update: should I report my fatphobic boss or am I being too sensitive?

Remember the letter-writer wondering whether to report her fatphobic boss? Here’s the update.

As a recap, I was really struggling with my grandboss, Miranda, and her lack of boundaries, particularly about my changing body after I had a medical issue and procedure that resulted in me losing about 100 pounds. I’m doing well now health-wise and seem to have stabilized; I have a pretty average body size, and the changes are no longer commented on, thankfully.

In terms of Miranda, I never had a conversation with her directly about her behavior at the event that I originally wrote to you about. I did have a couple of discussions with Andrea, however, and I assume she said something, because suddenly Miranda stopped about 80% of her comments and boundary violations. In fact, she stopped interacting with me beyond greetings and occasional superficial small-talk. It was kind of amazing, and allowed me to really focus on my work in a way I hadn’t been able to in a long time. My work improved so much during this time that Andrea really started providing development opportunities for leadership and future management. She and I work really well together and I really grew into my role during this time. Andrea was a great mentor for me, really taking the time to support and provide leadership opportunities.

I’m fairly confident that Andrea really went to bat for me mainly due to an incident in which Miranda was called in to help my team with an event and she very intentionally assigned herself to help other team members and left Andrea to be my support, saying something about how she “didn’t want to make me uncomfortable.” Sort of condescending, but I’ll take it if it keeps her out of my hair, you know?

But the happy ending doesn’t stop there. Shortly after I wrote to you, I did ramp up my job search and ended up getting a lot of interest from several organizations. Never before have I been in a position to turn down jobs or be truly pursued for a job, but this time around I was, largely due to some of the growth I was permitted to do when Miranda backed off this fall. I ended up in the final round for several positions and I’m happy to say I accepted a really great offer for a new position halfway across the country. I was honestly a little concerned none of the jobs would work out because by the time I started getting responses, my spouse was into their second trimester of pregnancy and I wasn’t sure a job would come through before my parental leave. In the end, my new employer and manager were so understanding. The hiring manager actually said, “We will work with whatever timeline works for you. You are the right person for this job and I’m not interested in finding someone else.” I was also pretty blown away by this manager’s respect of my personal boundaries; she asked before letting the rest of my new team know about the reasoning behind my delayed start, which would never have happened in my current workplace. So I’ll be starting that new job and moving with my family after my parental leave (baby’s arrival is imminent at this point). This new role includes a 40% salary increase, a title bump, a much more focused area of responsibility, and overall more admin support so I can focus on what I do well. It’s a huge win for me!

Which brings me to the last bit of this update. I wanted to address some of the commentary about Miranda. This whole year helped me learn a lot about the complexity of people. In my original letter, I can see that out of context it was really easy to say that she was just terrible and fatphobic and that I should run from her as far as possible. I really struggled in that letter and in the comments to communicate that I really don’t experience her as a bad person. She is really driven by trying to help and develop people, but I think she struggles often to understand that what works for her doesn’t work for others. When she understands or has experienced your struggle, though, she is 100% there for you. The best example of this is recently when my spouse was put on bedrest due to some pregnancy complications, she came to me unprompted to offer food and a hybrid working arrangement so that I could be at home as much as possible. When she found out about my job offer, she was so excited (the organization I’ll be working with is known as a top-tier place in our field) and immediately took steps to get me connected with resources she was aware of in that region. She’s also been really helpful in supporting me while I off-load projects to other team members. I know both she and Andrea will both give me really great references if ever I need them, and so while it might be easy or satisfying to just leave and never think of her ever again, it isn’t that simple. She’s really just one of those people who doesn’t have a lot of emotional intelligence. This year I’ve come to understand that when she gives us the third degree about something personal, it’s often coming from a place of care and interest. She’s just entirely unaware that it’s not coming off that way. I do still intend to flag some of her behaviors and micromanagement in my exit interview, but I don’t at all intend to burn any bridges with her. She’s very good at many of the things she does; she’s also a deeply flawed person and I’m glad I won’t be managed by her anymore.

