my boss and mentor runs hot and cold with me

A reader writes:

The person who brought me to my current company is both my mentor and my supervisor. I met him in a networking capacity and developed a mentoring relationship with him long before the company was able to hire me, so we were somewhat close before we even started working together. He’s taught me almost everything I know and, because of our relationship, I’ve always felt comfortable talking to him about any issues that I have (this has been exceptionally important to me as a woman of color in a predominantly white male workspace). And, perhaps most importantly, he’s consistently been an advocate for me: besides convincing the company to hire me in the first place, he’s also advocated for me in every single salary negotiation and pushed for me to be exposed to more advanced work at every stage of my time here. He’s even gone so far as to tie my continued employment to his own!

Recently, however, I’ve noticed more toxic elements to our relationship, and I’m wondering how (if at all) I can go about correcting them. Mostly it’s that he tends to blow hot and cold. Some days he is friendly and talkative and seems to enjoy our limited inter-office time. Other days, he is cold and withdrawn, and I am left wondering what I’ve done wrong. I know this “cold and withdrawn” thing is not in my head because he doesn’t seem to do it to anyone else — just me. On one occasion, it bothered me so much that I asked him about it, and he told me that I’d done some minor things earlier in the week (exited his office a little quickly, for example) that made him think I was angry and prompted his passive aggression. I agreed that I could be abrupt and have made a conscious effort to behave in a more even keeled manner. However, now every time he behaves in this cold and withdrawn way, I start to wonder what I might have done wrong. And asking him too frequently makes him angry.

I recognize that part of the problem is our own dynamic: we act and fight like siblings. I am not always the pinnacle of professionalism myself: there was a time last year when he forgot to invite me to a social event with several other coworkers, and I responded by closing my door and not speaking to him all day. He has very clearly told me that we are NOT friends (which, with him being in a supervising role, is probably a good thing — but was still hard to hear!), but often our dynamic feels more like family, with a never-ending berth for bad behavior and the expectation of forgiveness on both sides.

This up and down has gotten worse ever since he was moved to a senior management role (which makes him not only my supervisor and mentor but also my literal boss!). He’s been putting a lot more distance into the personal side of our relationship and I find myself taking it personally again. Here’s my question to you: how do I fix this dynamic? And what’s the best way for me to handle a “cold” spell? Usually if I just tell him he’s being weird, he’ll make an effort to stop. And when I’ve raised issues with him in the past, he’s always taken a serious effort to correct them, but this isn’t a specific incident — more like an overall dynamic, and I’m especially concerned as to how this will all continue to play out in his new role.

I actually think the solution is to embrace his attempt to put more distance into the relationship.

It sounds like in many ways he’s been a great mentor and advocate for you. It also sounds like the dynamic between the two of you has gotten unhealthy on both sides. On his side, he’s making things overly personal (withdrawing over minor stuff) and he’s hot and cold with you in a way that’s not appropriate for a colleague or mentor, and really isn’t appropriate now that he’s your boss. On your side, you’re overly personalizing things too (closing your door and not talking to him is something you could maybe get away with in a family or roommate context, but it’s going to come across as petty and unprofessional at work). I suspect his weirdness is reinforcing yours and vice versa, and so you’re both caught in this strange cycle with each other.

But it also sounds like now that he’s managing you, he recognizes that things need to change — and he’s absolutely right about that! He’s told you that you’re not friends (he’s right; you can’t be), and he’s putting more distance into the relationship. Those are good things! Lean into them.

It doesn’t sound like he’s done it perfectly, since you said he’s still being hot and cold. But it sounds like he’s at least realizing things need to change.

The best thing you can do is to run with that. Decide that now that he’s your boss you’re going to professionalize the relationship. You’re going to treat him like your manager, not a friend/mentor/sibling, regardless of what he’s doing. That doesn’t mean you need to erase all warmth from your side of the relationship — people often have warm relationships with their managers. But it does mean you need to get the emotions out of it and not react so much or take things he does so personally. It might be that if you’re scrupulous about doing this, it will ease his Hot/Cold cycle too, because you’ll be helping him create the boundaries that will help him stay more solidly in Warm.

You might even say something to him about this explicitly — like, “Now that I’m reporting to you, I realize our relationship needs to change. I’m going to make a point of having stronger professional boundaries, and I didn’t want you to read anything into that other than a desire for us to find a new baseline now that the relationship is different. I figure it’ll be helpful to both of us if we’re deliberate about recognizing that change.”

And then give it some time. This kind of dynamic is hard to change all at once, and you’re almost certainly going to have bumps. But if you can commit to professionalizing your side of things — even when it’s hard and things feel weird — I think over time the bumps on his side are more likely to smooth out as well.

{ 130 comments… read them below }

  1. Amber Rose*

    Yeah, I don’t even know if I’d say anything, I’d just lean hard into matching his efforts. Be less familial and more professional in your interactions, when he is a bit colder then accept it and give him space, etc.

    Stop taking it personally and take it as a good thing when he’s distant. It means he’s taking his role as your boss seriously, it’s a sign of good management. Don’t try to force a relationship that no longer makes sense and, if viewed by outsiders, may harm your future development. I’ve got two coworkers who fight like siblings (including “he started it!” and pushing each other) and I’ve heard a few comments from management about how weird and uncool it is. That’s not the kind of reputation you want.

    1. fposte*

      Yup. And also stop asking what’s wrong if he’s cool with you, or telling him he’s being weird. That’s a lot of effort being focused on the emotional content of a relationship that really shouldn’t foreground emotional content.

      1. OP*

        This is great stuff! Thanks to you both. Laughed out loud at “he started it”- can’t believe someone has actually said that in the workplace! Though I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised.

        1. Amber Rose*

          I hear it on a near daily basis. -_-

          I get that this is an extreme example and you are not acting like 10 year olds, but the sulking/door slamming/FeelingsTalk kind of thing is gonna get that same side-eye that these two are getting at some point.

        2. JSPA*

          Even worse, some people will read it not as a work-awkward sibling relationship (where both of you look juvenile) but as a romantic thing (which will rebound particularly badly on you).

          Witness some of the comments below.

