my boss won’t stop texting me — and I’m in a hospital bed

A reader writes:

I’m writing you (literally) from my hospital bed, wondering if it’s worth trying to redirect my boss, who has texted me 8-9 times since I had surgery 10 days ago. That’s more texts than I received from my best friend. None of the texts are about work, which would actually make this worse, but that doesn’t make them any less weird/stressful.

I’ve been planning for this surgery, at home and at work, for more than a year, and I had the date for the surgery more than three months ahead of time. I have an approved 6-8 week FMLA recovery period off at work. This wasn’t sudden. It’s been discussed in nearly every team or planing meeting for the past six months. All of my tasks are covered or postponed. I haven’t had any new work that I’m responsible for the past month, since we knew I’d be gone.

Although I’m not sure how much of that matters, because, again, my boss isn’t texting me about work. The texts range from well wishes the day of to questions about the medical outcomes to asking for a picture of the flowers the company sent—but mostly she repeatedly asks how I’m feeling.

My surgery ended up taking nearly double the planned time. I came out of anesthesia at 9 pm missing an organ that I didn’t know was being removed when I went under at 9 am. And I’m now back in the hospital with complications after being home for a few days. I’m exhausted. My family is exhausted. My recovery is looking positive but going to be long (which is why I’m off work for 6-8 weeks). And while the texts seem harmless, I find them overly personal and sort of demanding. They also require far more mental engagement than a text from my child or my BFF—because they’re from my boss.

What and how much do I want to tell her? Medical stuff is both gross and personal. How strong are the pain meds I’m on? When did I last take them and will I be coherent? She is still my boss at a job I love and will be going back to and want to stay at for a long time, so I don’t want her remembering me being doped up.

If I ignore her, will she make offhand comments about it when I get back to work? (Because this is what happened if I didn’t check in once I got home in the afternoon during the one-day, outpatient surgeries I had leading up to this.)

I’d love your take on why this is happening, and/but more importantly—how can I tell her to please leave me the heck alone for the rest of my leave/recovery? I was thinking I’d send the team an “I’m okay” after, another “thanks for the flowers” (maybe), and eventually an “I’m being released back to work on X date.” We’re past that count and I’m not even home from the hospital.

Add: This took me six days to write up because that’s how zapped I am right now. If any of the math doesn’t match, that’s probably why. Plus pain meds. lol

Send this when you feel up to it: “Thanks for the well wishes. I’m completely wiped out and not able to text. I expect to be incommunicado for the next X weeks while I recover and I’ll see you on Y date when I’m back.”

And then ignore her texts. Consider blocking or muting them so that you’re not getting stressed out if she keeps sending them.

If you want, you can send her one text the day before you’re set to return that says, “Happy to be coming back tomorrow! I didn’t look at any texts from the last X weeks so that I could focus on getting better so I might have missed any from the office — hope all is well there and see you tomorrow!”

And to be clear: What your boss is doing is unacceptable! It’s intrusive and remarkably oblivious to the fact that you are recovering from surgery and do not need to be connected to work.

This isn’t quite FMLA interference (part of the law that says that when you’re on FMLA leave your office can’t contact you to do work) because she’s not asking you to do any work. She’s just checking in over and over socially, and making emotional demands on you instead of work ones. It’s nearly as inappropriate.

You asked why she’s doing this. I’m guessing that in her mind, she’s expressing concern and staying connected to someone she cares about — but it sounds like she’s deeply misunderstood the role she plays in your life. Some managers have a certain type of obliviousness where they can’t clearly see the relationship for what it mutually is, don’t pay enough attention to the employee’s cues about what type of relationship they want and are comfortable having, and don’t realize that power dynamics mean employees won’t necessarily feel comfortable setting the boundaries they want.

You could also look at what your boss is like outside of this. Are you legitimately close? Does she overstep boundaries in other ways? Is she performative about caring? Are you messing with her self-image of herself as a caring person by not letting her be as performative as she wants here? Could that be why she was pouty when you didn’t respond after your one-day outpatient surgeries?

Ultimately, though, none of that matters. Send the “I’ll be incommunicado” text to reset expectations, ignore anything else that comes, and focus on your recovery.

Read an update to this letter

{ 282 comments… read them below }

  1. IndoorKitty*

    “Did they get all the cancer?”

    Some people need a clue, delivered in the form of a smack to the head. Possibly with a shovel.

    I’m so sorry this person is happening to you, in the midst of such a stressful time.

    1. immunorecovering*

      I agree! What a completely inappropriate and reckless question to ask someone going through this.

      OP, please use the script Allison provided and do what you need to do to ignore your boss right now. Cancer treatment is hard enough without having to add the emotional labor others want to make you do.

    2. Cait*

      And is she really expecting you to day, “No, they didn’t”??? This just seems like a clueless attempt at being nice. Sometimes saying nothing is better than saying anything.

      1. DarthVelma*

        I just couldn’t quite believe the insensitivity of that question. How did she expect the OP to react if the answer actually was no?

      2. Hills to Die On*

        That’s what I don’t understand.
        “No, we left some in there. It just looked so cute and cozy we didn’t have the heart to move it.” WTF.

    3. Artemesia*

      so THIS. Who says that to an employee? Or a friend? Or a relative? OMG. This is just awful.

      Hope Alison’s script works for you.

      1. Quiet Liberal*

        People can be such clods. I’m sorry, OP. I hope you take Alison’s (and everyone else here) advice and just know your boss is tone deaf. I hope you can relax and take care of yourself so you can heal before heading back to work.

        1. No Name*

          When I had cancer surgery, I did not wake up to a surgeon telling me anything. I had to wait until the pathology reports were in. And a friend of mine tried to keep the news from me so she could deliver it. Or deny it was bad news.

          OP, your boss sucks. She’s acting concerned. But she sucks.

    4. Elle*

      This really was a bananas question to ask someone in OP’s position. All of her extremely inappropriate questions are inappropriate partially because they’re assuming everything is going well, IMO. Obviously hopefully everything is, but it’s a pity she didn’t stop to think about the fact that she’s putting you in a position of having to awkwardly answer “actually, no” if that were the case.

      Sending you best wishes for both your recovery and dealing with your extremely silly boss, OP.

    5. Momma Bear*

      I was floored at that one.

      I very much agree with the advice – remind her you’re recovering, on FMLA, will be back on x date. Then ignore, ignore, ignore.

    6. I Need a 9 Hour Nap*

      Also…can she legally ask that as OP’s employer?

      She’s essentially requesting personal medical information and it feels really gross that OP was put in that position.

      1. Need More Sunshine*

        You can legally ask anything, but you can’t discriminate based on the answer, so most employers take not asking as the safer road.

        If the employer is a covered entity under HIPAA, they can’t share personal health information, but many employers are not covered entities and simply take a policy of not sharing to minimize any discrimination that could come out of it (which would then violate the ADA, for example).

    7. Elizabeth Naismith*

      Reminds me of my aunt. She called 37 times while her daughter was in labor, demanding updates. In the sweetest, most genuinely concerned way possible, of course. But she simply couldn’t understand that her frequent interuptions were unwelcome and stressful. So we pretended the battery was about to die, and turned the phone off after explaining that we didn’t want it to die before she could hear the baby’s cries. We called her back later, after baby was born, the new Mom had a chance to eat a snack, and the nurses and doctors had all left the room.
      Next time, we didn’t tell her she was in labor until the baby was already here. Some folks just don’t get it.

  2. Free Meerkats*

    Alison’s advice here is dead on (as usual.) One text, temporarily block her, one text the day before you return.

    Block rater than mute so you don’t look at her texts out of curiosity before you return, you’ll be sucked back in.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      I want to allow that Boss is trying to have her heart in the right place. We’ve absolutely seen letters here where the company / Boss doesn’t do well enough at acknowledging an employee’s major life challenge. Her employee is dealing with a serious health issue, and she wants Employee to know that her colleagues care, are concerned, and are wishing her well. But Boss could accomplish this at a 2/10, and she’s at 7/10. Sending a couple of “we’re thinking of you, hope you’re healing” texts is fine; demanding photos and chats is not.

      So yep, I agree to send one text that *sharply* adjusts Boss’ expectations about how much responding will be happening, and then one just before it’s time to go back to work. Everyone has different thresholds with muting / blocking, so LW can do what she’s comfortable with there. But LW does not need to keep up a running chat with Boss, and it does not matter if Boss wants to pout about it.

      1. pancakes*

        I don’t doubt that she’s trying to have her heart in the right place, but she doesn’t seem to be using her brains nearly enough. One of the main reasons a cancer diagnosis is so terrifying is that patients don’t tend to get quick, easy answers about their prognosis. Pestering someone who’s just come out of surgery for an update on their prognosis and expecting them to have one instantly and be happy to share it is incredibly unthinking.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          Fully agree! Boss is trying to show concern, but absolutely is blundering about it all wrong.

          The desire to express well wishes is fine. The 50,000 texts demanding action and answers from a surgery patient are not fine.

          1. Elizabeth Naismith*

            Could also be the boss is one of those extreme extroverts who feels abandoned and depressed if other people don’t check in regularly, so she’s projecting her own needs onto others.

            1. Medusa*

              Even us extroverts don’t expect people going through major surgery to be in constant communication, especially when they’re our employees and not, like, our parents.

          2. Amaranth*

            Right, one message ‘hope all went well, don’t worry about anything but your recovery but let us know if we can help’ would be appropriate. Then just. go. away.

        2. Artemesia*

          Also spot on. ‘They got it all’ is totally meaningless in cancer — maybe they did, maybe they didn’t — the surgeon has no idea, nor does the patient. Time tells.
          So it is a super stressful question. And what if the surgeon has told the patient that they were not able to ‘get it all’ and that the prognosis is grim — who wants to share this with the boss while recovering.

        3. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

          Agreed – I had colon cancer diagnosed during my first regular screening and had to have 1/3 of my colon removed. After my surgery they had to do pathology on the tissue and lymph nodes removed to be able to stage the cancer and determine if I would need chemo or other follow up treatment. The pathology results to nearly two weeks to come back (luckily I was Stage 1, so yes, the surgery did remove all evidence of disease on its own).

          My boss was not allowed by my employer to contact me in any way, shape or form during my medical leave. I texted him 3 days before I was due to come back to let him know that I was cleared to return as scheduled, and it turns out he was no longer my boss! He had moved to another position and my team lead had been promoted to be my manager, but no one even wanted to bother me about that even. They just wanted me to heal and rest without even the specter of work. which is how it should be.

          1. Autumnheart*

            My coworker discovered prostate cancer during his first screening, and immediately had to go on leave—like seriously, he went on leave the same day. He didn’t disclose the reason at that time—we were told that he had a personal emergency, his family was all right, he would be out X amount of time and we could pencil in his return date for Y month/day if things resolved well. It wasn’t until he did come back, had been back for a couple months, and had a subsequent surgery scheduled, that he shared his diagnosis with us.

