update: my lovely but bumbling boss is driving me crazy

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

Remember the letter-writer whose lovely but bumbling boss was driving them crazy? Here’s the update.

My update is not quite the one anyone may be wanting or expecting, but on the whole I would say it’s a very positive one.

First of all, I want to say that the comments were immensely helpful, and I learned a lot from them. Some of the advice was game-changing. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to the AAM community.

To cut a long story short, a couple of months after writing in, I experienced a serious and frightening health crisis – serious enough to have me cleaning out my closets and drawing up papers. It was not the time to think about looking for a new job, or anything at all really except recovering my health.

On the work front, Ms. Bedelia was magnificent. It’s no exaggeration to say that I couldn’t have gotten through the days without her calm and unstinting support. The two of us drew a lot closer as a result.

While I was down and out for the count, I had a lot of time to ponder things, and to sift through the stuff that really matters to me. I decided that I loved my job, and didn’t want to leave. I decided to choose my battles more wisely in the future. I also realized that it took only seconds out of my working day to do a little course correction, such as teaching Ms. B that the keys always go here, your ticket always goes there, now just keep at it until it becomes a reflex action. It took some time, and it’s not a perfect system but I would say that this simple method alone has dramatically reduced the incidence of lost or misplaced items (although I have to admit that I’m astonished that an intelligent adult never learned the concept of ‘everything in its place’ because I had that one drummed into me in childhood!).

I also fully accepted that she is not going to change, and it’s a load off me. I have developed far more compassion and admiration for her. I’ve seen how crestfallen she looks when she realizes that she has messed up. She disappoints herself numerous times a day, yet she still gets up in the morning and braves the world. That takes a lot of courage.

She’s grateful for my help, and she’s gracious enough not to abuse the privilege. I’m still sticking to my boundaries.

Case in point: after the staff Halloween party she forgot to remove her bunny girl ears, and I ‘forgot’ to mention it (not my problem, after all). Apparently she didn’t notice until she got home!

Thanks again, everybody.

{ 146 comments… read them below }

  1. GreenDoor*

    Aww! She sounds so sweet! The one thing that sticks out is that you say she always looks crestfallen when she realizes she’s messed up. I’m married to a self-described bumbler. Believe me, no one beats up on him worse than he beats up on himself.

    1. Jess*

      This stood out to me, too! I am a bumbler myself,* which increases at times of busyness/stress, and I am always so, so disappointed in myself when I realise I have Done It Again. I’m lucky enough to have a job where I thrive despite the chaos that I strew in my wake, and some very very understanding friends and colleagues, but this sort of thing can really do a number on your self-esteem, and low self-image is very common among people with adult ADHD diagnoses (speaking for myself here, not diagnosing someone over the internet!). I, too, had “everything in its place” drummed into me as a child and yet at the age of 44 am still unable to reliably implement it because … that’s just how my brain works, and irritating as I’m sure it is for the people in my life when I lose x or break y for the 100000th time, I can guarantee it affects me more.

      *An example from just this week: I’m currently working abroad and living in an airbnb. Came home to find I had lost the airbnb keys, contacted the airbnb host with effusive apologies and found that the only spare set were with someone who was two hours away. Booked myself into a hotel for the night, arranged to meet the airbnb hosts outside the apartment the next morning to pick up the spare set, arrived to find … the “lost” keys dangling from the lock, where I had evidently left them for the past 24 hours. Thankfully a) no one had taken them and b) I had arrived before the airbnb people, so I could hide them in my pocked and then fake find them at work later in the day.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I was not taught the “everything in its place” rule, because my ADHD is hereditary. I thought it was only necessary for shared items, so other people could find it. I never knew this was a common tactic to help you find it again for yourself. I was always being told “you should just be able to remember” and “care more”, so I just kept trying to care more, and thought the magic memory that everyone else seemed to have would show up. I have to say that that the “everything in its place” rule is still not quite enough to compensate for my tendencies, like it would be with a neurotypical. If I’m stressed, distracted and overwhelmed (and I never knew the headteacher that did not have this state on a regular basis) then I will put something down without realising I have, and I will have no recollection of doing it. I need multiple rules and systems and a much stricter routine than the average Joe Bloggs; they’re intensive but they do work! I rarely lose things any more. Ironically, people think me particularly well organised.

        1. Danish*

          “so I just kept trying to care more, and thought the magic memory that everyone else seemed to have would show up.” DEEPLY relatable.

          Also on the ‘if I’m stressed’ point. Sometimes I’ll realize I’ve lost an object and just be overwhelmed with the sort of quiet despair of knowing I could tear my house apart looking for it and not find it, either because: it’s actually lost, like, outside, or I set it somewhere entirely nonsensical that I will never look again, like the top of my fridge, because I was holding it in my hand when I remembered I needed a drink or something, so is it even worth looking or do I just sigh and go out and buy a replacement. The ADHD tax is real.

      2. Elly*

        This resonates so much for me. It’s especially embarrassing BECAUSE you’ve had “everything in its place” “make a proper grocery list” “tidy up after yourself as you go” etc. etc. drilled into you so many times, and yet it fails to stick. It feels like it would be less awful if it was simply a matter of skills I hadn’t been taught as a child, because then it wouldn’t be my “fault.”

        That being said, as I get older I’ve grown to really like myself just as I am. There are some people whose forté lies in being organised, and precise, and present; those people make the world go round and I respect and admire them very much. I offer different things to the world (creative thinking, unique problem-solving made possible specifically because of the chaotic way I look at and anticipate things, constant energy) and I’m proud of those things. We can’t all be everything and I’d happily pick my own brain over someone else’s any day, “flaws” and all.

