my boss called me “overly emotional” because I cried at work when I thought my grandmother was dying

A reader writes:

As a sophomore in college, I was fortunate enough to find an internship in an industry I was very excited about. The company was small — the owner, three employees, and me.

About halfway through the four months that I worked there, my family dealt with a serious crisis — my grandmother was hospitalized after taking a bad fall and fracturing one of her vertebrae. The situation was initially very serious and potentially life-threatening (she has other health complications) so my family decided to notify me despite the fact that I was at work. I am very close with my grandmother and appreciated being clued into the situation.

I do not normally check my phone throughout the workday but do generally glance at it during my lunch break. When I noticed missed calls from various family members, I became very worried something had gone wrong. I stepped outside to make a quick call and was updated on the situation. My mom promised to call back if anything serious happened. I moved my phone to a drawer in my desk, instead of in my purse, where I would hear it vibrating if someone called again, but otherwise did not check it. That gave me sufficient peace of mind to try and complete the rest of the workday with as much normalcy as possible.

Towards the end of what was, I think understandably, a very stressful day, I encountered a pretty serious issue in a project I had spent most of the day working on. My boss expected the deliverable by end of day, but the mistake made that unlikely to happen. When I let him know what was going on, he was noticeably frustrated. Unfortunately, my eyes welled, and I shed a few (silent!) tears.

In response, my boss kindly inquired about what was wrong. I was mortified and immediately apologized, informed him my family was dealing with a health crisis, and asked if I could step out to collect myself before concluding the discussion. At the time, he was very understanding, and we were able to finish the conversation productively about 15 minutes later. I thought I handled my embarrassing and inappropriate reaction as best as I could and was grateful for his kindness.

Here is the grind: his main feedback in my exit interview was “you are overly emotional.” I asked if he could walk me through examples so I could avoid repeating my mistakes. He only identified the instance above! He told me that “crying in the workplace is unacceptable and although a family emergency is hard to deal with, life happens, and you should not expect your firm to accommodate your personal problems.”

Am I crazy to think that my emotions getting away from me, briefly, in an extreme context does not make me deserving of the overly emotional label? Did I not handle the situation properly once the tears had already been shed? In hindsight, I shouldn’t have checked my phone, as then this whole situation could have been avoided. Regardless, I have a hard time not feeling as though the label has something to do with my gender. Was my boss overly harsh? Or did I truly commit an error grave enough to warrant such a charged label?

Nah, you didn’t do anything wrong here. Your manager was being an ass.

I mean, yes, in an ideal world where we had full control over all emotional responses, one would not cry at work. But we are humans, and worrying about a loved one’s life-threatening medical emergency is a very understandable time to not have perfect control over your emotions.

And this wasn’t you loudly sobbing in the middle of an open office or repeatedly disrupting meetings by breaking down. This was you silently tearing up, once, in a moment of stress.

There are some people like your manager who will judge you for one instance like this, decide you’re “too emotional” because you had a normal human reaction when worried about a family member, and forever see you that way. It’s good to be aware they’re out there, just like it’s good to be aware there are people who will judge you for taking sick leave or for not drinking at a company happy hour.

The fact he knows he was concluding you were “too emotional” based on a single instance and still chastised you for it (rather than interrogating his own assumptions once you asked for examples) indicates this is probably a particular hang-up for him.

He clearly thought he was delivering some important life lesson, but what he said was gross and wrong. “You should not expect your firm to accommodate your personal problems” is true when it comes to, like, it not being okay to spend your work day fighting on the phone with your boyfriend — but a good employer will accommodate you when you’re having a family health crisis.

It’s certainly true that chronic crying at work can be a problem, because it’s disruptive and can make it hard for people to give you necessary feedback. But that wasn’t this.

Here’s a Q&A I did with the New York Times about crying at work.

{ 503 comments… read them below }

  1. Amz*

    This guy was absolutely a jerk and it sounds like you handled the situation very maturely, but out of curiosity, did you mention it was a grandparent? I’ve noticed that a lot of adults in their 30s and older don’t consider grandparents’ deaths to be “as serious” as other deaths in the family. I’m guessing this is because as we age, almost everyone will experience the death of their grandparents, and these people see it as part of life and not something to get broken up over. I’m not saying that’s a good attitude to have, but I wonder if it influenced his reaction.

    1. Amz*

      Oh, and yeah, this is almost certainly gendered. Unfortunately you’ll probably encounter this sexist attitude a lot.

      1. Eleanor's face in a jar by the door*

        Having worked in a male-dominated field, agreed. When men get frustrated and raise their voices/curse/throw a tantrum because of anger, that’s understandable because hey ‘he cares so much about the job’. But crying over a mistake or because of stress – that is ‘too emotional’.

        1. Joie*

          Also interestingly enough – if women have a frustrated tantrum they’re “being dramatic” or “don’t handle stress well” as I am woman who is likely to curse very creatively when something goes particularly sideways in the work place.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            I’ve gotten this before – along with irritable, aggressive, foul mouthed, rude, unprofessional, blah, blah, blah. All very gendered, because men can do the same thing in the same workplace and not hear a word of criticism.

                1. Her Blondeness*

                  And when someone calls me the b-word-that-rhymes-with-rich, I offer to show them pictures of my lovely dog children.

        2. TexasThunder*

          I think one difference is men don’t tend to cry much due to frustration. They are far more likely to get angry when frustrated.

          1. Just J.*

            Being gendered much? Yelling – especially yelling AT people – is not appropriate behavior at all. How many conversations have we had here about toxic work places?

            1. Judy Johnsen*

              No one said it was good or preferred to tell, just that men and women are judged differently. I have seen this myself.

            2. Ego Chamber*

              Um, the conversation is about gendered expectations and reactions, so I’m not sure what your point is in saying this is bad like no one agrees with you?

              Fwiw, anytime I’ve seen a dude cry in frustration, he was also incredibly angry, up to and including punching a hole in the wall. Obviously this is totally inappropriate but it’s also common enough to not be totally unexpected.

            1. tangerineRose*

              Yeah, when I’ve cried at work, it’s always almost due to anger and frustration. I’m female. I think I’ve been socialized that I can’t express too much anger.

              1. ThatGirl*

                Whereas men have been socialized that anger is the “right” way to express frustration, sadness, or myriad other emotions. It’s all pretty much bull.

                1. CountryLass*

                  I remember my nephew getting lost when we were at a fair on a family day out. He turned around to look at something and lost sight of us in the crowds. We all scattered t otry and find him, and I spotted him searching for us in the next row of stalls. I picked him up and cuddled him and then headed to the meeting point we had agreed on. My brother saw me coming up with him and I could tell as he came towards me he was terrified and relieved and it was about to come out as anger. I just put my hand out to stop him for a second and reminded him that he had not run off, he just lost sight of us all, then handed my 4year old nephew over and stepped back. When my sister in law saw them she burst into tears of relief and fear and nearly throttled him from hugging him so hard.

                  Same emotions, different ‘socially conditioned’ responses. Ironically, I tend more towards anger and shouting first, with tears following afterwards, but I was quite the tomboy when I was young so….

              2. soon to be former fed really*

                I’m 64 and this socialization never happened to me. I’m a woman that shows anger and does not cry at work. It has cost me though. Of course I’ve been deemed a b*tch and deemed difficult when all I did was not accept poor treatment while smiling.

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  I never got that either. I have strong independent women on both sides. My dad was raised by a strong, independent, single mom in the 40s and 50s. Even though he was a male of that generation, (he would be turning 76 this coming June) he never treated any woman that I ever saw him interact with as less than…including me and my sister.

                  The fact that it was just…expected that I could do…whatever really shaped my attitudes. The 49ers have a woman coach. People are all “oooohhhhh” ing about a “female NFL coach.” I didn’t really see it as remarkable. I mean yeah I get why they are doing it…I do live on the planet, but a woman coaching professional football…and…so…? She’s just working at a job, but apparently it’s some kind of alchemy or something. I don’t see any woman doing any job as anything special or groundbreaking though either. It’s just a person working. Those strictly socialized to girl/boy roles though…

                  I’m a bitch too. That’s fine with me.

                2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                  Of course I’ve been deemed a b*tch and deemed difficult when all I did was not accept poor treatment while smiling.

                  I mean, that sounds like socialisation to me.

          2. Delphine*

            Both are emotions. And one is certainly a more concerning expression of frustration than the other.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I’d deal with a crying person any day. To me tears read as, “I am dealing with this.”

              But anger, throwing things, yelling, nope-nope-nope. “Call me when you grow up”, is what I say.
              Typically the yelling person is screaming over a lost pencil or similar issue.

              OP, you are not alone. I had a male boss ask me how long it was going to take for me to wrap up “that thing” with my father dying and get back to work. I thought to myself, “If your kids have a boss like you when you get old, then you are going to be pretty lonely dying in that hospital room by yourself.”

              I liked to tell myself, “Here is a person who has never had to deal with a hard loss.”

              I am sure the boss would be surprised to learn that there are plenty of real men and real women who cry.

              1. EinJungerLudendorff*

                Seconded. A crying person would just fluster me, but a screaming person would have me escaping from the building and never wanting to work with that person again.

              2. Amethystmoon*

                I once had a boss who would yell over little things like not using a red pencil (when no one ever told me you had to use said red pencil or you would get yelled at). I quit that job after a month, and it’s been to date the only job I’ve ever quit since I graduated from college. I don’t know what I would have done, had I not quit, but I found out later that everyone eventually gets fired from that company through Glassdoor.

        3. Zelda*

          Time for your annual link to this excellent article:

          Money quote: “What I want to talk about is how emotional outbursts typically more associated with men (shouting, expressing anger openly) are given a pass in public discourse in a way that emotional outbursts typically more associated with women (crying, “getting upset”) are stigmatized.

          “I wish to dispel the notion that women are “more emotional.” I don’t think we are. I think that the emotions women stereotypically express are what men call “emotions,” and the emotions that men typically express are somehow considered by men to be something else.”

          1. soon to be former fed really*

            Anybody remember the Cavanaugh hearings? Talk about role reversal! Anger is “passion” in men, and bitchiness in women. AARGH!

            1. Ego Chamber*

              I think about it often actually. I kept wanting someone at that hearing to say “Honey, you’re being way too emotional to even talk to right now. Please take a few minutes to collect yourself, have a little drink of water if you need to, and let us know when you’re ready to come back and have a rational discussion about *checks notes* your deep love of beer.”

          2. SS Express*

            Totally. Crying because your grandmother might die is emotional. Yelling “WHY WON’T THIS F&$@ING THING F!#$ING WORK” when you have IT issues is…somehow rational?

      2. Sharbe*

        I also think that age had something to do with it too. I mean there’s gendered discrimination for women of all ages of course, but some men are particularly emboldened to “impart their wisdom” on younger women who haven’t “learned the ways of the world” yet. They believe its their duty or something. This LW handled the situation perfectly – both as an employee and as a normally adjusted human being. He’s the jerk.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          My first thought was the age thing and the fact that she was an intern as well. All unfair and unreasonable to judge you for, OP. I hope your grandmother is ok and I’m sorry this whole thing happened to you.

          1. Ellie*

            I think age may come into it in another way though… if the boss didn’t know the exact reason behind the crying, other than a family health situation, they may have unfairly assumed that a young person can’t possibly have any serious health problems and been unduly hard on them. An older person with more life experience may have been more trusted that it was ‘serious enough’ to cry over.

            Of course it’s all wrong and you never know what someone might be dealing with, but it may have played into the unfairness of it all.

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          I had that boss. I think I was the third assistant he’d driven off in the last six months or so. He criticized everything including the way I walked, under the guise of “professional mentorship.”

          1. Fikly*

            Mine criticized the noise my perfectly work appropriate shoes make tapping slightly against my heels. (Not the floor, the noise made from the sole hitting the bottom of my feet.) I’d had 8 foot surgeries by then, and my choice in footwear that would not lead to another was severely limited.

            He also had me writing his papers for his MBA though, so…

        3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          I’ve gotten this sort of feedback (condescending, gendered) from female bosses, too.

          1. soon to be former fed really*

            Yes,I worked for an alpha female who was always trying to subjugate me. She eventually gave up and ended up respecting me, albeit grudgingly.

          2. Uranus Wars*

            Me too. Moreso from two females who blanketed it as “I’m just looking out for you” but basically I shouldn’t take bereavement, shouldn’t travel for the holidays, shouldn’t offer a different perspective, shouldn’t correct male peers or superiors, etc. Because, you know, it shows you aren’t loyal and people will think your emotional and flighty.

          3. Jules the 3rd*

            I’ve seen the ‘don’t get emotional’ from a woman in the last couple of years. It came across as kinda gaslight-ish.

      3. Jean*

        Yep. If I had $1 for every time a man criticized women for being “too emotional,” and then fly into a rage when he didn’t get his way on something, I’d have enough to treat myself to a nice dinner. With wine.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          I think the proper response there would be “If I really were that emotional, I’d be punching your teeth out right now.”

        2. Bunny Girl*

          And I’ve found the opposite to be true too. I am a friendly person but I don’t have a super bubbly upbeat personality and I’ve had people (men) tell me I’m “too cold” before. It’s like can you make up your mind?

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Yeah, this is the truth. And any time there’s a woman who does manage to do everything “right,” she’s some kind of magical outlier until he can figure out what’s really wrong with her deep down (even though none of these women f#cking asked for your opinion, Chad).

          1. Penny Parker*

            This is a victim blaming comment because it puts the focus on the victim. Men get angry and then they yell. It happens. It is not the fault of the person interacting with them.

      4. Jedi Squirrel*

        I had to stop and think for a moment about how this is gendered because I generally expect people to get visibly upset when something like this happens, regardless of their sex. And I also realize that “health crisis” may mean “this thing that is so upsetting I don’t want to name it because then I’ll cry even more.”

        This boss is a tool.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I vote for a jerk with gendered/sexist attitudes. People are not robots, and OP’s behavior doesn’t sound inappropriate. Boss’ assumptions about feelings and “reasonable” reactions to serious family health news says more about him than OP.

    2. Jennifer*

      That attitude disgusts me. Just because someone was older and “expected” to die doesn’t mean that their death isn’t painful and that you don’t wish you could have one more day with that person. There are people who have been devastated by the loss of their grandparents and other older friends and family members who have been made to feel unwelcome in group grief counseling sessions for this reason.

      1. Wing Leader*

        Yeah, I agree. Like I said below, my grandmother died while I was at work, and I’m pretty sure my boss had that, “Well, it’s not like it’s your parent or something” mindset. My grandmother raised me though so, yes, she very much was a parent. And you can be close with anyone on your family. I don’t understand people who think that some family deaths are less important than others.

        1. Hobbit*

          My friend’s Grandfather died while she was in Grad school. She sank into depression and her grades tanked, which caused her to lose her financial aid. When she submitted her appeal, they told her that “grandparents aren’t immediate family” so it didn’t count, and that she should have “gone to therapy and dealt with it”. grrr some ppl.

          1. lilsheba*

            wow, not immediate family? Ohhh I hate that distinction. Parents and siblings and children count, but anyone else NO! also a legal spouse counts but if it’s JUST your unmarried partner then NO! it doesn’t count. Why have such a difference, over legal definition or piece of paper? It’s stupid.

            1. Red 5*

              I’ll be honest and let a bit of bitterness get out here, but there’s a good chance that siblings wouldn’t really count either for people in this mindset.

              I say this because I lost a parent and a sibling very suddenly only a few years apart and the response I got were night and day. The support I got after my sibling died was something like 10% of what I saw after my dad died. Most people really seemed to want to just pretend nothing happened and move on.

          2. Starbuck*

            Sadly it’s not just some people – this seems like a not surprising result of American culture’s emphasis of the nuclear family structure as the only important and valid family arrangement. It’s even baked into policies like FMLA, which seems to only define family as spouses, parents, and children.

        2. Bridget*

          I’m 30 and haven’t yet lost a grandparent (aside from two great-grandmothers when I was younger and my paternal grandfather, who passed before I was born) and I 100% expect to be devastated when they do pass. If I end up finding out at work, you can bet absolutely nothing would stop me from leaving the office immediately and driving the five hours home. I’m honestly not sure I would even wait for my husband, he can catch up later. To say that grandparents essentially “don’t count” is ridiculous and makes me mad (not at you, obviously) just thinking about it.

          1. Julia*

            I’m 30 and lost both grandfather right after I was born, and when grandmother when I was in elementary school. My remaining grandmother, whom I love VERY much and call every night, is 97, and I still dread anything happening to her. I would probably quit a job that did not allow me to visit or grieve her properly when her time comes.

        3. whingedrinking*

          My grandfather died a couple of days before Christmas, and at the time I was working a retail job. I got my mother’s voicemail just after clocking out, so I had to go back and tell my manager that I had to take a week off to go to the funeral. (For reference, attending a funeral in rural Saskatchewan in December is about as far from taking a holiday as you can possibly get.)
          I wasn’t incredibly close to my grandpa, but he was family and I had literally just gotten the news, so I was crying. My manager actually rolled her eyes and said, “Ugh, are you sure you have to go? Fine, I suppose, but this is very inconvenient.”
          I get that being a retail manager during the busiest time of the year is stressful, but how withered is your soul to respond to a tearful employee that their relative’s death is inconvenient?

          1. LC*

            I asked for one day off when my grandmother died. I was in my early 20s, had in fairly short succession experienced the deaths of my other grandparents and my primary parent, and I was also sick with a cold. My job required a great deal of both physical and emotional labor. I asked for the day off, unpaid. My boss literally said, “Come on, how long has it been?” It had been three days. I was not given any time off, and I was written up for crying (“insubordination”) when I was told I had to keep working.

            FWIW, I have never been written up in any other job – I am really not the insubordination type. This job was a nightmare.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              I hope you found another job that treated you like people. Crying is not “insubordination”.

              IMO, writeups for “insubordination” tell me more about the boss than the worker. It means the boss can’t lead their way out of a paper bag, so has to resort to intimidation and rigidity.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                Thank you. I refuse to accept “insubordination” as a real thing in the workplace, since I’ve never seen it done except as a way to write someone up for something that would sound bonkers if you wrote them up for the real reason.

                I’ve been threatened with or written up for insubordination for 1) following instructions from one manager that another manager disagreed with, 2) asking for more instructions when I didn’t understand something, 3) escalating over my manager because the issue was with my manager, 4) being seen in the HR office after being told to take complaints directly to my manager, 5) suspected of calling in to the ethics line about the company ignoring federal financial regulations (fwiw, it wasn’t me, I was way past reporting anything by then holy shit).

          2. pandop*

            A former line manager of mine was not impressed when I needed to travel home to deal with the admin side of my grandmother’s death – even though as I patiently explained to her, that as my father had predeceased her, I was the next of kin, so no my mother (merely the daughter-in-law) couldn’t just do it all.
            We have good compassionate leave where I work, I just had an awful manager.

