updates: the harsh email, the school supplies, and more

Here are four updates from people who had their letters  answered here in the past.

1. My manager calls and just reads my emails back to me (#5 at the link)

It turns out that there were a couple of issues that created the situation where my boss reads emails at me over the phone.

The first issue was that he felt left out of the project. I started asking him for “help” in each message, and giving him something to do really helped. He felt involved, and the tasks took up his time, not mine.

The second issue is that my boss confuses things that take up your time (like reading me back my summary emails) and being productive. I flat out asked him if the phone calls were the best use of time, and he told me yes, it was working on the project. Nothing was produced, no issues were resolved, but time was spent “working”. This is a hard mindset to work around.

The third and final reason that he does this is because he doesn’t know how to use Outlook. He had a filter that marks all incoming emails as “read” and can’t figure out how to turn it off. Instead, he has somehow changed the font colour of incoming messages to yellow, and he can barely read them! So, instead of fixing his email, he calls to talk about them.

Things have gotten better as I have learned to circumvent his “management” style. I have put processes in place to minimize the daily emails, and get help with tracking all of the needed information. Scheduled conference calls have also helped, since he can ask questions then, and talk to the entire team.

Not the best update, but, I enjoy reading the updates of other people, so I thought that I would let any interested readers know what happened.

2. Will my taste in office supplies seem weird or unprofessional(first update here)

About this time last year, you answered my letter about my (reasonably) childish taste in supplies, and your response, as well as all the nice people in the comments, made me feel so much better about entering a new situation! I wanted to tell you that in addition to doing well at school, I’ve been using your advice on resumes and cover letters, and was hired as one of the school’s official writing tutors! Thank you so much!

3. How can I stop obsessing over a harsh email?

I wanted to let you know how things ended up. Your advice and everyone’s thoughtful input was a big boost for me. It really helped to know that I was taking things too personally and needed to look at things a little differently, but that I wasn’t crazy and she truly had been rude.

One thing I didn’t mention was that my husband was a student at the same institution, and we needed my discount to afford his tuition. I hope that could explain part of my reaction. I needed to stay in this job where this professor insulted me, or else he might not have finished his degree. I definitely felt trapped, but I knew I needed to stick it out for him.

After you answered my post, I’m really happy to say that things improved (in some ways, at least). The budget cuts kept coming, and my work kept increasing over the next few years. I asked for a raise twice. Once after a year of performing these new duties, and again after I got a new supervisor who was shocked at how much I was doing. I was rejected both times. But the college administration did change my title to better reflect my duties, and last year when they announced they could finally afford raises again, I was given a 10% raise. Not everyone received an increase, and mine was a lot larger than the average, so it felt like they finally started recognizing how much I contributed.

After I got my footing, I joined two advisory councils (including one where I held an office), chaired a couple committees, and overhauled a lot of the processes I inherited. I’m happy to say that all the extra duties and challenges really served me and my resume well. I became known as a policy expert and helped shape a lot of the college’s academic processes. At graduation a few weeks ago, I was also voted by student council as the outstanding staff member of the year! Definitely the highlight of my career so far.

Now that my husband has finished his degree, we are back in our hometown and starting our new jobs. I leveraged all my experience, plus tons of good advice I learned from your site and book, to secure a much higher paying role. I just started last week but it’s been really great having a new start. I actually received lots of compliments about my cover letter and I couldn’t have done it without this site.

Thank you again for all of your kindness!

4. Interview outfits when a suit isn’t flattering (#3 at the link)

I recently had an interview in Washington D.C., which really increased my outfit anxiety. As many of the comments suggested, I went with a tailored, conservative sheath dress (purchased from a specialty retailer so it fit) with an open blazer. I dressed it up with some nicer jewelry and heels. I didn’t feel out of place at all, and I did get a job offer! I ultimately decided the job wasn’t a good fit, but at least now I have a go-to interview outfit. Thanks to you and the community for all the suggestions.

{ 125 comments… read them below }

  1. Close Bracket*

    LW1: How did you uncover that he felt left out of the project? I’d love to gain some insight into that process in case I need to identify a similar problem.

    1. Lego Leia*

      LW here. I asked him if he felt a apart of the project as he got more management focused. He admitted that he felt left out, as decisions were happening without him.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        If the LW wasn’t able to fix his font problem, I hope she at least pointed him towards someone in IT who could help! A quick technical fix can sometimes solve a whole bunch of cascading errors / time-wastes / etc.!

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Did he actually fix it, though? For some reason, that’s the burning question for me! I can’t tell from the letter as to whether it got fixed or not.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            I’m glad I am not alone in this. Don’t get me wrong, LW1, your whole update is interesting, but I am completely hung up on the Outlook craziness.

            1. Gatomon*

              Same here! Outlook can be a beast. Those are both quick fixes if you know where to go, but if you don’t, those settings might as well be on the moon. I am too lazy to make a ticket with IT or fix it myself, so I’ve just been tolerating my broken attachment previews. Maybe I will make that my mission today to fix.