            All we did, including my manager, was say “Okay, take care, hope things turn out okay, we’ll hold down the fort” and cover his workload while he was out. It was a relief to know initially that it wasn’t, like, immediate death and destruction (e.g. “my kid got run over by a car” or who knows what), but we recognized that it was his business and he would tell us if and when he felt comfortable. I don’t think my manager even knew until my coworker told all of us—he worked directly with HR, and HR kept that info locked down. Which is as it should be!

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I agree, and I think Alison is right about what’s going on–Boss is trying to show engagement and caring, and doesn’t realize how exhausting she is being.

        I agree with the advice to send one text and then block–and if Boss is inclined to pout, she’s got another month to get over those feelings.

      3. Hotdog not dog*

        Boss’ heart may be in the right place, but she needs to pull her head out of her ass!
        OP, I wish you a full and fast recovery.

      4. June*

        Blocking is way too extreme. Just explain you’re weak and tired and can’t text but thanks for the concern. Give Boss a chance to respect that.

        1. just passing through*

          As I understand it, boss won’t know she’s been blocked, right? OP just won’t see her texts. Which is what she told boss would happen–that she wouldn’t be able to read or respond to any texts.

          If blocking her will send her a big ‘OP has BLOCKED YOU!’ message, yeah, that might be a bit different.

          1. amoeba*

            Probably depends on the messenger app you’re using, right? On WhatsApp, you’ll definitely notice – there’s no message or anything, but you can see the messages don’t get delivered and last seen/status isn’t visible anymore. So in that case, I’d very definitely give her the chance to respect the “incommunicado” message before taking that option.
            For Whatsapp, it’s also possible to just archive the chat (plus set “keep archived when new messages arrive” in the settings) – that way you’ll receive the messages as normal but don’t see them at all unless you specifically seek out the chat. This or something similar could be a good option…

      5. ariel*

        You’re so right about her being cranked way too high. When my colleagues are out (like, for parental leave), I don’t expect to or really want to hear from them until they are back. For cancer surgery? Nah bruh. Wish them well, the flowers are lovely, but don’t send flowers with an expectation you’re going to see the final result! Since the boss isn’t taking a clue, I agree: block or at least mute and focus on your recovery, OP. Best wishes!

    2. Esmeralda*

      Agreed. Send the message Alison suggests. Block — immediately after sending that message. Don’t even look at her response to your message.

      If she gets pouty? Deal with that when it happens, if it does. My suggestion at that point would be to say something like, I was having surgery and recuperating, and I had to do what was best for me. I know you wanted that too! Thanks for understanding!”

    3. P*

      I’d tweak Alison’s advice, and get a family member to reply to Boss using OP’s phone along the lines of ‘OP is unable to text, asked me to tell you that she will be incommunicado until she returns on to work on x date.’ If Boss thinks OP can send a text she will probably keep on pestering her.

      1. Dangerous Tacos*

        Yes, this, absolutely. I always put my (adult) daughter in charge of my phone when I am out for anything requiring anesthesia or prescription pain meds. She is instructed to text work that the whatever went well, and that Mom is expected to return to work on date as planned. If that changes, then it will be “Due to complications, Mom is now expected to be back to work on date. She will be able to provide a doctor’s note upon her return.” She does not need to respond to any questions. If anyone at work wants to be weird about it later, I can just say that Daughter is so protective, she blocked all my texts while I was out, so sorry I missed them. So sorry you missed what I’m sure would have been amusing pain-med fueled responses, lol! Moving along to the actual work, nothing to see here…

  3. Rara+Avis*

    If a friend or relative has a site set up for you (Caringbridge or the like), can she be directed to post good wishes there and then the person doing updates can run interference?

    1. WonderWoman*

      My concern with this is it would give the boss the impression that she should have access to updates, which she absolutely shouldn’t. If that person could run interference another way though — say, answer the texts on the OP’s behalf – I think that could be really helpful.

      1. KGD*

        Agreed! I responded to messages on my mum’s behalf while she was recovering from surgery, and it was helpful for her to know that it was taken care of and she didn’t have to think about it at all. I didn’t share any personal details with anyone, just basically said she was hard at work getting better and so grateful for their concern and left it at that. Once people realized she wasn’t up to responding to messages, they tended to stop checking in, which helped a lot.

    2. Another cancer patient*

      An aside for anyone else who’s considering Caringbridge: do find something else. I researched it, thinking it would help me through my own cancer treatments. But too many ppl complained that the site has tranformed into a moneygrabbing unethical site — it frequently asks for donations to the company, disguised as requests to help YOU, using your name. Very, very shady business practices on top of that. I ended up making my own private blog to centralize updates.

      OP, best of luck to you! Awkward communications are one thing, but repeated blunders forced upon you are so stressful and I wish you all the rest and quiet you need. <3

  4. Frenchie Too*

    Set up an autoreply similar to what you use when you are driving and can’t reply/answer your phone.

    “Thank you for your message. I will not available to receive or reply to messages for some time. I will reply to your message as soon as I am able”.

    You might have to explain to others who’s text message you do welcome, and reply to those.
    Good luck with your recovery!

      1. merry*

        There are auto-reply options when I’m driving, not entirely sure if they’re available in all contexts.

        But…one could absolutely have a pre-drafted statement that one sent in response to texts like this from a copy-paste situation that gave the IMPRESSION one had an auto-reply. Betcha folks wouldn’t question it.

      2. rosyglasses*

        On iPhone you can set up your “do not disturb/driving” autoreply to be customized and then just turn it on. Everyone who texts will get the reply.

    1. Monday Monday*

      Great idea!!!
      AND you can even pretend it is an auto reply so it doesn’t impact the texts you want to see. Your boss will never know it wasn’t a robo-reply.

      Best wishes for your recovery!!

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I have wanted to do this with a number of text exchanges. If you’ve sent 7 text messages in a row about something non-urgent and I haven’t responded, you don’t need to send another 7.

        I had to mute the “family & friends” group because every time my sister posted a photo of her (admittedly adorable) kids, every single person would answer.

        None of which is as stressful as getting texts from my boss while in the hospital. I’m so glad mine had appropriate boundaries during my recent surgery and wasn’t texting “Is it cancer??”

    2. gsa*

      Was going to post the same thing but decided to read down to make sure I wasn’t repeating what someone else had said. Depending on the phone, you may be able to set it on a per contact basis. I know my iPhone is more complicated than my Samsung ever was. I think when I do out of office I can set it to let through contacts that are in my favorites or something… You could put the friends and family do you want on that list and let everyone else you don’t want to from on the ignore list.

      Get well soon, and be sure to kick cancer square between the legs at least once for me!

    3. June*

      Best answer. She doesn’t even really have to do auto reply. Just type in that message.

  5. Purple Cat*

    Ugh, and I can just hear her.
    “But I caaaaaare! You’re like faaaaaaaaaamilyyyyyyyyyyyyyy”

    Please be kind but firm. “I appreciate your concern, but every text from you makes me think about work and I need to disconnect and focus on my recovery. I’ll let you know when I’m coming back!”.
    And then block (temporarily).

    1. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

      Another option, if you feel she might take umbrage at the implication that you don’t want to think about work (which is entirely reasonable, but she might not be):

      “I appreciate your concern, but I’m sure you understand that even text messages are a bit exhausting at present. I’ll get back in touch closer to my return date, or if any part of that schedule changes. Other than that I’ll be pretty hard to reach while I recover. Take care!”

      Make sure you sign off with a “Take care” or a “Talk later” or some other sort of an obvious “Goodbye” sign off.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        This is the “of COURSE you’ll be reasonable and leave me alone” strategy deployed to perfection. Because OF COURSE she only has your best interests at heart.

    2. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

      “If you DID care, then you would have left me alone when I asked you to leave me alone.”

  6. Just J.*

    Dear OP – Jedi Hugs from internet strangers. I hope your recovery goes well.

    As I read this, I realize I could probably be you boss wanting to send tons of well wishes to an employee I care about but having no clue how intrusive and exhausting I am being. I think Alison’s script is great. Use it.

    Also, if you have someone you can delegate fielding these texts off to – a family member? a friend? or professional caregiver? – do that too. Your boss and coworkers are probably not the only people who will want information about your recovery. Having a designated spokesperson to run interference may help you handle all your well-wishers.

    1. Chris too*

      Yes! I’m nobody’s boss but I generally send a coworker a text, maybe two, for something like this – not every darned day though. I make a real point of saying, don’t bother replying, just sending well wishes. I’d never ask a question because that puts pressure on to reply.

      I hope I haven’t driven anybody crazy!

    2. anonymath*

      I came to say the second part: hand it to a family member who can respond on your behalf and then ignore the rest.

      “Hi this is Sparky, I’m OP’s cousin’s dog. She is feeling really wiped out and will get back in touch when she’s feeling more up to it. Surgery went well, thanks for your good wishes!”

      1. BigHairNoHeart*

        Love this. I’d add something right after “when she’s feeling more up to it” and that’s “which likely won’t be for a few more weeks” just because clearly this boss wants an immediate response. Also, was Sparky a Wandavision reference, or just a funny coincidence?

      2. DrRat*

        Yes, if the boss is easily offended, let her get upset with a family member instead of you. When I worked in medicine/behavioral health, we often encouraged patients to “blame” us for actions when they had difficult family members – “Oh, I’d love to have you visit, but my doctor says no visitors. Sorry!”

        I would have a family member send a text saying that while you are recovering, you will not be reading texts at all, but that the family member will let them know what your timeline is for returning to work.

        1. Elizabeth Naismith*

          The best thing about giving birth during covid: I was only allowed 2 visitors, period. And only 1 at a time. So no one could complain about not being allowed to pester me in person. My husband and my mother were my two visitors, and that was it.

      3. Not A Manager*

        Just don’t have the cat text her. You never know what a cat is going to say.

        1. paxfelis*

          The things we all think and wish we could say. Things like “I’m more important to me than you are, and you’re trying to take energy I need to recover. I resent you for it, and I want you to stop.”

          Though to be honest, mine would probably just demand that I share fish with him, and nap more so I can be warm for him while he naps.

    3. Ambrianne*

      Chris’s is a great response. I’m a boss who has had the OP’s kind of boss; her example showed me what NOT to do. I care a lot about my employees, but I understand how the power dynamic messes things up because I lived it. As a result, I show I care for the people who work for me by teeing them up so their friends and family can help them. It’s loving action that is better than words.

    4. Absurda*

      I came here to say the same thing about having a friend/family member respond saying LW is focused on recovery and won’t be able to respond to any texts for a while.

      Do be sure to let your boss know you’re not responding because you’re recovering, though! If you just block or mute her without that, she may freak and think you’re not responding because something awful happened and step up her efforts to get in touch with you to make sure you’re okay.

