a drama-filled affair, coworker marks most of her emails as “highly important,” and more

I’m on vacation. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives.

1. While I was hospitalized, my workplace contacted people I haven’t seen in years

I work in a small, close-knit office and was recently hospitalized for a mental health issue. The hospitalization itself was traumatic and unhelpful, and I’m still struggling. I let my bosses know I was dealing with a health issue and texted my manager the day it happened to let her know I was going to be hospitalized, but wasn’t able to communicate with them beyond that.

Now that I’m out, I’m finding that my bosses contacted friends of mine in the state where I used to live, in the art scene where I used to work, saying that they hadn’t heard from me (even though they had!). I’m now fielding concerned messages from that community and I’m incredibly embarrassed — it’s already hard to deal with my day-to-day life, and now I feel like there’s been an announcement that I’m crazy and unstable. That arts community means a lot to me and I don’t know what repercussions this will have.

Weirdly, I know there wasn’t a miscommunication — the manager I texted apparently later showed up at my apartment with the police (?!), and she definitely knew I was going to be in the hospital. The office is small enough (I am one of three managers and there are eight staff) that all information gets shared. I guess maybe they thought my text was a lie and I was going to commit suicide (I haven’t mentioned that at work, but everybody knows I’m stressed out and I suffered some personal blows recently), so they kind of lost their heads. But I’m still completely weirded out that this was the reaction — it wouldn’t have helped even if that was the case.

The job is stressful and multiple people involved in my care had already advised me to leave, but this feels like a huge privacy violation. Any advice for talking to my bosses about it? Or places I can get mental-health-sensitive career counseling in NYC?

What the hell?! At first I assumed there must have been a miscommunication — like that one of them didn’t realize the company had heard from you and was genuinely worried — but if that’s not the case, then this is inexplicable.

If you feel up to it, I would say this to your boss: “I’m really confused about why you showed up at my apartment with police, and why you contacted friends of mine in (state). This seems like a real privacy violation — and one that was unwarranted since you knew I was getting medical care — and I’m wondering what I’m missing here.”

If you get anything other than an abject apology and an acknowledgement that she terribly mishandled this, I’d consider escalating it to someone above her (if there is someone above her, which in a small organization I realize there may not be).


2. An affair and tons of drama at work

I have worked for a small company in the midwest for about seven years. I generally like my job and I am good at it. About four years ago, we hired a salesperson named “Jane.” Her role was to travel to various clients and vendors around the country about a dozen times a year and usually with our president and founder, “John.” Jane was a good coworker and I considered her a friend. During her tenure, Jane was promoted up the ranks eventually and everyone, save for the president, reported up to her. Last year, it came to light that Jane and John had been having an affair for the previous two years. Jane was forced to resign, John remained, and she has been out of our lives ever since. Or so we thought.

John is now going through a divorce and custody battle with his wife because he and Jane are back together. Jane repeatedly claims that even though she is no longer an employee, she has John’s ear and is helping him make business and personnel staffing decisions. This information comes from two former employees that still are in contact with her. I should mention that John is an alcoholic and Jane enables him.

Here is my concern. Jane continues to text me and other coworkers asking us to get drinks or go to dinner because “she wants to catch up and hear all the work gossip.” We do not have an HR department, nor do we have proof that she is “running the company from his bed” so it may be a lot of bravado. Do I ignore her semi-frequent requests to hang out and risk her potentially poisoning John against us, or do I bite the bullet and get drinks thereby potentially opening that door and knowing that whatever I say will get right back to John? In general, I don’t encounter John for more than a few hours a month and I enjoy my job overall so I don’t want to quit.

I can’t see any benefit to accepting Jane’s invitations, unless you truly yearn for her company … and even then, it seems like a bad idea.

This sounds like a ton of drama that so far you’ve managed to stay out of, and there’s no reason to change that plan. Continue doing your work, let John’s drama play out however it’s going to, and stay away from Jane. If you’re worried that Jane will complain about you to John if you ignore her texts, come up with an ongoing outside-of-work commitment you’ve taken on that’s taking up all your time, so that you can send short “sorry, I go straight home to take care of my grandma these days” texts if you need to reply to her.

Also, be prepared for for the possibility that this could all implode at some point, and it might be smart to have other options percolating for yourself in the background.


Read an update to this letter here.

3. I’m annoyed that my boss asks me to give her reminders

I have an office problem I’m trying to deal with; it’s a small issue, but it’s representative. I’m an attorney in contract administration working for a mid-size defense firm, in a satellite office several states away from our HQ. I’ve been going back and forth with my new, recently-promoted manager, an ambitious lady who was a senior contract administrator and in that position for several years. I just passed my one-year anniversary.

Whenever efforts requiring her input or approval are slow in coming back, I receive a chiding for not setting up an Outlook reminder in the original email, essentially passing on the blame to me for not being proactive enough. I suppose I can take some blame for not attaching reminders to every email I send, but Outlook reminders are not our company’s SOP and to be honest, I just forget sometimes. Further, being forced to remind my manager to do her job feels demeaning, as if I’m receiving a favor by her timely response, or that her time is more important than mine. It’s not like *I* get a similar stream of reminders – if I’m late on a deadline or task, I get chewed out.

While this manager is new to her position, generally swamped (like everyone else), and located in another state, I’d like to create a better expectation of my duties, preferably one that doesn’t include micromanaging my own boss. Is there something I can do, or should I just be prepared to suck it up and elevate my Outlook game?

Outlook reminders may not be your company’s SOP, but your manager has told you pretty clearly that they’re hers, which means that you need to do them. It’s not demeaning to be asked to nudge your manager about things you need from her; it’s actually not uncommon, since you’re the person who owns those projects and is in charge of keeping them moving. Your manager presumably has a bunch of priorities that she’s fielding, and it’s not unreasonable for her to ask you to remind her at particular intervals if that’s what works best for her. It’s her prerogative to ask you to do that and to hold you to that expectation.

As for it making you feel like her time is more important than yours — the reality is that her time actually is more important to your company than yours is; that’s just the nature of her being in a more senior-level position. You’re making this much more personal than it really is!


4. Coworker marks most of her emails as “highly important”

I have a minor workplace annoyance I’d like your advice on. One of my coworkers is in the habit of consistently sending emails marked as “highly important” with the dreaded red exclamation mark next to it. Her role is different than everyone else on our team because she is involved in process improvement and system upgrades, as opposed to just making chocolate teapots like the rest of us. So, in one way her emails are important, but never urgent. I looked back at the past three months (I keep all of my emails in a folder based on who sent them) and roughly 75% of the emails she’s sent were red exclamation marked.

Is this one of those things I need to just get over or should I talk to her or our boss about it? I’ll admit that I don’t read her emails all that often because my thinking is that if nearly everything she says is highly important, none of it is. Am I off-base here?

No, that’s annoying. It’s not really a big enough deal that you should definitely speak with her or her boss about it though — it’s more something to just roll your eyes at.

That said, if you have a friendly relationship with your coworker and you think she’d take it well, there’s no reason you couldn’t say, “Hey, I’ve noticed you mark the majority of your emails as highly important, which really dilutes the impact of marking them that way at all. I didn’t know if you realized how often you do it, but it’s enough that I suspect it’s not having the impact that you intend.”

(Also, job applicants: Stop marking your application-related correspondence this way. It is obnoxious.)


{ 175 comments… read them below }

  1. turquoisecow*

    Re: #4, one of my coworkers had someone who literally marked EVERY email she sent to my coworker as “high importance.” None of them really were. I mean, they were tasks that had to get done, but they didn’t need to get done any faster than the usual turnaround speed.

    My coworker told this person directly “if everything you send is “high importance”, then nothing is urgent, so I’m just going to treat them all as not urgent.” I don’t know how the person responded, but she kept adding that red exclamation point and my coworker ignored them and did them in the usual cadence. As far as I know this never caused any issues, and there never was anything actually urgent (or if there was, she called my coworker directly to explain this). My coworker did sometimes get actually urgent things to do, which she would drop everything for, but never from this person, as she was competent at her job and got tasks to my coworker in plenty of time.

    I don’t know if it was just a routine for her to hit the high importance button before she sent emails or a habit ingrained by a previous boss or what. I bet if OP4 did talk to this person, it wouldn’t change much.

    1. Allonge*

      I also have a coworker like this – I know she does think everything she asks for is important / urgent, because she does this in non-email interactions as well (all her projects and questions are Top Priority and she complains when not treated as such).

      She also IMs me just after sending an email saying that she sent an email, have I seen it yet.