Thanks again for answering my letter! Your advice truly was a huge help at a difficult time.

{ 59 comments… read them below }

  1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

    This is a really wonderful update and I’m so happy that things are going well for you, LW!!!!

  2. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I am so glad everything worked out! Dealing with fatphobia can really do a number on your mind.

    1. Random Dice*

      The fatphobia was appalling, and the grilling subordinases about the genitals of their nonbinary spouse (!!!!) and the details of their medical procedures is just the icing on the cake.

  3. IrishMN*

    I’m happy for the LW! And I get where she is coming from with her comments about Miranda. But I have been thinking lately about how so many people lack basic empathy, and it’s really depressing. Can people like this ever change? The saying “put yourself in their shoes” is so common and yet so many people just.don’t.get.it.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      The only person I knew at work who actually changed their fatphobic (‘fat people are just lazy, anyone can lose weight’) stance was because he ended up on the same medications as me and realised the hard way that weight just goes on sometimes!

      Unless something happens to change their mind – consequences or what have you – few people like that change.

    2. kiki*

      I think part of the problem is that some people really think they are putting themselves in someone else’s shoes and are just getting it wrong. Sometimes because they’re keeping their thoughts surface-level (“They really do look great and doesn’t everyone like a compliment?”) or because they really would react differently to what they’re doing. True empathy is actually quite difficult and a lot of people mess it up.

      1. sundae funday*

        Right! Some people that lose weight do want to be complimented on their weight loss. I’m not trying to make excuses for people, and Miranda was WAY WAY out-of-line. But I think someone making a single comment like “oh you look great!” or whatever isn’t horribly egregious because they’d want to be complimented in that scenario.

        I make it a point never to comment on someone’s weight loss unless they tell me specifically they’re trying to lose weight. And even then, I try not to make it about their looks because so many people that lose weight do gain it back… so if I’m all “ohhh you look GREAT” then it’s like, oh, you didn’t look great before and you won’t look great if you gain the weight back. So I try to focus on like “oh that’s awesome that you’re in the gym every day!” or whatever it is they’re telling me about.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          Yeah, when people talk about their own weight loss, I say things like “you really look happy! I’m glad you’re feeling so good.”

        2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Yeah it’s the effort that’s impressive, other than that I don’t care what my friends look like, although I don’t wish bad health on anyone.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Seconding this.

        It’s easy to say “put yourself in their shoes” but that assumes that they are able to do that–if they don’t know, don’t care, etc., you’re asking them to do something that they don’t have enough information or insight to do. (In this case they might be thinking, “Well, I wouldn’t like it but I’d be motivated to diet!”)

        Which isn’t an excuse, since if they don’t get it just keeping their mouths shut would be an improvement, but it’s often not really that easy.

      3. Ms. Norbury*

        Yes, this! I think that’s the main problem with the golden rule. A friend of mine often says that the whole “treat others as you would like to be treated” is literally the most self-centered principle one can live by. People need and want different things!

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          That’s why someone invented the platinum rule – treat people as they want to be treated

          1. MEH Squared*

            Was just going to say this. I found out about the platinum rule decades ago and have adopted it this is my motto.

            To the OP: I’m so glad things worked out well for you. This is a fantastic update!

          2. wordswords*

            I mean, that’s great if you have an idea of how they want to be treated, and as long as they don’t want to be treated as the most important person in the room at all times or something. But it doesn’t cover the basic point of the golden rule, which is a rule of thumb for defaulting to when you don’t know how someone would like to be treated specifically.

