought it was inherent. I read “Elvis’s…pilgrimage” while I was sipping some water, and the water almost spurted out through my nose!

    3. Maggie*

      I get the feeling there could be a boss here who was like yesterday’s over-the-top clothes-sharing one.

      1. londonedit*

        Definitely…while many bosses/companies will say that people shouldn’t commit to booking holidays until they’ve had the time off approved, in practice the only time I’ve ever seen a boss make a big deal of it was when I was working in a thoroughly toxic environment. An entry-level colleague requested a Friday and Monday off, and for no good reason (it wasn’t a particularly busy time; there were no huge deadlines looming on those days or anything) the (already totally toxic) boss didn’t want to approve it. My colleague then had to admit that she’d already booked train tickets for her weekend away, and the boss ranted at her about how she should *never* presume that holiday was guaranteed, and proceeded to send the whole office an email (this was a small office; we’d all heard the initial rant) saying that under NO circumstances should anyone book travel tickets before having their holiday approved, and that holiday was ENTIRELY at her discretion. She was then super weird about approving anyone’s holiday from then on (and this is in the UK, where we get fairly generous amounts of holiday and – barring known busy seasons etc – people are encouraged and entitled to use their holiday allowance).

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          I was really frustrated once when an employee booked flights before confirming he could get the time off–because we had already publicly announced that those dates would be a vacation blackout period due to a huge staff project. AND given a deadline before announcing the blackout period so everyone could claim their summer vacation time so we didn’t pick a time when anyone was out. The annoyance was that he so flagrantly disrespected the clearly communicated, lots of notice given dates, not that he booked the flights.

          I wanted to deny the time off but my grandboss wouldn’t let me do it. (There is a huge accountability problem with my administration.) Employee claimed this was a family thing and his wife and young baby were also going. It became clear when he returned that his wife and baby had not gone with him. I figured out like 6 months later that he had gone to another major city for a job interview. (He didn’t get the job.) Frankly, had I known he was going to a job interview, I would have been super supportive and not annoyed because I would have been thrilled at the chance that he would leave.

          1. valentine*

            This was a grandboss problem. Why should the employee deny themselves when blackout means nothing?

    4. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Yeah this seems really wierd, and the OP seems to have absorbed the message that they shouldn’t do anything without the boss’ approval. What did you say when you told them about it, OP? A quick “I saw this amazing deal on flights so I went ahead and booked them, but I have the option to change them if that date doesn’t work” should be sufficient. The boss is being overly invested in this and I don’t think the OP needs to be too hard on herself about not having had approval beforehand.

      1. drinking Mello Yello*

        Right. And I guess it depends on what sort work you have and how easily it would be to either put it on hold or get it covered (big seasonal projects that need to be planned for vs the same consistent work that your coworkers can easily cover, etc.) and the overall culture of the workplace, but there are a lot of workplaces where just booking your travel and requesting the PTO for those dates (like mine) wouldn’t be an issue, especially if you had anything big taken care of. (And places where that wouldn’t fly, which is where I guess OP4 is at now.)

        And even at most places with “busy seasons” and “big projects” you need to anticipate, most reasonable managers will understand “I can change the dates if I need to, but there was a limited time deal on these tickets/hotel bookings/etc. that was too good for me to not grab. But again, I can change them if the dates don’t work.”

        The idea that just going ahead and buying the tickets is “personally disrespectful” is…. weird. It might have been shortsighted (I don’t know what OP4’s company’s vacation requesting policies are, so I don’t know JUST how shortsighted, or if they really were at all, or if the manager was just being… weird.), but “personally disrespectful” is way over the top.

        1. Mods*

          I don’t actually get any paid leave or benefits as part of this position – and it was the first leave day I had requested since I started working.

      2. Mods*

        That is pretty much what I said – I was very explicit that it was NBD and that I was excited about this new proposal

    5. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

      Sounds like a guy I worked for. He would take his time to approve vacation requests (weeks!) and act like he wouldn’t approve it if you pushed him. It was just one more symptom of his micromanaging and feeling personally slighted if employees didn’t fall at his feet to serve clients 24/7.

      1. Rebecca*

        My ex manager did this. She never traveled, didn’t use airlines or go on cruises, nothing, so she took weeks or even months to approve vacation time, and even when people would say, I would like 4 days off in March (as far back as September or October because the flights or cruise fares were really low at that time), she’d always dither and reiterate that “she” was the boss, and she would decide when it suited her. There was no other reason, and she actually said she didn’t care how much it cost for tickets. This endlessly frustrated some members of our staff. And you never knew what she would do, as in, approve 3 of the 4 days requested…yet one more reason EVERYONE is glad she’s gone.

        Maybe not coincidentally – she was also a person who was personally offended by everything, and would call us all into the office to stand there while she ranted on about being a family, how she was so offended by something we did, as she paced around…it was ridiculous.

      2. Snickerdoodle*

        –eyeroll– When will people like this learn that this is how you get high turnover?!

        1. CatAnon*

          They don’t care. They delight in driving off staff who don’t thrive under whatever (constantly changing) conditions they set, and the hope seems to be that the next person (and the next and the next etc) that comes in will OF COURSE be a reasonable person who enjoys being micro-managed and gaslit.

          There’s one of these at my work. Her entire department is afraid of her because she bullies one person until they leave and then moves on to another target. HR and management have done nothing despite complaints from multiple people.

          1. londonedit*

            Yup. I worked for a boss like this. People would last six months maximum under her reign of terror, and her response would be to complain about how ‘no one is committed to their jobs these days’ and how it was ‘so frustrating not to be able to find decent people’. Every new hire would be heralded as The One who could save everything and finally live up to her ridiculous standards and ever-changing whims, and then what do you know, four or five months down the line, all of a sudden they’re also useless just like everyone else was before them.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          As long as they have a steady stream of people to play Lord of the Manor over, I don’t think they really care if it’s the same people. In fact, I think one of my old bosses saw it as a sort of game to see how long it would take her to bend new employees to her will. The very idea of having a newcomer in her petty tyrant games made the game more fun, I think.

        3. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

          He never understood it. He thought we should be grateful for having jobs in an industry that had previously lost a lot of positions due to the recession, but now can’t find people willing to do the work. The industry set clients up to expect the moon at any hour of the day for very little cost. You were supposed to make up for the awful base salary by working 70+ hours a week year round at a dangerous job.
          There are a lot of people like my former boss in my industry and you should hear the whining about no one wanting to work hard anymore.

      3. Kat in VA*

        Yowza – vacation requests for two of my execs are delegated to me, and I just approve them so they can get out of both of our in-boxes. I don’t even bother to check to see if the person has time, just APPROVE and move on.

    6. Gerta*

      I have had plenty of staff book tickets on the assumption that I would approve their leave. It was frustrating and led to some difficult conversations, but I don’t think I would even go so far as to call it disrespectful, let alone take it personally.

      In fairness to the staff, this issue was also not unrelated to the fact that the top bosses refused to let me approve leave too far in advance because they wanted staffing flexibility. (We were indeed in a very unpredictable market.) This presented a genuine financial challenge for staff who wanted to travel long-distance, although those who were more thoughtful would come to me and explain their plans before they made the booking, and I could often get an exception made for them.

      TLDR: When people make holiday plans, they are normally thinking first about what suits them and their family/friends. Any employer who thinks coming second in that ranking is a personal insult needs a change in mindset.

      1. RandomU...*

        I’m with you on this. I think without anything else that OP didn’t mention (like is this part of a bigger pattern or are there other issues with the boss) I’m reading the boss’s statements as awkwardly phrased frustration. It doesn’t make what the boss said ok. But it would put it in to the ‘Eh’ category for me instead of the ‘Warning/Danger’ category.

        I’m pretty lax about physically going into our system to formerly approve vacation (our system is a PITA to use). But I’m upfront with my employees about it. Basically I tell them to check the group schedule if there’s no one else off that day put your name down there and assume it’s approved. If there’s already someone taking it.. shoot me an IM and we’ll talk. If it’s for longer than a few days or if it’s something like buying plane tickets, shoot me an IM with the dates and give me a heads up. I’ll usually verbally approve and then approve in the system later.

      2. vlookup*

        I certainly felt disrespected when my direct report requested a week of vacation less than a week in advance. It turned out she had an international vacation planned, and I’m fairly certain she had made the travel arrangements awhile back and not bothered to let me know.

        That said, there’s no way I would guilt trip someone about personally disrespecting me via their vacation plans, no matter how frustrated I might have been in the moment. That’s not an appropriate or productive way to give feedback!

        1. valentine*

          I certainly felt disrespected when my direct report requested a week of vacation less than a week in advance.
          But you don’t have to care. You can leave them to the trouble they’ve made for themselves. (If your structure won’t allow that, it’s still not on the employee.)

        2. Gerta*

          That’s slightly different. Less than a week of notice for a significant amount of time off is highly inconsiderate (not sure I would go with ‘disrespectful’, but that may be down to how you define it) particularly if the employee has committed already and is essentially producing it as a done deal. I still wouldn’t take it personally unless there was good reason to think it was intended that way, but it would definitely impact their next performance review on the basis of failure to a) consider business needs b) think ahead and c) communicate effectively.

      3. Engineer Girl*

        It’s disrespectful because you aren’t including all stakeholders in the initial conversation. It makes it harder for the boss to say “no” if there is an issue. At a minimum, it’s manipulative because there’s a bit of a social penalty involved.

      4. Cyrus*

        I’ve often wondered about this. I can’t remember the last time I asked for time off before booking tickets. When we’re looking up air fare and car rentals, we’d often be willing to travel a few days earlier or later if it’s significantly cheaper. Once we’ve found the best option, we want to buy it quickly, because prices often change. My wife and I can’t very well price plane tickets at home, hit “book now”, ask our bosses boss if the time works, and hear back from them before entering our credit card information.

        I always ask for the time at least two weeks in advance and usually more, of course, and it helps that very little in my job is particularly time-sensitive and I have a peer who could usually substitute for me. But still, I worry about what happens if they ever say “no” because there’s actually something time-sensitive for once, and if nothing else it feels a tiny bit dishonest to “ask” for time off when I’m already taking a “yes” for granted.

    7. LQ*

      I have to say the idea that you have to ask your boss before you plan a vacation is really new to me even though I’ve been in this job nearly 10 years. My previous job my boss wouldn’t have known when was and was not a good time for me to take a vacation. I planned and scheduled things when I knew they would work and I wouldn’t have scheduled when they didn’t. I still do that and tend to make the plans much more solid than I should before requesting vacation. It bugs me that I can’t plan things with family or friends because I have to ask for formal approval and then have a big ole back and forth about it. But that’s the thing. Vacations are about the person taking them, they are not an affront to the boss. Personally disrespected is a super weird reaction.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Considering that’s how I handled my work schedule as well for the past decade or so – planning things when they work for me, my boss wasn’t involved – that’s how I set my vacation time too. I have control over my own workflow, I can set up my vacation to not conflict.

      2. SarahKay*

        My company policy is that you have to have manager approval before booking leave, and if you don’t get approval before you make the booking then any costs you incur are your problem if the leave request is declined.
        But it’s expected that managers will approval all reasonable requests, and in a timely manner.
        My leave requests to my boss are usually just an email asking them to confirm they approve x dates, and letting them know what coverage there will be and, if there are any, how I plan to deal with pressing deadlines / big meetings. My manager will usually reply within 24 hours, approving the request – no muss, no fuss. And, for sure, no nonsense about personal disrespect.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          That’s how it works here, too. I don’t have to get *prior* approval before booking a trip, but my boss does indeed have the responsibility of approving any requests, so…it’s a good idea for me to at least discuss it with her in a general way before submitting a request and buying tickets. That is, I’ll say “I was thinking of taking a week near the end of June – does that sound OK?” Then she says “yes,” I research ticket prices and so on, and I book my tickets, submit my time off request, and she approves it.

          But that said, even around here, things would be a lot more loosey-goosey for just taking *two days* off. Unless I knew something big was coming up around then, I’d probably do it exactly the way the OP did – snatch up that deal and let my boss know afterwards, assuring her that if it’s a problem, I am willing to pay a bit extra to change the flights. And even my boss, who can be pretty touchy, wouldn’t find this “disrespectful.” That’s just silly.

      3. cmcinnyc*

        We have coverage considerations, so we try to give at least two weeks notice or more, but leave is almost never denied. The exception are black out periods for specific departments due to deadlines that can’t be changed or fudged. It’s not often and it’s a business reason and notice is ample. I think this is pretty typical for most office environments. Retail can be hellish, however.

        1. Mods*

          We have no stated black out periods and until she mentioned this whole new proposal I was completely unaware of any large deadline

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            This really feels like a case of “how dare you not know this thing I didn’t tell you about?” Does your boss do this in other areas? Like, does she not give you instructions and then get upset that you didn’t do things the way she wanted? Because that’s something to keep an eye out for.

            1. Mods*

              I don’t think it was a “how dare you not know” but the culture here is a little odd in that there are no team meetings and we are very much in the dark about what each other are working on or what is coming down the pipe. There has been some degree of expectations not being made clear and for the most part I’ve been able to notice and flesh things out but I had already spoken to her about a longer trip later in the year and she was fine which is why I hadn’t realized this would be the issue it was

      4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I generally just tell my boss what days I am taking off, rather than asking permission. I try to do it 1-2 months in advance for things I plan, but have less lead when it is my family planning. It has never been an issue and I have never had a boss say anything other than, “Have fun”

    8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      It would have been unprofessional if she’d booked the flights with no possibility of changing them, then sprung her new schedule on her boss. (Which is the opposite of what happened.) But even then it would not have been disrespectful!

      Honestly, I fail to see things the boss’s way on this one. How is requesting vacation on X dates, being told no because there’s a work conflict, and changing the dates (which I assume is the usual process for requesting a vacation), any different from requesting, being told no, and changing, but with plane tickets? It makes no sense to me.

