updates: the boss’s son who yells, the student who won’t take feedback, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. My boss’s son constantly yells at him in the office

First of all, I want to thank you for your incredible advice on dealing with my old boss and his son (yes, I said OLD boss!).

I did end up asking a few others in the office about the situation and everyone said pretty much the same thing — that’s just how it is. Everyone was too scared to stand up to the boss and his family so nobody had ever said anything (ever!!) and I was advised to just ignore it. So I did and it kept happening and along with a few other reasons, including but not limited to lack of work, my taking on receptionist duties when I was hired to do architectural work, and the fact that I just wasn’t happy and depression from work was sinking into my personal life, I decided to leave not long after I sent you the original letter. I decided that I deserved so much better and staying there meant that I was accepting into my life things that felt toxic and made me a worse version of myself. I’m creative and passionate and I need to feel needed at my work.

I had only worked there for less than 6 months so I didn’t leave lightly and I fortunately interviewed many places before I decided on a position that met my standards for company culture, dynamic, and could help me reach my career goals. It was really hard to trust another employee after I felt like I had been lied to and tricked at my last company but I couldn’t have made a better decision in more perfect timing.

When COVID-19 hit and things started getting shut down in my city, my new company provided me with a full at-home workstation and equipment to do my job, while my old company provided its employees with nothing to help them and some even got laid off. I’m extremely grateful to have such an amazing opportunity and circumstance in this scary time. I will definitely still lean on your advice to learn from the situation and use what happened there to aid me in future discourse in my new work environment.

2. A student isn’t addressing my feedback on her work (#2 at the link)

This particular student disagreed with a lot of the advice that I gave her. I tried my best to explain my advice by giving her examples in her writing and explaining why my suggestions would help to make her writing better. In some cases she agreed, and in some cases she just did not agree. At first I took it more personally than I should, because I do care about her learning and her improving at writing. However, I eventually realized that in cases where she may not agree with me, I’m not obligated to keep giving her examples or explaining myself. In the end, people do what they think is best, and her writing is her writing, after all.
Your advice and the readers’ advice did really help! I’ve since learned to stop taking disagreements personally, and to be better about providing feedback in a way that teaches but does not offend. I think that like writing, providing feedback is a learning process, and I’m going to keep working on getting better.

3. I don’t want to eat all my meals with my coworker when we travel together (#2 at the link)

The big twist was that Jane wound up bringing along a young woman that she was mentoring. At the end of the first day, I told both of them I was tired so my plans were to pick up food across the street and head to my room. I offered to bring them food back if they wanted but said otherwise they were on their own. Their response was… odd. A rushed response of how neither of them were planning on eating but both had their separate plans and would be fine. Ok, not my business, I was glad to be out of it.

The next morning was more oddness. The mentee joined me first and started telling me about her evening and then seemed to slip and mention that they had gone to dinner together. Ok, I still don’t care. But then Jane showed up and it was this stammering mess as she tried to pass off the dinner comment as a mistake and nothing really happened but they did wind up bumping into each other and it was just a quick bite… It was incredibly awkward! I didn’t mind the dinner at all but was uncomfortable at the obvious lying.

They spent most of the rest of the week together which made it easy to excuse myself. We did go out for Happy Hour one night and I considered that my obligation completed. Moving back to the office I’ve just been trying to distance myself from Jane as much as possible to avoid the drama and now everybody is working from home! We’ll be moving to different office locations soon and I hope that’s the end of it.

{ 161 comments… read them below }

  1. MissGirl*

    My first thought when reading about Jane bringing a young “mentee” on a work trip was, huh, that doesn’t sound above board. Upon finishing the letter, I seem to be right.

    1. Tina*

      I think it was aboveboard, but Jane doesn’t know how to directly state things like “Mentee and I have dinner plans to talk about her career goals/XYZ, thanks anyway!”

      1. Laney Delaney*

        Agreed. I took this as LW and Jane have completely different communication needs/styles, and both are equally at loss as how to make the other person feel comfortable (LWs “Jane overcommunicates/socializes how do I get distance/time to decompress without offending?” versus Jane perhaps feeling like “we left LW out and we had a great time, we don’t want her to suffer from FOMO or feel ostracized ”
        At the base are different people who don’t want to hurt feelings even if they don’t understand the other person’s preferences.

        1. Observer*

          Except that the OP was the one who said that she doesn’t want to go out with them….

          1. Jdc*

            Exactly. It doesn’t matter what the communication style is when there was zero to communicate. Frankly if someone brought someone else to a work function I’d just assume they’d eat together.

          2. Alone Time*

            Doesn’t matter. I have multiple friends who I’ve told yeat after year I like my holidays alone time and they STILL nag me every year to come because they dont believe what I said is possible.

            1. A*

              But how could you POSSIBLY know yourself better than other people? /s

              Your friend sound both well-intentioned and annoying.

            2. Jdc*

              Ugh. Seriously why?? It drives me nuts when people just refuse to take what you say at face value. Offering the invite is fine but if i say no it’s no.

          3. Laney Delaney*

            My point was that LW originally wrote in to get advice on how to best address her need to NOT have to eat with Jane. LE obviously wants to say that in the right way – without hurting janes feelings unnecessarily. She didn’t want to say the wrong thing. Her follow up seemed to be Jane trying to avoid hurting LWs feelings.

        2. Ego Chamber*

          versus Jane perhaps feeling like “we left LW out and we had a great time, we don’t want her to suffer from FOMO or feel ostracized ”

          Lol based on the letter, LW wasn’t interested in having a threesome so I’m confused by this interpretation?

