my boss is rude to my husband

A reader writes:

I work as a bookseller, and about a year ago our bookshop got a new manager. This was a great thing for the shop and for me personally — he’s much more competent than anyone we’ve had in the past and has a real drive for developing people. I happen to be the person he’s focused on developing, and it’s been wonderful: I get paid more now, have lots more responsibility, and am being provided with all the training to start managing my own shop before Christmas. I’m being treated as a rising star in the business (we’re part of a very big chain) and given a lot of opportunities to excel, which of course feels fantastic! I’m very grateful.

There’s only one snag, though: my boss is very keen to socialize with me outside of work, both one-on-one and as part of the management team. The culture in our shop has always been that partners, spouses, housemates, friends, etc. are very welcome at these events. However, my manager seems to absolutely despise my husband.

I can’t find any reason for this. Obviously I love him, so you could argue that I’m biased but really, everybody adores my partner. He’s gentle, fun, and a good listener and always proves a popular addition. Honestly, half of my colleagues probably prefer him to me. He’s only spoken to my boss a couple of times and only briefly, but my boss is openly dismissive of him: he makes disparaging remarks about him, stops engaging in conversations when I bring him up, and recently, when my husband arrived to some drinks, my boss visibly and obviously swung his entire body around in his seat so that he was facing away from us and left not long after.

I have no idea what to do. I have a fantastic working relationship with my boss, and frankly I plan to capitalize on that, but this makes me really uncomfortable. For further context, I’m a woman and he’s a man, and he is single; however, he has often told me that his preference is for very done up, alternative but feminine women, which does NOT describe me. (I’m a straggly-haired, no-makeup, shapeless-clothing wearer.) At first I tried to dismiss his disparaging comments as an awkward attempt at humor, but after he so rudely turned away from my partner at the drinks … I’m angry!

I don’t know how to bring this up with him, or if I should. Help?!

A bunch of things could be going here, to the point that it’s practically useless to speculate. But I will speculate anyway! Does your husband remind your boss of someone from his past who makes him uncomfortable? Did they previously have some interaction, perhaps before you were in the picture, that offended your boss and which your husband doesn’t even remember? Did your husband say something offensive to your boss, or did your boss mishear and think he did? Does he dislike how much everyone else likes your husband? Or is your boss in fact jealous because of you? (I know you don’t think that’s the case, but nothing you wrote precludes that possibility, and it’s pretty odd that your boss has chosen to tell you “often” about what type of women he likes.)

Ultimately, though, it doesn’t really matter what the reason is; what matters is that your boss is being regularly and noticeably rude to your husband and that’s not okay regardless of what caused it.

Since you have a good rapport with your boss, I’d argue for asking him about it. You wouldn’t need to approach it accusatorially or put him on the defensive. Instead, say something like, “This is awkward to ask, but did Bob do something to offend you? I keep getting the sense you avoid talking to him and you’ve made a few remarks about him that surprised me, so I wondered if something happened that I didn’t know about.”

The point here is less to get a real answer and more to flag for him that his treatment of your husband is noticeable to others and coming across strangely. He might not realize how obvious his behavior is, and he might make an effort to rein it in once it’s called out. Or maybe he won’t, but it’s at least worth a try.

You can also speak up in the moment. For example, if your boss makes a disparaging remark about your husband, call it out! Say, “What do you mean by that?” or “Whoa, that’s my husband you’re talking about” or “Wow, I really disagree” or “That’s really uncalled for” or “Why would you say that about Bob?” If he freezes out Bob mid-conversation, try saying, “Bob was in the middle of speaking — can we hear what he was saying?” There’s not a lot you can do about the less direct evidence of dislike (like leaving soon after Bob shows up), but you can definitely call out open rudeness in the moment.

You can also try following up on it later — “I know you said Bob hasn’t done anything to offend you, but last night I saw A, B, and C and I can’t figure out what’s going on.”

But if he denies there’s a problem, there’s only so much pushing on the topic you can do before you risk being in weird territory with him yourself too. (To be clear, that’s on him, not you! He’s the one being rude, and he’s responsible for how that affects his relationship with you. But you’ve got to be realistic about the power dynamics too.)

So if his behavior continues and he denies there’s a problem, you might be stuck needing to decide how much you care, and how much your husband cares. The easiest solution at that point could be for your husband to stop attending your work events, or least to attend fewer of them, so that he doesn’t need to deal with your boss’s weirdness. You and your husband might feel fine about that (or perhaps not fine, but it might feel better than the alternatives).

Alternately, though, it might eat at you — and in that case you don’t have a ton of options beyond the ones above. It sounds like you like everything else about this job and your relationship with your boss. I’m hesitant to tell you to leave a job that’s making you happy in all ways but this one … or to mess with a relationship with your boss that has otherwise been serving you well … and I’m also hesitant to tell you to blithely go on knowing your boss is a jerk to your husband. You’d need to weigh how egregious the behavior is, how much it bothers both of you, how willing/able you each are to brush it off, and how willing you are to push back harder with your boss on what’s happening. It’s an unsatisfying answer.

{ 374 comments… read them below }

  1. Marie*

    Honestly it’s really obvious he is attracted to you, no matter what he says about his preferences (also how do you even know them!) He’s icing your husband out because he’s jealous. How to deal with it depends on your company, the power your boss has over you, and what you ultimately want your end goal to be- do you want to go cool towards your boss? Hang in there till you get your own store? Preemptively go to HR?

    1. Lilo*

      I agree with this. If anything his comments about his type and OP not being it come across to me as negging-type behavior.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Yeah, I get the impression it’s not exactly the truth he’s telling her.
            Or maybe she has some special something that means that his type doesn’t apply.

            I have a very definite type, but there are people who transcend such nonsense. I prefer guys with olive skin and black hair, but the most gorgeous guy I have ever known is blond so…

      1. EPLawyer*

        He is telling in the hopes she will be the hint and change how she is — dress more polished, etc. He wants her to become his “ideal” woman because he already likes her. She just needs to get it over the finish line for him.

        The good news OP is this issue has an expiration date. If you really will have your own shop by Christmas, that solves the problem. Follow Alison’s advice knowing there is an end in sight that doesn’t involve quitting your job. If the managing thing doesn’t happen, then you can reassess how much you want to deal with this.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I don’t think it’s necessarily even that. I think it’s a “safe” way of introducing the topic of sexual attraction into their conversations– “obviously this is not any kind of harassment or inappropriate, because I overtly saying that I’m not attracted to her type, see, aren’t I clever, anyway, sexual attraction just happens to be on my mind when I’m around you”. It’s the Breakroom Sofa of Plausible Deniability (with apologies to Captain Awkward.)

          1. Hrodvitnir*

            This! Of course it could be negging, it could be denial, it could be encouragement to change her style… but I think the most likely explanation is that it is just what you described.

            Saying “I find X type super hot” is actually in very little ways commenting on the real life people you might be attracted to, and is just a discussion you might have with friends – and is a more exciting topic with friends you’re attracted to. :/

            I have specific types I find Extra Hot, but I’m attracted to individuals, and they’re all over the spectrum. I think people whose “type” is closer to a rule would be the less common variant.

        2. Sloanicota*

          That’s what I thought, I admit, although it doesn’t change my advice to OP (keep it professional, don’t bring it up directly, avoid any increase in intimacy with this boss would be my advice). He may see her as someone he can makeover into the kind of woman he likes, and in fact there are plenty of men of a certain personality type that would enjoy the challenge (the same personality type that puts a lot of energy into developing their staff, perhaps?!). OP may end up singing “just you wait, ‘Enry ‘Iggans” before too long.

          1. OhNoYouDidn't*

            And I’d also stop socializing with him one on one as she said he expects that.

            1. Pennyworth*

              As he doesn’t like her husband anyway, she should use her husband as a reason to stop one on one socializing. It seems as though there is too much intermingling of the professional and the social in the business.

            2. Can Ainm*

              Yea, if I were her I would:
              1.) talk to the manager using the language Alison suggests, and then
              2.) when nothing changes about the bosses treatment of husband (I’m clearly not optimistic) I would:
              3.) pull back on the social engagements, and
              4.) when the boss asks why, tell him it’s because his behavior towards husband makes me uncomfortable.

              Don’t give boss exactly what he wants by hanging out without husband.

        3. Clobberin' Time*

          Or , he’s telling her with the subtext of “but you’re so special that I’m attracted to you anyway!” SOP for immature jerks like this – the targets of their affection are supposed to feel so very special and unique because they’re not his type but nonetheless caught his eye.

          Barf.

          1. DC Kat*

            That rings true to me. If he’s the sort of guy mainly attracted to manic pixie dream girls (it may be unfair, but that’s how I interpret “done up, alternative but feminine”), that exact kind of “you’re not like other girls” attitude is the foundation of that dynamic.

        4. Irish Teacher*

          I was thinking it could be that he is trying to hide the fact he is attracted to her by describing his “type” as being as different to her as possible. If he knows she is with somebody else and is unlikely to be interested in him, he might be concerned he looks “weird” by being attracted to her and is making a point of saying how different his type is to her and he couldn’t POSSIBLY fancy her, but he still can’t help his jealousy of her husband slipping though.

          1. Liz T*

            Yeah he might be genuinely struggling with the fact that he’s attracted to her, and not know what to do about it. It doesn’t have to be cold calculating mastermind manipulation to be inappropriate lol

          2. hbc*

            Yeah, I think he’s trying to convince himself as much as anyone. I’ve had a couple male colleagues who dated/married “high maintenance” women who developed…intense platonic crushes on my mousy self. I truly believe that they weren’t romantically interested, but there was some weird behavior while their emotions settled.

          3. Glitsy Gus*

            This. Shoot I’ve caught myself doing this. Not at work, obviously, because I have basic boundaries, but with friends I had crushes on that I was trying to talk myself out of/keep on the DL.

        5. Siege*

          People fall for people who aren’t their type all the time. They fall for them, they don’t fall for them only if they added makeup and wore bandage dresses or whatever. I agree with everyone saying he’s telling OP his type so he has plausible deniability for anything else: “I couldn’t have been hitting on her, she’s not my type!” “Talking about our types is innocent flirting because she’s not my type!” Well, neither is my partner, who is 8 inches shorter than me, fat, balding, and a messy video game geek, but here we are, 10 years later, and I love him madly.

          1. Goldenrod*

            “Well, neither is my partner, who is 8 inches shorter than me, fat, balding, and a messy video game geek, but here we are, 10 years later, and I love him madly.”

            Awww, this is cute.

          2. Worldwalker*

            Mine’s only 3 inches shorter and I’m the messy video game geek … my “type” is tall, dark, and handsome … but it’ll be 29 years this fall. So much for types.

            1. AJoftheInternet*

              This is why the older I get the more confused I am by the existence of “types.”

          3. UKDancer*

            Yes if you asked me my type I’d tell you the sort I’m in theory attracted to if I’m describing a dream guy. None of the men I’ve dated have met this because for me attraction is much less predictable.

        6. MusicWithRocksIn*

          I agree – mentioning several times that your ‘type’ is essentially women who put a lot of effort into their appearance is so super weird in a work context, especially from a manager, that it really comes across as him trying to give her some hints.

          I mean, I have occasionally had conversations with coworkers (on the same level as I am) about being attracted to X celerity or Y copy machine repair man – but that was a handful of comments over years of working together, never have I ever had a conversation with anyone I worked with where anyone has broken down what ‘type’ they are attracted to. The level of uncomfortable I would be if my boss discussed that with me would be very high.

      2. Artemesia*

        absolutely negging. I don’t know the ‘type’ any of my bosses over the years have preferred (except by inference of looking at their partners.). I have been very close to several bosses and they never discussed their preferences for women or make up or whatever. That is pretty inappropriate and makes his jealousy more obvious.

        I like Alison’s advice. You would never even hint that he is jealous so this naive, ‘has Bob done something to offend you’? approach is the way to go in hopes it will cool him down and make him less obvious.

        Otherwise work on getting your own shop and being impeccably pleasant and professional to this guy till you do.

      3. Lea*

        Oh good point!

        Regardless if a man spends a lot of energy telling you who he’s attracted to that’s not a sign of disinterest and it’s super inappropriate at work!

        She needs to chill until she gets her own story maybe and then ice him out.

      4. JSPA*

        Sounds to me like he’s hoping she will send a signal by coming in a bit more “high goth” (or whatever alternative he’s into).

        Why do this?

        1. Instead of asking a question and getting an answer (and risking being called out for harassment), this is relatively safe, despite being highly annoying.

        2. If she wears any makeup, any piece of clothing he hasn’t noticed before, he can convince himself that it’s a signal.

        OP, I’m sorry, but I don’t think the “mentoring” is going to last past the Moment when he finally recognizes that you are a hard no on any hanky panky (or ditching your husband and proclaiming your boss as your soulmate).

        In fact he may get quite vindictive and declare that he was mistaken about you in any number of ways. Muster laudatory documents (from other people and from him) now, in case the winds shift.

        And don’t let his favoritism make you less appreciated in the eyes of your co workers. This is not to say that you are not excellent and worth promoting and all of those other things that he currently thinks you to be! But if he were to put as much energy into taking you down as he is currently putting into promoting you… your fortunes could look quite different.

        1. CarolynM*

          I couldn’t agree more with every single word you wrote! I read the same writing on the wall …

          Circle your wagons and watch your 6, OP – this guy is not to be trusted.

        2. L'étrangere*

          Excellent advice from JSPA. Lots can happen in the next 6 months, be sure to document the good work aspect as well as the borderline creepy stuff, since you seem to have an HR to fall back on

      5. tamarack and fireweed*

        I’m too careful/conservative with speculations about causality ahead of reasonably rich data, but I also got snagged on the fact that the boss told the LW about what “type” of women he prefers.

        If there’s an innocent explanation to that, or the context of their conversations trusting enough that this isn’t wildly inappropriate, then the LW should also be able to freely ask about what’s up with the boss’s attitude to the LW’s spouse. Since the LW is hesitating about that, there’s already something out of kilter.

    2. many bells down*

      Yeah I read the repeated assertions about the kind of women he likes as “helpful suggestions.” He wants you to be that woman. I would not be surprised if eventually all this professional development depends on you having a more “appropriate appearance.”

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          upvote 9000.
          I think it is pretty telling that the first comments are that Boss is trying to mold OP into his image of a “perfect woman.”
          I actually came to add “negging” to the mix, but was beaten to it.
          His professional advancing of you is part of his general advances toward you.
          You are great at your job, but this guy is a mess and you unfortunately need to deal with it.

        2. Karia*

          Many Bells Down is wrong. This is plausible deniability 101. I’ve taken men who’ve said this kind of thing at their word on multiple occasions, treated them as friends, and *every single one* got inappropriate to varying degrees over the years.

      1. Abe Froman*

        I also think he’s attracted to the LW, but I read the boss’s comments almost as him trying to convince himself (or the LW) that’s he’s not actually. Either way, I think attraction is the most likely culprit.

        1. After 33 years ...*

          Always possible, but not universally always.
          People sometimes do have instinctive reactions (positive and negative) to individuals that most others find congenial. I’ve felt dislike for others, and others’ dislike has happened to me, without any element of romantic interest / attractiveness. If challenged about someone I disliked, I’d probably just say “Yes, you’re right”.

          1. Sloanicota*

            I do think think people are generally quick to jump to “he’s DEFINITELY in love with you” – I mean, we’re all pretty primed by the stories our culture tells – and there are other plausible explanations, such as the ones Alison lists in her response. The good thing is OP doesn’t need to know the reason in order to use some of the suggestions folks are offering. Just try to find ways to dial back this relationship without losing out on the opportunity presented.

              1. Sloanicota*

                Alison raised it as one option to think about out of many, so OP already has it as a possibility. There are many comments here indicating it’s a certainty that I’m not sure are warranted. It’s good to always have in the back of your mind that a situation could escalate – and I’m sure OP already does, nearly most women I know always do – but even if the boss is acting inappropriately around a crush it wouldn’t necessarily mean OP should do anything differently.