    9. RabbitRabbit*

      I’m so glad that in my office, we just tell our boss when we’re going on vacation and she puts it on the calendar. Admittedly this doesn’t work for all jobs, but being told that it was personally disrespectful would have blown my mind.

      1. Yorick*

        This is what we do, and I feel like in many/most jobs it’s all that would be needed.

      2. Ophelia*

        Yeah, same. I usually give a heads-up if there’s a big expense with inflexible dates, but for things like summer vacations, we all just add our leave dates to a calendar. Agreed, though, that while we have work that requires us to submit deliverables on deadline, coverage as such isn’t really a concern, which makes this process work.

    10. Elise*

      I don’t get how this is disrespectful, personally or otherwise. Especially as the OP noted that she had no problem changing her travel dates as needed. Is it smart to book travel before leave is approved? No. Is it somehow disrespectful to your employer? Also no. I do get the frustration of a manager who feels bad wrecking someone’s vacation plans, but if there’s a good reason they can’t take the leave then just tell them. I have a direct report who sometimes forgets to put in leave requests in a timely manner. I’ve occasionally had to tell her she couldn’t take it due to other scheduling issues, but I don’t think she’s disrespecting me personally. She’s the only one being hurt by not checking first.

    11. Dr. Pepper*

      I was thinking it was more a tad foolish than disrespectful. Sometimes you gotta go for those cheap tickets before they’re all snapped up. It was a risk not clearing the dates with the boss first, and OP2 took that risk. It didn’t pan out. Oh well. For the boss to feel “personally disrespected” is absolutely ridiculous. Annoyed, yes. Pressured to approve the dates when there’s good reason not to, also yes. But personally disrespected? That’s a really weird reaction unless OP2 strode into the boss’s office and declared her intention of being gone those dates, the plane tickets were purchased, and let’s just get that approval going now, hmm?

      I would suggest that if this comes up again, simply do not mention the booked flights and leave any pre-made plans completely out of the conversation. If it doesn’t affect your boss or her decision (i.e. you’re willing and able to change the booking and incur the costs, no big deal), she doesn’t need to know about it. I’ve found it wise to err on the side of telling people as little as possible about future plans.

    12. fhqwhgads*

      I don’t think it’s disrespectful. It may be inconsiderate, but even then, only if one had reason to suspect this time of year would likely be either busy at work or popular with other people for taking time off and thus likely to cause a logjam. If this were a normally totally nonbusy, but also most people don’t take off then time of year, it’s maybe not the ideal order of operations, but it’s not remotely the epic wrongdoing the boss implied.

  4. alienor*

    #4, it won’t be a big deal at all. I’ve had quite a few friends and colleagues with “invisible” prior marriages–mostly people who got married for the first time when they were fairly young–and no one’s ever been shocked or scandalized to find out about a previous spouse. For that matter, I’m pretty sure that the 90 percent of my colleagues who didn’t know me when my husband died just figure I’m divorced (I have a child, so it’s a fair assumption that she has another parent somewhere), and I’ve never experienced any judgment from them. It’s just so common that I’d be amazed if you got more than mild interest at most.

    1. Properlike*

      OMG, so common. My husband had a previous 10+ year relationship/marriage right out of college, and it’s part of his history in the way that my year of living in another country is part of mine — a random factoid that is somewhat interesting when it (rarely) comes up in conversation, but otherwise Not A Thing. Even with our kids, it’s always been “dad was married before, she didn’t treat him well, they got divorced”, all matter-of-fact. I’m sorry you’ve internalized such shame over this, LW, and it may be worth discussing with a therapist so you can eliminate this anxiety from your life!

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      Mild interest AT MOST. This is just … not a big deal. I even get that the actual divorce was traumatic, so you worked hard to put it behind you and got used to not mentioning it, but the fact that you had a previous marriage will be a complete non-issue to most people. That goes double because many, many, many people are divorced or widowed or had an annulment. Many of your colleagues are on spouse 2 or 3 or even 4!

      What you are describing is not even a lie, and just barely a lie of omission. This is much bigger in your head than anywhere else. The solution is to just casually mention your first marriage when it comes up naturally, as in the example you gave. “Oh, I used to X a bit with my ex-husband” will barely even ping anyone’s radar.

      Side note: I do have 2 friends who were married previously, and the first spouse was the opposite gender from the current spouse. Not a big deal, especially these days, but those two peeps do sometimes get a double-take when they mention “my ex-wife” or “my ex-husband” when that doesn’t match the current. But in 2019, it takes that level of uniqueness to merit a double take on the existence of a previous spouse at all.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        A) Re lie of omission: to me a lie of omission is when you withhold important information from a person who needed that information, or to whom that information would have really mattered. That’s why LW 4 doesn’t count; your colleagues don’t know or need to know everything there is to know about you, and this information is hardly anything your colleagues need.

        B) I’ve encountered a few people who refer to their “wasband,” which makes me giggle.

    3. londonedit*

      I have a few friends from my running club who have been married and divorced, and you’re right, it’s never been a big deal. At some point they’ll have mentioned an ex-husband, or mentioned ‘when they got married’ despite me thinking they were single, and it’s just an ‘Oh! That’s interesting’ sort of moment. On some occasions I think I’ve said ‘Oh, you were married before?’ and on other occasions I’ve just filed the information away and not said anything, because it wouldn’t have added to the conversation. Definitely not a big deal.

    4. FCJ*

      I’ve sometimes known people for years before I happened to mention my ex husband, and the most I’ve ever gotten is “You were married? Huh.”

    5. CanCan*

      Not even a lie of omission. Just something you didn’t mention before because it wasn’t relevant / didn’t come up. Even now, you don’t have to mention it explicitly, – you can say “my ex” and some will think that you’re referring to an ex-boyfriend (and who doesn’t have one of those, unless you still a teen).

      I have a similar story – my husband and I separated 5 months into my new job, and a couple of months after I showed everybody my wedding pictures (because another employee shared hers). I had the same feelings of guilt, shame, uncertainty about the future, so I didn’t say anything. I “lied” by not mentioning him any more, but still saying things like “We went to the cottage” etc. – where “we” was referring to my family (parents and son) but not my husband, while people assumed he was included. I told my boss a year and a half later, but in confidence, which he kept. I told one or two people here and there, but not my very close group of coworkers. Same as you, I just didn’t know how to tell them, after so much time had passed, and it didn’t seem necessary at any point. Even though they knew other big events such as when “we” bought a house (that’s me with my parents).
      I felt bad about it, but kept silent. Eventually, I told them – over 3 years after the separation and over 2 years after the divorce. I was heading off on vacation and mentioned that “we all” are going – and then blurted out the truth (mentioning that I’d been uncomfortable talking about it, but I’m over it, so nothing to worry about it). An awkward couple of sentences for me, and that was it. Nobody ever brought it up again, nobody held against me that I didn’t share it.

      Moral – it’s fine! You don’t have to share your personal life if you don’t want to! And for highly emotional information, people will understand if you don’t share right away, or ever!

      (You wouldn’t expect someone to share with you that they’d been assaulted or abused, or had a miscarriage, for example. And if they do, you wouldn’t think: why didn’t they tell me sooner? Same with divorce or anything highly personal.)

  5. jm*

    LW4, if it makes you feel any better, it took my parents 15 years to tell me my dad had been married before. life happens. hopefully your coworkers will accept the new info about you with grace.

    1. sacados*

      Haha, me too!
      I mean, it wasn’t something that was actively hidden from me — there were no kids from my dad’s first marriage, it was several years before he met my mom, he didn’t really keep in contact with his first wife at all… So there wasn’t really any reason to mention it to me when I was younger.
      Also my dad is known to have a really odd sense of humor so the first time it did come up, I wasn’t sure if he was actually serious or not! ;-p

    2. Madeleine Matilda*

      I was in college and interviewing my grandparents, who had been married for 48 years, for a project when they revealed that my grandfather had a 1st marriage that no one in my family knew about. Once they told me then they told their three adult children who were all in their 40s. We were all surprised but only because it had never come up.

      1. Chinookwind*

        My grandmother surprised us by casually mentioning that she has twin half sisters living in the U.S. (and we are probably 2nd cousins to a tv actor with the same, but usual, french last name). We knew her mom had died when she was a pre-teen but never fully realized that her dad had remarried had more kids who then all moved away when their father died.

        We learned about this only when she started talking about the mineral rights that were split 5 ways and we grandkids were trying to figure out the math with us only having 2 great aunts that we knew of.

    3. Lynca*

      My mother was divorced and I didn’t find out about it until I was in high school. Granted I understand why she didn’t mention it to me when I was younger and that most people didn’t know. It was not a good marriage and my mother is really lucky she got out of it alive.

      Even then it wasn’t a huge deal. My parents had been married almost 2 decades at that point and it really ended up being something that helped me understand my mom better.

    4. JustaTech*

      The only reason I know about my mom’s first marriage is that he was a Navy guy and she lived on a base in Spain and she has lots of great stories about living in Spain in the 70’s.

      I only know about my dad’s first marriage because it came up in a funny story about a party my aunts threw when my grandparents were supposed to be going to my parents’ wedding but didn’t because my dad was a bad Catholic (for getting divorced).

      You know that statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce? Thus and therefore it’s super common and anyone who gives someone a hard time about a divorce is being weird.

    5. Lost in the Woods*

      This seems to be a lot more common than one might think. I first learned my grandmother had been previously married and had remained in contact with her first husband’s family (he died during the Korean War) when I was 19. Then again, I don’t know when or why it would have come up, since they were married for less than two years and had no children.

    6. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      It seems like, as a society, we don’t have a good script for “this thing isn’t a big deal, it probably won’t ever come up organically in conversation, but it would be weird for you to not know”

  6. nnn*

    #4: Imagine one of your co-workers mentioned “My brother went to Narnia last year” and you didn’t know they had a brother because he hadn’t come up in conversation before.

    That’s basically the situation you have here. You have an ex-husband who hadn’t come up in conversation before.

    1. sacados*

      That is a REALLY good way to frame it!
      I hope OP can allow herself to be free of the shame/guilt she is clearly still carrying around this because it is entirely unnecessary and undeserved!

    2. Lena Clare*

      Yes, I’ve worked with someone for 10 years and I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I have 2 brothers to her before, but apparently not because she was surprised the other day when I mentioned both of them as she only thought I had 1. Now she knows I have 2 brothers :)
      No biggie.

    3. KayDay*

      This is such a good way to put it! No one expects a detailed family tree of all of your relations at work. And even if you did mention it, they aren’t necessarily going to remember/care that much about your past family history.

      I know a decent amount about some of my colleagues personal lives (because we get dinner after work together often) but I don’t expect to know everything. And I also can’t necessarily keep track of it all. I got really confused when a colleague who I thought was divorced mentioned his wife…maybe it’s his new wife? Or maybe I just was wrong about him being divorced? I don’t really need to know (nor do I really care) about his family details, all I care about is that my colleague is having a nice vacation with a person he is close to and comes back to work well rested and relaxed. I also have some colleagues who are really vague about their personal lives (to the extent that I find it a tiny bit odd), but I would never be upset with them or think poorly of them for not telling me something; their lives, their decision to share or not share.

      Secondly, a more specific to significant others, I wasn’t married but I had a serious, long-term partner before. I prefer not to mention my ex-partner at work, not because I’m worried about any stigma, but just because I don’t feel the need to disclose past romantic relationships when talking about the merits of a Bahamas vacation with colleagues. So I tend to replace “ex-partner” with “friend” in those stories when possible (e.g. “why yes, I have been to the Bahamas before, my friend and I stayed at the Atlantis resort and we had a great time.”) If a colleague is offended that I lied to them by not explaining that this friend was more than a friend, I would think that they were the weird one.

      1. Paulina*

        A few years ago, one of my colleagues introduced me to his girlfriend. I knew he’d been married, hadn’t known he’d gotten divorced (which he had), and so I simply updated my info about him mentally. Either he hadn’t wanted to mention his divorce when it happened, or he had mentioned it and I hadn’t noticed it (or been away at the time)… whichever it was, the last thing I wanted to do was suggest that he somehow owed me information about his personal life.

        Coworkers can sometimes be nosier than this, or act entitled to personal information, but if they are then that’s on them. OP4 should feel free to slide the information in there as if it’s a minor thing, just background. Even to the extent of going “Oh you didn’t know I’d been married before? (shrug) Well it was a long time ago.” You know you’ve been keeping it a secret, but that doesn’t mean you need to acknowledge that you have. Act like it’s old news. And if they’re gossip-inclined, they won’t want to act like they’re surprised by old news.

    4. Jasnah*

      Exactly. I think OP’s emotions about this have more to do with her feelings about the divorce, and overcoming those feelings of shame, than about what her coworkers need to know.

      It sounds like OP is saying, “I managed to get away with not telling my coworkers about this deeply shameful part of my life, and now I feel guilty because they don’t know that I’m actually [what? ruined? a bad person? imperfect?]” OP, it sounds like you have still internalized all these awful ideas with divorce, and you are still holding this trauma with you. Your coworkers do not care whether you are divorced or not. Literally nobody else sees you this way, but it breaks my heart that you see yourself this way, and I hope you can get some help and learn to let go of this feeling that you are broken or ruined or tarnished somehow. You are a whole person and in a happy marriage with a new job in a new city! You can let go of these past hurts as just part of your training montage and you don’t have to feel “guilty” about “hiding anything,” you are just living your story and not everyone has heard every chapter yet.

      1. sunshyne84*

        Agreed! Please let that go and allow yourself to feel whole again! (maybe not the right word, but you are no less of a person for being divorced, it’s really not that deep) And you still don’t have to mention him at all. You can just say you had some family that lived there for awhile. People will assume they moved, but again it just doesn’t matter.