  7. TypityTypeType*

    Oh, dear. “Did they get all the cancer?” is a question for only the *very* closest of family and friends; that’s an extremely sensitive thing. I have nothing to add to Alison’s excellent advice except to confirm that Boss is miles out of her lane here. If it hurts her feelings when she doesn’t get responses, that’s just too bad.

    And LW, best wishes for a complete and blessedly uneventful recovery!

    1. Robert E.O. Speedwagon*

      Here I was, misreading this as “did they all get cancer?” (meaning “did everyone in your hospital room get cancer as well”), wracking my brain as to why LW’s boss cares so deeply about the other patients as well. This makes more sense, and I’ve gone from horrified and confused to just horrified.

    2. Anonosaurus*

      Even close friends/family should not ask this. The answer is not just a factual response, it’s potentially an acknowledgement of life limiting illness or fewer options. It’s appalling that OPs boss asked this.

      Wishing OP an uncomplicated and swift recovery.

      1. Lizzo*

        Is it possible that Boss is projecting some sort of fear onto the whole situation? I vaguely recall a letter where a Boss was overly concerned about an employee’s illness because they had experience with the illness via a family member, and things in that situation didn’t end well…?

        Even if that’s the case, it explains the behavior but doesn’t excuse it. Boundaries, OP! Enforce them–or have someone enforce them on your behalf.

      2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

        My mom asks questions like this. In her case, I think it’s so scary that the answer could be “no” that her mind just blocks it as a possibility. So then, to her, the question is giving you an opportunity to celebrate being done with The Scary Thing. It drives me absolutely bananas but I’ve yet to figure out a way to get her to recognize when she’s asking such a Bad Question. I’m so sorry, OP.

    3. Ambrianne*

      I’ve had this boss. It is very, very difficult and OP needs strategies, which Alison supplied. Why they (these bosses) do what they do is complicated. Honestly, they need therapy . . . but they’re still your boss with a ton of power.

  8. JH*

    I am so sorry this happened to you and I’m glad to hear your recovery is looking positive right now! Sending warm vibes your way. I had something similar to me happen this year. I didn’t take FMLA but I had surgery on my ankle and planned to take off only four days to try before re-joining work remotely and honestly, I should have taken more. Granted it was a busy time, but I had set them up for success in my absence, yet I got multiple calls and emails a day asking to join meetings, weigh in on decisions, etc. I didn’t set the boundary with my team and my boss and I really regret it. It definitely interfered with my mental health while trying to recover. I agree with Alison’s advice wholeheartedly. Send a text saying you’ll be incommunicado and then put it on mute! You don’t need to focus on that kind of stuff while trying to recover. Best of luck!

  9. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    Option: have a family member respond (or sign as a family member) and say something like “Hi this is Dean, OP’s partner, sending a mass text on their behalf. OP is stable, but will not be responding to messages in the next few weeks in order to focus on recovery. They appreciate all the well wishes, and any urgent concerns can be sent to me at 555-555-5555”

    1. Massive Dynamic*

      GREAT option – and then let the family member tell boss that family member is setting all of OP’s work contacts as blocked during recovery. All communication goes through family member now.

      Pick someone not actively involved in your regular care who also conveys a great no-nonsense formal attitude when needed.

    2. zinzarin*

      This is fantastic advice; this is exactly what I would do. If your boss has an outsized response to being shut out, they have that response to YOUR CARE TEAM, not to you. You’re as much a victim of your overzealous care team as your boss is! You can laugh about it together when you get back. :)

      1. bunniferous*

        THIS. SO MUCH THIS. Even people you want to hear from are exhausting during times of illness and recovery. I am sure you have a no nonsense friend or relative that will be happy to help! But in any case you are under no obligation to respond to anything till you feel like it!

    3. Another health care worker*

      I agree–either a family member, or LW pretending to be a family member, to drive home the message that LW is not communicating anymore. I’d leave out the offer about “urgent concerns” too. LW is on FMLA, so it doesn’t matter how “urgent” her boss, who has demonstrably bad judgment, thinks something is.

    4. FormerAmazonian*

      This is what I came here to say. Have someone else text the boss and say OP appreciates the well wishes and thr flowers but due to the pain meds and need to recover isn’t able to text back right now, but is recovering and looking forward to returning to work on X date.

    5. Marion Ravenwood*

      This would be my suggestion as well. And then mute the boss.

      Best wishes for a smooth recovery OP!

      1. The cat’s ass*

        OP, I hope your recovery is smooth and as painless as possible.

        Your boss is a performative loon, and feel free to block her until your RTW.

    6. WonderWoman*

      I love this – running interference and taking OP out of the conversation completely.

    7. Poppyseeds*

      I had a coworker who got a parasite from eating sushi and he almost died (the parasite was discovered after a CDC investigation.) He ended up having to have a liver transplant and was then on dialysis for some time after. He was in the hospital and in recovery for some time as you might imagine. We coordinated all efforts through his sister – we gave him grocery cards. I would never have thought to try to contact him during this time it seems crazy that someone would bother anyone after something like this.

      1. Poppyseeds*

        I forgot to add this woman seems like a narcissist. Because if it was actually about the other person you would not be checking in for your own gratification.

        1. Lizzo*

          ^^This. Maybe not full on narcissist…but definitely selfish about the situation. “Look at me being caring and thoughtful! Pay attention to how I am being helpful!”

          1. Everything Bagel*

            I wonder if she then reports back to the team at work with updates. Some people really like to be in that position.

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

      Yes, a family member/partner should definitely be the one to respond, but I wouldn’t bother with a mass text unless this is really a mass problem (you definitely don’t want to open up a mass “reply all” response) — send Alison’s adjusted message directly to the boss from OP’s phone. “Hi, this is Dean, OP’s partner. Thanks for the well wishes. OP is completely wiped out and not able to text. She will be incommunicado for the next X weeks while she recovers and rests. She’s still planning on being back on X date. If that changes, we’ll be sure to update you.” The boss doesn’t need an alternative contact number because any urgent (work) concerns aren’t OP’s problem.

      1. asterisk*

        I read the suggestion as it doesn’t have to BE a mass text, just that the boss is TOLD that it is….

        1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          This was my suggested plan and I should add that I have used this plan myself when I was out for work with horrid burnout and was also protected by laws similar to FMLA in my country. It helped me to avoid the boss that was triggering me by him thinking my husband was managing my care and communication.

    9. pancakes*

      I would not give this person the contact info of family or friends. They definitely do not use contact info responsibly, and it isn’t at all necessary.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Yeah, I would definitely set up a google phone number specifically for this text because chances are sky high that the boss would begin texting THAT person instead.

    10. Lab Boss*

      That’s a really good idea! OP might never want to hear from their boss, but there could be a ton of people with (normal, non-intrusive) well-wishes that OP will want to read eventually and just not right now. A friend/relative could easily do something like set up a free Google Voice number, collect all the texts, and then let OP pick and choose their way through all the love when she feels up to it.

    11. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Came here to suggest something similar – can someone else take over and handle the text situation? A close friend or family member, using a script like Teekanne aus Schokolade suggests? And if she’s weird when you come back, you have plausible deniability; it’s not you who didn’t respond “correctly,” it was Dean, who was just doing their best.

      Would you also feel comfortable saying that you’re getting through it, but you’re in pain and kinda loopy from painkillers, so you’re not able to respond to messages? Like, keep it as vague as possible, but communicate that you’re not doing awesome and need to be left alone to recover, because that’s what happens after major surgery. But there are legitimate concerns that giving her any information will contribute to her feeling entitled to more information. So this could backfire spectacularly.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Oh, I see a post from OP confirming that the boss is a narcissist. Ignore that whole second paragraph. Odds are that if she knows you’re suffering, she will redouble her attempts to play the caring saviour and ain’t nobody got time for that.

    12. quill*

      “This is Jenny, OP’s sister. Thank you for your well-wishes, OP is doing well and has opted to disconnect from text and email messaging to focus on recovery. You can reach me at 867 5309.”

      1. anonymous 5*

        OP may or may not chose to use this, but I am filing it away in case I ever need it. :)

      2. pancakes*

        Why give her your own number at all? If she has questions she can resolve them on her own, or not. She isn’t entitled to transfer her need for an audience from her employees to their family members. If she needs to communicate with the letter writer about work stuff despite the time off arrangements being crystal clear, she still has all the usual work channels available to her.

          1. pancakes*

            I do not know how I skimmed over the number, having grown up with that song! I should not be commenting before 9 AM, lol.

  10. HannahS*

    Oh dear. Yes, use Alison’s script, and then mute the notifications or block your boss’ number. Otherwise, the texts will (likely) continue to come and cause you stress, even though you’re not replying.

    Yes, it is possible that she’ll be pouty about it. This is not your problem, doesn’t mean that you’ve done anything wrong, and she’ll likely get over it fast. You can decide later if you want to manage her poutiness by holding firm and calmly stating boundaries or (my personal preference, since insincerity in the service of making my life easier doesn’t bother me) performing appreciation and changing the subject (“Jenny! It’s so good to be back. Thanks again for the flowers, I was so touched that you sent them. How have you been? What have I missed?”)

    Best wishes for an easy recovery.

  11. Trotwood*

    Is there a relative or someone who can intervene so you don’t need to engage with your boss at all? Seems like this is one of the rare occasions where it’s very reasonable for someone else to contact work on your behalf, i.e. “Hi, this is [LW]’s spouse/sibling/parent/child, nothing to worry about here but [LW] is recovering and not answering messages right now. They’ll be back in touch closer to July 1” or whatever your return date is. You definitely shouldn’t be obligated to field these messages yourself.

    1. L'étrangere*

      +1. I think it’d convey the situation much better to have a caregiver contact the boss, and say something along the lines of “so sorry, OP doing well in the circumstances, but in no shape to be communicating yet. Thanks for your concern”. And then wait a month to make a peep again, or keep answering any further texts along the same lines.
      In her defense it’s entirely possible the boss is just being overeager to express support, not having experienced for themselves how debilitating surgery can be, and how overwhelming any communication can seem when you are in that state. I’m sure I was guilty of something like that when friends had major problems before I ever had any, some gentle education could go a long way. And you can’t know whether other people at work are badgering them for news in the background

  12. Heidi*

    Sorry you have to deal with this right now. I would probably keep it super brief: “I’m still recovering and not able to text a lot, but they’re taking good care of me. Thanks for understanding.” She might not be understanding, but she might not want to immediately discredit positive attributes assigned to her either.

  13. animaniactoo*

    Unless her pettiness is going to affect you in work and career ways, the way to handle the fact that she’s going to be petty about this is… Yes being clear up front that you are not going to be responding texts.

