my boss reads my emails, TV’s best bosses, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I was laid off, and my old employer hasn’t contacted me now that they’re hiring again

This past year has been a really hard one for me. I spent several years working in a job that was interesting, challenging, and helped me grow my skills. My industry was decimated by the pandemic and many of us were furloughed early on; after many months of wondering what would happen next, my position was eliminated last fall and I was devastated.

Now I am many months into a new job that pays me more than my old job, but is extremely dull. They praise my work but I am very unfulfilled. I am rarely busy and the work I am assigned is very one-note and doesn’t use many of my skills. I am applying to new roles because this place just doesn’t seem to be a good fit.

I have been distressed of late to see that my prior workplace has begun hiring again and the job of mine that was eliminated now apparently needs to be filled again. My prior workplace is rather dramatic and prone to firings and personnel-related upheaval, and the main managers of my department were fired shortly before the pandemic began and were replaced by new people who, when the pandemic hit, saved themselves and got rid of many of us. The way they treated us left a bitter taste in my mouth. They have not reached out to me to ask if I’d want to come back (though I worked there for several years and was well-regarded). My mentor-turned-friend who still works there keeps telling me he misses working with me and I miss working with him, too, but I do not feel comfortable reaching out to the new department heads about the job posting. They did, after all, lay me off and I think they should be the ones initiating contact. What irks me is that whenever I am on job boards, I keep seeing my old role being advertised since they are apparently unable to find someone with adequate skills. And it makes me mad and upset because my skills are good and I know how to perform the role.

My spirits are very low because of this situation. There are not a lot of jobs in my field in this town. But I have too much self respect to grovel at the feet of the people who laid me off. Do you think I am taking the right approach here?

It sounds like you’re making this very personal when it’s not. I know it feels personal — losing a job is a big deal. But these aren’t personal relationships; they’re business ones, and “they should be the ones initiating contact” just doesn’t apply here. And do you really want to hang your future professional happiness on that principle?

If you’d like to go back, just contact them yourself! They might be assuming you wouldn’t be interested since you have another job now (which they could know from LinkedIn or your friend who’s still there). Or they might not have thought of you because they didn’t work with you long. If you’d be interested in going back, just apply! Or if you want, you can contact them first, say you’d be interested in talking about returning, and ask if you should formally throw your hat in the ring. None of that is groveling. It’s just … normal business stuff.

However, you sound like you have a lot of bitterness toward the current managers, and if you return you’d presumably be working for them. So make sure you’re okay with that part of it first.

2. My boss reads my emails with customers

I’ve been at my job for close to five years, and my manager has been working here just about as long. Throughout this time, I’ve noticed that my manager will read through my email exchanges with customers. Since the vast majority of these occur through an alias customer service email address that the sales team all has access to (she and I and a part-time team member are the primary users of this account), I haven’t said anything about it because it doesn’t seem like she’s doing anything wrong, per se, so I don’t know how to bring it up without looking suspicious.

I’m not using these emails for anything other than business and don’t have anything I’m trying to hide (and no one has ever called my handling of customer emails into question aside from the usual sales strategy feedback), but it feels weirdly invasive and micromanagey and like she doesn’t trust me to do the job that I’ve been doing for five years. I’ve only noticed it happening when she mentions something to me or others that was discussed exclusively in an email conversation with a customer, and which wouldn’t have come across her desk without reading that email exchange. Since I always make sure to direct her to any emails that require her attention, I’m not certain what the goal is here.

I know that it doesn’t really matter on a large scale, but it has always really bothered me. It also feels like a strange use of time when we’re already understaffed and no concerns have been raised with me about my handling of issues. Am I wrong to feel like this is invasive, and untrusting? Is there something I can do about it?

If she is one of the multiple users of that email account, this isn’t necessarily shady. She could be in there for legitimate reasons and happen to come across those emails without specifically going out of her way to monitor you, right? I could see her thinking, “Oh, here’s an update from Client X, who I take an active interest in — where are things at with them?” I get why that feels like you’re being watched, but it can also just be part of the deal with a shared email account.

Since it’s bothering you, though, you could say, “Do you have any concerns about my handling of emails with customers? When you review my emails in the shared account, it’s made me wonder if you’re not confident that I’ll handle issues correctly.”

If she doesn’t need to be in the account for other reasons and she’s going in specifically to read your emails, that’s more unusual and you’re not wrong to feel untrusted — although there’s probably a reason it’s a shared account, and whatever that reason is might put it in context. There too, though, you could use the language above.

To be clear, managers should spot-check people’s work periodically to make sure they have a good feel for things they otherwise might never see. But monitoring emails without an explicit acknowledgement that that’s the system isn’t typical, so especially if it’s scenario #2, I’d want to know more about where she’s coming from.

3. Can you cite higher insurance premiums when negotiating for more money?

Is it considered acceptable, when negotiating a new job in a new organization, to use higher insurance premiums as a justification for requesting a higher salary? Does it matter if you verbally said a salary was good before seeing the insurance premiums?

You can absolutely say something like, “Your insurance premiums are much higher than I’m currently paying and change the math on the overall package for me. Given that, could you do $X?” If the premium cost difference would cancel out most/all of the salary bump you’d be getting by changing jobs, you can say that too; for example, “Unfortunately the cost of your insurance premiums is so much higher that I’d be taking a pay cut to join you. Could you go up to $X to cancel that out?” (Generally I don’t recommend talking about your current salary when negotiating pay, but where it helps you make the case for more money it’s fine to do. People understand you won’t want to take an effective pay cut, and they understand the concept of “I’d need $X to consider a move.”)

All this works even if you’d previously said a salary range sounded fine; if they wanted your full buy-in on that, they would have needed to show you the full benefits package then.

4. Can I ask for a different desk?

I feel a little petty even typing this, but I’d love your advice on how I can reframe my thinking about this to see it as less of an issue. I just got a new job (I used your cover letter tips!) and currently most of the team is remote but planning to go back in person soon. I got assigned a desk that can convert between standing and sitting. Before, I didn’t even know this was a possibility, but I got really excited about it. However, today I got an email that said I was reassigned to a different desk because someone else who was using it unofficially wanted to keep it because it’s bigger. I’m surprisingly crestfallen. I didn’t realize there would be such different levels of attractiveness between the different desks. And I can’t help but feel a little miffed that someone else “stole” my desk before I had a chance to go in. And the desk I got moved to is smaller and isn’t a standing desk. Should I reach out and make my preference known? I don’t want to be seen as someone who cares more about the desk than the work itself, but also a standing desk would make a big difference in my comfort level in the office.

You should ask if you can have the type of desk you want! They might have one they can give you, and if they can’t, they’ll let you know. It’s not a faux pas to write back, “Any chance there’s another standing/sitting desk available that I could use? I was pretty excited when you told me I was getting this one!” The answer might be no, but it’s fine to ask.

If the answer is no, though, keep in mind that this person didn’t steal your desk. They were already using it. It sounds like it was more their desk, and the person doing desk assignments just hadn’t realized that initially.

5. TV’s best boss

I was talking to my husband the other day about how I like Glenn from the TV show Superstore better as a manager than Michael Scott from The Office. In a lot of ways, they’re both sort of inept but somehow havereally good stores/offices, and they both say sort of inappropriate things and sometimes let their personal issues or values in the workplace too much. I think if I had to pick, I’d prefer someone like Glenn cause he’s way nicer, and some things he says might be inappropriate but aren’t as rude/mean/gross as Michael Scott, and I think Glenn is more amenable to being corrected/called out. It got me to thinking, who are the best and worst TV bosses?

I was thinking of people like Michael Scott from The Office, Glenn from Superstore, Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec, Captain Holt from Brooklyn 99, David from Schitt’s Creek (he does own a store after all, so I’m opening the possibility he’ll hire someone!), and Shannon from Kim’s Convenience. I think I might like Captain Holt the most and Michael Scott the least, even though I love both characters as a “they’re not real and this is purely amusing” kind of thing. Who’s your favorite TV boss (including those not on this list)?

I find most TV bosses truly terrible in painful ways (we covered Michael Scott and Leslie Knope recently), but Admiral Adama from Battlestar Galactica is excellent (although his fatherly affection for Kara is a weak spot). Also, weirdly enough, it seemed like Gus Fring on Breaking Bad might have been a good boss at his chicken stores, even though he was clearly problematic to work for in his drug business.

{ 680 comments… read them below }

      1. NeutralJanet*

        Seconded! I was just rewatching the episodes where Trixie breaks up with Christopher the divorced dentist and goes through (another) downward spiral, and Sister Julienne really handled that situation with the grace, compassion, and professionalism that I dream of having. Thinking back to earlier seasons, you know you’re a good boss nun if a nun feels comfortable coming to you to talk about her crisis of faith and how she’s considering leaving the order.

      2. nnn*

        One thing I really like about Sister Julienne is she genuinely respects the fact that the secular midwives are secular! When I first started watching the series, I thought Jenny (the protagonist at the beginning) was going to be given a hard time for living a secular life, perhaps being evangelized to or subject to unnecessarily strict rules.

        But instead, the secular midwives are not just permitted but in fact welcome to live secular lives, date, go out, etc. like the adult women and competent professionals they are.

        1. tra la la*

          Well, you have to admit that Trixie did have to push a bit on that. The sisters really did NOT like the photos of the nurses in leotards and tights…

          1. Lucy*

            I remember Sister Julienne admitting she was in the wrong in one of the discussions she and Trixie had, which is the mark of a good leader, I think.

        2. April*

          So, the series is based on an actual memoir, and what’s fascinating is how different the TV show is (I only watched it up until Jenny’s actor left? I think?) from the book!

          The rules, in real life, were very strict compared to what modern people are used to; though specifics are escaping me.

          But also, in the book, a big turning point is that she does in fact become pretty religious by the end of it.

          1. Blackcat*

            “The rules, in real life, were very strict compared to what modern people are used to; though specifics are escaping me.”
            What I found interesting in the book, though, is that the author notes that life with the nuns was way LESS strict than in regular hospital dormitories for nurses at the time.

            1. wittyrepartee*

              Part of this might have been like- respectability politics. The hospitals didn’t want to be seen as allowing the young ladies working for them to be hussies. The nuns have respectability to spare.

          2. wittyrepartee*

            Yeah, I was just thinking of this. Essentially, the amount of leeway they’re given is anachronistic, but the nuns were pretty accepting of the secular midwives given the times they lived in.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          I must admit I enjoy the suitors allowed to come pick them up, bearing in mind they live with nuns who can be quite terrifying.

        4. azvlr*

          When I first started watching this show, I was waiting at any moment for a character to turn out to be a baddie. I realized I was applying some conditioning gleaned from typical drama shows and my own trust issues. Once I realized this I was able to learn from their example of being kind and charitable to even the people who get under our skin or believe differently. What a great show. Sister Julienne wins!

      3. Mom to Max the dog*

        Agree. Sister Julienne has standards and is firm but compassionate. My best boss was much like her in those areas.

    1. MLH*

      Lol excellent point about Gus Fring. I suppose it’s to his advantage to keep his employees happy so they aren’t inclined to rat out the incriminating information they might witness in the stores.

      1. NeutralJanet*

        That was a point in The Americans as well–the employees at the travel agency obviously knew that Philip and Elizabeth were up to something shady, but they were happy enough there that they didn’t look too closely at what was going on. From what we saw in the earlier seasons, the travel agency also seemed to be a decent place to work, so long as you accepted that the owners might come and go at random!

        1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

          And that’s one of the key plot points in the later seasons: when the travel agency stops doing well it turns out that Philip isn’t that good of a boss and the facade starts tumbling down. The travel agency only operated as well as it did because they employed the right people. As soon as Philip took a much more hands on role and started to micromanage he began to hemorrhage money.

          1. Calliope*

            I kind of always assumed the Soviets were infusing some money into it too then stopped once he stopped spying.

      2. one more scientist*

        I always thought that he didn’t care if the chicken business made money or not–he made plenty of money with his drug business. He could afford to pay his employees well and just break even, while others would be forced to pay their employees less to get a profit.

      3. Cait*

        Yes! I was so happy she mentioned Gus Fring because every time we see him managing his employees he’s polite, thorough, supportive, direct, professional, and even selfless (saving them from the intimidating rival cartel members in Better Call Saul)! Of course it’s all to cover the fact he’s a murderer and drug kingpin but still…

      4. Suzy Q*

        Have people forgotten that Gus Fring made his employee scrub the fryolater until his hands bled? And that he did this via veiled threat?

        1. Tex*

          I think that was part of a plan to scapegoat the employees for the subsequent burning down of the restaurant. Still, not cool.

          1. Pikachu*

            Really? I thought this wasn’t so much about the employee (not that it makes it better…) but to show how close Gus was to exploding under the pressure. I think he was waiting on a Very Important Phone Call and taking it out on Lyle.

            Not sure though. I better rewatch the entire series to check, might be more context clues the 9th time around.

      5. Breaking Bad Fan*

        Oh, but remember when Gus Fring pressured the wonderful employee Lyle into cleaning the fryer over, and over, and over, until waaaaay after his shift ended. That was a bizarre and oddly disturbing scene and a glimpse into Gus’s true nature.

        1. RadManCF*

          Barney Miller was a great show, and in some ways one of the most realistic cop shows ever, from all the weirdness. I work in corrections, and I find my work life strongly resembles the show.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            My grandfather’s career was in law enforcement; he always quoted Barney Miller as being the most accurate law enforcement show on television. The Andy Griffith Show was up there as well, because he liked the final chief he served under before becoming chief himself as “50% Andy Taylor and 50% Barney Fife.”

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I took a Police Patrol class in college when I was a crim major. The adjunct was a former LEO/Internal Affairs guy (and one of my favorite teachers ever). A guest instructor in his class used Andy Griffith as an excellent example of community policing. He also predicted the fallout from over-militarization, but that’s a rant for another day.

              I was too young to appreciate Barney Miller when it was on, and it doesn’t seem to be in reruns anywhere. :(

              1. Christmas Carol*

                Antenna TV, two episodes weeknights 8:00 & 8:30 Eastern Time, other times for Saturday/Sunday

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        Yes to both. They were very human and could lose their cool, but if they did, they apologized. They also were respected by their staff, and deservedly so. And both were willing to grow to meet changing times and circumstances.

      2. Autumn*

        Can’t forget Lou Grant on Mary Tyler Moore! Especially as Ed Asner just died.

        I agree about Col. Potter in M*A*S*H. He had just the right touch, and in a difficult situation with stressed out people.

        I don’t watch much TV anymore.

    2. nnn*

      Col. Potter from MASH was a good boss – he was tough in a situation that required toughness, but was also humane.

      Most of our protagonist Star Trek captains have been good bosses, although now that I’ve posted that I’m sure people are going to come up with the exceptions.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Agreed with Col. Potter. War is a nightmare, he was in the hospital trying to put people back together, and deal with the medical staff that is also trying to keep it together in the middle of a war. He had a lot going on – but seemed to be able to keep everybody pulling in the right direction and get the best out of everybody there.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Another vote for Col. Potter. He handled all those different situations and different people with aplomb. Also they got him a horse :)

        I think I’d like to have Captain Picard as boss, but that might just be due to Patrick Stewart himself …

          1. ScotLibrarian*

            Sisko was great, supportive and a good manager. Janeway was also good, but not promoting Ensign Kim for 7 years when he went above and beyond all the time was poor management. Picard in TNg was generally good, but his bullying of Wesley Crusher (not an employee, but still) was unacceptable, and his decision to allow a key bridge officer to not wear uniform that she was supposed to and everyone else had to was a bit strange. Archer on Enterprise needed to tackle the racism (around other species) and sexism going on, ergh. I’ve not watched enough Original Trek, Picard and Disco to comment.

            1. E*

              >Janeway was also good, but not promoting Ensign Kim for 7 years when he went above and beyond all the time was poor management.

              Did he perform well, though? Isn’t he just the equivalent of somebody who always comes in early and stays late but doesn’t add value?

              1. Ben*

                Harry seemed to be very good at the technical responsibilities of his job but didn’t really display the qualities you’d look for if you’re promoting someone into a leadership position – which actually got pointed out on the show a few times (Nightingale).

                1. MusicWithRocksIn*

                  Agree. He did not have the management skills. And Janeway had to be very picky about who she promoted, because there was no real place to promote them *to*. She couldn’t transfer promoted officers off the ship to other assignments. Really, everyone was staying in the same position until they got home or someone on the chain above them died in a freaky science accident.

                  I really liked Janeway as a boss, but I didn’t love Chakotay’s management style, so I always felt like she was the great big boss but her effectiveness got watered down though Chakotay’s big head and harsher style.

              2. R*

                Poor Harry Kim is the very definition of someone who doesn’t add value.

                Oh come on, you all know I’m right.

            2. UKDancer*

              Yes, some of Troi’s outfits were deeply suspect (and hideous) so I was very glad when she started wearing uniform in season 6. I could understand her wearing something less formal to put clients at ease in a counselling session but when she was on the bridge she should have been in uniform in my opinion.

              1. Hobbit*

                The only reason Troi got a regular uniform is that Marina Siris fought so hard for it. I watched the special features on NextGen and their writer said (almost point-blank) that her only role was to be the love interest/boobs etc.
                The one thing that got me about her character is that she should have had a Ph.D., and been addressed with the title doctor. It doesn’t make sense for her to be on the flagship of Starfleet and not have that level of qualification. (Sorry rant over).

                1. The Prettiest Curse*

                  I found Troi super annoying until she actually got to wear a real uniform, and then I liked her. (Funny, that.) Every single catsuit (or whatever those things were that she wore) was horrible. Apparently, the annoyance was due to my brain hating the visuals as well as the hideous sexism.

                  Also on the topic of Star Trek costumes – they did change this a bit in the later films, but the female crew in the 2009 film were still wearing miniskirts (!!!!!!) presumably because the producers didn’t want to upset the fanboys. If I had a job that involves walking on open metal catwalks with people walking around underneath me, no way in HELL am I wearing a miniskirt, no matter what century it is and no matter how good the HR policies at Starfleet…

                2. TiffIf*

                  @The Prettiest Curse
                  Ok just gotta say-the 2009 film is a timeline reset so the era depicted is the film is NOT the current Starfleet but Starfleet as it existed in the Kirk TOS era–they weren’t “still wearing miniskirts” like Starfleet hadn’t moved on–if you look at all the TNG films they certainly had–but they were purposefully evoking a previous time to give a believable continuity for where the timeline splits when old!Spock intervenes and changes history/rewrites the future. Once you have splintered the timeline you can do whatever you want which is why the later movies have more freedom.

                  I certainly don’t speak for everybody, but as both a woman and a Trek fan–the miniskirts made complete sense in the context for the story. If they had NOT had the miniskirts I would have been confused as to why the past was already changing prior to old!Spock’s intervention.
                  And it isn’t just the miniskirts–there was a lot of the 60’s era TOS aesthetic that went into that film.

                3. TiffIf*

                  Troi does have an advanced degree in Psychology (so PhD or whatever the 24th century equivalent is) according to her character bio.

                4. Cyburnt*

                  I thought her deal was that she was half Betazoid and thus was like a genetic empath? I think her title was Counselor? She would not need to have a degree that required her to be addressed as doctor to be a competent counselor/ therapist.

            3. EZ Like Sunday Morning*

              We don’t have a lot to go on from the original series, but the Captain Pike we got in Season 2 of Star Trek Discovery is everything a person could want in a great leader.

            4. Calliope*

              The whole Troi thing was always ridiculous. You can’t have an effective therapist who is in the chain of command for the people she’s counseling. Completely unethical – it would be impossible to have a real therapeutic relationship.

            5. I Speak for the Trees*

              I am totally with you on Janeway and Picard, and in my opinion, Jean Luc’s management style improved in Picard, perhaps because he’s no longer Starfleet. And I always admired Janeway because, frankly, they were so far away from Starefleet that she really didn’t have much back-up and had to rely almost solely on her own leadership ability.

              Kirk was not my cup of tea as a boss, but I will see say that Discovery has some excellent examples of leadership (and some not great ones, too). Discovery also gets points for proving how important it is for everyone to be cross-trained…

              Yeah, I’m a nerd… LOL

          2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

            I was coming here to nominate Captain Sisko. He wore several hats: military, running a heavily civilian station, emissary – and he balanced them well.
            I wanted to like Janeway, but she was awfully inconsistent and more interested in slurping coffee too much of the time.

            1. MusicWithRocksIn*

              Sisko was excellent at the work/life balance. He made time for his kid and his dad and his downtime and set a good example for his crew to balance their own lives. A lot of the other Captains lived and breathed the job.

              It actually really bothers me when characters are too job focused, because when you see that everywhere in the media it sends a message that the job is more important than your life. You see it a ton on the murder solving shows; lots of dropping personal plans because the case isn’t solved – and we can’t do personal things because there is an all important case! That isn’t how real crime solving works at all, and there is so much telegraphing that personal time and space isn’t important.

              1. AndersonDarling*

                I liked Picard as a boss, but I like how Sisko was given the opportunity to have an individual personality at work. Picard was business 90% of the time, but Sisko would make a few jokes and smile with his team. The evolution between Picard and Sisko really reflects the changing view of workplaces IRL.

              2. Collarbone High*

                There’s a line in an SVU episode about how Benson is amazing because she never takes a day off when she’s working a case, which is both laughably unrealistic (she’s always working a case! multiple cases!) and not at all something to praise.

                1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  To be fair, something can be amazing without being good. I’d need more context.

                2. EchoGirl*

                  I feel like the concept of Benson as a boss was doomed from the start because of the way the whole thing is set up. Traditionally in the L&O universe, the boss was more of a primary supporting character rather than a true main (see Cragen, Van Buren, the two main bosses on Criminal Intent, etc.). But Benson is the most popular character in SVU, so they were never going to push her back to an out-of-focus role, so the character now ends up being a boss who is still trying to do the same job she did as a lower-ranked officer, and it just ends up being…wrong.

                  Personally, I think that if they were that committed to having Benson continue to do a detective’s job, it would’ve been better for them to keep her at second-in-command and bring in a new character to be the new boss. Potentially that’s what they were trying to do with the Deputy Chief character (the character played by Peter Gallagher), but it didn’t really work because that structure still had Benson as the immediate boss of the unit with the Chief being the grandboss, rather than giving Benson the freedom to not have to be the boss.

          3. Hobbit*

            Captain Sisko is also my pick!!
            Out of all of the captains, I think he’s the most approachable.
            He has clear standards, a good head on his shoulders, and allows for failure.

            1. Student*

              I always admired how he supported his team. Odo especially, but also Kira, Worf, Julian, etc. He had a much higher rate of “oddballs” and misfits on his team, from a Star Trek world perspective, but he never treats them like oddballs – he treats them like valued team members that he trusts to do their jobs. And he doesn’t tolerate other people to treating his band of misfits poorly.

          4. WantonSeedStitch*

            Agreed! Sisko was good at giving feedback, though perhaps his wording wasn’t always as professional as it could be. (Hey, they need drama and impact. It’s TV.) He praised people for their good work, but called them out for bad decisions even if things turned out well. I also like the fact that he led an incredibly diverse team very skillfully and he was as good at the big-picture strategic stuff as he was at the tactical stuff.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Picard can be a bit of an arrogant dick (I love Patrick Stewart, though.) The Stars Trek boss I’d most like to have would be Saru from Discovery, Captain Rios from Picard or the current version of Annika/ Seven of Nine. We haven’t really seen Annika as a boss, but she’s so cool it would just be fun to trail around after her while she kicked arse.

