my boss is having a second person sit in on all our meetings

A reader writes:

I’m wondering whether my discomfort about my boss having asked a second person to sit in on our meetings is warranted, i.e. whether this is a typical practice.

We’ve been sorting out some bumpy communications issues, where I have strongly felt that “Supervisor 1” was not hearing my questions, treated my comments about my efforts to manage my time as excuses, and talked to me in a condescending tone, etc. Supervisor 1 and his manager, “Supervisor 2,” feel that I am mistaken, and say that none of them has ever, ever heard Supervisor 1 speak to anyone in such a way, so it can’t possibly have happened with me.

Their claim that I am mistaken has also led to their having another supervisor attend every meeting I attend with anyone, where previously these meetings took place a one-on-one meetings with me, and it all just feels really odd. Definitely not a trusting environment. I’d like to ask them about this practice, but it sounds like such a paranoid question that I am afraid to offer them what they might take as evidence of my state of mind! And yet, there they are… I’m not imagining their presence, and they definitely have never attended these meetings before! Any thoughts or suggestions?

This … possibly makes sense to me. You reported that your manager was communicating with you badly and that didn’t align with their own perceptions, and so one strong possibility here is that they’re getting another opinion to see what another observer thinks. That’s not unreasonable at all, and it’s better than simply saying, “Sorry, we disagree, end of discussion.”

Of course, it’s also possible that the person sitting in on your meetings now is simply there to rubber-stamp your managers’ assessment that you’re mistaken … but I don’t know why they’d bother, since it would perfectly easy for them to just tell you you’re wrong and leave it at that.

It’s also possible that the other manager is there to document how batty you are (in their view), but there’s no reason to bring in a different manager for that; they could simply document it on their own.

So I’m more inclined to think it’s a genuine attempt to find out what you’re seeing — and, yes, to tell you that no one else sees what you see if in fact that’s the outcome — but either way, it’s not unreasonable for them to do this when you’re saying “I see X” and they’re saying “We see Y.”

But if you’re unsettled, you can certainly ask about it: “I noticed that since our conversation, Jane has been joining our meetings, and I was curious about her role.”

It’s also worth thinking, though, about whether this is still somewhere you want to stay, because it sounds like your relationship with your manager is shaky at best, and things have devolved to the point where you’ve you’re suspicious of their actions. Do you see this situation recovering to the point that it makes sense to stay, or should you be looking at other options?

{ 100 comments… read them below }

      1. Anonymous*

        I hesitate to call it without seeing it. Where I work now this would be done to my benefit if I was the OP. However where I used to work this would have happened to call me crazy.

        Either way I agree the relationship sounds strained and she might want to consider working at a different organization for her own happiness.

        1. Anonymous*

          Yeah, it totally depends on the workplace. At my old job, it would have been done to prove I’m the crazy one.

          One weird thing about this is that both people in the meeting might act differently while a new person is sitting in on it, so I don’t know that it’s even worth it to have another observer in there…

          1. FiveNine*

            This. Plus OP is already uncomfortable with the communication problem — and yet instead of clearly communicating why this other person is suddenly sitting in on every meeting, they’re making OP even more uncomfortable by apparently not bothering to communicate anything at all. I don’t know that it matters anymore who technically is in the right, I don’t think this working relationship can be saved.

            1. anon*

              Yeah this situation makes me sad. They should at least explain to her why this change is happening, instead of instituting an awkward change and not talking about it. It sounds like a dysfunctional family dynamic. Yuck. I would feel so uncomfortable!

        2. tcookson*

          My first take was that the other person was in the room to protect the other supervisor from possibly unfounded accusations, like when doctors have a nurse in the room when examining a patient, or teachers have another teacher witness when they discipline a student. I took it as a measure to protect the supervisor, and thereby the company, from any legal issues that might arise if the OP complains about anything later.

          1. Green*

            As a lawyer, agreed. Particularly if her claims regarding the communications problems relate to cultural or gender differences or hit on any other potentially legal issues.

  1. ExceptionToTheRule*

    OP, I’ve been you and the way it went down for me was a rubber-stamp effort to prove that I was the over-sensitive, possibly crazy, one.