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        Exactly! Though the divorce is a big deal to you and you’ve got a lot of emotions surrounding it (which is okay and very normal), remember the key words here are “to you”. It was an important thing that happened in your life and it’s natural that it would loom large in your mind. But to your coworkers? Nope. As others have said, it’s at most of passing interest, just a fact filed away to give context should you mention it again.

        Think of it this way, if a coworker happened to mention an ex or an ex spouse, what would *your* reaction be? “OMG they’re DIVORCED?!??! Shaaaaaame!!!!!” or “oh, okay”. I’m guessing something like the latter, so why would you expect that people would err towards the former with you? It sounds like you’re beating yourself up about the divorce, and thus expect others to do the same. I’ll say again that you have nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about, and I hope you find peace.

        1. Friyay*

          Yeeeppp. I got married relatively young and then was divorced by age 28 (and when I changed my name back I got a lot of “congrats on getting married!”) ugh. So now, as a 33 year old, it’s sometimes awkward to have peppered in “I used to own a house with my ex” when people are talking about buying homes, or “i’ve already done the big wedding thing so eloping sounds nice!” re: current engagement, but no one has made a big deal. Sometimes people are a little surprised (based on the look on their faces) but I think that’s more because they think I’m younger than I am :D But I did have a LOT of shame of being divorced younger and like I was a failure (believe me, I was not, but it took me awhile to figure it out) and really, no one cares or even remembers most of the time. You can casually mention it here or there or you can just say “I traveled there with an ex” if you want to keep it vague.

  7. Orange You Glad*

    #3 – Tell the freelancer!

    I hire independent contractors, freelancers, consultants, etc for my business and I will always give feedback on pricing.

    “That’s about half what I was expecting to pay for this – will you tell me a bit more about why you charge that rate?”

    “That’s exactly what I expected to pay for this – my ballpark was between $X and $Z and your rate of $Y is right there!”

    They tell me “thank you so much for letting me know that!” and it builds trust in our mutually beneficial relationship!

    I believe it helps the world be a better place for everyone when we normalize talking about money and pricing. Please tell the freelancer!

    1. Jasnah*

      Also I really like Alison’s suggestion of “Is this for everything? I can approve [higher amount] if you’d like to resubmit it” because it allows the freelancer to save face and increase their prices to a fair wage if they want to without making them admit “I picked a number because I don’t know what I’m doing.”

      1. Kes*

        Agreed, it allows the freelancer to gracefully accept the higher rate without having to admit they didn’t realize they could ask that high.

        1. boo bot*

          Or feeling like they have to justify it by citing research hours they might not have tracked, or something.

    2. EPLawyer*

      But only mention it once. They might actually have set their rate that they did for a reason. If you keep bringing it up, it gets annoying. Not destroy the relationship annoying but irritant annoying.

      I have set my hourly rate at what I charge for a reason. I have one now retired magistrate who never stopped talking to me about raising my rates. He still does it, but because he’s not on the bench anymore I can tell him to shut up. Which I did the last time we had lunch. Then he hired me to help him out on a case.

    3. Naomi*

      OP3, do you know if the invoice is low because she’s charging for fewer hours than usual, or if it’s that her hourly rate is belowmarket? You should probably tell her either way that she’s under-charging, but it would change the advice on how she should adjust her billing.

      1. LW 3*

        OP3 here! My company sets the hourly rate, and she invoices based on how many hours she spent working on the project. She might just be a really fast worker, but I feel like we’re basically punishing her for being efficient.

        1. Ruby314*

          As a freelancer who works quickly because I have many years of experience (in addition to be a hard worker), I very much appreciate your take on this! Occasionally someone will push back on my rate “because it is a quick job for you”, but it’s only a quick job because I have 15 years of experience to know how to do it quickly!

      1. JJ*

        Oh the Hourly Billing Catch-22. My problem is that I’ve always been a very fast worker, so I end up delivering more efficiently/quickly and getting paid less for that. Slow, inefficient and inaccurate hourly freelancers make more than I do, so my options are either provide excellent work for a subpar wage, or commit timesheet fraud, which I’m not going to do. It is a bad system. What I’m getting at is your freelancer may be fast and honest and that’s A. why her rate is low and B. why she’s uncomfortable padding it.

    4. WorkingFromCafeinCA*

      +1 tell the freelancer. Early in my career, say 22-24yrs old?, I had a client for side gig (proofreading) who told me my rates were lower than what other people, who didn’t do as good a job, typically charged, and that I should consider charging more. It was awkward to hear, but 10 years later I still remember that conversation and that person for having the… integrity? to be honest with me, even if it meant his department would have to spend more. His honesty made me more inclined to take on his future projects. I agree with the other poster that it just needs to be said clearly the one time – we never spoke of it again, aside from the following project where I said starting now my rate will be x.

    5. Indigo a la mode*

      +1. I did a brief freelance project on the side for an agency, she asked my rate for some writing/editing, and I told her $30/hr (which was $5/hr more than I was making in my full-time job, so seemed like a breathtaking amount). She told me that typically they start their pay rates around $45-$50 because the work is worth it and they don’t take out taxes for contractors, so she was going to put down $50/hr for me.

      That was a good lesson for me in transparent management, freelance rates, *and* personal taxes. I’m grateful she didn’t seize the opportunity to get very cheap labor.

  8. Artemesia*

    Oh heavens. There is no ‘lie’ in not discussing your past divorce in a new job setting. In fact it is a bit creepy or TMI to natter on about your personal love life and particularly the parts that went awry. No reason to hide it if it comes up organically at some point, but not having discussed it is not a ‘lie’. I say this as someone who had a brief first marriage which it would never have occurred to me to bring into the workplace although some of my friends learned about it over the years — even there, it isn’t something that even friends need to know about unless you feel like talking about it.

    1. paperpusher*

      Exactly. You don’t tell your c0workers about your current spouse because you’re obliged to disclose this important information about yourself, but because they are a part of your current life and it’s hard to talk about what you did over the weekend without mentioning them.

      1. Classic Rando*

        This reminded me of something from my own life… I got married last fall, it was a quick civil service in the middle of the week. My manager and my boss know about it because I added my husband to my health insurance and needed their help with that. But I never made any kind of announcement at work, so as far as I know the other half of our team has no idea that we got married. I’m not lying about it, it just wasn’t ever relevant to a conversation.

    2. sunshyne84*

      Right, share what you are comfortable with sharing. Just because your coworkers tell their whole life story doesn’t mean you have to.

    3. Jerk Store*

      Seriously. I worked with a guy who had been divorced for many years who brought up his ex-wife in a disparaging way at least once a day.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        I worked with the female version of that guy. She would rant about things that had happened 40 years earlier.

  9. Zillah*

    OP4, along with what Alison and others have said, you could also just say “my ex” if you can’t shake feeling self conscious. Almost everyone has been in some relationship that didn’t work out, and virtually no one is going to follow up with questions about your ex.

    1. christine c*

      Yup, was just coming here to say that. If saying “my ex-husband” feels like you’re sharing more than you want to, saying “my ex” or “a previous partner” is honest and easy. Almost everyone has an ex!

    2. Dr. Pepper*

      Do this if it makes you feel more comfortable! Absolutely nobody is going to care that you had a previous relationship that ended. It happens. The fact that you were married vs not married to said ex will not matter one bit to your coworkers, so use whatever language makes you most comfortable. It’s only a big deal if *you* make it a big deal. A casual reference to an ex will be immediately understood and accepted as a simple fact of life. If you do encounter someone who wants to know about said ex- highly unlikely but nosy people do exist- just shrug and say in your blandest tone “eh, it was a long time ago” followed by an immediate subject change.

      It seems like you feel you owe people explanations for your relationship history, or if you’re going to mention your ex at all, that they need context and details of said relationship. This is not so at all. Please allow yourself to feel the full and joyful liberation of “nobody cares!”

  10. EtherIther*

    #2- I certainly wouldn’t call it personally disrespectful, but I would feel much more pressure to accommodate plans if someone had already booked flights, and I can see how that could be annoying. No amount of “I can change it” would totally remove that, as I’d still be affecting you monetarily.

    Usually you’re paying the difference along with change fees, too, so it could be much more. But your boss is definitely taking it a little too far.

    1. valentine*

      I would feel much more pressure to accommodate plans if someone had already booked flights
      You can learn to disengage. You don’t have to take any responsibility for the consequences to your employee.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Yup. I’d feel zero pressure to accommodate given that this adult person booked flights knowing it could be a conflict and knowing the potential outcome. Change costs? Consequences of her choice.

      2. RandomU...*

        You can… but I will say that a good manager does their best to accommodate their employees and it feels a little odd to say… “Eh don’t give it another thought… they can pay more money since it’s their fault”

        Hell, even if that’s the eventual outcome, I (and I suspect most) managers would feel bad.

        1. nonymous*

          My first thought would be that the employee must have gotten an amazing deal for it to be still okay with change fees. I probably would have asked for tips!

          Since OP2 is framing this as amazing deal! only goes up to regular price with change fees! I would encourage the supervisor to take that at face value. Would there be any guilt if OP2 had cleared the dates first but was a terrible shopper and managed to buy overpriced?

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      Yes. I would feel more pressure to make dates work if I knew someone would have to pay a fee to accommodate the change.

      OP, if you truly are comfortable paying a change fee, I think you can always book the flights and keep that fact to yourself when you request dates! Then you can take advantage of the deal without making anyone feel pressured to meet your dates necessarily.

    3. Daisy*

      But the boss didn’t change the plans to accommodate the flight, or apparently even consider it, so how much ‘pressure’ can she have really felt? It sounds like she had no problem saying no, or calling OP back in two days later for to say no again, louder.
      (I also don’t really understand how a meeting 8 weeks away (and in July!) that no one’s been invited to yet can be completely immovable. Any number of desired attendees could be bumbling round booking holidays then, for all she knows)

      1. doreen*

        I found out yesterday about a meeting scheduled for Sept 26. It’s a large meeting and really isn’t movable as it requires a particular large space. This meeting happens every year in mid-to late September, although the actual date is set sometime in June. If I had requested that week off and been approved before the date was announced, it would have been no problem. But if I asked for that day off today, it would not be approved (except in exceptional circumstances)

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          Yeah, this also didn’t strike me as odd. It’s very dependent on the type of work you do.

          If in your work a big group is maybe 12 people, mostly internal, and most of whom are regular staff? Yeah, it’d be weird to be unable to change a meeting that far out. If your work requires working across several agencies/companies/community organizations and you’re talking about a project kickoff that’s dozens of people and includes very senior executives, elected officials, funding partners, and/or people flying in from out of town? No way that’s changing.

          1. valentine*

            I also don’t really understand how a meeting 8 weeks away (and in July!) that no one’s been invited to yet can be completely immovable.
            It isn’t immovable. She wants everyone available to her at all times for her secret nonsense, when she’s inflexible. If OP2 hadn’t asked for time off, who knows when boss would’ve told her about the meeting? Certainly with far less lead time than OP2 gave for her request.

      2. Yorick*

        I agree with your thoughts on the meeting. The letter suggests the boss was thinking of having the meeting then, so it sounds like it’s not planned yet and can be scheduled for another day. If not, why is the meeting secret? I assume OP wouldn’t have booked the flights for those days if she had a big meeting on the calendar.

        Honestly, either OP’s presence at the meeting is vital so it could be moved by 2 days or her presence isn’t that important so she could miss it and have coworkers catch her up (or she could call in).

    4. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      If the employee is trying to use the fact that they have to pay fees to change it to persuade you to let them keep their original date, that’s one thing. But if they are not doing that, which it sounds like the OP is not, then what’s the big deal? It’s their money to deal with, not yours.

    5. Alsofreckly*

      OP2 – I did a similar thing, but knew my boss would have the same reaction. The morning after I booked it I just asked her about a vacation on those dates without indicating I’d already booked and she cleared it. I knew she would prefer to preclear, I knew I would rebook if it didn’t work, and I didn’t want to lose that flight deal!

      1. TechWorker*

        This is a good point – if the employee was actually not hoping their flights being booked to have sway over whether the holiday was ok-ed, they could have just.. not mentioned it..

        1. Zillah*

          Sure, but I don’t think there’s something inherently malicious about doing so – some people are just more inclined to talk (and share) than others. I can totally see myself mentioning “yeah, I found this great deal!” in this situation. It’s just a difference in approach.

        2. Observer*

          Sure – *IF* they had realized that the boss was going to react that way. The way the OP tells it they mentioned it as part of the conversation not as a “I need these dates because I booked tickets.”

    6. Rusty Shackelford*

      If someone told me they’d already booked flights, I might feel like they were pressuring me to approve their time off, even if they had no intention of doing so. So I wouldn’t have mentioned at all that I’d bought the tickets. I’d have stopped with “I found a great price on a flight for those dates” if I wanted to explain why I picked that time (but really, since you didn’t know about the planned meeting, that doesn’t even seem necessary.)

      That being said, “personally disrespectful” is hogwash.

    7. Observer*

      So? Allison mentioned all of that, but nevertheless came down on “over the top”. It’s way more than “a little” too far. Because “annoyed” is one thing. But “personally disrespected” is an orange flag.

    8. Sloan Kittering*

      I get irked as an employee. We’re at the mercy of the airlines these days, I often end up regretfully adding days on either end of the trip because there are NO reasonable flights. And the prices and availability seem to change within hours, meaning when you do find something that works you need to grab them. So making me check with my boss, then book flights means that I then come back to my boss and say, “actually I also need Monday afternoon, is that okay too?” However, it is indeed field dependent. I do office work and our meetings are not so critical. Also I have coworkers who can cover for me. I’m not like, a wedding planner or something.

