my boss wants to know what the private appointments on my calendar are

A reader writes:

The norm at my org, like many, is to keep your calendar updated so that meetings can be scheduled without doing the “Are you available at X time?” dance. Because of this, I include non-work appointments on my calendar, and I typically mark them as “private.” In the past month, I’ve done this for two medical appointments, picking my dog up at the groomer, and once blocking the 4:30-5 pm slot to ensure I don’t get scheduled for a meeting and can leave work on time to make an after-work commitment. All of these absences are fine with my boss; she truly does not mind as long as our calendar is updated so we don’t get scheduled for a meeting we cannot attend and our work gets done.

However, she always asks what the private appointments are on my calendar. Just yesterday she chatted me: “What is the private appointment on your calendar for on Wednesday?” As far as I know, she was not in the process of scheduling anything with me for Wednesday or any other time this week.

Am I wrong in assuming that, if I marked them private they are … private? I mean, yes, she is my boss, and it is my work calendar, so maybe she thinks she should get to ask, but I would never ask someone that. If she needed info, she could ask something like: “I see an appointment on your calendar for Wednesday around lunchtime. Is that something that can be moved?” I don’t know if it’s relevant, but we are both women working in a female-dominated field, the same age, and have worked together for 2+ years. This boss also has some pretty significant boundary issues, which is what I’ve always chalked this behavior up to, but for some reason it’s starting to get under my skin.

Is this okay for her to ask because it’s on my work calendar? And if so, how do I mark myself as unavailable in Outlook but avoid these questions? Also, what is the best way to respond? In a previous job, we were told to mark PTO requests with “business that cannot be conducted on any other day” but that seems out of place here partly because that is not my style at all and because it’s me marking myself as unavailable, not a request. I’ve tried a vague, “Oh, I have an appointment,” but sometimes she pushes for more info.

No, it’s not okay!

It would be one thing if she thought the “private” stuff was work-related — like if you’re in a job where you have confidential meetings and don’t want to put “meeting about Jeremy’s performance issues” or “meeting to finalize layoffs” on your calendar where other people will see it. But it doesn’t sound like that’s the case, particularly given what you said about her boundary issues generally.

The next time she asks, try saying, “Oh, whenever I mark something private, it’s a personal thing, not a work thing.”

For most bosses, that would be enough. But it sounds like it won’t be for her, so you could handle it this way:

Boss: What is the private appointment on your calendar on Wednesday?
You: Oh, whenever I mark something private, it’s a personal thing, not a work thing.
Boss: But what is that appointment?
You: Just a personal thing I need to take care of. If it’s creating a conflict, I can see if I can move it. (Or if you can’t move it: I can’t move it, but I can move stuff around the rest of the week if you need me to.)

Even nosy bosses will usually leave it there — you’ve just got to be willing to do that second round of pushback.

But if she does keep pushing to know what the appointment is, there’s no reason you can’t say, “Are you saying you want to know what the personal, non-work thing is?” … followed by, depending on her answer, “I’m pretty private about that stuff.” And maybe, “But if blocking off that time is causing an issue, let me know and I will try to change it.”

That’s just the one interaction though. You’ll probably be able to get her to back off in the moment (and hopefully without needing to get all the way to the end of that script), but you’ll still likely need to repeat the same exchange when she asks about other appointments in the future.

Assuming you do indeed find yourself having this exchange over and over, it’s also reasonable to say something like: “I’ve noticed you’ve been asking what appointments on my calendar marked private are. That’s always personal stuff that I prefer not to share at work. Is there a different way you want me to mark non-work appointments to make that clear?”

Or: “I’ve noticed you’ve been asking what appointments on my calendar marked private are. That’s always personal stuff that I prefer not to share at work. I’d be grateful if you’d assume that’s the case when you see slots marked that way. But if there’s a different way you want me to mark them, I can.”

With nosy bosses, it’s always interesting to ponder whether (a) their nosiness stems from thinking their position entitles them to poke around in your private business or (b) they’re nosy people in all areas of life and haven’t realized that nosiness toward someone they manage has a very different power dynamic than nosiness toward, say, their neighbor or their sister-in-law. I tend to think it’s about 70% B and only 30% A (there are a lot of nosy, boundary-violating people out there and some of them become managers) … but in some ways a manager who’s oblivious about power dynamics can be almost as bad as one who intentionally exploits them.

{ 320 comments… read them below }

  1. STS*

    I would change how this is marked, see if that changes it. Label as “busy” or “unavailable” rather than Private?

    1. Theothermadeline*

      I was wondering along these lines – maybe her nosiness finds the word “private” as irresistible. I wonder if switching to “do not book” or “dnb” would help to take the interest away since there can also be work reasons to want that (concentrated solo work time, for instance)

      1. I’m the LE*

        If she sees DNB or “time block” she will then assume I can actually be booked for a meeting because that time can easily be moved to another day (which isn’t true but she thinks it is). Which is why I’ve been coding them as “Private” in Outlook.

        1. PickleFish*

          I mark my appointments as sick leave or annual leave (vacation) and out of office. I make my staff do the same.
          I’m not sure how your leave works, but maybe that would provide the info needed. As a supervisor, I need to know which type of leave my staff are using. The exact details aren’t necessary/my business.

          1. Ash*

            People don’t need to use leave for private appointments. They can take them on their lunch break or make up time later in the day. It’s a bit outrageous to ask staff to take paid time off for an hour long appointment, especially a regular one, if they are exempt.

            1. I'm the LW*

              Yes to this. I’m not taking PTO (ours is all in the same bucket) for any of these. Frankly, I’d quit if my boss made me take PTO for an hour and a half appointment when I use my lunch hour for it and make the extra 30 minutes up by staying late or coming in early.

              I’m non-exempt, so I do have to account for my time, but I’m also a high level IC, salary-band-wise, I make almost what my boss does. My boss approves all PTO requests, so she knows if it’s PTO or flex time. We’re given a fair amount of latitude to work in personal appointments or even just a “I need to leave two hours early because my head is killing me” as long as we attend the meetings we need to and get our work done.

              1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

                Then, per Theothermadeline’s suggestion that “private” might be irresistible, would “Out of Office”, “Unavailable”, or “Away” (which I use) be less likely to trigger nosiness?

                If it doesn’t matter how you label them, here’s another variation on Alison’s advice: “I’ve noticed that when I mark a calendar entry as private, you often ask me what the appointment is. You seem to be happy with my work, so I don’t think I’ve given you reason to be concerned about these appointments. But if there is an issue please let me know so that we can work together to address it.”

      2. Juggling Plunger*

        I don’t know if this what’s going on here, but in my system you would have to keep a second calendar if you did this. For example, if I have a medical appointment, I can either list it just as DNB and then have to keep a separate record of what the appointment is, or I can actually put the details in my work calendar and by marking it as private my coworkers and boss can’t see what it is. Ideally I would keep two sets of records, but realistically I just only ever use the one, so it’s nice to not need to share the details with the work folks.

      1. betsyohs*

        Me too! I just say “out”. The word private does imply something…sketchy? tantalizing?…I don’t know, but it might be something exciting. “out” is just “not available because I’m not working”.

      2. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. But I like the suggestion of saying, “Those are things I don’t wish to discuss in the office, how do you want me to mark them instead?” Or just “I need to be out of the office. I’m available before 2 if you are looking for a meeting time.”

        I’d also be curious if she quizzes other people, too. You’re not available and it seems like your office is the kind of place that blocks off time like this in the calendar. If it’s not often used to find meeting times, I’d just stop putting them on that calendar and keep them on your phone or something.

    2. Sandi*

      Agreed, I think Private as a word increases curiosity. I label mine as errands if I can easily move them, and as a meeting otherwise. No one needs to know that I’m meeting with my dentist or running the errand of picking up a prescription.

      1. I’m the LW*

        Sadly, I’ve tried an ambiguous “meeting” but then she demands to know who I’m meeting with. “What’s your meeting at 3 about? Who are you meeting with?”

        1. I'm the LW*

          Also, the “Private” is how Outlook makes the meeting title not visible to anyone but me. I’m not deliberately using that to label them, it’s a function of Outlook. :)

          1. Michelle Smith*

            There’s literally nothing wrong with how you mark appointments. I’ve used Outlook for years and that’s just how the appointments show up on shared calendars. The issue is your boss and her lack of understanding of boundaries. I hope you choose to update us on how it goes after you hold to those boundaries.

            1. I'm the LW*

              Thank you! I appreciate all the suggestions people are making and I may try some, but the root cause is the same. If she isn’t able to see what the meeting or appointment is, she asks about it. I could mark it as Personal or OOO or time block or hold–but it’s likely that she’s going to ask no matter what I mark things as unless she can see it.

              1. Rex Libris*

                I’d just go with “It’s a personal appointment” by way of explanation. Or, “It’s a personal appointment that I had to schedule in advance, so I can’t really move it, but I’m happy to rearrange other items if you need me to free a specific time.”

                Repeat “personal” and “appointment” ad infinitum. “Appointment” sounds less moveable than “meeting.” Perhaps with an occasional “It’s nothing that affects my work, just something I need to take care of.”

                1. Employee of the Bearimy*

                  Yeah, I would frame your answer as if she’s asking if the appointment can be moved, not what the appointment is. This allows you to control the direction of the conversation, like so:
                  “What’s your private meeting on Wednesday at 3:00?”
                  “Oh, just a personal appointment. That one can’t move, but I have time earlier in the day that works better.”
                  “But what is it for?”
                  “An appointment. Unfortunately I don’t have any flexibility around that time slot, but did you want to try Thursday, instead?”

                  And so on. She should get the hint at some point.

              2. Two of You Know Me*

                I was offered a job a while back and, while we were negotiating remote arrangements, the supervisor said Thursdays were mandatory in-office days. I said – not because I was trying to argue, but because I was thinking out loud – “oh, okay. I have a standing appointment that day that I will see whether I can move.” Sixteen thousand questions followed, including some harshly-spoken badgering about what kind of appointment. When I said, “it’s a doctor’s appointment” (all the detail I was willing to give), they then started huffing about, “you should be able to move it yourself. I don’t understand why you need their permission to move it. What kind of appointment is it, anyway?” and so on.

                I turned down the job.

                1. Splendid Colors*

                  On what planet did that supervisor live that a patient can reschedule appointments without consulting the doctor’s office? I don’t even think the EU members of the site can blame that on the US healthcare system. Doctors/therapists have other patients they are seeing at scheduled times.

                2. Elenna*

                  That’s… not how appointments have worked ever? Of course you need the doctor’s agreement to move an appointment you have with them! Do they just expect doctors to magically be free at any time you please???

              3. CarlDean*

                This is not a recommended approach, but my instinct would be to tell her something that would make her instantly regret having asked.

              4. Is it 5 yet?*

                Trying to think of some motivations for your managers behavior other than just being nosy. One thing to consider is if the office has required work hours or recommended core hours. If so, or if these appointments are making it challenging for people to find time to schedule meeting, then I could see it being something that comes up in a manager meeting. That still doesn’t mean she should ask the details, but it may be appropriate for her to feel out if the block off is work related or OOTO personal time. One approach might be to set an expectation ahead of time. You could say that you occasionally have appointments during work hours or obligations right after work, is there a preferred way to handle these…put a block but mark it OOTO…take PTO time vs put in a little extra time another day? Once you agree, then do that and if asked what it is, just say it’s a personal appointment and hopefully that is sufficient.

