short answer Sunday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s short answer Sunday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. My manager humiliated me in front of everyone

I am in a toxic work environment that I am desperately trying to leave. A large project I work on had a massive cock-up. I am unsure what happened, to be honest, but a massive database had its information scrambled. I told my supervisor. She then asked me to announce it during a group meeting. Then, she had the entire office take my massive file, individually check my work, and had me sit at my computer as they read off the mistakes that needed correcting. She then made a joke in a separate office later that there was a method to her madness, and she had me “hook, line, and sinker”, and several members of the office then laughed (not all, and several looked very uncomfortable).

Again, the file was messed up. But, the way my manager approached it… it was humiliating. My fellow admin was extremely upset for me. I’m not sure what to do! Should I go to HR about this specific situation? My supervisor has been investigated in the past, under an HR manager that left in a bit of scandal, for bullying and other issues, and has not gotten in trouble.

Should I just leave without finding a new job? I am trying to leave, and while this was a mistake, I did not feel I deserved to be placed in that situation.

That sounds awful, and you should absolutely be actively looking if this is typical behavior for her, but don’t leave without having another job lined up, because job searches in this market take far longer than people think they will (often a year or more) and it’s much harder to find a job when you’re unemployed than when you’re still working.

As for whether it would be worth talking to HR … maybe, maybe not. This post may help. But in general, HR isn’t there to stop managers from being jerks, and this company has already shown a reluctance to intervene with her.

2. Is it okay for me to use a functional resume if most of my jobs have had the same duties?

I have been working as a payroll analyst for 8 years now (3 different companies); prior to that, I was an admin assistant. I have a payroll designation and have been studying for a HR designation as I wanted to change my career path into HR eventually. As you can imagine, the 3 positions of payroll analyst have similar responsibilities, but I managed to learn slight different things at each job. I work very closely with the HR department, particularly in the current position that I’ve held for 5years now. It is also the thing that inspired me to want to change career paths.

I would like to update my resume to target for HR related positions. Instead of listing each position and what I do at each job, is it common/ok if I list what I have done/learn, arranging them into categories such as “employee relations”, “benefits management,” “policy and procedure”… and then list all the previous employers and the period that I was with each of them after the skills section?

Nope, that’s a functional resume and employers hate them because they make it hard to understand your job history (what you did where and when) and because they’re generally used by people trying to hide an employment gap, job-hopping, or outdated skills. Use a chronological resume. It shouldn’t matter too much that your duties were the same at all three jobs, because you should be focusing more on accomplishments than duties anyway. Employers don’t want to know what your job description was; they want to know what you achieved.

3. Was this firing handled correctly?

My roommate works for the county in Maryland, and belongs to a union. She was recently fired for excessive tardiness. While this is a legit reason for her termination (she has missed a lot of days in the past, and often showed up late), she claims that she cannot be fired for excessive tardiness because the proper disciplinary procedures were not followed.

What she means by this is that due to her status as a county employee, she has certain rights, plus is protected by her union, and that her boss must first verbally counsel her (with the counsel being on record) for tardiness, then he must write her up for tardiness, and then finally he could terminate her for tardiness. Because this procedure was not followed, she complained to her union.

I didn’t want to turn this into a “is this legal or not?” because I know Maryland is an at-will employment state, meaning that the employer can basically fire a employee for any reason except retaliation, discrimination, etc., therefore the “termination procedures” are usually company policy and not law. However, because she’s a county employee (which I assume falls under the government/public sector), and because she’s part of a worker’s union, do they have to play by other rules when it comes to termination?

It totally depends on what her union contract says. It probably spells out rules for firing, and those are the ones they’d be required to follow (as with any contract).

4. Anonymous complaint form ended up not being anonymous

I work in a large college academic resource center. We have an anonymous noise complaint webform for students to report loud patrons; I used it to complain about some student workers who I do not supervise. The IT department tracked my complaint to my computer and I was pulled into a meeting with my supervisor about it.

What is there to be done about this invasion of privacy? I used an anonymous webform and was tracked! Should everyone know that this form isn’t really anonymous? Who, if anyone, do I talk to about this, and what the heck do I say?

I can’t tell whether you were pulled into that meeting to be chastised about complaining, or if they just wanted more information. If it was the first, that’s really ridiculous and you should approach everything regarding this employer with a high degree of caution from now on, because telling someone something is anonymous and then penalizing them for using it is obviously completed messed up behavior. But if they just pulled you in because they wanted more information or something else relatively innocuous — well, it’s still bad to say something will be anonymous and then not treat it that way, but it’s not as alarming.

In any case, you can certainly talk to your manager and express your concern that a form that claims to be anonymous in fact is not. You could also complain to IT. Whether you should do either of those really depends on your relationship with your manager.

5. Does it mean anything if the hiring manager connects with me on LinkedIn?

I had a second round of interviews for a manager position towards the end of April, and their timeline for getting back to applicants was two weeks. My first interview (after the initial phone interview) was with the regional manager who would be my direct boss and we had great chemistry; we came from the same professional beginnings and shared remarkably similar experiences. We discussed our shared passion for wellness initiatives and it felt more like a conversation than standard interview. The interview went so well that it went on past the expected time frame and I was pleased to get a second interview with a panel of three other individuals a few weeks later. The panel interviews were good, although I could not get an impression (good or bad) from one of the interviewers.

Since the second interview, two weeks have passed and I decided to reach out to the recruiter through email and politely ask if they are still looking at the same timeline for a hiring selection and if a decision has been made. I did not receive an email back from the recruiter, but later that same day the regional manager (the one I really got along with) asked to connect with me on LinkedIn. I do not want to read too much into this because she does have over 500 connections, so maybe she just likes having as many connections as possible. However, I think it would be weird to connect with a candidate if there is the potential that I’m not getting an offer. In any case, is this something you would do if you were set to offer a candidate a position, and on the flip side would you connect with a candidate who was a rejected for position? It also seems weird that the same time I follow up with the recruiter is when the regional manager asked to connect.