          1. Bamcakes*

            Picard is properly mardy and takes his mards out on his staff, especially the more junior staff. Not at all good!

        2. SpicySpice*

          I also immediately thought Picard. He corrects people without being mean about it, he always listens even if he doesn’t agree with you, and he has his folks’ back 100%.

      3. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

        Agreed, each of them were well suited to their positions:

        Picard the consummate explorer and philosopher
        Sisko as the anchor/builder/pragmatist
        Janeway as the boss and head of a “family”. And the most flexible, she was the best of the three at reading a situation and being creative in solving it

      4. foobar*

        I’ve been watching the original series and good *lord* Kirk is a bad boss by contemporary standards, especially re: Yeoman Rand. A walking, talking sexual harassment lesson, that Kirk. (He does have his good moments re: women, but generally it is because some antagonist is being even more sexist.)

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. The original Star Trek had some good points but it’s problematic. There is some hugely sexist content and it’s a product of its era. That said I do enjoy it and Mr Spock was my first crush so I have soft spot for it but ouch, some parts have not aged well.

        2. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Indeed! I binged TOS a few years back and the sexism is pretty shocking, especially for someone who grew up in the 80s and didn’t experience quite that 60s level of sexism IRL or even on the TV shows I watched. But even TNG had some pretty lousy sexism, for example the Robin Hood ep where the men were all sword fighting and Crusher got to *break a flower pot on someone’s head,* for crying out loud. And this from the one person in the cast, Gates McFadden, who actually *knew* how to fence. It’s pretty cringe-worthy. (And don’t even get me started on how the sexism was quite rampant behind the scenes. She has some terrible stories about the boys’ club in the production scene.)

        3. Kora*

          Kirk’s interesting because he’s being written by (mostly) men who had a strong ideological belief in equality for women, but who were also sexist enough that they didn’t really know what that would look like. So on the one hand you have Charlie X, where he’s very clear that harassment and abuse is wrong; and on the other there’s The Enemy Within, where apparently the procedure when Kirk is accused of assault is for him to personally turn up and interrogate his accuser, and absolutely no one making the episode could see why that might be a problem. The gap between the character they wanted to be writing and the one they actually wrote is really fascinating to me.

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes, this is exactly what I think. They desperately want to depict an equal society but they don’t know what that would look like. Hence why you have Kirk questioning Rand and lines about how women can’t command starships.

        4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          By that token though Riker was walking a thin line with some of his sexual behavior and Picard just let him. Most of the crew just ran amok and Picard watches while having tea. Who lets a civilian child pilot the ship! I’m not a deep trekkie but i didn’t think Troi was actually a starfleet member at first…wasn’t she a civilian and really only there because of her empathic abilities?

          1. UKDancer*

            I think Troi was definitely Starfleet and went through the Academy like the rest of them. She just didn’t take the bridge exam until later on. Interestingly that was after she managed to get out of those awful outfits and into uniform.

          2. TiffIf*

            Troi was more analagous (if I remember right) to a civilian with a specialized degree (like a doctor) joining the military. She did have native empathic abilities but also had advanced degrees in Psychology.

            1. LunaLena*

              She was definitely in the chain of command, though? I remember in the episode Disaster, something catastrophic happens to the Enterprise, causing various sections (and crew members) to be isolated from each other and communications to go down, and the episode is segmented into showing how each one steps up to do what they can. Picard was giving a tour of the Enterprise to some school children and has to lead them to safety while keeping them calm and having a broken ankle, for example. Troi was the senior officer on the bridge at the time and ends up in the command chair, even though there are other officers (like Lieutenant O’Brien) on the bridge.

              The best part of the episode, though, was that Worf gets trapped with the pregnant Keiko O’Brien and has to assist when she suddenly goes into labor.

        5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          A walking, talking sexual harassment lesson, that Kirk.

          Does the character improve in the movies, or is Shatner just providing more of the same?

          1. Black Horse Dancing*

            He improves. Actually, in the books, Kirk is pretty dedicated to chasing women off ship–never his crew. Riker is way more hound dog than Kirk.

            1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

              From the few ST books I read decades ago, weren’t they written by many different people and each sort of fan fic-ed their way through…nothing was cannon? Anyway, Kirk in the movies was sort of better but mostly because a movie doesn’t tend to meander plot-wise as much as a TV show. His romantic exploits (off screen and in the past) are pretty central to Wrath of Khan. But the movies also have a much older Cap. Kirk than the TV show; he’s no longer officially in command by Wrath of Khan…so that probably plays a part.

            2. I always have a normal number of opinions about Captain Kirk on the internet*

              I would say that on the show too Kirk really doesn’t pursue relationships or flirt with crew members. The situations where he does are typically a mind control/alternate universe/evil half/etc. type situation. Not arguing for him as a model for 21st century management at all, but I’m a big Kirk defender and tend to think his rep as a horndog is overblown in general (a lot of the non-crew member relationships are also mind control/sex pollen/amnesia situations, tbh) and particularly as relates to his crew. Obviously the show wanted it both ways — the star gets to kiss lots of sexy space ladies without it reflecting on his character! — but I don’t think that’s fictional character Kirk’s fault.

              (The example I always think of and am amused by is when a Yeoman starts to give him a backrub in “Shore Leave” and Kirk is highly appreciative when he thinks its Spock but immediately all business when he realized it’s a junior crew member, lol. McCoy absolutely hooks up with that Yeoman but she isn’t in his chain of command.)

      5. Ben*

        Personally, I think everyone has missed the actual best boss of Star Trek: Data.

        Several times he has command and almost always has to deal with recalcitrant juniors or conflicting responsibilities and the way he handles them is masterful.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I didn’t watch a ton of StarTrek, but what if it I have watched has brought me to believe that Jordi and Data had some of the best character Arcs and growth out there. Data really does grow from the Android trying to understand humans into a true friend by the end of the movie where he blows up (sorry – I really don’t remember titles).

          1. Humble Schoolmarm*

            Actually, Geordi is a pretty great boss. He’s collaborative and clearly his team can work well under the ship is about to blow up pressure. I think (because this goes back a while) there’s even an episode about how he can be a better boss to Barclay the underperforming team member.

      6. logicbutton*

        I believe most of the Starfleet crew members report to whoever’s in charge of their department (e.g. the TOS engineering crew reports to Scotty) and all of those people report to the first officer, who reports to the captain, so the majority of the main cast members of most of the shows are somebody’s boss. I always thought pretty much all the first officers must have been pretty decent, actually – Chakotay seems like he’d be great to work for, you know? But also, like…imagine Spock giving Bones an annual performance review, lol. I bet Beverly Crusher is an excellent boss and Julian Bashir is incredibly frustrating, although not as much as the EMH (whose lack of staff is not always a good thing but in this sense maybe it’s just as well). O’Brien is canonically beloved by his crew.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          B’elanna was made head of engineering, because she was so brilliant, but I feel like she would have been a pretty bad boss since she had such poor anger management skills. I feel like Julian Bashir would have been a good boss – he had very good people skills and always seemed kind to his staff. I always felt really bad that Tom Paris was forced to work in Sick Bay with the EMH so much when Kes left – you think that they would train someone who wasn’t the pilot of the darn ship and the head of a department to be backup nurse, he had other stuff to do in an emergency.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            I totally agree with you re: Paris and sickbay. Sure he had medic training, but in a crew of 150+ people, you’d think there would be other medics who weren’t also the head pilot. Or even some kind of science officer who had biology training and wasn’t otherwise occupied on the bridge, who could take time away from their research or whatever. The budget limitations of the show really hurt casting; I wish they’d been able to hire more recurring regulars aside from the main cast.

            I’m listening to Garrett Wang and Robbie McNeill’s podcast about VOY and they just reviewed the ep where Kes left. They were both ruing that decision and I wonder along with them why the damn show couldn’t have kept Kes *and* Seven. Pretty frustrating situation all around. And the way TPTB just fired Jen Lien for no real reason was pretty terrible. I never much cared for Kes but I am incensed on Jen’s behalf.

            1. logicbutton*

              “Sure he had medic training, but in a crew of 150+ people, you’d think there would be other medics who weren’t also the head pilot.”

              You would think!!! Zero medics in the Maquis crew, really?

              1. Slow Gin Lizz*

                “Zero medics in the Maquis crew, really?” Right??? Maybe they all got killed in the pilot or something.

        2. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Lol, this is hardly the point, but I think Kirk would be giving all the senior staff (Bones, Spock, Scotty) their annual reviews, but maybe you’re right? Maybe the first officer does the reviews? Anyway, I’ve never before ever thought about ST and annual reviews but now I will be thinking about that forever and it’s a hilarious image, thank you!

          Also: Crusher is my favorite and I would LOVE to work for her.

          1. LunaLena*

            Pretty sure Kirk was the department heads’ boss and not Spock. Spock himself was a department head, for one thing; he was Chief Science Officer in addition to first officer.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Yes, I agree. But maybe not. Either way, I love the image of Kirk doing anyone’s annual performance reviews. Total LOL at that.

      7. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Came here to write about Star Trek, because that show has a high level of idealism, so its bosses are generally pretty great. One exception is TNG’s ep Pegasus, with Terry O’Quinn starring as an old captain of Riker’s who did some shady stuff, but the show’s main captains were all terrific bosses. I admit to having a slight leaning towards Janeway as my fave, but Picard is a very very close second.

      1. CurrentlyBill*

        I would also add Captain Janeway from Voyager and Agent Prentiss from Criminal Minds.

        Dwayne Pride from NCIS New Orleans was generally pretty good, but needed to walk away from more stuff.

        1. UKDancer*

          I thought Prentiss made a great unit chief. She did a great job with the team and was a really strong leader.

        2. amoeba*

          Yes, Captain Janeway – and also Sisko and Picard! Would happily work for any of them. Of course, also because that would mean I’d be in starfleet…

        3. liquidus*

          CAPT Janeway is mixed bag. She knew her stuff and was enough of an expert to be able to reliably judge the work of her subordinates, but there were time she got too close to the issues and became too emotionally involved (see Equinox). Also after seven years, her failure to recognize Ensign Kim’s contributions and frankly promote him twice over (who stays an ensign for seven years??) is frankly a stark failure regarding how she treated her subordinates.

          And as for Tuvix, that’s a whole other matter.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, I definitely agree about Adama on this. The other ones are total unknowns to me, because I haven’t seen The Office (either version), or Parks & Rec.

        I think all the Star Trek captains were pretty decent bosses. Even Kirk. Sure, he had an eye for the ladies and flirted a bit too much with Nurse Chapel, but I bet that he was a much better boss to his female staff than series creator Gene Roddenberry ever was.

        1. Black Horse Dancing*

          True. Kirk usually kept his frisking around off ship or non crew–as in the women he usually slept with. One episode was of his yeoman was rubbing his back–he made he stop immediately when he realized it wasn’t Spock. Roddenberry mentioned he modelled Kirk and Spock after Alexander/Hephaestion. Which adds a whole new layer to Kirk and Spock ;)

    3. CatCat*

      #5 I’ve always thought Colonel Potter from MASH was a very good boss, especially considering the extremely difficult circumstances he and those under him worked in.

      I also admire Captain Saru on Star Trek Discovery. Also in charge under difficult circumstances. He’s much better as captain than Michael would have been, imo, even if he’s had a lot to learn and still has a lot to learn. I’ve enjoyed seeing that character grow in leadership.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        The science fiction and military examples are interesting. In those shows, we have the workplace being the location of the show, but the focus of the storyline tends to be on the job they’re actually doing, rather than background for the interactions between the coworkers. So a competent boss makes for good storylines – they successfully go on away missions and do first contact and battle alien spores, and don’t instantly die because the Captain’s an incompetent idiot.

        A lot of workplace shows concentrate on the drama between the characters, and improbably situation comedy screw-ups, with the actual work being a background thing. An incompetent boss there provides an excellent source of chaos.

        1. allathian*

          That’s a fair point about decent bosses on sci-fi shows. One thing that’s always amused me about such shows, especially Star Trek, is the number of incompetent or downright criminal admirals they manage to promote. When I watch those, I always think of the Peter Principle. A lot of the storylines basically amount to insubordination, and the captains sometimes avoid being court-martialed by the skin of their teeth.

        2. Daisy*

          MASH is kind of a bit of both – military and sitcom, and one of each kind of boss. Colonel Blake wasn’t a very good boss, just always messing about with Hawkeye and Trapper. It’s interesting they made Potter quite different.

          1. Autumn*

            Henry didn’t want to be there, or to lead. He was thrust into the role because he was in civilian practice longer. Potter on the other hand had been in the Army through 2 previous wars and had seen a lot of shenanigans before the Swampmen. Henry was saddled with more than he wanted. In the early seasons most of the conflict was between the Swampmen and Frank, who was comically problematic right from the start. Then of course there was Margaret Houlihan, regular army to her bones. She wanted the place to run like a proper military camp and she certainly was a nightmare boss. But, when you add in the fact that all the nurses were there voluntarily (not drafted) they probably were not unduly surprised by her leadership.

            Meanwhile the Swampmen (Hawkey and Trapper, Later BJ) were drafted after a couple years of residency, they had probably been deferred as students during WW2 and they didn’t want to be there. Frank was a little older, but wanted to play soldier. Later Charles, who, like the others, was drafted. Who probably would have been left tin Tokyo but had to be a pompous ass to a general over a cribbage game and perhaps knew this was all his own fault.

            Other than Frank, most of these characters were written as people who were very good at their actual jobs and proud of their results…but were cutting loose when they weren’t on duty.

            1. Daisy*

              I mean, leading *was* part of Blake’s ‘actual job’, whether he wanted it or not (and bosses are what we’re talking about here, not doctors), and I don’t think he was good at it – I’m pretty sure there were at least a couple of occasions where there was a difficult choice to be made and he basically said ‘Do what you like’, which isn’t good management in civilian life and is much worse in the military.

              (I just went and read the Wikipedia page and whoever wrote that seems to agree with me: ‘Henry is a good man and a capable surgeon, but an ineffectual commanding officer. Company clerk Radar can usually anticipate his wishes and turn them into efficient military orders, but Henry often gets flustered when an important decision needs to be made. In the episode “Rainbow Bridge”, he has to decide whether to send his doctors into enemy territory for an exchange of wounded prisoners, but hems and haws then tells his doctors, “Whatever you guys decide is fine with me.”‘

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                Another vote for Potter. I’m still amazed how well he holds up for being written in the late 70’s and early-to-mid 80’s and set in the early 50’s, when a lot of old attitudes were tolerated that today are rightfully considered unacceptable.

                However, I’ll go to bat for Blake.

                At Rainbow Bridge, he’s a doctor, not a soldier, and defers the decision to risk their lives to the men and woman who are actually going to risk their lives and is willing to back them up either way. It’s played for laughs, but that’s the move of a man who cares about the well being of his staff and of the wounded–a higher stakes version of putting to the workers who would do the physical labor whether an overtime-heavy order is accepted or declined. A bad boss would be indifferent to the lives at stake.

                Blake asserts his authority unambiguously (Henry Please Come Home, Chief Surgeon Who, Adams Ribs, even the Pilot). Blake also repeatedly ignores rank and puts capable people into the right roles–Pierce as Chief Surgeon in Chief Surgeon Who, Radar before the series pilots. Radar especially, as we find out in Change of Command from Father Mulcahy that Radar had been a train wreck as a clerk initially (every bit as bad as Klinger was doing if not worse), but Blake saw his potential and coached him up to help him grow into the job.

                Blake almost gets killed from not being a doormat in Cowboy. He’s also far from a doormat in George, where he’s willing to face consequences from above in refusing to tarnish the service of a gay soldier.

                Blake from seasons 1-3 and Potter from seasons 4-5 are practically indistinguishable beyond Harry Morgan’s gravitas as an actor. Both Farrell and Morgan recounted many scripts simply had “Trapper” and “Blake” crossed through and “Hunnicutt” and “Potter” handwritten into the margin. David Steirs recounted the same thing about Burns’ name and Winchester’s in several season 6 scripts, which is why Winchester doesn’t really differentiate from Burns fully until into season 7 (Change Day is frequently pointed to as most obvious where Winchester is essentially executing a Burns plot).

                The real bad boss of seasons 1-3 of M*A*S*H are Generals Hammond, Barker, Clayton, and Mitchell, none of whom put Burns and Houlihan into their place after filing misleading or outright wrong reports. None of them back Blake up to the camp, either; each is far too willing to meddle in affairs vastly below their station and undermine him for laughs.

                Potter’s upward management skills are significantly better, but even he has to roll with the punches from above (Novocaine Mutiny, the General’s Practitioner, Last Laugh). But Potter also does no better standing up to Intelligence (cf. A Smattering of Intelligence vs Rally Around the Flagg Boys). Blake’s main flaw as a boss seems to be that he’s too close of friends with the Swampmen. It’s basically the same flaw Potter had that we embraced as making him a better leader, played for laughs instead of seriously. Potter also puts to words the exact philosophy Blake has to use with the Swapmen repeatedly in Commander Pierce; they are “like an unbroken colt, and all I can do is give [them] rein until you wear [themselves] out.”

                Yet despite meddling from above, insubordination from below, the insanity of wartime, under constant besiege by Death, and being in demonstrably over his head, the 4077 maintained a 95% survival rate and 97% efficiency rate under Blake’s leadership (Henry, Come Home). Lest anyone suggest it was the camp running itself while he took credit, those numbers plummeted immediately once Frank Burns inherited command. As wonderful as Potter was, you don’t see the same precipitous drop-off when he’s replaced by Burns (the Novocaine Mutiny), Pierce (Commander Pierce), or Winchester (Tell it to the Marines).

                Blake’s flawed, sure. Especially when judged by modern standards. But there’s a demonstrable lot of good that went with those flaws.

                1. Seal*

                  For all his flaws, Blake was also the voice of reason on many occasions. In Sticky Wicket, he calls out Hawkeye for losing perspective after he starts obsession over a patient who isn’t improving. In Dr. Pierce and Mr. Hyde, he repeatedly orders Hawkeye to get some sleep when he can’t stop operating. And there are several episodes where he cuts through red tape to make sure medical supplies get to aid stations or clinics that need them without shorting his own unit.

                  Blake’s kindness and decency is never more apparent than in Sometimes You Hear the Bullet. After telling Hawkeye in the operating room to go help McIntrye while he’s desperately trying to save his childhood friend who’s just died on the operating table, he later finds Hawkeye crying and asks if there’s anything he can do. Blake’s sad resignation over the realities of being an Army surgeon (“There are certain rules about a war. And rule number one is young men die. And rule number two is, doctors can’t change rule number one”) is heartbreaking.

                  While he certainly wasn’t perfect, Henry Blake was a good boss.

                2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  And there are several episodes where he cuts through red tape to make sure medical supplies get to aid stations or clinics that need them without shorting his own unit.

                  Well said! I would put Henry’s short speech at the end of the Trial of Henry Blake up against Potter’s finest moments in M*A*S*H any day.

                3. I Speak for the Trees*

                  Some really good points here! And, now that I think about it, the fact that he was trying to combine the objectives/oaths/duties of being both a doctor and a military commander, which at times was genuinely conflicting.

                4. TardyTardis*

                  I thought Winchester distinguished himself from the very beginning when he didn’t rise to the bait with the Snake Incident (then again, you don’t survive Groton without growing a thick skin). And when he could do meatball surgery ‘because of the war of the Boston commuters’ which I witnessed firsthand going to my first Red Sox game.

              2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                I think the reason Blake was so bad is because he was promoted out of the job he wanted and thought he was getting. He struck me as the guy who just wanted to be a Dr and treat patients, but instead was promoted to run the place because he had prior private practice experience. Potter was Army and a leader through and through – and I always thought he did a great job keeping the peace between all the crazy personalities (and at the hospital my mom worked at I met most of those personalities in those surgeons) and getting as many casualties healed as possible in the process.

                1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  I think the reason Blake was so bad is because he was promoted out of the job he wanted and thought he was getting.

                  In addition to that, the vast majority of the time, Potter was serving as straight-man to his subordinates playing the goofball roles. While Blake was in command, he was a goofball as well, and we didn’t get to see Blake in the updated dynamics as M*A*S*H evolved away from being essentially Hogan’s Heroes: the Next Generation and into the groundbreaking dramedy that it became in the second half of its run.

                2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  Fair enough. Most of my MASH viewing was as re-runs watched in middle school with my mom in the mid-90’s. I will gladly admit that I missed quite a few episodes.

              3. Elizabeth West*

                Radar is the ultimate administrative assistant. If I were an admin for thirty years, I could never be that good.

                Klinger was good once he got the hang of it. The whole arc where he struggled to live up to Radar was very realistic from the standpoint of anyone who’s ever taken a job where their predecessor was outstanding.

      2. Not Australian*

        Saru is definitely one of the finest new characters in the Trek franchise, and I’ve also enjoyed watching his learning curve as a leader.

    4. NeutralJanet*

      I always thought Caputo from Orange is the New Black was a surprisingly good boss, particularly considering all that he had to deal with–he was the only member of the prison administration who seemed both to care about the inmates and have some idea of how a workplace should function.

      1. TechWorker*

        Not the impression I got but perhaps we are remembering different storylines – he’s pretty awful!

      2. Well...*

        I don’t remember him being a very good boss, just almost a halfway decent human being. Didn’t he do… stuff… to himself in his office? I guess he vaguely considers the inmates to be people, which is enough to be in the “good guy” camp for the prison workers in general. I got the sense that it was more so the writers could give a contrary opinion to the horrible stuff other people were saying.

        1. NeutralJanet*

          That’s fair–I may be misremembering based on the fact that he was less awful than the rest of the prison staff.

        2. cubone*

          He was definitely portrayed in the first few seasons as a bit more of a slimy creep towards the women. But I think as time went on, they wanted to contrast him with the other prison company head (played by Beth Dover), who was always polite and said the right things but only cared about profit and made tons of inhumane decisions. He’s a very, very messy character but I think he’s a great representation of someone who THINKS they’re making decisions for the “right” reasons, but frequently those reasons are much more biased by their own selfishness and narrow worldview than they can admit.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I thought he was a great character for those reasons—he’s deeply, deeply flawed and constantly self-sabotages. But that made him more interesting, in a kind of gross way, haha.

            1. cubone*

              yes, sorry, I should’ve been clear the “messy character” was a compliment to the portrayal! It’s much more realistic and interesting (people are messy as heck)

      3. CouldntPickAUsername*

        I mean except for sexually harassing one guard. Covering for rape for one guard temporarily and another later. then his crowning achievement of blackmailing oral sex out of someone so he himself is also a rapist.

        1. MHA*

          Yeah, I’m sure that being such a long-running show NeutralJanet just forgot about those details, but I was surprised to see him come up– he’s a scumbag!

    5. Anne of Green Tables*

      To the good bosses list, I would like to add Captain Picard.

      I remember while watching Breaking Bad how thoughtful and encouraging Gus Fring was in managing the chicken franchise. (Mike Ehrmantraut actually cared for his employees as well, but his methods of managing behaviour were significantly problematic.)

      1. Well...*

        Yes if we’re going scifi Captain Picard is a must! He’s almost unrealistically good at his job/everything though.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          My big knock on Picard was that he seemed horrible at work/life balance. You almost never see him out of his role as captain, and it was multiple seasons before you see him leave for any break at all! He could also be just a bit obsessive at times.

          I know it’s how the character was written, and overall he’s a good boss, but can the guy take a vacation every once and a while please?

