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I'm working as a developer/database admin and, until a few days ago, everything was great working with my boss (workload was fine, we trusted each other, meetings were shorts and constructive, communication was on point...).

But a few days ago, he found out that I was a singer in a metal/punk band, and he immediately changed behavior toward me:

  • he gives me a lot of work that is unrelated to my job.
  • in meetings he sometimes makes some inappropriate comments like "I wish that you worked as hard as you sing" or "this task will be harder than screaming in a microphone."
  • he does not want to talk with me, he'll always find a good reason to flee the discussion ("I have a meeting starting" or "I don't have time at the moment" ...), we only talk by mail now.
  • he refused my vacation for this summer ...

He was very happy with my work during annual evaluation (a month ago).

I was happy with my job prior to the "discovery", but now I don't enjoy it anymore. Of course, I will never stop singing with my band.

What I'm trying to do is to work harder to prove him that I'm a good employee and that my hobby doesn't affect my work, but I think that's a bit unfair.

How can I get back to the old relationship with my boss? I'm thinking of sending him a mail with a meeting invite to force him to have a talk with me, but I don't know what to tell him.


Edit: thanks for all your comments and answers.

What exactly is the boss? Manager? Company owner?

it's the CEO

Are any of your band’s songs objectionable?

I guess yes, they are mainly about alcohol, sex etc.. but nothing to serious

You are not punk or metalhead if you are thinking this way. Write a dedicated song.

That's a great idea.

What I'm going to do:

I'll stop working harder, this was a mistake.

Then I'll confront my boss on this change of behavior. Depending on the reason that he gives to me, I'll stay or start looking for another job.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Jul 28 at 12:00
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I generally agree with this answer from @sf02, To get back to the old relationship is going to take a lot of work, but the most effort required will not be on your part. It is clear that this discovery has awoken/provoked a prejudice within your boss, the only way to fix this is for them to realize and overcome this prejudice.

If everything else was great about the job, then try to work it out but at some point you will have to draw the line between what level of effort and sacrifice on your part is reasonable.

  • Just be careful to not overcommit or compromise your own work-life balance. If your intent is to work harder or longer temporarily to get back to the previous situation you would be creating an unsustainable 'new' image of yourself, which you would have to maintain perpetually for fear of a relapse in the relationship when you decide to cut back down to normal.

Overall, in the workplace, you should be judged on your effort, ethics and behaviors inside the workplace, what you do outside, should be your own. IMO a good workplace should champion individuality and diversity of thought and exercise outside of the workplace, it keeps the mind healthy and helps prevent burn out.

In reality we're all human and it can be hard to not blur the lines between working relationships and friendships/personal relationships. As with all relationships, if there are differences that cannot be reconciled, its probably time to move on.

I once worked in a similar scenario (Software Dev/IT support), was always picked first for attending conventions or going on site to the high profile customers. Generally both "perks" would extend outside of normal business hours. Then my boss discovered that my wife was a primary school teacher, I declined one trip to a convention because it overlapped with a school function... In a nut-shell, it turns out he had very low respect for teachers.
I decided to stay, even tried to 'fix' things, like you say by being better at my work, but things still degraded over time, then a new employee filled that 'void' for my boss. After time there was a discovery about his hobby of wood working and the cycle continued.

What I learned is that this prejudice may not be directly related to your band, it could be as simple as your boss assumed you were putting in extra effort outside of work hours, a quality that is easy for management to respect, but now they realize you are directing efforts elsewhere outside of work. Now they have to re-evaluate all previous assumptions, now they are disappointed, perhaps they saw potential that now they think you are squandering. Either way, in business terms, the projected value of your stock just plummeted.

  • perhaps it was your fault for being too good in the first place (jokes)

Having done it the wrong way in the past, my recommendation for you, if you do want to fix this:

  1. Identify the problem

    • If you can identify the root cause of the issue from your boss's side, either through work colleagues or careful detective work, then this helps you target what becomes
  2. You will have to confront your boss face to face about this, you have to call them out.

    • This sort of discussion needs to be done face to face, because your body language and facial expressions come into play, its easy for someone already biased/prejudiced to read text and interpret the tone and meaning behind it in their own way.
      • A text based response can be seen as aggressive/passive aggressive
      • People generally respect you more if you can have this conversation in person, one of the key elements here is the level of respect has changed.
    • Be aware that they may not be aware of their behavior, management types can often be too egotistical (there's probably a better word... they may not be able to see past themselves...)
    • Bring zero emotion into the discussion, do not let it flare up, this is business.
      • See the point above about facial expressions and body language, you need to find a way to be comfortable with this discussion.
    • Yes it is a discussion, not an argument, be concise, you're not on trial, even though it may feel like it.
    • Simply state your work ethic from last week and today has not changed, yet the attitude from your boss has changed and importantly: you do not accept it.
  3. Hear them out