Don’t read anything into it. You had a rapport and you have similar backgrounds, so she’s connecting with you because she’d like you in her network. That’s the most you can read into it.

The timing may or may not be coincidental. For all we know, the recruiter reached out to her about getting an updated timeline, and it nudged her into remembering she’d meant to connect with you.

6. Linking recruiters to my LinkedIn profile

I get the feeling that many recruiters (external and internal) are not properly vetting me, i.e. not looking at my LinkedIn profile, blog, online portfolio, etc. I also get many requests for my resume, which is linked from my website. Would it be alright to add a more obvious link to my LinkedIn profile to say “here’s my most up-to-date resume, I don’t necessarily have access to my most up-to-date one on my current device”?

I don’t understand what the last part about not having access means, but if they’re not looking at your LinkedIn profile to begin with, adding a link to your resume there won’t matter. And recruiters should already have your resume, if you’ve applied with them. Your LinkedIn profile should of course be up-to-date, so looking at either your resume OR your profile should suffice — you shouldn’t be terribly worried if they’re only seeing one or another.

As for the requests for your resume from your website, sure, link to whatever you want there.

7. Applying for jobs without management experience

A lot of the jobs I am looking to apply for want a year or more of supervisory experience. In all cases, I want to apply because I fit most, if not all, of the other qualifications. (In other words, I don’t feel that I am aiming too high or skipping steps in my career path.) But when it comes to that experience, I just plain don’t have it. Is there a way to address this in a cover letter? Or am I most likely just going to be out of the running because of it? It just doesn’t seem like much of a transferable skill where I can sort of substitute with other experience, like the way I have used, for example, work with my roller derby league to help demonstrate my experiences in outreach and marketing.

I really don’t want to waste hiring managers’ (or my) time and give them one more resume to sift through. Help?

Some jobs absolutely won’t consider you if you don’t have the management experience, but others will — and since you can’t tell from the outside which are which, go ahead and apply. I don’t think you need to specifically call out the lack of experience in your cover letter though — they’re going to figure it out themselves, and unless you’re able to talk in your cover letter about other leadership experience you’ve had that might be transferable, there’s no point in highlighting the lack of it. Good luck.

{ 89 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    #3 in my experience with government and unions there are 2 types of employees. Real people who have all the protections and are nearly impossible to fire. And people who don’t count, these positions are generally contract positions, you are an employee but on essentially extended probationary period. In my agency this can last for up to three years in any given job and often they move you to a different job or department to restart the clock. If you don’t count they can let you go at any time for any reason. Just like in private employment. (You can be in the union and not count btw, and no they won’t help.)
    If you are a real person they need to follow all these steps, that doesn’t mean they will. Generally hr will step in but if they don’t your roommate can go to the union steward and file a grievance.

    Or your roommate can look for a new job and try to not be tardy.

  2. AF*

    #1 – I am truly sorry for your situation. I was in a similar one, and was having panic attacks, the whole bit. I did leave without another job (but had money to live) and don’t regret it. That said, quitting is not for everyone. Make sure you have a strong support network in and out of work (to help you vent, even to go with you to HR if they feel comfortable) while you are looking, and take lots of time for yourself. And DOCUMENT EVERYTHING she does, so you have evidence for HR, or just to see the look on their faces when you give it to them when you do quit :). Best of luck!!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If nothing illegal is occurring (and nothing here sounds illegal), taking documentation of it to HR when you quit isn’t going to be especially helpful. It’s more likely at that point to make them glad you’re leaving, since as we talked about here recently, people who spend time documenting stuff that isn’t illegal and then expect it to make an impression on managers/HR generally don’t come across especially well.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        HR will never admit that they hired a psychopath, They’ll blame you instead.
        Don’t confront your boss. She’ll just increase the humiliation in retaliation.
        Do document, just in case.
        If she gives you verbal orders, always write them down in an email and send them back to her as confirmation to what she told you (discoverable evidence). BCC yourself.
        Look for a new job now, but don’t quit. She’d love to hear that you quit and couldn’t get hired.
        Be prepared for major anger once you get away and realize how bad it was. Then forgive so you can disconnect from her.

        I had a boss exactly like this. Success is the best revenge.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          One quibble here — I don’t think it’s universally true that employers won’t admit they hired a psychopath or just a bad manager. Some employers absolutely will and will address it — but in this case HR already has a history of ignoring it.

          1. anon-2*

            AAM – but you have to qualify that.

            HR groups will typically back up their management team — to a point.

            That point being – if a major loss of business will occur, or the manager’s actions potentially lead to litigation.

            Two examples –

            1) A major manufacturer has an engineering contract. Joe is an engineer. He’s working on the ABC Project and has a great rapport with the folks at the client site.

            Joe’s new boss, does not like Joe. Joe’s new boss Doof, decides, I am going out to get Joe. Then one day comes, Doof unveils the dossier of “all things evil about Joe”. Joe is canned. ABC calls Joe in the office – no answer, no voice mail. ABC calls Joe at home. Joe relates what has happened. Deals with it with class, a “ah, what the hell, what can you do? But I really enjoyed working with you guys. ”

            ABC management calls the company, and gets Doof. “What the HELL do you think you’re doing here? Joe is critical to our contract. ” Doof begins to tap-dance, “umm, ahh, yeah, well, Joe, uh, we wish him well and we will get back to you in a few weeks about Joe’s replacement. You won’t be disappointed!”