    That doesn’t have to end badly, however. I just stopped offering ideas and suggestions and thoughts TO THEM unless my opinion was directly solicited and even then I said as little as possible while still being cordial and professional.

    I was lucky enough to be able to channel my concerns to a manager who did not think I was the problem. I kept my head down and mouth shut around my direct supervisor and the manager above her and in the end, they were both let go (for being ineffectual at their jobs).

    Turns out I wasn’t crazy. Good luck OP.

    1. Job seeker*

      I would start looking for another job soon. Having a 3rd person have to be present at all meetings sounds bad to me. There is something wrong when someone has to shadow you this way. I would be look now.

        1. Job seeker*

          I am glad it worked out good for you. I was just saying sometimes this is a bad sign. Doesn’t make it your fault, but I would be concerned enough to be looking for something else as quickly as possible.

        2. Job seeker*

          I wasn’t trying to say this OP was the problem just this is very stressful to have someone else always have to be present. There has to be a reason they are doing this. I would be looking for another job as quickly as possible. This doesn’t sound in the OP’s favor to me. I am glad your situation was different and you had a good outcome.

  2. Anonymous*

    Just because this supervisor is communicating properly with other people doesn’t mean he’s not communicating badly with OP.

    I’m pretty socially awkward so some people I have trouble talking to, but it sounds like this guy just doesn’t like you.

  3. Elizabeth*

    I understood the OP’s problem differently — I understood her to be saying that there is some 3rd person sitting in on *all* meetings the OP has with anyone, all other colleagues, not just the meetings the OP has with her Supervisor 1. Whereas AAM really just addressed the question as if there were just an impartial observer sitting in on meetings between the OP and her Supervisor 1, which I agree would make sense.

    But having someone sit in on all her meetings seems like they don’t trust her to do her job or talk privately to any of her colleagues. They might be afraid that she’s going around complaining and fomenting dissent or something.

    But either way, if they are having someone basically shadow her, either all the time or just with her Supervisor 1, I think they should have said something. “Hey, we’re going to address this communication problem by having Impartial Observer sit in on your meetings. Just pretend she’s not there.”

    1. blu*

      That’s how I read it as well and if that is the case then I think that the supervisors are not handling this appropriately at all.

    2. kj*

      I reread the OP’s letter after reading your comment because I interpreted the letter differently. In the first sentence, the OP implies it is only meetings with the problem supervisor, but later the OP mentions a second person sitting in on all her/his meetings with anyone.

      OP, are they having another supervisor sit in on all meetings you have with anyone or just meetings with supervisors?

    3. Ellie H.*

      Yes, when she says “having another supervisor attend every meeting I attend with anyone, where previously these meetings took place a one-on-one meetings with me” that indicates to me that this is the case. I would agree that with this being the case, it does seem like the motivation is to either demonstrate that there is something problematic about the OP or to ensure that she doesn’t cause problems or something?

      One alternate explanation is that they could have decided that due to the difficulty of communication between OP and her supervisor, that Sitting-In Supervisor is going to become OP’s new supervisor instead, and that she’s sitting in on the OP’s meetings to better get a sense of what OP’s job is and what her communication style is. I don’t know how likely that is though.

      1. JMegan*

        I had the same thought. Sounds like the relationship is over, and the company is just getting their ducks in order before they let her go.

        OP, good luck to you – I hope you get out of there quickly, and on your own terms!

      2. Adam V*

        I don’t know that it’s documentation to fire, unless the OP starts getting angry about always having a third party in the meetings. If the OP is nothing but polite and professional, then I don’t see how the observer can go out and say otherwise. They may say “maybe there’s a personality clash between OP and supervisor 1” but that’s not *necessarily* grounds for termination.

        On the other hand, “she’s hostile to everyone, in nearly every meeting I sat in on” (or even “she got frustrated with my constant presence”) is a ticket out the door.

      3. tcookson*

        Yes. Documentation to fire, and to cover themselves in case it devolves into OP’s word against anyone else’s. I think they expect her to raise a big stink, so they’re putting a witness in all her meetings with anyone.