              5. Rapunzel*

                Since it’s your personal appointments and not a work thing, would it work to just make something up? I have put “Physical therapy” as the meeting name for appointments before, if I didn’t want people to know what they were. Not sure if you’re boss would then just pry for further details, but maybe you can come up with something boring enough that she wouldn’t ask about it.

              6. Momma Bear*

                I had a boss that was nosy and commented on my commute. My opinion was why did it matter if I took one street vs another as long as I was here? Some people are just like that. I put Boss on an info diet because I was tired of their unwanted opinions.

                “Oh, it’s a personal thing. So about those TSP Reports….”

              7. Ellis Bell*

                While you should be able to set this boundary, if you don’t want to, then I’ve had success with “specific but boring” and have specific but boring responses to inevitable follow up questions. So for example, “physio appointment” and be ready to say “my arm hurts, dunno why, regular physio should solve it though apparently”. Another one is “dental check up” with the follow ups of “My dentist says I need regular check ups to prevent pain in my teeth”, Other standbys are “mechanic” because “Oh the car sounds like it might have an issue” or “plumber” or “electrician” because “just a small issue with the downstairs rooms” and “phone meeting with broker” because “Apparently we need to adjust some paperwork for the insurance”. If you have kids, a good one is “school meeting” or “parents evening”. Parent’s medical appointments are also good. The phrase “Oh it absolutely cannot be moved; murder to get an appointment” should be employed liberally. Follow up questions can also be responded to with a less specific, rather bewildered tone of: “Well it’s for my teeth, like why you usually go to dentists.” To be clear you shouldn’t have to make stuff up, but it’s valid to do so if you don’t have the spoons to make a speech about your privacy. The key is to have a rollerdex of specific, fairly important life admin stuff which is also pretty boring.

              8. Rainy*

                Time to be boring! Look up “grey rock” because that’s what you need to be doing here. Channel MJ saying boh in Spider-Man Far From Home. :)

          2. old curmudgeon*

            I have a similar boundary-tromping boss, and the way I handle these things is to just block off the time as out-of-office using the description “Not in work status.” The drawback is that I can’t actually put the information in it for myself that I’d like to be able to see (like “Dr. E at 2:40 pm, labs prior, arrive by 2:15” or something), but I find that a minor price to pay for fewer nosy questions about Outlook meetings flagged as private.

            In my experience, a description that makes it clear that my absence is not related to work is enough to convince Nosy Nelly not to poke me about it. On one occasion when she tried, I simply looked at her silently for a moment with one eyebrow raised, then said “since I am not in work status during that time, the details are not relevant, and I am not going to discuss them.” Since then, a stone-faced look with one raised eyebrow has been enough to get the point across on the rare occasions when she has tried it again.

            Of course, I am in a pretty privileged position; my skill set and knowledge base are unique at my employer, I am old enough that I could retire any time I want to, and Nosy Nelly very much does not want to replace me, which she knows perfectly well she’ll need to do if she ever pushes me too far. You may not be comfortable delivering that same level of pushback. But I do think that making it clear that a particular item on your calendar is not work-related might help.

          3. Sandi*

            Our versions sound different, or I have it set differently. My coworkers can see the Subject but not the details. I mark it as OOO or Tentative depending on whether I can easily move it. But based on your other comment, Outlook isn’t your problem!

          4. DontTellMyBoss*

            Thank you it’s driving me nuts that people don’t understand this is an outlook setting not you labeling it TOO SECRET NO BOSSES ALLOWED PRIVATE SKETCHY TIMES

          5. jojo*

            Tell you will on PTO. she is not entitled to any other info. “You digned my PTO chit remember?:. If she presses beyond that tell her she is not entitled to an explanation of how you use your PTO denefits.

        2. Nesprin*

          If you wanted to be petty, I’d add a word to your meeting descriptions for each of her standard nosy questions: How about “Private Personal Thing Off Site That Can’t Be Moved”?

            1. Momma Bear*

              Ha. Though I did wonder if LW’s boss was worried about losing them as an employee and this is how the anxiety manifests….or they are just obnoxiously curious about other people.

          1. short'n'stout*

            Private Personal Thing Off Site That Can’t Be Moved And I Won’t Tell You What It Is Cersei Stop Asking

        3. RIP Pillow Fort*

          I mark mine as something intensely boring, so no one will question it. For eg, “GP”, “Hospital appointment”, “Hold”, “Travel time – available on work mobile”, etc. I’m in the UK for context.

        4. Anomie*

          Don’t put meeting. It can be construed as time card fraud if they ever want to use it against you. How about just OOF?

    3. Health Insurance Nerd*

      If the LW does what I do, she is likely putting the actual appointments in her calendar for her own knowledge and then marking them private so they’re only visible to her- Outlook doesn’t have any other way to mask these types of entries outside of checking the “private” box.

      1. worker drone*

        I used to do that but our top folks are just SO intrusive in other ways, I started keeping a calendar attached to my personal email account with location and details then adding a dummy placeholder like “Appointment” or “Out of Office” bloc on my work calendar to hold the spot. I set up my phone with both calendars, so I can see them all in the same place (helpfully color coded for personal/work) and add stuff to either one from the calendar app. It’s a little annoying to have those double booked slots but I have much less concern about my nosy employer.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Same. Personal appointments go on my personal calendar with details and as a blocked window of time labeled “unavailable” on my work Outlook calendar. (And I DON’T have a nosy boss.)

        2. hellohello*

          Same, I need to write down what an appointment is somewhere, so I don’t forget, but I don’t want to have that on my work calendar anywhere, just in case someone higher up is able to see it or the privacy settings get mixed up at some point. I keep my own personal calendar with the details, then add in a dummy event on my work calendar for the same time slot that just says “busy”)

        3. Quinalla*

          Yes, I have a separate personal calendar and anything personal I need to block out on my work calendar gets labeled “Personal appointment”. If people ask, I’ll usually just say oh doctor appointment, routine stuff, or more often kid doc appt, routine stuff, but that is it. But I rarely get asked, so to me I don’t mind sharing a little bit of info without giving things away. I’m pretty senior, so I try to share some detail to make it clear that it is ok and normal to have a life and have to take kids to stuff, etc., but also try to not overshare so people think they need to share everything too.

          It is also totally fine to just say oh it’s a personal appointment and if continued badgering, it’s personal, I don’t share that kind of info at work. That is the strategy I would use with this boss, good grief. Sounds like nosy in general!

      2. Hlao-roo*

        The LW could try the “busy” strategy with one or two appointments that don’t need a lot of details and see if the boss is still nosy about those. (I’m picturing “pick dog up from groomers” doesn’t need a lot of details and could easily be substituted with a phone alarm/sticky note so the calendar appointment can be blank and just say “busy”).

        If the boss is less nosy about the “busy” appointments than the “private” ones, it might be worth the effort for the LW to have two digital calendars, one for work and one for personal. And if the boss is just as nosy, than the LW tried this strategy and learned it’s not worth the effort of setting up a second calendar.

      3. Everything Bagel*

        Yeah, this is what I’m thinking. I write what doctor appointment I have as the calendar event, but then turn on the private flag so people I’m sharing calendars with only see that I have a private appointment and not that I’m going to the gynecologist, or whatever. Hlao-roo has a good suggestion about just marking the time as busy without the private flag and then having a note elsewhere for yourself about which appointment it is. If a paper reminder isn’t good for you, maybe sending yourself an email and then flagging it with a pop-up reminder would work.

      4. Observer*

        she is likely putting the actual appointments in her calendar for her own knowledge and then marking them private so they’re only visible to her- Outlook doesn’t have any other way to mask these types of entries outside of checking the “private” box

        Actually, you can set outlook to just not show the contents of your actual appointments to anyone other than the people you give access to. And then you choose your classification as “Out of Office” so it’s a different color than “Busy” or “Tentative.”

        I don’t know in which version it changed. But I like it MUCH better this way.

        1. I'm the LW*

          Oooo. I haven’t thought about this! OOO definitely sounds less exciting that Private.

          I may try that, but I also foresee the same question, just replace “Private” with “OOO”–What are you OOO for on Wednesday, you don’t have PTO scheduled”? But I’ll just use Alison’s script when she asks.

          1. veebee*

            This might just be entertainment industry lingo, but if we would use OOP – for “out of pocket.” Meaning we wouldn’t have access to a computer and would be unavailable. This would be for something like an appointment that would take a few hours, v.s. having to take a half or full day of PTO. It’s slightly less intense than an OOO and can mean you’d be able to call/text someone back if necessary.

          2. Delia K*

            One thing with marking it OOO in Outlook is that it tells people who message you on Teams that you’re out of the office, which might not be something you want. (I put myself OOO when I had to do a health risk assessment for work, and then people were confused when I was replying immediately on Teams while I was waiting for my appointment.)

            1. Flash Packet*

              Ha. Maybe it’s just our “I schedule things for X-hours but they end earlier than I thought / haven’t started yet” culture but no one bats an eye if someone with the Teams status of “SoAndSo is out office and may not respond” immediately responds to something.

          3. Ruff*

            LW, do we work for the same person? My boss does this too.

            I finally marked something as “Interview”. I was really taking the dog to the groomer but I was sick of her nosiness. Now I mark them all as “Interview”.

            She stopped asking.

        2. Yorick*

          right, but someone who CAN see your calendar will see the whole appointment, unless you mark that appointment as private

          1. I'm the LW*

            Yep. I was thinking I could label the appointment as OOO vs. just changing the coding in Outlook. (Although I think she will still ask about it. The whole problem is she can’t see what I’m doing and marking the appointments as anything else won’t solve that problem.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              I used to label all my off-site appointments as “uncomfortable medical procedure,” because I’m a jerk like that. But at least no one ever asked me about them.

              1. Elitist Semicolon*

                Currently I mark blocked time with “No.” Sometimes “lol no” if I’m feeling particularly cranky.

            2. Curmudgeon in California*

              My snarky side wants to say “OOO – None Of Your Business.” Because it’s literally not her business if it is not work related. The calendar entry showing at all is for her convenience.

            3. Just stoppin' by to chat*

              LW – I’ve read your responses so far, and I’m so sorry you have such a nosy manager! Are they controlling or micro-managy in other ways as well? Questioning who you could be meeting with at a specific time…how about give you space to do your job! But I’ve known managers like this…so fruatrsting.

      5. Agile Phalanges*

        Yeah, I put the details in my phone’s calendar (not synced with work) but only put “doctor appointment” or “appointment after work” or whatever on my Outlook appointments, rather than using the privacy function. I can see how there would be a work-related need for the privacy button, such as setting up a meeting about layoff’s, as in Alison’s example, but just putting generic names for the personal appointments might work. LW could be even more generic than I am, and just put “personal appointment, not movable” or “non-work appointment, movable,” for example.

        1. Betty*

          Ahh, in that case I’d definitely try the suggestion of just putting the time block as “personal” and leaving it viewable. [Fwiw, in my organization the default is to share your calendar so that other people can only see the status but not the content of the meeting– busy/free/tentative/ooo; not sure if this would be so far outside your norms that it would create more problems for you, but it’s an option technologically]

    4. KatKatKatKatKat*

      Same – I use “BLOCK” on my calendar.

      If anyone asks (no one does), I say that I’m setting aside time to work on XYZ project (although this only works when I’m still working – like the situation where you said you didn’t want to have a meeting at the end of the work day so you could leave on time).

      If your boss asks about block during a lunch hour, you can also just say that you’re going for lunch or to run an errands, as opposed to an appointment.

