Dear Margo: There Is Such A Thing As Standards

My friend is a hypocrite. Should I end our relationship? Margo Howard’s advice

There Is Such a Thing as Standards

Dear Margo: I have a friend I’ll call Betsy. She was married to Bill for 18 years. Bill left her for another woman. Fast-forward five years. Betsy works her butt off (literally), loses weight and is back in the dating game. She meets Dan, a married man, and has an affair with him. Dan eventually feels like the creep he is and confesses everything to his wife. She forgives him, and they try to move on with their lives. Betsy is furious and tries to do everything in her power to get Dan back, but he wants nothing to do with her.

Here is my dilemma: When Bill cheated on Betsy and left her for another woman, that woman was a hussy — and a few other things that are not printable. But Betsy feels she has done nothing wrong. I think Betsy is as bad as the woman Bill left her for, and I told her as much. I can no longer stand the sight of her. She knows what it’s like to have your husband cheat on you, but she doesn’t care. Betsy thinks that if I were a real friend, I would take her side. But I have morals, and she’s known for a long time what I think of cheaters. How do I break away from her? –Cindy in Boston

Dear Cin: You say, “Betsy, dear, au revoir.” Life is choices, and because you no longer have a high opinion of this woman, the friendship is no longer viable. For whatever reason, she did not translate the pain inflicted on her to her own actions as “the other woman.” She also evidently misconstrued the Biblical admonition, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” and decided it meant: “Do unto others what was done to you.” –Margo, proactively

Me, Me, Me and I

Dear Margo: I’m a 30-something manager with a much older woman working under me. We get along OK, though our communication styles are quite different. We communicate by e-mail, as well as face-to-face conversations. Whenever we do communicate in person, she never asks about me. I’ll ask how her weekend was, how is the family, but she never reciprocates. She will simply go on and on, giving too many details in answer to a basic question.

Anyway, I’d like to know how to tell her I find it rude that she never asks about me. It’s not so much that I like to talk about myself; I just find the conversation one-sided. Something I learned in college is that people love to talk about themselves, so I’m always asking how someone is, and I follow up on previous conversations. Is it too much to expect the same from someone who is beyond me in years? I’m also asking for management reasons. If she can’t ask me how I am, how can I expect her to have a two-way conversation with a customer? –Young’un in Texas

Dear Young: I have a mechanistic suggestion for you: Stop asking her anything, thereby cutting off that avenue. Unfortunately, there are people who come up short in the politesse department; happy to tell you everything about themselves, but never asking about you. And the reason is obvious: They have no real interest. Because you are her superior, however, if you have reason for concern that she has no give-and-take with the customers, by all means inform her that the one-way approach is not good for business. Use your own interactions with her as an example should she not seem to know what you are talking about. Don’t be intimidated by her age. –Margo, bravely

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

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70 Responses so far.

  1. avatar D says:

    Before LW2 starts criticizing his underling, he should find out whether she is effective at her job. If she is, leave her alone. If she is not, then bring up the one-sided conversations. Actually, before the boss brings up the one-sided conversations, he should try to find out if she is just one-sided with him.

    • avatar Jay Gentile says:

      I got the impression that this 30-something boss was really in over his head in terms of having the maturity to match his position. What the woman did on her weekend is none of his business, nor is it her business to ask questions about him. I don’t want my boss asking personal questions about me, and I don’t ask them about her private life either. Boundaries. Boundaries.

  2. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1 is probably a right winer who just doesn’t understand that other people’s values are just as valid as hers and that she has no business having an opinion about her friend’s activities, or  judging her friend because after all everyone has a right to their own beliefs and values and all must be equally respected (sarcasm off now).  Seriously, Margo is right.  I suspect the friend, having been devastated by her husband’s betrayal has decided to get *hers* even if it is not *hers*.  While her attitude is  somewhat understandable (if not admirable), it hasn’t made the friend or anyone involved in the matter happy.  If this is indeed a good friend who is just having a moment of temporary insanity, I guess I would say to her *look, I don’t understand what you are doing here…you are smart, beautiful, and could do better finding a man who is truly available to you…and your actions lately just don’t conform to the person I have known and loved all these years*.  If she still insists that her actions were perfectly fine then LW#1 can walk away.

    LW#2:  Perhaps this woman, who is your subordinate, thinks asking you questions about your personal life would be presumptuous or crossing the invisible line between manager and managed.  Perhaps she is providing too much information because you ARE her boss, you keep asking her personal questions, and she thinks she has to serve up answers to you.   But, since she is there to do her job and not be your best friend, she doesn’t think it is necessary or appropriate to  ask whether you got enough sleep last night, let alone whether your mother-in-law’s visit is going well or if your kids have won the club’s tennis tournament.  I notice you don’t say she comes to you telling you all about her life but only that when you ask her, she tells you more than you wanted to know.  Then, as Margo said, stop asking. 