    And then…. don’t let her pettiness change what you give her now. Accept that she’s going to be petty, and you’re going to have to ride it out. You can’t control her or what she does. What you can control is what you do. And right now, you can control whether you answer her texts, and whether you let her pettiness later affect how you interact with her.

    Let her be petty, respond ONE time so that others can hear it “I don’t know if you know this, but surgery recovery is exhausting and between that and the pain meds… mental energy to keep up with more than one person was pretty much shot. I saved it all for my husband/mom/sister (whoever is your primary in supporting you).” and then let it go.

    N.B.: This assumes that you do not have an HR that you can reach out to and ask them to send a general e-mail to your team “MyName is fine, but is feeling overwhelmed with the amount of communication that she’s getting. She appreciates the care, but please do not text her right now and wait until she is up to reaching out for updates.”

    And then… expect that your boss will still violate that but it may lower the volume of them somewhat.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      Wow, that’s a pretty aggressive suggested response. As someone who recently had surgery, Alison’s language is perfect. It is neutral and true and doesn’t have anything that anyone with a lick of sense could possibly object to. I would stick with that without engaging at all with anything more.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Ah, I see that what I was suggesting isn’t actually clear. I’m talking about after OP is back at work, and in response to one of boss’ petty snide remarks. As a one and done for the purpose of being clear that it wasn’t just some sort of “I just don’t like you”.

        1. Health Insurance Nerd*

          I interpreted your comment the same way as LadyByTheLake- thanks for the clarification. And I agree, that is the perfect response to someone who would insensitive enough to comment on the lack of attention you paid them while recovering from major surgery!

  14. Mm*

    I have had a similar situation and the issue was that the team was asking my boss for updates and she felt like she was failing by not knowing “as in, oh no I don’t know how Jane is doing. I must be a bad person to not have an update for the team”

    I think Alison’s script still covers this. But I do think emphasizing that the nice thing to do *is* giving you space is ideal.

    1. Momma Bear*

      That’s still your boss’s problem with their own feelings and not relevant to the sick person. I would just say that as far as I knew x was true (like recovering at home) and if there were any pertinent updates, I’d pass them along. Otherwise we should let sick person focus on their recovery. The boss should protect the person on leave. I had ZERO idea what was going on with a coworker’s leave unless she told me. It was not my place.

  15. SomebodyElse*

    Hi OP- good luck with the recovery.

    Yes, a simple “Hey Boss (or everyone if you just want to hit a work group). All is well, surgery went well, I’m now focused on recovery. I won’t be checking texts or emails for the near future but will let you know when I’m back in reliable contact. Thanks again for the well wishes.

    Then just block.

  16. The Prettiest Curse*

    One other possibility – some people just loooove the attention that comes from having a connection to someone who’s going through a situation like yours. So this could be your boss’s version of trying to be supportive and caring, but she also could be using your situation as a way to get attention by posting breathless updates to the management team or something. Just in case she is an emotional vampire, I would give her as little information as possible until you’re fully recovered and follow Allison’s advice to the letter.
    I hope you have a full and speedy recovery.

    1. Meep*

      My former manager is like that. She treated people’s medical concerns like hot gossip. We had a guy who got hit by a car while biking and broke his back. For the three months she was constantly bringing up ‘Did you hear how John Doe is in the hospital?’ and ‘John Doe is in the hospital, you know.’ at the most random times.

      Though, she is also the most apathetic person I met as I spent an entire year about how I needed to stop worrying about catching COVID because my life/health didn’t matter compared to hers anytime I tried to sympathize with her as she freaked out (and continued to go out despite being exposed). She ended up with it three times. Zero for me, thankfully or I would’ve been fired. :X

    2. pancakes*

      That wouldn’t and shouldn’t change the advice. She should get very, very little information beyond what she already has, whatever her reasons are.

  17. Dee*

    “Send us a pic of the flowers!”

    Is your boss my mother? This sort of “I’m doing something nice, so you need to affirm me!” thing is 80% of my text history with her.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yeah, that one is ridiculous. LW is literally in a hospital bed recovering from surgery and Boss thinks LW should somehow get a photo of the flowers that probably aren’t close enough to the bed to get a good photo of? Or are maybe even at LW’s home and not in the same building as them anyway? C’mon Boss, leave the poor LW alone already. (And my response is only about the practical aspect of this request, never mind the affirmation request that you bring up, Dee.)

    2. ferrina*

      Yep, I have someone like this in my family. She does a “kind deed” then immediately wants to be recognized for it (or will complain about how the flower shop got her order wrong). It immediately turns something that should be about you into something about her. It’s exhausting.
      Oh, and she generally doesn’t take the time to get to know what you like. The thoughtfulness of her gifts is on par with a Secret Santa from the office who only knows what you wrote on a notecard. Even though she’s known me for over a decade.

      1. Nanani*

        I have a theory that these are also the kind of people who reply all on like, happy birthday and thank you emails. because what matters most is that everyone SEES them say happy birthday and knows that they sent flowers, not that the birthday haver and flower receiver got those things.

    3. Gel Pen Destroyer*

      Right? I’m in a smallish town with very limited, mediocre at best floral options, but we use them because there are no other options. In our office “send us a pic of the flowers” is code for “let us know if you got a crappy arrangement because we’ll make them fix it,” but it’s one of those office cultural things and we all know that’s the reason for the text. Assuming that’s not the case here, because OP did not indicate any such office culture, it is 100% “I want affirmations and kittens and rainbows because I do nice things for recognition, not solely because they’re the right things to do.”

      1. Gel Pen Destroyer*

        I should also add – we would also never send that text to someone who had a major procedure! If there was a floral issue, we’ll deal with it later, when they’re back!

        1. Momma Bear*

          I was asked by HR simply if the flowers were received. I said yes and thank you and that was that.

    4. Another cancer patient*

      Pet peeve: also reconsider whether the patient actually values flowers! Some ppl like them. But for many cancer patients, flowers are a huge pain in the ass.

      They smell too strong for me (extra sensitive on chemo). Neither my husband nor I have the time/energy to accept the delivery, cut and arrange the flowers after finding some tupperware to hold them, then dispose of them as they die. A temporarily pretty reminder of my mortality, and they smell REALLY bad as they rot. If someone asked me to take pictures of their flowers on top of everything, I’d be incredibly irate. They’re more of an imposition than a gift. Send something edible at least the caretaker can eat! Or a gift card!

  18. Richard Hershberger*

    There is a personality type that feels compelled to talk (or in this case to text) to show they care. This has resulted in my being in conversations the gist of which are “Oh, I see you are engaged in a task that requires your full attention. We will now talk about it!” The intent is benign but the execution is not.

  19. KC*

    ooooooof just went through something similar! have unlimited sick time at my manual and emotional labor heavy job and have been out for gallbladder removal. my boss tried to squeeze every second of work out of me before i left, resulting in the outpatient surgery suddenly becoming inpatient, an additional procedure, and two nights in the hospital. she has already scheduled me for work responsibilities i have not verified i am capable of and retroactively scheduled the end of my sick leave without any communication with me confirming my ability to return to work. all of this in the month leading up to her wedding, preventing me from doing or saying anything that might hurt her feelings.

    it sucks. i feel like someone i thought valued me for my capabilities actually only thinks of me as another body to grind to dust in the name of profit and exploited my genuine care and prioritization of my job at my direct expense while telling me she wasn’t doing that at all.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Matter of fact responses:

      “I have not been cleared for these activities and am not sure that I will be when I return to work. Please note that it is very unlikely that I will be able to do this.”

      “As previously discussed, I may not be able to be back at work by this date, please do not consider this a firm date for my return to work. I will update as soon as I am able.”

      (and CC your HR on this if you have one)

      Ignore the fact that it’s the month leading up to her wedding. Don’t talk about how what she’s doing sucks or anything like that. Keep it strictly business and allow her to be upset or whatever about how this is creating issues for her wedding. It’s not like you ASKED for this. This is what you/your body needs because you are not a robot and she will have to figure it out some other way. Throw in the congenial phrasing as matter of fact/head’s up kind of stuff but keep it all business and then step back from rescuing her from flailing in response to it. You don’t have to rescue her in this flailing moment.

      1. ferrina*

        Yes, this! Her job as boss is to figure out how to handle this; it’s not your job to jeopardize your health so you can make things more convenient for her. No job is worth medical complications. Even if she doesn’t want to deal with it because she has a wedding- that’s on her to arrange coverage for her responsibilities (just like the rest of us who have had weddings while working).
        Say what you can and can’t do, and don’t agree to anything you can’t do. “I’m sorry, I can’t do that. I’ll let you know once I’m healthy enough to do that again.” Repeat as often as needed.

    2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      WOW! as someone who had a 4-day stay in the hospital which ended with emergency gallbladder surgery I feel for you. How is your boss even getting you scheduled for work without going through HR and getting doctor’s info? You say you have a manual labor job so usually with those types of jobs you have to have a doctor’s note approving you are ok to work.

      When you are able to please fight back on this. You cannot and should not come back to work any sooner than your doctor says its ok. Heck I had to be out 2 weeks and I have a desk job.

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Your boss sucks and you are well within your rights to tell her that you will not / probably will not / can’t guarantee that you will be ready to return to work / X and Y work activities by that date. And I’d say straight up that the date wasn’t something you ever agreed to, but there is a reason that Grumpy is in my username.

  20. Anonnymouse*

    Wow, I am so sorry this is disturbing your recovery. I hope you use Alison’s script ASAP and that your boss cools her jets.

    This is really timely for me at the moment, since I am having major surgery 2 weeks from today. Like you, it has been raised at meetings, projects are being brought to conclusion or to a good stopping point and I am not taking on new work until I get back from my recovery period. My company will be suspending my work accounts for the duration of my time away so that I won’t be able to check in on work at all. That feels sort of weird but I realize it is the right thing to do. I don’t think that my boss would do anything like this, but it’s good to read about this situation and be prepared.

    OP, I hope your recovery is smooth and you are back to your regular life as soon as possible.

  21. Meep*

    My former coworkers always joked that if I ended up in the hospital that my boss would come to the hospital with my laptop, but that thankfully a joke! (that I know of)

    I wouldn’t even respond as it opens the door to her calling you, but that is just me.

    1. TechWriter*

      My spouse’s former job *actually* did this to him. He *was* bored and mentally with it, just waiting on a follow-up procedure before he could go home, so he did it. It was their busy season, after all… But in retrospect W. T. F. (That job had a serious case of Butts-in-Chairsism and also a staffing stragety of hiring new, less-experienced by highly-educated/specialized grads, squeezing as much work out of them as they could possibly give and then some, not really paying enough, requiring lots of overtime, and repeating it indefinitely when these bright young people wised up and found better opportunities elsewhere. The reason it’s a former job.