      2. Scarlet*

        More like OP’s boss needs a computer class or two. I can’t imagine working for this guy!

    1. pleaset*

      ” He had a filter that marks all incoming emails as “read” and can’t figure out how to turn it off. Instead, he has somehow changed the font colour of incoming messages to yellow, and he can barely read them! So, instead of fixing his email, he calls to talk about them.”

      This is so whack it hurts.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          one of my staffers somehow managed to tell her Outlook to mark all her emails as read and move them to the trash. If she wasn’t so completely technologically inept that she can’t figure out how to copy an Excel file to her desktop without a half hour of instructions, I’d think it had been done intentionally.

          1. Scarlet*

            Real question: why would you (or anyone) hire someone with such poor technical skills into a role that uses technology?

            A couple years ago I had a coworker who needed help with similar things. She made the same amount as me. Didn’t know how to copy and paste. I wanted to scream

            1. Sharon*

              I’ve reported to so many managers exactly like this. (Also couldn’t figure out how to use their management tools like Visio, Project, etc.) I suspect it’s because these tools are so pervasive in today’s corporate office that hiring managers assume that you either know how to use them or you’ll pick them up quickly. Unfortunately there are people out there who seem unable to learn them…. it just seems like they don’t have the methodical way of thinking or fearless curiousity needed to learn how to use them.

              This is entirely speculation on my part. And when I think about how many lower level jobs actually list them as required skills in job ads while the management level job ads never seem to list them… and it always seems to be management level people who struggle with this… it’s kind of mystifying and irritating!

      1. emmelemm*

        My question, as always, is how does a person with this level of computer illiteracy obtain a position where they are presumably being paid quite handsomely and have authority over other people?

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s why most of them have assistants, to be honest. It’s not that rare of a phenomenon. I’ve made the majority of my career off these kind of people and their short comings in the finer details of things.

          1. emmelemm*

            I know, I know. And believe me, even 15 years ago or so, I knew people like this. I even worked at a (small, recently formed at the time) company where the president didn’t have a computer on his desk/wouldn’t know how to turn one on and luckily for him, he found this amazing elderly secretary who still did shorthand. Shorthand!

            But in this year of 2019, I feel flabbergasted.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Only in the last 3 years have I had fully functional bosses who are great with computers. Both of those bosses weren’t ever mechanical guys though, they were both just executive types.

              The ones that I’ve had that are all “hands in the dirt” kinds of guys have no use for computers, so they only used them when absolutely necessary which lead to a lot of “help me, I’m stuuuuuuuck.” situations. I’ve even typed up correspondence for one mini-boss [kid of my boss] because he couldn’t type for sh*t [I also explained to him what a PDF was and yes, they can read the PDF on their side, they have free-readers for that format even].

              Engineers and doctors can tend to stink at computer stuff in my experience and the stories I hear from others. Brilliant people with amazing minds but yeah, screw this computer thing, throw it in the trash, get me a secretary or something, etc.

              1. Tinker*

                Early on in my career, before I went into software, I got an amazing amount of mileage out of basically being able to Google things and tending to solve problems by 1) create system for solving problem 2) execute system. Hence, whatever I touched somehow turned into “not a horrifying Excel spreadsheet”, much to general amazement.

                These are skills, granted, but the underlying nature of them isn’t so esoteric.

                Of course I say that, and then again I’ve got a friend doing Really Fancy Work for Really Fancy Company who is commenting that the thing they bring to the table is “the ability to follow instructions”.

                1. Birch*

                  Yep, this. What horrifies me about this boss’s email behaviour, more than the incompetence, is the idea that he wouldn’t just phone up IT and say “hey I’ve somehow managed to mess up my email, can you help me fix it?” Which is several steps of competence below Googling it.

                  I tell people the most valuable skill I’ve learned from grad school is how to find the answer I need. Too many people get stuck when they see a problem and have no idea how to go about tackling it, so it then becomes everyone else’s problem.

                2. delta cat*

                  Ah, yes, my office has a minor epidemic of “the first thing I tried didn’t work, so I will try nothing else, not even calling IT, not even rereading the instructions to make sure I actually followed them right.” In most cases, it is accompanied by a large dose of “I will tell everyone within earshot how terrible it is that the systems don’t work.” Sometimes with a side of “I will simply stop printing necessary documents and/or checking my email but I won’t tell anyone or ask anyone for help to fix the problem.”

                  It’s pretty much always something simple that they did wrong. Confusing the address bar with the search bar. Typing a forward slash instead of a backslash. Confusing Windows Explorer with Internet Explorer. Trying to set up two-factor authentication without actually installing the app for it.

                  Sometimes it’s a bigger problem that needs IT involvement … but IT involvement never happens because no one bothers to call them.

                3. TardyTardis*

                  One of the things I learned at the tax office that yeah, go ahead and Google something if it’s weird–that’s why we have our monitors turned away from the customer.

