Boss excludes only me from one-on-ones
November 13, 2012 1:07 AM   Subscribe

Boss offered to sit down with everyone in my department, but ignores my responses to set up a time (and just mine). What do I do?

(Sorry this ended up so long.)

I work in a bit of a unique situation. It's a special project that just ended, so we all lose our jobs. My boss has emailed my department offering to sit down with each of us to discuss our next steps for jobs. That's great. But he emailed us all a couple weeks ago offering and I said I was free anytime and he ignored it. And then a couple days ago he emailed me and a couple other people saying basically, "We still haven't met so let me know if you are free tomorrow." I wrote back and said I was free all day and again he ignored it. I checked with the other two people on that followup email and they sent the same types of responses to him, and he set up times and places and met with them today. I don't know what to make of this.

The possibilities I see are: 1) He missed my emails both times. Extremely doubtful. 2) He doesn't like me. I have skipped a lot of departmental social outings because I have social anxiety (not something I tell people, so people normally just think I hate them). I also am generally nervous and awkward around him because he's my boss and bosses intimidate me, so maybe he doesn't like being around me for that reason. 3) He thinks I sucked as an employee. He never said anything to me to make me think he had a major problem with how I performed at work. (There were a couple instances where he got pissed at me, but I was a middleman and they absolutely weren't my fault - not that I think he recognized that. But everyone has tense moments or small mistakes at some point and I don't think two instances where he got annoyed at me defined my entire employment there.) It was a pretty autonomous role, so I don't think he saw what I did most the time anyway, which kind of sucked, because I really couldn't show him how I was valuable. But really, he never saw when I did things that worked right and did see anytime I messed up or tried to leave early (I literally picked the worst days everytime I tried to leave a little earlier than usual) so maybe he thinks I sucked and he wouldn't refer me to anyone, so that's why he doesn't want to meet.

What should I do? He is leaving at the end of the week and meeting will be out of the question after that. I can't shake the feeling that it's a combination of 2 and 3, in which case, I don't want to email him again or call him and force a meeting. Meeting with someone who dislikes me and doesn't want to refer me for any jobs is not going to help me in any way. And being in a meeting with someone who doesn't like me and thinks I suck sounds miserable -- I am extremely sensitive to social rejection (hence social anxiety) so I don't want to force a meeting if 2 and 3 are the case. Should I just send an email thanking him for my time there and wish him the best and be done with it? I honestly find it humiliating that he would offer to have these sit downs and then ignore my responses. I mean, he should've just "accidentally" left me off the emails. It hurts my feelings and I kind of want him to know how uncool it was, but would I look insane if I mentioned that the other two people said they met with him and I never heard back from him either times, so I assume he doesn't want to meet with me? I almost want to email him and confess I have social anxiety and apologize for not being more social or ask if there was something I need to do to improve my work performance. But I realize, if I am not dead-on correct in my assessment of his feelings, I will look crazy.

The truth is, this whole ordeal has really bothered me. Out of the blue, I feel like I have behaved in such a way that this guy is leaving this experience hating me and he waited to show it until the end when he had no obligations as a boss to me anymore. By all accounts he was a good/reasonable/nice boss and it makes me feel like absolute shit. I didn't have any illusions that he and I would remain friends after this or that he'd be going of out his way to get me jobs -- I already felt disappointed with how this experience went -- but the fact that he seems so adverse to a meeting that he offered just hurts. I've sobbed very hard over this and I almost want to ignore the whole situation. Given how I've ignored all the offers for social outings, I'm not sure that would surprise him or look unusual. But this feels like a very odd way to end this experience. Normally, I'd just send my boss a goodbye email thanking them, but now it feels embarrassing, like he is going to read it and roll his eyes or get more annoyed by my email.

Is there an objectively best way to respond to this situation? I don't feel rational anymore.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (48 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: poster's request -- cortex

Or 4 you were vague and the others were specific, suggest an actual time. I know I hate it when I ask someone for a meeting and they say "oh whenever". Anyway, see if that gets you any further. And maybe pick up the phone to do it ("Hi, I can do 2pm tomorrow, is that good for you?"). And don't mention the unanswered emails.
posted by The Monkey at 1:22 AM on November 13, 2012 [12 favorites]

Go talk to him. Out loud, not in an email. He sent you the followup email which seems to indicate he's not opposed to meeting with you and your direr fears may not be warranted.
posted by pseudonick at 1:23 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Dude, you keep putting the onus on him. Say, let's meet at 10.30, or 2.00pm. Do through phone or in person, not email.

