should I tell my boss he’s why I’m leaving, fundraising at work, and more

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

1. Is it worth telling my manager that he’s why I’m leaving?

I’ve been at my current company for over a decade. I’ve been a high performer throughout, received excellent reviews, I’m at the high end of pay for my role, and have been told that my leaving would be a blow. Not in the “you can’t go” way, but from a very senior person who has been a mentor for me and was trying to point out that while my manager doesn’t, everyone else sees and values my contribution.

I’m on the verge of leaving. There’s no further growth here, there’s very little work from home flexibility (and no good reason for it), and my boss is awful. He’s a nice person, but totally complacent and lazy. When I go on vacation, he’s meant to cover my work. This means I come back and am immediately drowning in missed or half done, sloppy work. Other team members and I will come up with simple, actionable ideas to improve workflow. However, we’ll need him to work with another team. He always says he’ll bring it up but never does. One item I’ve been bringing up for five years! He doesn’t tell us when someone calls out even though he should be managing the team’s workload to distribute the extra work. Having worked with him as long as I have I do call him out on things, but he’s like Teflon; nothing sticks.

Is it worth trying to explain to him what role he’s had in how unhappy I’ve become here? I like my colleagues and feel like if I can help I should help. But then, I’m so tired of the whole thing. Would it be a kindness to point out how his team feels?

I would love to give you a different answer, but it’s very unlikely to make a difference. Someone who operates like your manager does is very unlikely to hear a rundown of his faults and suddenly become a capable, competent manager. He might make some changes around the edges, but he’s not going to become a different person. (You also risk causing problems for the coworkers who are staying if you present it as “how his team feels.”) You might be able to share the feedback with someone with authority over him — or someone with the ear of someone with authority over him — but once you’re on your way out the door, it’s usually more in your interests to just make a clean getaway and enjoy this not being your problem anymore.

I know you’re thinking you could help out your coworkers … but unless there’s someone in authority there who you know to be highly responsive to this kind of information, it’s so unlikely to cause meaningful changes.

2. I’m struggling with motivation at my internship

I am an undergraduate who is currently working in a part-time internship in the career field I want to get into. I am embarrassed to admit this because I feel so bad about this, but I have been really slacking on my internship work. I’ve been slow on my assignments and I have also started coming into work 20-30 minutes late, not on purpose but because I’ve been having trouble getting myself out of bed. I lost a close family friend unexpectedly earlier this month and it hit me super hard. I didn’t tell my work about the loss because I didn’t need to take any days off for the funeral and also it felt too personal to really tell my boss about.

Ever since then, I just have not been doing my best at work. And I feel really upset and ashamed about this. I usually pride myself on my good work ethic but I am totally cognizant that I am slacking, and I know that my boss notices it. We’re in-person but we can ask to work remotely ever so often although it’s not encouraged. I’ve started calling in to work remotely at least one day a week because some days I just don’t have the energy to go into the office, do the commute, buy lunch, etc. I know I should be coming in every day. I feel so guilty about it every time I stay home or come in late. I just … I don’t know what happens.

My boss talked to me this week about how I need to try to come in on time. She hasn’t addressed the days I work from home yet but I know she doesn’t like it. I just wish I could start over and make a better impression.

I need to get my life together and fix this. But I know that I already have the reputation of being a slacker. How do I even start addressing this? I could try my best to come in on time every single day and get all my work done – that should be the bare minimum. I just don’t know how to turn things around without flat-out telling my boss that I know I’ve been slacking off. I feel so lost and hopeless. Do I even have a chance at fixing this?

Please talk to your boss! She’s clearly noticed some problems even if she doesn’t know the extent of the slacking off, and knowing the context that would likely make a big difference to her understanding of what’s going on. It’s really normal for people to struggle at work after a serious loss like this, and it’s okay to share that with your boss. You could say, “I want to let you know that I’ve been struggling over the last few weeks — I lost a close friend unexpectedly earlier this month and it’s hit me very hard. I will be redoubling my efforts not to let it affect my work, but when you talked to me about my schedule recently, I realized I needed to explain what’s been happening.”

This is the kind of thing that most managers will be sympathetic to and she’s likely to want to accommodate you … whereas if she doesn’t know what happened, she’ll be left to fill in the blanks on her own. Talk to her!

3. Fundraising at work

I know you have written about how to deal with pushy fundraising at the office, but I was wondering if you had any advice on how to respectfully approach this as a fundraiser? I have Type 1 diabetes (T1D), a chronic medical condition, and this month is the 20th anniversary of my diagnosis. It also happens to be an important anniversary for the T1D community as October 1923 is when insulin was produced and distributed on a commercial scale. October 25th also marks the anniversary of the inventors winning a Nobel prize for their work.

I have been toying with the idea of running a fundraising campaign to benefit a few different national and international research, advocacy, and health organizations that focus on T1D. My plan at work was to reach out to the folks I know well and have discussed my experience with. But, I work at a mission-driven organization with a long history of global health programming (along with other economic development topics). I think others in the organization would be interested in supporting the cause, but I don’t want to overstep. I thought I could post on our company’s social feed (think Facebook-style) and present the info, link to donate, and perhaps ask for suggestions for T1D-focused organizations in the countries where my company operates. I plan to only post once, maybe twice publicly, then follow up individually with the folks I know well.

I’d appreciate your feedback, as I don’t want to be “that person” at the office!

Your plan to post on the internal* social feed sounds fine, assuming your company doesn’t prohibit solicitations (although that’s something to check if you’re not sure) — but I would stick to doing that once, not twice. I’d be wary, though, of following up with individuals one-on-one; that creates a lot more pressure to respond/donate than a group posting does. (Group posting is more the equivalent of posting something on an office bulletin board, which people can ignore if they want to, whereas one-on-one follow-up is more like showing up in someone’s office to ask if they’ll donate. The latter does cross a line at work.)

* I’m assuming that Facebook-like social feed is internal; if it’s not, you’d need to get the sign-off of whoever manages your company’s external communications.

4. How do you keep information confidential without feeling like you’re lying to your coworkers?

As the communications director for my small org, when there’s an internal shake-up or news about leadership, I often know before my peers do because I provide counsel or have to write the emails and announcements. This puts me in a tricky position when a colleague who knows enough to know that “something’s up” asks me,”Do you know anything about what happened after that board meeting?” or “Did you know that Sally was going to step down?”

I’m fortunate to be trusted by executive leadership and by my colleagues as someone who has the organization’s best interests at heart. But to maintain that trust on both sides, I need to be able to keep mum without feeling like I’m lying by saying, “No, I have/had no idea!” What’s the right way to respond that respects both my superiors’ confidence and my relationships with well-meaning peers who just want to know what’s going on?

To the questions after it’s been announced (“did you know…”): “Not until right beforehand.”

To the questions before anything has been announced (“do you know anything about…”): “I can never share anything from board meetings until there are public announcements, even dull stuff.” But obviously this one is trickier because you’re indicating you might know something but aren’t sharing it — but you’re also underscoring that maintaining confidentiality is part of your job. Someone who presses you beyond that is being a jerk by putting you in an unfair position and you can respond flatly with, “I’m not allowed to share anything from those meetings. You’re putting me in a weird position.”

{ 225 comments… read them below }

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I can neither confirm nor deny that a board meeting took place and that I was in attendance. This conversation will self-destruct in 3 seconds. *hides behind a potted plant*

      2. OhNoYouDidn't*

        I was just coming here to say just that. It’d be fine, and useful for the OP to make it clear that they often know lots of things that are coming down the pipeline and that part of their job is to keep it confidential. It’s not lying or being deceitful. It’s just part of the job.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          That’s pretty much what our communications director did in an old job. She was friendly with everyone and joined us for lunches and whatever harmless speculation she could, but she was forthright about the fact that she would often know things that we didn’t and that it was her job to keep it confidential.

        2. chewingle*

          Yes, and this also sets a good example for any employees/coworkers who might be looking to move up into similar positions, but possibly don’t know that it entails being able to keep certain information to themselves.

    1. Artemesia*

      Of ‘nothing has been announced.’

      The main thing though is to make clear that you can never divulge confidential information ‘oh you know that I could never share anything about the Board even if I knew something’ — you say that early on when no big announcement is in the offing and then it is less a tip that something is going on. They learn that you are never a source of inside information. (it is kind of like lending your car — establish that you NEVER do that and then it isn’t personal when you don’t because all your friends know you NEVER.)

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        My job is about 80% confidential information. Nobody even tries to get info from me; they know perfectly well that if I can’t discuss something, I won’t.
        Where it gets awkward is that coworkers tell me things I don’t really need or want to know because they know I’ll keep it to myself. (I’m glad your colonoscopy went well, but I’m not interested in any details, thank you!)

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          Hi, are you me? This is definitely the hazard of being known for being discreet!
          (Funny enough, professionally people know this, but in my personal life since I am extremely extroverted people assume I am not … and are stunned when I keep things mum. Like, you all know what I do for a living, right?!)

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          My coworkers and folks we work with have decided that because nothing they say to me ever gets out I’m the secret depository. I appreciate the trust, but it can be A LOT. It is getting worse the older I get because I’m edging into elder territory and people are making the mistake in thinking I am also wise

          1. Uranus Wars*

            “people are making the mistake in thinking I am also wise”…boy do I feel this.

            It’s a lot to take on everyone else’s story but it’s a whole other level when they want advice. All I can say is, “whelp, don’t do anything I’ve done.”

        3. ferrina*

          Lol! I’m also in the same boat- lots of confidential info, though I rarely know what outcomes are going to be. Most people are extremely respectful of that, but it’s not unusual for them to ask after info that may impact them. They may ask: “ferrina, I heard that we may be doing X policy. Do you know anything about that?”
          But if I say “I really can’t discuss it” then they drop it.

        4. Not your typical admin*

          I totally understand this!!!! My husband is a pastor, so people feel very comfortable sharing all kinds of personal details with both of us.

      2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        I appreciate the “even if I knew something” framing, since it helps preempt the “Oh, so you *do* know something…” response.

      3. Reluctant Mezzo*

        I knew that a temp was going to be hired permanently (he was a genius and I recommended him for the temp job in the first place after meeting him in a class) and he asked me outright if he’d made permanent. I had to lie to his face, but he didn’t complain or at least didn’t do so to me.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      “Please don’t ask me those kinds of questions; you know that I’m not allowed to disclose that information.”

      1. Just Another Cog*

        This is what I’d be inclined to say. I may be naive, but what makes people be so dang nosy? I keep stuff to myself, even if it’s not been presented as confidential because work/life is just easier if you don’t spread information you’re not entitled to share.

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Yes, I much prefer this, especially vs “Not until right beforehand.” If I asked my boss if they knew about X prior to the announcement and they said “Not until right beforehand” despite working on the comms for how the announcement was going to go, I’d feel pretty lied to. There are ways to acknowledge you did know while making it clear that it’s part of your responsibilities *to* know these things beforehand.

      I think its important for lower level staff to be aware that there *are* going to be situations where upper level management aren’t going to share things with them for good reason, and “Not until right beforehand” makes it sound like they’ve also been blindsided by the news instead of correctly identifying it as part of their job to keep confidentiality.

    4. daffodil*

      this is what I was going to suggest. Especially if your job isn’t MOSTLY confidential stuff, it’s not unreasonable for people to ask for what’s up. My job has a lot of stuff that’s mildly interesting and not at all sensitive, but some stuff that’s quite seriously confidential. It’s fine to respond to a question with “nothing I can share” or “nothing I can share right now”

    5. Green beans*

      “What’s ready to be shared publicly is…”

      “There should be an update around X time.”

      “They’re still finalizing the details but as far as I know, the original timeline hasn’t changed.”

      Shrug and a “Sorry, nothing’s ready to be shared publicly yet.”

      If they ask you if you knew, a very matter of fact “Yeah, I draft most of those emails.” or “we designed the flyer” or whatever. This can really help delineate that you are not a decision maker.

      If someone asks something like why didn’t you say anything, or wow, you kept that really secret, “Yeah, I like my job/paycheck” and a laugh will generally be a good way to deflect while reminding them descretion is part of your job requirements.

      Finally, if you can spend a little bit of capital on (carefully) pushing back or putting a bug in the right people’s ears advocating for others, it’ll help a lot. People will frame it as, “oh, they have access to information and executives but they’re also willing to use that access to pass along feedback to help us.”

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        Plus “we are often drafting communications for things that may not come to pass, just like the speech prepared for President Nixon should the Apollo astronauts die on the moon.”
        Our communications director once told me his department keeps obituaries updated for the C-suite and the board, just in case.