    • Once you've stirred them up, you have to let them say, what they are thinking but are too polite to say, its the only way to get to the root cause of the issue.
    • Give them permission to say their mind, this can be the hardest bit, whatever they say next you have to be able to commit to yourself that its not to be taken personally, its about letting them vent their emotions and you can't judge them for their thoughts because lets face it, we all have bad thoughts, but we don't voice them if it's inappropriate to do so.
  4. You will have to offer something, this is a negotiation

    • Although you shouldn't have to, we're dealing with your boss's emotions now, you have to demonstrate that you are willing to work on this
    • Do not compromise yourself here though, you can offer assurances that your extra curricular activities do not go to excess and that you always get adequate rest to ensure you are fresh and alert for work but do not offer to cut it back because so far you have managed to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
  5. Finish with an assurance that you wont let this affect your work, but things must change

    • This shouldn't sound like an ultimatum or a threat, its a simple statement of fact that you are happy to continue to work, but this new attitude is affecting your ability to do that well.

The problem of course with this course of action, is that it appeals to a reasonable person, and a reasonable person in a management position who would appropriately respond to this should not have formed such an unreasonable attitude in the first place... So we've uncoverred a paradox here that means the likelihood of this working and getting back to the original relationship is very unlikely, that is not to say that you can't mend it into something else that is acceptable, it's just not likely to be the same.

Cheer up! Going through this experience and exercise in some form is character building. You need to learn how to stand up for yourself, if you can learn to make lemonade out of this lemon of a situation it will help make you a good manager in the future!

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    Superb answer... presents the best way of trying to fix the problem, while acknowledging (in the last block-quote) the central "paradox" that means the chances of success are not good. If the boss is at heart a "reasonable person" but with a somewhat irrational prejudice, the approach here could work; if they're not at heart reasonable, it's likely to fail. In the end, only the OP can decide if it's worth making the effort to clear things up. – TripeHound Jul 28 at 5:56
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    Nice answer, but I found it hard to read due to all the weird formatting. – henning -- reinstate Monica Jul 28 at 8:21
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    As well as being character building, you'll now also have a concrete answer for interview questions like "tell me about a time when you had to deal with a conflict" – SpoonMeiser Jul 28 at 9:23
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How can I get back to the old relationship with my boss?

You probably cannot. Your boss clearly has an issue with your hobby that is out of your control. The fact that he is retaliating by denying your vacation is troubling. The fact that he is making inappropriate comments directed at you in meetings is also troubling and can be considered harrassment. You should not have to work harder to prove anything, your recent evaluation is proof enough that you are a hard worker and that your hobby is not affecting your work.

You can try speaking to him about his change in behavior towards you to determine what is issue/concerns are but don't expect much out of it. If the boss's behavior continues, you may have to consider looking for a new company to work for. Especially if you are no longer happy in your current company.

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    Side note... If you choose to speak with your boss, keep an open mind about what is actually going on. There is a chance that you made some false assumptions about his recent change in behavior, and the root cause might actually be something else entirely. – Lindsey D Jul 28 at 5:48
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    @LindseyD Strong point. Even if not, boss may strenuously deny. – Captain Emacs Jul 28 at 6:23
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    Also, talk to your union rep or works council, if you have one. Clearly, your boss is acting badly, his actions may even be illegal. – henning -- reinstate Monica Jul 28 at 8:23
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The unfortunate truth is: there's no good long-term solution for working with a boss that doesn't like you.

You can't solve it with bureaucracy. Involving upper management or HR might seem like a good idea, but all that will do is drive things underground, into a less transparent realm. Good luck trying to prove your current assignment load is due to a disfavorable feeling. Good luck trying to prove your performance review was influenced by it. Good luck with trying to argue that your lack of a bonus was due to it. It doesn't help that cognitive dissonance is a natural human reaction: your boss isn't going to want to believe their actions are a result of simply hating punk music; they're going to naturally believe that it's because of legitimate causal reasons.

But likewise, not dealing with the situation isn't tenable, either. Your boss is responsible for your performance history, your job assignments, your bonuses, etc. You're not going to like dealing with that for a protracted period of time.

So what are your options?

First, and most obviously: leave. Not necessarily the company - transferring to another area would also accomplish the same goal.

Second, change your boss' mind. I have no idea of whether this is possible in your situation. But by doing some googling, the advice it had made sense: introduce them to the precursors of metal (Led Zeppelin) and then possibly some of the original metal that's more mainstream (Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath). Personally, I used to hate several forms of music... until I got more exposure to them. And if your band has any older-school, closer-to-mainstream songs, maybe those could work as well.

