updates: renting from the boss, Cards Against Humanity at a work party, and more

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

1. Should I rent from my boss to escape Covid? (#2 at the link)

I didn’t end up renting from my boss. I stayed with family out of town during our several months of WFH, but would have been unable to commute from there when the building reopened for in-person work (and my job cannot be done remotely unless everyone is also remote).

So I made the difficult decision to resign from my position. My workplace was handling COVID safety better than many, but the entire field is not realistically able to keep people safe. I left with nothing lined up and moved back to my home state. Since I do have a bit of a safety net and am still early in my career, I decided to prioritize my health and safety. I am extremely privileged to even be able to make that choice and to not be reliant on my job for health insurance, but it’s still a little scary. I am hopeful that I will be able to apply there again in the future when things are safer. For now though, I am job searching (optimistically).

Bonus rage fodder: When I went back to my house to pack up and move, my COVID-denying roommate had just returned from partying in a different hot-spot city on the other side of the country!

Update to the update: Around the time of my first update, I made a Facebook post announcing my move back home. A college classmate saw it and let me know that her department was hiring for the kind of job that would be a perfect match for my skills and experience. The job requires very little human contact so I feel pretty safe doing it. It’s also the job that elementary school me drew pictures of for career day.

I interviewed last week and was offered the job! It’s a temporary position but that will actually give me some room to consider moving again if things get better in my previous industry. It’s also a field that is very hard to get into without doing temp or seasonal work at first, so this will open up future opportunities too.

I had let some of the unemployment fear start to sink in, and the timing of this was really, really lucky. I feel a little weird and guilty that leaving my job because of Covid may actually be better in the long run, but I am trying to focus on my excitement about the new position. Thanks for all your advice!

2. My boss wants to play Cards Against Humanity at a work party (#2 at the link)

The staff get-together was cancelled, in the end. It was supposed to fall around the same time as a coworker’s retirement party (there was about a month between the two events), and when about two-thirds of the staff said they only wanted to do one of the two events (lots of young parents with childcare issues), my boss realized it was more important to celebrate the career of someone who had been at the institution for 40 years. We had a wonderful party for that person, and invited basically anyone from the community we serve who wanted to attend. I think only doing the one event also allowed the staff who help out to organize things to focus on that event a lot more, and discussing the highlights of someone’s long career was probably better bonding than Cards Against Humanity or the other games ever would have been. Since then, staff gatherings have been strictly business related – until COVID hit, and they stopped happening altogether.

3. Manager asks if I’m feeling okay when I don’t wear makeup (#3 at the link)

I just got off a video call with him where he asked me three times if I was sick (I have no childcare today so the idea of finding time to do my face is laughable). I tried saying lightly “Oh, no, just not wearing make up!” His response? “Oh good – I was afraid you were pregnant!”

4. My manager calls and just reads my emails back to me (#5 at the link; first update here)

I realized that my boss just doesn’t absorb information in written form. At all. He *loves* phone calls, and thinks that verbal communication is always the way to go. I am the opposite, and prefer emails, instant messaging, and texts. He prefers verbal communication to the point that, instead of creating help documentation for new features, be would rather install new phone lines and have clients call in! (He loses this fight, as it is not financially viable to hire people to walk clients thought the use of new teapot handles, when a set of instructions will do!)

Realizing that my boss *needs* other forms of communication besides the written word, I have shifted my perspective to “I need to communicate things to my boss in the way that best expresses the information to him,” which means that there are more phone calls. To avoid the annoyance of constantly getting interrupted, I have been getting him to schedule conference call for updates, so that I can account for the time. In the event that I need to use email, they are short and concise, and I expect a follow up call. By proactively changing the way that I communicate with my boss, I have cut down on the volume of interrupting phone calls.

Understanding that there was a very basic conflict in communication styles that was, ironically, never communicated, has helped eased the annoyance. If my boss had simply said “I don’t like long emails, please call with updates” or “I get so many emails, I get overwhelmed and some get lost, please call with updates to make sure that I get them”, work would have gone a lot smoother! I now know to ask which form of communication people prefer, and make adjustments accordingly. 

I also realized that he liked my tracking spreadsheets so much because of the way that I format them. He can easily track progress without having to read a lot. They are very visual, and easy to understand at a glance. They have been adopted for many projects, once there are enough tasks that need to be tracked by different departments. Which means that the entire company now relies on my spreadsheets!

{ 170 comments… read them below }

    1. pope suburban*

      I was aghast. That is half a dozen kinds of NOPE. What on earth would make someone think that was an appropriate thing to say- to anyone, much less an employee?!

        1. whingedrinking*

          Yikes on bikes come
          Yikes on trikes come
          Yikes on bikes and trikes and shrikes come!

          Look, sir! Look, sir! Mr. Boss, sir!
          The yikes on bikes are urging strikes!
          That’s a thing that no one likes
          Even people who have tykes.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        When something is this absurd, it’s almost hard not to laugh. You have to laugh to keep from screaming.

      2. NotJennifer*

        SAME. Like, it’s so uncomfortable and ridiculous that nervous laughter at the absurdity is the only response I can muster.

        1. Nanani*

          I hope you document these little weird things just in case.
          Yknow, in case he decides not to offer you certain work “because you might be pregnant” without asking. That sort of thing.

      3. PenicilliumIHardlyKnowEm*

        This has been my response to incredibly bizarre comments like that (and to my Covid test swab), just hysterical laughter.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Absolutely this. My jaw dropped, and then I burst out rage-laughing. I am sending OP all the support in the world because WTAF is this boss??