          1. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

            Some people just 100% can’t believe that others like to be alone sometimes, and think all assurances thereof are mere politeness.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Yes this. When my in-laws came to stay with us for the first time, it was a big deal, because my partner had fled his country and applied for political asylum here. The entire refugee community had to come and pay their respects to his parents, and we had like 20 people over for dinner every night (on top of going to work FT). One night I said I needed some peace and quiet, so please have dinner over at your brother’s place instead. MIL insisted on staying with me because needing peace and quiet obviously meant I was sick if not on my deathbed because how could anyone normal WANT to be alone.
              I love them dearly but boy am I glad they live several thousand miles away.

      2. Quill*

        “This is for just us, but I don’t want you to know that because that’s excluding you!”

    2. AngryAngryAlice*

      +1 trillion

      I cannot imagine anything else making sense in that scenario other than there being some kind of close relationship (romantic OR platonic) outside of their professional real to I ship that they didn’t want to reveal because of… reasons. It definitely sounds like they’re dating to me, but who knows? Whatever it is, their behavior is beyond bizarre.

    3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I wonder if Jane and the mentee had already had plans to try to “sneak off” to dinner without OP for whatever reason, and then had trouble figuring out which parts of their story to stick to once OP interrupted their planned script by announcing she didn’t want to go to dinner in the first place.

      It’s like if you have an elaborate plan to sneak out of your parents’ house late at night as a college student home for summer break, and then they announce they’re going away for the night but have left you some pizza money and will probably be back by noon the next day.

      1. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

        That’s exactly what this sounds like to me. A bit childish on their end, but at least they wanted to avoid hurting the LW’s feelings.

      2. Grey Coder*

        Yep, I can just hear the “tee hee let’s ditch OP and have fun” plotting and the resulting confusion when the plot was not required.

        1. Erstwhile Lurker*

          Haha, I quite like this version of events with it’s sub plots, betrayals and machiavellian twists.

          1. Erstwhile Lurker*

            Me too, Jane sounds overdramatic, the whole thing should have been a non-issue.

        2. chi type*

          Yeah this seems more likely to me than the “Jane and mentee are having a torrid affair theory”.

    4. Jdc*

      Ya something is off there. Especially with the weirdest about a dinner that LW specifically said she wasn’t wanting to attend anyway. No reason to be secretive about it when she didn’t want to even go.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        They may have thought she would change her mind if she found out they had plans to go somewhere wonderful.

    1. juliebulie*

      Dunno. At first I thought the same, but then I thought, if that were the case, they would probably have done a better job of synchronizing their stories.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        Nah, you;d think people would be smart that way, but they rarely are. Especially in situations where they are, or think they are, going to get into trouble.

    2. Nini*

      It reads more to me like they were trying to avoid mentioning that they’d gone out without OP, to not make OP feel left out. Not a worry here, of course, since OP wanted to be left out! But if OP then kept distancing from Jane when they didn’t previously, I could see that making Jane feel like OP was upset at being left out… (a lot of drama over dinner, to be sure!)

      Or possibly OP became the topic of conversation when Jane and the mentee had dinner, so they both wanted to avoid questions about it. Lots of conclusions to draw there before I’d go with something romantic having taken place.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Yeah, I didn’t get the romantic vibe either. Based on OP’s previous letter, Jane also doesn’t strike me as someone to get all romantic with a young female mentee while being married with kids. My money is “Jane thought OP would feel left out, and also kind of thought that it was exciting, because it made Jane and mentee seem like the clique of cool kids”.

        1. TechWorker*

          I checked the previous letter and there was mention of kids but no marriage… it seems a bit strange to determine from that info that she’s ‘not the type’ to have a fling with a coworker :p

          (Lots of people date coworkers, including inappropriately, and including when they have kids *shrugs*, I doubt you’d decisively conclude a man in the same situation couldn’t possibly be in a romantic relationship…)

          1. OP3*

            They are both married to men but I agree, that doesn’t rule anything out.

            My bigger concern would be the huge power differential (details I don’t want to go into here). Either it would be a D/s relationship that’s spilling way too far into work or I’d have concerns about consent on the mentee’s behalf.

            I’m going to leave that alone because first, I really don’t get that vibe at all. More importantly though, from conversations we have had, Mentee seems to have an amazing family support structure around her and if something is going on, they’d be in a lot better position to support her than a random person she occasionally meets on a professional basis.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Thank you for commenting and correcting, it’s very helpful to know that the awkwardness you mentioned in the letter didn’t seem sexual.

              Does the mentee work with you and Jane? If she’s not at the same company, I don’t think their relationship/friendship/whatever would automatically be exploitative/unethical/etc (but of course you know your industry and if it’s very very small and network-focused, I understand your point).

              Sounds like maybe they just really did have a good time without you and imagined you’d take that personally for some reason? I’ve known people like that but it’s a really middle school mentality and I don’t get it, hope everything goes okay from here on!

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Didn’t think I’d have to elaborate, but Jane just didn’t give off the vibe in the previous letter of someone looking for some strange. She gave off a vibe of someone wanting to socialize with coworkers a lot, and gossip a lot.

            1. Julia*

              Why can’t she be both, though? Someone who likes to hang out with co-workers, and (maybe because of that) also ended up having a close relationship (in whichever way) with someone from work.

            2. Ego Chamber*

              It’s weird because Jane brought the mentee with her on the work trip without mentioning it first and then they lied about their plans and had different stories after spending time together. Those are all the classic signs of people banging in secret and we’re sort of programmed by society to notice things like that—especially at work because nothing makes the day fly by like speculating about coworker’s interpersonal relationships, the more outlandish the better.

              If 1) Jane had mentioned to LW that she was bringing a +1 prior to their meeting, 2) Jane and mentee didn’t lie about planning to stay in their rooms or 3) argue about their story the next day, this would have been less weird.

        1. designbot*

          Same. I initially read it as that they’d spent the night together, but then realized that wow, that’s exactly why you don’t want to handle things like this so poorly, because people will seriously get the wrong idea when you dance around something that’s actually completely normal. Their awkwardness created a thing where there didn’t need to be one!