    6. Not playing your game anymore*

      I agree that Barney Miller was a good boss. I also think Andy was a good boss on WKRP, but the Grandboss, Mr. Carlson and the Great Grandboss (Mama Carlson) were trouble.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        Asking an addict in recivery to buy you drugs is a hallmark of a bad boss. Hell, asking anyone to go get your drugs makes you a bad boss.

    7. There's always boom tomorrow*

      Everything* I know about being a good boss I learned from Jean-Luc Picard, Jed Bartlett, Captain John Sheridan, and Admiral Adama.

      *Not actually everything. And in some cases I learned what not to do from them. But mostly, yeah. No one tell my team.

      1. There's always boom tomorrow*

        …I’m retroactively mad at both myself and television media that there are no women on this list.

        1. Public Sector Manager*

          Linda Hunt’s “Hetty” on NCIS LA and S. Epatha Merkerson as Lt. Van Buren on Law and Order are two of my favorites!

      2. Not Australian*

        I was thinking of ‘The West Wing’, too, but strictly speaking Leo (and later CJ) was the actual boss – in that they dealt with the day-to-day running of the administration, staff relations etc. – and Bartlett was more the ‘product’ they produced. Their job was to make him more effective without bothering him with trivial details; his job was not to get involved with the minutiae of office life but to focus on the bigger picture. That’s why he never knew anybody’s name, or where his pens came from. Or, indeed, where his glasses were!

        1. Baron*

          I love Leo so much. I think there are some serious issues with the Bartlet White House, things that are endemic to work in politics but that are worse on the show: no work-life balance, a kind of clubhouse atmosphere, very intense codependency among the senior staff precluding any outside relationships. We’ve seen a lot of horror-story letters here about how badly it can go when a business says, “We’re like family!” – the Bartlet White House is the epitome of that. I feel like Leo could do a better job on these fronts.

          But if we’re accepting, “Okay, politics is just like that,” (which it is), Leo is perfect. Calm, reasonable, kind, supportive, loyal, sets clear expectations, lets people do their jobs. I love, for example, the episode where the president is stressed about something and he screams at Josh, and Leo later comes in and very firmly tells him that he (Leo) is accountable for Josh’s work and that the president shouldn’t be yelling at staff. It takes a special boss to manage any grandboss that way, never mind when the grandboss is president.

          1. what am I, a farmer?*

            Agree on both — Leo is a wonderful boss, and an office where his boss (the president) is his best friend* and his deputy (Josh) is the son of another good friend (who he knew in that capacity prior to having the job) is EXTREMELY screwed up even in the not-always-healthy-workplace world of politics.

            * I can still recite “You got a best friend?… is he smarter than you?… do you trust him with your life?… that’s your chief of staff” and get a lump in my throat every time but also NO DON’T MAKE YOUR BEST FRIEND YOUR CHIEF OF STAFF! Find someone you trust and work well with who is a work colleague! I promise they exist!

      3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I learnt a lot on what I *shouldnt* do from Malcolm Tucker. Although his ability to keep track of so much information, contacts etc at once is something I envy.

        1. Daisy*

          I remember Tucker as being very polite and professional to his assistant – I’m not sure he was actually the boss of anyone else, was he? He would be senior to the civil servants presumably, but they’re not in the same department.

          1. Sorrel*

            Yes! I think that most people out side of MP’s and advisors etc wouldn’t see that use from him ever. And he did seem nice to his actual staff.

      4. Dot Warner*

        Yes! I was hoping somebody would mention Captain Sheridan! He’s one of my favorites too, and B5 doesn’t get nearly enough love. Picard is right up there as well; if we could find a way to have those two run the galaxy, things would probably go a lot smoother.

      5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        And in some cases I learned what not to do from them.

        I like David Foley as David Nelson in NewsRadio and Harry Anderson as Harry Stone in Night Court, but both taught me more about how not to be as a leader by showing the problems with bad examples than they did by being positive role models.

    8. lyonite*

      AD Skinner on the X-Files always struck me as a pretty good boss, despite some significant management challenges.

      1. Library Lady*

        He became a decent-ish boss, although I distinctly remember an episode where he puts Scully in charge of managing Mulder and his obsession/mental state (like, “Don’t let him out of your sight” orders), and when Mulder inevitably goes missing, Skinner blames Scully. Um, I’m sorry, Mulder is a grown-ass man capable of managing himself – stop making sScully his baby-sitter.

      2. Patty Mayonnaise*

        Yes! He is a great example of managing up and down, and protecting your subordinates from mismanagement from the higher-ups (or just literally protecting your subordinates from the higher-ups).

        Daylight’s burning, agents.

      3. Becca Rosselin-Metadi*

        He did taking a beating meant for Mulder once or twice. Or did he just get into a fight for him? I don’t the show ever spelled out exactly what happened there. And then there was the ep where they all pulled guns on each other at the end and had to be talked from it. But yes, would work for Skinner-he wasn’t perfect, but he tried to stand up for his agents and warned Mulder away from making a deal with CSM.

      4. LunaLena*

        My husband and I watch reruns of The X-Files once in a while and we call him Papa Skinner, because he always seems like an irritated dad running after one rebellious kid and one exasperated-but-got-dragged-along kid, and trying to keep them out of trouble.

    9. Please Remove Your Monkeys from My Circus*

      Worst boss was definitely Quentin Travers, head of the Watchers’ Council on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

          1. Please Remove Your Monkeys from My Circus*

            He also hired Wesley, which showed a disturbing lack of due diligence in his hiring practices…

          2. Becca Rosselin-Metadi*

            Absolutely this. All Slayers had to be interchangeable to him and there was no way he was going to care about them.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Re-watched the entire thing lately and it drove me *nuts* that they didn’t pay her. Totally totally totally nuts. What kind of sense does that make? If she wasn’t working (or going to collage) she could have put in 40+ more slaying hours a week. How does that make any kind of sense? Also Joyce put a lot of pressure on her to parent Dawn so she could work at the Gallery, but I’m sorry lady her job is more important than yours is. My adult brain could not apparently handle the 2000’s logic of it all.

        1. Well...*

          Also Faith had to live in that motel room she obviously couldn’t pay for, whereas Kendra’s watcher covered her food, shelter, and clothes? Why didn’t Faith move in with Giles?

      2. Well...*

        Can I also put Giles on the list because he didn’t pay Buffy a salary in season 6 OR cover her living expenses (sustainably) even though he was still being paid by the council? And her bargaining to get him reinstated in season 5 specifically had given him retroactive back wages from the moment he was fired in season 3? He owes her money!

      3. Florp*

        Agree, but mainly came here to say I’m stealing your user name and making it my go to response to…well, pretty much everyone in my life right now.

        1. BigHairNoHeart*

          I liked the way she handled the issue with one of the sponsors wanting to get rid of a player earlier this season. Very good advocate for her team!

      1. NeutralJanet*

        I don’t know–he’s a sweetheart, and he obviously really cares about the team, but he doesn’t have much in the way of boundaries, which I think is where most TV bosses fail. He’s better than some, for sure, but a little more invasive than he should be.

      2. CTT*

        I don’t know – I think being a good boss involves knowing the job, and he took a job not just in a totally different sport than his expertise but an entirely different environment (as Beard points out in the first season, there is a huge difference between coaching college students and coaching professionals). He also got the team relegated, which can have devastating financial impact on the club and its community. We don’t know much about how the team was doing before he got there, and maybe this was a situation where they were going down no matter who was hired, but I feel like part of being a good boss is helping people succeed in their jobs, which he arguably has not done.

      3. Gumby*

        If we’re including coaches – Eric Taylor. Excellent coach, even better human being. Much too invested in his players’ life to emulate as a manager but exactly what is needed as a high school coach. (And apparently Kyle Chandler is also a very nice human being which is always nice to hear.)

    10. Aphrodite*


      I haven’t owned a television for more than 25 years so my answer to this one will be old: Captain Furillo from Hill Street Blues. Fair, honest, calm (on the outside anyway), caring.

        1. John M*

          Snap niksu! Just started re-watching as well and now that I’m older I can appreciate what a great boss he was.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        To quote yet another TV show… “you don’t own a TV? what is all your furniture pointed at?!”

    11. Pool Lounger*

      Lt. Anita Van Buren on Law & Order seemed like a good boss. She cared about her detectives and wouldn’t put up with it when they stepped too far over the line.

      1. BubbleTea*

        Captain Benson in L&O SVU is a pretty good boss. She walks the line between friend and boss very effectively, and isn’t afraid to pull rank when needed but otherwise is compassionate and human.

      2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        Ooh, Van Buren for sure! I also like Sharon Raydor from Major Crimes – in contrast to the skilled in solving crimes, but god-awful boss Brenda Leigh Johnson. It was funny how Raydor was introduced as the office villain, but she was merely sane amidst chaos. I was in a similar situation once, where a boss was villified by a mid-level manager who sounded so reasonable, but after the mid-level person left, it turned out the so-called villain was actually a great boss.

    12. Mary R*

      Lou Grant was in some ways a pretty terrible boss — bad temper, insulted his employees in public, heavy drinker, let friendships affect his work judgement, occasionally violent — and yet…

      I still kinda want to work at WJM.

      RIP Ed Asner.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Just coming here to say this. For all his grumpy affect, he took care of business. And I also hate spunk.

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I kinda wanted to nominate Lorelei Gilmore, because I think she would be so fun to work for, but can admit she wasn’t always the best boss because she low key bullied Michel so much. It was a friendly, bantering way, but not the best boss example in the world. Overall though, when I watched it when I was young I appreciated seeing a young, friendly fun woman who was a kick ass boss to a giant inn like that. Usually you see a lot more easygoing men in power on tv than women.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          In the early seasons where she manages the inn, I think she is a pretty decent boss. But when she owned her own inn she mixed business and personal too much and I just couldn’t imagine it was good for the business.

          Before I went to college I worked at a small business and the owner treated me as her personal assistant even though I was hired to do receptionist type work. She had me on hold with her plumber or calling all over to find her a stick shift PT cruiser rental at Boston-Logan for her upcoming vacation. I was not at all surprised when I came home the next summer and found out they had closed down.

      3. The Rules are Made Up*

        But but counterpoint! Lou hired Mary even though she didn’t have much experience because he was charmed by her saying “sorry” to a chair when she bumped into it on her way out. He took a chance when his employees came to him with ideas, supported their professional development and stuck up for them with management!

        Also adding. Glenn was a HORRIBLE manager. He had no boundaries at all. He let his employees do whatever, expected them to be as invested in Cloud 9 as he was, usually against their own interests. And held them to his own religious beliefs and took any critique super personally

    13. NeutralJanet*

      Arkady Ivanovich from The Americans was a good boss, if a not-so-great person! He handled the whole Nina situation well, stood up for Oleg when his father tried to have him transferred, and did his best to walk the line of “I personally disagree with this directive, but this is what we have to do” (particularly when it came to Nina). There’s a reason why Oleg was so loyal to him even after leaving the KGB!

      1. Lucy*

        Yes – I thought he was so can-do when he was putting all those signs on the cars. He really cared about his staff.
        Claudia on the other hand, while not strictly a ‘boss’, was pretty terrible at least at first.

    14. Bowserkitty*

      OP5 – thanks for the Kim’s Convenience mention! I think I’d hate to work for Shannon LOL…or Mr. Kim….

      What about Bob or Linda from Bob’s Burgers? Captain Holt is pretty no nonsense at least too.

      I used to think Leslie was a great boss until reading this blog made me realize her employee interactions are Not Great. ope.

        1. US Healthcare System Hater*

          LW#3- I’ve negotiated for more money a couple times before because premiums were higher or differences in the plans meant my health care costs out of pocket would be significantly higher. While my costs are unusually expensive, both times the company agreed to a substantially higher salary than the initial offer (once, well above the top of the salary range they gave me at the start).

          In the US, it’s pretty widely recognized that insurance and health care costs can be very high and people can’t argue it’s not important, so it seems like people get why when I bring it up.

        2. EchoGirl*

          I mentioned this upthread as well, but I think she’s a little questionable due to the fact that what the show wants to do with Benson’s character is not really compatible with a boss role. This isn’t a knock against the character — Benson has the traits to potentially be a good boss — but because she’s the star of the show, the writers aren’t willing to have her sit back and delegate to the extent that she should (i.e. the way characters like Cragen were used), so the character ends up being a boss trying to still do the same job she had as a lower-ranked employee, rather than accepting that being the boss means not being so directly involved in the day-to-day work.

          (Caveat:I stopped watching a few years ago because I felt like the show had pretty well jumped the shark, so they might have gotten better about this. In the first few seasons where Benson was the boss (16-18), it was a major issue.)

      1. PT*

        Bob and Linda from Bob’s Burgers don’t really have any employees. Their employees are their kids. I think they’re decent bosses given it’s a family business where the kids work- the kids don’t work too much nor do anything too difficult or inappropriate for their age/skill set, while in some family businesses that can get to be pretty problematic pretty quickly.

        1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

          Linda would probably be a nightmare boss if they had actual employees, as much as I love and identify with her. She’d be way too buddy-buddy and likely try to intervene in their actual lives. Heck, she does that with the customers! And lets the customer’s lives interfere with running the business…

          I do think Bob would be a good boss.

          1. generic_username*

            Lol, I could absolutely see this…. Linda would be overstepping boundaries and Bob would be like, “Linda… Leave them alone”

    15. GNG*

      My Good TV Boss vote goes to: Mrs. Hughes from Downton Abbey. She’s super competent as housekeeper. She’s fair and humane with her staff. She’s easily the best human on the show, not just a good boss.

      1. Ashley*

        I’m currently watching Downton Abbey for the first time (HOW did I wait this long??? It’s brilliant!) and I 100% agree with Mrs Hughes!!

        1. The New Wanderer*

          Same! First time watcher, bingeing whenever I can.

          Carson is pretty decent in his way, but I’d trust Mrs Hughes anytime.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        I really love the scenes when she “manages up” with Carson too, like how she convinces him to bring the staff to the beach while thinking it was his idea.

      3. Alex the Alchemist*

        Yes I was scrolling to see if anyone had mentioned Mrs. Hughes! She’d be a delight to work for. I’ll also tangentially mention that I’d be pretty happy working for Lord and Lady Grantham overall, even though they’re less involved with the day-to-day operations of the staff, they always seemed fair and compassionate towards their staff.

    16. CreepyPaper*

      Good TV boss vote: General Hammond from Stargate SG-1. He is the pinnacle of calm, to my mind. I mean yes, there’s the odd rule-break but I’d rather work for him than O’Neil.

      1. ScotLibrarian*

        Yes, he was great. Calm, kind, thoughtful, trusted his staff to do their jobs, praised good work

      2. ecnaseener*

        Yes, that’s my vote! (If we’re equating military commanders to civilian bosses, which might not make sense but oh well) Hammond always explains his reasoning when giving an order his subordinates don’t like, and he genuinely values their input and goes to bat for them. (Even tanks his own career to protect them!)

      3. Well...*

        My memory of Hammond is a bit faded, but what sticks with me from SG-1 is how functional the group was as a team. They all had different strengths and worked together to solve various problems. I was just coming here to comment that their boss probably deserves some credit for that.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Now that you mention it, he only actually picked one member of that team (Sam)! It was a different general in the original movie who picked Jack and Daniel, and those three recruited Teal’c all on their own. So he gets partial credit for *putting together* a great team, but full credit for facilitating their success :)

      4. AndersonDarling*

        He was such a good boss that I was deeply sad when Don Davis passed. It was like part of that fantastic character left with him.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Yes! He reminds me of my uncle (who was also stationed in CO… Hmmm). And anyone who can get the respect of Master Bre’ac (hands-down best mentor) is doing things right.

      1. LC*

        Oh this is a good one! Jared would adjust his communication style based on who he was working with, and he was always figuring out ways to highlight people’s strengths.

      2. Marzipants*

        Jared was a legitimate managing GENIUS. I love him and his character development. The episode where they ignore/berate him about SWOT and then Guilfoyle and Dinesh end up SWOTing whether to let the skateboarding dude die is one of my favorite episodes.

        “I’ve booby-trapped the house with corporate resources.”

    17. Mary Richards*

      Lou Grant!

      For a more contemporary choice, Rebecca from Ted Lasso seems like a great boss (mostly).

      1. Anomalous*

        Seeing Rebecca make the transition from a bad boss to a good one over the course of season one has been delightful.

        1. BigHairNoHeart*

          Yes! This thread is also making me realize that the transition from being a crappy boss to a good one is something that we don’t see very often!

    18. Princess Deviant*

      Alison, what do you think of Ted Lasso as a boss? I’m not sure…I think he’s a nice person, and very good at getting what he needs from his team, but there are few boundaries at that place. When the psychologist comes in and had boundaries with them all, she’s seen as cold and aloof.

      1. Save the Hellbender*

        I like Ted – besides the fact that in every workplace show the people are way too familiar, he really gets the best out of his players (although coaching is very different from managing) and successfully managed up with Rebecca.

    19. Mary Richards*

      Oh, another one: for a biker gang where half the members wanted to kill the other half at any given time, every guy who worked at Teller-Morrow on Sons of Anarchy adored Gemma and she seemed like a great boss. Just don’t get on her bad side…or go to barbecue night.

    20. RadManCF*

      Kermit the Frog. While he gets flusteredby his subordinates’ antics from time to time, he’s incredibly patient, not prone to anger, and gets good results from chaos. He’s not cruel, or mean-spirited, but can be a hard-ass when the situation calls for it. I’ve been particularly struck by his speech in The Great Muppet Caper, where he lays out all the risks they’ll face in plain, unsensational terms. If I were going into a dangerous situation, that’s just the attitude I’d want from the leadership.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I see your points and concur. Now, on to the subject of Miss Piggy. How should he have handled that? She was clearly inappropriate in the workplace. How should he have handled their very personal relationship?
        (On the original show, wasn’t he not interested most of the time?)

      2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        Yeah, but he also falls into the “dating a subordinate” problem with Miss Piggy. (Although more recent Muppets stuff has pretty clearly shown that it is, in fact, A Problem when you date a subordinate, break up, and still have to work together.)

      1. Anomalous*

        And don’t forget Henry Blake! He was very different than Sherman Potter, but was a good boss in his own way.

        1. Pro Potter*

          Strongly disagree. Radar did most of the management for Henry. Henry’s focus was alcohol and women. And he was easily influenced by Trapper and Hawkeye.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            If you’re going to praise Potter and denigrate Blake, I think the argument should include explaining away how they both got essentially the same results (95+% survival rates, 95+% efficiency ratings) out of mostly the same personnel under similar circumstances.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                Could the answer be that Radar was actually running things in both cases?

                It could, but that undercuts the argument about how great Potter was–Potter would be the same figurehead as Blake. You also have to give Blake some of the credit due Radar if Mulcahy can be believed, as it was Blake who trained and mentored him into the job. There’s also the last 2+ seasons where it’s Klinger in that role instead of Radar, and he’s demonstrably not a savant at the job.

    21. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

      I have a soft spot for Gil Grissom as candidate for best boss.
      He has his faults but is exceptionally pragmatic and not closed minded.

      1. HalloweenCat*

        I see your Gil Grissom and raise you Mack Taylor. It’s been a while since I watched any of the CSIs but I always loved Mack.

      2. Ben*

        Have to disagree. Gil was a great mentor and teacher, but a bad manager of people. He permitted conflicts of interest, didn’t always handle interpersonal issues in his team very well, got behind on paperwork for his staff’s paychecks and ultimately got involved with a subordinate. He would have been great to work *with*, but not necessarily great to work *for*. For a pretty pulpy show Gil was a surprisingly nuanced portrayal of someone who’s been promoted on the strength of their technical skill in their field but isn’t really suited to being a manager.

        1. Annony*

          Yep. He offloaded a lot of his job onto Catherine which is why he was able to look like a good manager. Great mentor, bad manager.

          1. Ben*

            Yeah, although one of his main weaknesses as a manager was his inability to reign Catherine in when she let work get personal. She would want to do something what was a personal conflict, Gil would rightly say no, Catherine would say she was going to do it anyway . . . and Gil would shrug and let her.

            Happened several times over the course of the series.

            Catherine would be a great boss 9o% of the time, but the other 10% would be rough.

    22. Celadon*

      I will submit Stellan Skarsgard (Shcherbina, Party boss), and Jared Harris’ (Legasov, scientist) characters in the TV show Chernobyl as good duo of managers – although this is an utterly bleak example. There are some great scenes with Stellan coaching Jared on how to win the trust of a group of miners (‘Don’t lie to them. These men work in the dark. They see everything’), and also a scene where Stellan persuades some engineers to volunteer for a certain death mission (‘You will do it: because it must be done.’)

      They also have a conversation about how to put out the radioactive fire using boron. It is a great example of the difference between strategy and operations, and why both are essential to achieve results. (operations without strategy = aimless, strategy without operations = pointless).
      Legasov has strategy and science, but Shcherbina is the man who can locate the boron and put it into operation.
      “With that Shcherbina turns and walks off in a huff.
      LEGASOV shouts after him
      ‘Where are you going?’
      SHCHERBINA shouts back
      ‘I’m GOING to get you five thousand tons of sand and boron!'”

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yeah, they win the award for Best Management In A Really Scary Crisis. They are two of my favourite actors, as well.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Just finished that series and it was astonishingly good.

        The managers at Chernobyl when it melted down are, in contrast, a study in how to manage horribly and then actively try to make it worse.

        I really liked the scene where the bad managers tell each other how they will fast talk Shcherbina, and then it doesn’t work… with Shcherbina using something Legasov told him on the flight there. So many times where someone with power has to pick between two knowledgeable people claiming that they know what they’re talking about, one of whom says it’s all fine and the other says it’s a catastrophe and we must act now.

        I also still get chills from a scene in the first episode where the board is sitting at a conference table trying to cover their asses (next to a reactor that is melting down) and the old guy takes charge: They can come out of this heroes. They need to protect the people from the dangers of any disturbing information. They just need to embody their ideals. He rallies everyone, it’s extremely effective as management… while the core continues to melt down next door with no plan to do anything about that because it’s FINE.

        1. SykesFive*

          The old guy spouts nostalgic communist orthodoxy which is effective in rallying the local governing group behind the bureaucrats’ bad plan. It’s a pretty nice depiction of the limits of the Soviet system for self-reform. Yes, there are consultative and quasi-democratic elements. Yes, there is some local input. But these are dominated by even lower-quality thinkers than the bureaucracy.

        2. Elenna*

          I haven’t watched the show but I was reading the Wikipedia article on the Chernobyl disaster the other day and, yeah, it sounds like the management was… interesting. In the “Chinese curse” sense of the word.

    23. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Mr. Grant! From Mary Tyler Moore, He had endless patience with Ted Baxter, took a chance on hiring an unskilled Mary Richards, and most importantly was willing to listen and change his mind when presented with different options.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I’ve read comments that he is a bad boss because he treated people badly.
        He was a bad employee, but if you worked for him, Ron had your back.
        Remember when he said Tom would not be happy or successful on the fourth floor project because nobody would see him working? And mentoring April.

        1. Mimi Me*

          Agreed. He even owns up to Chris that he loves being a wrench in the government cog, but still goes out of his way to make sure that his employees are given opportunities that go against his own beliefs which is why he tells Chris how to make the team run efficiently.