I think your social anxiety is getting the better of you here, both in the sense that you're over-thinking it, and that you're avoiding asking for what you want in an assertive fashion.
posted by smoke at 1:34 AM on November 13, 2012 [13 favorites]

Give him a call and say "Sorry I missed you the other day. Do you have time tomorrow?"
Sometimes you just have to have faith in people and sometimes you have to step up your method of communication in this modern world where electronic communication is not perfect.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:40 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just get up and walk over and ask him when he's free to meet with you. Once you've been given a timeslot you send him a formal meeting invitation for that timeslot. Easy as that. It took you a lot longer to write this post than arranging this meeting would have taken. This guy has other things to worry about than liking you or not or your perceived issues with him. He's very soon going to be your ex boss and doesn't care one way or other.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:43 AM on November 13, 2012

As an organization and as people in our 20s, we do everything over email.

Well, I'm not sure what you're looking for here. If you explicitly rule out the options likely to get you the clarification you desire, and quite likely the outcome you want.

I'm 31. I work with a wide diversity of people including many in their twenties. We call each other when we want to or need to, and it ain't a thing. I call some of my youngest colleagues the most often. Everything is not done over email in any company or group I've worked with in a professional setting.

Again, I think you are attempting to normalise your anxiety and also project it on to others. I understand how difficult it can be, but if you consider the amount of hours you've likely wasted agonising about this, the temporary pain of a two minute phone call is truly not so bad - if, that is, you genuinely want to catch up for some advice. Do you want that?
posted by smoke at 1:57 AM on November 13, 2012 [15 favorites]

So call him.

You are in an unusual situation, as you said, not your standard "email only" work dynamic. The very, very worst thing that can happen if you call him (with a specific meeting time in mind) is that he'll say "I don't like you. I don't want to meet with you." And then you'll know, and you'll have lost nothing. The chances of this happening are very close to nil.
posted by distorte at 1:58 AM on November 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

If you want to know what he's thinking you need to confront this.

Email him - "Not sure if you got my last emails but I'm available to meet x day/time if you would like to meet to discuss x".

Now, if he does not want to meet to discuss this, he will say so because this is an email between you and him (and not a group email/a response to a group email).

If he's ignoring you (and continues to do so after the above), then he's being massively unprofessional and you're better off not working for him anymore.

Normally, I'd just send my boss a goodbye email thanking them,

You should do that even if you don't hear from him - rise above the crap.

but now it feels embarrassing, like he is going to read it and roll his eyes or get more annoyed by my email.

Who cares - you won't be there to see it - rise above.
posted by heyjude at 2:03 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

[OP, if you want to clarify something that's absolutely fine, but it's better if you do so calmly, without the ALL CAPS. Thanks.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 2:15 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't think you've got the right perspective here, but I'll take you at your word. Your boss hates you, and has gone to the trouble of sending you two emails just to make you squirm. He is unreachable in any way except email, and he will never respond to your emails because he hates you. All you want out of this deal is to not suffer under his silence anymore.

In that case, there's really only one option. The job is over, and there is no future for you with that job. Just forget about the whole thing. There is literally no other option given your stipulations.
posted by Houstonian at 2:17 AM on November 13, 2012 [20 favorites]

Despite what your anxiety is telling you, it's much more likely that it was just a mistake on his part, or he ran out of time for meetings that day and forgot to get back to you (or left the onus on you to follow up because that's what bosses do). Just email again along the lines heyjude suggests and ignore all the "could it be that he hates me" tricks your brain is playing on you.
posted by crocomancer at 2:18 AM on November 13, 2012

Hanlon's razor: Your responses are mistakenly getting caught in his spam filter. Call him when you'll be sure to get his voicemail and say "Have you gotten my emails? Regardless, I feel no need to meet. Enjoyed working with you..."
posted by at at 2:22 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I mean, he should've just "accidentally" left me off the emails.

So think about that for a second - if he truly never intended or wanted to meet up with you, why wouldn't he have just done that? The only suggestion you give is that he wanted to show you that he hates you, and that sounds a lot more like your anxiety talking than any objective fact about the situation. You don't give any reason he would hate you (not going to social outings does not usually incite hatred in others), and plus, this would be a weird and puzzling way to demonstrate hatred, because most people would just read it as disorganisation or forgetting or an overactive spam-filter on the boss's part. I get that this is very distressing for you, but it might help you to realise that this level of distress is not something your boss could have anticipated.