          For whatever of endless reasons (the weird way we read power imbalances; the fact that mentoring can overlap hero worship, and that in turn can overlap other sorts of passion; the fact that humans are both emotionally complex and still plain old mammals in many ways; the fact that all personal relationships borrow from an overlapping set of “ways of dealing”; the sad fact that bored people love to write /ship fiction in the workplace; the fact that there have, of course, been cases where the mentor and the protegee were sexually linked; or the fact that sex is the other way that people commonly “become family”) the mentor-mentee dynamic needs to have pretty scrupulous boundaries to avoid encroaching on territory that you emphatically need to NOT WALK OVER AT YOUR PERIL.

          Honestly doesn’t matter whether, in some other situation, the idea would be a yum, yuck, or WTF–for him, you, neither or both. Regardless: professionalism, to the max, starting yesterday.

          1. valentine*

            Even worse, some people will read it not as a work-awkward sibling relationship (where both of you look juvenile) but as a romantic thing (which will rebound particularly badly on you).
            I’m thinking he’s seen this, maybe because someone pointed it out to him, especially especially if OP was ever his admin and, most especially, given the extreme of tying her employment to his (!), but even without it, the fact he’s now OP’s boss means he can’t favor her. But this relationship just seems too close and on display for him to really dial back and be fair to all his reports.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Totally agreed. And if he’s being passive aggressive or cool, he’s going to need to use his words, anyway. I think putting some significant emotional distance into this is important for both the mentorship and boss relationships. And honestly, it sounds like it might be kind of exhausting.

    2. Minocho*

      I do think something should be said, in a 1 on 1 meeting or something. I think this will have the dual benefit of letting the mentor know the OP will be making efforts from her side, and to help the OP hold herself accountable to redefining the relationship.

      This also has the benefit of allowing them both to acknowledge that there will be (or have been) hiccups along the way, and minimize the weirdness and the self-defeating feedback cycles that seem to be developing.

      This is hard to do! My mom lost some friendships that were valuable to her once she got promoted, and I remember seeing how tough that was on her.

      1. Filosofickle*

        The advantage of saying something (IMO) is that otherwise, he might infer something unintended from her distance. If you’re going to change your behavior it can be helpful to verbalize it so you don’t create a new problem or confuse the other person.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          This. Given your history and his behavior, you will need to toe a careful line between warmly friendly coworkers and friend friends, and I think putting it in the open will help that.

  2. Ginger*

    “He’s even gone so far as to tie my continued employment to his own”

    …. I paused after reading that. OP – friendly reminder that your professional, or lack of, behavior reflects on you to more than this single person. He may have advocated for you in the past but you can’t have all eggs in one basket and I promise you, people probably notice slamming doors and the “sibling” dynamic. It’s not professional and you both need to adjust.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I read that as meaning that he’s told employers that if they want to keep him, they have to hire/keep her. Sort of like, “I’d love to join you, but I’d need to bring my fantastic researcher with me.” If he’s senior enough, that can happen without being weird.

        1. valentine*

          On the one hand, I’m wondering if you’d be better served by seeing if you can fly on your own elsewhere. On the other hand, don’t plenty of people, especially men, have career tracks like this and it’s SOP?

        1. lost academic*

          Or it’s not. Because if he leaves for whatever reason, she’s about to be out too because there’s not a reason to keep her around as much. That means employment there is tied to additional uncontrollable factors. If you can really count on this person to take you places without employment gaps, cool, but that’s not a risk I’d be willing to take.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            Yes, sometimes this can be a high risk / high reward strategy. Doesn’t mean OP wouldn’t feel that she’s willing to go with it though, just something to think about. I’ve seen it go very well, where the subordinate forged their own close ties at the org and proved their value and was kept on after the big guy left (it was an appointed position, so his departure at some point was basically inevitable) – and other times when they get “swept” with a change of leadership. Depends on the field really.

          2. Samwise*

            Possibly although not necessarily. It’s something for the OP to keep in mind. She may want to keep an ear out for other opportunities (promotions, lateral moves into a new/interesting/growth area, etc) at their employer as well as outside. I’d say while the relationship has been very helpful for her career, she should think about whether she wants to make her whole career track his. If he suddenly decided to retire tomorrow, what would OP want to do next? what would her hoped-for career path be?

          3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            That’s only an issue if the OP isn’t viewed well by the others in the department/organization. They may take the opportunity to cut ties if he was the only reason they kept her on but it most likely isn’t the case!

          4. JSPA*

            You don’t want to be only a “boat in tow” for very long. You absolutely must prove your own worth and build your own network. Protegé(e) is fine at stages / in doses. But it’s not a title. Or at least, it’s not a title you want to have following you around.

            And if he’s getting all “don’t you want me baby” (in a professional sense, not in a sexual sense, though that would be even more problematic!) then you better be extra ready. The day will eventually come when you will express your gratefulness for the original boost, then move on to carve your own arc. (Because, seriously, at some point, if he really wants another job, he’s either going to take it, even if they don’t take you; or he’s going to pass on it, have regrets, and make sure you don’t forget it.)

          5. Better go anon just in case! But I'm a regular.*

            Yup. My wonderful boss moved to another company. Then he sought me out and asked what I wanted, added £X. The interview went “well you’ve got the job, what shall we talk about?!”

            All brilliant. Met a new teammate, got on fine, knew another he’d also headhunted from our past employer, delighted.

            Showed up on Day 1 to hear boss had just resigned to emigrate and retire. Argh! Replacement manager awful. Colleague from previous company didn’t stay long either (days? Weeks?) leaving me and person I’d just met (albeit very competent) to do the work, managed by a boss floated in from another section who didn’t understand what we did. (This was tech, but let’s say new boss spoke French while we worked in German…)

            Really regret the move. You can’t rely on it being perfect; you can only rely on yourself.

            I volunteered for redundancy when it came up. :(

      1. Babycarrot*

        That can be a really good thing, but we had a toxic manager here who would do that and brought another manager and a team member over here when he started working here, and would dangle over their head that they wouldn’t have been able to work here without him and that they were not good enough on their own.

        He wreck havoc on a department during the two years he was here and when he left, the teammate followed him to the new company. Yes, he can say “If you want to hire him you have to hire team member” but I don’t find its always a healthy relationship.

  3. CmdrShepard4ever*

    OP differentiating between supervisor and boss confused me. I have always considered all my supervisors to be my boss, they tell me what to do and how to do it. Sometimes a supervisor may not have hiring and firing authority over me, but I still considered them my boss, while also considering people higher up the chain as my bosses too.

    My definition for boss has always been someone who has any kind of limited authority over me, even if it is just assigning work is that too narrow?

