did I get too drunk at a work party, boss is super peppy, and more — Ask a Manager

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

1. Did I get too drunk at a work party?

I recently attended a work party. There was a lot of drinking and a lot of dancing. I don’t usually do much of either, but I ended up drinking three and a half glasses of wine (my usual limit is two) and being louder and more outgoing than usual. I also ended up dancing (something normally outside my comfort zone) and at one point grabbed the hand of someone I was sitting with and held it for a moment. (Not in a romantic way — I was talking to someone else, and he was trying to get my attention, so I sort of grabbed it to say “I acknowledge you and will get to you in a second.” In retrospect, this must have looked bizarre.)

My question is, how can I tell if I went too far? I’ve been back at work since the party, and no one has mentioned my behavior. I also spent a fair amount of time talking to my boss at the party, and she hasn’t said anything. Still, I keep obsessing over moments, and wondering if I was out of line. Should I bring this up with someone? Or just act professional from here on out and hope my overall behavior outweighs any line-crossing that might have occurred?

This doesn’t sound too terrible. Dancing might have been weird for you, but it’s unlikely that other people think it was weird. The hand thing and being more outgoing than usual don’t sound like big deals. Being loud could fall anywhere on the spectrum from “no one even noticed” to “yeah, it was clear you were a little tipsy but it was no big deal” to “whoa, you were out of control.”

Since you’re not sure where on that spectrum you fell, is there someone you trust at work who you can ask about it? You could say, “I drank a little more at the party than I normally do and I feel like I might have gotten too loud. I’m a little embarrassed, and I’d be so grateful if you could tell me how noticeable you think it was.”

If you hear that you made a huge spectacle, then yes, you can apologize to people. But otherwise, I think you’re fine letting it go and focusing on making your normal professional self be what’s foremost in people’s minds.


2. My boss is SUPER PEPPY

I have a question about responding to my incredibly peppy boss. She will often ask me (and other team members) if we’re excited about upcoming events or projects in a sing-songy, artificial tone. Most of the time, these are not hype-worthy things! I do get visibly excited about cool projects sometimes, but I can’t just summon it out of the blue. In fact, nothing makes me less excited than someone asking me if I’m feeling PUMPED to schedule a group follow-up meeting or prep a PowerPoint. If I don’t respond in kind, she’ll ask why I’m not excited.

How do I explain or justify just being calm most of the time at the office? I really do like my job and don’t want her to think I’m disengaged. I’ve told her before that I’m not a forced-fun kind of person and things like mandatory happy hours aren’t my favorite (but I do attend them, of course). She does this to everyone on the team and no one else seems ready to join the pep squad either. We are all pretty happy working here as far as I know – just level-headed about it!

If you were the only one of your coworkers who wasn’t super peppy, I’d be more concerned about how well you fit with the culture of the team, and whether it would become a Thing to your boss. But if no one else is into this either, then I don’t think you have a lot to worry about. It sounds annoying, but you can just keep repeating, “I’m not super excitable, but I’ll definitely get this meeting scheduled” and “Yep, I’m looking forward to this project” and “I think this project is interesting and I’m happy to do it.”

If you ever want to address it head-on (which I don’t think you have to do, but might be useful), you could say, “I sometimes get the sense that you’re hoping I’ll seem more pumped up about a project or event. I have a more low-key nature that might not always make my enthusiasm that visible, but I want you to know that I really like my job and am happy working here. I’m just pretty even-keeled about most things!”


3. My former employer sent me an abusive text

I recently went to work for a franchise that runs video game parties for events and birthdays. The job relied heavily on (but didn’t require) having a vehicle and cell phone, I don’t have a car currently and my phone had been shut off, hence my applying for work. Needless to say, time went on and the car and phone situation became more important and I had caused a party to be a little (five minutes) late. So I let them know it wasn’t working out, and that I was quitting.

It took about a week and a half of email tag trying to find out about my final pay and instructions regarding a shirt I was loaned as a uniform. I’m finally told to get in touch with the owner of the franchise in the area to discuss what to do. I explain that I can’t call him because of my phone situation but that instead I can email. He proceeds to ignore me for a few days, so I washed the shirt and dropped it off at the front door (the business is run out of someone’s house so the shirt would not get stolen). I get home and text him exactly what I had done, hoping I’d get at least a tiny “okay” or something.