    6. Hills to Die on*

      My go to that I borrowed from my mentor is that I tell people:
      If I am not allowed to share something, I will always tell everyone that I don’t know anything. If I don’t know anything, I will always tell everyone that I don’t know anything.
      If I have information I can share, I will let the team know those details.
      Otherwise, assume I don’t know anything.

    7. Chickaletta*

      “Nothing I can share” is a good line. As an EA, I’m aware of confidential things on a consistent basis and while most people know better than to come prying around me, I’m definitely more interested in keeping my job than being the one to tell Sally something she didn’t need to know yet, so I’ll be kind but firm about not sharing something I shouldn’t.

      And a note on one of the suggestions to reply “not until right before” (or something like that): that might only apply if that’s true. But the fact is, a lot (probably most) big decisions made by the higher-ups are weeks if not months in the making. The truth is, I’m aware of confidential things in their conceptual stages, so by me saying I didn’t know until the very end, it makes it sound like my boss has been slinking around me, that I’m clueless, or that senior management makes rash decisions. Of course, for the OP whose in communications, this statement might be ok because she might really only be told at the eleventh hour.

      I’ll also give very vague, neutral responses if someone starts asking something like “did you know they were going to let so-an-so go?!?” (hoping to get the scoop) – “oh, my boss had a meeting with HR so I suspected something might be up”. Then I change the topic.

  1. MishenNikara*

    LW2: Seek out mental health services immediately. See if your university has resources. Let the professionals help you sort things out. Let your boss know whats up so they can possibly accommodate. You don’t have to go through grieving alone….yes even a month after the fact

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Seconding this! And if your university does not have options for some reason there are national hotlines you can google for them. And 211 should work for you and will have suggestions in f places you can call.

    2. grumpy old lady*

      Yes! Came here to ask if you have access to mental health services for depression screening. Please talk to your boss and seek help.

      1. grumpy old lady*

        And give us an update. This is a very caring community of readers and we all wish you well.

      2. Extra Anon for This*

        Came here to say that all of this: “I’ve been having trouble getting myself out of bed […] some days I just don’t have the energy to go into the office […] I feel so guilty about it every time I stay home or come in late. I just … I don’t know what happens.”

        That sounds exactly like me when I’m having a major depressive episode.

        I also know that “go get help!” is easy to say, but can be Mt Everest to *do* for a person who is having a major depressive episode. But, LW2, please know (at least intellectually, if your emotional self isn’t up to knowing it right now) that you are more than your adversity, and more than your reaction to the adversity. If there is an EAP or hotline or friend or family member that you can call to smooth your way, someone who can help you get to the help, I hope you can make that first call to get it started.

        Wishing you well.

        1. TinySoprano*

          Exactly. Those feelings are usually a solid indicator that I’m headed for a big MDE. Also, a very normal and understandable reaction to a serious loss. Either way, seconding the advice of Extra Anon, if you can enlist a friend or family member to help you with the journey, please do. A Gandalf to your Bilbo. Even if it’s just the first step.

    3. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      Most universities have resources! If your university has an on-campus student clinic, that’s one place to start. Also search your university’s website to see if they have a counseling center or wellness center. A Dean of Students office (if one exists) can also be a great resource.

      And mental health support is more than the traditional, weekly, one-on-one therapy sessions! There are support groups, peer groups, meditation/resource apps, etc. There can also be staff members to help you navigate get temporary accommodations/support, for you courses. This could be something like getting some extra time to complete assignments, or to support you in figuring out how to have that conversation with your internship supervisor.

      1. madge*

        This, all of this! OP, I don’t know how many years I worked at the same university before learning about the EAP (Employee Assistance Program) which includes not only traditional (and free) counseling for employees but a free membership to Sanvello and other discounts and program referrals. The information is *buried* on the HR page. A quick email to your HR department could be worth it. Sending you lots of hugs. Losing a close friend is so hard. I’m sorry.

        1. ThatGirl*

          OP is an undergrad at an internship so those things may not apply. But a majority of colleges have mental health services of some sort (I should know, that’s my husband’s field) who can, at a minimum, do a screening and help you find someone to talk to, and many offer counseling services.

    4. Generic+Name*

      Yes! I winced when you said you need to get your life together. You are being so unnecessarily hard on yourself. You are not a slacker. You are very understandably grieving! You are allowed to feel sad after a death. You don’t have to power through and ignore your feelings.

      1. Bee*

        Yeah, if “I can’t get out of bed” could be solved with willpower, you would’ve already done it!

    5. J Beckman*

      Along with mental health services, did anyone in the career services office help set up/register your internship? I work in this role and part of my job is to help students either advocate for themselves, or to facilitate communication between students/site supervisors/faculty members. Many employers, though gracious, can forget that this is often students’ first professional experience, and dealing with everything that you have going on is tough even for a seasoned employee.
      I would encourage you to get connected to the career services office if that’s the case. They can be your best advocates!

      1. Anon Career Person*

        This! The career center and/or internship coordinator folks are there to help you not just find the internship, but to manage any issues that come up. “How do I talk to my supervisor about this?” is a legitimate question to ask, and I assure you that the situation you describe is neither uncommon nor the worst situation we’ve helped manage.

        Relatedly, one of the purposes of internships is to help you learn how professional offices/settings operate, and how to talk to managers about issues that impede your work is among the skills you can learn here. My advice, in addition to Allison’s script, would be to ask your supervisor how they prefer employees handle issues like this and how you can best manage your work moving forward. Then you’ve acknowledged the (relatively minor) misstep and expressed a willingness to learn from it going forward.

    6. WiscoKate*

      I hope you consider seeking out help through your university, LW2. I’m sensing a lot of shame from your letter, and truly you have nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. Grief is difficult and it sounds like you have a lot going on. Just being in college is a really stressful time! I don’t want to do any armchair diagnosis but depression is a sneaky, sneaky condition. It makes us think we are somehow failing by not “just doing” what we need to do, but that just isn’t always possible. I hope you are able to find some support and I’m so sorry about your friend.

    7. drpuma*

      yes!! campus mental health is FREE and meant to be used. I benefitted from amazing support as a grad student. OP2, your counselor could even help you figure out what to say to your boss

    8. All Het Up About It*

      LW2 – I was you once in grad school! It turned out it was a medication causing my depression, not grief, but I promise you things will be better if you SHARE with your manager that you are struggling for a specific reason. That is the best thing you can do and the closest you can get to a clean slate. Trust me – you don’t want to be crying in the Dean’s office at the end of the semester after they called you in to talk.

      And I agree with the recommendation to reach out to mental health resources. While you might not be experiencing an actual “depressive episode” – it sounds like you might be. And that’s totally understandable! And even if you aren’t – you are experiencing extreme grief that is impacting your life. Sometimes even just a few counseling sessions will help with lessoning that impact.

      I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend!!

    9. laowai_gaijin*

      Yes. I lost my father shortly before fall term started back when I was still in school, and I didn’t even begin to understand how it was affecting me until it was almost too late to pull my grades up. I finally went to my advisor and professors and let them know, “Look, this is what’s been going on with me.” My professors were very understanding, I got the help I needed, and even though the rest of the year was rough, I got through it.

      Grief often manifests as numbness and apathy. It’s like your brain can’t take all that pain at once, so it locks it away along with the rest of your emotions. This is a natural, normal thing. You’re not a slacker; you’ve just got way too much to deal with emotionally. Talk to your boss, talk to your professors, find the resources you need. It’ll be worth it, I promise.

    10. just another queer reader*

      +1, with the caveat that even the best college counseling centers have 1+ month wait times this time of year. Absolutely get connected, and hopefully they can at least get the ball rolling.

      Also: it’s an unfortunate irony that the people who most need mental health support are not in a position to jump through all the hoops to get that help. If you have a good friend or family member, or a staff member at your college, who’s willing to make phone calls, figure out insurance, etc on your behalf it can be super helpful.

      All the best to you.

      1. Extra Anon for This*

        To your second paragraph: I owe everything to someone who made a phone call and set up an appointment for me at my university’s counseling center. At the time, I was capable of showing up to an appointment once it was made, but I couldn’t handle the stuff about finding out that there was such a center, finding its number, calling it, etc. I really needed help to get help, and am very lucky that someone was there for me.

        1. COHikerGirl*

          I’m the same way right now (due to brain fog this time). I just now asked for help and my doctors were happy to help. Asking for help is super hard, but the vast majority of people want to help and will do everything they can to help!

          And just because you have been able to do things in the past…current situations might say otherwise and it’s much easier (energy wise) to ask for help than try to do everything yourself.

    11. kanzeon*

      +1. LW – your story exactly described multiple situations I was in during college. I didn’t get treatment until the very end of school (I didn’t realize I had anxiety and depression, since they weren’t completely debilitating), so this played out multiple times. Every time, I felt like I couldn’t quite control what was happening but that I should be able to. It really impacted how I viewed myself – I’d always been hard-working and responsible. My biggest regret is not getting help sooner, and just viewing it as a personal failure. It took years to unlearn that. Get help! If you’re struggling that much and it’s out of character for you, that’s your sign.

      1. LaReesa*

        Yes, same. This letter made me tear up. I had the exact same experience one semester – I just COULD NOT get myself to class on time. I remember going to the office hours of my professor with a million apologies and excuses and he just asked if I was okay. And his question was the first time I thought maybe I wasn’t?? Now I have lots of great tools to help with my anxiety and depression (meds, coping skills and also just the self-understanding that comes with time). Hope the OP gets help and gives herself grace.

    12. Alyssa*

      Came here to say the same thing. These are classic depression symptoms, and even if it is temporary (ie focused solely around grief), you deserve to feel better than this, and you CAN feel better than this. If you don’t know where to start, start with your primary care doctor, or any therapist.

    13. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I agree. OP2, I think you have been feeling like you don’t have a right to be experiencing your grief or like you have to hide it from your boss. But a) what you are describing is a very common experience of grief … my worst semester of law school was just after a major loss and I could not motivate myself at all, and b) your boss would rather know why this is happening. Please speak up, to your boss, and to whatever support system is available to you. You are not inconveniencing them by experiencing grief.

    14. COHikerGirl*

      Another +1 on this. I’ve had to have hard talks about similar issues with multiple bosses over the years and they have all been awesome and understood. It sucks to have to admit you are less than you know you can be, but there is a reason! Grief is hard. And has so many impacts on so many things…without you fully realizing it. My grandfather recently passed and I took some time off even though the funeral was a Saturday. One of the days I went and spent time with my grandmother. The other, I spent time with family. Rest is important.

      Go easy on yourself (easier said than done…I could have easily written this letter almost verbatim!). You can get through, but let others help. That way you get through healthily.

      I’m so sorry for your loss, OP2.

  2. Ms Frizzle*

    OP3: please consider getting in touch with your college’s counseling center. Grief is really tough, but this sounds like something that might be easier to manage with help.

  3. Linda Pinda*

    Oh OP 2: I’m sorry about your friend and your troubles at work.
    I can really emphasize with what you’re feeling, doing (or not doing), and the resultant feelings. This could very all be a situation wherein you’ll be feeling and doing better in a month or so. Perhaps not, and if so, may I encourage you to to see a doctor for a screening for depression and/or anxiety? I did and the help I’ve gotten has made a huge difference.
    My best wishes.

    1. Blanked on my AAM posting name*

      I was going to post a very similar comment. It’s very easy for a normal grief response (which this totally is) to slide into depression and, before you know it, you’re sitting in a private room with your head of department and both of you are sobbing helplessly. (OK, that will probably just be me!)

      OP – be kind to yourself and know there are lots of AAM readers thinking of you.

  4. IsbenTakesTea*

    OP #2, my heart goes out to you. You are not “slacking,” your body is processing your grief! Please let your boss know! As Alison says, you don’t have to go into details, but this is very important context that a manager or any decently empathetic human being would want to have.

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

    1. BethDH*

      I always hated to tell bosses stuff like this because it felt like an excuse for slacking and I wanted to be “strong.”
      But no one ever made me feel like that once I finally said something, they made me realize that it is normal and expected that both your body and your mind need extra care after a loss.
      Also just telling someone there weirdly made me need fewer accommodations. That might just be me, but I think pretending nothing had happened made it seem like an even bigger loss — like wiping out a memory too.

      1. FormerProducer*

        I know exactly what you mean. There’s something about just saying the thing that can make it feel easier to deal with.