      3. Shoebox*

        My partner is a bumbler, and he beats himself up SO bad when he misplaces things or forgets things I’ve told him numerous times. Even if I’m super frustrated with him because he’s making us late, or we need whatever he can’t find, I try very hard to not add to his distress. We have some systems in place, like a shared calendar, and a keyholder by the door, but those aren’t perfect systems. It’s all a work in progress.
        It does help that I have my own share of “bumbliness” in that I organize things or put things in a “safe place” but then have no memory of what I did with them. I’ll know I *did* something with them, will have a visual memory of them in my hand…but then it goes blank. I’m currently searching for some winter hats I put in a “safe & easily accessible place” but apparently only succeeded on it being “safe.” And of course, I’m so certain I know where things are I don’t start looking for them until right before I need them, and….nothing. So frustrating! So is anyone sees a knit winter hat with sheep on it, let me know.

  2. MysteriousMise*

    I love this update, and hope your future is full of good things and excellent health.

    “I’ve seen how crestfallen she looks when she realizes that she has messed up. She disappoints herself numerous times a day, yet she still gets up in the morning and braves the world”

    As someone who feels this deeply, thank you for your compassion. I mortify myself often, and I hate it.

    1. Elle*

      I was going to say something similar. Pretty much every day I feel like I’m fighting my own brain. This person’s compassion made me tear up.

    2. Anon for this*

      Yep, me too. I have ADHD (late diagnosis, recent) and have struggled with organising myself for my whole life. I am exactly the person who finds it very hard to form habits like putting keys in the right place every time or remembering when meetings are (I am capable of getting distracted in the fifteen minutes between an Outlook reminder and the actual meeting).

      Like this lady I’m not new to working life, and I am also very good at the specialist role I was hired for, but I feel I constantly live life on the edge. My only consolation is that my boss has tendencies this way too and is sympathetic – but earlier in my life I’ve been on performance improvement plans twice, not because I can’t do the core parts of my job, but because I struggle with focusing on the bits around the edges. But it’s no good doing work that you forget to document so nobody knows you did it, or performing tasks superlatively but late, or forgetting meetings. I hate this and am really hoping that once I get a medication regime sorted out it will help – it won’t be magic, but I hope it’ll help just enough. I am sick of screwing things up and inconveniencing others and feel deep shame about it.

      1. TrixM*

        Outlook has a “snooze till 5 minutes before” option in the meeting reminder pop-up, and I *always* use it – I’m the exact same in terms of distractibility. The “5 minutes before” warning is when I pick up my stuff and go, or save and CLOSE the thing I was working on and open the meeting app.

        Also for meetings that are days in advance, I’ll add an extra reminder that’ll fire the day before (or even the week before), so I know not to decide to start a bit later the the morning of (or whatever).

    3. Lily*

      I have “turbo charged ADHD” and only in the past 3 years have learned how to be compassionate and loving toward myself regarding “being a screw-up”.
      I no longer beat myself up and call myself names, but before I got here, I was very hard on myself, and I’d take the eye-rollng of others as confirmation that I was damaged goods.
      I no longer think that way, and I’m definitely more drawn to people are compassionate, gracious, and kind than to people who were reinforcing my negative beliefs about myself.

    1. Lokifan*

      Yes! I’m impressed by your compassion (ADHD-er here) and really, really hoping your health stays good. That sounds terrifying and I’m so glad you had support!

  3. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

    Awww….this update is so sweet. I’m glad that you’re (hopefully) doing better and that the two of you have come to a satisfactory arrangement.

    Also, forgetting to leave your bunny ears on can lead to free food, so, you know, if anyone’s wondering, just leave those puppies on and see if you end up with a free meal.

  4. Siege*

    As an intelligent adult who also had “everything in its place” drummed into me, perhaps the reason why I fell short of that yesterday and lost my gloves and my wallet when trying to leave the house is my ADHD and not that I’m stupid.

    1. CL*

      I never had “everything in its place” drummed into me, but I also realized recently that my parent has all the hallmarks of ADHD that I never noticed.

      1. Rocket Raccoon*

        As a very organized person married to an ADHD spouse, how would you suggest I explain things to our kids? They are starting to notice that “Papa messes up a lot” and I don’t want them to lose respect for him. There are many things he does that I would mess up if I tried, but I don’t have to because he earns enough for me to be home organizing things.

        1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

          Papa’s brain works differently than your brain! Papa has the ability to be super creative and because his brain is thinking about other things, he sometimes has trouble remembering where he put his keys. Everyone’s brains are different!

          1. TrixM*

            Everyone’s brains are different is the perfect message, but I want to push back on the meme that all of us ADHDers are creative instead. I’m certainly not, heh.

            Sure, if Papa is actually creative, that can be something to point out how his brain is different that way too.

            1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              Papa obviously has something, whether it’s creative flair or a talent for number crunching, since he’s holding down a job that’s well paid enough for Rocket to be a SAHP

            2. Allonge*

              Also there are plenty of people who are creative without ADHD.

              Totally agreed that if it applies, mention it, but maybe be a bit more specific (spell out what it means in practice) – in any case the word creative may or may not mean anything to kids, it’s a pretty vague concept if I think about it.

        2. Brunelleschi*

          You didn’t ask me, but I’ve got adhd and my spouse doesn’t. How we’ve dealt with this is by having regular conversations about how everyone in the family is good at different things and that no one is perfect. When our kid notices that I lose things or get flustered easily, my spouse reminds her that I am also creative and really good at listening. Same as when my spouse gets rigid or huffy over small things not bring done correctly, I remind our kid that spouse is always on time to pick her up from school and always has her favorite clothing clean and ready to wear on big days. By letting our kids see us as human beings who screw up occasionally, hopefully they will feel okay not being perfect either.

        3. allathian*

          They won’t lose respect for him if you’re equally understanding when they mess up. It’s good for kids to learn that messing up isn’t the end of the world and that nobody’s perfect, not even their parents.

          All young kids put their parents on a pedestal, as a matter of survival, pretty much regardless of how dysfunctional their family life is, because to them, their life is normal. (To clarify, I’m not saying your family life’s dysfunctional.)

        4. Fishsticks*

          I just tell my kids that Daddy has ADHD, which means his brain works differently than my brain, so the things I am good at he isn’t always good at, but I’m not good at lots of things Daddy is good at. ADHD is just a neurological makeup, it’s not a personal failing, and so we want to make it very clear that it’s an explanation. It’s not “Daddy messes up”, but “Daddy’s brain is built differently, things happen sometimes when your brain can’t remember where something is but Mommy’s brain can”.