      1. Meep*

        I mean even when I took sick time I was expected to complete a full eight hours and pick up whenever she called. It didn’t matter I was clinging to the toilet puking my guts out. (Which also earned me a rant about inconvenient it would be in I was pregnant rather than have the flu…) So it wasn’t like it was out of the realm of possibilities, either.

        But yeah, it sounds like the same unhealthy mindset I faced. It was disguised as “we are a start-up” bull, but I also couldn’t put in those extra 10-20 hours a week or it would just get me more work. Towards the end, I was consistently sick. Shocker, I know.

        1. quill*

          I’m actually thinking that the time I got fired for not answering my boss’ phone call on a sunday was a blessing in disguise. Start up shennanigans are not good for anyone’s health.

  22. JTP*

    If it were me, I would have a family member reply saying that you’re not able to reply, and that you’ll be in contact in a few weeks.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      That’s a really good point -having a family member reply sends the message / mental image that you’re too out of it to reply.

  23. Pinto*

    Sometimes it’s a no win situation for managers. She may have been burned in the past for not checking in on an employee off. I got an employee review that “my manager does not care about me” because I did not check in on her while she was off on bereavement leave. I thought I wax respecting her time to grieve with family.

    1. Jean*

      I would say you might be onto something here, except that what LW’s boss is doing is excessive. There’s checking in, and then there’s spamming. This is spamming.

    2. Gerry Keay*

      I think there’s miles of winning middle ground between “no communication at all” and “daily texts that are overly familiar even for most friends.” Isn’t that supposedly why managers are paid the big bucks? To make those kinds of complex, people-oriented judgement calls?

      1. TechWorker*

        The boss in this is totally unreasonable, but the manager thinking ‘I won’t disturb my employee during their bereavement leave’ is totally reasonable… the implication that someone getting ‘big bucks’ should know better is unnecessary snark. (And some managers don’t, of course :p)

    3. anonymous73*

      I disagree about being “no-win” for managers. Your employee was being unreasonable about you not checking on them while on bereavement leave. You can care without being intrusive. And in most cases, you shouldn’t be checking in on anyone while they’re on leave unless it was mutually agreed upon before they left. Assuring them that their work will be taken care of in their absence, telling them you’re there if they need anything, and not bothering them is all that’s needed.

    4. EC*

      That’s such a weird thing for an underling to say. It would never occur to me that my boss would check up on me. My boss is my boss, not my friend, not my parent. I expect them to be professional and nothing more.

      1. Anonym*

        I have had bereavement leave from work, and did not want to hear from work. My boss’ boss sent a lovely card, which was appreciated but not expected. I appreciated them leaving me alone while I was away, and being understanding when I was kind of a mess afterward. And I also appreciated not being asked directly about things in the office, because that would have led to more crying.

        People have weirdly specific expectations sometimes, Pinto, and you can’t anticipate them all. I think you did fine.

    5. ferrina*

      I hear that. It can be a fine line, and sometimes it’s a genuine no-win. Some people want to be connected, some people don’t. Sometimes people don’t even know what they need in the moment and will lash out at a perceived slight in a moment of grief. That’s why it’s so important for a manager’s boss to look at the whole picture of a manager, not a single employee complaint. I’m someone that regularly forgets birthdays, so I don’t do anything for my team’s birthdays (because I will inevitably forget something and it would suck for them). Instead, I continually advocate for my team to get tools and resources, interesting opportunities, showcase their work to the higher-ups, and shield them when said higher-ups have weird mood swings. Pretty sure it evens out.

      1. pancakes*

        I don’t think it is nearly that fine! Like Gerry said, there’s an enormous difference between, say, “I hope surgery went as well it could and you’re getting some good rest” and multiple intrusive texts asking for a prognosis update and photos.

        1. JelloStapler*

          Right, it can be “Thinking of you, let me know if you need anything.”

          Fin. That’s it.

    6. Clisby*

      What an odd thing to say. When I’ve taken bereavement leave, the last thing I wanted was to hear from someone at work.

    7. Mr. Tumnus*

      I’ve been in this situation as a boss, because I assumed that since I would want to be left alone, other people would, too. Not a very intelligent assumption, I know.

      Now I say something along the lines of, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I don’t want to seem callous by ignoring this, but I also don’t want to bother you. What would be the best way for me to help you?” It’s not perfect, but I don’t know that any response would be when someone faces life-altering events.

    8. allathian*

      When my current manager started with us, she did a sort of mini interview with each of her reports in the first 1:1 about our expectations and what we value in a manager. All of us, except the intern, are fairly senior ICs, so micromanagement wasn’t on the cards. One of the questions she asked was if/how we’d like to be contacted if we’re absent for longer than a few days or a week for some other reason than vacation (medical leave, maternity/parental leave, etc.). I thought that was great.

  24. Kate*

    Oh man, this is taking me right back to my first job overseas and my first serious cultural faux pas.

    I had just started a new job, which included supervising one person. I had been on the job maybe a week, and she had to go to the hospital for *waves hand* something (it was pretty routine).

    She let me know by text, I texted her back to say “sorry to hear that, let me know when you’re feeling up to coming back, get better!” and figured that was the end of it. I’m her boss, she barely knows me, she probably wants privacy to deal with her stuff, right?

    WRONG. I got the super-cold shoulder when she came back. The relationship was *really* cool. I finally asked what was up, since we had to work together for another three years.

    Turns out she was SUPER insulted that I hadn’t come to visit her in the hospital. Culturally, it told her that I didn’t care about her as an employee, she was deeply hurt, and we totally got off on the wrong foot.

    We were eventually able to patch things up (easier once I realized how *everybody* else went to visit her in the hospital, from the CEO to the janitor and everyone in between, and that was just the “done thing” in that part of the world) but it was a rough way to start that job!

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I know that might be the thing to do in that culture but I did NOT want anyone coming to visit me in the hospital. One friend who worked at the hospital was going to come (after asking if it was ok) but i was released before she was done.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I was happy for people to visit me when I was in hospital because I was so bored, but…I was still kinda glad my colleagues didn’t, as some had suggested they might. With one exception, I wouldn’t really have wanted my colleagues to see me possibly with blood on my collar and my hair greasy (because I couldn’t wash it)

    2. Pam Adams*

      I’m cringing- when I’m in the hospital (and i spent two weeks there pre-Covid following surgery), I like visits to be few and far-between.

    3. Anonym*

      That’s so tough! I’ve had to learn a lot about cultural differences for work, and this subject has literally never come up. Well done for patching it up!

      Also… if you don’t mind sharing, where was this that this was expected?? I would like to not work there in case I’m hospitalized, because I would find coworker hospital visits to be the worst form of adding insult to injury. (Or more specifically, exhausting, unwelcome, emotional-labor intensive, intrusive boundary crossing to injury.)

      1. Kate*

        Jordan/West Bank. It definitely stuck with me! I would NEVER want my boss to come visit me in the hospital… tubes, lack of a bath, greasy hair… nope nope nope.

  25. donteventhinkaboutit*

    I get it. When I’m not feeling well, I want to avoid, not engage. Our office is pretty small and tight knit though. If we knew someone was struggling with a health condition and was having major surgery, everyone would be asking “How is she doing? Did they get all the cancer?” (I’m assuming you’ve been open about your diagnosis.) Most are asking because they are anxious, and they care, and they want to hear you are going to be okay. And there are people I know who would have their feelings hurt if they were in the hospital and no one checked in with them. It’s not uncommon for co-workers to visit co-workers when they’re in the hospital and the people in the hospital often appreciate it. (That is absolutely NOT me and I always feel awkward visiting a sick co-worker.) If your office took up a collection for flowers, it’s possible the boss thought it would be nice to provide your co-workers with a photo update “Look. Your gift made her feel better. In some small way, you helped.” I’m not saying your boss is right, but it doesn’t sound like you’ve told her that is not the kind of support you want. Could you designate a tech-savvy friend or relative to create a caringbridge or facebook page that they can update with whatever information you’d like to share? That way people can opt in and you’re only sharing what you feel comfortable with when you feel like it, even if it’s “No big changes this week, still resting and healing.”

    1. AllTheBirds*

      “…it doesn’t sound like you’ve told her that is not the kind of support you want.” — How would OP go about retroactively telling Boss to STFU and let her heal? And more to the point, why should OP have to do so?

      “it’s possible the boss thought it would be nice to provide your co-workers with a photo update” — too bad, OP is IN THE HOSPITAL recovering from a life-altering medical event. She owes people nothing. Coworkers don’t need to see a pic of the flowers. OP can send a thank you card/email when she gets home.

      1. ferrina*

        In my experience, the folks in OP’s situation that want to reach out, will reach out to their boss/coworkers. Some folks like sending updates on their healing, and some folks don’t. Managers shouldn’t put pressure on folks to reach out while they’re on medical leave.

      2. donteventhinkaboutit*

        I didn’t sat she owed anyone anything. Please don’t put words in my mouth. Thank you.

    2. anonymous73*

      Those are excuses for bad behavior. The manager’s feelings are irrelevant here. Unless it was mutually agreed upon before OP left, all should assume she doesn’t want to be bothered, especially ON A DAILY BASIS.

    3. different seudonym*

      This is a grossly inappropriate comment to make. There is a difference between cancer and “not feeling well,” and when you speak as though they are the same you are being cruel. You are also repeating and compounding a cruelty that many people visit on cancer survivors. The smarmy advice about social skills is also not appreciated; it is the boss and not OP who is unable to communicate effectively and kindly with others.

    4. Kella*

      She’s her boss. She doesn’t need to offer her emotional support. That’s not part of her job. They already figured out all the work details. They decided how they would operate while OP is gone. Boss needs to do the things they agreed on.

  26. Lacey*

    Oof, that’s so inappropriate. I’ve been out of the office twice for minor surgeries. Once I was out for a week, the other time I was out for a couple of weeks. No one contacted me at all while I was out. When I came back to the office, there was a lovely bouquet of flowers at my desk and everyone (it was a quite small office) told me they hoped I was doing well. The end.

  27. Savy*

    This is one of those moments when you have to have a family member (a really hard line tough one) intervene on your behalf. Let someone else deal with the messages you don’t have the energy for. And when they respond for you, have them make it absolutely clear that you are in no shape to be answering any questions about your recovery or anything else for that matter. Any and all information about your recovery has to be conveyed FROM your family member. You ***will not be answering***. Don’t let energy vampires consume the precious mental and physical energy from you in this critical time. Especially not work ones.

  28. RJ*

    OP, I wish you a speedy and safe recovery with plenty of rest and a chance for a reset. Definitely use Alison’s script. Your boss is either trying desperately to let you know that she cares and wants to remain aware of your situation or she’s just completely situationally clueless. She’s not asking any work related questions or for work feedback, which is good, but the constant messages would seriously bother me as well if I were in your position.

