I need you help to get a little perspective on a problem I'm having at the office. A small incident has gone nuclear, and I didn't mean for this to blow up into a total disaster, but I was crying and my hands were shaking my entire 45 minute drive home, so I thought you guys might be able to help me sort it out and give me so solid etiquette advice to gird my proverbial loins with for tomorrow.
I've mentioned before that I work at a small nonprofit. It's just my boss and I in the office so we work pretty closely together and need to be able to get along to get stuff done.
Today was a busy day. We had a medium-sized event that started first thing in the morning, so I was up and at the site at 6:45 to get everything in order. I actually came in a little earlier than I needed to because there was something I needed to get from the office that I knew my boss wouldn't remember to pick up and take with her.
Things started to get a little hairy when my boss mixed up the cash from one part of the event with cash from another part and then got flustered and irritated when we were trying to sort it out and tried to take control over it again by micromanaging me when I was trying to count out and sort one set of receipts from another (it didn't help that on the cash she'd taken she hadn't written down what she'd taken it for). At one point I got really frustrated but managed to keep it cool and not show how irritated I was. My boss is a super nice woman and works very hard, but she's forgetful and easily distracted.
So, after a long day we finally managed to get back to the office and start to count up the event receipts and get things straightened out when one of our major donor/volunteers, Betty, calls. This is a woman who does a lot for our organization, but she also (I think) takes advantage of the fact that we rely a lot on her for one of our events and uses it to get us to do personal favors for her. It's always little stuff, nothing that usually takes more than 15 - 30 minutes, but it bothers me. So, today she needed a map of the area showing a particular hotel and a couple other places because her daughter is having a wedding in 2 weeks and their 200 guests need to know how to get to all the places they have to go to over the course of the weekend.
My boss explains what is needed and asks me to stop what I'm doing and start putting the map together. The project involved scanning a map, editing it in a photo editing program and adding some text - think Smith - Jones Wedding : Pre-Wedding Shindig Date and Time. Once again, it didn't take very long, but it irritated me that we were being asked to do it during work hours. I half-jokingly asked my boss if Betty didn't have someone on staff or friends to help her with this sort of thing. My boss reminded me of all the great things that Betty and her family do for our organization, and I resigned myself to doing this thing because my boss had asked me to do even though I thought it was kind of inappropriate that Betty had asked us to do it in the first place.
This was working well for me, I got the project done in about 15 - 20 minutes. I hand it off to my boss and start getting back to work. My boss has some fixes, I make the changes. I give her another copy to look at with as little comment as possible because I know how she feels about us needing to do this for Betty, and even though I see where she's coming from, I'm bothered enough by it that I know I will have trouble keeping my expression neutral if we get into a conversation about it.
After I handed off the last revision, my boss asked me what I think about the project (something that I really don't know how to answer in the best of situations) and, feeling pretty gloomy by that point, I shrugged and said I didn't really think much about it at all. It was what I had been asked to produce.
This got my boss very upset. She asked me if I thought she should have told Betty that we wouldn't help her.
I said (paraphrased "No. I just don't understand why she came to us to do it in the first place."
This got my boss even more upset, and by this point I was very upset too because I really, really was trying to avoid this and I hate confrontation. She repeated what she'd just said and I tried to explain that it bothered me when Betty called us during business hours and asked us to do her a personal favor.
My boss kept pressing me until I was holding back tears because I was so uncomfortable with the situation, and finally I told her, in the calmest most rational voice I could manage, that if I were in Betty's shoes I would never, ever, call a friend at her place of business during work hours and ask my friend to ask her employee to do me a personal favor on company time - no matter how much I had done for that friend and her business - and that if Betty had called and asked if I could help her out after our work for the day was done I would have felt much better about it and been more than happy to help her out given all that she has done for our organization, but asking a friend for personal favors using company time, personal and equipment was something I was uncomfortable with. Despite this, I was willing to do what my boss wanted. It just bothered me and I was sorry, but that was how I felt.
At this point I was in tears, and my boss was very angry with me.
She said her feelings were hurt and that she's never been talked to that way; that I was questioning her and she was very upset with me. Then she started listing all little allowances she gave to me (the company cellphone that she insisted we had to have so that I could post pictures to social media sites - something she hasn't let me do because neither of us have enough time at events for her to approve my posts - the five - ten minute grace period she allows for me getting into work at the start of the day when the weather is bad or something unexpected happens - something she has always insisted is perfectly okay; please take my time - the occasions I've had to leave work early or come in late for doctors appointments - see above - and the extra days off she has insisted that I take because we work so hard -which I have protested every time because we've got stuff to do and not enough time to do it in - and so on and so forth.
At this point I don't know what to do. By the end of the day I managed to cool things down a little bit by way of profuse and teary apologies, but now my boss is sort of blackmailing me with all the little gimmes she's foisted off on me over the last year and a half (largely against my will, although I admit I enjoy them). I feel like she's been giving me these things so that she can use them against me, implying that these were things that I asked for and have taken advantage of even though I have always been careful to let her know that I can schedule my appointments for outside of work hours / use my own cell phone for work calls / don't need the extra time-off, or that I'm happy to make up for time I've lost being late by staying late after work when it happens.
She's making veiled threats about taking away my work cellphone (after encouraging me to use it as my personal cell and dump my other cell even though I very much wanted to keep my work and private calls separate). I've pulled all my non-work pictures and stuff off the phone and am happy to let it go.
I tried to explain that I wasn't questioning her - she could tell me to do whatever she wanted. She is my boss after all, but that she had pressed me to tell her what my problem was with Betty's request, even though I had tried to avoid discussing it. I told her I was sorry that my irritation over being asked to do personal favors for Betty on work time upset her, or made her feel that I was questioning her. I even apologized for telling her how I truly felt about the situation, despite the fact that she has repeatedly asked me to be honest with her and insisted that she thinks of me as a friend.
So - for those of you who have made it this far - what should I do? Was Betty's request really appropriate and was I totally in the wrong to be uncomfortable with it? How do I deal with my boss in the future when she presses me to tell her what I think about something and I'm not sure I can give her an answer she'll like without lying to her or her getting mad at me anyway for being evasive?
* Edited - hit post before I had finished posting