Think about the way you're framing this: your boss is 'ignoring' your emails. That implies it's on purpose: your boss is opening the email, reading it, and then thinking "I will avoid arranging a meeting with AppleTurnover, because of X." And you're asking us, "what would X be?", like the rest of that scenario is just taken for granted. But you can't take that scenario for granted, because you don't have the information about what your boss thought and did; all you have is the action (boss did not reply to email). Here are some other scenarios for that:

- he never got your email, due to technological issues/spam-filtering/whatever;
- he got your email, but deleted it or moved it to another folder accidentally, and so didn't realise you'd emailed him;
- he got your email, but misread the sender's name, and didn't open it because he never bothers reading emails from 'AppTurnover' his uncle-in-law who always sends around those glurgy email chain forwards;
- he got your email, and planned to get back to you, but totally forgot about it and it got swept away in the inbox deluge (most likely option IMHO);
- he got your email, and planned to get back to you, but was waiting for a more specific time (I know you say the others emailed him saying the same thing you did, but you don't know exactly what words they used);
- he got your email and did get back to you, but you never got his email, due to technological issues/spam-filtering/whatever.

I have a small team of people who work for me, plus a bunch of students I'm responsible for, and I have had every single one of those above things happen over the years. I have never once arranged to set up a meeting deliberately to show that I hated someone.

Pick up the phone and call him.
posted by Catseye at 2:29 AM on November 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Okay, to clarify, since you mention that you really really don't want to call him:

I suggest doing this because several possibilities here are that he's just not getting your emails, or you're not getting his, or they're being redirected to a folder he checks once every six months or something. If that's what's going on, emailing him a third time won't help - and it will end up making you feel worse, because you'll tell yourself it proves he's avoiding you. Phoning rather than emailing will solve that problem.

If you really really can't face the thought of speaking to him, call him at a time you know he won't be answering and leave him a voicemail.
posted by Catseye at 2:31 AM on November 13, 2012

I don't want to have this meeting if dislikes me or thinks I was a bad employee.

It's human to feel this way, but you simply aren't in a position to set conditions like this. Conversations are for communicating. You can set boundaries around what sort of treatment you will tolerate, but since you can't know what other people think or feel until you actually talk, you are stuck with either uncomfortable risk or crippling avoidance. Your boss may like you or may not; he may have been happy with your work or he may have been unhappy, or he may have not known what to make of you, or he may not have noticed you. Even if he wasn't happy, he might have some constructive suggestions. You don't know, it could be valuable to know, and you can't know unless you meet.

If your boss has a history of being cruel, flying off the handle, imposing values you don't share, etc. then there's no point. If you respect him and regard him as a smart guy whose thoughts and experience are valuable, then take charge a little and make the meeting happen.
posted by jon1270 at 2:41 AM on November 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

that of course felt like he had finished all his meetings as far as he was concerned and was now sending out more followup advice to the group

Now you're just making stuff up. You have no idea why you got overlooked and you have plain evidence that it was a mistake (he wouldn't have sent *any* of the emails so far if he wanted to avoid you) so just cell him or email him already with a really clear: Hi there, we still haven't had that meeting you suggested, I'm free tomorrow between x and y or any time later this week, when would you like to meet.

Because giving in to the stories your anxiety is telling you is going to be worse than just going and seeing what he has to say. If you give in, you're going to stew about this forever and it will just make it harder to stand up for yourself next time (yes, I know from experience). Seriously, this isn't even a social situation, it's a professional thing and no one you worked with cares about you enough to go out of their way to fuck with you in the manner your brain seems to think they are.
posted by shelleycat at 2:46 AM on November 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

(By 'making stuff' up I'm not referring to your feelings by the way, but the convoluted reasoning you've come up with about why your boss is doing things. You are making a million assumptions all the way along, stop doing that and just suck it up and actually find out what's really going on)
posted by shelleycat at 2:49 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I can reply to that, and I can also CC his work email.