      2. KayDeeAye*

        Yes, I agree. Something clearly made it oh, so awkward…but people can get awkward about all sorts of stuff. A romance is certainly one possibility, but so is Jane and the mentee having dinner together but then working themselves into a lather over “Oh, nooooo – OP will be so hurt!” I don’t think most people would be hurt nor do I think they should be hurt – even coworkers attending a meeting in a strange city are allowed to do individual things – but that doesn’t mean Jane and the mentee see it that way. I’ve known lots of people who are thin-skinned on these kinds of issues *and* assume everyone else is, too.

        I like your “topic of conversation” scenario too, Nini – that’s another definite possibility.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          This letter amuses me because it reminds me of my family. My mom will call complaining that she doesn’t want to do X with my sister but has to because my sister would be s0o hurt if she didn’t. Five minutes later my sister will call wishing she could get out of doing X but can’t stand to hurt my mom. Usually they go all the way through with it.

          You didn’t want to socialize with Jane and it tuns out Jane had other plans. It’s a win win, but somehow it feels awkward and bad haha. Classic Kittering Family hijinks.

      3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        I said the same thing below, and would like to add…thinking this way is how rumors and gossip get started. There is no indication in the letter of a romantic thing happening.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          As someone who’s had these rumors started about me in my younger days, I am absolutely not a fan of them.

          And let’s face it, the discussions on here about whether Jane and Mentee had some bedtime fun or not, would not be happening if they were both men. Ah, a one-on-one business dinner, got it. But once there’s at least one woman involved, it’s got to be about sex. Nope. It is unprofessional to jump straight to that assumption. Even Jane does not deserve it. The mentee does not deserve it AT ALL.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            Idk, I kinda think the opposite, that if the genders were reversed that the dating/ intimate relationship rumors might be more of a thing. I agree with you that if two men had just been forthright and said we grabbed dinner and talked about business stuff no one would bat an eye. But if two men seemed to be sneaking around just to try and have dinner together it would lead people to being a relationship, because “two straight men can’t possibly have an intimate but platonic relationship where they just enjoy each others company.” /s

            I do think that based on the info we have from Jane, she is the type of person who would feel hurt excluded if two people on a work trip wanted to eat dinner and/or hangout with out her. So when Jane wanted to eat and spend time with her mentee one on one, Jane was worried that OP would be upset so they planned not to tell OP about it. Once the mentee slipped up they were scrambling

      4. Rexish*

        My initial instinct was that they are somehow involved. And the as an after thought realized that it could be that they just didn’t want LW to join. Clearly the lack of drama due to CV19 is getting to me.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I didn’t get that all. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, but the letter makes me think they didn’t want OP to think they were leaving her out of their dinner plans.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Nah, I read it as two women who didn’t want to invite another one along. Maybe they wanted to get rip roaring drunk together and knew each other well enough that was cool but didn’t think the OP would be down.

      Said the person who used to be awkward AF like that and absolutely wasn’t hooking up with anyone LOL.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Maybe they wanted to get rip roaring drunk together

        Huh, without other context, that seems like a more likely explanation of why Jane and Mentee were awkward with OP the next day: They didn’t want to open up the possibility of letting it slip they were out partying.

        But my favorite interpretation is @Daughter of Ada and Grace’s.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Or I can also imagine them out catting at the bar they “ran into” each other at *steeples fingers*

          But honestly, they were probably just weird about not wanting to invite the OP because they wanted to bond more, given their mentoring status.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        This makes sense.

        Side note: Isn’t it just the worst when you have a whole script worked out with another person for what you’re both doing that night—which is definitely not going to the bar together and getting white-girl-wasted—but everyone you try to tell it to cuts you off like “Okay cool” and all you managed to get out was “I dunno guys I think I’m staying in tonight.” ;P

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Yup. In my early college days a bunch of us went on a trip together, and one of the more conservative christian girls was explaining to us why she and her boyfriend decided to go back to the hotel to take a nap, but it totally wasn’t anything. We were all like “ok, cool,” and she kept on being like “no, but you see we really did need to nap,” and finally I just had to go “look, we really don’t care.”

  2. Tina*

    Jane sounds frustrating to be around. I think that she may be one of those people who incorrectly thinks that being “direct” is the same as being “rude.” She didn’t know how to deal with it when you directly stated your plans, and she didn’t know how to directly state her own. She also builds up things that should be simple “conversations” into “confrontations” in her own head.

      1. Never Sleeping Beauty*

        A lot of people seem to be reading this as a romantic relationship, but it seems more likely based on what you’ve said that she has decided you would be offended at her going to dinner without you (because she would) and built you up to the mentee as such.

        1. Amity*

          Sometimes people don’t want to socialize with coworkers (and that’s fine!), but when other people from work get together after hours, they’re upset they weren’t invited. They want to be the one to say “no.” Maybe that’s what Jane was thinking? Not saying OP is that person! It seems like everything worked out fairly well despite the awkwardness. Enjoy the new office location OP!

  3. Ann O'Nemity*

    #3 does sound like a weird update! Do you think something was going on romantically between Jane and the mentee? That was my first read, but I guess it’s also possible that they didn’t want OP to feel excluded and were weirdly awkward about it.

    1. Legal Beagle*

      I read it as awkwardness, that they thought OP would feel left out and be offended. But still! No matter the reason, it’s very poor judgment for a mentor to tell a mentee to lie to a colleague about an interaction with the mentor.

    2. OP3*

      OP 3 here! I think it’s just a case of more drama. There is a lot of conversation with Jane about who is “in” and who is “out” at a given moment. I think she probably trying to snub me without really snubbing me but titillated by the idea that was what she was doing, if that makes sense. I get 0 romantic vibes from them but it’s an interesting thought that never occured to me!

      1. juliebulie*

        I don’t think I could make it through an entire meal with someone like Jane if she’s going to be talking about “who’s in” and “who’s out.”

