update: mijn baas laat me haar kleren dragen, haar eten opeten en zeggen dat ik dankbaar ben voor mijn werkmei 13, 2020
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update: my boss makes me wear her clothes, eat her food, and say I’m grateful for my job
by Alison Green on May 12, 2020
Remember the letter-writer whose boss made her wear the boss’s clothes, eat the boss’s food, and say she was grateful for her job? Here’s the update.
First of all, I want to thank you and your readers for all the wonderful advice. I’m fairly new to the professional workforce and that, coupled with ADHD and anxiety led to me believing this environment was normal and I was just a failure for being overwhelmed and stressed. I am especially grateful for the readers who reached out with offers to point me in the direction of support groups for abusive bosses or offers to help me find another job. Really, it truly meant the world to me. Also, I’m not sure my mother quite believed how difficult my job situation was, but once I sent her the link to your website, she agreed that I needed to start looking for a new job.
Long story short, I quit my job.
To clear up some speculation from my original post, I worked at an Art Gallery. Apparently it is a field full of “eccentric” rich people who have enough extra money to fund artists and buy expensive art, and then run these businesses however they choose. I’ve heard stories from many of my peers working similar jobs and it has just solidified the fact that I do not belong in that field.
I stuck it out through the end of the year for one reason only. One of my job responsibilities was creating all the promotional material for the gallery, and I discovered I have a real affinity for graphic design. Along with basic print/web promotion, the gallery also self-publishes a yearly magazine and calendar. On top of that, this past summer the gallery received commission requests for two books, all for which I was the sole graphic designer. I was waiting for those two books to go to the printer, and my plan was to start looking for a job in graphic design as soon as we received the books. Once I had made that plan, I was able to compartmentalize her quirks and unreasonable requests as there was an end in sight.
There were also a few drastic changes shortly after I wrote to you. When I first sent the letter, the second assistant “Sansa,” was a mild-mannered, foreign exchange student who, more or less, went along with my boss’s demands. But she left and was replaced by “Arya,” who was much more headstrong. Arya actually spoke up and challenged my boss when she felt boss was being unreasonable and was quick to push back on decisions she didn’t agree with. Almost immediately, she and boss butted heads, continuously. These conflicts actually enabled me to kind of keep my head down and fly under the radar, while I was finishing up those design projects. Then, Arya rage quit in April. I don’t remember the exact straw that broke the camel’s back, but it was a long time coming.
Shortly after that, Boss had some personal issues that took her out of the office most days. Therefore I was able to just do my work without her breathing down my neck. I was much more efficient when I was able to just send her my work, she’d send me edits and I’d make the corrections. I think she noticed that too, because she scaled way back on micromanaging. Also, inspired by Arya, I began standing up for myself as far as the food and clothes were concerned. I’d politely decline any request I wasn’t comfortable with, and then hold firm in my refusal. She’d still accuse me of not being grateful on occasion, when that happened, I’d reaffirm that I am happy to have this opportunity and she would go mutter to herself about how nobody appreciated her.
Things improved for a little while, but in the fall, it all went downhill again.
- At one point, she zeroed in on the fact that I like onion and pepper in my salad. She told me I could no longer have those with my lunch, because it wasn’t “ladylike”. I countered by brushing my teeth after eating and bringing gum, in case my breath was offensive. She still didn’t like it and used to make comments such as “nobody will want to kiss you if you eat onions.”….. Cool?
- She set the gallery on fire by trying to microwave a scone for 5 minutes.
- I got yelled at for a variety of reasons, some more legitimate than others. Some of the most ridiculous were:
- Her smart TV at her home (to which I had never been) stopped working.
- An Amazon package had not arrived yet.
- It was raining outside.
I did make some mistakes, but I’m pretty sure it was the rain incident that made me realize I had to get out of there.
Another problem was she had not hired someone to replace Arya, as I’d been able to pick up the slack of both positions. As a professional courtesy, I did not want to leave without her hiring at least one other person. I kept asking when we were going to put up a posting for the second assistant job, she kept dodging the subject and then finally said “Well, you seem to be handling all the work fine.”
I informed her mid-November that I would be leaving at the end of the year, giving her a month’s notice. I had registered for a full-time accelerated Graphic Design Course that started in January plus I’d pick up some freelance design/photography work. She took the news surprisingly well, but spent the next month making off-handed comments about how I would regret this decision and passing up such a great opportunity, etc. With an end in sight, I was mostly able to tune it out. She put off hiring a new person until the day before my last day, and then asked me to stay another week to train them. I agreed to come back for 2 days, which was a mistake on my part, as she spent the whole time I was attempting to train the new hire interrupting me. Anyway, we parted on good terms and I was so relieved to no longer work there.
Until the next week when she emailed, offering my job back, as the new hire had abruptly quit. I agreed to help out for one day, and have declined all future offers.
As far as the Tax Issue, I took your advice and tried to address it in a completely factual way. She got defensive, claimed this was how she has always filed her taxes, and I just didn’t appreciate how hard she worked/what a good opportunity this was/etc, so I just let it go. Due to the whole Covid-19 situation, I am missing some relevant documents and have not been able to file my taxes yet, but I will be filing the complaint with the IRS.
In spite of everything, I don’t harbor any ill-will towards her. I do not believe she is a great manager, and our personalities are not a good match, but I don’t think she has bad intentions. While I am so happy to no longer be a part of that institution, I also don’t completely regret my time there. If nothing else, I gained some great items for my design portfolio and was able to practice establishing boundaries. Thanks again for running my letter, the advice and responses were invaluable and helped me change the direction of my career for the better.