Pick. Up. The. Phone. It seems like email isn't working for whatever reason; stop using the same ineffective medium and expecting different results. Email is a passive medium which many people are bad at managing effectively and a phone call gets a direct "this place/this time" with no ambiguity.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 3:59 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

It is absolutely trivial to assume the worst, shoot down all advice, and sit in a dark corner and be completely convinced that you are in an intractable situation. It is the easiest thing you can do because there is no action to take. You are taking the easy way out of a socially problematic situation and that accomplishes exactly one thing, which is the continued cultivation of dealing with problematic situations with inaction. Convincing yourself, and trying to convince us, of all the things you have said is not doing something. Effectively, you are ignoring him, which is much worse for you -- personally and professionally -- than a polite "hey chief, I'd really like to take you up on that lunch if you're still available."

I doubt you want to go through life the way you are now, but the only way to stop the cycle is to keep doing something until you get what you want, or you get hard and inarguable evidence that you have failed (in this case that would be your boss explicitly saying "no I do not want to meet" and nothing short of that.)
posted by griphus at 4:06 AM on November 13, 2012 [23 favorites]

A couple of things I've realized over the years. One is that the worst case scenarios I invent in my head in situations like these never come to fruition, so I shouldn't waste my time fretting over them. Second is that I'm not as important as I'd like to think I am in said situations. Do you think your boss is giving this as much thought as you are? Highly doubtful. I'd say this person is likely busy, with lots of obligations that are more pressing than meeting up with you.

I'm left wondering if you have sought any help for the avoidance issues outlined in your previous question because this is a clear example of how some professional help could go a long way towards helping you with these issues. You don't have to go on like this.
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:47 AM on November 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have social anxiety that can get especially bad at work, and that I am sure has stood in the way of countless opportunities, so I say this with kindness and an intimate familiarity with that horrible pit-of-the-stomach feeling: stop bullshitting yourself over this and do something. It won't resolve, and you won't feel better, until you take action.

Send another email, and keep it non-accusatory ("hey, we never got around to having our meeting!") and specific ("does X time work for you?") Check the "high priority" box. Set the appointment up yourself in whatever scheduling program you use. Send an IM if your group does that, or be an anomaly and pick up the phone. You don't want to be a pest, but you really do want to be persistent.

The truth is that many people are flakes and/or a little bit lazy. If no one ever followed up with their coworkers multiple times, things would just not get done. Your boss might be super disorganized or dislike meetings in general. You don't know. And, in most situations like this, you can safely assume it has nothing to do with any personal animosity. Your boss probably likes you fine. Almost everyone has been in a situation where a higher-up seems to ignore them and only them, and it's just an oversight. You don't notice it when it happens to other people, which is why it seems to happen only to you. I've been there.

You do realize - it comes through in your question and your follow-ups - that your unchecked social anxiety is currently a severe impediment to getting what you want. You cannot go through life always letting this fear get the better of you. It will cost you all sorts of opportunities. You need to learn to handle it in situations like this. I think you're a good candidate for therapy, but you will also have to practice conquering your fear in real-life situations. Think of this as the first step.

The fear is always the worst part of a situation like this. Once you take action, the relief is immediate. Good luck.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:49 AM on November 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

Pick up the phone already. You should especially have the meeting with him if he thinks your were a crappy employee because then he can give you some constructive criticism on how to avoid being percieved that way in future job placements. For one thing, he might say you're stubborn and unwilling to consider other possibilities and perspectives...
posted by WeekendJen at 5:27 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

>- he got your email, and planned to get back to you, but totally forgot about it and it got swept away in the inbox deluge (most likely option IMHO);

This. Times a thousand. Happens all the time. It's one of the reasons persistent people do well - because they overcome others' inertia/poor organisation/busy schedules.
posted by penguin pie at 6:04 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Email him again. Don't give him an "out." He can give himself and out if he wants one. Say, "I am free all day X. How about 10:30 a.m. at Starbucks?"
posted by J. Wilson at 6:11 AM on November 13, 2012

Are you all on Outlook or something similar? A calendar request could avoid the phone call that you seem to not want to make and still make it clear that he has to take some sort of action w/r/t you. Send a meeting request that he can accept, reject, or reschedule.
posted by xingcat at 6:14 AM on November 13, 2012

There are only two reasons to worry about other people's opinions.

1) You admire them, respect their knowledge, or care about them.
2) They have the power to help or to hurt you.

It sounds like 1 is not the case, and as for 2 - you're losing your job anyway, so any power your manager may have over you in the future is very limited. So who cares if he hates you? I assume you're not using him for a reference, so as far as you're concerned his opinion might as well be dust in the wind. (Although it's probably best not to let him know this - people tend to get angry when their worth is questioned.)