            ABC management smells this over the phone, and goes up the company chain. Senior VP in engineering takes the call. “Oh, Joe, he IS one of our best engineers. I hope that all is well, is there something wrong with something?” Yes, and it’s not Joe. “Doof FIRED Joe?” They relate their call with Doof – sense that it is a personality conflict that they can’t work through – but now you are hanging ABC over a barrel. “We aren’t interested in your internal politics, but we need Joe on-site now. We were ALWAYS happy with him, which is why we signed the contract, and now we’re calling our lawyers to see if there’s an out-clause. FIX THE PROBLEM OR ELSE.”

            Believe me – Joe will somehow be injected back into this picture. I’ve seen it happen twice in my company. The trick is figuring a way to get Joe re-engaged without having Doof lose face.

            2) I discussed this in another thread. There are instances – employees being ill or disabled, or “protected class issues” – where a firing or constructive-discharge-underway can and will be stopped.

            1. anon-2*

              I want to add – not in MY company that I work with today .. other companies in the past….

            2. Anonymously Anonymous*

              Exactly or they don’t want to get stuck. I left one place because I kept bumping heads with the admin. I could only imagine her disgust when she had to call me at my new job to tell me my former boss wanted to speak with me about returning…(and I wasn’t a critical employee just someone who did my job fairly well) She tried to make my return difficult by handing me work that had been back logged since I had left. Istarteddocumenting everything only because I realized she would be more difficult and I realized I should have stayed put at the new job.. I was younger then and naive..

            3. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It depends on the employer. A good one will intervene if a bad manager is impacting their ability to get results over the long-term — meaning that staff isn’t being well managed, good employees are leaving, their impact to attract future good employees is harmed, etc. Good employers absolutely do intervene in those situations. The ones that don’t are the bad employers, and they’re certainly legion — but there are plenty of good ones too.

      2. AF*

        Alison – you are right. That comment came from being bitter about my old job, so I apologize that it wasn’t especially useful. But I spoke to an employment attorney and saw a doctor before I quit, so they didn’t fight my unemployment claim. But best of luck, OP! Bullying is a real issue and you didn’t do anything to deserve it!

        1. K Too*

          Ugh, work environments like this are the worst and don’t expect HR to be helpful because usually they won’t unless they are a good company like AAM says.

          Start documenting what has happened and is currently happening. Leave the emotion out of your documentation and write down the straight facts. BCC yourself on questionable correspondence with your manager.

          As my dad told me when I was going through a toxic situation – “don’t let the right hand know what the left hand is doing”. Reach out to your network and new networks (industry events, etc) and start polishing up your resume.

          Good luck and stay professional. Success is the best revenge!

  3. Another Evil HR Director*

    #3: As AAM said, the union contract stipulates the procedure for disciplinary actions and terminations. A union representative would have to have approved the process and termination. You might want to consider the possibility that your roommate either hasn’t told you the whole story of whether she received the requisite warnings, or to be generous to him/her, maybe didn’t quite understand she was being warned in the past.

    1. Jessa*

      This is the part that I hate, I love unions, I’ve been a union kid my entire life and so were my parents and grandparents. But the fact is in this case the person DESERVES to be fired. And if they forgot to cross their t’s and dot their i’s they’re going to be stuck with the OP’s friend until they do.

      But believe me they will. And every single sneeze the OP’s friend has is going to be documented to the T according to union procedure if they are forced to take the person back.

      This is NOT what unions fought and died and went to prison for. Protecting people who are late and absent. Unless it was for a protected reason or was agreed to in the contract that there was flexibility that the bosses cheated the OP’s friend on.

      So the OP needs to let the friend know that all they’re doing is pushing back the inevitable (presuming the documentation is not there.) Because they WILL end up dismissing them. No question. It’ll just take longer, however long the official process is, UNLESS the OP’s friend’s behaviour COMPLETELY changes.

      Not to mention if the friend gets a job outside a union contract they’ll be fired faster. People who are always late/absent (unless for protected reasons,) don’t stay in jobs long.

      1. Kelsey N*

        I agree, unions were formed for a good reason, to make it harder for employers to exploit their workers, not to make it easier for workers to game the system. If the OP’s friend had a good reason for her tardiness and absences (like medical), she’d probably be pursuing it from that angle. It sounds like there wasn’t a good reason for them and she wanted to get off on a technicality, which is not what unions are for.

    2. FiveNine*

      Everything you describe is possible. Also, I am unfamiliar with government body rules for letting go unionized employees, but what about the possibility the employee is considered to have abandoned the job after three (or however many) no-call no-shows etc? Does that even require “warnings”? Then too, I know in the private sector at some point chronic failure to alert the employer about an absence or tardiness ventures into gross misconduct.

      1. doreen*

        In my experience, “job abandonment” in a union context occurs after a specified number of consecutive days of no-call, no show ( which is often called AWOL, as no leave was approved). People can be terminated for that without being warned first, although they are often sent a letter stating that they will be terminated as of a certain date. But that’s only consecutive days. If an employee is just not showing up once a month, I will have to go through the steps of counseling and then disciplinary action. I can’t go straight to recommending termination after one instance, nor can I ignore it until it’s happened 6 times in six months and then recommend termination. Well, I can but if my agency actually terminates, he or she would win in arbitration (where it decision would likely be that a one-week suspension or a $200 fine would be appropriate) and not only get the job back, but get back pay for the time spent going through the arbitration process. arbitration.

        1. doreen*

          (Don’t know why I can’t type today)

          The point of that last part is that not following the rules can be very costly, so they tend to be followed. If not by the supervisor/manager, then by the multiple layers above. And in government work, there are always multiple layers.