    I wouldn’t worry about how she interacts with customers as I doubt the customers want to talk about anything with her except business and would be mightily offended if she started asking them questions about their personal life. 

    Seems to me maybe you should start respecting some boundaries, use your *communication skills* at work to further the business and quit asking subordinates questions they may or may not want to answer about what is going on in their life outside of work.   

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      Understandable, possibly, but I am not sure how it can be construed as admirable.

    • avatar Rita@ Goldivas says:

      I totally agree, Katherine. LW2 sounds a little immature.

    • avatar A R says:

      Well said on letter two. I don’t ask my boss anything about his wife, kid, weekend, pet, vacation—–nothing. I don’t believe he wants me to, and honestly I’d rather keep our relationship totally professional myself. Bossman, leave the woman alone. A simple, “How are you today? Nice to see you.” is enough!

  3. avatar Kate Olsen says:

    Lw1 – Your friend is a bore – rhymes with ?  –  Any woman who has been cheated on will tell you that what she is doing is not the normal response.  Her havng an affair might be looked on as pay back.  But the fact that it is with a married man is not cool.  Kudos for the man for owning up and trying to repair the damage.  Your friend will now have a reputation of a home wrecker – and with good reason.  Unless she is a friend that you can not live without, gradually loosen the ties that bind and keep an eagle eye on your hubby. If it were me, however, I would tell her straight up – “You are a bothersome whore, and a  home wrecker, you should have more feelings since it happened to you but since you do not, I do not want to be your friend anymore”  But few people have my moral standing and my guts to do what is the right thing. 

    Lw2  – she answers you because you are her superior, even though you are younger.  If in doubt, observe her while she is interacting with customers. It may be that she feels she must discuss alll with you for fear of her job.  If she interactcs with customers appropritely  then perhpas you are over stepping bounds as a supervisor. 

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      I don’t think she’s a whore. I think she’s angry and wounded, and in need of some counseling, because she’s wasting her time trying to be in a self-destructive, going nowhere relationship. I agree with LW1 in suspending the friendship, because Betsy needs to understand that her behavior has negative consequences, and that just because she wants something doesn’t mean she’s going to get it.

  4. avatar Carol David says:

    LW2: I agree with Katharine Gray. Since when is it considered okay to ask your boss how their life is going??

    • avatar Courtney * says:

      Really depends on your corporate culture, I guess.  Where I work, I’d be remiss if I didn’t inquire about how the boss’ kids are doing once in a while 🙂  (I realize fully that I do not work for the “normal” company.)

    • avatar chuck alien says:

      i guess since it was ok to go on and on about your own personal life to your boss.

  5. avatar marywells says:

    Well, I don’t think what the friend of LW#1 did is correct or good in any way, but I knew some women with self-esteem problems who acted similarly. LW should consider the hypothesis that , after the divorce, her friend might be stuck in a self-destructive path that begins with “It’s my fault, I was not good enough to keep my husband’s love”, grows into “I’ll have someone love me whatever it takes” and might even end with “He cheats on me and hits me but he won’t leave me”. I know it seems too dramatic but believe me, there are such cases. Before ending her friendship, she should talk openly with the woman and suggest counseling.

  6. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: I agree 100% Margo! It was wrong when done to that lady (and it was)…but it’s okay for HER to do it? Cindy in Boston’s reaction would be same as mine.

    L #2: From now on I’d simply be polite to her as business/employment goes, and not try to engage her otherwise; it’s an exercise in futility (and frustration for you) apparently. I’ve known people like that.  Chances are she will never reciprocate, so focus on others who can or will.

  7. avatar Barbara says:

    LW #1. Some people think “but I have found the perfect love. It’s unfortunate that the love of my life is in a marriage with someone else (implied: who does not love them well enough.)” They do not apply this thought to their own cheating spouse and the other party but it justifies them having an affair with a married man. There is no logic to this thinking and you will not be able to convince your former friend of this. It’s this fairy tale approach that you find some monumental love and nothing else matters. No thought about the pain and destruction you bring to others.

    You won’t win this debate with your friend. If it pains you to see her, then there is no problem stopping the friendship. You don’t have to have some melodramatic parting of the ways. Just stop calling or returning calls.

    LW#2 Who says you have to have personal conversations at work? How about you just get to work and let your employee do the same?