        4. EPLawyer*

          I would have hurt someone with this attitude. My grandmomther passed when I was finishing up my 3rd year of law school. I was my early 40s. I was closer to her than I am to my own mother. I got the news as I was getting ready to go to class. I went to school that day. Not only did EVERY SINGLE PROFESSOR state it was fine that I would miss a class or two because I was going to the funeral, they asked me if I needed more time. They also were surprised I was there that day. They made it clear I could have emailed the request and stayed home that day to begin processing it. Oh and I believe I had all male professors that semester.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            I was finishing up some work on my PhD when my son died. Everyone save one dick (female) of a professor was so way cool. I escalated things. Interesting how everyone took my side really…she was/is tenured. I was shocked TBH. Shocked but relieved.

            When my mom (*my* mom) died Husband’s day job gave him bereavement leave (IIRC 3 days paid) which also shocked me. Most places it’s like you have to provide 37 documents and give a DNA sample to prove you are grieving.

            1. Jay*

              My best friend’s husband and I work together. We’re doctors, so coverage is important. When her father died, he of course had a week of bereavement leave and no one even blinked. She asked me to come to the funeral for support and I went to my boss, fully expecting to be told that since he was off I had to work. Nope. “You go take care of them, we’ll figure it out.” Pretty much every place I’ve ever worked would give someone leave for their father-in-law’s funeral. This was so much above and beyond that I was staggered – in a good way.

        5. wittyrepartee*

          Yeah, this was my thought. In some families, grandparents are secondary or even primary parents for their grandkids.

        6. Chinookwind*

          I think it is because those people think everyone has casual relationships with their grandparents. My DH saw how I death with my grandmother’s death and was confused by how I reacted so much more deeply than he did when his grandfather died. Of course, he visited his grandfather once a year for a week or two whereas my grandmother was my university roommate/landlord for 4 years while she was adapting to be a widow (so lived together as she rediscovered how to live alone, which led to a different type of bond).

          I sometimes wish there was a word different than grandparent to describe those intergenerational relationships that combine friendship, mentorship and blood in one neat phrase.

          As for LW, know that not all employers are like that. I dealt with my grandmother being hospitalized while I lived 4 time zones away and had to decide if I left before she died (which meant not staying for a funeral and/or her dieing while I was in the air) or waited for the news. Luckily I waited and she pulled through, but it was the first time I ever had my phone on my desk and I told my boss, where I was working as a temp, why I was doing this. He was quite understanding and told me what I could do if I suddenly couldn’t come in the following day.

          Another boss told me, when dealing with DH’s dying grandfather who was also a long flight away, that I should book my flight now and deal with any paperwork when I get back and not to worry about not having anyone cover my desk while I was in a cellphone and internet deadzone.

          Good bosses who act human do exist.

          1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

            Yes, it’s been really illuminating to me being married to my husband and especially having children to learn about how other families relate to older generations.

            My husband spent every summer with his grandparents (both sets, they lived down the street from each other), and I expect we will likely be having our kids spend significant time with his parents as they grow up. I never realized people a) had many/all of their grandparents still living as 3/4 of mine passed before I was born or b) they would see them more than every couple years.

            As a child I was often confused when other kids were devestatedly sad if a grandparent was ill or died – to me it was like being inconsolable because a celebrity had passed. But even as a child I knew “well they are sad nevertheless, I don’t need to get it.”

        7. Grumpy Kat*

          I was only 4 months in at my work, so I didn’t have a lot of PTO, and I just passed the mark of being able to work from home. I found out that my grandpa was in the hospital with a stroke on Wednesday night. We hadn’t worked out which day I would be able to work from home, so I texted my manager and asked if I could work from home Thursday because I found out my grandpa was in the hospital, and take PTO Friday. (She doesn’t let anyone work from home on Fridays or Mondays). She didn’t even say “sorry to hear that.” She saying no, and that I should take PTO. I was a mess all Thursday, and texting my parents and cousins for updates on my grandpa. My grandpa passed away Sunday night, and I took my 3 bereavement days, and used the rest of my PTO.

          I never forgave her for this.

        8. Third or Nothing!*

          I got the news my grandmother passed while I was at work as well. I sobbed in a quiet corner of a deserted hallway for a good 30 minutes before I had the composure to go to my boss’s office and inform him I needed to use our bereavement leave. Thankfully we have 3 days for grandparents so I got it with no fuss at all.

          That was 5 years ago and I still miss her. She was the only one in my family who really got me. And she never had the chance to meet my husband or daughter.

        9. Newbie*

          My grandmother died about a month before my first job anniversary at my first job out of college. She was the last of my grandparents alive as the rest I had lost when I was 8-9. That’s when I learned that my company’s bereavement policy includes grandchildren but not grandparents. Why? Because upper management is people in their sixties who want good policies for themselves but twenty-somethings need to learn that they “can’t get everything they want”(actual quote from HR). Everything I want, like not having to use one of my ten vacation/sick days to attend my grandmother’s funeral. So entitled. I know.

      2. AnonEMoose*

        It’s not all that uncommon for people to be raised largely by their grandparents these days. It’s disgusting to judge someone else’s grief or to act like it’s some kind of hierarchy.

      3. Pretzelgirl*

        Everyone grieves differently I have seen this over the years, as my friends and I reach the ages of loosing our grandparents. My friend grieved the loss of her grandmother very hard. Even though her grandmother, was quite old and sick for a long time. She was very close with her. However I don’t grieve as hard. Even though I miss my grandparents, terribly I knew their end was near and I am at peace with it. We can’t expect everyone to feel the same feelings about anything in life.

        The way this guy handled it was terrible. I am sorry you experienced it.

        1. Jennifer*

          I don’t expect everyone to have the same feelings about everything. I just expect people to have compassion for those who grieve differently. If you’re at peace with your grandparents’ passing, that’s great for you. I’m not there yet.

        2. Leisel*

          I lost my grandparents on my mother’s side 4 weeks apart (they had been in a nursing home together). It wasn’t unexpected, but it was very difficult going through a tough situation and funeral only to turn around and do it again so soon. My coworkers at the time were very understanding and helped by picking up some slack, but my boss wasn’t so sympathetic. Instead of counting the 4 days I took that month as sick days or bereavement leave, they docked my vacation time instead. Then they expected me to work overtime to catch up.

          I didn’t stay there too long after that. Good riddance!

        3. Not So NewReader*

          My aunt and I started listing off all the different reasons we grieve differently over different people. We quickly found dozens of reasons and realized there are probably hundreds of reasons. Plus like you say here the different ways people handle grief.

          My aunt went to one funeral where a couple people were laying on the floor wailing and pounding the floor. All we could think of was cultural differences? In our family that would not have been acceptable behavior- meaning there was huge peer pressure to maintain self-control no matter what, stiff upper lip and all that.

          How OP’s boss ended up being such a jerk, who knows. But at some point he will probably get called out for his behavior because he will do this one too many times and get a reputation. Stories of cold-heartedness go right through the workplace grapevine very fast. OP, I am will to bet that he has done this to other people also. They try to pick people who they think they can push around, so that is a factor.

          I am hoping you went back to your school and reported this incident, but I would not be surprised if you didn’t. Stuff like this goes unreported all the time.

          1. OP*

            I did not report it. Truthfully did not think much would come of it other than pissing off my former boss further.

        4. Red 5*

          I would actually even say that every grief is different, even for the same person. I think it’s actually really important for people to know that because I actually was completely blindsided by how heavy and different it was for me to deal with one particular death because I’d not struggled that much with my grandparents passing, or even when a friend of mine had died young. I honestly didn’t know what I needed or how I wanted to deal with it and my own emotions didn’t feel like they were coming from me because I didn’t expect them, they hadn’t happened before, why now?

          Because every grief is different. And that’s okay. All we’ve got to do is support the people around us and make sure we’re there for them, we don’t have to understand or “agree” or whatever.

          Now getting bosses and jobs to understand this is another hurdle…*sigh*

      4. MOAS*

        Dad was 69, almost 70 when he died. If someone were to be dismissive, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t hold back.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Huh. Maybe outing myself as a millennial here, but I looked at that and don’t think that’s very old at all.

          1. That'll Happen*

            Agreed. I’m in my early 30s and my parents are in their early 60s. If they die within the next decade I will be very distraught.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Augh, I have older parents too, and I can’t even think about that. Too anxious to be able to do anything but pretend they’ll be alive forever.

              1. wittyrepartee*

                Is that even “older”? My parents had me when they were 30. I’m 32 and don’t have kids yet. Doing the math, my mom’s mom was in her early 30’s when she had my mom (who was the youngest of 3), and her dad was in his mid 40s.

                1. KoiFeeder*

                  My mom was about 45 when she had me, and my dad a year younger than her. So while I didn’t really word it great, my parents probably do count!

                2. Ego Chamber*

                  It’s weird, right? “Young” parents are teenagers and “older” parents are anyone over like 35. Maybe it has to do with the misleading stat about risk of birth defects doubling when women have kids over 30? (The rate doubles from 1% to 2% btw, so.)

                  My mom was 28 when she had me, my sibling was 4 years after that. My grandma had her first kid when she was 18 (barely 18), and 3 more in the next 3 years.

                3. londonedit*

                  It doesn’t register as ‘older’ to me either! Both my parents turned 70 last year, they were 32 when they had me. Which, in the early 80s, was slightly more unusual than it is now, but still. They only became grandparents last year when my sister had a baby. I certainly don’t think of them as old.

            2. ThatGirl*

              I’m in my late 30s and my parents are in their late 60s, and same! (To be fair my expectations are high since both sets of grandparents lived to their late 80s/early 90s)

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Yeah, what? My parents are both in their early 70s and if they were to die I’d feel like they died young!

            1. Caroline Bowman*

              My mum had me when she was just turning 40, way back in the 70’s. I was her first and only child (dad was 47 and had 2 kids from his first marriage, my brother and sister), and when she died at 79 (suddenly and unexpectedly) I was completely unravelled. ”Lady, 79, passes away at home in bed” doesn’t make a gripping or unusual headline, but regardless of age, if the relationship is a close one, the shock and sadness is overwhelming. I still cry randomly from time to time at it happened nearly 3 years ago.

              A few tears at very upsetting, shocking news, on top of what was already a stressful situation is hardly ”overly emotional”. A month after my mom died, I had a cashier in my local grocery shop have to take me to the back and sit me down because I was crying so hard (I had a memory of being in that exact queue, with her, chatting about an upcoming event and suddenly just couldn’t anymore. MORTIFYING), THAT is overly emotional perhaps. Sorry not sorry.

          3. wittyrepartee*

            Same. I’m like “that’s the point at which you might die… but it’s a death in late middle age.” All my grandparents have made it to their 80s at the very least (one’s currently in her 90s).

          4. Anonapots*

            I’m in my mid-40s and both my parents are barely mid 60s (teen pregnancy isn’t a disaster, folks), so that is VERY young to me. When my grandmother died, I called out and my boss didn’t bat an eye. When I used my bereavement, nobody blinked, and she died about 5 years ago. I have one last grandparent and if anyone tries to tell me it’s not an important enough loss to grieve fully, I might punch them.

          5. Jules the 3rd*

            I think that’s the point – it isn’t that old, if someone were to say, ‘oh, well, old enough that you should expect them to die’, MOAS would be extra upset.

      5. Keymaster of Gozer*

        My nana died the night before I started my first ever full time job after university. I was heartbroken. Most of the people I met in the office were just wonderful about it all and very understanding. Some though said I was ‘too old to mourn’ (i was 20).

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I knew nothing of the workplace so assumed that they were right and I had to grow up more now I had a salary. 24 years ago that was. Gave me a heck of an introduction to the working world..

        1. Dragoning*

          When I was 24, I explained to my boss that I have been a little off at work because I was dealing with the death of a friend, and my boss told me I’d “get over it” once I “grew up and matured.” I started crying and he silently avoided me for the rest of my time there.

            1. Dragoning*

              Obviously his heart shriveled by the time he hit thirty or so, guess he assumed it happened to everyone.

          1. ampersand*

            Wow, there are some truly cold and uncaring bosses masquerading as humans beings out there. These stories are heartbreaking!

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Too old to mourn?

          Uh, because of their profound lack of compassion perhaps they should stay away from other people?

          This right here is a great example of why I am a big fan of encouraging other people to learn about grief. We have too many really good resources out there that are informative and helpful. And right here we see how huge the need is. The “too old to mourn people” know ZERO about grief and about the grieving process. Knowledge is power. The more we know the more we are empowered to handle “life stuff”.

          FWIW, I called my grandmother, Nana, also. ;) She was walking love, man. January was the 50th anniversary of her passing and I STILL remember…. I am sorry for your loss, K of G.

        3. Curmudgeon in California*

          WTF? “Too old to mourn”? Who in the hell would think something like that?

          Mourning is a natural, human reaction to the loss of someone or something you are emotionally attached to: people, pets, etc. It doesn’t matter how old they are. People grieve when they lose family, friends, pets, or their house burns down! (I’m in California, and we had people who lost their houses in the wildfires going through the typical stages of grief.)

      6. Zap R.*

        This is such a North American, nuclear family-oriented attitude, too. In many cultures, it’s the norm for grandparents to be hugely involved in their grandchildren’s lives.

        1. Jennifer*

          I’m American, but in black culture it’s pretty common to be close with extended family, at least while you’re growing up. I know it’s true of some other cultures here too.

          1. Eeyore's Missing Tail*

            Southern US here, and it’s pretty common for us to be close with extended family as well. Heck, I’ve become close to my husband’s family as well. I make have taken my husband’s grandfather’s death better than he did, but I still closed my office door and cried when I got the news.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              Also Southern US. My mother’s parents lived next door and took care of me after school every day until I was old enough to stay home alone. I’m not close to her mom because she is a toxic person, but her dad was a stellar human being and my husband reminds me of him so much. I miss that man.

            2. Jules the 3rd*

              Also southern US, and my kid’s at the grandparents’ every month or so. Many of my friends have their kids staying at the grandparent’s several days a month.

          2. Ego Chamber*

            Northwestern US and my grandparents were a huge part of my life growing up. I assumed that was because I was raised poor and families in tenuous financial situations generally either help each other or tear each other apart.

      7. soon to be former fed really*

        Huh? Loss of older loved ones is more typical, my mom was 91 when she dies and I was never made to feel unwelcome in any supportive environment. There is no grief olympics, the death of anyone meaningful to you is devastating. I detest comparing one loss to another.

      8. TiffIf*

        I found out my paternal grandmother had passed away while I was at work. She was two weeks shy of turning 104–yes I knew she was going to pass away at some point but it is always a shock when it comes.

        I did cry a little at work, straight up told my boss “I just found out my grandmother died, I’m leaving” and left.

        1. Hlyssande*

          Mine was a few months shy of 106, and I did basically the same thing. My parents waited to call me until they knew I was already in the office because they didn’t want to give me the news while I was driving. I picked up, got the news, and then told the boss I was leaving immediately.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Our society seems to not view death like much of a serious matter in general, grandparents aside.

      They still only give you 3 days of time to travel and get back for many places, even if it’s a sibling, parent or spouse!

      1. Wing Leader*

        Yeah and, I know not everyone feels the same about this…but I’m of the opinion that you should get a day or two of leave when you have a pet death. For me, my pets are well loved and are an important part of my family, so I definitely need time to grieve when they die and I really don’t want to be sitting at my desk all day while I do that.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          In reality, we just need to respect that people cannot shed their “personal” skin at the door and put on their “workplace” skin. Just like yeah, we do bring work stress home with us. We’re not robots and don’t have “humanity switches” like some Vampire Diaries Vampire.

          I’ve never worked anywhere that has these kind of strict rules about time off though. So I’m extra about the whole thing. My parents have though, so I see it from that lens at times. I remember when my grandparents died in my teens and how my dad’s work wanted “proof” about it. “I need a copy of their obituary for the front office” was the most callous thing even as a teen I had heard someone utter.

          1. Blackbelt Jones*


            My brother died 29 years ago. My mother needed “proof” for her job also. She had a “professional”, state job. OTOH, this wasn’t required at my job, which was at a factory!

            Go figure.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Was she union?

              Part of my dad’s issue was it was built into their CBA…which was only ever good for benefits but everything else they were treated like frigging cattle…

        2. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, I agree, I don’t really want to think about it, but when the time comes for my beloved pup to leave this earth, I am definitely taking a day off.

          1. Minocho*

            When my cat died, I went into work because it would help me not be a sobbing useless blob on my bed. My boss was super sympathetic, and shocked I came in at all. My boss’s boss, when she saw I came in after the vet visit, ran out during lunch to get me a sympathy card. Coworkers and managers treating their people like human beings makes such a difference in morale.

        3. Delta Delta*

          I was lucky that my beloved pet died on a Friday and the following Monday was a holiday. I spent most of the long weekend consoling my family members and my other pet, who was also very sad.

        4. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          Absolutely Wing Leader. My 20+ year old cat died in my arms around a year ago–a peaceful passing. I had rescued him from a shelter over 17 years prior. I crept into work the next day and did noting but stare numbly at a screen. I still cry.

        5. soon to be former fed really*

          I agree, pet loss can be devastating. They become family members. Even when our pets and human love ones are suffering, we mourn their loss even though we are relieved that thir pain has ended. I think unsympathetic heartless peoplehave never had a meaningful loss, but all they have to do is keep living and they most assuredly will.

        6. Not a cat*

          I had a VP who was very, very not nice and even he offered me bereavement time for my cat’s death.

      2. ACDC*

        My husband’s mom died a few days before this past Christmas and they live in his home country (Italy, while we live in the US). They only gave him 2 days bereavement, which is obviously not possible to get to italy and back in that amount of time, so we had to use PTO.

        1. MOAS*

          same–my father died in Pakistan and I had to fly out for the funeral. (Technically I could have chosen NOT to go but that was something I would have regretted all my life). I took a 1 way ticket because we had no idea what would happen with my mom etc. I ended up taking 3 weeks–no one gave me any problems over it. unfortunately I had maxed out all my PTO a few days prior (Christmas/New years holiday, death happened first week of Jan). My company had JUST started offering Bereavement pay that year. I was still able to get at least half of that paid, which was better than nothing.

      3. Dragoning*

        Technically, my workplace allows for only three days off for bereavement.

        In practice, one of my coworkers lost her (only, young adult) child, and we didn’t see or hear from her for two months aside the funeral we all went to, and then she worked exclusively from home for months after.

      4. thanks, nonprofit*

        I work for an extremely small nonprofit – the kind of place that boasts that their comp time/benefits will make up for the long hours and low pay – and when my coworker’s grandmother died our ED informed her that bereavement leave only covers the ACTUAL HOURS OF THE SERVICE. She had to go out of state to attend her grandmother’s funeral, and had to take vacation time for all but two hours of it. We have no actual employee handbook, of course, so our ED is known to kind of make things up as she goes along – and that struck me as cruel and unusual. You have the opportunity to be there for an employee and support them in a time of grief and you instead choose to nickel-and-dime them on bereavement leave?