      She is a graphic designer – yes, she often works on a deadline, we all do, but nobody dies if she is delayed. No clue why she thinks this is in any way helpful.

      1. allathian*

        Ugh, people like that are annoying, and the only recourse is to internally assign a lower priority to their tasks than they try to. It’s annoying, but it can be done. And some people do learn to prioritize properly when they realize that their tricks aren’t getting their tasks done any faster. Obviously some autonomy in setting priorities and support from your manager is necessary for this to work.

        Sounds like your coworker has an inflated idea of her contribution’s importance to your department/company as a whole. Anxiety is often a reason why people behave like this, although I’m not trying to armchair diagnose anyone here.

        I’m not all that bothered by people marking all their tasks as important because we’re allowed to override that when assigning priorities if it becomes necessary. But the IMs would really bother me. We check our work queue about twice a day, and people can IM us on Teams if they have an urgent request in the queue that needs immediate attention. I’m glad that our internal customers generally don’t misuse it, if they flag something as urgent, it is. But it does help that we have a reputation of getting things done by and sometimes before the deadline, because we always try to pad our schedules to deal with the inevitable last minute urgent requests and emergencies.

        Ironically, we often have the opposite problem in that someone sends us a task without setting a preliminary deadline. Then we suggest, say, two weeks, and they ask if it could be within a week instead. Our customers are allowed to set deadlines, and sometimes we have to remind them of that.

    2. Other Alice*

      I have a client that sends most emails as “high importance”. I’ve given up and pretty much ignore that red exclamation mark. If it’s truly important she’ll call.

      Some people have a skewed view of their role and think they are the only ones in deadlines, or that *their* report should have precedence over the other 5 identical reports you have to do. In that case you need to decide what the actual priorities are, because they never will.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, I work with authors and a significant number of them seem to think that I’m their own personal editor, and all I’m doing is working on their book. I do explain thoroughly at the beginning how the whole process is going to work and what I’ll be asking them to do at which points, and of course I’m polite to them and I employ little expectation-managing techniques along the way like not replying to emails straight away, but they still end up acting like I’ll drop everything to deal with them, instead of their book being just one of many I’m currently trying to juggle through the editorial process.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        On the flip side, I have a group at work that I always email High Priority, because when I don’t email it High Priority they take 96 hours or more to turn around a task they have contractually agreed to complete in 24 because they “lost our email.”

    3. Ozzac*

      Repairing smartphones and tablets I have lots of customers who tell me that I should treat their job as important, they can’t live without them etc. (even if we give them substitutes) so I treat any job as not urgent.
      Expecially frustrating when I rush the job and they leave the repaired phone for weeks in my store, or when I need a special component, tell them it will be X days before I recieve it and still insist that I need to hurry.

    4. I am Emily's failing memory*

      Definitely one of my #1 pet peeves. One of my strategies for managing my ADHD is that I only check email at regular intervals and I don’t get pop-up alerts when new emails come in … Unless they’re marked high priority/urgent. A woman who used to be on my team but has thankfully retired used to mark all her (never actually urgent) emails that way and it irritated me to no end every time my focus on truly time sensitive, public facing work was broken by a pop-up alert over some mundane and non-urgent concern, things like a request for a copy of old documents she was compiling for a resource library.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        I had an external contact who would mark just about every email as Red Exclamation Point Urgent.

        Not sure if it’s an undiagnosed ADHD thing or something else, but I found it incredibly distracting, since every time I checked email throughout the day there was something red aka bad yelling at me in my inbox.

        I finally set up an outlook rule so that any email from that person went into its own folder. That was a huge improvement. I’d check it a couple of times a week, and respond as needed. (nothing I had pending with them was ever urgent, most didn’t require a response at all … think FYI monthly statements)

    5. L.H. Puttgrass*

      I have a message processing rule in Outlook that sets any message marked with “high importance” to normal importance. That’s a blunt instrument (I get few enough e-mails that I can spot the important ones right away), but it’s possible to sharpen it by adding specific senders—e.g., mark all e-mails from a certain co-worker as normal importance (or give into the temptation to mark all messages that the co-worker marks as high importance to low importance instead…).

      1. Hannah Lee*

        “I have a message processing rule in Outlook that sets any message marked with “high importance” to normal importance.”

        ooh! I didn’t realize that was an option.

        I’ll definitely use that approach if I ever get a new chronic “High Importance” contact.

    6. Triplestep*

      To me it shows a basic lack of self-awareness which is annoying if it’s someone you have to deal with a lot. I have a colleague who does this and demonstrates her lack of self-awareness in so many other cringe-worthy ways, it’s something I would talk to her about were I her manager.

      It’s one thing to simply make yourself look bad, it’s another to waste people’s time. When she does the latter – and the time wasted is for people or relationships I manage – I do discuss with her. But this is a person who has been with us over a year and still uses lingo from her old workplace that no one has ever heard before or uses, so reading the room is not a strength of hers.

    7. 1-800-BrownCow*

      I have that coworker as well. She also thinks she’s the most important and most knowledgeable on every subject. She’s been known to argue with SMEs on stuff that she obviously does not know much about but thinks she does. She also spends a lot of time telling everyone she can about how busy she is, usually spending at least 20 minutes explaining why she’s so busy with her work before moving on to the next person to do the same thing.

      The constant “high importance” emails and follow-up chats and phone calls are certainly frustrating and annoying. And it has been explained to her that by marking everything with high importance and acting like people should drop what they’re doing to respond evert time dilutes the importance of her work and it actually make people less inclined to read her messages since we’ve all come to realize they really aren’t that important. When she’s told that, she responds that her work is highly important (it isn’t) and that she needs to make sure people they focus on her work immediately. She does not hear (or chooses not to hear) the message that people don’t respond the way she thinks they should to her “highly important” emails. I’ve worked with her for almost 10 years (ugh!) and she has not changed her stance about marking emails “highly important” one bit.

      My favorite story from early on with her was when she sent a highly important email to me requesting information, then immediately came over to my office and spent 30 minutes explaining to me why she needed me to get her the information as soon as possible because she needed it to finish a report that she was behind on getting done. And to please not delay on getting the information to her because the clock was ticking and she couldn’t wait any longer. I asked her 3 times to leave so I could finish up what I was doing (for our company president) so I could get her what she needed. Oh the irony.

      1. starsaphire*

        The lack of self-awareness is mind-boggling, isn’t it?

        I had one of these ladies in my volunteer group. She was complaining to me about having been ousted from one of the committees once. She spent a good forty-five minutes tearing these women down, together and separately, and then wound up the entire diatribe by saying, “And one more thing? They keep accusing me of talking about them behind their backs! As if!”

        I wish I could say I was exaggerating. I also wish I could say that I kept a straight face when she said that.

      2. Emily*

        Yep, it’s super annoying when people are insisting on telling you how important something is, but won’t stop talking to you so you can actually work on the thing that they are saying is important. What I sometimes do when I am on the phone who keep going on and on about something that they are insisting is extremely important and needs to get dealt with right away is say, “Ok, I am going to hang up now so I can get working on that”. (the trick to this is to follow through and hang up, even if the other person keeps on talking because there are some people who will still.keep.talking.) When we got a new phone system in the company said we could have it set up so people leaving voicemails could mark their voicemail as urgent. I quickly nixed that idea. I know there are certain people who would mark every single voicemail they left as urgent, no matter whether or not it actually was.

    8. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Someone on Tiktok proudly announced they do that. I told them if they were my coworker I would automatically put them on the bottom of the pile.

      1. Res Admin*

        Years ago in my old office, we had a whole sister department that would do that to us. Their manager required it. At a certain point, everything from that office went to the bottom of the stack. We still processed everything as quickly as possible, but incoming from that office was considered least urgent.

    9. Cheshire Cat*

      Re: LW4, I have one colleague who marks almost all of their emails as “urgent”. However, they are our primary IT contact, and almost all of their emails truly are important. For the few that are not, I suspect either that they turn on the red exclamation mark out of habit, or that the SVP we all report to has asked them to do so.

      Some years ago, my company rolled out a new product, and the devs asked some SMEs to handle some of the QA relating to our specific areas. When we found issues, we entered tickets in the company’s ticketing software. One of the fields to fill in was the level of importance; there were 5 levels. We were finding lots of issues, ranging from a component being broken to really picky cosmetic items.

      The dev team lead asked me to go through another SME’s tickets and modify the importance level when needed. Apparently the other person marked everything at the “drop everything and fix this now!” level, and the devs didn’t know which ones needed to be fixed first. The team lead told me that since I was marking some issues as”low” that when I gave something the highest level, they knew that it really was important.