            1. Boof*

              I feel like the sassy retort to this is something like “please give me whatever I want, whenever I want it, for free!” but I also totally agree that one needs to put as much/more emphasis on how someone else says they want to be treated than what I, myself might want in a given situation (or what I might think I might want if it’s fairly outside my realm of experience)

      4. the cat ears*

        I see the following sentiments on r/LoseIt sometimes, they baffle me but they are out there:

        “I lost [noticeable amount of weight] and nobody at work has approached me to congratulate me on it. What’s wrong with them? Why don’t they support me?”

        “I am so mad that [my parents/my doctor/my friends/my spouse] let me get fat and didn’t say anything, and didn’t try to force me to have healthy habits. If they really cared about me they would have criticized me for eating unhealthy food.”

        “I tried talking to my friends about my diet and they said they didn’t want to hear about it. Why don’t they support me?”

        I find these sentiments very strange – I don’t want colleagues to comment on my body, and I don’t want unsolicited advice on my health, and I don’t want to make anyone listen to diet talk who doesn’t want to hear it. But there are people who feel that way, and “treat others how you want to be treated” would lead them to act in a way that I personally would find pretty upsetting.

        1. Silver Robin*

          The first and last one sounds like a common mistake of “this is a super big deal in my life and the only thing that feels important to talk/think about” without recognizing that it is not, in fact, a big deal in other people’s lives or something they want to talk about.

          Happens with hobbies, work, relationships…anything a human can get obsessive over.

          The second one just sounds like abdicating responsibility. Just as your body is nobody’s business but your own, it is nobody’s responsibility but your own (I say, as a fat person).

    3. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Actually putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is hard, and thinking through ALL of the ways that people might feel is even harder. I think in this case enough people would be delighted to lose 100 lbs that the idea that someone else wouldn’t be happy is foreign enough to be missed. A lot of people in particular are really bad at knowing that something is unpleasant unless they either live through it themselves or have a close friend live through it.

      It’s a learned skill, and one that should be practiced more. But it’s not one that people are born with.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes! At an extreme, if we would always consider all possible ways that something may make someone feel, we would not comment on any life situation ever. Which may sound perfect until you consider that this covers the entirety of human existence.

        People need to be able to learn but should also be allowed to learn (from mistakes too).

    4. redflagday701*

      In fairness to Miranda, she did change her behavior. It would be great if she’d found a way to do it that didn’t involve limiting her interactions with OP, but (1) there are honestly so many bosses who would have been passive-aggressive or awful about it instead of just giving OP space, and (2) it worked for OP! Also, based on the help she’s provided with the pregnancy and resources in OP’s future new home, it sounds like Miranda either is not holding any bitterness about whatever Andrea may have said to her or is hiding it really well.

      Obviously the ideal would be people figuring out how to just have basic empathy, as you say. But I think we should give Miranda credit for changing how she acted, because it makes a huge difference.

      1. Boof*

        Yes, I think it’s pretty telling that Miranda did change, and OP does perceive them as overall having good intentions / being helpful when they understand an issue properly.
        Someone like that is teachable. It really sounds like they blew threw a lot of soft ques but responded to direct conversations (at least, that’s what OP is guessing)
        Miranda probably will improve a lot if they had a lot of very explicit managerial training and feedback.

    5. yala*

      I think anyone who does the whole “Well, I guess I just won’t talk to you (instead of learning how not to be inappropriate)” thing isn’t likely to change because they’re uninterested in changing.

      But that’s not LW’s problem, and it’s great to see such a positive update!

  4. DrSalty*

    What a great update! You sound like such a compassionate and thoughtful person. Good luck with your new job and best wishes for your growing family!!

    1. CheesePlease*

      yes! congratulations on your new job and your new baby. Your family is lucky to have someone as empathetic and as emotionally aware as you (both of your own emotional state and the reasons others may act emotionally inappropriate). I wish you all the best!

  5. Anne Wentworth*

    I’m so glad things are going well for the LW, but I sure hope Andrea said something to HR, because skimming over that earlier letter it sounds like Miranda absolutely does discriminate against fat people and will continue to do so in the future. (Her snippy comment about not making LW uncomfortable sounds to me like she hasn’t learned her lesson after all.)