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I agree with you. But I have observed people on this site use it the same way the LW has which I interpret to mean that for some reason or another they do not consider their supervisor to be in the role of their boss and their boss has more power in some fashion. The person saying that rarely explains what makes someone a boss, though.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        Yes, I’ve been a supervisor but not a boss in situations. At the places I’ve worked, a supervisor has authority to direct staff and make higher-level decisions, but cannot hire/fire/discipline/give raises/handle timekeeping or benefits.

        So a good employee would consider a supervisor a boss (they’re someone who I need to listen to) but a bad employee would not (they can’t fire me.)

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          When I’ve worked under supervisors who could not fire me, I considered them my boss, and then the person/manger with hiring/firing authority as the “big boss.” Most supervisors I have worked under, even if they didn’t have direct hire/fire/discipline authority, they could greatly influence all that by talking to the “big boss” about it.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you’re using “boss” to refer to the person in another dept who has the ability to assign you work but isn’t in your chain of command, that’s an unusual usage! Typically it would mean the person who manages you (whether or not they have hire/fire authority over your role), and people in the chain of command above them.

      Your direct supervisor is your boss, but some people distinguish between supervisor (lower level) and boss (higher level). But you don’t have to distinguish that way.

      1. Close Bracket*

        If you’re using “boss” to refer to the person in another dept who has the ability to assign you work but isn’t in your chain of command, that’s an unusual usage!

        In matrixed organizations, people in other departments who have the ability to assign work basically *are* the chain of command. I only see my line boss for reviews, which happen twice a year at my current company and once a year at my last company. I use “manager” rather than “boss,” to refer to them all, but aside from that, I make the same lack of distinction between all my managers that CmdrShepard4ever does.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          In some cases, yes. But if you’re, like, the web person, and the communications assistant can send you stuff to post on the website, they’re not your boss in any usual sense of the word.

          1. Mr. Tyzik*

            I have found when in supervisor positions, I have responsibility for interviewing, development, and execution, but not the “boss” work of hiring, firing, reviews, ID certifications, and other admin work. I didn’t consider myself to be the boss, although I had a lot of leeway in those positions.

        2. CmdrShepard4ever*

          By “all my supervisors” I meant all the different supervisors I have had at different employers. My initial confusion stemmed from the fact that OP’s mentor seemed to be in a direct supervisor role at some point but OP did not consider them their boss. Most of the places I have worked have had a very linear hierarchy:
          employee –> supervisor –> manager –> department head –> CEO, as an employee I have always considered each person up the next chain as my boss still. Most of my direct supervisors did not have direct fire/hire authority, but their word did carry a lot of weight.

    3. Avasarala*

      I sometimes use it to distinguish the various people I report to.
      Supervisor: my direct supervisor who manages me and assigns me work
      Boss: the head of the team/department, sometimes/often Supervisor’s boss
      Grandboss: Boss’s boss
      and so on.

  4. OP*

    OP again here. To clarify, as my supervisor this person was responsible for my work product and managing me, but did not have hiring/firing authority. Now that he is in a senior management position, he does have hiring/firing authority.

    1. Eirene*

      Hey, OP. I got my previous job because a good friend needed someone to take on a position at her company and told me about it; I still had to go through an interview and pass a skills test, but in the end it was really because I knew her that I was hired. Before I even interviewed, though, we had a long and frank conversation about what boundaries we’d need to draw if I became her employee, and it set a really good tone for the six years I worked there. We were still friendly – and remain friends even now, after I moved on to another job – but we made sure to avoid crossing certain personal streams (i.e., unfriended one another on Facebook) and it made things a lot less weird if she withdrew, which was usually because she would get super busy and not have time for much interaction, so I never wondered what was going on. I would urge you to take Alison’s advice about talking to him explicitly. You’ll never know where each other stands if you don’t.

  5. where have you been all my life*

    Um, this is weird. Reads kind of like a bad lifetime movie that in the next segment will turn into a missing person case.

    OP, do you want this guy to be your friend or boss? If you could only choose one?

    1. OP*

      It’s really hard to separate that question because this person has always basically been both. To be honest, I think what has made our working relationship great is the foundation of friendship- we enjoy working together. But at the end of the day I wouldn’t want to stop working for him just to be buddies.

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        OP, one of my mentors has twice been my boss. When he was my boss, we had a warm relationship, but he stopped mentoring me. A
        fter those relationships ended (one time I was promoted, the second time he left the company), we restarted the mentor relationship.

        My advice: stay friendly, but as long as he has supervisory responsibility over you (whether he can fire you or not), you need to suspend the mentoring relationship. Treat him as you would any other boss you like. A good question to ask yourself when taking an action is “would I do this with any other boss?”

        1. valentine*

          the foundation of friendship- we enjoy working together.
          The behavior sounds like you are personal friends, despite his insistence you aren’t friends at all. You may be able to be work friends or just friendly, in time, but that may feel like mere acquaintanceship to you, especially if this includes personal matters:
          I’ve always felt comfortable talking to him about any issues that I have

      2. Madeleine Matilda*

        Except you say he has clearly told you he isn’t your friend. A mentor may be friendly, but it is still a professional relationship. A supervisor as you define it above and a boss can be warm and friendly, but they aren’t your friend. A supervisor/boss who is good in that roles will not be friends with anyone they supervise for many reasons including the appearance or real favoritism causing issues with other staff and friendship interfering with the ability to manage and even issue discipline (see the letter from earlier today where a boss lied to a person he was firing because they were friends). Your boss would be doing you a real disservice in the work place by being your friend.

      3. Bee*

        Keep in mind that you can totally enjoy working with someone while maintaining professional boundaries! In fact, since that usually cuts out this “running hot & cold” issue or at least depersonalizes it, sometimes you will enjoy working with them MORE with stronger boundaries.

      4. Psyche*

        Except it sounds like he hasn’t. At least from his point of view. If he explicitly told you that you are not friends, you need to work on maintaining those boundaries.

        1. OP*

          Agree. I think it’s hard because we work for a pretty small company and most people here have been here a long time. There is a great deal of knowledge and investment in each other’s personal lives. But at the end of the day this can’t create a toxic dynamic, which speaks to your point.

          1. Eukomos*

            And you can still be extremely friendly with a boss, it’s just happening within the boundaries of the mentor-mentee relationship rather than a friend relationship.