        2. MHA*

          Ehhh. Obviously they have the heartwarming moments with Ron to keep him a likeable character, but on the whole, he wasn’t good to his employees either. For the most part, he just straight-up DIDN’T manage them– he ignored conflicts, purposely CREATED conflicts (the “who broke the coffee maker” cold open is comedy gold, but terrible management!), got overly-involved in his employees’ personal lives despite otherwise being so hands-off he might as well not have existed, tacitly encouraged/allowed the bullying of Garry and the otherwise unhealthy workplace environment that LESLIE created, etc. He lived in the extremes of “not involved at all” or “overly-involved with a side of pettiness.”

      2. cubone*

        I sort of wish we saw more of him at his construction company. Other than hiring all his brothers, i feel like Ron Swanson would not tolerate undercutting employees’ labor for business profit. Like I could almost see him being a bit of a Dan Price-esque figure, philosophically (the CEO whose min wage is $70k).

    24. Lucy*

      Inspired by a comment downthread – who were the best bosses on The Wire (a series chockfull of realistic bad bosses)? Bunny Colvin seemed to be the only manager McNulty respected. Daniels grew into a good boss. Depressingly, both of these were pushed out or fired from the police force! On the drug dealers’ side, I don’t think Stringer was a good boss, but Avon had his limitations too – Stringer had strategy and foresight, but no understanding of people, while Avon was the opposite. Slim Charles was a great ‘middle manager’.

      1. not a doctor*

        Bunny Colvin will get my vote in any contest on any day. Loved that dude.

        Although, yes, Daniels did come into his own by the end.

    25. Slinky*

      I can’t get behind Shannon from Kim’s Convenience. In many ways, she’s a good boss, but she dates a subordinate, who then gets promoted. Problem!

      1. Washi*

        Yes, Shannon in real life would be a terrible boss! She has no boundaries and takes stuff way too personally at times.

      2. The Rules are Made Up*

        Especially early Shannon. She had obvious favorites and no backbone. Not a great combo.

    26. Janet Pinkerton*

      From White Collar, Hughes was a great boss. Peter was a good boss with the exception of his soft spot for Neal.

      1. MansplainerHater*

        YES! She is a great boss. I love that show, and surprised that a lot of folks haven’t even watched it!

    27. Daisy*

      I thought David Brent’s bosses in The Office, Neil and Jennifer, were well-written good bosses – it made it clear why they were liked and respected and why Brent wasn’t. And they do get rid of Brent in the end.

    28. Skittles*

      I’d happily work for pretty much any of the Star Trek captains (except the ones on the Lower Decks show). I think Star Fleet probably has really good HR policies.

      1. Em*

        Lower Decks actually has one of my favourite examples of healthy-workplace-ness: there’s that one episode where Rutherford, an entry-level employee, decides he wants to try out different things. His manager’s all for giving him the opportunity to learn, as is every single department head he spends time with. Every single person wants him to be on the team where his skills will be best used AND he’ll be happiest.

        I’d work there, occasional zombie plague aside.

    29. Kaiko*

      I’m gonna put in a vote for Captain Raymond Holt from Brooklyn 99, on any season except the most recent one (too zany) and on any topic except Madeline Wuntsch (too pig-headed). Otherwise, he’s a very good leader, and seems to take a deep interest in what’s best for his team. I don’t know if I would want to work for him, but I’ve certainly learned a lot from him.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        With all the bizarre antics in TV bosses, I really appreciate Captain Holt’s no nonsense style of management. And a lot of his character is about adapting, growing, and learning. And I’ve been quoting him all week, “Sarcasm. The cowards lie.”
        Golden burn.

      2. cubone*

        I think what makes Captain Holt a phenomenal boss is they show him multiple times recognizing his biases, and owning up to them. He doesn’t think apologizing or changing your mind is a weakness, and that’s a major strength.

      3. kate*

        +1 I love Cpt Holt! I do think including the personal feud with Wuntsch made him more relatable in some ways. It showed a character flaw that was kinda exaggerated, but without it, his character wouldn’t have been as dynamic. (And his comebacks to her were hilarious!) But your criticism is valid. Their personal conflict got in the way of their professionalism way too much.

      4. yala*

        Do you really find the current season to be that zany? I may be an episode behind, but in a lot of ways it seems to be the most grounded season so far.

    30. Anomalous*

      Sam Malone in Cheers is a pretty good boss overall, excepting of course his relationship with Diane.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          No, his employees and customers were too invested in his romantic / sex life. It was creepy.

          Agreed. I love Cheers, but the bar was a train wreck as a business and beyond nonsensically idealized and sanitized as a bar. The only way a Sam Malone works out is if there’s someone else in his office, minding the books, setting and enforcing policy, and smoothing things over with the restaurant above 60 hours/week.

    31. EZ Like Sunday Morning*

      He gets a giant asterisk for the whole falling in love and sleeping with his protege thing, but otherwise Ted Chaough was a great boss in Mad Men, especially compared to Don. Encouragement and support of your staff goes a long way.

    32. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

      I’m going to suggest Tommy Shelby from Peaky Blinders. Treats his staff well, appears to pay generously, and is quite willing to step in and intervene when someone else is mistreating them, even his friends and family.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I actually kinda agree with this, even though he’s not a good guy. At all. My problem with having Tommy as a boss is that I would have a giant, inappropriate crush on him because Cillian Murphy is absolutely beautiful.

        Also, RIP Helen McCrory. :'(

        1. Ally McBeal*

          Yeah I wouldn’t be able to work under (heh) Tommy Shelby – I’d be that girl from the Indiana Jones movie with “Kiss Me” written on her eyelids.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I didn’t even know about Cillian Murphy until I saw Peaky Blinders, but I quickly became very convinced of him, and I agree — I would make myself miserable with an unrequited crush if I worked for someone like that.

      2. NeutralJanet*

        I seem to remember him treating the Peaky Blinders reasonably well, considering that they are a violent gang, but in his legitimate business, didn’t he have that issue with underpaying women that he proposed to solve by underpaying the men as well?

    33. foobar*

      Agree on Adama Sr., but Adama Jr. had a lot of learning to do and Tigh had… many problems. Keeping with sci-fi, a lot of Babylon 5 has good bosses: notably Sheridan and De’lenn. Ivanova is a little… fiery… to be good in a civilian organization, but maybe it works well in the military. (Garibaldi should have been marched out of the service for his continued bad-cop antics, but I also notably hate the character, so there’s that.) Bester, for all his villainy, seems an effective leader. G’Kar could be a good leader (and his people seemingly mostly adored him) but his fundamental conflict with Londo is the base cause of a galactic war, so, y’know, not perfect. (There’s a few ‘ships passing in the night’ moments that could have averted it, but alas, and most of the problems are caused by Londo and G’Kar tripping over themselves to find fault with the other.)

      In The Nevers, Amalia seems a good leader.

      Outside of sci-fi, Coach Taylor on Friday Night Lights could be excellent.

      1. foobar*

        Oh I just remembered my favourite De’lenn as leader moment. There’s bigger, flashier moments throughout the show, but when Lennier arrives at B5 to become her assistant, he refuses to look at her out of respect.

        She, very kindly but with humour, says, “I cannot have an aide who will not look up. You will be forever walking into things.”

        Admittedly her job was made easier by Lennier, for most of the show’s run, being effectively perfect. Sacrifice a lung for others? Sure! Hand-to-hand combat situation? You got it! Complicated rituals? Ayup! Caring for a cocoon with a person inside? No problem!

        1. foobar*

          Indeed. Londo was, for the vast majority of the show’s run, only really ever good at clawing his way towards one more scrap of power, and because Vir (and many, many others) was beneath him on the ladder, he must be useless.

    34. Emi*

      Since the letter writer mentioned Shannon from Kim’s Convenience, what about Mr. Kim? That store is a dysfunctional family business in some ways, but no one seems to really suffer from it, unlike the poor saps who work for Shannon.

      1. NeutralJanet*

        I mean, the store doesn’t really have staff outside of the family, except for occasionally Gerald, and I think a lot of the problems with family businesses in general is when they hire people who aren’t part of the family. They weren’t paying Janet at first, so were kind of treating working at the store as a chore for her to help out the family rather than as a real job, but again, not shocking for a small family business.

    35. urban teacher*

      Max Goodwin from New Amsterdam. If I ever had a principal say, “How can I make things better?” I would cry. That’s why I know New Amsterdam is fiction. Every other principal wants to know how to make things worse.

    36. Bamcakes*

      Does anyone fancy working in the Twenty-Twelve / W1A team? Perfect Siobhán’s Team always look like they’re having fun…

      1. Empress Matilda*

        Oh, I could never work for Siobhan! Too much wackiness, not enough actual working for my taste. From W1A, I’d have to pick Lucy – she’s the only one who seems to get that this is definitely not a normal workplace. :)

    37. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’m thinking about Gus making one of his employees stay late to clean some equipment because Gus himself needed an alibi, and I don’t think he’s necessarily a great restaurant boss.

    38. Gray Lady*

      Giardello from Homicide: Life on the Street. Kind of a weird management style, but his detectives responded to it and he ALWAYS had their back.

      1. ObserverCN*

        Yes! This is the first person I thought of. I love how he put his detectives in unexpected situations to get them out of their comfort zones.

    39. Ben*

      Reginald Bright from Endeavour – stuffy on the surface, but a leader who sincerely cared about (and stood up for) his people and understood them.

      Sandra Pullman from New Tricks – never, ever took any crap from the troublemakers she was in charge of, made it clear when they’d screwed up, but also credited their successes and stood up for them against senior management.

      Inspector Brackrenreid from Murdoch Mysteries – his great quality as a boss is his ability to appreciate the talents of people who have different mindsets and temperaments from himself. He’s a loud, direct and blustery man in charge of several people who have much more scientific and philosophical approaches to life, but he respects and values their contributions even when he’s boggled by their attitudes.

    40. Patty Mayonnaise*

      I saw someone mentioned the West Wing but I think Isaac Jaffe from Sports Night (another Aaron Sorkin show) is the best TV boss of all time. Holds his staff to incredibly high creative and ethical standards, stands up for people on his team, holds his own bosses accountable for their terrible opinions, understands and supports you when you get upset during a hunting trip, and comes back to work while recovering from a stroke to stop the show from getting cancelled and everyone losing their jobs.

      He’s also the originator of this quote: “If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. If you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.”

      1. Becca Rosselin-Metadi*

        Oooh! I loved him-he was a great boss. I remember when he said that and have tried to take it to heart. And I’ve seen what happens when people are so insecure that they hire people who are not smarter than they are-and it never works well.

    41. Ann Perkins*

      For Manifest fans, I like Captain Bowers a lot. Firm, fair, will have your back when she needs to but also will be direct about when you’re crossing the line.

    42. SydneyAustralia*

      Totally agree with Admiral Adama – Laura Roslin was a great leader too. She came in basically having 0 experience but kept her decision-making focused on what was best for humanity. Gaius Baltar would probably win the title of worst leader.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        Its hard to imagine a worse leader than one that, within 9 months of taking office, ends up with his whole constituency enslaved to killer robots.

        I think Adama was too personally involved not just with Kara but also with his son (for obvious reasons) and Tigh. He himself was a good commander but his middle-management structure was mostly full of people who should not be there, but were because he loved them.

    43. Save the Hellbender*

      I think up there for worst boss is the Council on Buffy – why didn’t they pay her?!?!?!?!?

      1. Jurassic Park Employee*

        RIGHT?! They pay Giles, they clearly have money, and they’re expecting her to devote all her time to saving the world. It’s ridiculous!

    44. Mental Lentil*

      I’m not sure if he was a great manager, but I would sure like to work for Capt. Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly

    45. MusicWithRocksIn*

      Alright, there has been a lot of Captain’s on here – so I need to chime in for my favorite Captain, Captain Malcom Reynolds. He was running a small business with limited funds, but was always willing to go to the extra mile to bring in new business and even went way out of his way to provide excellent health care to his crew by bringing a fugitive doctor aboard. He was there for his crew in a friendly way but never really indulged in favoritism. He gave excellent advice “If somebody tries to kill you, you try to kill them right back” and kicking that guy who threated to spend his life hunting them all down into the engine of the ship was the most badass smart sense good solution to that problem I have ever seen in tv and movies. Awesome boss right there.

      1. LunaLena*

        Oh yes, that’s a good one! He genuinely cared for his crew members, and was willing to give them second chances if they seemed worth it (like after he realized Jayne was the one who betrayed River and Simon). And he was always upfront with them – I honestly loved the scene in Serenity when he tells them he’s going to Miranda, and they can either shut up and help him or get off the boat, no hard feelings either way.

        On a slightly related note, I’d also nominate Adelle DeWitt from Dollhouse – not only did she run a huge secret multimillion business efficiently, she did so while protecting the “employees” who could very easily be taken advantage of. To be fair, the business itself is of ethical dubiousness, but I think she did her best to make it up to the dolls.

      1. JessicaTate*

        Right?!? I mean, she’s an objectively bad boss, but I absolutely love her. RIP Jessica Walter, you national treasure, you.

    46. Bookworm*

      I am pleasantly surprised to see Adama from BSG mentioned. I expected to see “office-type” bosses in your answer but enjoyed the reference. Also agree about Kara.

    47. CG*

      Worst TV boss: Josh Lyman on the West Wing! He wasn’t even a good employee, and he was a total nonsensical creeplord who was super his way or the highway in an office that should be open to policy discussions. He was literally the Deputy Chief of Staff! He was incredibly inappropriate with boundaries and quite sexist too – poor Donna! I think at the time that aired, it really felt like a cool, punchy team and a sweet romance with Donna, but DANG what an awful workplace. (…political offices and political campaigns can truly be that awful, though – may have been a realistic portrayal…)

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Josh Lyman is The Worst. I am a huge West Wing fan, and he’s by far my least favorite character. He’s a parody of the uppity New England, Ivy League white guy with unearned confidence. He should have been fired in the pilot after the Mary Marsh incident.

        I also am not sure that Bradley Whitford has much acting range. He seems to play Josh Lyman in every file/TV show he’s ever been in. In a cast that includes Martin Sheen, John Spencer, Allison Janney, and Richard Schiff, that discrepancy in talent really stands out.

        1. ZenApologized*

          My only rebuttal to most of a good point is that he was so madly against type in The Good Guys that it absolutely made the show.

      2. Empress Matilda*

        And as a counterpoint, I was coming here to say Leo McGarry is one of the best! He knows how to have fun, and exactly how to kick your ass if you need it – doesn’t matter if he’s talking to his assistant, one of his colleagues, or his boss. I’d work for him in a heartbeat!

        Also, did anyone see the West Wing special last year? I was really impressed with Sterling K Brown as Leo – he was just as perfect in the role as John Spencer was.

      3. vho842*

        All of this is so true. But to see Donna in the last season, she was, ugh, I can’t. Just too good. Realized all of Josh’s bad boss faults (and Sam noticed, too), called him out, and was way more mature than Josh could ever be. It’s like Donna learned how to be a kick ass boss (I’d assume the First Lady’s Chief of Staff would have, you know, staff) by being around a terrible one for years.

      4. mythopoeia*

        I’m not sure C. J. Cregg is the best boss on TV, exactly, but I want her to be my boss. Super-competent and warm and idealistic in equal measure.

    48. JohannaCabal*

      I’ve always thought Captain Sisko was one of the best Star Trek captains. There’s an episode of DS9 where Kira goes around him and contacts Starfleet. He finds out and firmly tells her to never do that again.

      I have a soft spot for TNG since it’s my first Trek and I watched it a lot as a kid but I’ve been rewatching it and I feel like Picard’s “employees” tend to have drama that often gets in the way. His first officer and the ship’s counselor have a romantic history, Data and Yar have a dalliance, Data and Worf keep having family situations that draw in the ship’s crew.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        DS9 is hands down the best Trek series. I have a hard time separating this to assess Sisko as a boss.

        Intendant Kira Nerys, on the other hand…

      2. LisaLou*

        I usually am really anti coworker relationships, but since they are going on these missions for several years at a time, I can see why relationships would be permissible. If you have a spouse at home, you won’t see them for years, and that’s a lot.

    49. Macaroni Penguine*

      Have we talked about Captain Jean Luc Picard (Star Trek TNG) as an excellent boss?
      Some good points about his leadership style. He’s a visionary boss who knows promotes the best of Starfleet and his crew. He speaks to others in their own language and culture (when negotiating with Klingons say). On the Enterprise, it’s okay to ask for help when a problem is beyond your ability to solve. Picard values ethics over expedient solutions. The Enterprise has dolphins on the crew manifest!


      Is Admiral Jellicoe a good boss? (Star Trek: TNG episodes Chain of Commmand parts 1 and 2). His leadership style is different from Picard. Is he a bad leader, or just a different type of good supervisor? And oh, Riker is such a saucy and insubordinate llama in these episodes!

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        It is pretty constant throughout the various Treks that admirals are problems to be worked around. This likely derives from the Hornblower inspiration. In both cases the ideal situation is an independent command with only tenuous communications with higher authorities.

        Speaking of which, fans of both Hornblower and Aubrey/Maturin would do well to check out The Autobiography of a Seaman by Admiral Lord Cochran, which was a source for both Forester and O’Brian. Cochran was an actual Royal Navy officer in the Napoleonic wars, and delightfully unself-aware. The Navy establishment hates him. He knows this, but ascribes it to jealousy, not to his being an obvious jerk.

    50. eons*

      Oh wow I have never seen anyone bring up Fring in a list of bosses. That’s so interesting! Never thought of that!

      1. natnatboom*

        Gibbs?! Gibbs who is frequently physically abusive to his staff, and at one point even allows the illegal extradition of one of his own team members by a foreign intelligence agency!? That’s a hard no from me.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. Gibbs is the worst boss and the main reason I stopped watching NCIS. He physically assaults his staff, ignores the rules and is flagrantly disrespectful of his colleagues. If I had to work for anyone on NCIS I’d rather work for Ducky as he’s intelligent and softly spoken. I would quit if I had to work for Gibbs.

          1. TiredMama*

            Oh man, I don’t remember any of that. Clearly I have not watched NCIS in a long time and/or have a terrible memory. I just remember him being no nonsense, which I like in a manager.

            1. JustaTech*

              It’s the constant smacking on the back of the head.

              If I had to choose one of them to work for it would be Ducky too, as long as I never had to drive his car! ( I can’t drive stick except in an emergency and I’d had to ruin a Morgan.)

    51. Elle Woods*

      Bobby Nash, as played by Peter Krause, on 9-1-1 is a great boss. He cares about his employees and isn’t afraid to let them step up and take the lead in situations. Sure, he’s got a firefighter (Buck) who is a bit of a daredevil, but Bobby isn’t afraid to reprimand him when needed. He also knows he isn’t perfect and doesn’t expect perfection of his team either. Oh, and keeping a cool head in dangerous situations? That’s a good boss.

      1. MeleMallory*

        Can we add Athena from 9-1-1, too? She’s not the “Big Boss” of her department, but she does a great job with everything she needs to get done. Also Owen Strand from 9-1-1 Lone Star. He built the department from the ground up, literally, and despite going through his own health problems and personal issues, he kept the department running smoothly (as smoothly as possible, at least.)

        I’d also like to nominate Cam Saroyen from Bones. She did let some personal conflicts interfere with some of the cases, especially when it came to her daughter, but that’s TV, right? She supported her staff when they had issues/problems, she helped them when and where she could, and she was nice but firm.

      2. Potatoes gonna potate*

        oh em jee I was literally thinking about this and here I see this comment. Ditto to Bobby Nash and Owen Strand.

    52. cubone*

      Whenever Parks and Rec comes up, the debate is about Leslie or Ron being a good boss, with maybe a shout out to Chris.

      I am here to state unequivocally that the good boss in that show is Ben Wyatt!!!! He learns from his youthful hubristic mistakes and is direct without being cruel. He doesn’t have Leslie’s issues of wanting to be liked, but he doesn’t veer so far into not caring what people think about him to land in Ron territory.

      In conclusion: Benji Wyatt for mayor.

    53. Charlotte Lucas*

      I’d like to put in my vote for Chief Vick from Psych. She’s tough but fair & keeps Lassiter, Shaun, & Gus in line. But she also gives them free rein when needed.

    54. Miss Muffet*

      Shannon from Kim’s Convenience has been DRIVING ME CRAZY watching what is otherwise a pretty sweet show. Even my 12 year old knows it’s inappropriate to date your employees! She should never have done that and when TVshows do this it normalizes what shouldn’t be normal — and then Alison gets letters from these young people starting out in careers who don’t have any idea where the boundaries are….

      1. yala*

        Oh, for REAL!

        Like, I like her better as the show goes on, if only because it’s reciprocated (but still very not cool), but in the early episodes it makes me so *viscerally* uncomfortable, the way she pursues him, flirts with him, etc. And yeah, it absolutely does make her a bad boss, and effects the way she treats everyone, and it’s funny. But also…ugh.

    55. Anon for this*

      Gus HAD to be a good boss at his chicken stores. If you’re using a legal business as a front for an illegal drug operation, any form of mistreatment of employees increases the probability that someone will report anything shady out of spite. Happy employees means less chance of being detected.

      1. El l*

        Well, yes, and…his character was all about professional competence applied to an ostensibly unprofessional business. It fit with the rest of his personality.

    56. Green Beans*

      Chief Karen from Psych for a good boss! She sets clear expectations, holds people to them, and allows flexibility when possible. She also never shies away from a difficult conversation. (I don’t think that show follows police procedure all the best, but it does do a good job of showing her enforcing in-universe standards.)

      1. Spotted Kitty*

        Welll… as much as I love Toby, he had his issues. He had some really inappropriate interactions with Pam, and when the guy came to investigate the company before the Sabre purchase, he didn’t reveal any of the bad stuff going on.

      2. NeutralJanet*

        I’d argue that Oscar was among the most competent on The Office, with the caveat that I didn’t watch the last few seasons and so cannot vouch for his behavior then.

        1. The Rules are Made Up*

          Yes! Oscar was probably the only really competent employee. And maybe Pam as receptionist. Toby was actually terrible at his job considering he was HR and that whole workplace was an HR hellhole. He could barely even keep it together on Casual Fridays. To be fair to him he didn’t really want to/couldn’t really do his job since Michael made even routine parts of his job miserable.

    57. Yorick*

      I think Chief Boden from Chicago Fire is pretty good. The workplace overall is too much “we’re a faaaamily” for real life, but he’s not too bad about that.

      1. LC*

        Yes! He’s good friends with some of the other firefighters he grew up with, but he manages them well when they’re on the job. And he’s fair and not afraid to have tough conversations.

    58. Sanity Lost*

      Carson from Downton Abbey. He is fair, gives strong feedback, willing to acknowledge when he made a wrong call and does not tolerate bullying at all.

    59. El l*

      If anyone’s ever seen the great French cop show “Spiral” – Laure Berthaud is an excellent boss.

      (Even if she’s in a milieu where the professional really dominates a person’s life)

    60. Belle of the Midwest*

      This goes back a little bit but I think Captain Cragen from Law and Order: SVU and Lieutenant Van Buren from the original Law and Order were pretty decent bosses. Both were featured in episodes where they made some mistakes and had to deal with the fallout (Cragen’s was publicly humiliating as well as potentially life-threatening–he was framed for a murder he didn’t commit, but the people setting him up knew of his past and present personal issues and were able to exploit them). They were willing to go to bat for their people when needed–and they weren’t afraid to say honestly and directly that their people screwed up when they did.

    61. Empress Matilda*

      Just wanted to say I’m loving all the CanCon* in OP5’s examples! Schitt’s Creek, Kim’s Convenience, and our own Mark McKinney as Glenn from Superstore. Canadians everywhere!

      *Canadian Content, usually in the context of American pop culture. This is a thing we get excited about.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        The Coach is a terrible boss. I don’t even know what to say about Gail; sexual harassment all over the place!

