my boss won’t help with my workload, interviewer made a weird sexist comment about his marriage, and more

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

1. I asked my boss for help with my workload, but she didn’t come through

Like a lot of people, I’m drowning at work right now. I have more work than anyone could possibly do and no one who assigns me tasks can accurately tell me their urgency so figuring out how to prioritize is a nightmare. I’m used to being a high performer, and I still am, but I hate feeling like I’m constantly on the backfoot and struggling to keep up.

I have tried talking to my manager about this. I told her my workload is unmanageable and I asked for less work and more structure. She seemed to understand and immediately set up a weekly 1-on-1. In our next team meeting, she told our whole team we would all be getting work plans with specific goals.

That was eight months ago. Our weekly meetings lasted about two weeks and I still don’t have my work plan because my manager is trying to fight the rest of team into accepting theirs first.

My manager supervises half of the known “problem employees” in the department and I know that takes up a lot of her time and energy, and she has her own work on top of that. But I really need some support and I am at a loss to figure out how to get it. This has been a lifelong problem for me, being neglected by teachers and managers and even parents because I seem like I can take care of myself.

Are there specific things I should be asking for that will help me break this cycle or do I just need to abandon this ship and seek a better captain elsewhere?

So, there is a thing that I have watched happen in office after office where someone brings a problem to their manager once, it doesn’t solve the problem, and so they conclude that clearly the manager is unwilling or unable to help. I get why — now she knows about the problem! if she’s declining to help, she must not care to! — but in reality you’ll often need to go back a second time and say, “It’s still a problem and I still need help.” Often that’s because the manager assumed whatever she did after the first conversation solved the problem and so needs to hear that it didn’t … or sometimes (and this is probably your situation) she has her hands full with other things, it slipped down the priority list, and she’s assuming you’ll come back to her if you still need help … and when you don’t, she assumes everything is fine, or at least fine enough.

And yes, your boss should have known that two weeks of weekly meetings wouldn’t have solved the problem. And she should have checked back with you to see how things were going. But she didn’t, and it could help to go back to her and say, “This is still a problem and I still need your help.”

Since her initial suggestion of work plans for everyone has clearly gotten hung up somewhere, you also could suggest a work plan for you. Unlike your coworkers, you want one, and she won’t have to fight you into accepting it. You also could just draft an initial one and then the two of you could refine it together, which will probably make it happen faster than if you leave it all to her. You could also just start prioritizing your own workload, keeping her in the loop (so for example, telling her each week “I’m going to finish X and Y this week but Z won’t get done” so she has the chance to say “actually push Y back and prioritize Z”).

But the main thing is: keep it on her radar. Don’t give up just because the initial conversation didn’t solve things. Raise it again! And again after that if you need to. There’s a point where you’ll have raised it so often that you can safely conclude nothing will change, but you’re not there after just one conversation.

Read an update to this letter.

2. Interviewer made a weird sexist comment about his marriage

I had a great on-site interview yesterday for an executive assistant position for a director in a male-dominated industry. My husband also works at this company and I’ve been very clear about that from the beginning — I mentioned him both in my initial video interview and to one or two of the people I met on site.

I got a tour of the facility and met several people, and all of this went great! I like the environment, I like what I’ve learned, and I have a good sense that I’d be happy there.

There was one weird moment with the director, though. After sharing about his background and career, he transitioned to speaking about his family by saying, and I quote, “I’m married, happily. I just want to emphasize that.” It was weird, so I think I just nodded and said something like, “Okay, same.” He’d heard about my husband a few times by that point, and mentioned him by name to talk about a project the company is doing right now. Like, he knows that I’m married.

In the moment, I felt awkward so I tried to breeze past it, but after reflecting and sharing with a few trusted friends, I can feel how weird and sexist this was. I’m having a difficult time finding some a motivation for this comment besides a sexist belief that all young women are seductresses who must be warded off with assurances of a man’s marital bliss or else she’ll have no choice but to pounce.

I also feel like I can safely assume that he’d never say such a thing to a man interviewing for the position. I’m worried that taking this job would mean subjecting myself to low-level sexism like this all the time, and that by not speaking up in the moment I’ve made him think that comments like this are acceptable.

I do want to accept this job but I don’t want to create the expectation that comments like this are okay with me and not weird. Is there a way for me to bring this up during negotiations before accepting a potential offer? Or am I better off ignoring it for now as a weird interview mishap and committing to speaking up if he makes a comment like this again?

Ooooh. The only way I could see this not being alarming is if he said it in the context of some amusing anecdote about his wife —like,  “I’m married, happily. I just want to emphasize that. But I’m pretty sure she’s trying to give me food poisoning via this sandwich.”

But assuming it was nothing like that … yeah, this is a really weird thing to say to a job candidate, especially if there was anything in the context that made it sound like he was warning you not to look at him as … what, a potential romantic prospect? Or like he was assuring you that you wouldn’t need to worry about him looking at you that way? Agggh.

I don’t think there’s any way to bring this up during negotiations without it being disastrously awkward. However! Your husband works there, which means you have access to a ton of intel on this guy. Can your husband find out what he’s like from women who work closely with him? Or connect you to those women so you can have your own off-the-record conversations about what he’s like to work with? Getting info through your husband’s connections there would be worth doing even if this concerning comment hadn’t happened, but this is additional impetus to do it.

3. I’m getting an unnecessary apology from a colleague

I started a new office job a few months ago and everything seems fine, but I feel like my colleagues are a lot more sensitive than I am in a lot of ways. Anyway. A few weeks ago I was processing orders and having a really difficult time. I’m still fairly new and the job I do is very time-sensitive with daily targets, and my inbox was very backed up.

One order was sent in by a sales rep, a guy who’s known for having difficult orders. It had very obscure information and a lot of cleaning up had to be done behind him to get it all to go through okay. I’d been on the phone with him trying to explain something about his order and he was just being a bit dismissive. I think it had more to do with him not really understanding what I was trying to explain than any bad intention on his part. I was more than a little frustrated and I ended up tearing up a little after he hung up. I don’t usually cry at work, but I can’t understate how minor this was. A few tears popped out and then I carried on.

The problem is one of my more sensitive colleagues saw me and got concerned. I told her I was fine, but she told our manager. Apparently saying you’re fine means nothing because our manager insisted on talking to his boss, who came to my desk to apologize and assured me he was going to talk to the rep. I would just rather have forgotten the whole thing.

This morning my manager came over to me and said the rep was “mortified” and that he’s passed on an apology and is probably going to come and say sorry to me in person. Which I just feel so guilty about because I just think this is so unnecessary. And it’s going to be really awkward as well.

Is there a professional sounding way to get out of this? I don’t know if there’s something I’m not getting about office culture, but I don’t think this guy is really any worse than any other of the reps and I think my colleague might have overplayed my initial reaction.

Your coworker and manager probably think you’re saying you’re fine because you don’t want to make a big deal about it, but that since you were crying, it was bad and the rep was a jerk. They’re probably not accounting for the fact that sometimes it’s not the specific incident that triggers an emotional reaction, but some larger context (or a bad day, or stress in general, or something totally unrelated to work).

You could try preempting the apology by messaging the rep with something like, “I think signals got crossed somewhere — there’s no need to apologize to me! I was a little stressed the other day, but you didn’t do anything that warrants an apology. Please don’t worry about it for another minute.” Or if he does come by in person to apologize, you could say something similar then.

4. How should I use recommendation letters from my professors?

I am a college student looking for internships and jobs as I get closer to graduating, and I’m getting some letters of recommendation from my professors who I have worked well with, which I’m excited about. As I look at internships, how should I incorporate these letters into my resume and/or job prospects? Is there a tactful approach to including them that might help my prospects, aside from emailing potential employers with them alongside the traditional resume and cover letter?

Well … those letters aren’t going to be very useful, and it doesn’t make sense to continue putting effort into collecting them.

In the vast majority of fields, letters of recommendation don’t carry any real weight with employers because (a) no one expects to find critical information in them, since the person they’re written about will read them, (b) when things get to the point that a hiring manager wants to talk to your references, they’ll want to ask their own questions about the specific areas they care about — and generally will want a phone conversation, because hearing things like tone, hesitations, and enthusiasm level can convey a lot that most letters can’t.

(Academia and law can be exceptions to this, as they continue to use recommendation letters — but they’re the exceptions, and they’ll explicitly ask for letters if they want them.)

5. Only one person has seen our employee handbook

The owner of the small local flower shop I work for hired someone to create employee handbooks. The owner gave one to a new driver upon hiring her. The new driver read it, as instructed, and then gave the owner the signed acknowledgement. Although the owner has had copies for every employee for over five months, she’s never distributed them to the rest of the employees.

Is it legal for the owner to distribute the handbook to one person only? It feels discriminatory to me. Technically, she can hold that one person accountable to the policies while no one else is even aware of the policies.

Yes, it’s legal (as long as she’s not basing who gets to the see the handbook on race, sex, religion, or another protected class) but it’s weird! There’s no point in having a handbook if no one is allowed to know what’s in it. I’m guessing this is just disorganization or incompetence on your boss’s part.

Have the rest of you asked for your own copies of the handbook? If not, do that. But after that, if you still don’t get them … well, that’s a problem of your boss’s own making and you don’t need to solve it for her. (If she starts penalizing you for not following policies you don’t know about, that’s a problem, of course — but it doesn’t sound like that’s happening.)

{ 324 comments… read them below }

  1. Avva*

    LW 1 — my mom had a very good advice on this: if you want someone to solve a problem, make it THEIR problem. If its only a problem for you, and you handle it when it keeps coming up, its not urgent. If every time the issue arrises you raise it with them, or find some way to keep making them deal with the issue, things get resolved real fast.

    1. linger*

      I got something a little different out of #1.
      It sounds like LW1’s manager is genuinely trying to solve some workload problems in response to LW1’s feedback, but several issues may have got tangled together:
      (i) how tasks are distributed among workers on the team — which would be best handled by some kind of ticketing system, but it seems Manager is getting pushback on this from other employees, so this is stalled for the moment; and
      (ii) how workers should prioritize different tasks in their own queue — which is something Manager could address with each individual employee, and something LW1 would benefit from asking for more guidance with, but is also something that could (from Manager’s perspective) be more efficiently dealt with across the entire team.
      Successful prioritization of tasks coming in for the team would require addressing both elements, so I have some sympathy for Manager here. It is not immediately clear from LW1’s account what balance of these problems contributes to LW1’s sense of being overwhelmed, though (ii) at least can and should be addressed in further 1-to-1 meetings. (The answer for (i) would be more obvious if the other coworkers complaining about changes were also accomplishing less than LW1, but this is not clearly established in what we have here.)

      1. LW1*

        It’s LW #1! I labored for a long time trying to figure out what details were relevant and which weren’t when I sent this letter but you got it mostly right.

        My manager is doing her best with some long-time problem employees with extensive HR files. I believe she really does want to help me out but these other staff are in her office literally yelling about different issues just about every other day (we share a paper thin wall and she shares probably more than she should with me).

        These staff have enough free time to spend multiple hours a day visibly not working (I don’t want to get into identifying specifics, but multiple people have spoken to my manager about it so it’s not my perception coloring this). The trouble is HR says the only tasks that they could possibly have the skillset to do are outside their job description. That’s a whole other thing, but if true then we don’t have enough work for the # of staff with their job description and we have too much for someone with mine.

        I really am trying to not pay attention to what’s going on with those coworkers though and just focus on what I need, because it isn’t really my place to decide if the work is unfairly distributed I think. I guess my struggle is worrying that my value is actually in how I solve more problems than I create and if I create problems by nagging my manager about something I know she is keenly of and working on I threaten upsetting my standing?

        1. Book lover*

          Hi, LW1! I have been in a similar position to the one your manager is in: high-performing employee under water with deadlines, while I’m trying to put out much bigger fires. (Bigger, obviously, to me and the company, but not to the employee.)

          What I would have greatly appreciated in that situation would be for that employee to come to me with a plan: “Here’s what I’ve got on my plate. Here’s how I am proposing to prioritize it. Here’s the effect that prioritization will have on the teams I support. Can I have your backing on this plan and will you communicate why to those teams?”

          1. LW1*

            That’s really reassuring insight. Thank you!!!!

            I think I’m going to try this approach. I just worry about how I’ll look and what will happen if the plan I designed and asked for turns out to not work. I’m not always the best at sticking to my own plans longterm without some external support (diagnosed and on meds + in coaching for ADHD) plus I have a health issue that’s making me miss more work than usual in a way I can’t plan for. But I think that anxiety is probably less bothersome than the chaos I’m in now. I appreciate your script!

            1. Chilipepper Attitude*

              I think you can just revisit the plan as needed and share it with your manager. Life happens! Plans need to adjust.

              FWIW, I would avoid this approach in the past because it feels like it can come off as I feel I can act like the boss. It is so helpful to hear from Book Lover that this IS a good approach!

            2. Book lover*

              Honestly, things change. Plans don’t work out. That’s usually okay, to some extent. If I were to put myself again in your manager’s shoes, I would also appreciate:

              “I’ll check in with you (bi-)weekly to let you know if my plan is on track or whether and how we need to recalibrate (code for, as you said, “It didn’t work”). I’ll let you know if we need to change the message we’re sending to my teams.”

              I would breathe such a sigh of relief to know that you’re going to communicate proactively to me. As a manager, I don’t need everything to always be great, but I do need clear, up-to-date information.

            3. GreenDooor*

              I came to say I was in the same boat. I finally crafted a work plan myself and just started sticking to it. But…you have to be flexible enough to adjust if it’s not working. As far as “how it will look” if the plan doesn’t work, well, just explain the changes like a professional. Like, “Initially I planned on doing llama pedicures on Tuesdays, but I found the llamas are much calmer on Fridays so that’s why I modified my plan. I listed out all the tasks I do in a week (I am doing the work of three positions right now — so I get feeling underwater everyday!). Then I thought about how I work best as far as time management, energy, etc. I like doing putzy things on Monday so that’s actually my catch-up, piddly things day. I find I’m super detail oriented on Tuesdays so I use that day for detail work. Thursday is the only day I can catch certain people I need to engage with, so tasks I need them for are booked for Thursday. And I really need to cruise on Wednesday to get over the hump and on Fridays because who wants to work hard on Friday. So I do tasks that don’t require a lot of brain power on those days. How do you work best? What do your days look like time-wise? Can you group certain tasks into a particular day? Do you have meetings to work around? Think it through, craft your own plan, and than adjust as needed. You have an advantage here, since you DO want a plan – as opposed to being one of the problem employees! Go for it!

              1. LW1*

                Thank you!!! It’s actually really helpful to hear how other people think through the process for themselves.

        2. Chutney Jitney*

          You’re great until you get to the mind-reading part. Why do you think you are “creating a problem” by following up with your boss? You surely don’t think you are more trouble than the shouting non-working employees? You are apparently telling yourself that reminding your boss of something she already agrees with so you can do your job better will be more aggravating than the shouters. How on earth would doing better work threaten your standing? None of this makes sense.

          Stick with the facts:
          A. You want to do more & better work.
          B. You are unable to prioritize the work on your own, so are unable to do A.
          C. Your boss can help you with B, which will enable A.
          D. Your boss has said she wants to help you with B, but it somehow hasn’t happened.

          And instead of following up to get the help and *do more and better work*, you have convinced yourself that closing the loop with your boss will make you a “problem.” By following up, you are supporting your boss to do something she already said she wants to do. And you know, do more and better work.

          1. Chilipepper Attitude*

            In my old workplace, I would be creating a problem by acting proactively about this.