  6. Crystal*

    I have kind of a similar relationship with my boss, but he’s the one that thinks we’re friends and I’m the one that pushes back on that (most of the time, after more than 10 years, it’s a fuzzy line).

    One thing I’ve started doing is that when we get into a snippy match with each other, for whatever reason, no matter whose fault. I take 15 to 30 minutes to chill out, then take something to his office and act as though nothing has happened. His responses have always been 100% reflective of my attitude in these situations. If I want to be pissy for a while, so is he (which used to make me MORE pissy LOL!).

    So that’s my 2 cents. For whatever it’s worth :)

    1. Kate the Great*

      I really don’t think that’s a good way to handle any relationship. Much better to discuss the issues, clear the air, and put a plan in place to avoid this from happening over and over.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        Easier said than done when the other person is very reactive/defensive and has power over you.

      2. Bee*

        Honestly, this may be because I’m a New England Irish Catholic, but I don’t think everything needs to be discussed to death, especially when the issue is “sometimes you just annoy me.” In cases like that, retreating, regaining composure, and then moving forward is probably the most productive way to handle the situation, especially with your boss.

        1. CM*

          +1 (except for the Irish Catholic part). Often there’s no big issue that needs to be talked over, especially in a boss-employee relationship. Honestly, you do what the boss says, and if it makes you mad, it’s not the boss’s responsibility to manage your feelings. Obviously it’s more complicated than that and everyone should treat each other with respect, but IMO conflict in the workplace is significantly different than conflict in your personal life. In the workplace, the prime directive is “let’s keep progressing toward our work goals while trying to work together effectively” while in your personal life it’s more about the relationship.

      3. Mary*

        It really depends. “Discussing issues” is a way of creating trust and intimacy. The goal here is to maintain trust but *avoid* intimacy, so a policy of just moving on without a giant FeelingsTM is a pretty sensible way to go about it.

      4. Kathleen_A*

        I think this reeeeeeally depends on the relationship and the issue. Some issues need to be discussed, but some just need X amount of time to dissipate. This is often the case with something that really can’t be solved – that is, if it’s something about the person or the circumstances that just annoys you in that moment. Discussion is worse than useless in some circumstances, and that includes some work dynamics.

  7. Anonya*

    I have to say, reading this question made me really uncomfortable. The dynamic doesn’t sound healthy or professional at all, not to mention awkward for anyone observing the situation or who has to interact with both of you on projects. I can almost guarantee it’s influencing how others view you. I think Alison’s advice to pull back and reset is the right one. It sounds like your boss is already trying to do that, albeit with mixed results. You BOTH need to depersonalize this relationship, for your own sanity and sense of professionalism.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I have mixed feelings because I totally understand how having a powerful mentor is so valuable, and especially when you genuinely like someone it can be hard to “turn it off” – and careers are long, so sometimes someone is your supervisor, other times your peers, other times you may be overseeing *them.* But ultimately I agree that OP needs to pull on the hat she’s wearing right now, quite firmly, even if the mentor pushes back a little (it sounds like they’re both in a push-and-pull relationship). It’s not healthy to have your career be so closely entwined with one person’s power, and this relationship seems to have crossed some boundaries into overly personal / emotional through nobody’s fault. It’s very difficult to be somebody’s mentor and their direct supervisor TBH. Maybe this is a good time for OP to look for other mentors during this specific period.

    2. WellRed*

      I was cringing pretty hard through most of the letter. There’s a lot of dysfunction here (the silent treatment, OMG). I think Alison’s advice is great, I also really think it’s time to consider charting your future career path away from this person. Sometimes, staying in a role/relationship etc stunts growth, so to speak.

      1. Willis*

        I agree with this. Honestly, a lot of that behavior sounds unusual in a mentorship as well. Thinking of the couple mentors that I’ve had over my career, those sort of mind games (silent treatment, withdrawing because someone walked out a room abruptly, etc.) would still be REALLY out of place. Even in a sibling relationship – stuff like that may be commonplace when you’re kids, but seems not great as adults!

        I think there’d be value to using Alison’s script and letting Boss know you’re going to try to put some distance in the relationship. Hopefully putting it on the table would be something to break this cycle you both seem to be in of over-analyzing every move the other makes.

    3. KWu*

      Yeah, for me it started in the letter at the “He’s taught me almost everything I know” (give yourself some credit for what you’ve worked hard on and learned!) to “tie my continued employment to his own” and “I’d done some minor things earlier in the week…I start to wonder what I might have done wrong. And asking him too frequently makes him angry.” There have evidently been a lot of career benefits to the OP from this relationship so far, but it’s also not a healthy dynamic and not something that will necessarily continue to pay the same dividends in the future if they keep with the same pattern.

      1. Commit yourself to reacting professionally when you’re disappointed by something–reflect on whether it’s something you want to say something about and if not, let it go.
      2. Try to rein in your reactions to either end of the emotional spectrum, so both not being totally down in the dumps during a cold period nor ecstatic during the hot periods. It’s great that you’ve already been making the effort to behave in a more even-keeled way!
      3. It *might* be helpful to consider whether the cold periods are the kind of situation where you have a boss who is bad at giving feedback directly and therefore you could go along with some of the advice elsewhere on the site about trying to draw feedback out from a passive-aggressive manager. Namely, asking in a neutral and matter-of-fact kind of way, “hey, is there anything you would have liked me to do differently on [recent work project]?” as opposed to more emotional and less work-focused “hey are we cool? / you’re being weird” statements. Your goal isn’t to get your boss to stop being weird nor to even especially make sure they like you or are happy with you at all times, but to get the information you need to do well at your job.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, I really like that last suggestion and point. It seems to me that the boss is having a hard time transitioning to the management role, and cueing for useful behavior would be good for both of them.

        1. NW Mossy*

          Along that same line, the prior mentor/mentee relationship may also be making it hard for the boss to figure out the right approach. The sort of guidance you provide as a mentor is quite different from what you have to provide as someone’s direct boss, but the transition point between the two is subtle.

          When I think about a mentor, I picture someone who’s helping you with long-range career planning by making connections, thinking through what to do today to cultivate readiness for the next level, and overall career strategy. They’re also providing guidance from an arm’s-length position, because they’re typically not directly involved in your day-to-day at work.

          A boss can certainly mentor, but they don’t get the distance from you and your work product. As a result, their goals for you tend to be more near-term and tied to the results that the organization is trying to achieve. That means more feedback about the recent past, which he probably couldn’t have given in his mentor role.