    2. nom de plume*

      Yes. this is very much not okay, and OP, while I understand this is hard, you should try shutting down those comments from now on. For the pregnancy one, you could try something like, “Could you explain what you mean? Are you suggesting that would be a problem for the organization?” For the others, you could try, “I’d rather we not focus on my appearance. If I’m sick, I’ll let you know.”

      But please, don’d let this continue.

      1. ThePear8*

        Agreed, this guy really needs to be shut down harder and have it made known that comments and assumptions like that are 150% NOT OKAY. If people are sick or have a problem that will interfere with work, they’ll tell him – he shouldn’t be making weird assumptions like this.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      How do these people get promoted to management? How do these people stay in management? Was OP on candid camera? I have so many questions.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        These are the people that have “failed upwards because someone else has too much invested in them” for them to be allowed to fail. There are plenty of high profile examples of that around right now.

    4. MassMatt*

      OMG. I would be so VERY much tempted to respond with many concerned “are you all RIGHT?!”‘s back at him, with repeated notes of worry and concern. I would talk myself right out of the job.

      Then the pregnant comment. I can’t even!

    5. MarsJenkar*

      Honestly. My reaction was “What…? Did he seriously just say that?”

      Essentially, the mental equivalent of the record needle being dragged across the vinyl.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        The only noise that could possibly emerge from me in response to that would be: “exf***ingscuse me!??”

    6. Beth*

      SAME! OP3, just, wtf??? This is so absurd that it’s laughable.

      But underneath that, it’s also concerning. It’s weird that your manager is thinking this hard about whether you’re pregnant; it’s straight up alarming that they’re asking leading questions to try and push you to disclose. If you were pregnant, it would be none of their business until you decided to make it their business e.g. by asking for maternity leave; until and unless you brought it up, they shouldn’t be trying to force you to share private medical info.

      1. Admin Always*

        This! I hate those probing comments so you are put in the position to disclose something incredibly personal or trap you in a lie if you don’t want to announce it yet.

        I had a boss say I looked so tired. I responded (without thinking), “not tired. I guess I just look like sh** today.” I think they got the point after that. But I’m known for being blunt.

        1. allathian*

          Good for you! I’m also known for being fairly blunt, even in a generally blunt culture, so my reaction would probably mirror yours. To be fair, I can’t imagine my boss would ever say something like that, unless I looked like I was about to faint or something. And then she’d probably ask “are you okay, you look a bit pale (or whatever)?”

    7. juliebulie*

      Yeah, I feel as though there should be three or four more paragraphs during which they discuss his “motivation” for making these comments, and some strategies he can use to STOP IT.

    8. AllThingsToAllPeople*

      Oh #3. Sigh. I get that he’s a tool, but since getting him to not be a tool would require moving heaven and Earth, perhaps the LW can just use a filter for the meetings that must be on camera. I know how that sounds, but guys, I’m tired, we’re all tired, and this is the easiest solution.

      1. Lady Meyneth*

        Yeah, if OP just wants this to go away, this is probably the easiest short term solution.

        But OP, this is very valuable information about your boss. All the are-you-ok questions, I could have passed off as someone a little clueless genuinely thinking you looked much different without make-up and being concerned. This? This goes well into your boss sucks territory, and I’d take it as a flag. I’m sorry, OP! :(

  1. Dr Jayus*

    #3: Throw the whole boss in the trash. I really want to know what he would have done if she had said, “What do you mean by that?” and see him dig himself deeper and deeper if he has any self-awareness at all.

    1. Jean*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if he rated an absolute zero on the self-awareness scale. However, I hesitate to give him that as an excuse. I hate that people like this have any sort of power.

    2. Valegro*

      I made the mistake of asking a client what she meant when she asked when I was due. She told me I have a big, pregnant belly. I was not and have never been pregnant. These boors will make you cry given half a chance and show no regret.

      1. panic at the disco featuring Not Fun*

        I’ve been asked that enough times that I just breezily answer “not pregnant, just fat”.

        1. All the cats 4 me*

          I do that too, but I add, “and thank you so much for pointing that out”.

          Awkward returned to sender.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, this. They don’t deserve any better, although in a customer-facing role being this honest could have consequences, unfortunately.

            @Valegro: I’m so sorry this happened to you.

        2. NoSleepTillHippo*

          I’ve used that response before too (“Nope, not pregnant, just chubby” with a big smile), and one woman who’d asked decided to push even further: “Well, but were you pregnant recently??”

          And I figured if you’re gonna be that dense you might as well get the double-barrelled honest answer: so I told her all about the miscarriage I’d had just a couple months prior. She at least had the decency to look horrified then. Not gonna lie, it was kinda satisfying to see her flounder for a response.

          Note: this was years ago, I’m totally fine, it was an accidental pregnancy and I am happily childfree now. My whole heart goes out to anyone struggling with miscarriage; it’s a terrible thing to go through, and the societal silence around it makes it so much harder. Know you are not alone.

      2. PollyQ*

        Exactly. For many of these people, the problem is not that they have no filter, it’s that they have no shame.

    3. Student*

      There are still a lot of people who don’t know or care that there are laws against pregnancy discrimination.

      There are still a lot of people who judge women by their appearance first and their work second (or third, or maybe not at all).

      OP #3, your boss has made his stance plain on these issues. Your boss judges you first and foremost on your appearance, and he would not treat you well if you or your co-workers were to become pregnant. When people tell you who they are – believe them.

      There are options for how to address this, but it’s not going to change unless you take much more substantive actions than giving your boss verbal hints.

  2. HoHumDrum*

    #4 Thank you for the update, and I’m glad to hear you’re able to work with your boss. I think a lot of adults have needs wrt processing information that often get ignored or they’re told to just suck it up and do better. I think often that adults need IEPs too sometimes. I’m sorry he’s been so frustrating for you but happy to hear things are better now.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      You are great, OP! I don’t think I could have handled it as well (speaking as someone who refuses to use my desk phone at all).

