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Dear Fifi: A boss who enragingly hums - and another who won't bloody stop with the terms of endearment

Back at it again with the advice, it’s Dear Fifi.


Hey, guess what? It’s my birthday today guys. So my unsolicited piece of advice this week is to let it all hang out like it’s your own special day. 

Ask me anything – big, small, medium, and everything in between. I truly want to hear from all of you and hope to help if I can. Get me here.


There’s one guy at work who usually addresses women in the office as “love” or “darling”. I think it’s meant in a friendly way but it sounds condescending and always makes me cringe.

As far as I know no-one has said anything to him about it, and I haven’t asked any of the women what they think about it.

Should I say something to him, or ask one of the women first, or go to his boss, or am I taking this too seriously?

The first thing to say here is absolutely do not go to this man’s boss. Think realistically for a second – what would your complaint even be? With no one else in the office having even tacitly let on that this man’s terms of endearments bother them, you’d potentially be painted as a troublemaker jobsworth, no matter how pure your intentions.

Being offended on someone’s else’s behalf is dodgy territory. These women are seemingly fine with being called “darling” at work. It’s not on you to decide it’s condescending if they haven’t expressed this first. I’m sure they are capable of dealing with this in their own way, should they decide it’s worth it.

Leave this well enough alone. Trust me, some of these women have perhaps experienced either more insidious or actively scary forms of harassment. They’re either taking him in their stride, or don’t find him patronising. Let them decide if this man bothers them and keep yourself entirely out of it.


My boss hums. A lot. It’s driving me mad. I’m not even sure if I hate it any more or just the idea of it, it winds me up so much. A lot of my job is reading and I find it so distracting. We work beside each other and they often have to look at stuff on my workspace, and I wish they’d stop. What is the best way to approach this? I don’t want to get in trouble or annoy anyone but I’m finding I can’t work as effectively as I should be because of it. 

I feel your pain. I’d say a lot of people reading this will. Someone wise once said to me (alright, it was my Dad while I was venting my spleen about a work issue): “Working with difficult people is one of the challenges in life that you will have to rise to.”

It’s true. A large part of working in an office (and beyond, of course, but offices are a unique kind of enclosed hot house) is dealing with the people who work around you. Eventually, the patience and general soft skills you gain from this will stand to you as you continue to navigate through the working world and just life in general.

Still, this is cold comfort when you’re probably reading this hearing the incessant noise from this humming addict. The sad thing is, they probably haven’t a clue they’re even doing it. You’ve got to break the ice to them in 100% good humour. Avoid veering into passive-aggression. Comment on the humming. You have to, for your own sake. Don’t be snide though. Suggest turning on the radio even.

“What’s that song you’re humming? Will we stick on the radio to see if it comes on?”

Failing that? Firmly put on headphones. If they question them, say it helps you concentrate and read your work better. They can hardly argue with a measure that makes you more effective at your job. Failing that, just join in with the humming whenever he starts. He’ll notice it and stop. Or else you’ll start enjoying it. Win/win.


Want to talk?

Confess a story, ask for help or just shout into the void for a bit and see if that helps. All welcome. Anonymity totally guaranteed always. 

Check out previous advice>

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