        1. tcookson*

          Or maybe not even that they plan to fire OP, but the second person in the room is a witness in case the situation devolves.

    4. fposte*

      Umpteenthed–if it was just on meetings with the supervisor that would be one thing, but if she’s being shadowed in every meeting, that’s weird and ominous.

      But it’s also a lot of labor hours to put into somebody you’re planning to get rid of, so it’s strange. I actually think it would be fine to ask, completely nondefensively, what goal is being worked toward with the presence of the extra person, and what you could do to help.

      OP, how long have you been at this job, and was this supervisor yours from the get-go? Basically, I’m wondering if you have any track record of communicating well with somebody at the organization that you can use to bring context.

      1. kj*

        I agree.

        The reason I asked for clarification above is the motives for having a third party present are likely to differ depending upon the types of meetings for which the third party is present. The OP did say there was another supervisor present at all meetings with anyone, but there are some industries in which formal one-on-one meetings do not occur between employees beneath the management level. We also don’t know how many meetings the OP has had since s/he commented on her/his supervisor’s communication problems so It’s hard to judge how many additional man hours the company has put into this situation.

    5. Stryker*

      I agree with you, and I think it’s worth mentioning that the supervisors think this is a big enough problem that they’re willing to pull someone else from their work to sit in on these meetings to get a separate opinion. Take a hard look at your communication style first, OP, to make sure it’s not you, but this sounds a little extreme and not some place I’d like to stay.

      Speaking of, Alison, I was wondering something. You often council folks to look for alternate work if they don’t like conditions, but sometimes they can’t (small town, small industry, need to be close to family so can’t move, what have you). What do you recommend in that situation? I’m going to guess it’s a politer version of “Suck it up!”, but thought I’d ask. :)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, at that point all you can really do is recognize that you’re there because you prefer it to the options (unemployment, moving, or so forth). Sometimes recognizing that can actually help — by underscoring that you do have some control in the situation but you’re choosing to stay where you are because what you’re getting from the situation (a paycheck usually) is worth putting up with the employer for.

  4. kj*

    It sounds like your company is taking your feedback seriously and investigating whether or not your supervisor’s communication skills need work. This is particularly likely if the other supervisor sitting in on the meetings is your supervisor’s manager.

    1. AB*

      “This is particularly likely if the other supervisor sitting in on the meetings is your supervisor’s manager.”

      I’d find it really troubling if my supervisor’s manager started attending ALL my one-on-one meetings with my supervisor (and apparently other people, judging from the description the OP gave). That’s either a huge waste of a manager’s time, or there’s something really wrong going on that needs the manager’s personal attention.

      1. kj*

        Yes, I initially missed the sentence where the OP said the other supervisor was attending all of her/his meetings with anyone and assumed like AAM that the other supervisor was only attending meetings with the OP and Supervisor 1, which would be an entirely different situation.

  5. Anoners*

    I can see AAMs reasoning on this. The only thing that jumps out to me on this is the fact that, with someone sitting in and listening, the supervisor is obviously going to be on his best behaviour. He’s not going to keep being a jerk to the OP (if that’s happening) if there is a third party sitting in on everything. It kind of seems like a bad strategy… Unless of course they’re there to see if the OP is the problem, but still, OP is obviously going to be on their best behaviour as well. Hrmm…

    1. Ruffingit*

      Agreed. I posted the same thing before reading your comment. Observing someone is not the best way to see how they naturally act since the observation itself changes that.

      1. Arbynka*

        This. And if it is really true that the supervisor has no problem aka does not have these communication issues with anyone else besides OP, it might mean that supervisor does not like OP, treats her differently and yes, when observed will watch his act.

    2. doreen*

      Yes, if whichever one is the problem actually knows they are the problem. In my experience, that’s often not the case- if the supervisor doesn’t think he’s a jerk and/or the OP doesn’t think she’s oversensitive , the behvaior will be the same whether someone else is there or not.