    2. Reba*

      Yes, I also thought of the IEP. Also interesting in light of today’s Ask the Readers question!

      Not to say that the boss has anything diagnosable or not, but I feel that at least in my circles, there is a general awareness of different learning styles and processing issues. Boss apparently doesn’t have that framing (I mean, they didn’t talk about it at all).

      Great update LW 4! You managed to get an insight about your boss and also contain the havoc it was wreaking on your own work processes.

      1. MassMatt*

        The original letter and update both make me wonder how this guy was made a manager if he does things like call his employees to read their email back to them or is so out of touch he thinks help file documentation is best handled with a phone line. OMG, the waste and expense.

        I wonder if he is dyslexic or has some other reading difficulty and has other skills to compensate?

        In any case, OP has done a great job navigating the situation and turning it to her advantage by getting her templates used by the rest of the company. Well done, OP, I don’t think I could have handled it at all, much less better.

        1. Mid*

          I have one boss who is very much a verbal processor. She’ll call before sending an email every time. Another boss of mine is very much a written processor and literally unplugged his office phone and refuses to take calls 98% of the time. They both are excellent at their jobs, so excellent that everyone adjusts to their quirks.

          1. Quill*

            Personally I prefer the written communicators because I’ve worked so long in fields where you can miss crucial information when someone mispronounces a word (think chemistry, where the difference between Chemicabutyl and chemicabutol is significant)

            1. allathian*

              Me too, especially now. I just can’t trust my short-term memory anymore, everything has to be written down. I’ll take notes if I have to, but if the info’s already written down somewhere, I’d rather take the notes the other person has written down.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      Yeah, that’s a great update, #4! Good for you for figuring out how to make things work for both you and your boss, given your drastically different needs and styles.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, I came here to say this. I process things in writing, the spoken word tends to go in one ear and out the other, I just can’t retain it. So you have my sympathy, LW 4. I don’t think I could have dealt with your boss as gracefully as you did. And congrats on getting your company to use your Excel templates! If you ever decide to look for another job where designing user-friendly worksheets is crucial, this accomplishment’s going to look really good on your resume.

    4. Lora*

      I had a co-worker like this – didn’t seem to absorb anything written down no matter what it was, and finally realized when I was troubleshooting an experiment with him: he couldn’t read English. At all. Not even a little bit. He could read in his first language, but that’s no help when all the chemical labels are written in English. If you explained things to him or walked him through a process, he could make his own notes and it was fine, but that wasn’t realistic for 80% of what the lab did. Found out later the boss knew and had told him to take ESL courses, the company would pay for it – but the dude kept blowing off class, complaining he was too busy with his kids to take classes (even during the workday). Eventually he went back to his previous job where it was less of an issue.

      In the meantime it was absolutely infuriating to be told by the boss, “since Co-worker couldn’t replicate your experiment, we can’t publish it…” just because Co-worker couldn’t read and follow a protocol to save his life.

      1. Observer*

        Your boss KNEW that this guy couldn’t read the protocol and that’s why he couldn’t replicate your stuff, but he still refused to publish?! What on earth!

    5. Lego Leia*

      OP #4 here. Replying to the top comment in the thread (I hope!). Thanks for the support and positive comments. I was afraid it was not an exciting update, so I am glad that other people wanted an update and appreciate it. I have learned a lot from other letters that suggested reframing the issue, and, well, tried to apply in my own life. As for why manager is my manager? He is friends with the owner of the company.

      1. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

        As a fairly new (6 months in) manager with a very strong verbal communication style, OP#4 this update was so heartening for me to read. Unlike your boss, I feel like I spend almost all of my time flexing to meet my team members’ individual styles and needs. And to be clear I understand that doing so is a big part of my job! But I find that I get very frustrated by email and slack messages that could have been accomplished with a simple phone call, not to mention I personally would retain the information better. (And pre-emptively, let me point out that I’m an old millennial for those on the verge of reminding me that younger generations prefer avoiding the phone. I know, and I still hate it.)

        Anyway it is always such a relief when someone can meet me on that halfway, and it makes me much likelier to take time to engage with them on their terms when possible. I get that your example does not include a manager who overthinks things on communication styles, but at any rate I am so glad you wrote back in. Thank you.

        1. HoHumDrum*

          I’m a verbal processor too (and also a millennial, though I think I’m a mid-range millennial, if that makes sense) but overall what I find it my needs vary by situation. I suspect most other people’s do to, which is why I find it so weird that as a society in general we talk about things like processing info (Or introvert/extrovert, or personality type, or whatever else) like it’s a static need.

          Like, you have a bunch of detailed info? Please send me an (well organized) email so I can refer back to it regularly to ensure I’m not missing anything.

          You have info that is delicate/nuanced/complex/etc? Let’s talk in person (or video or phone or whatever) so I can get more info from your tone/facial expressions/mannerisms, and also so I can ask questions and get immediate follow up so we can go back and forth until we’re sure we’re on the same page.

          No one tool is useful for all discussions, and we all have really different processing needs and quirks.

          1. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

            Such a great and well thought out addendum from HoHumDrum. Absolutely agree that adapting to different scenarios is important. And speaking with others in the office about how to work with Person A on Topic B is crucial too, particularly early in one’s career or at a new workplace.

          2. allathian*

            Yes, this is crucial. I posted above that I process things in writing and retaining information if I don’t get it in writing is really tough for me and rarely worth the effort, but in some cases, it’s much faster and more effective to call or do a teleconference, with or without video.

      2. Rachel in NYC*

        This is the sorta of information that is so important in office.