        1. AMT*

          I have worked with people like that and it’s absolute hell. One coworker made sure that the coworker she disliked wasn’t invited to any dinners given by a vendor — and made absolutely sure that I knew that this coworker wasn’t invited, and that she was the gatekeeper of these dinners, and that *I* was invited because she liked me. Shudder.

      2. Mama Bear*

        Perhaps your refusal to be offended/feed the drama took her aback? Either way I hope you get a reprieve from all this for a while – sounds like you won’t be working closely together in the future.

      3. PollyQ*

        Wow, is Jane in middle school? It’s bizarre to me that adults still think this way.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I worked at a place like this, and have been “in” and “out” at different times with different groups. Most of the people participating in the dynamic were in their 30s-early 40s. Sadly it is overly optimistic to assume that everyone outgrows middle school. A surprising number of people doesn’t.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Around here, those people usually go work at the call center where their childish mentality can be encouraged and used to play them off of each other for the benefit of their corporate overlords.

            Any other industries where this is super common that I should definitely avoid?

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Oddly enough, mine was in an IT department, in almost-all-male groups of software developers.

              My impression was that those guys had missed out on being the cool kids in school (so did I, but I caught up in college and they, I guess, had not), and they wanted to make up for the missed high-school experiences and play at being a group of cool kids. There even was an uncool kid they lowkey bullied. He was 40 and a married man with kids. I didn’t even like the guy, but I thought they were being obnoxious. At least the management were adults and didn’t care.

      4. Observer*


        My first thought was also something like romantic or other involvement, but I can see what you are describing. DEFINITELY a drama lama. I think you are wise to stay away.

      5. Arctic*

        Well, I trust you to a read a room. But reading that I thought “no way Jane and mentee aren’t hooking up.”

        Before I was fully out at work I traveled with lots of mentees! (Wait… no, no that sounds horrible. I have brought entirely age appropriate romantic partners with whom I wasn’t working with or in any imbalanced power relationship with on trips. That’s somewhat less quipy.)

      6. Ego Chamber*

        Omgwtf. No wonder you didn’t want to go to dinner with her every night for the whole trip jfc. O_o

    3. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I also read awkwardness, with a side of drama. OP3 failed to want to join Jane + Mentee for dinner, then failed to care that Jane + Mentee had dinner together (despite announced plans that they were totally not going to do that). Jane had all this Drama ready to go, and OP3 didn’t show up as the audience.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Oh, I like this one. What do you do when you’re all prepared for Dramatic Confrontation…and the audience fails to show up or care???? I’m not surprised Jane was reduced to babbling.

        1. Annie*

          Honestly the only person causing drama is the OP.

          I realise on AAM, it’s commonplace for people to find the tiniest social interaction a grievous burden, but in the real world people who so obviously struggle with social interaction make neurotypical people nervous and uncomfortable. It sounds like Jane was bewildered by not knowing how to deal with someone who can’t handle social interaction, and felt awkward about it.

          1. Catherine Tilney*

            Why do you say she can’t handle social interaction? All she wanted to do was not eat dinner with them every night. She seems to have handled it in a normal way; Jane was the one stumbling around.

          2. Aquawoman*

            Neurotypical does not mean extraverted. Needing quiet time does not mean you don’t know how to interact with people.
            Also, it’s not ok to treat nonneurotypical people badly and I live in a “real world” where people manage to be decent. If you wouldn’t say it about other disabilities, it’s not ok to say about neurological disabilities.
            “in the real world people who so obviously struggle with [walking] make [nondisabled] people nervous and uncomfortable.”
            “in the real world people who so obviously struggle with [cancer] make people [without cancer] nervous and uncomfortable.”

            1. Quill*

              In the real world I find inventive ways to get revenge on people who dismiss disabilities and neurodivergence as people who shouldn’t get accommodations because “they won’t in the real world.”

              This usually involves things like telling them I can’t do them a favor because I haven’t done it for everyone else, etc.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            What on earth? There’s nothing to indicate this. She wanted to be able to have time to herself once the workday was over, that’s it. Lots of people want that without struggling with social interaction (!).

          4. KoiFeeder*

            1) There is no indication of this.
            2) Even if there was indication of this, as a professional autism, neurotypical people can get over themselves. My social bandwidth is not a personal attack against neurotypicals.

          5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Hahaha, no, in the real world, “not wanting to be joined at the hip for the entire trip with a gossipy coworker” =/= “someone who can’t handle social interaction”.

          6. RagingADHD*

            Did you read the original letter?

            OP was perfectly happy to socialize sometimes. But on past trips, Jane insisted on spending every.single.spare.minute together for an entire week, which is exhausting to any average person.

            Jane was the one being very much out of line with norms.

          7. Ego Chamber*

            “people who so obviously struggle with social interaction make neurotypical people nervous and uncomfortable.”

            I don’t like what I think you’re implying here? Big yikes if this wasn’t poorly phrased on your part.

          8. allathian*

            Have you read the original letter? Jane wanted to spend every waking moment with the OP even after the business day was over. It’s completely normal even on business trips to take time for yourself. Doesn’t make anyone antisocial and certainly not the OP.
            I’m an introvert although most of my coworkers would probably be surprised. I’m pretty good at faking it at work and I do enjoy chatting with my coworkers on lunch and coffee breaks when we’re at the office. Even about quite personal stuff.
            But that doesn’t mean that I’m interested in spending any of my leisure time with them. I don’t travel a lot for work, but when I do, my leisure time is my own. Oh, I’ll go to dinner with my coworkers rather than eat alone and I might go out for a drink or two after work on a business trip, but that’s it. I haven’t attended the company Christmas party for years, because it usually conflicts with my son’s year-end event at school. But I’m also sort of glad to have the excuse. Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely no pressure from my employer or boss to attend these things, but it’s just mentally easier to have something else that is a higher priority for me.