      5. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed, TMBL. Three days is a farce. Give people actual time to process and take care of matters. To my way of thinking the opening range is at least one week, maybe even several weeks depending on the relationship.

        And it annoys me to no end that they define “family” for us. I have friends who are more like family than actual family. It’s almost like being told how to feel about something. So if a person is my friend, I get no bereavement time, so I guess I shouldn’t be feeling any upset? What is wrong with this picture.
        While we can’t take bereavement time every time someone dies there has to be a way to identify the closest people that we will actually need time away from work to process the loss. But don’t identify those people FOR me. grr.

    4. OP*

      Yes I did mention it was my grandmother. It did not occur to me that might diminish the seriousness of the situation in his mind as my family is very close knit – I spent every summer with my grandparents before leaving for college and place great value in my relationship with them. Perhaps it did play a role in his reaction – I had not thought about that!

      Would it have been more appropriate to not include that level of detail? At the time I was not really sure how much information needed to be shared about the family emergency I was experiencing given the professional context.

      1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

        No, that level of detail is perfectly fine. It’s a failing of that manager – not on your discretion – that he likely ranks levels of “appropriate” grief or distress.

        Many people will say that in a business context you never need to say more than “I’m currently dealing with a family emergency” or “a health issue”. And that’s true, you shouldn’t need to. But I personally think in a functional workplace with decent humans who work there, sharing whatever you wish to share about personal issues should be fine.

      2. Anonapots*

        No, because it shouldn’t matter. The only person who was wholly inappropriate was your manager, who hit the gendered and misogynist feedback bingo with his review.

        1. Paulina*

          What I find bizarre is that, from the description of what happened, it looks like both the OP and boss did the right thing. OP explains briefly, boss gives OP a short interval to regroup, OP does so, they’re able to get back to work quite quickly despite the ongoing stress. Given that, the exit review is particularly blindsidey, and indicates that the boss, while doing the right thing at the time, apparently resented it. WTF, jerk boss.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        You were fine. You handled it exceptionally well.

        I have nothing positive to say about your boss.

    5. Long Time Lurker First Time Commenter*

      I was interning at an office when I got the news that my father died. I just shrugged and went back to work. I barely knew the man. When my maternal grandmother died, however, I was absolutely devastated, because she practically raised me alongside my mum. I was at university when my mother called me and said that I should get home ASAP if I want to say goodbye. I just packed my things and ran out of there, not a word to anyone. Thankfully, it was the start of a semester, no important assignments due, but I wouldn’t have cared if there were. If I was working back then and someone would have tried to object to me leaving, I probably would have quit on the spot.
      This attitude that grandparents matter less than members of nuclear family and their death should be less painful infuriates me. Not everyone’s family situation is the same.

    6. Erin*

      I find this take interesting (though probably not inaccurate), because the only time I openly cried at work was when my grandmother died. She had been declining for a few months and I told my boss (I directly supported our Executive Director) about her progress leading up to her death. I had to tell him what happened because I wanted to go home (my grandmother and I were extremely close and my mom and I were her tenants at the time). I started crying in front of him and he got me water and let me sit alone in his office for a few minutes to collect myself before going home. He also told me not to worry about telling my colleagues and sent a really lovely staff-wide email.

  2. Wing Leader*

    I definitely sympathize, OP. My grandmother died while I was at work. I, of course, left to go to the hospital, but I never saw her again. While my manager did allow me to leave, he was not overly sympathetic.

    1. Snoop*

      yeah, I think people conclude that how THEY relate to their grandparents is how everyone does. So maybe he didn’t have a close relationship with his grandparents and thus didn’t understand when OP said they were close. FWIW, I have had two grandparents and parent die while I’ve worked at my current employer. The first grandparent was someone who lived distantly and didn’t have a formal funeral. I didn’t miss any work. When my grandma died who lived closer and who I was closer to, I took off days to travel the funeral.
      WHen my mom died unexpectedly, that was a whole different thing. I took off almost a week and a half to plan the funeral, etc. They were over the top accommodating for that.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        There’s also definitely an opinion that at a certain age, it’s better to be dead, if that makes sense? There’s a point where anyone at X age is assumed to be so senile that they can’t remember their own names, or something similar.

      2. Filosofickle*

        I’m aware enough to know that others have different experiences, but it’s true that because I was not at all close to my grandparents it is difficult for me to truly understand how attached others are. My last grandparent just passed at 96 and people offer me a lot more sympathy than I need. (Which is certainly better than offering too little.)

      3. EinJungerLudendorff*

        Wasn’t there a letter about a boss being an ass about dying family, who was then completely baffled to learn that some people actually like their family and care when they are dying?

  3. Sara M*

    Crying at work is officially part of the process in my field. I’m a fiction writer. There is a stage of the writing process called “lots of crying” before you have a breakthrough.


    1. KoiFeeder*

      Skip the crying! Write “dumbest version” on top of any troublesome drafts. Don’t feel like you have to story it- bullet points are fine, random sentences are fine, crossing out the page and writing on the lines of the X are fine. Then just go full weird. “What if the romantic interest was actually a sapient lead pipe possessing a human vessel?” “What if everyone was actually snakes?” “What if the plot was completely reversed?” “What if they were CGI artists for the Cats movie?”

      If nothing else, you can’t work with an empty page.

            1. Sara M*

              It’s okay. I chuckled! I’m not worried about my career, my book is selling well, it’s just funny to me. Every time, every story, there’s a part where I’m sobbing miserably in DESPAAAAAAAIR… and that is a necessary step. Apparently. Because writing is a form of semi-consensual masochism. Heh.

              1. KoiFeeder*

                I’m still sorry for not reading the room. Usually having to write things out keeps me from being a moron, but it’s not a foolproof process.

                1. Cinna214*

                  “Usually having to write things out keeps me from being a moron, but it’s not a foolproof process.”

                  I have never read anything I related to more…

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Hyperlexia buddies!

              But also, I get what you’re saying. I’ve spent most of my life trying to beat up my perfectionist tendencies with a hammer, but it’s not easy even when you’re just very mildly perfectionist!

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            It helped me, KoiFeeder! I appreciate your sharing. Bonus: now I will never not believe everyone is actually snakes!

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        If sapient lead pipes full of snakes inhabiting human skins were also the CGI artists for the Cats movie, a whole lot would make sense.

      2. DefCon 10*

        Have you been looking over my shoulder while I’m outlining :-) Because this method sounds really familiar.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m reading Jessica Simpson’s book and apparently John Mayer would “torture” himself constantly to come up with his material.

      So there’s that too, on the flip side of just frustration tears :P

    3. Claire*

      I know that phase. :)

      Have you seen Maureen McHugh’s chart for the process of writing a novel? She labels the middle section of the novel as Dark Night of the Soul.

  4. Jennifer*

    This definitely reads as sexist to me and I’ve encountered this from men and women. A lot of women have been taught that we have to present traditionally masculine qualities in order to be accepted at work, which means no crying at work, period, even when a beloved family member might be dying. This mentality needs to change.

    1. writerboy*

      Jennifer, I have to agree with you on this. When I received a call that my 30 yo nephew had died I cried, even though we hadn’t been very close as adults. Another co-worker, whom I had actually supervised in the past, came and consoled me and I was very touched. And as a middle-aged man, nobody told me I was being too emotional for crying over a death in the (extended) family.

    2. NewReadingGlasses*

      And you can’t win this. If you remain calm, because you are someone who deals with it later, then you are “cold.”

      1. Jennifer*

        That’s true too. Even if that’s your natural personality, you aren’t performing womanhood “correctly” in some people’s eyes.

  5. miss_chevious*

    Misogyny rears its ugly head again. LW, you handled everything as well as possible, and your boss is a jerk. “Too emotional” for one incident over the course of months is classic sexism and you should ignore it as feedback, except to note that some people have this kind of sexism coloring their evaluations of women in the workplace.

    Story time: I, a professional who had been working 8 years at the time, had my dog (who I loved very very much, but is not equivalent to my grandma) die suddenly one weekend when I was only five months into my role. I told my boss about it to reassure him that if I looked upset, it wasn’t because of work, and started crying when I mentioned it. He offered me a tissue and asked me if I wanted to go home for the afternoon, and has never brought it up again (except he asked if I was feeling better a couple weeks later). *That* is how human beings respond when employees have human issues.

    1. the_scientist*

      I think there is absolutely some deep-rooted misogyny at the core of this boss’s response, and that especially given that OP was an intern, she handled this in a remarkably mature and professional manner! So, OP, give yourself a pat on the back for how you handled this situation in the moment, because it was truly well done.

      I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but the idea that your workplace “can’t accommodate your personal problems” is, honestly, dumb. Until we replace human workers with robots, people are people, with lives outside of their jobs, families, friends, pets, and messy, human emotions. We can’t just shed our human skins when we walk into work. It’s completely unreasonable to expect your employees to absolutely never have anything going on in their personal lives that won’t leak into their work persona and performance.

      Also, the whole “personal life should never impact work” opinion is, IMO, deeply, deeply sexist and rooted in very misogynistic ideas about women’s roles. I really think this is a criticism that women face much more often than men, and it’s often in the context of calling out/taking sick leave to care for either sick kids or aging parents (or both!) since the burden of caregiving falls largerly on women. This criticism (when applied to men) is also rooted in the assumption that men have wives available to “take care of” their personal lives for them, so they don’t need to bring their personal stuff to work. Which is of course, a ridiculous and outdated assumption that also harms men who want to be equal participants in their childrens’ lives, or, you know, have the normal range of human experiences.

      1. DefCon 10*

        “The whole “personal life should never impact work” opinion is, IMO, deeply, deeply sexist and rooted in very misogynistic ideas about women’s roles.” Exactly, and for the reason you give: the workplace is geared toward what used to be the typical worker: male with a wife to handle all the personal stuff so all he had to do was work.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I stuffed myself in a corner at work one weepy day. The one coworker who found me was surprised to see my wet face, of course. But when I explained I was in the corner working because I was not very good company and I had just lost a pet, she totally understood. It looked like she was blinking back tears of sympathy too. That helped me so much.

      I don’t think she ever told anyone, which was good. I did not want to keep talking about it and keep crying over it.

      Some pets are a harder loss than some humans.

  6. corporate engineering layoff woo*

    In very reddit (posted to Twitter) fashion, you are *not* the asshole, LW. Definitely your boss at fault and this is soooo clear cut as a reason that of course you’d be emotional.

  7. Archaeopteryx*

    Were I eating a Glassdoor review of this company/department, I’d really want to know that this boss thinks that tears are toxic lady juice that can’t be allowed in the workplace no matter how justified or brief. Hard pass.

      1. Pippa K*

        Hey, for all we know, archaeopteryxes eat online reviews all the time. (Archaeopterices? Archaeopteri?)

        1. whingedrinking*

          Wiktionary says archaeopteryxes is fine, but if we want to get all Greek and fancy, archaeopteryges.

  8. ENFP in Texas*

    Your former manager was a jerk, and don’t waste any more time worrying about him or his opinions.

    1. Kitty*

      You handled the situation perfectly, especially for someone new to the working world! You acknowledged that you needed a moment to collect yourself, then continued on with the work. That’s exactly how or should be handled. That boss sounds like a complete a-hole. If he wants workers with zero emotions ever, he should hire robots.

      Also, it’s almost definitely related to gender and sexism. Often what men describe as “emotional” is people expressing sadness, which men are often taught to suppress, but they don’t see someone getting angry as being “emotional”, as it’s one of the socially acceptable ways for men to express themselves.

      I’d say you dodged a bullet here. This is not what good employers are like.

  9. Thankful for AAM*

    As I was reading I thought, Alison is going to say, “your boss is an ass.” I was right, she said that and he is.

  10. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

    I’m so sorry. My three remaining grandparents and great uncle died while I was in graduate school and the administration told me to my face they didn’t believe it was real. I got mad instead of crying like I usually do and offered to bring in death certificates for each which she said wasn’t necessary in a huff. I didn’t attend two of the funerals because they were out of state and I’m still sad about it despite being over a decade ago. Some people are just asses.

    1. Jellyfish*

      I work with students, and it sometimes seems like their grandparents die at an alarming rate. I don’t know people’s situations though, and the average college student is of an age where their grandparents are getting elderly. With no way of knowing what’s true, I assume each loss is real and react accordingly. I’d rather be sympathetic to someone who doesn’t need it at the moment than be an ass to a person in real grief.

      1. Creamsiclecati*

        Your last sentence is very well put. When I was in college doing an internship, I found out my grandmother had inoperable cancer and was given a short time to live. I came to my internship the next day visibly upset, but I wanted to attempt to power through the day as best I could. When I told my supervisor, she immediately said to go home and be with my family, and she signed off that I worked the day on my timesheet so it wouldn’t count as a missed day. That was in 2008 and I still remember the kindness she showed me that day.

        OP, I’m sorry your boss didn’t show you the same kindness. There are plenty of bosses out there who will be more understanding in these types of situations.

        1. Reality.Bites*

          Your boss didn’t show you kindness. She showed you decency.

          Which is not to say she’s unkind, of course. But really what she did is the basic minimum anyone has the right to expect in the circumstances.

          1. Creamsiclecati*

            True, she showed decency. The way she went about it was very kind, was what I meant. I remember her demeanor and genuine concern for me and my family, and being surprised that she seemed to care so much even though she barely knew me. It made my hard situation slightly easier to handle, knowing I had had her support. All bosses should be like her.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yes, thank you.

        Also, due to the rise of non-traditional families, people often have more than 4 grandparents. I had eight to start with, although I didn’t get to meet all of them before they passed. I’m down to 1 now :(

          1. Jellyfish*

            Exactly. Maybe they have a blended family with lots of grandparents. Maybe the deceased was technically an unrelated neighbor, but they’re using “grandma” as a shorthand to convey the emotional impact without going into details.

            Maybe they’re dealing with something else entirely and a death in the family feels like a more legitimate or safer excuse than whatever is really on their plate. Or maybe they’re lying because they just feel like skipping class that day. It happens.

            Whatever the case, it’s not my business. People have needs, losses, and bad days. Someone who can’t accommodate that needs more training before being in a position of authority.

            I commend the OP for handling the situation so gracefully too. I’m not sure I could be that poised even now if I was worried about a family member dying.

        1. Amethystmoon*

          Good point. My mom passed when I was a teenager. My dad remarried, so I have a stepmom, and my last remaining grandparent is my stepmom’s mom, who is in her late 90’s. I do think she might make it to 100.

      3. Zombeyonce*

        Thank you for your kindness. My nephew will surely be going through this when he gets to college. He is blessed with a large family of people that started begetting young so he’s got a living great great grandmother and all the grandparents below, including some stepgrandparents. By the time he gets to college, he’ll start losing them and no one is going to believe that he’s got a dozen grandparents’ and great grandparents’ funerals to attend and that he was close to all of them.

      4. Turtlewings*

        “I work with students, and it sometimes seems like their grandparents die at an alarming rate.” — I have to laugh because yup, I lost 3 of my 4 grandparents during undergrad. (My last grandma is still hanging in there!) I remember one professor asking for an assignment (it was a very small class so it stuck out that I hadn’t handed one in when the others did) and hearing my voice coming out, strangely high and wavery, saying “Um, my grandfather passed away last night, so I didn’t get it done, I’m sorry.” And because the professor was a human being, unlike LW’s boss, he said not to worry about it at all, just turn it in when things calmed down and I had a chance to get to it.

      5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        the average college student is of an age where their grandparents are getting elderly

        I think this is exactly the case. We had to call one of my sons to come home from college when my dad died. And I’m pretty sure the other one was in college when my aunt died. It’s how life works, really.

      6. Janet*

        Thank you for that last sentence. My grandfather died when I was a freshman in college, and my father died when I was a junior. I’ll be forever grateful to the professors who took me at my word and didn’t give me grief about missing class. It’s far better to be conned occasionally than to be cruel to someone grieving.

    2. De Pizan*

      My grandma died while I was in my first year of college. She was my dad’s stepmom and it was the first death in my family since my dad’s passing a few years earlier. So it hit me pretty hard. I missed one class lecture (no exams or anything that day), wasn’t able to go to the funeral, and missed no other classes. One of my classes had a very strict attendance policy and we had to call beforehand to explain why we couldn’t attend, being in the hospital basically was the only reason he allowed for not calling before class. That professor yelled at me and called me immature and that “this wouldn’t fly in the workplace“ when I called to say I couldn’t attend that one lecture, despite telling him the reason right at the start.

        1. Antilles*

          In my anecdotal experience, I’ve noticed that the professors who talk most confidently about “what it’s like in the workplace” are almost exclusively professors who haven’t worked a day outside academia in decades if ever.

          1. AGD*

            I’m an academic and one of the reasons I read AAM is because otherwise I would have nooooooo sense of how things work outside the ivory tower – and that relates to the futures of about 95% of my students!

            What I would have to go on otherwise is one year of job-searching, from more than a decade ago, under what I now know was bad advice from a college career office.

      1. Captain Raymond Holt*

        I’m a part-time faculty member. I TELL students to GTFO for stuff like that. Nothing you learn in my class that day will be as important as seeing someone right before they die or attending their service.

        1. TiffIf*

          Or even just giving yourself time to grieve! when my paternal grandmother passed away, I didn’t have the money to go to the service–it was on the other side of the country (I was in the Rockies, she lived closer to the Appalachian Mountains)! But I still took a day of bereavement leave to grieve.

          My maternal grandmother had a severe stroke about 6 months before she passed away. I had the PTO to visit my family and see her during the summer because I knew it was likely to be the last time I saw her. I visited over the 4th of July and it was the last time I was able to see her–she passed away in October. I couldn’t go to the service then either, but still needed time to grieve even though I knew it was coming.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        As someone who was the only person that could organize the (very small) funeral for my dad, using my 3-day bereavement leave of course, my first reaction was to laugh/cry at “this wouldn’t fly in the workplace“ – how does this prof think adults put funerals together, hire someone to do it, ask a small child who doesn’t yet work to take care of it, what?! But then my next reaction was to worry – do people really not get bereavement leave in academia? I dated a college professor for two years and one thing he did tell me was that they don’t have sick days. You get sick, you drag your sick arse to class and give it to everyone at the school. (No idea what they do in event of an injury, surgery, etc.) I was coming down with colds all the time when I was with him, and magically stopped getting any after we split up – he’d been passing me the germs of everyone at his college, because, no sick days. Please tell me they at least get bereavement?