        OP2, I think you are in shame paralysis. Your shame is keeping you from telling people about what’s going on, your shame is telling you that you’re a failure for reacting this way, and it’s keeping you stuck. I really think that just saying it out loud, to your boss and hopefully to a grief counselor, will help you recontextualize this and feel less hopeless.

        1. BlueSwimmer*

          I’m a HS teacher and have had many students in your situation- they are struggling with mental health and it affects their schoolwork, then they spiral into not wanting to face anyone to ask for help and get deeper under piles of work.

          I often counsel them to start with an email to their teachers if it is too hard to talk to them face to face. An email lets you get the message to them but still control your emotions in case you worry that you might break down if you talked face to face. It also lets you show your professionalism in how you write it. Of course, face to face might be preferable but if you just can’t bring yourself to have the conversation, an email can start you on the path of explaining and asking for help with your boss. You can even have a trusted friend or family member read it over first to give you feedback.

      2. Waffle Iron*

        On the other side of this, I regularly work with college students and interns. I can often tell when something is up, but I can’t accommodate unless they communicate. I tell them I don’t need all the details, but I can’t help out unless I have some sense of what’s going on.

        If they just tell me, “hey, there’s a medical emergency,” or “I’m dealing with a major loss,” then I will do everything in my power to provide whatever logistical support I can in making sure they’re able to complete the course / get credit for the internship / take a step back without hurting their future prospects. While I’m not a therapist or counselor, I can also at least convey best wishes or sympathy as appropriate.

        Most students take me at my word, and I do my best to handle it with compassion and sensitivity. Some students just try to power through anyway, and some only tell me when it’s too late to do or change anything. Then I feel bad, but at that point, there’s not much I can do to offer practical support.

        OP2, I’m so sorry for your loss. Please stop beating yourself up, and talk to your manager by whatever method feels best to you.

    2. squid*

      Yes, OP2, you are not slacking, you don’t need to ‘get your life together’. You’re grieving and grief is hard and messy and unpredictable and you shouldn’t feel like you need to face it alone. Please do reach out to your boss, your internship coordinator, your university’s counseling services, or your advisor. They’ll be able to help you to get the support you need.

      You’re doing the best you can in light of incredibly difficult circumstances, and the people around you will understand that. Grief is something most people have gone through at some point in their lives, and it’s one of the most difficult things you can experience.

      Reaching out for help can give you the tools and social support system to make it easier for you to process that grief. Please take the time to take care of yourself first. Trying to improve your job performance without getting support for the root of the problem is going to end up feeling like trying to fix a broken arm with bandaids.

  5. Sarah*

    I’ve never commented before, but I strongly urge the writer in letter #2 to reach out to someone, a counselor or therapist, a trustworthy friend, a pastor or other trusted spiritual leader, about how you’re feeling. Lack of motivation, inability to get out of bed, let alone leave the house, are classic symptoms of depression. Your grief is valid and real, but I encourage you to find someone to help you create some coping strategies so you can still have some level of functioning. I have been where you are; I could’ve written this letter several years ago. It does get easier, I promise. But please, don’t walk through these dark days alone.

  6. ENFP in Texas*

    LW#5 – “Nothing official” is a non-answer that is truthful, because nothing is official until it is announced by the person or department who has responsibility to do so.

    And if you respond with a non-answer often enough, people will eventually stop asking you.

  7. Zombeyonce*

    For #3, the fundraising letter, I think your position in the org chart should also have an impact on how you handle this. The higher up you are, the more likely people are to feel pressured, or even use it as a way to make themselves look better to you if you’re someone with a lot of power.

    The VP of my group regularly posts about a charity personally important to her and her family and spends precious minutes of quarterly updates (the only time us peons get to ask her questions and she never goes over time so often can’t answer everything submitted) discussing upcoming events for this charity and how its work might impact her family. I’m sure it’s a good cause, but it’s way too much and actually puts me off considering sending money or volunteering my time.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      I’ll also say that the fact that she makes more than any of us makes it feel particularly frustrating. She could likely donate the amount all of us put together could, so it’s also reminding us of our income disparity and that can sting.

    2. John Smith*

      A good way to relieve pressure is to emphasise the voluntary part of it. Its also a good idea to suggest non financial ways to support a cause, even if it as something simple as sharing a link to a website for example. But the emphasis, especially in hard times (at least in the shitshow that is here, the UK), should be voluntary, no pressure, etc.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        November is Diabetes Awareness Month, so sharing an infographic about symptoms in advance of that might be a good way to go about it, if OP is posting about it in late October.

        We caught my son’s type 1 diabetes early thanks to an awareness graphic someone shared on Facebook – we got him checked when he had some symptoms but still felt basically fine, which is way better than not catching it until you end up in the ICU for several days, which happens all too often. It doesn’t really change long-term outcomes at all, but I am really grateful that his diagnosis wasn’t as traumatic as it could have been.

    3. Smithy*

      In addition to the org chart piece – because the OP mentions working at a nonprofit, I think it’d be worth looking on the internal message board to see if anything similar had been posted in the last year.

      Putting aside whether or not you are allowed to solicit at your job, there’s a significant portion of nonprofit staff who view their working in the nonprofit sector as their primary contribution to a cause. That the 40+ hours they give a week at a reduced salary is how they contribute. Many people in that group will take information and solicitation about causes with a “thanks, but no thanks.” But in others it can trigger a snarkier or angrier response about how they already give.

      One job I had, during one staff meeting a month – different co-workers would share about different topics of interest of them. One person’s presentation was on what fair trade was and resulted in one of the angriest exchanges about how insensitive the presentation was because of how little we were paid and how dare the presenter make us feel bad for not buying fair trade products we couldn’t afford.

      I’m not going to say that’s a universal reaction, but I do think it’s worth remembering that you know your colleagues support your organization’s response to its mission. How that extends outside of work, might still include personal contributions, volunteering, activism, ongoing education etc. It may also include none of that.

  8. Inkognyto*

    OP #1)

    Leaving is often enough.
    I had a toxic manager. He was totally the reason I left for a lateral move with very little pay increase in 2009.
    I was looked up too by most of the co-workers who worked in fear of making a mistake. They came to me for a lot of things being afraid on making mistakes he would get made at them for. Things they knew but didn’t want to ever screw up, basic daily tasks. I was very much an un-official lead.
    Later, another respected person in the company left, 4 total by year end in a team of 20.

    That manager didn’t change, I went back and talked to people later. He was promoted to director. I contracted back at the company there for 3 months in 2018. The manager I reported too on my first day said to me before a conference call meeting with him “Oh, this guy is a piece of work”. I responded with “I used to work under him, I’m not expecting that he changed.” The knowing smile was all that was needed. He didn’t change.

    Go be free, and in a few months it’ll be forgotten and you won’t want to remember it.

    1. John Smith*

      Agree completely. Several people have left my team citing our manager as the reason why and giving examples of his behaviour (inc. bullying, harassment, sheer incompetence etc). He’s still here and still the same, probably because his manager and his manager’s manager are just as bad. Funnily enough, my previous manager left, citing me as the reason, and I was immediately put under disciplinary investigation (it didn’t end well for the management team).

      Leave, never look back and as Alison said, enjoy this not being your problem.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Yep. Just about 10 years, 13-14 people cycling through the 4 positions under her, having her authority to hire, fires, manage budgets, attend meetings with external stakeholders, give references, and all reporting staff reassigned to new managers taken away, WorstBoss still abides. No one knows what she does all day but she makes $90Kish a year.

      2. ferrina*


        This has been my experience as well. The incompetence usually goes up several levels. Don’t risk yourself, and don’t expect change- if they were interested in changing, you’d already know.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        I’ve read so many letters about people leaving because of their manager, but a manager citing a report as the reason she is leaving is new to me! I guess that’s because in a functional organization, a manager should be able to handle that on their own by firing her report.

      4. Lana Kane*

        Wow, am I curious as to what happened to the management team after they put you under investigation! Never heard of a manager blaming a direct report for leaving.

        1. John Smith*

          It’s because staff in my organisation are complacent and don’t speak out…except me. Management are like kids unused to hearing the word “no”. When my last manager left after I took her to task on her incompetence, senior management decided I was the problem as it was more convenient than dealing with a bad manager and admitting they themselves made mistakes and are bad managers. Alison could write a book on my dept.

    2. Triplestep*

      This is what I was coming to say. I left my last job due to my manager who was an habitual liar and extremely childish. Strangely, she was both egotistical and insecure. She resented my ability and desire to implement process improvements (which she could not deny others appreciated) and tried to manage me out. I found another job before she could.

      I was the third person to leave her team in 18 months, and I declined HR’s invitation for an exit interview. She’s still there four years later, and I’ve gotten the best reviews of my whole career in my current job. Seriously great reviews, the highest possible for three years running – it’s just a really good fit for me. Occasionally I think about the contrast (how appreciated I am now and how horrible my former manager was) and wish I’d have let my her know she was the reason I left. But those thoughts are fleeting when I remember how little impact those kinds of conversations have. You really just have to move on.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        “Strangely, she was both egotistical and insecure.”

        It is a common combination. I think the egotism is overcompensation for the insecurity.

        1. ferrina*

          Narcissism is rooted in shame and insecurity. Dr. Ramani has a great YouTube channel where she goes into the details around it (she’s a psychologist who has studied narcissism for years)

      2. Anya Last Nerve*

        This comment was what I needed to read this morning! I’m dealing with a boss and grand boss who are both horrible in their own special ways and it’s good to hear that their may be light on the other side if/when I can find a new job!

    3. Quinalla*

      It sounds like your mentor at least already knows your boss sucks. If there is someone else above your boss you think it might be worth talking to, I’d consider that, but telling your boss will just be an exercise in frustration. You’ve already tried to tell your boss here and there while employed and sounds like you’ve gotten nothing but frustration. My first boss was not as bad as this, but there was certain feedback he just was unwilling to take in and reflect on and I didn’t bother to give the feedback again when I left as I know it was pointless.

      Is it possible for you to move somewhere else in your current company? If not, then yeah get out. This dude is not willing to change right now and may not ever be.

    4. Sara without an H*

      This. OP#1, if your boss is this incompetent, trust me, his superiors probably know. Why are they keeping him? Who knows? Maybe he’s under somebody’s political protection. But for some reason, they choose to keep him.

      As for telling your boss on your way out, that’s an exercise in futility. He’s never been receptive to feedback before. Why would now be different?

      Go forth, find a better job, and leave. You cannot fix this situation and you’ll only frustrate yourself if you try.

      1. the cat's ass*

        Yeah, exactly this. They don’t care or bad boss would be gone. Had a boss like this; I had a pleasant non-commital resignation period where i said nothing of substance and breathed a big sigh of relief on my exit. Still get together with a lot of my former colleagues and we are all working happily elsewhere.

      2. BlueSwimmer*

        Yes to this! I left a workplace I loved two years ago because of a toxic manager. My grandboss absolutely knew why I was leaving but I kept it professional on the way out and never said anything but “I need a new challenge” and “This new job is better for my family.” So much was unspoken. My grandboss helped me land on my feet and called his connections for me as I interviewed. I know he felt bad that I had to leave and that he couldn’t get rid of my toxic boss.

        It took me a few months to get over feeling bitter about it, but then I realized I will never see him again, and I am so appreciative of my wonderful new boss.

      3. Smithy*

        The point about it being a mystery why someone is being kept has been the best thing I’ve learned to let go.

        I’ve also learned that in my field – while lots of my peers/former bosses may run around presenting themselves and their teams as “best in class” – very often, if their overall performance is around a 75% or average….for a number of organizations, that works. It’s a choice that senior leadership makes that investing in actually having a well supported team with excellent management doesn’t lead to results so much better than what they’re already getting. So provided those basic KPI’s stay within that “average” range, that remains good enough.

        It won’t make it an amazing team to work on and is always one with obvious areas for improvement *if only* xyz was addressed. But the reality is that those improvements have already been decided that they’re not worth it.

  9. Magenta Sky*

    OP#4: Find ways to get them to ask you if you know anything about . . . when there is nothing going on. The trick to “I can neither confirm nor deny” is to be able to say it consistently when there is, and when there isn’t, anything to confirm of deny.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      I do this with students, to the point that I once had a class I was subbing for convinced the teacher was pregnant. “How come Miss X isn’t here?” “That’s none of your business or mine so let’s just get on with our work.” They were convinced the lack of information meant there was something secret about it and to 14 year olds “something secret” apparently implied pregnancy.