        I have a couple of managers that get a ton of emails and was told really early on- if you are emailing X or Y: don’t give them excess information, make clear what you are asking them, etc. Basically get complex issues to 5 sentences- including your request/question and let them ask follow up questions.

        But it works- and I couldn’t have known that but my co-workers did.

      3. AllThingsToAllPeople*

        Nicely done, OP #4.

        Now, would you be open to sharing your spreadsheet format? I’m VERY interested. TIA!

        1. CatMintCat*

          My current boss has 6000+ emails in his inbox, growing every day. If you want something, you track him down and talk to him.

      4. Mongrel*

        Not sure how appropriate it is but there’s a programmers technique called Rubber Duck Debugging. In that context it’s explaining your code to a rubber duck (other inanimate objects available) and in doing so it helps you to see errors or bring a fresh perspective.

        It may well carry across to someone who processes things verbally

        1. Former prof*

          A long ago student of mine went from an F to an A in the class when she started teaching the course material out loud to her teddy bear.

      5. Legal Beagle*

        This was a great update! I’m text-oriented and don’t retain verbal information well, so this would be a super difficult adjustment for me — serious props to you for being so accommodating to your manager. I don’t know if this would be feasible, but there are software services you can subscribe to that allow you to create quick, simple videos that embed in email. (Loom is an example.) It’s pretty cheap, especially if you only have a few users, so it might be something your company would consider for training and information sharing purposes.

    6. Ivy*

      I have a degree in English and started my career as a Technical Writer. One of the things that just gets hammered into your head is to always consider your audience and delivery. Technical or non? ESL or native speaker? Long document or short help topics? Accessibility / readability concerns? When in doubt you provide multiple options (a diagram and a step by step list for example). I haven’t been a tech writer for decades, but this lesson has stuck with me and it’s incredibly useful for any career where you need to communicate with bosses, colleagues, or customers (so if you are a lighthouse keeper, please ignore).

      OP, you did the right thing by figuring this out. Your boss is going to love you and your spreadsheets are already famous!

  3. nm*

    “I was afraid you were pregnant” seems even more inappropriate than questioning someone for not wearing makeup! Brb while I dump your manager in the compost heap.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      I am fantasizing about the OP replying “Well, actually, I am expecting….sextuplets.”
      In real life, don’t do this. Also don’t ask the boss why they feel entitled to make such a rude comment.
      The OP sounds like their life is pretty hectic, so I hate to add to their burdens, but is it possible to seek employment elsewhere, even if you approach it with a goal of changing in a year or so rather than finding the next position immediately?

  4. BookCocoon*

    Re: #4 — some people get to adulthood without ever learning how to read and have ways of hiding it. Not necessarily what’s going on here, but it’s possible! Glad you were able to accept this as they are and figure out a process that works for you.

    1. MassMatt*

      My brother in law was dyslexic, he graduated high school with a B or better average and got an associate’s degree before it was diagnosed. I have no idea how, part of me assumes his teachers were failing in their duties but he definitely did everything he could to hide it and keep up with the work.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I know a few people with severe dyslexia who were able to do well in school, a lot of it was their own angry determination. Sometimes it’s because they have families who believe that dyslexia and similar reading challenges are just “laziness” and “excuses”. I know a lot of older generation who had to suffer greatly but still pulled good grades because if they didn’t, they’d have been seriously beaten :( Not saying that’s your BIL’s situation at all but lots of people fight through their situations out of fear.

        Or you know, bad doctors more so than bad teachers. Teachers aren’t doctors, they can’t always figure out what’s “up” with a kid who is struggling to read or learn!

        1. PeanutButter*

          Or maybe *fantastic* teachers who were able to see his intelligence and desire to learn despite struggling with reading/writing, and adjust their methods to reach kids with lots of different learning styles.

          1. MassMatt*

            That’s a charitable take on it, but… he was promoted from grade to grade, including reading and English classes, without being able to read or write! He had to learn it when he was 20 years old. IMO This is a serious failure. An English teacher shouldn’t have to be a doctor to realize a student cannot read.

            To his immense credit, when one of his kids had some developmental delays the school offered help but also said she might just grow out of it and catch up, maybe we can wait and see, he said he’ll no, we’re going to tackle this NOW.

      2. Zooey*

        It’s amazing how people can compensate. I teach literature, and had a severely dyslexic student who was only diagnosed when she came to university. She’d managed to get right through her education – including A Levels (subject specific and pretty intense) and achieve good marks. It was only the sheer volume of reading required by her degree that overwhelmed her previous coping mechanisms (and she still did well).

        1. PeanutButter*

          I’m 35, about to finish a master’s degree in a highly technical STEM field, and I’m finishing up tests that my psychologist needs to give me a definitive ADHD diagnosis. It took a global pandemic to topple all of the coping mechanisms I had in place!

          1. Jane*

            Yup. I have moderately severe adhd that I managed to function with due to a weird combination of higher than average processing speed, lucky career choices, and adrenaline. It also took the pandemic to make my coping mechanisms collapse and for me to figure it out/get a diagnoses.

            I think there’s going to be a wave of adhd diagnoses, and awareness, that come out of this pandemic.

            1. PeanutButter*


              My previous career was in Emergency Medicine (Paramedic) and looking back I think quite a few of my former crewmembers could be diagnosed with ADHD, we all would come together and do amazing work in intense situations, but a slow shift was when things fell apart. I didn’t think I was non-neurotypical because everyone I was around and socialized with was exactly the same!

          2. Flair of Ashes*

            So technically kids aren’t growing out of these undiagnosed non neurotypical issues (I can’t think of a better word rn) rather they’re growing to be adults that are coping so well seeing as they grew up figuring it out that they themselves don’t realise something’s not quite normal. Am I on the right track?