            For example, I once advised a coworker who had way too much on her plate to use AAM advice when she got yet another project. “I’ll be happy to take this on, I already have A, B, C, and D projects, and I’m part-time, so I can do this new one and A and C and put B and D on the back burner for a bit” – something like that. Boss blew up! And we don’t do rocket surgery! She told coworker that she did not have too much on her plate and to do it all. Meanwhile, full-time staff had just one or two projects. It was insane.

          2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

            Yeah. You said just now in your comment — you’ve told you boss you have a problem (or had one however-many months ago) but all these problem employees are in her office RIGHT NOW making LOTS OF NOISE. You haven’t made noise about your problem in months, so clearly it’s not that big a deal or you’re dealing with it, and she’s going to focus on the other people demanding her attention.

            I’m not saying that this is right, but it’s a pretty natural response. In a climate like this, you need to make yourself a squeakier wheel if you want to get attention. It’s not whining, it’s not abdicating part of your job — it’s being forceful enough about your needs to tell your manager that she needs to prioritize you to.

          3. LW1*

            That’s a great point about the mind-reading. I wouldn’t say I’ve convinced myself that it will make me a problem, but I’m definitely giving the possibility more real estate in my brain than it deserves.

            I think that’s a pretty common problem for people with diagnoses and it’s not unfounded to worry that our behavior will in some way map onto pre-existing prejudices for people and that will justify in their head treating us differently or thinking of us as incapable. You couldn’t know that’s playing a role as a I didn’t mention it in the letter, but some of my caution is logical and well-deserved. Not all of it! But some.

            That, of course, does not change what I need to do or that I need to put serious guardrails up around my thinking on this.

          4. Cj*

            The OP wants to do less work, not more work. You say more in your letter A and in your last sentence. In the post they say they are drowning in work, and in their comment in this thread they say there’s way too much work for the employees with their skill set.

      1. Festively Dressed Earl*

        From what LW said, it sounds like the shrieking fiery wheels with the hubcaps falling off that are getting the grease.

    2. kiki*

      Yes. I think this also ties into this statement from LW:

      This has been a lifelong problem for me, being neglected by teachers and managers and even parents because I seem like I can take care of myself.

      I’ve had this issue too (classic middle child) and it took me until somewhat recently to realize that I was playing into the issue by not being a squeaky enough wheel.

      1. Sloanicota*

        You don’t even have to be a squeaky wheel, which people in my culture would not be able to handle – just let some balls that aren’t fully yours DROP. Stop setting yourself on fire to keep people warm. Do the tasks that most squarely fall on your lane and make it clear you can’t pick up anything extra, and then do not fix that for people. I know it’s harder than it sounds, but it doesn’t have to involve complaining or agitating, just – boundaries.

        1. kiki*

          By squeaky wheel, I didn’t necessarily mean complaining or agitating– simply continuing to raise the issue with the manager until there’s resolution. I assume they have 1:1s and that would be, in my culture, an appropriate time to follow up on ongoing issues.

          But dropping any balls that aren’t LWs is great advice! I do think that some continued escalation to management may be necessary from my understanding of LW’s situation. It sounds like a lot of the work is actually being assigned to LW, so fully dropping any of those may cause issues for LW down the road (e.g. deprioritized task 12 becomes an emergency priority 6 weeks later and offsets other work).

          1. pnut*

            Just wanted to note the LW said weekly 1-1s ended after two weeks, although it’s possible LW has less frequent 1-1s with her boss.

            1. LW1*

              We have a bi-weekly 1-1 on our calendars but she ends up canceling or putting it into such an extended rescheduling loop more than half the time!

              1. kiki*

                Maybe when she cancels, send her a written 1:1 update? That way she knows this is still an issue for you and can potentially take action even though she has to reschedule? It sounds like the big issue here is that everyone is overextended so work to improve the system is being dropped.

        2. Scandinavian Vacationer*

          Sucess story: I ended up leading an enterprise-wide workgroup by default (VP on medical leave.) This group was full of upper level mgmt posturing about an issue, but no worker bees who would actually produce work. After 6 months or so, when it was clear this was a doomed black hole where all group members commented on the work of the ONE person producing actual work (me), I just quit scheduling these large group meetings. They were all super-busy, no one apparently noticed or ever asked me about this workgroup. VP returned from medical leave, workgroup did not re-start. I lowered my workload just by not putting out calendar invites. Sweet!

        3. Cj*

          I might have missed it, but I didn’t see that the OP indicated that there are any balls that aren’t fully theirs that they can let drop. In fact, they say that HR said that the employees that don’t have much work don’t have the skill set to do the work that they do. although I’m not sure what they mean when they say that HR “says” they don’t have the skill set.

      2. My Useless 2 Cents*

        That sentence really resonated with me as well! Not a middle child, but I do have a hard time asking for help and I hate being a squeaky wheel. So, growing up especially, I was left to figure it out on my own.

        In my professional life, it has led to a not-very-healthy mix of “F*** It” attitude (that leads me to setting my own priorities, procedures, and schedules and putting it onto manager to speak up if they disagree) and pedantic-ness (if there is a procedure, it had better be freaking followed! and if mgt isn’t going to enforce with everyone, the pendulum really swings to the other side).

        1. LW1*

          I have too many step-siblings and half siblings that have come into my life at different stages and also left it to know if I really qualify as a middle child (depends on the family, depends on the year!) but I think I’m pretty similar to what you describe. I mostly just do what I think is best and 90% of the time that’s fine but it’s a very stressful way for me to operate and it makes me feel like the work I’m doing is a waste because I have no idea if it aligns with our senior management’s priorities? And the 10% of the time something goes wrong it’s a huge, exhausting drama.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            Make sure, when people complain about the 10% that went wrong, that they know it’s because you were working hard on the 90% and that the 10% didn’t get done because you have too much on your plate and nobody told you it took priority. Forward complaints to your manager to show her “this is what I was talking about when I said I needed a work plan”. Tell the complainers to see with your boss how best to fit their work in: maybe they need to build in more time for you to get your part of a project done: maybe you’ll need two weeks, even though on paper it should only take one, simply because you need to clear your desk of other stuff first.
            Don’t take all the flak, pass it on to your boss who has not protected you from it by making sure you don’t have too much on your plate.

      3. Lex*

        This! I grew up with exactly this scenario, and it’s — not exaggerating — the root of most of the significant challenges in my life.

        If we’re not taught to advocate for our needs as children we have to learn to do it as adults.

        I will say, speaking to LW1’s concern voiced in another comment, that it absolutely is a possibility you being assertive about your needs will feel like a problem for your manager if she’s bad at her job.

        I’m on my way out of this scenario because when reasonable advocacy for what I needed turned into being treated like part of the problem, it told me it was time to leave.

        Best of luck, LW1!

      4. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

        Same here – I seem to have it all together all the time, so I get ignored, then people are surprised when something doesn’t work out. I now, at 47, have to learn things that people assumed I knew – bad in business and in personal life. I have learned to say, “Nope, can’t do.”

        .. let’s just say I’m better as a petsitter because I can say no to what’s too much for me with no repercussions.

    3. High Score!*

      I’ve been using the “I can do X & Y but Z will have to wait.” technique for a long time. My life is important, my free time is important. I do all that I can in my scheduled work time and then I go live my life. It hasn’t hurt my career at all and I’m happier.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        This part is really important. The LW can kinda force her manager to participate in the prioritization by checking in regularly like this. Either with a plan of what to prioritize or by saying “hey, I’ve got X, Y, and Z, and each will take A hours. How do you want me to prioritize?” The manager has choices then – tell the LW how to prioritize the items, assign things to other people, etc.

        1. Allonge*

          Indeed. This is classic ‘managing up’ – and in my experience quite welcome overall (by good managers). OP can make it as easy as possible for their manager to approve / course correct on priorities, and get some of their life back.

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            Same here. Can take the form of asking for direction or saying that my plan is to prioritize Z, then move to X and Y and asking for confirmation that my manager agrees.

      2. LW1*

        I am continuing to try with this technique! I have a diagnosis that makes it really hard to judge this for myself, though, so that’s part of why having my manager help me decide what X & Y should be would be really helpful. It’s not that I can’t do it, it’s just that it takes me a lot more time and energy than most to do so.

        I often tell people “I can do this but I can’t tell you when it’ll get done” and they say get to it when you have a chance then I don’t hear about it again until 2 months later when it’s suddenly important and urgent and I have to nuke my entire week to get it done. Perhaps there’s a better way to say this?

        1. Sorrischian*

          When people say “get to it when you have a chance” you may need to ask them “what’s the absolute latest this can get done?” because it sounds like you always have enough stuff on your plate that anything without a set place in your to-do list is not going to get done.

        2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          That sounds tough, LW! I hope you are able to get what you need.

        3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Insist on clear deadlines for everything. Keep a note of which deadlines are very real and which might be put back if really necessary, make sure not to make Sally wait every time just because she kicks up less of a fuss than Fergus, and don’t let Fergus bully you into giving his work priority.
          You can ask your manager to give you a set of general guidelines, like, the TPS reports can usually wait, but you must keep on top of the weekly newsletters.

    4. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      I think she’s going to have to do that because I don’t hold out a lot of hope for this manager because of this line: “my manager is trying to fight the rest of team into accepting theirs first.” She’s the manager–she gets to assign work plans, she doesn’t really need people’s agreement. Listening to concerns and making adjustments is fine, but once she has all the info, she should just assign them the work plans and put them on a PIP if they fail.

      1. LW1*

        I feel kind of similarly but I do want to say, in my manager’s defense, that she attempted that but there are some hijinks with HR. Speculating on why is great gossip but not super relevant, so I’ll just say she tried that and it’s unclear if HR will support a PIP and ultimately that’s my manager’s problem and I’m trying really hard not to let it be mine.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Damn, sucks to be your manager, since the rules mean she basically isn’t allowed to manage. Though, as you say, none of that is your problem and it shouldn’t mean that you don’t get the support you need to be successful.

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            To be extra super clear, the point about it sucking to be your manager is ONLY about how she has a bunch of problem employees and is getting undermined by HR.

    5. Not A Girl Boss*

      I had a very similar situation where I was a classic insecure overachiever, positively drowning in work, and my manager was content to let me ‘do my best’ rather than helping me.

      Finally, I set up a Trello board (they’re free) with a list of all my priorities in order. Its kind of like a virtual sticky note board, where its easy to drag around tasks if the priority shifts. I shared the board with everyone who asked me to do things for them, so they could see where their task fell on my current priority list (I tried my best to sort into ‘today’ ‘this week’ ‘next week’ and ‘realistically, I’m never getting to this’).

      Then, I made it my managers problem – I had him own prioritization of the board. If someone didn’t like where they fell on the board, I asked them to go to my manager about it. If my manager didn’t like my priority order, he could rearrange it.
      It also helped SO much with visibility, that both the people asking for tasks and my manager could see how hopelessly overloaded I was via the board, made it less about me complaining and more about fact-based problem solving.
      It also gave us something to actually do during our weekly 1-on-1s other than for me to feel like a complainer. Instead we productively went through the board and I could show him “look, all 47 things were urgent due this week, and I did pretty good and got to 30 of them… but that leaves 17 urgent things undone”.

      To be clear, I ended up quitting that hell job when, 6 months after they said they would, they had failed to hire a second person to help with my workload. But at least the Trello board took some of that intense pressure off of me where *I* felt like the underperformer who was letting everyone down, and made it my boss’ problem instead.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I also tell people that if they need something urgently, they need to get my manager to prioritize it higher than one of my other projects.

      2. LW1*

        Oh this is a really good idea. I already do this kind of tracking with a lot of things I track. I quickly found out that I need some communications to be highly visible to prevent drama when other staff get in trouble for not doing what they’re supposed to do. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to do this with my entire workload.

    6. MassMatt*

      I think a big part of the issue is that the manager (who sounds extremely ineffective) has an inordinate number of “problem employees” taking up a lot of their time. This means both that the manager has no time to deal with the LW, who is doing the work, AND that it’s likely that other managers are assigning work to the LW and not the problem coworkers. A classic case of working efficiently bringing more work.

      I wonder how many hours per week LW is working, and whether they are getting overtime. If the assigning managers are unable to articulate any sense of real priority, then it falls to the LW a to say “I can do X and Y, and not Y” and then go home at 5. Don’t work unpaid OT just because they are unable to assign work fairly, get problem employees to do their work, or prioritize.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I don’t know if I agree the manager is extremely ineffective. It just sounds like she is pulled thin and has a lot of problem employees. As others have said, I think the key is to keep up the ask or keep it at the top of conversation.

        LW, can you request one-on-one’s with your manger via her calendar on a bi-weekly basis? Or can you give her status/project updates in email or office drop-ins? Being a squeaky wheel doesn’t have to be negative or whiny, it can just be keeping it at top of mind. I also really like Alison suggestion of making your own project plan as a start and then meeting with your boss to perfect it together.

        1. LW1*

          Alison’s project plan seems like the way to go! A lot of people have backed that up.

          We have bi-weekly check ins but she usually ends up canceling them or putting them in an endless reschedule loop. And when we do meet she usually spends the first forty-fifty minutes going through her inbox asking me questions about things I already explained in an email or assigning me tasks. I am the SME for a lot of different subjects in our department so it’s understandable for her to lean on me this way but it’s also pretty frustrating that I only get fifteen minutes at 4:45 for any topics I have.

          1. Not A Girl Boss*

            Is it possible to keep those as “things my boss needs from me” meetings, and then schedule your own check ins that you own, for “things I need from my boss” meetings?

            Also, if you can find ways to make the meetings more structured / obviously beneficial / with a specific purpose, I find people are more likely to make them happen.

      2. LW1*

        I average around 45 hours which isn’t too bad, but I get comp time for anything over 40 and I do get around to taking that. :) I have problems but working for free (or being expected to) thankfully isn’t one of them.

        I do get assigned work by other managers and I have no idea how to prioritize it except based on what I think is most important to the department. Providing the support I do to other managers is part of my job so I’m not just taking it on because I like to be helpful (though I won’t pretend that isn’t an instinct I am always fighting).

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Is there any possibility of setting up some kind of formal intake process for these requests? Doesn’t have to be fancy. Because it seems like part of the problem is that you’re getting requests from a bunch of people, rather than your manager, and I assume that the group of managers don’t talk to each other.

          The intake process should include information that will help you prioritize – which your manager should be able to give direction on. In a previous job, we tracked stuff like whether a project was due to a legislated requirement, whether there was budget for it, how much effort it was expected to take, deadlines, etc. From that information, it was determined what we’d do now and what needed to wait.

          1. LW1*

            That’s a good idea to consider! It will probably take some trial and error to find a system that will work because I get requests from so many different stakeholders in so many different formats. A member of the public will call with a complaint or someone in a different department will IM me or a vendor will email me or a team member will linger in my office door with an extensive list of problems or a manager from a different division will pull me into their team meeting randomly etc etc etc

            I have tried a lot of different things but haven’t yet found a tool that I’ve been able to pull in everything from everywhere in a way that didn’t create more work than it reduced, if that makes sense? I’m always trying to find new tools so I’m here for your recs if you have them! And I have already reduced some of the constant stream of minor tasks by creating documentation and redirecting people to that when they ask. (Another reason I’m so overloaded is that no one in this history of this department has ever seen fit to write anything down and we turned over half our staff since 2020.) I’ve also started holding office hours to help people with our software system and only providing that help during those hours.

            I’ve gotten very off topic here when all I wanted to say was thanks!