      You can also write “CALL” for times outside of end of the day or lunch – it implies a work call but you could be calling anyone. This one is probably least ideal, but also your boss doesn’t seem to be super reasonable.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I think that making it sound like a work thing would increase the boss’s sense of entitlement. I think even my non-boundary-violating boss might ask about a series of oddly-timed “work calls” to make sure I wasn’t having to work overtime.

    5. Knope Knope Knope*

      Came here to say this. Or if the op needs to request PTO to use that time, mark it PTO or “appointment”

    6. Oxford Comma*

      My guess is that the LW is using Outlook’s function which has a toggle to change a meeting to private.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Agreed. Private appointments (and tasks) don’t show details to other users, so it will appear to LW in her calendar as “bikini wax at GoSmoothMe” but will simply appear as “out of office 4-6pm” to anyone else.

    7. Hog Wild*

      I second that suggestion.
      The very word ‘private’ is potentially triggering to a nosy boss.

      1. The Engineer*

        Perhaps call it ‘Leave’, ‘Annual’, ‘Early Out’, ‘Shifted Work Hours’ etc. with no information in the appointment.

        You should really use a private calendar for non-work stuff which you then share to your work calendar for your coordination. Remember that there is no ‘private’ at work on employer owned equipment and software. Competent IT can get into anything. Often knowledgeable and/or clever coworkers can do more than you think.

        My employer uses Google for everything and there are levels of access to appointments that can be set. Average company drone sees nothing but a block. Select staff can see details. More select (trusted) bosses can modify events.

        1. Private*

          I agree. If the boss is nosy enough and not satisfied with LW’s response to her questions, she may dig into the personal calendar or find someone who can. I wouldn’t use work systems for personal things. I would create a uniform label system to block time (ex. OOO – unavailable, OOO – available via phone, DND – in office).

        2. Splendid Colors*

          OP said in the original letter and comments here that the ONLY reason these are on her Outlook work calendar at all is to block that time so people won’t schedule meetings on top of her existing personal appointments. If OP tried to set her nosy boss to a low access level, that would just make the boss more suspicious. If the boss needs to know anything about work-related meetings OP is involved in, then it could even create actual problems.

          The problem isn’t that OP is misusing her calendar or that her company should use GSuite instead of Office 365. The problem is that OP has a nosy boss. OP isn’t doing anything “wrong” and her boss needs to mind her own business about what OP is doing away from the office.

          1. DontTellMyBoss*

            Agree. The advice to put snarky titles or change outlook settings is not getting to the root. She needs to have a frank conversation that this is making her feel uncomfortable. Ask if there’s a reason her time needs to be accounted for in this way. Ask if there have been missed deadlines or work quality issues or a policy change that necessitates this level of oversight.

      2. Splendid Colors*

        OP posted to say she’s using the Outlook “set appointment to Private” feature, not just willy-nilly typing “PRIVATE” as the description.

    8. Trawna*

      I usually just put Appointment. Dull as dishwater.

      Adding a (c) to the list, in my experience insecure managers fish for info because they think Private might mean Interview.

    9. WarblerB*

      I agree-I also get questions from my boss when I set things to private. I’ve started just writing “hold” to block out the time and now no one asks me about it.

    10. Cj*

      Yes to this. I just put it as out of office on my calendar, and put it on my personal calendar to what it is if I think it will forget.

    11. Person from the Resume*

      I don’t know if this fixes the issue for the LW (nosy people are going to be nosy), but I use OOO. If I’m unavailable for a personal thing during work I have to take annual leave or sick leave. You don’t need to specify which.

      Can you mark it as PTO (if you’re using PTO)?

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Ah, but I have the details on my personal google calendar on my personal phone. I don’t put the details on my work computer outlook calendar.

    12. Lost academic*

      I see the merit in that but I often need to have the details and/or name on such events to coordinate with family calendars, etc, so it’s not a universally effective fix.

      Boss just needs to check herself.

    13. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      yeah, I think that is a better choice than “private.” Honestly, at my office people just put in the type of leave they are taking if applicable, or they put in the meeting info they are in (like hearings or witness prep or trainings, etc.), or they put in “busy.” No one really asks anything. We all have times when we are not available even when we are physically present because we are working on a high priority project and cannot be disturbed. So people respect that even if you are clearly sitting right there at your desk.

    14. Anonomatopoeia*

      Outlook has a private button, which then says private. Changing this word is not an option.

      An approach I have used, which assumes you share subject and location, but not “details” of all appointments, is to have the subject be, like, “appointment” and the location “out of office” and then the actual “Dr Jones, 101 Main St, Refill prescription of the pills that help be not lose my entire shit over people’s boundary issues, actual appointment time is 3:15” in the details/body, where only someone with that level of access can see.

  2. tessa*

    I started marking *everything* as private after a colleague would read my calendar back to me while standing behind me, e.g. “Oh, you’re going to Workshop X? Me, too!” and “Do you really need two hours to plan for Y?” She wasn’t even my supervisor.

    I knew I’d made a good decision when I saw she was frustrated at being unable to see what was behind the “private” appointment in Outlook. She was a true weirdo, and I am so glad to be out of there.

    Alison’s advice is great, meanwhile.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Ha, too bad Outlook doesn’t have an option to mark appointments with something like “None of your beeswax, Katelyn.”

      1. OnlyHostess*

        Uhm, wait. This is literally an option. You can decide what level of detail “all users” get and specify different permissions for different users after that.
        So if you want the default to be that people can see the meeting name but not the detail/invitees, but you always want Katelyn to only see free/busy, you can already set that. No private flag. Katelyn won’t know she has different permissions than anyone else without a conversation.
        I’d personally set it the other way – everyone gets free/busy – and a select few get limited details. Only VIP gets full details.

        1. Cherry*

          Oh god, nobody gets full details. I was looking on my old boss’s calendar once (for mostly legit reasons…) and I, uh, saw he had a meeting with someone else saying “let’s catch up on Cherry”. Anxiety forever.

          No idea what they were catching up about, but that place was toxic as hell so it probably wasn’t good!

    2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I’d stick with “busy” or “unavailable.” Unless you think using “private” is making your colleague’s frustration worse, in which case, keep it up! But I can be petty with people like that!

  3. Anon for this*

    I label it as “personal” and then use the “private” button in Outlook so no one else can open the meeting even if they have access to my calendar. No one needs to know when I have a therapist appointment or whatever.

    1. I'm the LW*

      Yep, this is what I’m doing. And, yep, I agree that no one needs to know what I’m dong if it’s private.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        “Busy” and “unavailable” are also good options, and in my experience tend to get less nosiness than “private.” It is weird, because you would think “private” would suggest out of the gate that it is in fact private and no one should feel the need to ask. But for nosy people with poor boundaries, it is like blood in the water or bait or something. Now that they know there is something you don’t intend to share, they just have to know. Meanwhile the normal people were never going to ask to begin with!

  4. Alia*

    I’ll be curious about how this shakes out and what OP learns after trying out some of the suggested language. Keep us updated, please!

    1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      Same. Private means private. Most of us learned that in childhood, Boss, and it’s weird that you need it spelled out.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        I asked my husband the other day what the event on his calendar marked “private” was. I can’t imagine asking ANYONE else that question.

        (It turned out to be a pick-up frisbee game, and he didn’t know why it had defaulted to “private”.)

      2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Somehow though, nosy types just get worse when they read “private.” If you just write “busy” or “unavailable,” they might bug you or not, but when they see that you are actually trying to say it is private, it’s like blood in the water and they come out with their boundary violating hooks ready to go at you!

  5. XF1013*

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the manager’s nosiness stems from paranoia that OP is spending that time interviewing at other companies, and that she will interpret a firm refusal to explain each appointment as proof.

    1. Observer*


      If someone is paranoid there is nothing you can do that’s going to make them not be paranoid. There will NEVER be enough “proof” that the person is not doing the thing that Paranoid Person is worried about.

      1. Ari*

        Agreed. Not to mention, if OP were interviewing, then being hounded about private appointments isn’t exactly going to induce them to stay longer.

    2. morethantired*

      This was my thought. When co-workers have a lot of personal appointments in a month, I start to wonder if they’re interviewing somewhere. I don’t say anything, but I wonder.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        I’d encourage you to do your best to not even internally speculate. It could be so many other things – a pregnancy they’re not ready to disclose, a bunch of dental work they don’t want to talk about, a sick relative they need to take care of, therapy, multiple appointments with tradespeople about a construction project on their house, their kid needing extra support in some way (from orthodonture to speech therapy appointments to who knows what), being involved in legal proceedings… it’s totally human nature to wonder, but it’s too easy to start treating people differently by assuming you know what’s going on.

        1. morethantired*

          I know it could be anything else. I also wonder about those things. It’s not even speculation. When someone is gone a lot, and you don’t know why, you’re going to have thoughts about why. Mostly just “hope everything is okay.” I just don’t say anything and mind my own business.

    3. Goldenrod*

      I wondered about this too. At my last job, I was amused to notice that my manager seemed to be (correctly!) suspecting that I was interviewing for other jobs when she started commenting on my taking time off. I can’t remember her exact comments – she didn’t directly ask what the “private” appointments were – but I knew she was getting nervous.

      But – at any rate – even if OP’s boss is wondering this, it still doesn’t make it okay to ask!

    4. I'm the LW*

      I suspect it’s a little of that, because she did directly ask me if one was an interview. But I think it’s primarily that I’m dong things she doesn’t know about. She is nosy like Alison called out, but there’s also some paranoia and worry that people are working against her stuff going on, too. TBH I don’t know if people are or have done that, but I’m (I think) clearly not.

          1. old curmudgeon*

            Uggh, that is an awful way to work (says the person who has spent way too many years in that exact same role). Managing your boss’s emotions on top of managing your own workload is a sure-fire guarantee of burnout and stress. Please accept my sympathies, and I hope you can emancipate yourself successfully and soon.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        That’s a more worrying than the original issue. It’s usually easier to set boundaries with someone than it is to soothe someone’s paranoia.

      2. Beth*

        In that case, I think all you can do is keep repeating “It’s a personal appointment. I prefer to keep my personal life pretty private, thanks for respecting that.” (Even when you know she won’t want to respect that–sometimes preemptively thanking people for doing what you hope they’ll do can guide them into actually doing that thing.) If she keeps pushing for details, “I prefer not to share details about my personal life at work. Please stop asking.” is about all you can say, and you can keep repeating it ad nauseam.

      3. What?*

        Are you taking leave for the times marked private? Because then I totally get why it annoys you.

        But if you are marking a lot of work time private during normal work hours, and admit here that it’s not for work related stuff, I can kind of see why she wants you to account for it.

        Picking up the dog from the groomers isn’t something your employer agreed to pay you for.

        1. DontTellMyBoss*

          Op is hourly and clocking out. Not taking pto but taking likely legally required breaks and using them as she pleases.

      4. Keymaster of Gozer*

        From someone with mental issues that result in paranoia (note, not diagnosing your boss): you cannot reason away a person’s paranoid thoughts. It just doesn’t work. Unfortunately there’s also not a lot that does work.

        If they’re convinced that you’re going against them or interviewing or such then the best option is to be as short and boring as possible with the reply. “It’s private and I don’t want to talk about it”

        I’m sorry, I don’t know a solution. The only thing that works for my paranoid moments is meds.

    5. Catalin*

      My first thought if I see a bunch of private appts on a coworker’s calendar is medical; illness or pregnancy (as applicable).