  8. avatar D C says:

    LW#1’s friend is furious.  Of course she is.  She’s been dumped TWICE by cheating men.  Her husband cheated and left his wife for another woman, so, in the friends mind, it’s perfectly logical to expect that the man you are cheating with will leave his wife for you.  The friend has flawed logic and needs someone to point that out to her.  If she’s not willing to see that side of it when LW#1 points it out, then no, they really can’t be friends anymore.  But it is understandable how the friend got to the point she did. 

    A woman who sleeps with a married man is the definition of many dirty words I don’t care to type this time of the morning with my cup of coffee only half consummed (maybe I’ll feel more like letting it rip later in the day).  HOWEVER, the world would be a better place if we’d all not jump to condemn in an instant.  The friend is probably like a lot of women who never would have gone to that ugly place, had they not been dragged down to gutter level by a cheating husband. 

    That said, my point to LW1 is that if the friendship were not important to you, you wouldn’t have written.  Be sure you take every option to understand your friend, and help her to understand your point of view before tossing the relationship to the garbage dump.  That may take all of one conversation over coffee.  Speaking off coffee, mine’s getting cold .

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      Ridiculous statement that this woman would never go to that ugly place if they had not been dragged down by a cheating husband.  People need to accept responsibility for their own actions.  She does not have to date a married man, she is choosing to do so of her own free will.  By suggesting that she and other women would not have gone their absent cheating men’s behavior, you are taking away their agency. 

      • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

        Gone “there”.  Sorry about the typo.

      • avatar D C says:

        I didn’t say in MY mind it was logical.  I was trying to get into the head of a wounded person.  Wounded people don’t always think clearly, logically, or in a family values direction. 
        I think I may be the only person who ever posts on Margo’s site that ever has any compassion for anyone.  And ever time I do I get slammed for it. 

        • avatar Deeliteful says:


          Here’s one who will not slam you. Here’s one who will also say, “Oh you, high and mighty. Until you walk a mile in my shoes, you have no right to judge.” I was more than “wounded” by my ex and you are so correct that “Wounded people don’t always think clearly, logically, or in a family values direction.” People are so quick to judge. Thank you for being the voice or reason.

    • avatar R Scott says:

      So if someone does something bad to you TWICE you get to do the same bad thing to someone else? Sorry, but no. She’s a woman who consciously had an affair with another woman’s husband. She owns that.

      • avatar D C says:

        See above

        • avatar jc97 says:

          I wonder how the WIFE contributed to all of this. Everyone always hammers on the cheater and the “other person” and the spouse is immediate off the hook. For morale reasons, yes, ultimately the responsibility falls on the cheater(s). However… Most times, there is a good reason why people cheat. Spouse withholds sex, intimacy, companionship… there’s a myriad of reasons why people cheat. I’m not saying the cheater(s) is(are) right, but it is what it is. If a person is neglected within the marriage, the human need in them will naturally drive them to someone who WILL fulfill their needs. I’m not saying it’s right – I’m saying it’s REALITY. People who are so quick to judge simply don’t want to accept how their own behavior may be driving their spouses into the arms of another.

          • avatar jc97 says:

            My Mother always told me, “If YOU don’t take care of your husband, there will always be someone out there who will”…

            Right… wrong… it doesn’t matter. It’s the truth.

          • avatar jc97 says:

            LOL! Before I get torn to shreds here, I am NOT including serial cheaters and sex-a-holics. I am talking about your average, everyday married couple that is stuck in the ditch and one of them isn’t willing to get out and help the other push.

          • avatar dovegirlie says:

            If someone is not satisfied, it is their right to leave. Cheating is always wrong.

          • avatar jc97 says:

            I never said it wasn’t wrong. It’s just reality.

          • avatar Lym BO says:

            I had a friend who cheated so her hub would leave her. She simply was too cowardly to just tell him she wanted out. Cheating was a sure way out. And it worked.

    • avatar sparktest says:

      DC – re: “A woman who sleeps with a married man is the definition of many dirty words I don’t care to type”. ok, but let’s don’t further the double standard. The married MAN who sleeps with a woman not his wife should get the same dirty words, and more. He took a vow. Both parties are in the moral wrong, only the man is more so.

  9. avatar martina says:

    LW2 – I really thought that someone was writing a letter about me.  I can go on and on about personal stuff and it’s not that I’m not interested in hearing about your life but like Kathrine Gray expressed, I’m not comfortable asking about your life because you are my boss.  I’ll ask you how you are and wait for you to volunteer information.  It’s not just my boss either but my coworkers too.  I work with a few who want to know all about me but are stingy in giving out personal information.  So, I’ve learned to be polite and again just ask how they are and wait to see how much information they are comfortable sharing. 