    7. Lucy P*

      What’s a good way to do this without coming across as whiny or annoying? I’m one of those people that hates asking multiple times for things because of this.

      1. kiki*

        I think keeping the conversation to the actions needed, why you need this done, and detailing your plan to move forward in the meantime comes across well. Granted, some people will always be annoyed by being asked to do something, but that’s poor management and not something you can control. Something like:

        “Hey, I wanted to follow up on X. I know in our last meeting you said you’d be looking into Y as a solution. Has there been action on that? I would really appreciate moving forward with Y as soon as possible because without that taken care of, I end up working an unsustainable amount of overtime. In the meantime, I will prioritize Q&X and not do R&S. Does that work for you?”

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yes, exactly. At this point in my career, I tend to do more “keeping in the loop” than “asking for guidance”, which is very workplace and relationship dependent.

          For me, that looks something like: “Hey [manager], Janet said she urgently needs a doodad by next Friday to meet the regulatory board’s new requirement, so I’m pushing the whatsit project back a week. Let me know if you have any concerns with that!”

        2. LW1*

          Thanks for the script!!! I think I need to get better at tracking my own tasks to make best use of this. I have so many balls in the air and I am having to invent every project management and tracking system as I go in a very tech-illiterate and change-resistant department that I lose track of my own stuff sometimes. But I think if I really refocus on tracking my own work for a few weeks that will help me with following everyone’s advice.

          So grateful for this little community and all of the experience and support within.

    8. Boof*

      I’m hearing that LW1’s manager needs to manage out all the problem employees that sound like they are permanently sucking up all the air? Alas that’s not really an action item for LW1 but maybe they could tactfully suggest this site or something to the effect of “wow it seems like [some people] are taking up a lot of your time! Can you prioritize time with me for a while? I think it’ll actually be more efficient because [I’m in charge of more things] [I’ve got a bigger backlog of tasks] [whatever makes sense]”
      And otherwise, yes, LW1 please politely and persistently keep reminding your manager that you need attention too.

    9. LCH*

      I’ve had bosses proactively tell me to keep following up with them if I don’t get an answer. Not for anything specific, just an overall notification.

      Like, they know that they won’t always get back to me. I have to let them know, hey, this thing is still an issue.

      1. LW1*

        Not to be Anxious on Main but it’s really reassuring to hear about this being normal and fine and reminders being well-received. :)

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I’ve gotten this comment, too, since I don’t want to annoy people by nagging them. Then managers have told me that I absolutely should follow up on things because the reminder is helpful. Obviously, it doesn’t apply to all managers, but decent ones are usually OK with it, because it contributes to the team getting stuff done.

        1. Scandinavian Vacationer*

          My boss used to say “are you waiting on me for anything?” frequently. Very normal with upper mgmt.

  2. I hate having a vagina sometimes*

    #2: people can be REALLY weird when they interview young women (or just fem people in general). I’ve told this story here before but I (mid 20s married woman) recently had an interview at a private school and I was asked when I was having kids and if my husband planned on letting me work after I had kids. I was horrified and spluttered out “we’ve talked about it and we’re not concerned about that.” I turned the job down for that reason and the skirt/dress only policy (and told them why, with EEOC links about pregnancy discrimination).

    1. MassMatt*

      Whether your husband “planned on LETTING you work”?! OMG. This sounds like a time warp back to 1950.

        1. Anon for this one*

          When I was in high school in the 80s, I knew kids who said that their dads wouldn’t “let their mom work.” My response was always that my mom wouldn’t let my dad tell her what to do. Nowadays, it’s even ickier to hear.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Yeah, I knew kids whose dads wouldn’t let their moms work, either, but my mom was one who wouldn’t let my dad tell her what to do, not that he wanted to in the first place. Very uncomfortable.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        My mother-in-law marveled that my employer allowed me to continue working while heavily pregnant and then “let” me come back after my maternity leave. Not in a mean way, it was just completely outside her experience – she’d basically been expected to turn in her resignation when she became visibly pregnant and then stay home with her kids when she had my spouse and his siblings in the 1970s. I didn’t know how to tell her that my maternity leave plans were set out with the precision of a military invasion and that I was pretty sure that the response to my returning from maternity leave was going to be more along the lines of “oh, thank goodness you’re back!” versus “why are you still working?”.

    2. Striped Badger*

      I generously want to believe that either OP2’s director, or someone else the director knows, has had to deal with the issue of someone having a very obvious crush on their manager recently and now he’s in that short, awkward spot of feeling spooked before he calms down again.

      1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

        The other possibility I thought of is that either some other manager there had been harassing a subordinate, or more generally he’s aware that can happen, and he’s clumsily & incompetently trying to signal “you don’t have to worry about me doing that”.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah. I mean, I’d still find it inappropriate, but the most charitable explanation I could come up with would be that “oh no, this young, attractive woman must be worried that an old man like me would harass her/hit on her – let me put her mind at ease about that!” (or rather less charitably “with all this metoo stuff going on, better be safe to avoid any “false accusations””…)

          Which wouldn’t be great but, I guess, better than him thinking he’s so irresistible he has to warn women so they don’t fall for him?

          1. Twix*

            I’m male and this was actually my first thought. With the dramatic societal shift in attitude on sexual harassment in the last decade or so, it seems like a lot of well-intentioned older men are more aware of the way that power dynamics might skew how their actions are perceived but have no idea how to talk about it intelligently because they’re so used to it being Not Their Problem. This is the exact sort of awkward bluntness while still managing to not address the actual issue that seems to result.

          2. goddessoftransitory*

            Right? My most generous internal reaction would probably be “dial it back, Mike Pence, you ain’t all that.”

        2. irritable vowel*

          This also makes sense of something I was having a hard time getting my head around, which is that it’s an especially weird thing to say to someone whose husband you work with! But it would make sense if something like this had happened and the hiring manager thought the OP’s husband must have mentioned it to her.

        3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          I honestly think, given that LW2 had mentioned her husband already, this was the director clumsily trying to assure LW2 that he had no intention of being a creepy male boss coming on to his female assistant.

          Now, whether that was a sincere sentiment poorly worded OR Boss’s attempt to lay the ground work to later defend some inappropriate behavior with “How could you interpret me giving you an unconsented shoulder rub as an ADVANCE!?!? Did I not tell you that I am HAPPILY married?!”, that’s more of the mystery to me.

      2. Sloanicota*

        This was the only plausible explanation I could come up with that might allow OP to feel good about taking the job! Like maybe he was worried that OP had concerns he would hit on her, or something.

      3. Boof*

        Yes, I can’t help but think there was something else on their mind for whatever reason and it came out super awkward. I may be projecting though (I’m not male / not this situation at all but was in the situation of interviewing a minority candidate THE MORNING OF I just found out a racially charged event happened in their area, and on top of that I didn’t have any idea of anyone’s race until we met on zoom and I was just so frazzled and unprepared I felt really bad and also felt like I didn’t do the whole situation justice at all. Mostly I wanted to ask if they were ok and that I thought we as an institution were trying hard but I also wasn’t sure if it was appropriate for me to bring up at all and how. Plus I was just sad even if I wasn’t the one most effected.
        So ummm, that’s a lot sorry if it’s a derail. Just emphasizing that while they comment was weird, if it seems really isolated it may just have been a bad moment based on something that has almost nothing to do with LW2.

        1. Boof*

          Edit; an event happened IN OUR area, peripherally involving our institution, not the candidate’s area.

    3. jamlady*

      I had a similar experience about 10 years ago in Austin, TX, though not a question – it was a direct “well I just have concerns about hiring someone who is probably going to leave us to have a kid soon anway”. I looked at the other interviewer, a woman, who just looked at the floor. I raised absolute heck after walking out of that interview.

      Extra nonsense: I have fertility issues and my husband and I have remained childless. It took all of my willpower not to hit that guy.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I’m glad you were able to chew them out about it, it’s a disgrace that they asked you that question. Nobody should ever be asked about something as personal as their reproductive decisions in an interview.

        1. Artemesia*

          I was asked that in a departmental interview with several members around the table. ‘Are you planning to have another child.’ This was about 1976 and I had a two year old. I said ‘That is between me, my husband and God.’ Years later I discovered that one of the participants had voted for my hiring over the nearest competitor because of my ‘deep faith in God.’ go figure. Didn’t recognize ‘F U’ when she heard it.

          1. Armchair Analyst*

            oh, they did. They just thought you had a lot of backup/sponsorship

          2. Lady_Lessa*

            I’m one who would recognize the statement as “None of your business” but also because you mentioned God would think that you were religious.

            1. TeratomasAreWeird*

              I’m not a particularly religious person, but I sometimes mentioned God in connection with my reproductive status. As in, “short of divine intervention, no, I’m not pregnant.”

              The joke was on me, since one one my eggs decided it didn’t need any damn sperm and started dividing on its own. Being asked by a stranger how far along you are in your pregnancy when you aren’t actually pregnant? Awkward. Being asked the same question by the ultrasound technician while they’re doing the scan? Extremely alarming.

              1. Dahlia*

                If you’re comfortable talking about it can I ask WTF???? I didn’t know that was possible!

          3. SheLooksFamiliar*

            I was young and single in the early 80s, and both male and female interviewers asked about my plans to marry and have children. One man asked to see my left hand – ringless – and asked if I had a boyfriend. If I did, he just knew I’d want to get married, have children, and leave him high and dry all because of my ticking biological clock. When I truthfully answered that I didn’t plan on ever having children, he chuckled paternally and said, ‘My wife said that, too,’ while pointing to a family portrait with a bunch of kids.

          4. Parenthesis Guy*

            Or she did recognize it and loved that you said it, but felt that others wouldn’t so she played along.

      2. Kim*

        I am so sorry you had to be confronted with your fertility issues during an effing job interview. Sending you lots of love.

      3. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Hooooooboy, that is awful! And also illegal. Glad you raised heck about it. I also have had fertility issues and am childless and it’s absolutely the worst to deal with people saying stuff about your reproductive choices when you had no choice in the fact that you don’t have kids. I’m also single so people just assume I don’t have kids because of that fact, not realizing that I still tried to become a single mom because single moms are a thing and I wanted kids more than I didn’t want to be a single mom.

    4. onetimethishappened*

      Out of curiosity did they reply at all? I am sorry you experienced such an awful interview!

      1. misspiggy*

        It feels like they did it deliberately to screen for people who are OK with sexist attitudes, so I’m guessing they didn’t reply.

        1. I hate having a vagina sometimes*

          They actually did! Just a generic They said “best of luck to you. God bless” (it was a religious school so the “God bless” thing wasn’t an issue).

      2. I hate having a vagina sometimes*

        They said “best of luck to you. God bless” (it was a religious school so the “God bless” thing wasn’t an issue).

    5. DJ Abbott*

      Alarm bells of religious fundamentalism! In this day and age, they are the only ones I know of who would say “letting” a wife do anything!

      Even when I was growing up with them in the late 70s – early 80s, this was not so common IME.

    6. Happy Peacock*

      I’ve never had an interview problem, but once I started jobs, I’ve gotten a lot of things like dropping the wife into conversation more often than you would expect and being subtly cut out of things socially. My more recent workplaces were not like this. I am also older now, so it’s hard to tell if I work at better places or if I have just aged out of the seductress model. I think being young, single, and female is somehow threatening to certain men.

      1. amoeba*

        I think it’s better. I mean, I also certainly hope it’s better! But also, when I compare my experience in the working world (luckily for the most part positive with almost no weirdness) with what my colleague tells me it was like 15 years ago… yep, at our company at least, definitely much better.

    7. Sexist BS*

      Coming from Alabama, I am 0% surprised at this. :/ I have been through so many job interviews where I was told, “Your resume looks great, but we don’t really hire women here. You’ll probably just get married and leave to have kids in a few years, and we don’t want to have to train someone else when that happens.” They -really- don’t like it when you point that every bit of that statement is in violation of the law. It’s one of the major reasons I left the state.

      (Even better: I am nonbinary, now mid-40s and perimenopausal, in a committed relationship of almost twenty years, and have no plans or desires to ever have children of any kind that don’t have fur or leaves. None of which is any of their business in a job interview. But if they -really- wanted to hire people who wouldn’t get married/pregnant and leave–pretending they don’t just want to only hire cismen–I’d be their perfect candidate!)

  3. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – while you don’t feel that the sales rep owes you an apology, this is a good opportunity to get him to pay attention while you explain why you are asking for the information you need. The guy routinely has difficult orders – that means either they are more complicated or he is not as good as other sales people at capturing the details/information you need to process them.

    So, if/when he apologizes, let him know you weren’t offended by him, but that you think there’s an opportunity here for you to walk him through your process so he knows what you need. You might even make up a checklist or guide for him so he can remember to capture the details you need.

    1. Flicjer*

      I might try that, thank you for your advice. I’m usually pretty conflict avoidant and I know this isn’t exactly a conflict but it does feel like that to me. Last week I happened to answer a call from him and it was so awkward, I just tried to pretend like everything was normal.

      1. Artemesia*

        The incident was a teachable moment for him when you might have explained how you need the information to be presented so you can effectively enter it into the system (or whatever). It may still be a window partly open; WHAT exactly do you need him to do differently? Let him know precisely that.

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Perhaps this is an indication that it would help to clear the air. You could consider going to him and saying that although the call was sub-optimal, you get the sense that things are being blown out of proportion and that it was a generally stressful day for you, and that you just want to move on from it. You can frame the whole chat as wanting to make sure you two are working together well.

      3. Spread the Love*

        I understand that you’re conflict avoidant, but I would like to give a vote for hearing the apology and using the moment to work through how you can work well together.

        However, at this point everyone has spoken to you about it but him, and for the message to get back to him “No, OP doesn’t want to hear from you” sounds far more detrimental to the working relationship. It could absolutely sound like you’re “still” upset (even though you weren’t). It might help smooth things over in general. It’s not your job to fix it, but if you want an easier time, it might be your job to fix this.

    2. JSPA*

      I like this!

      “You were not unkind in any way, and I didn’t feel belittled or attacked. But your orders really are far more opaque, incomplete and complicated than anyone else’s, for no obvious reason. It’s probably frustrating for both of us when I have to track you down and pin you down to clear them up. Could we take this apology time to instead talk through what the orders need to look like, so we’re not doing it when we are both under time pressure?”

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      LW3, I would like to gently suggest that an apology from the sales rep is entirely reasonable and appropriate in this situation. Yes, even if it wasn’t a huge deal and there were other things that contributed to you feeling upset. He was dismissive of what you were telling him you needed to handle his order. That’s not cool. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, just him acknowledging he could have done better in that moment and you accepting the apology and both deciding to move on. Though based on how you described the environment, it’s not for sure that this is how the apology will go. But you can cut it off if it gets excessive and tell him you appreciate the apology and the two of you are good.

    4. Totally Minnie*

      Oh, yes. This is an excellent time for a “don’t be sorry, be better” conversation. This guy is known for having complicated orders, which means either that he somehow managed to be assigned all the most complicated clients in the business, or he has simply never cared enough to make sure his orders are entered carefully enough to make sure they can go through without another employee fixing them first. Either way, he needs to learn to a) be careful about placing his orders and b) listen to the person who’s helping him and do what they ask instead of brushing them off and being difficult. LW may not need an apology, but this is a great situation to use on a push for improved behavior.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you feel an apology is in order but this guy needs to get with the program on his orders.