  4. Schuyler Pierson*

    @#4: I stopped taking any “anonymous” surveys at the university where I work several years ago for this precise reason – that they purported to be anonymous when for all intents and purposes they weren’t. What was really great was when our department was under a manager that had some in the office on tiptoes, and the results of the staff survey were anonymous but sent to directors by department – pretty easy to tell what comments belonged to what people in a department of 10 people or fewer. I won’t even take surveymonkey surveys anymore for fear of something like this happening (even though things are 100% better in my job now).

    What really surprises me is that this is a concern that would warrant a meeting with a manager, if it was for anything more than asking for more feedback. Did the manager perhaps just want to advise you to speak with the students’ supervisor directly? It’s just really odd that that this is anything worth spending time on.

    1. Anonymously Anonymous*

      We used to have to hand deliver our anonymous internal survey to our supervisor (inbox on the desk–so you’d hope no one was in there –it felt humiliating to sneak around and quickly drop your survey off and run like hell out if the office)…yep some anonymity there?! And then reminders were posted on the breakroom board if there wasn’t 100% participation and how we they needed 100% participation. Now since the process is slightly more anonymous and marks aren’t as high.

      1. Steve*

        Reminds me of an email my group once received.

        “Everyone has submitted their anonymous survey with the exception of Steve and Paul. Steve and Paul please be sure to complete your surveys by the end of the day”

        1. JT*

          We had surveys at my job where they were anonymous to management, but not to the person who was conducting the surveys. So it was quite possible for to keep track of who had answer but preserve anonymity when results were delivered.

    2. Jessa*

      Yeh, the point of anonymous is protecting the reporting party. If they need more information there should be a way to ask for it without going and finding out the NAME of the person doing the reporting.

  5. Not so NewReader*

    For #1. My heart goes out to you.

    Mangers that do not have managerial skills have to use public humiliation and fear to manager their people. They don’t know any other techniques.

    The covert message here is these are the techniques that the manager has learned either at home as a child or during her career time. We do what we know. ( I am not saying this is right-no, no, no. I am pointing out where it comes from.)

    The manager has deliberately chosen not to learn better techniques for problem solving. In other words, this person has stopped growing.

    Please know that some of your coworkers are saying to themselves, “Am I next? Will I get treated this way, too?”

    Take a moment to reflect on the people who helped you fix the file. What was their demeanor? I am willing to bet that some of them were gentle and helpful. Not everyone that sat down behaved like a jerk.

    Having been in similar situations I can honestly say “Yeah the manager did have me ‘hook, line and sinker’. ” Remember that this is TEMPORARY. These types of managers usually end up in hot water for something that is a hundred times worse than your error. This takes time to play out. Find satisfaction in knowing that her day will come. It will take time.

    For the immediate term- I suggest goggling and reading up on bosses that bully. Even a half hour of reading will help you fortify.
    Alison is right about locating another job first before quitting. But sometimes we just cannot do that. If you go home crying and shaking every night this is a quality of life issue that must be handled. I had one job that involved crying all the way into work and crying all the way home. I tried everything -rest/exercise/reading– nothing worked. I left that job. Nothing has ever been that bad since then. And some jobs have been down right GOOD.

    Looking back on some situations where I ate some “serious humble pie”, I can honestly say it strengthened me. I am now in a job situation where my boss tells me “You are so strong, you just keep going.” The work is difficult and involved. But my boss is a fine-fine human being. I will be okay in the long run and I know it.

    1. ABC*

      A very compassionate response, Not so NewReader

      Yes OP #1, take heart that this is just a temporary situation.Mistakes happen but it was she who forgot simple empathy. You will come out of this for the better .

      Dont quit unless essential – dont let her rule your decisons… its tough out there.

    2. Kelsey N*

      My goodness, how many jobs have you had?! I mean, every time there’s a post it seems like you went through an identical situation at some point even if it’s really specific.

      1. Anonymous*

        Eh, one or two bad managers can probably hit a lot of the scenarios on this site.

        1. Maggie*

          I have had one supervisor who qualifies for a lot of the “are you kidding me?” qualities frequently talked about here. Yes, she was that awful. Fortunately I have also had other managers who were really great. Sometimes you luck out, sometimes you don’t.

      2. A teacher*

        I’ve only had 2 real jobs but between both jobs and what I’ve witnessed lots of friends and family go through I can relate to a lot of posts too…I think a lot of us can.

    3. Anony1234*

      This stood out to me right away: Mangers that do not have managerial skills have to use public humiliation and fear to manager their people. They don’t know any other techniques.

      I don’t think this applies to all managers who lack managerial skills. I think it depends on their background and personality. My current manager obviously lacks managerial skills, but he does not humiliate me or my coworkers. Instead, he has easily made himself into a doormat. We can walk over him easily. We want a day off. Okay, that’s fine. Oh, but that coworker can’t cover. That’s okay; he can handle the time by himself. He can even anticipate when there will be an issue, and he just waits until it happens (for example, when someone is on an extended vacation, he realizes some people won’t be able to cover that person and he doesn’t push for anyone to make it happen). He lets his assistant manager make some major decisions, and one time, in front of me, the assistant manager told him how to have a certain conversation with the superior! He’s a nice guy so work is okay in that respect, but I still go home annoyed because he refuses to manage.

    4. Erik*

      “Mangers that do not have managerial skills have to use public humiliation and fear to manager their people. They don’t know any other techniques.”

      Well said – that’s been my experience in the past. My last company had a boss just like that, and he was a tyrant. Mind you not all are like that, but definitely the vast majority are.