      But if I said “oh, she’s at a course” or “oh, he’s taking another class on a trip,” then when somebody WAS missing for a reason they wanted kept private, it would be obvious there was something up. Letting them get the wrong impression once or twice and realise afterwards there was no mystery at all meant hopefully that when there WAS one, it would fly under the radar.

      Now, I often really DIDN’T know, but I usually would if it was something serious. If somebody has a headache or a doctor’s appointment or is on a course or something, I’m usually just asked “could you cover such a class?”

      1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        When you show up instead of someone else, it’s pretty obvious to the client / student / patient / whatever that the person they were expecting to see isn’t available – and if the absence wasn’t sudden, that person probably would have told that they would be away next time. So it’s difficult to hide in that situation that something is going on.

    2. hbc*

      Yeah, there are a few types of questions where my answer is some variation of, “I never answer questions about what goes on in board meetings, because if I say ‘no’ sometimes, then later you’ll know that ‘maybe’ or ‘I can’t say’ is ‘yes.'”

  10. Jasmine Clark*

    LW2, I’m very sorry to hear about your friend. Your problem here isn’t really about “work ethic.” The real problem is that your mental health is suffering because of the loss you’ve experienced. It’s often hard for people to focus on work when there’s a serious problem with their mental health. (I know how that feels. When I had a mental health issue earlier this year, I became less productive with my work. It was so hard to get work done.)

    So the #1 priority is to take care of your mental health. You may want to see a therapist or do other things to help yourself heal such as journaling, creating art, or spending time with friends. Take good care of yourself and put your mental (and physical) health first!

    I agree with Alison that you should talk to your boss about what happened so she’ll know you’re not really a “slacker.” (You know, so many people who appear to be “slackers” are suffering from mental health issues and trauma…) I suggest talking with the boss and seeing if you can arrange some kind of reduced workload. Or maybe this isn’t the right time for you to do an internship right now and it’s best to stop and focus on rest and self-care.

    I hope you’re able to find healing soon and that everything works out well with your internships and career.

  11. Healthcare Manager*


    The phrase I’ve used in the past has been ‘I was aware of several different possibilities that were being explored’. I find that to be a good balance between ‘yes I knew and couldn’t talk about it’ and not actually admitting I knew. Particularly when we’re talking about people’s jobs!

    I’ve just been through a restructure so after giving an answer like this a few times (over the last 18 months) people do stop asking.

    1. Not liking my new boss*

      Because of the position I had in my previous job, people knew that I knew, so they kept asking and I started to answer something along the lines of “I have selective memory loss, can’t remember anything from the meeting if you were not there”.

      Yes, I know it can be perceived as rude, but I always said it laughing and then explained that if there was something on the meeting that they needed to know, the communication will come from the proper channels.

  12. Allonge*

    LW4 – you owe confidentiality to your employer / these meetings more than you owe the full truth of everything that happens immediately to your colleagues. And anyone who does not understand that and pushes past it is being a jerk to you.

    Frankly, if someone repeatedly pushed for this kind of info / asked if I knew beforehand, I would start ignoring them (after using Alison’s answers).

    Yes, lies are (mostly) bad but this is not the situation that rule applies to.

    1. Please Mark This Confidential and Leave It Lying Around*

      I am privy to a lot of confidential information, everybody knows it, nobody asks. Because the professional norm is that confidential information is kept *confidential.* I wouldn’t have my job if I blabbed. So your coworkers are being clueless. This isn’t a social situation where you agonize over telling a lie that may impact a friend.

  13. Observer*

    #2- I want to echo everyone who said to reach out for help and to talk to your boss.

    But I also would ask you a question. Why do you think it’s a problem to tell your boss about this? Yes, it’s personal but it’s having a direct effect on your health. And it’s not like we are supposed to be perfect machines in the office that have nothing but professional stuff going on. Telling your boss the basics is not “unprofessional, boundary crossing, overly personal or in any way inappropriate.

    1. BethDH*

      To be fair, there are some bosses who would be jerks and wouldn’t care. But if OP’s boss were one of those, she’d probably have been harsher about what OP has already missed.
      Also, since OP is presumably pretty new in the workforce: there are professional ways to talk about this. It’s not that you just say it the way you would to friends/family! Alison’s script gets at that — you share that you know you’re not performing at your usual level and give a sense of the reason without details. It’s a lot like talking about medical stuff — the focus is on the work impact.

      1. Observer*

        Yes, this is all true.

        But that starts from the premise that the very act of talking about this is not inherently problematic.

        And I very much hope that the OP’s manager is a decent person. I think that you are right and if they are a jerk, they would have been a lot harsher.

    2. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

      When I was an undergrad I would have thought that a boss would not care about or want to know about anything personal such as my having suffered a bereavement. I’m really glad LW #2 has this resource to learn that that’s not necessarily true at all and how to handle the situation.

      We’re hoping for you, LW #2.

  14. GythaOgden*

    We maintained a site email when most people were based in the office. Fundraising is a non-issue in British culture — on the whole, people donate an awful lot and there are several major annual events such as the MacMillan (cancer) coffee mornings (really bake sales) in September or the British Legion poppy sales at this time of year, a deep-rooted tradition that people support because it’s both honouring and supporting recent veterans and aged ex-servicemen and -women. So it was accepted that office events would be given some publicity through internal channels.

    It’s surprised me to read some posts here on fundraising since a lot of ours is ‘put some spare change in a teacup, have a slice of cake’ without shade if you don’t join in. A lot of people do give more — having had a husband who benefitted from their services, and having had a whole year of counselling from them for free, I have a standing donation to a local hospice and Macmillan gets a decent donation when an opportunity arises. (My husband’s best friend runs marathons for Macmillan in hubby’s name and in the name of his own wife who survived bowel cancer. We all chip in.) But it’s low pressure and the emphasis is on sharing a moment together rather than cash.

    However, I think the line was drawn between office events and simply drawing attention to a cause. I think to get interest in this office something tangible is obligatory — it’s a bit sad but people want something for their money! We had people request this all the time but we were very strict on that line.

    That said, posters in the break room, private discussions amongst your immediate colleagues etc etc etc works just as well as site emails. I did ‘wear a hat day’ for brain tumour awareness/research (hubby had lesions in his brain at one point): I couldn’t wear it without issues from my supervisor, since we need to be respectable when clients come in, so I left my steampunk witch’s hat on reception and got people to chip in. Someone else did it properly and made a very generous donation.

    So the more you can externalise the imagery the better. Cake doesn’t seem appropriate for diabetes, but thinking of something visual or sponsored might help attract interest.

    Best of luck to you whatever you work out, though. My grandmother developed diabetes after my grandad passed on and got bad advice. I had to use my biology GCSE to explain some things she needed to fully understand. (All those cute diagrams and so on of how the body responds came in useful to explain why she needed to have sweets with her, and she was treated as T2 and put on a bad diet even though her case was late-onset, so we got a second opinion and she recovered some of the lost weight. I shouldn’t have had to do that and I loathed biology at school — so unpredictable! — but I was thankful at least that I’d paid enough attention to explain the situation to her when she most needed guidance.) It should be much more publicised because it’s one of those stigmatised situations that people don’t understand enough and even practitioners misunderstand.

    I stand with you in recognition of it and hope you get the response you deserve :).

  15. Ama*

    Tell your coworkers that you’re the CIA — you can “neither confirm nor deny” what, if any, topics were discussed or decisions were made.

    1. GythaOgden*

      TBH to me that would sound like ‘No comment’ or other similar phrases — evasive and as if there were something real behind the obfuscation.

      Just do it with a shrug or something that indicates it’s private — no fancy stuff that just invites even more speculation.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        “Oh you know I can’t talk about what they discuss in those meetings, even if it was just administrivia.”

        People why try to pump you for confidential stuff are crazy making.

  16. GythaOgden*

    Regarding the intern’s loss: always tell your management/supervisors. Few people are callous enough to hold it against you, and it really helps for them to know because then they cut you slack. I didn’t have issues with tardiness, but I had a lot of anxiety, had to go to counselling, had to manage while hubby was in hospital (I took time off for his surgeries) and so on. It was a hard two years, but I got through it by having my management on my side. My great-grandboss even stopped by after he died to let me know that if she could help in any way, she would. I didn’t need her help at that point, but I was really honoured that she did come by because it gave me a chance to get to know her better. (To coin a phrase, I thought she was the gardener.)

    So please, please tell someone. You’re not alone — literally everyone has been through or will experience grief at some point in their lives. They /will/ understand.

  17. English Rose*

    #4: This can definitely be tricky, as deliberately non-committal answers can set hares running which may even increase rumours. It’s also really tough when decisions are coming up that affect people you know and respect.
    I agree with others that “Nothing I can share” and similar are good phrases, and I’ve found that even the right body language really helps. A shrug of the shoulders, a quick look of confusion while saying something anodyne can move the conversation along. You’re aiming to be boring on the topic. Also changing the subject so long as it’s not done too obviously.

    1. Joielle*

      Yeah, I usually go with “eh, nothing definite” or “it’s not clear yet” or something like that, with the noncommittal body language you mention. A little shrug, half head shake, vague hand gesture, etc really seems to help get the point across.

  18. Grey Coder*

    LW #1 — Telling your boss will do nothing, but you could raise your concerns with your very senior mentor.

    I was in the same situation. Boss was not toxic, just lazy and useless, but this still had a detrimental effect on the work and on the team. I did consider leaving, but I (and others) had some conversations with GrandBoss who was much more clued up. Boss started to complain about being “micromanaged” — I took this to mean that GrandBoss had put him on a PIP with some concrete things he was meant to do, and he was annoyed about being held accountable. Eventually Boss left, presumably before he was pushed out.

    I was not sure that the senior management would have the will to follow through as all of this took some time, but I’m happy that they did, and we are in a better place now. So I would have that talk with your mentor and see if you get the sense that there is anything going on that might take your boss out of the picture. Of course the answer may be “no” — your boss’s incompetence may not be causing other people enough pain for it to be a priority — but you are more likely to get a result from that than from talking to your boss.

    1. Grey Coder*

      Also — if you have this conversation, focus on the problems your manager is causing for the business. You’ll have a stronger argument if it’s not about how you and the rest of the team feel, but about the work not getting done/getting done late/following an inefficient workflow.

    2. Nea*

      This is my advice as well – tell the senior person that you simply can’t work there under those conditions anymore. List the work repercussions, then walk out the door.

      Your boss has had years to get a clue and hasn’t. It’s your mentor who’s in a position to assess whether keeping a bad boss was worth losing a good employee.

  19. bamcheeks*

    LW2, a reallyreallyreallyreallyREALLY common mistake that a lot of people make is, “I’m so ashamed I can’t possibly talk about what’s wrong”. People make it at all stages of their careers, but it’s particularly common for people who are new to the workforce.

    Most of the time, supervisors, mentors and advisers are thinking, “I can see something is wrong, but I don’t know what.” Some of them will outright ask what’s wrong, and still get a, “umm, no, everything’s fine.” And I can tell you from the supervisor side that it’s so frustrating, because we want to and CAN help, but only if you are able to talk about what’s going on.

    I can’t promise that you’ll get a good result if you do– unfortunately there are bad bosses, and bad university advisers, and some people really really suck at this stuff. However, the fact that you’re an undergraduate and an intern means you have several sources of support– student mental health / disability services, your internship boss, your academic adviser, the placements team at your university– and the chances are high that at least one of those will be helpful and supportive. Approach whichever you feel most comfortable with, and they can probably help you communicate with the others if necessary. I work with placement advisers in a university, and it is absolutely our job in this situation to help you communicate with your internship manager if you don’t feel able to approach them directly yourself. (But if you do feel able to do that, that’s OK too!)

    If your internship boss is decent, what she’s not going to do is go, “Well, this isn’t good enough, so sort yourself out”, or “Oh, I understand now, I’m so sorry, keep slacking off.” What she will do is say, “OK, so you need some extra support. What we’re going to do is …” Just from what you’ve said here, some of the obvious things that I would suggest are:

    – clearer guidance about how often it’s OK to stay at home and how often you should come in, so you can stop feeling guilty about it
    – more regular check-ins about how your work is going, whether that’s a 3-4 times a week or beginning and end of the day (this can really help when you’re struggling by creating much smaller “tasks” so you don’t have to figure it out yourself)
    – reassurance that life happens and it’s OK when something like this knocks you for six
    – a change / reduction in your workload or hours

    This might sound counter-intuitive, but learning it’s OK to talk to your supervisor about something like this might well turn out to be the biggest piece of learning from your internship. It probably isn’t a case of, “I just need to dig deep and pull myself together”– it’s almost certainly, “I need to learn to share and ask for support when I’m struggling, and then work with my team and managers”. The latter is a really important lesson that may well have a far bigger impact on your broader professional success than completing the particular project of your internship. I hope you can manage it.