  29. Safely Retired*

    I’m not suggesting doing anything differently, but I would not dismiss the possibility that you really are weighing on her mind, not by her choice, it just happened.

    1. anonymous73*

      That’s irrelevant and not helpful. These are the types of things people say to make others feel guilty. OP owes her manager NOTHING, and manager is overstepping. Period.

    2. Former Young Lady*

      Lots of us have a tendency to fixate on stuff. Being a professional adult means not making other people indulge our fixations for us.

      That goes octuple when someone is recovering from major surgery, or a significant personal crisis/loss of any kind.

      I am a naturally nosy person, but I know darn well how to suppress that impulse. If you were my employee, it would not be your responsibility to slake my endless curiosity about your illness/divorce/death in the family/house fire.

    3. pancakes*

      It doesn’t follow that everyone in the boss’s orbit needs to know what’s weighing heavily on her mind. It is fully her choice which thoughts to communicate, who to communicate them to, and how and when to communicate them.

    4. DisneyChannelThis*

      Then you take a moment to pray or meditate or send good vibes into the universe for your employee. Not scroll past your 9 unanswered texts to send a 10th.

    5. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Yeah, that’s not an excuse for this behavior. Just because her intentions *might* be good does not give her the right to pester OP.

      I socially know someone with Stage IV cancer — we used to serve on a board together and though we are friendly we are not friends. They and their situation weighs heavily on my mind because of similarities in life and family circumstances, but that is a ME thing, not a THEM thing. I react to their FB updates, but I do not go about inserting myself into their life or texting after every chemo treatment because even though I am thinking about them A WHOLE LOT I am neither 1) their spouse, 2) related by blood or marriage, or 3) a ride-or-die friend.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Exactly this. OP’s health and recovery are about OP. The most important thing is what OP needs right now. What the boss needs or wants is much, much less important.

    6. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      The issue isn’t what’s on the boss’ mind and whether the boss is upset. The issue is the boss’ behaviour and how that is making an already extremely difficult time worse and more stressful. Boss can think and feel however she wants, just leave OP out of it.

      1. MEH Squared*

        Yes, this. If boss is so concerned, she can talk to her loved ones about it. Ring theory of dumping out, not in.

    7. JelloStapler*

      Then manager needs to deal with that on her own and not use OP as an emotional crutch/assurance.

  30. anonymous73*

    Stop worrying more about managing your boss’s feelings than your own recovery. It doesn’t matter if she gets pouty or offended that you ignore her texts. Tell her to stop immediately. You don’t have to sugar coat it or give her reasons, but you do need to be direct. “I need you to stop contacting me so I can recover.” Then stop responding and mute her. She is very clearly crossing a line and needs to be stopped. And if she tries to call or (I wouldn’t put it past her if she knows where you live) stop by, have a friend or family member run interference.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      That would be great, but I’m guessing that OP is concerned about the interpersonal and career consequences of doing that. Will the boss be cold, assign OP to crappier projects than before, not support OP for advancement? With a reasonable boss, this wouldn’t be an issue. But it sounds like this boss is not particularly reasonable.

      1. I Need a 9 Hour Nap*

        This came to my mind too. I’ve worked with petty managers—one who tried to reduce me to 20 hrs a week when my son was in the PICU for ten days at 3 years old. Her reasoning was that if I didn’t have time to respond to her texts while on leave (very nosy texts and she tried to dissuade me from using FMLA for that absence) then I must need to reduce my hours to 20hrs a week instead of 40hrs to take better care of my child…but working 20hrs a week is a loss of health benefits and I would be unable to pay rent, daycare, and the hospital bills.

        I like Allison’s script as it’s firm and sets expectations without being aggressive.

      2. anonymous73*

        So OP should ignore her own needs to make her manager feel better? Sorry but no. Managers don’t get a free pass for bad behavior.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Of course not! My point is that there are risks with being blunt and it makes sense to be strategic about the message and who delivers it. The boss needs to back the heck off, but OP probably wants a path that minimizes the career risk, given that she’s dealing with a boss who’s known to take things personally and pout.

  31. EventPlannerGal*

    I know this isn’t especially constructive, but may I just say that the idea of texting someone NINE DAYS IN A ROW without a reply makes me cringe so hard that I might lose consciousness. Really the epitome of being left on read. Like, leave it alone! Damn!

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yeah, I have a college friend who often FB messages me and I respond to maybe one message out of 25. She just likes to message “at” people and doesn’t seem to notice if I don’t respond. I like her so it doesn’t bother me too much but some of her texts are things that I absolutely don’t care about. I know I’ve received them because of her need to make sure people in her life are informed about what’s going on or just her need to spatter her news throughout her friendverse and so I feel absolutely no remorse at not responding to them. (We’ve seen each other exactly once in the last 10 years, since she moved over 1,000 miles away.)

      Poor LW has to worry more about this situation, though, because they’re not sure how Boss will take it if LW doesn’t respond. Since Boss obviously isn’t taking the hint, I think Alison’s script is great and I hope it both cures Boss of this habit and greatly reduces the amount of stress LW is feeling about the pressure to respond and “be on” (and also think about work even if Boss isn’t asking work-related questions.)

      This actually reminds me of my last job, where someone obviously had this great idea that at our Monday all-staff meetings we would go around the room (small company!) and tell everyone something about our weekends. I think it was originally offered up as a bonding/icebreaker sort of thing, but unfortunately it had the effect of making me think about work All. Weekend. Long. I’d be doing some fun thing and think, “How will I word this to tell my coworkers about it on Monday?” or “Definitely gotta remember this for Monday meeting!” I don’t think everyone had this issue, but the writer part of me wanted to get the description just right for maximum impact on the work crowd. Boss just simply asking LW how they’re doing is having the same effect but this is even worse since LW should be resting and healing and absolutely not thinking about work at all.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      OP did write “Here are just the texts where she initiated them,” which I took to mean the OP did reply to the boss, they just didn’t include their replies/the full conversations in the letter to Alison.

      It’s still a lot for the boss to text every single day for nine days in a row following surgery, but slightly less egregious if the OP is replying than if there were no replies.

    3. londonedit*

      Yeah – I was irritated enough when I had Covid and my mum was texting me every day saying ‘Hello!! How are you feeling today?? Any better???’ I know her heart was in the right place but I was knackered and I really didn’t have anything to tell her beyond ‘Not too bad, probably about the same as yesterday’. It sort of made me feel like I wasn’t getting better quickly enough, or I should have been giving a different answer, or something. And that was my mum! In the end I said ‘Same as yesterday! Still not dead!’ and I think she got the message that it was getting a little annoying! If my boss had been doing the same thing, and if I’d actually had major surgery instead of just feeling a bit ill, I’d have been absolutely raging. I definitely agree with the advice for the OP to just send a message saying ‘Doing OK with recovery, need to take some time away from everything so I’m switching off my phone, will message when I’m ready to come back to work’ and then ignore any further texts.

  32. EC*

    At least your boss remembered you were in the hospital. In previous jobs I’ve called my bosses from the ER. I told them I was in the ER, what had happened, and that I wouldn’t be at work the following day. The next day I received nasty emails demanding to know why I wasn’t at work (twice, this happened at two different jobs).

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      This is why when I was out for emergency surgery I emailed my bosses. That and I didn’t have access to their phone info.

  33. Despachito*

    Your boss is being intrusive (the question whether they removed everything made me really cringe).

    But in more general terms, I can see how interest can come from a good place yet be misplaced. My friend now underwent a planned hip replacement, and I hesitate how often I should contact her to let her know I am thinking of her but not overwhelm her. (So far, I have called her once a week for a longer conversation). I can easily see how difficult it can be for a person not so close to the patient to guess the right degree of showing interest.

    What helped me when I was undergoing treatment was to tell everyone what exactly I expected from them (in my case it was “I prefer to talk about other things than the illness, if there is any update, I will tell you myself”, and it went perfectly, everyone respected this.

    I think that having a family member or a good friend as a buffer is a very good idea, and if this is not doable, I like the wording “thank you for your good thoughts, I am slowly getting better but unable to answer right now, thanks for understanding.”

    All the best wishes to you, OP, and recover soon. Take your time, and if need be, ignore the boss’s messages,

    1. SnappinTerrapin*

      A written card, expressing best wishes and asking whether the patient is up for more interactive communication, couldn’t hurt.

  34. Figgie*

    My spouse was hospitalized with a life threatening arterial dissection. I had called them and told them he wouldn’t be in to work for at least 3 days (thinking and possibly never again if he dies) and at 1 a.m. his cell phone goes off and his boss is on the line demanding that he do something, as the system was down. I took the phone away, as my spouse was fumbling around trying to figure out how to get into the system on his cell phone and told him that someone else was going to have to deal with this, as he was on high doses of pain medication and ill enough to be hospitalized.

    He told his boss verbatim what I had said and hung up. His boss was furious but blamed me, not my spouse. My “punishment” for that was for her to refuse to let my spouse off work on the day of my Dad’s funeral so that we had to change the date for his funeral to a Saturday. She was a piece of work and left soon after that. His other bosses have been relatively sane, thank goodness. :-)

    1. Despachito*

      That’s awful, I am so sorry this happened to you. What a stupid vindictive person.

      1. Figgie*

        Thanks! He is retired as of the first of the year, so no more work issues for him to deal with anymore. :-) And best of all, about 2 months after he retired, he looked at me and said with great surprise “I never, ever think about work at all and I haven’t since my last day at work. “

    2. Anonym*

      My jaw hit the floor at that. Unbelievable. Thank goodness that person is long in the rear view mirror!

  35. A lawyer*

    I know this is probably a cliche on this website at this point, but this boss truly does sound like Michael Scott. She probably means well and is trying to show she cares but does it in a completely stupid way.

  36. MEH Squared*

    Oh, OP, I really feel for you. Last September, I went through my own life-threatening medical event and it truly changed how I view life. Fortunately, I survived (obviously), but I remember the days of being drugged to the gills and, in my case, hallucinating some, in retrospect, pretty funny things (Like, I thought there was a mobster who wanted to swap faces with me when I was scheduled for an angiogram.)

    I work for myself so fortunately, I didn’t have to deal with a boss during all that, but I think I would have told them that I needed to rest, that I would be returning on ______ date, and then temporarily block them with a clear conscience. Then I would have let my brother deal with them (my point person during my medical crisis) because he is a blunt, no-nonsense person who can stop anyone in their tracks.

    Good luck with your recovery. That is what you should be focused on, not your boss.

  37. ghostlight*

    You are not obligated to reply to anything! I had open-heart surgery back in November, and I was barely able to text my FRIENDS AND FAMILY back, let alone my work. I was completely out of commission for my doctor’s recommended 6-weeks of recovery, though I wasn’t feeling ‘okay’ until maybe the 10-week mark, and I still feel fatigued and like I’m not at 100% today. Set boundaries, and don’t beat yourself up when you enforce them. Good people will respect them. My close friends and family knew I was very out of it, very tired, and in a lot of pain. They were content for any update, and if they weren’t, well too bad. My health and recovery was the #1 priority.

