update: my boss leads a clique that gossips about other staff and now wants to have a drunk sleepover

Remember the reader whose boss led a gossipy clique and wanted to have a drunk sleepover? Here’s the update.

At first, I tried to keep to myself and remain professional, but interactions with my coworkers kept getting worse: I would work an event while they would smoke outside or bring their children and entertain them, but at the same time they were “too busy” to find time to train me on parts of my job. I kept trying to work hard and develop quality educational materials, but eventually it ended up in exactly what one of your readers predicted: in June, my boss called me in to talk about traits like “poor interactions and rapport with others, stand-offish or snobbish, not a team player, unapproachable…” I was disappointed and relieved at the same time! We discussed how this might not be the best place for me, and she did me the courtesy of being understanding and supportive, and she wrote me a positive letter of reference. Although I know this goes against your advice, I gave my notice with nothing lined up because I was so desperate to get out of there! My husband had found a job in April, so he was supportive of the decision to go back down to one income so that I wouldn’t have to come home feeling miserable every day.

Interestingly, after it started to get around the small office that I would be leaving in a few weeks, I started receiving visits from each and every one of the “unpopular” people telling me that I would be missed because I’m “one of the good ones,” and that they understand why I’m leaving and wish they could do the same! One of them told me she cries herself to sleep every night but can’t leave without finding another job first. I had been feeling sort of ashamed that I was such a quitter and that I couldn’t just suck it up and get along with everyone, but their comments made me realize that it wasn’t just me who found the office culture toxic, and I felt lucky that I could get out!

Now I am struggling trying to find another job, but I have been doing some volunteer work and trying to make connections while I search. While I have been on a few interviews, I haven’t found anything yet. I’ve accepted that I left the “best” job in my area as far as pay and opportunities (on paper it really was an awesome job!). However, since the “best” job was that horrible, it’s really given me new perspective!

Thanks to you and your readers for your advice!

{ 34 comments… read them below }

  1. LMW

    I think this might be the most disappointing update yet. I feel so rotten for the OP and hope she finds a great new job soon.

      1. Ruffingit

        I don’t think the boss is oblivious to it at all. I think she enjoys it and fosters it. She is at the helm of her little ship of friends and she’s loving it. Clearly, this boss has no understanding of boundaries or professionalism and her boss apparently doesn’t care probably since the business is continuing to run and produce.

    1. Lisa

      Maybe I am too negative, but the boss wanted you to quit so that you don’t qualify for unemployment or couldn’t find a reason to get rid of you. When a boss talks about this ‘might not be the best place for me’, you should take that as you are being let go/fired. Please tell me that you filed for unemployment…

      1. fposte

        Maybe, but there are also organizations that take the “have you ever been fired?” question on the application very seriously, and it’s an advantage not to have to put “Yes.” It’s an individual circumstance which is going to matter more, of course.

      2. some1

        It’s pretty much impossible to fire a government employee once they’ve worked past the probationary period, and refusing to come to a sleepover wouldn’t be a good enough reason.

        1. Brett

          Depends on the government and whether or not there is a union involved. Non-union local government and school district employees can be fired for any reason. School district employees are often on renewing contracts, so they are terminated by waiting until the end of the year and not renewing them.
          As an example, the infamous “facebook like” case involved a public employee. (And in that situation, it took a lengthy court case to protect the employee’s first amendment rights eventually.)

          1. Anonymous

            Um, union teacher here. No, it’s pretty hard to fire teachers, not impossible but hard. It needs to be hard or many districts would let go of the older staff (mine tried to do that and is in the middle of several lawsuits).

        2. Katie the Fed

          this really isn’t true. It’s possible, but it takes managers who are willing to do the work and go through the process.

      1. Ruffingit

        Yeah, job hunting sucks, but I think it would suck worse to know you had to go into a Mean Girls environment every single day. And since her husband’s salary can carry them for awhile, I applaud this woman for jumping ship. As I said in another comment, leaving without another job to go to is something you do in rare situations, but I think it applies here. I have the feeling had she not done this, she’d have found herself on the receiving end of a pink slip anyway. Might as well take control and leave, give yourself some time to recover, and hopefully move on to something else that is more sane.

  2. Kate

    Good for you putting your mental health first (and good on your husband for being so supportive). Life is short. Best wishes for finding a job soon!