      I work for an academic library and, among other things, assist patrons with research materials. A certain subset are high-level lecturers from several local universities and post-graduate schools, and they’re basically used to giving orders and having assistants fill in the gaps. That doesn’t work for us, though–since we’re not involved in the small details of their work we need them to take some responsibility for describing what material they need, keeping track of their own references, etc. Some of them need to be trained. We do keep a list of what has been requested, but if they make a habit of asking us what box and folder [specific item] was in because they didn’t write it down, they’re going to get a refresher from my boss on how to keep notes.

    6. eye roll*

      Something to consider… no one said making someone cry was unusual for this rep, or acted at all surprised. Even the rep does not appear to have been confused or puzzled about what happened or why you might have been upset. This does at least suggest that there might have been something unprofessional or rude in the rep’s behavior that should be apologized for, or at least such a tendency for such things to the point that no one (even the rep!) is questioning what went on to warrant tears and an apology.

      That does still leave the option to say that LW was more frustrated than upset, but that the rep does need to do X & Y on these requests and didn’t seen to be listening or understanding that.

      1. tusemmeu*

        This was the case in a similar situation I dealt with last week. I was having a rough morning and dealing with a particular client ended up being the last straw that finally made me cry a bit (I’d been doing so well not crying at work the last several months after a lifetime of being someone who cries easily). Everyone kept telling me how mean the guy was even though I didn’t think he was that bad, I just thought it had more to do with my mental state that day rather than anything he did. But he had a history of being difficult and that was what colored the reaction everyone else had.

    7. Observer*

      while you don’t feel that the sales rep owes you an apology, this is a good opportunity to get him to pay attention while you explain why you are asking for the information you need. The guy routinely has difficult orders – that means either they are more complicated or he is not as good as other sales people at capturing the details/information you need to process them

      I was thinking much the same thing.

  4. nodramalama*

    I agree with Alison on LW5, in my experience handbooks and guidance materials can often just be forgot about. It was probably front of mind when they onboarded the new driver and didn’t bother passing it around to more people. At my work we have multiple employee handbooks/guidance that get emailed to new starters, when their supervisor remembers, but I dont think half the people in my branch remember it even exists

    1. Heidi*

      Having a paper handbook seems like part of the problem. It might be more useful to have it on a sharedrive where people can find it when they need it.

      Does the signed acknowledgement hold any legal significance here? If they never acknowledge that they received the handbook, it would be harder to hold them to the policy, wouldn’t it?

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Employment contracts are common here in the UK and it’s not unusual for employers to say that signing that you have read and understood the employee handbook means that it’s incorporated into the terms and conditions of your employment contract. For employers that do this, you will have to sign off on both the contract and handbook before you start, so they don’t make it optional. IANAL, but if you don’t sign off on the handbook (or they don’t even give you a chance to read it), then it’s unlikely that they can enforce its terms and conditions on you.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        In the U.S., employers can hold you to any policies they like, even if you’ve never been informed of the policies, as long as the policies aren’t discriminatory or applied in a discriminatory way. (Montana might be an exception to this, as the one state that doesn’t have at-will employment.) Employers often like to have people sign to indicate they’ve received a handbook, to make it extra clear if there’s any dispute later — but they can still enforce those policies even if you don’t.

      3. I am Emily's failing memory*

        For the setting (a small flower shop) it’s quite likely the employees don’t have access to a share drive since most of their work would not be computer-based.

        1. Heidi*

          That’s true. I guess if there is a shared computer in the store, that might be the place to keep it. Or perhaps a physical copy of the handbook could be kept in a central location in the store.

      4. Festively Dressed Earl*

        I worked in our state unemployment office handling claims. When employers responded to an information request, they referenced the employee handbook and the employee’s signed acknowledgement along with the details of the dismissal. It was good persuasive evidence.

    2. Ally*

      But I don’t quite understand LW5’s question- what happened when they asked for the handbook? did the manager refuse to give it to them?

      1. JSPA*

        I wondered if there was only one female driver who was told to read and sign, while the guys were trusted to be professional…or a youth vs age issue…or race, or some other aspect that made the LW suspect that the new driver was being singled out for extra oversight and accountability (and not in a good way).

        1. Ally*

          Ahh that makes more sense.. the LW is more worried about the new driver. Thanks!

        2. HR Friend*

          Huh? This is a stretch. The LW hasn’t even asked the boss for a copy of the handbook. There’s absolutely no reason to jump to *discrimination*. It’s far more likely that the owner just forgot. In any case, the reason isn’t important – LW needs to either ask for a copy or decide they don’t care to read the handbook unless the owner forces the issue.

        3. Yorick*

          It sounds more likely that the new person got it because they’re new, and the owner either forgot to give it to everybody else or figured they didn’t need it since they’re not new.

    3. Tape dispenser*

      Completely agree it probably got forgotten.

      I have a business where I see most of my clients for a one-time meeting, so a contract feels like overkill. However, it seemed like a wise idea legally, so I got one all drafted and used it exactly ONCE. That first client got the contract, and I’ve never thought about it again.

      The fact that it was only the new person makes me think that they happened to be hired when the handbook was shiny and fresh.

    4. MassMatt*

      I am generally bemused by the frequent advice here to “check your employee handbook” regarding any question of rules or disputes. I have worked for retail chains, libraries, a food service company, a major health insurer, and several financial companies, two of which were Fortune 500. None had an employee handbook. Or if they did, it was more secret than at this flower shop.

      Yes, there were documents for specific procedures, like for vacation time, return policies, or how to correct a financial error. But I have never seen an employee handbook, written or on a shared drive. Asking for one would be akin to asking when someone was going to come tuck you in at night.

      I’m surprised a small flower shop paid someone to write one, and it’s very odd that it’s now being kept secret from most of the staff, but it’s odd to me that the LW seems to think reading this handbook (written by an outside vendor who is probably not at all familiar with what you actually do) is some sort of privilege. The fact that only one person on the staff has ever seen it is probably telling you what it is worth.

      1. La Triviata*

        A number of years ago, my employer updated the employee handbook and distributed hard copies, requiring everyone to sign a form saying they had read the handbook and would abide by its requirements. Fine so far. Then, after a year or two, something came up with a new requirement that was not in the handbook and no one was aware of. The finance director, who also handled HR matters (very small office) said that he’d updated the file on the shared drive and we should have been aware of the new requirements. He hadn’t said anything to anyone that he’d changed the requirements, but expected we’d all be aware of the changes he’d been making. He left not long after, but ….

    5. Festively Dressed Earl*

      Maybe the boss had the handbooks printed and then had second thoughts about some of the policies after she’d handed out the one copy? If the new driver asked questions, it may have spurred some second thoughts.

  5. can't remember if I had a username?*

    LW #4 – I actually think there is some use in getting those letters, just not maybe the way you’re thinking. Profs have lots of students, usually in multiple classes every year. Getting those letters written now allows them to capture their reflections on you while they’re still fresh in their minds. You can use the profs as references later and they’ll have those letters to remind them of things they can speak to when they get called. If you have copies, you could even e-mail them over when asking them to be references for jobs down the line, as a reminder of what they’ve previously said. I agree you wouldn’t use the letters themselves for job applications, but I don’t think it’s a completely wasted exercise to have them.

    1. Overworkedprof*

      As a professor who writes many recommendation letters please don’t do this! If I don’t have something specific I’m referring them for it’s hard to write anything meaningful. I provided my students with a form to complete that asks questions about the classes they’ve taken from me, their work and grade in my classes, interactions or discussions we had and other relevant details that would be applicable for what they are applying to. This helps me personalize the letter and not just report on their grade. With 250 plus students a semester it’s the only way I can write good letters. I encourage students to use my form/questions to solicit better recommendations from other faculty too.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        That sounds like a great idea. Would you be willing to share the form (anonymised of course) with this forum?

      2. Rock Prof*

        I have something like this too. It’s worked out really well because I can more easily remember the context as well as tailor to specific this the students wants discussed.

      3. EngineeringFun*

        Former professor here as well, I make students outline the key points they want me to “remember/highlight” and the job description. I then paste it into a form letter I have. I spend less than 10 min on it. I also decline letters if they student is not exceptional. I’ve also had students write their own letter of recommendations. And just update it. It’s a complete waste of time for all involved.

      4. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        LW3, do these internships generally require letters? Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.

        This is good advice. When I was applying to grad school, I wrote a whole dossier for my referees with details about the programs I was applying to, what I liked about the programs and who I wanted to work with, forms, deadlines, submission instructions, what I’d like them to emphasize in the letter, etc. Basically, they were doing me a solid, so I was going to make it as painless as possible.

        One piece of advice I got about this process was asking professors if they felt like they could write me a *strong* letter of recommendation. A lukewarm letter isn’t going to help. And in some situations, you won’t get to see what’s in the letter (it’s been nearly 15 years and I have no idea what was in those grad school letters). So you want to have some assurance that they’ll write something good. When I’ve been asked to be a reference, I’ve chosen to be open about what I can comment on and what I can’t really comment on because I haven’t seen it.

      5. analyst*

        I mean….as a professor, I literally won’t write a letter just for a student to have. As Overworkedprof says, these are tailored to the position. Also….they are sent directly to the hiring committee and not given to the student. I’ve literally never seen the letters my professors sent for me (well except the ones my professors have asked me to write and then edit/sign, but that’s grad school and it’s weird….)

        1. Pippa K*

          Same. I’ve never written a letter of rec for anything but an academic position (grad school applications, fellowships, academic jobs, etc.) and the applicant doesn’t see the letter in any of those situations. I’ve never seen any of the letters others wrote for me, either.

        2. Butterfly Counter*

          Exactly. I’ve actively discouraged students from trying to get letters from me just to have on hand because of what Alison said: they are good for nothing. First, I (and the businesses they’re applying to) don’t know if they have altered the letter in any way, rendering them meaningless. Second, as someone with almost 200 students a semester, writing letters of rec is one of those hidden burdens that are foist primarily on teaching faculty for no extra compensation.

          Basically, as teaching faculty, I spend hours every semester writing letters of rec because I have so many students when compared to research faculty. And my pay as teaching faculty is just a fraction of that of research faculty. I just don’t have the time to give students letters just in case. Tell me where to send it or have me listed as someone to give a recommendation. That’s fine. But asking me to do extra work on your behalf “just in case” feels awful considering how little I am paid.

        3. Sciencer*

          Agreed. ONE time in the last 5 years, I’ve given the student a Word document version of my letter for her because she was applying to dozens of scholarships in a short amount of time and I wasn’t going to tailor anything but the name of the scholarship anyway. Afterward, I somewhat regretted it, and now I strictly provide letters as direct submissions to the scholarship/fellowship/whatever.

      6. Elitist Semicolon*

        Yeah, I won’t write a letter unless I know what it’s for. I often explain to students that “a letter just to have” will be so non-specific as to be useless to them and not an effective use of my time. And unless the student is applying for grad school or for something related to academia, references from professors usually don’t carry the same weight as one from an employer/supervisor. Quite a few job announcements I’ve seen recently have stated outright that they don’t want recs from professors.

        (This does depend somewhat on field. But bottom line is that a general rec doesn’t have the same weight as one that’s tailored to a specific job/opportunity.)

    2. former professor*

      If you have specific plans to apply for something that might need a letter down the road, it’s totally normal in my experience to go to a professor and say “ I’m planning to work at a llama farm next year for hands on experience but then apply to PhD programs in dromedary history. I’m hoping you’ll be a letter writer for those applications in a year or two, so I wondered if you would prefer to put a letter on file now or have me reach out then”

      1. Rock Prof*

        I can see some merit in having professors have some sort of heads up about the student when they graduate or even draft up a letter, but for most graduate schools, the professor submits directly to the school or fills out a form. Like one of the comments below, the student rarely attaches the letter themselves.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          I read the comment as suggesting to the prof that they may want to jot down some stuff now while it’s fresh, rather than writing a whole letter. No idea if my interpretation is right!

          I took a counselling skills course in undergrad, which was a prerequisite for the counselling MA program. The instructor told us all at the end of the semester that if we were thinking of applying to the program to let her know so she could write down a quick evaluation for herself when things were still fresh, rather than trying to remember in a year or two.

    3. Armchair Analyst*

      my college career center allowed letters to be kept on file. so I gotnsome letters when I applied to grad school th le year I graduated or the next year. I didn’t go to grad school then but I could use the letters when I applied to grad school again later.

      I bet a lot of colleges offer this, esp. with things being digital now

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        When I applied to grad school over a decade ago, they did not want letters (or PDFs of them), they wanted to send a link to their application system directly to my recommenders and have them fill it out contemporaneously with my application. My guess is that part of this system was to prevent people from writing their own letters of recommendation since they had to be sent to the reference’s email directly.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          I applied even longer ago and only one school did it that way. The others wanted the letter in a sealed envelope with the referee’s signature over the seal. Though I can’t remember if I sent it in with the package or the referee had to send it in separately.

      2. Bookmark*

        I really wish this were more common, it would have helped me a lot in the situation I experienced twice (once in undergrad, once in grad school) of the professor best positioned to comment on my work (think thesis advisor/ research advisor/independent study advisor) suddenly passing away within a year of graduation. By the time I applied for grad school I had work experience in between, and during grad school I also had part time internships in my field, so it didn’t end up hurting me too much in the end, but it really would have been nice to have some way of providing potential employers with inside info on a huge portion of my most relevant work experience as a new grad. Since it’s happened to me twice, I have to assume I’m not weirdly cursed and that this is a not super uncommon issue that comes up.

      3. LongTimeReader*

        I used to work in a university letter center like that- we kept the confidential letters and sent them directly to graduate schools and some academic job searches. This was pre-useful-internet but like Allison said- we mostly sent them to law school and med school admissions, not internships or employers.

    4. fueled by coffee*

      I’ll also add here (because I couldn’t tell from the wording of #4) that you should never be in a position to attach these letters of recommendation to an email, because ideally you wouldn’t be able to see what’s in them. For industries that do still use letters (I’m speaking from academia), you as the applicant usually have to waive your right to view the content and have the letter writer submit it on your behalf.

      This is because the value of these letters goes down dramatically if the recipient assumes that the writer knew you were going to read them (why would I say something negative in a letter that the candidate would then be able to read?).

      1. former professor*

        Yes, this is a great point. And although you don’t HAVE to waive your rights as part of the application process, I have had a number of conversations with students who say “no” to the question about waiving their FERPA rights to access the letter basically saying, you’re absolutely free to retain your rights, and it won’t change my letter or whether I’ll write one, but you should know that it might mean that my letter is interpreted less positively than it otherwise would be. Definitely a huge “hidden curriculum” part of grad school applications!

        1. Relentlessly Socratic*

          Yes, I didn’t learn that when I was doing applications for grad school (back when letters were written on paper and everything!) and learned later that saying “no” was a bad look. It didn’t destroy my career path or anything, but I still think about it from time to time–how was I ever supposed to know?

          1. Eater of Hotdish*

            I found that graduate school consisted largely of stepping unawares into a whole lot of things I was supposed to know, but nobody told me I was supposed to know them, let alone what they were.

      2. rural academic*

        Yeah, I’m a little puzzled by the situation described in the letter. I am a professor and write recommendation letters often, but I almost never write a letter and just hand it to the student. I have found that some internship programs, for example, may require a letter of recommendation, but I send the recommendation letter directly to the program in most of those cases.

        I have also served as a reference for some students and as such have responded to phone reference checks. Not all students realize there is a difference between “recommendation letter” and “reference,” so I do make a point of explaining the difference when they are asking me. So I wonder to some degree if the LW has asked professors for recommendation letters and should have been asking for their contact info to serve as a reference instead.