          9. Queer Earthling*

            people who so obviously struggle with social interaction make neurotypical people nervous and uncomfortable

            Funny, neurotypical people often make me nervous and uncomfortable without caring in the slightest about my feelings.

      2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Jane had all this Drama ready to go, and OP3 didn’t show up as the audience.

        This is my favorite interpretation of the situation.

  4. hbc*

    OP3: In most cases, the mentee would be the perfect out! OP gets to go off to blissful solitude, and Jane doesn’t have to spend the evening alone. Win win! But Jane seems to be projecting since *she* would be hurt if she was eating takeout solo while her colleagues dined together, which spawned all kinds of awkwardness.

    I empathize so hard with the annoyance when someone is obviously trying to dance around feelings you don’t actually have–you can’t be all “Stop making it weird, I don’t even care, and anyway I ditched you first!”

    1. Sparrow*

      I hadn’t thought about it that way, but projecting does seem likely. I definitely worked with someone who would’ve had exactly that mentality. In fact, I’d forgotten about an exchange we had a conference once that was awkward for similar “I have plans that don’t involve you but I feel bad that I’m not involving you and I don’t believe you when you say you’re happy on your own,” reasons.

  5. Batgirl*

    Jane reminds me of my cousin who not only is very extroverted she just can’t wrap her head around introversion, particularly when food is involved. No matter how many times I explained it, she ‘had’ to rescue someone who is happy to eat alone publicly. This is when we worked somewhere with a central restaurant. If the person is not much fun for her to eat with (because actually, they wanted to be alone) then she agonises over the rudeness of not inviting them to eat with her the second or third time. If I say ‘It’s not rude, they’ve said they’re fine’, she starts plotting ways to improve them or socialise them. Even a good, usually sensible friend told me recently that shes been trying to introduce her introverted husband to random potential dad friends in the park. She was very surprised I was so aghast.

    1. Kes*

      Yeah, assuming this wasn’t a romantic thing (which, I won’t lie, was the first impression from reading that), it sounds like Jane just assumes everyone else thinks the same way she does and wants the same things. She wants to always be socializing with others and would feel bad if other people were having dinner without her, so she thinks they should avoid mentioning the dinner to OP so as to not make OP feel bad. This is probably continued by OP avoiding most socializing with them, which could easily be read by Jane as OP being upset at being excluded, rather than OP not wanting as much socialization (which is a possibility Jane wouldn’t even consider because she herself always wants to be included and socializing).

      1. Annie*

        Exactly. Most people (at least, most neurotypical people) would find that hurtful, because basic social norms dictate that it’s rude to exclude people.

        1. Ray Gillette*

          You are being really weird about this. Wanting some downtime on a multi-day business trip is normal and not indicative of social issues or being on the autism spectrum.

          1. nott the brave*

            Just an aside, but I think it worth mentioning: “neurodiversity” is not just a fancy synonym for autism/those on the spectrum. Depression, anxiety, ADHD, and many other neurological disorders can be responsible for non-neurotypical behavior or norms.

            Your message is spot-on, I simply found myself heat tilting at the way you rephrased their argument.

            1. Ray Gillette*

              In this case I’m referring to what the commenter is pretty clearly implying (in the comment I replied to as well as others), but in general I agree with you. I’ve got a few of those conditions myself so I’m well aware that not autistic doesn’t mean neurotypical.

        2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          Yes, basic SOCIAL norms do dictate this. But that doesn’t take into account two things:
          1) OP3 opted out of dinner before anyone else announced plans, so it’s not rude for everyone else to make plans around that. (Even if it seems like Jane + Mentee may have thought it was. Their attempt not to mention they’d had dinner together feels a little like “don’t talk about the party to people who weren’t invited”.)
          2) This is a work trip, not a birthday party/wedding/backyard bbq/other social event. Different occasions have different etiquette

        3. KoiFeeder*

          Oh, that’s not even remotely true. I got locked in a closet for field trips because “basic social norms” mean that the autistic kid has to be isolated to avoid contaminating the nice, normal kids.

          That’s a pretty extreme example, but I don’t want to go through my life for more mundane examples of being excluded by or kept away from my non-autistic peers and risk having other people explain to me why that was actually the right thing to do, so it’s the extreme example for you.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Honestly, it was unintentionally a good thing. I overwhelm pretty easily, and field trips were always to places like the amusement park so they usually resulted in me huddled on a bench near the ice cream vendor nearest to the meetup area, trying not to throw up from sensory overload. And dealing with my classmates was hard enough for me without being trapped on a bus with them for hours. For the closet, I could just smuggle in a flashlight and a book and I was set- much better than six flags!

              The teacher’s intentions were unilaterally horrible and I feel confident in saying that she was genuinely an awful person, but the closet wasn’t actually traumatic or anything.

        4. biobotb*

          But the OP explicitly didn’t want to be included in dinner, so there should be no reason for Jane to assume she feels hurt by being excluded. Also, why do you keep bringing up “neurotypical” people as if they all want the same thing and act the same way, or as if you have any idea whether OP is atypical (hint: you don’t).

        5. Ego Chamber*

          “Most people (at least, most neurotypical people) would find that hurtful,”

          No. Also, weird ax to grind conflating “neurotypical” and “childlike need for constant attention all the time.”

        6. Harper the Other One*

          Basic social norms dictate that it’s rude to obvious exclude people. They also dictate that it’s rude to FORCE unwanted interaction. If you say “want to join us for coffee?” And I say “No thanks, but enjoy!” that is a perfectly polite interaction on both sides.

          Also, you need to do a little examination of your attitude to neuroatypical people. For one, as nott the brave points out, it means much more than just autism spectrum disorder. But for another, there are PLENTY of highly social autistic people (my daughter is one) and PLENTY of introverted neurotypical people (that would be me.)