              2. DJ Abbott*

                I think OP should be prepared in case boss’s jealousy gets out of hand at a later date. She should have all her successes documented and in a place where she can get them if she can’t access her work programs. If he ever does anything blatantly inappropriate, she should document that too.
                Just in case she reaches a point where she can manage her own store but he won’t let her go, or if he gets so jealous he starts trying to pick fights with her or her husband, or anything like that, she can take her case to HR or upper management.

          2. Irish Teacher*

            Yeah, there are plenty of possibilities as to why he doesn’t like her husband, but combined with him talking about his type and appearing to stress it’s as different to the OP as possible, I do wonder. That is an odd thing to say to a workmate, repeatedly, I mean. Casually mentioning a particular celebrity or something is your type…no big deal. Often mentioning a type that is far from somebody sounds to me like a way of saying “no, I’m not attracted to you, definitely not. I totally just like you as a friend. You are most certainly not the type of person I’d be attracted to.”

            I mean, it could all be coincidence. The husband COULD just be the type of person who really irritates him (not necessarily because the husband is doing something wrong but maybe he has an accent the boss finds irritating or he has a sense of humour that really annoys him or something; most of us have SOMETHING that irrationally annoys us) and the comments about his type might just be the sort of banter he and the OP have and we might well be putting two unrelated things together and coming up with 5, but it definitely does strike me as a possibility.

            If it were just the “he doesn’t like my husband,” I’d assume something about the husband irrationally annoys him, even possibly the husband’s popularity. It’s the regularly talking about his type and it being so completely different from the OP that makes me think that it could be a case of fancying her.

            It just strikes me as a bit “doth protest too much.”

          3. Despachito*

            But civil people can keep that to themselves and behave politely, especially if they see each other only on social occasions.

            I agree with all the commenters saying that he probably has a crush on OP (talking with her about his romantic preferences, even catering to her professional development in this context is a red flag).

            I know that this may sound like “holier-than-thou” attitude and I do not mean it like this, but I think that if someone trash-talks my partner in front of me, it is a) incredibly rude and b) I should immediately tell him it is inappropriate (I would be hurt and angry if someone was doing that to me and my partner did not interfere).

        2. Elenna*

          Yeah, I also read it as “I shouldn’t be attracted to LW, so I will repeatedly remind myself that she is Not My Type”. But whatever the exact explanation is it certainly feels like there’s attraction of some sort there.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Not just remind himself, but keep telling HER that too. That’s pretty dang inappropriate in and of itself, yikes!

            1. Chilipepper Attitude*

              This. No matter what is going on, his telling her repeatedly about the types of women he likes is just not appropriate at work.

              Add his childish behavior like turning away from the husband at drinks and you have a lot of red flags.

        3. Robin Ellacott*

          That’s what I assumed, too.

          It’s quite possible, from what I’ve seen with acquaintances’ dating lives in the past, to have an official ‘type’ and end up wildly attracted to someone outside it, and then to be confused and weird about it.

          Unless he’s cold to any female colleagues’ male partners too, in which case he has a disturbing possessiveness in general.

      2. Pocket Mouse*

        Yep. OP is his project, both personally and professionally. There is zero, literally zero, reason for him to express what he finds romantically/sexually attractive, much less repeatedly… unless he wants you to have that on your mind as he’s helping you create change in other ways.

        OP, I think you can either not say anything and maneuver however you must to protect yourself in order to milk the situation for the professional development as long as you can before it becomes too unhealthy, OR you can speak up and risk a backlash. Personally, I think speaking up as soon as you’re in a position to do so (a strong candidate for a step up, rather than already in that step up, for example) is going to be the way to go. In the meantime, document every single interaction that feels even a little bit off, including him singling you out for development from among the staff.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yeah, this is weird: “I happen to be the person he’s focused on developing.” THE person, OP? Why is he focused on you and not on several persons who he should be developing? I fear this is one of those situations where the boss has an attraction to his report and is therefore helping her to the neglect of others. It could be favor-sharking, it could be subconscious, but it seems pretty inappropriate to me. It’s super frustrating that this happens to women (and female-presenting people, I suppose) because it really messes with your head. Sorry, OP. I guess calling him out on his odd behavior is the way to go here but do it only if you feel comfortable doing so.

          Please let us know if you get the new store in December. I hope you do!

          1. bamcheeks*

            I happen to be the person he’s focused on developing

            That was actually the bit that made me think that the boss is very heavily engaged in Plausible Deniability– and LW kind of is too. LW, you’re aware that you’re getting a massively disproportionate amount of attention– and that just seems normal to you? Even if it’s truly not sexually/romantically motivated (I’m skeptical! just saying!), that kind of focus isn’t appropriate in a manager, and you should maintain a bit of skepticism about his good judgement and professionalism.

            1. Karia*

              Being mentored isn’t inherently inappropriate. Being mentored by someone who keeps hawking on about you’re Definitely Not Their Type while they cold shoulder your partner? That’s the weird bit.

              1. bamcheeks*

                I actually do think it’s inappropriate to be mentored by someone who is also your manager. They’re different roles with different sets of responsibilities. I’m sure there are some situations where it can work, but generally I think crossing the streams isn’t great.

                Crossing the streams of “I’m your manager” “I’m mentoring you” AND “I’m attracted to you” is extra triple bad, however.

          2. Smithy*

            I think this is a really good call out. If this were a tv show, the immediate point A to B would be that the OP’s boss is dealing with a romantic attraction to the OP. However, often this kind of solo development of someone at work can just be part of someone selectively cultivating “their people” and often at the expense of others and other less professional approaches.

            Maybe the first time the boss met OP’s husband, he expressed support for a political candidate, fan content, type of music, or something else that the OP’s boss doesn’t like and this is how the boss responds. Which would just be another unprofessional approach. It may be that the OP is soft playing why they were chosen for development (they’ve been their the longest, have xyz record, etc), but if it’s truly out of no where and has no romantic aspects, it’s not wildly professional. And can be part of cultivating this personal team at work of people who are super loyal to you because they feel they owe their place to you.

            This isn’t to say the OP needs to quit or report this to HR, but being aware of such a dynamic can be helpful. And also to be mindful of how much they owe their success and achievement to the boss, because if it really is tha-at much, that boss is in a place to take it away.

          3. OP*

            “I fear this is one of those situations where the boss has an attraction to his report and is therefore helping her to the neglect of others.”

            Honestly, this does bother me. Although I am a top performer, I work with some great people who could benefit from the same type of development too, but I feel like they aren’t getting these opportunities simply because my boss prefers me personally. I don’t necessarily mean in the sense that he’s attracted to me, but more in the sense that he just enjoys working with me more. I guess in most workplaces, there are elements of that – you’ll always have an intrinsic bias towards those you get on better with, which a good boss should of course try to counter – but equally, I work hard, and as a woman, I really don’t want people to have an excuse to say that I only got promoted because (boss) likes me. And I don’t want my colleagues to miss out just because they have personalities that don’t quite mesh so well!

            1. Worldwalker*

              I’m curious as to what will happen once the OP gets her own store and is out from under the manager’s thumb. Aside from wanting an update in general, I’d *really* like an update on that aspect a year from now or so.

              Also: this guy gives off skeevy vibes through and through.

              1. Properlike*

                $50 says he starts tearing her down to the people who still work with her. That’s *if* she manages to get out from under his thumb. He will expect to still “develop” her for all time, then fly into a narcissistic rage when she disagrees or refuses to act like his protege.

                I’m thinking he’s a straight-up narcissist, actually.

            2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

              I’m curious, are there things you could be doing to help give opportunities to your colleagues and support their development? Could you provide some mentorship as a star performer? This would not only help even the playing field, but would also allow you to demonstrate how you would develop talent as a manager in your own store.

            3. Budgie Buddy*

              UGH this would bother me too. Maybe there’s a way to leverage your pull with Boss to give your coworkers some credit? Maybe not cuz it sounds like Boss is not the most reasonable. :P

              but it burns me when I see my hard working coworkers not being appreciated. Sometimes it’s so satisfying to say “Uh no that was Jane’s idea because she’s brilliant. She should take charge.”

            4. Honey Badger*

              OP, I think you are very right to be concerned about this, and for even more reasons than you have listed. If your boss is indeed making decisions about training and career development opportunities based on who he personally clicks with, that’s (of course) really poor management. That coupled with the boundary crossing and the noticeably weird behavior towards your husband adds up to some pretty serious red flags about his professional judgment. I hope you’ll be very cautious about the mentoring etc. you get from him – as has been discussed many times on this site, when you spend time in a dysfunctional work situation it’s easy for your own professional norms to become skewed (says someone who’s been there, done that…)

            5. Smithy*

              While romantic attraction is certainly a possibility, I also want to flag that this kind of favoritism without romantic/sexual attraction can also be very possible and still part of unprofessional patterns. It can be really hard to balance what this kind of attention can do for you personally while acknowledging that it’s not great and potentially actively harmful.

              Minus all romance, I’ve known plenty of unprofessional types who like to build groups of “their people” via less professional avenues. And this can show up in seemingly non sequitor ways – like hating your husband. Whether it’s directly tied to a crush and part of romantic pursuits, or part of a less clear basket of unprofessional behavior may or may not be helpful.

              I just want to to stress that crushes aside, it’s important to flag all of these other unprofessional aspects as part of other patterns. OP, if you’re convinced this is not a crush – being able to trust your gut and senses is an important part in deciding what to do next and when to do it. I’ve seen entirely platonic and wildly unprofessional relationships grow this way, so there’s no need to play detective on a hidden romance if you genuinely don’t feel its there.

              1. Indigo a la mode*

                “I also want to flag that this kind of favoritism without romantic/sexual attraction can also be very possible and still part of unprofessional patterns….I’ve known plenty of unprofessional types who like to build groups of ‘their people’ via less professional avenues.”

                Ah yes, like Professor Slughorn. Some people love to think of themselves as curators of potential.

                1. Smithy*

                  Exactly – and it can live in a more gray space of “not particularly evil” that again, is still unprofessional and problematic. A huge part of this issue is that it can negatively impact your ability to learn the good lessons coming from your mentor and the bad ones. The OP is already feeling at a loss why their boss hates their husband, so it can then create doubt about their own ability to evaluate lots of other professional insight that exists. And I’m sure a solid chunk of it is good! But it’s just harder to tell exactly what.

                  It also has the end result of putting you on “Team Slughorn” which can negatively impact your networking and relationships with colleagues outside of Team Slughorn. It then places an extra burden to try and maintain those relationships, if that’s even possible. If Professor Slughorn is seen to unfairly promote some at the expense of others – for those others, you’re benefitting from an unfair system. And as they’re suffering, asking them to empathize with your tough choices is really hard – especially if you’re limited in how you can help immediately. And for others on Team Slughorn, depending on how that’s run….that may end up being kind of cutthroat and not exactly providing a home of new contacts. Because again, it’s not only work product that promotes people – but how well folks gel.

            6. Lea*

              Oh man. Not with my direct supervisors but there are people in my organization that are SO ott with their favoritism of other people it’s kind of gross. I’m glad I don’t work more directly with them but it’s still annoying

            7. Beth*

              The thing is, I don’t think there are elements of that in most workplaces. I mean, in any workplace, if you’re a serious jerk and put people off, that’s going to become a problem. But good bosses don’t only train and promote the people they like personally. They pay enough attention to all of their team members to know who’s good at what and who’s interested in what, and they offer advancement opportunities to everyone based on those things.

              You’re right to be concerned about people saying you only got promoted because boss likes you–it sounds like that’s actually what’s happening. This isn’t your fault, and isn’t a criticism of your work or your skills. You can’t control that he’s not offering similar opportunities to everyone, and it would be stupid not to take training opportunities offered to you. But he’s setting you up in an awkward position, and you should be trying to think of ways to counter and address the image he’s likely leaving you with.

            8. Important Moi*

              I have no idea where to post this, but since you posted….

              I don’t think you have to describe yourself in negative manner:

              “(I’m a straggly-haired, no-makeup, shapeless-clothing wearer.)”

              1. metadata minion*

                I mean, other than the hair that could describe me and I wouldn’t be doing so in a negative way. I don’t wear makeup and I tend to wear loose comfy clothing that requires minimal effort. I currently have a buzz cut because that means I don’t even have to brush my hair in the morning. None of these things have to be negative.

                1. JSPA*

                  It describes me! And nothing tear-downish in my sayng so. I find myself excellently put-together when I’m rocking cargo shorts and an oversized T Shirt. (And more people hit on me than I have any use for.) If that’s not your style, you might very well be uncomfortable in it, feel awkward, and have bad self- image; but that’s how I’d feel in makeup and a “nice” skirt and blouse.

            9. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              Honestly, it still seems like attraction is at play here. No matter what your “type,” you can find yourself attracted to someone if you just happen to mesh well on a personality level. And him telling you often about his type sounds like either he is using that to see your reaction or trying to convince himself.

        2. SundayNYTimes*

          This was my thinking as well. I cannot recall a single professional relationship where this topic ever came up, nor can I imagine any of my colleagues or management folks ever saying a thing like this! It makes sense to me that the reason he would have for repeating this information is to drop the LW a hint about what she should be doing. My other thought was that he was trying to “neg” her to make her chase his attention. He’s basically saying that he finds people attractive who have a different look than you, it’s a subtle way of saying you are not attractive to him, and the whole purpose of negging is that these men think it will make the woman they are doing to to want to change for them to prove they are desirable.

      3. Zennish*

        I read it as gaslighting in the name of plausible deniability… “You’re obviously not my type, so you’re obviously not seeing all those ridiculously blatant signs that I’m attracted to you.” Regardless, the punchline remains the same… Boss appears to be attracted to OP.

        1. si*

          Yeah, I read it as plausible deniability with undertones of hope that OP might stealth-reveal a mutual attraction by starting to wear the sort of stuff he says he likes. A way to cover his ass and test the waters at the same time.

      4. irene adler*

        If OP alters their appearance in ways that match “the kind of woman he likes”, then he might take this as a sign that she’s interested in him as well.

    3. Van Wilder*

      I’m surprised by the number of people saying this is obvious. It’s not obvious to me. The negging makes sense, but if I were the boss trying to drive a wedge, I would be really nice to the husband’s face and then subtly undermine him with jokes to the OP behind husband’s back.

      Ok, maybe boss is just unskilled at breaking up marriages?

      1. many bells down*

        Based on my experience, there seems to be an awful lot of men who think “insult her husband/partner/boyfriend to her face and she’ll like you better” is in fact a viable tactic. It’s never been my BOSS but it’s certainly happened.

        1. Panhandlerann*

          When I was engaged to my now-husband, I guy we both knew tried saying things to me (behind fiance’s back) to the effect that it was really, really ok that I’d decided to “settle” for my fiance. It was oh-so-obvious that this guy was making a play for me but in the most absurd, wrong-headed way possible.

          1. Le Sigh*

            Or another chestnut, when they find out you’re partnered, saying something like, “Oh, well, they better be a good guy. They’re not a douchebag, right? They better not be.” And if they were? What exactly do you think you’re going to do about it and why would I consider that your business? *rolls eyes*

            1. Books and Cooks*

              “Oh, they’re totally a douchebag. Yeah, I love douchebags. That’s my thing.”

          2. Le Sigh*

            Also recalling the time a guy came up to my friend at 4am as the bar was closing, saying “Wow you look really upset — is that your boyfriend over there, hitting on that chick? That’s not right.” Her: “No, I’m tired because it’s 4am and that ‘chick’ is his sister. Go away.” He just headed over to another woman nearby and tried the same line.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        People who neg = people who are socially unskilled. It took me years to figure out that I was supposed to feel insulted when negged; I always felt waves of sympathy for their clumsy words instead, and assumed that they needed to be whisked off into a dark corner with an old friend who they couldn’t unintentionally offend. It never occurred to me people would be that dumb on purpose.

        1. many bells down*

          Are you me? Because I have sometimes not realized I was being negged until literally YEARS after the fact. I just think “wow that was a really weird thing to say to someone” and extracted myself.