    This manager just needs to volunteer information without the woman asking her.  When the woman has finished telling you about her weekend just throw in a “Well I had a nice one also, we did this that and the other thing…”  I’m sure that she would be pleased that you are willing to share your personal life with her unless you’ve got all kinds of drama going on.  I find that it also makes for a better working relationship because it makes a manager more human and approachable – unless that’s not what you’re looking for.

  10. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: I don’t know enough about Betsy to agree or disagree with LW, but I applaud her for standing up for the standards in which she believes. And maybe one day they can be friends again.

    LW2: “Something I learned in college is that people love to talk about themselves.” Hmm… something I learned at my job is that the real world and college are often very different.

    Basically it boils down to this—either the co-worker is a productive member of the team, in spite of her apparent communication style, or she is not. If you still have questions as to whether or not she is, observe her interactions with other co-workers, and ask to go with her on a meeting with a client. Perhaps you’ll see a completely different person.

    And as far as whether or not it’s okay to ask the boss how their life is going—I worked in an office where wine was served every Wednesday at the sales staff meeting (a.k.a. personal gabfest). In fact, I bought the wine glasses for the staff as a company Christmas present to replace the styrofoam cups. And who bought the wine? The boss.

    • avatar R Scott says:

       “Hmm… something I learned at my job is that the real world and college are often very different.”

      Oh yeah. I remember that very valuable lesson. I was shocked at how much I did not know when I got out of college. 

  11. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – You have every right to drop this friend. You and she no longer share the same values and standards and without that a friendship is bit difficult. She seems very confused right now but you cant’ own that. Bless her heart. . . . .

    LW2 – Um, why does she have to ask you about you? You’re her boss. You need to provide her with the environment, tools, training and support she needs to perform her job. If, as her manager, you don’t already know how she deals with customers through observation and feedback you’re maybe not doing your job. There is a possibiilty that since she is older and you’re just a young’un she finds your activities and life outside of work not all that interesting. Do what Margo says, rethink your conversations and the questions you ask. Also, are you asking about her life outside of work because some nifty management class said you should or is it actually relevant and getting you something you both need to run your business? I think you’re makiing a big deal out of nothing and if I were YOUR manager  that’s what I’d be telling you. So, got plans this weekend?   🙂

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      “Also, are you asking about her life outside of work because some nifty management class said you should…”

      Ex. Act. Ly.

      One of the most important things a manager can learn is “one size does not fit all,” whether it’s the way staff are treated, or clients. I think the line about “something I learned in college” is very telling about the manager’s approach to managing. One of the things I hated dealing with in the restaurant industry was management turnover—because about half the time we’d get some yahoo who’d never waited tables before and had no idea of how to actually manage, other than what they had been taught out of a corporate training manual.

  12. avatar elaine s says:

    LW#1, Although your frienshiup with this woman is over, keep in mind that she may have been subconsciously “getting even” by having an affair with a married man.  She may very well realize this someday and probably will never do anything else like this again. 

    LW#2, This older woman may have so few people to talk to and be so lonely in her personal life that she overdoes it when you ask her how she is or how her weekend was.  You said she gives you too many details and that is a clue.  It could be that she isn’t guilty of not caring about how you are or how your weekend went, but just so hungry for a chance to talk to someone that she hasn’t gotten to the conversational level yet.  If her performance is good, please give her a break and the benefit of the doubt.

  13. avatar EmmaS says:

    LW#2: Stop trying to be friends with your employees. You are the manager, she is the subordinate. You should be striving for a cordial relationship where both parties are respected and valued and where a life outside work is acknowledged. Gabfests cross into a different sort of territory. I also do hope that you are not encouraging her to have personal conversations with customers. You don’t say what business you are in. If you have long term relationships with certain customers where some degree of personal connection might develop, that is by all means to be encouraged. Even there, however, the relationship is a business one, and appropriate boundaries should be in place.

  14. avatar susiecat says:

    I am wondering if LW2 has considered that MAYBE the older employee thinks that it would be incorrect, improper, and possibly intrusive to ask a boss about his/her personal life. I was taught a long time ago when I first started working in the late 1970’s that an employee shouldn’t ask a boss about their personal life. My suggestion to LW2 is to offer some personal details to the older employee and see if it changes anything. Also, I suggest that they, as the boss, tell the employee that it is acceptable to inquire about their personal life.

    • avatar JaneSauric says:

      My managers volunteer information about their weekends, etc without my asking. And since they all make about ten times as much money as I do, they spend weekends in Vegas, they buy new luxury cars, they acquire vacation property, they fly to Florida. I stay in my apartment, do laundry, read library books and listen to the radio. I’d be more than happy not to have to hear how nice it is to make so much money; I would prefer the workplace to be about the job. And yes, I do know how to “chat up” the customers.