      (The other SME wasn’t happy, because in their opinion since everything needed to be fixed before the product launch, it was all important. Which makes sense in a way, but they were never able to understand that the devs needed the importance rankings to be able to work on the most important items first.)

  2. Tara*

    I have an Outlook rule to delay delivery by 2 minutes unless marked important. It helps me catch typos but I can see how someone would be puzzled by the flag if happened a lot.

    As for the LR who doesn’t want to nudge her boss, following up on action items is a basic work skill. I wish that would be taught early on! Diligent follow up is one of those skills that will set you apart.

    1. Cherry*

      That’s genius. I have a similar rule but without the important filter, and sometimes I just want the damn email to send, especially if I’m about to log off (I use Outlook Desktop and corporate rules say only local caching allowed, so they then get stuck in my outbox). I just added an exception for anything containing “\send”.

      1. Kbell*

        You can get around this for emails you want to send right away vs waiting the 2 min. In the individual email, go to the delay delivery option and change the send date to yesterday (or anytime prior to todays current date/time). No need to use exclamation or any rules.

    1. Cait*

      Me too. From the sound of it, it seems like there must’ve been something in their messages that hinted at something more serious going on. A sudden test saying they were going to the hospital with no more details and no reply after would be concerning, so maybe their managers were just afraid they passed away/were seriously injured/etc. and with no idea what hospital they were in or how to find them the managers just started reaching out to whoever they could.

      1. Observer*

        I said it then, and I’ll say it now. The way the boss handled the situation was utterly out of line. I don’t think that a boss should never do anything, no matter what. But given what the OP pretty specifically told them, there was no way that what they did was reasonable or in any way likely to do any good but it is almost certain to do harm.

        1. Artemesia*

          A welfare check can be appropriate, but not contacting people she used to work with etc. I have been involved in two welfare check situations; in both cases the employee was found dead in their home.

          No excuse for contacting and sharing mental health information with all and sundry.

          1. Hannah L*

            Not in this case. OP specifically said they had a health issue and they were going to the hospital. That’s all the information the bosses need. They knew OP was being taken care of. A welfare check here is completely unnecessary full stop.

        2. Ama*

          Yeah this actually feels like a similar situation to the update we had recently from the OP whose boss kept bothering them post cancer surgery — it feels like the performative aspect of publicly demonstrating how much they care about OP is more important to them than actually listening to what OP said about what they needed.

          1. 1LFTW*

            And it’s a performance where the boss has cast herself in the role of dramatic lead, relegating OP1 to a supporting role that furthers Boss’s character arc.

    2. Anonimal*

      Boss is sooo out of control! A few years too late for LW1 but Department of Rehabilitation provides career services to people with disabilities (a mental illness requiring hospitalization would meet the requirement for psychiatric disability). It would mostly be beneficial if LW1 decided they want to leave that job and find a new career, but they have tons of resources they can connect you to if you don’t need their specific services.
      I work in rehab counseling and so many people don’t know this service exists so want to share in case it may benefit anyone else with similar struggles.

  3. Coverage Associate*

    Re #3. As big firm litigators, we have specialized calendar software that works with Outlook to put deadlines on our calendars and send us email reminders leading up to them. But our calendar software is rather clunky compared to my older, smaller firms’ software. We only use it for the firmest litigation-related deadlines. And one partner has her secretary input even those as normal Outlook entries.

    For all other deadlines, we use normal Outlook entries. I make reminders as meetings marked “free” for my boss and myself.

    And for things without a deadline, about twice a week, my boss and I have a quick conversation about what is outstanding.

    1. Mercurial*

      I agree with all the above, but I’ve seen it used as State of Play before, to mean much the same thing. Nowhere near as often though!

      1. Haven’t+picked+a+user+name+yet*

        That feels like someone forgot it was standard operating procedure (protocol) but knew the gist of it and made up something that worked!

  4. Allonge*

    Oh, LW 1, I hope you are better now.

    What on earth though? I know that some people can’t just not do anything about things, even when it’s none of their business, but this is waaaaay out there even for that. Your (hopefully ex-) bosses sucked. A lot.

    1. Not Australian*

      Seconding all this. I don’t think we ever had an update, did we? It’s one I would really like to know more about, although the best result would be for the OP to have moved on elsewhere.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      It sounds like frankly terrible ableism. If OP had been hospitalised because they were suddenly physically injured, there would have been no police visit (the police didn’t ask her about the last contact message?!) and no alerting of friends. In OP’s shoes I would have discussed this like the private medical issue it is, and my boss’ behaviour like the head scratcher it is: “I messaged my boss that I was unexpectedly in the hospital (getting great treatment, and I’m totally fine thanks) and anything she has said beyond that is fan fiction because she couldn’t reach me for actual details. I’m as baffled and as concerned by her words as anyone else.” To further enquiries I’d say: “I’d just like to drop the whole topic since my privacy has been violated too much already”. It does make you wonder what exactly the boss DID say to the friends.

      1. BatManDan*

        The OP was hospitalized; I’m under the impression that the cops were at her house, but she wasn’t. So, no police interaction.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I thought “her” was the boss here– as in, the police didn’t ask the boss about the last communication from LW before going to LW’s house. However the police are notoriously terrible at handling bad mental health situations, so it doesn’t surprise me massively.

          I hope you’re in a better place now, LW. This sounds like so many people contributed to and exacerbated an already traumatising situation and I hope you were able to regain a sense of control and heal.

          1. KRM*

            Also, maybe the police did ask and the boss just lied. Given their other behavior that seems pretty likely. I hope LW1 got out of there ASAP and is in a better place.

    3. Tesuji*

      Without actually knowing the context or what the original message was, most of these takes seem way too harsh to me.

      As clarified in the original comments, LW sent some kind of message indicating that they were going to be hospitalized… and then was unreachable for a week.

      To me, there are all kinds of scenarios (depending on how LW was behaving leading up to the incident and what specifically she said in the message to her boss) in which reaching out to try to find her and/or having a welfare check done is kind of reasonable.

      I find the take of “Well, she sent a text message saying she was being hospitalized; that should be enough for any business to just accept that she will be out indefinitely, and even after a week with no information, they should have zero curiosity as to whether she’s still alive or when (or if) she’s coming back” to be a weird one.

      The fact that the LW’s original post omitted how long she had been incommunicado before the boss started trying to locate her makes me wonder what other context she’s downplaying.

      1. Observer*

        The OP specifically said he was going to the hospital. How does it make any sense to bring the police to his house? And how does it make sense to reach out to people out of state for information?

        1. Tesuji*

          We don’t know what the message was, and we don’t know what led up to this.

          Like, take…
          Possibility #1: “I need to deal with some shit. Going to the hospital. Talk to you later.”
          Possibility #2: “I have a medical issue that is going to require being hospitalized. I’m going to need to request emergency medical leave, and will not be able to be reached this week while in the hospital, but I will contact you when I know more about when I’ll be back.”

          These are different things, and while I’m not saying that someone is required to be coherent and comprehensive when notifying their employer of a medical emergency, I’m okay with the idea that an employer may feel that they need more information the closer it is to #1 and the longer time goes on.

          (Similarly, we don’t know if OP was voluntarily or involuntarily committed, or whether there was some public or previous incidents that might increase cause for concern.)

          If you want to look at this on a warm personal level, it feels like if someone disappears for a week, it’s reasonable to start asking around if anyone’s heard from them.

          If, instead, this is a cold professional thing, then it also feels like after a week with no word, it’s reasonable for the company to wonder if an employee is still alive and if they’re coming back, and start going through processes to find out that information.

          A lot of commenters are just plain making up shit when they guess what the message was, because we don’t know. (Similarly, the “Why didn’t they just call his emergency contact?” idea, which is a thing that OP never even mentions exists, and betrays a certain level of privilege by the question.)

          The idea that a text message saying you’re going to the hospital should automatically mean that your company just sits back, assumes you’re an indefinite leave but will be back eventually, and should never have the gall to actually try to contact you, is just bizarre to me.

      2. Springtime*

        I agree. I had a coworker who, apparently in a state of shock, asked an emergency room nurse to call work and leave a message saying they wouldn’t be in the next day. Thoughtful, except when we hadn’t heard from them and couldn’t reach them the next day, we put it together that no one ELSE (i.e., their family) knew where they were or what had happened. My spouse had a coworker whose no-call/no-show ended with the police finding them literally dead in a ditch, and years later another no-call/no-show coworker who eventually returned after having been kidnapped. Some managers whose minds turn to the worst aren’t just paranoid–all of these were at sedate, run-of-the-mill office jobs! But all that the OP’s manager did should have stopped with using an emergency contact supplied by the employee, assuming it was up-to-date.