  38. theletter*

    Many years ago, when a friend went into hospice, one of his closest friend sent off an announcement: All communications would be one direction: out. As in “don’t reach out to us, we’ll make an announcement if anything changes.”

    People were anxious, of course, and wanted to help, but there was nothing to be done but allow the family time and space.

  39. Katie*

    My twins were in the hospital an insane amount of time last year (since then I have established a no hospitals rule in the house, which has worked so far). I have learned people’s well intentioned texts/calls are exhausting.
    Ignore them. Don’t feel bad.

  40. HelloHello*

    If there’s someone able to help, it might be even more effective to have a friend or relative send a message for you (from your phone, but signed by them) saying basically what Alison suggestion. That might help drive home the point that you really, truly are not texting right now while also saving you from having to write the text yourself. Then mute your boss and don’t unmute until a few days from your return to work.

    (And best wishes on your recovery… and escape from any further inappropriate and overly familiar texts)

    1. Monarch (Butterfly) of Science*

      I was coming here to say the same thing. Have someone else send a message saying thanks for the well-wishes and that you’re focusing on recovery and won’t be checking any texts. Then mute it all.

  41. A Frayed Knot*

    Oh, my. It’s a shame you spent so much time on your phone that your family confiscated it and wouldn’t let text or call anyone. :)

  42. beth b*

    “Did they get all the cancer?” … really? I mean, really? What an absolutely insensitive and self-centered question.
    What business is it of the boss. She is a classic ‘no boundaries’ person. Ugh!

  43. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    My hubs just went through a stay in the hospital due to complications around a minor outpatient procedure and he found it hard to text or talk on the phone too.
    Send a text back saying something like: “Thanks for your kind thoughts. I’m recuperating and exhausted, so I won’t be answering communications for the next week or two as it’s difficult to chat or text.” Then feel free to IGNORE.

  44. PlainJane*


    On the one hand, I understand LW’s perspective. On the other, when I had back when there weren’t many treatments or vaccines (thank goodness, I had an extremely mild case), my boss called me every day to check on me and make sure I was all right, and I really appreciated that she actually cared about that and wanted to know if I needed anything while she was out. (The plan was to leave it by my door and then knock.) Because I was very isolated, since I live alone, I was grateful for the contact, work colleague or no. So that may be what the boss was aiming at, since it was nothing work-related. Just saying, Hey, we’re thinking of you at the office, and wish there was something we could do.

      1. Wants Green Things*

        OP has responded to a few earlier comments and has provided further detail that her boss is something who demands acknowledgement of their “kind” actions. So all of this is purely performative on top of being a major annoyance and mental drain.

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        I call this a proof-in-the-pudding situation. Presumably there was enough back-and-forth between you and your boss that you were on the same page. The OP and her boss aren’t.

    1. metadata minion*

      I can definitely see that being helpful for you, but I think it makes a major difference here that the LW is in the hospital, presumably having what feels like entirely too many people checking in on them every 5 minutes. There is no need to worry that something might go wrong and nobody will be there to help.

      1. TechWorker*

        And in the nicest possible way ‘mild covid’ =/= ‘recovery from major cancer related surgery’… I had major-ish surgery last year (~2 week recovery time so… quite a few levels easier than what OP is going through) and that totally wiped me out in a way that covid really didn’t.

  45. Name of Requirement*

    I like “on the mend” as a generic response to recovery. It gives no details and no timelines.

  46. rosyglasses*

    Yeah – as a boss, depending on the relationship I had with the person*, I might text once just to let them know I hope all is well and we look forward to having them back, and if they need additional time when that date approaches to please reach out. But if I don’t hear anything back, I’m certainly not going to keep texting! That is overreach at its height and would stress me out tremendously as well. Alison (as always) has an excellent script. Block block block!

    *As in, if we have texted on the phone previously in and around work, I am happy to reach out that way. If I have never texted them, I will not send a cold text. I would send a small gift with the same message with no expectation of return messaging.

  47. smallness*

    I can empathize from personal experience; cancer can make people veer way out of their lane, and it’s horrible when it is someone who ostensibly has authority over you. The kindest interpretation is that your manager is triggered by your experience – maybe their own fears, their experience with family, their worries about what might happen to you going forward. It doesn’t make what’s happening to you OK. But perhaps framing it about their anxiety can help in thinking of putting up your boundary as actually a profoundly kind thing to do – when people are in that anxious space, getting more information and more information doesn’t help with ratcheting down the anxiety, because they’re not actually addressing the feelings underneath.

    But also, if you end up replying to her, don’t beat yourself up over it or feel bad. You’re also allowed to worry about things like her reaction, about maintaining good working relationships (esp if you are in the US and need your employer healthcare,) and about wanting your eventual return to the office to be on as good a footing as possible.

    My best to you and hopes for a calm and peaceful recovery.

  48. Gnome*

    If Alison’s script doesn’t work for you, try having a friend text back (just so you don’t have to) from your phone something like “This is OP’s neighbor/friend. They’ve asked me to take charge of replying to all texts because they need their rest. OP is recovering and will be in touch the week before the end of their scheduled leave to provide any updates (or whatever makes sense to say here). I’ll reach back out if there are any relevant updates before then, but they won’t be getting or making texts until that time.”

    This gives you a buffer and plausible deniability.

    1. TootsNYC*

      that person can also gush as much as the boss might need: “So nice of you to check in, I’ll be sure to give the patient your good wishes.”

  49. SnappinTerrapin*

    In my family, if a member is hospitalized, we communicate among each other to determine whether the patient is physically, emotionally and mentally up to communication. This helps us tailor our efforts to support their recovery, and allows us to channel communications through a single point of contact when that is appropriate.

    In this case, it would be prudent for LW to designate a screening point of contact. That person could sent tactful messages, expressing the patient’s and family’s appreciation for the emotional support, while explaining that the patient isn’t physically, mentally or emotionally “up to” processing the messages. The POC can offer to receive inquiries and to provide updates as appropriate (unspoken limitation, within parameters consistent with patient’s circumstances.)

    This works for my family during extreme illnesses, and should work with all but the most oblivious persons outside the family. Those individuals can safely be ignored pending recovery. Send their messages to a holding cell until the patient is ready and willing to respond, even if that mens turning off their cell and renting a temporary phone for family communications for the duration of the emergency.

    1. pancakes*

      That’s a good arrangement for a family, but I don’t know that it makes sense for coworkers. It’s going to depend on the patient, but for me, when I’ve been hospitalized, I’m not expecting or particularly wanting to hear from people I’m not close to. People I’m close to already have my contact info, and people I’m not close to who want updates can probably wait a bit. If they’re worried about someone they don’t know all that well that’s not my problem.

      If someone was hassling me to the point I was thinking about buying a new phone, there’d be other steps I’d take instead of getting the new phone. Block their number, for a start.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        Well, my point is that someone in LW’s inner circle of personal (as distinguished from occupational) acquaintances should assist LW in managing communications from people in the outer circles. I see others have made similar suggestions. Have a designated point of contact who intercepts and handles the communications LW is unable (unwilling, etc.) to handle during the medical crisis.

        Which technology is used to prevent direct contact (read: interruption) is a secondary issue. Turn the primary phone off, block specific callers, mute some or all calls or texts, whatever works for LW, while ensuring there is an open channel between LW and her designee. And there are usually a lot of people who have the contact info, but whom the patient may not need or want to hear from during recovery. Some of those folks may turn to the hospital land line to ensure they are able to express their “concern” (quotation marks to cover both true concern and performative concern. A supplemental plan may be needed to deal with that, but if the patient’s designee reaches out to key links in the patient’s other circles, that may reduce this risk somewhat.

        The reason they are a problem is that they do have contact info, and they are interrupting recovery. I agree that their hurt feelings over not being in the closer circles should not be the patient’s problem, once the interruptions are intercepted, using whichever strategy suits the patient.

  50. June*

    Totally annoying. I think she means well but two texts were enough. Do not block your Boss. I would text back “I’m recovering and too tired to talk or answer texts but thanks so much for your concern” and then stop replying.

  51. NeedRain47*

    Wondering if OP’s boss is also the kind of person who’s never been severely ill or had a chronic condition, in addition to wanting performative recognition. Sometimes people really, really, really fail to understand that sick people feel like crap and don’t want to do things. (not that this really impacts what OP should do, but it might be a factor.)

    1. metadata minion*

      Not that this in any way excuses the boss, but it also doesn’t help that people vary so much in how they respond to being seriously ill. Some people love having friends text them all the time and send cards and flowers and stuff, even if they don’t feel up to responding, because being stuck in the hospital can feel super isolating even if there are technically people monitoring you all the time. Other people want to be left alone to feel crappy in peace except for maybe very close friends/family and don’t want to have to figure out if it would be rude to just chuck the flowers in the trash before they leave the hospital.

    2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      This, plus also surgery: people who haven’t experienced it or seen it with someone close to them *really* don’t understand that recovering from surgery – just the part where your body heals itself – uses up aaaaaalllll your energy whether you like it or not.

  52. Snoozing not schmoozing*

    LW, just sending you positive thoughts from someone who had their kidney removed for the same reason four years ago. I’m sorry your experience has been so long-drawn-out and complicated, but once you get past the surgical healing, sort-of normal life does resume. I’d just ignore the texts and at some future date, casually tell your boss you had notifications turned off while you were going through the roughest bits.

  53. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    I had an operation yesterday that involved a lot of very painful work in the abdomen and I’m with you on the ‘still loopy on pain meds, don’t contact rme unless you want gibbersh and all you need to know is I’ll be recovering for X weks’

    Already had owne coworker post a comment to my Facebook asking if I can still have kids after this (heck no, but never wanted any and they know that).

    My husband is running the family and friends contact for me general. He gives little bits like ‘she’s still in a lot of pain and needs peace and quiet’. It’s like hi t hint please don’t hassle us.

    ‘Thanks for the weell wishes but what I really need at the moment is some peace and quiet and disconnect from phones, media etc.” might work?

    (Sorry this is rambling, in pain but reading internet stuff in bed to take mind off)

    1. TechWorker*

      ‘Can you still have kids’ has to win some sort of prize for being an incredibly invasive and inappropriate thing to ask at all, let alone on Facebook (?!?!?).
      Wishing you a speedy recovery.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I think for some people I know the idea of any kind of uterus surgery has the first though of ‘but what if it means you can’t get kids that would be consequences that are bad’. And yes this surgery does mean no kids but I’ve never been silent about being childfree, or my wish to end decades of pain and suffer for an organ that’s no use to me.