    62. The Rural Juror*

      I love Veep, but Selina Kyle was the worst boss of all time (or very close to it)! So many examples of what NOT to do…

    63. Bunny*

      Cedric Daniels on The Wire spun gold out of a group of misfits, played office politics masterfully, and never lost his moral center.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        It’s pretty heavily implied that Daniels living above his police salary was the result of past corruption. He’s one of the best in the run of the show, but he’s no Bunny Colvin…

    64. FrenchCusser*

      Capt. Adama is a TERRIBLE boss, as is the Prez. They’re both all about the sticks and no carrots.


      Better boss, Captain Picard. At least on TNG – after that, not so much.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        Well, when nearly your entire species was wiped out and you’re responsible for the survivors who are being actively pursued by genocidal sentient robots, I feel like stick-and-not-carrot is appropriate. No room for error. But he usually did his level best to do right by his subordinates, and owned up to his mistakes/shortcomings despite going through his own daily trauma.

      2. not a doctor*

        THANK YOU. I’m baffled by the repeated mentions of Adama and Roslin. I like them both as characters, especially Roslin, but if I was working for them and knew half the things I know as a viewer, I would never trust a word they said.

    65. Anonymars*

      It’s reality TV, but I love watching Below Deck for both the good and bad management techniques. I find Captain Lee to be an excellent leader, and it’s been great to watch Eddie grow into a truly strong manager, too.

    66. Empress Matilda*

      I’m going to throw in a vote for Eleanor Shellstrop as a boss. She wasn’t expecting to be the boss, but she jumped in when she had to, and did a great job making it all happen. Then when she had that massive meltdown and quit, Michael went and talked to her – she went back to her team, apologized, and got straight back to work. Those are great leadership qualities as far as I’m concerned!

      1. Jurassic Park Employee*

        That is a surprising but actually excellent choice.
        She delegated tasks according to people’s strengths, she was able to make difficult choices even though they negatively impacted her because they were the right choices AND recognize when the fallout was making her behave badly and remedied the situation, she was incredibly encouraging and made sure everyone felt valued for what they were bringing to the table, she was always ready to pivot in a crisis and even though she was flexible and friendly she still held everyone to the high standard that the work required.
        Well jeeze. I want my next boss to be an Arizona trashbag like her lol.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Wow – I agree. And it is really, really hard to be an awesome boss on a comedy because bad boss behavior is so easy to make funny.

    67. what am I, a farmer?*

      Gabriel on The Americans is an *excellent* boss, imo. Genuinely cares about his employees as people without losing authority or rampant boundary-crossing, knows when you need to talk them into doing something they don’t want to do and when you need to have their back, good with difficult and temperamental superstars. (Interestingly, there’s a lot of management — good, bad and medium — on The Americans, which I guess makes sense as a show about two clashing bureaucratic organizations. Agent Gad is probably runner-up, though he tolerated way too much harassment of Martha!)

    68. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      Here to submit Lorelai Gilmore as a pretty good boss.

      Not a good business partner to Sookie while they were getting on their feet. So-so on the being a mom/friend/romantic partner front. But as a manager she always seemed to be knowledgeable and proactive, and concerned enough about her employee’s lives and wellbeing but not in a meddlesome way.

    69. Jurassic Park Employee*

      Shanks on Pretty Hard Cases is an A+ boss, assertive, but fair and absolutely looking out for her team.
      Also, I am so thrilled to see 2 Canadian shows in the OPs post!

    70. Mr. Cajun2core*

      Alison – Just wondering if you were familiar with Commander Adama (the original BSG) and what you thought of his management style?

    71. Ally McBeal*

      I have to say that I could never, ever choose Glenn from Superstore as a boss, even if the only other option was Michael Scott. His religiosity and related ignorance seriously triggers me; I wanted to crawl under my couch every time he had a major plotline, regardless of how nice he is.

      1. Sunny*

        Yeah, I am surprised no one else has called that out. Glenn frequently proselytizes and even makes someone adopt a child.
        Give me Chris Traeger any day.

    72. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      As mentioned in another post, Colonel Potter of M*A*S*H and AfterMASH. I actually think Henry Blake was a pretty good boss as well, albeit with a much, much different style and one we saw through a very different lense and context.

      From what little we see when he has an assistant in his shop, I think Sam Drucker of Hooterville (Green Acres, Petticoat Junction) came across as a very capable, likable boss. If anything, his flaw is an oversized heart that manifests in extending the Bradley ladies too much store credit.

      I do think Hayden Fox of Coach does a good job at the managing aspect of being a head coach. He accommodates and reins in the quirks and peculiarities of his staff–Luther is a bit of a Savant Loon and Dauber’s naivete is borderline legendary–and holds people accountable for the results.

      I want to nominate Stan Pines of Gravity Falls merely so I can read the reactions!

    73. yala*

      Offhand, Captain Holt from B99 and Col. Potter from M*A*S*H. Ultimate Reasonable Authority Figures. Both competent, compassionate, and willing to let their people be who and how they are within reason.

      Holt really is just the best.

    74. Mr. Cajun2core*

      What about Dr. Camille Saroyan from “Bones”. She had to deal with all kinds of characters, especially Bones! I think she did a great job of being flexible yet assertive. However, major negative points for having an affair with someone who works for her.

    75. Bee O*

      I can’t believe no one has said this yet but Jaqueline Carlyle from The Bold Type!!!!! She’s so good at empowering and educating her team and it’s helped me realize what specific traits I want in a boss!

    76. Industrial Tea Machine*

      So I know it’s part of a criminal enterprise, but I kinda think Yung Jun in Warrior is a surprisingly good boss! He teaches Ah Sam the business, corrects him clearly but politely when Ah Sam doesn’t fulfill his job duties (like literally walking away while they’re collecting protection money, c’mon dude), and tries to give him advancement opportunities.
      Of course, Yung Jun is also extremely profane, doesn’t have any boundaries at all, and his advancement opportunities nearly get Ah Sam killed, but you can’t have everything in imaginary Reservoir Dogs 19th century San Francisco.

    77. LunaLena*

      I haven’t seen any Futurama references here yet, so I would like to submit Zapp Brannigan as a WORST boss. He is Captain Kirk times fifty. Which is probably why he’s one of my favorite characters. In fact I don’t think any of the characters would be a good boss, with the possibly exception of Leela. She’s definitely competent, but she does make some very questionable choices sometimes and has some anger issues.

    78. Anony4839*

      Re: 5
      I would love to work for Captain Picard in Star Trek! He has good morals, is selfless and always puts his crew members first!

    79. Tracer Bullet*

      The best boss in TV history is Charlie from “Charlie’s Angels” because he’s never there. I hate, hate, HATE Michael Scott. The episodes that try to humanize him make me actively angry.

    80. Former Employee*

      Perry Mason. While Della Street refers to him as “Mr. Mason” to clients, between them, he’s “Perry”. Also, you see them having lunch together, often with investigator Paul Drake.

      Considering when this show was on TV (1957-1966), when I see episodes now, I am amazed at how little sexism there is in the regular cast.

    81. Public Sector Manager*

      So many … Col. Potter and Barney Miller as others have said, Linda Hunt’s “Hetty” on NCIS LA, Yaphet Kotto on Homicide, S. Epatha Merkerson’s Lt. Van Buren on Law and Order, and he was a stick in the mud but underneath, a heart of gold, Captain Peacock from Are You Being Served?

    82. RB*

      No one has mentioned Michael’s boss on The Office, David Wallace. Every scene he is in, you can’t help but be impressed his management style.

    83. Caboose*

      I think objectively, Elias Bouchard is a terrible boss. (Obviously.)
      But like, in the realm of non-profits, he clearly cares about the mission of the organization, he’s apparently paying people well enough that living in the proximity of London doesn’t appear to be a hardship, he makes sure everyone has what they need to do their work when it’s requested, AND he reminds people to expense stuff when they go on work-related trips.
      He even visits an employee who was injured during work-related activities in the hospital!
      So like, given my options between a boss who’s ineffectual and ~quirky~ like most sitcoms, and a boss who seems to be really good at his job but is also nebulously human, I think I’m going with option B tbh.

    84. Courageous cat*

      I can’t even be unbiased here. GLENN STURGIS FOREVER. I love him and Superstore so much that I don’t even care how good or bad he is.

    85. MadLori*

      I’m having a blast imagining David Rose as a boss. The only other staff member currently is his own husband – making the store a family-owned business (sob) – and we know how those small family-owned businesses usually do with staff! I just imagine Patrick having to frequently say things like “No, David, you can’t make our sales clerk pick up your dry cleaning.”

    86. Gumby*

      I’m going to throw in a nod to General Beckman. After a rocky start (ahem, kill order on the Intersect), she really trusted her team to get the job done but was there to support them if they ran into problems. She protected them even at the cost of her own career. Knew when to follow orders and when to go rogue. No nonsense, but her human side would come out in unexpected ways.

      Big Mike, OTOH, was not just not-a-micromanager but was a full on neglectful manager. What a nightmare of an unprofessional store he ran. Hilarious in a TV show but it would have been horrifying in real life.

    87. EchoGirl*

      A lot of my favorite well-known shows have already been touched on, so to get into a few that have less of a cultural presence.

      Greg Parker from Flashpoint immediately springs to mind. He’s a leader who is also a direct part of the team’s work, and knows how to balance that out so that he’s giving the team the benefit of his abilities while also knowing when to delegate and how not to micromanage, and he’s very good at recognizing his subordinates’ strengths and weaknesses and helping them to improve the latter. (For those who don’t know, Flashpoint is a police procedural-type show, but with the very atypical premise of being about a unit that’s built around — and truly practices — the concept of peaceful resolution first and violence only as a last resort; I found it to be a refreshing change from the “good cops vs. bad guys” paradigm.)

      Don Eppes on NUMB3RS is also an interesting case of a character who’s painted as a generally good boss while also being a flawed human who has issues he needs to work on (and some very interesting arcs of him actually working on them), so diving in deeper than the typical good boss/bad boss dichotomy. I think it helps that in this case, the boss is the protagonist, so his character gets a lot more exploration and fleshing out than a boss who’s a secondary character usually does.

  1. HoHumDrum*

    Allison’s response to LW #5 now has me thinking about the idea of a drug dealer who hires an HR person to help them run their enterprise. I don’t think there’s enough there for more than an SNL length skit, but it’s amusing me at least.

    1. nnn*

      I was idly thinking the other day that drug dealers must have a fair number of transferable business skills, which would be an excellent premise for a criminal rehab program and/or a sitcom.

        1. Formerly Ella Vader*

          You beat me to it! Stringer Bell was a great example of a lawful-evil character, going to business classes and using what he learned. And then when one of his sidekicks read up on Roberts’ Rules of Order and was taking minutes at the drugdealers’ meeting …

          Idris Elba then followed up with Luther, who was chaotic-good.

          1. JustaTech*

            Fun fact! During Prohibition, the bootleggers of Seattle ran their organization meeting by Robert’s Rules of Order (and didn’t carry guns).

            Just because it’s a criminal enterprise doesn’t mean you don’t need structure. Heck, you probably need *more* structure in a criminal enterprise.

      1. Emi*

        Ha, this reminds me of Greg Doucette’s (criminal defense lawyer) story about defending a client who was actually in business school with the goal of becoming the weed king of Charlotte. He had a super-detailed business plan, and his primary motivation for staying out of jail was “if I go away for six months I’ll lose market share!” Doucette was like “…you do realize this is illegal, right? That’s why I’m here?” and he was like “sure but they’ll legalize it eventually, so it’s still a good investment.”

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Then there is Sudhir Venkatesh’s Gang Leader for a Day. Venkathesh was a sociologist who as a grad student was assigned by his professor to go to the projects with a survey. He was taken captive by a contingent of the local crack gang. They had no idea what to make of him, so they held him until the gang leader showed up. The leader had a college education and understood about grad students and stupid sociology surveys. They became friends, resulting in a sociological study with inside information. It also made Venkatesh the closest thing there is to a rock star sociologist.

    2. NeutralJanet*

      I vaguely remember an SNL skit about a drug dealer trying to take over the operation from the kingpin, who then demonstrates his business knowledge and explains why being an effective kingpin is actually a lot of work–will try to find the link and leave it in the reply.

    3. Xenia*

      I remember a section in I think Freakanomics where one of the writers got to do some journalism/observation of a crack cocaine gang and commented on the weird mix of business professionalism (quotas, sales channels) and gang business. It was an interesting read

    4. Virginia Plain*

      Tbf a lot of organised crime networks eg drugs are run with hierarchies and structures not unlike a legit business. You have the CEO (big boss), the accounts dept (money man, with money laundering skills), sales dept (dealers), delivery services (runners), product testers, warehousing (stash house), security (enforcers, counter surveillance), online sales, logo design (to stamp into pressed blocks of powder), outreach into new geographical areas (county lines)…

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I know a guy who had a classmate in accounting school who was a member of a mob family. He didn’t want to work the violent side of the business, so the family sent him to school. After, they need an accountant they can trust.

    5. mlem*

      Have you seen “A Black Lady Sketch Show”? The “Coral Reefs” gang is run like a business, literally.

    6. Canadian Valkyrie*

      I actually find the idea of a drug dealer with an HR person really entertaining. Like you’re running an ethical business for this really unethical (and in most places illegal) thing. I would watch this.

    7. AnonAnon*

      A good friend was a drug dealer in his former life. He’s the most financially savvy person I know, and has created and runs numerous profitable, legit businesses now.

    8. Marillenbaum*

      On Black Lady Sketch Show, there is a recurring sketch about a women’s gang that is also a phenomenally well-run business–orientation includes things like the recent changes to paid parental leave and how they will be setting goals for themselves. The second one has the staff retreat, and it is hilarious.

      1. what am I, a farmer?*

        This sounds hilarious, and it has also made me think that in real life a women-run drug ring would probably look an awful lot like an MLM.

    9. Empress Matilda*

      I recently read a book with a very similar premise! “Hench,” by Natalie Zina Walschots – it’s about supervillians rather than drug dealers, but either way – everybody does need office help. :)

  2. ala*

    #1 I can say that I wouldn’t have assumed you wanted to come back if you already have a new job. especially if, as it seems, they laid off a big chunk of thier staff, most likely many of them moved on- they are likely now just rehiring for everything all at once rather than trying to get back specific individuals

    1. MK*

      Also, if these managers hadn’t been there long before the OP left, it’s possible they didn’t even think of her.

        1. Blue Eagle*

          Or maybe they thought that by posting the job that OP would apply if she wanted to come back.

          Although I’m wondering why OP would even want to go back if the original job paid less – – who wants to take a pay cut?

          1. Shad*

            Honestly, the vibe I got from the letter was more that she felt insulted not to have been personally asked about the job than that she actually wanted it back.
            Which…I get on one level, especially if feelings are still raw about the initial layoff. But it’s an emotional response that doesn’t really make sense on a logical level.

            1. quill*

              Thing is, the new managers don’t know LW from eve: they got there not long before massive layoffs and they came in to utter turmoil if the people before them were fired.

              OP, do you really want the job, or are you bored and looking for validation?

          2. Librarian of SHIELD*

            It paid less, and the emotional environment of the workplace sounds so much worse than what the LW currently has.

            LW, do you really want to go back to the bad environment you described to us? Or would you rather look for another position that utilizes all your skills in an environment that might be much healthier?

    2. GNG*

      I agree. OP1, sounds like it’s been a rough ride for you between getting laid off and perhaps feeling stuck in an unsatisfying new job.

      However, I would suggest focusing on mentally moving on. The new bosses there sound awful and working for them must be miserable. It sounds like they have mostly new people there now, so OldJob as you knew it is already gone and not coming back. With these red flags waving at you, you have to ask yourself if you might be putting OldJob on a pedestal.

      Maybe the best thing to do now is to stop looking at job boards for a good while so you don’t see the job posting. Also, sounds like your old mentor is good to you. Perhaps letting him know that his comments about missing you at work is making you feel worse, and if he can scale them back. If you follow old company on social media, unfollow.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Yeah, the place sounded HORRID. How fulfilling can the work be if you have do it around all the dysfunction?

        Make sure you are very objective about why you want to go back. Look at the pros and cons. If you still want to go back, APPLY. Don’t act like middle school where “she has to call me first and apologize, she started it” is controlling you.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes. Even if jobs needing your expertise seem thin on the ground, OP should look wider than “current job where I am bored” and “old job of massive drama with bosses I hate that would pay less.” Don’t look on those as the only two options.

      3. Observer*

        The new bosses there sound awful and working for them must be miserable.

        To be honest, nothing that the OP describes about the new bosses actually sounds do terrible. And given some of the language they use, I have to think that they may be dramatizing things to some extent. I mean, since when is it “groveling” to reach out to a former employer to find out if they would consider you for an opening?

        But I agree. Given how emotional the OP is about the old place, avoiding it might be a really good idea at least for now.

    3. londonedit*

      Absolutely. This happened to me years ago – I was made redundant when the economy crashed, but it was a small company and in a perfect example of rats leaving a sinking ship, nearly all of the remaining people doing the job I’d been doing left of their own accord. So about six months after I’d been made redundant (and having got a new job in the meantime that was OK but not amazing), I spotted an advert for my old job at my old company. Now, companies in the UK have to be very careful about this, because legally it’s the *position* that needs to be redundant before you can make redundancies. But in this case they could get away with it because the remaining people had left and they legitimately needed people to replace them. Anyway, I got in touch with my old line manager to ask what was going on. They were surprised because firstly they knew I’d got a new job, and secondly because they’d assumed I’d never want to go back to a company that had made me redundant. They never would have thought to contact me – they thought that bridge had been thoroughly burned. But then my boss at my new job told me they’d only be able to offer me a temporary contract at the end of my probation period, so I did end up going back to the old company. And it was OK for a while, but it was very much a boom-and-bust sort of place and when there was another round of redundancies a few years later I made the decision to cut my losses as the atmosphere was just so awful.

      I suspect they haven’t contacted you because they simply can’t imagine you’d want to go back, and I think you really have to analyse how you feel about the old company – your new job might be less interesting, but it pays more and you do seem really bitter about how the old place treated you. People say ‘never go back’ and it’s often for good reason – would it really be worth going back to somewhere that laid you off? Could you really trust them? Is it really worth the drama and the risk of getting caught up in another round of firings or lay-offs?

    4. Merle Grey*

      My old job was hiring for my former position, and I did contact them to ask about it. My former boss was surprised I hadn’t found anything yet, 6 months after being laid off. He had always been my biggest cheerleader and thought it would be easier for me to go on to bigger and better things.

      Anyway, as much as I enjoyed that job, I kind of kicked myself for a bit for calling because after I talked to former boss, I realized there was no way I’d ever go back. They reorganized some things in a way that didn’t make sense (laying off half the people probably has that effect), and my old position would report to both old boss and a person who 1) doesn’t understand that role, and 2) would not be a good supervisor for anyone in that role.

      So I have decided that since I was was expendable, they no longer deserve the benefit of my skills and experience. I have a new, meh job, and am still looking for that bigger and better thing. It’s better than going back to old job even though I’m bored and $ is tight.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      OP, when I worked at a dysfunctional place the reason people did not get called back was because no one had their contract information anymore. I realize you have a friend on the inside even now but I also know that this friend can remind them several times of your contact info and they will lose it/forget it/ignore it. And it’s NOT because they are being mean, it’s because they are not a functioning, organized group.

      I am unclear why you want to go back to this place. I do know that boredom does have a huge impact on us. I also know that a quiet, well-run place can seem boring after Dysfunction Junction. I have to ask, if you were not bored at this new place would this question even be weighing on your mind at all? The first thing I’d try to do is find ways to take on more work. Does you boss even know you are bored to tears because of the lack of work? If no, it’s time to open this conversation.

      Coming at this from another angle. My father had a life habit of deciding the boss or company should do this or that and he’d sit there in silence and wait for it. I cannot tell you how many times he screwed himself with this approach. OP, if you want something ASK for it. Unfortunately, my father’s family functioned under the same rule, “If I have to ask you for something then it means LESS to me. In order for it to be meaningful to me you have to offer it on your own volition.”

      omg. sigh.

      Can I just say life is too short for this crap. You want something go get it. Don’t turn it into some test of love, loyalty or whatever. Life is too short, people don’t mind read and in the end the one who gets screwed is our own selves. This is one work/life habit that is good to just drop in a ditch somewhere and leave it. After watching this for years [insert long story here] I realized that this perspective of my father’s caused him to have quality of life issues. He could have had a different kind of life. It’s sad to the point that I can work up some tears over all that went on there.

      Where you are at now is a trap that you can’t get out of. You want your old job back. But you won’t call them. But you want your old job back. But you won’t call. See the circle here? It’s a circular trap and the way out is to either let go of this old job OR call them.

      My suggestion is to either ask your current boss for more work OR start hunting for another job at yet a THIRD company. Take back your power here, OP. Decide you will do something to advocate for your own self. Because the only thing worse than a workplace that won’t call us, is when we ourselves don’t stand up and go get what we want. You are your own best agent.

      1. BluntBunny*

        Yes doesn’t even need to be more work could be development opportunities like mentoring. Look around the company you are in and see if there is an area of the business you are interested in or role and see if you could do a secondment. Going back to a job with less money, more stress and with people who threw you under the bus is not a good idea.

      2. OP1*

        I am OP1 and it’s been really interesting reading everyone’s responses. Thanks to you all. To clear some things up, I have many times asked my boss and colleagues at new company for additional work and told them things are slow but nothing has changed. They just shrug their shoulders and all seem ok with my completing a half day’s work in a full day (since it’s rare I get a full day’s work in a full day). If I could complete my work for the day and log off, that would be sort of palatable, I guess… but I’m meant to be online all day and it’s very draining/depressing to be stuck hanging around the house without anything to do. I think if we were all in the office and I were in their face things could be different, but the company is remote and so this is the situation I am currently in. Their know-how also seems to be of a lesser caliber than that of the caliber of my old job – and at this stage in my life/career, I am still growing and want to get better and be surrounded by smart, thoughtful people. The fact that my mentor/friend is still at the old job and still could use help is frankly what appeals to me about the old job. We used to work together very closely and I learned a lot working with them, and had fun doing so.

        I actually am presently in the process of interviewing with a third company and am excited about that. While a lot of posters here say they don’t see what’s wrong with getting paid well to deal with a little boredom, I want to say I’ve heard that a lot too from family and friends and the fact of the matter is is that this situation is just not compatible with me or my personality long-term. It’s been ok during the summer but I am constantly in low spirits over this and thinking about going into another winter of this is making me even more depressed and I know in my heart that I need to affect some sort of change now if possible. While there were management difficulties at the old job, I genuinely used to look forward to the new work week each Sunday. Money is relative when taking into account how engaged you are with what you do day-to-day and and how you are spending your time, I think. I am hopeful that things will go well with third company and if not, I can always reach out to old job and see what they have to say. With my added experience since the layoff, I do think I have more negotiating power and could potentially put terms in place that protect me from the upheaval there if they are willing to negotiate. Thanks for giving me a kick in the pants to stop taking things so personally!

    6. Shirley Keeldar*

      Also, OP (and sorry, this might not make you feel any better) but I’ve found over the years that bosses and hiring managers are thinking about me much, much less than I am thinking about them. Your job was understandably very meaningful for you, but less so for them, especially since the people now making hiring decisions didn’t have the time to get to know you very well. They’re not being cruel to you, they’re just…not thinking about you that much. If you want to get on their radar you’ve got to make a move yourself.