          1. Rainy*

            Me too. I tend to take negging as the person making a statement, and if it’s incorrect, I point out that it’s incorrect. For some reason, when you respond to the content rather than divining the intent and getting all worried about what someone means, they, uh, don’t know what to do with you.

            Works with passive-aggressive MILs too, so bonus for me. :D

          2. UKDancer*

            I’ve also not realised I was being negged and this was a thing. I just assumed the chap was a bit awkward and didn’t realise what he’d said.

            I’m sure this technique must work on some people but it never did much for me.

            1. BubbleTea*

              It’s an excellent way to identify people whose vulnerabilities can be exploited. The Venn diagram of neggy PUAs and abusers is practically a circle (some abusers have different tactics).

        2. kiki*

          Right! Negging is a tactic that occasionally “works” in the short term with some people, but it almost never leads to real, genuine, healthy connections. And I would say it doesn’t work on most people– most people register it as, “huh, this guy is rude and kind of mean. I think I’ll leave.”

          1. Former Young Lady*

            Yup. It’s specifically designed to weed out people who have healthy levels of self-respect.

          2. JSPA*

            Pimps supposedly probe for compliance by ordering random women to “buy me a drink.” Doesn’t matter if 99.9% sputter, walk off, tell him to get lost–the goal is to find the maleable 0.1%.

        3. Lea*

          I feel like before the internet if anybody tried that with me I would have been completely oblivious.

          ‘What a weird rude person’ I would have thought. Hell you have to hit me over the head with a clue bat before I understand flirting is occurring most of the time. Negging would mean you would be written off forever

        4. Van Wilder*

          So true. Of what little I picked up from the PUA info that soaked our general consciousness in the early oughts, it’s supposed to be subtle, hidden in a compliment.

          When men have tried to neg me, it has been outright insults, that made me laugh and then go “wait, oh, were you trying to neg me just now? Oh man, no.”

      3. Koalafied*

        I don’t think the kind of person who behaves this way is an adept manipulator who had chosen to do what he’s doing in order to provoke specific reactions from other people. They’re emotional toddlers – people with poor impulse control and low social skills, so they act out exactly what they’re feeling and don’t realize how obvious it is to others, or the question of how other people will interpret and react to their behavior literally never even crosses their mind. It’s a very straightforward “ew, I don’t like that guy, it shatters my fun illusion of a potential relationship with his wife, now I’m in a sour mood and I have never bothered to cultivate a poker face.”

        1. practical necromancy*

          “…it shatters my fun illusion of a potential relationship with his wife, now I’m in a sour mood and I have never bothered to cultivate a poker face.”

          I’m laughing into my coffee. But seconded, this situation seems to indicate a socially inept dude who has a crush. I’m terribly curious how old everyone is in this.

          1. OP*

            I can help with that! I’m 30, my boss is 38. And honestly, his social skills are kind of all over the place. He generally has quite a good initial read on people, but it’s downhill from there. And realistically, anyone with a decent sense of other people’s boundaries would know that I’m not going to be impressed by disparaging comments about my husband. I’m not one of those people whose sense of humour is to rag on the old man – I love my husband deeply and I’m grateful for him every day. I even got people teasingly calling me ‘myyyyy husband’ for a while because I accidentally got too moony talking about him. He’s great!

            1. Properlike*

              See, the problem is that your boss’ crush isn’t about you, it’s about *him.*

            2. Despachito*

              How do you react when your boss tries to trash-talk your husband in front of you?

      4. The Rafters*

        OP says boss is “very keen” to socialize with her one on one outside of work, so yeah, this makes it obvious.

        1. OP*

          I know it will seem very ‘the lady doth protest too much’, but I would add that he’s a newcomer to our big city and lives alone, so I have wondered if he’s trying to manufacture a group of new friends.

          1. Allonge*

            He should really not do that with his employees only though. I mean, sure, it’s difficult and once in a while ok, but there is a reason we are adivesd not to work for friends or hire them.

          2. Pocket Mouse*

            Well, he shouldn’t be trying to make his direct reports into his friend group, so that’s still not a good look for him. And one-on-one =/= group, so yeah, unfortunately you’re protesting up the wrong tree here.

          3. Ellis Bell*

            I remember wondering if loneliness and friendship was all it was, the first couple of times this happened to me with a guy at work … because it’s a pretty logical conclusion which gives some grace. However, I don’t really think that any more because I was always wrong. Friendships are just more natural, and don’t usually give rise to a pressing need to wonder; “what is this?” Besides, in spite of what their pressure suggests, you don’t actually need to be friends with someone in order for them to support you professionally.

          4. Summer*

            Thank you, OP, for providing additional info in the comments!

            Even if he’s just a lonely, socially awkward newcomer, he should still not be trying to cultivate friendships with his employees like this. He needs to look outside of the job – or look to others that he doesn’t manage – for friendship.

            I just don’t like the guy and would hate if he was putting down my husband like that. And it does seem pretty clear to me that he has a crush on you. Just protect yourself in case he starts lashing out when you don’t reciprocate.

            1. Despachito*

              And I think it is pretty likely that he will, because we’ve already witnessed how he acts around someone he just does not like. Imagine how he will probably be acting around a person who he will perceive as someone who slighted him ?

      5. Sloanicota*

        To be fair, I certainly think attraction is a likely culprit for the behavior, but I wouldn’t bet that’s the reason – like Alison I can think of several other reasons that are also plausible. I would hope OP doesn’t drive herself nuts worrying that her boss who she previously liked is hitting on her, absent any more evidence than this.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          It’s the boss who should be driving himself nuts over how his behaviour is likely to be interpreted. This is why Alison’s scripts are genius. It’s a cup of coffee aimed at waking up the drunk so he can facepalm and wonder what he did and how bad was it.

      6. Clobberin' Time*

        Or maybe “what would I do in this situation” is not a good predictor of what a bad boss would do in this situation? Boss is all kinds of inappropriate – singling out the OP for special treatment, telling her repeatedly what his “type” is, and wanting to socialize with her outside of work. He’s not a clever TV sociopath, he’s just an ordinary creep who’s sulky whenever there is a tangible reminder that the OP isn’t going to sleep with him.

      7. SundayNYTimes*

        It probably is more that he doesn’t have a clue how he should act. Obviously, he should act professionally and be kind to the husband, but since he isn’t going to do that… he doesn’t have the skills to manipulate the situation in that way. I’m guessing he has poor emotional control.

      8. anonymous73*

        I wouldn’t say it’s obvious, but it was the first thing I went to. If husband has done nothing to offend boss, what other logical explanation is there? You may not like everyone that you come in contact with but as an adult you need to be civil and respectful of others. He’s acting like a man baby who pushes down the girls he likes on the playground.

      9. fhqwhgads*

        I don’t think it’s obvious. I think, like Alison said, that is one of several possibilities, but ultimately how to handle it the root cause probably doesn’t matter.

    4. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I was getting early stage “I want to fight for us” vibes from this letter.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Totally. I was like, “Didn’t we cover this, like, just yesterday????” Ugh.

      2. Veryanon*

        Exactly. The manager clearly is attracted to LW and is trying to establish plausible deniability by repeatedly talking about his “type.” Unfortunately I’ve seen this too many times (and have been a victim of it more than once).

      3. FDS*

        It’s really becoming an unsettling trend. Why can’t men understand that work is not a dating service.

      4. Observer*

        I was getting early stage “I want to fight for us” vibes from this letter.

        I can see why, but I think that at this point, it’s waaaay too soon to go that far.

        But, in any case, the boss is being inappropriate.

    5. kiki*

      I don’t want to say this is 100% the case, but reading this gave me deja vu. I have lived the “I have a type and you’re not that type, but actually I’m in love with you,” scenario a few times. In my experience, the type of person who takes out his feelings for me against my current partner tends to have low emotional intelligence that also lends itself towards telling me about their very strict “type” unprompted.

      1. Rainy*

        When someone really digs you but you’re not “their type”, sometimes they get really, really weird about it, because they’d rather do anything than interrogate their physical preferences and how much they have been influenced by culture in ways that actually move them away from dating the people they’re actually attracted to.

        (And sometimes they end up going on to date a string of people who look a lot like you. :D )

        1. Former Young Lady*

          …but/and, if that “someone” is your boss, they shouldn’t be making this any of your business at all.

          1. Rainy*

            Oh, absolutely!

            But if he’s attracted to her and it’s messing with his understanding of himself, he’s going to escalate the weirdness SIGNIFICANTLY; I don’t know that the promised mentoring and new store will actually happen.

        2. Robin Ellacott*

          Yes! A friend of mine dated a guy who “had always been attracted to women with a different body type.” He was awful to her, as if his attraction was her fault.

        3. kiki*

          For real, especially as a person of color, I get a lot of :

          “Oh, I only like blonde-hair, blue-eyed ladies!!! You’re not my type at all. No, this isn’t influenced by racism I’ve absorbed from my environment. I’m not attracted to you at alllllllllllllll. Pleeeeeeaaase, how could *I* EVER be attracted to somebody like *YOU*????”

          *the next social outing, esp if there’s some booze*

          “I’m in love with you. But how will I explain this to other white people? You’re not really a person of color, you’re different. Kiss me! I’m a little mad at you for making me attracted to you. Why are you not a blonde lady??? If we get married, we will not let our child speak a non-European second language. Kiss me!”

          Me: “I am eating nachos by myself, plz stop interrupting like this.”

          1. Le Sigh*

            Me: “I am eating nachos by myself, plz stop interrupting like this.”

            this made me laugh. and hungry for nachos.

        4. Alexa*

          Exactly. Can confirm, was the first to be treated weirdly in a string of tall size 12 athletic redheads for a guy who was very invested in making sure that all the men knew his type was tiny, influencer-thin and blonde. The whole thing made me realize how much some people date for the approval of their peers, not for themselves.

          1. Lea*

            That is 100% true and so weird.

            I think it’s when some men get so angry at the idea of women who aren’t that Type having successful dating lives

    6. Just Another Reader*

      I agree. He’s attracted to who he thinks he can mold you into. Even if you are not his “type.”

      Also I suggest that you let him give you a leg up in the company. And when you have a clear opportunity, leave him in the dust. But this is only if you feel safe and can have secure boundaries with him. If at any point you feel you are no longer safe you need to leave. Watch for stalking, aggressive actions, and signs of jealousy.

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        Oh, yeah, this. In his mind, it’s not that she’s not his type, it’s that she IS his type and just doesn’t realize it yet. I remember none too fondly when guys used to tell me that I was wrong about myself as they projected their ideal woman onto a space already occupied by me.

      2. JSPA*

        Each time he ropes her into some outside-of-work semi social meal, OP could cue up “don’t you want me baby” on the jukebox.

    7. Elenna*

      Yeah, I read that bit about his preferences and my immediate reaction was “methinks the boss doth protest too much”. There’s absolutely no reason for him to be telling you (often!?!) about his preferences in partners – I have no idea what kind of people my bosses find attractive, and I would be quite disturbed if they told me! It definitely feels like he’s either trying to remind himself that he shouldn’t be attracted to you, or he’s trying to hint that you should be more like that.

      1. Unaccountably*

        I once worked with one of the biggest leches in my industry and even he didn’t sit around telling me (or any of his other female reports) what his “type” is.

        1. Industrial Tea Machine*

          Maybe because his type was “captive audience” and you were in that category.

          Bllllech. Glad worked is in the past tense for you.

        2. Butterfly Counter*

          I have been in the working world for 27 years and can honestly say that I have never known the “type” of any person who had authority over me. And I’ve worked in situations where some of those people had borderline inappropriate conversations with me.

          Yuck.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, I was just thinking I don’t think any of my coworkers have mentioned their “type” to me and I’m CERTAIN none of my male coworkers (I’m female) have and I am pretty close to a few of my coworkers and we discuss fairly personal stuff. I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if one of them mentioned their “type” in conversation like “I really fancy such a celeb. I just really like tall blonde women/short dark men/whatever” but ONCE, as a throwaway remark. Somebody repeatedly bringing it up…would seem a bit weird.

    8. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      Given the real possibility that your boss is infatuated with you, OP, consider what options you have to bend the relationship back where it should be, to a supportive mentoring without stepping over the line.

      Here are some possibilities:

      1. Keep warm and friendly discussions limited in time and place. Engage in them if you feel comfortable, but they shouldn’t last very long. You can end them by mentioning a work activity that you have to do, or a work subject you need to talk with him about. Your boss may insist that you don’t have to do that particular thing right now, but you can respond that this is part of your job, and therefore important to you. Stand firm. Also stay away from offsite socializing.

      2. Do call him out on behaviors towards your husband that are insulting or isolating, but do so in a way that both gets his sympathy and indicates how much you love your husband. Tell your boss that it hurts you to see how he treats your husband. If he denies what he’s doing, tell him that the effect is the same as if that is what he meant, and that’s important to you that he respect your needs.

      3. When conversation moves to a dicey area (e.g., the types of women he prefers) you can steer it away without rubbing his face in the sideways approach to romance that he’s taking. For example, you can mouth platitudes such as everyone has their own preferences, or if you want to be a little more confrontational talk about how you don’t like to judge people. In other words, the reason for steering away the conversation is about the subject of the conversation itself rather than whether he should be talking to you about it. Of course you might wish to instead be direct about the inappropriateness of talking about that with you, but if you don’t want to go there, you don’t have to.

      4. Suggest that you begin to mentor other workers at the store the way he is mentoring you, because it’s such a great thing to do, and then get his advice on how to go about doing that. It makes the mentoring itself something he can be proud of, and moves the focus away from you.

      Hopefully you can avoid giving up the genuinely good parts of this boss-worker relationship, if that works for you.

      1. Sloanicota*

        This is a good approach and I think the best part is that it is also applicable if the boss isn’t in love with OP. You don’t have to raise the possible attraction with him or get him to admit it before you can implement these steps. I have worked with people that I suspected were harboring some kind of crush, but we were all adults and as long as they didn’t act on it (and many people don’t) it was fine and we all maintained plausible deniability. Selfishly, it would have really hampered my own career if I’d had to ferret it out each time and made them confront the issue. Now if they had escalated, as in the previous letter, that is a different matter – but at least then you have something actionable to report.

      2. OP*

        This was a really useful answer, thank you! I’ve already been dialling back the out of work socialising massively (I’ll pretty much only come to drinks now if there’s a guaranteed crowd of five or more, for padding), and I think just steering conversations in the way of X work activity is a good way to go.

        I’ve also been doing number 4, but without really making the connection to him about his mentorship of me. This is a fantastic idea! I think it’ll be really useful in reframing our relationship as mentor/mentee.

        Thank you!

      3. Alexa*

        This is great advice and it also lets icky boss save face, while also providing opportunities to the coworkers he’s bowling over to get to OP. Ideal!

      4. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

        Adding this, which is similar to advice Alison often gives: act as if the relationship is exactly the way you want it to be, as if that’s what the boss is doing already.

        He will try to cross those lines, and you will shut that down maybe using the suggestions above or other things you come up with, but when he’s doing something that could be interpreted as part of a reasonable manager-employee relationship you treat it as such, even if you suspect he intends something different. @Sloanicota and @Alexa are highlighting aspects of that. Also, it’s simple behavioristic training, where he gets rewarded (via pleasant conversation) for his correct behaviors (regardless of their motivations), which will encourage those behaviors.

      5. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        I like this a lot. I’ve been feeling a lot of these comments are overreacting, but also not sure if that’s my male privilege showing. Is it possible OPs boss is infatuated with her? For sure. Is that a sure thing? Not at all. Nothings he’s done, other than the obviously big thing of being rude to her husband, seems overtly harassing, and much of it seems the opposite. The rudeness is weird, but as Alison points out, there’s many other possible reasons for it.

        The steps above outline a clear and concise way to deal with the behavior (as opposed to perceived reasons for the behavior) that offer a lot of advantages.