          Neither approach is good or bad – they’re just distinct. Adjustment’s hard!

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            Exactly. A mentor would tell you the company you’re at is drying up / not making the best use of your skills – a boss would be obliged to squeeze value out of you until the moment of layoffs. They’re contradictory positions sometimes.

      2. OP*

        This was so incredibly helpful, especially your last point. I never thought about that, but have recently started to consider it. He is terrible at communicating so that makes sense.

        1. JSPA*

          Yep–be the person worth mentoring, who’s becoming more professional and dedicated with every passing day. Not the person who mostly gets a pass because they chill with the boss, except when that’s not chill.

          1. valentine*

            He is terrible at communicating
            This isn’t good for you. You might do well to really look at the big picture. This guy has eclipsed some things for you and this is a good time for you to emerge from that.

        2. Avasarala*

          Honestly if he is terrible at communicating, setting and maintaining boundaries, and modeling professionalism, maybe you need a new mentor. Maybe you’ve learned what you can from him and it’s time for him to just be your boss.

      3. SunnyD*

        Me too. All of that flagged for me. Maybe my past abusive relationship, but all of that is very problematic. Y’all need to cut that shit out, pronto. Both of you.

  8. The Cardinal*

    I have a colleague who in the not-to-distant future is destined to become my boss. Although we are work place equals, I’ve been here twice as long and during her first couple of years, she saw me as her “mentor” – her word, not mine. Over time, we’ve become genuine “at work” friends (lunch together at least once a week, gossip about our current boss:-), etc…) and I expressed that although I would miss our current relationship, when she becomes boss, it will have to change out of necessity. That comment took her by surprise and at first she was in an insistent state of denial that anything had to change. We continued to discuss it and gradually she has come to accept that yeah, we won’t be hanging out at lunch or doing other things one-on-one if and when her promotion happens because not only would it look terrible and unprofessional, it would BE terrible and unprofessional!

    1. TootsNYC*

      some things won’t change, if that’s any comfort to her: Your goodwill and high regard for one another; your knowledge of one another’s outlooks, strengths adn weaknesses, workingstyles; your ease of communication (which will change SOME, but enough will remain, especially if you are both sensible and nobody gets pissy or in need of discipline…).

    2. Anonya*

      I hear you, this is hard! My previous boss/mentor and I got along so well, it would’ve been very easy to cross the line into a friendship that wouldn’t be entirely appropriate for work. The personal connection would’ve made the management part difficult for both of us, I think. I was so sad to lose her as a boss when she retired, but on the bright side, I am able to have a real friendship with her now. And she’s still my mentor.

    3. Minocho*

      This is really important, and it’s great that you both talked about it. I get along very well with my boss, we don’t know each other out of work. Many of his reports often eat lunch with him, and the other day he ate lunch alone with another of his reports that he hasn’t had time with much recently. Some in the “usual” lunch group seemed a bit perturbed, and I made sure to make a comment that it’s good he makes sure to spend time with all his reports.

      (I make it a point to occasionally reiterate to the members of my team that don’t come to lunch very often that they have a standing invitation. Sometimes they take us up on it, sometimes they don’t. But I make a concerted effort to ensure the group lunch crowd is not exclusionary in any way, because when I started on this time, I was excluded for a good year and a half.)

  9. Scout Finch*

    OP – look at it this way. You have grown & developed under this mentorship. But now you have kinda “graduated” and may not need as much mentoring.

    He has moved into a position with authority over your actual employment. Do not make the situation look like you are a “pet employee” immune to discipline. Not a great for either of your professional reputations (even if it is untrue, someone else may assume such). Your work should stand on its own.

    Look for opportunities to mentor someone like you. That’s the highest honor you could pay to this person.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      Oh, that’s really good – framing it around not needing the mentoring relationship so much anymore and allowing it to naturally turn into the boss-employee relationship. Good managers are still mentors to some degree, since they are supposed to be looking out for your career and continued development. Also agreed that the pre-existing special relationship could prevent more neutral interactions as boss-employee unless consciously managed.

  10. Jennifer*

    Sounds like a bad romantic relationship almost. The lines between personal and professional have been blurred too much. It’s actually a good thing that he is starting to put more distance in your personal relationship because you shouldn’t have one with him anymore. Things can be cordial between the two of you but that’s where it should end. Keep things cool and professional on your side as well and I think things will get better.

    I think the mentorship thing has run its course. If you still need help, I’d suggest finding a new mentor, maybe a woman that’s managed to work her way up in a male-dominated environment.

    1. Co-dependent*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that at least one of them has romantic feelings for the other, and some part of this weird history and behavior is the manifestation of that.

        1. Co-dependent*

          I didn’t say there was, jeez. I said, literally, “I wouldn’t be surprised IF.”

          1. JSPA*

            Eh, one of the definitions of the phrase is, “that would be typical.” Not, “It is at least remotely possible.” Some people use “I wouldn’t be surprised” interchangeably with “I bet.” (How strong a bet depends on…how you bet.)

            And, yeah, that’s something that someone could see in the letter, or in the situation. Totally separate issue from whether or not there’s a real thing, MANAGING those presumptions and projections and avoiding any stray unprofessional vibes that can land bizarrely is part of the challenge OP is facing.

            But the possible existence of attraction–consumated or otherwise–really isn’t something that we ought to be bringing up to be discussed as a potential fact. This question is about a mentoring relationship that’s too informal to overlap comfortably with a professional relationship.

        2. Jennifer*

          Refusing to talk to someone for a day because they didn’t invite you to a party. Shutting the door in their face. Being cold and passive-aggressive because they were abrupt to you instead of being an adult and telling them how you feel. I agree that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn there was a romantic element either. Sounds like high school. It’s a little weird.

          1. valentine*

            Shutting the door in their face.
            I read it as shutting their door to Make a Point (to everyone!) in an open-door (*shudder*) office.

        3. Yorick*

          I also got this vibe. And even if there is no hint of romantic feeling on either side, this is the sort of dynamic that LOOKS like a possible romantic relationship from the outside. That’s another reason to transition into more professional and less personal going forward.

          1. OP*

            Oof. Weird (because that never crossed my mind) but good I guess to know that people are reading it this way.

            1. Quandong*

              I’m glad you wrote in because otherwise you may never have heard from other people about how they perceive the dynamic between you and your boss.