    9. S*

      I agree calling it disrespectful is a stretch, but I think it depends on the culture of the office and the protocol her boss wants for requesting time off. Most of my bosses have been pretty relaxed for vacation requests, but if there are set meetings I would not have been able to request time off. If this was a one time occurrence where the letter writer found a total steal, fine. If she has a history of requesting time off that leaves her coworkers in a lurch, or pressuring her boss for certain days, then I can see the boss’s aggravation.

    10. Ra94*

      But some people book flex fares or fares that can be changed penalty-free within 24/48h, so I feel like managers should just trust when the employee says ‘it’s no big deal to change the flight’, and not feel pressured.

  11. Róisín*

    #1: I also cry when I’m stressed and frustrated! This is a recent thing! All through high school and college I was the kind of person who cried for 30 seconds over something devastating and then I was done. Since starting birth control, I’m the kind of person who cries over a cute puppy (it’s embarrassing). I work in a restaurant so I’m able to run out the back door and cry in the shed until I feel capable of returning, which probably doesn’t fly in an office, but giving someone a few minutes to collect themselves us always helpful. It might be that she’s just as annoyed/embarrassed about the situation as you are.

    #4: Trust me, people won’t make a huge deal if you don’t. I’m only 24 but I was engaged for around two years while I was in college, and new people come into my life all the time who don’t know this about me because it doesn’t come up often. When it does, there’s a “huh!” moment and then it passes. Literally the other day I was chatting with a shift lead at my job and mentioned my ex-fiancé, and he said “you have an ex-fiancé??” and I said “yup, I was engaged for about two years during college” and he said “huh!” and then we returned to our previous conversation. It’s not scandalous or embarrassing to be divorced, just like my broken engagement isn’t scandalous or embarrassing! Just mention it casually, don’t lean too much weight on it, and it should be fine.

    1. Anon Today*

      If starting birth control was fairly recent, have hope. Your body and brain will (eventually) adjust to the hormones, but it takes time. I’ve been on The Pill for years, but a few years ago my doc changed my Rx to a lower dose. Oh, the mood swings! I would be happy and then melt into near-sobs. (“Look at that adorable kitten,” sniff sob.) It was dreadful, because I *knew* what was happening but felt powerless. It took 6-8 months for me to adjust, and now, looking back, I see that some stupid personal decisions I made during that time were probably affected by my fluctuating hormones. So… hang in there, but don’t make any major decisions until you’ve clearly thought them through. ;-)

      1. londonedit*

        Also – not to derail – there are also many different kinds of pill. In the UK, the NHS routinely prescribes a pill called Microgynon as a first option, mainly because it’s the cheapest, and if it works then great, cheap for them to supply (we get free contraception here). Unfortunately, it’s not a great fit for some people, and I think this is where a lot of the ‘OMG the pill is so evil, I felt awful on it’ stuff comes from. I tried it, it really didn’t suit me (mood swings and crying, absolutely) so I went back after three months and asked to try a different brand. The next one I tried was an absolute world away from Microgynon, and I’ve never had any problems with it at all. Don’t be afraid to try something different – side-effects are not inevitable and we don’t just have to put up with them!

      2. Róisín*

        It’s been about a year and a half and honestly, being able to cry has been useful! It’s nice to cry when you’re upset! But yeah, it definitely calmed down from “omg EVERYTHING IS TEARS” to “this person screaming at me over french fries is really upsetting” or “this adorable kitten almost died and now look how happy it is running around in its little wheelchair”!

        And I’m a chronic overthinker, so I should be good on that front!

  12. Loretta*

    OP #1 I just want to put it out there that going through the visa application process is one of the most peculiarly torturous experiences you can have. The most basic privilege of a human – being able to exist somewhere – is up in the air. The government has ultimate control over your future.

    I went through this process (and failed – had to return home) a flatmate of mine went through this and due to government error ended up appealing all the way to the highest court, and also my husband went through this process when we married so he could live in my country. All three experiences were expensive and terrifying and the stress warped our normal personalities and affected our capacity to work effectively at the time.

    So keeping this in mind might make sense of erratic emotional responses! Your employee is experiencing what I consider a form of torture!

    1. Jimbob*

      Did you read her letter all the way? She said that the visa thing was last summer and admitted she would have cried as well.
      The issue is that the crying has continued , not that she cried during the visa issue that has since been resolved.

      1. Jasnah*

        True but I wonder if some issues, like the visa issue, are not fully resolved yet and are still going on in the background causing her stress. As Loretta says, applying for the privilege to live somewhere and pay taxes (abbreviated rant) takes a long time.

        1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

          Also bear in mind – applying for a visa can be EXPENSIVE. Enough that it can impact your finances for quite some time.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            The whole visa process was suspiciously simple and fast for Husband. The fact that we’d been married, and living in his country for a while* probably had a lot yo do with it. That said.. I held my breath for years until Husband became a citizen…just in case.

            * His country made it simple for me to live there. Fill out a form, pay the fee. Done.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            I did the math once. Start to finish, including costs incurred getting married (note it’s a PITA and costly…getting married in Morocco if one of you are a foreigner) visas, medical costs, travel, etc., etc, etc. up to and including citizenship. It was just at about $10,000K give or take $20 or so.

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          Oh yes. It depends on the country but I never really felt “safe” until I became a citizen, and even now with recent political developments I don’t feel completely secure.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            We worry about stuff here (US) too. Especially considering that Husband is Muslim. Sometimes I think we’re being followed…but that’s probably just silly. Right?

      2. Washi*

        I agree with this. I understand that the visa thing is likely a source of ongoing stress, but as an employee, you have to learn to manage your stress in such a way that, at the very least, your boss doesn’t characterize conversations as “talking her off the ledge” and dreading your presence. (I’m taking the OP at her word that this has been a “year of crying” and that this is an ongoing, frequent issue, not just occasional tears.)

      3. Allypopx*

        Visa issues can linger and be very unsettling, and really make someone feel unstable or vulnerable in their situation. It’s perfectly possible that either the issue itself or the residual stress is still throwing the employee off kilter even though the application issue itself seems to be over.

        1. Ada*

          It also doesn’t help that seeking help (like therapy) could even be seen as a threat to getting that visa/green card/citizenship because you risk being seen as a potential “burden to the state.” I had a full on meltdown that lasted nearly a day last year a few months before my husband got citizenship because they were considering changing the policy to count anyone who signed up for Obamacare (you know, the healthcare you were legally REQUIRED to sign up for) as a “burden to the state” and therefore ineligible for citizenship. Thankfully they backed down on that one, but I was still 100% convinced my family was going to be ripped away from me at any moment, despite going through the process “properly” every step of the way. Now, I’m just about one of the most stoic people you will ever meet, so the fact that this process damn near broke *me* really says something. TBH, with the current administration, I still don’t feel fully secure, even though my husband is a citizen now.

    2. Roja*

      Yeah, that was my thought too. The visa process and an upcoming marriage is more than enough stress for any person, and it’s hardly surprising that she cracked. If it’s been less than a year, I’m guessing she’s still recovering (and it probably hasn’t been more than a few months, given how long the process takes). Sure, talk to her about dealing with stress at work if it’s really a problem but… I think it’s also just that she’s having a really rough year.

      I’m sorry to hear about your experiences. :/ I hope things have gotten better for you now.

    3. epi*

      I was shocked this issue wasn’t given more attention by the OP, the answer, or most comments. Visa reapplications can be incredibly stressful and, in the US, dysfunctional. The US is running child concentration camps in the desert. At what point should an immigrant who needs to regularly reapply for permission to stay, who was so upset they admitted to their boss they were scared of being deported, just get over it? Why would being upset and stressed about that even count towards the “year of crying,” if the OP was really so understanding? Does the OP really think she “fixed” her employee’s visa issues? Isn’t it more likely that this employee hasn’t recovered from a particularly scary, stressful renewal experience, while new threats against immigrants are being shown in the news every single day?

      I have to say I think crying to manipulate another person is rare, and I don’t know anyone who can cry on command. I see a serious lack of empathy in even going there unless there is evidence that the person is and has always been manipulative in other ways. This employee is going through something serious. The OP should stop compounding their unkindness to her, and quit assuming that the discomfort they feel around another person’s tears is the problem here.

      1. Observer*

        Can we not call those places concentration camps?!

        It’s ignorant and offensive. I’m not defending what’s going on there. It’s despicable and unconscionable. But that doesn’t make them concentration camps.

        1. Data Bass-Baritone Administrator*

          Honestly, I find the quibbling about whether to call them “concentration camps” ignorant and offensive. These are places where we are holding children in genuinely inhumane conditions, in violation of our own law and our obligations to asylum seekers. Since English doesn’t yet have a specific word for this horror, “concentration camps” will have to do, I’m sorry.

        2. Perse's Mom*

          Definition per Merriam-Webster:
          “a place where large numbers of people (such as prisoners of war, political prisoners, refugees, or the members of an ethnic or religious minority) are detained or confined under armed guard.” The term is not exclusive to WWII and Nazis.

      2. Ico*

        The employee is requiring repeated sessions to “talk her off the ledge”. That is simply beyond the purview of any boss/employee relationship, not an issue of lacking empathy.

      3. RandomU...*

        It’s not for the manager to fix whatever issues the employee is having, unless it’s directly related to work.

        I think the OP was very clear in their understanding that the Visa saga was understandably upsetting. It’s also a red herring in relation to the time period after that was resolved. The same with the wedding planning.

        The manager shouldn’t be responsible for telling the employee to find their EAP (why oh why is this always put on the boss. Presumably employees are adults that have the ability to research their company offered benefits! -Sorry that was a bit of a soapbox jump).

        It’s on the employee to be able to function at work in a productive and not distracting manner. It’s on the manager to provide a workplace that free from major distraction and provide the tools for the employee to function. A manager can empathize all day long, but if the employee can’t function in the workplace then they need to get that under control.

  13. rudster*

    A good airfare deal can disappear quickly, especially if you are looking for specific dates or a specific routing, and 8 weeks is when things really start filling up. Unless she was already in the office and could pop in to the boss and quickly ask before booking, hesitation could have easily cost a substantial amount of money. I’ve had a few minutes’ worth of “thinking about it” cost me $100 or more.
    Unless LW1 knew that there was a work conflict (unlikely), they simply took a very reasonable calculated risk and was upfront with the boss about it. She can’t take 2 days off because of a previously unannounced, vaguely defined meeting 8 weeks from now? Unless the meeting was already scheduled with outside participants having already made travel arrangements or customers coming in, and LW’s role in it is essential (why didn’t LW already know about in that case?), the boss’ reaction is just weird.
    With the “blink-and-it’s-gone” way travel is booked nowadays, people should have a reasonable assumption that such comparatively minor PTO requests made well in advance will approved, unless they are intentionally ignoring known conflicts.

    1. Fergus*

      I just like to know when it became disrespectful to your boss to make any purchase decision with your significant other. It could be the boss used poor choice of words or this is a whole nest of wasps. I would like way more context.

    2. Yods*

      Yeah, this is exactly what I’ve always done – find a good flight (that is sufficiently in the future and doesn’t clash with any important work or meetings) and note the dates in the leave system, which is always approved as a matter of course. The issue of flights has never come up.

      And in this case LW did not even voluntarily tell her about the flight, the manager asked about it. If the manager feels pressured (or personally disrespected!) by personal information that she asked about that is entirely her problem.

    3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      This is what I often do. It seems perfectly possible as well that the OP saw a great deal and even with the change fees the fare works out to be much less than what they would normally pay. The boss is being weird.

    4. Allypopx*

      Yeah that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and she seemed to do it with the understanding that she might have to change it but it was worth it to take to the risk. I feel like there might be a lot of tone on either side that we are missing, or that might have been misinterpreted by either party, but I can’t see a case where the manager is in the right making it a “personal” issue. Professional, MAYBE, though I’d still find that weirdly controlling given the circumstances. But this is such a normal thing to do given how airfare pricing fluctuates.

    5. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      This. This this this. I fly twice a year to visit family, and the airfare dance is a major point of discussion every time.

  14. Clementine*

    If you are booking flights in North America, most of the time you have 24 hours to get a full refund. However, check with your booking site, naturally. In some cases, you can do a fare lock. In any case, if you do book flights before telling your boss, make sure they are in this category and that you can get a decision prior to the 24 hours. And then just don’t tell her they are already booked unless she says something like I will let you know next week. Then you can decide whether to tell her, or just cancel.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Oh yeah, does everyone know that? One time I booked the wrong dates, realized it immediately, called the airline in a panic, and they were like, “…. sure, no problem.” Phew!

  15. Sufficient Display*

    For #1…I wasn’t a cryer but had a new boss who thought he knew what was good for me. Please don’t tell your employee she needs to see a therapist, and whatever you do, please don’t put it on her performance review. When I complained it went nowhere.

  16. Rex*

    #1 My stress reaction is to cry. I can somewhat manage it at work, but in personal life it’s a disaster. Even the smallest things. It can come across really manipulative (and yes, some people use it for that) but it’s not. It’s horrible. It gets worse as I get older and I become more insecure. If this has been since visa process then she might have some type of ptsd relating to that. It has triggered an anxiety regarding uncertanty. Sorry for the armchair diagnosis. You don’t need to take over her work because of this. Do you have occupational psychologist/doctor that you could refer her to? She knows she cries, so suggesting some stress coping is totally fine

    #2 The boss is over the top. Persoanlly disrespected? I can understand that they might feel pressured to approve your leave since you’ve booked flights, if the boss is generally reeasonable then I guess a head up is nice but it’s not necessary. I’m getting flashback to my bf’s old boss whose only power was to control annual leave so he really milked it, so I might be projecting. . You are carrying the risk and knowingly booked something without clearing it and was prepared to handle consequences. Next time I’d book the flights and not tell the boss on why leave is needed.