        2. allathian*

          I’m amazed that a dyslexic person would choose a field of study that required so much reading, but given that she didn’t know about her condition earlier, maybe it’s not so surprising after all.

    2. Lego Leia*

      OP #4 here. I am fairly certain that here is *something* happening with his reading comprehension. Not sure what, and I have tried to hint at things but have never got an answer. Which is odd, as another coworker is dyslexic, and once he told with this, I instantly made changes he and I agreed to for things that he has to read. Including my spreadsheets :-) I truly hope that society gets better at accepting that when someone says that they do better with A instead of B, they get B when it is easy to do so. All of the dyslexic people in this comment thread have my admiration.

    3. Reading is FUNdamental*

      My mom and all of her 10 siblings were educated in a two room Catholic school. A big room for the older kids grades 4-8 and a small room for the 1-3rd graders. Two teachers total for all of the kids. Most of my aunts and uncles and probably a lot of other kids who went to that school were not strong readers because they heard everything out loud a couple of times by the other kids in the other grades before they got to that work. Some of my uncles and aunts and my mother became better readers when they worked at it individually when they were older. My grandmother on the other side of the family was a specialized reading teacher. Getting the encoding that you need for reading sometimes takes an individual effort or specialized help with the phonics. It’s tougher than it seems.

    4. CatMom*

      My dad (who is also my boss) almost certainly has some kind of learning difference that was never diagnosed. Whether that’s because of his age or his early-life learning opportunities or something else, I don’t know! His first language isn’t English and his mother is only very minimally literate, so he definitely *can* read, but not well. I’ve learned over the years that talking to him on the phone or face-to-face and being willing to rephrase questions as needed is the best way to communicate. There are a lot of reasons someone might need this though! ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, executive dysfunction, etc. I’m glad OP figured it out.

  5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #4 of all the people I’ve known who is like your boss [prefers verbal over written communication], I’ve had ZERO people come out and say it, lol. I’ve always have had to find it out by adjusting from my preference of written communication.

    Sometimes it’s due to challenges that people don’t want to speak about. They can’t explain to you that they like “verbal communication” because it means they have to admit they struggle with reading comprehension.

    I know it would fix a whole lot of our grievances around here if people would just be open about their preferences and we can get over the shame many feel when it comes to needing things done a specific way. But until society stops degrading one another and their needs, that probably won’t be happening ;( So we end up like this, playing guessing games and thankfully when we’re lucky, we figure it out.

    1. Partly Cloudy*

      The irony, right? You prefer words but refuse to use yours.

      Is anyone else lusting after the spreadsheets that OP described? I want to see!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It’s not lost on me, that’s for sure. But I also have seen how fragile so many people’s egos are, so it doesn’t shock me at the same time. People are so…prideful.

        I do wonder about the spreadsheets. My new boss is a verbal boss as well and I haven’t been able to get my spreadsheets to the level the #4 speaks of…I am jealous. Mine are too detailed, much like my brain.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I made a “Legend” on mine to explain my color coding! So that has helped.

            I think my issue really is that some of the stuff I do…you can’t strip down completely, they’re not for tracking purposes, they’re for controlling errors. But there’s a reason not everyone feels OK doing their tax returns, even though they’re basically like my own version of Candyland, LOL.

        1. Lego Leia*

          OP #4: The “hide column” feature can be super helpful. I also have a super busy brain, and can asborb a lot of details. Hiding some “maybe” columns can let me know if it useful, needed info, or just stuff that I am adding because I can.

      2. clogerati*

        I am desperate to see these spreadsheets. I have a disorder that makes spreedsheets a little difficult for me to read but I need to use them for work all the time. I’ve gotten pretty good at making them easy to read, but my coworkers are deadset on creating complicated spreadsheets that send my mind spinning. What’s funny though is I’m not a verbal communicator and I work with a lot of people who are (most of coworkers are actually just like #4’s boss) and all of my coworkers prefer my spreadsheets!

    2. MarsJenkar*

      I also wonder if the boss even realizes there *is* a problem. I’ve experienced this myself; I didn’t realize how bad my vision had got until I got glasses for the first time, for example. People might not realize there is a problem until it’s brought up directly with them, and with such a person as a manager, it’s kind of difficult to do that as a subordinate.

      1. Lego Leia*

        Op #4 here- My manager absolutely does not think that he has a problem. Nope. Absolutely not. I honestly don’t think that he self aware to notice how other people function with written communication and see that he struggles where other people don’t. He always seems amazed when I read a spec and actually learn it.

    3. Lego Leia*

      OP #4 here. One of my kids has an written language LD, and the best advice that he was given by a neuropsychologist was “just tell people that you do better with X instead of Y, and would they mind if you Z”. In my son’s case, it would be “I do better typing than taking notes by hand, would you mind if I used my laptop”. Guess what? 99% of the time, it is ok. So, I agree, my boss needs to say “I don’t do well with email, can you please call me twice a day with updates, I don’t mind the interuption.” The lovely neuropyschologist also pointed out that we *all* of these things, and should just accept it when other people have different needs. You want calls? Tell me that. I prefer scheduled calls, so that I can plan around the interuptions? Let’s plan that! It’s not hard, and everyone should be able to say what they need, with reasonable expectation of compromise. It makes life so much easier.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’m relieved your kid learned this technique and it’s working for them!

        I come from a generation where teachers were still persnickety AF about any perceived accommodations and “I work better if I can do this” is met with “Good for you, do it the way I said to do it or you will be marked down.” So it’s ingrained in a lot of our older generational minds that we can’t speak up about what our needs are, I’m thrilled the younger generation has seen this nonsense reversed in a lot of ways!