    6. I'm the LW*

      I’ve also been in treatment for medical stuff over the two years we’ve worked together, so it’s pretty normal for me to have multiple private appointments for treatment, CT/MRI/PET scans, or follow up appointments with 1 of my 3 physicians. It’s not like they’ve increased in frequency lately which is why I think it’s getting under my skin so much. Nothing has changed except me making the meeting details visible only to me. It’s as if she was okay with them when she could see what it was but now doesn’t trust me/is paranoid.

      I’ve even told her explicitly that I’m not interviewing. Several times.

      1. Rain's Small Hands*

        Are you covered under the ADA? PET scans imply cancer, and cancer isn’t always covered, but if you are the ADA would allow you to say “my privacy is covered under the ADA and I will let you know if I need additional accommodations.”

        And best wishes on getting your medical stuff resolved. It sucks to be chronically ill.

        1. I'm the LW*

          I looked at info on the American Cancer Society and found this: “The ADA can help protect you when cancer prevents or makes it very hard for you to do everyday tasks such as household chores, bathing, and brushing your teeth. But this kind of disability must be permanent or long-term. And, the ADA protects you if you had cancer in the past, but are doing well now.”

          That last line says to me that I am protected. It’s definitely something I’ll keep in mind, especially if I hear that I’m missing out on opportunities due to the medical stuff. Right now, I’m able to live/work at a level close to the before times, so it’s not impacting me in that way but it has in the past.

      2. Ess in Tee*

        Good lord, if she keeps picking at you about these phantom interviews, she may end up making them a reality.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Reminds me of my first boyfriend who needed constant reassurance that I loved him and wasn’t about to break up with him. Eventually I decided I was done soothing him, and did break up with him. (Man am I glad I’m no longer in high school, dating high schoolers.)

      3. Observer*

        I’ve even told her explicitly that I’m not interviewing. Several times.

        Stop telling her that. It’s not going to make her less paranoid. It’s not going to keep her from asking.

        There is nothing about what you are doing that is causing this. Your assessment of the root problem is correct. And in those cases, you just need to have a blanket refusal to discuss.

      4. linger*

        Ah, but that’s what someone interviewing would say!
        You can’t prove that negative to Boss’s satisfaction. Explicitly calling that fact out, e.g. as
        “I’m not interviewing, but keep asking me about personal stuff and I may have to consider it, because dealing with your paranoia is draining”, could actually work, but is incredibly risky; I’d only recommend it as a very last resort.

    7. Mrs. Hawiggins*

      This. Whenever I had to leave for an appointment I had a boss many jobs ago who would say in what she thought was sarcasm, “You’re not going on an interview are youuuu?” She was often nosy enough that I was short of showing her stitches from a mole removal or the new filling in my cavity. I was smart enough to schedule interviews for when SHE was out of the office. Hey, can’t watch me all the time.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        I’d respond with, “not this time, but that comment there is a great way to motivate employees to start searching somewhere else!”

    8. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Well, still not ok to ask. If you are worried your employee is interviewing elsewhere, the thing to do is not to ask them about their “private” event but to ask yourself what is going on in the company or under your management that makes you think you need to be worried.

  6. Petty Betty*

    Oof. You have my sympathy here. I’d be way too confrontational about this and my advice on the matter is too confrontational.

    1. Jojo*

      I was going to suggest that the LW has some gross answers lined up. “Oh, I’m taking my dog to get his annual glands expressed.” After a few answers like that, maybe the boss will stop asking?

      Please don’t take this advice.

      1. QuinFirefrorefiddle*

        This is where I went to. Not necessarily saying that that’s what the appointment is for but commenting in a related way. For your example you could say, “So, did you know that some dogs need to…”. Or the example that I have never used but I have in my back pocket at all times is the importance of regular colonoscopies. Seriously, regular colonoscopies can save lives, they are not as much trouble as most people think they are, but no one likes talking about them at work! Not that you would say that you have a colonoscopy but implying it by talking about how important they are when asked this question. I’m sure there are a number of useful health PSAs that could happen in a similar way that would also be somewhat unpleasant surprises for the boss. Presumably after a while she’d run out of steam on these questions.

        1. Petty Betty*

          Or discussing anal fissures and the elderly, and how they happen and how to deal with them and ALL of the medical appointments an elderly person may need.

          I had a co-irker at one point who got irritated that I was taking time off. I got 5 weeks of vacation time a year, plus sick leave. I never used it all and still had plenty rolled over from the previous year. It was a slow time for our department. She was mad that she didn’t have any leave time saved up (she hadn’t been there long, single parent and her kid had been sick a lot). While I sympathized with her desire to take time off, I wasn’t in the mood to have her scrutinize my leave when she wasn’t my supervisor (and I was technically above her on the org chart). If I’m volunteering to take my grandma to her medical appointments, I’m volunteering to take my grandma to her medical appointments. If my cat wants a tattoo or pole dancing lessons, Imma go to that too. Kids have an event, sure, I’ll take time off for that! But I don’t answer to my officemate who’s being snotty about my leave because she’s feeling jealous.

        2. Rain's Small Hands*

          Makes you almost long for the days when most bosses were men and you could get time by just saying “its a woman thing” and they’d look uncomfortable and say “go home, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

          Almost….almost…well, not really. But that was ONE benefit.

          1. Constance Lloyd*

            I did this a few years back! I scheduled a routine appointment in the morning with plans to come into the office after. I could not. My male manager was a dreadful combination of nosy and clueless, and after several failed attempts to tactfully deflect his prying questions I paused, locked eyes, and said, “Dan, I was at the gynecologist. Would you really like to hear all the details?”

            Reader, he was no longer interested.

            1. Fishsticks*

              Had a similar conversation with a male boss, only I ended the conversation with, “I’m having trouble breastfeeding and I need to see someone about why. Would you like to hear about the pain?”

              No more questions! Full approval to take a long lunch after the appointment, even!

              1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

                I really wish I could assume that it was because of empathy for how difficult it can be for a woman to breastfeed, but nope, it is always about their feelings of discomfort. Still fun to exploit it though!

          2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            lol, it still works with some men in the workplace! I work in law but in a field that is healthcare oriented and with lots of gory details though, so squeamishness does not go with the job requirements. But in other law offices, it would definitely work!

  7. Jessica*

    At my workplace, I keep my calendar updated for the scheduling thing you mentioned (including blocking the personal time) but I only share the free/busy information – so all anyone like my manager and co-workers see is that I am available or not available and not the specifics of any meeting.

    LW, is that an option you’d be able to switch to?

    1. allathian*

      Depends on the organization. In mine, it definitely would not fly. At all. My org is very big on work-related transparency, but OTOH everyone’s really cool about private appointments being private. I can see everyone’s calendar in my organization, including people I rarely work with and never schedule meetings with, like the President of our organization.

      I’ve never had any issues marking my personal appointments private, not even with the manager who was always micromanaging me otherwise. In fact, I’ve even managed to coach a former manager to mark her medical appointments private. She’s retired now, and for most of her career employees had to ask their managers for permission to leave the office in the middle of the day. Now we don’t, as long as we’re available for meetings that have been scheduled in advance, and block off any absences during our core hours of 9-3, we’re free to schedule our work pretty much as we want as long as it gets done. So I asked her once why her medical appointments weren’t marked private (seeing them made me really uncomfortable). She said something about how she wanted people to know that she had a “real reason” for being absent in the middle of the day. I replied with something like “All I want to know when I look at your calendar is when you’re available and when you aren’t, I neither need nor want to know why you’re absent.” She got the point, and besides, she never asked me what my private appointments were for, because she realized that it was none of her business.

  8. Kelly*

    I use “Hold” to mark any personal appointments. Somehow that seems less interesting than something marked “private” – it seems like the word “private” automatically makes people want to know more. I also use “Hold” for any other blocked time that’s not a meeting (i.e. travel time, desk time, etc.), so it’s not unusual to see times blocked off that way for me.

    1. I'm the LW*

      I’ve tried this, and if it says “hold” or “time block” she assumes that means whatever it is can be rearranged. I’ve been scheduled for multiple meetings when I was doing that, unfortunately.

    2. Allison*

      I do this too, it’s titled usually “hold for appointment.” What kind of appointment? Could be doctor, could be dentist, probably routine, but ultimately no one’s business.

  9. Jessica*

    At my workplace, I keep my calendar updated for the scheduling thing you mentioned (including blocking the personal time) but I only share the free/busy information – so all anyone like my manager and co-workers see is that I am available or not available and not the specifics.

    LW, is that something you would be able to do in your workplace? It might stem the nosiness if all the meetings just show that you are unavailable and not which meeting.

    1. Lulu*

      Yeah, this was what I was wondering. Next to your calendar, you can click the three dots and select Sharing Permissions. Mine are set so anyone in my organization can see Free/Busy information, but nothing else. If she can’t see the details of anything she might not be so curious.

      I mentioned to a direct report that I’d schedule something with her by looking at her calendar and she was so concerned I’d be able to see all of the details. I had to explain that I have zero interest in looking at her calendar details, and even if I wanted to the default setting is that I can’t. I’ll never ask anyone to let me see all their information (unless there’s some serious performance concerns, maybe?).

    2. Roland*

      That’s actually what the “private” option in outlook does :) Means just your availability status is shared and not any other info about the meeting. So that clearly isn’t working, because the boss is nosy, not because OP is doing something wrong.

    3. I'm the LW*

      It’s not. At our org, your boss has access to your calendar. It’s one of the first things that happens when you switch supervisors. I also mentioned this in another comment, but there is a bit of paranoia that people are working against her. I’m not sure if it’s unfounded, but it’s clear she thinks it based on things she’s shared.

      1. Observer*

        I’d be willing to bet that it’s actually grounded in reality. She’s a bad boss and one who you can’t deal with directly. She’s essentially forcing people to go behind her back to get some relief.

      2. MarsJenkar*

        I suspect that in many cases, it becomes true because she makes it so, by way of self-fulfilling prophecy.

  10. Box of Kittens*

    It boggles me how willing people are to invade people’s privacy. I mean, I get curious about stuff too but if something is marked private I’d actually be embarrassed to ask about it. It’s marked that way for a reason!

  11. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP — My guess is that your boss, if asked, would describe herself as a caring, “people person,” someone who is just interested in her staff’s well-being. They can be hard to shut down, because they see their behavior as a sign of warmth and caring, rather than congenital nosiness.

    No, she isn’t entitled to this information, just because it’s on your work calendar. While Alison’s script is good as it goes, you might try taking STS’s suggestion and see if you can get it to display your appointments as “busy,” rather than “private.” I’ve been out of the Microsoft ecosystem for a couple of years now, and a lot of details are mercifully blotted from my memory. But I think Outlook will let you do this. It might be worth trying to see if making all your appointments look like they’re work-related derails Nosy Manager’s behavior.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I had a similar nosy micromanager. We were required to share calendars and were not allowed to set anything to private. Like most people, I put mine, the kids, and Hubby’s appointments on my work calendar for a ‘big picture’ of who is where and when. One day Nosy Manager emailed me: “I see you have a lot of appointments today. Are you using leave?” No, because none of those appointments are mine.

      I stopped putting personal stuff on the calendar. It was the easiest solution.

    2. I'm the LW*

      The only way to block someone who has access to your calendar from seeing what an appointment or meeting is is to mark them Private. Coding the meeting as Busy just changes the way it appears to others, but she would still be able to view the meeting title and contents.