      And remember you’re actually in a good position here. You’ve got a job you might not love, but you can keep doing if you need to. You can check out the old job, consider what it looks like now, and decide if it’s good for you. And there are other jobs out there! It’s not just Old Job vs. Current Job. Good luck!

    7. KateM*

      And imagine if they knew not only that OP has a new job, but that it’s a better-paying job with bosses singing high praise to OP. They’d be thinking “there’s no way we could poach her, better not to even try”.

    8. Momma Bear*

      If someone is laid off vs furloughed, the relationship has ended. OP, you should re-apply if you want the job back. But I do agree that you need to really think about your attitude about this if you do. You could burn a bridge if you have a poor attitude about the whole thing. Only try to go back if you can handle the history and are willing to move forward with a new slate. They don’t “owe” you. If you’re still too angry to be professional, stay with your current job. This might be a situation where you don’t like how it ended but it’s for the best that you move on.

  3. OP4*

    OP4 here. Thanks for answering my question! I’m glad it’s worth asking for the desk type I want.
    I don’t think this materially changes the answer but the person in “my” desk had only recently switched to using that desk. It used to belong to someone else who just left the company so they were using it for a day or two max before it was assigned to me. But I don’t care as long as the desk I get isn’t somehow incredibly poor in comparison (this is my real worry)

    1. Artemesia*

      I had very good luck getting what I wanted over my career by ASKING and also framing it in terms of business goals i.e. needing X helps me do my job better. You were very happy to have been assigned that desk because you have found you are more productive if you can stand as well as sit during the day (It is easier on your back or whatever).

      Hope you get it.

      1. T*

        I agree with this. I would guess that norms on this would vary widely by country, industry, and even individual employer, but my org has over the last five years switched everyone over to sitting-standing desks to accommodate people’s ergonomic needs and that’s fairly common in my industry in my city – framing it in that way would probably be a winner if you have an employer who cares a lot about health and safety or employee wellbeing (in a meaningful way rather than in a weight loss competition way).

      2. MK*

        This works as long as you can make a reasonable case that there is actually a business reason behind what you are asking. I have had people use convoluted justifications and improbable scenarios to get what they want, and really it would have been better to just frame it as a preference.

      3. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I was once in a small office with my back to the door and a window out into the shop, so there were people walking behind me all day and it drove me *nuts* to have people right behind me. One day the guy with the super sweet desk with their back to the outside window was fired, and man I really, really wanted that desk, but I am a super non-confrontational person, and asking for the desk of someone just fired seemed pretty rude. But I was super unhappy where I was, so when I was alone with my boss, I super awkwardly asked for it. My boss thought at first I was asking why the guy was fired (we did NOT talk about stuff like that, often we wouldn’t even tell anyone when someone was fired) and she was clearly super uncomforble I was asking, then when I said I would like the desk, she was so relieved she wouldn’t have to talk about the guy she gave it to me that day. Which was a big win for me, but wow looking back that place was toxic. I was very close to not asking though, which would have led to a miserable six months when I was much happier and calmer over by the window.

      4. Joielle*

        Yeah, if the LW can point to a health reason, I think that would help. And really, I think it’s better for most people’s health to spend some time sitting and standing throughout the day, so it’s not even a stretch.

        Not like they have to make a formal request for accommodations or anything, but just frame it like “Any chance there’s another sit/stand desk available that I could use? I was really excited when I thought I was going to get that one because it’s better for my back if I can stand for part of the day.”

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I’m recovering from a back injury right now and every doctor I’ve been to see has said they write letters to support people’s standing desk as a matter of course, whether that person has a current back problem or not, because it’s easier to prevent a back injury than repair one. So even if your workplace does want you to get a letter from a doctor, it might not be a hard thing to get.

        2. The Rural Juror*

          Even if they don’t have one available, they might be willing to get the stand that sits on top of an existing desk to raise and lower the monitor/keyboard setup. Worth asking!

          1. raktajino*

            Or set up the desk so that it’s standing-only, and then give you a tall chair for sitting. Those tall moveable cubicles usually allow it. That’s what my office usually does.

    2. tamarack and fireweed*

      I think Alison’s advice is spot-on. Asking – politely, one paragraph – is fine.

      The pitfall is when the answer is “no”. That’s when it’s easy to just take up too much mental space, in your own brain and in that of your boss, so that it leaves a bad taste. If they say “no” don’t take it personally. If the desk that you do get is one you’d have been happy with, just say that if one of those stand/sit ones becomes available in the future, you’re interested, and accept the new one. (Bring it up 6 months later maybe – you could ask whether there may be new options on that front…) If the desk you are assigned to is terrible, bring it up like you would/should be bringing it up if the convertible desk had never been mentioned.

      1. Green great dragon*

        Agree with ‘bring it up in 6 months’, especially if at that point you can say you’ve been having back pain/whatever. I think there are also things that go on top of normal desks to convert them to standing desks which I assume are cheaper.

        1. Joielle*

          At a previous job, one person got a doctor’s note saying they needed a sit/stand desk for ergonomics and the agency bought them one of those desktop conversion things, which worked great. Within a month almost everyone else had also gotten a doctor’s note and had a sit/stand desktop thing, haha. Turns out most doctors agree that those of us with desk jobs would benefit from some standing throughout the day.

          I don’t know how much the desktop thing cost, but it was definitely cheaper than replacing everyone’s actual desks.

        2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

          I worked with a guy who used a system of cardboard boxes for his sit/stand option. There’s lots of ways to accomplish the same goal if a company doesn’t want to pay, or if you just want to try things out before you invest.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      It is never petty to ask for things that help you be more productive at work, well, within reason.

      In my case, when we all came back in we were moved to new desks, which were all the sit/stand desks you are speaking of. My only complaint about my new desk was due to the old age of my building (built in 1904 – so well before swamp coolers/central air was a thing). This means that the ducting had to be run in some very weird places, and also that the vents aren’t as even as you would see in a new(er) build. The desk I was assigned to had no vents pointed at it – the vent that was supposed to feed my desk was behind a central support column for the entire building. When I talked to my boss I asked if I could please move to a different seat (gave them like seven options) because there was no airflow in my assigned desk and I am not allowed at the moment to bring in a small fan to remedy the lack of airflow.

      My request was approved in two minutes. It took longer to type out the email in my case. My point here though is make a solid business reason that benefits everybody when you ask for the different desk, sit/stand desk, or other simple change.

    4. LDN Layabout*

      I don’t think this materially changes the answer but the person in “my” desk had only recently switched to using that desk. It used to belong to someone else who just left the company so they were using it for a day or two max before it was assigned to me. But I don’t care as long as the desk I get isn’t somehow incredibly poor in comparison (this is my real worry)

      You’re focusing too much on this person, even with the appended ‘I don’t care’. People who are already employed for the organisation and are known quantities should also be able to get the desks they want, even if it’s only been ‘a day or two max’.

      1. Snow Globe*

        Yes, I agree. This person has “seniority” and may possibly have been waiting for a standing desk for several years. Something to keep in mind if a standing desk isn’t available for the OP right away.

      2. Deanna Troi*

        Yes, I agree with LDN Layabout. Where I work, current employees get first dibs on vacant desks before new people come in. I feel like the OP is being weirdly territorial about this. They should imagine how they would feel if they worked somewhere for a while and a new person came in and was given a better desk than them.

    5. JJ*

      At my previous job, sit/stand work stations were available with a doctor’s note, which many doctors are happy to provide given that sitting all day isn’t great (mine came from my chiropractor). In their case, I believe it was one of those big company quirks where there had to be a reason for one person to have a different setup than someone else, which may not be the case where you are.

    6. Cant remember my old name*

      How new are you? Also how many unclaimed desks are there and how many standing desks are there?

      I just feel like anyone can make a business case for a larger desk and I doubt a new employees preferences will outweigh more senior or more tenured staff. Just prepare yourself that the answer may be no, and be prepared to swiftly let it go. Good luck!

      1. OP4*

        Very new! I haven’t been to the office in person yet. There should be several sit/stand and several only sit desks in our suite. I know not all can be both due to room architecture. I don’t know how many are free, but I’m really hoping a stand sit one is available.

    7. Skittles*

      I’m not in the US and I know you have different rules about accommodations and things but I got a letter from my chiropractor that said I need a sit/stand desk for my back and my employer at the time was happy to assign me one.

      1. OP4*

        Just to be clear, I don’t medically need a standing desk. It’s just a preference and I think it would help me be more productive.

        1. LizB*

          There are contraptions you can get that sit on top of a regular desk and allow you to raise your workstation to convert it into a standing desk – if you can’t get one of the full-on standing models, maybe ask for one of those in a few months when you’re more of a known quantity.

              1. Pants*

                I was surprised at how well they worked! I was laid off before I was able to get one. When I got my new job (all wfh), I opted for a whole desk with electric raise/lower functions. I love it.

          1. StressedButOkay*

            Yep! I had one when we were physically in the office – it was huge, which was why I didn’t borrow it for home use when we went full remote – and it was really nice. Because it was so big, it gave me a space to have some room to write on, too.

            So if you can’t get an actual sit/stand desk, ask if they would get you one of these.

          2. Hannah*

            I think the point is, by virtue of having a human skeleton, you really would be better off not having to sit 40 hours a week. Many doctors would write you a note based on just that.

            We had a woman in our workplace that got moved to one of the few offices with windows because she just went to the doctor and they wrote her a note saying people do better with natural lights.

        2. Happy*

          fwiw, I don’t have a medical need for a standing desk, but my work required a doctor’s note to get one. I asked my doctor and she wrote a note saying that one would be “beneficial” for me or something generic like that and it worked for everyone.

          Would depend on your doctor and your employer as to whether that might be an option for you.

    8. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I’m betting that person had his/her eye on it, but there was nothing official. Definitely ask. At my place, someone wanted a standing desk and over the next few months, dozens of people got them. It wasn’t a big deal. Hopefully it will be the same for you.

    9. Box of Kittens*

      I asked for a sit stand desk recently when I moved offices and I LOVE it. Several people have passed by commenting that they would like one but I’m not sure any of them have asked for one. It may or may not be feasible depending on your office, but if you don’t get one it’s possible you could create a workaround. Before I moved offices, I used a copy paper box to sit my laptop on when I wanted to stand. I know that might not be possible if you have a desktop/work in a cubicle/it would look to weird to sit your stuff on a box, but it was fine for me and gave me the benefit I needed before I got a real sit/stand. Plus, other people (incl. the person who is responsible for buying/approving furniture) saw me using it so when it came time for purchasing they knew it wouldn’t be wasted money.

    10. Pants*

      If you’re in the US, a standing desk can be considered an accommodation in some companies. It was in my old company. To get a standing desk, you spent an hour or two with the “ergonomic specialist” (who had a way longer title) watching you work to note any …I don’t know, ergonomic necessities? Anyway, everyone who asked for a standing desk received one. Maybe try that route? I decided to buy one when I got a wfh job. (electric…. so smooooooth) Worth every single penny (around $300ish).

      Try the accommodation route. Standing desks are worth it.

    11. Anonymous Hippo*

      If the company has very few standup desks, maybe a table topper like varidesk would work. I’ve used one for about 6 years now, at two different companies, and they are great and very sturdy, long as you have a good foundation desk.

    12. MajorCoffeeDay*

      So to be clear, you haven’t actually used the desk as of yet? I will say that I’ve used a few different styles and it took me awhile to find one that I really liked and fit. If you haven’t used it, then it is possible that you may not like it once you use it vs. in principle.

      1. OP4*

        No I haven’t seen it yet. It’s likely just a sit desk based on what I’ve been told. The sit/stand ones we have are pretty fancy (fully motorized up/down controls) so I think if I did get one and ended up not liking it, the worst thing that would happen is someone else gets it or it can be used in a sitting position.

  4. Amaranth*

    LW1 it sounds like oldjob was rather toxic and paid less, so is it possible to use the downtime in your current position to get more training, do online professional courses, become expert in industry software, etc.?
    Would it help to go to your current management and ask for more responsibility, propose some new projects? You might be able to get your job description expanded to make use of your skills, or at least hone them while you keep an eye out for something new.

    1. Eve Polastri*

      Totally agree! LW states:
      “The way they treated us left a bitter taste in my mouth. They have not reached out to me to ask if I’d want to come back (though I worked there for several years and was well-regarded).”

      It sounds like the old job was a bit of a drama-fest. It would be easier to go back to where you were since it’s ”
      the devil you know” but now is a great time to look for something better!

  5. L6orac6*

    #1 Please do not go back to old job, though in your head you appear to still be there. In your current job, you are bored but being paid more money. Allowed yourself to be bored.
    I hoping you can use the extra money to put towards savings, or a hobby you’ve always to do. Take this time for your physical and mental health.
    Put your energy into a new job search -resume and cover letters and maybe networking, use old supervisor as a referee. Do not go back to old job, you can’t guarantee your old supervisor will be still be your supervisor and it may not work with the new (old) colleagues.

    1. twocents*

      This. I’m having a really hard time seeing the appeal of a job that pays less, is full of drama, has significant upheaval, and where your job is at risk if a leader thinks getting rid of you will save their job.

      Being bored and paid more sounds pretty appealing tbh. Take a hobby.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        How was the food?
        The meat was tough, the vegetables were soggy, the bread was dry.
        That’s terrible!
        Yes! And such small portions!
        OP, you don’t want to go back, you just want them to want you back.
        This place messed with your mind. Kick it out of your head.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think you’ve got it. OP wants to rewrite history and be the one doing the dumping.

          It’s a trap, OP.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          ‘OP, you don’t want to go back, you just want them to want you back.’

          I think you hit it on the head with this.

        3. Allison*

          Yep, that’s the case with me. I don’t want the job that laid me off in 2020. The company was great, but it paid less than half what I’m making now! But I wanted them to want me back, as pathetic as that sounds.

    2. ecnaseener*

      If there’s going to be an interview process, no harm in applying and finding out who’s on the current team and how things are going. LW really liked this old job, I’m not seeing a reason for a hard “no.”

      People do have different tolerance levels for boring well-paying jobs! I’m closer to where it sounds like LW falls, I can’t stand being bored 40 hours a week no matter what I do with the rest of my time.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        “My prior workplace is rather dramatic and prone to firings and personnel-related upheaval”

        That sounds like a reason for a hard “no”

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yeah, at first I was on OP’s side but then they said that and I was like, “And you want to go back to this company, why?” It doesn’t sound like a safe place to work, OP, mostly for your financial and personal well-being. I get that being bored at work can be soul-sucking (I just left a job like that), but maybe you could negotiate something with your current job about getting more projects to do (something my old job couldn’t quite figure out) or working fewer hours for the same or less amount of pay. Since you are contemplating going back to a position where you would presumably also be paid less, why not give yourself more free time for that amount of pay? The company might not take you up on it, but if you are truly not actually working for many hours a week, they might be fine with the savings you’re offering them.

      2. Observer*

        LW really liked this old job, I’m not seeing a reason for a hard “no.”

        It doesn’t sound like they really liked the place or the people. That’s a lot.

        I can’t stand being bored 40 hours a week no matter what I do with the rest of my time.

        There are other options than going back to a workplace that they don’t like, working for people they despise, though.

    3. Laney Boggs*

      As someone who is constantly, constantly bored, I really disagree. Everyone thinks a boring job is a dream and you’ll have so much energy for hobbies!

      Once you get there you realize it really isn’t true, especially for people who thrive on challenge and stimulation. Think about sitting in the same place, staring at a wall, for 8 hours a day, seven days a week. That is a HUGE CHUNK of your life. Most jobs have serious rules about reading/crafting/etc while on the clock too!

      1. The New Wanderer*

        That’s true and I’ve been there. But if your choices are A: excruciatingly boring current job and B: awful-sounding lower-paying previous job, then the answer is option C: find a new job.

    4. generic_username*

      As someone who stayed in a boring job because I thought I would use my energy for other things while being paid good money, that isn’t always a good idea. It’s so draining to be bored all of the time, and there’s no joy to be found from spending 8 hours a day feeling unproductive. I am now ready to move on from my job and am struggling to feel like a valuable worth-hiring employee because I haven’t felt like I’ve added value to my workplace for the past few years. It’s awful….

      That said, LW1 should go somewhere else, not to her dysfunctional former workplace.

    5. lemon meringue*

      I’m probably projecting all over this letter, but my guess is that OP1 used to work in the arts, which can really give you a complex about taking a less glamorous/creative job even if they pay you better and there is 100 percent less drama. If this is the case, I’d advise the OP to consider a middle ground–something that is more challenging and interesting than the current dull job but with less dysfunction and better treatment than the old glam job.

  6. Schnapps*

    LW4 (sit/stand desk). If they don’t have a sit/stand desk for you, they are often available fairly inexpensively. When I transitioned to 50% WFH during the pandemic, I bought one for home and it was under $400 CDN (from Costco). 20 minutes with a screwdriver and it was together.

    You can also get desk toppers that move up and down. I have a VariDesk at my workstation in the office – these are a bit on the expensive side but will fit two monitors. But again, Costco had one for around $120 CDN which would easily fit two monitors.

    All of this is to say – there are options! And if your office won’t move on it, you can do what I did at previous workplace: take a couple of paper boxes (that have the reams of paper in them), weigh them down (a single ream of paper in each will do) and put your mouse and keyboard on top. Elevate your monitor(s) in a similarly ugly way and see what your boss says :)

      1. generic_username*

        I’ve been eye-balling the ones from IKEA for my home office. I’m only going to get to WFH 2 days a week once the pandemic ends though so I’m not sure if its worth it.

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I was also going to recommend a desk topper! Several people over the past few years have requested one at my office, and as far as I know, no one has been denied or required to bring in any paperwork. (My company is also very good about getting you a new mouse and/or keyboard if you request a different style than the very basic ones.) I got mine when a previous co-worker left, and I decided that yes, I did want to have a convertible desk. It was then a simple matter of clearing space on my desk, and getting someone to help move it.

      (I have worked in the office one day since the pandemic began, and I spent the first half of it standing, because I’d missed my VariDesk so much. I don’t have room for it in my home workspace.)

      1. Sutemi*

        Desk toppers work great for many people, but are terrible if you are shorter than the average. I can only use them in the standing position because the sitting position is way too high. Many true sit-stand desks go lower than the “standard” desk height and are much more ergonomic for me.

        1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          Fair point – I am slightly taller than average so it works for me (although I wouldn’t mind having a keyboard tray I could mount below my desk to use in the sitting position). It’s also inconvenient to have to move the anti-fatigue mat when I’m switching between sitting and standing – my chair doesn’t really work on the mat, so I have to swap them around when I change desk height.

        2. LC*

          Oof I feel you on this one.

          I actually have a whole long rant about the standard dimensions of office furnature and how they’re based on guys in the military who were 5’10” but I’ll just say that, yes, if you’re a little too short for a standard desk height, desk toppers in the sit position add additional height where there’s already too much.

          The fully adjustable desks are sooo much better, but they’re more expensive so employers aren’t as likely to just have them available. I used to have a desk topper that had a separate keyboard tray, which definitely helped but since it only went out and down, not under the desk at all, it made it a little annoying to keep everything else within ergonomic reach.

          For my home desk, I couldn’t find one remotely in my budget that was or could be a little lower than standard, so I just have a foot rest. It’s a hell of a lot better than not having it but I miss having a desk and chair that actually fit me.

          Ergonomics are important for everyone, even if you don’t have any sort of injury! It’s remarkable how few people actually fit the standard desk and chair sizes. I’m not even short, I’m 5’5″ which, according a super quick google search, is one inch taller than the average height of women, but when I actually started working at a setup that fit me, it made way more of a difference than I thought it could.

          A more ergonomic setup is an incredibly reasonable thing to ask of your employer. Whether or not they’re open to it is a different matter, but the actual question is supremely reasonable and I recommend it to anyone who can.

    2. OP4*

      Thanks for the suggestion! This sounds like a good workaround if I can’t move to a new desk. The only thing I’d be worried about is the size of my hypothetical desk and whether it will fit. I was told the reason my coworker wanted the first desk was because it was big enough for dual monitors (implies the desk I’m getting isn’t big enough??). So I’m not sure yet whether the Varidesk would fit but it sounds cool.

  7. GNG*

    LW2: What your boss is doing is completely normal. I can understand your feeling of being watched, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend bringing it up with your boss about it just because you have that feeling.

    Instead, you should adjust your mindset and expectations. If Boss’ role is to oversee client relationships, communications, and services, then she’s just doing a normal part of her job when she reads emails sent from that account. Just know that even if you brought up your discomfort with her, it’s unlikely that’s she will stop doing her job just to make you feel better.

    1. Writer of the Second Letter*

      Yeah, I think this is ultimately why I haven’t brought it up in 5 years. While I find it annoying and at times invasive or frustrating, I also get that… there are more important things for me to worry about, I guess. I also agree that I don’t think she would change what she’s doing if I mentioned it. (Unless there was a very specific issue I addressed, but nothing like that comes to mind at 2am)

      1. GNG*

        Oh just to clarify, since I didn’t elaborate: if she’s reading the emails just to micromanage you, for example if she’s nitpicking everything you wrote in your emails, or telling you what you need to say, then she’s taking it too far.

        But if she doesn’t otherwise show signs that she doesn’t trust you, or micromanage you in other ways, then it’s likely she’s reading them just to stay up to date on how things are going with customers, or trying to anticipate potential issues and complaints with certain customers.

        1. Writer of the Second Letter*

          She’s done both over the years. (I previously (a few years back) started asking her if individual responses were ok, it was happening so often… she told me in my review that year that she wanted me to be more independent/handle things myself more, which did open a discussion)

          Sometimes her clicking into them makes sense/doesn’t surprise me. (and I’ll also direct her to emails I think she’ll want to see even if I’ve already responded) But other times it’s such a mundane email… I just don’t understand.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            For the mundane emails, it’s probably a random, as opposed to targeted, spot check. When I spot check I want a varied sampling. I don’t want all the complicated cases or all the simple ones–I want a mix to get a feel for how each type of case is handled.

          2. Allonge*

            On a more personal note than my comment below – sometimes going through emails is an easy, mindless task to spend 10 minutes of brain break time on between two projects. It’s not a given that I will come away with any conclusions, it’s very often just a ‘huh, ok, whatever’ kind of no-follow-up-needed reading.

            Which does not mean that your boss is not a micromanager! But not necessarily.

          3. Daisy*

            I don’t really see how you could avoid reading emails in a shared account? How would you know what anything was otherwise, or whether you need to do anything? And why would you not read them? I wouldn’t feel any need to restrict myself to certain emails in a box I have full equal access to. Maybe I don’t understand the situation correctly.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              If I had a shared email account, I wouldn’t go into emails that had already been read, or messages that had been sent from that account, unless I had a specific reason. Sounds like that’s what is happening.

            2. Metadata minion*

              I answer a shared email account that funnels into a ticketing system, so it’s easy to see at a glance if someone has “claimed” something.

          4. hbc*

            The mundane-to-you email might have been one where the customer filed a complaint and she’s double checking that things look good. Or checking for all problems of X type because those have been getting the most repeat calls. Or someone internal saying that your group isn’t responsive enough so she’s checking all emails on a random day and something about one particular email happened to be worth mentioning to you. Or she just feels better having read over some subset of emails. Heck, she might be required by policy to randomly review emails.

            I can probably think of a dozen more possible reasons. You might not know exactly why she’s doing it, but there are lots of good to neutral to annoying-but-harmless explanations, so I’d just try to make peace with it.