That said, you have the opportunity to gain (in an admittedly limited way) from talking to him, even if you have to put a little more work to get the meeting (ie, call him. On the phone). If nothing else, it gives you an opportunity to be charming and change his mind somewhat, developing a potentially useful professional contact, and leaving the company with a better feeling than you currently have.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 6:18 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oooh, I have been where you are! It's okay.

I write a little script for myself when I have to do difficult things. And if YOU think it's difficult, then it's difficult - no matter what anyone on mefi says.

This would be my script:

1. Open a blank email

2. Paste in the following text: "Hi! Sorry we weren't able to connect with a meeting time earlier. Are you available at all? Some times that would work for me are: **** Let me know what you think!"

3. Look at your calendar. Pick 3 times.

4. Where the ***'s are in your email, put in those dates/times.

5. Put his email into the To: field.

6. Click send.

The thing about this method is, no single step is overwhelming. Every single step is doable right? And you are not making a demand. That is always the key thing to get me over this hump. You are not asking for anything, you are just asking for information (is he available).

Totally. Doable.

Click send, leave it up to the universe.

Hugs to you!!! Social anxiety sucks, and yours is way too loud right now. Just baby-step your way out of it. You can do this!
posted by selfmedicating at 6:29 AM on November 13, 2012 [10 favorites]

Criminey. You've worked yourself into a froth over this. It's just not that important.

Screw what the ex-Boss thinks, what do you think the benefit to you would be to push this? Does he have ins to new assignments? In the best world, what can he do for you? If it's something good, don't let it drop.

If you want to give it one last try, send the email selfmedicating recommends above.

If you get nothing, oh well, what are you really out?

There's no reason to get wrapped around the axle on these things. I doubt seriously that your ex-boss hates you. He probably doesn't think about you enough to hate you.

And if he does dislike you, oh well. That's not your problem.

He didn't fire you during the project. He didn't give you any bad feedback. His attitude is nothing he actually did, it's your brain running a horror movie for you.

At this point, if you feel there's nothing positive to gain from meeting with him. Then don't. He has no hold on you.

Have you thought about getting on some meds. Seriously, they can change your life!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:02 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your boss is busy - please don't take this personally. I supervise staff on my job and have certainly forgotten to do things despite multiple reminders, and it doesn't mean anything about how much I want or don't want to do said thing, it has everything to do with being overwhelmed and busy. If you did call he'd probably just be embarrassed and apologize for not getting back to you sooner.

There is nothing wrong with CC'ing a second e-mail address if the person you're trying to reach is not answering on the original one. Trust me, he wouldn't give it a split second of thought regarding you trying to 'force' the meeting - he's the one who's emailed you multiple times about trying to schedule it!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:03 AM on November 13, 2012

it literally seems impossible that my emails are going to his spam filter.

The other day I found out that my phone had hidden every voicemail I'd gotten since mid-October. Literally no evidence of them whatsoever. By chance, as in I would normally never have done this, I was messing with my phone password (a feature I've never even used) and they just appeared. Some were work-related; some were about things where I'd been wondering "Why didn't that person call me??" Maybe your emails didn't go into his spam filter but you never know how technology is going to try to screw up your life. And I am a person who does worry that people hate me - because in the past some people have really hated me - but when I found the VM's I was worried that other people would think I hate them, because I appeared to just ignore their calls.

So, like I said sometimes people really do hate you, or dislike you, through no fault of your own. I don't think that's what's happening here, fwiw - I think he either didn't get the emails, or forgot about them, or he just notices your colleagues more. Meaning they are just more visible to him, literally or figuratively louder, so your meeting slipped through the cracks. But say he does hate you, either because you remind him of his old roommate who used to steal his stuff, or because he can't stand people who don't go to work social outings, or because he thought you weren't that great at your job*. what?! You don't need him to like you, it seems - you don't even need to have this meeting, do you? It's not required for a grade or a recommendation or anything? If he was your current boss and didn't like you, then you'd have to think of how to manage that, but it sounds like that's not the case. I would actually encourage you to call or email again as everyone else has advised, but if you don't, it's not the end of the world, right?

*That doesn't happen, by the way. Bosses (or whoever) don't hate employees for not showing up to bars or for not being the best worker ever. They might like or notice them less than other employees, but they don't hate them unless they (the bosses) are irrational to begin with. In which case, not your problem!