  15. avatar jc97 says:

    RE: LW1… I may be throwing myself into the lion’s den here, but I have been “the other woman”… I have never been cheated on (to my knowledge), but I did have a relationship with a married man. I’m not defending this other woman, don’t get me wrong, but I just want to say that things are never black and white – every situation is different and is never as simple as it sounds. As someone who has lived the straight and narrow all my life and held cheaters in contempt, I found myself in a situation that I swore that I never would. I fell in love with a married man, and he, with me. I broke things off for the sake of his kids (I have none), and because he lacked the strength to. His wife is a shrew who is physically, mentally and verbally abusive to him, and she even physically attacked his mother on an occasion. However, she is HIS shrew until he decides to end it, without any interference from me. Life is never black and white. I’m not proud of what I’ve done, and although I could’ve deep-six’d that marriage and had him all to myself, that is not something I could’ve lived with. Our relationship would’ve had a black cloud that I doubt we’d ever been able to escape.

    I do not condone cheating. However, now that I’ve experienced it – the heartbreak, the shame, the lack of hope for a bright future with the person you love more than life itself… I am sympathetic to a point, and in some cases, understand how people can find themselves in such positions. LW1 has to do what she has to do and stick to her guns. For Cheating Friend to demand her allegiance when it goes against LW’s beliefs is not fair or respectful to their friendship. Cheating Friend should cherish the friendship, respect the boundaries, and leave LW out of her drama. Due to the nature of the situation, this is something that Cheating Friend is simply going to have to draw upon her own strength and life experience to deal with, on her own.

    • avatar Ghostwheel says:

      Ever occur to you that maybe she was shrew because he was spineless? Just mentioning that people often react to other people, sometimes badly. This is not to say that it was OK for her to be a shrew, just that you have no knowledge of WHY she was a shrew, unless you asked her specifically and got her take on it. I’ve known a lot of people that, once you removed their cheating, lying spouse from the equation, became really nice individuals. Living with crappy people does that to you.

      • avatar jc97 says:

        Ever occur to YOU that I DO know both people, and that he is anything but spineless and that was precisely the problem? She’s a spoiled brat who lashes out when she doesn’t get her way. Did the fact that she physically attacked his MOTHER not give you a clue as to the type of person she is? It’s disturbing that you don’t seem to be bothered by that. She, my dear, is the crappy person in that scenario. If you think that someone who becomes physically violent would be a peach to live with if the other person was “nice”… you’re either extremely naive or perhaps you relate a little too much to her. What kind of person does that make you, to make excuses for an abuser for sobbing out loud?!

        • avatar Amy says:

          Jc, I see a lot of your posts on here and I have to say, you don’t exactly give yourself much of a leg to stand on as far as giving us advice on moral issues. You’re aggressive, insulting, and now, an admitted homewrecker. Don’t get in our faces and insult us when speaking our minds about something bad that happened when you yourself were cabbing in the cookie jar – apparently without an ounce of remorse.

          Take a good long look at yourself – is she really a shrew, or do you paint her as such because she’s married to “your man”? Given your tendency to have a lava-hot temper, what reason on Earth do any of us have to believe a word you say?

        • avatar A R says:

          Well in all fairness, jc, no matter how the man (or woman) represents the unsuspecting spouse, how unbiased and fair can the representation be? Whether you knew her or not, the marriage and all its problems are their burdens alone. Believing that you know anything about their relationship is…well, sort of foolish and naive. You know only what he or she presents to you.

          What happens is that the “other man or woman” simply latches on to how “horrid” the spouse must be in order to feel less guilt about their part in the affair.

    • avatar chuck alien says:

      Seriously mixed up… Straight and narrow being the home wrecker, could have had him but didn’t, wife is horrible but I respect her marriage… You are screwed up lady, and I think the idea you have of yourself doesn’t match reality much.

      But keep trying to figure out how you’re still a good person. I’m sure you’ll figure out a way.

      • avatar jc97 says:

        Hey Chuck… your statement is contradictory. If I was a “homewrecker” I would have him right now. I never said I respected the marriage, in fact I think it’s a worse environment for the kids to grow up in. I’m not seeking anyone’s validation here, I was simply sharing my experience and trying to lead people toward a more sympathetic approach to a less-than-ideal situation. I really don’t give a crap what you think about me.

        • avatar Amy says:

          Of course you give a crap what we think about you, otherwise you wouldn’t bother to – repeatedly – respond to the remarks on your questionable behaviors.