    1. Anne Wentworth*

      As someone whose weight can yo-yo due to health conditions, I’d hate to be managed by someone whose opinion of my *competence* shoots up when I lose 25 lbs in 6 mos. because I’m sick and then plummets when I gain it all back because I solved my health issue.

    2. LR*

      Ugh seriously is there anything more petty and childish than someone who harasses others and when they’re asked to stop acts affronted and aggressively lets everyone know they will just avoid you from now on since you’re *so* hard to please.

      I used to see this a lot in my very male dominated field. “Oh, you don’t want me commenting on your sexual attractiveness at work, I guess I just won’t talk to you at ALL no matter what, since you’re one of those super difficult women who men can’t even compliment!! I cannot possibly find a way to work with you that doesn’t violate your insane, difficult to understand boundaries.”

  6. greenland*

    This is such an amazing update, and I really love the nuance and thoughtfulness in how you discuss Miranda! It’s easy in the comments when we’re only seeing a snapshot of someone in the context of a problem to start demonizing — it’s good to have a healthy reminder that people are people, even when they are screwing up.

  7. i drink too much coffee*

    I totally get it about having a superior who just lacks emotional intelligence! I once worked for a very similar woman, and it took me YEARS to stop disliking her and start realizing she really was coming from a place of care and truly didn’t know how rude she was coming off. I started flagging them to her personally once I became a manager myself, and she did start to back off of people just a bit. It doesn’t make it all okay, but it at least helps to know all of the context of a person!

    1. Random Dice*

      I mean… does it matter? You can pretzel yourself all day into understanding someone who’s consistently terrible, but… why?

      Impact matters far more than intent.

      1. Observer*

        Sometimes understanding motive changes impact.

        Also, sometimes understanding can help you find a way to change behavior.

      2. Silver Robin*

        Yes, of course impact matters! The intent does not excuse impact; it never does. What it does do, however, is influence tactics of dealing with the person.

        Is the person ignorant but genuinely caring? Then a conversation and coaching might be in order (if the dynamic allows for it; if not, use tactics below). This is the whole “call in” approach.

        Is the person hateful and dismissive? Then reporting them, limiting interaction with them, removing them from the environment in some way is in order. Or (again, depending on dynamics), call out/push back on their bad behavior publicly.

        In both situations, the person is at fault and, ideally, should apologize and provide recompense/restitution as appropriate. But the way that is enforced or addressed is influenced by intent. Do people in bucket 2 pretend/believe themselves to be in bucket 1? Absolutely they do. It sucks. But they are reasonably easy to spot after a couple of iterations and one can always escalate from bucket 1 tactics to bucket 2 tactics if progress is too slow/nonexistent.

      3. Boof*

        It only matters if it is actionable. Sometime who is unintentionally rude, but cares, will probably respond to direct coaching; someone who doesn’t care about being rude won’t.
        In some ways the way of knowing intent is to go ahead and have that direct conversation; if it is ignored, then you’ve got pretty good evidence the person isn’t just oblivious, but really doesn’t care.

      4. amoeba*

        Well, from what the LW wrote, it seems like Miranda was *not* consistently terrible though, but actually great in some circumstances. Which does, at least for me, make a difference compared to “just overall horrible human being”.

      5. jasmine*

        I do think there’s a difference between tying yourself up in knots trying to understand the motives of someone who’s doing harm, in a ill-conceived attempt to be “understanding”, and acknowledging the full context of the person in front of you. The latter is fine and it sounds like that’s where OP falls with Miranda.

      6. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        OT but what on earth does “pretzel yourself” mean? I can usually deduce the meaning of US terms I don’t know, but here I’m stumped. I suppose the fact that I don’t like pretzels is not helping…

  8. irene adler*

    “…You are the right person for this job and I’m not interested in finding someone else.”