    2. Senor Montoya*

      Check out Stephan Pastis, Pearls before swine, May 3rd strip:

      www DOT gocomics DOT com SLASH pearlsbeforeswine SLASH 2020 SLASH 05 SLASH 03

      1. KoiFeeder*

        This is why it’s important for people who dislike parties to cultivate interests in unusual things, like caddisfly art. No one will ever invite you again!

        (This is probably bad life advice, but caddisfly art is very cool and people don’t appreciate it enough.)

    3. topscallop*

      Jane sounds like my old boss, and your comment made me think of this too because for her, food and socializing were part of a package deal. I can’t remember if I commented on the initial post, but when we would travel together, she always wanted to eat together. She considers herself a major foodie and is an extrovert and external processor, who assumed we would go to a new restaurant together every night, eat every meal together, and I couldn’t say no without her pouting. One time I even had food poisoning and literally could not leave my hotel room. She had another colleague to go with, but she wanted me to go too because the other colleague was a conversation monopolizer. That was one of the only times I put my foot down and refused to go.

      1. Batgirl*

        That’s super crazy. I think it is a kindness if your companion struggles to eat alone, to throw them a bone occasionally but expecting an ill person to soldier on regardless …. that’s nuts.

      2. Annie*

        Obviously the pressuring you while sick is totally insane and rude (and an abuse of power), but if I travelled with someone I would assume we’d eat out together pretty much every night, and would be baffled at anyone not wanting that. Certainly I and everyone I know would take that for granted.

        1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          Your experience is not universal. The last time I traveled for work, I was at a conference for three days, plus a day of travel on either end. On non-travel days, I saw my co-worker exactly once, mostly by coincidence.

          When I traveled to attend a training session, I saw the co-worker I was with more often, because we were taking the same training. We only had dinner together on our travel days. We had some lunches together, because it was a small class and we would eat lunch with our classmates – but not always the same classmates.

          The thing to keep in mind is that these were not social trips. We weren’t there to visit Aunt Murgatroyd or Cousin Alberto or former roommate Faustus, or any other situation where host-guest etiquette would be involved. We were working, and when the work day was done, so were we.

        2. Ferret*

          Whereas to me this is a bizarre take – and in normal times my jobs means i’ll be travelling/on client site most weeknights it is very very normal for people to just go eat on their own/have a quiet meal in their rooms. You’ve stated several times that that LW was being extremely anti-social (and keep throwing in neuro-atypical) but from where I’m sitting the assumption that you want to spend your entire evening with people who you are already working with the entire day is weird.

          Is travel very unusual in your job?

          1. Ferret*

            I mean – if you got a taxi from the hotel at 8, carried on working in the client office until 5:30 and got back to the hotel at 6 or later ( a very normal schedule) you’d be *baffled* at the idea someone might not want to spend the rest of the evening hanging out rather than just watching tv or reading a book (as they would if they were at home) ?

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Someone up above brought up the idea of “external processor” and maybe that’s it more than extro v introverts?

              If someone literally has to debrief with another person about the meeting/training they were at in order to fully grasp what they just learned, they’re probably going to be frustrated at the suggestion that they watch tv or read a book since they’re not done processing work stuff yet. The tv and/or book people don’t have to talk it through, so they want to do something else.

              See: whether you talk about work when you get home or just want to be quiet for a while.

          2. Sparrow*

            Travel is unusual in my field – I go on maybe one business trip per year – but I wouldn’t be thrilled if someone expected to eat every meal together. If I still had social energy at the end of the day, maybe dinner together before alone time, but that’s by no means a guarantee and odds are high I’ll just want to sequester myself. I’m an introvert. Recharge time is a necessity and is, in fact, quite normal.

          3. LJay*


            Some of my team are 100% travel. I’m supposed to be 50-70% but I’ve been on the road more than that recently.

            Meals together tend to be the exception rather than the rule, and definitely not the default assumption.

            When you’re seeing people for hours a day, days on end, the last thing you want to do is spend more time with them. Plus people have different interests, different plans, etc.

            There are some circumstances where we eat together more often than not. (Like if we’re out of the country and want to share different experiences together, or in a small town where there are only a couple of spots to eat at all, or if we’re celebrating the end of a project, or are so busy that we all really need to start our meal and end our meal at the same time).

            And honestly generally we’re a lot more likely to all get lunch together than dinner since with lunch you’re already out, already around them anyway. Some days when I get back to my hotel room after work there’s no way I’m leaving it again until the next morning.

        3. Jennifer Strange*

          I’ve attended a week-long conference for work four times with varying numbers of co-workers (anywhere from 1 to 9) and I never attended one where we ate dinner together every night (usually one or two at the most). On top of wanting to do your own thing for whatever reason (decompress, see the sights, etc.) these things can have networking opportunities that may be relevant to you but not to your coworkers (like if you’re in different departments) and it wouldn’t make sense for you to try and stick together the entire time.

        4. Observer*

          Well, that doesn’t make it THE NORM for “everyone who is neuro-typical”.

          In fact it is very, very normal for people to not be especially interested in eating every meal with the people they’ve been with all day, especially if it’s been a long day. And a lot of perfectly healthy people actively do not want to. Please don’t keep on insisting that since YOU would do it that way, that that is THE NORMAL way to do it and that anyone who doesn’t want to do it that way is probably neuro-atypical and / or suffering some sort of social malady, as well as violating “basic social norms.”

        5. Two Dog Night*

          When I used to travel with coworkers, we’d be together all day, every day, and we usually couldn’t wait to go off by ourselves in the evening. If that’s not the case for you, great, but please don’t assume everyone is like you.

          (And I was traveling with salespeople–we were all extroverts. And we still didn’t want to be around each other all our waking hours.)

          1. TechWorker*

            Oh interesting. I could see this could make it different – when I’ve travelled with coworkers we’re usually representing our respective teams as part of a wider project, so we’ll barely interact during the day. Hanging out together in the evening to debrief and see a friendly face therefore isn’t that weird – but I can see not hanging out with the person you’ve already been talking to all day.