          Speaking of contradictions, you say you left him for the sake of his kids, but if you just told us that growing up under an iron-fisted hell-beast of a mother is the worse environment, how on earth is this justified?

          • avatar jc97 says:

            Eh, no Amy, you are mistaken. I don’t know you, you do not know me, therefore, I don’t care what you think.

            Enjoy your perfect little life in your little ivory tower, living without mistakes or regrets, looking down on us mere mortals as we continue to fall beneath your expectations.

            Good luck with that.

          • avatar Amy says:

            *shrug* Hey, at least when I’m old and saggy I can still rely on my intelligence and kindness to keep my friends by my side. Not sure you can say the same. Good luck leeching husbands away from their wives when you have the face of an expired potato.

    • avatar sparktest says:

      jc97 – I like what you have to say here. Very thoughtfully put.

  16. avatar Lila says:

    For the manager: it is possible that the employee feels it is inappropriate to ask the boss about her personal life. Some people see that as “sucking up to the boss” or trying to ingratiate oneself. If the manager wants to open up that avenue, maybe she should try offering some information without being asked: “Sounds like you had a great time! My hubby and I did something like that, too, we… etc. etc. etc.”

  17. avatar Miss Lee says:

    Letter 2 – I have noticed that people of vastly different ages often have different assumptions regarding workplace interactions and sorting it out can be awkward.  In my own experience, I have found that sharing too much personal information with co-workers is not wise but a certain amount of chatter provides the social grease for an organization.  I keep things upbeat and short.  I often describe my weekends as “quiet, just the way I like it”.  I then add “and yours” and hope that they don’t tell me something I really don’t want to know.  It’s a mine field we all must navigate and bosses should just avoid. Although I did once have a boss who told me how she took someone home to bed that she met on a plane coming home from a business trip.  TMI!!!!  And yes, she was younger than I was. 

    • avatar Miss Lee says:

      I must add a p.s. to my comment.  The boss who shared too much did end up in a close relatinship with the fellow airline traveler.  This was good however, because of her over-sharing, when he went to the firm’s holiday party it was very awkward for everyone who knew how they met (which was pretty much everybody at the party).  Instead of her co-worker’s pointing him out as the nice guy who came into her life after she got rid of her deadbeat husband, it was “is he the guy….”? 

  18. avatar Kathy says:

    LW2 – This sounds like a very new manager who is still trying to be “friends” with subordinates.  I’ve been in management for – dare I say it – 30 years, and I also manage managers.  You almost always start by wanting everyone to like you (women especially do this).  But you realize after five years or so that they really just want you to be a good boss.  Fair, consistent, etc.  So, quit expecting your employees to ask you about your weekend.  They won’t do it.  It’s fine to do a quick, “Hope you had a nice weekend” as you pass people in the hall, or as you begin a meeting.  But don’t inquire about details, unless you REALLY REALLY want details.  This particular employee just has run-of-the-mouth syndrome.  No big deal.  Lots of people have it.  Don’t open that window and she won’t crawl through it.

    • avatar sparktest says:

      Kathy – I just posted, but also just realized I have also been managing in senior positions for 25 years! Ouch! And I agree on your gender reference. Speaking as a woman manager, depending on the culture of the company, being “nice” is sometimes confused with being “weak”, particularly in male dominated industries. On the flip side, having also worked in health care services, not being nice enough is confused with not being competant in health care operation which have no public facing roles. Sad but true. So I guess the real lesson is that you can have your own “personal culture” but you also have to be aware of your company culture and the degree of fit to moderate your behavior.  Unfortunately, I also believe the rise of the social networking culture, while wonderful in the personal sense, will do a disservice to young women trying to move up in management structures. There really is a boundary between work and home behavior, especially for women, just as there is a boundary between what behavior is allowed by men vs. women, and I believe the adjustment for many younger women coming up may be difficult (or they won’t even figure out how they need to behave to get promoted).

  19. avatar sparktest says:

    LW#2 You are her manager, not her cousin. Perhaps she doesn’t want to talk about her personal life with you. She is at a different point in her life, with different issues to deal with than you, and may not be able to relate to you, nor should she be expected to. Perhaps, like a coworker of mine, she is dealing with a late teenage son who just got jailed for stealing from his own parent’s bank account. She probably doesn’t respond to you because you make her uncomfortable by asking personal questions about things that are really none of your business. And if you get your feelings hurt because your staff doesn’t pretend to care about what you did for the weekend you need to find another job. Welcome to management. Whatever your intent, you have the power to positively or negatively impact others lives and they will not forget that even if you do.  I disagree with Margo on one thing – using your interactions with her as a “sample” of undesirable job behavior sounds childish (“you aren’t nice to ME, so you must be bad at your job”). Huh? 