        1. AFac*

          Decades ago prior to electronic submission, students used to be requested to submit their own letters of recommendation; professors printed them out, sealed them in an envelope, and signed across the seal before handing them to the student.

          There are still some applications that request students to submit their own letters electronically, but these are usually very small, very local programs (e.g. town council or local club scholarships). In some cases, I have asked the student to reach out to the program to see if there’s an alternate way to submit a letter.

          Some people might be concerned that a student would be taken by surprise if a letter was unfavorable since they never see it. I do warn the student that my letter might be less than favorable or more limited than they’d like when those situations arise and ask if they still want me to write a letter. Sometimes they say to go ahead anyway.

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            I don’t accept requests if the letter I wrote might be”less than favorable.” It’s called a letter of *recommendation* for a reason; if I can’t recommend the student, I (gently) tell them they’ll need to ask someone else. They deserve to have the strongest possible advocate on their side.

            1. AFac*

              Let’s rephrase “less than favorable” as “less than excellent”. They’re still good students, but not the strongest. Sometimes, for whatever reason, they’ll ask me over other professors in whose classes they may have performed better. If I explain my POV and they still want me to write a letter, I assume there’s a reason for it and that reason may be something they don’t want to tell me about (e.g. personality conflicts, an ‘-ism’ issue related to the other professor) and advocate for their strengths the best I can without lying. For what it’s worth, I am a WOC in a field dominated by men.

              When I have had requests from students with significant performance or character issues, I do decline.

              1. Elitist Semicolon*

                Phew – that makes more sense! Thank you. I have colleagues who will accept any and all requests, even if they couldn’t imagine a single positive to say about a student. Hence my initial interpretation. Glad I was over-thinking!

                1. AFac*

                  No worries! I’m not having a great communication day, so this was definitely me and not you.

      3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        It’s been a while, so I don’t remember the details. But somehow I ended up with a copy of at least one of my referees’ letters for grad school. But I knew that he felt super strongly that the letters were confidential and shouldn’t be read by the candidate. So I never read it, even though I was super curious. Felt like it would be a violation of the agreement between us when he agreed to write the recommendation.

    5. MassMatt*

      I see your point, but it’s asking a lot of the professors for something that probably will never get used outside of academia or possibly law. I think it would be better for the LW to make notes about any particular achievements in their classes, and then see which might fit to mention for a particular job. It’s probably better for the applicant to do this work than the prof, who could then be used as a reference, and reminded of those achievements and how they pertain to this particular job.

      1. can't remember if I had a username?*

        As a general rule, I do agree. In this case, I read it as the student already had the letters (or at least, that profs had agreed to write them) and was asking what they could use them for.

    6. toolate12*

      When I was applying to graduate programs, I asked my former professors/employers write recommendation letters and stored them sight-unseen in Interfolio. I then dispatched them to the graduate programs. Because I was applying for dual degree programs, I think I had to send about 16 or so copies of the letter (separate application processes for 8 schools). My hope is that it made my recommenders’ lives easier to not have to interface directly with 16 or so programs.

  6. Lost my name again and again*

    I think there’s two possible reasons why someone would say they’re “married, happily” with emphasis in this context. The first is LW’s/AG’s interpretation. The second…is they are not that happily married. It of course wouldn’t matter to LW if they were, but it maybe mattered to him to say it in that moment. Did anything else he say during the interview read as sexist? If not, he could be a master at subtly or that comment may have had little to do with LW.

    1. Artemesia*

      If a boss said that to me in the hiring process I’d interpret it only one way — warning off those sluts who come on to the boss. It is a pretty off putting comment. I’d definitely do a little more digging about what he is like to work for — and particularly misogyny.

      1. Tau*

        If I stretch to the most benevolent interpretation I can, I end up with “he was trying to awkwardly reassure OP that he would not be harassing her at work”. But this is still dodgy as hell, because… why was that on his mind? Why did he think he had to? And explaining that with “I’m married” is still icky, because that should not be the deciding factor (and there are plenty of “happily married” men who’ve acted inappropriately towards their female subordinates).

        1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          Eh, I could give it a pass depending upon the whole sentence in which it was used. Like, I get that only this part of a phrase is what stuck for LW2, but I wonder if the Boss made some sort of half joke about his wife hating his tie or something and he immediately had a mental freak out of “Oh dear God, no, I don’t want to lay the ground work here of “hello pretty lady employee, save me from my boring unhappy marriage!” Um, think of something to say to make that clear. Make it clear you are HAPPILY married and not using the hiring process trying to find the next Mrs. Director” and that “I’m married, happily” just spewed out.

          The big thing here is that LW2s husband has the ability to find out more info about the guy and figure out if a) the guy has other sexist habits and this isn’t just an awkward moment from him, but the tip of a very bad iceberg or b) if there was some context that might explain the weird statement (e.g., an admin alleged that her director was hitting on her and all the directors just got a massive talking to about their communication with subordinates).

          I’m placing it as a light yellow flag in LW2’s case….but if LW2 had no way to get more info, then it is firmly a bold yellow flag.

    2. Myrin*

      The “in actuality, he’s married unhappily” interpretation is actually what first came to my mind (possibly because I’m asexual and the idea of honestly flirting with people is foreign to me so I never even think in that direction) but reading OP’s interpretation, which sounds like it was definitely based off of a certain “vibe”, I can see how that’s actually the more likely meaning behind what he said.
      But in any case, getting intel via husband sounds like a very good idea regardless.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      There is nothing remotely subtle about the way this guy phrased it with this job applicant. It even raised MY hackles, and I’m one who tries to give the benefit of the doubt to people who may have misspoken.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Another reason: My first thought was that it was an example of an interviewer spelling out a usually unspoken thing because someone previously had NOT cued in that most people don’t need this expectation spelled out. “That line in the handbook is because of Fergus, who was before your time.” Like letters from applicants wondering if they can ask if this new job is weird and bad in this one very specific way that they hated at their previous job. (And for both directions, the general answer is “You shouldn’t ask this, and it will land as weird and a yellow flag if you do.”)

      The other explanations are on the table, and I’d treat it somewhere between a red flag and a yellow post-it, depending on other details of the interview and from women working with him.

    5. AnonToday*

      I had an even more uncharitable reading of this man–it read to me like laying the groundwork for damaging her credibility when/if he hits on her later, sexually harasses her, etc.–e.g. “I couldn’t have possibly been coming on to her–I’m happily married, and SHE KNOWS THIS!”

      Regardless of what we all think, Allison’s advice to the LW to go digging on this dude before ever accepting a job is wise.

    6. I&I*

      Could easily be both. If he thinks every female applicant is after his D, I’d be amazed if his marriage was happy.

    7. ecnaseener*

      I mean, if he was trying to hint that he’s unhappily married, that’s still a bizarre thing to bring up in a job interview and I can only think of sexist reasons to do so (like that he wants to sleep with LW)

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I didn’t take the suggestion that he is unhappily married as meaning he was trying to imply that, more that either he is so sensitive about this that he goes around telling everybody he’s happily married in a way to hide from others and possibly from himself that he is unhappily married or else that he wants to pre-emptively deny stuff she will hear if she gets the job -arguments on the phone with his wife or rumours that he or she is cheating or whatever.

        But yeah, all still bizarre to bring up in a job interview. Even if it was meant as “if you get the job, ignore any indications of problems in my marriage. There aren’t any. We’re totally happily married. Couldn’t be happier. It just looks like we’re not,” that is still kind of weird and inappropriate and would make me suspect the guy was bringing a load of drama into the workplace.

    8. lunchtime caller*

      Actually I can think of an obvious third as someone who works as an EA—there’s a common expectation at this company that EAs handle the mistress stuff for their boss (ordering gifts, booking hotels, hiding secrets, etc).

      1. LimeRoos*

        I was also thinking along these lines for some reason. I think if everything else was good about the interview, and it is a traditionally male dominated sphere – maybe he was saying he’s not one of those gross guys who will have their EA schedule their affair. We’ve read enough letters over the years like that, so its a solid 3rd interpretation. I’m sure there’s a better way he could’ve said it though, since that’s still just awkward. But definitely do your research since your husband works there already.

      2. RagingADHD*

        Yep, and also possible that there’s another person in the company at his level who is known to do this, so he’s differentiating himself.

      3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        I also wonder if it was weird attempt to be like “Don’t worry, I don’t expect you to be a wife substitute and expect you to sort out my laundry or buy a present for a friend’s new baby or anything.”

        The biggest takeaway I have is that LW2, if they take the job, might need to be prepared for the Director to drop weird statements like that. All well and good if they run the gamut from ” I’m married, happily” to “Animals in the jungle can see the color green better than any other color”, but they could all also be just as weirdly possibly/probably sexist as “I’m married, happily”.

    9. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      See I was wondering if there was some rumor going around that he wasn’t happily married and he is trying to squash that rumor. And it sounds like OP’s husband works there too, so maybe he thought she had heard rumors.
      This doesn’t mean that it was an ok statement. Just my first thought.

    10. Snooks*

      Perhaps this is a preemptive strike against a rumor (true or not) of an affair or pending divorce.

    11. Thistle Pie*

      My most charitable reading of it is that he was trying to acknowledge that it is a male-dominated field and wanted to reassure LW that he wouldn’t be a creep, but went about that in the most awkward way possible. But I want to validate LWs feelings on it – if it seemed weird and sexist in the moment it probably was, whether intentional or not.

    12. Daisy*

      I can think of another –
      OP mentioned multiple times she is married and her husband works for the company. I can see where a higher-up reads that as “I was sexually harassed at past jobs and absolutely don’t want people hitting on me” and is trying to assure her that won’t happen.

      BTW – I don’t think it is necessary to tell everyone separately during the interview process your husband works for the company. If you are worried about company policies that prevent fraternization among coworkers mentioning it once should be enough.

    13. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      That was my first thought too. The EA is going to witness him doing shady things — lie to his wife that he’s in a meeting, but he left for the day; lie that he’s on a business trip, but there isn’t one; cover lunch or lodging expenses with a business credit card, but he’ll reimburse in cash — but don’t worry, he’s totally happily married nothing to see here. s/

  7. Tiger Snake*

    “This has been a lifelong problem for me, being neglected by teachers and managers and even parents because I seem like I can take care of myself.”

    Hey, OP1, I think that maybe you’re projecting some?

    That this happened to you is bad, and it’s got you in bad habits. But it’s not your boss that did that to you, and just because she’s not giving you the therapy practice of breaking you out of the dynamic doesn’t mean that she’s isn’t “not propagating a conditioned bad dynamic”.

    Logically, I’m sure you know that a part of adult responsibilities is advocating for themselves. Logically, I’m sure you know that’s something that’s active and ongoing.

    Realistically, what I hear you saying you’ve been trained and conditioned to not do that. Realistically, I’m sure there’s a difference between saying “I need to advocate for myself” and realising that that means continuing to speak up instead of waiting for things to get fixed. I wonder if a part of you thinks that you’ll get in trouble for speaking up more than once. When you’re used to being disregarded, ignored or even berated as a kid for reaching out, because they’re busy and you should be patient/you should be able to see there’s more important stuff – it’s all just nonsense excuses the adults made for not being adults to a child in their care, and all it means is that you get trained to not advocate for yourself instead. You get told that taking up space in life is bad, instead of something you are entitled to.

    And that’s terrible. But it’s not wrong that your boss still expects that you’ll advocate for yourself, because that’s part of a healthy, adult dynamic, and she wants to have a healthy relationship with you instead of continuing the bad ones.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      So, I have been where the OP of this letter is – raising something once, assuming that it meant my boss would 1. Do something about it and 2. Continue to even think about it once they had made initial noises about addressing the issue.
      If you continue to approach this situation thinking “everyone always ignores me because it looks like I can take care of myself”, then this will be a self-fulfilling prophecy and you will get burned out.

      Learning to push back is such a difficult skill. I was in my 40s before I learned how to do it correctly. And it is hard to do face to face if you’re not used to doing it at all. So this is what I suggest: First thing at the start of your work week, send your boss an email or chat message saying what you’re working on that week and asking what they would like you to prioritise. (The first time you do this, say that you’ll be doing this from now on to help you work more efficiently.) If you don’t get a response before the end of the day, follow up once. Then do exactly what you said you would do, in the order you said you would do it. If an emergency project comes up, ask your boss exactly what they would like you to drop or move down the list. If they don’t respond, tell them in writing exactly what you’re going to do to cover the emergency, then do it.

      This is not easy and it takes practice. But if you don’t get out of the trap that you are currently in, everyone will dump huge amounts of work on you forever, because if you look like you are managing okay and you don’t clearly communicate otherwise, people will assume that you’re fine because it’s easier for them to make that assumption.

      1. Allonge*

        Just to reinforece this because it’s an excellent suggestion: OP, it’s reall really ok for you to propose a method to keep your woorkoad manageable and to tell your manager what you need from her for this. Tell her you see she is working on an overall solution, but in the meanwhile it would be great if for you, the X Y and Z could happen and you are planning to do it in this way. And than do it.

        Same thing for 1on1s with her – -schedule tehm yourself. Maybe once a week is too often, aim for once evey two weeks.

        Basically, you can treat ‘get less work’ as one fo your work tasks and be proactive about making it happen.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        yeah, younger me would have brought it up once and then assumed I was being ignored when that didn’t fix it. There were several factors here: Not wanting to be seen as needy; being naive; wanting to avoid the work of self-advocating; being clueless that my boss had a lot of other things to think about; assuming my boss thought I was useless, etc.

        Middle-aged me would bring it up again until it was handled, or at least alleviated. I don’t enjoy doing this but I enjoy being overworked even less, so those are my options.

      3. LW1*

        Thank you! That’s something I can easily start doing today without having to figure everything else out first. I love some low-hanging fruit.

    2. My 2 cents*

      The comment of being neglected(left to one’s own devices). Hits home for me. Parents teachers and managers

      Until I came across something called Performance Punishment.
      My brothers needed more help and guidance than I appeared to need so mom and dad helped them more.

      If her manager is dealing with problem employees that can be soul sucking

      If lw1 has always been a good performer many times you get less direction and more work

      Being punished for your good performance

      1. Sloanicota*

        You can’t fix less direction sometimes, if there’s just not enough hours in the supervisors/teacher’s day, but you CAN refuse to accept more work. Yes, you might not get ahead so quickly if you do, but you have probably built up a LOT of chits already, and clearly your in a place where poor performance is accepted, since these troublesome coworkers are still there. You probably have more leeway than you realize. Being too conscientious can a curse you put on yourself!

    3. Not A Manager*

      On this subject, I also wonder whether something in LW’s past has discouraged them from pushing back for more assistance. If you’re used to a dynamic where you ask for help and get some kind of soothing promise, but then you’re scolded if you follow up (because the soothing talk *was* the solution, and now you’re a pest for harping on the issue), then you learn that it’s (a) futile and (b) costly to ask more than once.

      In any event, something is making LW hesitant to do a very usual and reasonable thing, and it might be worth thinking about why that is.

    4. LW1*

      Thanks for commenting!

      I do want to clarify that I added that to illustrate a pattern where I am the common denominator and I need to learn to do something different. I may have over-labored on the wording and given the wrong impression!

      I do worry that raising issues again and again until they get fixed will impact my work environment and relationships, mostly because I know how long getting any of this fixed will likely take for my manager and because I hear stuff like “I’m glad I have at least one employee who doesn’t cause problems” on the reg. If every 1-on-1 I’m like “So has X happened yet?” that will feel like causing problems to her.