        1) It keeps OP on track to get her store. I’m assuming, since there’s no evidence to the contrary, that this isn’t an empty promise, and it would obviously be a good thing for OP

        2) It allows OP and her husband to continue to do something they seem to mostly enjoy (socialize with coworkers) other than the weirdness with boss

        3) It’s all sound advice regardless of *why* boss is acting like he is. He’s in love with OP? Sound advice. Husband unwittingly offended him? Still sound advice. Boss thinks husband is the reincarnation of his ancient enemy and they are locked in eternal struggle? Still sound advice.

        1. Karia*

          I imagine the people you think are ‘overreacting’, are like me. Where we have the friend, colleague or boss who makes it clear they’re *Not Into You*, and you think great, and they single you out for kindness and you think it’s ok, because they’re very obviously *Not Into You*, right?

          Then they get inappropriate, you reject them, and you’re left paying the social & professional costs because Everyone Knows he’s *Not Into You*, so you must be the problem.

          1. Boof*

            Yes… inappropriate infatuations can sour when they don’t pan out for the creeper. But it’s possible with the steering above to avoid even if that is the situation, i think, since doesn’t sound like the boss has gotten wildly inappropriate at work. If cooling things down suddenly lands op at the bottom of the heap tho run for the hills while reporting to hr

        2. Ellis Bell*

          Well, because the OPs manager is dangling a promotion while flipping off her husband…and that’s kind of a scarlet flag. I would call it “getting prepared for the worst” rather than “overreacting”. Unless you’ve ever personally rejected a PUA type you simply don’t know how nasty and vengeful a certain type of man can be, it’s like he owns you. If this isn’t sexual harrassment and the manager is just a thoughtless and rude buffoon who doesn’t realize his actions are pretty scarily similar to sexual harrassment (because a guy doesn’t have to even think about that stuff, much less be experienced in it), then no one will be more relieved than those who were prepared to hear the worst.

        3. Attractive Nuisance*

          I think it is your male privilege showing. When you say the boss’s behavior seems to be “the opposite” of harassment, I assume you’re talking about his support of OP’s career. But, depressingly, that kind of attention can often come with strings attached, and I think there’s plenty of reasons to wonder if that’s happening here. Boss has told OP about his sexual preferences, which is inappropriate. He is also openly rude to her husband. That dichotomy of being supportive of a woman’s career but disparaging her personal life and relationships is, I think, a fairly common form of manipulation. It’s not that the boss is a good manager who is supporting OP’s career despite his own social weirdness. He is using OP’s career to counterbalance his negging. He is trying to associate himself with success while turning OP’s husband into a pariah – potentially leading to a situation in which OP feels she has to choose between her husband and her career.

        4. L'étrangere*

          It’s totally your male privilege showing. Re-read the letter, putting yourself in the OP’s place but with boss as a gay man, as well as most men in the office. There, getting clearer now? Except in real life very few gay men would get that predatory at work if they weren’t totally running the show

    9. Allegra*

      LW is lucky in this regard that it’s a chain bookstore; most indies don’t even have an HR. Agree to document it and maaaybe start looking at transfers to other stores—no mentorship is worth the fallout or this rudeness toward your spouse.

      1. Despachito*

        I see quite a high risk that once he will see his “prey” escaping, he will retaliate in some way.

        I would say CYA, get written positive evaluations NOW before you push back (if you decide to do so), and, although I will be happy if I am wrong, I see a strong possibility of him at least trying to tank your chance of getting your own store once you set your boundaries. Cue: if he is able to be extremely rude towards people he merely dislikes for no reason, how is he likely to act towards someone he HAS a reason (only in his own head and totally his own problem) to hate?

    10. Sara M*

      I agree. I think he’s attracted to you and jealous of your husband, no matter what words he’s spoken.

    11. Hamster Manager*

      Yes, “he has often told me that his preference is for very done up, alternative but feminine women” ~1,000 red flag emojis~ this is not boss talk! This is “I want you to know my sexual preferences.” ~5 more red flag emojis~

      1. London Calling*

        ‘I just want you to know you’re not my type’ is right up there with ‘I’m happy being celibate right now’ for ‘but you could definitely change my mind, you lucky thing.’

    12. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

      Agreed. Bad behaviour towards the husband coupled with stating what he finds attractive in women: he’s trying to drive a wedge between OP and her husband.

    13. L'étrangere*

      I agree boss being jealous is the most obvious possibility. How often do men push forward the careers of women with no strings attached whatsoever? But I worry that AAM’s advice to try and clarify the situation could tilt this into having boss either declare his intentions openly, or even, to be more charitable, lead him to be more conscious of his attraction to OP. I would push back on nasty remarks in the moment because those are not respectful of the OP either, perhaps with a dash of husband-loving declaration thrown in. But I’d also discuss this with the husband and get him to absent himself from most work-related social occasions, at least the smaller ones where he can’t avoid boss easily. And then I’d also be more careful of the boss, not get sucked into too much extracurricular friendship, counter every inappropriate remark about his type with good wishes, and a reminder that the OP’s type is right there in plain view, making her very happy

    14. Beth*

      Agreed! He’s spending a lot of time and focus on you, he often tells you about his taste in women (which is a weird enough thing for a competent supervisor to repeatedly tell a team member that it makes me think he’s signaling something–at the very least, he’s thinking about what kind of women he’s into when you’re around, and he wants you to be thinking about it too), and he’s showing a really obvious instant dislike to your husband and any reminder that your husband exists, even though he’s barely interacted with your husband. Sure, it’s possible that your husband reminds him of a childhood bully or something…but it seems more likely that what he dislikes is the reminder that you’re married.

      It’s up to you how you handle this. Given that you expect to be in your own store by December, it might not be worth making a fuss, though you’d be within your rights if you wanted to. What I would NOT do is have your husband stop coming to things. I would do the opposite–your husband now comes to ALL the things. When your manager is rude, use Alison’s scripts. Talk about this with your husband first, of course; he shouldn’t be caught off guard by your manager’s rudeness, since that’s the expected response. But given the choices seem to be 1) you socializing alone with a manager who seems to be into you and trying to get you apart from your spouse, 2) you attending events with your husband even though you know your manager will be rude to him, or 3) you giving up career events that will get you into management and away from this guy in less than 6 months, it might well be worth it to put up with the rudeness for a while.

    15. Software Engineer*

      Yeah at the very least knowing his ‘type’ is a big sign things are not ok here

      It would be one thing if you’ve worked together ten years and you noticed a pattern to all the different women he’s brought along to the holiday party (even then I don’t think I would notice unless I’m really close to them and socialize with boss and their girlfriends outside of work frequently). But… there’s no reason for him to tell you his type and it’sa sign there’s something weird going on here

    16. Medusa*

      Yes, first thing I thought too. He’s being INSANELY childish about, though. If you have a crush on a direct report, keep that to yourself, and if you can’t, then leave or have them promoted.

  2. Critical Rolls*

    I like Alison’s advice. Just be prepared for your boss to be weird (weirder?) in the moment if you call the behavior out. He will likely be off-balance and may do a bit of verbal flailing trying to dismiss or justify his actions. But I think it’s worth it to not have to censor yourself in talking about your husband, or to maybe preserve the social aspect of the job that everyone else has been enjoying.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I admit, if this was me, having dealt with some dicey interpersonal issues throughout my career, I’d try and take the advantages I’ve gained from working with this boss while subtly discouraging any additional intimacy and probably *not* call him out on being rude to my husband. Even a well intentioned call out wouldn’t be worth it to me on the cost-benefit analysis (but I’m risk averse and not great at being direct – OP may very reasonably feel differently). Perhaps you can either stay with your husband at events and do your best to avoid being one on one with your boss (ask another coworker to stick with you at events?) or find reasons for either one or both of you to skip these events as much as possible. Do try to get the transfer and be very busy and unavailable. If he ends up thrwarting your advances unless you dance lots of personal attention on him – well, then his support was never really likely to materialize anyway, unfortunately.

      1. Varthema*

        AAM’s advice here gives me just a bit of pause. OP, be prepared for what you’ll do or say if your boss says that your husband HAS offended him in some way. Would you believe him? What would you do if it was clearly made up? It could be handing him an opportunity to try to drive a wedge between the two of you.

        Also, while it seems cruel to subject your husband to his rudeness, your husband’s bowing out of future social engagement just accomplishes your boss’s goal, which seems pretty clearly (romantic attraction or no) to make it clear to your husband that he is unwelcome and should go away. TBH, I think that your boss leaving as soon as your husband arrives to be the best possible outcome. Otherwise, I think you do need to stand up for your husband in the moment of rudeness.

        I mean this very kindly, but I know I’ve been guilty in the past of taking my partner and the strength of our relationship for granted. Please don’t. You may have a really solid one, but this kind of thing can chip chip chip away until there’s not enough left to stand on, and that can happen faster than you think – even before Christmas. I know that if my partner’s boss routinely belittled me in public and my partner hedged and didn’t want to be in my corner (even if just for career purposes), it’d be the beginning of the end for me.

      2. OP*

        Sloanicota, I think this is really good advice. Especially because my boss is the type where he doesn’t like ‘whiny’ people or ‘sensitive’ people, so I think showing I’m offended in more than a flippant way will open up a bit of a can of worms.

        1. SJ (they/them)*

          Oh, OP. I’m really sorry you’re dealing with this. The combination of your boss making inappropriate comments to you about his “type” (ew) and also not liking sensitive people — I hate that you’re being set up to not be able to set boundaries around what behavior of his is okay or not. Ugh.

          Please know that your boss is the one making this weird, you haven’t done a single thing wrong, and you can trust your gut if and when you need to. Sending you good good thoughts.

        2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          I love how he doesn’t like sensitive people but acts like a toddler having a hissy fit just because your husband is inhaling oxygen in the same location as he is.

      3. Lizzo*

        I don’t mind confrontation, but I am with Sloanicota here, OP. Keep your boundaries firm. Document the heck out of everything, including the promises boss is making re: mentorship and your own store to manage. If ever things veer into inappropriate territory and you call out the behavior, and boss doesn’t take kindly to it and attempts to retaliate by blocking professional opportunities, you’ve got everything you need to go to HR.

        You sound like a kind person who assumes the best of everyone, which is *not* a character flaw, but please prepare yourself in case that is not true of your boss.

        1. BlueSwimmer*

          I’m with Lizzo- get all the promises in writing. If he isn’t putting them in writing and/or making them public within the company, then he is just stringing you along to spend time with you. Keep re-directing to professional or neutral topics whenever he gets personal.

          I, personally, would not confront him about his treatment of my husband except to firmly and happily keep repeating how much I adore my husband and don’t want to hear bad things about him. People are allowed to like and dislike people socially; they aren’t allowed to try to critique the spouse of an employee to that employee.

  3. Kitty101*

    OP, I’d also gently suggest that someone behaving like this is perhaps not the best source of professional development and mentoring. I understand that you want to take the opportunities (especially if there’s a possible promotion in it for you) but I’d be wary of the quality of his professional advice given the behavior you describe. Great bosses actually don’t do this.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Agreed. I think OP may have to start documenting all his attempts at “advancing her career.”
      For example, ” on X date, Boss said that I was doing very well at X, Y and Z. That he wanted to give me more responsibilities. The conversation drifted into my appearance, how I don’t dress the way he finds attractive, but he…”

      1. nona*

        Eh – to me, it’s more about diversifying mentorship and sources of professional advice. I would actually focus *less* on current boss and make sure I had other relationships within the company to reach out to with questions and such. That way you are less dependent on Boss’s good graces.

        But also that you have professional relationships outside the company if possible, to help give another perspective if the company as a whole is skewing weird.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Agreed. I’d also be wary that the promotion will actually happen. I very much hope that it does! But I wouldn’t be shocked if he manages to come up with excuses about how you’re just not ready yet, or that store isn’t a good move for you because reasons and you should wait for another store to come up, or how he needs you for a bit longer until he has someone else who can step up when you leave, or, or, or.

      Right now, he’s dangling this promotion in front of you. I super hope this is all legit and above-board and happens just like he said. It’s still worth contemplating that maybe it’s not quite what it seems.

      1. StudentA*

        These are such great points and I like this advice. I think the LW should rethink her attitude toward her boss and adopt a more formal work style. If the boss reacts like a sad puppy or takes it personally, that should tell you what you need to know. Frankly, if my boss was rude to someone important to me, I’d lose a lot of respect for them and would distance myself from them so that our relationship is solely professional. They can keep their happy hours.

      2. OP*

        Happily this has all been quite formally documented in our annual review process, and is something that is in discussions with our (lovely) HR person at present, so I’m very much hoping that’s not something I need to worry about. If things do start falling through, I at least have enough witnessed/on paper to advocate for myself.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          I’m glad to hear it, OP! That is all a much more secure scenario than I think many of us were imagining when it came to the promotion to take over your own store.

    3. Unaccountably*

      Yes, and – though I hate to say it – being this guy’s mentee might not do the LW’s professional reputation any favors. No, his behavior *shouldn’t* reflect badly on anyone but himself, but LW should keep in mind that it could and do what she can to distance herself from it – including shutting him down when he starts in on her husband.

    4. Clobberin' Time*

      The OP also seems to make the sadly common (and understandable) mistake of thinking that because this boss is better than previous bosses, he must be an objectively good boss.

      I would be that all the professional development and promise of managing a new store evaporates the day Boss realizes the OP is never going to sleep with him.

      1. Unaccountably*

        Yeah, this guy is a terrible boss. He might or might not be a good store manager, but it’s clear that he shouldn’t be supervising people.

    5. Miette*

      Came to say something similar. If it were me, I’d keep away from these social situations as much as possible and not call him out. There’s no telling how much impact he’ll have on your promotion, so I don’t know that I’d risk it if it were me.

      Hopefully the commenters here will help you see this as a pattern of behavior you can sidestep on your way up the ladder and away from this dink.

    6. Observer*

      OP, I’d also gently suggest that someone behaving like this is perhaps not the best source of professional development and mentoring.

      Good point. Even if it’s not an attraction, the behaviors you describe are not great for a manager.

    7. Sugaree*

      Exactly. My current boss is great… to me. But if I want to move into any other role or team, TBH I need to get out of her management line so people’s impressions of me aren’t colored by my association with her (even though I’m 20+ years into my career, she is my only boss at this company). She tends to talk her people up in meetings and, at this point, I think that’s hurting more than helping me. When she called me a “junior [her name]” it was not received as a compliment by others in the room.

  4. High Score!*

    This is spot on. Most of my coworkers are men and I don’t know any of their preferences, it never gets brought up. If it were me, I’d get my husband’s input on how important work events were to him and try to hang on until I had my own store if that would not interfere to much with my marriage.
    Or maybe just flagging the behavior will reduce it to a tolerable level.

    1. anne of mean gables*

      It has absolutely been my experience that if you know your bosses romantic/sexual ‘type,’ something is horribly wrong with your work environment.

      1. Not Your Type*

        My last boss told me his type, which happened to be, let’s say, redheaded English woman. I happen to be, let’s say, a redheaded Scottish woman.
        That same boss later told me I was too “cold,” when I asked him why I couldn’t get traction at the company, and, when I pressed him to explain what he meant by “cold,” explained that I hadn’t expressed as much sympathy as he wanted/expected when he experienced a family tragedy.

        He also asked me if I would describe myself as “nurturing” out of the blue one day. Not to you, bro. I’m not your mommy. I left that job with so much anger about the misogyny I experienced.

  5. Snarkus Aurelius*

    1) your boss is in love with you. That’s clear to me.

    2) you go against the type your boss typically prefers so I imagine that’s quite threatening to him and a lot of men. But his feelings for you supercede lashing out at you and risking you leaving so he chooses your husband as a convenient target.

    Whatever the reason, your boss doesn’t know your husband personally so the reason isn’t personal.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      “love” likely is giving this too much dignity. I would go with “infatuated.”