    The best you can do is be congenial, do your job to the best of your ability, and measure her on her job performance to the standards set for others in the same position. If she’s in Sales, it’s about making her numbers, not necessarily about how nice she is. Sign me: a long time manager, currently in Sales, with a healthy personal life, that is not anyone else’s business but mine.

    • avatar Lunita says:

      I completely agree with you and the other posters who felt that the employee shouldn’t be expected to engage in personal conversations with her boss. Even if it was another coworker, this employee shouldn’t be negatively evaluated because she doesn’t want to be all buddy buddy with everyone at work. Many people like keeping their personal lives separate from work lives. At my work, in my department, we are pretty close and I feel completely comfortable talking to my boss about personal issues of mine and his. But this type of environment doesn’t suit everyone.

      The picture I got from the description was that the employee is responding only because LW2 is her boss and she felt obliged to but doesn’t really care to inquire about LW2’s personal life (for whatever reason). I actually got the impression that LW2 was the self-centered one here because she keeps wanting her employee to ask about her.

      Anyway, I think it’s unfair of LW2 to assume that the employee may be bad at her job just because she doesn’t wish to engage in these conversations (also unfair of Margo to assume she’s lacking in the “politesse department.” One does not have to engage in personal conversations in order to be polite.  And as others have pointed out, asking customers engaging in this behavior with customers could be construed as overstepping boudaries.

  20. avatar generator says:

    Wow…it’s not often that I can relate to both letters, but today I did. Re: LW1: I’ve learned that I can’t befriend someone you don’t respect without suffering for it. And I’ve learned to steer clear of hypocrites, because eventually their hypocrisy will turn around to burn you–a hypocrite’s only absolute value is to protect themselves at the expense of others. ALL others. Sometimes you’ve got to trim the fat.

    And re: LW2: I’m a few months into a contract position, and unlike some of my office-mates, I’m not chatty. I don’t need to re-hash my life the way others do–and wow, do they ever. There are others in the office who have heads-down positions like I do, and we’re content to sit in our cubicles and work.

    I’ve butted heads with a co-worker who can’t understand why I don’t come into her office to ask her how her life is. The plain and simple answer I wouldn’t give unless she really pushed me–I don’t care, and I’ve got work to do. I’ve learned over the years that I’m simply not wired to initiate conversations. If she wants to ask me a question about something in particular, I’m fine to answer, but I simply don’t gain any satisfaction or fulfillment from inquiring about others.

    It got to the point where I had to explain that I’m simply not a chatty person, and if she wants to talk to me she’s welcome to talk to me whenever she likes. It happens occasionally, but it’s become clear to me that her underlying intent was to receive my attention (she doesn’t care that other people in the office don’t chat with her). I’m pretty sure she’s a narcissist–she doesn’t care about me as a person; she just couldn’t stand that I refused to play a role in the movie in her head in which she’s the star. Our working relationship is fine, though. I’m just glad she’s given up trying to make me her “buddy.”

    Anyway, regarding LW2’s case, it sounds like this manager hasn’t yet learned that he can’t just paint everyone with the same brush (e.g. “people like to talk about themselves”). Good managers realize that everyone has their own unique qualities, and they’re not going to change to suit your expectations. You’ve got to work with what they’ve got.

  21. avatar Jean B says:

    I didn’t read very far down the comments but I totally agree with Kate Olsen on LW1. I have been cheated on, I would NEVER inflict that kind of pain on anyone. No one deserves that kind of pain, except maybe the ones who have been the cheaters who don’t repent and change their ways. It does serve them right when it happens to them.

  22. avatar Wendy Saunders says:

    I had a friend who took an exception with a life/love choice I made. After a few months of telling me that she didn’t like what I was doing or the man I was seeing, she dropped me. I understand why she did it, although the dire things she predicted never occurred and my man and I are still together years later. I’m sorry she couldn’t see past her own pain and life experience to see my situation clearly. But her ethics are hers, and I respect her choice. I miss her though and I wish she could know how happy we are and how lucky I am.

    If LW#1 cannot bear the sight of her adulterous friend, then she should tell her why she will no longer be talking with her or seeing her and tell her to have a nice life and move on. Then she can go back to her self righteous life. Her adulterous friend won’t miss her because she’ll realize that she wasn’t a true friend. True friends love you despite your flaws. Hate the sin, love the sinner.

  23. avatar Grace Malat says:

    LW 2 ~ Hmm I believe you need to get over yourself.