  6. Anonymously Anonymous*

    #4 what’s the point of it being anonymous then? If you were chastised for complaining –shame on your manager. If she wanted more information –again shame on your manager. Why didn’t she or whomever is responsible for the student workers investigate the matter instead of tracking you down? There has to he more to this story.
    Or perhaps this is one of those tales of ’employers who give employees an anonymous process to follow for complaints, suggestions, and internal evaluations but are more concerned with who made it as oppose to addressing a problematic issue’

  7. Zed*


    Is the webform meant to be used by patrons who want to report other patrons? Because if so, I could sort of see why it would be an issue for an employee to use it to report other (albeit student) employees…

    1. Anonymously Anonymous*

      Ah! That would make sense. (after re-reading it) Usually noise complaint in a university warrants security getting involved. More than likely this was not the correct protocol since she reported workers.

    2. Anonymous*

      If the survey was really anonymous there wouldn’t be the stipulation in the form because it wouldn’t matter who the reporting party was. Seems like it was never intended to be really anonymous.

    3. anon in tejas*

      This was my read on it as well. It is used as a courtesy to students to have it, but not used for staff to complain.

      I am guessing that they told you that you should have reported it to your boss/director or told them yourself to keep the noise down.

      Also, it makes perfect sense why that would be anonymous, but not anonymous. In the state we live in with school shootings, bomb threats, etc., it’s important that info is not anonymous to IT, because it can help track down when bad things are happening or threats being made.

  8. Jennifer*

    Anonymity no longer exists in most cases–especially if (a) you did use a computer, which means that you will be tracked (unless you use some stranger computer with no login, I guess?), (b) you’re in a small enough department that you can be figured out, and especially (c) if they want you to write out responses to your questions rather than filling in bubbles or boxes that rate something on a scale of 1-5. If you write something out and they know you well enough, they can figure out who it is.

    But that said, specifically tracking you AND POINTING IT OUT TO YOU that you weren’t anonymous? Super creepy. They’re not even pretending to not know who said it any more? Yikes.

    Oddly enough, my volunteer job does a great job at the anonymous surveys for the classes they run– I’m an instructor and they’ve never told me anything specific anyone said beyond “people liked it” and I’ve never physically seen the surveys. I do know one instructor who got upset because someone said on a survey that they didn’t cover health and safety (I suppose it’s reasonable to ask why someone who had been teaching there for years suddenly skipped it in one case!)–but in her case, I guess it was obvious that the one woman who didn’t show up until an hour into the class was the one who claimed it was never covered.

  9. A Fly on the Wall*


    I think you should talk to HR about your manager. Even if they have a history of doing nothing, it may buy you some time if she is trying to build a case for firing you. Ideally some of your co-workers that looked uncomfortable while she made her joke would also complain but that’s nothing you can control.

    You don’t want to quit because its difficult to collect unemployment if you quit – not impossible but harder. Also, quitting without having another job is just trading one problem for a potentially worse problem. You should step up your job search activities and maybe decide that you’ll consider less pay if it will advance the job search.

    Do what you can to get out of there but be smart about it.

    1. Jessa*

      Yes, if you are quitting due to an impossible environment, you really are going to need to prove it up. If you have EAP or medical insurance, talk to a counselor, get some coping strategies, but if they fail you then have the counselor’s notes to back you up with unemployment.

      I had a job once where they re-hired someone who well, to be honest wasn’t as good as I was and she literally kept sabotaging me. This was back in the old days pre smaller computers so everything was done in a file of cards for each customer.

      I’d put everything away and the next day I’d get a call from a customer and the card would be missing or mis filed completely. Over and over and over numerous customers. So this was not me making a silly filing error.

      I finally quit. And went and GOT unemployment because I had gone to see my mother’s shrink and he wrote a letter for me about the environment that made me completely stressed and crazy, and crying all the time, and this was back in the 70s when it was even HARDER to get unemployment (more strict, have to go in and get your cheque every week, etc.)

      So I basically got unemployment because the work environment made my life hell. However, I had documentation that the job was affecting my HEALTH. And used that.

      If you’re going to quit for that kind of harder to prove cause, make sure you can document it as much as you can. Because they’ll fight. And you’ll have to appeal.

    2. fposte*

      I’m also wondering if the OP may not be from the US (“cock-up” in particular is an unusual phrase here), and therefore may be facing a different situation legally and structurally. If she is from the UK, my impression is that there may be more options here.

  10. FiveNine*

    As I read #4, it seemed pretty clear to me the management pulled OP in because of perceived or real abuse of the anonymous form, which OP says is for student patrons of the resource center to report noisy other student patrons. Instead, an employee in a supervisory role used this venue to complain about other employees he/she does not supervise. That is, OP thought management would think a patron was complaining about what the patron thought were other patrons as opposed to one of the supervisors complaining about other employees.

    The whole thing from every angle looks rife with deception and I don’t even know how to comment. I don’t get the sense at all that the anonymous complaint form is even something like Survey Monkey that is intended for internal employee complaints — it looks like it’s entirely meant to be a service to the patrons.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I completely missed that part, and you’re right: The OP says it’s a form for student/patron use, not employee use. That does change things.

      1. Jessa*

        Yeh, I missed that too at first, we need more information on this. But I still maintain that the only way they KNEW there was abuse of the form was by identifying the OP. Which is kind of skeevy to me. I mean the only way they know is backtracking, and what if it wasn’t the OP but someone who borrowed their machine because they were scared of something.

        1. Anonymously Anonymous*

          It does sound a bit skeevy but maybe IT saw it wasn’t from the student network and it provoked curiosity. OP admitted to filing the complaint as well. I remember our university had ways for student to report noises as well and once the complaint was filed security would go to the area and address it. (Esp in cases where students would gather in the library to work on assignments then get distracted in the process and create a disturbance) Im interested in knowing if she filed it as a ‘patron complaining about patrons’ or ’employee complaining about co-workers’

      2. Kristi*

        I’m wondering if she could have still filed it anonymously from home or public library, but just not on a work computer. I generally assume anything I do on a work computer is not private and accessible by my employer, and my employers IT department. Emails, IM, surfing, social media, texting on work phones, anything can be pulled up.