        Before I got glasses, I asked if I could change seats to see the board better, they were like “No you sit where I put you, you’re lying, you can see fine.” *blinks* So yeah, I learned not to ask pretty quickly, until I got older and I become more stubborn than ever. Now I’m the most accommodating person ever because it’s seriously not that hard and makes people’s lives easier. If the worst thing you say about me is that I make someone’s life easier, I’ll take that complaint.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          (Expletive deleted.) There’s something wrong with a teacher not believing a kid who can’t see clearly. At least, offer to send them to the nurse for an eye exam.

          1. Nanani*

            That’s so sad.
            I had the exact opposite experience. A teacher suggested to my parents that I might need glasses because I’d only turned half an assignment.
            The teacher had figured out I literally couldn’t see the second half on the other chalkboard!
            (Since it was the same teacher as the previous year, they knew I wasn’t likely to blow off half an assignment for no reason.)

            All kids should be so lucky. In fact luck shouldn’t even be a factor.

        2. JKP*

          My brother is dyslexic, and when he was in school, the teachers wouldn’t let him use a pencil so he could erase his mistakes. Everything had to be in pen! Such a simple accommodation refused. He also has an almost perfect memory for everything he hears, so he asked if he could record the classes so he could listen to the material again at home to study for tests. Again no! He’s so smart, and I’m always sad at how the school system failed him.

  6. AnonEMoose*

    #5 – your boss would drive me insane. Good for you for finding such effective ways to work with him!

    1. Lego Leia*

      OP #4 here. I am literally blushing reading the supportive replies. Thanks for the kind words and thoughts :-) I try to be flexible when I can, and it makes me happy to see it get recognized. You guys are awesome, too!

    2. Lilyp*

      Seconded! Many people find it difficult to give others that level of consideration and grace and I think it speaks very well of you that you figured out something that works for both of you without getting mired in frustration or resentment.

  7. MJ*

    No.4 – yes my new boss is like this. It took me a while to work it out, so now I sent her a list for discussion just before our catch up meeting (teams) with relevant attachments then we talk through each one. It works really well.

    1. Lego Leia*

      OP#4 here. It’s not so terrible once you clue in to what is happening. Glad to have unity with other people that have bosses like this.

    2. M. Albertine*

      I am dealing with a new boss that prefers verbal vs. written communication, and I’m realizing how much I have come to rely on written for my own processes! I so often need to go back and refer to instructions or other information, and having that in my own written notes instead of emails that I can easily search/reference is wreaking havoc on my organization.

      Anyone have any tips on making the transition to verbal from written?

      1. clogerati*

        My boss is very similar. What I do is type notes for every meeting we have and email to everyone present, or I post it on our management communication app (even if it’s just me and him). It’s actually improved all of our meetings across the board. I was able to implement it as a standard practice because during COVID times meetings have been insane and oftentimes important participants have been unable to attend.

      2. Ginger Baker*

        I would suggest typing up your handwritten notes after meetings/at the end of the day. Or, if you can take notes on a device during the meeting, that’s an option also.

      3. Observer*

        If actual writing works better for you than typing, look into a tablet / phone + stylus in an app that translates you handwriting to text. You’ll need to do some clean up, but it’s surprising how well the better ones translate.

  8. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OP#1 – Congrats!! It’s nice to hear that there are good things happening for people among all the doom and gloom.

    1. Anon this time*

      Yes it is. My SO had to resign from a teaching job last week because the school district decided on no Covid precautions whatsoever. SO is extremely high risk and asked for an ADA accommodation, to which the reply from the superintendent was no. Dr. had said they would write a detailed safety plan for SO’s employer, but dr. was never contacted. SO was not close to retirement, so this is devastating to us. SO is a member of the union, and they are monitoring the situation, but in our red state, we don’t have much hope. This sucks. Good to know OP1 has a new job.

      1. tangerineRose*

        What is the point of a union if it doesn’t help with this kind of thing?! Sorry you’re going through this; it is so unfair.

        1. saddesklunch*

          In some states, Texas is one, it’s illegal for teachers to strike or collectively bargain. If teachers strike they can lose their teaching licenses as well as their retirement funds. So there are unions, but they’re effectively toothless. It’s…. pretty terrible.

          1. Anon this time*

            Yep, the union said they can help SO if the school board tries to get teaching license revoked, but that’s about it. Sucks.

        2. Pheasant Feathers*

          Yes, as someone who is a Union rep, this is SO frustrating. We have 2 basic things we can do: a) negotiate a contract with Management, and then b) help bargaining unit employees if Management breaks the contract. Right now anti-labor forces in the US are incredibly strong and so good luck if you have to go to the bargaining table right now; Management can get away with so many things that they couldn’t normally and the Union has very little power to stop them in many cases. Right now, for example, the board that would take on specific cases for Unions negotiating for federal employees is unstaffed. It is a board of people nominated by the president, and he has refused to nominate anyone to the position, and other courts won’t address the issues because they say that this specific board must handle all such issues (I’m simplifying a bit here). So the Unions have no recourse for discriminatory or illegal bargaining behavior.

          Once a contract is in place we can help people if their contractual rights are being trampled, but the problem is that this is only as good as the contract. If the contract states that only people over 5’5″ (1.65 meters to our non-US friends) can be employed then if you are under that height you are out of luck. If it says you must walk on your hands 5 min per day to keep your desk job, then that’s in the contract. (Things like this are under appeal and waiting to go…. before the unstaffed board.) If your employer is wanting to fire you because you could only walk on your hands for 6 min and they wanted 10 min, we can represent you and probably win. If your office is making a policy of only hiring people 5’7″ and above, we can probably win. But if you’re 5’1″, even if you’re 100% competent and have done the job for 20 years with no problem, if someone wants to fire you they can and if it’s in the contract we can’t stop it.