          2. Artemesia*

            If it were just the technology could imagine he was competent otherwise — but not to realize that wasting time is not productive is the sign of an incompetent manager. One wonders about the process that put this dingaling into a position of authority.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Honestly, I default to my boss in this kind of situation.

              If I say “Are you sure this is productive, can we do it a different [productive] way?” and they say “this is the best use of your time, do it.” then I say “Okay, cool story, you’re the boss after all just checking.”

              Lots of bosses do things the “long” way or the “difficult” way, in the end fighting it and wondering about their abilities and fussing about why they’re in a position of power is giving up so much of your energy.

              This is my duck-like mentality at work though. I developed a “water off my back” way of working with all my bosses over the years. I rarely butt heads with them, I just laugh at their odd life choices if necessary. Granted my bosses also are directly responsible for the money I make and doing this has gotten me handsome rewards.

              1. EmKay*

                Yep. For your powerpoint presentation, you want to draw each individual slide on a separate page, complete with colours, and I should copy them exactly? Sure thing, boss.

                I’m not even kidding. He handed me a pile of “slides” and told me to “make the computer do it exactly like this”.

              2. Mongrel*

                “If I say “Are you sure this is productive, can we do it a different [productive] way?” and they say “this is the best use of your time, do it.” then I say “Okay, cool story, you’re the boss after all just checking.” ”

                That’s fine until, as mentioned in the Original Letter, the boss is criticising OPs productivity in the next breath

          3. Samwise*

            Yes, when I was in grad school I worked as a part-time secretary for one of the academic sub-departments. I assisted five professors. Very very smart, capable people. That office was a disaster — no system for anything, files correspondence drafts memos notes budgets, etc etc etc all stuffed into the file room and on desks and in bookcases. They had no idea what was where and when it was needed and who was which. Waaaaah! The office disaster made no difference to their ability and reputation as scholars and teachers. Took me a bit over a year to whip it into shape.

          4. Shiny Swampert*

            I’m doing leadership training in work at the minute and our CEO came to speak to us at our first residential. He said that in this day and age it’s not acceptable to be “bad with IT” if you have leadership aspirations.

            Which…. doesn’t fix the issue of the people who are already there, which is unlikely to change, but it was a refreshing perspective. Given that in a previous role I was PA to a chief officer and had to print literally all her emails and leave them in her office. Or if they were super important fax them to her.
            This was ten years ago. My head exploded on my first day on hearing that.

        2. oona*

          I used to work for a lawyer who had no idea how to use a computer. My job was basically computer operator for him. This guy became a prominent lawyer in the 80s before computers were used as widely and never felt the need to learn how to use one. I hated it, it was the most boring job I’ve ever had and I was flabbergasted by the inefficiency and sheer amount of information he was missing by refusing to look at a computer, but he was a lawyer with 40+ years of experience and I was an assistant with only 4 years, so I couldn’t tell him what to do. LW1’s update is giving me PTSD-like flashbacks to that job.

        3. JessaB*

          It’s why a good assistant often makes more than some of the company officers, and is treated like gold and porcelain and never gets yelled at because they can make a guy like this look competent. And whatever skill he’s been hired for they can make up for the rest.

          I knew a law firm admin to a partner whose job was mostly making sure people did not waste his time, she had her own assistant to do the general office work, with her company stock she probably made more than the junior partners, but it was her work that made them the huge money by letting the big name top guy spend his time on clients that mattered and not soothing someone’s attitude behind the scenes.

          1. TardyTardis*

            Oh, I know her twin brother. If I needed something signed I would play shamelessly on his sense of chivalry and his friendship with my husband. I never actually had to attach a chocolate bar to something I really needed from the Big Boss, but I had it in mind if I needed to.

        4. Another Sara*

          I once worked at a large insurance company whose president and CFO couldn’t handle having to remember his password. IT, who in all other respects ran an extremely tight ship, granted him an exception so that he did not have to enter a password to log into his computer or his phone. That means anyone with physical access to those devices could just log in as him and do stuff. The PRESIDENT/CFO. Who has more power and more access to sensitive data than almost anyone else at the company. In the FINANCE INDUSTRY. I don’t think I managed to pick my jaw up off the floor for days.

          1. Twenty Points for the Copier*

            I once worked with someone who did not use keys. Very nice guy, brilliant at big picture thinking but could not handle keys without losing them. He had an assistant who got to work before him and unlocked his door and family (and maybe a housekeeper and/or nanny) at home who let him in at the end of the day.

            Not the same level of privacy violation but I still can’t get over the fact that he somehow went through life without ever having to carry his keys.

            1. JessaB*

              Especially nowadays with steen dozen methods of putting a tag on your keys and finding them with your phone. It’s a kind of learnt helplessness because nobody is complaining he loses the phone or other stuff. On the other hand the solution to this can be very easy, you put a keypad or biometric lock on his door, as maybe there is something different to keys that makes him have an issue, maybe he feels uncomfortable with them in his pocket and is always putting them down (one of those leather fold over keyholders might help, or one of those fancy things where they cut the keys down and put them in a Swiss Army Knife like handle,) but without drilling down as to the cause, I think the office and family took the weirdest of the choices of how to deal with it, how does he drive a car?