    And you can definitely, absolutely still get a good reference from a manager when you’ve opened up about something like this. But that’s part of what the university placement team are there to help you negotiate too!

    1. BethDH*

      Great answer. I work with a lot of undergraduate interns (3-4 a year as their supervisor, 20ish in more peripheral relationship). The main thing that separates the okay ones from the great ones is communication. It’s not that the great ones never have personal problems that impinge on work.

    2. Lyudie*

      100% all of this. It can be scary to talk about something like this with your boss when you’re still learning to navigate the working world (or even after you’ve been working a while!) but bosses are human too, and most will offer support in a situation like this.

      Good luck OP and I am so sorry for your loss <3

    3. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

      Another person in higher ed, here to validate this response.

      Higher Ed has a reputation of being a toxic culture –and it definitely is in a lot of ways, especially in being bad at transparent communication and supporting work/life balance. But people within the system are trying to change it, with an emphasis on improving the experience of early-career members of the community, such as students. It’s not only good for yourself and your current job to communicate when something personal is affecting your work, so you can get support to meet your work responsibilities. It’s also contributing to the shift of academic culture toward a more humane and sustainable form, where communicating forthrightly and considerately about the intersection of professional and personal becomes normal.

  20. LondonLady*

    #OP2 – it sounds as if you may be depressed (not a diagnosis, just a suggestion) which is absolutely not your fault but could explain your tiredness and lack of motivation. Telling a sympathetic manager at work, and seeking help outside work, is the right thing to do. Good luck!

  21. FashionablyEvil*

    Oh, LW2, I am so sorry for your loss. In addition to all the other (kind, empathetic, and spot-on) advice above, I’d encourage you to re-think the mindset that, “I need to get my life together and fix this.” We’re all human and sometimes (really) bad stuff happens! A good manager wants to know when things are happening in your life that impact your work so they can find appropriate support for you. (In my time as a manager, I’ve supported staff through deaths in the family, cancer, mental health treatment, a stalking situation, diagnosis with a major chronic health condition, struggles with anxiety and perfectionism, and that’s just off the top of my head.) Also, people like helping! Knowing that you were able to step in and help a junior colleague who was really struggling after a loss is a good feeling for people.

    For the flip side of this perspective: as a manager, it really sucks to find this stuff out later when there have already been negative impacts—I had an employee who could NOT get their act together on an issue with their timesheet and it ended up causing huge problems and damaging their reputation permanently within the organization. If I had known that they were dealing with some really complex and difficult family situations (which they were, but they repeatedly denied anything was wrong and claimed that things would get fixed), things would have been so different because I could have arranged for help on their projects, connected them to our EAP, helped them figure out what leave options they were eligible for and apply for them, etc., etc. I would rather do that a million times over than have an employee quietly suffering and no one knows.

    Hope this all turns a corner for you soon!

  22. Santiago*

    #2 – Best of wishes. I went through a serious medical situation last spring (think: brush with disability) and my work was all over the place. I’m back to normal now. What you are experiencing is normal and understandable.

    You need to disclose that you are off due to the loss, for performance. Beyond this, it’s okay to try and negotiate the tools that you need, and a normal manager will enable you to do this. I.E. if you need to start conciling, you may be able to change your schedule, or if you can work one day a week remote – a fixed day – it may help you not feel overwhelmed the other days.

  23. FashionablyEvil*

    #3–does your company have a more formal infrastructure you could tap into like a community partnerships program or matching gifts program? Sometimes it can be easier to connect it to a certain event too (like a 5k with a fundraising complement.)

    Organizations often like doing things that are connected to an employee so, for example, the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin next year could be an opportunity for your company to support a local organization that, say, supports individuals newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes or something like that.

    1. Russian in Texas*

      As long as you don’t do this in the way my Old Job did.
      They was an annual competition for which floor collects the most money to the food bank. The winners would get a catered lunch.
      To surprise of no one, the 7th (sales) and the 2st (C-suite) floors always won. You know, the people who made the most money.
      Now, sure, donating money to the food back should be its own reward, but the whole thing just didn’t feel right.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I think it would also feel a bit odd to sit down to a nice catered lunch after your mind was on people who need help accessing meals! Seems like they’d want to donate that lunch or something.

        1. All Het Up About It*

          Agreed! That just feels… off. Like that money would be better spent going toward the food bank – or providing lunch for the staff and volunteers working on sorting donations. etc. Because “catered lunch” isn’t just some pizza or cake.

    2. I should be working*

      This would be the appropriate route at any company I’ve worked for. The only fundraising allowed is that which is presented by the employer. I can neither confirm nor deny that Girl Scout cookie sales occur on the down-low. Because thin mints.

      One would have to present it to the higher-ups and request that it be a campaign they’d be willing to join/promote. On the whole I appreciate this approach because I’d rather not be solicited for donations at work by various co-workers.

  24. Not your problem any more*

    LW1: If you’ve been calling your boss out for years, he knows how you feel. Either he doesn’t care, or he’s already working to the limit of his ability and he’s in a job that’s too big for him. Neither of these things will be fixed by you telling him how you feel.

    If you have a long-standing problem with your boss that interferes with your ability to do your work and you can’t fix it with your boss, you can escalate it to his boss, if conditions are favourable, or you can leave. You’re leaving. If the organization values you more than him, someone above him on the food chain may take this as an opportunity to investigate his management more carefully. Or they might not care, or the people above him might already be working at the limits of THEIR abilities.

    Either way, it doesn’t matter to you because you’ll have a different job. Sometimes you win by not playing.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Exactly. You’ve told the boss for years what the problem is. You and others have developed new ways to do things that were ignored. You leaving is not going to have your boss suddenly go “Oh Wait, you mean I need to change?”

      We cannot change others, we can only change how we react to them. You are changing how you deal with him by leaving. That is all that is in your control.

  25. animorph*

    LW4 – Honestly, I think you denying knowledge is actually the best route to go down, even if you do feel like you’re lying. It’s not your position to give away any information. I found people stopped asking me questions when I claimed ignorance because I then wasn’t helpful to the gossip machine.

    I would actually challenge you to not feel bad about the “lying” (which honestly I wouldn’t even consider this to be – sometimes you shouldn’t be revealing you even knew about some information beforehand, it’s part of working with sensitive information), your co-workers are being incredibly unprofessional asking you questions they probably know you can’t/shouldn’t answer.

    1. Generic+Name*

      I understand where the OP is coming from by not wanting to lie, though. As someone who is compulsively honest, it’s hard to tell even white lies. Alison’s scripts are good for threading that needle. If someone asks before an announcement and OP says they can’t share, anyone who pushes is being crappy to OP.

    2. Jaydee*

      I’m a lawyer. We frequently have to compartmentalism information in that type of way. So do lots of other categories of professionals who deal with confidential information.

      The easiest way is to explain that you can’t share that type of information and, if possible, give either a brief explanation of how that type of information will usually be relayed or an explanation of why you can’t share that information.
      – “Do you know if the board talked about XYZ during the closed session?” “I’m not able to share information from the closed sessions. If there is anything that impacts you or you’re department, you’ll likely hear it from your manager/in the weekly email update/in the board report the CEO sends out after the meeting/etc.”
      – “Did you know Fergus was leaving?!” “I’m not able to talk about personnel matters like that. LlamaCorp prefers to leave it up to individual employees to talk with their manager and announce their departures in a way that makes sense for them.”

      And to the extent you have any sway with higher-ups and decision-makers you can attempt to convey to them the consequences of how they communicate information.

      “I’m hearing from a lot of people who are really worried about layoffs. It would probably be a good idea to head off some of those rumors before they snowball. And if there will be layoffs to give as much advance notice as you can, be really clear about which departments are affected, give people some severance and/or time to look for new jobs, etc.”

      “I know we can’t tell people about the settlement with Fergus, but we’re still getting lots of calls for him about the llama grooming assistance program. How should we redirect those calls so they get handled in a timely manner and people aren’t left thinking he’s just ignoring them?”

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      What about something like “Sorry, I don’t have anything to share.” It kind of implies you don’t really know anything, but it really means that you don’t know anything that you’re allowed to tell them.

  26. Gnome*

    #3- Please do not follow up one one one! just because someone is close to you at work, or has even shared experiences around diabetes, does not mean they should get a sales pitch for a charity at work! And that’s what it is no matter the worthiness or historical significance – you are asking them to part with time or money.

    It can be seriously off-putting to have someone come tell you, or “suggest” how you spend your money at work, especially because of the dynamics of needing to get along can make peole feel like a trapped audience to your pitches. It’s one thing to say, “Hey Gnome, I’m raising money for Worthy Cause, let me know if you’re interested in contributing” and another entirely to “follow up” with people talking about the historical significance and why they should give.

    Personally, I hate it when people try to do that to me at work (speak to me one one one about donating to a cause beyond a brief sentence). When it happens, I tend to back off from any relationship with them just to avoid future sales pitches.

    1. Marketing Ninja Unicorn*

      This is what I came here to say, and T1D is a cause very near and dear to my heart.

      Every year, my org chooses six charities to support with our internal fundraising (dress-down days mostly). I suggested JDRF this year because of how passionately I feel about it. It was one of the six chosen and that made me feel great! But if it hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have followed up about it.

      I have a coworker who suggested a charity that was chosen last year and not this year. He has emailed our whole org (600+ people!) more than once asking for additional donations on top of what we already give to our causes. Any good will he had built up with folks is long gone and now he’s actively avoided because it’s all he’ll talk about. HR had to get involved because his emails to his direct reports were being interpreted as requiring this donation and suggesting a bad eval if it wasn’t given (!!!).

      I’m sure that’s not what OP is meaning, but asking for money at work, with all the power and pay imbalances, is fraught with the potential to go pear-shaped.

      OP, mention it once on your internal channel and then let it go. If people want to donate, they will, but they definitely don’t want to be ‘followed up with.’

    2. WellRed*

      Thank you. I’m usually happy to for over the $10 or so for a kid’s raffle or cookies but it’s only announced once via slack or email and that’s it. The one on one, no. I also don’t think in general this is a great way to raise money, at least in any meaningful sense. Your individual coworkers you approach aren’t going to give large sums. FWIW, I’m also Type 1 and otherwise am in favor.

    3. Observer*

      Please do not follow up one one one!

      THIS! 1,000x over.

      Even people who know your history and / or you are close to. Actually ESPECIALLY those people. And even MORE especially with anyone who you have any authority over, even indirectly, and / whose work you affect or affected by.

      Also, please do not approach anyone – and I do mean “anyone”. As noted, just because you are “close” in a work context, it doesn’t mean that this is an appropriate ask.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      Yes, LW3 please be aware that the fact this is a personal cause to you and people know that actually makes this MORE of an overstep if you’re not really careful about it. People will feel a lot more pressure to donate to a cause that actively affects you even if you aren’t trying to guilt them into it.

      1. Deanna Troi*

        I agree. LW3, I don’t mean this is in a snarky way, but you started out by saying that you know it is annoying when people solicit at work, but then you seem to be saying “but MY cause is worthy” and you go into a long justification as to why. I think everything thinks their cause is worthy, or they wouldn’t be asking for donations. Even though you don’t mean it this way, I think that giving the attitude that your cause is more worthy for all of these reasons is off-putting.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I agree. I think if there was a specific event you were participating in, like a 10k or walk-a-thon or something, one general ask is okay. Like “I’m participating in this thing, please let me know if you want to support it!”

          But it sounds like this is just a general “please donate to my pet cause” which I don’t feel like really has a place in the office tbh.

  27. PsychNurse*

    For number 3, the thing to keep in mind is that many people have causes that are important to them. You’re passionate about T1D, because you have it! It’s great that you are involved in advocacy. But it’s likely that you have many co-workers with other things they are equally invested in (someone may have a specific type of cancer; someone may have lost a loved one to domestic violence and is now involved in prevention programs; someone may have lost people to opioid overdose and is involved in advocacy for that). All of the causes may be 100% valid, but if each person went to their coworkers to ask for donations, or to sign petitions, or encourage them to write to congress, it could be really draining and take up a huge amount of time in the office.

    1. Gnome*


      Also, some of the caused can actually be triggering for others. I lost a loved one after a decades long tussle with a certain cancer. No, I do not want to “Give” to anything having to do with it- I think my family and I have given enough (active participation in clinical trials, entire research careers). Not that I don’t support the cause, and not that I don’t donate, but it is just triggering to talk about and I don’t need that when I’m trying to be professional and get stuff done! And people can get really pushy… “Don’t you care about people suffering X? Don’t you want to Y?”.