Oh, also, even if he dislikes you, he can and will still have the meeting and be civil and act normal about it. Much of life and work is going through these kinds of motions. I've worked for a million bosses (I don't really know the number, but imagine many, many years of temping) and I'm sure some liked me, some barely knew who I was, and some didn't like me at all. Only one ever did something to me on the level of nasty that your boss would have to be to intentionally exclude only you from these meetings. Barring the rare completely crazy person, or an unusual situation at work (which your description does not demonstrate) the vast majority of people will just sort of unthinkingly do the thing they're supposed to do and then get on with it.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 8:07 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

It doesn't matter why. Your responsibility as an employee is simply to schedule a specific time with him, and show up for it. If he does not attend the meeting, set up a second appointment. If he does not attend that one, send him an email (copying his boss) stating that you're not sure why he hasn't attended either of the appointments you set up, you trust that it is simply a matter of him having a very busy schedule, and that you're willing to sit down with his boss (which justifies the CC) to have the meeting if he can't make room.
posted by davejay at 8:38 AM on November 13, 2012

Could be for some reason your email doesn't get to his. It happens and it sucks.

posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:08 AM on November 13, 2012

The objectively best way to respond to this situation is to pick up the phone and call him. Here's why:

1. A phone call is the most direct way to circumvent any email or boss-is-busy issues, which I agree are the most likely scenarios.
2. You need to practice making phone calls even when it's uncomfortable. There will be many times in your life where you need to escalate from email to phone call. There's a tragic number of people with access to email who have terrible reading comprehension skills!
3. On the far-outside chance that your boss is trying to humiliate you in some way (which I sincerely doubt), calling him would actually be a great way to take control from him. Empower yourself!

I strongly urge you to get some counseling to help you with this type of avoidant behavior. In real life, it comes across as passive-aggressive. You know how people say not to perform "secret tests" on other people? That's what you are doing here and it would benefit you to get out that habit. You don't know what he's thinking. He doesn't know what you are thinking, either.
posted by stowaway at 9:22 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Dude, calling or whatever wont make the difference. It's obvious that due to your social anxiety you prefer the other side to be a bit more proactive than yourself, I have the same, and do the same a lot.

When you say "I'm available all day, let me know" you give a person that is most likely organized and structured an no info agreement, he has absolutely no clue what do with this. Just let him know when exactly would you prefer to meet, i.e. "Hey could you meet up tomorrow at 14.30? Or maybe Thursday, 15.00?"

I'm sure this whole thing is much more simple than it looks.
posted by ahtlast93 at 10:12 AM on November 13, 2012

You have spent 10x the energy convincing us that you tried to the have the meeting no really here are a hundred ways I've tried and reasons and because etc than you've legitimately spent trying to have the meeting. Make the meeting happen or don't, but stop pretending you want it to because your actions say you don't really care. If he really disliked you he wouldn't be going to all this trouble to include you and then avoid you; he'd just avoid you or "mistakenly miss you". And, actually, who cares? If he dislikes working with you then you should force that and know why and know directly anyway as that's valuable feedback. All you've got now is just guesses.
posted by marylynn at 10:52 AM on November 13, 2012

I really feel for you -- I've had a similar kind of social anxiety for pretty much my whole life. Mine is, I freak out when I have to make a phone call. But it is something you can deal with - you just have to be kind to yourself, and just do what you can.

Also, meds.

One resource that I have found tremendously helpful is a podcast called The Mental Illness Happy Hour. A professional comedian interviews his friends about their anxiety, depression, etc. It is awesome. His tagline is, "you are not alone" and it is really helpful to hear other people's struggles. It gives you a new way of thinking about your own.

Also, the metafilter favorite The Feeling Good Handbook. This book was basically responsible for allowing me to graduate from college 20 yrs ago. Without the exercises in this book I would have been paralyzed and unable to file the awful, awful paperwork to get an incomplete off my record.

You said yourself: I don't feel rational anymore. Yeah. You're not being rational. That's not a criticism. In fact it's encouraging -- if you're not being rational than the situation is better than you think!

You can take some action to make yourself feel better. Believe me, I know it sucks. It's november, and your work situation is up in the air, and you're in a city where you don't know a lot of people. That is basically a recipe for suckitude. But free and low-cost resources do exist! Be kind to yourself. The Feeling Good Handbook is probably at your library, or it's probably less than $20 if you buy it.
posted by selfmedicating at 11:02 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I vote for a combination of two possibilities you didn't list:

4) Your boss is flaky, distracted, and/or busier than you realize, and didn't mean to ignore you deliberately. (I think the fact he included you in a second scheduling request is evidence he didn't mean to ignore you.)