      I think what I’ve realized reading Alison’s answer and all these comments is that I need to try anyway. It may turn into an exhausting loop of us getting increasingly annoyed with each other and our stagnant workplace until one of us gets a different job, but that’s not worse than what’s happening now and at least if I keep bringing it up I’ll increase the chance of it getting better.

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        LW1, you should not take “doesn’t cause problems” to mean “never needs anything from me ever.” It likely means she knows that, if she asks you to do something and there are any issues, you will raise them in a timely manner and work to resolve them (as opposed to say, not finishing the project on time and only then telling her that “no one ever sent me the data!”).

        Keeping something on your bosses radar is NOT causing problems. It is keeping her informed as to the state of things, even if that state is “Waiting for Boss to do X”

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        It also sounds like you have a good reputation with your boss/some political capital in your bank, so that may make it easier to be able to say, “hey, I’m going to get to X, Y, and Z this week, but I’m not going to be able to handle A or B until next week,” and then let her tell you if she’d rather you do X, Y, and A instead. It’s a little bit of managing up to keep you from drowning.

        It is also very easy to start relying on your strongest performers who don’t complain, and it’s always something I feel like I have to go over with new managers – don’t take them for granted, don’t use them as a crutch for your underperformers (or you’ll lose them as well).

      3. inksmith*

        When I talk to my manager or friends about the people on my team who are easy to manage, I mean that they tell me what they need from me and are proactive in letting me know they need help, what that looks like, and working with me to come up with a solution that works for everyone.

        The “not easy to manage” folk range from the ones who don’t tell me stuff, to the ones who say “yes this will work” despite having major concerns (different from the people who think it will work and then find it doesn’t – I’m fine with them as long as they tell me when it stops working), wait to the last minute to tell me they’re having issues because they thought they could do five days of work in one… to the people who just have a lot going on in their lives which makes managing them difficult because we’re having to take account of that. Even for the latter group, it’s not a judgement, it’s a statement – they are more work to manage, but that work is my job and they’re doing the best they can.

        Someone who came to me and said “this issue I talked to you about is still going on” would get an initial response from me of “oh, crap, I thought that was resolved, sorry I didn’t check in to realise it wasn’t” then “thanks for telling me, let’s look at how we might solve it. Do you have any thoughts on what you or I could try that might work?” and then if you don’t have any thoughts either, “let me think about it and come back to you” or “OK, let’s try x”. I wouldn’t think you were a problem; I’d be grateful you told me so we could work on sorting it out some more.

  8. Theninjakiwi*

    Thank you so much for answering my question about letters of recommendation! The morning I got that letter back from my professor, I actually got a response from a company I was interested in interning at, no letter needed! And now I have the internship! I appreciate the advice you gave me and I’ll continue to focus my energy on my studies and internship instead. Thank you again!

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Congratulations– some Monday morning good news! Thanks for sharing.

  9. learnedthehardway*

    OP#2 – that was a really odd comment. Even if it was (by some very elastic stretch of the imagination) some kind of inside joke with other interviewers, or a pointed remark to someone besides yourself (perhaps with the aim of quelling gossip?), it was still deeply weird.

    The most charitable interpretation I’ve got is that he’s one of those people who goes off on tangents and offers extraneous details all the time.

    More likely, though, he’s projecting a worrisome attitude towards female colleagues / team members. Probably not aware that he even has negative attitudes. Sigh…

    1. Zelda*

      My most charitable interpretation is one of Alison’s– that it was an ill-considered way of assuring the LW that he is not one of those awful people who hit on their assistants.

      I have, on a couple of occasions, been a younger, inexperienced woman traveling on business, just me and an older male colleague. Further, it was in a country where each of them spoke the language and I did not, and where security for Americans is a little iffy. So I was really very dependent on those colleagues. Props to both of them for being able to treat me like a colleague and equal human being, while simultaneously guiding me through the cultural situations and making me feel looked-after. “Protective yet not patronizing” is a fine thing to pull off. This guy… is not pulling it off. At best, that’s what he was going for?

    2. English Rose*

      I did wonder, charitably, if he’s a bit socially awkward. Like if he shared “I’m married” then was going through some mental cringing around “why did I say that”, adds “happily”, the cringe gets worse and he panics and adds the “just wanted to emphasise” zinger. And after the interview he’s kicking himself – “why oh why did I say all that”.
      I have those internal dialogues sometimes, although admittedly not around something this odd.
      Definitely time to get more info on this guy.

      1. Valancy Trinit*

        Yes, I likewise know I’m being charitable here, but I’m an awkward person and would say something similar. All of my teammates complain about their respective spouses, justifiably or unjustifiably. If I was discussing my spouse (like, in a work-appropriate way) with somebody who knows I’m on Team X, I might think it worthwhile to point out that while I recognize I am an outlier I’m a huge fan of my spouse.

      2. mlem*

        Particularly if he first made some kind of comment or joke that he thought suggested he wasn’t married, then tried to clear that up. It does read like he was following *something* up, even if only in his own head, so then the question becomes *what* he was following up. (I don’t say this to dismiss the LW’s concerns at all, just to note that getting more info about the guy could end up being reassuring rather than only possibly being disqualifying.)

    3. pinetree*

      Could it be that he took the mentions of OP’s husband as her alluding to being happily married and he thought by saying the same he could reassure her it wouldn’t be an issue? Not at all justifying him saying that even if that were the case, since he’d have read the situation completely wrong and still said something wholly inappropriate for an interview setting.

      If OP isn’t able to find out more about his reputation/workstyle through her husband or other means of backchanneling, I find this issue enough of a concern that I likely wouldn’t risk taking the position.

  10. AngelS.*

    #3. I think the coworker who went to the manager, was out of line. If I see a coworker quietly sobbing at their desk, I give them some space. I don’t approach them, much less talk to their manager.

    1. Jackalope*

      Yeah, and one or two tears (which is what it sounded like this was) is something that does NOT take a ton of response most of the time. If the person tearing up is someone you’re close to then it might be worth digging into a bit, but if it’s just a coworker that you don’t know super well, taking them at their word that they’re fine is generally going to be the best course of action. Or say something like, “If you need to talk I’m here,” so they know you’re willing to be a resource. But this was an overreaction.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Still, it was apparently noticeable to others who weren’t right over her shoulder; if she was just a little damp-eyed nobody would have known it was happening. I am sometimes one to get red-faced / visibly stressed and I have to keep this in mind and try to take a cool down lap before people see.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’ll point out that LW1 has only been n the position a few months, and we do not know why the position was open. If that rep’s behavior is part of the reason LW’s predecessor left, the co-worker’s response is completely appropriate. it’s also necessary if the rep has shown a similar behavior with others in the company.

      LW if you’re here–do YOU know if rep and/or his poor paperwork has been a problem for anyone else?

      1. Totally Minnie*

        That’s a good point. It’s possible that management has been dealing with this particular sales rep about the way he talks to people for some time now. Even then, I feel like forcing an apology is less helpful than insisting on improved behavior, but LW might want to talk to some of her coworkers and try to get an idea of whether this guy’s behavior has been a problem before. It seems like an overreaction if this is the first incident, but it’s really possible that the managers heard about the situation and were like “really? This guy again?”

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I feel like forcing an apology is less helpful than insisting on improved behavior

          Why not both? One does not displace the other.

          1. Totally Minnie*

            You’re right, they may be working with him on this and LW just isn’t aware of it.

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      Agreed! I used to be a trainer, & starting a new job is stressful. People cry all the time in that situation, & even if the trigger is something like a phone call, the reason could be completely unrelated. It’s best to give space & let the person know you’re there to support them.

    4. Sloanicota*

      Wee-eell, I had mixed feelings on this one. If I saw a relatively new coworker (of only a few months) in tears,* I would probably feel like I should do something. At least in my job, it’s been so impossible to hire, and so many people have left abruptly after starting, that I would want to head off whatever situation is causing this. It’s weird/mis-aimed that they’re focused on the meanness of the rep as opposed to the general stress level and workload, and I think OP can redirect that, but I thought it was kind of good they were being proactive. I don’t want to work in one of those offices where people crying at the desks is normal.

      *I realize some people just can’t help tearing up, and it’s hard to say in the moment how visible it might be to others, but I’m assuming on the description that there were actual visible tears, not just eyes welling.

    5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      If I see my coworker sobbing at their desk and it’s probably a home thing, I’ll leave them alone or maybe quietly get them a box of tissues. If I have reason to suspect it’s a work thing (like maybe they just got off the phone with a coworker), and ESPECIALLY if it was the new person, then yeah, I’d probably say something.

      Also, salesguy should totally apologize! No, it wasn’t an utterly horrible thing he did, but he doesn’t have to grovel, he should just say sorry and make sure not to be “a bit dismissive” next time. And ideally do better orders.

      Also also, it’s totally to his benefit to repair the relationship with OP. Right now, she has a negative opinion of him. Whose orders do you think she’s going to take a little extra care with? Not his! OP is sort of the proverbial admin whose bad side you don’t want to get on.

    6. rayray*

      I agree. Maybe if they were really in distress, I might want to see if they were okay, but people will have moments where they get overwhelmed or upset but are perfectly capable of handling it and keeping it together. It’s good to just leave people alone most of the time.

    7. My Useless 2 Cents*

      I don’t think the co-worker was out of line. Seeing a new co-worker brought to tears by an interaction with another co-worker is entirely reasonable to bring up to the manager in charge.

      OP mentioned they were still fairly new to the job, co-worker doesn’t know OP well enough to know that OP was just releasing a little stress. It is entirely plausible that OP was just not wanting to rock the boat at a new job but this was an escalate type of situation.

      Quietly sobbing or just a tear or two would make no difference; that would be incredibly upsetting for me and I would mention something, especially if they were a newer co-worker.

  11. John Smith*

    You know, there’s some managers who are expert in ducking out of tackling issues. I once complained about the performance of a colleague (junior to me but doesn’t report to me). Her response was to ask what I do to manage him. After a weird argument about me not being a manager, what is the definition of a manager and that her own job description doesn’t mention managing people (it does), she fell back on “Fergus will know who has made the complaint through what I say to him. How awkward is it going to be later when you have to work together and he knows you complained about him?”. I was genuinely lost for words and I’m still stuck thinking of a response as I just stop and think “what planet are you on?”.

    1. Adam*

      That’s true, but it doesn’t sound like what’s going on here. The manager just sounds like someone with too much to do that’s prioritizing their most important work and letting other things slide. If LW wants their issue to stay on their boss’ radar, they’re going to have to raise it more than once in 8 months or it’ll seem like it’s going well enough that it can go in the not-priority pile.

      1. LW1*

        I will say that there were a lot of meetings with HR as my manager tried to address the issue over those 8 months. I probably shouldn’t have waited this long but we’re public sector so I didn’t expect a resolution fast and I am aware that she’s been trying to resolve the issue throughout this period. What I don’t think I’ve communicated is that I need better support in the short-term while she works on what is clearly going to be a very long-term thing.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Hah, a boss at my old job used to literally run down the hallway and scuttle into her office to avoid her direct reports when she saw someone walking her way. And she was always busy busy busy – SO busy! so underwater! – yet I actually have no idea what she produced, because it sure wasn’t any new programming or actual work product.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        My student teacher year, I had a “cooperating teacher” who would come up to me, say, “you’re doing fine, aren’t you?” or “you don’t need any help, do you?” then hurry off before I had time to say much in response.

    3. Smithy*

      I think even when the dodging of the issue isn’t this blatant – I think it’s also common for Manager’s to allow for a lot of relativity of time. Essentially, where they think a fix that happens over 6-12 months is fast, when the person dealing with the problem in question – that amount of time is an eternity.

      I recently had a situation with my boss where I flagged that a certain issue was dragging on – and she reflected on it having been only a month – and when I pointed out that it had been two months she was genuinely embarrassed. In general, she’s not a bad supervisor, but it was a case where the urgency for me meant that I was very aware of every week that passed with the issue not being addressed and for her 1-2 months felt like the same amount of time.

  12. RT*

    #4 Is teaching K-12 counted under academia? No, right?

    That’s another field where (in my experience at least) many job postings ask for letters of recommendation. But if you’re a new teacher you’re probably asking your cooperating teacher for that.

    1. CL*

      Agreed. One of the misguided pieces of career advice my mom, a retired teacher, has given me is to get reference letters. I have never used one in my 20+ year career.

      1. RT*

        Yeah, I can see where she got that impression. I had to procure 3 letters of recommendation from my principal, AP, and coworker because many of the job postings in my area won’t even consider you with less than 3, each written within the last 2 years. Ugh….

  13. Different cultures different traditions*

    Just a heads up, that in many german speaking countries written references are important, but you would get them from your supervisor and not from professors or teachers. (Maybe in case you did a thesis with them, but not in general.)
    In international firms they may understand if you don’t have them, but it’s normal to ask your boss every few years for one, or whenever your supervisor changes.

    1. CL*

      They are more common outside the US as I occasionally get applications from international applicants that include reference letters. Having said that, I never look at them when hiring any more. Ones I have looked at in the past also aren’t tuned into US hiring norms and have included personal information that in the US hiring process becomes problematic: marital status, family status, citizenship.

    2. allathian*

      Yes, this. And some managers provide written letters of recommendation in lieu of accepting calls from potential hiring managers in the future.

  14. Waiting on the bus*

    My initial thought on letter #2 was actually that there are rumors about how not-happy the marriage is and director being on the defensive and touchy about the subject.

    I think Alison’s advice is the best. OP, you have a very unique in to get the actual inside information from female employees on how it is to work for this guy.

  15. Marriage = Meh*

    #2 Boss’s marriage comment. Of course I didn’t hear this person’s tone, but when I read this, I thought it was the first part of a sentence that ended “… no matter what you hear to the contrary.” After all, as his assistant, OP will hear stuff, be privy to stuff, and randos will say stuff to OP because of OP’s position.
    Sure he could think women are after him. But I hear him saying that he’s been accused of being too flirtatious, or creepy, or that someone accused him of having an affair. (There have been multiple letters from people so accused.) As women we are accustomed to every statement being an accusation. But sometimes an I statement really is an I statement. I’d talk to women who work with him.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Idk, I could see that if this had taken place AFTER the person was hired, as part of their training — here’s how I like my schedule managed, here’s the best way to get a response out of Fergus, and if anyone makes weird comments about me and women please shut that down, I’m happily married.

      I don’t see a reason to announce it in the job interview.

  16. urguncle*

    OP #3, I say this jokingly, but also not really: My Germanic coworkers will never apologize. For anything, except things that they definitely don’t need to apologize for, like not knowing a word in English. I don’t care about your English, but it would be cool if you said sorry for saying I looked terrible in that meeting two months ago, Stephen!

    1. Heather*

      lol!! That is funny about Germans! My international experience is in Japan, which is the exact opposite. They apologize for evvvverytbing. But it’s a complex thing, and they’ll apologize as a passive-aggressive way of letting you know YOU’VE done something wrong. “Ah yes I am so terribly sorry. So sorry, my mistake ma’am. As you can see, our meeting was at ten. And yet you arrived at 10;30. I’m so sorry for the inconvenience.”

    2. Nina*

      Is that what it is? I’m not German, I’m a New Zealander, but of all my coworkers ever, the German ones have been easiest for me to get on with, because I’m very autistic and they’re very blunt.

  17. L-squared*

    #3. Just let the guy apologize and move on. The thing is, whether or not YOU think its necessary, other people do. I’m sure he is mortified, even if he doesn’t think what he did was that bad. Because, for a guy, it doesn’t matter the intention, if it is known that you made a woman in the office cry, you are going to be looked at differently. And for his own reputation, he needs to make it right. Men just don’t get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to this.