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          My husband is a professor, and in his department nobody’s under any obligation to even show up to work most of the time. Unless he has class or an important meeting, he can just stay home if he feels like it, go in late, come home early, and no one cares. I think the university gives him PTO, but the professors don’t use it, they just come and go as they please.

          Of course, he does have a ton of work to do and it does need to get done, but he’s got a lot of flexibility as to when that is.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          My dad was a professor, I think he missed one class in 30 years. His dad died over the summer, his mom died right at the end of school. He handed off the last class and went home.

          He didn’t get sick much though. He still doesn’t (hopefully for a long time…).

        3. Julia*

          Obviously, you need to have a non-working wife to do it for you!

          When I was in university/grad school, professors rescheduled or cancelled classes when they had other things to do. In a way, some of them get more freedom than regular office workers.

        4. Paulina*

          Well, it’s not like I can reschedule my class most of the time, the schedule is set and I’m expected to work around it. And there are few options for substitutes, so it’s teach or cancel mostly, which means we don’t have the option of a sick day as something that can be chosen. But people get sick! I’ve never cancelled class due to illness, but colleagues have. I’ve just always found myself able to be functional enough for the length of the class, warn my students not to get close, and then take care of the essentials only before going home. Injury or surgery would require arranging someone else to step in, and we do have provision for paid short-term sick leave for those, as well as more serious/lengthy illness. We also have provision for paid bereavement leave. (BTW, our agreement’s definition of “immediate family” for bereavement includes grandparents.)

          Non-teaching parts of the job can also have very inflexible deadlines. If a paper or proposal needs to be submitted by time X on day Y, nobody’s going to care that I’m sick. But we do otherwise have a lot of flexibility, other than taking care of the high-commitment scheduled pieces, so it’s not appropriate for us to act like everyone else’s frequent regular commitments need to be as inflexible as our key high-commitment ones.

        5. nonegiven*

          I had a prof get jury duty, he had someone come in and tell us what to read and what to do for homework.

    3. Bigglesworth*

      I’m currently in the middle of a similar situation. I’m in my last semester of law school and in the last 2 1/2 years my spouse was hospitalized for two weeks and could have died if he had not been admitted when he was, two of my grandparents died, and my dad was diagnosed with a terminal illness and I’m not sure if he’s going to survive this semester. After 1L fall, I only half-joke with academic services that I mostly talk with them about death.

      To OP, your boss is an ass. I was sent home from an internship the day my grandma died. I was sent home from class when my grandma died. When my spouse was in the hospital, professors and the school in general worked with me to make sure that I didn’t automatically fail (ABA requires a certain percentage of classes can’t be missed). And when my dad was diagnosed this past fall and We were told it was progressing rapidly, I cried openly in my office when my boss asked me how my weekend went.

      Life happens and emotions happen. Your boss judging you as being emotional on the day you found out about your grandma is unnecessary and all around an awful mood. Trust me, you don’t want a boss like that.

      1. Delta Delta*

        I teach in a law school. I had a student with sort of a similar situation. She explained what was going on with her hospitalized family member, and I told her I’d be glad to work with her separately if she wanted to do that around her family stuff. She didn’t take me up on it (thankfully her family member was okay), but I wanted her to have that option.

        1. Bigglesworth*

          I was so appreciative of my professors that have worked with me outside of class. I remember one professor in particular who I was not particularly fond of until my spouse was hospitalized. He met with me outside of his normal office hours to essentially make sure I had the key points from his lectures that I missed and to just check on me generally.

          At this point, I think I should come with a warning sign for my professors since something has come up almost every semester.

      2. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        In my second-to-last semester of law school, my best friend/college roommate died, and I ended up being the one to break the news to her parents, her workplace, and all our mutual friends. I told my (infamously harsh) clinic professor that I needed time off for the funeral and I might not be at 100% for a while, and she completely understood, even months later when I had a bit of a delayed depression relapse.

        I didn’t cry in front of anyone, or at least I don’t remember doing so, but my point is: life happens. Death happens. OP’s boss is an asshole.

    4. Dragoning*

      When I had to leave college to fly home for funerals, I missed classes once (the other was on a weekend, so fortunately avoided this) for a Wednesday funeral. The second week of the semester.

      I literally just walked in my professors’ offices and told them I would be out this day, what should I hand them in advance. None of them asked me why I’d be out.

      I found it strange. I was fully prepared to have to defend my reasons for being gone. But they didn’t care.

      1. Faith*

        Honestly, they probably just appreciated that you A) told them in advance and B) actually asked what you would need to turn in (in other words, you weren’t trying to get out of the work).

        1. Dragoning*

          They didn’t even ask why I’d be gone! I just said I wouldn’t be in class, and they were like ….okay?

          It was only the second time I’d even met one of them.

          1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            Different schools have different attendance policies. One of my relatives got nailed by a school that had a There Is No Such Thing As An Excused Absence policy, where each absence cost you 1 full letter grade, and the fourth absence was an automatic F.

            She got the flu, missed a little over a week of class, and had to withdraw for the semester because she missed 4 class meetings and therefore was failing all of them.

            1. Dara*

              And different professors may have different policies even within the same school. The most common in my classes was that you could miss up to 3 days without affecting your grade, but a 4th absence was a fail (this was the norm for my English and Lit classes). My astronomy lecture didn’t care if you showed up at all (and didn’t even take attendance) as long as you attended the once/weekly lab. Philosophy was also attendance optional, just turn your stuff in. So was Calc; they just wanted you to complete your lab work and take your exams.

            2. Curmudgeon in California*

              Holy cow! That’s kinda toxic, and not good for anyone’s health. They could end up with an influenza pandemic just from that school’s contagion.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            Good schools start treating you like an adult and trusting you. In your case, you were already acting like an adult (advance notice, arranging for assignments), so yeah, they’re definitely going to treat you like one.

      2. Paulina*

        I really don’t want to vet my students’ excuses for absences; it feels inappropriate, patronizing, and micromanagy. I think it also imposes a high burden on an already suffering student to have to lay out their personal issues and argue their case to 5 or so different instructors, most of whom they won’t know well and will have no training and very little experience dealing with students’ personal issues. If a student is taking responsibility for their work and doesn’t need significant exemptions for anything, then there’s nothing I need to judge.

    5. Apocalypse How*

      My grandmother (and last remaining grandparent) died a week before I had my final project due for an online class I was taking at the local university. With the timing of it, I was so worried that the professor would think I was lying that I called him on the phone to tell him verbally, then followed up with an e-mail that included a link to her obituary. The worrying wasn’t necessary at all–he was understanding and gave me a week extension.

      I was also really close with one of my great-aunts, who had no biological children of her own. She was my aforementioned grandmother’s sister and they lived together for the last 15 years of their lives, so she was like another grandmother to me. I was devastated when she died, but I felt like I couldn’t talk about it openly, because saying “I can’t–my great-aunt died” sounded like a college student lying to get out of a test. I was in my first real job when she died, so I lied and said that she was my grandmother so I could get 3 days of bereavement leave instead of 1 and attend the funeral out of state. (The amount was determined by the degree of relative. My other grandmother died when I was in high school, so I figured that I could just take the time that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to use.)

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I think probably there is some math/statistics going on here.

      Losses can cluster up. One thing that jumps at me is the statistic about surviving spouses. There is a higher mortality rate among surviving spouses for 2 years following the first spouses death. You can really see this if you do genealogy. There are so many couples that pass with in a short time of each other. And this bypasses any demographic you can think of- the mortality rate is higher across the board. Spouses do grow attached to each other in ways that we don’t fully understand.

      The other correlation I have seen is a higher death rate when parents loses an adult child.

      Another correlation I have seen is a loved one passes and in a very short time another family member has a serious accident. That family member loses their life or has a huge and permanent change in quality of life. I think grief distracts people. They don’t concentrate like they should and accidents happen because of their distraction.

      So it’s not unthinkable for death to come in clusters and at some point our society will become savvy enough to recognize the mechanisms at work here.

      While, your four losses are tragic, I would never think a story like yours was fake. I definitely believe you and I feel sorry for the educated people around you who do not understand how this stuff can happen. This is reality, this is how life can go sometimes. It can be VERY rough.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, in my experience they seem to come in threes. December 2018 through December 2019 I lost my father, brother in law, and friend/roomie. This year is starting to look just as bad.

      2. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

        Yep, my grandfather died less than six months after my grandmother passed unexpectedly from pneumonia. She went from seemingly ok to dead in a few hours because the nursing home ignored the flu circulating and she was a severe diabetic.
        My poor grandfather was lost. I would show up at his apartment and just hear sobbing and wailing from outside. He had his own health issues and lost the will to live.

      3. Red 5*

        Whenever I have a friend who has a grandparent who suddenly gets ill and is in the hospital, I actually will try to (politely) ask them if they have family members also taking care of and supporting the other grandparent during the hospitalization and recovery. I know of four different stories where someone traveled to be with family while a grandparent was in the hospital, and while they were there, the spouse either fell while at home alone, or had a stroke or heart attack and passed away. Sometimes the first grandparent will recover, but not always. But almost every single time the story is the same, they were so focused on the person in the hospital and they just assumed that grandpa was doing okay and would tell them if he wasn’t, etc.

        Every time my friends have said something to the effect of “I can’t even believe this is happening, it sounds so fake when I say it…” but as you said, clusters are very common and often there are factors that people don’t think of that aren’t being addressed. Also, specifically, there’s been data recently that suggests that men who lose their wives have a higher mortality rate in the years immediately following. Women who lose their husbands don’t have the same statistical difference, which suggests a lot of things about societal conditioning, support structures, etc.

        Generally I go for believing people. One of my least favorite jokes is when professors or people in academia talk about how often grandparents die during finals week. Just look at the comments here, it actually does happen a lot.

  11. AnonEMoose*

    Your boss was a jerk. Full stop. I mean, he handled it ok in the moment, but then judging you for it afterwards was a real jerk move.

    Let me give you a much better example:

    Years ago, my DH and I unexpectedly had to have a much-loved cat put down first thing in the morning. I had called my supervisor to explain that I’d be late and why.

    When I got to work, she came over to my desk and asked me if I was ok to be at work that day, and let me know it would be ok if I needed to go home. And then she and my coworkers gave me a card and a small bouquet of flowers. A couple of my coworkers stopped by to say a kind word, and a couple even hugged me (not everyone’s ok with hugging at work, but they were being kind and it was appreciated).

    Because our cat died. Not that he wasn’t a beloved family member, because he was, but not everyone understands that.

    And absolutely no one said A WORD to me about tearing up (silently) at my desk a couple of times that day.

    That’s a much better way to handle it when an employee is grieving/upset due to a personal thing. Not to act like the employee did something wrong by having a) a family and b) emotions.

    1. Captain Raymond Holt*

      My office sends cards/flowers to people who lose pets! We’re also remote, so you see a lot more of people’s pets, as they’re working from home.

    2. Minocho*

      My place was the same, in the same situation. They were concerned that I came in at all, but I explained I’d rather be around people and doing things than crying in a puddle at home.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        That was me, too – I’d rather have been doing things and be able to distance it for awhile than being a complete mess at home.

    3. Ms Jackie*

      I have another great example.

      My mom was rushed to a major hospital for a ‘semi’ emergency triple bypass on a Thursday.
      Semi emergency due to the fact they would not let her leave and was one chest pain away from having her stay in the ICU for the weekend but the surgery was not scheduled until Monday morning.

      I went into work on Friday to get everything ready for taking some personal time. I went into the controller’s office to talk about working from home and started to tear up. It had been a very emotional day or two. I was able to stop crying after about 30 seconds. The controller (a guy) looked concerned and asked me if i needed anything, to take as much time as needed, and that i could work from the hospital if i wanted to.

      When i came back to work the week after the surgery, he asked how I was and how my mom was and that was it. No negative reaction. Just understanding that life happens.

  12. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’ve worked with some real “good ol boys” over the years and even they didn’t pull this kind of bullshit.

    I saw a full grown man run out of the shop when his mom was rushed to the hospital. Nobody ever told him that he was over emotional or anything close to it. We rallied and my boss went to sit with him at the hospital. Ef this guy, he’s hungup on a few silent tears because you were scared and stressed out about a family member, I just cannot.

    1. animaniactoo*

      And my boss is goggling at my father wanting to write her a thank you note for being so understanding about my needing to be on hand to help while my mom’s been in the hospital over the past week. This. This is why he wants to write a thank you note.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I have the same “Wait no…” kind of reaction that I’m sure your boss is having in that situation! But that’s because when you’re programed to be a compassionate person and take care of your team, regardless of the inconveniences it can cause the workplace it’s the natural response.

        We had someone thank our production manager for giving her son “a shot” and all that stuff. And the response was “He gave us a shot too! He got this himself by showing up and working his ass off.” But so many others had buried him for one reason or another over the years that she was truly grateful that he finally found a place that wants to help him develop.

    2. It depends*

      I’m not sure what the OP’s gender is, but that may have something to do with the boss’s reaction. I think seeing a woman cry at work isn’t exactly surprising. However, if the OP is a male then it would be odd to see them cry at their desk.

      Seeing a full grown man “run out of the shop” is exactly how men are expected to react to emergencies – with action. Seeing a man cry at his desk, not so much.

      So I wonder if OP’s boss remembers the incident because OP is a man? If so, hopefully OP can get a better grip on his emotional impulses.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Better yet, It depends posted basically the same thing below, 11 minutes early, but just had to repeat themselves.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        My dad was taught to never cry, even in emergencies. His mother didn’t want to even see him cry when his father died. So I don’t know WTF you’re even on about with this sexist nonsense.

        1. Not a cat*

          Ugh. My parents hated when I cried. I remember a few occasions being hit until I stopped crying. Yes, they were f’d up.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Thankfully my mother shook my dad enough [not physically] to get him to see that’s not right.

            Early he tried telling my brother early on that “Boys don’t cry” nonsense. It’s all he knew and he was trying to think kindly towards his crappy parents. Mom was like “Don’t tell our kid not to have feelings, you know that’s not right. If we don’t get on the same page there.”

            Flash forward to now. My brother cries. My father now shows emotion. He even cries at movies! He thankfully just needed someone close to him to say “Stop pretending you don’t have feelings.” And they were indeed beat out of him as well. [He’s still stunted in some ways and doesn’t tell his kids he loves them even when we say it first [unless he’s high AF on drugs from treatments] because he’s got a skewed version of love, we know he loves us, this is what taught me I don’t need to hear it to know, etc].

            I’ve also seen my hardass uncles cry as well. They’ve all seen some ef’ed up shit, between their upbringing and Vietnam. Thankfully they weren’t lost completely like many men have been over the years.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            And I’ll laugh in anyone’s face who wants to fight about the men in my family’s manliness. They can cry and fight at the same time, we’re a strong military family. They went to war, they fought for everyone’s right to bawl their GD eyes out when and where they please.

      2. Observer*

        If so, hopefully OP can get a better grip on his emotional impulses.

        Because “real” men never cry. They never feel, or have emotions. Yes, they take ACTION, heaven forbid they ever shed a tear!

        Nope. The OP’s reaction was PERFECTLY appropriate the situation. A guy cries on occasion is not someone who doesn’t have an appropriate “ability to control his emotions” (as you put in another comment that seems to have disappeared.) A guy who can’t cry is a person who has an emotional deficit and is not someone I would ever want to work for. And I wouldn’t want anyone I didn’t hate to work for such a person, either.

        1. Observer*

          Please note that I would react the same way regardless of the gender of the poster, although I’m pretty sure that the OP is a female.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Seriously. I (a woman) have an emotional deficit in that I really struggle to cry, even when I really, really want to and really, really need to. It isn’t a quality anyone should cultivate.

            1. Wing Leader*

              Same for me. When I am sad or feeling grief, I clam up and never shed a tear, so I have trouble releasing the emotions.

        2. three raccoons in a trench coat*

          (I agree with most of this, but as a brief aside, inability to cry can be a trauma response and doesn’t necessarily mean anything about the person’s morals. I’ve gone thru years where I couldn’t cry at all and it wasn’t for an “emotional deficit”, it was my brain being self-protective in the face of overwhelming and pervasive stress. That’s true for a lot of people and I don’t think it’s entirely fair to judge them solely for that specific behavior. Especially when you have no possible way of knowing *why* they can’t cry.

          Frankly even the most aggressive, sexist, backwards-thinking hypothetical dudebro, the one who really does think crying is a sign of weakness and will berate people in his sphere for doing it? A jackass, yes, verbally abusive, sometimes, hurting other people, absolutely. but even through that mire he’s also suffering, since he’s so far disconnected from his own feelings he can’t express or process them in a healthy way.

          Not that the boss’s behavior wasn’t absolutely heinous and super gross, or that it’s anyone’s responsibility but his to deal with his baggage–ESPECIALLY when it’s negatively affecting how he treats other people! it just bothers me when things that are common trauma reactions are treated as though they’re inherently flaws of character.

          (sorry if this is off-topic!)

          1. Observer*

            I wasn’t really making a moral judgement. Certainly the type of person you describe in your second paragraph is NOT someone who should have power or authority over anyone. Hurting or not, people should not be able to mistreat others that way.

            That was really what I was getting at.

            1. three raccoons in a trench coat*

              That’s good to hear. “A guy who can’t cry is a person who has an emotional deficit and is not someone I would ever want to work for. And I wouldn’t want anyone I didn’t hate to work for such a person, either.” sounded like a sweeping generalization to me, but I believe that’s not how you meant it.

      3. Jedi Squirrel*

        Sure, this may be what society expects in some places. But that expectation sucks.

        We change society by changing ourselves. We are, after all, the building blocks of society.

        Please do better.

      4. some dude*

        I’m a man and I cry like a baby and give zero fs about it, and if anyone doesn’t like it they can jump off a bridge. I also take action, but sometimes that action is to cry like hell.

      5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oh what the almighty heck. I (a woman) was the only one in the immediate family who definitely did not cry at my dad’s funeral. For whatever reason, I cannot cry. Not very sure about my mom either. I never saw her cry growing up. But my sons (late teens and early 20s) did. No one thought it was odd, because come on. It is normal and healthy. Probably far healthier than my reaction. Just because my generation was raised to believe it is not normal, does not make it true.

      6. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Huh. Mr. Gumption cried at work when he heard a very beloved aunt died and no one batted an eye in his very, very macho field (firefighter). In my mostly female office, people were very surprised when a coworker burst into tears over the suicide of a former coworker (no judgement – just surprise because this wasn’t a few quiet tears). Might want to check your assumptions there,

      7. Not So NewReader*

        Younger me was never interested in a man who could not cry.

        The fact is we have tears for a reason. Tears cause a chemical reaction in the brain that help to keep the brain healthy. I don’t think you want to say that men should have unhealthy brains. I don’t think you meant to go that way, but restless or unhealthy thinking can start when emotions are pushed to one side as if they were left over lima beans.