          2. allathian*

            Your parenthesis is great. Extroverts may not literally need as much alone time to recharge as introverts do, but that doesn’t mean they want to hang out with the same people after work.
            But what did you do, when you “went off by yourself” in the evening? Did you go to a bar for a drink alone and maybe a chat with a stranger, or did you go to your hotel room to watch TV or read, which is something I as an introvert would do?

            1. Sloan Kittering*

              Also just because someone is extroverted in general doesn’t mean they … like everyone! You can absolutely be extroverted and still find your coworkers annoying, or at least be sick of them after 8 hours.

            2. Two Dog Night*

              Usually I’d exercise right after work, then take myself out to dinner–I’ve never minded eating in restaurants by myself–then maybe look for a used bookstore if I had a car or was in a walkable area. Sometimes I’d chat with people, but in that job my travel days were pretty much 9 hours of constantly interacting with people, so being alone in the evening wasn’t a problem.

        6. Golden Rod*

          That’s a really odd perspective. This isn’t a social event, it’s business.

          Have you ever taken a trip like this for work? It sounds very much as if you haven’t, and you are trying to apply “travelling together for fun” social mores to a very different milieu where they just don’t work. Otherwise all your comments on this make you sound really weird about this!

          1. Sparrow*

            I actually don’t like to be stuck with the same people all the time when traveling for fun reasons, either! This is why I often (or used to…) travel solo, and I’m pretty much only interested in traveling with someone who also doesn’t feel compelled to stick with their travel companions 24/7, which generally means going with other people who like solo travel. And none of these things make me/them anti-social!

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I bet that’s what it is. Annie said “if I travelled with someone”. She did not say “for work”. She’s either thinking about it in terms of a social trip, or work trips are a very rare occasion at her workplace and people maybe look at it as fun trips. I cannot imagine someone whose work is 50% or more travel (as some of my friends do) wanting to socialize every evening after work with the same coworkers they have just spent a full day working with (and possibly also breakfast and commute together to the work site, if they share a car). I mean, if “all neurotypical people are like that”, then why doesn’t everyone rush out for dinner with coworkers every day after work is done when they are not traveling?

        7. TechWorker*

          I do wonder how wide ‘everyone you know’ is here :p

          At my company I travel pretty infrequently and yea, I have eaten with my coworker most/nearly all nights (not always though, there were times when we wanted downtime & it would have been totally fine for either of us to say so!).

          I do think at my company there is probably the expectation you will socialise at least a bit, we’re quite young as a company and travel is always to different timezones so it can get lonely (eg you won’t often be able to talk to family/partner much). So someone who wants to eat by themselves every day would be out of the norm… but I understand that’s not every company and I think especially if travel were more frequent that expectation would be there less!

        8. Ann Perkins*

          I’m not even introverted and would be upset if this sort of expectation were laid on me. When I travel with coworkers, there’s typically a blend – some people eat together, some don’t, some might have plans with other colleagues in that city, or whatever. If I’m traveling with just one person, that probably means we’re together all day and I really don’t need to extend that into the evening also. I’d be annoyed if somebody thought I was automatically their personal evening entertainment.

        9. Eukomos*

          Going to the same work event with coworkers isn’t the same as like, vacationing with a friend or something. Even when I go to conferences with coworkers who are close friends we don’t eat together every single night, often someone has an evening work commitment or is eating with another friend. Do you travel for work often?

        10. biobotb*

          “Certainly I and everyone I know would take that for granted.”
          Huh, seems like you have a very limited friend group if that’s true.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Everyone tho. Literally every single one. They all agree with Annie and said it’s the right take, comment it on every thread related to letter #3 because this majority opinion somehow isn’t known here and we’re obviously the ones who are wrong.

        11. Pennalynn Lott*

          This is 100% the direct opposite of my experience. And I used to travel as part of a 2- to -5-person sales team all over the country.

          One night in the other city and we get to the hotel within an hour or so of dinnertime? No dinner.

          One night and we get there early enough to unpack? Sure, dinner.

          Two nights? Dinner only on one of the nights.

          Three nights? Dinner on only one of the nights.


          They’re not my friends. They’re my co-workers. I don’t normally eat dinner with them. Why would that change just because we’re on the road?

        12. Elizabeth West*

          I would eat meals together if I were with a romantic partner, but a coworker? Hell no; not every damn night. If I’m traveling for work, I just want to veg in the evening.

        13. Erstwhile Lurker*

          Annie, as an introvert, I would say that eating out most nights regardless of the introvert/extrovert personality split would be what i’d expect as well, however, the situation as the OP sees it is that she has had her fill of listening to constant complaints.

          Its not that extroverts drain us, its overbearing ones that do, and i’m sure that this is the case even for fellow extroverts in the company of these more extreme personality types as well.

          For the neurotypical comment above, I don’t want to pile on as I don’t think you intended to offend, but people tend to assume that their communication style should be the default, introverts do it too. Neither can be counted as neurotypical because the spilt is either 50:50, or swayed in favour of extroverts by the fact that introverts are pressured to change their natural inclinations and become more outgoing.

          1. Sparrow*

            Yes, I strongly suspect anyone with this mentality has ended up hanging out with some folks (probably introverts) who really did not want to be there but felt obligated to attend – and of course they didn’t say, “I don’t want to be here,” because that actually would be rude. Politely bowing out of after-hours gatherings isn’t. Just because someone assumes that’s the expectation of everyone they know doesn’t mean that’s actually the case!

        14. Oxford Comma*

          Work trips are just that: work. You need to be on every single minute that you are with another coworker or client or vendor. It is exhausting.

          Having some alone time is crucial and unless the meal is part of a business function, I need that downtime.