          2. Carpe Librarium*

            As someone in Risk, Compliance and Internal Assurance, please consider my gast well and truly flabbered.

            1. JessaB*

              What you said. I think I just sat here and read it three times because I was completely sure that I had misread something that any finance industry official responsible for information safety or any other kind of compliance would be screaming. And honestly? that IT manager needs a talking to. Unless you’re talking crazy CIA level vault security on the office itself, preventing any person without sufficient access permission to even enter the room without the CFO…I mean there are non password security methods, fingerprints, two factor with a randomly generated code via phone or dongle, there are ways to secure that without them having to remember a password, and to let them ignore that…call to regulators here I come. That’s just asking for a massive breach.

      2. pancakes*

        I gasped when I got to “somehow changed the font colour of incoming messages to yellow.” What!

    2. Gymmie*

      indeed. I think I’m annoyed on a personal level (like, why is this person like this??) – can’t imagine having to deal with this at work, and from your manager no less!

      Wondering how he got to where he is?

      1. Lance*

        Same way other not-so-competent managers do, I imagine: by being good at other things, or by simply lasting long enough to be promoted.

        1. Mama Bear*

          The Peter Principle, where people keep getting promoted until they hit a level where they stink at their jobs.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I see this often in the sales world, sales reps who kill it on a personal ground level, they can sell you an igloo in the middle of the desert. However they cannot use email to save their lives, so it lands on other people’s shoulders to deal with. It would be great if they could do both things well but sometimes you accept that Bob can’t use a computer but Bob can bring in 100k in sales quarterly.

        1. Samwise*

          LOL, I also worked as a secretary at an engineering firm my first year in grad school, and taught a writing class at the local engineering school. Those boys! They would say, why should we learn how to write, we’ll have a secretary like you when we get jobs as engineers. I’d say, oh no, you wouldn’t. *I* work for the project managers. I’d never be working for *you*. Nobody at your level would get their own secretary. You’d get to use one of the secretaries in the secretarial pool; you better hope they can spell!

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Yeah, I’ve learned from working with a lot of engineers that they’re prone to really pushing away paperwork in general. I have a few clients that always have to email every other month to get receipts [that they already had sent to them when the order shipped] to reconcile their cards.

            I run into a lot of folks who like to skip their own internal steps [that I have no knowledge of until it’s causing me a problem] and then it ends up in chaos since I’m not paid on time and their account is suddenly blocked for new orders, cuz paaaaaaaaay me.

          2. EinJungerLudendorff*

            Frankly, they sound like spoiled and priviliged children. “Why should I learn this fundamental and widely applicable skill when I have servants for my menial work?”

          3. Elitist Semicolon*

            I used to teach engineers to write too, and while I never got “my secretary will do it,” I did frequently get “someone else will do it” or “they’ll have people for that” as reasons they didn’t need to learn. Then three years later I’d get an email from the same kid saying, “wow, I used what I learned in your class more than any other and I’m the only person here who can write so I just got a huge promotion!” I think the dismissal of writing is less about privilege (as EinJungerLudendorff suggested below) and more about students’ unshakeable belief that writing in full sentences and complete words (sometimes using pen and paper) will become obsolete. Yet interestingly enough, people have been doing that for millenia, and continue to do that despite the advent of typewriters, computers, and cell phones with autocomplete, and all the other technologies students think will disappear when all the old people retire.

            (Personally I’m more worried about the students who want to spend their lives designing nuclear reactors but can’t figure out how to print to PDF – or how to find instructions on how to print to PDF. But that’s just me.)

            1. Close Bracket*

              They do have people for that—female engineers (and men of color, I’m sure). It’s one of the pay disparity drivers in engineering—men get development work, women get documentation. Gets which one gets you raises and promotions?

          4. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

            My dad was a high level chemical engineer by the end of his 35 years in industry, and never once in my memory (30 of those 35 years) did he ever have a secretary. He was expected to always do all of his own writing, including all his own troubleshooting communications to clients. Towards the end of his career he was asked to actually mentor (read: teach the new engineers) on effective communicating, both oral and written. There were a few schools that you never wanted to mention to him, apparently they fed the admin assistant nonsense to their students, and he was not amused.

          5. JessaB*

            Not only that but you get a pool secretary after the important people get their work done OR the priority tasks get done, and if that’s the attitude walking in, none of them are going to be very nice about prioritising your stuff. Back in my boonie days as a youngling I was a pool secretary, and if you came in with attitude like “we don’t have to write because you’re here, and you’re like the writer people for important workers like us…” well all of us could passive aggressive the heck out of your stuff coming out on time. Especially since most of us took dictation or typed from tape. If you can’t write it, how can you tell us what to type?