        I believe the opposite. I think we (society) have to teach our men TO CRY. Ask a widow. She will tell you, “If my husband had cried more often, he probably would not have had 18 health issues and he might still be alive.”

      8. J.B.*

        I wish I could cry. I’ve spent too many years shoving things in a box, due to trauma and then a seriously effed up workplace. Crying would be healthier.

  13. Oxford Comma*

    You did nothing wrong. Absolutely nothing wrong. You were totally justified in looking at your phone. A family crisis is just that, a crisis. The usual rules do not apply. And do not, do not ever feel sorry for tearing up because a family member was in serious risk of death. I don’t care how old the person is. It still hurts.

    Your boss’ reaction is sexist and unfounded.

    A job is that a job. It doesn’t replace your family.

    1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      So much this. Your boss was probably too lazy to think of actual feedback and decided to go way out of orbit.

    2. Emuroo*

      Yes this! I came down to look through the comments because I wanted to be sure that someone made it explicitly clear that the intern checking her phone on her break wasn’t a mistake at all! The intern handled all of this really well, and shouldn’t at all take it as a sign that she shouldn’t check her phone at work ever again!

  14. animaniactoo*

    Yes, you SHOULD have checked your phone. People were trying to reach you and if they hadn’t thought they could reach you by cell phone, they would have called your job to get to you. It was considered that level of serious, and you should ABSOLUTELY be reachable in case of emergency. This was an emergency, and this was them reaching you.

    Please do not internalize the message that you need to be a robot and cannot check your phone on a break, because god forbid you might learn of a serious issue that would make you feel emotions that couldn’t be politely contained. NO. NO. NO. Do not do this to yourself, don’t let that jerk of a boss do that to you. Listen to Alison. It was him, not you. You were fine. Heck, you were better than fine – you were so professional about it that I was impressed at your ability to hold it together that well.

    1. Lance*

      To the first paragraph, absolutely yes. You were in danger of losing someone you were very close to; nobody with any reasonably degree of empathy should/would be judging you for keeping tabs on the situation, so long as you were also still doing your work (as it sounds like you were, in spite of the deadline being at risk).

      The boss is just a jerk who you should leave behind in your memory, and one instance is basically never ‘overly’ anything… much less an instance in which you had to step out for a bit, but then concluded the discussion afterward.

    2. So so anon*

      I had my phone off when my father was dying. He died suddenly and unexpectedly and there was no way I could have known. I was in a theatre and had turned it off. I know rationally that I would never have been able to get back in time to say goodbye, but it is something that has haunted me for years.

    3. Lilyp*

      Yes please don’t let your takeaway here be that you shouldn’t have checked your phone or that you must keep yourself unreachable at work! All your actions here were 100% reasonable.

    4. Kim Stiens*

      Yes, I wanted to come here to say this. Even if your grandmother hadn’t been in a life-threatening situation, it is absolutely reasonable to have your phone with you during the work day, and to check it often, even! Yes, some places are overly controlling and sometimes you have to conform to very dumb rules to keep a job, but please don’t let this incident cause you to internalize the idea that it’s inherently bad to check your phone during the work day, *especially* when someone might be trying to contact you for something this important!

    5. OK to be reachable in emergency!*

      Yes! Also came to say this.
      Just think if the OP’s grandmother had passed. If it were me, no job would be worth not having the ability to say goodbye one last time or the opportunity to make a decision to leave to be with a dying family-member.

      Also, most people in the office are reachable during the day for emergencies. People have family members, including kids and pets, that they care about.

  15. ThatGirl*

    Good grief. I once teared up in front of a manager because my husband was waiting in the ER for an MRI – for an extended out-of-the-blue migraine, just to rule out anything more serious – and even at the time I knew he wasn’t, like, dying, but it was still stressful and emotional. And my (male) manager was extremely kind about it and never once would he have called me “overly emotional”, especially not based on a brief and very human reaction.

  16. Sharbe*

    Oh, NO, he was entirely and completely wrong. Reacting normally to very human situation is not being “overly emotional”. You didn’t loudly sob at your desk for the whole day. You didn’t spend the entire day on the phone with your family. You didn’t go home immediately and take the next few days off. You weren’t asking your boss to personally comfort you. Just because a woman sheds some tears in a stressful situation doesn’t mean that she’s too emotional to function for the indefinite future, or that she’s asking for special accomodations. Can this awful stereotype PLEASE die its proper death?

  17. Lynca*

    Nope. I don’t think you’ve committed an error at all and your boss was being too harsh. You behaved appropriately by asking for a few minutes to collect yourself before continuing and making it clear it wasn’t about the feedback. Most places wouldn’t think about this as a performance issue at all. Alison’s right that some people are just like this.

    I had a college professor do this to me once. I had been in the hospital all weekend because my mother was in ICU and turns out I had pneumonia as well (didn’t know that yet). Basically having your mom in ICU and having to work with doctors round the clock equals little sleep. I was exhausted and was asking (not expecting) that he might let me retake the test I had forgotten was on Monday. I bombed it but not as bad as I thought. I started crying because I was overwhelmed. I got read the riot act for it. “I don’t care if your grandmother is in the hospital. My class should be your top priority. If you can’t hack it you should just drop out!” Luckily our Department chair was incensed when I told him and arranged for me to miss some classes with the other professors.

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      Wow, your prof sounds like an even bigger ass than OP’s boss! Glad you were able to get some support from your dept. head.

    2. KoiFeeder*

      Oooh, did we have the same professor? “If you’re too disabled to handle my class, what are you doing in college and not in an institution!”

      1. Hapless Bureaucrat*


        And yeah, I’ve heard that sort of thing, especially from professors. I’ve pretty much decided that if they can’t handle a student coming to them needing help once in a while, they’re probably over-emotional about small problems and shouldn’t be teaching.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Yeah, Student Services basically told me “we can’t do anything about him because he has tenure” so I lambasted him in the student evaluations.

          Which I didn’t realize that he’d be reading. I was told all throughout undergrad that the department heads and admin staff, not the professors, got those, and learned in the anonymous peer feedback thread that this was almost certainly untrue. On the plus side, he did avoid me for the next three years, which I couldn’t be happier about.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Holy sh!t, what an ass! Institution? What was he, 90, with the idea that the disabled should be hidden away from society lest it upset the “normal” people?

        Someone ought to tell him that disabilities can happen to anyone, young or old, and that he is the one who needs to learn to deal with it.

        (Yes, I’m disabled…)

        1. KoiFeeder*

          He was just a terrible person and a worse teacher. He notoriously played favorites with people who looked similar to him (not just like, skin color and gender, but down to things like facial structure and height), and he never graded on the requirements he gave out, but on surprise requirements everyone only learned about the day of presentation.

    3. Relentlessly Socratic*

      “My class should be your top priority”
      What an ass. Back before I walked away from academia (because academia doesn’t pay anywhere near enough for the level of toxicity) I had students terrified to tell me they couldn’t come to class (one young woman even came in after slipping on the ice with a concussion) because of this attitude.

      I had profs like that in college and grad school and decided that was How Not to BE!

      1. KR*

        Oh I hate that attitude in college. Unless someone is on scholarship, they are paying money to attend classes. I hate when professors are like “This class has to be your top priority, no accomodations, no flexibility!!” Like what the hell am I paying for if it isn’t a professor who’s understanding and flexible and wants to help me succeed??

    4. Sneaky Ninja for this one*

      That must’ve been my religion professor, who was also a pastor. Told me he’d have to fail me, but we could revisit with the dean after Christmas break. I called him, crying, needing to reschedule my final because my mom was in a hospital 4 hours away and actively dying. He was an Asshat.

      1. Can Man*

        He needs to read his Bible again: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

  18. Panda*

    I am dealing with this problem, except that I am the primary caretaker of my grandmother who lives 3 hours away. Thankfully I am able to work remotely most of the week and her husband is still able to do a lot with the help of Comfort Keepers. I would have wanted to punch your boss in the face if he said that to me. My job has been nothing but accommodating and supportive. My coworker recently lost her sister to cancer after a short illness. The care and concern we gave her (including taking her out to lunch so she could vent) and letting her cry when necessary helped her process and get through it much faster.

    Allison is right. Your former boss is an ass.

  19. Heidi*

    Yours was a completely reasonable amount of emotion, OP. When the boss says you’re too emotional, it means that it’s more emotion than he can handle. Which is ridiculous, because all he had to do was say, “I’m sorry this happening to you. Let’s regroup later.” To use the one extreme circumstance to characterize all of your work behavior is unprofessional.

    1. C in the Hood*

      “When the boss says you’re too emotional, it means that it’s more emotion than he can handle. ”

      Exactly this.

    2. Dragoning*

      What blows my mind is that he handled it perfectly reasonably in the moment. It inconvenienced him for fifteen minutes. And yet.

  20. SheLooksFamiliar*

    After reading the OP’s letter, and some of the comments here, I’m feeling very grateful for my previous bosses and grandbosses. I’ve dealt with my own painful divorce and the death of family and dear friends. Not one of my leadership team made me feel foolish or wrong for needing a few moments if I became a bit emotional at work.

    One great-grandboss gently asked me if I was sure I was ready to come back to work the day after the funeral of my dearest niece. I had to plan her funeral because my sister and BIL just couldn’t, and I was still numb. He understood how heartbreaking this was, and wouldn’t have made the offer just to be nice. I couldn’t help but tear up, and he looked misty, too. THIS is how you lead people, you show compassion and understanding when they experience the worst life has to offer.

    OP, your former boss was a jerk to you and I hope you have the best kind of boss now.

    1. Faith*

      This. When my stepdad’s father passed away, his boss–normally a pretty toxic person–actually gave him a ton of flexibility/PTO in the weeks leading up to the death (my stepfather’s father lived an hour away, with no other close family), and then even gave a couple of my stepdad’s work friends (they were friends before they worked together) leave for the whole day to go to the (out of town) funeral to support him.

      So even an otherwise crappy boss is capable of seeing the importance of providing his employee support at a time like that. I wish you much better bosses in the future, OP.

    2. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I’m feeling the same way. Just last week my manager went to the service for a coworker’s mother, which I thought was very nice (we also sent flowers). At the same company with a different manager, when my father-in-law died in the middle of the work day, my manager drove me home (about 45 minutes each way; I took a shuttle to work) and told me not to rush to come back. Coincidentally, we had just come back from visiting my in-laws for a week, so all together I was out for 3 almost 3 weeks. No one batted an eye, and I had several cards on my desk when I returned.

  21. Myrin*

    Because I’m interested in human nature and behaviour and also insanely curious about all manner of things, I wonder why the boss reacted in an understanding and kind manner in the moment but then secretly filed it away as something to hold against you for the rest of your stay with his company. Because, I mean, if he’d displayed the same attitude he showed during your exit interview right in the moment as it was happening, it wouldn’t make him less of a jerk but at least it would be consistent.

    That aside, I loathe this thing where you did or said something once and then it forever becomes That One Thing that defines you. Like how I couldn’t eat minced meat as a child because of its texture and my aunt, whom I get along with well enough but who I’d never voluntarily spend time with if she were just some random person in my social circle, berated me about it (thankfully, my mum and uncle defended me). And when I saw her last year, she honest-to-god managed to bring that up again completely out of context and in that stupid teasing voice and I just. Like. Nevermind that I actually love minced meat now and have since I was a teenager, this incident happened literally twenty years ago. I do not need to be the Minced Meat Niece until I die, thankyouverymuch.

    1. Liz T*

      I wonder if he even thought that before it was time for the exit interview–did he just feel he had to have SOMETHING critical to say, and decided that that sounded mentor-y? Ugh.

      1. Leisel*


        I had a manager tell me once that I needed to smile more. It wasn’t a sexist comment, she and I were both women in our early twenties working in the service industry. She had nothing to critique because I was phenomenal at my job! She was grasping at straws trying to think of something “to improve upon” and it manifested as “employee does not smile enough at customers.” I’m a very smiley person with a generally happy disposition…so it was such a strange thing to say. I lost all respect for her after that totally unnecessary, totally untrue, negative comment. (It was also immensely ironic because she was the master of Resting B***h Face.)

        The LW was probably an outstanding employee and the manager couldn’t think of anything else.

      2. OP*

        That is possible – he gave me positive feedback otherwise, but this comment in particular kind of ruined that for me. He actually even put me in contact with other people in the industry before this exit interview occurred as he knew I was starting my search for my next summer internship. I certainly questioned a lot after receiving such negative feedback seemingly out of nowhere – I certainly would not want to be oblivious to issues with my work or professional demeanor.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It sounds like he thought he was doing you a great big favor by telling you how he thinks life works.

          I had this come up often enough that it’s worth mentioning. People gave me bad advice and they were very convincing. It took years to sort what advice was right and what advice was wrong.

          I finally decided to ask opinions of others to help me sort stuff. You were wise to write Alison, OP. I hope the hundreds of comments saying “Your boss was an a$$” are of some comfort to you and help you reframe this in your memory banks.

          A general rule of thumb I have held on to is when people act like something is set in stone and “oh you should know” and blah, blah blah, those are verbal cues for me to remember to check the validity of what they are saying. They are usually WRONG.

    2. Mill Miker*

      It doesn’t sound horribly inconsistent, he sounds like he might be a “crying is manipulation” person though. He sees himself as a Good Boss and knows how a Good Boss must react in that situation. The OP started crying which forced him to be sympathetic at the cost of productivity, lest he be seen as a Bad Boss. So of course, that means the lost productivity is OPs fault, as a Good Employee would not force their bosses hand like that.

      1. OP*

        I spent a lot of time thinking about this change in behavior too – I was honestly baffled about how he could flip on a dime, which is why I asked if there were other examples – it made me think that I was possibly violating other professional norms and not realizing it. He couldn’t come up with any, so I think that what Mill Miker (spot on comment!) said above is probably accurate – he was trying to appear “nice” in the moment but nonetheless was bothered by the disruption enough to bring it up in an exit interview because it was what he saw as an acceptable forum. Especially because he had a bit of a mentorship complex – in general, he overstepped boundaries in his feedback because he saw it as “his duty” to educate me before the big, bad professional world got to me… Just as a quick example, he often pried into my dating life or would encourage me to engage with specific activities at my school unrelated to work (we have the same alma mater) because he felt I would be better off for it.

        1. Oh So Anon*

          OP, you’re gonna be a great employee someday. You know why? You’ve correctly identified some of what was going on as a “mentorship complex”. You’re going to be entry-level for a while longer so you’ll likely run into more senior colleagues or managers who have this tendency.

          There are some managers who have a That One Thing mindset about one thing or another, and they’re liable to let That One Thing cast a very long shadow on their assessment of your performance in general; crying-as-manipulation is a common one, as is minor lateness in jobs that don’t require butts-in-seats. When I was your age I didn’t get good or nuanced advice on how to handle this beyond “just don’t do That One Thing”, but here’s what I’d tell myself if I could go back in time 15 years:

          In general, as you develop more of a professional network with other people who you can ask for performance feedback, you’ll get better at being able to filter out what’s actually a legitimate issue with your performance versus a potential overstep. When you have more data with which you can piece together a more holistic picture of your strengths and weaknesses, which is what you’re most in need of to feel professionally confident and also what a That One Thing-oriented manager may not be able to give you.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      @Myrin. Some people get stuck on things in the past. They just can’t let it go. The things can be pretty random.* Just my opinion, but I have used it as a measure of declining health. The more stuck they are the worse their health is.

      But it happens in workplaces also. I did something like I dropped something at work one day. THREE years later my boss was still talking about the day I dropped something. (It didn’t break, it was okay.) Meanwhile I had done dozens of other things very well and we still had to discuss Thing I dropped. I started watching what he was saying about his health. “I can eat anything I want and I know how much insulin to take.” Yeah,okay. Ask a widow of a diabetic (me), that works until one day it no longer works. I could tell stories, but let me summarize by this guy’s life was getting out of control and it became more and more apparent.

      * Random thing: A person in my life loooves to remember that day we were playing in the back yard. We were barefoot. I stepped in dog poop. We have to revisit this because the person is stuck on this. I soaked my foot in Lysol and considered the whole thing over and done. Am shaking my head.

      1. Cinnamon*

        I was, admittedly, a huge brat when I was younger and family loves to bring up the stories all the time. Obviously as I’ve grown into a more rational adult this just grinds my gears so much. There’s always a time limit on family functions before it starts devolving into the past hang ups everyone has.

      2. SS Express*

        This is so true. I made a minor typo in a client-facing but not super important communication once, and my boss asked me to correct it (reasonable) then brought it up more than once in performance reviews as an example of my “lack of attention to detail”…the ONLY example.

        I definitely know people outside of work who always bring up the same story/issue too, like “haha you’re so forgetful, remember the time you lost your keys” or “your friend is so rude, he said something mean and never apologised” when it only happened one time many years ago. It drives me nuts – it’s so tedious, and I don’t see what they get out of rehashing some inconsequential incident from years ago – but it helps to think of it as just a thing some people can’t seem to help and maybe a result of other issues.

  22. James*

    I am so sorry to hear this. Both my grandmothers and one grandfather died while I was at work–I work a long way from my family, and I could not fly back in time to be at the hospital. I cried each time at work. Found a quiet place where no one was present, gave myself five minutes, then cleaned up and went back to work. For me, that last bit was explicitly about honoring my grandparents’ memories: they were the type that would have been furious to hear that I took off work over this, so I figured it was a fitting tribute. Regardless, everyone was very accommodating, and no one said a word about me being overly emotional. I’m male, working in a male-dominated field, in one case on a jobsite with mostly male construction workers; if anyone was going to make fun of me, it’s these guys. Instead, they were very supportive.

    But that’s me. In another case, a coworker’s best friend died, and he just….left. We got word after he left of what happened and why. I’d have preferred him telling us why he left, but we made it work–he was obviously hurting, and we adjusted so that he could do what he needed to do.

    Point is, this happens. You can’t control where or when. And in the working world, any sane boss will know this.

  23. Em*

    Don’t beat yourself up about checking your phone at work – honestly I would have just said I had to leave for the day if I saw something that distracting!

  24. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I’m always wary of any boss who tries to dictate how someone should feel. Especially during crisis situations. Your reaction was 100% normal and you’ve got nothing to apologise for.

    His reaction was abnormal. Sadly I’ve encountered it as well. It’s a certain level of cruel control these people like to try and enforce on others, to make them into carbon copies of the boss.

    He, and all others like him, are wrong. Super wrong. You are in the right.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Some people wonder why certain people do not have visitors in the nursing home. OP’s example right here is how this happens, too much of this type of attitude with other people.