        1. Kelsey N*

          I get the feeling it’s something you use on the spot when you’re trying to study and people two tables over are being rowdy, so the staff can take action immediately without you marching up to the desk and it being obvious who made the complaint.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      This is how I read the question and I completely agree. If I were OP’s boss, I’d be annoyed that s/he used an anonymous form to tattle on coworkers rather than speaking directly to the coworkers or to their supervisor. And I don’t think it’s wrong for IT to be tracking whether a form that’s supposed to be used by patrons to report other patrons is actually being used by employees. In fact, I think that’s a good safeguard to keep the form from being used by petty or vindictive employees.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        Speaking to coworkers: Hey, could you guys quiet down a bit – it’s getting pretty noisy.

        Coworkers: You’re not the boss of me!

    3. I Am Number Four*

      I was not and am not in a supervisory position. The noise was being made by student employees who I do not supervise. (That wasn’t clear in my email.)

      And the web form is a ‘noise complaint form’. In theory it’s for patrons but there are no formal rules for its use.

      1. A-a-anonymous*

        It seems like maybe it’s a form that exists to give people who wouldn’t ordinarily have a chance to alert staff to noise the chance to do so without retribution. It seems like in this case, the more appropriate thing to do would be for you, and employee, to ask the students to be quieter (like you would any co-worker) or, if you feel uncomfortable doing that, bring it up to their (or your) supervisor. It seems a little passive aggressive to use the form that is apparently intended to be used for patrons – you’re following the letter of the law, but certainly not the spirit.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Completely agree. Just because you don’t supervise them doesn’t mean you don’t work with them, in the sense that you’re all library employees. This is why I would have been annoyed if I were your (OP #4’s) boss — because I would have thought, “Can’t OP go through the appropriate channels instead of being passive-aggressive?”

          1. Zed*

            Exactly this. I am a library employee and I don’t supervise student workers. But if a student worker were being noisy, I would either ask them to be quieter (as I would ask a co-worker or a patron) or I would alert their supervisor. Filling out a form that is intended to be used by patrons seems inappropriate. To me, it would be like calling the circulation desk and complaining without identifying myself.

            The form is probably “anonymous” in that it collects IP info (which SurveyMonkey does unless you disable that function) but doesn’t do anything with that info. But it is possible in this case that whoever received the comments noticed that this comment came from a staff IP address and questioned why a staff member would be using the form.

            In order to really evaluate what happened, I think we’d have to know why the OP was pulled into a meeting with her supervisor. That is a key piece of information that was glossed over in the question. The supervisor might have simply said, “I just wanted to let you know that the form isn’t intended for staff use. If you notice student workers being disruptive, please follow correct protocol.” If that’s the case, then I don’t think there is much of an issue, because the form is intended for use by students, and the OP was never guaranteed anonymity. Now, if the OP knows of a case where a *student* was singled out because of a complaint, then that IS an issue to be pursued further.

        2. Anonymous*

          With student workers the dynamic is different. While not usually actively forbidden, having other employees say or do anything in regards to student employees is not considered OK. And because of so many department on a campus who employ student workers, it might not be apparent who to complain/report the situation to, if there even is someone to complain/report to. Reporting using the form was probably the best situation to this problem.

          1. -X-*

            “is not considered OK. ”

            By who?

            “And because of so many department on a campus who employ student workers, it might not be apparent who to complain/report the situation to, if there even is someone to complain/report to. ”

            You could ask the students who they work for. Or, perhaps more helpfully, ask/tell them to be quiet.

            1. Anonymous*

              No, even asking them who their supervisor is would be frowned upon. Like Alison has mentioned before, student workers are different, and in some ways are treated more like children then employees. So, it gets a little skeevy when someone who’s not their manager or in their department talking to them. I have a coworker who supervisors students taking class credit (for research). While I do talk to them, I have no authority over them, and even my manager wouldn’t support me telling them they were doing something wrong (unless it was really really wrong and dangerous).

              1. Zed*

                I have worked at multiple university libraries and have never run into a situation like this.

  11. Kelsey N*

    Re #4, I wonder what made them trace the complaint in the first place. If it’s supposed to be anonymous, one would hope they wouldn’t automatically trace every complaint. I could see them being upset if an employee used a form that was supposed to be for patrons, but they couldn’t have known that from the outset. Meaning they probably do a trace every time, and in that case it isn’t anonymous at all. But the OP shouldn’t tell people this proactively. Maybe if one of her coworkers asks, “Hey, does anyone actually respond when you use that form?” she could warn them that it’s traceable. But telling people outright is only going to get you labeled a troublemaker.

    1. A-a-anonymous*

      Maybe they just track the areas the noise is coming from/the complaint is coming from, so they can tell where problem areas are. If they did that regularly, and saw that the complaint came from a staff computer/area, that could trigger more investigation.

  12. Anonymous*

    #7. Is teaching considered management or leadership experience, both or neither? I’m trying to break into university admin though my teaching was at a residential boarding school abroad.

    1. Chinook*

      As someone with a B.Ed and teaching experience, I can tell you that the only management skills we learn are classroom management. Managing students is not the same because we can’t fire them, we don’t manage a budget (other than for classroom supplies) and students have to be there and can’t go look for another teacher if they aren’t satisfied there.

      On the plus side, we do know how to deal with confidentiality, multiple assignments and schedules, have to present ourselves as experts even if we only learned the information the night before and we actually understand different learning styles which means are presentations should be better than a talking head.