  6. Beebs*

    It reads to me like an effort to document . . . something. It’s hard to tell what from the letter. I was on the other end one time when someone I supervised accused me of some pretty bad things. At that point, I told HR that I simply wasn’t willing to meet with that person without someone else present–although I couched it as protecting both of us, I really just wanted another person as a witness to all our interactions (and I’m sure that was transparent to HR). Now, it doesn’t sound like OP has accused the supervisor in question of anything worse than being a bad communicator and kind of a jerk, but I wonder if it’s a similar situation, just a lesser degree.

  7. Ruffingit*

    One issue with having a second supervisor sit in to see if supervisor 1 is in fact condescending is that the presence of a second person can often make the “offender” behave better just by virtue of being observed. So, not sure this is the best way to go about figuring out if S1 is behaving poorly anyway.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      Yes, while reading the letter I was reminded of the Observer Effect: the act of observation changes that which is being observed.

        1. Suzy Schmoe*

          I thought this concept was referred to as the Hawthorne effect–perhaps because the initial focus of my college studies was psychology and social work and not physics. :) If you believe Wikipedia, though, the observer effect is not the same thing as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

  8. Nodumbunny*

    My warning bells are going off because at my old job, this was the technique used when a “difficult” employee had crossed a line and the management was ready to document her and manage her out. The fact that they had had two supervisors in the room at all times came into play once she was fired when she sued, first to get unemployment, then on the basis of discrimination (she was in a protected class). She was blaming everything on her supervisor so it was important to be able to have other managers as witnesses to every interaction once they started pushing her out the door. It her case, she was genuinely a problem employee – I’m not saying you are at all, OP. I’m just saying this may be an indication they are documenting with the intention of pushing you out and trying to CYA by having a second person in the room.

    1. AMG*

      I was thinking this too. They can say, “Jane sat in all of the meetings and Supervisor was very clear and professional with OP. However, when Jane observed OP in meetings with Tom, Dick, and Harry, she did X, Y, and Z wrong. That’s why we decided to let her go.”

    2. tcookson*

      They may not even be trying to push OP out, but something about the OP’s way of complaining has made them think that they need to go into CYA mode. I’ve seen that happen with employees who were considered volatile/sue-happy/not particularly truthful. There was no immediate intent to get rid of them, but the managers didn’t want to be in a vulnerable position if it ever came down to their word against the employee’s.

      1. Bobby Digital*

        Yeah, I agree: it could be preemptive documentation because “something about the OP’s way of complaining has made them think that they need to.” Maybe the company’s been burned before and the OP made them feel uneasy by unintentionally using some hot-button words or phrases.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Gaslighting would mean they’re going to pretend she’s imagining it. We have no way of knowing that.

      I had a third party sit in on a disciplinary meeting with a really difficult employee. He asked why the third party was there and I was completely honest: “this person is here as a neutral witness to this meeting for everybody’s protection.”

  9. PEBCAK*

    I read the letter a few times, and I’m still not totally clear on how this came to pass. Did the OP raise the issues with both her manger and her manager’s manager (Supervisors 1 and 2)? My first instinct was “documentation to fire,” but with the information presented here, there could be a few other possibilities:

    1) OP went over her manager’s head, and supervisor 2 has to side with supervisor 1 to support the chain of command, but is privately unsure and wants to gather more info.

    2) OP is in a protected class, and this is a CYA move. If this is the case, I wouldn’t be surprised if the new person attending meetings is in the same protected class.

    3) OP is on her way out and they are having someone else learn her job before they tell her.

    In any case, AAM’s advice to ask is good, but I really doubt the OP is going to get a straight answer.

    1. clobbered*

      Yeah to me it read like #2 – OP made comments that could be construed as an accusation of bias and/or harassment against a protected class, and the supervisor is bringing in a witness in case of escalating accusations.

      Alternatively there is another reason a witness is required – performance issues. For example the OP says that they have reasons that were treated as excuses. It is possible that from the supervisor’s point of view, the supervisor is giving clear directions for work and they work is not being delivered, so they are bringing in a witness to say something like “Indeed Supervisor gave OP a week to draw up the spreadsheet and OP did not deliver it the next week”. I take Supreme Blogger Green’s point that “well she could just have documented that herself” but I have definitely been in workplaces where a witness to the facts being documented is considered good practice.