  25. Bananers*

    If I’m reading correctly, you were about 19 or 20 when this happened. So setting aside the fact that this was really cold and unreasonable on his part (as well as exaggerated!), he totally botched giving feedback to someone new to the professional world. And I have no doubt that you’re absolutely right that it was gendered as well. You did nothing wrong (not only in how you handled it, but also in having an emotional moment under extreme duress in the first place), and he’s a jerk. Don’t let this hang over your head!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I went through stuff when I was late teens early twenties. I wondered why it made such a huge impression on me. It seemed to shape me, whether I wanted it to or not. Years later I found a great article that said what happens to people in this age range literally can shape their lives, because it makes that much of a mark.

        We (society) talk often about kids being impressionable. But young adults also have that same tendency in different arenas, where life events can stay with them for a long time afterward. I remember the article was talking about people who were 20 when the WTC happened. I started thinking about this, my father was just starting into his 20s when WWII hit. So he went from the Great Depression to war time rationing, he was never fully able to shake off the mindset of scarcity. He was never convinced that he could go to the store and find what he needed anytime. When he died decades later, he was still worried about food.

        I think it’s good to know that stuff that happens to us as young adults can really sting and we can carry it for a long time. It’s worth the effort to remind ourselves of the surrounding context. This boss was really condescending to you. I’d bet anything that he never would have said that to a person who was in his age bracket. People can be sexist against their own gender, so it doesn’t matter if he said it to a man or a woman that could be a sexist remark also. He said it because he felt he could get away with it and that is why he said it.

        But you are free to go forward in this world saying that this type of attitude is wrong, wrong, wrong. And you know why first hand. Not only do you not have to carry this torch of his, you can douse the flame out and help eliminate/contain these hurtful misconceptions.

  26. Spreadsheets and Books*

    I cried at work for a similar reason at my old job. My brother (early 20s) had brain surgery for a tumor around a month into my time there. They thought it was benign at first, but the biopsy came back as a particularly aggressive grade IV cancer that is considered terminal. My mom texted me to tell me the diagnosis and I just broke down at my desk. My manager immediately swooped in, found out what was wrong, and marched me out the door and to the train platform so I could go home. I got a message from the SVP a little later asking me to take all the time I wanted, and to let her know if I needed to take PTO to fly home and see family.

    It’s been three and a half years since I got that text, but I still wholeheartedly appreciate how it was handled. I’m really sorry this happened to you, OP.

    1. Senor Montoya*

      I’m so sorry about your brother, and so glad the management team treated you with compassion.

      1. Spreadsheets and Books*

        Thank you. On the bright side, he is still alive and living a completely normal life, despite a prognosis of 12-14 months. You’d never know he had cancer if he didn’t tell you.

  27. CoffeeKris*

    Bosses like that are the worst. You weren’t overly emotional, you were just having a very natural reaction to immense amounts of stress.

    I once worked at a company where the boss wouldn’t allow me to use PTO to account for the day and a half I took to rush to and from my close friend’s deathbed (he was 26) and then, literally the next week, interrupted a meeting I was having with a colleague to tell us that a friend of his had died tragically young and he was going to take a few vacation days for the funeral. His “tragically young” friend was 76 years old- a fact he stated in the same breath.

    I don’t begrudge him for being sad about his friend but it just rankled when he had just given me a lecture a few days previous about why I wasn’t entitled to use my PTO for my absence because “death is a part of life”.

    I started job hunting shortly thereafter.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Stories like this make me sick to my stomach.

      It also makes me miss my boss who has since passed away. [SPOILER: I got the news of his death at work and I excused myself to go breakdown in my office, then cried when telling my now boss about it because I needed to let him know why I may be slow on the swing for awhile]

      When my former girlfriend’s dad died and I needed to get on a plane like that night, he didn’t flinch. He just told me to stay safe and that everything was fine until I got back in a few days.

      When my best friend’s father was on his deathbed, his response was simply “Go, go, go now!” when I went to tell him I had to leave for the day.

      This is the man who taught me everything I know about being a leader. Go figure.

      I can’t with these self centered people in power positions. They deserve the turnover and bad retention rates, nobody should ever be loyal or respect these people. I’m glad you started job hunting afterwards.

      1. CoffeeKris*

        Yeah, a good boss can make a bad situation more bearable.

        His poor management style was not unnoticed by the team, either. Later the same year, I got a phone call from another close friend while I was on my lunch break. It turned out she was calling to say goodbye (she had a terminal illness). I made it through the phone call without crying but as soon as it ended I was sobbing in my office. Thankfully the boss was out of office that day and my coworkers were so kind. One of them drove me home and the entire office agreed not to tell the boss I had left early.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        People will tolerate a bit lower pay, if they have a boss like this. It makes them pause and carefully think before taking another job.

  28. ACDC*

    Your boss was definitely a jerk. One thing I might suggest for next time is to ask to leave early after getting news like that. You say you messed up a project later in the day after getting the news, which is totally normal! You were under a lot of stress and we just don’t perform the same way when we are upset and distracted. If you can afford to, or work in a workplace that is pretty flexible, I would just tell your manager that you just got some really bad news and don’t think you can perform at your normal level for the rest of the day.

    Glad your grandma was OK!

    1. OP*

      I wanted to ask, but my boss didnt really allow for arrangements like that. For example, I was commuting about 40 min to this job, which was unpaid, and when he and the rest of the office attended a conference across the country, leaving the office empty except for me, I requested the option to work remotely. He turned down the request and suggested it was entitled of me to even ask.

      1. J.B.*

        Bejeebus! That guy has officially gone up in worst boss estimation. He doesn’t know a thing, don’t ever listen to him, and he has no problem using students! Blech.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Sorry, HE is the entitled one, using his position to beat down underlings.

        I kinda figured there was more stuff about him that you had not gotten around to mentioning. Usually people who carry on like he did over “emotions” also have other bad management habits or techniques. This type of stuff doesn’t happen in isolation, it’s not a one -off behavior.

      3. Paulina*

        “I will lecture this person on professionalism so that they don’t notice how much I am exploiting them.”
        Unpaid, even. Ugh.

  29. Lisa*

    Your boss was certainly the jerk here, and it is of course understandable to get emotional at work when something terrible happens in your personal life. However, I do think that even if it wasn’t due to something like an illness or a death in the family, but something less severe in your personal life or even something that happened at work (for example, a boss yelling at you), it’s ok to shed some tears at work on the extremely rare occasion. As Alison said, it wouldn’t be great if you did this all the time, but I think we should cut people some slack if they are emotional at work on the rare occasion. After all, everyone is human, and having one or two emotional moments during stressful times does not make someone “too emotional for the job.”

    1. anonymous tears*

      Couldn’t agree more. People have emotions, even when they’re at work. It happens, and I think the compassionate thing to do is to give people the space they need for whatever is going on in their life, and not make a big deal of it if someone gets emotional.

      OP, if it helps, I’m not usually an emotional person and I burst into tears in front of my boss at the absolute worst time: when she was giving me tough-to-hear critical feedback. I was dealing with a family crisis and had dragged myself to work despite also being really sick, and it was just all too much in that moment. And while I was embarrassed, my boss didn’t make a big deal of it.

      If I were OP’s boss I would have just sent her home. There are almost no tasks an intern or student worker would be doing that are so urgent they couldn’t be postponed/handled by someone else in the event of a family member with a life-threatening medical emergency.

  30. CatsAndGuitars*

    One of my favorite business quotes is from Peter Drucker:

    “Management is about human beings. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.”

    If your boss doesn’t grasp that his business is to manage actual human beings (who have feelings) and to help make their (temporary, due to stress, or an illness, or a family problem) weaknesses “irrelevant” (to the business; that is to minimize their impact…to me, by being kind), then it’s a management problem, not an emotion problem.

    Sadly, there are plenty of truly, epically bad managers out there. Part of the trick to having a happy career, i think, is recognizing them early on, and getting away as fast as possible. Sounds like you did that :)

  31. Madeleine Matilda*

    OP – your former manager is a horrible human being. One of my staff lost her parent recently and it has been hard for her. Just a few days ago we were meeting and she started crying in my office. I got up, closed the door to offer her privacy, and comforted her. I’ce also made sure she was aware of all the services we have available to us such as EAP. It is perfectly natural to be emotional when our loved ones are ill or die. I think you handled the situation with grace and thoughtfulness. I would have been impressed had I been your supervisor.

  32. Anonymousse*

    This question signifies everything that’s wrong w the predominantly masculine work culture. People can’t be people at work; they have to be emotionless robots or they’ll be branded too emotional. It infuriates me that there are still bosses out that who thinks compassion equals weakness and that everyone at work should and can just check their personhood at the door. Don’t even get me started on the sexism that’s dripping within the accusation.

    A showing of humanity is all it takes for the workplace loyalty that so many companies yearn for.

  33. TechWorker*

    As everyone is saying – you were totally *not* out of line here, and your bosses reaction was over the top. I (luckily) have had much more understanding bosses – I have teared up at work quite a few times – only in 1 on 1s with my manager, but if I’m talking about a high stress situation I can get emotional (I’m working on it). And that’s just work not even anything personal! I don’t think I’ve ever been judged particularly negatively for it (or at least, I’m still progressing and gaining more responsibility!).

  34. Team Cry Baby*

    This is a time when I don’t totally agree with Alison. Is it true that ” in an ideal world where we had full control over all emotional responses, one would not cry at work”? An ideal world for me is one where we are all emotionally intelligent and can deftly navigate our emotions, not one where there is no crying at work, ever.

    1. pentamom*

      Especially give the actual situation here — she had tears well up in her eyes. She didn’t break down. There’s nothing ideal about having so much control over emotional responses that you don’t even silently react emotionally to genuinely upsetting things. It’s far more ideal to remain human in the work place, and that’s part of being human. The ideal is to control the responses when they occur, not to be devoid of them.

    2. Woooooow*

      x1000! I was really shocked to read that sentence. In an ideal world, perhaps one would have not be working when a close family member is having a health crisis (unless one wants to; some people may welcome the distraction, of course) because there would be enough workers that one could transition one’s work to someone else and take off to go spend time with family.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      There’s a huge difference between turning oneself into a hot mess that cohorts have to struggle with to clean up and crying a little bit at work. I think if anyone gets with a group of people and stay with them for any length of time at some point we WILL see some of those people cry. Because this is just a fact of life.

      Personally I much rather favor a world where most of us have some idea of how to talk with a crying person. I look at the news now and more than ever and I see we are surrounded by crying people. In the future being able to console people is going to be a highly desirable skill. We will also see that people who are able to have difficult conversations will be highly valued. The people who don’t deal with emotions will be having a tougher and tougher time of it. To me, this looks like where we are going.

  35. Allypopx*

    I once had two grandparents die in one summer and missed two total days of work because of it, and my boss thought I was terrible and unprofessional – and lying. People are the worst.

    I also found out my mother had cancer while at work (she’s doing much better now) and was holding it together decently until my boss started needling that I didn’t seem like my “normal cheery self” and then I started crying in the elevator and he got soooo uncomfortable.

    Humans aren’t perfect. Feelings are normal. We’ve all been there and some bosses handle it better than others. File this away as information about your former boss and his hangups, not about yourself.

    And yes, this is almost certainly gendered.

    1. Dragoning*


      “You don’t seem like your normal cheery self, something wrong hahahaha” is a surefire way to cheer someone up if they’re upset!

  36. schnauzerfan*

    asshole for sure. But let’s reframe this. Some bosses NEED to say something negative. Don’t want you to get a swelled head or something. So the worst thing the jerk could think of was “she cares to much about her grandma” That’s not a bad baseline.

  37. Adalind*

    I’m so sorry, OP. This guy is a dbag. One instance does not make you overly emotional and I hope you don’t let it get to you. Emotions happen. Just today I’ve cried twice as the last couple weeks have been quite terrible (had to euthanize my 12 year old cat unexpectedly, lost a house I was going to buy due to shady HOA, and found out a guy was stringing me along for months). I’m lucky that everyone understands, including my manager. Normally this doesn’t happen and they know it’s been a trying time. It happens to the best of us.

  38. It depends*

    Whether or not your boss’s assessment is accurate depends on whether the OP is a woman or a man. I think seeing a young woman cry at work is relatively normal. I wouldn’t call her “overly emotional”. In fact it’s rather commonplace for women to cry when overwhelmed. I’ve never seen a man cry at work though. If I did I think I would consider them to be “overly emotional” because it’s just not something you see a lot.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Wait, what? No! There is certainly a gendered component to how men see women crying, but this is really dismissive of men, who are often told they’re not allowed to have or show emotions…

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        Exactly. When I was teaching, I worked really hard to teach kids the opposite of this. I was…not very successful. This force is strong within our culture.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It takes time to wash our culture of these kinds of toxic ideas that are so deeply ingrained within it.

          I think we’re taking huge steps forward in ways with learning about gender identity and the facts that it’s just not “Man” v “Woman” stuff.

          Lots of my male identifying peers are now really embracing their emotions when they really stuffed them down for years due to society’s ideas forced down their throats. It’s happening in sports culture as well, slowly but surely.

          You may not feel like you were successful but you most likely touched and influenced many growing minds at that time in your life. Despite not seeing immediate results. When they hit the right time in their life, they weighed what you taught them, with others.

    2. Anonymousse*

      I’d stay away from basing what’s normal or not on what you’ve seen. Perception=\=reality. Also what an incredibly gendered view of emotions! Men and women are both allowed to feel sorrow. Or do you think that punching a wall is the only acceptable form of grief expression for men?

    3. Oh No She Di'int*

      I think the “accuracy” of the boss’s statement isn’t the issue here. The boss was trying to say that showing emotion of any kind is not workplace appropriate behavior. OP is in the right, not because she is female and therefore it’s ok for her to get away with this sort of thing. OP is in the right because she has not done anything inappropriate for the workplace. That is independent of gender.

      Also, I think we can safely assume OP is female presenting at least. Although some men do carry what might be considered something like a “purse”, I have yet to meet one who would call it that.

    4. KoiFeeder*

      I don’t think that it’s fair to men at all to say that they’re not allowed to emote when people they’re close to die. Gender does not exist to make people conform to your preferred emoting quotient.

    5. SheLooksFamiliar*

      ‘In fact it’s rather commonplace for women to cry when overwhelmed.’
      Yeah, we gals are just bundles of emotional outbursts on feet, aren’t we? Seriously, this comment bothers me as much as the OP’s boss’s comment.

      ‘I’ve never seen a man cry at work though.’
      You don’t get around enough, then. I have, and he was not considered ‘overly emotional’ because of it. Funny how that works…

      1. Le Sigh*

        “‘In fact it’s rather commonplace for women to cry when overwhelmed.’
        Yeah, we gals are just bundles of emotional outbursts on feet, aren’t we? Seriously, this comment bothers me as much as the OP’s boss’s comment.”

        And can you just IMAGINE when we’re all on our periods? How do we get anything done?!

    6. QEire*

      As a few others have noted, this idea harms men as well, who often lose a very normal outlet for their emotions as crying is seen as less than masculine. Additionally, just because a man doesn’t cry doesn’t mean he isn’t just as emotional as a woman who does cry. Their emotions just take a different form, but it’s considered “normal” by society.

      Toxic masculinity hurts us all.

    7. Observer*

      In no reasonably functional workplace would offering someone a tissue or giving them a few minutes to compose themselves after they found out that a close relative might be on their deathbed, be considered an “accommodation” even if the person tearing up was a man. So, no. Not only was the boss being a jerk, what he said was NOT accurate.

      I’m just going to point out that if you start treating women like they are likely to get overwhelmed and cry unlike men, and punish men who have the audacity to have emotions (by questioning their judgement, ability or “ability to manage their emotions”) you could put yourself and your employer into legal trouble. That’s gross gender discrimination. And it happens to be illegal, at least in the US.

    8. James*

      As a man, I have cried 4 times at work. Once each time a grandparent died, and once after being stranded alone in a desert (oddly I was fine up until the point where I’d been recued). Was I being “overly emotional”?

      I’ve seen other men cry on the job as well. Personal tragedy hits people differently. A man who can hit a high-pressure liquid nitrogen line with an excavator (read, “if he’d have sneezed he’d have been dead”) and not bat an eye may break down because his girlfriend leaves him. I’ve also seen men shed tears over animals that have been killed on jobsites. No one thought they were “overly emotional”. Note that these are construction workers, and fairly tough ones at that; you don’t get the “Yeah, they were just wusses” card to play here.

      Also, I note that you’ve changed “personal tragedy” to “overwhelmed”. The OP wasn’t overwhelmed, she was GRIEVING. That’s a very personal process, and very different from being overwhelmed.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        “oddly I was fine up until the point where I’d been rescued”

        I don’t think that’s odd at all! I think it’s pretty common that when you’re in a bad/stressful/scary situation your brain tries to protect you from how stressed/scared you really are and then once you’re safe all the feelings your brain was hiding before come rushing in.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Or also I think once you have someone to share your feelings with they suddenly burst out. My husband recently was stranded in another city and his car wouldn’t start and he was crying when he called me. I drove out to get him and he said he was really surprised that he thought he was feeling fairly calm about the situation but then as soon as I answered the phone he was suddenly in tears.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        s/If if that rage goes to far, then we can press charges and put them in jail. Because that so fixes everything. (NOT )/s

        How we treat others matters. And it matters a lot more than we think.

  39. Tib*

    I was just talking to my psychiatrist about crying at work. And described a difficult situation I dealt with recently that triggered a (very subtle) panic attack. Once I was able to be alone and in private I cried my eyes out, and then I went back to work. I told her that I was concerned that my medication was insufficient if I was having such intense reactions. After I explained to her the context, she said – “nope, that’s a normal reaction to [my situation].” This is one of those situations. There’s a great, old-ish op-ed in the NYTimes by Dr. Julie Holland called “Medicating Women’s Feelings” that goes into more detail about pathologizing normal emotional reactions to abnormal behaviors, and how/why that’s a gendered issue.

  40. Linds*

    UGH, OP– I feel for you and completely agree with other commenters that you did the right thing here, 1,000%. When I was a college student, I had a big presentation for a public speaking class I had been working on for a month. My grandfather had been in and out of the hospital for that time, and the morning of my presentation, he died. My parents knew about the big presentation and wanted to let me finish before they let me know the news, but word travels fast, and when I was checking my phone before class I had multiple text messages and voice mails from family friends at the same school who had already heard the news from THEIR parents, who had prompted them to reach out to me and see how I was doing.

    I immediately started bawling outside the classroom, and my professor let me go first so I could get out of class, but still made me present. I was a wreck and totally bombed, and still hold it against her.

  41. From The High Tower on Capitol Hill*

    I’ve been there. My boss and I were having a one-on-one meeting where she was telling me all of the stuff I was doing wrong and I had found out moments before I found out that a good friend was moved into hospice after a long battle with cancer. I started tearing up… a lot.. okay I started crying. I explained to her what happened and luckily she was completely understanding about it. Her dad had been diagnosed with cancer a couple times years ago.

    Keep your chin up, kid. Nolite te Bastardes Corborundorum.