              To me it reads as the kind of relationship that has potential to get more inappropriate and messy. Honestly I would be uncomfortable if people behaved in my workplace the way you describe behaving. You may notice the relief from people around you as you establish more professional boundaries.

    2. LJay*

      This. Him treating her coldly but not telling her what she did wrong (and it winding up being over little things like leaving his office too quickly) made me cringe a bit. Too close to an unhealthy relationship dynamic for me.

  11. Drew*

    OP, I’m in a similar situation with my immediate boss, although we’ve never had a mentorship relationship; he started as a peer and got promoted over me. (Justly so! He’s in a role I don’t want and would not excel at.)

    The problem is that he still sees us as friends, and it makes him honestly a far less effective manager. The only time he really seems to get into “boss mode” is when he’s PO’d. Part of that is because he’s burning out fast and hard but part is because he doesn’t want to draw that bright “I’m your boss, not your friend” line. It is something we both need to work on.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      It’s so hard for this to come from the subordinate, too. 1) it may honestly be in your favor sometimes if your boss sees you as their good buddy that they love – so it’s even harder to be the one to sever that in the name of cold professionalism 2) there’s no incentive for you to piss off your supervisor by rejecting them, as they may retaliate (even subconsciously) if their feelings are hurt 3) in general, it’s not up to employees to correct bosses on matters of professionalism and work style. Ideally, someone from HR or someone above your boss would be the one to explain the issue.

      1. Drew*

        There is no good modeling of proper managerial behavior in this office. One of the reasons I don’t want to be a manager here is that I do want to be a manager elsewhere and I don’t want to have to unlearn too many lessons when I do.

    2. haley*

      I went from peers & friends with my team to being their manager and struggled with this. Keeping that friendly banter goes such a long way towards building and maintaining trust, but it makes it hard to move into manager mode when necessary. Some advice I got that helped me was honestly just being really explicit about what role I’m inhabiting in a conversation – literally sometimes saying “I need to put my manager hat on now to discuss X” so that folks understand what part of me is present at any given time.

      Giving him this feedback and making room for him to practice drawing that line will be so helpful. Try and see his management transition as something you can partner with him on. Coaching upward is such a valuable skill to practice!

      1. Drew*

        That’s a good point. I’m not sure how receptive he would be to that feedback but it’s something I can model in my behavior even if I don’t explicitly tell him “I’m talking to you as your employee, not as your friend” every time.

  12. Michael Valentine*

    I am experiencing a similar dynamic with someone I work with (not my actual boss, but sort of boss due to the power difference as I’m in a support role). I have also compared our relationship to that of siblings, although a bit one sided as he’s the one acting out. Sometimes it reminds me of how my family acts–fine around strangers, but comfortable enough to be grouches around each other. I have actually watched him turn on a smile for a client or coworker and then turn to me and it changes to a grimace! I get great feedback about my work from him, so I’d like to think the problem is not me.

    I don’t really have any advice, but I hear you that navigating it is tricky. I’ve stepped way back and our work together is now far more transactional. I’m a friendly person, so it’s been tough keeping on with business-as-usual, but it seems to work better for both of us.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I had several bosses early in my career who claimed some “paternal” feelings towards me (ugh), never mind a sibling relationship! I think any family metaphors at work are probably a red flag. I’d rather think of us as the crew of a starship than a big sprawling family.

      1. Michael Valentine*

        I like that metaphor!

        My husband really wants me to move on from this job because of the strange dynamics. He said if he ever met this “boss,” it wouldn’t be pretty (I work remotely so they will never meet).

  13. haley*

    oh, this is so tough. i facilitated a good friend joining my team and between when she hired and when she started i became the manager for that team. drawing those boundaries is so difficult to do without having it feel personal – I was on your boss’s side of this, where I was planning a game night with some friends and had to consciously make the decision not to invite this person because I now need to be thinking about the appearance of favoritism etc.

    OP, your boss probably knows he needs to draw this boundary but is struggling with how to do it in a way that doesn’t damage your relationship. taking that step to proactively acknowledge that it needs to happen will make all the difference in the world! good luck!

    1. haley*

      oh, another thing – if you haven’t already, it might be a good idea to try and spread out your mentorship relationships throughout your organization & network rather than pinning your career to a single person. Lara Hogan has this concept of creating a “manager voltron” where new managers try to create a deep pool of folks they can go to for specific individual things rather than always leaning on a single person and imo that concept is useful for everyone, not just new managers!

  14. MegPie*

    I had this exact relationship with a former boss. Then he tried to sleep with me. Totally unhealthy, but I totally empathize with how hard it is to extract yourself from it. I had to get a new job and completely disconnect.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Oh dear! I hope it’s not to THAT point!
      But all the more reason to create a professional distance.

    2. OP*

      I am so sorry that happened to you! That is awful. Fortunately, that is nowhere near a concern for me.

    3. JSPA*

      I had a senior grad student passingly hit on me, first year grad school, saying he presumed I was sleeping with other people in the department (WHUT? and again, WHUT?) so “I must be easy.”

      That one was all on him, of course. But do you know how incredibly, impossibly weird it is to try to tell people you barely know, during a rotation, “X said I should blow him because he thinks I’m providing sexual favors for both of you and for the chair and a couple of other people, and I don’t know if he’s saying this to other people, or just to me”? When they are all male, have known him 5 years, known you for two weeks, and think of him as a suitable supervisor, and of you as someone who was foisted on them?

      And then he told people I’d been sleeping with him, and was upset because we’d broken up. And told me so. I did report that part.

      Don’t underestimate the power of a sexual lie to really screw people over. Don’t participate in the speculation, don’t assume that someone who’s been normal and dependable in other ways can’t be a creep and predator, and don’t assume that someone who’s lacking great professional boundaries (I sure was) is almost certainly the one who’s lying (I sure wasn’t.)

  15. anancy*

    OP, I’d honestly be more concerned about how your coworkers view this relationship and behavior. Do any of them have a mentor-type relationship with this boss? I agree with the above comments that you should move from being in a mentor relationship to a boss relationship. Go out of your way to make sure you are treated no differently than any of his other reports, and that you treat him no differently.

  16. MissDisplaced*

    I don’t think the relationship was weird when they were more of a mentor/friend. But you really need to separate from that mindset now to “X is my manager,” and have this become more formal manager/subordinate.