    2. HelenofWhat*

      Yeah, the specificity about “type” reminded me of this guy my freshman year of college, who for the first couple months of school: hung out with me/my friends lots, would make me food, and make excuses to dance with me at parties, invited me to stay with him at his house over a long weekend with other friends. He was very much not someone I would ever date, not because of looks but because of politics/values. But I liked him as a friend, if a weirdly shallow, trying-to-be-cool one.
      He was constantly telling me about girls he wanted to date, and emphasizing that I was specifically too tall and curvy for him, vs the very short, thin girls he liked. Being 18 and not having had many straight guy friends before, I believed him when he said he didn’t like me “that way”.
      But not long after I started dating his roommate (whom he generally got along with), suddenly we weren’t talking more than necessary, the invite to his house was rescinded, and he started semi-openly saying disparaging things about me and my boyfriend. He just couldn’t take that I’d chosen to date someone “less cool”.
      So yeah, I get these teen boy who can’t handle liking someone who isn’t “right” vibes.

  6. Venus*

    If the socials are a larger group of people with more than one conversation group then I would be curious to know what happens if the husband attends but doesn’t interact with OP and stays far away from the boss. Is the boss less reactive if the OP and husband aren’t physically close? I’m wondering what other social situations could be tried in order to get more info about the potential causes. If the boss is okay with the husband attending while staying away from OP then that would indicate a jealousy to me.

      1. Former Young Lady*

        Agreed. This is how I would test to see if someone’s dog is jealous of her new boyfriend.

        Boss, having arguably less finesse than most dogs, acts like a petulant toddler anytime OP’s husband is around. We have our answer.

    1. mreasy*

      Yeah your boss has a crush on you. There is no reason for him to ever tell you his “type” except to convince you he doesn’t!

    2. MsClaw*

      “There’s only one snag, though: my boss is very keen to socialize with me outside of work, both one-on-one and as part of the management team.” What’s the impact if you do less of this? Especially less to no one-on-one time?

      The boss has a thing for you. He may or may not be aware of it. Or maybe he’s just jealous of his ‘friends’ in a non-sexual way and is upset at the idea that there’s anyone in your life more important than him (I’ve known some people like this). If you are just generally less available to him it might cool things off. To be clear, this is absolutely not on *you*. It’s his problem. But since he is your boss he can very much make it your problem. Good luck.

  7. Jessica*

    Agree this is rude, unprofessional, and concerning. But maybe if you’re really on course to get your own shop soon, would that take you out of his orbit enough that not caring about this could be a viable option?

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      This makes me wonder if OP is really on track or if all her information is disseminated through this Boss. If corporate or the area manager has stated a timeline with milestones, that’s far different than, “Boss got me a promotion and gives me more responsibility and has told me I’m on track for my own store.”

    2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      This is what I was thinking. Sure it’s a bit mercenary, but honestly I could put up with a bit of weirdness for a big promotion like that. The key here is to make sure that promotion stays on the clear and immediate future planning radar. If the stars don’t align and OP doesn’t get the next store or two to open up, okay. If we’re another year done the line and there’s been six openings and there’s always a reason it can’t be her… then I’m suspicious.

      My uncle runs a store for the big green colored US book chain, and I can say with some confidence that taking over one of those shops is a good living.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yeah, my best success at these types of thing has been to take the temperature way, way down by being really busy and unavailable but maintain a pleasant enough relationship that I was able to be promoted / get away from the guy – *without* having to blow up my own career by calling him out. It sucks. This is only my advice at the level of subtle hints and social weirdness, obviously, not like cornering people in the break room after hours. This boss may find another woman of interest and basically leave you alone, he may get busy on something else, either one of you could be transferred etc etc. Just take as much fun out of it (for him) as you can, by being scrupulously polite but kind of boring and very work-focused.

        1. Rain's Small Hands*

          I can’t do dinner, I promised that night to my mother. Oh, are we going out for drinks – its bowling league night for me! I joined a bookclub, I’m taking a martial arts class, oh, I’d love to, but I feel a horrible headache coming on and it would be best for me to just go home…. And don’t forget the frequent “its date night with my husband, sorry.”

          Drop the socializing outside of work. When I have friends that don’t respect my spouse, I don’t spend time with those friends. Its a pretty simple bar. Plus, its way better for work life balance and reduces the chances that your boss crosses the line into truly inappropriate (instead of the low grade inactionable sexual harassment that appears to be happening) because he gets signals mixed up either purposefully (like he’s trying to bait you into a relationship with a quid pro quo promise of promotion and cutting out your husband) or just because he’s clueless (as so MANY men are).

      2. Beekeeping Section*

        And what about the very real possibility that once she has her own store she won’t be a report, and he can use that excuse to harass her even more under the guise of ongoing mentorship?

        1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          That’s possible I suppose, but my experience with retail management, while old, is that store managers rarely interact. They’re kinda like ship captains. They report to the distract manager individually, and like maybe once a month or once a quarter they get together for a district meeting. Assuming they meet their targets and aren’t receiving excessive complaints from employees or customers, they’re left alone to run their store.

          Plus she’d be his equal. I’m not saying it couldn’t be a problem, but it doesn’t feel like a likely problem to me?

    3. Bee*

      Right, like – if it’s really true that you could have your own store by Christmas, you wouldn’t be working for this guy anymore in six months! I’d probably scale the out-of-work socializing down and keep in mind that the boss can be kind of weird jerk, but I wouldn’t be in any rush to leave. Don’t count TOO much on his word, but you also aren’t going to lose much if you wait to see if that promotion materializes in a few months or so.

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

      I would stop attending these events myself and make it clear, politely and professionally, that it was because of the way my partner has been unwelcome, “Bob seems to be unwelcome when he attends happy hour, so we’ve decided that we’re going to opt out from now on. I hope that my not being receptive to socializing alone after hours won’t jeopardize our professional rapport.” Document things for HR if necessary and loop them in quickly if it becomes clear that the boss is retaliating because OP isn’t having drinks alone with him — just the suggestion of sexual harassment should get their attention.

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

        I don’t think there’s a case for sexual harassment. This sounds like more like group events where a bunch of coworkers and their SO or friends are welcome. So if Bob didn’t come to happy hour its not OP having drinks alone with the boss.

        1. oh boy*

          I wonder how often other coworkers SOs are actually there? Does LW’s husband go attend way more than the others. Even if he is well liked by the others with the manager being new it could stand out.

          1. OP*

            Oh no, he’s about on a par with other partners, spouses, housemates, friends etc – it’s a very social group and a lot of us have been there for the past few years at least, so a decent crowd shows up to these things. For example, my former boss always brings his flatmate with him, and nobody bats an eye. There’s definitely a sense of ‘everyone’s welcome’.

      2. Julia*

        This is a pretty significant overreaction to a couple of snide remarks, particularly when your job is at stake. Don’t do this.

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

          I don’t think opting out of a clearly uncomfortable social event is overreacting. And I would hope the OP chooses the respect and dignity of their partner over their boss. If the rudeness is due to his having a crush on the OP, which is seems very clear, that needs to be documented sooner rather than later. Too many times this sort of inappropriate behavior is dismissed later because it didn’t “bother the victim” at the time.

          1. pancakes*

            Documenting this doesn’t require making an announcement about not attending. If she wants to stop attending she can just do that.

            I don’t think it’s the right framing at all to make this out to be a choice between husband and boss. It’s not as if she invited the boss to act weird and make these social events awkward, or intends to pursue a relationship with him.

      3. Rain's Small Hands*

        “I’d love to but I promised I’d go over to my mothers” “Oh, that’s date night with my husband.” “I’m taking a martial arts class.” “I feel a headache coming on and it would be best if I just went home.” “Bowling League is Wednesdays.”

        And again “Date night with the husband.”

        When someone doesn’t respect my partner, I don’t socialize with them – with or without my partner. They don’t need to be best buddies, but my friends need to be civil to my partner.

        And draw some work life balance boundaries. Socializing extensively outside of work makes those boundaries much greyer. Stopping the after work socializing will make it more difficult for your boss to cross the line from “inactionable light sexual harassment” (which sounds like where you are) to something far worse. Which he could do either because he’s a jerk who is holding the possibility of a promotion out in some form of quid pro quo or because he’s just clueless and once your husband isn’t around it will be time for him to make his move after all the “encouragement you’ve been giving him.” All these signals he may be interpreting as interest when what you are interested in is your career.

        Unless there is more going on that you indicate, don’t report this. Its either clueless or too light to be more than he said she said. You risk getting branded as a troublemaker or a woman who is “unsafe” because she sees men on the make everywhere. But DO document for if it does become actionable.

        But do talk to the manager above your manager about promotion opportunities – your boss doesn’t hire managers for other stores and isn’t the one promoting to that role. Make sure your regional manager (or whatever) knows that you want your own store before Christmas. If they are surprised by this, your manager is full of it.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      That is a possible solution but when Alison recommended that I reacted the same way I do when people tell girls to dress less provocatively so as not to make men think of sex. Like, ok, sure, but I don’t think OP should have to stop having her husband at these events, especially if that’s very common and everyone else brings a significant other. It’s putting her in a position where she might not get the same networking opportunities that others get. (I dunno what kind of networking opportunities one might get from bringing a spouse to such events, but I imagine there very well could be some.)

    3. Esmeralda*

      Disagree. OP should be able to enjoy the same social benefits that everyone else does. More importantly, to my mind, is that with the husband there the boss is reminded that OP is married. And if husband stops coming to these events, boss may feel he has “won”, that OP has chosen boss over husband. That’s icky, but I personally would keep that in mind.

      1. anne of mean gables*

        I think it really comes down to how OPs husband is dealing with the boss’s…weirdness. If he has thick skin, and the kind of personality that’s inclined to find this amusing, then I’d lean towards an “aggressively keep bringing him” solution. If he tends towards shy or socially anxious, that would make me more likely to apologize profusely, spare his feelings and respect his time, and let him bow out. And all of this is predicated on OPs husband being extremely secure in their relationship – if he’s picking up that boss has a crush on OP (which he very clearly does, IMO), and that makes him nervous or upset, then I think she really has to prioritize the marriage.

        1. pancakes*

          I don’t see any reason to assume her husband is unclear on the state of their marriage as a result of the boss acting weird, or that staying happily married requires some sort of showy rejection of this boss. She is not responsible for the boss’s weird behavior, and this is a lot of assumptions to be making about a stranger’s relationship.

        2. L'étrangere*

          Really any in/action involving the husband should involve him. Discuss what you think might be going on, maybe let him loose in the comments, discuss priorities and strategy with him. He might be willing to keep coming and avoid the boss actively, he might prefer to hang back some unless the crowd is a specific size. No matter what, he should be clear that the OP is being friendly to the boss with a very specific result in mind, and that it doesn’t include divorce. If he can be on board with that, any awkwardness can be minimized and you can laugh together about any attempt at insults. If not, then possibly the only way to go forward would be to get him to cut back attendance for a bit, which should also be fine as long as he’s informed

      2. Hiring Mgr*

        It doesn’t sound like either OP or the husband is really “enjoying” these benefits if the boss is so outwardly hostile..

      3. Typing All The Time*

        Yes. She and her husband should put on a united front at the events. Call out any putdowns from her boss as soon as they happen.

      4. mreasy*

        I wouldn’t want to subject my husband to this BUT conversely I would be tempted to go and just be cozy the whole time, nothing out of line or major PDA, just hand holding, peck on the cheek, looking into each other’s eyes for a meaningful second, occasionall head on the shoulder.

      5. Gnome*

        The husband’s feelings should also be taken into account. He may not want to NOT be there because the boss is comes across as interested in his wife

      6. JustSomeone*

        She *should* be able to, but this seems like a time when reality is at odds with how things ought to be. He boss shouldn’t be an ass to her husband, but he is being one. Should she have to leave her husband home when others bring dates? Absolutely not. But is that something within her power to do that would solve a large part of the issue? I’d say so.

    4. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Or the boss can stop going. He’s the one with the problem. No one else is.

      1. Observer*

        Which is all good and fine. And if HE were the one who wrote in about being so rude, Alison would probably read him the riot act. But right now, the OP is not in a position to make her boss to anything. So all of the advice is about what she can do.

        Do I think she should skip these events? I don’t know. But that’s because I’m not sure what will work best for her.

    5. lost academic*

      That’s certainly one of the things the boss wants. Separating OP from her husband allows him to shift her focus to him as her other primary Male in Life. This is forcing her to choose between normal, appropriate social relationships involving her spouse and her professional life and it’s wildly inappropriate for Boss to be doing. It doesn’t matter at all if it’s conscious or not – but at a minimum, deep down though, he knows what he’s doing – echoing the Plausible Deniability/pre-gaslighting mentions above.

      This isn’t an easy job for anyone to say “start looking for a new one” but something will have to change at work because this is going to continue to go Nowhere Good.

      1. lost academic*

        and if OP stops going, I bet you my next paycheck that Boss says something about it being a problem for her professional development, etc. Lose-lose.

      2. Hiring Mgr*

        Yeah but OPs already working with the boss every day anyway so that’s already happening…

        I agree with your second point though that this is a bad sign overall.

    6. Brittany*

      Sheesh, so she is being punished because her boss showed inappropriate and misplaces sexual attraction to her. She shouldn’t be the one to change her actions. HE SHOULD STOP DOING WHAT HE IS DOING.

      1. JustSomeone*

        He should. But she can only control her own actions here. She can’t force this guy to be pleasant to her husband. But she can choose to alter the situation so the problem doesn’t arise.

        If you’re sitting next to someone with terrible body odor on the bus, you can keep your seat and fervently believe they should have addressed their hygiene before leaving home. But no matter how correct you are, you’re still sitting there in the stench. Or you can move to a different seat and remove yourself from the unpleasantness

        1. Brittany*

          If someone has body odor at work you should address it. Not leave it be. This isn’t some random guy on a bus this is someone she sees for more than half her waking hours. She absolutely should not let it slide and prevent her husband from going to events and excuse herself from events. Asking a woman to rearrange her life because a person is sexually attracted to her and can’t control themselves is NOT RIGHT! Where does it end? What other actions does she need to control so he doesn’t get offended? Asking women to continuously not do things so men’s delicate feelings can be saved is not the answer. We’ve been dealing with this all our lives and we are done. We’ve had dress codes our whole life because men can’t deal with seeing a shoulder. The solution is not her changing her life and to suggest it is is in complete disrespect to both men and women.

  8. Van Wilder*

    I agree with Alison as usual. I’m just really wary of pushing too hard because this guy clearly holds grudges due to mysterious causes. I might try once, and then just give up and try to hold out till you get promoted and/ or he’s not your boss anymore.

    Will want an update on this one!

    1. Shhhh*

      Completely agree. And I think whether he is attracted to/in love with/pursuing LW is beside the point in that I think her approach should be the same regardless (unless it becomes sexual harassment). As it stands, it doesn’t matter that much whether he’s acting this way because his family and the husband’s family have an ancient grudge against each other or if it’s because he’s attracted to LW. That could change but I think flagging it once and then leaving it alone is the best bet for now.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yeah, this is why I appreciate Alison’s approach of asking if Bob has done anything to offend Boss. Like, act as though it’s possible that Bob has committed some faux pas and you want to know so you can make it right. But you’re so right that I would tread carefully here, since Boss has displayed some questionable behaviour.

  9. Richard Hershberger*

    Surely the most relevant bit is this: “am being provided with all the training to start managing my own shop before Christmas.” This is a problem with an end date less than six months out. If at the end of that time you find yourself in the same situation, then you have a different problem of their jerking your chain about your career prospects, and you will need to decide how to respond to that. But weird boss, who yes, is into you inappropriately, won’t be the real problem.

    1. Sick of Workplace Bullshit (she/her)*

      Unless Bob doesn’t want to keep coming to these events, please don’t have him stop. Your boss will see that as you becoming more available yo him. Also be prepared for retaliation, so document what you can. Your boss is trying to groom you and is creepy af.

      1. Sick of Workplace Bullshit (she/her)*

        Sorry, this was meant to be a reply on its own. Please delete here!

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Exactly. If things go as Boss has said they would, you can tread lightly and bide your time. If they don’t – like by Christmas there isn’t a clear plan in place for moving you to your own store with timelines – you have a different and much larger problem.