      Unfortunately, the norm in our org is that your boss has access to your calendar, so it’s not likely to change. Which is how we get to the reason I asked Alison if I was crazy having expectations of privacy and how to shut it down. lol

      1. allathian*

        In my organization, everyone can see everyone else’s calendar, regardless of where we are in the org chart. OTOH, it’s considered normal for people to mark personal appointments as private. I’m sorry your boss is so nosy and paranoid, and I hope you can get her to stop demanding information about your appointments.

        That said, if you’ve been open about your personal appointments before, and only recently started to flag them as private, there may be some sort of extinction burst going on. It doesn’t entitle her to the information, though. But when you eventually do switch jobs, start as you mean to go on, and flag any personal appointments private from the start. In most functional organizations this isn’t a problem.

      2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        ahhh, I see. But why do you need to put any details about your personal calendar on the work computer. Can’t you just not put any details in but “busy” and leave it not private, but actually keep track of the specifics of your personal appointments on a personal calendar?

        1. An Australian In London (currently in Melbourne)*

          I’m not the LW but I’m in the same position.

          I put personal/private appointments in my work calendar to stop people scheduling meetings with me for those times. I mark them private so they can’t see what it’s for. Because I work in IT and know exactly how much privacy to expect in workplace emails and calendars (none) I do t out any details in there; even when in theory visible only to me they just say “external call”, “external appointment”, etc.

          All details live only in my non-work calendar. I am barred by info security policies from allowing work calendar to show on my non-work devices and vice versa.

          And like the LW it doesn’t work. My direct boss still schedules meetings for me over these blocks. I have taken to simply not showing up, and evincing surprise when I am asked where I was and why I didn’t attend. I say “I blocked that out as a personal appointment which you would have seen when you scheduled a meeting at the time so it was obvious that you knew I wouldn’t be there and were OK with that.”

          Slowly they are doing it less, but I can’t recommend this method for anyone concerned about keeping their job.

    1. Observer*

      That doesn’t really explain anything. Because Boss can think that all the day long, and it still doesn’t explain why she is actually ASKING. Functional adults should know that “I want to know” is NOT the same thing as “I get to ask”.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      That makes boss’s questioning even more confusing. Does she really expect OP to answer “oh yeah, that’s a job interview with Llama Petting, Inc”? Does she expect OP to break down and fess up if she only pushes hard enough?

  12. NinjaMonkey*

    As someone working at a company that’s been practically hemorrhaging people for the past couple of years due to abysmal salaries for our area, I offer option C: she may be wondering if you’re interviewing elsewhere. Video interviews are so much easier to take in the middle of the day now that my company is mostly working from home, and the uptick in people leaving certainly reflects how much easier it is to job search while working.

    My boss recently said in passing that he wonders every time I take time off if I’m interviewing for a new job. I don’t typically block time other than PTO, but I suspect he’d be equally concerned about private events, even though as a supervisor, I do sometimes need to mark a meeting private. Thankfully, we have a good relationship, so he didn’t expect an answer and was more expressing his concern I’ll leave. Which is more likely than not in the next year.

    1. Observer*

      Yes, but that’s the key difference here. Your boss wonders, but isn’t asking you about it every time he sees that.

      The problem with OP’s boss is not that she wonders (and maybe worries). It’s that she keeps asking!

  13. Anonymous Koala*

    If you’re open to a white lie, OP, you could tell her that’s time you’ve blocked off for deep-focus work. I schedule deep focus blocks for all my projects on my calendar and mark them private; my boss is used to it by now and doesn’t question me if he sees private appointments on my calendar.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I actually DO block my calendar for work that I need to not be interrupted for. Since I use an online calendar that other people can book themselves in, it’s a necessity.

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      From what else the LW has commented it sounds like Boss will just schedule over anything like that, unfortunately

      1. An Australian In London (currently in Melbourne)*

        Yes, this was exactly my experience. Just don’t show up. Eventually they learn. Or fire you.

  14. Swedish Fish*

    I used to put “Out of Office” for any personal appointments. Tricky enough that the nosy ones thought I was at an off-site meeting.

  15. Glomarization, Esq.*

    Even if the boss is being nosy, if it were me I’d re-frame it in my mind as “maybe the boss is asking because she wants to schedule a phone call or meeting with me and wants to know the general nature — not the specific activity — of that time blocked off, in case I might be able to move it.”

  16. Emily*

    It’s also ok to lie. If it’s easier to label it “dentist appointment” or whatever than to get into a whole conversation about privacy and boundaries, you can totally do that. (Yes, then you have to keep track of it, and you have to come up with a couple of other ones as well.)

  17. Ari*

    I often use DNS (do not schedule), which I learned from a former supervisor. Most people in the company can’t see any details anyway, just when I’m busy/available. I’ve had supervisors where I used DNS exclusively because I didn’t want to explain myself, and I’ve had supervisors where I felt comfortable using “Appt” or similar because I knew they would never ask me about it.

    1. Lynne679*

      I had a former supervisor do that too! I thought it was pretty effective, to be honest. “Do Not Schedule” could mean “this is my time to focus on work” or it could mean “I’m picking up my kids from daycare.”

  18. DCompliance*

    I put on my calendar an initial or an abbreviation or a vague entry like: B, CT, Report, rather then labeling it private.

  19. Lana Kane*

    This made me think of my mom, who would give answers such as “pap smear” or “colonoscopy”. Even to her bosses. Fortunately they all loved her and would just laugh and go “ok ok”. I don’t suggest that approach, though it makes me laugh thinking of some of her replies to questions like these!

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I don’t get nosy questions but my go to in my head is to say it’s an appointment for my vagina. It’s always going to be something wrong with my vagina. Said very cheerfully

    2. CheesePlease*

      feel free to steal my next upcoming appointment which is “Stool Sample Drop-Off” because I do actually need to go and do that next week. I won’t label it as such in my calendar but it’s gross enough that if someone did ask they wouldn’t like the answer lol

    3. MonaLisa*

      I did think of just giving nonsense answers: “Oh, just walking my duck/washing my house/chasing squirrels” or “Just… stuff, you know. Private stuff. My stuff which is private. That stuff.”

    4. Stay-Home-When-Sick-Please*

      In addition:
      “Wart Removal”
      “Root Canal”
      “Toenail Surgery (toe #2/10)”
      I’d use pretty much anything that sounds uncomfortable/painful so that when you get back to work people will likely leave you alone since you clearly had a rough day!

      Seriously though, I’d just mark it down as “Personal” and leave the details out of the work calendar, and just use a personal calendar for details. I think it would be evident if OP’s boss then said “what kind of personal appointment is this?” that they were prying and being nosy about it (maybe to gauge whether OP is interviewing for a new job, but why would OP say that anyway?!) If not, “Private” could mean a work event and OP’s boss may just want to check if it is a personal or work appointment before scheduling a meeting on top of it.

    5. TinySoprano*

      I had some surgery last year and my boss asked what it was for, and I said if he really wanted to know I was happy to tell him but it was gross and he’d regret asking. So he got an in-depth description of how I was getting endometriosis lesions burned off my guts. He definitely regretted asking.

  20. Mekong River*

    “This boss also has some pretty significant boundary issues, which is what I’ve always chalked this behavior up to, but for some reason it’s starting to get under my skin.”

    Whatever the reason is that this particular thing has gotten under your skin, addressing just this one issue is not going to make the larger picture go away. I hope setting boundaries in this one area will make it easier to set boundaries in other areas as well.

  21. Janeric*

    It’s wise to push back on this now, so that you’ll have boundaries in the future in case you’re pregnant, having medical issues, or seeking employment elsewhere — setting a boundary and then having nothing besides the boundary happen will normalize things for the future.

  22. Old Coot*

    When asked, I’d likely use excuses such as “I’m getting a colonic that afternoon”, or maybe a brazilian. Enough of that and they’ll stop asking.

  23. Young Business*

    For some reason, my brain went to OP’s boss being afraid OP is using that time to interview, so boss is prying into the nature of all of their private appointments.

    I have started to name non-work calls as ‘busy’ on my calendar, even though I already have my calendar set to “private visibility” in my settings.

    It’s odd to ask someone what the nature of a call is on their calendar if the intention is to see if they have flexibility so I don’t really think that’s an out here… it can simply be posed as an ask such as, “I see you’re booked at 2 pm, but is there any chance you could move to accommodate x meeting?”

  24. OneBean TwoBean*

    I occasionally put “outside appointment” on my calendar for things like that. I once had a co-worker who wouldn’t let it go and kept asking me what it was. We were friendly so this isn’t as obnoxious as it sounds.

    Him: What’s this “outside appointment” on your calendar for Wednesday?
    Me: It’s not work-related, it’s just something I needed to block off time for.
    Him: But what is it?
    Me: It’s just a personal appointment.
    Him: But what are you doing?

    And Bob never asked about outside appointments again.

    1. I'm the LW*

      I like the phrase “outside appointment” which make sit clear I’m doing something that isn’t work related.

  25. H*

    I work in a workplace where our boss expects full calendar access and transparency so I run into the same issue if I need something to be personal because everything else on my calendar is open and shared. It is a bit weird but this isn’t the first time this has happened to me in a workplace.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, well, I know from experience that it’s possible to have full transparency on work-related meetings across the whole organization, while keeping personal appointments completely private. But we have lots of flexibility and our leadership generally trusts us to do our jobs like the adults we are, without the need to know things that are none of their business.

    1. Everything Bagel*

      I think this is a perfectly acceptable response! Then just wait and let her answer. She’ll tell you if it’s because she was hoping to get some time with you during that same time slot or she’ll say she’s just curious and then you can choose not to respond any further. If she tries to force you into a back and forth, then you know you’ve got a real whack job on your hands. Just use Allison’s advice and say you prefer to keep it private.

    2. ArtK*

      I don’t really like this one — it carries some risk. With a person who’s being inadvertently nosy, it will make them stop and think about what they’re asking. For someone like the OP’s boss, it’s just an opening in a negotiation. You’re telling them that you’ll answer *if* their reason for asking is good enough. The nosiness is tiring enough, but having an extended back-and-forth each time makes it orders of magnitude worse.

  26. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

    In the early days of my (high-risk) pregnancy, before we were telling ANYONE that we were expecting but when I had LOTS of medical appointments, I just marked time ‘Out of Office’ or ‘Busy’ on my calendar (the appointments were all early-morning, so mostly people just needed to know I’d be in late.)

    Now that I’m 9+ months, I put ‘appointment’ and people assume it’s a baby visit (which it usually is) and just know that I can’t move it, can’t reschedule it, and they need to either work around me or have the meeting without me.

    OP, try marking them as ‘busy’ or ‘out of office’ (and maybe ‘busy’ means ‘I can move this if I have to but I don’t want to’ and ‘out of office’ means ‘nope, can’t move it at all,’ for your own personal tracking) and see if that changes anything.

    You’re not being unreasonable to not want to share the details of ‘private’ appointments with her, and Alison’s script is great for pushing back on finding out if she actually wants to schedule a meeting or if she just wants to be nosy.

  27. TX_Trucker*

    It’s a bit creepy. Is this possibly an awkward way of being friendly and similar to casual conversation like “what did you do this weekend?” I also list private appointments on my calendar, but I use a few more categories: medical, school, busy. No one ever asks me about a “medical” appointment, but sometimes my colleagues ask about “busy” thinking I’m going somewhere fun … or interviewing for a job.

  28. Tinkerbell*

    I think it would be fair to give her some general info (one time only), something like “Those are me marking off times I’ll have a medical appointment or an obligation that takes me out of the office.” That’s not telling her what a specific one is, but it makes it clear you’re not doing this to spite her or to secretly interview with other places.