    2. Momma Bear*

      I was thinking same. There are a lot of valid reasons people have problems with organization and follow through that are not being lazy. Maybe OP could look up how to scaffold someone with ADHD or memory issues.

      1. Siege*

        Be great if she started with “less condescension” and her boss didn’t have to “brave the world” just because she’s not organized to OP’s standards.

        1. Casper Lives*

          Did you read the original post at all? The boss’s lack of organization caused many issues for her employees. She either couldn’t fix it or didn’t try to fix it. LW is unlikely to know which as an employee. It’s not condescending to be frustrated about your boss doing things in a pattern that impact your life. Such as stranding you all for an extra 30 minutes because she can’t keep track of her own car keys.

        2. Taylor*

          I have ADHD and most days I *do* feel like I’m “braving the world.” I know that I am more clumsy than my peers, I forget things more often than they do, and I was never taught “everything in its place” because my parents were just exasperated with me and gave up, so I had to learn it all from scratch as an adult. I’m not saying the boss in this story has ADHD but some of us do struggle quite a bit and it’s not condescending to say that. I honestly think more people should, because it will get you moving toward solutions more quickly than just ignoring or dismissing it.

        3. Observer*

          That’s not really fair. The boss is not just “not to OP’s standards”, she was disorganized to a point that she was having regular and significant negative impact on others. Of course, some people don’t care if they make people late, waste people’s time or cause other problems for people. But if you DO care about the effect you have on people, that’s really hard.

          PS OP doesn’t say or imply that she thinks that Boss is either lazy or stupid. That’s actually why the whole thing was such a puzzle to them.

        4. MM*

          Oh, come on. I have ADHD. I didn’t think “brave the world” was condescending at all. I have felt exactly that in boss’s shoes.

    3. sundae funday*

      lol same. Honestly seeing how successful Ms. B is gives me hope that maybe my other attributes can make up for the ADHD and people won’t hate me, lol.

      And when people say solutions like “just put everything in its place!” it can be so frustrating because it’s like, I know! And, say, 99 times out of 100, I remember to put my keys in my purse and my purse by the door.

      But when I leave the house, on average, twice a day, that 1 out of 100 happens about 6 times a year. And then I’ve locked myself out of the house. And then it’s all “ugh, just put everything in its place!” from other people. I HAVE, for the last 99 days! But my ADHD is never going to let me remember it perfectly.

      (I have now made a spare key to keep in my car and one to give my neighbor, FYI, so I have found ways to mitigate the disaster that is me).

      1. sundae funday*

        I also want to say that I don’t blame OP for her frustration, either. But I also think it’s likely that Ms. B isn’t learning “everything in its place” for the first time in her life. But I find that if someone else tells me to do a certain thing a certain way, it “sticks” better than if I just decided to do it myself.

        She probably attempted to put everything in its right place prior to LW telling her what spot to use, but would sometimes forget. Or (and I’m VERY guilty of this one) she forgets what the “right place” is. Having an external person tell me, “The xx goes in this closet” makes it way more likely for me to remember. (Not that it’s anyone else’s responsibility to tell me that, but my mom has helped me organize my house before, and her saying out loud “I’m putting the dog leash in this closet” usually helps me remember to put it there next time. Although that’s not to say I’ve never texted her asking where she put something because I remember her telling me, but I don’t remember where, lol).

        1. mlem*

          Contrariwise, “everything in its place” could well be new to her. It isn’t necessarily driven into everyone throughout their childhoods. Some of us were raised by people who just put stuff wherever and didn’t run into problems from that. I was in my 30s or 40s when I really started trying to apply it myself. (It’s helped me significantly! But that doesn’t mean I’m a lesser person for not having been trained in it.)

          1. Alexander Graham Yell*

            It also might mean that after being in a space long enough they were able to find a “place” that made instinctive sense – I have to live/work somewhere for a while to know where I can leave things easily *and remember to leave them there*. It changes by space, so “Everything in its place” only works if my brain has identified and latched onto something as the right place. Once that happens? Easy peasy.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        That’s a terrific workaround! My husband’s got ADHD and his lists and backups have saved many a situation.

        1. sundae funday*

          Yes, I do the lists, too! Even my lists have sub-lists. I really struggle to prioritize tasks and with time blindness, so I write EVERYTHING I have to do down, and then I can be more logical about prioritizing.

          Another cool trick is setting a timer and saying I have to stop cleaning whatever room I’m cleaning when the timer goes off, so I HAVE to start with the big things first. Or else… well, let me just say that once I spent about two hours cleaning my stovetop to absolute, shining perfection, only to turn around and see the huge pile of dishes in the sink that I was then too tired/burnt out to do….

          1. FoggyFroggy*

            This is me. The stove (or fridge or microwave or one cabinet) gets the royal treatment and then I’m out of time and or energy to do the rest.

      3. Moses Supposes*

        In case my approaches help anyone else: At my last house, I took all the thumb locks off my exterior doors so I had to have the keys to lock up the house. In my current house, I put in a key pad lock. I purposely did not learn how to lock my current car without the key; if there’s a way, I don’t want to know, so I don’t get in the habit of doing it. I also put a beeping locator on my keys so I can find them when I lose them in the house. All of this helps a lot.

      4. MM*

        Many times I have contemplated whether it’s worth the potential safety risk to tape a key somewhere hidden in my building’s stairwell.

      5. Irish Teacher*

        You sound a bit like a colleague of mine. Most of the time she is super-organised. If you ask her to send on some resource, she will usually stop what she is doing and send it to you right then, but…the odd time she doesn’t, it doesn’t get done at all. She also regularly loses things and has described it as “I just put something out of my hand and then it’s gone for good.”