  3. B

    This is a great update (though I wish you had found a job!). As someone who is working in a toxic environment, I’ve been struggling to accept that my mental health is more valuable to me than sucking it up.

  4. andy

    It was obvious from OP’s letter that the environment was toxic for her, but it seems like this manager’s approach is working for her core employees…her clique.
    I wonder if a work environment can really be considered toxic if a core group of employees are functioning and making their manager happy.
    (I say functioning because the system they’ve set up is producing results…albeit from the efforts of employees who feel the environment is toxic. The system isn’t totally broken, just running down key parts quick: like my old car that burns oil like gas…it’s not totally right, but it keeps me from making a car payment)

    1. B

      Had not thought of it like this. In my case, this is exactly what is happening, but the company is hugely successful. It seems to be working for the people around me.

      1. WWC

        Drunken sleepover management may work for awhile, but it is inevitable that it will end in disaster. Natural law, karma, commonsense…. Unfortunately you can’t legislate stupid.

    2. Anonicorn

      This is part of what sucks. It’s going to just keep happening with no consequence. I wish there were some sort of anti-jerk superhero who went around stopping people like this.

        1. Jamie

          Yikes – we all know how Alison feels about capes!

          I know, out of context, but I loved that post and it just struck me as funny.

    3. BCW

      Thats a great analogy. Sometimes a “toxic” workplace for some is a dream job for others. I know the type of boss I’ve gotten along with best was a place a lot of people I know couldn’t handle. But the people that were there were extremely productive. I think that is a good think to acknowledge.

    4. EE

      An interesting take on the situation. However, it would be difficult to make clear at interviews: “If you don’t enjoy drunken girly nights out and in where you’ll be gossiped about if you don’t show, this may not be the role for you.” So non-crazy people will continue to find jobs there and it’ll be toxic for them.

  5. Woodward

    Good luck OP! I have been wondering how that worked out for you.

    This update reminds me of all the questions “I know I’m perfect for this job/this is my dream job/I really want this job” from a candidate perspective. You have NO IDEA what it’s really like until you’re hired – the interview can give good clues, but the full picture isn’t revealed until it’s Day One. How jobs look on paper vs. how they are in real life is not the same.

    1. AB

      “The interview can give good clues, but the full picture isn’t revealed until it’s Day One.”

      Sometimes, not until it’s Day 10 or 20. I never think in terms of “dream job”, but my previous job was great on paper and started well, only to become a nightmare when someone who was not only incompetent but also unreliable but protected by the VP replaced the previous director.

      You really never know what’s going to happen, and the type of toxic environment you are going to end up with. Sometimes it’s just a matter of luck and moving on when you see that the situation is not going to get better, with fingers crossed that you won’t end up in a similar situation (fortunately, I was lucky and am happy in my current job).

  6. Ruffingit

    This is one of those situations where leaving without something lined up was totally appropriate. You took control and went ahead and left. If you hadn’t, it is clear to me that you would have been fired. So at least you had some control in that you decided to leave, got the reference, etc. Hope you find something else soon and I’m happy for you that you’re out of that toxic environment. The rise in your mental health is worth the loss of income IMO.

  7. Angelina Retta

    I guess it would be too vindictive to print the massive amount of “what the hell is wrong with your manager” comments and mail them in now that you’re out of the cesspit? :( Hope you find a better place soon, OP.

    1. Another Emily

      Bad idea, I think it would be pretty obvious who it was from. It is fun to fantasize about these things though.

  8. AF

    Congrats to you, OP! I did the same thing a few years ago, and have struggled financially, but it was absolutely worth it!

  9. Cath@VWXYNot?

    Perhaps the OP and her “good” former colleagues could think about starting up a freelance educational materials endeavour, to compete with this dysfunctional workplace?

    (Assuming there’d be a market for freelancers in this field. I know I’ve had people ask me “why don’t you just freelance?”, when there’s really not much of a market for that in my field)

    Best of luck, OP!

  10. Ex teacher

    Ha ha I just flipped to the original post because I just knew this was education! I left teaching and related jobs almost a year ago after 12 years, and never felt better in my life. The first few months were tough as I was ill, but think that it was a reaction to being out of toxic workplaces. As long as you can afford it, leaving is the best decision to make.

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