    Think about it. Lets say you are at a restaurant, and you see a man and a woman talking, then the woman starts crying. Most people don’t need to know exactly what happened, or what was said, but they will assume the guy did something wrong and he is a jerk. Maybe her dad died. Maybe she is confessing to cheating. Doesn’t matter. When people see a woman crying after an interaction with a man, their default assumption is that he did something wrong.

    This guy is now dealing with this at work. I can assure you, your coworker who saw you isn’t the only person who has heard about this, and others probably think he was verbally out of line with you.

    1. Be kind, rewind*

      I don’t know if it’s a good idea to reward faulty thinking like that, though. I’ve been in situations where I cried at work out of sheer frustration (luckily I work from home, so nobody saw). It doesn’t necessarily have to be anybody’s fault. People shouldn’t assume why someone else is feeling a certain way or deliberately not listen to the person and ascribe a reason to it themselves.

      So I don’t really agree with just throwing your hands up and saying, “people are going to think X no matter what, so don’t try to set the record straight.”

    2. Bexy Bexerson*

      What? No. It doesn’t matter if other people think an apology is necessary, because they weren’t part of the conversation. And letting the guy apologize rather than telling him it isn’t necessary isn’t helpful at all. If it’s helpful to anyone, it’s only helpful to the guy….what about OP’s desire to clear this up? Doesn’t that matter? It is perfectly reasonable for OP to use Alison’s advice/script.

      I’m also not on board with your idea that men need to be so worried about these things…but even if I was, it would make even more sense for OP to let this guy know an apology wasn’t needed than to let him apologize and continue thinking he has done something horrible.

    3. Heather*

      Even taking all that for granted (and I suspect you’re going to get pushback…), there is no reason why OP can’t intercept his apology as discussed above. I think the instinct to apologize is good, anyway – better to clear the air.

    4. Jackalope*

      Is that really the default, though? I mean, that is something that in my experience (which I realize is anecdata) would depend a lot on other factors. Was he just yelling at her? Is she turning away from him, while he tries to wrench her arm around? Yeah, I’d blame him in that situation. On the other hand, is he making comforting gestures like putting his hand on hers, rubbing her back, etc? Is she leaning into him for support? In that case I would not assume that he’s at fault and would actually assume he’s being a source of comfort.

    5. Dr. Rebecca*

      I’m so tired of this sexist bullshit that all I can muster is give me a goddamned break.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        No, wait, I’ve come up with something else: you need to stop taking women’s pain/tears and making it all about you. Seriously, let women exist in public without interjecting yourself into our narratives.

        1. Unfettered scientist*

          I don’t think this commenter is saying this is how things *should* be, just that this is something to consider and a way some people think.

          1. Dr. Rebecca*

            And I’m tired of “Just let the guy apologize and move on.” being the default. No. Why should she make him comfortable. This is not about him, it never was.

            1. inksmith*

              Yes, thank you!

              He did something wrong but now she has to be even more uncomfortable to make him feel better? Like it’s her fault that he was rude? Hell no!

    6. HonorBox*

      A lot of this is probably spot on. But I think it is probably worth the OP getting out in front of things with their boss too. Because the overall reaction from everyone is so far out of bounds that they’re creating an issue for both the salesperson and the OP.

      Maybe people are assuming that the salesperson was out of line. That’s not fair, of course. The situation may have been very frustrating for OP. I’ve been there. I’ve cried when I’m just frustrated by a situation every now and again. And whether that’s full on ugly cry or just a few tears and you move on, someone viewing that is going to only know what they see. Assuming anything is dangerous.

      So it is probably worth going back to your boss, OP, and letting them know the situation has gotten out of hand and others have made this a much larger issue than it ever needed to be, which has made it that much worse. I’d love to see the boss point out to the coworker who witnessed the few tears that they needn’t react the way they did in the future. Fine can mean fine, and no one needs to read more into the word.

      And whether you seek out the salesperson or wait until they approach you, let them know your reaction was more about the larger situation than anything they did, and the outsized reaction by others is something you feel is out of left field. Let them know you don’t want them feeling bad for something they needn’t feel bad for.

      1. Olive*

        In a company with regular clients, all the long-time employees know who the jerks are.

    7. Irish Teacher*

      Honestly, I can’t speak for anybody else, but I don’t think I’d be any more likely to think “the guy must have done something to her” than I would if it were two women together or two men or a man and a woman and the man was the one crying. It would depend on the context. “One person crying, other with their arm around them” – I’d probably assume second person comforting the first over something unrelated to the two of them. “One person yelling at another and the other starting to cry” – I’d be more likely to think “jerk”.

      I mean, yeah, there definitely are people who think women only exist in relation to men and that any emotion a woman has must have been caused by a man (she’s happy – she must have a new boyfriend, she’s sad – a guy must have treated her badly, she’s angry – clearly split up with her boyfriend) but I’m not convinced that is most people and I also suspect a lot of the people who would react like that are also the type to think women are “easily upset”.

    8. Not A Manager*

      Can you see how this reasoning starts with a woman’s personal internal experience, and instead centers the experiences of the men around her? “Mary was crying, oh my God poor Kevin!”

      And frankly, “letting” him apologize seems to reinforce the dynamic that you think you see. “Look, Kevin is apologizing, he must really have done something bad.” If you’re really so concerned about poor Kevin, maybe it would be better for Mary to state upfront that it was a normal work interaction and Kevin has nothing to apologize for.

      Also, this reasoning is the other side of punishing women for expressing anything but positive emotions. Normal people can have a wide range of emotions, and show them in their facial expressions (sometimes women don’t smile! it’s okay!) or in their behavior. That doesn’t mean that the woman isn’t a capable professional or that the men around her are big jerks.

    9. Lianna*

      Completely terrible advice. Pretty sexist as well. I’m not sure what to say that hasn’t been said by other commenters

  18. Just Here for the Comments*

    LW 2: I agree the comment was weird, but actually my initial interpretation of it was that maybe he was trying to assuage you that he wasn’t a threat? Like like maybe he thought you had picked up on some flirt vibes from him and you were mentioning your husband to cut that off at the pass, so he wanted to assure you that wasn’t the case? Especially if he already knows your husband works there, so in his mind he’s like alright why is this information being brought up again.

    1. Just Here for the Comments*

      That being said, I agree with Alison to gather more intel via your husband’s connections if you want and trust your gut!

    2. BuildMeUp*

      The interviewer didn’t make that comment in response to OP talking about her husband, though. He said it in the middle of talking about his own background. Please don’t make excuses for this man’s gross behavior.

    3. Critical Rolls*

      Yeah, without being there to get the context and tone, I could see this being him trying to convey that he is not going to be flirting with or harassing his EA. It’s still not great (if you were single, would that change?) but I think this a possible less-red-flaggish explanation.

  19. L*

    How about you tell the rep that he needs to get better at filling out his order sheets? Your stress tears came about because you were trying to get information from the rep and maybe, instead of an “I’m sorry”, they could “do a better job with giving you needed info”

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      Agreed- or at least turn it into a “here’s what I need to see with these orders, and yours tend to be particularly complicated so I’d appreciate you hearing me out when I explain the nuances” discussion.

  20. Pocket Mouse*

    LW #2: It’s weird of him to say that. Perhaps, since he’d heard multiple times about your husband/that you were married, he thought you may have mentioned your husband as a way of warding off potential advances from others – and in that context, was trying to put you at ease by making it clear you did not have to worry about advances from him?

    To be honest, how I’m imagining your part in this is also a little strange to me. Like, if I were interviewing at the place my spouse works, I think I’d deliberately not offer up mentions of my spouse that much! Maybe once, around the hiring manager so that they’re not blindsided by the pre-existing relationship, but then gloss over it in any subsequent references (e.g. saying “I’ve heard that teapot sales are up this year” instead of “My spouse tells me your teapot sales are up this year”). You didn’t specify how the mentions of your husband arose, but as you say you’ve been clear he works there from the start, it seems like you were offering them, rather than responding to questions where the information was integral to your response. I’d want the interviewer to stay focused on my own candidacy, and not have my personal relationships brought to mind more than necessary.

  21. anony*

    “I’m married, happily. I just want to emphasize that.” <— this sounds like the first move of someone trying to initiate an affair.

    1. JustaTech*

      Without tone/facial expression/ context it could go so many different ways!
      1. Straight up, nothing more.
      2. Happily married, therefore I won’t ask my EA to set up my affair.
      3. Happily married, will ask my EA to order flowers/gifts, but they’re for my wife not mistress.
      4. Happily married, won’t hit on you, please take this as a selling point on this job.
      5. Happily married, don’t you dare try to hit on me, hussy.
      6. Unhappily married, will ask you to set up my affair.
      7. Unhappily married, will ask you to order flowers for my wife and my mistress.
      8. Unhappily married, will ask you to order flowers for my wife.
      9. Unhappily married, will hit on you.
      10. Unhappily married, my wife will assume that you are hitting on me and be awful to you.

      All of which boils down to: he shouldn’t have said it, and OP should get more info before deciding on the job!

  22. Dover*

    LW1: One idea that worked for me in a similar situation is a weekly status report. This lets you take credit for all you’ve accomplished, is very helpful reference for future performance reviews, and gives you an opportunity to make your current priorities and needs explicit.

    I organize mine like this: Planned Out of Office, Notes/Updates, Accomplishments, Needs/Blockers, Priorities/Plan for Next Week, Backlog/Future Work. Obviously you may desire to arrange yours differently based on your situation and your manager’s style.

    I am fortunate that my boss reads mine carefully each week, lets me now if I need to reprioritize anything, and is proactive at solving issues where he can. It sounds like you may not be so lucky, but at least the report will consistently and regularly lay out the situation so your manager will have no excuse for ignorance.

    1. JustaTech*

      I do this too, although it is just a pair of bulleted lists: What I did this past week, what I’m doing next week (I work very closely with my boss so he’s involved in all my projects).

      I find them super helpful when it comes time to write my end-of-year reviews, because I often forget what happened 6 months ago.

      1. LW1*

        My kingdom for any kind of performance review… Our org hasn’t done performance reviews since 2019. HR cancelled them for 2019 claiming they were revamping how performance management would be done and then 2020 happened and I don’t think it’s been mentioned since.

  23. I don’t post often*

    Op 1: I read the headline and thought, “oh no, one of my people just wrote in!” Based on the details, you aren’t on of my employees but you could be. I’ve only been a manager for 90 days. Most of Friday was spent with three teammates who either 1) feel overwhelmed and were asking for help. 2) receive so many emails they cannot determine what to work on or 3) have been working in this environment for two years and are just done.

    What I’ve found is that there is only so much I can control as their manager. It is amazing all of the things I *cannot* impact for various reasons. I’m discouraged myself, to be frank.

    I agree with Allison though, keep bringing it up. However: please bring it up in a non-complaining way. Just matter of fact: I have too much work. And then back it up with examples: here are five tasks that came in today, and all five take 3 hours. What should I do first? Things like that.

    1. LW1*

      Sending you all the strength!! I know my manager is trying her best and after reading through the comments I think we’ll both be happier if I can just figure out what support I need and tell her. She is very well-meaning and supportive and part of my problem is that I don’t want to make her life any harder. But I think coming up with my own plan and being really explicit and specific about my needs will actually make her life easier; I just need to believe that in my heart so my throat doesn’t close up when the time comes to tell her about it.

  24. Student*

    #2: This reminds me a ton of a boss I worked for. He was actually pretty decent as a manager.

    In my case, I worked in a very male-dominated industry. People were rarely outright sexist to my face, but frequently quietly sexist behind my back. I didn’t get the same opportunities as my male peers. Men I had trained to do their jobs got promoted over me. Men would steal my ideas and work product whenever an opportunity presented itself. Men would exclude me or dismiss my opinions frequently. Outright sexism would happen occasionally, too.

    My boss would make awkward, “low-level” sexist remarks like this that gave away the sexist stuff that was happening in his head. However, like this remark, they were often intended to remind or reassure me (or, often, him) that he was going to treat me like other (male) employees. It was his way of trying to address his internal biases.

    It worked out reasonably well because he was trying, and occasionally acknowledging a sexist impulse out loud to diffuse it. Compared to working for somebody who’s not openly wrestling with internalized sexism, it’s not great – but compared to dealing with the men in my industry who would just quietly ignore me, or who actively had their knives out for me, that boss was great.

    I agree with you that you shouldn’t really have to kick off working with somebody by making the deal of I-won’t-harass-you-so-please-don’t-flirt-with-me, like you did here. I agree that he’d never do that to a guy.

    So this comes down to a know-your-industry issue, and any additional intel your husband can get on the guy’s interactions with women co-workers. If the job otherwise seems great, and you’re very likely to encounter sexism all over the industry, then this guy might be worth a shot. Yes, you’ll end up dealing with his “low-level” sexism stuff regularly – but it sounds like it’ll be out front, where you’ll know about it and potentially be able to address its impact on you. That’s so much better than dealing with the quiet sexism of just being ignored, or sexism that’s sneakier.

  25. Observer*

    #3 – Unnecessary apology.

    As usual, Allison has excellent advice. But it’s worth thinking about whether the issue is really that your office’s culture is “too sensitive.” It’s really striking to me that you are feeling GUILTY because the people around you and the rep himself are mortified about less than stellar behavior.

    I take you at your word that his behavior was not monstrous or terrible. But, again, in your own description he was being somewhat rude over a transaction that he hadn’t put in correctly. So why is it a terrible thing that he feels mortified? And why should you feel guilty because of it? It’s not like you did anything inappropriate at all.

  26. AvonLady Barksdale*

    LW #3: My take on this is colored by something that happened to me a while ago, but don’t resist the apology. I was in kind of a sales support position and one day a junior sales guy tried to get me to leave a department meeting to help him. I indicated that I would speak to him afterwards and he got kind of belligerent, insisting I leave the meeting, which I did not do. I was irritated, but this guy was a putz and I didn’t think much of it. His boss, however, had observed the situation and approached me afterwards. She said she was going to make him apologize. I told her not to worry about it (she and I were friends) and she said no, this is a pattern, he needs to remember that he can’t treat your team like that.

    In short, this sales rep should not have been dismissive to you, and I wouldn’t be surprised if your colleague was trying to level set– they can’t treat your team like that, nor can they take advantage of your newness.

    The previous advice about using this situation to set ground rules and process improvements is really good. But ultimately where I come down is this: the guy was wrong, and no matter what your reaction, he should eat a little crow and think about his tone moving forward.

  27. EPLawyer*

    #2 – I know you loved everything about the company. But this director is who you will be working with most closely. The campus can be beautiful, the policies awesome, the pay great, but THIS is the guy you will be spending day after day with. He is already sending up yellow flags. I would use this information to evaluate what an actual job working for him would be like and whether or not you want to deal with that on an ongoing basis.

  28. Parenthesis Guy*

    “After sharing about his background and career, he transitioned to speaking about his family by saying, and I quote, “I’m married, happily. I just want to emphasize that.””

    #2 – There’s a number of things it could be. He could mentioning this to say that work-life balance is important to him because he’s happily married and wants you to feel that your work-life balance should be a priority also. It could be that he had a co-worker with a crush on him and is worried you’ll have one also. It could be that he recently knew someone whose boss hit on her and wants you to understand he won’t do that. Or it could just be basic awkwardness. And of course, it could be what Alison mentioned.