        She is amazing, extremely well-liked and respected. She has implied herself that one of the reasons she is such a good teacher is that she understands the difficulties kids have because she had trouble herself in school (being distractible, fidgety, forgetting things, interrupting…would not have gone down too well in schools in the 1970s and ’80s, I would imagine). And she is a brilliant teacher.

        Just to say that having traits of ADHD does not mean your colleagues won’t respect you or recognise your other attributes.

        1. Rainy*

          ADHD has memory implications for a lot of people, although it depends on how your ADHD shows up.

          When I first started thinking I might have ADHD, every friend I told said “But you’re so together!” and when I mentioned it to a few colleagues, they all said “But you’re so organized!” When I told my pdoc that, she said “Of course you are–you have to be more together and more organized than neurotypicals just to function at all. What they don’t see is how much effort it takes from you.”

        2. sundae funday*

          Yes, that sounds just like me! In some ways, I am hyper-organized… because if I’m not, it’s just a disaster waiting to happen.

    4. luffender*

      Yeah, I have no way of knowing of Ms. Bedelia has ADHD, but I know I have ADHD and disappoint myself—and a lot of other people—multiple times a day because I lose stuff and do other Amelia Bedelia type stuff. But as I get older I’m learning to accept my own strengths and weaknesses and not feel quite so disappointed in myself just because I’ve disappointed people who are good at remembering stuff.

      1. ferrina*

        Yes, definitely. I’m ADHD and associated with Ms. Bedilia so much. For me, it was never an issue of having these habits “drummed into me”- my mother did try and I try, but it’s like my brain does a hard wipe of random data every so often. I just….forget habits. It’s really helpful when I’m trying to lose a bad helpful, but not helpful when I’m trying to find my keys. The solution is that I need more focus and brain power for basic tasks (I have to remind myself every day where to put my keys- it’s not a force of habit). If I’m distracted or tired, all bets are off.

        As a side note- I was a teacher for a while, and the multitasking that comes with my ADHD made me great at classroom management and engaging lessons. Turning in grades, not so much.

    5. NeuroSpice*

      THANK YOU. Executive function issues make everything in its place a fascinating fiction for me, and I’m a fully functional adult with an amazing job and a great life. I don’t need to be taught about organizing, thanks.

    6. Fishsticks*

      Yep. My husband has ADHD and this is a constant of our household. It has nothing to do with intelligence or what you were taught as a child! A neural network that isn’t wired to have that kind of place memory just isn’t going to have it.

      1. Rainy*

        My husband and I both have ADHD and we *both* have the out of sight out of mind thing in spades, but I have a zillion well honed coping mechanisms and he doesn’t.

    7. Distracted*

      Thank you for saying this. As someone struggling with ADHD, this post has been a little difficult to read.

  5. Kpop Adult*

    I really relate to that part about disappointing herself numerous times a day! Mine comes from ADHD; maybe hers does too.

    1. Amelia*

      My thoughts too! As someone with ADHD hearing “She disappoints herself numerous times a day, yet she still gets up in the morning and braves the world. That takes a lot of courage.” hit me pretty hard. I feel like only therapists ever give credit for how hard that is!

      1. sundae funday*

        yep that sentence made me want to cry.

        At least I’ll never disappoint anyone else more than I disappoint myself?

  6. Lenora Rose*

    I know we all claim to like the comeuppance type updates the best, and certainly they do get a lot more commentary, but frankly, the sweet ones like this are probably THE best, they’re just less common and there’s less to say except:

    I’m so glad you and she worked it out, and sending good wishes for your health!

    1. Quinalla*

      Agreed, I do love the sweet updates. Honestly, I love all the updates, but the sweet and genuinely great ones are my favorite :)

  7. Beebs*

    I don’t know if this came up in the original comments but tracking devices (like Tile) are a huge timesaver for my can’t-put-anything-where-it-belongs-and-then-can’t-find-it husband. Keys, wallet, headphone case . . . all there for the finding with the phone app. It will even let you know if you have left something behind when you leave a space.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I was just looking at those as stocking stuffers for my ADHD loved ones, and wondering how long it would take for them to lose them…

      1. Danish*

        I wanted to love Tile, but I couldn’t ever get my phone to work with it, which was disappointing. I think I bought the First Edition though, so it may be that the phone app works better now. Because yes, please, I need a beepy find-a-thing on most of my possessions

      2. luffender*

        Tiles (and, later, Air Tags) absolutely changed my life. I haven’t lost my wallet or keys in years because of these little devices. Before that, I had to go to the DMV like four times in one year to replace lost IDs. Between the GPS tags and the new modern cars that make it almost impossible to lock your keys in the car, I have saved myself an untold amount of frustration and money.

      3. Anon for this*

        My lovely sister has given them to me and I haven’t managed to scrape together the executive function to get them set up yet. I must!

    2. DogsInPJsAreMyFavorite*

      Bold of you to assume I can find my phone at any given moment actually I’m successful if I leave it on loud if I’m not in the office/movies so that I can call it when I lose it. If I keep it on silent it’s gone forever:)

      1. Spero*

        Late comment, but in case it helps anyone else…I have a few Tiles. I use the one that lives on the fridge to ping my phone (it’s a ring, so even if phone is silent it will go off). Then I use the phone to ring the tile attached to my keys. Honestly, has helped me so much. ADHD + stressed single mom

  8. Danish*

    Yikes! I’m glad to hear you pulled through the health scare and are doing better now! Very good news on the tiny fixes too – it sounds like a big improvement for the amount of effort you had to put in.

    As for her not learning herself, I can sort of understand – I have learned over the course of my life that if I put something In A Drawer it is gone forever; all items I use regularly have to be put out/displayed in some way. I realized at some point could arrange things that way and it would be better, but still many years more to accept that I was *allowed*. To use your phrasing, I was a smart adult! Smart adults put things away in drawers, right? So I should be doing that! And then I’d forget.

    It really wasn’t until my 30s when I started to accept that I could do things in the way that worked for me and not just how I felt that Adults Do Things. And similarly it was a coworker who was like “you know you could just [not do x], right?” that made me like, sit back and perceive the universe. She may just continue to grow on her own from here thanks to your minimal guidance.