    I think Alison’s advice is good about having this discussion w/them so that both parties understand the shifting professional dynamic and it’s not personal. I’m for being candid and open that you’ve thought about this and realize why it needs to change and that both respect it.

    Have to wonder also if OP’s manager is feeling the added stress of his new position and it’s adding to the testiness? Either way, I think OP can transition this and maintain a healthy working relationship.

  17. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    As someone who also came up through the ranks thanks to mentors and bosses who believed in me, I understand how this all can spiral out of control like this. However you don’t want to feel indebted to him either, you are damaging yourself by clinging at this stage when it’s time to move towards a different role. You may be well passed the mentor stage and now you’re just a colleague and that’s great stuff.

    You’ve got a lot of good advice that I can’t build upon much but just wanted to offer the encouragement in this next stage in your career, which is spreading your wings on your own and moving towards your revised relationship status with your boss.

    1. OP*

      Thank you so much. I really never thought about it that way until I started reading the posts here. I didn’t realize people grow out of that stage (ever), but I guess it happens. Such food for thought! I’m appreciative.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        If we didn’t grow out of that stage, how would the cycle continue? Your mentor/boss will retire at some point after all and then those of us who they mentored, will need to step up and take over their roles. It’s the professional version of the circle of life. Just like when we’re kids, we depend on parents/adults/someone to lead us and teach us. My dad taught me how to swim and how to do math, I got to where I could easily outswim him and run circles around him math wise.

        There are also lots of stories about how you may even surpass your mentor at some point! It all depends on the direction you steer your career and how the chips fall a lot of times.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Also a personal sad story on my part. I had to take over for my mentor/boss years ago because of a health crisis. It turned from “He’s my boss/mentor, he teaches me everything!” to “He taught me everything and now I have to run this entire GD place myself and I’ll do it because 1. I can and 2. he needs me to do it.” I had to depend on everything he was able to teach me prior to his brain shutting down on him [dementia is the worst].

      3. JSPA*

        It’s like the saying, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” That doesn’t mean the universe watches you and provides you with your one teacher and master; it means that when you’re ready to learn, you’ll recognize the source that you can learn from.

        You probably will have other mentors. This same mentor may serve as your mentor again. He will also mentor others. You, too will mentor others, sometimes at the same time as you’re being mentored. Mentorship isn’t a free ticket to the fun rides–it’s someone who gives you useful feedback, points you to good opportunities you might not have noticed, and warns you if you’re doing something risky (which includes over-reliance on a mentor, to smooth the path for you).

        A mentor isn’t like a knight to your squire, or the king to your liege–someone you promise fealty to for life. If he’s teaching you that’s what mentorship is, that’s deeply messed up. (A personality cult thing or a sculptor-pygmalion thing, not mentoring.) In which case, this would be a whole different letter: “My boss isn’t a work mentor, he’s a life-mentor, or actually a dementor, who wants to use my life as raw material to create his vision of some other person.” This doesn’t sound like a cult, and you don’t sound brainwashed–just young–so presumably mentor means mentor. As with parents, a mentor feels successful when you take responsibility for becoming an ever-more competent version of you.

  18. Steve*

    I think there are different types of mentorship, and in this case I hope that he continues some of those aspects as your boss. I have had managers with whom I had a really good relationship, although it always stayed professional. They were willing to take the time to help me with unusual problems (I’m trying to manage this project, and two of my colleagues hate each other, so how should I handle them?), and I helped them out with suggestions when they asked. I have a boss now who I don’t know as well, but they have asked me for advice on how to recruit more minorities into management and I think it’s great to be able to discuss these things.

    I don’t know if those people had to be official “Mentors” in order to provide me with advice, but I guess I’m just thinking that you don’t have to abandon the best parts of your relationship now that he has more authority. Yet I do think that the relationship will definitely change. He can hopefully still advocate for you on occasion, although with all of your experience maybe you might do more for yourself (I am starting to mentor others, so I guess I’m taking the view that at some point we have to give back to others as well). Perhaps when you talk with him about a changing dynamic, you can tell him how much you have appreciated his support? You likely have, but including it in this context might be useful in trying to show that you want that part of the relationship to continue (if you do).

    It is hard when work dynamics change (I have had coworkers go into management, and it can be hard), but they should change. Acknowledging it, at least to yourself, should make it easier.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      It sounded like this mentorship leaned on the friendlier side, and it was probably supportive and maybe even gave OP someone to vent to and/or toss about ideas and difficulties while learning a new field. This can be greatly appreciated, but not the way you want to be with your actual boss! It’s understandable how OP might feel a bit slighted if their relationship was more informal previously.

      But now it’s moving to a formal business relationship is all.

  19. Lazy River*

    The good news is that you have recognized this unhealthy dynamic and are working to change it. Your letter reminded me of a Captain Awkward letter where there was an extreme lack of professional boundaries between a mentor/boss and mentee/subordinate. Take this as a cautionary tale of where you don’t want to end up. (Content note: link contains references to BDSM as a metaphor)

  20. sunshyne84*

    I would just say that I hope to begin the new boss/employee relationship off on a clean slate and moving forward hope that he is open with me if I do something to annoy him and will return the favor. I think the friendship dynamic from before may have made it hard to address things, but it’s more important to have open communication now. You can be both be more professional towards each other and still maintain some closeness.

  21. StaceyIzMe*

    “Professionalizing” is my new favorite word! It does sound like each of you has some anxiety in the relationship and that you might have gotten a tad enmeshed. He’s your boss and it sounds like he has been something of a friend, but you should definitely NOT be reactive in the way that you have been. Comparing your prior relationship to sibling behavior is a handy way to summarize that too-personal irritation that resulted in some of the back and forth. That said, it sounds like you could benefit from distentangling yourself from that and directing your energy wholly towards your corporate and team mission and your career. It sucks that he isn’t consistent enough to allow you to enjoy the favor of his comraderie as you used to do. That’s a loss and one that you might take some time to mourn a little. Maybe think of it as Old Boss and New Boss or Boss 1.0 and Boss 2.0, different optimal operating conditions for each case. I think that you can reclaim the professional credit that you’ve had with him and the political capital that you enjoyed through his mentoring by rolling wholly over to the 2.0 professional-only operating conditions. It seems fair to acknowledge to yourself, at least privately, that Boss 1.0 kind of set you up by changing some of his comfort level with prior interaction. Maybe it will be of some comfort that there is likely to be less fodder for personal irritation with this newer version.