    3. Clobberin' Time*

      This is not a problem with an end date less than six months out, because the end date may be vaporware. The OP doesn’t say that her employer has told her she’ll be running a store in six months – she says that her infatuated, inappropriate boss is giving her ‘the training’ to be able to start managing her own shop. Has this promotion actually been approved by the decision-makers at this very large company? Because if not, this sounds a lot more like the kind of vaporware promotions LWs write about over and over again.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        But the message in six months will tell her everything she needs to know.

        1. Clobberin' Time*

          It’s an ongoing problem, not a problem with a six month end date. And there’s no reason to assume that everything will be fine for the next six months given the boss’s inappropriate behavior.

          1. JustSomeone*

            This particular problem is set to expire within the next 6 months. If it turns out that the boss was just a pathological liar stringing the LW along and there is no promotion coming, that will become evident in 6 months. If the boss does something directly inappropriate within those 6 months, that is a separate-but-related issue that will require separate action.

  10. Casual Librarian*

    So my mind didn’t immediately jump to attraction so much as it seems like your boss likes having your attention. That doesn’t mean a physical or emotional attraction so much as I think your boss has an ego. So more along the lines of “I’m such a good boss. Jane has the potential to be great. I’m helping make her great, and her focusing on other things doesn’t help.”

    I don’t think it’s conscious so much as people that are mentoring can get really sucked into always wanting to doll out advice, and it’s hard to be Great and Fabulous and not have the people that are “supposed” to be listening to you give you 100% of their attention. So when your husband is around or you mention him, it’s like you’re showing that you’re a whole person and thinking about other things in your life and that can be hard for someone on an ego trip of being Helpful and Supportive to swallow.

    I know this doesn’t explain away the huffing and leaving, but I can see it being personal without it being blatant sexual jealousy.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Which would explain his saying that he is interested in a different type of woman than OP sees herself as.
      Above, I argued this was a negging approach. After reading your comment, I can see it as a ham-handed attempt to assure OP that he is not interested in her sexually. He doesn’t want to say, “I am supporting you because I think you are great, not because I want to be involved with you,” but he is just hella awkward. Which explains him saying anything at all about the women he finds attractive.

    2. Banana*

      This is what my mind went to as well. Not necessarily romantic attraction but possibly seeing the husband as a holdback. My husband is delightful and the life of the party, and people often like him better than me even when I befriend them first. But he is not really career or success oriented – he doesn’t have a college degree and his work history used to be really terrible. When we got together eons ago, I had some well-meaning people in my life who were focused on my success who didn’t like him at all.

      1. After 33 years ...*

        The same happened to me, whereby some colleagues did not like my female partner. Nothing about romantic attraction, but simple clash of personalities.

      2. Liz T*

        Which is a little funny in this scenario, since the behavior OP describes in her boss sounds very childish! Not what you’d imagine from a career-and-success-oriented mentor.

        I can’t imagine Jack leaving a work party early because Liz brought Dennis.

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

      yeah I thought the same thing. Maybe not even just the attention of OP but attention in general. He might have an ego and want to be center of attention (I’m such a great and fun boss, my employees like spending time after work with me!) and if OP’s husband is more charismatic and everyone likes him more its probably the boss ticked off about that.

    4. kittycontractor*

      Same. People can have a “crush” and it not necessarily be romantic or sexual just a “oh wow this is a really cool/fun/interesting person that I would like to hang out with”. The guy doesn’t need to be a jerk to your husband but it does sound like it’s a bit like competing for mommy/teachers attention (even though the husband isn’t doing that).

    5. Hi, Hello, Good Morning!*

      I like this – I was thinking similar but couldn’t quite put it into words.

    6. OP*

      Ohhh, now this could really make a LOT of sense. This is a perspective I’ve never thought about – thank you!

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        Bear in mind, OP, that if this is the case, many of the other comments still apply. It does not need to be a romantic or sexual situation for your superior to decide you must be as committed to him as he is to you. It’s still an unhealthy situation and he is acting unprofessionally.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        I could see this being a pretty good possibility. Also, does he usually bring a +1 to these things? If he doesn’t and he sees you as his “Girl Friday” or “Work Bestie” there could be an element of relying on you as his social partner (like, for conversation) and then when your husband shows up he kind of feels like his go-to person is “taken.”

        It’s pretty childish, but some people really do have a hard time being the odd man out in social situations. As a manager he should get it under control, but I don’t know if he’s self aware enough.

    7. Sugaree*

      I have this boss: “…I think your boss has an ego. So more along the lines of ‘I’m such a good boss. Jane has the potential to be great. I’m helping make her great…'”

      I *literally* hear this 2+ times a week from her. It is effing exhausting.

    8. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      This is a great point, though not necessarily inconsistent with him being attracted to her, since ego stroking is attractive to this type. But it is true that attraction is not a given if the ego situation is at play.

  11. Cataclysm*

    Like Alison says, my hunch is that it is some kind of crush — it sounds like your boss doth protests too much if he’s so frequently insistent that his type is Not You. (It might even be true that alternative feminine is his normal type, but I doubt he only ever likes women who strictly adheres to that type. He may even be trying to convince himself).

    I don’t have any additional advice, I just wanted to note how bizarre it is to bring up your romantic type that often with a coworker. You may have to mentally prepare yourself to break out whatever toolkit you have for unwanted advances, unfortunately.

    1. Ginger Baker*

      ^This. I have worked with many MANY coworkers in multiple different environments including pretty casual ones with Very Single People and not once, ever, has “what’s your type [to be attracted to]” come up. This may seem weirdly normal on TV but it’s actually SUPER NOT NORMAL. Please know that every time your boss “casually” comments on “his type” you should picture him dancing around waving a red flag while he speaks.

      1. kiki*

        Seconding the “this may seem normal on TV” thing. This happens a lot on TV but it is NOT NORMAL for most jobs in real life, exceptions being some service work jobs and other jobs that are staffed by a lot of young people and have a culture of extreme closeness. Even then, it’s typical seen amongst fellow employees, NOT between bosses and employees.

        Also, on TV it’s interesting because it’s a fantasy and everyone is played by a gorgeous actor who has a lot of money and is really cool. Like, yes, if I worked in the Suits universe, I would be interested in who Harvey Specter is dating and what he’s looking for romantically because it’s like knowing who celebrities are dating. I would NOT be interested in knowing anything about the romantic life of my actual boss in this universe. I already feel like I know too much and I only know he has gone on a date at least once in his past. I absolutely do not need to know more than that.

    2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Also worth noting–I have been romantically/sexually attracted to people who are not my usual type before. I’d even say–especially when I work closely with them.

  12. ladyme*

    The reason for this is he’s trying to manipulate OP into a relationship with him and drive a wedge between her and her husband. Want to bet how long she’ll remain a rising star if she sets some boundaries? Time to job hunt.

    Why on earth have his preferences come up at all, much less often? It’s negging plus the beginning of sexual harassment.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      “Want to bet how long she’ll remain a rising star if she sets some boundaries?”

      This is the real question. Fortunately, we have a reasonable time frame for this determination.

  13. Autumnheart*

    At the minimum:

    1. Boss should not be telling you ANYTHING about his romantic preferences. That’s really inappropriate, especially coming from a manager to a direct report.
    2. Boss should not be pushing to socialize with you one-on-one after work. Work is work. There’s something to be said for team events on or off the clock, but he has absolutely NO reason to expect you to hang out with him off the clock.
    3. Boss being rude to your husband is really inappropriate.

    Maybe just follow up in the moment with “This isn’t an appropriate conversation.” And since this business is part of a large retail chain, follow up with corporate. Start documenting exactly what is said and when, and report it.

    1. Elenna*

      Good point on #2 – I think it kind of got lost in “He tells you his “type”? Often???” but yes the 1-1 off the clock events are also not normal at all!

    2. Former Bookseller*

      What you described in your work environment is way too enmeshed AND typical of bookstores.
      Time to detach from your supervisor.
      Learn as much as you can.
      Do NO after /before hours one-on-ones.
      If the conversation becomes personal (type of women he finds attractive) do not engage.
      Get the commitment for the promotion and dates in writing.

    3. Princesa*

      Agreed. Don’t let this turn into another emotional support EA situation like the update yesterday! Set boundaries and make sure he knows you’re onto him before things get worse. You have no obligation to spend time with him outside of work.

    4. tamarack and fireweed*

      And extra especially coming from a straight, single male manager to a (presumed straight) female report while also being rude to her long-term male partner.

      (One reason so many are jumping to “romantic attraction” is that once you’ve progressed to the stage of having responsibility for a team, you should be long past the stage where you can’t be social-polite to someone you happen to dislike. This is clearly not a situation where the LW’s husband is known to be abrasive or unpleasant, or where the boss shuts down discriminatory remarks. We all know people that are just not our cup of tea, or that we have a negative judgement about that doesn’t rise to the level of need to act (at least not on our part, in this particular point in time), and we can handle ourselves to level that for an unbiased observer our dislike isn’t obvious. )

  14. Ellis Bell*

    Regardless of the causes for his rude behaviour, it’s a shocking display of unprofessionalism. Everyone meets acquaintances that they illogically despise without showing it like a child! People have random crushes without lashing out at others! Keep a very wary and watchful eye on your boss OP because you’re pinning your professional hopes on a toddler.

    1. Former Young Lady*

      This is an important point, not to be overlooked!

      People who act like babies in public are not good mentor material.

  15. Amber Rose*

    First, it’s weird that your boss tells you about his preference in women and often. Maybe less weird in a casual workplace like yours, but still kinda weird.

    Second, jealousy can come from more sources than attraction. Sometimes people can be really invested in your life and happiness and seemingly really good for you, while developing an extremely unhealthy sense of entitlement to your focus in return. Obsession, much like assault, is not always sexual, and sometimes people forget that. :/

    And I mean, I’m probably making this seem way more ominous than it is. This may never manifest as anything other than rudeness to your husband, which you may decide is worth it because that can be worked around. But I’d still just… keep an eye on it.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Agreed with your second point. There were other letters from younger men and women who were being involuntarily mentored by senior colleagues of the same gender about their personal lives: when to have kids, how much to be involved with those kids, how to treat your spouse, to leave your husband, all kinds of weird junk.

    2. Anon all day*

      Yeah, it’s super weird. Like, MAYBE I could see something organically coming up how the boss mentions that he likes people with a sense of humor or sharp wit or whatever. But for him to repeatedly discuss his preferences for physical appearance (which I’m including manner of dress in) is just weird and uncomfy.

  16. Riot Grrrl*

    Good luck OP. Going forward, I think it’s also helpful to remember that sometimes people just don’t like a person. Full stop. I learned this in college when a female friend of my boyfriend simply did not like me. She was a lesbian and had no sexual interest in my boyfriend. My boyfriend once asked her point blank one time why she didn’t like me. Her answer: “I just don’t like her.” And that was that.

    None of it excuses rude behavior, however. People should at least be polite to people who are important to the people they claim to care about.

    1. Observer*

      None of it excuses rude behavior, however. People should at least be polite to people who are important to the people they claim to care about.

      That’s the thing that’s causing all of the other speculation. Because it’s just soo out of line. At this point in his life and career you would think he could manage to be polite to someone he really, really doesn’t like for whatever reason. I mean sure, if Bob had kick Boss’ mother, maybe not. But outside of something ridiculous like that? Come on, this isn’t kindergarten.

  17. Cait*

    Hun… your boss has a crush on you. He might have been going on to you about his “type” to distract you from the obvious but… it’s still obvious. Unless your husband did something you’re not aware of, like flip your boss off in traffic, the only reason this guy would be rude to your husband is that he has a crush on you and is being incredibly unprofessional about it.
    100% bring it up to him as diplomatically as possible, (“I noticed that when Reginald offered you a drink your turned away and refused to speak to him. I’ve also noticed you say some pretty disparaging things about him which I find very uncomfortable and unprofessional. Is there something you’re not telling me?”). Either this will be his cue to change his behavior (lest you discover his true feelings), reveal a legitimate reason as to why he dislikes your husband, or deny everything and you’ll have to make a choice. You can continue to call him out every time he acts this way (which may or may not push him behave) or you can start looking for other employment. I agree with Alison that the latter choice really stinks but, realistically, how long can you envision working for someone who is harboring feelings for you and (even if he’s not) constantly bad mouths your husband?

  18. Alex*

    I’m curious as to how you know what kind of women your boss finds attractive.

    I certainly haven’t ever been aware of what kind of people my bosses find attractive. Because that’s a really odd and probably inappropriate topic for a boss to be discussing with employees.

    Methinks he doth protest too much, and does have the hots for you. His declaration that he isn’t attracted to “your type” is his deflecting and trying to get you to let your guard down.

  19. Mehitabel*

    LW: Focus on your training and on managing your own store in the near future. Be friendly and professional with your boss, and to the extent you can gracefully do so, avoid extracurricular social interactions with him. *Especially* those of the one-on-one variety. If you must attend group social events, bring your husband (I think that you need to reinforce to your boss that you have a partner), but when the boss gets rude, have an excuse ready so that you can leave early. I’m not going to speculate too much here about what is motivating your boss’s behavior, but the fact that he talks to you about what kind of women are his ‘type’ is unsettling because it crosses a personal/professional boundary that he should not be crossing with his employees. Avoid discussing anything personal with him.

  20. Gina*

    It kind of seems like your boss either a) is an attention-seeker and feels threatened by your husband’s popularity among this group or b) has a crush on you. That said, totally agree with Alison that it doesn’t really matter what his reasons might be and his behavior is childish. He either really has no idea how obvious his pettiness is or he doesn’t have a great grasp on professional and adult behavior.

  21. Sick of Workplace Bullshit (she/her)*

    Unless Bob doesn’t want to keep coming to these events, please don’t have him stop. Your boss will see that as you becoming more available yo him. Also be prepared for retaliation, so document what you can. Your boss is trying to groom you and is creepy af.

  22. Juicebox Hero*

    It’s really hard to see this as anything other than “he wants you and your husband is in his way.” All the talk about the kind of woman he’s attracted to is a smoke screen to try and make it seem like he’s not interested in you. Please be careful going forward in this job. I know this will make me sound like a crazy drama queen, but I can foresee him starting to do stuff like invite you out without your husband, drop hints about why he’s fast-tracking you over your coworkers, and maybe ask for something in return for promoting you to management.

  23. Doctors Whom*

    Boss being so clear about his type is major Ick Factor (TM).

    I agree – he is infatuated with you on either a romantic or “professional” level and craves your attention, seeing your husband as a competitor for that attention. My money is on romantic/sexual because of the Ick Factor, but I have definitely seen some workplace situations where a “mentor” develops an unhealthy attachment to shaping the “mentee” in their image and thinking that they should be the only influence on the mentee. Casual Librarian hit on this well.

    Boss’s behavior is inappropriate, full stop.

    As to what to do about it – I would start by talking with your partner. You two may decide that you can “gut it out” between now and getting your major promotion by having your husband not attend work stuff. It’s a shitty thing to have to do, but you may collectively decide the prize is worth it.

    In all cases I would cease one-on-one socializing outside of the office and only make exceptions if you can be in a crowded public place in daylight hours. Starbucks, not a beer after work.

    I do think that it is worth calling out the behavior in the moment once – “Wakeen, why on earth would you say that?” and it might give you the insight you need about whether this is worth putting up with or pushing back/requesting a transfer to another store.

    I have definitely found in my career that sometimes calling out the icky man loudly is the right choice. I’ve done it with great aplomb and great results. Sometimes the best solution is getting yourself out of the situation as quickly and carefully as possible and leaving some bread crumbs for other women. I’ve done that too, in order to get the icky man out of my orbit and into an orbit where there might be better controls on him and there are no more consequences for me or other women. That’s had great results for the women. YMMV.

    1. FDS*

      The problem with calling out the behavior is that men often become dangerous when their behavior is called out. I’m not saying to not call it out either it’s just that the possibility of her boss retaliating also needs to be a factor in her calculus.