    1. Siege*

      That’s literally diagnostic for ADHD: things not in clear sight do not exist. We receive no prompt that the X is in Y when we think about the question “where is X”.

      1. Sylvan*

        Er, this was nowhere in the diagnostic testing I went through. Sure does hold true for me and most people with ADHD that I know, though.

      2. Danish*

        Ha, yes! Someone else mentioned that to me a bit ago and it was the kickoff to my ‘start making a list of potential adhd life anecdotes’ that I’ve been doing for the last year or so. It turns out there are a lot of them. I have an actual appointment to see about diagnosis in Feb that I’m looking forward to. No matter the root of LW’s boss’ organization issues, I definitely feel her on the ‘looks so disappointed in self’ aspect. Losing stuff all the time is frustrating and exhausting! For me!

    2. Harried HR*

      This made me shake my head, my organizational style is everything in it’s place and if it’s out it’s pending I had an ex-coirker who insisted in leaving EVERYTHING they had ever worked on in the history of time be stacked on their desk. It drove me BONKERS !!!!

      1. Siege*

        Why? How on earth could it possibly matter to you that someone else liked a different organizational style than you do?

        1. Casper Lives*

          You’re being aggressive in the comments section. Calling LW condescending, questioning Harried HR, etc. It’s coming across like you’re taking this personally.

          As someone with executive function issues, organization is something I struggle with. It annoys me. I expect it to annoy other coworkers, though I contribute enough that it’s never caused a huge problem.

          1. Slowpoke*

            I don’t know that asking someone why they were annoyed by someone else’s organizational style is necessarily aggressive. I think it’s a fair question. A lot of people with executive dysfunction are held to a standard of organization that matches many others, but not themselves, so understanding that it’s okay to come up with systems that fit your own mind is helpful—hopefully Bedelia can find some too!
            That said, it sounds like Harried HR’s coworker was actively interfering with other people’s workspaces, so that’s a problem.

            1. EchoGirl*

              I read it the same way — there are some people who get really agitated and annoyed just seeing another person doing things in a way that the person doesn’t personally like; the obvious AAM example is the CapsLock intern. It CAN happen to anyone, but I think on balance people with ADHD are more likely to have unusual ways of doing things that set off people’s “but that’s not the way I do it!!!” alarm, and therefore have a lot more experience of people reacting to us existing in their presence.

              That said, Harried HR has clarified that it DOES affect them directly, so that’s a totally different matter — if the action is actually interfering with you, then it’s totally valid to be annoyed. But without that context (which wasn’t presented until later), I understand Siege’s reaction.

        2. Harried HR*

          It drove me nuts because I couldn’t get to my desk due to piles and piles of paper from the last 2 decades !!!!

          1. Fishsticks*

            Oh, yeah, I can see that. My rule is that I keep my chaos where no one else has to physically interact with it.

      2. Fishsticks*

        Did you have to look through their desk or something? Why did it bother you? Or did you share an office, so the clutter was in your space?

    3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I just saw an ADHD tip about swapping the fridge organization — put condiments in the bins and veggies on the door & main shelves. I realize there are humidity control reasons for a veg bin but damn given how much produce I throw out because drawer = invisible, I may try it.

      1. Danish*

        Yes! That’s a great example too… sure the bin says it’s for veggies, “everyone else” uses it for veggies, but dang it it’s your fridge and clearly the veggie drawer is the “forget it exists drawer” so you may as well do it in the way that lets you eat the veggies since I assume “berate yourself and then just learn to remember the veggies” hasn’t been working (hasn’t been for me, anyway!)

      2. Lizzo*

        I am totally trying this as a method to get my ADHD spouse to eat more fruits and veggies! THANKS for sharing this!

      3. Hermione Danger*

        And this is EXACTLY why I got a freezer on the bottom style when I replaced my (very) old refrigerator. I eat so much more produce now.

        1. Jessica*

          YES! Part of the reason I went for freezer-on-the-bottom was that I wanted produce to have more visibility and be in the easy-to-reach zone. It’s marvelous.

      4. Bee*

        Hahaha, I batch-cook almost exclusively so this isn’t really a problem for me, but man, I’m suddenly realizing that the way having grapes in a bowl in the fridge leads to me exclaiming “GRAPES!” in a funny high-pitched voice every time I open the fridge miiiight be an ADHD thing. I never remember they’re there! I’m always so delighted to find them!

    4. Hound Dog (Nothing But)*

      Yep, that’s how I organize my stuff too. If it’s in a drawer, it Does Not Exist. So, no drawers! No cabinet doors! I can see, I can remember it, I can do it. So what if doesn’t meet some hackneyed idea of the minimalist adult? I know where my things are, and that’s far more important to my happiness.

    5. sundae funday*

      Yes, I’m 30 now and I bought my house two years ago…. It finally “clicked” with me that I don’t have to do things the way other people do them! Granted, I haven’t figured out a system for myself yet, but I’m trying to look at my house and layout creatively. Just because it’s typical to organize things a certain way doesn’t mean that way works for me.

  9. OrigCassandra*

    OP, I didn’t want or expect anything in particular, but I LOVE THIS. It’s just beautiful how you and your boss support each other.

  10. Irish Teacher*

    Sorry to hear about your health issues. I hope you are well now.

    Your boss sounds like a lovely person, as do you. I’m glad things worked out between you.

    I will add (and this isn’t to disagree with you) that there are people who do not have this kind of thing taught to them in childhood. I had cousins who grew up with things thrown everywhere, whose parents would turn up to collect them from preschool half an hour or more after finishing time. As a teen, I was trying to teach them (they were maybe 5 and 2) to do things like put their shoes together when they took them off because it was very frustrating when we were going somewhere and one show would be up in a bedroom and the other under the kitchen table. There are also disabilities that can make things like organisation more difficult. Not saying any of these are the case with your boss, but it really does sound like she is doing her best and just has difficulties with organisation, for whatever reason.