      3. Ellis Bell*

        There can’t have been any time lapse if OP considers the manager to have rushed in to prevent a suicide with the police.

      4. Rainy*

        I…what? How does this make sense? LW said “I’m going to be in the hospital” and then was unreachable for a week.

        I was in the hospital earlier this year for emergency surgery. I sent a text to my manager and my grandboss saying “I’m in the hospital, will be in touch whenever” and then I was out of touch for a while–longer than a week, honestly, because I was so weak after surgery I couldn’t do anything. Nobody sent a forking squad car to my house “just to check”.

  5. Sister George Michael*

    #3 reminds me of a boss I had who blamed me for not reminding her whenever she forgot something. And if I HAD reminded her, she blamed me for not reminding her strongly enough.

    1. Hotdog not dog*

      This happens to me often. I’ve either not given enough reminders or I’m nagging. There is no correct amount of reminders.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        When I was at university, one of my ex’s friends would never remember that something had been planned if it was arranged more than about a day in advance unless she had lots of reminders. Except it had to at least appear as though the reminders were coming up organically in conversation, because if she thought someone was making too big a deal of reminding her, she’d yell at them for it. But if it somehow happened that she didn’t get lots of reminders, and either missed the event, or someone mentioned it nearer the time and she still didn’t remember the original conversation and thought it had been planned without her being invited, she’d yell at people for that as well. It was hard.

    2. Mockingjay*

      #3 is something that irritates me beyond belief. Like the LW, I too am expected to remind others to review or approve things I send them. I support a team of 25+ people. It’s absolutely ludicrous to do that much tracking and reminding, since we have a tracker tool that everyone is supposed to use (and only a few do). These people set the deadlines; you’d think they would be aware of their own timelines. And heaven forbid I forget something myself.

      (Funny how those ‘lower’ in the hierarchy have to be responsible for themselves and everyone else. Isn’t that a manager’s job?)

      I don’t think it’s unreasonable to create an Outlook reminder if that’s the tool LW 3’s manager is using, but there’s a hint of deflected blame by the manager. Try the Outlook reminders; but as a backup, outline an approval process to present to her if the reminders aren’t sufficient to keep her on schedule.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        And it sounds to me like the manager is blaming her both ways. She doesn’t get sent reminders and if she forgets something, the manager chews her out, but if the manager forgets something, the manager says she should have sent the manager a reminder and chews her out.

        So if the manager and others don’t remind her and she forgets, it’s her fault and if she doesn’t remind the manager and the manager forgets, it’s her fault.

        Not sure there is much she can do about it beyond just sending the boss the reminders but…it does sound like the boss might be the type of person for whom it’s always the fault of somebody below her in the hierarchy. I may be being unfair here because obviously we don’t have the full story and the manager might be otherwise very good at taking responsibility but I do wonder.

      2. Cordyceps*


        Helpful reminding is one thing because we all forget things. Being expected to manage someone else’s inbox or task list for them (especially when that someone else makes a lot more money) is another matter entirely.

        I’m not quite sure how to help somebody that won’t even open repeated emails related to their own projects/clients.

        1. Office Lobster DJ*

          Well put. While Frank (below) makes some good points about this particular letter, in general I am also over managing other people’s inboxes. If I need something from them to move forward, I follow up, but beyond that, nope. While the damned if you do/damned if you don’t dynamic others had mentioned played some part in my attitude, I think the transition to a hybrid model for some – but not most – folks in my office really cemented it. I am supposed to handle the on-the-ground situation myself, figure out where all the stakeholders are, communicate about it, AND keep track of where each individual is in the communication, then communicate about the communication so they can feel in the loop (even if there’s no action for them to take)? No thank you.

          1. Cordyceps*

            Agreed. And I should distinguish between reminding your own manager about things versus a situation where you are expected to remind everyone about things.

            I am a proposal writer and I frequently find myself practically begging salespeople to read/respond to email about the proposal we are submitting (so that we can win business) and the salesperson will paid the commission (not me). Opening emails related to their own prospective client seems like a very small ask.

      3. Artemesia*

        There has been a big shift in the world on this. When I was young the idea of getting reminders for dinner parties, birthday parties, doctor’s appointments etc was just not a thing. You accepted an invitation or made an appointment and were expected to show up. Now reminders are standards for all those things.

        Even with a small dinner party we now send a note the day before about the party. And we have all come to expect those reminders.

        If I had a boss who expected this, I’d try to have an automatic reminder system set up. It sounds really exhausting to be chided for nagging and for not nagging.

    3. Daisy*

      There is no winning with people like this. No matter what if they drop the ball it is your fault. IME they don’t credit others when things go well either.

  6. Frank*

    I’ve been going back and forth with my new, recently-promoted manager, an ambitious lady…

    LW3: Adding the phrase “ambitious lady” says a lot more about you than it does about your manager.

    1. Claire*

      Between “ambitious lady” and “hdu, my boss, act like your time is more valuable than mine,” I’m not very sympathetic toward LW3, or convinced that she’s a reliable narrator.

      1. Me+...+Just+Me*

        Yes! and the response was spot-on. To the company, the manager is more valuable (as evidenced by the responsibilities and pay, one would assume) and probably has a whole lot of higher level things on her plate. I often ask my staff to send me reminders about things, or put something in an email that we discussed on-the-fly. That just seems normal.

      2. Nonprofit writer*

        Right. I feel like “managing up” is normal in a lot of jobs. When I worked full time in fundraising, each of us managed our own portfolio (grants, major donors, direct mail) and we were responsible for keeping our director on track for stuff he had to do for our respective areas. He was overseeing all of it so there’s no way he could keep track of everything. It can be annoying at times but it’s hardly unusual.

  7. Not+in+your+timezone*

    I don’t know how helpful it will be to lw1 to have their letter reprinted. It sounds like a traumatic time and rehashing years after the fact might be upsetting. With time and space a lot of people have different views of the people who tried to help them than they held in the initial stages. I’ve experienced this myself.

    1. Sylvan*


      The writer probably isn’t in the same situation now as they were in 2016, so the writer won’t get much out of our responses, unless they enjoy reading a lot of comments about how their boss was a jackass. Why reprint it?

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I think the point of reprinting (printing in the first place, really) isn’t just for the LW, but for people who might be in similar circumstances to get a frame of reference. Usually, I think that makes total sense. This one is just so personal it’s a little weird. Not egregious, it’s still Alison’s content and she can handle it however she wants, just a little left of center.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        You may note in the updates already this week that the comments are a real mixed bag (at best) for letter writers anyway.

    2. Roland*

      I’m sure you’re right but I don’t think helping OP is the point with reprints in general. Most letters are not helpful to get more advice on in general years later. It’s more for other readers.

      1. anonnie*

        Even the originals are mostly for other readers. I think it was Carolyn Hax (who also reprints old columns when she needs a break) who pointed that out and said otherwise advice columnists would answer everything privately.

    3. ThisIshRightHere*

      Also, I’m not someone who has ever insisted on trigger warnings (nor do I consider myself easily triggered, generally). But I definitely wasn’t expecting to come across the word suicide during my casual pre-work blog scroll.

  8. Emmy Noether*

    I’m of two mind for #3.

    On the one hand, I do think there’s something wrong with a manager that can’t manage their own task list. I get the manager is paid more, but one really cannot expect one’s reports to manage one’s time (possible exception: executive assistant whose explicit job it is and who has an overview of all tasks and meetings). The employee has to walk that line of being sufficiently pushy to get things done, but also being a subordinate, so having no authority and no good way to escalate. That’s just not fair.

    On the other hand, this is a common problem, and sometimes being practical is better than being right. If setting outlook reminders solves it, you’re actually getting off easy. One of my bosses, for tasks he dislikes, you pretty much have to physically corner him and stand next to him while he does it. This was lots of fun during the pandemic. At least he has the good grace to not blame anyone else.

    1. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Re: your first paragraph. I think it depends on how the manager acts. If they are reasonably polite and responsive with regard to reminders (as they should be) then I think it’s a fair expectation. You’re not asking the report to manage your time, you’re asking the report to “own” the project they’re working on and proactively check-in if deliverables don’t arrive by a certain point.