    1. Observer*


      It’s not something the OP should have to do in any case. And with someone who has a general pattern of boundary crossing, this is just going to be taken as “proof” that it’s OK to dig for information.

      The OP’s boss is NOT entitled to this information. And, in fact, she is even entitled to know if the OP is actually interviewing. So, no. It’s not “fair” for the OP to have to give her boss even that much information.

      1. Mekong River*

        The boss is not entitled to know when OP has an obligation that takes them out of the office? Firm disagree on that one.

        1. Observer*

          Why is the boss entitled to that information. All they are entitled to know is that the OP is going to be out – which the OP is informing her of. The Boss has ZERO obligation to explain even a shred of the reason.

      2. I'm the LW*

        As a follow up–I have been in treatment for a medical condition for the entire time she’s known me, which has lead her to occasionally make assumptions about my energy levels, which in turn lead to her unilateral decision to pull me form at least two projects in the past year. That’s why I don’t leave them as viewable anymore.

        1. Observer*

          Wow. You don’t really need to justify why you don’t want to share this information. But given how she’s misusing it, it’s all the more reason to shut it down.

          Do you have HR? Are they competent? Because if they are, this may be a worthwhile conversation to have with them.

        2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          So is the reason you need to mark them private because you still need to record them on the calendar for leave purposes? Like HR can view it all and needs to, but you are keeping your boss and colleagues from knowing that info?

          1. Need More Sunshine*

            LW has said in other comments that they don’t use PTO or leave for these, but puts them on the calendar so other meetings don’t get scheduled at the same time.

    2. Dinwar*

      I’m sort of leaning this way as well. When I block time out for personal stuff during typical work hours I’ll put a brief statement of why–“Medical Appointment” or “Call With School” or something–to let folks know that 1) I’m not goofing off, and 2) I really can’t move these because they involve outside parties.

      Probably it’s a cultural thing. Most of the offices I’ve worked in, for ay other flaw, have been full of people who are politely interested in each other and friendly towards each other, meaning sharing a certain amount of personal information (like “My kid’s got a medical condition I’m going to need periodic time off to deal with”) isn’t considered out of the ordinary. I’ve also seen people put “Deer Hunting” or “Going Fishing” in Outlook, so it’s not like we’re silent on personal info. It sounds like a lot of people work in a far more hostile, or at least adversarial, environment, and are reacting as such.

      1. Observer*

        I’m a believer in human connection and polite interest in other people’s lives. But no one should be pressured to share information, especially of the more sensitive sort. When people don’t dig it’s safe and appropriate to share a little. But the minute someone starts pushing for more information than someone is comfortable with, it’s time to turn the spigot off. Especially since the OP has not only pointed out in her letter that this boss is a boundary pusher, but also has mentioned several times that Boss has actually used this information against her.

      2. allathian*

        Well, luckily I work for an organization where we have a lot of freedom to set our own working hours, and as long as we attend scheduled meetings (barring emergencies like sick leave or burst pipes), we’re free to schedule time for goofing off in the middle of the day if we want, provided our work gets done at some other time during the day, week, month, or quarter and no deadlines are missed.

        One difference is that we can see everybody’s calendar across the whole organization, with the whole organization defined as everyone who’s on the same Outlook Exchange server, which literally means the whole central government and all its agencies. So while I might be comfortable telling my close coworkers, or even my manager, that I’m going to the dentist if I see them in person, I definitely don’t want any random government employee to be able to see that in my calendar. Not that most of them would ever need to look at my calendar, but it’s the principle of the thing.

  29. Sharon*

    Sometimes “why do you need to know?” or “what specific information do you need?” can help someone realize they don’t actually need to know.

    Boss: What’s that private meeting on your calendar for Wednesday?
    You: Just a personal errand I’ll need to be out of the office for an hour for – why?
    Boss: Just wondering.
    You: Yep, just time blocked for a personal appointment. Should be back by 1:30.

  30. Zee*

    I had a boss one time ask “I see you’ve had a lot of doctor’s appointments lately; is everything alright?” (she had to approve the time off requests). Which, a). it was 2 appointments in 3 weeks… and one was specified as a dentist appointment when I submitted the form, and b). what is the point of asking that question? If everything wasn’t alright, you’ve now put me in the position of having to lie, adding anxiety on top of me being sick?

    …Anyways. I just put “appointment” and mark it as out-of-office on my calendar. Vague but still clear enough that you’re unavailable. I favor the flippant approach when asked: “oh, it’s just a personal thing *handwave*” and move on, acting like of course there’s no more explanation needed.

  31. 2 Cents*

    OP, I bet she’s just nosy and it’s her lack of boundaries in other areas. I put everything from an out-of-office lunch to doctor’s appointments (like my weekly therapy) as “busy” so it just looks as benign as the next thing. Also, my work is great about letting us drop off/pick up kids at school, so many of us have recurring “busy” times for this daily. No one thinks much of it. If someone needs to schedule, we use the scripts Alison suggests for scheduling around stuff that can/can’t be moved. You don’t owe your boss any explanation about how you’re using your time!

  32. Olive*

    I had similar issues with my previous boss. We’re also both women about the same age and she also had other boundary issues. I’m not automatically recommending this as a course of action to the LW, but I ended up looking for a new job (mostly for other reasons), and it wasn’t until I had a different boss that I realized just how exhausted I had become from holding my boundaries firm all the time.

  33. The Scattered Mess*

    Google Calendar has been a big help for me for this issue.
    1. They have a visibility option, which if you turn on ‘private’, shows your appointment name to you, but ‘busy’ to everyone else.
    2. I create a separate calendar in my GCal that is hidden from everyone but me, which is where I put my personal appointments, and then just create a second event on my work calendar called ‘Personal’, which also lets me add travel/get ready time around the actual appointment so people don’t book over that. Most people (though possibly not OP’s manager…) respect personal as, well, personal.

  34. El+l*

    “You don’t want to know.”

    If they keep pressing, give them REALLY full transparency on one or two of them. “Yeah, I’m picking my dog up from the vet. They have had the worst IBS lately…”

    And then next time: “Yeah, you don’t want to know.”

  35. Gail Davidson Durst*

    Sometimes I use pointed humor in a case like this. Like I’d be tempted to say something like, “Oh, I have to get my molars rotated – it evens out the wear.”

    Similarly when someone pushes to know what religion I am, my go to answer is, “I’m a Frisbeetarian – we believe when you die your soul goes up on the roof and you can’t get it down.”

  36. She of Many Hats*

    If my boss kept pushing, my petty urge would be to ask “Do you want me to go into gory detail?…”
    Go into the most long, drawn-out, boringly descriptive tale of what needs to be done and how you found the issue and what you need to find out and the process you went through to find the right person to work with about it and how you didn’t like the first person but ….. Bonus points if you can show them a lump or bump and ask their professional opinion on it.

  37. Troutwaxer*

    If everything else fails, you can always mark an appointment “Interview for new job because Boss has boundary issue.”

  38. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

    I’m really grateful for letter like this as someone who’s still pretty new to the corporate side of the workforce; my previous employment history has all been in the sort of service fields where you are 100% available at all times you are on the clock, you cannot change your work hours without jumping through several hoops, and the idea of scheduling a personal appointment during work hours that you expect to be paid for is beyond frowned upon. So if I were in this letter-writer’s position, I would be genuinely concerned that I might be doing something wrong by a) having appointments during the workday and b) withholding their exact nature from my boss. I’m also wondering if this boss comes from a background similar to mine where privacy is a rare luxury rather than an assumed right.

    1. FreeStar*

      I’m also kind of surprised with the number of commenters here that have jobs where it seems like they can take personal time during the workday whenever they want. I’ve always worked where there’s an expectation for not doing personal stuff on the clock. And if you do you either put in a PTO request or get approval from your supervisor to make up the hours at another time.

      This boss sounds like a micromanager, but is there anyway that they’re asking to find out if it’s work-related or not? It seems reasonable to me for a supervisor to sometimes ask what their direct report is working on or how they are spending their time on the clock.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, I’m not in the US so the system is different, but even for an employer in Finland I realize mine is unusually flexible. We do track work hours, but that’s mostly for resourcing purposes. But we don’t have to take PTO for an appointment in the middle of the day if we have enough work hours in the bank. We aren’t generally paid any OT, but the bank is there so that we can schedule our work more freely, and we don’t need our manager to approve this unless we take a full day out of the bank. The only expectation is that we attend the meetings we’ve agreed to attend and get our work done on time. With freedom comes responsibility, and our organization is big on trusting employees to do their jobs without excess supervision. We have stand-up meetings on Mondays and a ticketing system that lets our manager keep track of what we’re doing. But when we do it, as long as it’s done within deadlines, is our business. Sometimes people may need help prioritizing work, but even then the first step isn’t usually to cancel every non-work appointment during the workday… Obviously if someone’s slacking off, their manager will need to intervene at some point, but generally this doesn’t involve keeping track of every appointment the employee has during working hours.

        This flexibility generally results in happier employees who are trusted to do their jobs without constant supervision. We do have some part-timers who are hourly, and who are expected to schedule appointments for the days when they aren’t working, but they’re a tiny minority. We aren’t exactly exempt because our working hours are tracked, but we aren’t hourly either, because there’s no expectation of a certain number of hours being worked during the day or week. Most of the coworkers I’ve talked to about this keep an excess of 10-30 hours in the working hours bank, to provide some flexibility that doesn’t have to involve their manager.

  39. Gnome*

    A gentle way of suggesting that people are being nosey is to say, “Why do you ask?” Or “Why do you want to know?”. Since it’s your boss, who may have a legit reason, this give an opening for them to say, “I’m hoping it’s something easy to move because the CEO is going to visit then” or whatever.

    I wouldn’t use this first, but it’s a handy tool.

    1. cosmicgorilla*

      Yes, this. Return awkward (or curiosity) to sender.

      Honestly, I WOULD use this first. I see it as a conversation opener, and a potential way to shut down the conversation.

      Boss – What is this “private” meeting about?
      LW – Why do you ask?
      Boss – You didn’t take PTO for that time.
      LW – Per our previous conversations, I thought I didn’t need to take PTO for these short blocks when I needed to be away. Is that not the case anymore? I’ll submit PTO if that’s changed.
      Boss – Blah blah, what is it?
      LW – It’s a non-work meeting that I’ve marked on the calendar because I’m not free at that time. You’ve previously agreed that I don’t need to take PTO for this kind of thing – has this changed?
      Boss – But what is it?
      LW – (Repeat) Why do you ask? (Or NOW get snippy) Why do you need to know?

      If boss persists, you persist. Why do you need to know what my private, non-work meeting is about? I find your insistence on knowing what my private, non-work meeting event to be intrusive and overstepping.

  40. Ann O'Nemity*

    I’m currently working at a company with a surprisingly transparent culture around calendar meetings. I rarely ever see meetings marked as “private.” Employees label them doctors appt, vet appt, pick up kids, yoga, etc. I thought it was a little odd, but one advantage is that I will go great lengths to avoid double-booking a colleague who clearly has a personal commitment; I respect it more than I would a generic hold.

    1. English Rose*

      Your point about respecting that commitment – exactly a good reason to be open about these appointments.

      1. Dinwar*

        That’s my view as well. I get that sometimes–for example, the LW’s case–you need to set particularly aggressive boundaries, but the general attitude of this site is that work should never know anything about your personal life, and I don’t get that. Worrying constantly that someone would use any bit of personal info against you isn’t professionalism, it’s a response to an abusive relationship.