          5. Lacey*

            Ugh, that’s frustrating.

            I have a manager who will sometimes randomly go through a few of my tickets & email chains in the project manager. Which, literally anyone can do, it’s not technically invasive, but it is disorienting even though my boss’s comments are almost always praise or advice.

            But to have to worry about little nit-picks all the time… that sucks.

          6. Observer*

            But other times it’s such a mundane email… I just don’t understand.

            That’s normal. For one thing, it’s not always obvious what’s mundane, so she might have thought that something was a bigger deal that it really is. Also, if she’s doing her job, she’s going to hop into the occasional random email.

            he’s done both over the years. (I previously (a few years back) started asking her if individual responses were ok, it was happening so often… she told me in my review that year that she wanted me to be more independent/handle things myself more, which did open a discussion)

            That’s a different issues. And if she’s still doing that, if definitely merits a conversation. It would merit a conversation even if she weren’t looking at these emails.

      2. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

        Yeah, it’s a totally normal practice for shared boxes – managers in my org skim review the communications in shared boxes under their purview to get an idea of – workflow, problems, knowledge gaps, general “how things are going”, and to see where they can help.

        Now – micromanaging what they’ve reviewed would be an issue. What they do with the information they’ve reviewed is the big thing, and if a manager were to chime in daily with criticisms or corrections on the person’s work the day before (assuming they aren’t still in training), that would be a mood/job killer for all.

      3. T2*

        I just want to add that I routinely and reflexively copy my team on almost everything I write from my own email to pretty much anyone.

        But on a shared account, the most notable thing is that it is shared, so everyone services it.

        I am very busy and there is no guarantee that I will be the one interacting with the client when they call. I also like to take vacations. So keeping my team, managers included, in the loop is pretty important.

        Finally, I would not recommend thinking of your work email as private in any way. It is not snooping. Work email is meant to further the interests of work. There may be many legitimate reasons to open and read company emails from customer service, training, issue visibility to legal and compliance reasons. It is not personal.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yeah, I think she might just be looking at how you do things to figure out how they work. Or they want to tell your colleague to do it the same way as you, or maybe she’s checking up on various things like response time because she’s seen that your colleague often takes longer than necessary to respond.
        Either way, I think all is well in that your boss is clearly not criticising anything that she’s reading.
        (mine would haul me into his office and nitpick over minor details – such a waste of time)

      5. Allegra*

        Something I wondered reading this–is she looking to ensure everyone is using similar language when replying to/addressing particular issues? My team has this down to a science; we have a giant document with template text to use for almost every situation that arises, to be sure that we’re all giving the same information. It may not be appropriate depending on your situation, but the five of us are all on 12+ aliases and that’s the main reason we would read each other’s mesages.

      6. Allegra*

        Something I wondered reading this–is she looking to ensure everyone is using similar language when replying to/addressing particular issues? My team has this down to a science; we have a giant document with template text to use for almost every situation that arises, to be sure that we’re all giving the same information. It may not be appropriate depending on your situation, but the five of us are all on 12+ aliases and that’s the main reason we would read each other’s messages.

      7. Free Meerkats*

        I’m a manager of a small team and we have a shared email as well as each have our own. We try to have all of the account interactions through the shared email so if one of us is out, they can be handled. This came in handy when one team member had an MRI because of headaches and was in surgery an hour later with a 3 month recovery time. If everything had been in his individual mail, covering would have been much more difficult.

        I read every email that comes into the shared address. I don’t do it to snoop, I do it so I know what’s going on. And if I have questions, I tend to go back through the email chain rather than ask. It’s usually quicker.

        1. Bayta Darrell*

          Exactly. I used to supervise a small customer service team that had the team, my boss, and my grandboss on it. When I moved into an adjacent role off the customer service team, I remained on the group email and still read each one just in case I need to handle a situation that was addressed in an email, I want to be up-to-date.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. I do QC as part of my job and it’s expected of me, not only by my boss but also the internal auditors and regulatory examiners. Everything we do is online so it’s easy to randomly spot check what I need to and no one even notices unless they look at the audit log on the case or I point something out to them that needs improvement or praise. If someone told me they were uncomfortable or felt like they were being watched, well, it’s not going to stop me from doing part of my job and yes, they are being watched. It’s part of my job as a manager, just like it’s their job to follow the procedures and regulatory guidelines–I have procedures and guidelines, too.

    3. Washi*

      Yeah, she may just be trying to keep her finger on the pulse of what these interactions are like. When I worked a similar job my boss would do this from time to time just to get a sense of what kinds of issues we were dealing with, how people were responding, etc.

    4. Clementine*

      Not your boss, but part of my job does involve a shared mailbox. I have access to it but 98% of emails are sent by my team, not me. Here are some reasons I’ve clicked on emails in that box in the last 24 hours.

      – A client always has weird problems (I swear, I don’t know how) and has a tendency to blow things out of proportion. I want to see if there’s anything I need to be aware of.

      – I see a subject line that I’ve been noticing a lot. Hmm… if we’re getting the same question, is it something we should put in our online Q&A’s? Is it something that I need another fix for? Can I give my team a standard form email so they don’t have to spend time going through?

      – I fixed an issue for a client a few months ago and want to make sure the same issue isn’t coming up (note: I don’t think my staff knows how much went into that fix, just that I handled it)

      – The subject line was truncated and I had no idea what the email could be about and was curious.

      Yes, sometimes it’s QC, understand that it’s also for me a way I can stay in touch without bothering my staff.

    5. ThatGirl*

      A few years ago I ended up in a customer service-related role, and although I reported to the team lead, the role had been designed to be equal to her (it’s a long story) so I was her unofficial second banana and took on some leadership. One of the things I took over for her was assigning out emails that had been send to the customer service box, and because of that I also would sometimes read through the emails and responses. It wasn’t because I was trying to catch or manage anyone – I was curious what issues people were writing in about (for reporting purposes), I was curious how the team was answering them (if we were all on the same page, providing accurate information, not being rude), all of that.

      While I’m sure it can feel weird and like you’re not being trusted, on the face of it, I don’t think it’s that weird. Now if she’s a bad boss in other ways…

    6. Vanilla Bean*

      I came here to say this. My team does a lot of client communication from software designed to handle tracking that stuff, and it’s all clearly visible to everyone, and they’re actually encouraged to search it to find past communication related to an order/situation at times, so it’s really obvious that anyone can read anything. I have a formal quality monitoring process that I do monthly just to make sure they’re staying on message, giving accurate information, and following basic style rules (use a signature block, greeting, closing, correct formatting for the company name, etc.)

    7. EventPlannerGal*

      Yes, agreed – I must say I really don’t understand Alison’s answer here at all. What explicit acknowledgement do you possibly need in order to understand that when you’re working out of a generic shared customer service email account used by several people, those people will be seeing/reading your emails? That’s how it works. That’s the point. I think it would be really strange to even bring it up to the manager – if someone said that to me I would be a bit concerned that they were getting oddly territorial over a shared email account.

    8. Writer of the Second Letter*

      As I noted below but want to make sure all you lovely commenters see:

      I have been traveling all day, but have read through all of these responses – thank you for the insight!!! I’ll work to reframe my feelings about the whole thing. My perspective is likely being swayed by my overall feelings toward her, when they are likely not related, it seems.

  8. Allonge*

    LW2 – so, for a different-from-yours perspective on this: we have a shared account for my team both so people do not have to wonder which one of us to address with some things and to loop people in / leave an easy to access record without cc-ing everyone on the team just in case.

    I read fast, like really fast. The absolute easiest for everyone way for me to know what is happening in [file] is to look up the recent emails on this. This is not to check people – most of my team are my peers anyway – it’s to be kept in the loop (let’s say I do financials for all team projects, so I am involved even if I am not for content).

    Anyway, all that adds up to my reading a lot of emails from a lot of people wihout anything particularly shady going on. I wanted to put this out there as if your boss is used to operating like this, they would be really puzzled by any sense from your side that they are controlling you as it’s not like that at all. Which they will happily share with you in answering the questions Alison wrote, so no additional advice – do ask!

    1. Writer of the Second Letter*

      This is fair! I haven’t really noticed a pattern to what she looks at (I haven’t invested time and energy into it because I recognize that it’s ‘a thing that I find annoying’ rather than ‘a thing to worry about’) but this is a fair perspective. I appreciate the insight!

      (I also recognize that I really dislike being micromanaged, and my feelings about this can be a holdover from previous bad bosses, so seeing it from another perspective is really appreciated)

      1. Drizzle Cake*

        So she isn’t reading all of them? I ask because I think a micromanager would read them all.

        I also wondered if she’s questioning things in them or just mentioning them? The latter feels less like micromanaging.

        In my last job my team had a shared mailbox and my manager would dip in sometimes, but not for the sorts of reasons you’re thinking of. She was newer in our field, had less knowledge about it and couldn’t have done our jobs (which was fine, she didn’t need to to manage us). She said she read through emails sometimes to learn from us.

        While that is probably not the case here I’d just encourage you to keep an open mind. It might feel like micromanaging to you – that doesn’t mean it is.

        1. Writer of the Second Letter*

          I don’t know that she reads them all (I assume not, realistically, we send a lot of emails in a day). So, that’s also fair. I don’t think she’s doing it to learn (as noted, we’ve been doing our jobs for close to the same amount of time, so that would be weird), but I get where you’re coming from.

          I may just be disgruntled about it in relation to our relationship in general, so it feels like “another thing”, vs having an actual grievance here. Which is a good perspective to gain!

        2. Green great dragon*

          It struck me that she mentioned relevant things she’d found out about from the emails, which suggests she is getting useful context at least from doing this? It feels very different to reading someone’s individual email account somehow, and closer to a manager checking in on how things are feeling. I can imagine flicking through a few dozen emails in her place just to get a sense of what customers are needing as well as/instead of your work – skimming for the gist of something only takes a few seconds per email.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            “she is getting useful context”
            yup, she’s been on a fact-finding mission, found something interesting and mentions what you wrote in passing just to present facts to others. She’s not nit-picking what you wrote, just getting a sense of what’s going on to be able to transpose your process to some other situation.
            I too hate being micromanaged (a previous boss would dictate “please find enclosed” and it was such a waste of time). If your boss is just reading seemingly random stuff without hauling you over the coals over something, all is well. My experience is that micromanagers micromanage in order to point out everything little mistake (like “you didn’t put the file back in the right tray, you just kept it on your desk” when in fact putting it back in the tray might help him check up on what’s going on, but it’s also the best way for me to forget I have to do something about the file, and he can also check up on what’s going on by looking at the log of work)

      2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        Does she have to submit reports to higher-ups about current work being done? Where I worked, we had to do those types of reports, submit them to our supervisor, then he’d copy & paste them into a longer report, adding his own projects. I’d have been THRILLED if he’d looked through our shared accounts to write the whole thing, since I found it a tedious waste of time.

      3. Mockingjay*

        Think about it this way: if it were a call instead of an email, it’s perfectly normal for “this call may be recorded or monitored for quality purposes.”

        It’s keeping her finger on the customer pulse and looking for issue trends. “Hey, we’re getting a lot of emails about X. Is there something wrong with the product?” Then she can take next steps.

        1. Elizabeth Proctor*

          That’s what I was thinking of. If this were a customer service phone line, I think you’d expect to have a sample of calls reviewed. So why not emails?

    2. Grey Coder*

      Absolutely this. If I were in the position of LW2’s boss, I would prefer to get my “what’s the status of Client A’s issue” from reading an email chain (assuming there wasn’t likely to be additional context from phone calls or meetings). It saves my time, the time of the person I would be asking, avoids interrupting them, etc.

      There’s also the potential of “oh, I have a meeting with Client A this afternoon, I should catch up with what we’ve been talking to them about lately”. This would again drive me to look through any recent email chains.

      Basically I can see a number of solid business reasons for looking through emails in this context. That’s not a guarantee that your boss is not snooping or micromanaging of course, but something to keep in mind. It’s a shared email account for a reason, and information sharing is likely to be one of the reasons!

    3. LDN Layabout*

      The concept of a shared email account being private or that reading the emails is overstepping is so alien to me. That’s why it’s a shared account vs. your individual one.

      We have one in our department for incoming queries and there’s a ton of reasons someone more senior might keep themselves plugged in. It’s important to know what kind of emails come through, are a particular group or type of query coming through more often (e.g. FAQs need updating), is everyone answering the emails in a comparatively similar manner etc.

      1. Hard First Name :)*

        I run a team that has multiple shared inboxes, customer service, client services, document inboxes, etc. One if the major functions of my job is managing the flow of those inboxes and QA/QC for the responses.

        The idea that my team would have privacy when replying to emails to clients or consumers from our shared inboxes is so foreign to me. I’ve caught major errors, minor issues, and areas of improvement for my current employees. I use those examples in on the job feedback. When I find emails employees did a great job on I use those as examples in training, to update our macros replies, etc.

        I wouldn’t dwell into this unless you notice your manager is reading/providing constructive feedback on EVERY email or if your manager isn’t doing this for other employees as well.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        I work out of shared email accounts constantly and to be honest, I don’t really think of the ones I send as “my” emails. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to it! Like, if I was off on holiday then someone else would be monitoring those accounts and responding in essentially the same way. The concept of them being in any way private is just… they’re not. They’re work emails. Read them, don’t read them, I don’t care.

    4. Amethystmoon*

      Yes, we have this at work as well — a team group account that everyone in it can see and respond to. The managers sometimes read our emails and sometimes not, but it’s to be kept in the loop if/when one is away. Also, all of our tasks come via email, so it’s easier to just assign e-mails to a person in Outlook. A lot of it is responding to internal requests from others within the company for things in our database. So it depends upon the industry and department.

    5. Writer of the Second Letter*

      I have been traveling all day, but have read through all of these responses – thank you for the insight!!! I’ll work to reframe my feelings about the whole thing. My perspective is likely being swayed by my overall feelings toward her, when they are likely not related, it seems.

  9. The Prettiest Curse*

    LW #1 – it sounds like the only thing you liked about your old job was that it used more of your skills than your current one. If they have significant staff turnover, the people who laid you off may not even be there any more.
    I guarantee you, if you sit around thinking “why aren’t they calling me, because I’m the only person who can do this job?”, you will be sitting around getting even more bitter for a long time.
    And bear in mind that, even if you did try to go back, the layoffs may have made it a worse place to work or they could offer you way less money than you were previously paid. I know it’s hard not to have job nostalgia when you’re laid off, but in this case it seems a bit unwarranted.

    1. Nonny*

      This was my immediate thought as well: if they’re continually reposting the job, there’s probably a reason they haven’t been able to find someone… my immediate guess would be they lowered the salary from when you held the role, or the culture is now unappealing in a way that’s obvious from just an interview.

  10. gsa*

    LW#3 should read, “You Can Negotiate Anything” by Herb Cohen

    Specifically to LW#3, You have to know your costs and expenses to figure out whether or not the offer will fit.

    ps: Herb Cohen’s book opened my eyes more than 30 years ago when negotiating.


    1. Lauren19*

      Ooh I want to read that! And yes, use this. We have a really bad 401(k) and the savvier candidates usually counter offers once they see the details in that. And I don’t blame them one bit. The company probably knows their premiums are bad, you’re not telling them anything new.

  11. Untamed Shrew*

    Allison, I don’t know if this would apply to LW1’s situation, as I can only speak for situations here in my state and city, but where I live, many companies were required to re-hire furloughed and laid off employees they let go due to the pandemic because of tax breaks, grants and forgiven loans businesses received during the pandemic, and in that case they may be required to offer LW1 their job back.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Not sure of the legalities either, but I think there’s a time variant in those? Like if it’s been a while and the laid off people have got other jobs there’s probably no requirement to offer it back first.

      Or they figure, like I probably would if time had passed, that if I advertised the jobs and the original people applied that would put them up to the front of the application pile if they were interested, and take lack of applications/queries as a sign they’d moved on/weren’t interested.

      However, I’m not legal minded so pinch of salt and all that.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I wondered that.

        I know that here (UK) if someone is made redundant there are issues if you then rehire too soon for the same position. There is no requirement to offer the job back to the person who was laid off, but they might have a claim for unfair dismissal on the basis that the job was not, in fact, redundant.
        There’s no formal time period but it is normally accepted as 6 months (i.e. if you advertise ./ rehire within 6 months you are at risk of a claim by the former employee, and would have to prove that the position was genuinely redundant when the original worker left, if it is over 6 months they could still claim that the role wasn’t redundant but it is much harder as the employer is much more likely to be able to argue that circumstances have changes and that the need for the role wasn’t reasonably foreseeable at the time of the redundancy.

      2. Untamed Shrew*

        Here, it’s not so much based on time, but if they don’t re-hire or offer to rehire first, they have to repay back any covid relief funds or tax breaks they received that were provided to prevent or reduce their lay offs to begin with.

    2. KateM*

      Are they also required to re-hire employees who have moved on and are already employed elsewhere? At least offer them to chuck the new job and return?

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Don’t know about elsewhere but here in France you definitely have to offer job re-openings to the previous incumbents. I think this applies for at least a year, long enough for it not to be worth making someone redundant in order to hire someone else in that role. You might want a certain person out, because they rub you up the wrong way, but can’t fire them just for that, but making them redundant is not worth it if the position then has to stay open for a whole year before being allowed to rehire.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There are some specific rules on that tied to specific forms of Covid relief, which may or may not be in play here, but no general law like that in the U.S.; I wouldn’t assume it’s in play without more info.

  12. Klio*

    I wouldn’t say that someone who used a desk because they like it better than the one assigned to them because the actual assigned wasn’t able to butt-claim it has more right to the desk than the actual assigned.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Except it’s not about rights – assigning a des is probably mostly about ensuring that the new employee has somewhere to work , it sounds as though what happened is that they assigned a desk they thought was available, but which is not in fact available, so they assigned a different one.

      1. Xavier Desmond*

        Yeah saying you ‘have a claim’ on the desk is not the way to see it. The company owns the desk not either of the employees.

      2. Klio*

        Sounds like they assigned a desk that was available and then other employee came along, plopped themselves down because it’s larger and they like it better and suddenly the desk is no longer available.

        1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          I thought it sounded like an existing employee had already been using that desk even though they weren’t assigned to that spot. Once the management knew, they said, “Sure you can keep using it, we’ll find another spot for Newperson.” The other employee was, um, pre-plopped.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            LW said the other person had been using it for 2-3 days before it got assigned to LW and then promptly unassigned.

    2. Come On Eileen*

      Looking at it that way misses the bigger picture question which is “what should OP do if she wants a similar/sit stand desk?” And the answer to that is “she should ask for one.”

  13. Adelaide*

    LW2, I’m a manager, and I’ve access to many shared inboxes, including the one the customers use to contact us. I read all correspondence going through this not to check up on our staff, but to check up on what customers are asking/querying/complaining/stressed about. Knowing this informs how we plan for the future, and more importantly whether we may have bugs in our system that our staff may not realise are there. It’s actually super important, and I do this usually by scanning the threads rather than fully reading them. Maybe this is something your manager is doing too? Maybe it’s more for business needs rather than checking up?

    1. Susie Q*

      Exactly this. Part of my job as a manager is to help develop playbooks and knowing common customer concerns, etc. helps drive the content of those playbooks.

    2. Writer of the Second Letter*

      This is a point I hadn’t really considered. I’m going to work on reframing my feelings about this, because I think my feelings about her generally were taking precedent over the logic here. I really appreciate the insight!

  14. Tiger Snake*

    LW4 – In my experience, Sit-Stand desks are granted when you have a specific health requirement for one. The organisation will have a number of them, and if one is being used they might let you keep it temporarily until someone with a legitimate physician’s note needs it (at which point the desk itself gets physically moved to them).

    That gives you a really clear pathway to obtaining one: consult with your doctor, have a referral to a physio, get a written certificate saying you need a sit-stand desk as an accommodation; and suddenly, it will just appear :)
    Check what your work policy is on sit-stand desks, this will let you work out whether its going to be possible to get one as your own.

    1. EMW*

      That’s not true at all companies. Mine is renovating cubes and adding sit stand desks to every single one.

  15. Teapot Wrangler*

    Did anyone else pick up “the vast majority of these” from LW2 because I think that completely changes my thoughts. If it is just the shared inbox being read, that’s odd but fine but it sounds like it is mostly the shared inbox but also her own inbox, just less often which seems much less acceptable unless there’s an issue!

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I took it that the vast majority of her emails with customers are through the shared email but sometimes she will have emails from her own email box. But that the boss is only reading the shared emails.
      I think the LW would say more clearly if the boss was reading her personal work email.

      1. Writer of the Second Letter*

        Exactly this! There are some correspondence that will come through my personal work email – sometimes by mistake, sometimes because they’re a special case customer, or similar. Those aren’t being read (she doesn’t have access), but the shared alias inbox are.

  16. LDN Layabout*

    But I have too much self respect to grovel at the feet of the people who laid me off.

    Contacting a previous employer is not groveling. Applying for a job is not groveling.

    Redundancies hurt, especially if they’re not handled correctly, but the way you talk about your old job comes across more as if you were in a relationship and dumped vs. a business relationship. Which is what these are at the end of the day.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        If feels like the very classic “I don’t want them, but I want them to want me.” Which is natural and normal but not a good mindset to be in.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      ‘But I have too much self respect to grovel at the feet of the people who laid me off.’

      I used to take on career counseling projects with clients that had been laid off, and also managed large outplacement centers. Our laid-off clients often made difficult but ordinary business decisions extremely personal and targeted. When we talked about networking, I’d hear, ‘I won’t go to my friends with my hat in my hand, begging for a job.’ During interview coaching sessions: ‘I’m looking for a new job because bad managers made bad decisions at my last job, and they didn’t even think about how it would affect their team.’ Valid feelings, but not a good headspace for career planning.

      OP, holding on to the hurt doesn’t help you, it only stalls your career progression. Look forward and focus on your future. If that means you find a new role because you truly aren’t happy in your current one, go for it. And if you decide to contact your former employer, just know that is a very normal thing to do. It’s not groveling, it’s exploring.

  17. I'm just here for the cats!*

    #1 &#2 are overthinking things. #2 I worked in a client support role and we shared an email box. It was very normal for the senior staff or our manager to look at the emails. They treated it the same as a call review and had metrics to rate calls/emails.
    #4 as Alison said your desk wasn’t stolen, there was just a snafu when your desk was assigned. That person may have a health reason for the standing desk. Just ask, but be prepared for a no. In an old job you had to have a note from your doctor stating there was a medical need for adjusting the desk from regular to standing (they didn’t do both, so you either had to stand or sit). So keep in mind your office .ay have a similar policy

    1. Nicotena*

      I also used to use a shared email, and I agree. That said, I hate shared email accounts; it made me super self-conscious and suddenly I couldn’t write in my natural, personal style: I felt super stilted and stared-at. My old org used them because they had so much turnover, but they partly had a lot of turnover because nobody felt respected or valued, which is increased by the use of an “adminstrator@” type email for most conversations.

      1. Writer of the Second Letter*

        Yeah I think this is ultimately the issue. It’s more my perception (of being watched) than my manager doing anything weird or wrong.

        Which is a good takeaway from this! I’m going to work to reframe my perspective, since it think it will make me less annoyed overall.

  18. Lynca*

    LW 2- I am part of a manager team monitoring a shared inbox. I get why you feel that reading the emails would feel like micromanaging especially if you have a history of being micromanaged elsewhere or a difficult relationship with your manager. As long as it’s only in the shared inbox, I agree with the other commenters that there are a lot of specific reasons for your manager to read them that aren’t necessarily about monitoring your performance.