      1. Anonymous for this*

        My response to obnoxious queries like this is to say, “Yes I do care, because my son was 7 when he was diagnosed with X cancer and he might still die from it, 15 years later.” In a very very cold tone, and then turn away and be frigidly polite to that person ever after.

        1. Anonymous for this*

          Oh, and when they protest that “I didn’t know”, the response is, “That’s right, you didn’t.” Said even more coldly

  28. Russian in Texas*

    I have a very strong contrarian reaction to being ask for money/donation/volunteering in person.
    When it’s online, noon personal, I may do it. I 100% will not do it when asked in person, because I always feel I am being manipulated by being put on spot, in to an awkward position of personally refusing.
    Don’t do that.

    1. Poppy*

      Same here. I do not like being put on the spot by people asking for money and doing so MULTIPLE times would just make me avoid that coworker or possibly talk to my boss about it. It’s great you’re passionate about T1D, but I also have things and charities I’m passionate about that I wouldn’t dream bothering my coworkers about, even for a big milestone.

    2. The Rural Juror*

      Folks at my place of work do a lot of volunteer work outside of the organization and we’ve created a system where we set up everything online and it works really well. For fundraising, we’ll create a link to include in an email and then people can go and donate *if they want to.* For volunteering, we’ll do a Google Sheet (we keep copy+pasting the same sheet and just updating the event details), send out the link, and then people can sign up that way. Very little soliciting is done in person and there’s not really any pressure. I’ve noticed with the online sign up sheet that people are happy to be able to see if others they know are signing up. We’ve done some planting days with the local Parks and Rec department, Meals on Wheels, toy drives, and collections for food banks. People who want to join can happily do so and people who don’t can happily ignore it. :)

  29. A Pound of Obscure*

    #1, telling your boss you’re leaving because of him: Alison’s right that it might not help. However, if I were you and I didn’t need him as a reference, I would be inclined to tell him, “I think you’re incompetent as a manager and I can’t work with you any longer.” That’s it. No need to elaborate, and no need to bring your coworkers into it. Just make it about you and your reason for leaving. He might lash out (“You’re terrible at your job anyway and I’m glad you’re leaving!” or some such defensive reaction), but you know your value. You can laugh internally without engaging further. Deep down, he probably knows he’s failing. Lazy people usually know they’re lazy. Your blunt words — and the difficulty he’ll have filling the hole you’re leaving — might be the double punch in the gut he needs to face himself in the mirror and either leave his position or do better. I realize this is risky, as he might march you out the door without finishing out your notice period, or he might lash out at coworkers, but those reactions would only highlight the fact that you were right. I would find the truth to be freeing, personally.

    1. Happy meal with extra happy*

      This is really a terrible idea. I can’t imagine the response would be anything but horrible if OP were to do this.

    2. No, don’t do that*

      Contrary to what movies and TV tell us, usually people don’t react favourably to “a double punch in the gut”. Rather, they get defensive and double down. Telling your boss he’s incompetent is highly unprofessional and will do nothing but rank your credibility with him (making it even less likely he’ll be introspective) and others.

      Frankly, prioritizing the momentary satisfaction of a big flounce over the long-term benefits of presenting yourself professionally and regulating your emotional state toward moving on, not toward the small revenge of making someone feel bad who’s made you feel bad, would be pretty unhealthy behaviour.

      1. Lana Kane*

        And like you mentioned in your first paragraph, that big flounce is so glorified in TV, movies, and social media, which obscures how unhealthy that really is in most circumstances.

    3. Generic+Name*

      Yikes. Please don’t do this. Feedback is helpful when it’s specific and actionable. Saying someone is incompetent at their job isn’t specific and non-actionable because it feels like a personal attack.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Yes. Critique the process, not the person. Which is exactly what OP1 did. They saw problems, presented solutions, and Boss ignored the recommendations. OP1 can’t change Boss, but they can – and did! – change their circumstances.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is real life, not the pivotal scene in a drama. People who are not good at their jobs don’t have some deep moment of introspection because someone was blunt or even mean with them – in fact, when delivered as an insult, the first reaction is going to be that the letter-writer just personally does not like them, not that they need to stop micromanaging the TPS reports or make Guacamole Bob actually do some work. “You’re incompentent as a manager” doesn’t even tell the person what needs to change – it just sounds like judgment and name calling, and, while the former may be warranted, it’s not productive in real life. It won’t really make the letter-writer feel better (though leaving and not having to put up with it can), it can jeopardize a reference, and it gives no actionable information to the offending manager.

      And very few of these people know anything about themselves “deep down”. Most truly think that they are right or are in a soup where their behavior is normalized and that anyone who’d do what you’re suggesting is mean spirited and unprofessional. Untangling this sort of dysfunction requires clear naming of the problem and a regularly-monitored remediation plan that most poor performers are unable to do solo.

  30. Roobarb*

    LW3, please know that a death of someone close to you is not too personal a thing to tell your manager. You are human. Humans experience loss and grief. Your reaction to it is very normal and human, and it is a very normal and human thing to need to take some time off work. Your manager will much rather know the reason for your change in behaviour (if they have already noticed it, there’s no harm in telling them the very reasonable reason for it) and would prefer you take some time to process than continue to drag yourself into work and struggle.

  31. I should really pick a name*

    A general request to donate is fine (subject to your employer’s policies)

    Following up individually is saying “Why haven’t you donated? I expect you to.” and that’s a problem.

  32. Anomie*

    Virtually no one wants to contribute to personal fundraisers at work. They may do so out of some misplaced obligation. This topic, while noble, is very personal to YOU, not your coworkers who have their own worries, bills, health problems. Especially during this time of inflation.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      Virtually no one? I would donate to LW’s campaign, because type 1 diabetes has been an issue in my family.

      But when I reflect upon it, there are very few other causes I would be willing to donate to at work, if any. Yeah, if I have done in the past, it has felt like an obligation because of the work relationship and that’s…not a good thing. I believe Anomie is right.

      At most, I would say I’m doing a fundraiser for X, and leave out any details about how people can contribute. If they are really interested in contributing, they will seek you out.

    2. Mockingjay*

      Donor fatigue at workplaces is very real. If you have – say – a modest office of 50 employees, at least half of those at some point are going to bring up a fundraiser. I can’t nor do I want to contribute to all. (My numbers are guestimates based on Current Job, which is heavy into laudable charitable causes: fundraisers, volunteerism (they do provide some paid time off), weekend events. Top that off with the unholy amount of school fundraiser flyers in the breakroom…)

      Post the info on the company’s community site, then leave it at that.

  33. CharlieBrown*

    I’m wondering about #4 — do your coworkers not realize that confidentiality is part of your job requirements? If they knew that, they might not bug you (or bug you as much–there’s always that one person or thing).

  34. Marz*

    LW #2, this is really hard, be gentle to yourself!

    It’s okay to not be your best for this internship. I don’t know if you’re getting paid (I would guess yes) or paid well (I would guess no) but even if you are, it’s still fine. It would be fine if it were a job, entry-level or a high profile CEO position, it’s fine if this is THE internship you’ve been looking for, I know it gets scary and hopeless and and tangled up in all your grief, but truly, you will figure your life out, this isn’t your one and only chance, so if you don’t pull it together – which is no small feat – please forgive yourself. Don’t put more pressure on yourself for this job. I don’t care if it’s curing cancer, you deserve more kindness than putting this internship before your wellbeing.

    Another, related thought is: you don’t have to tough this out. I don’t know how many options you have, I know it feels like none, but I also know sometimes it seems like failure (or strategic retreat) is unthinkable but, it would absolutely be okay, and reasonable, and smart, and if you have the resources you can just decide, I can take a break from this internship. Talk to your supervisor, and tell them, ghosting will compound these feelings, but you can just quit! You can! Or you can decide how to make this work for you.

  35. Sarita*

    The intern should probably talk to a therapist or their doctor. They are showing depression symptoms. A lot of companies have employee assistance programs that even interns have access to. This would be a good reason to talk to your boss as they could give you the contact info for the EAP.

    Something else to keep in mind. Failing at an internship seems like a huge deal in the moment. But internships are meant to be learning experiences. And having your first major failure and having to pick yourself up and move on builds resiliency that will serve you well later in your career. I failed spectacularly in my first role post MBA school. And it was horrific in the moment. I thought my entire reputation would be forever marred by my mistake. But over 10 years later, NO ONE cares or remembers and it makes the best “tell me about a time you failed” interview story.

  36. Neon*

    #2: One month during an internship where you were late and occasionally working from home is unlikely to have any significant impact on either the intern or the employer.

    Sure talk about it with your boss and try to show up on time going forward, but try to stop beating yourself up over it either way. The stakes here are likely much lower than you’re making them out to be.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Without an explanation, it’s probably going to have an effect on the intern’s performance evaluation, and could possibly cost them their job.

  37. Estimator*

    LW #1 – I worked for someone exactly like this for 8 years, only in this case he was the son of the owner. From the outside it looked like a great team but that was because I did my job and his job. I stayed so long because I knew if I left everything would fall apart and I had worked with our 2 main customers for almost 15 years (with other companies, I moved around with the customer contracts). Finally I left, now I make twice as much doing only my job and not my boss’s too. I am so much less stressed and actually don’t mind going to work. I feel bad that they lost all the contracts I worked on within 6 months, but they had years to work on the problem. Don’t underestimate how much working for someone like this affects your mental health. I didn’t realize how bad it was until a couple months into the new job. Over 2 years later and he still manages the department the same way, only now they have very little work and are losing money. Some people just won’t change.

    1. Jukebox Hero*

      100% yes, do not underestimate the toll this situation is taking on your mental well-being. Nine years ago I was working for toxic boss #2 in three years, and while I had been a high performer for nearly 15 years, it started impacting my performance to the degree I was put on a PIP. Even after communicating with my grandboss about my struggles, I realized one morning that there was no chance toxic boss would change, and there were no opportunities for me to grow in the organization any more than I already had (thanks to the two bad bosses and the small size of the organization). When I left, several employees and executives expressed sadness at the situation, with one even saying, “I wish there was something we could do.” I felt some guilt leaving the team behind, but knew I had to do what was best for me and my career, as employer wouldn’t. Looking back, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And the team I felt guilt about leaving behind? All left within a year.

  38. I would prefer not to*

    LW4, a previous director of communications I worked for obviously struggled with this. He was the type of boss who wanted to act like our friend and our equal. He wasn’t great at taking responsibility for things.

    Not only did he often start comments with “I really shouldn’t be telling you this, you’ll have to keep it to yourself, but…”, but he also complained about the decisions that were made, and made it clear to us that he disagreed – while not really doing anything to change the things he (and we) objected to, either.

    He told me about one colleague being made redundant before she had even been told. He told me about a senior colleague who had cried in a personal discussion. He told me about the grandboss’s family troubles, and grandboss’s daughter had serious drug and mental health issues. All of this was confidential. I know that because he always told me it was confidential and that he shouldn’t be telling me!

    It caused frustration, mistrust, confusion, favouritism concerns, confidentially concerns, undermined confidence in the organisation and its leaders, and led to general low morale.

    That’s an extreme example and I know you’re not doing that, LW, but let it be a cautionary tale. Don’t be that guy. Don’t risk being that guy.

  39. Contracts Killer*

    LW #4, I’m an attorney and have the same thing happen periodically. The best way I’ve found to deal with this is, the first time someone asks, to remind them, “You know that I can’t disclose anything. People trust me with information because they know it won’t be shared.” Then I walk the walk. I don’t share ANYTHING confidential that anyone has told me (other than true safety or illegality matters). That’s why people feel comfortable coming to me before anyone else to share that they’re pregnant, sick, quitting their job, and even just fun office gossip. The more I’ve built this reputation, the less people ask me to share confidential info. If they do ask, shampoo, rinse, repeat.

    An important thing to do is to ALSO say you can’t share/deny/confirm, even if it’s something that isn’t true. That way you aren’t saying “I can’t say” solely when what they are asking is true. If they’re asking about something untrue that I fear could cause problems, I’ll generally go to management to share that there’s gossip about it so they can decide if/how to handle bad rumors.

    I hope this helps!

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      In my position, I am rarely the first to know stuff. Since I’m a reasonable person (most of the time?), I’m not a jerk about it when somebody knows something confidential and doesn’t tell me. It’s not personal! And haven’t we all seen a situation where someone tells one person, who tells one person, who tells… and soon everybody knows some version of the truth?