  13. OP #3*

    More details on the roomie’s work situation:

    She’s only been counseled once for misconduct (not gross) but counseled and written up once for insubordination. She’s very vocal and ranty about when she gets disciplined at work as if she’s always being treated unfairly. And even when she tells her stories to me, I can see exactly why her managers respond the way they do.

    Also, she’s gotten EEOC involved before because of a sexual harassment claim. What happened is that she dated two employees (publicly), then had a secret affair with another coworker, and is currently having a secret affair with yet another coworker. As expected, rumors were spread, and she claimed sexual harassment. While I agree that its no laughing matter, I get a very Boy Who Cried Wolf (or Girl Who Cried Title 7) feeling with her. Of course, this is being brought up to the union too. Plus that she’s the 4th single mom to be fired that were direct reports of the same supervisor.

    I bring that up because she thinks being a single mom gives her permission to be late or not show up to work (typically does call in, so its not necessarily no call-no shows). If she can’t take her kid to daycare, she won’t go to work. If she wakes up late, she goes to work late. She has to be at work by 6:30am but her daycare doesn’t open until 7. Or if she has to take public transit to work, the bus has to come by 5am (opening) for her to get to work by 630 because of distance. This too, she uses as an excuse.

    I mean, I understand its hard being a single mom. I do, I was raised by one. But she thinks she’s entitled because she is one. That she can go into work at 8am when she’s due at 630, because she’s a single mom with no personal transportation. Like she deserves special treatment.

    If her employer can accommodate her, fantastic. But if they can’t,they can’t. She’s been let go from other places for the same thing. I don’t think the job is a good fit for her…. Needs. Plus, she’s too much drama in the workplace and I can understand why she, as a temporary employee who has been there less than a year, would no longer be needed.

    When my dad was alive, he was an union member. They took care of him on the job and took care of us when he passed on the job. I am 100% pro Union. But I feel like she’s abusing the system by relying the mission of the Union to save her job when she rightly deserves to be fired.

    1. 7*

      One more person that feels like they are entitled to special treatment. This thought process typically starts at home (when they are kids).

      My toddler wanted a purple ball at Walgreens today. I intended to buy one but she threw a mini fit bc I wasn’t moving fast enough and bc I asked her to put one of them down…..She left with nothing and I explained to her why. Such is life (consequences).

      Best of luck to your roommate. One day she may figure things out.

    2. Cat*

      Honestly, I’d recommend you disengage. You don’t really know what happened; you’re not in a position to do anything about; and she’s clearly not going to listen to you. Being sucked into her drama is just going to make you miserable.

      And if this helps, the fact that there’s a union involved doesn’t mean she’ll get to drag this out forever if what she did – whatever that was – merited firing. Conversely, if the supervisor really is firing single moms (which happens), even if she personally deserved to be fired, it’s good someone’s looking out for that.

      1. Anonymous*

        Given the divorce rate, there’s so many single moms (and dads) nowadays that a few firings is hardly indicative of a trend. Could it be possible that this manager has something against single moms? Sure, but then they wouldn’t be hired.

        1. Cat*

          I didn’t say he did. I said it’s good someone’s looking out for that. Obviously, unless there’s actual evidence that it happened, nobody should actually do anything, but it is something to keep in mind. (And we don’t actually know that this manager hired those workers; she or he could have been hired later.)

      2. OP #3*

        Yeah, I’m seriously dissengaging. I only gave the short version to see if AAM knew stuff about unions and When The Typical Rules Don’t Apply, and I understand she’s not a lawyer. I hadn’t seen any union questions on here, actually, and was curious on another take on it.

        But yeah, the roomie has been my best friend for 10+ years, so there’s definitely a personal stake in this. Luckily, the living situation has been a temporary one and come June 1, I’m in my own apartment.

        She always thought she was too “protected” to be let go, because she’d always say stuff like, “oh they can’t fire me. They know I have too much dirt on them.” which is basically what she’s doing now..

        Oh well. Best of luck to her in her future career. Even if she gets reinstated on union technicality, they are going to watching her like a hawk and the next toe out of line is her job.

        1. Joey*

          Lots of times public employees are what’s called civil service employees. This means that there’s some due process involved in disciplinary actions which frequently includes the right to appeal a termination. And I don’t know if there’s a binding agreement or if her union is merely a recognized organization, but there are typically ways to legitimately get fired without the standard” due process.” For attendance, typically successive ns/nc’s or lots of unauthorized absences in a short amount of time can mean the normal steps of the process aren’t followed. And although they would be obligated to represent her, union reps typically don’t have a lot of compassion for something so black and white as not showing up to work.

          1. Jessa*

            Exactly, unless the absences were part of a protected thing. I mean if you no call/no show and were taken to hospital in an ambulance following a car accident, they’d fight like crazy for you. That and natural disaster that takes out communications are pretty much the only valid reasons for nc/ns. (Cannot call for x reason where x is a factor of unexpected, uncontrollable and unforeseeable emergency.)

    3. HumbleOnion*

      Why are you involved with this? Why are you the one writing to Ask a Manager? Let her take responsibility & handle her own job situation.

    4. mooseknuckle*

      wow, another grossly entitled crappy employee with a serious lack of ethics. I’ve known way too many women like her–excuses for everything and total drama queens……makes me burn when people like her (and the evil manager in #1) have jobs, when there’s plenty of decent hardworking qualified people who are struggling to find gainful employment or advance beyond dead end jobs.

    5. Chinook*

      Does your friend play a character on “Chicago Fire” because that sounds like a recent story line.

    6. Omne*

      There may be another reason based on what you mentioned. If she has been counseled before and is a marginal employee she may have been fired for insubordination. If she went off on her manager when the tardiness was addressed, depending on what exactly she said, she could have been terminated without additional progressive discipline being imposed. Arbitrators are usually pretty accepting of that type of termination if it’s severe enough and their work histories are poor.