      2. marvin*

        I used to work in an office where everyone was like this, but in general everyone was way too involved in each other’s lives. Personally I now prefer to just put a generic ‘Appointment’ label because I don’t think my coworkers need to know that I’m going to therapy or getting an IUD inserted or discussing my hormone therapy or getting post top surgery medical care–all things I’ve done recently that made me glad I’m not in the habit of sharing the specifics of my personal appointments even when they’re boring.

    2. I'm the LW*

      I commented this on another reply, but access to my medical appointments and treatment information has been used in the past year to 1. treat me like I’m a delicate thing that can’t be taxed with *gestures* anything (which I addressed pretty aggressively and has stopped), and 2. unilaterally pull me from projects or not assign me to them.

      I used to keep things open and easy to see, but once it was confirmed that the info was being used to impact my job I started marking them private.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        That’s terrible. In your case, I would absolutely hide the details. Can you get away with “Out of Office?”

    3. Observer*

      Employees label them doctors appt, vet appt, pick up kids, yoga, etc. I thought it was a little odd, but one advantage is that I will go great lengths to avoid double-booking a colleague who clearly has a personal commitment; I respect it more than I would a generic hold.

      That’s extremely problematic. There is no reason that someone should need to share their private life in order for people to respect their calendar. If Jane is doing fertility treatment, June is seeing someone for GAD, Joe is seeing a marriage counselor, and John is dealing prostrate issues, they shouldn’t have to lay that bare to get people to respect that they have some sort of commitment.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        When you put it like that, I can’t disagree. I don’t think the level of transparency you mention should be required, especially to the extent of the intimate details you gave. Oof.

        But my basic point remains – if I can’t find calendar availability I’m more likely to book over a generic hold or Microsoft’s focus time than I would for an obviously offsite personal commitment. I’m talking about the times when you can’t find *any* availability in the necessary timeframe, so booking over something and/or asking folks to rearrange their schedule is inevitable.

        1. Observer*

          Well, yes. But even then, you don’t need to ask “what is this private appointment for”. You can ask “I’m having a hard time scheduling everyone. Is there any way that you can move your appointment?” If someone has a decent track record, you don’t need more information. And if someone does not have a good record, I’m not sure I’m going to trust their “obvious off site commitment”. Because “appointment” could just mean “appointment with my bed”.

        2. J.B.*

          Why would you book over a generic hold, at least without talking to the person? I might hit cannot attend the meeting in that case.

          I have regular times out right now because I burned out hard. I am willing to move them around if important and if I am asked, but really really need that time to recover.

  41. scmill*

    Retired now, but I always just said I had personal business to attend to. If it was pursued, I repeated in a frostier tone with a quirked eyebrow. But I was always a bit of a witch from the start…

  42. English Rose*

    It’s annoying the boss is so nosy, but is there any reason these appointments need to be marked as private?
    If I have something like this I’ll put “Doctor” or “Dentist” “Vet” or “Be sure to leave on time” in my calendar, so both my boss and my team are aware what I’m doing. It’s never occurred to me to mark these private.
    If what you’re doing is boring, it won’t be of interest.

    1. I'm the LW*

      Honestly, I used to keep most personal stuff visible, but after reading AAM for years, I no longer do that.

      I have confirmation that she’s taken me of projects without consulting me because she thinks I “just have so much health stuff going on.” So, yeah, I no longer give her the medical information that can be used against me.

  43. Fleur-de-Lis*

    There is a whole huge discussion/thread in Twitter that happened this fall about calendar syncing/visibility/invisibility, only about how in the academy, people will use strategic incompetence or outright classism to avoid using online calendars. Follow the tweet threads/retweets/quote tweets on this one:

    There is a huge difference among the different worker classifications in how calendars are perceived. It’s wild.

    Also as a boss-type-person, I just want my team members’ free/busy times. I don’t need the details on what they are doing at a certain time and whether or not it is work related, just whether or not they are booked! If I can’t make a meeting happen unless I step on a “busy” time, I’ll ask more but only if it is of urgent operational importance (like if we don’t meet, we might lose funding or have to stop a service abruptly).

    For myself, I chose to make my calendar event titles open to all in general, then mark specific events as “private” when necessary.

  44. MurpMaureep*

    LW, based on your answers and clarifications you probably need a broader conversation with your boss about boundaries.

    You say that you’ve tried to block off time without marking it as private in Outlook, and she schedules meetings over that. That’s an issue in and of itself. You can and should decline those meetings and explain you are unavailable. If she keeps pushing for you to shift your schedule whenever she wants, that’s a larger discussion about her real need (spoiler alert: she doesn’t have a real need, she wants to have total control). A good first step would be to hide all details of your appointments from her and let her know your calendar is up to date and if she is having trouble finding time you can help.

    I manage a team of over 15 people. My calendar and theirs are nightmares to navigate and yet it is rare for me to ask anyone to move anything. I have also never asked to move something marked as private or out of office. I would certainly never think to ask someone the details of a private appointment. No boss should. Even if she suspects you are interviewing, she can’t expect a straight answer, so why ask?

    1. I'm the LW*

      We’ve had previous conversations about boundaries (using advice from AAM!) but it might be time for another one. I actually said in a meeting with Boss and my coworker who refused to push back a project start date to accommodate Boss: “Good for you for having boundaries and sticking to them!”

      Yes to total control and yes to why is she asking about interviewing because I’m unlikely to tell her the truth.

      Also, can you please come be my boss?

      1. MurpMaureep*

        I’m sorry that your boss is such a challenge. It does sound like she’s at least receptive to these conversations even if she’s not self-aware enough to see how her behavior is coming across.

        I’ve worked for people who were also boundary challenged and that’s helped me be respectful when dealing with my own staff.

        One thing that’s helped me when having difficult conversations with superiors is to go into them with the mindset that they don’t deserve undue control over me. Fundamentally, their function is to support and facilitate my own work, not to command or control. Strip them of unwarranted authority before you broach the subject and act as if what you are asking is the most natural thing in the world.

        The other thing I’d say is that while it might be easier to do as other commenters have suggested and be transparent with the appointment titles, it is perfectly acceptable to keep them private. While it may seem begin in a normal work environment to have “vet visit for Mittens” on your calendar, your boss has demonstrated that she’s far from normal. The last thing you want is her prying into why you are taking Mittens in or questioning anything about your personal appointments!

  45. I'm the LW*

    I’ve answered a few questions in comments, but here are the details–

    1. I’m not interviewing externally, and I have explicitly told her this on several occasions. I am interviewing internally, which she knows about and is (on the surface at least) supportive of. I never change the interview appointments so that she can see them.

    2. But I do have frequent medical appointments, so it is not unusual for me to have multiple occurrences of these Private entries in a week/month depending what is going on with my treatment.

    3. In our org, your boss has access to your calendar. Everyone else can just see the busy/available information, but Boss will have access and that’s not something I can (or want to invest the time) change.

    4. I’ve tried “time block” or “hold” but then she assumes that whatever it is is flexible and can be rearranged–which is usually true and why I don’t want to mix my mostly flexible time blocks with real appointments that cannot be changed.

    5. Boss has a bit of paranoia that people are working against her. I have no idea if she was undermined in a prior role, but I think that’s where the “Who are you meeting with?” and “What are you meeting about?” comes from. She doesn’t think it’s me, but she does think that others will involve me in their plans and I’ll be unaware that Monica doesn’t like her or Michael is trying to work up a project that she was against last year, etc.

    7. I truly appreciate all the suggestions for workarounds, and may try some of them, but the reason she is asking is because she can’t see details. Nothing but letting her see the details that I’m going to the gynecologist or to pick up my dog will solve that problem. It’s a Boss wants to know everything I’m doing problem, not an Outlook problem. :(

    8. I will definitely send in an update! I may try to change how I title them, but even if I title the calendar entry as Personal, Busy, or the ever ambiguous Appointment–she can see the calendar entry but will not see any details. Which means she will still ask. I mean, she asks when they’re clearly marked Private, so she will almost certainly ask about a “Busy” entry, so the question becomes: “What are you busy with/OOO for on Wednesday?”

    Alison, TY for responding! I am going to practice the script a bit so I’m ready the next time she asks!

    1. CLC*

      Could you put Dr. XYZ (you could even make up a fake name), dentist, etc? Or “pick up dog” or something? I don’t always make this kind of thing private—I have “drop off” and “pick up” for my child, “Dentist,” etc. I understand why hitting private makes sense, but if your boss is asking for details maybe just give her some?

    2. Essess*

      At this point, I would respond that they are medical appts and therefore are not for public discussion and thank her for respecting your privacy. If she pushes, contact HR that you are being pressured to divulge your medical treatments.

      1. allathian*

        The LW said in an earlier update that the boss has pulled her off a few projects without asking because she assumes the LW has health issues that prevent her from doing them when that isn’t necessarily the case. If I read it right, that’s when the LW started flagging appointments as private.

        Something like “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’m currently only looking to switch jobs internally. But if you keep demanding information about my private appointments, I may start looking elsewhere.” Her behavior’s pushing the LW away, but only they’ll know if that response might risk them getting fired or not.

        1. Kyrielle*

          With everything the LW has now shared–

          I would honestly start by telling boss firmly to stop, that I won’t discuss personal appointments because I don’t want opportunities withheld due to my health.

          At that point, if she continues to demand details, I would take it to HR. That’s discrimination on the basis of a disability (putting together notes from the OP further up thread, and also the fact that the boss clearly thinks this impacts her significantly enough to keep her from doing projects – which she’s then not allowed to do).

          This sounds like a boss the LW cannot change, and a boss who is wildly out of line. At that point, the LW doesn’t have enough power/leverage on their own to solve it, and frankly should not have to.

    3. J.B.*

      I have found that I can’t set an external appointment private. Since I don’t personally mind if someone sees I’m taking my kids to the doctor, I will put the doctor’s appointment on my personal calendar and invite my work calendar. Time off for my mental health is private so I have to put details on my personal calendar and something generic on work. This does nothing to deter busybodies unfortunately.

  46. bopper*

    Another options is she wants to schedule a meeting then and wants to know how firm that time slot is for you.

    1. I'm the LW*

      I initially gave her the benefit of the doubt on this, but that’s why I included in the letter that the questions are not followed by meeting invites, for any time, not just the one she was asking about.

  47. Dawn*

    Probably don’t do this, but my response at this point would likely be: “I’m sorry, is the word ‘Private’ unclear? It means it’s not for sharing, thank you.”

  48. WillowSunstar*

    Yeah, I wonder if she thinks you are interviewing for another job. Managers should not have to know about an employee’s personal medical appointments, but some people on my team have chosen to be very transparent about it all.

  49. I would prefer not to*

    I definitely don’t recommend doing this in a work context with your boss, but sometimes I snap and respond to an extremely invasive question with a massively awkward, oversharing answer.

  50. SAL*

    I just put those times as “Therapy” or “Toenail Fumgus Appointment”. That usually gets them to ask me to mark such things as private.

  51. Stinky kitty*

    This may not work in your situation OP, but if you think it would, just tell your boss that the times marked as private are when the union meetings are scheduled.

  52. Blinded By the Gaslight*

    A commenter on another post earlier this week (I think the manager who kept asking about her employee’s acne?) had a great suggestion for nosy questions like this: “When do you need to know?”