  17. Grand Mouse*

    LW 2- calling it “personally disrespectful” brings in too much emotion for a professional relationship. Let’s say a coworker asks me to do something and I forget. Is it great? No. But is it personal? Not at all. I work in cleaning and it would do me no good to feel personally wronged when someone leaves a huge mess to clean up. I liken it to the idea of a “worksona”. Things that happen to Work Me are separate from actual me, and there’s no malicious intent either, just thoughtlessness.

    1. Grand Mouse*

      adding on: the thing about calling it personally disrespectful reminds me of the earlier letter where the boss demanded the LW feel grateful.

      1. Yorick*

        And it does seem like this boss wants LW to feel grateful (there was some language about how the boss is so good to her)

    2. fhqwhgads*

      There are some subset of people who use the phrase “disrespectful” when what’s really happening is “not to their personal liking”. I think they genuinely think it’s disrespectful, but they’re also not really understanding what that word actually means.

  18. Lindsay*

    On the crying issue, that also used to be my default response to stress! Until someone told me about The Chimp Paradox book, which in one part talks about our instinctive reaction to stressful situations – some people cry, some lash out, some shut down completely. If you become aware of it you can ground yourself back in the present and overcome the instinct to cry in my experience. Not sure of a tactful way to suggest she explores this but I’d definitely recommend!

    1. Lady Jay*

      I’ve known for years that crying is a physical response to stress, especially when I’m tired. Knowing doesn’t mean I can stop it, though.

      I think it’s unrealistic to expect that a self help book will cure the person of crying, though it may, and together they should work out different solutions, including just ignoring the crying (my preference when I cry).

    2. twig*

      but how? does the book go into how to manage this? I’m a crier — I call it an emotional tension release valve — any strong emotions (Positive or negative) are likely to result in tears. I’ve known this about myself for 43 years now.
      (My mom has the same thing. we’ve talked about how frustrating it is and have a deal that whoever figures out how to overcome this will tell the other)
      HOW does one just stop?

  19. Seeking Second Childhood*

    I can also imagine that a recently married recent immigrant in the US in 2019 has some uniquely stressful decisions if there are marital difficulties.
    Immigration expects couples to prove their marriage… I saw the hoops a friend had to go through when they divorced and that was a 5-year marrIage ending during the Obama administration. Someone who got married fast when her visa was expiring who is facing divorce 12 months later? She could also face deportation.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Nothing, just one of those suggestions that there may be more than meets the eye in any situation. Reinforcing the advice to ask.
        [Added much later… this response somehow didn’t post and didn’t vanish either. Weird phone. ..]

  20. Applesauce*

    From the headline I expected the divorce letter to be more along the lines of “I’ve been working here for ten years and my coworkers all have met my husband on several occasions except we got divorced three years ago and no one knows.” That might be a little odd, but a marriage that happened and ended years before you started there? No one will think twice about it.

    1. pleaset*

      Yeah. And i know this may sound obnoxious, but OP4: people just don’t care so much about your personal stuff like that. Most people have more relevant things to care about.

      1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        Yup. I have a coworker who has mentioned family that lives in my hometown, multiple times. I’ve mentioned things about my hometown, and we’ve discussed that it is in fact the same town, multiple times. Each time she seems surprised to ‘learn’ this about me. Your coworkers won’t blink at a piece of your past they didn’t know – unless you specifically said something to the contrary. And even if you did, they’d probably just figure they misunderstood or remembered wrong. Your coworkers mostly care about how you are to work with.

    2. sometimeswhy*

      There’s a great bit in a Maeve Binchy book (A Week in Winter) where a young adult asks a trusted older adult how she’d be able to explain what she perceived as a shameful part of her past and was told, “You know, people don’t have to explain things nearly as much as you think they do.”

      I read that book YEARS ago and that exchange has stuck with me and help to quiet my anxiety around my own inclination to not share or explain my personal life.

  21. Delta Delta*

    #4 – This hardly feels like a lie. It’s just a piece of information people don’t know. And coworkers won’t make a big deal about it unless OP does. It’s not really any different than any other fact they don’t know about her.

  22. Klingons and Cylons and Daleks, Oh My!*

    OP 2…

    Even if you had checked with Boss first, I get the sense that she would find it “personally disrespectful” that you’re taking vacation at all.

    1. Mods*

      Keep in mind I don’t actually get any paid leave or benefits in this position and it’s the first day of vacation/leave I had asked for since I began working there last year…

  23. Anon Librarian*

    #4 – You could also refer to him as a friend or former roommate. I wouldn’t feel any obligation to tell them. It’s your life, it’s outside of work, and it doesn’t really matter. Just do what you feel comfortable with.

  24. Lady Carrie*

    OP1…Winston Churchill was a crier and he still managed to get the job done.
    And, my daughter can be a crier. She was attacked in college and believes that her fight or flight response has changed as a result. She understands that her emotions may be at a 10 when the situation is really a 3. She works for a large multinational corporation and her many bosses have always been discrete and understanding while still firm with their professional expectations.

    1. Arctic*

      Winston Churchill was famously difficult to work with and spent years outside of government despite being smart and capable because of it, though. He only got back in because few sane people would want to take on the challenge facing them. So, not the best example.

  25. Juli G.*

    OP1, if your company offers EAP, you may want to make your employee aware it’s an option if she mentions stress as the reason for crying. It sounds like she’s had a lot going on over the past year and it might do her well to know about that option.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*


      Apparently the employee has lots of experience and presumably we wouldn’t be seeing this level of stress for work related reasons. The stress hang-over from the visa and the wedding could last for quite some time, even without additional issues. And if she’s not tuned into why that could be happening, she could be doing some additional “I’m supposed to be happy but I’m not” self-blame or other similar fallout responses.

      Checking in with a more comprehensive “I want to make sure you’re ok” process may be super helpful to someone who has been through this “I need to be on my best behavior” strain so recently.

  26. TechWorker*

    I do think in some cases crying is seen unfairly as ‘worse’ than other reactions. When I was (lool still am tbh) overworked I had more than one status meeting (1-1) with my manager where I got teary – though that was in the context of being asked about my workload and how I was coping rather than criticism. I think this was read by management as me being unable to deal with stress. I know other managers who deal with stress by getting incredibly grouchy and taking it out on their team/being generally short with everyone – which I think is noticed by management less but imo causes at least as many (if not more!) problems.

  27. Allypopx*

    Ugh I feel for the employee so much in #1. I went through a period where I was super burnt out and angry and stressed about a ton of things inside and outside of work and I just stress cried in my boss’s office like…once every week or two. I do cry when I’m frustrated but I’m usually fairly good at keeping that in a box at work or waiting until I can get to the bathroom or something. But not during that time frame.

    My boss and I talked about it ,and he was gentle and reassuring when I was clearly upset, but also we were able to sort of acknowledge it as A Thing that was happening and not let it completely derail work discussions that had to happen. I didn’t ask for any extra labor from him besides a little understanding – e.g. not taking over projects or anything, just maybe not being a jerk about my emotionalness. That worked out well. Have a conversation, see where you can land. I would guess the employee is embarrassed and this might be out of her control, but she may still be able to do her full workload once she gets a hold of herself.

  28. Ponyboy Curtis*

    Wow, I wish my company would ask for feedback on their interview process. It would be nice if we actually talked about the position, what is expected, and what I can bring to the table instead 4 people sitting around a table asking stuff like “name a time that you’ve been a driver of safety”. Another one that was cracked me up was “give an example of a time that you’ve been a leader”. What I really wanted to say was “in spite of my 20+ years of experience in this field, your M.O. is ‘shut up and do whatever hair brained scheme management comes up with’ instead of asking the people who will actually have to implement this.”
    The result is the worst employee/job mismatch in my quarter century career, and me desperately looking for anything else, internal or external.

    1. Ponyboy Curtis*

      Not to mention I’m the fourth person to have this position since it was created in 2013. And I’ve been here 3 years.

  29. Art3mis*

    #5 – I would LOVE to give companies feedback about their hiring process. I don’t know if it would do any good, but I live for giving people a piece of my mind. Maybe that’s why I have so little of it left…

    1. ThatGirl*


      Two years ago I was job searching and managed to get two offers within a few days of each other. Company A called first but I preferred Company B, so I stalled a little and asked for a formal written offer with salary and benefit details. Meanwhile Company B came through with a full written offer and an entire benefit packet. Company A finally sent me a one-page letter that basically said “here’s the job, here’s the salary, you get 10 days of vacation and we have health insurance.” It made my decision a lot easier, and about a week after I declined Company A I actually got a call from a third party asking for feedback. I was grateful for the chance to let them know that while I might not have taken the job anyway, the lack of detail in the offer hurt them.

      1. OP#5*

        @Art3mis: Lol! I’m all for giving feedback too…I just don’t want to waste my time (and sanity) providing feedback if it’s not going to be utilized.

        @ThatGirl: Nicely played! How did the third party receive that feedback?

        1. ThatGirl*

          They were fairly neutral about it, just thanked me for my feedback and said they’d share it with the company. I was certainly grateful for the chance to give it – it was a decent-size company that was being run like a very small one and I think they really just needed more structure and a proper HR department. (But then again, the position I was offered was essentially an entire digital marketing department in one person.)

      2. Art3mis*

        I once interviewed with a company that was the local franchisee for a national oil change chain. I didn’t get the job, but they did include a coupon for an oil change with the rejection letter. I would have loved to give feedback on that.

    2. Lauren19*

      I ask for feedback at the end of interviewing candidates. It’s partly to make sure the JD and recruiting experience match my expectations, but it’s also because my team plays an advisory role to senior leadership and I need to see how they handle delivering feedback.

  30. Anon for this*

    #4 I really wish we could all get away from this unfounded belief that not revealing personal details about our private lives is the equivalent of lying. I was in a similar situation; married for a year and then divorced. I carried guilt and shame around for years. I finally learned to treat it as a non -issue if it came up in conversation. And nobody cared one bit. A few act surprised but not in an overdone ‘Wow’ kind of way. And when I do get a reaction I make a joke; “Yep, we call them “starter marriages” in my family”. And that always gets a laugh and people move on. Nobody has yet to ask for details because, well, divorce is so common and a part of life.
    We also adopted our daughter from birth. Keeping this information to myself is not lying. Talking about when my daughter was born without revealing I was not the one who gave birth to her is not lying! I am respecting the privacy of all involved. And again, like divorce, treating it like it is the most normal thing in the world. Afterall families are created in all kinds of ways.
    Finally, we do NOT OWE ANYONE AN EXPLANATION when it comes to our personal choices, private lives, circumstances etc. Why do we constantly feel like we do?

    1. RandomU...*

      Agreed. I have this same question every time someone asks “How do I explain X” “I don’t want to share the story of Y” “People are asking me to tell them what I did over the weekend, but I don’t want to”.

      I figure it’s the same syndrome as a ringing phone. “Why do people call in the middle of dinner! I don’t want to talk to them” My answer always was… “Umm don’t. You’re not obligated to, and it’s really your choice”

    2. londonedit*

      Yes, I find the idea of ‘lying by omission’ odd – that isn’t what this is! Maybe it’s because I’m from a culture where people are traditionally quite reserved and where it’s traditionally been considered rude/vain to talk about yourself a lot, and for that matter rude to pry into people’s personal lives? I don’t know. If someone asks whether I had a nice weekend, it’s just a politeness, they’re not expecting a blow-by-blow account of what I did. ‘Oh, not bad – weather could have been nicer but it was good to relax! You?’ is more than sufficient. Similarly, if I mentioned having visited Narnia years ago, it would be odd for people to start asking probing questions about why I was there and who I was with. ‘Oh, really?’ or ‘Really? When was that?’ would be common responses, and no one would expect anything more than ‘Yes, years ago – I loved the beaches there!’

  31. staceyizme*

    I don’t think crying is okay in a professional context. It’s excessive emotion and can be perceived as manipulative. It will also forestall the possibility of hearing the whole truth about something, perhaps something critical. Each of us loses our composure from time to time, and to varying degrees as well as in different ways. A key component of self management, however, is awareness of our triggers and the ability to manage them adequately and appropriately. .Most people can learn to self-manage with respect to these very strong emotions through engagement with self-care, personal or spiritual practices and self control. Some things don’t come across as acceptable at work because they change the emotional and social calculus to much. Yelling, crying, violence, inap

    propriate humor and stonewalling (refusing to communicate or accept feedback) makes others work harder to manage emotions and contexts that aren’t theirs to deal with. As a manager, I’d ignore tears that were frequent and I’d coach whatever the needed behavior change or skill upgrade was. Managers should be kind, but they don’t have the resources to hand-hold employees in personal or professional difficulties. Fear, anger, stress and depression are strong emotions, but they can be dealt with and the management of them should be left mostly to the person experiencing them, with some coaching and the option to step away in order to regain composure.

    1. Jennifer*

      Crying can sometimes be manipulative. You’re right. That could be what’s happening here but I’m not sure.

    2. NothingIsLittle*

      I have hormonal anxiety and depression. I no longer need to be medicated for it, but I used to cry for literally no reason (even during the time that I was being medicated for it). I couldn’t consciously feel anything that would make me cry, no stressors were happening, and still my college roommate would tell me I was crying even though I hadn’t noticed.

      It was incredibly embarrassing for me to cry at my job, but it was a medical condition that I had no control over. It wasn’t a stress thing and it did not impede my work in any way since my work wasn’t forward facing. I did speak to my manager at the time, letting her know it had nothing to do with my work and that she should ignore it, but when I did cry at work I became stressed worrying that she would think I was trying to be manipulative.

      Excessive crying is absolutely disruptive, but it’s also something that a person might be protected by ADA for, especially as it relates to anxiety and depression. While most of your comment is sound, it’s pretty uncharitable to say it’s not okay in a professional context without including a qualifier.