  40. DramaQ*

    LW2 please tell your boss. You don’t need to go into great detail but she needs to know about your loss.

    Two weeks before I started my new job my MIL died. Two months in there were issues with my grandma and her nursing home.

    Four months in my mother died.

    I’m honestly surprised I’m still standing.

    I was upfront with my manager about it all. I ended up breaking down in a meeting because like you my performance went in the toilet.

    Since she knew what was going on she reassured me that they know I’m human. They were also surprised I was still standing.

    We discussed the areas I’ve been falling in and she suggested methods to help me improve my focus and double check my work as I struggle to put my brain back together.

    I also encourage you to talk to a professional. We didn’t get too far into my grief itself in my limited EAP sessions but she was great in helping me do triage giving me coping mechanisms to keep my life from imploding as I give my brain time to process and heal

    I also struggle with appearing less than perfect at work and carry shame when I reveal it. But sometimes we have to. Don’t let your boss start filling in blanks. If you were a stellar performer before she likely senses something is wrong but doesn’t know what. Tell her before company policy forces her hand.

  41. Anothergloriusmorning*

    #2- please tell your boss. A good boss and company will want to support you. My former boss lost both her parents due to Covid. Our company was really gracious with her and gave her nearly a month off paid ( I am not saying every company is like this). But at the end of the day we are all humans with family and friends.

    This month my family was going thru a lot of struggles. My oldest child was facing some serious mental health issues. I told my boss. I was struggling with work and needed time off to take them to appointments. My boss was glad I said something. He really sympathized with me. I was glad I said something instead of suffering in silence.

    I know not everyone feels comfortable sharing things with coworkers or their boss. But remember we are all humans. Work is not everything!

  42. ABCYaBye*

    LW2 – I’m so sorry that you lost your friend. My heart is with you.
    Please do say something. There’s something very important for you to consider… there is a HUGE difference between a reason and an excuse. Your friend’s death has had an impact on your life and how you’re navigating things at the moment. That’s a real thing… a reason. It is an explanation for something that is happening. If you were just disinterested in the internship and making up things to justify slacking, that would be an excuse. By saying something, you’re giving important context so your boss can fully understand the “why” behind the situation. A good boss is going to see the difference – that you’re not making excuses – and will be understanding of your situation. Say something, and please also consider seeking out an opportunity to talk to someone who can help you walk through the grief.

  43. Ari*

    OP5, I have sometimes known about things and can’t share, and I would tell people “here’s what I am able to share right now”. Conversely, I’m now in a position where I’m usually the last to know. I understand not everything can be shared so it normally doesn’t bother me. I might ask someone if they know something, but I don’t get offended if they say they can’t talk about it.

  44. David Karnick*

    LW1 – Would you want to stay at your job if it weren’t for your immediate manager? He clearly won’t change, so leave him out of the conversation, but you still have more senior people you could talk to. Maybe they can move you under a different manager or promote you so you no longer report to him. If he’s the main reason you’re leaving, then make it clear that if they want to keep you they have to find a better place for you in the company.

  45. Camellia*

    I am so tired of this: “…a very senior person who has been a mentor for me and was trying to point out that while my manager doesn’t, everyone else sees and values my contribution…”.*

    Everyone else, including his higher-ups, know how he is and what he is doing, and they do nothing about it. So nothing is going to change. Stop trying to change it/him, and just say good-bye on your way out.

    *Upper management knowing the issues and choosing to do nothing.

    1. Jack Bruce*

      Yes! I told my mentor (who was NewBoss’s boss) what was going on within a month of NewBoss starting. Result: “Well, they’re just getting adjusted. I don’t want to step on their toes.” Nothing happened, despite egregious protocol lapses, toxicity, and micromanagement on the part of NewBoss. Always “don’t want to step on their toes.” So I left, as did several people on my team. Upper management chose to do nothing and NewBoss is still in the same position, controlling even more.

  46. Probably not popular*

    Fundraising:. I appreciate what you are trying to do. I prefer not to see fundraising where I work or places I would feel pressure to donate. My family has a few causes we donate to and that is it… One of them being an orphan disease that hardly gets any help. I don’t like to say no I don’t want to donate and I also don’t like to explain the reasons. I can’t be the only one out there with this issue so fundraising at work isn’t great… No matter how great the reasoning is

    1. Me ... Just Me*

      This. I reluctantly buy from my co-workers kids’ school fundraisers at work as part of maintaining good work relationships. I’m not looking to be solicited at work anything else.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      Which is why a whole lot of workplaces have no solicitation rules. To prevent well-intentioned people from putting this type of pressure on their coworkers, making things awkward, and becoming a distraction.

  47. Uhhh*

    LW4: I had a manager that was usually in the know, and he went to great pains to be as open and transparent as possible. Because of this I had a lot of trust in him and did some of my best work under him because I knew he would support me, and I in turn have tried to do the same with my team now that I’m in a manager role. One of the things he use to say when asked about non public stuff and if someone is going on is “yes I know something, but I’m not yet at liberty to share it, but will as soon as I am able” or if nothing was going on other than rumor mill he’d say “I don’t know of anything but I’ll share what we can if I find out anything” I felt that both were appropriate and it helped me trust him more. Might not work for everyone, but I am blunt and direct so I greatly appreciated it

  48. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    LW #1, if there’s ever a time to literally quiet quit, this is it.

    The reference system is set up to give your boss an opportunity to retaliate against you. Don’t give him or her a desire to take advantage of it. Just politely wish them well one final time and walk out the door.

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

    #2 Please also reach out to your school’s mental health counseling center. We see this a lot with students who have lost someone unexpectedly. The counselors could help you work through whats happening and put a plan in place to get you back to work. It would also show your boss that you realize there’s a problem and you are working on a plan.

  50. CharlieBrown*

    #1 — I’ve worked for people like this. They don’t want to know. They don’t care. They have more ego than knowledge. Your words will change nothing.

    And it sounds like the senior management knows it, too. That means they know there’s a problem, but they don’t want to fix it. Just go. Don’t look behind you.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      THIS. If the people above the manager know it’s a big problem and aren’t doing anything about it, there’s probably nothing you can do on your way out to change anything.

  51. Cyndi*

    LW1: it sounds like your mentor already knows you’re at the end of the rope with your manager, or else they would be the obvious person to tell! But at a bare minimum, I don’t think asking your mentor on the way out “hey, so what’s going to be done about the issue with my manager.” Address it like it’s a given that they’ll want to take action after he’s driven someone as valuable as you out of the company. At worst it’ll make someone senior to your manager at least consider actually doing something about him, and I think you’re more likely to get a productive-feeling conversation out if it than if you vent your concerns directly to your manager.

  52. Michelle Smith*

    OP1: I know how you feel. My best advice on how you can help the people who stay is to offer *them* support. Your manager is not going to change after hearing from you, just like Alison said and you actually risk coming off as the person who is the problem.

    Have some really swell coworkers in a similar boat who you really respect? Give them your contact information and let them know you are available to be a reference if they ever need one. Developed some cool ideas or been to some helpful trainings? Offer to leave people your reference materials or things you developed to help them. Have a lamp or chair that might make someone’s workday marginally better? Instead of taking it with you, offer it to someone you like. That’s how you help the people you’re leaving behind.

  53. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    LW2 – I’m so sorry about the loss of your friend and that you’re struggling so much right now. That all sounds super hard. I’d echo Alison’s advice to tell your boss. Anyone who isn’t an absolute monster will understand and want to support you however they can.

    I hope I’m not speaking out of turn here. From how your letter is worded, it sounds like you’re viewing this “slacking” as a personal failure and beating yourself up pretty hard about it. In truth, it’s an absolutely normal reaction to a profound loss like this. Of course you’re not OK! And maybe you’re doing the best you can right now.

    Please be gentle with yourself, OP. I hope you are getting all the support you need to grieve.

  54. learnedthehardway*

    OP#2 – I’m so sorry for your loss. What you’re going through is normal – you’re grieving, and it really takes a toll on your life for awhile. I lost my mother this summer, and I’ve been struggling in much the same way. Most of my clients have been very understanding – everyone goes through loss at some point or other. It’s very hard to be motivated, to focus on anything, and even to feel like there is a purpose to things, and like you, I didn’t really take time off from work to grieve. In retrospect, that was a mistake.

    What is keeping me going is knowing that I have obligations to family and clients, and also knowing that my mother would want me to live my life to the full, not to be frozen in place because she is gone.

    I would definitely talk to your manager and explain the situation, for all the reasons that Allison suggests.

    Also, know that you will get back to normal. You won’t forget your friend, but you will recover from the blow of losing them. Sometimes when you’re in the midst of grief, it can feel like it will never end, but as humans, we can’t help moving forward. Sometimes that feels very wrong – surely the world should stop for the loss of our loved one – but that drive to take the next step is also there to protect us.

  55. irene adler*

    OP 1- don’t bother; managers like that won’t take advice to change their ways because they see nothing amiss with how they manage.

    AND, this manager may very well throw back every statement you make about his management practices as being somehow your fault. I know- that makes no sense. But people not open to change will do, or say, whatever they need to so as to avoid any reason to enact change. So, the conversation itself may be a rough one for you.

    From my experience working in a small company with a bully: management may be just fine with their bullying ways because they get the work done. So even if you lay out this manager’s shortcomings, they still won’t see reason to change because management supports the outcome.

  56. Pugetkayak*

    OP2, as a manager, I think it shows a lot of maturity to be upfront about this stuff. It’s important to let your manager know that things have been slipping and also a way you will fix it. Also, if you ever get into trouble, bringing up your issues then…while an explanation, does start to seem like an excuse.

    Honestly I’ve had people work for me who just werent upfront about struggles and then I didnt know there were problems I could fix. When I would bring it up to them, some of them still wouldn’t change. They are no longer with my organization. Believe me, this is the better way to be. And it builds trust.

  57. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

    I’m confused about letter 3: “October 1923 is when insulin was produced and distributed on a commercial scale”. So this October is the 99th anniversary?

    1. An anonymous name*

      Guess so. Which makes me go “great! You have treatment. Stop asking me for money now.”

      1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

        The multiple justifications of why October 2022 is especially significant seem like LW3 is reaching or too personally invested. Which doesn’t bode well for them being rational about how best to promote the issue to their coworkers.

        If there were any day of the year to focus on, my first guess would be World Diabetes Day, which isn’t until November 14th.

  58. Great ish lots*

    What’s the goal of fundraising at work? Getting a little more money, or building connections and awareness? If the latter, can you do that without asking for money, for example by sharing the history and milestones you shared in the letter? If it’s really about the money, is the small amount of additional money worth making people feel sensitive about their finances, defensive about their own preferred charities, and the like, in the workplace? I think we already have enough other things to worry about at work, though reasonable people can disagree.

  59. MyDogIsCalledBradleyPooper*

    LW#2 – you need to address this it may be uncomformtable but please do it. 1) As suggested reach out to on-campus resources or our family dr and talk to them about what you are struggling with it. It sounds like depression and it does not have to control your life like this. 2) Please talk to your boss. As a boss I have been so relieved when an employee that was struggling with a lot of sick days finally came to be and let me know what was going on. Now that I had a clearer picture I had more options on how I could support them. I was thinking I needed to have a conversation about abusing sick days. But she told me she was pregnant and really bad morning sickness. We were working remote I had no clue. We were on the verge of coming back to the office and that immediately changed. I told her to continue to work at home and take whatever time she needed. Your supervisor is probably in the same situation – he’s making up stories in their head about your level of interest, your lateness, your working from home. Tell them what is going on so they can support you.

    1. CM*

      Yes! With interns in particular, they’re only around for a short time so I tend to form an opinion of them quickly. If someone is coming in late and not doing great work, I assume they’re not too interested in the job. But if that same person explained that they understood and acknowledged their performance issues and were dealing with serious issues in their personal life that were really throwing them off, then I wouldn’t assume anything about their level of interest or performance — I’d just figure they are doing the best they can and should not be permanently judged for going through a tough time.

  60. ILoveCoffee*

    to the student, I am so sorry for your loss. Please talk to your manager and, if you are currently taking classes, talk to your professors as well! This is exactly the kind of thing most of your professors need/want to know about. I am a professor and I can be way more helpful if students talk to me sooner rather than later when they are struggling.