      Where I have pause is more the comment that OP is getting “chewed out” for missing deadlines. I do think it’s poor management to ask for reminders on projects you don’t own, but not be able to take that same ownership for problems you DO own.

      1. Marna+Nightingale*

        RE: LW 3

        I regularly hear my partner tell people on work calls: “If I don’t have it in writing I don’t have it, can you (text, email, put it in the calendar)” and as far as I can tell Partner’s co-workers, whether senior, junior, or on the same level, just consider this useful information about how to get them to do stuff.

        I’ve also been an admin for someone who told me flat-out on day one: You will have to manage upwards sometimes, I need an admin because I’m overwhelmed.

        And now I run a small overwhelmed volunteer org and I tell people both of those things, along with “I recruited you to be an expert, go ahead and be one, I trust you”.

        I know there’s an unspoken social assumption that not being a detail person is a matter of rank or privilege and being the detail person is somewhat menial and I try extremely hard to convey that no, I love, and grateful for, and am in AWE of my detail people, I recruited them because I was making a mess of things and when they tell me to do stuff a certain way I WILL do it.

      2. Happy meal with extra happy*

        I had a manager who was notorious for being awful at responding to emails. Part of the issue was that he was very high up in the company and so got hundreds of emails a day (it sounds like a lot but the vast majority of our work was done through emails) and part of it was that he just wasn’t good at responding. However, he knew and understood that this was a fault of his, and he never got mad or upset if you had to follow up with him or call, text, or message him.

        While it could be frustrating in the moment, I didn’t typically have to email him for urgent things more than several times a month, so it wasn’t a big deal for me. This was his worst flaw, and he was otherwise a good boss, so I didn’t mind it.

    2. GythaOgden*

      Yeah, the practical/right thing has come up recently for me too. I love my job in public healthcare and am coming up to my ninth anniversary in the role (1 year as a temp, 8 as a permanent employee). I’ve derived immense satisfaction from it and learned a lot, and particularly during the pandemic I felt like I was actually doing something to help people get their vaccinations. I got very personally attached to it even though I’m only on reception at a business centre.

      However…then our facilities department got transferred from being an offshoot of a local provider to a national facilities management organisation — still public sector, but with much more remote management. It should have been great to work for people who understand facilities provision, because understandably the provider is more focused on the services they provide to the public than the people who run their buildings. Connecting ourselves to a national org dealing with this should have meant that their expertise and training helped us. Instead, it put up a Berlin Firewall between us and the people we serve. We’re connected to national systems HQd 200 miles away…but can’t share a tracking number spreadsheet with people who work in our own building for whom we do the outgoing post.

      Our procedures are all going belly up because of absent management and our ability to do our job is being steadily eroded from all sides. On one hand, I love what I do, want the tools to do it to the best of my ability and get frustrated when my own systems and routines are upended and find myself with inadequate workarounds. However, on the other hand, the people who use our services understand that it’s not our direct fault, they know who to complain to, and I’m being paid to show up and do what I can. It’s not sustainable for me to be constantly fighting the system, and I have to accept that it’s damaging my health more than it’s being noticed by management (which is going through its own cataclysm at the moment anyway).

      Even if I stop being able to pick up the phone (a real possibility looming ahead, given the operating trust is pulling their phone support and the new engineers can’t get hold of anyone from our national organisation to install the software on our piece of crap computers!), I AM still being paid for my butt to be in my seat. And that’s what I have to focus on for the moment.

      Getting a sense of perspective is important if you don’t want to have a constant migraine and can’t walk out without a contractual month’s notice (in any event, if I quit today, I’d be leaving after Christmas and still have to show up, so I’d rather just get paid until I find something else. If they make me redundant, they’re legally obligated to allow me to attend interviews while working out the notice, so that’s not a bad thing either, and it would look better to future employers if I didn’t quit anyway).

      I’m giving the management one last chance to sort stuff out for me personally (find me a transfer closer to home, effectively) and then I’m uploading my CV to every job board in sight.

    3. Lizzianna*

      I think it really does come down to how the manager approaches it. I’ve told staff after a conversation that I needed them to send me an email with their request because that’s how I track my to do list, and I’m getting ready to walk into another meeting and won’t be back at my desk for a couple hours, and my notes won’t make sense by then, so there’s a good chance this hallway conversation will get forgotten. But I try to say it with a smile and be slightly self deprecating. I do think staff needs to try to help keep leadership organized, but I also leadership needs to keep a sense of humor about it.

      It beats my old job, where we still needed physical signatures from entire the management team on anything our leadership was going to sign, and I would frequently have to track down the folder and stand there while managers would read, edit, and approve it, to avoid it sitting on a desk for 2 weeks because it got put under something else.

    4. Mill Miker*

      It’s annoying, but if the manager needs the reminders, and also encourages them, then that’s still worlds better than the manager who needs the reminders, but does not tolerate being reminded.

    5. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      She is managing her own task list, by having her reports attach outlook reminders to the email requests. I don’t see why that is “unfair.” It seems simple and clear to me, not much different from requiring that requests be sent by email.

      I have a couple ways to keep track of things and also appreciate reminders from my team when things are lagging and let them know that (and don’t complain when they do remind me). My job is very different from theirs, though. If they each have 5 projects, that means I have 30, plus the additional duties that come with being a manager. Their workflow is not of the being pecked to death by ducks variety that mine can be–they are more likely more immersed in their cases, while I have a larger variety of tasks ranging from 2 minutes to 2 hours to 2 days to 2 weeks. I do the same for my manager.

  9. GythaOgden*

    ‘While this manager is new to her position, generally swamped (like everyone else), and located in another state…’

    This is //exactly// why she needs reminders. Also, a lot of issues now arise between WFH and in-person workers, and one lot doesn’t necessarily know what the other lot is doing or needs, so this is a timely reminder (!) that it’s often necessary to go beyond SOP and create your own ways of making sure things get done.

  10. Hiring Mgr*

    Can someone explain #1? I still don’t get why they called the police if they knew lw was in the hospital. Could it be there actually was a miscommunication even though lw sent a text?

    1. Not+in+your+timezone*

      Showing up with the police implies that they believed the LW was not in hospital and was at risk of harm. Tht could happen for many reasons. I note that at the time of the text they weren’t ‘in’ hospital but ‘going to be’ hospitalized, which is an important distinction. They also say they were not able to communicate further, which for someone receiving messages could be concerning. The combination of the two could cause a reasonable person to draw conclusions that urgent help was needed.

      I don’t feel that we can possibly know what occurred and can certainly not accuse anyone of being ‘ableist’ as above. This is a really complex situation and the info we have is scant. I’ve been in the situation of requesting an acute mental health assessment and it is a terrible situation for everyone. Sometimes they are urgently necessary and sometimes the person is angry about it afterwards, the two are not mutually exclusive.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Yeah, it seems like there was genuine concern that maybe was an overstep. I can’t fathom calling the fuzz just for drama, but i guess there are all sorts out there

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          OP clarified in the comments that it was genuine concern but a huge overstep and they got an apology.

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            Ok thanks – that makes total sense. I just thought it was weird that people were saying the police were called because someone likes drama.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              It’s uncharitable but I can understand the place of anger it comes from. People do not know how to handle mental health situations well and often make things worse. Casting those people in a bad light isn’t terribly empathetic to the experience of being the one in the dark and the fear that comes with that, but villainizing someone who is ultimately causing harm is fairly natural.

            2. bamcheeks*

              I actually don’t think there’s a hard line between “genuine concern” and “likes drama”. This is something I have learned from my own involvement in mental health services and charities. There’s kind of a legitimate, “ooh, what’s going on here, can I help” that you can channel into genuine pro-active helpthat truly centres the person who is in danger, or concern-trolling that centres your own desire for drama and feeling like a hero and risks objectifying and re-traumatising the person who is ill.

              I can personally say I have definitely fallen into the latter, and I am grateful for the people who called me out and taught me the difference and how to make sure I was doing the former. I’ve spoken to fully-fledged mental health professionals who started out with some of the latter and were required to do a lot of learning and training and self-reflection to make sure they were doing the former (and some… never do.)

              I don’t think you necessarily have to have bad intentions to do the “love drama / wants to be a hero / concern-trolling” version, and we have lots of cultural narratives about being the hero who saves someone that tells people this is OK. But the impact on the person who is ill matters more than the good intentions of the would-be rescuer.