    3. Anon Librarian*

      These are good points. But this is also easy to say if you’ve never survived anything truly horrible and inevitably upsetting. We all have different life histories and present circumstances outside of work. It is everyone’s responsibility to manage their own life and emotions, but we don’t get to control everything or choose everything that happens. It’s important to allow for this.

      When I was younger, people were violent towards me, stole from me, and I was fired from jobs for crying. I didn’t know how to report stuff to the police, or what the laws were. That was part of the overall situation. If only someone had reached out in some way instead of casting judgment on me – assuming that I was weak and immature. Then these people might have been held accountable for their actions and would not still be out there, posing a risk to others.

      1. Jennifer*

        “But this is also easy to say if you’ve never survived anything truly horrible and inevitably upsetting.”

        You don’t know that this person has not experienced traumatic incidents. I’d say most people have in one way or another. They may just process them differently. The bottom line is we have to figure out ways to manage our emotions in professional settings. It may mean excusing yourself to calm down or seeking professional help.

        1. Anon Librarian*

          Right. We don’t know anything about this person’s situation (outside of what was stated in the letter). That is my point. There needs to be a way to allow for different possibilities, and I would advocate talking to the person about it before judging them.

          1. Jennifer*

            Sorry I was referring to staceyizme’s. You said that it was easy to say when you haven’t experienced trauma, I am saying we don’t know whether staceyizme has or hasn’t.

            I don’t think the OP should have to talk to this employee. They have to learn to manage their emotions. I’d excuse myself or give them to chance walk away and collect themselves.

  32. Bopper*

    Re: Divorce

    Just speak about it organically…”My ex-husband was from Narnia. I have been there 5 times and Cair Paravel is not to be missed!”
    People won’t think “why didn’t you tell me you were divorced” but “ah, she trusts us enough to share this with us”

  33. Coffee Cup*

    I once broke down crying in front of my former boss because my work permit was late and I had to stop working until it arrived. I was terrified that she wouldn’t renew my contract and that my life as I know it would be over. She started crying with me and said she would never jeopardize my career and would do anything within her power to keep me. Visa and immigration issues are extremely stressful and the stress bleeds into every aspect of your life, especially if your residency depends on your continued employment. I feel myself getting more and more vulnerable and prone to catastrophic thoughts and anxiety spirals (I made this mistake – what if boss doesn’t renew my contract and I get deported? There is this insurance issue – what of the government says this makes me ineligible for permit renewal?) I don’t think this pattern will go away as long as my life in the country I have settled in depends solely on my job (3 more years at least :( )
    What I am trying to say is, i wouldn’t be surprised if your employee’s anxiety and stress issues come down to her visa situation (which may not be as resolved as you imagine – each renewal period is a new stress).

  34. Percysowner*

    OP#4 Some people have trouble talking about their divorce. My best friend and I worked at the same small library. We hung out together and got together for Christmas. One day she called me into her office and told me that she and her husband (who I had been inviting to the Christmas get togethers every year) had gotten divorced 2 YEARS before. She swore me to secrecy because she just didn’t want it known. 3 years later she when her 25th anniversary was coming up, she finally told her mother and sister, because it was the only way to stop them from throwing a 25th anniversary party. She then told the rest of the staff. People really didn’t think much about it. I mean it was different, but no one thought less of her.

    Basically, I don’t think this will affect how people view you.

    1. Mammo-anonymous*

      I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash at your friend divorcing. I am however raising several eyebrows at the extent she went to to hide it for so long. People…are weird.

  35. Lemmy Caution*

    #2 I work for a living, I do not live for work, so me being me, I’d probably told the boss ”Respect is earned.”

    #3 You are too honest a person to be true. I think Allison’s last suggestion of ”is this the total, did you include the research” is a good ”innocent” way to approach the issue. I mean unless you have a face-to face or a phonecall an email trace might land you in hot water somewhere along the line if you don’t remember that some other person in the company might not see what you did from the same pov… just

    #4 What is the ”lie”? Nobody has asked you, besides which it’s none of their business. Tell them you are a runaway nun and your convent was in Narnia – now *that* would be a whopper!

  36. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP2, your boss is being ridiculous.

    You booked two days off, 8 weeks away. 8 weeks! 2 months!

    Slipping a kickoff meeting forward or backward by a few days with two months to plan is not hard. If the meeting absolutely can’t be moved for some reason (like the RFP won’t be publicly released until then), then there’s still plenty of time for you to be pre-briefed so you’ll be up to speed when you come back. And if the meeting was such a big deal, why hadn’t it been added to the office calendar yet?

    1. Mods*

      I wondered the same thing – as the meeting has approached and I’ve asked for more info about what I should prepare/the outcomes we’re looking for/my role in the process I’ve been kept fairly in the dark and informed that there is nothing I need to prepare. So I’m going to it but I still don’t really know which stakeholders will be there!

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        Ugh. That makes it sound more like fraternity initiation than an actual business meeting.

      2. Close Bracket*

        I’ve been kept fairly in the dark and informed that there is nothing I need to prepare.

        That’s a problem. Maybe your boss would act this way even if you weren’t going on vacation, but I wonder if she is, maybe on a subconscious level, to throw in some benefit of doubt, keeping you in the dark as a sort of punishment for personally disrespecting her.

    2. KR*

      Yes to your last point. All boss has to do is block the days off as tentative and put a little note requesting that people talk to them if they’re trying to plan vacation on those specific days as something is up in the air. Sounds like boss is feeling a little worried about this meeting and took it out on OP.

    3. Meh*

      It takes 8 weeks for my boss to even respond to or approve a vacation request, so there’s frustrating for you. Not being able to make any travel plans or flight arrangements until you get an answer, missing out on any good fares as a result, then having to stay home during your vacation. Talk about infuriating.

  37. Jennifer*

    #2 I honestly don’t think it was a big deal that you booked the tickets first. I’ve done it. When you see a good deal sometimes you gotta jump on it before it sells out. I just wouldn’t have mentioned it when I requested the time off. That does put more pressure on her to say yes. You know for next time.

    1. Sally*

      Coming here to say this, too. I realize that the boss asked for more details about the planned trip, but there may be a way to downplay it and say “it’s no problem, we’ll go another weekend.” And then just change the tickets without saying anything about it. BUT, I’ve been in situations where my boss has asked about something, and I was totally caught off guard and couldn’t think fast enough to not give too much information (or to be completely awkward in trying to not give personal information), so I completely understand.

  38. Jennifer*

    #1 Agree with the advice. It seems this employee is expecting the OP to comfort her when she cries over minor issues, which happens a lot. Just give her some space when it happens.

  39. Booksalot*

    #4 If sharing any info about your divorce is a bump you can’t get past, the word you want is “ex”. You don’t need to tack “husband” onto it. Very, very few people have no exes of any kind. Your ex is from Narnia, so you’ve spent a lot of time there.

  40. 8DaysAWeek*

    #4 Oh wow!! I understand this 100%. I am in a similar boat. I can say it gets easier with time. Most of my co-workers do not know that I have been divorced almost 2 years. They may know but I have never told them. Only a few of my close co-workers know. To make things more complicated, I am about to change my name back to my maiden name. I have been so hesitant to do it because like you mentioned, I was ashamed, embarrassed, etc. I have been at this company for almost 15 years and I’m sure people are going to wonder why my name changed.
    It is difficult to tell stories and have conversations around things that happened in your previous life. But like Alison said, most people won’t question it.
    Alison is totally on point with her advice. I wish you the best of luck and congratulations on your engagement!

    1. MicroManagered*

      Are you me? Are you me? I am literally in this boat RIGHT NOW! I got divorced but have only mentioned it to a few close coworkers I consider friends outside of work. I have changed my name back legally (got my new ID yesterday), and all that’s left is to change it at work and I’m super nervous about it! Reading the responses OP4 (including yours) have helped me tremendously today.

      1. 8DaysAWeek*

        LOL Thank you!! I am taking a day off of work next week to start the process officially.
        I KNOW most of the people I work with won’t bat an eye at it. I am nervous to change my name because I have had issues with co-workers become very interested in me since my divorce and have made me very uncomfortable. I am just afraid this will draw even more attention to it. And there is no way I can send a mass email out informing of my name change. It would be impossible to cover everyone. So it will be on a case-by-case basis and I’m sure will take a good half-year before people are brought up to speed.
        Plus once I change it, there are a million places you have to change your name. I have quite a long list already.

        There was a letter on here I read recently where a man changed his name and was getting flack for it at work. Alison had a few great scripts for how to deal with it. If someone makes a thing of it, you just simply say “I go by Jane Smith now” and leave it at that or change the subject.

  41. mcr-red*

    #1 – I’m a rage crier, if I get to a point that I’m about to explode, I will physically shake and cry. I’ve cried twice in front of my boss, and the whole time I was saying, “Ignore the tears, I’m just so angry about this situation, I can’t help it.” I hate that I do it, but it’s not something I can control. My boss, thankfully, has always handed it well, been calm and said go take 15 minutes and calm down. Maybe tell your employee the same thing.

    #4 – I didn’t know a friend/coworker of 5 years was divorced until at least 2 years in, and she happened to mention it when I mentioned something about my d-bag ex. I was just mentally like, “Oh friend understands,” and went on. I did want to mention, however, if you don’t want to talk about your ex, but still talk about your experiences that happened during that time period, you can! Just don’t mention him. I’ve deleted my ex from the “book of memory” as it were. I’ve talked about that time I went hiking in the mountains or that time I went to the beach or that time I met random celebrity…and just never said ex was there with me. I don’t want him in my memories and ruining those experiences forever. So…he’s gone!

    1. WinnaPig*

      I have always used the expression “my son’s dad”. That was the positive that remained, that I wanted my son to experience, and that firmly put the couple part in the past. It worked well.

  42. lapgiraffe*

    #2 – I definitely was a young manager who used very similar language to this, although it was in retail, the employee in question did not ask, did not give more than two weeks lead time, it required multiple people to bend over backwards to have it covered, and while it was the most egregious situation to date, it was not the first time this employee had pulled a stunt like that. It did actually result in her really upping her game, changed the way she engaged with managers and employees, was much more proactive in getting her shifts covered AND in picking up for other people, she worked there almost another year before moving into her desired career and we were literally throwing her a party in the end she was so beloved (and that would not have been the case nine months earlier), so maybe it wasn’t the best way to say it, but it did work out for the best in the end.

    Ten years later I had a friend do the same thing at the small company she worked at – booked 10 days to Europe during the busy season (and she was not a new employee who didn’t understand it wasn’t a time to take long vacations), put it on facebook (!!!) without telling her boss (also a friend on facebook) who replied to her post “cool story – what are the dates so I can put them on the calendar?” (I literally just went back to look up his exact language). She called me up “boss saw my fb and is mad, can you believe it?” and at that point I hadn’t even seen the post so when she told me I said “well, that’s kinda crappy considering the time of year and how much he’s going to have to cover your work for you to do that.” she replied “well now you’ve made me feel bad!” and I stopped her and said “no, you’re the one who made you feel bad, don’t put it on me that you did something you knew better than to do and then posted it on facebook and got caught. If you feel bad maybe you should examine why instead of blame someone else” (Yeah, we’re not friends anymore.)

    So I’m admitting I’m more than a bit biased looking at number 2 because of these two experiences, and though there is no information given to suggest that the employee is anything but stellar, when I read the question I see in tiny letter “I probably should have gone about this differently” and then in huge letters “but can we talk about how bad my boss’s reaction was instead!” That is the tactic both of my examples used in life – minimize their own role in a problem and hyper focus on the one who wronged them – and I think in the case of the letter it’s working, more of a focus on the boss’s language rather than the OP’s handling of the situation (the fact that two days later the conversation wasn’t “I changed the tickets” but “I CAN change the tickets” also sets off alarm bells for me, it’s language that suggests its still an option, but so is not changing the tickets. If I had done the same and were truly putting the point behind me, my language would be “I changed the tickets” or “I’m changing the tickets” not language that doesn’t suggest it’s not actually a settled conversation).

    But I’m giving boss more benefit of the doubt – perhaps this has happened more than once, whether with this employee or others, or perhaps there is much more to the OP’s story than is given, but I don’t find the boss’s language that horrible. Yes, “It’s business, it’s not personal,” but we’re all humans trying to work together and respect is paramount, and respect at work is both professional and personal at the same time, and I can see a situation where OP has both gone against professional procedure and done so in a way that comes across disrespectful.

    1. Observer*

      Actually, you’re misreading the letter (and the OP’s later responses.) They did actually change the tickets – in fact in one of their responses they explicitly talked about trying to prep for the meeting be being given no information.

      Your bias is really blinding you here. For one thing, there is nothing to indicate that the OP has a habit of doing this or that it’s the busy season or anything like that. Secondly, the Boss KNOWS that she never told the OP about the meeting. *And* the OP didn’t hide it from their boss, only for the boss to find out through FB or the like.

      In other words TOTALLY different situations. Also, I think that in all probability even in the cases you describe “personally disrespectful” is a ridiculous phrase. Both people behaved badly, but you really need to get over the idea that this is “personal.” It’s not.

      1. lapgiraffe*

        I think I’m very aware of my bias, but I do think that experience counts for something and maybe considering the boss might have their own bias is important to trying to see something from their side, if only to better understand where they might be coming from or how to address things with the boss moving forward. And you’re right, there wasn’t anything to indicate it was the same, but there often isn’t in these letters, and we don’t often get to dialogue with the OPs to get further information. We’re all speculating, and this one triggered me, and I admitted it, but it’s me sharing my experience that someone could see things differently.