    It’s so gloriously subversive because it forces the other person to consider “when” they need to know this information, and the only sensible answer is . . . NEVER.

    Nosy people gonna nosy anyway, but this might be fun for OP to try as a non-response.

  53. urbanchic*

    Ugh. This is why I do not have a shareable calendar. Unless this is required I would just make your entire calendar private, then you can classify your appointments as “available”, “busy”, or “OOO”. People can still schedule meetings but they don’t know what your other meetings are. You can just use “busy” for everything so your boss cannot distinguish between work and private appointments. If your boss asks you can just say it’s a conflict.

    1. urbanchic*

      this said I have several colleagues that are not responsive often and their calendars are littered with inexplicable appointments. My issues with them are not that they have private or empty appointments blocking off their calendars but that they are unresponsive and inconsistently available when they have to be.

    2. allathian*

      The LW has said that the culture of the organization is such that managers can see their employees’ calendars, so it’s not an option here.

  54. Little Miss Sunshine*

    Outlook allows you to show availability without exposing all of the details. I mark myself as busy or Out of Office for things that I must generally hold to and everything that is flexible or lower priority is tentative. That is the extent of what people can see in my calendar. No one needs to know if my 1 PM is a 1-1 meeting or a project update, they just need to know I am busy at that time. Try scaling back the detail on everything so only availability is known.

  55. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    Maybe when she questions you, ask her, “Why do you want to know?” or the less agressive, “What are you asking for?” I’m sure you’ll have to follow that with one of Alison’s scripts, but this could make it less comfortable for her.
    My guess is her answer to why do you want to know will be something like “I was just wondering” or “I was worried about you.”

  56. DC Hoosier*

    Yeah, she’s out of line. I’ve been the manager of a 30-person team, the inquiring for specifics about a time slot marked “private” is neither appropriate or necessary—it’s why the function exists in the most commonly used workplace calendar in the universe. It would ONLY be appropriate to ask in the event an employee is blocking an unusual amount of time as “private” in which case it is a legitimate performance issue.

    There’s a third reason in addition to the two offered by AAM why your manager is doing this and it is: They’re just manipulating the power dynamic to show they can and/or just a cruddy boss.

    I’d suggest that IF the problem persists after attempting AAM’s suggested response that you flag it for your HR person and ask them for advice. It can be presented as a minor thing and you don’t have to make a formal complaint, just ask whether you’re violating any policies or if they have a recommendation for you. Even if it’s an informal chat, you’re still putting it on their radar, which is good because: A) It is very likely you’re not the first or only employee she’s bothered with this behavior and so strength and protection in numbers, and; B) It DOES happen that bosses for various not OK reasons deliberately look for things to complain about or keep in their back pocket as an excuse to wing you for something in an evaluation, salary request, promotion, etc. In that case you can appeal to HR since you’ve already proactively marked it and sought their input.

  57. Rosacoletri*

    Assuming these appointments are for your break it’s odd they would ask. If it’s during work hours I can see why they might be curious- why should you be paid for doing personal errands?

    1. Dawn*

      Pretty sure from the description that the OP doesn’t work at such a low level that she has scheduled breaks or an hourly wage, as such.

  58. Frozen Peach*

    Chiming in to share my solution to this issue. All appointments get marked “Doctor” or “Doc”. Not what kind of doc or anything else.

    The fact that it is marked as a doctor appointment gives you some additional boundary cover. I’m almost certain that asking you to disclose protected health information (like “what kind of doctor?”) violates HIPAA.

    1. Dawn*

      Taps the sign that says “HIPAA only applies to healthcare providers and only under specific circumstances.”

  59. LV426*

    So for my personal meeting events that I use to block off my calendar I use a fictitious name to reserve the spot so no one could schedule meetings on my calendar. I tend to use Author names quite a bit “Discussion with Andre Norton” or “Collaboration with Stephen King” so that people see a name. Even if they know the author name it seems to bypass their need to know what the meeting is. I used to mark my events as “Personal” but that cause too many questions. Using fake people just gives people the sense that there’s something I’m scheduled for already and they move on.

  60. OnlyHostess*

    This feels easy… you’re not working. Put an appt on your work calendar that is public and called “Out of Office” and categorized as such.
    That means I’m not here that time. Pick a time before, after, or on another day. OOO is clear. What am I doing? Irrelevant. I’m not here.

  61. A. Egbert*

    It seems like maybe we are all assuming LW works in a position or a culture where they are not required/expected to work set hours. And it does sound like that’s probably the case. But there are certainly employers and jobs/roles where employees may be expected to be be at work/available during certain hours and should at least notify their boss about a need to use leave or be out (if not the specific reason) for coverage. I wouldnt think asking what an appointment is if the employee is expected to be working during work hours wouldn’t be out of bounds in that case. Some jobs have this autonomy and some don’t.

  62. GladImNotThereNow*

    I like the earlier poster’s mention of “colonoscopy” but rather than making up multiple excuses, just use that over and over. “Bob, that’s your 12th colonoscopy this month – is everything okay?” “Just want to be REALLY sure, boss!”

  63. BubbleTea*

    When I was a child I had a shoebox that I kept little treasures in and I labelled it BubbleTea’s Private Box. Except I couldn’t spell very well, so I actually wrote BubbleTea’s Privet Box. When my dad pointed out that privet was a type of bush we had in our garden, I delightedly filled the box with leaves to cover my treasures.

    All that to say, you could just label the time as “Hedging”.

  64. DrMouse*

    I’ve found that the phrase “I’m having a procedure” works wonders. Nobody wants the details.

  65. Workfromhome*

    I’d mark them as out of office or busy depending on the system and mark them INB

    Next time the boss asks what are all the appoints marked as INB are?

    Boss: “What are those appointments for INB? what project is that?”
    You”Oh those are personal non work appointments, so I mark them INB as is It’s Nobody’s Business”

    1. Blinded By the Gaslight*

      I mean . . . that’s when most appointments are available (in the US anyway), and you have to take what you can get or wait weeks or months for treatment.

  66. little_my_in_the_garden*

    How timely! I had the opposite situation recently where my direct report kept asking me about my private events. I would always ask “why do you ask?” and the report would always say “no reason, I’m sorry for asking.” I ended up asking my assistant to make sure to mark my personal events as “private” to avoid commentary. Also, I decided to let this report know that it is not OK to comment on people’s calendar – I was mortified at the thought that they were doing it to others and wanted to nip it in the bud. Seemed to have worked for now!

    This report struggles with professional norms… It’s like whack-a-mole hahah

  67. Zarina*

    I don’t know if it’s cultural, but as a manager, I do want to know why my reports want to take PTO (they need to if they have to do non-work stuff on the clock).
    I just need to know “medical appointment”, not “I’m having a mole removed” (though I have a report who does just that, I’m trying to train her out of it!)
    This is because if they need to go out at 4 pm instead of 6 pm for a medical appointment, we’ll work around it even if it’s a busy day, no matter what. If they need it to have their hair cut, it’s definitely no unless it’s a very low season and they have PTO to consume by the end of the year.
    If they want once in a year half a day on a Friday or Monday to leave or early or return late for a long weekend, it can be arranged but it depends on the workload; but if the long weekend is to go to their brother’s destination wedding, of course I’ll go lenghts to work it out, much more than what I’d do for a standard weekend out, and so on.

    1. Ailurophile*

      As a US worker, I would find this inappropriate. My time off is my earned time off; I shouldn’t have to justify why I’m using it. As long as I give notice in whatever time frame my employer requires (two weeks? A month?), it shouldn’t matter because you should be able to plan around it. The only exception might be if the company has to distinguish between PTO and medical leave, and all medical appointments would fall under medical leave.

    2. Observer*

      No. That’s not an appropriate or sensible way to manage.

      It’s one thing to essentially have blackout days, at which point if someone wants an exception, they would need to speak to you about it. But outside of clearly delineated periods of that sort, a policy that allows you to essentially decide who gets to decide whose leave is “worthy” is just wrong. If you are in a situation where any leave request requires a large amount of “working around it”, you’re not staffing appropriately and you are essentially putting a huge asterisk on the leave that you are supposedly giving them as part of their compensation package.

  68. Ailurophile*

    A similar situation happened with me recently. My regular hours are 9am-6pm, but I sometimes have after-hours meetings. When I do, I adjust my start time. (I’m salaried/exempt.) I have a standing commitment on Wednesday events, so I mark of my calendar from 6:3opm-9pm so I don’t get appointments. Recently, my boss tried to schedule me for a meeting at 8pm without checking my calendar. (Yes, I was frustrated at the intrusion after hours anyway.) I told her that my calendar is always blocked on that day at that time, and she seemed put out that I hadn’t told her. That I hadn’t told her about my standing commitment outside of work hours. That has nothing to do with work.

  69. Leah*

    Unless it’s during your lunch hour, it would seem you’re using company time for personal appointments? I can definitely understand marking a “private” time on your calendar, but if it exceeds the allotted time you get for lunch, I would be wondering too if I was your boss.

    1. Observer*

      If someone is taking too much personal time and exceeding their PTO allotment or it’s affecting their work and / or availability, then you bring that up. Asking for specifics of their appointments that are marked “private” is not a legitimate response to the issue.

    2. Ailurophile*

      At my workplace, folks who are exempt set their own schedules, as long as we’re roughly available between 9am and 6pm. Plus, we’re all remote employees, so being in the seat is even less obvious than if we were physically passing people in an office. If we have to take time off in the middle of the day, we either start a bit earlier or stay a bit late. Unless it’s a significant chunk of time, we block it off on the calendar like any other meeting rather than submitting a leave notice.

  70. Wiggitywiggitywiggity*

    Out of my own self interest, I never put a reason on my calendar for why I’m “out of office”. It could be a massage for my birthday, dentist visit, medical procedure, or it could be that I’m interviewing. I’m salaried, our working hours are flexible, and we are results oriented. Some of my teammates will share in passing convo why they are OOO, or put specifics on their calendar, especially reoccurring things like picking kids up from school (I don’t have any), but I just don’t feel comfortable doing that. There’s a local group that hikes in the morning every week on the same day, and I’d REALLY like to go every once in a while to make some friends and to be outside. For some reason I have a mental block that it’s okay for me to do this during working hours, but it’s for mental and physical health and I will always make sure my projects are completed successfully and on time. So I’m going to challenge myself to do it at least once.

    1. Pepper*

      That is a useless suggestion. Calendars indicate when people are and are not available. If LW doesn’t put her appointments on her calendar people will double book her.

  71. Bryan*

    I used to work with someone who used to put Appointment at Fifth Avenue Station on his calendar. Fifth Avenue Station is a local building that has a variety of businesses in it. I never thought anything of it. One day his assistant told me the secret. His barber was in Fifth Avenue Station. The appointment was a his monthly haircut.

    Maybe you could use something similar for your appointments.

  72. Dawn*

    Everybody here acting like the OP is a retail employee or something when they are more than likely a salaried employee who doesn’t have to account for every minute of their time so long as their work is getting done.

    A lot of people beyond entry-level don’t have “lunch breaks” or even necessarily “company time” and frequently don’t work “on the clock” y’all.

  73. BringBackMyTrolleys*

    OP, I realize I have a tendency to be much blunter with my bosses than most people, but at the point you’re at with your manager I’d be saying something like “it’s exactly what it says there: private.” and leaving it there. People who are jerks need to learn that as early as possible, in the hopes they can change their ways. That said, I’m in a mobile enough and in-demand enough profession that I can afford to risk losing a reference or even a job.

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