            Now come in with a dictaphone tape and be like one of the bosses I had and we’d do it in five minutes, it wasn’t that he couldn’t come up with verbiage it was he was foreign and had no clue how to spell half the English words he needed AND he was Japanese to boot and they have an odd relationship with plural forms as in they don’t have them. One cat, two cat, John and Sue have cat. But that was part of what I got paid for to fix. In that job I was specifically hired to make sure the documentation didn’t look like Google Translate spit up on a bad day (this was pre GT but that was the concept. I could do anything I wanted as long as nothing went out of the door in English that embarrassed the company.)

      3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        It’s easy if you’re not a desirable workplace and you need to hire the people willing to work there. Or you’re a dysfunctional workplace and you manage to crush the spirit of every good employee you have so they stop caring and leave as soon as they realize they’re never going to get ahead there.

  2. once scathed*

    #3 – I feel your pain! Last year I started graduate school and became a TA for my now mentor/professor. There was a slight mix up in plans (since everything was plotted out via email) and I had no idea the best way to go about things, so I decided to be as transparent as possible. I’ll spare the details, but another professor I was dealing with emailed a similarly scathing response to me and CC’d THE PROFESSOR I was supposed to be working with. His went on for paragraphs and ended with a similar, “this is entirely unprofessional.” All before even MEETING me! I have a hard time with translating tone over email anyways, everything sounds harsh to me if it doesn’t end in five exclamation points.

    So glad you excelled at your job after that. That person was really petty and rude, and was probably projecting. Good for you!

    1. Dankar*

      Ugh, yes! I was in a similar situation. I had just started my job like two weeks prior, and was representing my department by myself at an event because my supervisor was out of the country. I gave out some incorrect information and the professor at the table next to me decided that instead of correcting me, she would go to my GRAND-BOSS (who I’d only ever spoken to on the phone) to complain that my department was misleading students and unprofessional.

      To this day I hold it against her, and any requests she sends me go to the bottom of the to-do list.

      1. pleaset*

        “To this day I hold it against her, and any requests she sends me go to the bottom of the to-do list.”

        Revenge seems rather unprofessional.

        1. meh*

          I don’t know. There are some people who I will go out of my way for, stay late for, etc. There are other people who I will get to when it is their turn. The way you’ve treated me in the past strongly influences whether I inconvenience myself for you or not.

          1. once scathed*

            This! I’ve never understood what benefit being rude in the workplace has. You see these people every day, some you rely on. Be nice, for goodness sake!

          2. Glitsy Gus*

            Absolutely this.
            Petty revenge would be completely shirking her work or not doing it as well. Putting her at the bottom of the priority list when all other things are equal and others who are also asking have been far more pleasant is rewarding kind behaviour, not taking revenge on bad behaviour. I think it’s a perfectly normal and reasonable way to behave.

          3. TardyTardis*

            And this is why my husband (now retired teacher) was always nice as pie to the school secretaries, because he knew who really ran the school.

        2. Beth*

          Eh, this isn’t a big deal, just a little bit of pettiness towards an unpleasant colleague. I’m assuming things are happening fast enough to meet baseline standards, since Dankar has been doing it for most of their tenure without it being called out as a performance issue. And as long as that baseline minimum is being met, why should they go out of their way to get things done faster for this person, when they’ve got things they could be doing for more collegial, civil, and professional colleagues instead?

          1. Dankar*

            Exactly this. She rarely needs anything from our department (usually just an email updating about the state of a fund or if a student has received something from us). Her students get what they need from me ASAP, but I’m not putting her request for an update ahead of the work I do for other faculty members.

        3. DAMitsDevon*

          They’re just saying that the requests go to the bottom of their to-do list, not that they never get done. It would be an issue if that professor needed something that was a high priority done right away, but if it’s a task that could wait there isn’t really a harm in fulfilling other, similar priority requests from people who are actually nice to you first.

        4. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

          Hold on, I noticed a small mistake here.

          “Treating people poorly rarely results in receiving preferential treatment.”

          There, fixed it!

      2. EPLawyer*

        This is why you always appreciate the support staff. They can either make your life incredibly smooth or they can make it very difficult — all while being perfectly professional and doing their jobs. I take a “we are all in this together and everyone has to do their part to make it work” approach. I’ve had clerk’s office STAY OPEN LATE for me because of that attitude. If you go the extra mile for them occassionaly, even on simple things like “here’s the file you need, I got it from central files already for you” they will be willing to do your stuff more readily.

        1. dramallama*

          I’m always kind of baffled by people who don’t seem to realize this. Isn’t it along the lines of knowing that you shouldn’t be horrible to the wait staff because if you are they’ll probably spit in your food? I really admire LW3’s update, because it shows that she really rose above that mentality and consistently provided top-notch service to everybody… But part of why I admire it is because I’m the kind of petty person who’d find joy in sabotaging the rude professor in perfectly professional ways for the rest of my time there, and I know I’m not the only one.