    I have to track all sorts of response times and ensure that the loop is closed on every email sent to us in the shared box. Given all the correspondence should be routed through the shared mailbox, it’s easier to just read through and check status that way, which means I’m not taking up other people’s time. I also need to be up to date on what decisions were made. If the other part of my team was handling something and they’re out, I need to be able to answer for them. Same situation if I was out for things I was working on.

    It really feels like you need to have a bigger conversation about whether it’s related to performance spot checks, QA/QC, etc. Alison’s language is a good way to bring it up. I would immediately explain that it’s not about you but the things I have to handle.

    Also something else from my experience: it can help to reframe the shared inbox as a public inbox, not your personal one. I know that when you’re the primary worker responding it can blur the lines. You’re doing a bulk of the work! But it is not private since there are multiple people that can access it.

  19. Charles "Charlie" Charles*

    #2 I once sent a short, innocent joke to a friend’s email address, and got an angry reply from her boss’s wife. “This is a business email address. It is NOT to be used for jokes. Business only”

    That was weird.

    1. Nanani*

      One the one hand, it is very weird that the boss’ wife replied (I’m asusming she doesn’t work there or you’d call her her job instead of marital status)

      On the other hand, this is what personal emails – and other contact venues like texting and social media – are for.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Every job I’ve had, short emails like this between coworkers to share a joke or an article are very common.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I agree totally. Just like you can tell a colleague something funny when you bump into them coming out of the loo. But it doesn’t sound like Charles even worked there, in which case he should have used a personal email or messaging system to contact his friend.
          The only weird thing was that it was the boss’s wife answering, rather than someone working at the company or the boss himself.

  20. WellRed*

    Man,OP 1. If you want your old job back at that toxic dump, apply. Stop acting like an employee personally scorned. Better yet, look for a better new job.

  21. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP4: some offices can be really particular and/or weird about furniture. Best to roll with it until you figure out the culture.

    In my first post-college job, having a credenza was seen as a status symbol. Why? Who knows.

    1. MMMMMmmmmMMM*

      I am learning that FIRST HAND at the moment. Trying to get a second monitor is like asking for my weight in gold, I guess. I called IT, and the lady on the phone was like, “WhY dO yOu NeEd OnE?”
      “Cause you make me do credit card coding and that requires AT LEAST two windows open at once.”
      Queue radio silence for the past few months. I dont think I’ll get that monitor.

      But, its academia, so there’s this weird hierarchy I wasn’t aware of when I started.

      1. SarahKay*

        So, in the office we all had two monitors. WFH I had one monitor (because I had to carry it home on public transport and one was all I could manage) and the laptop screen which was… okay-ish but not good.
        I bought a reconditioned monitor from eBay for £25 and it’s doing an excellent job. Obviously it’s very far from ideal to have to buy your own equipment but it might be worth it in this case? Plus it’s my monitor so if I need to WFH after we’re allowed back into the office I’ll still have it handy.

        1. MMMMMmmmmMMM*

          Ohhh, maybe I’ll check ebay, I didn’t think about that. I’d be scouring the Public Surplus websites but nothing was coming up in my area.

          Thank you!

  22. Eldritch Office Worker*

    #2 is it possible that she’s not checking up on YOU, but checking through the emails to see what customers are emailing about? Checking for common concerns, seeing if there’s anything that can needs to be escalated as a repeat issue/can be addressed more broadly, etc? I can see doing that periodically if I were the manager in this scenario – I probably wouldn’t even register what my employees were saying, assuming it’s pretty repetitive and straight forward.

    Either way this isn’t a personal email account, you’re probably overthinking it.

    1. Jay*

      When my husband was in academia he had grant funding to purchase office equipment. So the college wasn’t paying for it, but it would belong to them so the order had to go through the same procurement process. The person in charge of procurement gave him a catalog (this was a long time ago) and he picked out the biggest desk he could find. It was a big room, he’s a big guy, he likes a big desk, and there was plenty of money in the grant. That led to this conversation:

      Procurement person: You can’t have that desk. You’re not at high enough rank
      Husband: Huh?
      PP: You’re an assistant professor. You have to order a smaller desk. We only pay for large desks for full professors and VPs
      H: The money is from the grant. You’re not paying for it.
      PP: Doesn’t matter. There’s a policy about desk size
      H: Can you tell me where I can find that policy in the handbook?
      PP: It’s an unwritten policy.

      In the end he had to get a letter from his dean (I am not kidding) saying he was allowed to order the desk.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        My colleague, who worked almost exclusively in English (working in France) and had only ever worked in the UK before, asked to have a QWERTY keyboard instead of the French AZERTY. For some reason this was impossible (not even the excuse of academia or unwritten policy here) so he ordered one himself. I made him print out the order form to prove that he ordered it and paid for it out of his own money, because I could just see all hell breaking loose if he walked out with it under his arm on his last day.

  23. Not So Super-visor*

    LW#2 never states their actual position, but in the customer service, this is pretty normal depending on the system that you’re using. We do quality control checks on all forms of communication: phones, chat, and email (in the case where the person’s primary position is to provide email support)

    1. CanRelate*

      I was coming in to say this. It sounds like they may be using shared gmail accounts, but customer support is fast moving towards communal inboxes/ticketing systems like intercom/freshdesk/zendesk which are wholly designed to encourage this workflow.

      When I managed a support team, I would not read every email, but I monitored the inbox notifications and would read through chains of important clients for insight. I also needed to run analytics, which often meant I would look at emails that ticked a box for being tagged a certain way.

      If a support agent chafed at me looking at support emails just because they answered the ticket, I’d be a bit concerned about it!

  24. Sleepless KJ*

    #2: work emails are not private – particularly in customer service situations is to be expected as there are standards that need to be adhered to.

  25. Littorally*

    #2 – I have to admit, I’m a little confused why this bothers you. When you’re at work, you should assume that every email you send may be monitored/read by someone above you. Have you never worked in a job that had any kind of quality assurance oversight?

    In a former role, my entire job was emailing with clients. My emails were routinely monitored, including the review of full chains to make sure that I was providing good end-to-end service and was paying attention to the full scope of the discussion. I would also check out email chains with other associates to understand the full scope of a conversation that might be going on among many people, or to understand past context for a client’s current issue. It’s really, really normal, and I think you’re taking it very personally.

    1. Metadata minion*

      “When you’re at work, you should assume that every email you send may be monitored/read by someone above you. ”

      Does this vary by industry? I’m not actually sure my boss is able to see my email account without going through IT in some way, and while I recognize that she could do that if she had some sort of serious concern, as could IT on their own, it would be completely against my workplace’s culture for someone to just randomly check in on their employees that way. My work email is not private, and is my workplace’s property, but on a day-to-day level I do have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

      I do also answer a shared email account, and then I expect that anyone else on that account might be reading what I send there, but that goes as much for my coworkers as my supervisor, and I routinely read their answers as well to get tips on how to handle different issues. I was encouraged to do so when I first started helping with that account, and it sounds like that sort of communal-ness either isn’t really present in the LW’s case or it is but that was never adequately explained to them.

      1. Eclecticism is a Virtue*

        Completely depends. In a call center, like I’ve worked in before, you’re taught from day one to just assume your manager will read your emails for quality control reasons. In fact, I taught that idea to hundreds of call center agents when I handled the training. Now, I’m in the same company but a different department and I would never expect anyone to read my emails.

        As to emails with customers, if it is more like you’re an account rep and you handle specific customers, no, other people probably don’t read your emails. But if you are one of many and anyone could get the customer’s next email, then yes, just assume yours will be read.

    2. WellRed*

      It’s one thing to know your email can be read. It’s quite another to have a boss actively reading through them. I assume this varies by industry.

  26. awesome3*

    #1 – I think what you are really looking for is some sort of ad blocker that works on blocking you from seeing the ad for your old job. That’s really understandable and relatable. I hope you find something new soon, so you don’t have to see those ads anymore.

  27. Allison*

    #1 I was laid off in April 2020, and they sort of implied that as the economy/industry ramps back up, they’d probably try to re-hire the people they laid off. Now, I’ve moved on, my new job is better and pays more, I don’t want the job I was laid off from, but in all honesty, I kinda hoped they’d reach out anyway. They didn’t. I concluded that the team is just so different now, a lot of people who were kept on in the layoffs ended up leaving, so there’s a good chance that anyone who might’ve thought of me during the hiring process just wasn’t there anymore. I suspect something similar may have happened in LW’s case, there’s just been a bigger overhaul of the hiring team than they realize.

    Another thing that could’ve happened is they may have seized the opportunity to re-imagine the role, responsibilities, and what background they want.

  28. Purple Loves Snow*

    LW #4:
    I have a sit/stand desk and other advance ergonomics at my work station; and work is always trying to take them away from me. However, I have medical documentation on my file that I require these specific accommodations. They may need to move you to a non-sit/stand desk to accommodate another employee who has accommodations for specific ergonomic needs. It doesn’t hurt to ask if you can get a sit/stand desk but you may need to provide medical documentation with reasons why. Sit/Stand desks are very pricey.
    Caveat – I am outside of the USA, therefore the documentation to get my ergonomics is likely different than what you require.

  29. Empress Matilda*

    OP1, are you sure you even want that job back?

    My prior workplace is rather dramatic and prone to firings and personnel-related upheaval, and the main managers of my department were fired shortly before the pandemic began and were replaced by new people who, when the pandemic hit, saved themselves and got rid of many of us. The way they treated us left a bitter taste in my mouth.

    Is this the kind of workplace you want to go back to? Your main managers were already gone before the pandemic hit, and it sounds like the new ones aren’t particularly trustworthy. And I assume the senior leadership is still the same? They’re the ones who are most responsible for “firings and personnel-related upheaval,” so if they’re still around I think it’s safe to assume that part of the culture hasn’t changed.

    I know this is super frustrating right now. You were laid off in a pretty crappy way, your new job isn’t a great fit, and the job market is tough right now. But it sounds to me like you’re looking at it as a choice between just these two jobs – Job A, where you’re not using your skills; and Job B, where the people are awful. Are you sure those are the only two options? Could there be a Job C, D, or even E where you can use your skills AND work with people who you like and trust?

    Honestly your best bet right now is to hang in there at your current job, and keep looking for something better. There’s no value in going back to your previous job if it’s not going to make you happy, right? Good luck!

  30. anonymous73*

    #1 – I agree with Alison, you’re making this too personal. Unless you’ve kept in contact with the department managers since being laid off, I’m wondering why you would expect them to contact you about the job being open again? To quote Phoebe, get out of the bitter barn and go play in the hay! If you want the job, it’s up to you to make contact. But if you can’t let go of the bitterness, it’s best to stay where you are and look for something else.
    #2 – Unless you’ve got another reason to think your manager is being shady I don’t see a problem here. It’s no different than customer service calls being monitored and reviewed for learning and improvement.

    1. Formerly Frustrated Optimist*

      Yes – very common, and something that should be presented to you as part of the offer/benefits package.

      When the hiring manager in my current position shared with me that I was the their top candidate, the next thing she did was connect me with HR to review benefits.

      That way, I was able to decide whether I wanted to continue with the interviewing process. (I did want to continue. I had one final meeting/interview and then was offered the position).

      1. Ali*

        Hmm… I guess I haven’t been in a position to choose between working and not working in that way, so I didn’t think it would be available. Maybe on the next job!

    2. fhqwhgads*

      Yes. They should either provide it to you with the offer in the first place, or if they don’t, you can ask for it at that point and they should provide it without balking. If they make a fuss about doing so, red flag.

  31. RagingADHD*

    LW2, you said your manager is one of the three “primary users” of the email account.

    They are also in charge of customer service interactions generally.

    These emails do indeed “come across their desk” because they are doing their job in reviewing the account as a primary user. There is nothing covert, odd, or invasive about this. If your company considered your email exchanges with customers to be solely your purview and did not think oversight was necessary, then they would have given you a personal email account from the beginning. I’m sure the third user is also being reviewed periodically.

    I would strongly advise you against using Alison’s script unless your manager is expressing criticism indirectly or passive-aggressively in these comments. A good sales/CS manager should stay apprised of customer relations and communications. For you to challenge your manager on this or express “concern” about it is not going to paint you in a good light. It will make you look like you don’t understand how the department is supposed to work.

    You could read some of your manager’s sent emails in the same account. Perhaps that would give you a better sense of perspective on the overall operation.

  32. RagingADHD*

    LW#1, a job application isn’t “groveling.” It’s a routine email.

    Do you think the new managers who weren’t there long enough to have solid relationships with any of the people who were laid off should re-staff by calling up all the former employees individually to see if they are available or interested in returning?

    What a colossal waste of time that would be! (even if they did have current contact information for everyone in the first place, which is by no means a given).

    You should do whatever you need to do to get this out of your head, because you are expending way, way too much mental energy on it. If you want the job, apply. If you don’t, then quit reading the listings. Nobody else is going to swoop in and magically break this negative spiral you’re in. You have to take some kind of action to break it yourself.

  33. Quantum Hall Effect*

    Now and then, Alison says something so wildly out of line with my own professional experience that I have to wonder just what kind of offices she has worked in. This:

    To be clear, managers should spot-check people’s work periodically to make sure they have a good feel for things they otherwise might never see.

    is one of those things.
    In 5 companies, I have never had a manager spot-check my work. My work environments are such that pretty much everything anyone produces is reviewed in one way or another out in the open where the person knows that somebody is looking at their work (probably bc they initiated it). To have a manager go in and spot-check the work *at all,* but especially without telling me that they were doing so, would just be weird. I would wonder what was up with that manager and why they felt they needed to work that way. It feels a lot like a high school locker check—it’s the kind of thing you do to people you don’t trust.
    Is it actually common for managers to operate this way? What kind of environments does this type of management happen in? (I’m genuinely curious, but also I want to know so I can avoid them)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you’re picturing something very different than what I’m talking about! Spot-check doesn’t have to mean “pulls something you wrote and looks at it.” It means staying enough engaged with the work that they have a good feel for how you’re doing, where any weak spots might be, challenges, etc. It could mean occasionally attending a training you run if you’re a trainer, or asking to see a high-stakes document before it gets sent out, or asking what talking points you’re planning on using with a client. Those are all “spot checking” your work, but they’re really just staying engaged and involved so they know how things are playing out in your realm. (And none of them involve doing it without you knowing; it’s all open and just a normal part of the work.)

      1. Quantum Hall Effect*

        All of those would be really weird in my work environments. If my manager is a stakeholder in the work, they would already be part of any review involving them. If they are not part of a review, it is because they are not a stakeholder and don’t need to be there. If they ask to be part of something that they are not already a part of, it would definitely be weird. I can think of only two people in leadership who were constantly asking to be part of things they had not been invited to, and they were viewed as interfering.

        Regarding openness: it doesn’t seem like LW2’s manager is being open. LW2 gathers that an email thread has been reviewed when their boss mentions content in it. Maybe we have different standards for what’s open, but to me, that is not open. “Open” to me looks like clearly stating at some point that’s the manager reviews things in the shared email account either as necessary or just regularly or whatever. I’m not saying they have to notify the LW ahead of time about each and every email they review, but a setting of expectations along the lines of “I do regularly review everything in the shared email account, so you will hear me talk about it,” would be open enough. The lack of candor is probably what’s impacting LW2’s sense of being trusted. I completely sympathize with them. I would hate to work like that (not that my work places have been great on all aspects of building trust or anything).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think we’re mostly saying the same thing, just with different language.

          I agree that it’s shady to monitor an email account when it’s not openly understood. As I wrote in the post, “monitoring emails without an explicit acknowledgement that that’s the system isn’t typical.”

        2. Observer*

          “Open” to me looks like clearly stating at some point that’s the manager reviews things in the shared email account either as necessary or just regularly or whatever.

          If you are using a shared email box that someone in on, how do you come to expect them to NOT be looking at it? This is not a situation where the boss is being secretly bcc’d or the system secretly automatically forwards all emails to the boss. It is a SHARED box that the boss is a PRIMARY USER of. Of COURSE she’s in that mail box!

          It’s like saying that you expect someone not to look at your pages in a shared notebook. It’s just not reasonable.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        It could mean occasionally attending a training you run if you’re a trainer,

        I’m a Programmer, not trainer, but every direct supervisor I’ve had has moved heaven and earth to attend cross-training events, even when they couldn’t actually do the work involved. This is absolutely in line with my experience. Those supervisors with a more technical background have talked high-level strategy on projects with me as well.

      3. well*

        I spent most of last week in a management class that recommended all of what Alison just said. I’m surprised anyone finds it surprising.

    2. RagingADHD*

      “pretty much everything anyone produces is reviewed in one way or another out in the open”

      That is exactly what is being referred to. Managers should be familiar with what their team is working on, how it’s going, etc. The context in which that happens just varies by the type of work. In the LW’s scenario, the open and public review is that all the customer emails are in a shared account with three people using it.

      By contrast, the LW seemed to be under the impression that their emails to customers from a shared account should be private. The equivalent in your work context would be if you produced something entirely on your own and shipped it to a client without any internal review at all. Which would, of course, be ridiculous.

      1. Quantum Hall Effect*

        I didn’t get the sense that LW2 thought their email should be private. They specifically say that their boss isn’t doing anything wrong.
        The review is not open because their boss doesn’t tell them that they are reviewing their emails! LW2 only puts it together when their boss mentioned some thing in an email that LW2 knows that they wrote. That is not open. “Open” would be a conversation that starts with, “I was reviewing the email chain on blah blah blah and…” “Open” would be clearly stated guidelines on when the manager would be reviewing emails. Something along the lines of “I regularly review everything in the shared email folder,“ stated at the beginning of LW2’s employment as part of their on boarding training, or an as needed “I am going to be reviewing the Johnson account email thread that you have been handling.”
        LW2 also talks about trust, as I did. Openness can really build trust, and pop quiz style reviews can destroy trust, as LW2 indicates is happening with them. I’m glad my employers do things differently.

    3. Allonge*

      In reasonably hierarchical organisations? A lot of managers use sampling for quality control. Even if you exclude the four eyes principle parts, there are many jobs where most of the work is done in really small bits and pieces; without sampling there is no way for a manager to know how a person is doing this specific part. I send ~20-50 emails per day. I am not going to go to my boss or anyone else with each of them for review, that’s impossible.

      But in a case of a shared mailbox / account, the whole concept of other people (including managers) not seeing things, the image that your movements are a secret or eny expectation of privacy is way off – the whole reason for the shared mailbox is for others to be able to see what you are doing. The locker room analogy would maybe work if this was a private work account, but even then, it’s a work account.

      1. Allonge*

        Also, for me, there is an implied part of supervision that practically any manager will use ‘open sources’ to check the work of their team. If they are reading your personal mailbox without you knowing, that’s shady. If they are looking at what is shared with the whole team… that is just life. Especially as the boss also works from the shared mailbox!

  34. middlemgmt*

    LW 4 – just make sure you “read the room” in requesting it. Your co-worker most definitely didn’t steal the desk. They were there first, so if there’s only one they have every right to request to keep using it themselves.

    In general, I think people should absolutely ask for things like this, but some requests are easier than others for a given office. On the one hand, I wanted to have two monitors because I do a lot of side by side work on docs. . I asked the IT dept. if that was a possibility. they said yes, no big deal, they had extras. On the other, I once had a newly hired co-worker who first took issue with the placement of her cube (the same as her predecessor). We didn’t have much flexibility on this and even though our boss attempted to accommodate her and have her moved elsewhere, it caused some issues with other departments. Then she said she needed a Mac instead of the (standard for us) Dell laptop. The only people in our org who have Mac are the graphic designers, and she was not one, and there was no real business case for it. This all got her branded someone focused on the trappings and not the work, demanding (not asking for) things that no one else on the team had, and at a point that she had no work capital.

    So all I’m saying is, definitely ask like Alison said. but also, read the room so that you understand what “normal” is in your office, make sure it’s an ask, not a demand, and understand that sometimes you need seniority at a place to ask for certain things.

  35. Quantum Hall Effect*

    I didn’t get the sense that LW2 thought their email should be private. They specifically say that their boss isn’t doing anything wrong.
    The review is not open because their boss doesn’t tell them that they are reviewing their emails! LW2 only puts it together when their boss mentioned some thing in an email that LW2 knows that they wrote. That is not open. “Open” would be a conversation that starts with, “I was reviewing the email chain on blah blah blah and…” “Open” would be clearly stated guidelines on when the manager would be reviewing emails. Something along the lines of “I regularly review everything in the shared email folder,“ stated at the beginning of LW2’s employment as part of their on boarding training, or an as needed “I am going to be reviewing the Johnson account email thread that you have been handling.”
    LW2 also talks about trust, as I did. Openness can really build trust, and pop quiz style reviews can destroy trust, as LW2 indicates is happening with them. I’m glad my employers do things differently.

  36. RB*

    #1 I went back to my old company after being gone a few months. I had been laid off due to downsizing, so I got unemployment for awhile, then I took a new job for a couple months, got laid off after tax season, then something opened up at my old company that was a different role but the same job level. I had stayed in touch with a couple people there so that’s how I knew about it. I let them know I was interested and they sort of smoothed the way for me to get that job.

  37. BrightFire*

    Lisa Cuddy from House….. BAD BOSS! Do not sleep with your employees or keep a badly behaved employee on the roster just because he is brilliant.


  38. Tough kitties*

    I had an (ex)boss who told me that my desk was too large for my pay level! Anyone want to guess why they’re my EX-boss?? LOL

    So true that people don’t leave jobs; they leave bosses…

  39. qvaken*

    OP #1, it sounds like you’re sorting through the pros and the cons of staying at your current job versus applying for the position at your previous employer. I think life is all about relationships and relationships involve personal feelings / emotions, so I say, factor those feelings into your lists of pros and cons as well.

    For example, the pros of going back to the old job are that you might get a more interesting and challenging experience, you might get more opportunity to grow your skills, you have a positive connection with your mentor-turned-friend and you could work alongside them again, and you could feel as though your skills are put to good use in the role.

    The cons of going back are that there’s a history of hurt from losing your job there, it triggers your hurt to see what’s happening at your old employer with your old position (eg. when you saw that they were hiring again), there’s a lot of staff turnover there through firings (and is there a risk you could find yourself fired again if you went back?), you felt as though the current leadership mistreated you and disrespected you and other workers, and the fact that they have not reached out to you and asked you to return makes you feel like they don’t value you.

    The pros of remaining in your current position are that you are paid more, and you get positive feedback from management about your work. But I also wonder if there are other pros – for example, are you more safe from the threat of being fired? Is this workplace more stable, and does it have less staff turnover? Although you feel underworked, is this also a pro because an alternative could mean feeling overworked and feeling pressured to work overtime [for free]? Are you more able to get on with your work without having to deal with drama caused by management? Are there other things that are good about working in what seems, from the outside, like a more “bland”, stable workplace? (I don’t know the answers to these questions, and it’s possible you won’t find them very relevant, because you know your situation better than I do.)

    The cons of remaining in your current position are that you find the work dull, you don’t feel fulfilled, and you don’t feel as though all your skills are being put to use. Maybe there are other cons, too, that I don’t know about – do you get along with your coworkers? Is there opportunity for professional development and career progression? Are you given opportunities to share your feedback and ideas? Do you feel connected to the rest of the organisation? Etc. etc.

    You can do the same with the option of leaving and applying at an entirely new organisation. But basically, I think you’re trying to figure out the best option for you, and I think the way different options make you feel factor into that, and I think that’s okay.

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