              1. Hiring Mgr*

                That’s an interesting perspective… in my mind there was a hard line which is why I mentioned it in the first place, but I see what you mean

              2. Jessen*

                As someone who also shares the experience of mental health tretment being unhelpful (which the LW mentioned as well), that can also add an additional layer. When the actual mental health care you receive is hurtful or traumatic to you, then having people who are super invested in making sure you “get help” can be quite frightening. Especially if there seems to be no awareness that coerced treatment isn’t always an unmitigated good for people, and can at times make things worse rather than better.

          2. Observer*

            What was the OP posting as?

            Concern but huge overstep sounds likely. People sometimes just don’t think through the potential harms of the way they want to be helpful.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              “#2 LW here”. I’ll post the link as a reply but I don’t know if any moderation is happening with Alison out.

              It’s one comment very near the end of the thread.

              I agree the boss was entirely out of line and the mental health advocate in me would sit her down for a stern talk. But I think it was well-intentioned panic.

      2. GythaOgden*

        Ableism as a concept has been diluted a lot. It’s gone from being a direct response to obvious stigma and calling that stigma out to being something that people attach to anything that might mean admitting disability is a bad thing. And to me, as both physically disabled and neurodivergent, my ankle (in constant pain) and my autism are things that are *dis*abilities. They stop me being who I want to be and doing things I want to do, and having mobility issues has a knock-on effect on other kinds of wellbeing too.

        It’s certainly not ableist to believe someone in mental difficulties needs help; it’s a medical condition. Just as you wouldn’t leave someone with a broken ankle hanging off their foot, so too you can’t just leave someone undergoing a mental crisis alone to fend for themselves. It’s different to, say, treating the person with a broken ankle as if they can’t hear you properly while you’re in a wheelchair recovering from surgery (or piling bags and coats on top of me when my mum had to push me in the wheelchair when we went to the hospital appointments; that was the ableist part, and I eventually told her that my wheelchair was a substitute for my legs and not simply her trolley), or perpetuating stigmas or tropes associated with neurodivergence (including the idea we’re savants or magically gifted or whatever — nope, just away with the fairies and clumsy AF, I’m afraid!).

        I’ve been through crises and watched a friend with existing learning disabilities and the problem with acute mental health disorders is that you think you’re fine, but other people know you’re not fine, and it takes a lot to puncture that bubble you build around yourself. Intervention can be painful for everyone involved, but I’m much better than I was 15 years ago and my friend is now somewhere safe and pleasant where she can get the help she needs. Although my friend’s partner battled on for five years to try and help her out of the psychosis, he eventually had to admit defeat and find someone who could actually help her; he was exhausted, she was too ill to be unsupervised when he was at work and his love for her had been replaced by frustration.

        Getting them help is often a win-win situation — the person themselves gets the respite from their own struggles and is able to recover from the psychosis, and the carer is able to move on with their own life and not be pulled under by the stress.

        1. Observer*

          Getting them help is often a win-win situation — the person themselves gets the respite from their own struggles and is able to recover from the psychosis, and the carer is able to move on with their own life and not be pulled under by the stress.

          That’s true. But what the OP described was not one of the situations where this was likely to be the case.

        2. Jessen*

          Or you end up with people like me who still wake up years later with nightmares from how horrifically traumatic the treatment was. Plus having my ability to escape from an abusive situation blocked for years because I was mentally ill and therefore any time I tried to get away from my abuser I was seen as at risk for “leaving my support system.” In my experience there was a high amount of the assumption that because I had mental health issues, anything that anyone did as an intervention was for my own good and justified, and any objection I might have was just a sign that I was too mentally ill to know what I needed. And it led to a lot of well-intentioned people working together in ways that really caused a lot of long-term damage and ended up essentially punishing me for daring to try to have a life as an adult instead of passively submitting to an abusive family.

          Yes, I do think that’s ableism. Because it’s the assumption that just because someone has a mental illness, you can’t have any knowledge of what you need. And in my experience it mostly seemed to result in a bunch of people patting themselves on the back for how helpful they were while actively making it far harder to actually get somewhere safe.

      3. Agatha*

        That’s a good point about the text. If the boss knew LW struggled with his mental health and they got a text along the lines of “feeling really low, I’ll be in the hospital soon” they could panic and misread it as “I’m going to hurt myself in a way that will land me in the hospital” instead of the intended “I am putting myself in inpatient treatment.”

        I hope they’re doing better now.

      4. bamcheeks*

        I think it’s important to be able to say that something happened because of a broader lack of understanding about the best ways to help someone who is mentally ill, and to say that that lack of understanding is because of ableism, though. That isn’t necessarily to accuse LW’s boss specifically of being ableist as a personal moral failing. We have to be able to say that yes, 8/10 reasonable well-meaning people would have done the same thing ,but 8/10 reasonable well-meaning people are actually ignorant of how to help an employee having a mental health crisis because our society talks a lot of crap about mental health and what the average joe thinks is helpful isn’t necessarily.

    2. ecnaseener*

      I think the only explanation is the one LW suggested, that the manager thought they were lying about going to the hospital and/or is just a HUGE drama Queen (following the police to the house???)

      Or I guess it’s possible LW was in the hospital for a much longer time than the boss expected, like they thought LW was only gone for a few days and when weeks went by unable to contact LW they decided they couldn’t possibly still be in the hospital

      1. ecnaseener*

        Or – thinking about this more – maybe the timing doesn’t matter: maybe the manager just didn’t realize that LW wouldn’t be checking their phone in the hospital, sent a few check-in texts, and freaked out when LW didn’t respond.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          This seems likely. People don’t realize what mental health hospitalization consists of.

        2. Me+...+Just+Me*

          That was my first thought. They don’t usually allow cell phones on inpatient mental health units. So, I could totally see someone freaking out if they knew someone had, perhaps, gone in, but then wasn’t able to follow up with them regarding status.

  11. Jay (no, the other one)*

    For a blessedly short amount of time I was in charge of our synagogue newsletter. I told the rabbi that I planned to send it out on the 15th of each month and I needed her column by the 10th. She asked me for the real deadline. I repeated that I needed it by the 10th. After a fair amount of back-and-forth it became clear that she worked best if she had a soft deadline that prompted her to finish by the actual deadline. Which is fine – everyone has their own way of doing things – and was definitely not my responsibility to manage since I was not her employee.

    1. Robin*

      Ohhh that takes me back! I worked for a synagogue for ~6months. They had *weekly* email newsletters and a printed pamphlet for services. I remember being asked at the interview how I handle “perfect” versus “good enough” and it took a bit of back and forth for me to realize they were asking me “how are you going to make sure we get our edits to you in time”. Every. Week. But, to their credit, they did let me call it at noon on Fridays and just print the dang things.

    2. londonedit*

      I had a conversation with someone at a party a few weeks ago about this – I work in book publishing and evidently this person was an illustrator who’d worked with publishers, and their opening gambit once they found out where I worked was ‘So, what is it with publishers NEVER giving you the real deadline??’. I was a bit baffled, but they went on to explain that the way they worked was that they didn’t get themselves properly wound up into the task until the absolute hard deadline was approaching, and it messed with their head when people would tell them the 10th when the ‘real’ deadline was the 15th. It had happened often enough that they no longer trusted the 10th as the *actual* hard deadline, so they found it really difficult to do their best work to a deadline of the 10th because in the back of their mind they’d be thinking ‘This isn’t the real deadline, if you asked them for more time you could have until the 15th’. Which…OK, that’s their way of doing things, but that’s not for me to manage, and in my role I am not going to actually tell anyone the ‘real’ hard deadline. Because that’s *my* deadline to get things to press/moved on to the next stage, and I need time to check and amend and ask for things to be redone if necessary. So if I tell someone the 10th, I mean I need it on the 10th!

      1. Artemesia*

        People like this who find out the grant has to be submitted on the 15th when they are told their material is due the 10th actually seem to think turning in draft copy on the 15th will still allow the deadline to be met. Their deadline is the 10th because there still needs to be work done on their submission in order to get it into the proposal and the proposal to meet the deadline.

        People who think they should be privileged to turn in work last minute when it means someone else will have to work literally all night, should get one warning and be fired.

        1. Aurion*

          Exactly. For those people I prefer a crisp “Your hard deadline is the 10th, because other people need to work on the submission after your part is done.”

  12. T*

    Re. #1, if there was a serious concern about suicide (and OP sounds like they were involuntarily committed…) that response would be reasonable. In fact compassionate.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      It absolutely is not!

      There’s a prevailing attitude in society that anyone with mental illness flare ups = going to kill themselves. It leads to police being called on people with issues that weren’t fatal until they got shot BY the police.