  42. nutella fitzgerald*

    This is so frustrating to read about in comparison to the manager who assumed there was nothing she could do about her employee consistently being a condescending jerk.

  43. Observer*

    OP, your boss is a jerk. You should also know that he is also an idiot. Expecting people to be robots who never allow their emotions to affect anything they do at work is stupid as all get out. And calling offering you a tissue and giving you a few minutes to collect yourself an “accommodation” is an attitude that could cause him some real problems down the road.

    I’m saying this because I don’t want you to get caught by the myth that being successful and being a decent human being are somehow at odds with each other. It’s not true. Read some of the anecdotes above…

  44. Happy Pineapple*

    I’m so sorry, OP. Your manager was a jerk. Absolutely everyone has their breaking point, and unfortunately it can happen at an inconvenient time.
    Mine was during a serious discussion with my graduate school adviser a few weeks before my final thesis was due. I was under a tremendous amount of academic stress, lived in a different country than my family, had no support system, my father had recently been diagnosed with cancer, and my grandmother had died two days earlier and at that moment I was missing her funeral. One harsh bit of criticism from my adviser made me snap and I had a total, blubbering meltdown. I was absolutely mortified, and he was clearly uncomfortable, but he did whatever he could support me in those last few weeks.

  45. CupcakeCounter*

    I once sat at my desk for 2+ hours with tears just rolling down my face after my FIL passed very suddenly (this was after returning from the funeral). Boss sent me home and never once held it against me (might have counted in my favor actually since I was a bit of a hard-ass and my response to getting the call from my MIL was to bust in to a meeting with my boss and some higher up and declare “My FIL just died and I need to get my husband and his brother to their mother” and walked out without really telling anyone else what happened…I was very focused).

    1. Dragoning*

      I admire this sort of ass-kicking way of taking care of people so much. It’s kind of funny, but just switching into gear like “this needs to happen now, and I need to take care of all of these things so other people can fall apart around me” is just…


  46. (insert name here)*

    I am sorry this happened to you.

    It is good to know that there are huge jerks in the workplace, but I hope you don’t internalize this. Not all bosses are like this.

    My first job out of college my aunt died and my boss at the time scoffed at the idea that I might take a day to fly across the country for her funeral. I didn’t go.

    But the bosses I had when my mom died or when my grandparents died were totally different. Sure once I was told I needed to not cry at work but that was because I was tearing up after a customer was a jerk and it was a fair critique, but a few months ago when a friend was dying I told my current boss I might need to take some time, and not only was he cool about me tearing up, but he teared up himself. Not all bosses are jerks.

  47. Buttons*

    “too emotional” is what misogynists say. Women are the weaker and fairer sex, this is why they can’t be president- they get too emotional. Sigh.
    I would like a little emotion and empathy in the white house.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*


      I get it frequently, along with “aggressive” and “bossy”.

      I am so sick of workplace misogyny.

  48. Amalthea1*

    I had a similar thing happen to me. In December 2010, my younger brother died suddenly of what we later found out was an overdose. I was living across the country at the time and had two part-time jobs; both of my bosses were male and responded supportively, and let me take a week off to go home. Sounds good, right? Since he died in December, I had to navigate the entire busy holiday season with a giant black hole sucking the life out of me, but for the most part I powered through. A few months later, I was getting my review at one of the jobs and my boss gave me a negative mark because “I allowed too much of my personal life to interfere with work”. He said this because my energy “seemed low” and because he caught me crying in the stockroom one day (I thought it was better than crying on the salesfloor). It has now been almost been a decade since all that happened, and I still have the darkest rage when I think about it.

    1. Nerdy Library Clerk*

      What the… this was supposed to be a reply to “It depends.” How did it end up here?

  49. Lyudie*

    Suddenly super grateful for my last two managers who were so kind when my one cat died and when the other was just diagnosed with cancer.

  50. Sans Souci*

    He sounds like an absolute ass.
    OP, you mention that you shouldn’t have checked your phone and avoided the whole situation. I would advocate for checking your phone as you normally would. I would much more regret not being able to be with a family member at their time of need than I would regret crying at work.

  51. joriley*

    Also, glancing at your phone during your lunch break is a very normal thing and it is not at all unprofessional to do that, regardless of whether you’re checking for urgent messages or just looking at cat gifs. Unless your workplace has a strict and explicit “no phones in the building” rule, that’s not a problem–there’s no need to internalize that. In fact, at many (most?) workplaces glancing at your phone *throughout the day* is fine, as long as it’s not a distraction.

  52. sam*

    oh, the dreaded “personal problems”.

    The worst boss I ever had used that as a bugaboo when I tried to explain a potential conflict when he demanded on a friday afternoon that I work all weekend. I had scheduled a furniture delivery months earlier, and had MADE SPECIAL ARRANGEMENTS for a weekend delivery so that I wouldn’t have to take time off of work (not easy to do in an apartment building in NYC), and trying to reschedule less than 24 hours before was going to be…difficult if not impossible. So when I told this boss that I might need to work from home for a few hours (not…NOT WORK, just work from home) if I couldn’t manage to reschedule, his response was that I shouldn’t be bringing my “personal problems” to the office.

    I managed to reschedule, but the next monday I went to the “associate relationship” partner and told her that if I didn’t transfer to another department, I’d have to quit.

    Jobs and bosses (even tough, demanding ones) that refuse to recognize that you actually have a life outside of the office are not good places and people. I’ve worked for lots of other bosses that could be considered “demanding”, and not a single one of them has ever pulled something like this.

    In my current job, I found out in the middle of the day that my dad had to go to the hospital, and while I was freaking out (still at work), LITERALLY everyone else in the office, including the big boss, was like LEAVE NOW.

  53. Chompers*

    Ew, this is really gross and you probably shouldn’t have any reports with a management style like this.

  54. QEire*

    Had a coworker write a scathing email to me about a relatively minor mistake, where he somehow made my team’s workload and our office’s financial problems my fault. Copied the entire team on the email, then spent the week complaining loudly to other people, who then came to me to ask what had happened. When I called him on it, his excuse was that he didn’t realize I was “so sensitive.” I also had an HR rep tell me I was “the most emotional person” when I cried after being harassed at work.

    It’s called coded language, and it’s what racists and misogynists use because they can’t be explicitly racist and misogynist these days. You did absolutely nothing wrong here, and that guy is a jerk.

  55. fposte*

    Other people have covered the “boss is an ass” territory pretty thoroughly, OP. I’ll say also that this was in an exit interview, so you were already sprung loose, on a sophomore year internship, so even if it had been a mistake it would be an easy one to move past to a glorious future career. And it wasn’t even a mistake, so all the more reason to enjoy the commiseration and then let this idiocy go without letting it mar your future.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I totally agree about not letting it dampen your future, OP.

      But I need to add something about grief. Grief isn’t just for funerals. It’s also for the loss of health in ourselves or other people. We can lose our sense of world orderliness and we can tend to feel like everything is turned upside down when a person in our lives gets sick.

      Grieve has a nasty way of taking a person’s remark and making it REALLY HUGE. I am thinking this boss was not too impressive anyway. However this was a highly personal remark, that really went through to the core of your heart. Grief can take a remark like that and make it feel like a bomb went off. Your boss was so very wrong, OP. And you have an added layer of a feeling of betrayal, why the Jekyll-Hyde thing? He was okay in the moment then later it was a bfd? wth. When something hits you really hard like that, remember that is a warning flag to start in with some self-care, nutritious foods, hydration, rest and other things that help you build yourself and help you to recharge.

      I always tell myself, “I am the key person who needs to know that *I* am having a problem. If other people can’t figure out that I am having difficulty that is a lesser issue, because I am the best person to help me.” You took active steps every inch of the way to help yourself that day, OP. Be proud of how you navigated that very difficult situation.

  56. Retail not Retail*

    5 years down the line, I’m still amazed with what I got away with at my retail job wrt to a sick relative. My sister and I got the call around noon, come across the state to meet your mom and uncle, then go across the country because grandma’s dying. I had 2 hours of notice before my shift but was like peace! Gone for a week, turned that into my vacation week. She ended up not dying for a few months (and everyone considered that week sufficient final time). The kicker was I swore up and down I’d be back Sunday. About 2 hours before my shift, my sister was in a wreck. Cue my manager, “you’re getting to be a bit unreliable.”

    A couple months later my friend was MOD and I had my phone on bc my sister was in the hospital for kidney stones and swearing she didn’t need me until my shift was over. Where was the manager? His brother was sick. Hmph!

    At my current job, we have a bit more autonomy and don’t work strictly with the public. I told my boss I was coming here because my mom was in the midst of worsening seizures. They know I will drop everything for her. And no, I’m not important.

    I also cry at work sometimes but most painfully no one ever notices. On the one hand, good for rep. On the other, bad for mental state.

  57. Leela*

    Your boss did something I wish I could tell every boss everywhere not to do:

    Having power doesn’t mean that you get to subject your subordinates to “personality lessons” that stem more from their personal preference than what’s actually impacting work. There’s a time and place for it for but it’s almost never a power that’s wielded correctly and usually just impresses something on a person that won’t be true at another (healthy) business.

    Your boss sucks. I really hope that he would never use this in a reference for you. I’d avoid him if I could; he’s showing that he lacks judgement in assessing situations but I know that it can be unavoidable. Hopefully this turns out to be nothing more than a story you can tell at a workplace happy hour down the line which will have everyone supporting you because that’s the logical reaction here!

    1. Allypopx*

      This is so big. I’ve had more than one (male) boss try to temper me from being too blunt or outspoken. I am not rude, I’m direct and concise, and in those situations I’ve never seen my (often just outright rude) male colleagues get the same feedback. It often comes off as a “boys don’t like opinionated girls” kind of icky thing.

      I think a good rule for avoiding biases in feedback, and what I would advise most managers to consider especially when giving feedback across gender (and maybe other demographics but I’m not conjuring up good examples right now), is a) flip the gender of the recipient and see if what you’re saying sounds ridiculous, and b) come up with an example of a time this thing you’re critiquing caused a work-related issue. If you can’t, maybe it’s not feedback worth giving.

    2. OP*

      I am not sure I would ever ask him for a reference – honestly the whole situation left me feeling very unclear about his perspective on my time working for him. I know that might be hard to avoid, but hopefully I am able to find another internship for this coming summer without involving him. I am currently looking and have noticed that many times internship processes don’t ask for references – maybe because they assume young people are unlikely to have them? Regardless, I do hope to avoid involving him.

      1. Allypopx*

        When you say you “know that might be hard to avoid” do you mean not being clear about someone’s perspective on your time working for them? In most professional settings that won’t be the case. Good managers will give you regular feedback and you’ll have a pretty good sense of your working relationship with them. This kind of thing only coming up in an exit interview is really bizarre and definitely not a bar by which to judge your future professional relationships.

        1. OP*

          I apologize for being unclear! I was referencing what to do if someone does ask for references – given that I am still just applying for internships I have not yet had anyone ask (I am in the later stages of a couple processes) but am not sure I can avoid the issue entirely as working for him is the bulk of my work experience. Meaning if someone asks for a reference, he is it.

          1. Allypopx*

            You can use your professors too! Especially for internships – early in your career this is fine. They know your work in a different context.

          2. Adultiest Adult*

            I am in the midst of hiring next year’s crop of interns. Our company doesn’t ask for references, because we know that interns are unlikely to have meaningful ones. And I would accept a professor, if I needed one. Or your summer boss from scooping ice cream, provided that they could vouch you came to work on time and didn’t yell at the customers! Forget this old boss and his commentary. You handled yourself just fine.

    3. Oh So Anon*

      Having power doesn’t mean that you get to subject your subordinates to “personality lessons” that stem more from their personal preference than what’s actually impacting work.

      This is something I’m really struggling to internalize, not as a manager or mentor (because I tried not to do this when I was managing), but as someone who was on the receiving end of this kind of thing earlier in my career. I’ve spent a lot of years believing that what makes me carry myself well at work is having been treated badly, which…that leads to some weird ways of thinking, let’s just leave it at that. Thank you.

  58. Thornus*

    My uncle died a few years back. I didn’t know when the funeral would be, due his children being a black sheep type situation. I gave the bosses a heads up and said it should be sometime in the next few weeks and that I would let them know. They kept pestering me despite me explaining that I did not know. Once I did know, I let them know a week in advance. So I had to take a couple of days off for travel, the funeral, etc. One of those days, a Friday the day of the funeral, mid to late afternoon, they had the support staff text me about something unimportant and not time sensitive which I did not see due to the funeral. I saw it that evening, knew she was no longer at work, and knew I could answer it Monday morning. I walk into work, and the first thing anyone says to me is the boss “asking” “Do you not check your texts? [STAFF] texted you about blah blah and didn’t get a response.” I curtly responded by saying I was at a funeral and didn’t see it until that night. She then mumbled something about “oh, well, make sure you check them” then walked off. And then they docked me those two days I was off because we had no bereavement or PTO.

  59. CheeryO*

    LW, I am so impressed by how you managed yourself – I would not have thought to ask for a minute to collect myself as a college sophomore, but that’s a very mature, professional way to handle a tough situation. I am actually in disbelief that anyone would consider that to be “overly emotional.”

    I do think there’s also some bias about grandparents in particular, like you shouldn’t be THAT sad when someone old dies. My grandpa passed away when I was a few weeks into my first internship, and everyone was super weird about it. I asked for the least amount of time off possible, just to attend the funeral, and the reaction was basically, “I mean, if you have to.” Then, I coded the time to bereavement since no one had told me otherwise, and I got back an all-caps email saying that I WAS NOT ENTITLED TO USE THAT BENEFIT, AS AN INTERN. Like, try being a little MORE mean to someone going through a hard time, why don’t you?

  60. alienor*

    1. Calling a woman a “female” is disgusting.
    2. “Women are typically more emotional” is a stereotype.
    3. There’s nothing wrong with emotions regardless of gender, and men are allowed to have and express them too.

    1. James*

      I’m curious (genuinely here): Why is calling a woman a female disgusting? “Female” and “woman” are synonyms, and I’ve generally seen them used interchangeably, though “female” tends to be a bit more formal.

      1. Dragoning*

        A lot of really toxic misogynistic men have taken to referring to women as “females” in a very dehumanizing way.

        1. James*

          Huh. Weird. I’ve never encountered this–and I’m going to be thankful that I work with so few misogynists that that’s the case! It irks me when some group soils an otherwise perfectly good word; it makes having a genuine conversation harder for everyone.

          1. Leslie Knope*

            It also kind of nestles in with making women other by adding “female” in front of their profession. As in, “female comedian,” “female scientist,” ect. Not sure if that’s completely applicable to the comment since it wasn’t nested in the right place (oops! I’ve definitely done that before…), but that’s something that popped into my mind when I read the original comment here.

      2. ThatGirl*

        Female and woman is not synonymous; you can have a female cat or a female mosquito or whatever, but woman is reserved for adult humans. Which ties in with what Dragoning said – misogynists often use “female” as a way to dehumanize (cis) women and reduce us to our biology instead of recognizing our personhood.

        1. James*

          There’s nuances, sure, but that’s the case for any synonym. There’s nothing inherently dehumanizing about the word. (Far as I can tell, it stems from the misguided attempt to make English look like Latin back when that was a thing–a class issue, not a race one.)

          I’ve literally never heard anyone use “female” in a way that attempts to dehumanize someone; that’s not to say that it never happens–just that it’s something I’m totally unfamiliar with and am frankly astonished is a thing. I believe folks, it’s just very bizarre to me.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Respectfully, you’re a man. And therefore you often miss sexism when it’s present because you have no reason to recognize it. So you’re surrounded by it, it’s internalized and it’s a norm.

            I’ve never heard “female” used ever in my life that wasn’t directly targeted to degrade a woman and make them lesser. It’s not a normal word to use in general.

            1. Allypopx*

              Additionally I think you’ll find that men are referred to as “males” rarely if ever, so if that would sound strange to you it’s worth considering why.

              1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

                Male is used to dehumanize men in this sort of way: “The suspect is described as a black male, 18 to 40 years old, approximately 200 pounds.”

                So I’m agreeing with the critique of how “female” is used in a degrading way.

            2. Jedi Squirrel*

              Calling a woman a “female” is disgusting.

              The Ferengi (one of the most sexist, misogynistic races ever seen on Star Trek) used this construction all the time. For that very purpose.

          2. ThatGirl*

            Please trust all the women, including me, who are telling you that it is often used to dehumanize us. Even if you would never use it that way.

            My husband was astonished to hear that nearly all women have been catcalled, verbally assaulted, touched in an unwanted fashion or just plain sexually assaulted because he would never do anything like that — but that just shielded him from seeing the truth of how other men behave.

          3. Aquawoman*

            Pro tip: when you hear yourself saying “Well, I’VE never experienced [whatever]” in a context where you have a privilege that others lack, please reconsider (a) finishing that sentence and (b) your experience. You say you’ve never heard it, and I’m going to guess that truth is you’ve just never noticed it.

        2. Vicky Austin*

          Not to mention, a trans man is a biological female, but he’s a man, not a woman. “Female” and “male” refer to biological sex. “Woman” and “man” refer to gender identity.

      3. Arctic*

        Men are very rarely referred to as males the way women are females. It is dehumanizing.

        Female should be an adjective not a noun.

      4. AvonLady Barksdale*

        “Female” is an adjective. Female dog. Female singer. Female respondent. “Woman” is a noun. They are not interchangeable, no matter how people misuse them. It’s a HUGE pet peeve of mine. Calling women “females” is like referring to “the gays” instead of saying “gay people.”

      5. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Some men use ‘female’ as a categorizing mechanism more than an identification, or a reference to their gender. It is not a neutral or descriptive word in those cases.

        Consider this: I used to work with a man who called women ‘female-types.’ Never ‘women’, ‘ladies’, or even ‘female.’ We were a type. A breed. A class. A specimen.

        Does this help, James?

      6. Koala dreams*

        I take it it’s the phenomenon where the masculine word is considered neutral, and the feminine word is considered derogatory. Like people feeling that actor sounds more professional than actress, or that a guy is neutral but a girl is childish. It’s not universal, though, I see plenty of references to males and females online, where it’s just informal, and not meant derogatory.

    2. Delta Delta*

      I use “female” as an adjective. If I hear someone say “a female” I will often say “a female human?”

  61. Dave*

    You never know when you will encounter a learning experience. Sometimes they are subtle, sometimes they hit you smack in the face and hurt. Use this to make yourself a better person, a compassionate person and a healthier person. You will likely come across a situation like this later in life and be much more prepared how to deal with it.

    1. ArtK*

      It sounds like you were trying to address the boss, not the OP. The OP didn’t lack compassion at all and handled the situation in the office at the time just fine. What lesson is it that you think that the OP should gain from this?