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    I think the second advice can make or break the situation, but i feel the chances of breaking it is higher, I hate some kind of music too, but probably won't go out of my way to harass the person that liked the genre of music that I hate like this boss, if he really want to mend the situation, he should really look hard for the reason why the boss hate him so much (maybe boss is religious, and metal/punk band/songs are often labeled like satanic or something). – encryptoferia Jul 28 at 0:50
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Depends on whether you see yourself in the same company for more than 2 years. If not, forget it. Learn what you can from the job. Do enough not to get fired and find a better job. You're not there to make friends with your boss.

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Before you make any permanent decisions, ask him about it (either in an email, or with a meeting invitation). Of the four behavior changes you noted, one could be explained as poor attempts at humor, and the other three all sound like symptoms of an overworked manager. From my personal experience on the manager side, it's very easy to accidentally and unknowingly send the wrong message to an employee, especially when I'm swamped and stressed (mitigating that is a hard skill to learn, especially when you aren't even aware of it until somebody else points it out).

As for what to tell him, your question lays it out really well. You feel like you had a great relationship with him until he found out about your hobby. You've noticed these things have changed. You're concerned about your relationship, and you need his help understanding what's going on.

Your goal in the conversation is purely to understand his motivation. If he seems genuinely surprised, or if there's something else going on that you weren't aware of, you can work through your relationship from there. If you're not satisfied with his answers, or if he's upfront about some sort of bias, you'll know there's an actual problem for you to deal with.

If there is an actual problem, refer to any of the upvoted answers here (they're all good advice).

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The most worrying part of this is that your boss denied your vacation. In my experience, managers tend not to deny vacations unless the vacation request was unreasonable (too long, too short-notice), especially in tech. Nothing you personally will be doing next month is so mission-critical that someone else can't do it or it can't wait a couple weeks (and if it is then you should demand a raise for doing such important work).

So to me, this is the litmus test: Ask your boss why your vacation was denied. Don't go too deep into the discussion, just ask him what his reasons were. See if those reasons make sense to you. If it was like "you're asking for a month off in our busiest season", then that's on you. If it was like "I dunno, I just felt like it", then that's on him. Don't argue with him about whether his reason was right or wrong; in the end he has the power and he made his decision and you have to live with it. But you can decide for yourself whether or not you believe his reason was legitimate, and if it wasn't legitimate (in your opinion), then you can find a new manager who won't deny your vacation with bad reasoning.

Most of the rest of what you said is kind of wishy-washy: He made some snide remarks to you, or he gave you tasks which don't align with your responsibilities. That happens and it's hard to track and pin down. It could just be that other people were doing these unrelated tasks and your boss decided to "share the wealth" with you, so to speak. Vacation in particular, though, is something you earned from doing your work, and it's in your contract that you have to get it, and in most locales it's required by law that you are allowed to take it if the request is not unreasonable. So in essence, by denying your vacation, your boss is stealing something you've earned from you, and you should determine whether or not that is behaviour you accept.

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Sorry this happened to you.

It's over. Find a cardboard box big enough for all of the materials unique to this job. Try to remember that when you deal with your immediate boss, you aren't friends. It can be a mutually beneficial relationship but just like when you deal with the police: Anything you say can be used against you.

When the boss says, "What did you do this weekend?" The answer should be, "Nothing much. So that project we talked about..."

The only exception is if you know for a fact that co-workers are openly doing something outside of work and getting pats on the back or perks for it. Then you can be open about the exact same thing in your life.

And any friendship with the boss is likely to be one way. I've seen people who seemed to have deep relationships with their boss get burned bad too. In one case this guy was hanging out socially with his boss each week for years and yet when the boss had important information that could help their "friend" avoid financial destruction, the boss didn't say a word.

I'm not saying all bosses are the same but it's just not worth you being surprised at work.

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  • Note that by following this advice, you are not necessarily avoiding a pitfall. My last boss would have strongly disliked it/me, had I tried to avoid talking about my weekends/vacations. It felt to me as if he did not only want to get to know his employee, but also be able to better estimate the chances that I would be able to return on Monday. I guess that's what you do if you cannot otherwise avert a Bus Factor of 1. – Alexander Jul 28 at 10:21
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No-one else has pointed this out, but have you considered that you might be over-thinking this? It's only been a few days and there's a lot of explanations for what's happened.

The fact he doesn't want to talk as much could be simply that you're now really aware of it now because you're worrying about it. He might just suddenly be busy, it happens over a few days.

However, the comment "I wish that you worked as hard as you sing" is a very blunt message that he wants you to work harder so maybe he already had issue with your performance that you didn't realise?

What might have happened is that he saw the effort you could put into something, and decided the same wasn't being put into your work for him. CEOs can forget not everyone will put their whole life into a job.

I'd recommend not doing anything dramatic like a face-to-face confrontation like others suggest. Find a way to channel the same energy you put into music into the work. When he says:

"this task will be harder than screaming in a microphone", say "I'll bring the gusto, but probs not the pitch"

In a month if nothings fixed then maybe ask him about it over a lunch or drink.

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