  11. Goldenrod*

    “Case in point: after the staff Halloween party she forgot to remove her bunny girl ears, and I ‘forgot’ to mention it (not my problem, after all). Apparently she didn’t notice until she got home!”

    This is frankly adorable.

    Speaking as someone who has had a lot of mean bosses, a kind-hearted bumbler doesn’t sound half bad! Nothing like a health scare to show you what really matters – and who you can really count on. That’s the silver lining, I guess.

    I wish you health & happiness! This was a charming update. :)

  12. Fluffy Fish*

    “I also fully accepted that she is not going to change, and it’s a load off me.”

    THIS. This is so so important whether your boss is overall great or overall awful.

    Similarly, sometimes the “I get paid the same either way” mantra helps when you’re explaining the same thing for the millionth time. You get paid whether your doing that, or doing something else.

    The freedom to stop fighting something or acknowledging that it doesn’t really matter even if its annoying can really make a difference in your mental health.

  13. Clobberin' Time*

    LW, all cheers to you for being compassionate while still maintaining your boundaries. Who knows if she was raised by wolves or has ADHD or what, but you have an excellent approach to showing her some techniques that worked for you while simultaneously refusing to pick up on her little hints that you act as a walking talking reminder app.

  14. Squirrel!*

    She disappoints herself numerous times a day, yet she still gets up in the morning and braves the world. That takes a lot of courage.

    I’m not taking this update as warmly as other commenters seem to be, mostly for the above message. It’s so incredibly patronizing and infantilizing. Like, oh just bless her stupid little heart, at least she tries? Come on! How magnanimous of the LW to not treat her boss like garbage because her behavior is different from theirs.

    I know that this comments section has really devolved over the past year over the phrasing and word choice of the various Letter Writers, but this letter is pretty egregious and that should be called out.

    1. sundae funday*

      As someone with ADHD, I wanted to cry when I saw that comment. But not because I find it condescending… but because I feel “seen” (even though LW doesn’t know me).

      I don’t know if Ms. B has ADHD or not, but I do know that a common refrain amongst a lot of people with ADHD (not speaking for everyone) is that we just want our struggle to be acknowledged. If someone said that to me, I would be so incredibly happy that someone finally acknowledged how much of a monumental struggle it is for me just to get out the house and get to work, rather than being frustrated when I lose my keys, or am late, or forget something.

      I also don’t think that’s a very generous reading of the LW. Nothing in the original letter was about treating their boss like garbage. They were contemplating leaving their job, not bullying their boss. And despite having ADHD myself, I understand the frustration. I understand why people get mad at me when I forget something. But their frustration toward me can never be worse than what I feel toward myself when I mess up….

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Nod. These things are easy for everyone else so it’s easy to judge us ( oh the fanfic people write about being five minutes late!)

    2. CheerfulGinger*

      Squirrel!, this is very harsh. I took the LW to be genuine in her admiration of her boss. I did not get that she was sneering behind her back or holding herself to be superior. There is nothing egregious in her letter.

    3. regina*

      I thought this too – how incredibly brave to face a world in which one [checks notes] loses one’s keys sometimes? I wonder if the LW is projecting here – maybe LW would feel they had “disappointed themself” if they did these things, but it is possible that the boss has different priorities and doesn’t see these as such intense disappointments that they make it hard to face the day.

      1. Not A Manager*

        That would be possible, if OP hadn’t explicitly said that the boss looks crestfallen when she realizes that she has messed up. Sometimes people do lose their keys, and sometimes people feel really bad when losing their keys means that other people are seriously inconvenienced.

      2. Observer*

        Talk about condescending. The problems with the OPs boss are not minor. Sure, most of us occasional lose keys. But when someone has multiple incidents that have significant negative effects on others in the course of a few weeks (including something that also could have had serious legal repercussions), that is NOT a minor thing.

        If the boss DID have “other priorities” and was NOT “disappointed in herself”, THAT *would* be a real problem. Because if keeping you students personal information safe is not on your priority list, you shouldn’t be working with students. And if you avoiding *gratuitous* waste of other people’s time is not on your priority list, you should not be in a position to waste people’s time.

        And it is pretty clear that OP’s boss is actually disappointed – the OP mentions that she always looks crestfallen. I don’t think that this is a devious way to get the OP and others to lay off.

      3. MM*

        I have ADHD. I have forgotten to check where my passport is until the day I need it for a flight and cost three whole families hundreds of dollars as a result. I have inconvenienced countless people countless ways by sending in forms at the last minute, missing deadlines, and yes, losing my keys (ask my old roommates how much they enjoyed getting woken up in the middle of the night practically weekly because I couldn’t get in). It all does in fact build up, and it becomes genuinely hard to face. I have gotten a lot better at managing these issues, and at managing the psychic toll of facing up to whoever I may have let down. But I have absolutely felt what LW was describing their boss as feeling. I don’t think it’s condescending or overdramatic at all.

        1. Sylvan*


          Also, this isn’t something we really talk about or acknowledge much, so I was surprised to see it recognized.

  15. Hound Dog (Nothing But)*

    No, I agree, it’s very infantilizing. She’s not braving the world, she’s *living.* Sorry it’s not to your (OP’s) completely arbitrary standards of what qualifies as an adult.

      1. Casper Lives*

        Ah yes, LW’s arbitrary standards of not having her boss strand her by being the ride and losing her car keys, or not keeping track of sensitive information and losing papers with people’s persona data, etc.

        I wouldn’t have written the way LW did. But her boss’s behavior isn’t good.

        1. Hound Dog (Nothing But)*

          So be the driver from then on. Report up the chain about the missing personal info. Don’t stand metaphorically patting the boss on the head and calling her “so brave” for getting out of bed.

          1. Observer*

            Oh, so instead of the OP recognizing that their boss is having a hard time, and really trying (because that’s supposed to be condescending) they should try to get their boss in trouble. Because that REALLY shows that they appreciate their boss!

            I HOPE that this is sarcasm.