  24. A Penguin!*

    I didn’t see attraction as a cause to the boss’ behavior when I read the letter, but once pointed out I can see how it could be (I’m a little unobservant on these things). I did want to say that just because the boss has a self-professed type, doesn’t preclude him having feelings for/interest in people outside that type. I’ve certainly had romantic relationships outside what I would consider my type.

  25. Person from the Resume*

    What everyone else said! Maybe not love, but some attraction/infatuation. He’s very keen to socialize with you outside of work.

    However I thought the weirdest thing you wrote was that you boss has often shared his romantic type with you. That’s very odd information to know about anyone you work with, much less your supervisor. He’s certainly crossed the line into inappropriate discussions with you.

    As other’s have mentioned, if things go according to plan, you’ll start managing your own shop before Christmas so this problem has something of an end date. I hope so. He may still try to mentor you when you run your own shop and then those mentoring sessions would more likely have to take place outside work. You need to be attentive to the situation.

    Just be aware of his inappropriate actions (towards your husband and oversharing with you and monopolizing your attention at after hours socializing) as you move up and out. Learn what you can from him. Have your husband attend less outings and perhaps you attend less social outings too so you can spend time with your husband who is not attending. Be aware of this and do not replicate it when you are the boss. Mentoring and training should be done on the clock; not after hours.

  26. TypityTypeType*

    This sounds so much like a boss with a crush that it’s kind of difficult to see it through any other lens. (The other possibility is that he hates Husband for unrelated reasons, but there doesn’t seem to be the history to support that.)

    But whatever boss feels, he is handling it so spectacularly badly that it calls his self-awareness and boundaries in general into question. Adults get crushes, yes, but they usually don’t revert to high school behavior over it. (“I only like cheerleaders!” says the star athlete to the bookworm.) In fact, most people who find themselves with a crush are especially careful not to let their inner teenager show.

    LW, this boss may well be genuinely helpful to you and valuable to your career, but handle with care — and maybe take steps not to be alone with him any more than you can help. Any declaration on his part will make things very awkward indeed.

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

    So I have a few thoughts on what is going on here.
    1. Boss has a big ego and OP’s husband is more charismatic and takes attention away from him at these social gatherings.

    2. This is more sensitive but Op is your husband part of a minoritized group? Have you ever seen this or similar behavior from your boss about other people?

    3. something about Ops husband just rubs the boss the wrong way or reminds him of something. I’m thinking about the letter a few days back where the boss would not look at her when speaking to her at social events. It turned out they were both neurodivergent. Maybe something like this (not necessarily they are neurodivergent but some situation where something about the husband reminds boss of something).

    OP what does your husband think? Does it bother him? If it bothers him, or you, I think you could gently ask your boss about it. Do you have any friends at work that you could ask if they’ve noticed this? It might help to get an outside perspective.

    Please update us with whatever happens

    1. OP*

      Hello!
      1 is a definite possibility. My husband is the type of person who everyone loves, animals flock to, etc. He’s a very funny but gentle soul, and the only people I’ve ever known to get uncomfortable around him are men who are trying very hard to be ‘macho’, and seem to feel threatened by having a guy around who is so blatantly Not Bothered With That.
      2 happily, I don’t think there’s anything going on like that! Boss, husband and I are all pretty much from the same cross-section of society. (It’s actually a problem in our shop that I’d like us to address more proactively. We’re the biggest bookshop in a VERY diverse city, and yet our shop is staffed completely by middle-class, university-educated white people.)
      3…there’s nothing I can think of like that. They’ve really had hardly any one-on-one contact at all. I think the only time they’ve ever spoken was shortly after my boss joined our store, and whilst I was getting ready to leave for the night my husband was just chatting to him about how he was finding our city, recommending some good pubs in his new local area, etc.

      It certainly bothers my husband, and it bothers me. A close friend of mine at work has also picked up on it, and even worse, I’m getting the sense that I’m starting to get a bit of a ‘boss’s favourite’ kind of label.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        The first option seems like a real contender here, particularly in the context of some of your other comments about how Boss is new to the area and may be trying to manufacture a friend group from work (which is not great if you’re the boss!). Making friends as an adult is often really hard, so I can imagine he might be struggling with finding a solid social group, especially with all the added challenges of a pandemic. Speaking from experience, the pandemic has been really tough on us single people, too.

        Your husband may be a convenient scapegoat for Boss to focus his feelings on (loneliness, jealousy, sadness, anger, etc.), since it sounds like Husband at least appears to not have trouble making friends. In lots of places, men are socialized to not really acknowledge or express any feelings aside from anger. So his rudeness may be other feelings masquerading as anger. None of this justifies the rudeness, but it might explain where it’s coming from.

        1. After 33 years ...*

          +1
          Dear OP:
          This makes senses to me, given your responses (thank you for that!). Some people with mild social anxiety do resent those who make friends more easily (as I know…).
          #3 is less likely, unless your husband inadvertently said the trigger word. “Slowly, I turned …”

      2. MEH Squared*

        Thanks for all your comments in this post, OP. After reading them, I am undecided as to whether your boss is physically attracted to you (although I lean towards he is), but I do think that he wants all your attention, regardless. I’m glad the promotion is not dependent upon him and I hope it goes through.

        In any case, given that it’s only six more months before your promotion, I probably would shine him on and let your husband attend or not attend the events at his own comfort level. I would NOT have one-on-one meetings with him outside of work, however.

        At work, maybe you could talk up the coworkers who might benefit from mentoring as well as a way to even out the attention you’re getting. Good luck!

      3. Data Nerd*

        Having worked with a boss who played favorites, this is a problem you do need to get out in front of–it’ll affect your professional reputation and could follow you to your own shop later on. You’re boss’s favorite? Get his ear about your colleagues. “Hey, didn’t Jane do a great job organizing that display?” “Fergus is really strong at promotions–maybe he could benefit from that asynchronous marketing training you had me do last month.” “I just saw the monthly sales report–we’re up year-over-year and I think that has a lot to do with Valentina’s efforts,” etc. Nothing that kludgy, hopefully. When Boss’s Favorite gets all the attention/training/development opportunities and doesn’t make any visible effort to share the wealth, the rest of the staff will either suck up to Favorite or ice Favorite out, but they’ll all talk behind Favorite’s back and tear them down.

      4. Observer*

        even worse, I’m getting the sense that I’m starting to get a bit of a ‘boss’s favourite’ kind of label.

        That’s a real problem for you. It doesn’t matter WHY boss is doing this, *YOU* are the one who is going to get stuck with the gossip.

  28. career coach near the sea*

    1000% agree with the others who feel he’s into you. I’d use him and lose him. And document all that you can, just in case.

  29. HannahS*

    Oooh. I really do think that the most likely explanation is that he has some kind of infatuation with you. He’s paying you special attention, wants to socialize one-on-one (weird?), disparages your husband…

    Honestly, as a fellow I-am-clean-and-dressed-but-otherwise-don’t-manage-my-appearance person, sometimes men do this thing where it’s like, “No, I like women who are conventionally feminine! I couldn’t possibly have feelings for this small, potato-sack-wearing gnome. I just REALLY LIKE spending time with her. I REALLY CARE about her, you know, as a PERSON! Because we’re FRIENDS! She’s so great! And she’s married! To someone who doesn’t DESERVE to be with someone with such a great PERSONALITY. Who am I NOT attracted to, because she’s NOT attractive.” People (of all genders) can sometimes be thrown when they’re attracted to someone who “isn’t their type” or who doesn’t conform to who they “should” be attracted to.

    So, I mean, I do think he has a crush on you, whether or not he’s willing to admit it to himself (or to you.) He might not, though–and it doesn’t really change anything; his behaviour is off-base. Ultimately, if it were me, I would politely and firmly shut down the talk about my husband and otherwise tolerate his behaviour for a few months until I got my fancy promotion and my own store.

  30. Generic Name*

    I know that you think that working for this boss is uniquely beneficial for your career, but there are so many things I’m seeing that are concerning. Socializing with your coworkers/boss can be fine, but it can cause issues if anyone has problems with boundaries. Your boss has problems with boundaries. WHY do you know what your boss’ “type” is? That’s an inappropriate overshare on his part, and shows his lack of judgement and lack of boundaries.

    Your boss is actively rude to your spouse. I know Alison indulged in speculating, but it doesn’t matter why he is rude. A professional adult with appropriate boundaries and good judgement is able to be cordial to employee’s spouses. Again it shows bad judgement and poor boundaries he is actively rude to your spouse.

    As for how you deal with it, I would pull back on socializing with your boss and look for a new job. This dude is not uniquely qualified to help you with your career. He is the opposite. He has poor judgement and is just gross. There are folks out there who can mentor/sponsor you without negging your husband and telling you about what they find sexually appealing.

  31. RussianInTexas*

    SLATE PLUS MEMBER
    Your boss and your husband hooked up back in college, and your husband ghosted your boss.
    Your husband looks like boss’s high school bully.
    Your husband IS your boss’s high school bully.
    Your husband hooked up with boss’s ex-wife while they were still married.
    Your husband is the 6-fingered man and your boss is Inigo Montoya.

  32. RussianInTexas*

    Your boss and your husband hooked up back in college, and your husband ghosted your boss.
    Your husband looks like boss’s high school bully.
    Your husband IS your boss’s high school bully.
    Your husband hooked up with boss’s ex-wife while they were still married.
    Your husband is the 6-fingered man and your boss is Inigo Montoya.

  33. Not Australian*

    OP, I’m just wondering if there’s anyone higher up the food chain who can give you a clear answer about your prospects for advancement, because I’d be very concerned that this is just your manager leading you on in the hopes that you’ll manifest some kind of ‘gratitude’ for his ‘help’. Ordinarily, if you had the chance of a manager’s post and getting away from this guy’s location, that would be something you could look forward to as putting an end to all his shenanigans; in this case, though, I’d frankly be concerned that he’d be trying to make excuses to have ‘intimate managers’ meetings’ and ‘mentoring one-on-ones’ and I wouldn’t be surprised if your mind had already gone there, too. I really hate to say this but, unless there is someone at a higher level you can rely on to support you, you should probably be looking at finding another job before too long.

    1. OP*

      Happily, these have all been conversations with our HR firmly looped in, and I’ve had higher ups discuss these kinds of things with me too, so it does seem to be legit!

  34. Eldritch Office Worker*

    I want to add to the discussion that sometimes people can just get weird and possessive even if it’s not technically romantic. Sometimes it’s more about power.

    Which isn’t to say your boss isn’t infatuated with you, I see why many people have that read. I just want to underline that even if you don’t think that’s the case or even if you somehow know for a fact that’s the case, that doesn’t mean the behavior is appropriate or benign. I think you know that, but I don’t want to miss the forest through the trees – this is a weird focus for him to have on you. Absolutely capitalize on it, absolutely get your store if that’s really going to happen…but tread carefully. This is kind of creepy and it worries me a bit.

  35. Former Rare Books Librarian*

    This might get buried at this point, but I haven’t seen it addressed: You use the phrase “bookseller” which to me indicates that you might be working in rare books or special collections or ephemera, etc. If that’s the case, there’s some field-specific nuance that a lot of people wouldn’t recognize:

    In bookselling, as in to collectors and libraries / museums, there is an INEVITABLE creep and blur on the line between personal life and professional. You have to hang out after hours with your colleagues because you’re going to special events, dinners, fundraisers, book fairs, work trips, etc. Often these call for the “wine and fancy appetizers” type setting, the kind of thing a spouse would come to. Schmoozing and personal relationships are expected. Booksellers came to our events all the time and I went to many a dinner party at booksellers houses, heck, I was invited to Christmas & Easter morning (surprisingly, I had other plans with, yknow, my family) but all of that is to say – it’s not an office job where it’s quite so easy to turn off at five. These things are expected to close sales, sometimes five or six figure sales. And it might not be romantic persay, although I can see the argument for it – but these intense and invasive work connections are also not uncommon, especially in the mentor / mentee dynamic (I had actual panic attacks leading up to turning in my notice because I knew how Badly my boss would react – they thought they were creating me in their image so to speak). Also, the rare books world is still DEFINITELY struggling with baked in racism & sexism since it’s dominated by mostly older white men.

    Now, am I endorsing any of this? Not really, I found the blur did NOT work for what I wanted out of my life and changed career paths. But if this is OP’s situation, she’s going to need to practice firm boundaries and have replies on hand about where the spouse is or what she can and can’t do outside of work hours. As for dealing with the boss – some of Alison’s oldies are still goodies. Breezy replies, taking things at pure face value “What do you *mean* by that?” “Wow, did you really just say that?” etc., and if you spouse wants to come along and wants to put up with it while you both try to right this ship, I say let him, because him holding firm could help in a way – some of these rare books mentees, give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. Instead, when he says something offputting, ice HIM out instead of letting him do it to you – “Wow, Wakeen, what a thing to say. Anyway, Angelina, you were telling a story?”

    1. Emm*

      That could be the case, but when I worked at Big Chain Bookstore, we were called booksellers.

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

        Yup booksellers are not specific to rare books. I’ve seen “books sellers” listed for jobs at Barns & Noble. I think (but not 100% as its been several years and I wasn’t in that department) that in my past job the salespeople who sold our materials to real estate schools were called book sellers.

    2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      I saw that use of “bookseller” and thought that LW might be outside the US? Because I’ve seen UK people who work in chain bookstores use that term for themselves. And LW says “(we’re part of a very big chain)”.

  36. Aggresuko*

    I would bet a million dollars boss is attracted to the OP and resentful of her husband for existing :(

  37. Not A Manager*

    You’re a short-timer in this situation. You’re being developed to manage your own shop by Christmas, so you’ll have gotten all you need from the relationship by then, and you’ll have put up with all you need to put up with by then.

    By far the easiest solution is for your husband to pull way back on socializing with this particular group at this particular time. I see no professional upside to your discussing this with your boss in any manner at all.

    1. Former Young Lady*

      As others upthread have pointed out, Boss’s general behavior pattern makes him an unreliable narrator. If I were the OP I wouldn’t bank on managing my own store by Christmas.

      Boss is effectively saying, “Here, I’ll teach you how to hit a baseball. Let me stand behind you with my arms around you…”

    2. Sloanicota*

      I admit, although I recognize it’s not fair that OP be the one with the burden here, but this would be my own approach also. Now, if the boss *does* escalate or the promised promotion seems to come with a lot of boss-strings, my opinion would change again. It’s good to be forewarned. But right now, you’re advice is what I would also offer.

    1. lost academic*

      That’s how often this kind of thing comes up…. it feels recent because it’s so common.

    2. FDS*

      Unfortunately, it’s a trend. I don’t know if it’s just happenstance or if the behaviors of men are getting worse. Based on my experience and observation I suspect the latter of the two.

      1. Former Young Lady*

        I daresay it was every bit as common in the so-called Good Old Days, but people didn’t discuss it as openly. It was understood as a tax women were expected to pay for participating in the workforce.

        After 20 years in the workforce, I dream of a future where it’s no longer common.

      2. Observer*

        Based on my experience and observation I suspect the latter of the two.

        Yeah, the good old days. NOT.

        In fact, I’d say the reverse. In the past bosses creeping on their subordinates was just so common that no one thought twice about it. Today it’s marginally less common so people sometimes actually comment, and the people dealing with it realize that maybe it’s not “the way things have to be”.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      This looks like a new question to me, but maybe it reminds you of the “my boss will not physically acknowledge me in social settings” letter (original posted July 14, 2021 and update posted June 30, 2022).

      The situation was a different in that the boss would not make eye contact with the letter writer but quite enjoyed conversations with her husband. Similar in that it involved rudeness from a boss, outside-of-work socializing with spouses, and lots of speculation about crushes/infatuation.

  38. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

    OP, I am in my 40s, and literally every single time in my life a guy has told me about his “type” or about how I’m soooo not his “type,” it’s because he was hinting at his non-professional interest in me. Guys who aren’t interested in me in any way, or who keep actual professional boundaries? I have no idea what they’re attracted to.

    Sure, there’s a very small chance it’s something else, but when you see a puddle on the floor and a broken glass beside it, 99.99999999% of the time, that puddle came from that glass.