          All of which to say, SO FRUSTRATING. Unions are still helpful in making noise, getting visibility, and making sure that ground isn’t lost (say, people aren’t being forced to walk on their hands 10 min, then 15 min, then an hour…..). Under different administrations they have more tools and have more power to fight back. But right now it’s really grim.

          (Also, there may be reasons that my specific examples here are against the law in some other way [ADA accommodation requirements, for example] and so there’d be other recourse. In the real-life situations that I’d prefer not to bring up here, there aren’t.)

      2. OP1*

        I’m sorry that your SO’s admin, district, and union all failed you both :(
        I hope that you are able to land on your feet and that things get better for you.

  9. I Need That Pen*

    I too am often asked if I’m not well when my makeup is “off.” As in, different than I usually do, or maybe I don’t do much with my eyes or what not. (I keep it on a level that’s professional, dont’ worry).
    But people will notice and they’ll say I look tired or unwell, and I have to stop and and ask “what makes you say that? I’m fine.” Then I offer them a glass of water to go with their foot.

    Take it a step further and ask me, “oh good I thought you were pregnant,” and you’re going to need to clear an hour for our meeting with HR. I have a lot of stories of friends who get asked that, or, “Are you going to have any more?” Talk about your true character showing…

  10. Observer*

    #4 – This is a really great update. And it’s a really nice benefit that you created something that the whole office can use.

    1. Lego Leia*

      Op #4 here. Thanks. I thought it was boring update, so I am glad that people are enjoying it :-) It nice feeling productive and useful at work, especially when it came from a place of frustration.

  11. Observer*

    #3- That’s just . . . Wow.

    I went back and looked at your original letter and the comments, and noticed that I had said that his response might tell you that he’s being sexist. It turns out that I was unfortunately right, although I was not expecting this.

    Is your HR competent? Because if they are, I would seriously consider shooting them an email about this.

  12. Caliente*

    Would it be bad for OP 3 to say “Listen Chad, do we have to discuss my appearance EVERY TIME WE SPEAK? It is getting very old.”

  13. Elle by the sea*

    We used to play Cards Against Humanity in one of my past workplaces (one of the biggest Silicon Valley corporates) on workday game events. It was an extremely liberal/left leaning office, so it’s kind of surprising that no one had anything against it. But somehow it didn’t come off as weird – the whole office culture was very informal. We even created our own version, specific to the office. Fun times.

    1. Emily*

      Are you absolutely sure that no one had anything against it? I don’t really like playing Cards Against Humanity, period (it’s not my style of humor), but I might begrudgingly go along with it/avoid saying anything if I thought that I would be perceived as a stick in the mud for ruining other people’s fun.

      1. Elle by the sea*

        I was the only one who was at least a bit scandalised by it. It’s not my style of humor, either. But I also have to add that no one in the office was American and the office was in another English-speaking country where this kind of humor and even dropping f-bombs / continuous bantering is seen as integral part of the culture. Since we didn’t like certain things in it, we created our own offoce-specific version. And one of the founding members of this company, who is American, is well-known for having created a version of this game. The only reason why I’m stressing the difference between American vs non-American culture is because I can’t imagine pulling this off in most American offices. It was a surprise to me when I lived in the US that how much more “decent” people are when it comes to these things. I grew up with near perfect table manners and thinking that putting your feet up or visible to anyone is the eight deadly sin, but considering this sort of humor slightly off at most, but not particularly scandalous.

          1. Elle by the sea*

            And maybe one more thing to add is that it was an all-female plus a gay guy team, and we are very comfortable with each other, people discussed anything from their periods to their most private health issues. All of them were politically liberal, many of them activists. Again, discussing everything, including politics and private issues with colleagues is not my style, but that’s how it was.

    2. Jackalope*

      Yes, I agree with what Emily said. I hate hate HATE that game; so not comfortable with really anything about it. I don’t like the offensiveness, have almost never found anything funny in the combinations people come up with, don’t want to be discussing misogynistic slurs for female body parts with other people (I don’t remember the other X-isms as much, but I wouldn’t enjoy them either), and generally don’t like the game. (I also dislike Apples to Apples because it basically comes down to a popularity contest each time [popularity contest for the words, not the person, but still bothers me], and I’m 2nd place about 75% of the time [the other 25% I’m lower than 2nd place], but at least it doesn’t bother me just hearing the card topics.) I’ve had a couple of situations where I had to play either CAH or a knockoff (that was just as awful as the original), and I was secretly miserable the whole time, but I didn’t feel like I had the political capital to push back. One of the games was with some friends of my then-boyfriend (now husband), so I later asked him secretly to help make sure we never played that game with those friends again, but I was still getting to know them and the rest of the group all voted yes so there was a lot of peer pressure to go along with it. Not to say that you didn’t know your former co-workers, and maybe they WERE all okay with it, but it’s very possible they felt uncomfortable but didn’t think they could opt out.

      1. Elle by the sea*

        I replied to Emily’s comment, but everyone had the option to opt out. For personal reasons (e.g. wanting to spend my off-work time with my family, not with my colleagues), I opted out from most team building events which were off the clock, with no repercussions. I have never had problems voicing concerns about anything even in environments where it had repercussions, but I can tell you that anyone could easily say ‘i don’t want to do that’. And the initiative to play certainly games always came from colleagues, never from higher ups. Our managers rarely participated in team events, unless they were company-wide huge events during work time.