    2. Goliath Corp.*

      When I was a student, a professor LOST my final exam. When I followed up with him, he sent me the rudest, most scathing email I’ve ever received. (It’s ten years later and since then I’ve worked for a nightmare boss, but that professor’s email would probably still make me cry if I read it again.)

      There are some terrible profs out there.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        My husband is a professor and if you heard some of the stories of the way people behave at faculty meetings…

        1. KoiFeeder*

          I used to be locked in the admin office closet for fifth-grade field trips, and I got an incredibly interesting vocabulary from some of the things those people would say. In a way, it was educational.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            WAIT, WHAT? Is this a chapter of Harry Potter I somehow overlooked?
            Please tell me you’re not being literal, because it sure sounds abusive. Or were you the 5th grade teacher not a 5th grader?

            1. KoiFeeder*

              No, the lower school principal/administration just knew it was illegal to expel someone for being autistic, but it’s not illegal to bully an autistic kid into leaving, and the fifth grade teacher… was really happy to do that for them.

              I forget that this isn’t a funny story because my class was really loud and really social and the field trips were all to places like six flags which was way too overstimulating for me at the time, so I was genuinely just happy to be somewhere (usually) quiet and be able to do my homework without my peers stealing my things and trying to interact with me.

  3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    1. Argh, at least you have the “reasons” behind his quirk, that’s not necessarily the answer we all want but for me personally, just knowing the “why you do this this way tho?!” part, even if it’s because “it’s what I like to do, man.” is better than the unknown. My mind stops spinning in circles that way. At least you addressed it.

    I’m not at all surprised he’s just not able to use Outlook and did something that screwed everything up. You don’t have IT that could get in there and fix is settings, wtfffffff.

    2. Sloths sloths sloths! So glad you’re doing well =) You were my inspiration for my summer decor. Sloth window clings [you can find them on Amazon, btw if anyone is wondering “sloth window clings”]. Good luck with your new job!

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Did you know that Tom’s sells a shoe with a sloth print? I’m not that into sloths, but the shoes are cute.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I had to google, that’s so cute! Not my style, only because I own very few shoes more than anything but I love that they exist. I wear the same pair of sneakers 99% of the time, I’m a fuddy duddy but also have very limited space in my apartment.

        These kind of cute “unconventional” animals are huge these days. They’re selling a lot of llama prints and novelties now too!

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I learned recently that there is a company online selling Tshirts that say “LLAMA WRANGLER” …

    2. Chinookwind*

      IT may not be able to help with Outlook unless they are experts at using the program themselves. Having talked with HelpDesk folks, they focus on fixing things in the computer and server and, unfortunately, OP#1’s problem is on the other side of the keyboard.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        That’s so bizarre. Our IT would just remote access our computer and fix the Outlook settings. Which if they didn’t know exactly how to do it because they’re not experts in any software specifically, they’d Google it and fix it…they’re IT so it’s just their job to “figure it out” on that end.

        When we had to outsource our IT, we just called the companies that would remote access and tweak settings if necessary as well.

        I didn’t even do anything with my email client, I just knew things were weird with it and IT looked into it and tweaked settings.

        1. JessaB*

          And if not, sometimes it’s not IT that’s the expert on the settings and innards of the email system, they’re just on the programming and the I didn’t get messages help, side. But usually at least one of the administrative assistant types IS the go to for email settings business. Mr B was once responsible for an off label email manual because people kept asking him stuff so he printed it up. And suddenly the whole company had it. I’ve done that unintentionally, made a reference for a job for myself and people saw me using it and were like “copy please”

          1. JessaB*

            Oh and the fixing the thing could be parsed as “Oh boss lemme see, I can’t read that, here, fix fix.” as opposed to “Augh boss you messed this up.”

  4. Mary*

    >>he has somehow changed the font colour of incoming messages to yellow, and he can barely read them!

    I had no idea things like this happened outside sitcoms.

      1. Antilles*

        Especially since it’s almost certainly just changing one single setting. You can straight-up Google “Microsoft Outlook, default font color for incoming messages” right now and find several results with step-by-step pictorial explanations on changing the default font color. The boss is (clearly) not technical enough to follow it alone, but I’d guess that with a bit of patience, you could talk him through it.

        1. Tom & Johnny*

          I shamelessly google TF out of almost everything I need to do. This week my boss asked me if I knew how to mail merge Outlook emails. I said yes, absolutely. Walked away and Googled.

          I mean you have to know enough to understand what you’re looking for and how to follow the directions you find. I’ve been mail merging Word for years so merging emails is just an extra step. I was confident in my ability to implement this with some strategic searches.

          When I left a prior job a new person sat at my desk. My former colleague said the new employee was driving her crazy with questions all the time, ones beyond the scope of normal new person questions. She finally started telling her to Google that. Apparently the new employee cried and went to HR. HR told her she needed to learn to be self-sufficient and to Google.