        1. JelloStapler*

          I wish you a lifetime of peace now that your troublesome uterus is out of the picture!!

      2. pancakes*

        Seriously, what in the what! That is some wild prying.

        I hope you feel better soon, Keymaster.

    2. MEH Squared*

      May your coworker continually, but at sporadic times, step on Legos with their bare feet. Wishing you a smooth recovery, Keymaster.

    3. allathian*

      Oh my, wishing you a speedy and complete recovery, Keymaster.

      The kids question is about as intrusive and offensive as “did they get all of it?” is to a cancer patient, I’m sorry your coworker is a jerk.

  54. TW1968*

    Can you have any other family member or friend text boss from their own phone instead? “Hi , this is “Chris”, ‘s (spouse/mom/dad/son/daughter/cousin). She’s having a very rough recovery, without going into details, the surgery took twice as long as it should have and there were complications. While we appreciate your well wishes, it’s making her very upset and really stressing her out getting all the text messages from you and other people. She’s in a great deal of pain and can’t handle this right now. Would you please refrain from texting her? If anything please send her a kind note in the mail, that will make her feel better and be less intrusive. <> I’m actually going to block several of her contacts who’ve been texting her, as she really needs to rest right now. I’ll unblock the numbers once she’s physically able to handle it. Thank you so much for understanding!!!

    1. Guin*

      This is far too wordy. “This is Chris, Penelope’s representative. Penelope will not be answering any work texts, phone calls, or email. Thank you for complying.” And Penelope should then block Boss’s numbers until the end of her leave. It is no one’s business how Penelope is doing and in fact could lead to severe privacy issues when she returns to work.

      1. bluephone*

        Both suggestions are great for torpoeding the LW’s career and relationship with boss and coworkers. There is absolutely a middle ground between “I’m forcing myself to read and respond to every single text that comes in” and “boss if you text me again I will file an official restraining order AND go off the grid, I swear to god”

  55. Chickaletta*

    For what it’s worth, I feel that, generally speaking, people who have not had surgery don’t understand how awful it is. I certainly had no clue until my surgery 10 years ago, complete with a 5 day hospital stay. When they say it will take 6 weeks to recover (or whatever), they’re not kidding around. I have a lot more empathy for people who have surgery, and anyone who says they have pain/can’t move/have limited energy, because I’ve been there myself.

    Hang on, OP. I wish you well.

  56. 653-CXK*

    My boss was infinitely less of a pest when she contacted me in the hospital. Mainly it was “How’s everything going?” “HR will send you stuff for the discharge doctor to sign” and other things, and spaced well enough so she wouldn’t be talking between blood draws, dragging an IV to the toilet, room service, IV administration, and a team of nurses swarming in and trying to get me out of atrial flutter (and later on virtually celebrating that I had returned to sinus rhythm).

    1. 653-CXK*

      Oy…typing before thinking here…and spaced well enough so she wouldn’t be talking to me between blood draws…

  57. Guin*

    Just wow. I would enlist a friend or family member as gatekeeper from this bs. “Dear Boss: Penelope does not want phone calls or texts. Thank you for complying.” And then OP should block the boss entirely, for the remainder of her leave.

  58. awesome3*

    The most generous read of this is that when she’s been in the hospital before she’s wished she had more texts to field, whether it was to fill the empty time or for encouragement. Regardless, that’s not her role as your boss. Follow Alison’s advice. Thinking of you LW, wishing you a good recovery

  59. Kat*

    You could also send a response as though a friend of yours has your phone that says basically:
    “This is OP’s friend (name [can even be a fake name]). Op is focusing on their recovery and as such not responding to texts for the next several weeks, but I have passed along your well wishes.”

    Then as Allison says, mute the texts from your boss.
    This is similar to the script Allison gave but had the added benefit of making your “friend” the heavy of delivering the news that you’re not going to respond to messages.

    Wishing you a full and quick recovery btw.

  60. Cam*

    I would actually not reply to this yourself, I would hand off your phone to someone else in your life and have them send an update about you in the third person “this is nurse Sarah using [name]’s phone …” and have that message include a blunt “[name] needs to be resting and not barraged with text messages.”

    That way if boss has hurt feelings about it later, you can apologize for whoever it was being rude to them while you were too sick to answer messages.

  61. Hailrobonia*

    “Did they get all the cancer?”
    “All of it except for you.”
    Too harsh?

  62. Esmeralda*

    Sorry to hear that, OP. I have a son with a similar situation. My advice is to put people who do not need to know every freakin detail on an info diet.

    Also, while Caring Bridge and sites like that are really good in general, if you do not want one for yourself, don’t feel obliged to have one. We had some friends and relations who were offended that we didn’t want one for our kid. 1. because we did not want to have to do one more damn additional thing and 2. because everyone and his dog did not need to be informed.

    I emailed everyone that we would not have a site, they did not need to keep asking — I knew everyone was concerned but we and our son needed privacy and we knew they all loved son and would respect his desire for privacy (that was a lie, but who’s going to say, no, I;m an a-hole and need the info), and if they wanted to send fun cards or postcards to son they could do that, and we would let them know if there was anything to know.

    For close family, I designated my dad the info-nexus and everyone respected that.

    Feel no obligation whatsoever to share info that you do not want or need to share. Your boss does NOT need details. She just needs to know: I will need these days off to address my medical condition. If she gets pushy, grey rock her. I know that grey-rocking, and worrying about having to do it and having to hear her pushy questions and comments, is exhausting. But less exhausting in the long run.

    Hugs to you. I’m sorry you’re on this journey. I hope it helps a little that there are strangers out here on the interwebs that care about you.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      Well done — you played a classic Miss Manners card! She’s always recommending starting off by telling people “I know you’ll understand” or things like that, even if you know no such thing, because it makes it harder for them to prove your compliment was unfounded. Alison has suggested similar things occasionally too. :)

  63. Ellen N.*

    It sounds like your boss has a deep desire to have a “special” role to play in your recovery. This is, of course, unreasonable and not something you should have to deal with.

    However, as you’re concerned about fallout if you don’t give her special attention, you might consider deputizing her to be in charge of making sure you get your rest. Explain to her that your doctors recommend that you spend a lot of time sleeping so it would be great if she could spread the word that you require no calls, no texts, no visits, etc.

  64. Banana*

    I had a boss like this once. She was genuinely caring and warm, but it was exhausting sometimes. While I worked for her, I had direct reports, and she was worried that I was not as close and caring with them as I should be (which was a fair concern, before she became my boss I’d worked in a division most of my career where it was quite clear that people were seen as tools to be worked until they wore out and then discarded…it was a part of the reason I left, but I hadn’t had good relationship building modeled for me at all in my work history and needed to consciously work on developing that.)

    So, when I worked for her, if one of my direct reports had a medical, personal, or family issue, she expected me to know what it was, she expected me to have recent updates on how it was going, and I would be chided if I didn’t know. Which led to follow up with my team that was less sincere than it should be, because even though I DID see them as people and care about their lives, I am still naturally a lot more reserved than she was. I’m a few years beyond that now and I’ve figured out my own voice and a level of sharing that feels natural and sincere for me.

    1. allathian*

      Ugh, I’m sorry, that was awful, glad you’re out of it. Especially if any of your reports found your questions intrusive and unwelcome, but didn’t feel like they could draw the line. So you were asking questions at your manager’s request that you would’ve preferred not to have to ask, and some of your reports probably thought less of you because you asked.

      Glad you’re out of there…

  65. Phil*

    I was in the hospital for 4 months for 2 day long surgeries and around the clock IV antibiotics and what annoyed my most was callers and visitors asking how I was feeling all the time. I’m in the hospital, you dope, hooked up to all this stuff. How do you think I’m feeling?

  66. PurpleStar*

    Maybe have a family member take over text communication. “Hey, this is OP’s family member. I am just reaching out to say thanks on her behalf for all the well wishes and to ask you to direct your texts to me so she can focus on recovery. We sure do appreciate your concern and I will stay as connected as I can while we focus on her recovery.”

    And block her texts after that. You will have given her a line of torture, um communication, and when you go back if she complains you can blame it all on family member.

  67. Amy*

    Send us a pic of the flowers?! Sounds like one of those people who does it for their own personal issues. Wants to be THANKED. Lol do you you the people I speak of?

    Also please text them “thanks for the well wishes, i so appreciate all of it! Im going to be recovering and not answering texts” just like Alison suggested then AGAIN like she says block the contact. Ain’t no shame in that game!

    For real!!!!

  68. Deer and Antelope*

    I like the suggested wording.

    I think it’s important to text shortly before your anticipated return to work because I once had an employee who was out on medical leave for an undetermined time and did not tell me when she was coming back. I literally had no idea she was coming back the next day. I had just hired a temporary staff person and had to cancel their contract (which was unfair to the temp).

    Also, my company requires us to check in weekly or every other week with people who are out on medical leave. (But not every day!)

  69. GarlicMicrowaver*

    OP 1… I mean, sorry, but yes. Would you not wear scrubs if you were in a healthcare role?

  70. anony3748*

    It sounds like your boss had good intentions and was genuinely interested in your well-being since it was a major surgery. Rather a thoughtful boss than one who doesn’t give a crap. She just took it a step further and checked-up on you a bit more than usual. I would send one reply saying that you are exhausted and recovery. Then ignore the rest and like what Alison said, one text back to all of her replies the day before you are going back into the office.

  71. bopper*

    I had major abdominal surgery / chemo and I set up a “” site to update people. I could share what was going on one time and direct people there. If they signed up for updates they would be notified whenever I posted an update.

    The other thing I liked was the “Thinking of you” texts rather than “how are you texts” which require a response.

    1. Sharon*

      Yes, or cards are even better. You can read them when you feel like it, and put them on your shelf if you want to be reminded about people that care about you, and there is no need to respond.

  72. Karen V.*

    I’d text as if I’m a friend or family member “Hi – this is OP’s mom/brother/close friend. They thank you for the well wishes. They’re completely wiped out and not able to text. I expect OP will be incommunicado for the next X weeks while they recover, but they’re looking forward to being back on Y date.”

  73. Eve*

    My boss was exactly like this when I had COVID and was giving birth–I was getting calls from work while I was in transition! She means well and is very kind but she’ll text and call my personal cell often but doesn’t regularly respond to my work emails or IM’s …it’s like she’ll only talk to me about personal stuff but not work!

  74. Whats the big deal?*

    I get that everyone is different, but to me it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Maybe I’ve just had good bosses. I had really disgusting, awful colon surgery a few years back and my manager came and visited me while I was in the hospital (after texting to make sure it was ok). I was really glad to see her. Am I the oddball in that I don’t think texts are that much of an imposition? Like maybe not every day, and the did they get all the cancer question is odd, but maybe they just genuinely want to see how you’re doing, that they care about you?

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