  61. Qwerty*

    OP4 – It isn’t lying if the asker doesn’t have the right to know. Behaving with integrity in these situations means keeping private information confidential, just keep your answers simple and neutralish. It might help to mentally attach “…that you are able to share with me?” to end of these questions. That way you can give natural responses without trying to tread the line between being technical true but hiding the facts.

    If anyone gets annoyed by this when an email crafted by you comes out 10min later – that’s on them. Just shrug and tell them “you know I can’t divulge confidential info before it is announced” and move on. Most of when I’m in these situations, the askers might come back later with “Oh, so you DID know!”, but in a good natured way. Reasonable people might need a small amount of help connecting the dots will but understand that you can’t always share the gossip. Unreasonable can’t be reasoned with and will move on when they can’t get anything from you.

  62. Vice President of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*


    As a general rule, you CANNOT your boss, but you CAN change bosses.

    1. Vice President of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*


      “As a general rule, you CANNOT change your boss, but you CAN change bosses.”

    2. Vice President of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

      Correction (because I hit “Send” too soon):

      “As a general rule, you CANNOT change your boss, but you CAN change bosses.”

  63. Risha*

    LW3, please do not follow up with people one on one. I’ve donated to certain causes at work in the past so the following year, the people would ask me every single day (sometimes more than once a day) how much I wanted to donate. I hate being put on the spot. And when I told these people that I wasn’t able to donate this year (due to financial issues but I didn’t tell them that) they wanted to know why. That’s so beyond inappropriate and turned me off to giving them any amount at all in the future. To make matters worse, one of those people was my direct supervisor. I’m not saying you’ll be that way, but I’m saying that it’s not good to ask people directly to donate because they will most likely feel some type of way.

    Just post it once on the internal site then leave it alone. Or would it be feasible for one person to always be in charge of coordinating these types of things? One job I had, the admin assistant would be the one to post anyone’s fundraising, whether it’s giving money or buying candy or whatever, and people would give their money to her. She would then turn it all over to the person who was running the fundraiser. No pressure, no following up with anyone, she would just make one maybe two email announcements then leave it at that.

    Personally, I think private fundraisers at work are not appropriate since your coworkers shouldn’t be hounded/expected/feel obligated to give to their colleagues’ charities, but I realize most people do not agree with me. It may be a cause they are really against or not agree with. Your fundraising activities should really be for your family and friends, not at work.

  64. Risha*

    I agree with what you said 10000%. I’ve worked with people that have hounded me to contribute to charities and causes that I’m really against for various reasons. When I’ve said I’m unable to donate, they’ve harassed me multiple times per day to the point where I had to tell them to leave me alone and/or just come out and say I do not support that charity for whatever reason.
    My current job is running a campaign to donate to a very well known charity. But I’m against it too for my own reasons. Just about every day, the boss sends emails reminding those of us who haven’t already to donate. I have no idea how she knows who donated or not!!

    I just wish all fundraising would be kept out of the workplace. I have my own charities I donate to on my own time. Coworkers and companies should just leave that type of stuff out of the job. I’m there to work then go home, not be told how I should spend my money then questioned about why I haven’t donated yet. Your family, friends, and house of worship (if you have one) are appropriate, not your coworkers.

  65. Reality.Bites*

    On keeping stuff confidential…

    Back around 1990 I worked in a call centre and the agents were still using computer terminals, with green, text-only monitors. We had an internal email system on those terminals that was company-wide.

    Like most call centres, there was a fair amount of turnover, not always voluntary. One day, someone was terminated and returned to his desk and sent out a farewell message. Quite a nice one, considering the circumstances, like “Bye, everyone, I just got fired.”

    Management immediately realized (remember, over 30 years ago) it was a bad idea for people to still have access after being fired – not only email, but the ability to instantly cut off people’s cable tv! So a work friend of mine, who handled issuing of IDs and such, was henceforth always informed in advance when someone was being let go, so he could be in the office to disable their account at the right time.

    He confessed to me (we had so much dirt on each other and everyone else that betrayal was never feared) that all he did at the time was just sign in to their ID and enter a wrong password three times. Anyone in the office could have done it! He liked both the advance knowledge and the perceived importance in those fairly primitive tech times, where he could have to cut short meetings offsite in order to do what no one else thought they could!

    I think there was a time he was away and I was asked if I knew how to disable accounts too, but that may just be an embellished memory.

  66. 30 Years in the Biz*

    Fundraising at work: I have also raised funds for T1D at work over the years. My son has had T1D since age 2 (now 30). My approach – when we were all in office- was to post a letter outside my office door with my son’s story and our families dedication to a charity that had improved his life through its support of research. I also gave colleagues the opportunity to walk with our family team at a fall charity walk at a local NFL stadium. This worked well and I received a good amount of interest and donations. Even company matching. If we had had an internal Facebook-like site I would have leveraged that instead of the letter pinned outside my office. BTW our family has supported JDRF for over 25 years. This is a charity funded by parents who knew the best chance for a cure was strong funding of research. JDRF is the world’s largest nonprofit funder of type 1 diabetes research. Almost 80% of its funds go directly to research and education about research. During the past 25 years JDRF has made life for my son easier. JDRF funded research has brought about new and improved insulin, better meters, continuous glucose monitors, drugs to protect eye health complications, and maybe most importantly a closed loop system that mimics the function of a pancreas while monitoring blood sugar. My son will now have a good chance at a close to normal lifespan. Research advancements also spill over into support for Type 2 since the complications from the diseases are the same. Good luck on your efforts to educate and raise funds for a devastating disease!

  67. Safely Retired*

    I had an odd fundraising-at-work experience. One of the women in the department was selling candy bars as a fundraiser… for a karate school. Her husband’s school. A for-profit school he owned. Eventually she was told my management that she had to stop.

  68. Dawn*

    OP1 – Since you’ve pretty much made up your mind anyway, it probably wouldn’t hurt to go back to that senior person who really seemed to like you and your work and say, “I’m very seriously considering leaving because of Bob.”

    It might not change Bob, but it might produce some positive results for you personally if that senior person was serious about wanting to keep you, which you seem to think that they do.

  69. Dawn*

    OP2 – you might also look into if your company has an EAP and then take advantage of it if they do! You sound like you could really use some outside help right now, whether that’s grief counselling, or a little bit of leave time, or something else, and an EAP can help you with that.

    1. Dawn*

      Also please understand that if you are allowed to work remotely, you’re not doing anything wrong by working remotely, notwithstanding how your boss feels about it. You have to take that into account, but you don’t have to feel guilty about taking advantage of a benefit the company provides when you need to.

      And this is a part-time internship! Not to say that it’s not important, but the personal feelings of the person who managed you at a part-time internship are likely to be a fairly minor thing in the long run. You have plenty of time ahead of you to build connections that are going to be a lot more meaningful.

  70. Hell in a Handbasket*

    #4, I am fond of “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” Lighthearted but gets the message across, and most people won’t push after that.

  71. lilyp*

    Hi OP #2, I think everyone has great advice about asking for help and cutting yourself some slack while you grieve. I wanna say something more specific that I learned from experience in college and noticed in your letter — trying to motivate yourself to do something by threatening yourself with guilt or self-hatred (“I need to get out of bed right now or else I’m just a lazy slob” “I need to focus on this assignment or boss will have wasted her time explaining it to me” “I need to stay late or else I’m a useless slacker”) is not only bad for you, it’s ineffective in the long term. It puts you into a sad, numb, disengaged mental state that just makes it harder to actually accomplish any of the things you really want. If you catch yourself thinking like “I need to do X or else [negative thing]”, can you try to find a positive or aspirational reason you *want* to do X instead? Like for going to work, maybe there’s a task you enjoy doing, or a work friend you look forward to chatting with, or reminding yourself of the big-picture reasons you want to go into this field. Even “I don’t really like this job but it lets me pay the bills” is focused on something positive you’re getting out of it (paycheck!).

    Also, now is the time to break out any little rewards for getting through the day/week that you can manage — like maybe every day you go into the office when you’d rather stay home, you get a fancy coffee on your commute in. Or give yourself a gold star sticker for every task you check off, or buy a new audiobook for your commute. Also, are there some small things you could do to make your office space somewhere comfortable you can look forward to spending time in? Small decorations, a cozy cardigan, candy bowl, fancy pens? Anything that gives you a positive reason to get out of bed, a carrot instead of your current collection of sticks.

    Lastly, there’s a really old captain awkward post called “How to tighten up your game at work when you’re depressed” that has a lot more really specific tips on keeping up appearances when you’re feeling down. I don’t think you are nearly as depressed as that letter writer, but maybe it’ll help you keep it together while you work on the big-picture stuff.

  72. SW*

    LW 1: My former boss got demoted and no longer supervises people and he still doesn’t understand what he did wrong. People have a great ability to make rationalizations. The person above your boss probably knows about it and is OK with it, or at the very least is unwilling to do anything about it as well. Why should you care more than your grandboss does about your organization? Better to just let it go.

    1. Goldenrod*

      ” The person above your boss probably knows about it and is OK with it, or at the very least is unwilling to do anything about it as well”

      Yep, I agree with this! And with Alison’s advice. Robert Sutton wrote that you should never report a workplace bully to their immediate boss. Why? Because that is always the person who loves them the most. (Even if they pretend not to.)

      I realize this is a different situation, but the same logic applies.

      Also reminds me of an expression, “You can’t wake up a man who is pretending to be asleep.”

      He doesn’t understand what he is doing wrong, and he doesn’t WANT to know. Neither do his higher ups. Time to get out and leave them in the dust!

    2. El l*

      In general, my rule is “Give constructive criticism in proportion to their ability to learn.”

      Sounds like this guy won’t learn. So as satisfying as its feel – and as much as you’d feel you were helping colleagues- no, it won’t do anything. Not worth it.

  73. Retired (but not really)*

    I would like to recommend as a resource for anyone dealing with grief, no matter how current or how long ago.

  74. Former Intern*

    To LW 2- If you are reading this, I really empathize. I want to share an experience I had a few years ago when I was dealing with some severe mental health stuff at an internship (over the course of several months with a lot more absences/lateness/sudden disappearances). I was in an MSW program and was actively addicted to heroin. I also had unmedicated Bipolar Disorder. I was in a LOT of denial about how visible and apparent my problems were, but I also knew that some things were very obvious (I missed a lot of shifts and was late very frequently).

    Talking to my supervisor about any of the underlying causes simply did not feel like an option. Then, as my condition became more unstable by the day, I got back my evaluation. My supervisor gave me some positive feedback on the work I was actually doing, but then she pointed out some things like my hygeine/overall unkempt appearance along with the aforementioned lateness/unreliability. I was completely mortified and deeply ashamed. I’d been a high acheiver prior to my addiction and I’d never messed up so badly. A couple of days later, I could not get out of bed because I was so depressed and in withdrawal. 30 minutes *after* I was supposed to get to work, I texted my supervisor. But this time instead of making up a lie about having a stomach bug, I realized that I had to provide some sort of real explanation.

    I told her that I was struggling with my mental health and needed some time to figure out my next steps. I told her that I would talk to my field coordinator about what was going on. Then I apologized profusely for being unreliable and burdening her/the team.
    I turned off my phone because I was afraid to see the response. To my surprise, when I did finally check it, my boss sent me something extremely compassionate and supportive. I met with her the next week, and she basically told me to take as much time as I need to focus on my health and that they’d work with me to make up the hours. When she offered to work with me on making up the hours, I began to face the reality that there was no way I was going to be able to make up any hours if I did not go to rehab and get help with my addiction. Her compassion toward me also gave me the courage to tell my parents that I needed help. I did end up leaving my program, and to be clear, I did not tell my supervisor that I was dealing with drug addiction (though in hindsight it was very obvious).

    My point here is not that bosses are going to be as understanding as the supervisor I had. She worked in mental health and had her own experiences with it so she was particularly understanding. Most bosses would have fired an intern like me long before it got that bad and I’m still surprised that that didn’t happen to me. I wanted to share my experience more to address your point about how you feel like you already messed up your internship/potentially your career trajectory. I know how it feels to feel like you have made so mistakes that you cannot possibly recover from them, and I definitely know how it feels to worry about how mistakes during one period of time could impact your future. As long as you are still an intern at your organization, you will have the opportunity to show your boss and yourself that you can improve. Even if you leave the internship with regrets, it is just an internship and you will be able to bounce back from it if you give yourself the chance to.

  75. Kuddel Daddeldu*

    Plus “we are often drafting communications for things that may not come to pass, just like the speech prepared for President Nixon should the Apollo astronauts die on the moon.”
    Our communications director once told me his department keeps obituaries updated for the C-suite and the board, just in case.

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