    Let’s see you are the woman’s manager, her superior and you want her to ask you about yourself, you say you ask her and then she goes on and on, but does not reciprocate.
    In most companies, businesses, etc. Personal information and conversation are not for manager’s and subordinates. When you ask her and she’s a bit TMI, it’s most likely due to nerves or not knowing how much you want to know, she’s trying to give you the information you seem to want but she doesn’t know how to stop the flow of words.

    The second thing is this she’s older she comes from a different generation where you don’t ask the boss about their lives, that would seem intrusive and disrespectful.

    Now if she’s doing her job and interacting appropriately with customers and her peers in the company then there is no problem. You are the problem, stop asking her for information it probably feels like an inquisition to her, and then her manners and respect keep her from reciprocating. You are not best friends, and you come from a generation where everyone knows everything about everyone, down to the blueberry bagel and mocha latte they had for breakfast.

    Bottom line is this you are her boss, not her best friend. If she is doing her job well and interacting with others appropriately then you are the one in the wrong, and have been. Stop asking her and putting her in an awkward position. A simple hello, how is the x project coming along is all that is necessary. And if you keep up the pressure you could open yourself to a lawsuit for creating a hostile work environment. What you are seeing as friendly she may be seeing as intrusive.

    She’s not being rude she is following correct office/business protocol at least for most businesses. So back off.

  24. avatar Lillie Dove says:

    I also work in an office where everyone, including my immediate boss, is young enough to be my child. If you don’t go to the cafeteria with them EVERY TIME you go, then it’s an insult. I’m trying to be sympathetic and understanding, but at about 2 pm, I am so tired of the constant chatter that I have to find a conference room to concentrate. They talk so fast that it sounds to me like “blippity blippity blip” and their concerns remind me of a 90210 episode. They feel very entitled as a result of having parents (my generation) who were able to provide them with a lot of creature comforts without much effort on their part and from us telling them they are special and can do anything.
    As for ‘what I learned in college”, the same applies to how you were treated at home…. you get out into the real world and nobody thinks you are as special as your parents did and school theories usually bear no resemblance to real world situations.

    The boss in this scenario is not being a good manager. Good managers respond to their subordinates’ strengths in order to build a good team.

    What lousy advice from Margo. The boss is creating this situation. Manager states that she wants to tell the employee she is being rude by not asking about her. Well, consider this, maybe your employee will write to Margo asking how to get you to STOP asking about her personal life because she thinks you’re being rude.

    • avatar R Scott says:

      Right on! (do people still say that? have I just aged myself?)

    • avatar generator says:

      “If you don’t go to the cafeteria with them EVERY TIME you go, then it’s an insult” — I can relate completely! The high-school cafeteria mentality carries on when Gen Y enters the workforce, and if you don’t treat the “popular table” like they’re the centre of the universe, they take it as a personal insult.

      The only people whose personal lives I care about are my friends. Working in the same office with someone doesn’t make them my friend. There are good reasons for keeping professional distance, especially if you are a manager.

  25. avatar Caramia says:

    Letter writer 2 – since she’s much older than you, she could have been raised in an era where manners dictate that the woman initiate the handshake, in this case, the information.

  26. avatar VJ Dark says:

    Others have said it; LW #2 sorely needs to hear it and read it again: Get over yourself, and do your job and let someone else be free to do hers. You sound narcissistic and entitled.
    Stop calling coercion of others “courtesy”. It’s what they mean by the saying “Don’t s-it on my cupcake and call it frosting.”

  27. avatar Lym BO says:

    CIndy in Boston: Perhaps you can try introducing Betsy to some available men or giving her some ideas how to do this. She may be bewildered how to do this. I would be. If she continues down a downward spiraling path you don’t approve of morally then dump her. But do remember she is likely flailing as a single gal and isn’t sure which way is up. When Bill cheated on her, she lost her future, her self-esteem, etc. She is simply trying to regain that albeit via someone else’s hubby. She needs direction without condemnation. She knows it was wrong–or will realize it soon.

  28. avatar Lym BO says:

    Love, love, love your last sentence in “There is Something Such as Standards’!

  29. avatar Cool One says:

    Gee, did my boss write in? No, I will NOT ask about my boss’ personal life. He’s single and childless and in many ways still building his life. I’m married with adult children. He never volunteers, and I prefer not to fraternize with management. 

    At times, I have to tell my boss something, like, “I’m going to have a medical procedure on Monday, so I’ll be out for a couple of days.” This may seem like oversharing, but company rules specify that he know at least something about why I am out. If I am out with my disabled husband, I feel I need to explain a bit more in order to justify the Family Medical Leave.

    However, nearly everyone in the building comes to me when my expertise is needed. As to our customers, they appreciate that I can be reached when they need something, unlike my boss or most of my coworkers.