    Your husband may know more and asking him is a good idea.

    1. Zzzzzz*

      Oh puhleeeze! If you want to emphasize work life balance, you say those words: Work. Life. Balance.

      You don’t mention your personal relationships and how un/happy you may be.

      1. Daisy*

        Every company claims they support work-life balance. Just like they all claim to support diversity. Actually walking the walk is different than lip service.

          1. JustaTech*

            Absolutely. Regardless of what the director *actually* meant to say, what he’s really said is that he’s awkward (innocently or intentionally), and the OP should expect more awkwardness in other aspects of her interactions with him.

    2. Ellie*

      Nah, every time I’ve gotten a comment like that, the real intent behind it was, ‘I fancy you and I don’t know how to deal with it so I’ll talk about my spouse’. I’d be concerned too.

      Rather than mention this specific comment, could the OP ask the interviewers generally about how biases and sexism are treated in the workplace?

  29. Peanut Hamper*

    #2 – I interpreted this as a very Mike Pence style statement. And that’s worrisome if this is a person who is uncomfortable managing or working with women.

    1. cottagechick73*

      +1, why would you say that out loud? it just reeks of toxic views of women. there are other ways to indicate he appreciates work/life balance as someone suggested above

  30. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii*

    Reminds me of a Dilbert comic: No one is allowed to see our strategic plan, okay you can have a quick glance.
    Thats the warranty for your chair.
    You mean I have been managing to this for years?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      As someone in the middle of a tedious and poorly managed strategic planning process – I think it would be just as useful to tell people to use a chair warranty.

  31. kris*

    Re. #4

    I think Allison’s advice is generally correct but there are more exceptions than just academia and law. Think roles that are in very high demand, very urgent, but where the references and recruiter (manager etc) are very busy/ hard to get on the phone at the same time.

    Medicine, for example. It’s REALLY hard to get two physician leaders on the phone at the same time to do a phone reference, especially when you consider how often new docs finish residency or fellowships on, say, the east coast, but then look for jobs all over the country so interviewers need to factor in time zones. So I would say if you’re applying to very in-demand positions, LORs are far from useless. They won’t be used exclusively in place of phone references but they can be really helpful, especially if the person who writes it includes their cell/ direct line, best times to reach them, or their admin’s name/ number. Even if they end up talking via phone anyway, it’s likely to be a quicker and/or better quality conversation because they have info from the letter, not starting from scratch.

    It doesn’t necessarily sound like that’s the kind of position the LW is in, but if the letter is especially good, specific, etc., I’d consider including it regardless. And if you’re still at the point of requesting them, make sure you give them prompts on what to include. They likely get a lot of requests like this but if you jog their memory about how pleased they were with (x) project and how your goal is to go into (y) specialty because of your (z) skills, it can result in a really valuable letter.

  32. Lynn*

    Regarding letter number 1

    I asked a former manager years ago to priortize my work, and he told me “everything is priority. We do not prioritize duties.”

    What do you do in that situation?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      That’s so frustrating. I think it can come from the idea that if something gets deprioritized or back burnered, it often disappears (kind of like what’s likely happening with LW1). Or sometimes your boss is just an ass.

      I’ve found framing it differently helps. “I have five items. I can complete three in the designated time period. Which two should I reallocate to the next time period?”

      Say it less like a robot by filling in the pertinent details, but sometimes that helps. Otherwise sometimes you need to let the chips fall where they may – they won’t address it until it’s a problem.

    2. Happy Peacock*

      I have always created my own prioritization. Sometimes somebody yells about needing something sooner, and when that happens, I just change the prioritization to work on that next.

    3. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      You decide what the priorities are, let your boss know what you’re prioritizing, and let them correct you if needed.

      For some people, it’s easier to know what’s wrong than what’s needed. So you give them something that they can accept or correct.

  33. LB33*

    Was that interviewer watching MadMen recently, and so as his assistant he was telling you that you don’t have to cover for him with his wife if she calls?

  34. Qwerty*

    OP2 – My first thought was all the stories we hear from assistants of having to deal with cheating spouses and messy divorces and just generally getting sucked into the drama of their boss’ marriage. So I interpreted it more as translating to “you won’t have to manage my marriage”

    Obviously you know more about the tone and the rest of the conversation to have an idea of if that is a relevant possibility. Personally I’m in a male-dominated industry that tends towards long hours, so male managers and executives tend to use “happy home life” as their way of signalling that the job won’t destroy your personal life, since all companies claim work/life balance whether they practice it or not. So I’ve heard similar phrases from men that would have been horrified to realize how comments like that could come across. (Because they never thought it through and are used to saying the same things to dudes. Trust me that I know them well enough for this conclusion – one thought asking about plans for kids was a way to sell how awesome our health insurance was and convince people to accept our offers)

    1. WellRed*

      There are so many better ways to discuss work life balance than this. Comments like this will pretty much always come across poorly and sexist.

  35. SofiaDeo*

    #2, if this man is an otherwise “normal” person according to what you/your husband can find out, I wonder if this is some odd attempt for him to somehow work into the conversation that he is not a womanizer & won’t be hitting on you. A bizarre thing to say for sure, since one doesn’t often make statements along the lines of “I am inclusive, respectful, and won’t be awful like one hears about in the corporate world” in an interview. Because it kind of reminds me of some otherwise normal men early into the efforts to stop with the patronizing, sexist comments and actions at one workplace I was at. The men had gotten instructions to think about how their ingrained comments and behavior actually were sexist/racist, and the early attempts to deal with this were awkward to say the least.

    1. Daisy*

      Yes, I was thinking this also. OP mentioned her husband works there to multiple people. If she was worried about a company non-fraternization policy once should be enough. My first thought was the guy took her comment as “I’ve been propositioned at work in my past and am looking for a place that doesn’t allow that” and was attempting to reassure her it wouldn’t be a problem.

  36. Goddess47*

    For LW #1 — depending on what the work is, make your to-do list public. If you’re in-person, a white board or a wall of sticky notes that tells the folk coming to you what’s on your list next. If you’re online/remote, a Trello board or something like that (heck, even a read-only online Google Doc) that lists all the projects.

    That tells you what *you* are working on, tells your boss how things are prioritized and tells the people you work for where their work falls in your list. Even if it’s just you and your boss, if that’s the type of work. At the very least it makes the list concrete.

    Then if the folk you work with don’t like where their work sits, send them to the boss to re-prioritize. And get those decisions in writing. “Boss says Lucinda’s project is a higher priority than yours. Talk to Boss if you disagree.”

    And the stuff at the bottom that you’ll never get to? Either leave it there and ignore it or tell your boss that it will never get done and take it off your plate.

    The time invested in project management is time invested in sanity.

    Good luck.

    1. LW1*

      Thank you!!! I have post its on the wall right now but it’s not super capturing all the work I need to do so I need to reconfigure to a new system. Someone else suggested a public Trello board so I think I’ll try that. :)

    2. I have RBF*


      When I get stacked up I end up using what is essentially a personal Kanban board (eg Trello) that lets others see what I’m working on, what I’m waiting for others on, what’s up next and what’s been done. Mostly I do FIFO (first in, first out), but not always – some stuff has tighter SLAs or deadlines, other stuff doesn’t.

  37. Lifeandlimb*

    LW2 (Sexist comment) – This feels like a red flag to me, like “he doth protest too much.” Tread carefully.

    LW3 (Apology) – Sounds just like an honest misunderstanding by considerate coworkers. Be aware that “I’m fine” is a canned response people often use to play down problems they’re having. So if someone sees me having a strong physical response, I try to accompany it with an equally strong verbal response, like “I’m actually totally OK, just had a moment that’s passed. I appreciate your thoughtfulness though!”

  38. Rick Tq*

    LW5 (handbook) Your owner may have put a non-compete clause in the handbook and found out it is un-enforceable. This came up when I worked in California. The new HR person tried putting the clause in a new version and a bunch of us refused to sign the acknowledgement. When we discussed things with an employment lawyer we were told a couple of things:
    – The clauses were banned by law except for very limited cases
    – A non-compete wasn’t severable (removable) from the contract, so the entire contract was void.
    – Judges considered this a slam-dunk case the company would lose because CA business law is that explicit: non-competes only apply to partners who sell a business, never to employees.

    Not a lawyer, but I would expect she would having a very hard time enforcing policies in a handbook you’ve never seen.

  39. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    LW#1 – what would you want to cover in a weekly meeting? Cover it in a weekly email to your manager. Just a quick email to summarize accomplishments, things that had to be pushed back and a brief plan for the next week (and if your task list is digitized, a snapshot of what is on your plate). It will help you organize and give your manager insight into your workload and an opportunity to give a quick redirect without having to carve out meeting time.

    I did this for one of my jobs and it worked really well. Generally I kept it to 2 short paragraphs. Sometimes my manager read it, sometimes he probably did not, but it was also a really handy to have the archive of emails when writing up my self assessment for review time.

    1. LW1*

      I think this is a great idea because our meetings are usually mostly made up of me helping her answer questions and taking tasks from her inbox. Someone above also suggested a weekly report!

  40. House On The Rock*

    LW 1 Alison’s advice is very good. Your manager likely believes she’s addressed the issue, or at least hopes she has, and is waiting for you to tell her there are still problems. I can almost guarantee that she’s not trying to put you in the “benign neglect” bucket on purpose, but if she really is dealing with multiple problem employees, she’s relieved to have someone who is self-sufficient even if that take isn’t the right one. That’s not to say she won’t be receptive to further conversations. From your description, it sounds like she’s juggling a lot and is not being intentionally dismissive of your concerns. In my experience even one difficult employee can suck up almost all of a manager’s time. Her being saddled with multiple ones is not a tenable situation and it’s not surprising she’s let some things slip. Again, far from ideal but also potentially outside of her control.

    As a manager, when I’ve been overloaded, I’ve been really thankful for employees who let me know what they need from me, even if in an ideal situation I should know.

    Finally, I know it seems like your manager is perpetuating patterns you have experienced all your life, but she probably doesn’t know that. Many of us react to situations at work in ways that go back to our family. And even if you rationally you know that your boss isn’t your parent or your teacher, it helps to to remind yourself of that. Fundamentally your manager’s job is to support her team in being productive – help her do that by having open discussions about what you need.

    1. LW1*

      Thank you! I really appreciate the perspective. I’ve gotten a lot of great tips on how I can make it easier for her to give me what I need, which should increase the likelihood of me getting it.

  41. SeaJD*

    For LW2 – LW2 mentioned that the director had heard about her husband several times already before he made his comment. Is is possible that the director interpreted LW2’s comments about her husband as a way of trying to fend off male attention, and perhaps was trying to signal that she has nothing to worry about from him? This is the only non-creepy reason I can think of, and it would depend a lot on how all the conversations throughout the day went, which only LW2 knows.

    1. That wasn't me. . .*

      Yeah, that’s possible! Give benefit of the doubt, if all else seems OK. Don’t let a random comment ruin a good opportunity (if it is one!)

  42. Coco*

    LW #4: I agree that letters of recommendation don’t hold much value for applying to a regular job. But I for internships, I think it could potentially have some value. Mostly in situations where the internship is credit bearing and/or required or directly related to that professors class.

  43. Lcsa99*

    LW5: You’re assuming there is new information in the handbook that only the new person knows, but it’s likely that your boss just put in writing stuff everyone that works there already knows. It’s just officially in writing now, which is why only the new person needed to see it and acknowledge it. I agree with Alison, that it just didn’t occur to your boss to give them to everyone. You should ask her for a copy before assuming discrimination.

  44. Areader*

    #1 You have my sympathy! I wish I knew what to suggest since I’m in the same boat.

    When I bring up all I’m doing and that I’m overwhelmed and need help, my manager never even acknowledges how busy I am. She just offers unhelpful “have you tried” suggestions and every single one is something I have already done. We’re a team of 3, counting her and we’re all overwhelmed.

    The solution would be for her to engage with some of these other managers to temporarily push back on some of our deadlines so we could prioritize and at least get some of these projects knocked out.

    Instead we’re trapped in the “everything is a top priority” h*ll.

  45. That wasn't me. . .*

    Maybe. . . the comment had nothing to do with what the guy expected from the original-poster, but instead was to ward off something negative he thought the OP might expect about him. Like. . . since OP’s husband worked there, that OP could have heard he had a reputation (undeserved or otherwise) as a wolf or a philanderer. He might have feared it would cause you not to accept if a job was offered, or to examine all interactions with him suspiciously. Or perhaps – if the hit to his reputation was based on some recent rumor or allegation – it was still stinging, and he was trying to squelch the talk before it spread any further. (Unfortunately, it did more damage than good by putting him in a suspicious light.) Talk to your husband and try not to take it personally. Exercise caution, but not suspicion, I guess is what I’m saying.

  46. Chris too*

    For letter number 2 – I can understand being alarmed by that weird comment but I can think of one other possible explanation.

    My in-laws used to work together and apparently there was a certain amount of indirect hinting, particularly around vacations, that “I can’t approve what you’re asking for but because your spouse also works here I can see the context of why you’re asking so I won’t pursue it if you break the rules.”

  47. Raida*

    3. I’m getting an unnecessary apology from a colleague

    I get teary when I’m upset.
    Y’know what upset is?


    At work I’m 30000% more likely to be angry or frustrated than sad.

    So I’d tell them somethign like “Oh that’s just a normal stress reaction, I wasn’t *upset*, I was *frustrated*. I hardly think it would have been productive to start hissing down the phone at him to listen… better? to me? hah. I’ll contact him myself and let him know, we’ll need to work out a good system for complex orders in the future anyway, may as well do it now.
    In the future though, I don’t want you to not listen to me when I tell you what is or isn’t important – it’s not thoughful and kind to decide for yourself. Sorry.”


    “I’m married, happily. I just want to emphasize that.”
    “I’m having a difficult time finding some a motivation for this comment besides a sexist belief that all young women are seductresses who must be warded off with assurances of a man’s marital bliss or else she’ll have no choice but to pounce.”

    Seems like a stretch to me.

  49. AskAnEA*

    LW2 here! I so appreciate all the thoughts and comments shared here – it’s clear that there are a lot of interpretations of what the interviewer could have meant when he said what he said, which is honestly a relief.

    A lot of the reason I wrote in was to see the other interpretations for this comment, as I really did like this person and almost all of what they shared. This was the only piece that stank of sexism in the moment, and I wanted to know whether that was the only way to read it. My gut feeling wasn’t a stretch (for me or for other folks here in the comments), but I know now how else it could be read:
    *a clumsy attempt at “I’m not going to flirt with you,”
    *a signal that I wouldn’t be expected to send flowers to his mistress,
    *a completely fumbled attempt at covering up how unhappy his marriage actually is,

    For some context that I didn’t add in my original letter, the interviewer told me after our interview had ended to speak with other people in the department: “Talk to other people and see what they have to say about me, about the work, and about the company.” I was actively encouraged to reach out and get more information. (I can see now that maybe he realized that that he had misspoken during the interview and was trying to recover and show that he wasn’t hitting on me/had nothing to hide — so I’m taking that as a good sign.)

    I noticed that some people have flagged the multiple mentions of my spouse, so I wanted to briefly add some context there. Without getting into too much detail, this is a position/field where a) my spouse is relevant to the topics of conversation (i.e. I wasn’t just name-dropping for the sake of it), and b) withholding that information from the folks I met could have presented a problem later.

    In any case, I’m working with both my spouse and the recruiter to connect with folks – especially women – who have worked with this person before accepting any offers.

    Thanks again for all of your comments!

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