Instead, I get this text directly from the owner without any kind of provocation, hostility, or name-calling of any sort to cause it: “You’re unbelievable. Truly a worthless individual of biblical proportions. Thanks for wasting our time, space and money. I promise I’ll do my very best to make sure you don’t get a job anywhere where I happen to know the owners. Sarah will mail you your check. Coward.”

I’ve never met this person or even spoken over the phone with him. I was shocked and seconds away from sharing his text to their Yelp. But I stopped and asked my parents’ advice, and they said that I should really just let it go unless he tries to say something again or withhold my pay. I guess I’m curious how other people would handle this situation, especially someone who’s been on both ends of the professional spectrum. Would you be up in arms? Would you get legal advice or just let it go like my parents said?

I agree with your parents to let it go unless there’s any issue with your pay. This guy sounds out of his gourd, and there’s little to be gained from engaging with someone like that. Even if you’d done something wrong (and it doesn’t sound like you did, but even if you had), there’s no justification for him sending you that kind of message. Blasting you like that is the action of someone with some grave issues. It’s better to leave him to stew in his own hostility and move on with your life.


4. I’m required to take two weeks off and I don’t want to

I graduated college last year and started a full-time job in November (thanks for all your help and advice on resumes, cover letters and interviewing). In this industry and anything related, it’s mandatory each employee, whether entry-level, receptionist, management, admin or board of directors, take two weeks off work in a row once every calendar year. These two weeks don’t count against our PTO. I have two weeks of PTO separate from this and those can be taken as individual days if I want. Sick time is also separate from PTO. The two weeks in a row is mandatory to prevent fraud and burning out.

My two weeks off in a row starts next Monday. It seems like such a waste to me. I don’t have anything planned. The kind of work we do is confidential and regulated so working from home / telecommuting at any level isn’t a thing in this industry. I’m not allowed to go to the building I work at or call or email during the two weeks.

Is there any way I can decline or push back? I am not close to burning out since work and home life are kept so divided. I am too new to be involved in any fraud and I offered to let my boss double check or look over everything I have touched. I don’t know why I have to take two weeks off for no reason when I don’t have a trip or anything planned. My boss offered to change it to a few months where there is an opening in the two week schedule but I don’t have the money for a vacation and I would still just be bored sitting at home. How can I talk to my boss about this? I am not looking forward to being off and don’t feel I need it.

Don’t push back on it. If it’s mandatory, it’s mandatory (and it’s a super common policy in fields that need to guard against fraud). Pushing back will look odd — not necessarily “Jane might be committing fraud” odd (although maybe that too), but more like “Jane doesn’t have a healthy relationship to work and/or doesn’t understand what ‘mandatory’ means” odd.

The fact that the two weeks don’t come out of your PTO is amazing, and somewhat unusual. This is two weeks of free vacation! You’re being paid for not working. Spend it reading, watching movies, seeing friends, cooking, napping, or whatever sounds like enjoyable leisure time to you. If there’s nothing appealing you can think of, consider using that time to volunteer somewhere that could use a daytime volunteer (which can sometimes be hard for organizations to find).


5. I don’t want to write a letter to help my coworker get less jail time

My coworker got arrested for assault last year. She assaulted a grocery store employee because the item she wanted was discontinued and it was the favorite of her autistic child. She has now pled guilty to assaulting the employee and a police officer. The other charge was dropped as part of the plea.

Our boss wants us to write letters of support that her lawyer can give as evidence during the sentencing. My coworker and her lawyer are on board. Her lawyer said the plea was only for the charges and not the sentencing. Even though it’s her first time, she will get jail time but her lawyer is trying to get as little as possible. To that end, she has asked our boss to have everyone write letters of support. She asked each of us to write a letter also.

I barely know her. I didn’t even know she was married or had a child or that her child was autistic. I also don’t feel comfortable writing this because based on the facts she admitted, I don’t like or agree with what she did. Can I talk to my boss to get her to see how weird this is? She says everyone has to write a letter but none of us want to.

Yeah, it’s inappropriate for your boss to be pushing this. I don’t know how direct you’ve been with your boss about not wanting to, but if you haven’t been very direct, say something like, “I’m really not comfortable writing a letter in this context” and hold firm. You could add, “I don’t think it’s appropriate for anyone to be pressured into writing this kind of letter and can’t imagine the court would want letters that result from pressure rather than sincerity.” If your boss continues pushing it, this is something where you and the rest of your coworkers who object should push back as a group, which will make it harder for your boss to insist.


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