5) Your response emails were not as specific as they could have been, leaving all the when and where decisions up to your boss. I'm not blaming you-- I imagine you wanted to be as flexible as possible to avoid the embarrassment of him shooting down a too-specific suggestion. I also recognize that at least one of your co-workers gave a similarly open-ended reply and had success. Chalk that up partly to random bad luck, see 4) flaky, distracted boss.

I want to acknowledge your hurt feelings about apparently being either a) left out, b) picked last, c) the only one of your co-workers so incompetent they couldn't even arrange a meeting with the boss, or d) all of the above. That's got to feel like shit, so humiliating. I also want to urge you to (privately) put part of the blame on your boss for being flaky, distracted, or whatever. Even if your replies weren't perfect, he did ask, and you did reply, and the ball got dropped. It's not your fault that you have pick up the ball again when it's in his court. (Don't accuse him of this, because doubtful as I agree with you it is, there's still a 0.1% chance that you got spam-filtered, he accidentally deleted your message from his inbox, he misspelled your email address by one letter, or something else. All of which would not be your fault, by the way!)

Armed with the idea that it's not your fault he didn't return your emails, I suggest calling your boss because if he answers you'll know for 100% sure that you made contact (you can even say you weren't sure he got your email), and you can arrange the meeting details right then on the phone instead of yet more painful back-and-forth messages.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 11:30 AM on November 13, 2012

...he wrote me off and was like "Appleturnover has made zero effort, so I am done."
I didn't think he'd let a personal feeling get in the way of how he acted as a boss toward me...

This is something you made up in your head and have absolutely zero concrete evidence for, but you've made it pretty clear that this is the route you're taking, so perhaps "accepting and moving on" is really the best option for you.

Here's the thing though: you're about to enter a world of pain as far as COBRA is concerned. It is a bureaucratic nightmare even for the most outgoing and diligent of us. Take all the great advice you got here, and apply it to that process. Be a pain in the ass, because that is the only way you're actually going to get anything done. Good luck.
posted by griphus at 12:16 PM on November 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

The biggest mistake you're making is assuming he has an issue with you. It's one of the possibilities, but not the most likely one in my opinion, and you just don't have enough information to know that. I don't think you fucked up by skipping the dinner.

Calling him about a meeting might get you results. It's good that you emailed him again. Calling is something you still haven't tried yet.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 12:27 PM on November 13, 2012

If that came off harsher than I intended, then I apologize. I, nor anyone else here, thinks you are delusional. You are, however, taking the worst-case-scenario interpretation and using that as the baseline for your actions, which is catastrophizing. Regardless of what is "likely," acting as if things have already gone to shit is unwise. Again, I am sorry if I hurt your feelings, and I know that this is a really difficult time and a difficult situation and I certainly had no intention to make it any harder on you. Again, good luck.
posted by griphus at 12:42 PM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Let's view this from a completely objective perspective.

Say you are completely correct in how your boss perceives you and that your boss is annoyed and disappointed by your behaviors of missing work gatherings and underperforming at work.

If that is the case, it doesn't matter what you do with your boss. You can send him all the goodbye emails, all the meeting requests, and all the apologies you want, and it is highly unlikely you will change his mind. You are not likely to convince him of your value as an employee. That said, most importantly, you can't make the situation any "worse".

Now, consider the following:
  • Most professionals don't make an effort to reach out to colleagues when they are not paid to unless they value their colleagues outside the work boundary.
  • Most professionals try not to "rub it in" to people they don't like dealing with, again, especially when they are not being paid to do so.
  • Most professionals don't help other professionals out with career advice like sending sample resumes, especially when they are not being paid to do so. (notice a theme here yet?).
  • Most people are fundamentally nice, or at least ambivalent. If they don't want to help you out, they certainly don't want to hurt you. If someone sends you emails offering to help, they are probably not doing so to damage your professional image.
  • More than a few management types have difficulty scheduling non-work items because they don't fit into whatever scheduling package is used at work (say Outlook's Calendar function).
Based solely on those statements, I think you can objectively say there is at least a chance that your boss is trying to help out, but is messing up the scheduling, logistics, and following through aspect of it. Now, you might think that chance is low, but you should admit that it exists. Since we've already concluded that you can't make the situation worse, you have only the possibility of a gain. Now, you might consider that chance slight, but even a chance of gain is worth taking when there is no chance of a loss.
posted by saeculorum at 1:05 PM on November 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

AppleTurnover: "You know, I am sick of being told that everything is made up in my head."