      Since she probably is spinning the facts like crazy you’ll never know what actually happened. From my experience though most government employee unions are pretty good about challenging a termination without documented notice to the employee. The fact they didn’t in this case is kind of suspicious.

      A good union isn’t there to protect bad employees, they’re there to make sure the employer follows the rules.

    7. OP #3*

      Well another update:

      The union rep submitted the official request for reinstatement with retro pay. The roomie says she will be working a different schedule (again, its shift work – Sun to Weds, 630am to 430pm or 430pm to 230am and Weds-Sat, same hours. That’s it. Those are the only options to work). She typically worked the wed-sat day shift because she’s a single mom, it worked out better. They are accommodating her request to work days, so she’s getting the sun-weds schedule, if reinstated.

      While she’s bragging about it, she makes a comment about how she will always be late on Sunday, due to public transot not being available until 7am on sundays . I tell her they may hold it against her, and she may get fired again. She says “oh they cant do that. Im union. I have certain rights.” I tell her her job only offers 4 shifts and if shes late, then its reason for disciplinary action to lead to termination again, as they will be crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s on her.

      Again, claims special “they can’t do that because its discrimination because I have to take the bus. Besides, they knew that when they hired me.” I remind her that just because its a unionized county position, it does not mean they are obligated to accommodate her personal life, that if she can’t work the shifts they offer, then she’s not suitable for an employee.

      Apparently I’m wrong though. Oh well. She will learn soon enough that shes not entitled to special treatment for being a single parent with no personal transportation. Best of luck to her.

  14. OP#1*

    Thank you for the comments and advice! I wrote that email very quickly after it happened, and I have a much better handle on myself now. It was rather shocking at the time as I have never had anything but glowing reports from this supervisor before this, though she would be very verbally difficult to the point I have had to ask her not to yell at me in public.

    I actually got my job after my predecessor went to HR to complain about supervisor’s bullying and her issues with losing files, forgetting to complete financial paperwork, and other issues. There was an investigation, predecessor left but with severance, and my supervisor remains. She is… rather infamous at our work space and is very well known for being difficult to work with, and there were other investigations before. I have read here before to always email back instructions because she would change how a project would work halfway through, and she still tells me to stop emailing her after her verbal directions. When I tell her I just wanted to be clear, she took to not speaking to me for a week or two at a time before repeating the process all over again.

    We have had four employees leave in the last year, and it is clock work that new hires leave after two years. She does the same thing to them, so I do not feel I am special, just the current object of her anger. Only two people have remained for longer, besides myself. I guess I am due!

    Thank you all again for your well wishes and advice. I am interviewing, and my goal is to leave by the end of summer. Please cross your fingers for me!

    1. MovingRightAlong*

      Best of luck! Hopefully the company will wise up to her antics, but that’s their problem, not yours. Stay strong and keep looking towards the future.

    2. jennie*

      You can see that it’s not personal – she treats everyone this way – so don’t take it personally. Just internally roll your eyes at her and keep doing your best. That might help you get through until you find a new job. Good luck!

  15. Lindsay J*

    For #3, what happens if you’re not a union employee but the company does not follow the procedures outlined in their handbook for discipline and termination? That’s what happened to me – I had no previous disciplinary action and only great feedback about my work.

    Then I got pulled into admin at the end of my shift and fired for a stupid reason (it wasn’t gross misconduct or anything like that were no notice would really be justified).

    I appealed with HR but never heard anything back from them. The manager that fired me was gone a week or so after I was fired, and I got another job soon afterwards so I never pursued anything. I would like my no rehire status lifted because it is a large company in my fiend that I have a lot of connections in, and if an opening comes up in the future I’d like to be eligible.

  16. Lindsay J*

    For #4, since you work there why wouldn’t you address the issues with the loud student workers with the person who does supervise them, rather than using the anonymous web-form. Using it for this purpose when it is intended for patrons to complain about other patrons seems to be a little unprofessional and passive aggressive to me.

    I feel for you on the whole “anonymous is not really anonymous” issue, though. One place I worked for made us sit through an “orientation” and a “management core training” every year. These trainings were conducted rather unprofessionally and didn’t do the best job of imparting useful knowledge. At the end we had an anonymous feedback form to fill out about the training, and I filled it out honestly. When they asked what I had learned, I put that I didn’t really learn once. When they asked what I thought of the presenter, I put something like, “I feel it is inappropriate for Vanessa to be presenting on appropriate dress-code when she is not dressed appropriately herself. She might consider wearing a camisole underneath her white shirt in the future when she is giving a class to 100+ people, as her bra was clearly visible through her shirt.”

    The director asked my manager (we had included our departments on the form) to identify the hand writing on the form and fire the person who had written the comment, because apparently the comment sheets went to corporate before they hit got back to our HR department and corporate got mad about the feedback. My manager refused to do it on the basis that it was an anonymous form and that the feedback was not malicious or wrong, just negative. When he pushed back she said there was just no way to tell who it was and said she was either firing her entire management staff or firing nobody. So I almost got fired for what I wrote on an anonymous feedback form. (I laughed the next year when I saw it went from open-ended questions to a 1-10 circle rating).

  17. W.W.A.*

    To #1, don’t hold your breath for HR to do anything. Like so many other readers of AAM, I too was in a similar situation with an abusive, bullying boss. HR will deal with it if your boss sexually harasses you or discriminates against you (provided you are in a protected class), but they simply don’t care if your boss is a jerk. Best case scenario is in your boss’s next performance review, HER boss mildly tsk tsks her and she still gets a raise.

    The only solution to working in a toxic environment with an abusive boss is to find another job, despite any reasons you might come up with to stay. Kudos to you for getting the ball rolling.

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