    I can totally see this given how insightful your letter is, LW.

    Congrats -on the new job and the baby!!! Am so pleased at how things turned out for you!

  9. Kate*

    “She is really driven by trying to help and develop people, but I think she struggles often to understand that what works for her doesn’t work for others. When she understands or has experienced your struggle, though, she is 100% there for you. ”

    It sounds like Miranda’s intentions were “good” AND her “actions” were damaging; LW you are kind to see her through this nuanced lens.

    I think fat-phobic attitudes and comments are often viewed as “helpful” and “looking out for someone” and “encouraging” by (especially) older women, or women who were raised by parents who viewed weight and body size as a marker of laziness, or a measure of willpower, competence, capability, etc. They have so much internalized shame and beliefs about this that they can be utterly blind to what they’re saying.

    It sounds like Miranda possibly meant well, and believed that she was being wonderful and supportive, but was actually just being a total glass bowl in her actions. And it’s her actions that ultimately matter, and they were wrong.

    LW, your empathetic and complex view of her in your update is quite something and I’m so glad that Andrea went to bat for you and you’re on to wonderful new things! Best wishes to you and your spouse on the upcoming baby :)

    1. Funfetti*

      Should have read your comment first before I posted mine because I couldn’t agree with you more!

  10. Funfetti*

    Congrats!! And thank you for nuanced approach to your old boss – I think when we hear these issues we attend to view our advice as black and white (she’s terrible! You should go!) but there’s always more too it. Yes it helps that your new boss Andrea was much better but I think you have a great head on your shoulders for seeing the long game for your career and the reality about someone’s flaws not making them “the bad guy”.

    1. JustKnope*

      Yes! The internet can really flatten the nuances of real life, and this commentariat can definitely be guilty of leaning into it.

  11. chs.29*

    Congrats! What a wonderful update! Thank you so much for your gracious take on Miranda’s behaviors. I think many of us could benefit from that level of understanding, accepting that we’re all imperfect people, and recognizing that we aren’t terrible just because we have room for growth.

    1. D'Arcy*

      Given the extreme transphobia mentioned by LW, I find it *very* difficult to believe that it isn’t simply a matter of LW being unreasonably charitable in her interpretation now that Miranda is out of her hair. Miranda sounds quite deeply and seriously terrible.

  12. kr*

    This is such a graceful and thoughtful response to a difficult person/situation: LW, I can see why people want to work with you!

  13. MassMatt*

    Congrats on the blossoming career, OP, and thanks for the update. And especially for the additional nuance on Miranda, I’m glad that while she definitely had many boundary issues (to put it mildly) she is in many ways a good person.

    It’s good for thought for me when I see other letters to not be too hasty to condemn bad actors as being malicious; sometimes a letter to an advice column just can’t capture that much complexity.

  14. Michelle Smith*

    I literally shook my fist in the air with excitement when I got to the part of the update about the new job. I am so, so excited for you. Congratulations on the new job, the (soon-to-be) new baby, and the great update/clarification about Miranda. You handled this whole thing so beautifully and so compassionately, despite how you were treated, and I just really wish nothing but all the best things in life for you and your spouse going forward.

    Now I’m going to go do another little happy dance in my chair. :)

  15. Letter Writer*

    Hi all! I’m OP/LW, and I want to thank you all for the kind comments! Further update: I’m actually at the hospital with my newborn baby right now, and reading all your kind words while surrounded by all the new baby smells is just delightful. Baby and spouse are doing well, and I’ll be starting my new job before too long!

    Thanks, everyone, for all the advice and commiseration. I’m excited for all the changes coming to my life!

    1. Rocky*

      My warmest good wishes to you, baby and spouse! There’s nothing like the smell of a newborn. I hope you have plenty of time to bond and nest with your new family.

  16. Not A Manager*

    I’ve been thinking about grace a lot lately. The grace that you exhibit in this letter is overwhelming. And inspiring.

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