    2. Mods*

      So to give some context this is a part-time casual position with no PTO or benefits (that I took a significant paycut for believing that the experience would be worthwhile) and this was the first date that had been requested off since I began working there. I began in more of an assistant role and have moved into coordinating a national project (which has included travel outside of my normal hours I have been asked to accommodate). My boss can be fairly prickly and downright disdainful about the partners we work with which is a new situation for me to be working in.

      She had previously allowed me a few weeks off later in the year which is why this reaction struck me as so off base

      1. lapgiraffe*

        I’ve followed your other responses to get a better idea of your situation, and as always thank you to you and all the OPs who engage in the comments! I do feel strongly that employees of all classifications check in with bosses before making commitments like travel, much to everyone else’s apparent chagrin here, but precisely because I have been burned and do like to consider my colleagues and managers in decisions that could have an affect on them.

        But more to your comment, and somewhat to Observer’s above, thinking through why your boss reacted the way they did could be helpful in dealing with them moving forward (or figuring out that this move wasn’t worth the experience and its time to find a job with better pay and benefits and culture). I realize that’s ostensibly why you wrote in, but I’ll admit I did not see as much interest in the why as much as I read someone wanting affirmation of their perspective (The line “am I right to feel weird about the language of personal disrespect?” is what stuck in my craw). From your account is does sound like your boss is odd, but I always try to do the mental and emotional work to see different sides of an equation so that moving forward I can get the outcomes I desire.

        1. Mods*

          I was looking less for a why and more for a “is this normal?” and if it is then why. I had worked throughout my degree in professional roles where this would have been a weird reaction but this is the first post-grad position I have in my field so I wanted a litmus test

          1. valentine*

            So you have:
            ~no PTO
            ~no benefits
            ~significant pay cut
            ~boss fairly prickly
            ~boss downright disdainful
            ~boss intensely/bizarrely/unnecessarily secretive
            ~boss feel personally disrespected you made a reasonable, perfectly professional request

            Either this is a tax on whatever this job is doing for you or a better situation exists elsewhere. It sounds like she’s stringing you along with the meeting you gave up your plans for. If you don’t need to prepare, why is it so important you be there?

        2. Name Required*

          OP does not need to do the emotional work to see why her boss had an inappropriate personal reaction to a OP’s personal financial choices.

          It really seems like you’re projecting your own (on-going?) emotional response to your old employee onto this letter, and I disagree with you that you are aware of your own biases based on your odd response here — in both situations you outlined, you act as if you and the other boss had no choice but to accommodate those requests and therefore it’s all the employee’s fault for asking. You have agency, as did the other boss.

        3. MoopySwarpet*

          I think in this particular case, the reaction is way over the top for unpaid PTO and a total of 2 days.

          In general, I also feel strongly about checking on vacation before making travel commitments. I suppose part of that is my own personal standard and working in a small office where it’s really hard to cover for more than one person to be out at the same time. I check with everyone (which would be overkill in a larger office) when I start planning a vacation to see when the best time is with minimal overlap in people out. I typically then reverse engineer my vacation to fit the dates and budget.

          However, we’ve had employees in the past who have just dropped the information the week or 2 weeks prior to vacation . . . “I’m going to Germany for 2 weeks for Oktoberfest” or “I have a wedding to attend in Italy . . . I’ll be gone for 2 weeks” or “my spouse surprised me with a 3 week trip to the Bahamas, we leave in 2 weeks”. Some of these during times when I had specifically asked “I’m planning a vacation in ____. Do you have any conflicts?”

          We’re flexible and haven’t ever NOT granted the time off, but I do feel that it’s a professional courtesy to ask first vs just informing your boss and co-workers you’re going to be gone. (Also, not applicable in this particular instance, but in general.)

      2. LCL*

        Managing vacations-your boss is doing it wrong. You asked for your vacation two months in advance-that is desired behavior and you should have been praised for that. In my work group vacations have to be approved and I am the approver. Approvals are strictly based on staff availability, not future projects. 99% of vacations are approved, it’s just the holidays and the weekends near the holidays that are a problem.

        I think her reaction was over the top. I can tell you that in the past, in my work group, people have used the ‘I have already bought flights so you have to let me go on this vacation’ method when asking for several days leave on really short notice during prime time, and that is a jerk thing to do. But that’s not what you did. It would be worth it for you to ask her to clarify how much lead time she requires for days off requests, and if there are any restricted times. It sounds like she isn’t used to planning around other people’s schedules, too bad for her, that’s part of managing.

      3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        Oh dear.
        Each of those things is a red flag. Put together, it’s no doubt that your boss is a jerk and/or loon.

        I hope you are getting some kind of useful experience out of this. Because you should not apply any of the things you’ve described your boss doing to future positions.

        1. Mods*

          It’s feeling more and more this way. Though this comment is the weirdest single incident it’s not the only thing. We have no team meetings or any idea what anyone else in the small team is working on. She doesn’t often tell us when new people start and what their roles will be (often they don’t even have workspace assigned to them so we end up doing some weird version of musical chairs). When I first started she told me that she trusted me to manage my schedule but that she had fired people in the past for not managing theirs (which totally panicked me and luckily I was able to unpack exactly what she meant by that with another coworker who had been told the same thing). It feels like this position is slowly eroding the norms I had and making some types of negativity/unprofessionalism more normal and I think I’ve been looking for an excuse to leave but felt unsure given that I would like to be pursuing more education in fall of 2020. Originally I had thought this position would be a good fit to build skills for the next degree and get a good reference but I don’t think I will ask my boss given that she can be a wild card.

          1. Close Bracket*

            she is my boss and tries to make my life good so I should give her more consideration/respect for that.

            This is sort of weird. It’s a fair statement if one assumes she is talking in the professional sense. Like, “as your boss, I make sure you have work that suits your interests and allows you to develop and make sure you aren’t overloaded, and I would appreciate if you would check in and make sure you won’t be burdening the business with your absence.” But she says she felt personally disrespected, which makes the above statement read more like, “I’m so nice to you and you owe me.” That’s overly personal for a business relationship and verges toward evil bees territory.

            If you can find another position, this is a good time to do so. You would be in the new position for a little over a year before starting your new degree, which is a respectable length of time to put on a resume. Don’t mention your educational plans when you interview, though.

          2. Observer*

            It feels like this position is slowly eroding the norms I had and making some types of negativity/unprofessionalism more normal

            Not good. It’s a good sign that you are recognizing this. I’d strongly suggest you start looking for a new job. You REALLY don’t want negative junk to become you new normal.

            The job hunt itself will also help you keep a sense of perspective, so even if you don’t find something better immediately, it should be useful.

  43. mark132*

    #4, I’ve had some coworkers so over share about their divorces, in some ways I find the way you kept quiet about it refreshing.

  44. CG*

    The use of “a year of crying” in letter 1 made me confused – there’s a huge distinction between an employee who has been crying at work on a regular basis for a year and an employee who cried a few times a year ago during an excessively stressful time and then cried once in frustration a few weeks ago. If the employee is crying on a regular basis in response to normal office things now that the floodgates were opened one year ago, then yeah, there’s a huge conversation to be had there. But if the employee cried once or twice this month over a current issue and then also nearly a year ago… this letter might be a bit of a disproportionate response.

    1. Yorick*

      That’s what I was thinking. And I couldn’t tell what type of crying the most recent episode was. Did the OP happen to see the employee crying, or did the employee come in and have a huge emotional session with OP about her recent frustrations?

    2. StaceyIzMe*

      I think you’ve articulated an important distinction. There is a real difference between someone who had a hard time and managed it the best that they could and later had one or two episodes of recurrence, and someone who hasn’t been able to get through the preponderance of their professional year without regular outbursts of tears.

      Another commentator mentioned some ADA covered types of conditions and that also makes sense in context (as well as being something a boss wouldn’t necessarily know, not everyone wants to say “hey, on the spectrum here!” or “hey, hormonal imbalance, involuntary tears may occur!”. I think the distinction is in how open the person is to the general communication and feedback loops that come with most jobs. If they’re trying and they’re not offloading their drama onto to manage and clean up, then they’re probably doing everything they can. Colleagues and supervisors should also be open to someone taking five or ten to regain their composure. It’s no different than needing a little water or a trip to the bathroom (another response to stress that sometimes cannot be helped!). That said, I suppose I’m still of the mind that, in general, we expect people to self-manage in terms of their emotions in a professional context as much as or perhaps even more so than we would in social and familial contexts.

      1. NothingIsLittle*

        I’m pretty sure you’re referencing my comment above. CG is absolutely right that there’s a pretty dramatic difference between crying flaring up occasionally during stressful times and crying happening during the course of regular business with no explanation. And you’re right that the crux of the issue is whether the individual is communicating effectively. They might not be comfortable admitting what’s wrong, but they do need to be able to communicate that it’s either something the manager can help with (they’re being given too much work, they haven’t received appropriate training, etc.) or something that they’re working through on their own.

        What worries me about OP1’s question is the phrase, “I think I am have created a pattern of “cry and Jane will fix it” and I have to manage a project that isn’t mine to begin with.” That to me says the issue requires a talk of some kind with the employee to ensure that she’s receiving help within a reasonable scope. It makes sense for OP1 to let the employee take 5-10 minute breaks to refresh if necessary and to give her the contact for their employee help services; it doesn’t make sense for OP1 to spend 30 minutes talking her off a ledge twice a week. That’s far beyond the scope of professional courtesy or even reasonable disability accomodations.

  45. an infinite number of monkeys*

    #4, I’m very self-conscious about being on my third (AND FINAL DAMMIT*) marriage. Funnily enough, I wasn’t terribly embarrassed about having two ex-husbands before remarrying a couple of years ago. But somehow three husbands just seems like a lot! In casual conversation I tend to omit the first one and let it be assumed that #2 is the father of all my kids, not just the youngest. It’s the movie adaptation of the novel of my life! Too many characters just confuse the audience. But sometimes it’s harder to avoid being specific, and I always feel weird about admitting to Ex-Husband #1.

    So I totally get the embarrassment. But I don’t think me being thrice-married even registers as a blip with anybody else, not even my parents.

    *There’s no reason to think things will go south with my husband – we adore each other and we are both mature middle-aged adults, (relatively speaking) stable, and deeply committed to doing whatever it takes to keep the relationship working – but if they did, I’ve already vowed to withdraw from society and acquire as many cats as humanly possible.

    1. Oof*

      A family member also has had three marriages, and all the spouses have the same name. “Plaintiff” LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL It doesn’t come up terribly often, but they do have a really good joke to move the topic on. :-D

  46. 2 Cents*

    OP3: As a former side-gig freelancer, I’d have appreciated it if someone had told me my rates were too low (because they were… something I only realized myself after 3 years of charging too little :/). Consider it good karma!

    1. Sally*

      Me, too! I started out charging $40/hour and later realized that I should have been charging around $70/hour. Live and learn!

  47. Frustrated Today*

    Unfortunately, I manage a crier. I was told she’s a crier before I started the job, but I wasn’t prepared for the level of crying. During our first one-on-one she broke into tears about something. I offered a tissue and she said she cries a lot and is just very emotional, so don’t worry about it. From then on, any time it happens I ignore it completely and go right on talking as though it’s not happening. Eventually she gets herself under control, usually. It’s now obvious from my observations, and talking to her former manager and my own manager, that she takes things *very* personally and often reads into things that just aren’t there. She has a reputation within the company as a crier and it’s not doing her any favors. I know she’s been passed over for certain things because of it.

    As a manager, it’s incredibly frustrating to see this anytime something remotely sensitive comes up. And I can’t always predict it. Sometimes it’s something so completely benign and the waterworks start. It doesn’t actually make me uncomfortable at all (maybe I’m a robot?), just very frustrated. It makes me feel like I can’t talk to her about important business-related things because she’ll start crying, which tells me that she probably isn’t paying attention to the message. I hate to say it, but it makes me not really want to interact with her at all and I find myself wanting to work around her. I don’t, but the temptation is there.

    On the other side as the employee, I’ve cried, too. For me it comes about when I’m really stressed and don’t know how to alleviate it. It’s only happened a few times in front of a manager and it was years ago, but there are times now when I cry in the car.

    While I can understand people cry and sometimes it just comes on without warning, I do think there has to be some effort to control it, or to at least excuse one’s self for a few minutes. OP should convey that to her employee if she hasn’t already.

    1. Close Bracket*

      which tells me that she probably isn’t paying attention to the message.

      How do you know she isn’t paying attention to the message? If she were smiling, would you think she wasn’t paying attention to the message?

      On the other side as the employee, I’ve cried, too.

      And did it mean that you weren’t paying attention to a message?

      You are projecting. She said not to worry about it, but you are worrying about it in the form of reading things in that you can’t know and letting it affect your perception of her. You need to work on your reaction to the employee and the tears both.

      1. Frustrated Today*

        “If she were smiling, would you think she wasn’t paying attention to the message?”

        I don’t think this is on the same level as crying. When I cried as the employee, no I wasn’t always paying attention to the message because I was so worked up I couldn’t concentrate on it. I was busy crying.

        As to my perception of her, I think it’s hard for that much crying to not affect my perception of her. If it happened once in a while it probably wouldn’t, but it’s happens several times per week. Others here have worked with her for year and have all experienced the same thing and had the same frustration.

        1. Close Bracket*

          Hard, but not impossible. You can change your employee’s emotional regulation, but you can change your own. Work on regulating your reaction to her crying, including assuming that she’s not paying attention to the message.

    2. NothingIsLittle*

      You really should have a frank conversation with her about the crying. She might have told you that she’s just emotional, but there are a number of health conditions that could contribute to her behavior that she might not be comfortable sharing. I have hormonal anxiety and depression and while I now have it under control without medication, there was a time when I would cry at nothing even when I was being medicated for it. That’s something I shared with my manager, but not everyone would be comfortable sharing that type of issue.