  22. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

    First off, if he’s behaving passive-aggressively in any way, especially to only one person, that’s not good management. And to blame HIS behaviour on you because you exited his office to quickly? That sounds like he wants deference above all else, and is training you to anticipate his moods (which become your fault) by acting obedient and nice. Again, that’s not good management—it’s grooming behaviour.

    It sounds to me as if he has more than a professional interest in you, and is trying to keep you in your place. Regardless of his possible romantic interest, putting distance between you is a good thing.

    Good luck!

    1. OP*

      Interesting- can I ask what is meant by “grooming behavior” here? I’ve only heard that term used in the context of abuse, specifically child abuse, so I’m curious to know what you meant. If you meant it as a general erosion of the expectation of important workplace boundaries, I see what you mean!

      1. Co-dependent*

        I’m not going to comment on what SoWB may have meant, but since I got the same vibe, I’ll respond.

        All of these things –
        “He’s taught me almost everything I know”
        “I’ve always felt comfortable talking to him about any issues that I have”
        “convincing the company to hire me in the first place”
        “pushed for me to be exposed to more advanced work at every stage of my time here. ”
        “He’s even gone so far as to tie my continued employment to his own!”
        – are examples of the kinds of things I imagine SoWB is talking about. These kinds of things, especially the last one have “attached” you to him, made your success dependent on him making it happen. Ask yourself: is there anyone else at your workplace that you do any of these things with? Is there anyone that even comes close? Further, is there anyone else who even knows about your relationship history with this guy? “Grooming” behaviors are generally kept secretive, as well – and that would be a major factor in whether they actually have been. As for what he’s been grooming you for? Who knows? We don’t.

        But I bet you already know this. “I’ve noticed more toxic elements to our relationship” “Some days he is friendly and talkative” “Other days, he is cold and withdrawn, and I am left wondering what I’ve done wrong.” You know this isn’t right. I think you’re misframing your question as “how do I fix this dynamic? And what’s the best way for me to handle a “cold” spell?” when it should really be “how do i get out of this relationship?”

        Read this part, just this part again, and tell me this doesn’t sound like something someone in a domestic abuse situation could have written:
        “I know this “cold and withdrawn” thing is not in my head because he doesn’t seem to do it to anyone else — just me. On one occasion, it bothered me so much that I asked him about it, and he told me that I’d done some minor things earlier in the week (exited his office a little quickly, for example) that made him think I was angry and prompted his passive aggression. I agreed that I could be abrupt and have made a conscious effort to behave in a more even keeled manner. However, now every time he behaves in this cold and withdrawn way, I start to wonder what I might have done wrong. And asking him too frequently makes him angry.”

        You say it’s not romantic, so I believe you don’t have feelings for him. We don’t know if he does for you or not. But it doesn’t have to be romantic to be emotionally abusive. The hot-and-cold thing? It’s like a good rush when you’re on the same page, having fun, trusting each other? Then when he withdraws from you, and you feel like you’ve done something wrong and it’s on you to fix it, and you find yourself desperate for him to come around again? Yeah, that’s emotional abuse. Even if neither one of you is doing it on purpose.

        1. Delphine*

          As for what he’s been grooming you for? Who knows? We don’t.

          Then I’d avoid calling it grooming. That has specific connotations.

          1. SunnyD*

            Ah, then let me answer that. All of those things are red flags for abuse. It made the hair on my arms go up. (LW, check out Lundy Bancroft’s book “Why” to read up on red flags and why.)

          1. Quandong*

            Please consider talking this over with a counsellor, because you may find that your boss keeps behaving in such a way that you need support to handle working there.

            You might also like to seek out a completely new mentor: a person who has vast experience with how functional work relationships operate. I think it could really help you in the next phase of your career to get objective advice and feedback about the way people interact with each other in the best ways.

            It seems like you may have developed some ways of interacting that would be problematic for colleagues (not just for you!) and learning how to replace those may be very beneficial.

          2. MM*

            Just in case you’re more likely to see a direct reply, I wanted to say to you directly that even if “abuse” seems too extreme for your experience, you might consider whether this relationship is codependent. To me, what grooming means in this context, at minimum, is that he has found (slash helped shape, through years of mentorship–this isn’t to deny you your own agency but to acknowledge what you’ve said about his role in your working life) someone who will participate with him in some of his unprofessional behaviors. By bringing you along, he does (among other things! I don’t doubt you have substantive value to him as a colleague) ensure that there will always be one person in the office with whom he can act out this sort of thing without alienating himself from whatever the preexisting culture may be. So it’s worth thinking really hard about whether this is the kind of tenor and shape you want your working life to consist of, and what you would do if he left your industry tomorrow.

        2. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

          Bang on what I meant. The way I’m using it, grooming means treating people differently depending on what outcomes the groomer wants. It’s a training process for the groomer to get the behaviour they want, without outright saying it. The groomee does the work for them, and changes their behaviour BEFORE it happens. It trains the groomee to anticipate outcomes and modify their behaviours to get “positive” reactions from the groomer and avoid “negative” ones. Always before they happen.

          I think the more distance you put between you and your “mentor” the better off you’ll be!

        3. MM*

          THANK YOU. I wasn’t sure I could handle really getting into it atm, but all my red flag sensors were bleeping, so I really appreciate that you wrote this. If people feel the word “abuse” is a bridge too far, they might try “codependence.” The latter is sort of a basic condition for the former, and I feel pretty confident saying this relationship sounds codependent even if it doesn’t (depending on your perspective) cross over into abuse. Either way, it’s something to try to get out of.

  23. MommyMD*

    Just go to work and do your job proficiently and be work polite. He’s not your friend. He’s your superior and boss. Mentor days are over and he’s probably finding all this personal stuff and scrutiny over his attitude exhausting. It’s easier to avoid you. Too much emotion at work is draining.

  24. Mama Bear*

    I had the opportunity to work with friends and they became my supervisors. The relationship changed and the friendships were (out of professional necessity, really) put on deep freeze during my employment. I’ve learned that while I valued the professional opportunity, I would rather keep work and friends separate for all of the reasons stated above. What I might do in the OP’s situation is see how I add value to the company on my own merit and where *I* want to go professionally. He helped you along the way, but your wagon need not be tied to his forever. Maybe it’s time to stretch a little and make new professional connections.

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