      1. Dave*

        same message as many others, the boss was a jerk, but to use the experience when dealing with others when in a position of leadership. I have had many jerk bosses, so when I became a boss, I never demonstrated jerk behavior.l

  62. Q*

    Your boss is an ass. I found out in my 20’s that my grandfather died while I was at work. I thought I was ok and went to speak to HR to let them know I needed bereavement leave, and promptly burst into tears when I said he had died. I tried talking but it was just non sensical blabbering. I was mortified at the time but now I realize, yes, people are human and it’s much less embarrassing to me in hindsight. My boss was not happy I was taking leave, because she was a shitty manager as well.

  63. jamberoo*

    Good lord. My best friend of 23 years died and I tried taking off only two days. My manager scheduled a check-in on my first day back and barely managed to ask how I was doing before I burst into tears. She then helped me get the paperwork and resources I needed to take leave for a while.

  64. KW*

    OP, you said this issue could have been averted if you’d not looked at your phone. Please, please drop this attitude. Work is never so important that you should neglect emergency phone calls from your family. It’s an absolute societal sickness that workers are expected to show such a level of devotion to businesses who are profiting from their labour. You said you were on an internship when this event occurred – this is even more heinous if you weren’t being paid. This is capitalism at its worst.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      “Work is never so important that you should neglect emergency phone calls from your family. ”

      100000% this. If my job demanded that I neglect emergency calls from my family or roomies, I would be looking for a new job. I work to live, not live to work.

  65. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

    Speaking somewhat into the ether here, but it’s so interesting that there is a vocal set of people here who like to talk about not wanting friendships at work, avoiding sharing personal information, emphasizing that work is work and expecting small talk about life outside of work is intrusive, etc.

    Which is in great contrast to the sentiment here about being much more accepting of people grieving at work. I assume there is not much overlap between these two groups, but if there is it feels pretty dissonant.

    1. The Francher Kid*

      There is a distinct difference between not wanting to know a co-worker’s favorite TV shows, political preferences, religious views, etc, and simply being supportive when they are grieving a loved one.

      1. Oh So Anon*

        Yes, I’d agree with this to a point, but a big part of being supportive requires building rapport, which has its limits when everyone involved has a very “work is work” approach.

        1. The Francher Kid*

          I worked in a large lab with a definite “work is work” mentality and no one was friendly with anyone else. When a co-worker’s parent died, we were still able to express a simple condolence and then spread the co-worker’s tasks so that they had time off. None of that required a close relationship. I think people can show basic compassion without having to be friends.

        2. Observer*

          Not really. In some respects, knowing people helps. But understanding that someone is upset because they are worried about the literal survival of a loved one doesn’t take more than actually knowing that this is the case.

          I have a LOT of coworkers who I really don’t know. But if I walked into a meeting and someone said “Hey, could I have few minutes to get myself together – I just got this call…” I can’t imagine considering this “overly emotional”.

    2. Elitist Semicolon*

      Wanting one’s boss to be compassionate (or at least neutrally accepting) of one’s grief isn’t the same thing as wanting to hang out with co-workers on the weekend. It’s possible to say “I need to leave because a family member has died” without wanting to share stories or be besties with the co-worker you’re telling.

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        What about avoiding sharing personal information, emphasizing that work is work and expecting small talk about life outside of work being intrusive?

    3. Cinnamon*

      There’s a huge difference between being empathetic to someone going through a hard time (that doesn’t need to be specific at all, “there was a death in the family”) and sharing personal details about EVERYTHING in one’s life to every co-worker. The former also doesn’t need to be stated by the employee themselves, my job sends out sympathy emails which is the formal notice of “be understanding and give this person some time.”

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        “sharing personal details about EVERYTHING in one’s life to every co-worker.”

        You got me. That’s what I described: small talk about having friendships with some people is pretty much the same as sharing EVERYTHING to EVERY SINGLE co-worker (emphasis added). For sure. Spot on. EVERYTHING IN ONE’S LIFE to every single one.

        I mean, someone says “I saw a great movie on Sunday! What’d you do this weekend?” and I’m like thinking “WTF, you want to know EVERYTHING??!?!! Leave me alone.”

  66. Another JD*

    I was at work writing a legal brief when I found out my cousin committed suicide. I began crying at my desk. My boss told me he also had a family member who committed suicide so he knew what it was like, and that I had to finish the brief before I could go home. I’m still angry at him.

  67. Arts Akimbo*

    Adding my voice to the commentariat to say I think you handled it in a particularly level-headed and mature way, LW! You deserve a compliment and a pat on the back for asking for a moment to collect yourself and then coming back to the work conversation. That is exactly what you are supposed to do, and you did it– as a sophomore in college, no less! I’ve seen far more seasoned workers lose it and not think on their feet so quickly!

    I hope you find a far, far better workplace, one that treats its employees like real human people.

    1. OP*

      Thank you for your kind words and to everyone else who has said something similar – I wish I could comment on all of them but juggling school work and my current job search has left me very busy! I feel much better about my ability to understand professional norms after reading all of your comments and want to say THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to read and share their stories and advice. It really means a lot.

  68. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    Crying at work is UNACCEPTABLE? What?! So, when my colleague Sarah fell down the stairs and broke her arm in three places she was supposed to just suck it up and say ‘goshdarnit, that smarts a bit’? When my office-mate’s partner was involved in a serious crash she was supposed to say ‘oh dearie me, I’ll just pop to the hospital, do excuse me’.

    Your boss was an asshole, OP.

  69. pony tailed wonder*

    I had something similar happen. My grandmother died and I was not allowed to take time off to go to her funeral. I later found out that I could have went after all once I spoke about it to folks in other departments. My boss’s reputation took a big hit on that.

    1. Observer*

      Well, I’m glad that his reputation took a hit. Did he suffer any other consequences? Because that’s some toxic garbage.

      1. pony tailed wonder*

        No consequences that I can remember. It’s been over 25 years and some of my family members still don’t believe me that I couldn’t get off work to go to my grandmother’s funeral. Why would I lie about that? I was young and didn’t realize that I could have went over his head.

        1. Observer*

          Maybe they think you were too young and stupid to figure out how to get leave?

          Because to be honest, there was a time where I would have had a hard time believing that a boss would really refuse to let someone go to their grandparent’s funeral. I’ve learned better. But it really IS hard to wrap your head around.

  70. Hiring Mgr*

    Off topic, but I never knew any of my grandparents, since due to their having died before I was born, we never met.

  71. Goliath Corp.*

    I was at work when my dad died and thought I was in a sound-proof phone booth. Turns out I wasn’t, but it was nice when a coworker heard me crying and came to give me a hug.

    This also reminds me of my former manager who told me I wasn’t being promoted because I’m always late for things. Her example was from a work trip we were on when I had a major health crisis that impaired my ability to walk, and I was 2 minutes late for a meeting.

    Some people suck.

    1. Coffee Bean*

      Oh goodness. I am sorry both of these things happened to you. And your boss is a colossal arse-hat for dinging you for being late. Holy Good Grief!!

  72. TheAssistant*

    As a manager, not only would I be sympathetic to shedding a few tears/needing to collect yourself after receiving terribly stressful personal news, but I would appreciate the added context when discussing a work mistake. When I talk about mistakes made by the person I supervise, I want to understand the root cause. And I’m going to certainly consider “was in the midst of receiving stressful personal news” as a pretty big contributing factor to the mistake. It allows me as a manager to see the bigger picture and look for patterns. Unless you’re in the throes of personal crisis regularly, I’m not going to be concerned. Heck, if you’re in the throes of personal crisis regularly, that’s not even automatically disqualifying – you might just be going through a particularly unlucky spell (my boss last year had, no joke, a serious and unexpected death in his close circle once per month for about six months. It was awful for him).

    tl;dr there’s a huge difference between “grandmother might die” and drama for the sake of drama, and I would bet that most good managers know it.

  73. Oh So Anon*

    I also want to suggest that the reason this probably went sideways is that the actual reason you were crying happened to coincide with a contentious work issue – your manager couldn’t be 100% sure in attributing your tears to your grandmother, which is probably why they reacted the way they did. Realistically, that’s kind of a bad-faith assumption for them to make, but they have only known you for four months and you are early in your career, so they may not really know the range of your emotional responses to work stress.

    Not that it’s right or justified, but I’ve found that managers tend to cut employees a much wider berth with showing emotions over personal issues when their work is otherwise right on target.

    1. Meg*

      I would normally agree with you, but the thing I keep circling back to is that the manager’s feedback wasn’t actually about the mistake, it was about crying one time. I think it’s fair to have a hard time untangling reasons for a work mistake, but even if you cry once at work (especially as minorly as OP described) that doesn’t make you overly emotional. I think you have to cry waayyyy more than once to qualify as overly emotional.

      1. Oh So Anon*

        I agree, crying once at work shouldn’t get that kind of reaction.

        As someone who’s done a number of short internships and supervised summer interns…one of the things I’ve noticed is that even slightly negative things become super magnified when there’s only a short period to evaluate an employee.

    2. OP*

      This makes sense – do you have advice as to how I could have avoided it? I did think I had my emotions better under control (and knew I wouldn’t be given the rest of the day off if I asked – see above) but ended up reaching a tipping point I suppose… The error wasn’t caused by my emotion (I actually found something that I had messed up the day before, when I did not know about my grandmother) but I understand why the two would be conflated.

  74. Quill*

    Be very glad that you don’t work for this guy anymore, because he’s clearly not a reasonable person.

  75. Curmudgeon in California*

    “Your manager was being an ass.”


    Here’s a contrast for you:

    At one workplace that was actually quite dysfunctional, I got news that my roommate, a few years younger than me, had died of a heart attack. She had chronic issues, I knew, but was still shocked when she died. My boss saw that I had received some upsetting news, and asked about it. I told her. She actually encouraged me to go home, just to deal with fallout and process the event.


    In my current job, my manager was understanding when I had to dash off and visit my dying father. No questions other than “How long? Anything we need to pick up?”

    A similar one:

    I was on field assignment in Georgia. My grandmother died in a car accident in Florida. The team I was working with helped me get a car and drive down to Florida for her memorial service that weekend, including covering my tasks.

    This is how normal workplaces handle bereavement and family health scares. They don’t berate you for crying.

    1. Sinister Serina*

      Yes. When my Dad was dying, I sent out an email on a Sunday saying I had to make an emergency trip and didn’t know when I would be back. And the response was to take as much time as I needed and they would take care if it. My office isn’t perfect, but I was so grateful for that.

  76. Meg*

    What an ass. I had to go to my CEO several months ago to explain why I was about to send him a PTO request for a full week off with less than a week’s notice, because my aunt was going downhill fast (pancreatic cancer is a bitch) and if I wanted to see her I had to go almost immediately. And all he said was of course, and that he was sorry. In the end I didn’t cry during that conversation, but I fully expected to as I had cried every time I told anyone else in my life what was happening. People have families, and lives, and none of us are robots immune to emotions.

    And frankly I think OP handled that way more professionally that I would have at that age, and throughout my early 20’s.

  77. West*

    I definitely cried at my office the day I got a call from my doctor to tell me I had breast cancer. Sometimes you’re human and terrible things happen and you cry. My manager gave me a ride home that afternoon and was extremely supportive. Don’t give this terrible manager a second thought.

  78. cry if you want to*

    Your manager was being an idiot – really it shows his emotional intelligence rather than yours. I have cried plenty of times at work, usually due to work stress. I constantly get feedback that I am “resilient”, becasue I get on with the work despite it, which sounds like exactly what you did. I really depends on your manager and in this situation you did nothing wrong!

  79. LogicalOne*

    It’s disgusting people exist that don’t understand when crisis’ happen to their staff. If my own boss did this to me, I would start looking for a new job, post bad reviews on Glassdoor, report them to my local newspaper, and anything that would highlight what a terrible boss I have. I am so sorry you had to deal with this. Not to assume but I am going to assume that they may be older, not get along with their family or not have family or just weren’t loved enough as a child? Am I in the ballpark? It’s unfortunate cold-hearted people like this exist and at your age, you are strong that you didn’t completely break down when telling your boss this. When my pet died last year, I couldn’t even muster enough strength to say it over the phone in my own home to my boss. Kudos to you! I hope that manager gets a nasty visit from the karma bus.

  80. MissDisplaced*

    Jeez what an ass!
    Given the circumstances of a beloved family member in a health crisis, it would be entirely normal to have your reaction. Most people would, unless you have a cold tiny Grinch heart.

    But what’s even assier is that this is the only instance he had. Seriously? Like ONE time that was more than a good reason to be upset.

  81. Ruthie*

    This is so not how it usually works! I have a coworker out of the office dealing with a family health crisis right now, and we absolutely are accommodating it. In fact, we’re all going out of our way to make sure she’s not looked into any emails. On top of it, more than one of us started crying when we learned about HER family emergency because it’s so devastating.

  82. LizM*

    Agree with others that OP didn’t do anything wrong.

    I also want to point out that she didn’t do anything wrong by checking her phone and making a personal call on a break (she mentions that this could have been prevented by not checking her phone). Life happens, and a good boss won’t expect you to be totally cut off from the outside world during the work day.

  83. Kitty*

    You handled the situation perfectly, especially for someone new to the working world! You acknowledged that you needed a moment to collect yourself, then continued on with the work. That’s exactly how or should be handled. That boss sounds like a complete a-hole. If he wants workers with zero emotions ever, he should hire robots.

    Also, it’s almost definitely related to gender and sexism. Often what men describe as “emotional” is people expressing sadness, which men are often taught to suppress, but they don’t see someone getting angry as being “emotional”, as it’s one of the socially acceptable ways for men to express themselves.

    I’d say you dodged a bullet here. This is not what good employers are like.

  84. Database Developer Dude*

    Can I take my bo-staff to the back of that boss’ head? Please? Who doesn’t cry when they think a beloved grandmother is about to die? What an ass.

  85. Sarah*

    OP, once– when I was out of college but still pretty new to the workforce– I was in a similar situation as you (family health issues confounding an already stressful work situation.) I bottled it up until I inevitably snapped at someone, got rightfully reprimanded, and had to do some real apologizing and soul-searching. That you recognized what was going on, and asked for time to collect yourself and come back, speaks so well to your composure, maturity, and professionalism. This boss is an ass.

  86. JM in England*

    At OldJob, my mam passed away a couple of months before my annual review. During this time, I dropped the ball and made a few serious errors whilst processing my grief; at the time, I thought throwing myself into my work would help but it didn’t. Come review time, I specifically asked my boss to make allowances for my bereavement re the serious errors. His response was “Shouldn’t you be getting over it by now?”. I really wanted to respond that the grieving process does not have a timetable but was too taken aback to say this at the time. After that, respect for my boss dropped to zero!

  87. Alton*

    Like pretty much everyone else has said, your reaction sounds very understandable, and your boss was a jerk.

    But I also wanted to say that I really don’t think you did anything wrong by checking your phone. Checking your phone while you’re on your lunch break is completely fine, and in many jobs, taking a short break because you notice a lot of missed calls and there might be an emergency is understandable.

  88. dedicated1776*

    I have cried at every professional job I’ve had (except for the current one because I’ve been here about 5 weeks). Sometimes it was because of work and sometimes it was personal stuff. It has always been fine whether I had a male or female manager because the vast majority of people are actually nice, decent people and understand that employees are humans. As a manager, the only time I’ve had trouble with an employee crying at work was a chronic crier–every time something didn’t go exactly perfectly or there was the slightest stress, she cried. At first it was unnerving, but after a few months I literally ignored it and just kept talking. It was basically a nervous tic. So, basically, OP, you’re normal and fine and did nothing wrong and that guy was a weirdo.

  89. SweetestCin*

    I’m going to call BS on his “you shouldn’t expect your firm to allow you to deal with your personal problems” or otherwise declaring you need to be a robot.

    The ONLY place that has ever given me one spec of fecal matter about missing something due to a family emergency/medical issue was a particular college professor. Not ironically, he completely fit the mold of “no idea of how the real world worked because he’d never worked outside of academia”. His issue was my refusal to come in during a design charette on a weekend – yes, that’s right, a weekend, so outside of class hours, of which we had TWELVE scheduled a week anyways – due to it being MY weekend to stay with my Gram. She was being treated outpatient for cancer, and lived on her own. All relatives split the duties, and I typically took two weekends a month, because being a college student, I didn’t have classes and that’s when I could wing it and pitch in for my family. He had an issue with this.

    Every other job, from summer intern to current, that I’ve held in a professional capacity? There’ve been variations of “why are you HERE/online?!” when I’ve popped in/online during a family emergency (answer – because things are boring/at a holding pattern/can’t do anything so I may as well occupy myself in downtime), “here, let me help you pack up your car” (when leaving a jobsite due to Grandpa’s crash during surgery), “I’m downstairs and I have bagels and coffee” (current supervisor on a Saturday morning when he’d heard we’d been taken by EMS to a local children’s hospital and he didn’t know what else to do but thought we might be hungry). Because somehow, as “rough” as my industry is – Construction, and we are pretty crass at times – I’ve managed to typically be employed by members of the human race with a shred of decency.

  90. Sinister Serina*

    FYI-this person is a jerk.
    My Dad dies last August. When I came back to work (after being out the week before he died and the week after) I was still emotional, even though it wasn’t unexpected and even though he had had a long (90!) and mostly good life. It was painful. And everyone I worked with, from the top person in the office, to my peers, to people below me on the totem pole, let me cry on their shoulder, literally. Everyone was so kind and i can’t tell you how much I appreciate it, even now.
    So yes, your boss is a jerk. Jeez, I hope he never needs any sympathy or empathy for a difficult situation.

  91. Penny*

    I sincerely hope your grandmother is doing better.

    Your Boss is a giant colossal jerk and totally in the wrong to criticize you for having an emotional response to a family crisis. As many others have said, I think its reasonable to have your phone on your desk or in your pocket in case of an emergency. I have watched my boss take calls from her daughters about where their field hockey equipment is, its okay. We have lives outside of work and its not unprofessional to acknowledge that.

    The only advice I could give would that when situations like this arise, tell your supervisor as soon as possible. I found out my grandmother died while I was at work and I immediately told my supervisor because I wanted to let her know for coverage purposes and so that I had a reason to be crying in the ladies room. Also I found out my dad had cancer at work and, well, I lost it. Like, full-on sobbing, having my knees go out from under me unable to speak for several minutes losing it. Fortunately, I was coming back from a meeting and was in a more private space when I got the call so my outburst was in a stairwell and was only witnessed by one other person. My boss was the first person I told and she was amazing. She put me in a room and told me I could go home if I wanted but she was more worried about me driving than anything else. Your colossal jerk of a boss could have thought you were lying about your grandmother to cover up an emotional response to a work performance issue. Nip that in the bud by telling them when situations arise. It might not change anything but could avoid confusion.

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