      If someone says they’re going to hospital then that’s all you need to know. If you’ve been directly told BY someone that they are going to kill themselves then a welfare check is in order or calling an ambulance or other professionals.

      At no point does ‘boss calling everyone they’ve ever met and then showing up to the house with the cops’ become the solution.


      1. Lora*


        If your employee tells you they are going to be in the hospital, it is none of yer business whether that’s for mental illness or having a gallbladder taken out or whatever. Say how sorry you are to hear it, wish them a speedy recovery, if they need to use the short term disability benefits or whatever please let HR know at their earliest convenience. Send a nice get-well “thinking of you” card and perhaps a bunch of flowers. Done. If it turns out they’ll be out long enough that you need to get a temp to fill in, do that. If they need some accommodations in order to return to work, do that too.

        If someone no-call no-shows, and doesn’t answer their phone for two days, then call the emergency contact listed in HR and ask if the employee is OK, if they’ve been in touch, explaining the situation. If the emergency contact says they can’t get ahold of the employee either, THEN you may call the non-emergency local police or social services only depending on what services handle that sort of thing in your area, to do a wellness check.

        PSA: Many cities such as Eugene OR, Oakland CA, Chicago and a handful of others are using social workers and medics for these type of calls, the programs have different names depending on the area, it is worth looking up whether there is one in your area who offers this service. CAHOOTS, STAR, EMCOT, etc.

      2. curious*

        “It leads to police being called on people with issues that weren’t fatal until they got shot BY the police.”

        Could you provide an example of what you mean? I assume you’re speaking from secondhand experience/stories you’ve read, rather than something that happened to you or someone you know firsthand?

        1. BuildMeUp*

          A Washington Post article from 2022 states that, “A new investigation by The Post reveals at least 178 cases from 2019 to 2021 in which calls for help resulted in law enforcement officers shooting and killing the very people they were called on to assist.”

          A quick Google will give you a lot more information about this, including studies. It’s not difficult information to find.

          1. curious*

            For sure. I was mostly curious because I understood this poster to be from the UK, where the police do not carry firearms for situations like this.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              True, they don’t here. But I’ve enough friends in the US to know how horribly wrong it can go and that most of the people on this site are US based.

              Especially if the person suffering isn’t white.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I know enough about it from friends in the US who’ve either seen or endured truly horrible treatment from police who’ve jumped straight to ‘person acting erratically = danger to bystanders’

    2. Raw Flour*

      I feel like we must have read two different letters, because I see the manager’s actions as indicating an incredible lack of compassion.

      LW1 *told the manager* that they would be hospitalized. Sure, reaching out to LW1 with async communication to check on how they’re holding up would be compassionate. That is not what happened! The manager’s actions were absolutely uncalled for.

      1. ecnaseener*

        If I was on the fence about whether contacting the professional network was an act of (very misplaced, thoughtless) compassion, the part where she followed the police to LW’s house blows any doubt out of the water – she just loved the drama and wanted to see what was going on.

        1. Artemesia*

          I felt contacting everyone she knows professionally was totally malicious and inappropriate; it would of course damage her professionally. A welfare check on the other hand MIGHT have been appropriate.

        2. curious*

          How unkind to assume she loved drama and wasn’t acting inappropriately out of genuine concern for her employee/coworker.

          1. bamcheeks*

            these things are not mutually exclusive, and a lack of knowledge and understanding about how to help someone having a mental health crisis contributes to that.

    3. bamcheeks*

      It’s dangerous to think that someone’s idea of “compassionate” overrules the legal duty to keep employees’ medical information private or the ethical duty to treat people with mental health problems as if their privacy and dignity are important. I do understand where this idea comes from and I would have thought it myself once, but being seriously mentally ill is an incredibly disempowering and traumatising experience, and it’s really important not to exacerbate or contribute to it by

      If the text message about being hospitalised somehow went astray or wasn’t received (and the manager should have made every effort to make sure they hadn’t received any messages from LW), then contacting the police or a named emergency contact for a welfare check would have been a reasonable step. Contacting other friends she just happened to know without OP’s permission was egregious, in my opinion. It would certainly be illegal under GDPR in the EU and whilst I know privacy law isn’t as strict in the US, if there isn’t legislation that stops employers sharing private medical data or concerns with random third parties in the US I’m *very* surprised. There is an ethical duty not to do that even if there isn’t a legal one.

      1. bamcheeks*

        it’s really important not to exacerbate or contribute to it by

        Oops, I didn’t finish this thought. “it’s really important not to exacerbate or contribute to it by assuming that “compassion” (which is IMO *very* easily confused with a self-centred desire to play the hero) takes precedence over legal and ethical duties to the person who is ill.”

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yeah in the comments OP said he got an apology and it was genuine concern, but he doesn’t think that absolves how terrible it was an no one should do this.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’ve been the one with the horrible moment of your reality going so totally awry that you cannot see a way to cope any more and it’s utterly beyond terrifying to end up at a not so good hospital that treats you like a totally brain dead object. Add on ‘others around you suddenly acting like they’re going to save you’ (note: they can’t) and it’s the kind of situation that has you leaving the hospital with a lovely dose of PTSD.

        Even those of us with serious mental illnesses are still people and I’m not going to shut up about how we should be treated as such.

      3. Someone Online*

        This is where I am landing. I would (and have) contacted emergency contacts when that is warranted. I can see circumstances where I would call the police, if I believed there was a risk of suicide.

        I can’t see any circumstance in which I would reach out to old friends and colleagues. That is beyond the pale.

    4. Asenath*

      Calling in the police and as many old friends of OP as possible AFTER the manager knew OP was in hospital? I don’t see that as reasonable or compassionate. If OP simply hadn’t shown up or sent a message, sure, the reasonable and compassionate thing to do would be to call OP’s emergency contact and if that didn’t work, the police. When the manager knew OP was hospitalized, sending a card or email – some message that didn’t need an immediate response – would have been compassionate, especially if it reassured OP that there was no need to worry about sick leave. I can’t imagine any good reason to contact OP’s old friends.

    5. Observer*

      In fact compassionate.

      No, it’s not. It may have been well meant, but doing something with such a high potential for harm and such a low potential for actually accomplishing anything is far from compassionate.

  13. Falling+Diphthong*

    Just want to note that I enjoy these revisits of past letters. Often they appeared before I was commenting here. And sometimes my answers have changed since they were first published.

  14. Daniel*


    I think you and I share the same coworker! My solution was to set up an email rule so that any “important” email coming in from this particular coworker is reassigned to “normal.” This link (not spam, I promise) will show you how to do that in general:


    With some playing around you ought to be able to figure out how to set that rule for a particular sender. Good luck!

    1. Catherine in UK*

      Came here to say this! When my team leader came to our team 3 years ago, she sent EVERY email as high priority. It drove us nuts until I discovered this Outlook option. I have no idea if she still sends them like this!

  15. Toodle*

    Re: LW3, I WISH some of my prior managers had used that reminder system! The forgetful or overwhelmed boss is one of the worst kind of boss, and if there was a 30-second solution that could have kept them on track, I’d have used it. Far better than biweekly 1:1s in which I had to remind them of the past-due project which I first reminded them about two weeks before.

  16. bean*

    OP 1 does show up in the veeeeeery end of the comments of the original post (as OP 2). I don’t know how to block quote the whole thing but basically he did get an apology/recognition that the behavior was over the top, and also mentions he wasn’t able to contact them for a week after the text.

    IMO that last part moves it from “drama llama” to “understandably crummy situation on both ends.” A concerning text + a week of radio silence would definitely be worrying, and I can see how they’d want to make sure the OP was okay, even if the way they went about it definitely crossed some lines.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yeah I think it just highlights that we really need more public discourse and management training on how to handle mental health issues/emergencies. When people panic it goes really poorly.

    2. Sylvan*

      Thank you for posting that. Yes, in that situation, I might try to find any kind of confirmation that the person who texted me is alive.

      (I’ve lost two relatives to suicide. The specific pattern of concerning news plus radio silence makes me pretty concerned.)

  17. Troublemaker*

    On #1: employers simply don’t have a right to know what employees are up to in their spare time. The specific actions taken sound defamatory (employer spouted bullshit to employee’s peers about them) and life-threatening (involving the police for a medical situation); in a sane jurisdiction, these would be criminal liabilities.