In case additional context helps, many of the people telling you that you are engaging in distorted thinking (catastrophizing, mindreading, etc.) have years and years of dealing with their own mental illnesses — depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADD, OCD, etc. etc. etc.

The advice you're getting isn't coming from a bunch of perfect, well-oriented, got-their-shit-together people standing around judging you, it's coming from people many of whom have been where you are and have experienced things like what you're experiencing. Much of the vehemence you hear is coming from a place of "I have been there and done that; it sucks and is counterproductive and there are other ways of dealing with it, and the essential first step is for you to let go of the idea that you've already tried everything reasonable."
posted by Lexica at 1:09 PM on November 13, 2012 [15 favorites]

This experience has (once again) pointed out my need to deal with my social anxiety.

Good! You deserve to feel better and more comfortable and more in control of your own life.

I need to finally think seriously about seeking treatment.

No, you need to seek treatment. You've already thought about it. Think about it more and you'll talk yourself out of it. Just do it.
posted by headnsouth at 1:31 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think people are being kinda harsh in this thread, too, Appleturnover -- but seriously, don't sweat it, do get treatment, do recognize that help is out there.

You really can feel 1000 x better. If you recognize that social anxiety is causing problems in your life, and you seek treatment, then this thread is a success.

Don't let health insurance or whatever stop you. Buy the Feeling Good Handbook and - this is key - do the exercises. I had to actually write it out for it to work.

Also - meds rock. Any family practice doctor or nurse practitioner can prescribe an SSRI drug like zoloft, prozac, or paxil. And these drugs are cheap. Like, $4 / month cheap.

Or go listen to the Mental Illness Happy Hour. For real, it will make you feel so much better.
posted by selfmedicating at 4:36 PM on November 13, 2012

It is fact I skipped all our work gatherings. It is likely he had a negative perception of me due to that.

In my experience that doesn't follow, what is more likely is that you were simply less visible than the others. This can be a bad thing, but it's not the same as making an actual negative impression.

The one key thing I really wanted you to pick up on while reading through everyone else's replies today was that you needed to pick up the phone and talk to him. A bunch of people said it.

Email wasn't working for you with this person, maybe because he hated you, but maybe for one of the thousand other reasons emails don't get answered.

For all you know he didn't get back to you right away because he has a crush on you, and he wanted to spend more time on it, and then it just slipped away because of the other hundred things everyone has to get done every single day.

He may not have queued you up with your colleagues at the cafe because he only had 60 minutes and you were reply #3 so you didn't fit. Despite your misgivings, you don't know why it happened.

I'm an expert on failing to reply to emails. I've done it for so very many reasons. Very few of them, maybe zero, were because I didn't like the person. So many times it was, you know, just because. Even emails I've read. Even emails I've meant to reply to. Emails where it was in my interest to reply. Sometimes they just slip by.

As it stands you're bothered by phantoms, upset by your imagination. Your analysis might be completely accurate, but it's just as likely that you're utterly incorrect.

This is why you needed to speak on the phone. All would be clear, no more tears required.

Next week ask your question about helping you to stop being inside your head so much -- which is something many people struggle with, and many people will probably be able to offer advice on. This week you didn't ask that question.
posted by The Monkey at 3:18 AM on November 14, 2012

You're making huge assumptions about your boss's feelings towards you. In my experience if a boss is old enough that they were working in an office before email was common, they suck at keeping track of emails and you need to call them. This applies accross the spectrum of most loving boss to wrathful boss from hell. You really should try to call, if only as a self excercise to get comfortable with making phone calls because there's still a lot of beauacracy in the world that can't be navigated with email.
posted by WeekendJen at 6:23 AM on November 14, 2012

Thanks for the update. I'm glad you decided to email him again and that he agreed to meet you. I hope you're able to get some help with your social anxiety.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 11:41 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

This really goes to show that you can get advice from strangers on the internet, but the person who has the best insight into what's actually going on is you.

Or not because you were feeling all slighted and wronged before you didn't go to the dinner and used that incident to spin your theories further.

And this also goes to show that social anxiety went from ruining just my social life to hurting my professional life too.

Yes, you really does, if every interaction gets turned into drama. Get help with your axieties.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:04 AM on January 20, 2013

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