    4. Koala dreams*

      Yes, there are a surprising amount of people out there who think that eating food alone outside your home (and sometimes at home too) is the worst thing ever. I’m glad I can eat at a restaurant alone, otherwise I would be so hungry when travelling.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        This reminds me of the “sad desk lunch” social media posts that trended sometime last year. I found them baffling. Why is eating my lunch at my desk sadder than eating the same lunch at a table full of coworkers in a crowded breakroom, or eating out with coworkers at whatever lunch place happens to be close to the office? I don’t get this. Everywhere I’ve worked, it’s been a balance of lunch on your own most of the time, and team lunch or lunch with work friends a couple of times a week.

    5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I’m an introvert and my partner extrovert. I often get the impression that while I bend over backwards trying to wrap my head around how he functions, and try to accommodate this, he is totally blithely unaware of how I function. He seems utterly unable to wrap his head around it, I’m not sure he’s even tried. He calls me unsociable, says that socialising is the most important thing in life.
      (Guess who’s managing best during lockdown!)

    1. Arctic*

      Is it mean to not want to hang out with someone?
      LW didn’t want to hang out with them either! They don’t have any more obligation to spend time with her than the other way around.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Honestly, I think primary/secondary school actively damages certain social skills. I remember teachers acting like not being friends with every single other kid in the class was a moral failing of mine, and it was apocalypse and pandemonium if I wasn’t willing to stubbornly attempt to befriend people who had no interest in spending time with me.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, that really is insensitive.
            I’m not interested in being friends with the class bully, thank you very much.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              I mean, it’s not even that far. Sometimes people just don’t like each other. And that’s okay! In the “real world,” as long as you can work with someone professionally and functionally, it doesn’t matter if they’re your friend or not. But my teachers expected me to simultaneously be willing to pretend to be someone I’m not and to be willing to completely trample over the other childrens’ boundaries to be liked, and if you do that as an adult (frankly, if you do that as a kid, too), people rightfully find that frightening.

        2. Jennifer Thneed*

          Well, your tutor didn’t know better but I hope that you do.

          There are ways to be mean about not hanging out, but the mere desire to not hang out is not mean.

  6. KoiFeeder*

    Wow, that’s a strange thing to say. We’re not supposed to be armchair diagnosing on the website, and even if we were, there’s nothing in this letter to indicate anything other than a desire for personal space.

  7. RagingADHD*

    Classic example of how someone putting way too high of stakes onto a perfectly normal situation makes them look shady.

    I hope Jane’s mentee gets another mentor to supplement her communication skills, or she’s going to learn some extremely bad habits that will come back to bite her later. Jane’s weirdness is doing her no favors at all.

  8. Megan Marie Sullivan*

    OP #3, I think a simple “I’m spent, I’d like to be discharged from any evening plans, unless there is some business topic that we need to discuss before we break?” would suffice. Just repeat some variation of that every day. Then if they bring up what they did together you say “Oh that sounds nice, maybe I’ll check out that restaurant the next time I’m here.” I suspect Jane didn’t really hear that it was ok and felt way more awkward than necessary.

  9. Koala dreams*

    #3 It seems like everything worked out to the best, only with some added drama. Jane didn’t want to eat dinner with you, you didn’t want to eat dinner with Jane, everything was fine. Jane somehow thought that you really wanted dinner with her, and couldn’t handle being unexpectedly mistaken. I feel a bit sorry for the mentee though, she will probably end up with some weird ideas about handling social events professionally.

  10. Not The Typical Auditor*

    I travel a lot for business in groups of varying sizes and depending on the length of the trip we may do one dinner or happy hour together but that’s it.

  11. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’m so glad you got another job, #1!

    Blow that Popsicle stand and on to the much nicer, more stable one.

  12. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#2: Your post had the bad luck to be sandwiched between two rather juicy specimens. But congratulations — it sounds as though you yourself have done a good job of incorporating feedback and have benefited from it.

    If I could give one piece of advice to everybody who works in higher education it would be: Don’t take anything personally. Give the best you can in terms of teaching and professional feedback, then let it go. Students often take feedback as personal criticism rather than helpful advice. Time will fix that. You don’t have to.

    And you never know — a couple of years from now, your student may think, “Damn! OP#2 was right.”

    1. Ego Chamber*

      These are all good points! I’m a little confused about where LW2 says they learned to be better about providing feedback in a way that teaches but does not offend because, um, what? That wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the original letter and it seems like it should have been. Someone ignoring feedback they decided to not incorporate isn’t a sign that the person is offended and I don’t see anything else that could apply to?

      Realizing there’s a difference between genuine mistakes and different stylistic choices is a good start though, and I encourage LW2 to keep learning about how to provide better feedback. This is a good lesson to take. :)

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Also Alison’s original advice to say that it’s not a good use of your time to provide feedback multiple times on the same paper if none of the feedback is being incorporated. I realize you might not have the option, depending on the school you work for, but man that sounds super-frustrating and what would the student even get out of it?

    2. Elemeno P.*

      This actually happened to me! I applied for a scholarship 10 years out of undergrad and had to send in my transcripts. I read through them and saw the same kind of feedback on my writing from multiple classes over all four years. I was a very proud “gifted” kid and not good at taking criticism or feedback, but I am a much more humble adult. My teachers were definitely right!

  13. Lindalinda*

    #3 My thoughts went straight to high school… On the first day at new city I had a girl attach herself onto me. She would make all sorts plans for “us” (study groups, which courses “we” should take…) right from the start. It Felt super weird, pushy and oppressive. After a couple of days I started to ignore her, just walk away, tell her (lie) I had other plans and so on… Next week she had someone else as her new BFF. I kinda thought she was someone who just needed to have a BFF and someone to hold hands with, in order to function… If that is what’s going on, it will probably be super awkward for the mentee at some point, but probably the only thing you can do is to stay as far away as possible…

Comments are closed.