      You really ought to come right out and say something to the effect of, “I’ve noticed you’ve been crying a lot when I try to give you feedback. I know you said not to worry about it, but it’s gotten difficult to ignore and I worry that I can’t provide effective feedback when it happens. What’s going on?” You need to be super non-judgemental when you say it. There’s a chance it might be related to a health issue which, if documented, may warrant ADA accommodations. Otherwise, you can proceed to set clear guidelines for what needs to happen, “I understand that you’re emotional, but I need to know that when I give feedback to you, you’re going to listen. If you need a few minutes to take a walk and get water, that’s fine. Or if it’s easier for you to get that feedback in an email, that’s okay. (insert reasonable workarounds here) The bottom line is that I need to know that I can communicate issues to you and have them be resolved.” But that’s only relevant if she’s actually not paying attention to you ie. not acting on issues you’ve communicated to her or frequently making the same mistakes.

      It’s important to make sure that you’re not projecting the assumption that she’s not listening to you and that she’s really missing important information. If you realize that nothing she’s done indicates she’s been ignoring your advice, you might respond with something like, “I have trouble giving you feedback because I worry it will make you cry and I sometimes avoid telling you about issues to avoid the tears. Is there something we can do to prevent this?” (I’m much less certain about the appropriateness of this particular response, but something that lets her know that her crying prevents her from hearing important feedback and that there needs to be a way for you to deliver that feedback.)

      You’re doing both yourself and the employee a disservice by not talking to her about it because you only get more frustrated as it continues and she’s potentially missing out on projects or promotions that people feel she’s unqualified for due to the crying.

    3. Mockingdragon*

      I’ve sometimes asked for difficult conversations to happen via e-mail so I can react to them without the other person having to see it. Maybe that’s a strategy you can work with since her reactions are frustrating you? If you need to know she’s heard the message, repeating it in an email for posterity is never a bad idea anyway. I think one of the things a lot of us are trying to raise awareness of is that Crying =/= Not Listening.

      In my case, if I’m having a reaction to bad news or something difficult, going away to stop crying is pointless. It’ll take 5-10 minutes and I’ll start crying again the minute the conversation picks up. Easiest and most respectful of everyone’s time to just continue, quiz me on the content if necessary, and get through to the other side so I can actuall recover.

  48. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #1 – What is the employee doing aside from crying? Like other people in the comments have discussed, visa issues can be prolonged and hellaciously stressful, and there are also medical concerns that can make someone become more prone to crying. I went through periods in my life where just about anything could make me start leaking from the face, even if my emotions weren’t actually all that compelling. It sucks.

    What’s more important, to my mind, is what else she does in the meantime. Is she breaking down in a nonfunctional mess? Is she crying but soldiering on? The behavior that is completely under her conscious control is, IMO, a lot more important in the overall scheme of things.

    4. Divorce is a very, very common (and awful) experience. I promise you, no one is going to think you’ve lied, even by omission, by not bringing it up previously, and you don’t have to be dramatic about it at all! All four of my parents have previous marriages (two of them to each other, natch), as do many of my peers, and many many of my coworkers. I’m not in the divorced pool only by virtue of having called the whole thing off before the wedding instead of after. I think I’ve mentioned my ex-fiancée two or three times at work, when the topic has been germane to whatever we’re talking about, and it’s utterly undramatic. If it helps ease your anxiety at all, try mentioning it in a one-on-one conversation and calibrate your feelings based on that one person’s reaction, before saying it in a larger context.

  49. S*

    #4 it’s no one’s business and it’s 100% up to you if you disclose your divorce at all. Unless your coworkers are bonkers they’ll understand if/when they find out. It’s normal for people to prefer to keep personal things to themselves at work. I had a boss who flipped out when she found out I had broken up with my boyfriend and hadn’t told her. It’s work – who cares and I chose to keep it to myself.

  50. Lady Jay*

    I would just like to say that using “Narnia” as the anonymizing location is delightful. I’m thoroughly enjoying the references to visiting Cair Paravel in the comments.

  51. Jaybeetee*

    I’m a frustration-crier myself. I’m weird in a way – I’m the type that rarely cries at funerals or over Very Sad Things, but if I’ve tried something for the nth time and it’s STILL not working, I might cry. I also have a tendency to cry during arguments, which is… not good (at best, my SOs have seen me as a shrinking violet who can’t handle a raised voice. At worst, I’ve been seen as manipulative and trying to cry my way out of an argument). I’ve learned this is likely Yet Another Vagary of ADHD (which I talk about too much here, but I’m still learning all the WEIRD ways it impacts my life that I hadn’t connected before – like, say RSD. And struggles with emotional regulation during moments of frustration. And anxiety spikes because I think too damn fast all the time).

    There have been only one or two situations where I’ve cried at work in front of a boss (other times I’ve cried at work… privately). They were quite supportive during those incidents, though in all cases it was handled along the lines of “spent a couple minutes being nice to me and handing me Kleenex, then leaving me to my own devices to calm down.” Which I figure is the right way to go. Just like that letter awhile back where the manager was spending HOURS calming and reassuring an employee who went into anxiety spirals over negative feedback, a manager really can’t, or shouldn’t be, spending tons of time emotionally managing someone.

    For this LW, depending on her relationship with her report, and considering this sounds like fairly new behaviour from someone she’s worked with for some time, it might be good to sit down with her one day, comment that she seems stressed or easily upset lately, and if there’s anything the office can do for her? Perhaps, if you guys have an EAP program, point her that way. It’s the kind of conversation that has to be handled delicately – you aren’t a therapist and you don’t necessarily want to invite her to spill her guts more than she has. And if it is lingering immigration issues, etc, causing her stress, there isn’t really anything you can do. At the same time, you’ll have to gently make it clear to her that this is becoming disruptive and you need her to find a better way to cope with her stress.

    1. yala*

      “I’ve learned this is likely Yet Another Vagary of ADHD (which I talk about too much here, but I’m still learning all the WEIRD ways it impacts my life that I hadn’t connected before – like, say RSD.”

      Oh please, by all means, talk about it here!

      I only just started medication recently, and suddenly realized today it’s like…it’s like I had a dozen radios in my head all on different stations, and someone finally turned the volume down and even turned some of them off. I knew it was affecting my work, but I didn’t realize how *many* issues I was having were related.

  52. NooneknewIwasdivorcing.*

    #4. Only one person at my work knew I was divorcing (my boss). The only indicator I gave everyone else to my new status was my name change (back to my maiden name) on my physical inbox cubby and my e-mail signature line. No one ever asked.

  53. Dasein9*

    I used to be a cryer. What stopped that is hormones. I’m trans and haven’t cried as much since starting testosterone.
    So, there is sometimes a link between hormones and crying, as many people who have been pregnant will attest. For this reason, I would avoid assuming it’s entirely under the colleague’s control.

    (A possible pregnancy comes to mind, but that’s not something you can really ask about.)

    At any rate, it might be helpful to know that making a big deal of someone’s crying can just make the tears gush out even more. Leaving them alone for a bit and being very matter-of-fact about it, as we might for any other biological function that has to be dealt with so we can concentrate on work, is often the best way to keep the crying brief.

        1. Close Bracket*

          If she had been pregnant a year ago, OP would know by now.

          Possible pregnancy is not a constructive line of speculation regardless of how long some people experience hormonal changes during or after.

  54. Existentialista*

    #4 It definitely gets easier. At first when telling stories about things that happened while we were together I would talk about “my ex and I”, but over time my stories just naturally changed to “I” (“I went to Narnia in 2001, I rented a car from this place, I stayed in that hotel,” etc.), and now that we’ve been apart a lot longer than we were together, if I need to tell a story in which he appears, I refer to him as “a friend of mine”. Be kind to yourself!

    1. Mama Bear*

      What I was trying to do was type a link for Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. Anyhow, I would encourage managers who have employees who are easily frustrated or who have strong reactions to seemingly minor things to read up on RSD or ADHD or anxiety. There may be an underlying concern the employee is struggling with, and perhaps knowing more about these conditions will help both you and the employee to navigate sensitive matters with fewer tears. https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/rejection-sensitive-dysphoria#1

      1. yala*

        I’ve only just recently heard about this. Considering a lot of the trouble I’ve been having at work lately has been me taking criticism/correction too personally (I don’t *mean* to, and I think I’m often perceived as more argumentative than I mean to be) I wonder if it’s something I should tell my supervisor about at all. She already knows I started medication.

        Ugh. I should have bit the bullet and started seeing someone about this years ago.

    2. twig*

      OMG Thank you!!!! (Diagnosed with ADHD as an adult last yer — I’m now medicated, and trying to figure it all out — I didn’t even know this was a thing)

    3. dee 20*

      Yes!! I was only diagnosed in the last few years, and only found out very recently that emotional dysregulation is a very common symptom. Knowing why I would just cry out of nowhere or over things I knew were minor has gone a long way toward helping to mitigate my reaction or to communicate what I need (generally, space).

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Holy. Sh…

      Thank you for sharing this nugget. I’m coming to realize my need for testing for adult ADHD and the more I learn, the more my life long battles make so much sense.

  55. Close Bracket*

    I think I am have created a pattern of “cry and Jane will fix it” and I have to manage a project that isn’t mine to begin with.

    Stop doing this. Let her cry, and also let her handle the project. I think Alison is a little cold with the advice to essentially tell her to leave and come back when she’s not crying. Ask whether she needs to stop for a few minutes, but she might be ok to work through the tears. After you’ve done this a few times, you will know how she answers and be able to either keep working or take a break. But definitely stop taking her tears as a sign that you need to jump in and fix things. That’s entirely your own reaction, and you have the ability to change your reaction, even if you can’t change her tears.

  56. Jack Russell Terrier*

    #2 – In case you don’t know, in the US by law you have 24 hours to cancel a flight penalty free. This can be very helpful in general – even if not useful in this particular case.

  57. Jenny D*

    #1: The issue isn’t that she cries, it’s that when she cries, you feel that you need to fix it and you do that by doing her job for her.

    I was once at a seminar on health and safety at work. Most of the participants were men, mid-level managers. I was probably the only non-manager in the room, as I was a workers’ health and safety representative.

    During a discussion, I mentioned that it’s very irritating that some/many men just freeze and become very awkward if a woman gets tears in her eyes, and that there may be many reasons for this physical reaction – e.g. it might be anger, or weariness, just as well as sadness.

    During the coffee break, one of the managers came up to me and asked “Is it true what you said, that if you women cry it might not be because you’re sad?”
    I gave it a few moments thought, and asked him back:
    “Have you ever had a one-on-one meeting with a man, and he got very red in the face?”
    “Sure, it happens.”
    “So, when that happens – is it because he’s embarrassed? Or because he’s angry? Or because the room is hot and he’s wearing a thick sweater? Or because he’s got a condition or is on a medication that gives him hot flushes?”
    “Well, it could be any one of those…”
    “Exactly. It could be any one of multiple reasons – none of which means you should stop treating him as a sensible person, or break off the conversation. Just accept that people will sometimes get a physical reaction, that you can’t change that, and keep treating them like people – whether that reaction is a red face or tears or whatever.”

    I still have a tendency to cry when I’m angry or frustrated, and since I’m a sysadmin/IT security person, that does happen with some frequency. I’ve learned to tell my boss in advance that this might happen and that I prefer that he not stop talking with me just because I get teary-eyed. I can’t change that physical reaction, and I’d prefer to spend my mental energy on whatever the issue is that we’re talking about instead of on trying to control my tear ducts.

    Instead of taking over your employee’s job, talk to her and ask her how she’d like you to handle her crying. She may ask you to give her a few moments to collect herself, or she may want you to just keep going regardless of what her eyes are doing, or she may want something different. But don’t assume that her cries are a request for anything in particular unless she actually makes the request.

    1. Close Bracket*

      The issue isn’t that she cries, it’s that when she cries, you feel that you need to fix it and you do that by doing her job for her.

      Instead of taking over your employee’s job

      But don’t assume that her cries are a request for anything in particular unless she actually makes the request.


    2. Mockingdragon*

      Or I could have just read to the bottom before I commented since you said the same thing I did, but better.

  58. Luna*

    LW4 — Bluntly stated, nobody would probably give an F about you having been divorced previously. You’ll be surprised to learn how little people actually think or care about other people’s personal life; especially in a work setting. I don’t know the exact dating history of my coworkers — neither do they know mine, nor do I think either side is really interested in hearing about it. There’s not even a reason to bring it up.

  59. Mockingdragon*

    OP1, in addition to my comment above about being kindest to just pretend it’s not happening (maybe try to deliver feedback via e-mail if you are having trouble dealing with her crying, see if that physical space helps), I’d be curious to know whether she ASKED you for extra support and fixing or whether that’s something you just took on. If she cried (non-manipulatively) and you worked to fix things, and then you discipline her for what you took on for yourself, that’s really not very fair. (All this stops applying if she did ask for it). She may think that you’d take these steps to help any of your team members and not know that you’re going above and beyond to try to baby her.

  60. LJ*

    LW4, I have a coworker who worked with us for a year and a half before casually mentioning that she was divorced. She rarely discusses her personal life, though the rest of us could be considered oversharers. We didn’t think it was odd or a big deal, at the most, it was slightly surprising – but not in a negative way. She’s brought it up a few times since, and I’m sure it’s probably a relief to not have to hide that part of her life, as it would be for you to explain why you know so much about Narnia

  61. S*

    OP#4 – Oh my gosh, this is ridiculous! Of course you don’t need to pretend 11 yrs of your life never happened! And the fact that you didn’t previously mention your ex is not a lie! It doesn’t even make it a ‘secret,’ just something that your coworkers don’t know, which includes an enormous number of other things about your life (who was your favorite singer in 1999? What was your most embaressing moment from high school? what was the biggest fight you ever got into with your parents? All not secrets, and not lies because you haven’t talked about them before!)

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