          When you call the Helpdesk at work, 90% of the time they’re Googling the hell out of the question you just asked them. The difference is that they understand what to Google, and how to implement what they find.

          These are basic job skills now across all levels. For better or for worse, we have to teach ourselves how to do our jobs now.

          A boss who changes his font to yellow and flaps his hands in the air helplessly would be so maddening.

          1. Lance*

            Absolutely I’d agree that knowing how to find what you’re looking for through internet/other searches is a skill, and one I’d say most people would do well to have or learn. Real shame this boss doesn’t seem to have anything of the sort; I’d love to know how he’s managed to do these things with his e-mail. How do you even change a default color without seeing quite clearly that you’re fiddling with a color option? I really don’t get it…

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              I can only think that he came up with this as a solution to the having everything marked as “read” problem? Or a particularly over it employee did it and told him it was how you fixed the read/unread issue because they were sick of him

          2. Hope*

            I have a coworker who is always asking easily Google-able questions. She will go from person to person until she finds someone who will figure it out for her (and this is easy stuff that she should know how to do, like “how to add a picture to a word doc”). Eventually, we all started suggesting she try Google. She did not like that. So she started prefacing her questions with “I know I could probably look this up on Google, but-”

            Now I just feign complete and total ignorance with her, because I’m not a Google proxy. I do not care if she thinks I’m an idiot, as long as I’m left in peace.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              I appreciate these kind of people on one level. The fact that not everyone is able to use these kind of critical thinking skills has made me lots of money. Lots of small business owners struggle with simple stuff like this and they need people to do things that are a cake walk to those of us who are instinctual in finding the answer.

              However when it’s a colleague, I’m only helpful when I like you. Prefacing things with “I could Google but I don’t wanna” is the fastest way for me to say “I’m too busy for your nonsense, Karen.”

              1. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

                My go-to then is “I can’t help you right now because I’m swamped. I may be able to help you tomorrow. Google is probably faster than that.”

            2. pleaset*

              ” “I know I could probably look this up on Google, but-””

              “I’m swamped – yes, you should look for it yourself.”

          3. SezU*

            I have built a career on being smart enough to know it’s possible (or hoping it is) and Googling it! Everyone thinks I’m the expert…. and I openly tell them “Google is your friend” but they don’t seem to get the idea that they could it too. It’s ok… it keeps me gainfully employed and I enjoy looking up how to do things. (I learned to change brakes on a car by watching YouTube videos!)

            1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

              Many moons ago, I was teaching a Parent-and-Me class, one day we had some extra time so I gave them a free play. The parents are like, “But no! We want more content! We want more learning! You’re the expert!”

              I was 22 and reading nursery rhymes off a list. Hardly rocket science.

              Oddly when they did something dangerous and I had to remind them “Please keep Arya out of the electrical closet!” suddenly I was no longer the expert. I was a moron, who should shut up and stop interfering with Arya’s cognitive exploration.

            2. Antilles*

              Everyone thinks I’m the expert…. and I openly tell them “Google is your friend” but they don’t seem to get the idea that they could it too.
              100%, can confirm. I recently replaced a dead headlight bulb in my car from a YouTube video. If you’re not familiar with the procedure, it does not require a single tool and takes about 5 minutes total, including the time to watch the video.
              At least half of people look at me like I’m some kind of car genius. Even after I try to explain that seriously guys, it’s just watching a video; people just don’t believe it.

              1. Kat in VA*

                *raises hand*

                The husband and I did that! People were like OMG YOU CHANGED YOUR LIGHTBULB IN YOUR CAR HOW HOW HOW

                You can literally Google how to do just about *anything*. Hell, I watched a very instructional and informative video on how to perform a cervical spine fusion (I was curious, I’ve had three). Not to say I would feel confident about, you know, actually DOING this but still…it’s out there.

                1. Mongrel*

                  “You can literally Google how to do just about *anything*. ”
                  And you don’t need arcane knowledge to do it, the number of times friends\colleagues have asked;
                  “How do I do X”
                  Google “How do I do X”, using the same words as they’ve used (if I’m grumpy it gets sent as a Let me Google that for you link https://lmgtfy.com/)
                  “Wow, you’re really good with Google”
                  ** beats head on desk **

          4. Laoise*

            Mail merge! The very first time I even heard of mail merge was on a skills test at an interview.
            TEST: “Do a mail merge.”
            ME: “Sure, but let me google what that is first!”

            Between that and the other tasks on the test, I took every second of the time. But I got them done and done well, and got an offer.

          5. nonegiven*

            My mom emailed me and asked how to do x with [program ive never used.]

            My aunt had asked her.


            So I googled “how to do x with [program ive never used.]”

            Pasted it in an email, which I assume she either forwarded or called my aunt and read it to her. (more likely)

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Some of my former bosses would easily do something like that. Only difference is that they would have just been all “What did I dooooooo, fix it fix it fix it get it fiiiiiiiiixed.”