  16. Adult w ADHD*

    That sounds like ADHD to me – as someone who got diagnosed at age 38.

    It isn’t the everything in it’s place concept is foreign to us.

    It’s broken executive functioning to actually put the thing where it needs to be.

    The guilt she isn’t doing better is especially what sounds like ADHD to me.
    If you’re close enough, perhaps mentioning a friend of yours getting diagnosed with ADHD as an adult was a life changing realization

    1. sundae funday*

      lol yep, like I said above… we KNOW that “everything in its right place” is the way to go. And personally, I can do that most of the time. But no one sees all the times I do it right… only the time I mess up and forget the “right place” or just plain forget to do it because my brain doesn’t work the same way as other people’s.

      If I walk through the door and something distracts me from putting my keys in my purse RIGHT THAT SECOND, then it’s not going to happen unless I happen to see them laying around AND can register the fact that my keys are laying around. It doesn’t always register, lol.

      1. Jess*

        10000000% this. I have adult-diagnosed ADHD and YES ABSOLUTELY “everything in its place” is a sensible approach and yet it is so hard to implement. I was congratulating myself recently for successfully implementing this for ONE item – keys go in the bowl on the sideboard as soon as I come in – and then I was coming back from one trip late at night, leaving early for another trip the next morning, unpacking and packing in between, and lo and behold, the keys were nowhere to be found as I was leaving and I had to go without them. (Found them when I came back two weeks later … in my bed.)

        1. sundae funday*

          Oh yes that’s 100% something I would do! And it usually is when there’s a change in routine, like you said about coming back late at night.

          Another fun one… One day, I walked out and locked the door behind me… without my purse. I NEVER forget my purse, but I was stressed out because my car had broken down and I had to ask my boss to come and pick me up, but I was trying to get my car to the mechanic so he could pick me up there, and I was worried that my car wouldn’t make it to the mechanic.

          My spare key… is kept in my car. Which was locked. And the car key was in my purse. In the house.

    2. Professional Staff*

      I did not grow up in an ‘everything in its place’ household and one thing I’ve grown to recognise as an adult is that neither of my parents can decide where the ‘right place’ is. (Both of them were diagnosed with ADHD in their 50s.) Half the time when they lose stuff it’s because they can’t retrace the thought process that led them to wherever they put the thing away.

      Thank goodness for my husband, who introduced me to the idea that ‘the right place’ doesn’t have to be empirically the best as long as it’s the same every time. We still run into issues when it’s something novel, but I almost never forget my keys now.

  17. Maltypass*

    Guys for God’s sake. The site rules say to not nitpick OPs language. Its clearly well-intended, and if you read the letter you can see that OP thought they were going to die and their boss helped them through that. When that happens you tend to see them in a friendly light and speak fondly of them. Its a short story not a thesis

  18. Flowers*

    “I’ve seen how crestfallen she looks when she realizes that she has messed up. She disappoints herself numerous times a day, yet she still gets up in the morning and braves the world”

    This is me. Almost everyday there’s something and while sometimes I can laugh it off, it does end up weighing heavily on me and I get so frustrated with myself. Spilling coffee, dropping something in a (clean!) toilet, forgetting something, dropping things etc. It’s so random – it’s not like I can see a doctor for it. No one has really given me a hard time but who knows.

    1. Anon for this*

      Flowers – I spent a decade going “I can’t keep my mind on what I’m doing, what an idiot – but it’s not like I can see a doctor about this.”

      Then my good friend got diagnosed with ADHD and started sharing stuff about it, and I decided that actually there was something I could see a doctor about.

      I don’t know if this is you, but if you haven’t thought about it, I’d check it out to see if it sounds like you.

      1. Badger*

        Likewise I drop more stuff when my vitamin B9 and B12 are low (because it leads to neuropathy in the hands meaning I don’t feel stuff as precisely as when the dose is right and therefore get the pressure wrong for holding things).

        Whatever it is it might not be straightforward to diagnose, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing there which explains the issue.

  19. goddessoftransitory*

    You talked about how wonderfully your boss stepped up when you were going through such a terrifying time–I think this can be a trait of ADHD as well.

    This past November was the worst of my life. My father passed the day before my birthday, and we had to put our deeply loved cat to sleep the day after Thanksgiving. My spouse, who has ADHD, was an absolute Trojan and made things easier in every way possible, even when he was heartbroken. I think crises can really help some people with this shine (not that they don’t other times!)

    1. luffender*

      This is a great point. We talk a lot about ADHDers’ weaknesses, but one of our strengths is that we tend to function well in crisis, and (at least for me) when we’re functioning as a team. I do my best work when I’m saving someone’s ass or covering for someone in an emergency because I’ve got that urgency dopamine running in my brain and I’m helping someone who needs me.

      1. Danish*

        I am EXCELLENT in a crisis. Things are not going the way you planned and it’s upsetting? Well buckle up sweetheart that’s my every day.

      2. sundae funday*

        Yes, a lot of people with ADHD function really well in a crisis. I don’t know exactly why that is.

        A lot of ADHDers are drawn to professions like firefighting and paramedic work.

        1. Sebastian*

          I think it’s because we spend so much of our time dealing with crises brought on by our symptomatic behaviour that when one hits because of external causes it’s basically just Tuesday…

        2. BubbleTea*

          I think it’s because the adrenaline cuts through the noise and makes it easier to focus. All the channels are tuned to the same station for once.

      3. Fishsticks*

        This is my husband to a tee. We have days where I struggle to get him to focus well enough to get a single task done that HAS to be done – but when our water heater burst, the man turned into an absolute soldier just powering through cleaning up the mess, driving around to find a replacement, and installing the replacement water heater himself in less than a day. While I was panicking at the sudden destruction of my routine/schedule (I’m autistic), my husband was getting that urgency dopamine and SAVING THE FREAKING DAY.

        So I don’t mind if I’m the one who keeps us on a schedule/routine, because I know he’s got me when the routine or schedule breaks down and my brain just freezes up. We’re a hell of a team.