  14. Secretary*

    #4: My boss is like this too!! I had to have a similar mindset shift. I think of it like, my boss has 10 people reporting to him, I have 1 person to report to. I shift to his communication style and he always prioritizes talking to me. :)

    1. Lego Leia*

      OP #4 here. It is always delightful when you get the game the system. I absolutely use his love of phone calls to my advantage when I can.

  15. EPLawyer*

    #1 — don’t feel guilty that things might work out better for you in the long run. You didn’t quit your job to have that happen. You quit for safety reasons. Karma decided to smile on you for doing that and hand you this opportunity. Enjoy it.

    #2 — amazing how working towards a common goal is so much better for team bonding than enforced fun.

    #3 – OMG. That is all.

    #4 — You are a better person than I. I hate, hate, hate talking on the phone. I have to gear myself up to do it (video conference I am okay). I am very much an email person. I could not handle your boss. I would seriously be looking for a new job. but that’s me. Good for you to find a way to make it work.

  16. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    One of the huge pluses off working from home these last six months is that folk have got used to seeing me on webcalls with little or no makeup on. In the office, people would ask if I was poorly if I came in un-made-up.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      Agreed! I don’t wear make up at all anymore. However, my eyes do tend to look red, even when I’m perfectly fine, so I’ve started wearing my reading glasses when I have to be on camera. Back in the Before Times, if I went to the office with my glasses on and no make up (because I was having seasonal allergies), everyone would ask me if I was doing okay. I mean…I get it…when I have seasonal allergies I do look like I haven’t slept in weeks :/

  17. cleo*

    LW4 – I love this: “I now know to ask which form of communication people prefer, and make adjustments accordingly.”

    1. Filosofickle*

      As a consultant, I ask this question at every project kickoff. When it’s more informal I’ll take it a step further to find out how to best communciate if there is a problem — even if someone is usually an emailer they may want uncomfortable news over the phone, or vice versa. A few people over the years have pushed back on why we need to talk about it, but it is so critical to have open discussions about how we’ll work together. This prevents a lot of problems.

  18. Tidewater 4-1009*

    #5, I’m a big believer in making things easy to understand. I’ve always tried to make reports, spreadsheets, memos, etc. perfectly clear and as easy as possible for the user. That worked well for you, too! :)

  19. OP #3 (Wearing Makeup Today)*

    OP #3 here – First off, thank you all for your comments and insights on my first letter. It was awesome to have all that in the back of my mind when he said this. I have to say, I am really glad we were on a call because I muted myself and LAUGHED UNTIL I CRIED. It’s just so on brand for him.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Honestly, I get so awkward sometimes under stress, I would have replied something equally useful like, “only if you’re the father”.

      1. OP #3 (Wearing Makeup Today)*

        This would have an extra spicy level of weirdness for us since he frequently says I’m like a daughter to him.

        1. Blarg*

          That’s just … so gross. But maybe a way to shut him down … “as your surrogate daughter, it feels weird for you to ask about my appearance [or the contents of my uterus].” Gross and shouldn’t be needed. But maybe it’ll get through to him?? Good luck. I would have set the building on fire at some point, and rage quit for sure after that last comment. But I work in a field where job hopping is common.

    2. Free Meerkats*

      I’m here to encourage you to go full clown/Juggalo/Kiss makeup for the next video call. Just play it straight until he can’t stand it anymore and asks. Your reply? “You seemed to prefer I wear makeup, so this is what I’ll be wearing from now on for our calls.” The net one? Think over the top drag queen.

      1. MJ*

        Or have the kids do mommy’s makeup one day. “It’s so sweet. They were trying to help mom.”


    3. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      You know, you would be quite justified in asking if HE was pregnant every time you have an opening to do so, Every time he is under the weather, every time he gets off work early, every time he has a headache.

  20. panic at the disco featuring Not Fun*

    #3: you know this but… your boss is really really insensitive, holy bleep.

    I had a boss like this. He asked me if I was day drinking once. He was trying to make awkward small talk jokes and… ugh.

    Empathy and sympathy.

  21. not always right*

    Number 3!!! I am torn between WTH and laughter. The whole situation is so absurd! It is also so NOT acceptable!

  22. Will's Mom*

    Update number 3. I just can’t! What the frick? So wrong on so many levels! I am ashamed to admit this but my first response was to laugh at how absurd her boss’ remark was. Then I went to red faced anger. Please tell us that you called him out on this. SMH

  23. RB*

    #4 , I sympathize with your boss. Verbal communication can be so much more efficient. I have 25+ e-mails in my deleted items just from today alone that could have been avoided by two phone calls. Meaning there were about 12 e-mails from a back-and-forth on one issue and about 12 that were a back-and-forth on a different issue. And that’s just on those two issues.

    1. Lego Leia*

      OP #4 here: There are absolutely times that a phone call is needed, and I currently find myself pushing for some interdepartmental confernence calls at work. There is a point at 3 or 4 unproductive replies when I do switch from email/messaging/texting to “can everyone call into in 10 minutes to resolve this” mode. A balance is absolutely needed and there is a purpose in phone calls. A lot of of my frustration is directly related to the interuptions of important tasks by non-urgent phone calls.

  24. JustaTech*

    Cards Against humanity at work, oy. I had a boss (who had never played the game) suggest it would be a good thing to play at our next all-site event. There was this long, awkward pause while we tried to think of a card we were willing to say to him that would still communicate how very work inappropriate it was.

    He never suggested it again.

    Now (pre-COVID) we play giant Jenga (made of 2-by-4s) that is both more work appropriate and a better spectator game.

    OP2, I’m glad your boss found some sense.

    (CAH is one of those games that requires enthusiastic consent from all players, not “oh, OK”. I’ve enjoyed playing with friends, but the time a guest brought it to Thanksgiving with my in-laws I wished the earth would swallow me up.)

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