    Seconding the recommendation to “use and lose” this guy if he doesn’t shape up significantly. It sounds like he won’t be your problem much longer, if you’re getting your own store location. Just be prepared to get an unexpected feelingsdump from him, the closer you get to moving to your own shop. It’s not fair to burden you with his inappropriate feelings, but just because he tosses that burden at you, that doesn’t mean you have to pick it up.

  39. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    Have you spoken to your husband about this? I’d bet dollars to donuts that there’s some history you aren’t aware of.

  40. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    OP please go read the original letter and yesterday’s update. Your letter is reading like the prequal.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      “the CEO is obsessed with me and wants me to be his emotional support” for those reading in the future (original letter posted April 26, 2022 and update posted July 5, 2022).

  41. Butterfly Counter*

    I’m having a hard time relating to the OP, personally.

    I love my SO. I like him a lot too. He’s my best friend. If ANYone was rude to him in the manner OP’s boss was, they’d not only get an earful from me, they’d be on my “list.” I’d never trust any of their judgment ever again: How could they not like the objectively most wonderful human being on Earth? (I’m exaggerating here, but the sentiment is the same.)

    That OP wants to continue a friendly mentor relationship with her boss is baffling to me. Trust, if my boss was as rude to my SO as hers was, HE would be going out of his way to avoid ME.

    There are millions of jobs. My SO is my partner in life. It’s not even a close call.

    1. anonymous73*

      This. Although as a realist, I can also admit that some people may not like my husband for unknown reasons. But there is no way in hell I would allow anyone in my life to treat him so poorly without speaking up about it.

    2. Ali + Nino*

      Yep. In a similar vein, the first time I saw my FIL interact with his brother-in-law, I couldn’t stop cringing – BIL (successful business owner) constantly talked down to my FIL. FIL and MIL have been married 45+ YEARS! How has MIL never told her BIL to cut it out?

    3. Budgie Buddy*

      I’m inclined to be less harsh but I also get this on a deep level. I’ve come to understand that some people are just waaaay more invested in keeping the peace, while I Hulk Out if anyone disses someone in my crew.

      There’s also the level at which OP it getting a ton of professional development from the boss, when she shares above that this level of interest seems kinda fishy when she has great coworkers who also deserve attention and aren’t getting it. She understandably doesn’t want to tank her career as she’s so close to getting her own shop, so at the moment she’s being railroaded into enabling this sucky boss/person in his favoritism and general rudeness.

    4. Aggresuko*

      Well, being able to have a job and money to pay for a place to live is important too. Being on good terms with your boss instead of openly objecting to/fighting with him is never a good situation. The people who don’t blow up on people who deserve it are probably worried about those things. And objecting to what the boss does is a one-way ticket to unemployment land.

      Realistically, OP probably needs to quit this job for her own safety because if the boss wants to bang her, he probably won’t de-escalate his behavior–he’ll probably escalate it beyond being a snot to her husband. I would bet money by the next update, boss has made moves on her sexually or otherwise pressured her in the office :(

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        If telling my boss that being awful about my husband was not cool with me got me fired, I’d involve HR and an employment lawyer so fast his head would spin.

    5. pancakes*

      I wouldn’t trust the judgment of a boss who acted this way if I brought my boyfriend to work events either, but I can’t quite see feeling a need to have a big showdown about it the way you describe. The boss has made a fool of himself by behaving so childishly at these events. Turning his whole body around to face away, etc. It’s all cringeworthy. Treating him as a serious threat in need of full-blast anger seems all out of proportion to me. It’s clear that other coworkers genuinely like the letter writer’s husband, and that most other people generally do as well, and that boss is a silly little twit at these events. He’s not a threat to them. His poor judgment makes him a threat to his own career success, particularly if he continues to act out. These events don’t need more acting out.

    6. si*

      I love and like my husband too, but he wouldn’t thank me for imploding my relationship with my boss, since we need my salary to pay the mortgage. Power dynamics are at play. I’d be angry about the rudeness, but feeling and acting are not the same thing.

  42. anonymous73*

    Sounds to me like he’s got the hots for you. If your husband said or did something that he found offensive, he should have come to you and mentioned it, but instead he’s choosing to act like a child who doesn’t yet understand how to use their words. But as Alison said, the reason for his behavior is irrelevant. He’s openly rude to your husband and to you about your husband, and that behavior should not be tolerated. Just like at work, you’re not going to like everyone, but it is your job to be civil and respectful, and if partners are involved in after work events the same holds true. I know you say that everything about this job is great, but I would have a hard time working for a boss who treated my husband that way. I would address it and if it didn’t change, start looking elsewhere for job opportunities. You disrespect my husband, you’re disrespecting me and there’s no excuse for it.

    1. FDS*

      I feel like this goes farther than just personality differences between the husband and boss. There is reason to believe that the boss is romantically interested in OP and is resentful of her husband for well… pretty much existing. This problem exists amidst a backdrop of male sexual entitlement which complicates solving the problem. If he respected her than he would at least be cordial with her husband. He doesn’t though and when her boss figures out their relationship won’t evolve in to anything beyond that is then things become extremely risky for her.

  43. HufferWare*

    The reason you know your boss’ “type” is because he told you and the reason he told you was because he was eroding the professional norms of your relationship. This is weird, volatile, inappropriate, and ultimately will hurt your career and life more than anyone else. Instead of focusing on the why/what of his behavior it’s time to focus on extricating yourself from this situation. You need to verify every promise made to you, the new store, the glowing reviews, etc. and ensure that the “professional development training” you’ve been receiving is reflected in your employee file. Yours would not be the first boss to blow a lot of smoke up a lot of places in the name of their own ego so make sure someone else of authority/standing is aware of your aspirations and goals and that they haven’t been completely siloed within this weird dynamic your boss is trying to create. As we learned with the recent follow up letter, this things only escalate and you will be the fall guy if you don’t get out of the situation.

  44. Dasein9*

    OP, please be careful. Your boss is investing a lot more time and attention in you than in his other reports. Even though you’re not doing anything wrong, it can be easy for colleagues to get the impression that something is going on between the two of you and that could hurt your reputation. That sucks and is unfair, but is pretty common.

    Might not be a terrible idea to avoid being alone with him and making sure there is no appearance of impropriety.

  45. Lacey*

    Just because your boss describes liking a different type of woman, doesn’t mean he isn’t attracted to you.
    I’ve known multiple guys who described having a very specific type, but then either
    1. Went on to marry someone completely outside it
    2. Married someone who fit it, but then cheated on her with someone he was actually attracted to

    Not that every guy is like that, but a man who doesn’t mind being insulting to your husband in front of you, is that kind of guy.

    I also join everyone else in the comments in wondering whether he’s actually a helpful mentor, but if I were you I’d scale back on any one on ones outside of work, get my store, and then keep a polite distance.

    Because in the end, who cares if someone that rude likes your husband who charms everyone he meets?

  46. Kevin Sours*

    I’m going to disagree with the approach of not bringing your husband to work events. That’s probably just going to feed whatever bullshit is going on inside of your boss’s head. I would recommend doing what you can to quietly disengage from outside of work social events. The situation you describe is toxic as hell. Become more busy. Show up for group events but duck out early. Do the minimum you need to to “show the flag”.

    But longer term, you need to start viewing this relationship as strictly transactional. Boss is not your friend and is not going to be your friend. You want training and a promotion. Focus on that and keep an emotional distance. The latter will also help you make sure that the promises are real. Accept that this probably has a self life and not a long one. Either you get the promotion and can move on, or you aren’t going to get the promotion regardless of what you do and need to move elsewhere.

  47. Retail Questions*

    I have so many questions about your job itself.

    New role:
    * What does your current promotion entail?
    Money: Do you have regular reviews of financials? Do you have financial goals to meet? Do you understand how financial accomplishments translate to recognition &/or bonuses, & how those contribute to the next promotion?

    Reports:
    Are you familiar with the kinds of reporting that store managers provide to their own leadership? Do you know/are you learning how to read & create them? Do you know the schedule/s for those reports?

    Leadership: Do you have formal or informal supervision of others in the store? Are you getting experience in the chain’s recognition & disciplinary programs?

    * District: Next Level Up
    Are you on a first name basis with your district leadership? Have *those people* talked with you about getting your own store – that decision won’t be made by your store’s manager – & in the next few months?

    Have they talked with you about how they would support you as a brand new manager at the busiest time of the year? That includes helping you meet financial goals (or giving you a break) as well as managing the likely influx of seasonal staff. And have they told you what mistakes would get you disciplined or fired on the spot?

    “Christmas” is US retail means that you’d likely be moving to the new store in October, to give you a month before the holiday rush begins. Are you ready?

    If you aren’t confidently thinking of all the solid answers you already have to these kinds of questions, I would have serious questions about your moving into running your own store, & that would change my interpretation of your boss’ behavior. If you are getting this kind of experience & training, then consider how much of an issue his behavior would be for another 3 months. If not, then this talk of getting your own store so soon is just talk & should be taken as part of the package of odd behavior that you need to address.

    Good luck to you.

    1. Unaccountably*

      I’m glad you posted this, because I have many questions on this timeline. I’ve worked retail at Christmas and it is awful when you’re just working the register, never mind being a store manager. Is it really feasible on this timeline to step in as a new store manager if LW hasn’t been running this store by herself in all but name for years?

      I’m glad HR is looped into it, but HR people are HR people. They might not have a clear idea of what the requirements are or what a new manager at Christmastime would be walking into, and might only have the skeevy boss’ word for it that LW is ready.

      Hoping this all goes well, but wow, the potential for disaster.

  48. LadyPomona*

    NOTHING your husband did caused your boss’s dislike of him and nothing that your can do will make your boss like him any better. This is NOT about your husband – it’s about YOU! For all of your boss’s blather about the type of woman whom he finds attractive, the woman that he finds attractive right this minute is YOU. He resents your husband because, in his frat-bro-maturity-level brain, if your husband were only out of the way then OF COURSE you’d gravitate to HIM! It’s not complicated, it’s not professional and it’s not ethical – it simply IS.

    Hopefully your boss will at least promote you to that store of your own in a few months. In the meantime, why not discuss this with your husband and see if he’d prefer to simply skip your workplace events or if he’d rather go and simply socialize with your colleagues and their partners?

  49. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

    LW, you say your boss “has a real drive for developing people. I happen to be the person he’s focused on developing, and it’s been wonderful”. I find myself wondering how your coworkers, who aren’t getting that development, feel about the boss?

  50. Observer*

    OP, I haven’t been able to read all of the comments, but I see that a major point I want to make has been touched on.

    Please try to move yourself out of this guy’s orbit. Even if he’s not attracted to you there are two problems here for you. One is that no matter what the reason is, he is showing you an unreasonable level of favoritism while behaving inappropriately in workplace social events. That’s not someone with good judgement. And also, someone with less than great emotional regulation, such that if he decides he doesn’t “like” you so much anymore he might take it out on you, even if you haven’t done anything wrong.

    Secondly, his behavior is very noticeable from the way you describe it. Do you really want to be the “girl who got promoted because Manager liked her”? That’s an incredibly disrespectful thing to say about someone, but that’s what the situation is setting you up for – despite your actual qualifications.

    Lots of luck and send us an update. I hope it’s a REALLY boring and good update.

  51. Jam Today*

    Your boss has a crush on you. That sucks, I’m sorry. I’ve read that book before and it didn’t end well.

  52. Joanna*

    Former bookstore manager here. I don’t understand how he can promise you your own store, let alone with any kind of definitive time frame. I know we aren’t talking the same company, because mine is long dead, but typically, the power to “give” someone a store is at the district or regional level, not that of a store manager. Additionally, unless the company is planning on firing a manager, or a manager at another store has given 5 months notice, where is the opening coming from? This all seems very suspicious to me. Is he presenting himself as having more power then he really has? I bet he is. And that concerns me, because what does he intend to do with this power? Nope. Stinks to high hell.

    Do you get visits from a district manager? If so, that might be a good place to start. “Hey, manager said I could have my own store by the holiday’s. Do you have any idea which store that might be? Just trying to figure out commutes and such.” I would pay big money to see the look on the district manager’s face in response to that.

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      OP said she’ll have the training necessary for her own store before Christmas, not that she’ll have her own store before Christmas.

      But yes, seconding the recommendation to have a quick chat with a district manager when you get a chance to.

    2. Snarktini*

      The OP clarifies that the path is well documented and witnessed by HR so while it may not be as simple as “poof here’s a store” this isn’t a false promise.

  53. Raw Cookie Dough*

    I don’t know if he likes you or not but he has some ulterior motive beyond your career development. Being rude to your husband…why do you tolerate that? This is not a guy I would trust with my lunch order, never mind my career. He doesn’t respect your marriage. Don’t gloss over that. HE DOESN’T RESPECT YOUR MARRIAGE. That’s a big part of who you are. He doesn’t see you as a serious professional, he sees you as his little project, able to be manipulated at his whim. Do you really have anything more to learn from him?

  54. Seashell*

    Maybe the boss is a self-loathing gay man who is trying to suppress and deny his feelings for OP’s husband?

    Really, it could be anything.

  55. Retired (but not really)*

    OP is there something you can do to start either including others of your coworkers in the mentorship or beginning to prep them for deserving future mentorship (hopefully with a different mentor!).
    An offhand thought – could you oh so helpfully introduce your mentor to some singles who fit his “ideal” image so he has someone else to hang out with?

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      Nooooo, OP should absolutely not volunteer to be more involved in his personal life by introducing him to people! And particularly not with any whiff of romantic prospects! It’s not her job, unkind to others, extra entwining where distancing is better… this is an all-around bad idea.

  56. BananasInPyjamas*

    He 10000000% fancies you! I think AAM’s advice is perfect – you need to make him know you’ve clocked it, but you want to be careful how much you push because he is in a position of power and these situations can turn nasty (particularly if he feels spurned by you in any way).

    I appreciate that sounds a bit victim blame-y and I in no way think it would be acceptable if he did make life difficult for you. But the reality is he might. So call him on it, but gently.

  57. zolk*

    Not to be this person, but sometimes a man will tell a woman what kind of ideal woman he wants in order to mould her into that, my fair lady style. So maybe right now you, like me, are makeup free and like a big sweater dress for peak coziness! But if he’s controlling in romantic relationships, he might think he can change you into something else, and see Bob as an obstacle.

    Something to look out for!

  58. Very Social*

    A bunch of things could be going here, to the point that it’s practically useless to speculate. But I will speculate anyway!

    I love you, Alison.

  59. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    So, after reading all your comments, OP, I still recommend you be on alert for the possibility of boss being attracted to you. That said, sometimes people get clingy and fixated on someone without reference to attraction – like the CEO who became obsessed with his administrative assistant and forced her to travel whenever he did even if no work purpose, expected her to spend every second with him, etc., to the point it was destroying her marriage (we just recently got an update). And one user made a really great comment about how mentoring can be an ego-feeding activity and he may have an ego issue where he wants all your attention when you are with him. Also, if he has an ego issue, the fact that your husband is so winning and charming may be causing him to get upset. That said, I still find the degree of rudeness towards your husband weird, even if he was attracted to you.

    I think it might be reasonable to gently ask about whether there is something you are missing, as Alison suggested, because honestly, I am flabbergasted. But regardless of what you do, please update us, because I am so so curious as to what is driving this behavior.

  60. Dawn*

    OP: Google “negging”.

    “Negging (derived from the verb neg, meaning “negative feedback”) is an act of emotional manipulation whereby a person makes a deliberate backhanded compliment or otherwise flirtatious remark to another person to undermine their confidence and increase their need of the manipulator’s approval. The term was coined and prescribed by pickup artists.”

    Your boss keeps circling back to “what kind of woman he prefers” and how it differs from your presentation to manipulate you. He does not “have a real drive for developing people” – he has a real drive for trying to pick up his employees. I know you don’t think that this is what is going on, but I am as certain as I can be without actually observing the interactions. Abort abort abort.

Comments are closed.