    2. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

      There are unfortunately whole armies of people who don’t really know what the are doing when it comes to technology and can break or mess up settings in ways that for most of us would be “inconceivable!”

  5. Sally*

    OP #1: Good job on managing up!!! I don’t always realize that if I looked at what the manager might need, I could solve an issue that had been festering for a while.

  6. Lillie Lane*

    OP1: You said in your original letter that your boss didn’t always manage like that. Did something change, aside from the yellow font thing? Or did he behave differently because of that specific project?

    1. ChimericalOne*

      His management probably got worse when he started struggling to read his emails…

      1. Zephy*

        Out of curiosity, I just tried to configure my Outlook as described in the letter. I can’t fathom how someone could do this by accident. Maybe it’s because I can, you know, read and comprehend the words on the buttons I’m clicking.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I can imagine that he clicked just the most random button combination that caused the issue to happen.

          The thing I don’t get is why would this be an issue? If something came right now in yellow font on a white background, you know what I’d do? I’d just highlight the GD thing. Or “forward” it, highlight and change the font color manually.

          Also if things are automatically marking as read. That’s fine. I file everything after I actually read it….then anything new in the box is clearly something I need to work on.

          Maybe I’m just a mad genius though, who knows.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Perhaps he is one of those people who never locks the screen when he walks away and he got pranked by someone. (Like the Finish cattle-calling music I once put on a co-worker’s PC for the startup sound… difference being he asked us how to undo it when he heard our roars of laughter.)

  7. Project Manager*

    #1 – I had the same problem with one of my former managers. He really missed project management and wanted to be involved. If you didn’t involve him, he got himself involved and started micromanaging. So I used to give him little tasks for my projects (there were often cases where he knew people and could smooth the way for me), or I’d call and ask his advice on stuff. It worked brilliantly – he was very happy and thought I was doing fantastic work.

    (Of course, this approach doesn’t work if the manager isn’t knowledgeable, but I’d worked for him when *he* was a PM, so I knew it would be okay.)

  8. Radio Girl*

    Even when updates are less-than perfect, it’s still nice to get them! Thank you!

  9. Zach*

    #1- That is incredibly bizarre work behavior. If my manager was that incompetent with a basic thing like “reading emails” I would immediately start searching for a another job because it’s a huge red flag that someone like that could be in management. Whatever you decide to do, good luck!

  10. LibbyG*

    Congrats, #3! A student-selected award is a big, big deal, and the new jobs sound great. Meanwhile Prof. Snarksalot is snarking around their office with their own snarky self.

    Living well is the best revenge.

    1. Blue Horizon*

      Yes, if you want to know how you are actually doing at the job, you can’t beat student feedback. They have zero incentive to lie or prevaricate and they can be brutally honest. If they selected you for the award, you can be 100% sure it’s deserved.

      (My favorite example of this was when my friend, a grad student with about 6 months of teaching experience, had most of his class state in their feedback forms that he was the best teacher they had ever had at the university. Yes, he was awesome, but if the highest rated teacher in your department is a low-paid part-timer who is only doing it to finance his graduate studies, doesn’t that raise some uncomfortable questions?)

  11. Collarbone High*

    “he has somehow changed the font colour of incoming messages to yellow, and he can barely read them”

    I keep a folder of things to remind myself that I actually am qualified for high-level jobs and shouldn’t let impostor syndrome dissuade me from applying. That … is going in the folder.

  12. Triumphant Fox*

    Congrats #4 on having a solid interview outfit! I just got off a work event where I needed 5-6 outfits to wear in front of hundreds of people and panicked a couple weeks out when so little fit (ah the joys of stopping nursing). This combo was my go-to. I also had a few nicer open cardigans that were better material than sweaters (flowy and more fitted) and fit well – I wouldn’t interview in them but they were ideal over a dress in a freezing conference space. I also had to pivot to tights in July (so thankful I brought them) because I was so. cold.

    It’s hard when you have a casual work environment to suddenly ramp it up – for interviewing or events.

  13. Foon*

    #5 I recently got over a 7 month unemployed stint in DC and the knee-length tailored dress with open blazer, statement necklace and kitten heels was basically my uniform. I’m never going back to ill-fitting pantsuits again. Congrats on your offer!

    1. Kat in VA*

      I went from wearing suits to wearing a sheath dress with a blazer and heels. It cuts down dressing time in the morning and I don’t have to worry about tucking in a shirt, or if it matches the pants/skirt. WAY easier. Ebay has been getting a ton of my money and I have a whole closet full of varying sheath dresses now!

      1. BookishMiss*

        Sheath dress + cardigan is my go to in the warmer months. I’m in Central New York, so I can’t get away with it in the winter, but once it’s warm enough? Dresses every day!

  14. AnonPi*

    I have a coworker whose outlook emails are a different color every time she starts an email. No clue how that happened. Also the occasional random background is added – at least those have been pretty neutral so you can still read the emails.

Comments are closed.