    1. Karen*

      The employer may be protected by Good Samaritan law in the US (the writer was in NYC) if they were genuinely trying to help and not trying to create trouble for the LW.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      Are you saying the coworkers should be criminally charged? That sounds like just as over the top a reaction as the original story

  18. Gilmore or Less*

    #1 I’m thinking the reason they sent the police is because police officers do wellness checks during mental health crises. If a mental health issue is the reason for the OP’s hospitalization, perhaps their coworkers were noticing signs of distress, and if they believed the OP was at risk of suicide, it honestly sounds like they did the right thing in that specific situation even if they weren’t 100% sure. Officers can direct the person to the appropriate medical services. A friend had an issue with which this course of action was absolutely necessary when they were having a crisis at work – they didn’t have friends or family in the same country, so what was their employer to do, send them home and just let them deal alone with the crisis? This person really wasn’t in a position to do so and needed intervention — both acute and long term, and officers saved them from immediate harm and sent them to the professionals who could help them manage their long term recovery. I don’t know the OP’s situation — I get that it must have felt invasive, and others might not agree, but I would have done the same and called for a wellness check if I believed there was a reason to do so. Maybe I’m missing something, like if the employer was overly involved in all the details of the OP’s mental health status, or if it was a blatant overreaction to the OP’s specific issue and it wasn’t at crisis level. I just really wanted to share my experience — I wish I could give details, but I know my friend’s life was saved and not taking action would have hurt them more.

    Where they wayyy overstepped was contacting the OP’s social circle. That is absolutely none of their business. All they can do is express concern and intervene only within their boundaries (like responding to their concern about OP calling in sick from work), and then let the appropriate people (friends, family, mental health and medical professionals) take over from there.

    1. Claire*

      Well, you’re missing the fact that, at least in the US, the police aren’t trained to handle mental health crises; or if they are then they forget about the training the minute they’re back in the squad car. Sending them to one may well result in the death of the person who is having the crisis, especially if they’re loud, angry, or not white. Maybe things are different in the country your friend was working in, but if not, calling the police on an immigrant in a mental health crisis is VERY risky. Your friend and her employer got lucky when that didn’t end in tragedy either way.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’m really going to push back on this – from the point of view of someone who has HAD the police called on her.

      They are not trained in mental health issues and can only be useful when there is a clear and present danger – like the person is seriously at risk of ending things and has said so.

      A person telling you they’re going to hospital at most needs your understanding, not action. A person in the middle of a mental issue that’s bad needs professionals – and coworkers/bystanders are not that.

      It’s hard, it’s really hard I get it to see someone you worry about journey through the morass of illness but you cannot cure them and running to the rescue doesn’t work.

      If your coworker or staff has mental health issues and drops off the face of the planet – call their emergency contact and if they are not available then think about a welfare check (which should not be done by the boss going to their house with the police)

      If your coworker has mental health issues and says they are going to hospital then do them the decency of believing them.

      Trust me, we’re mentally ill but we do know what’s going on around us – and generally we guard our diagnosis and treatment with iron locks to make sure we don’t become a subject of terrified gossip or people walking on eggshells around us ever after.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I volunteer on a suicide hotline and the number one policy is that if we need to bring in outside support, calling the police is the absolute last option and we stay on the phone with the police in case they need coaching through the situation (and so we can hold them accountable). In the US involving the police is incredibly dangerous, especially if you are LGBTQA+, not white, young, mentally ill, or otherwise vulnerable.

      Wellness checks are really designed to check for signs of life they aren’t to handle this kind of thing.

    4. RagingADHD*

      But just on the most basic common sense level, if someone texted you that they were on the way to the hospital, or at the hospital being admitted, why on earth would you respond to that message by going (or sending police) *to their house*?

      They literally just told you they are not home. What is that supposed to accomplish?

      1. kiki*

        Yes, unless somehow LW wasn’t clear in conveying that they were going to the hospital (which I trust that they were), this was a useless and needlessly invasive response. Perhaps if the timeline were spread out over weeks (LW texted that they were going to the hospital, a couple weeks later LW could not be contacted so the manager was grasping at straws to figure out what’s going on) I could maybe understand, but it doesn’t sound like that was the case.

    5. Hannah L*

      “if OP was at risk of suicide”

      That is the point. The bosses don’t know if OP was at risk. Being hospitalized or even having a “crisis” does not equal someone is going to kill themselves and it’s dangerous to believe that.

      Unless you actually know someone is suicidal, calling a welfare check will do more harm than good. If someone is dealing with a crisis, they aren’t going to tell anyone if they believe they might have the cops called on them. This prevents people from seeking care before things get worse. It’s completely counterproductive.

    6. Observer*

      I’m thinking the reason they sent the police is because police officers do wellness checks during mental health crises. If a mental health issue is the reason for the OP’s hospitalization, perhaps their coworkers were noticing signs of distress, and if they believed the OP was at risk of suicide, it honestly sounds like they did the right thing in that specific situation even if they weren’t 100% sure.

      Absolutely NOT. The police have done these checks in the past because there is (was) no one else to do them, but EVERYONE with a clue- including the police– will tell you that it’s a terrible idea because they simply are NOT trained to handle these kinds of situations. It’s not for nothing that several billion dollars are FINALLY going to a mental health hotline (988) that’s available nationally in the US. It’s still underfunded but it’s a real attempt the keep the police out of these situations wherever possible.

      Also, based on the information the OP gave them, the boss was absolutely not thinking. The OP told them they were going to the hospital. What good would the police be able to do? If the issue was that the boss was worried about suicide, well by then it would have been too late. And then there is “suicide by cop”. In the unlikely case that the OP had been released from the hospital, was physically OK but still dangerously suicidal (which would be the only scenario where the boss’ actions make any sort of sense), well this could be just what the person “wants” in their suicidal state.

  19. RagingADHD*

    The circumstances of LW#1 are so very odd that it makes me wonder if part of the toxicity/stress in that workplace was due to overlapping relationships outside the office, or a strangely enmeshed work relationship.

    How did the boss even know the names or have contact information for people LW hadn’t spoken to in years? Was the boss a relative? Were they going through LW’s computer for random contact info? Why would they think those people would know anything? It’s so deeply irrational.

    It doesn’t make any of it better. If anything, it makes it worse. But it just seems like there’s something missing because there would have to be multiple layers of overstepping/privacy violations going on.

  20. WantonSeedStitch*

    Thank you for your answer to #3! I’m a manager who’s got a lot of balls in the air, and I LOVE it when my reports remind me about stuff they need from me, so I don’t lose track or let things fall through the cracks. I always thank them for it, even if the thing they’re asking about is already on my radar but just not a high priority yet. I don’t see it as nagging, I see it as helping me stay accountable, just as I do for them when necessary.

  21. Katherine*

    I have never received an email marked as important that was actually important. One thing that used to bug me was read receipts. One person at my previous job had read receipts turned on for every email, and the only emails i got from him were newsletters for a volunteer group that i was vaguely interested in some of their activities. I also dont think his main job (intra-office mail delivery) required that many emails.

  22. BuildMeUp*

    #2 – It’s really gross and depressing that when the affair came to light, the woman involved was fired and the man wasn’t.

    1. All Het Up About It*

      Agree. I was actually surprised (though pleased) that the update to this one was that the man was fired eventually given that he was the founder of the business. That often provides too much protection, as it did for him initially.

  23. INeedANap*

    LW #2 is infuriating, because Jane got fired but not John, the president who was so unprofessionalhe was sleeping with a subordinate for years. I know he eventually got fired, but not for that.

  24. The OTHER Other*

    For letter #2: Anyone else finding it gross that a work affair between a male boss and female subordinate led to the dismissal of the subordinate, who is branded a hussy “managing from the bedroom” and no known consequences for the boss?

    It appears his firing was solely based on his alcoholism, not an extremely inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.

  25. Not Raising Adults Here*

    I found the answer to LW #3 surprising. While I agree that sometimes we need to adjust to bosses, I’m surprised that Allison did not say “if this doesn’t work for you, you should find another job or another boss because she has told you who she is and you need to listen.”

    I would absolutely choose to not work for someone who did this, it would irritate me to no end beyond most of the benefits of the job. I may be alone in thinking this way, but I do not want to have to do basic admin tasks to help my boss do her job at a bare minimum level. I’m not above admin work, and would happily do it for my boss or others as an occasional favor, but the fact that my boss cannot function in her role without this me doing this admin work strikes me as the underlying problem that needs addressing. I have found that managers like this often fall short in other ways (chronically unprepared, often losing/not retaining details, making small mistakes that make my job harder). I’ve learned I cannot work effectively under those people. More power to those who can.

Comments are closed.