    2. fleapot*

      Good in a crisis—and with a greater capacity to understand what it means to not be able to do something, despite your best efforts and intentions.

    3. Anonomatopoeia*

      I’m so sorry. That must have been such a hard month and I’m glad you had someone able to use the situation to be what you needed. I also thought this about Bedelia, and I’m glad you mentioned it.

      Yes. The pressure of the crisis gives our brains the thing it needs to be effective. If it weren’t for the damage to the rest of the body that it would do, frequent shots of adrenaline would be great for ADHD. Actually, that would probably be better for us than another likely self-medicating technique: drink five coffees and nine caffeinated sodas on a non-infrequent basis. Heh.

  20. Michelle Smith*

    Since everyone else is talking about ADHD here in the comments, I’ll share a coping mechanism I have. I cannot leave the house without this or I will inevitably leave something important, like my keys.

    I have a whiteboard on my door (but a laminated sheet could be even better and if I ever remember to follow through I’ll get one of those to replace it). It has the following items listed: watch, iPhone, keys, lunch, glasses, mask, building pass, pc, work phone. I do not leave the apartment until I have checked to make sure I have all of these things either in my hands or in my backpack. It is critical. PC for example means my laptop. I don’t have a desktop to use at the office, so if I forget my laptop, I have to come home. Work phone = work cell phone that I almost never get calls on, but I need for 2FA to sign into various things I need to be able to do my job.

    Since I implemented the checklist system, it has kept me from locking myself out of the apartment, getting halfway to work and realizing I won’t be able to get in the building once I get there, etc. Literally life changing. It’s on my door right next to the lock I have to turn to get out, so it’s harder to miss. (I might forget to take the medicine literally sitting out on my desk right next to my hands, but I somehow have managed to always notice the checklist.) Highly recommend.

    1. sundae funday*

      I need to try this…. My fear is the sign will eventually just “blend in,” though, and I’ll forget I’m supposed to be *checking it.* Maybe if I made it really colorful? Or aesthetically pleasing so my eyes are drawn to it, somehow??

  21. Moses Supposes*

    I lose things all the time through absent-mindedness, but my funniest almost-loss of car keys was more clumsiness than absent-mindedness…although for me, the two go together. I was on a solo road trip and went in to the rest stop bathroom with my keys in hand, not in purse (which was in the locked car) or pocket. I sat down to pee and somehow DROPPED MY KEYS INTO THE TOILET WHILE I WAS SITTING ON IT. And of course, it was one of those that automatically flushes if you so much as budge. I had no qualms about the idea of sticking my hand in, given the emergency situation, but I froze trying to think how I could get them out without setting off the flushing. Then I twitched just a little and it started up one of those power flushes. I plunged my hand in and was able to get them out just in time, but not without a huge curse. There were a couple of people in the rest room, but no one asked me why I had been screaming curse words. They just left quietly. And I washed my hands thoroughly.

  22. Suzy Q*

    Such a kind update! I hope your health is better now and that you continue to have a lovely and less frustrating relationship with Ms. B.

  23. Fishsticks*

    I think which readers with ADHD feel very seen by the LW’s word use and the ones who feel patronized or belittled is probably heavily influenced by how we have been spoken to during our lives about it. For those who struggle to even have it acknowledged at all, it feels nice to have someone recognize that there IS a struggle. For those who perhaps have been mocked or insulted or told they are the problem, at tea time everybody agrees, it feels patronizing and ‘bless your heart’, perhaps.

    I don’t have ADHD – my husband does. And there are days I know he’s working his ass off to function, especially now when his meds are subject to random shortages. And to get refills he has to schedule an appointment, which, congrats, problems like not getting things scheduled are -the reason he needs those meds in the first place-.

    My husband also had family that mocked his issues but would be simpering sweet about them to others and in front of people, and I know he would be insulted and bristling/defensive at the LW’s wording because of that, not because of anything the LW actually said wrong. We all bring our lives into our reading of the text on the page. I’d say to give LW some grace, as maybe their word use wasn’t perfect, but they were discussing taking the time and making the effort to realize how much hard work their Boss was doing that they hadn’t noticed before.

    1. sundae funday*

      I bet a lot of it has to do with when someone was diagnosed, too. Someone who was diagnosed in childhood might feel patronized because they’ve been treated since childhood and can generally get along like everyone else.

      Those of us who were diagnosed as adults and just thought we were lazy, incompetent pieces of crap our entire lives (lol) feel “seen.”

  24. Modesty Poncho*

    What a sweet update. Thanks for sharing!

    Did the original post comments ever explain why things like Amelia getting her zipper stuck were trapping everyone else in the building? I remember a lot of confusion about that.

    1. Elsajeni*

      The OP did comment to explain that they’d been carpooling somewhere with Amelia as the driver, so no one could leave without her. (There are still a few comments about “but why couldn’t she just leave with her zipper still messed up,” but that part makes more sense to me — I can imagine getting a coat zipper stuck with the coat in a position where I can’t freely move my arms, or the hood is weirdly bunched around my head, or something like that, and I wouldn’t want to try to drive like that.)

  25. Van Wilder*

    Intelligent adult here. I did not have “everything in its place” drummed into me as a child. Everything did not have a place. Still doesn’t in my house, but I’m working on it. It’s super hard to figure this stuff out on your own if you haven’t been brought up with order.

  26. MissM*

    Wonderful reminder of the power that reframing can have on how we perceive people, because I know personally how easy it is to feel like they have to be doing this to drive me crazy and it’s not possible that they’re just like that.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      One reframing thing I read recently: it’s the annoying things about your partner that you’ll miss once they’re gone. Like, a widow might find herself crying because she no longer trips up over her partner’s shoes that he used to leave in the middle of the hallway. I now cherish my partner’s shoes as I kick them to the side!

  27. Marley's Ghost*

    This is a great update. I’m glad you’re past your health crisis, and I kind of love that the answer to “my job is great except for this one thing” was actually “I learned how to help with the one thing and accept it” instead of “the one thing was just the first bee in a swarm and I’ve escaped”!

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