      If so, I actually don’t think this is at all unreasonable.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I suspect #2 as well. Even if not a protected class, her history of complaining about her supervisor is probably enough to make them concerned about her complaining in the event of a firing. This really does look like butt-covering in advance of disciplinary action.

      1. Green*

        I weighed in earlier before reading the thread and noted that it sounds like a #2 scenario. This is also why it’s particularly important to phrase your complaints to management in a way that doesn’t signal “Litigation Mode” to them.

        If someone is sexually harassing you, there aren’t many good ways to frame that in a way that’s not suggestive of potential litigation problems. But if you’re having communication problems it’s very different to say “Bill and I have different communication styles, and I think it’s causing misunderstandings; maybe we can discuss these issues and work on adapting to each other.” vs. “Bill doesn’t seem to communicate well with women (or “me because I am a woman”).” And, as a woman, it can be difficult sometimes to determine if it’s that someone doesn’t give me the best assignments because they don’t really like working with ME or someone doesn’t view me as capable to do the project because I’m a woman… It’s typically best to assume it’s just something about just you unless there’s a serious incident or strong patterns emerge.

        The way you characterize the complain (or your personality) may raise the specter of litigation if it’s not worked out to your satisfaction. And, even if you frame it well, some employers will still go into “litigation mode” with employees in a protected class. Lawyers give some truly terrifying presentations to management in an effort to sensitize them to these issues in a way that sometimes results in oversensitization.

  10. Ann Furthermore*

    This would be setting of major alarms in my head. There is a significant amount of time being spent on a single employee, by quite a few people, which in most places is considered out of the ordinary.

    If I were told that another person would be required to attend all my meetings with me, it would tell me that I was not trusted to handle things on my own. I would assume that I was on my way out and start looking for another job. This smacks to me of something being done for documentation purposes. The one time I had to fire an employee, I was not allowed to proceed until I had a significant amount of documentation for each reason for the termination (not showing up for work, not meeting deadlines, etc).

    I can’t say that’s what’s happening here for sure, OP, but in any event it might be a good idea to start evaluating your options. I was in a situation a few years ago where I could see the handwriting on the wall: my boss was just waiting for the first time I made a mistake to use that as an excuse to get rid of me. I was pregnant when this happened, so I’m pretty sure he was just biding his time so as to not have to tangle with HR to convince them to let him fire a 41 year old expectant mother. But as soon as I came back from maternity leave, my days would have been numbered. Fortunately I was able to move into another department and things all worked out for the best.

    No matter what happens though, I would strongly recommend evaluating the situation and everything that happened, and being honest with yourself to identify your role in what went wrong and try to learn something from it. I’m not saying it’s all your fault, but I am saying that very few things in life are completely one-sided. In my situation, my boss really was an arrogant ass, but there were definitely things I did/didn’t do that I could have handled differently (read: better), which might have resulted in a more positive or productive outcome. I took those things to heart, and tried to use them to better myself.

    1. anon*

      I love this comment. Isn’t this the way it goes? Two way street, if we’re honest with ourselves.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Yeah it really is. And being brutally honest with yourself is such a hard thing to do. But it can be so valuable and you can learn a lot.

        Even better is if you have the opportunity to own up to your mistakes. I’ve apologized to people for handling something badly, or dropping the ball on something, or speaking out of turn. Almost always it has resulted in some good open communication and a better working relationship. People appreciate it when you take responsibility for your mistakes.

  11. Anonymous*

    For a hypothetical scenario, what if this was a company where supervisor 1, 2, and observer were her only direct reports. Say they both think she’s wrong. How would she explain this for future opportunities where the companies do a background check for references and employment history? Meaning what if they bad mouth her?

        1. fposte*

          The column will explain more, but it’s common to be asked if you’ve been fired or how you left your last job, because firing isn’t a good sign. If you’ve been fired, you need to be able to answer that question in a way that’s both honest and reassuring to your prospective employer.

          1. some1*

            That’s great advice, but imho, the LW needs to see the writing on the wall and start job searching yesterday.

            If she (hopefully) gets phone and in-person interviews before she gets let go, she won’t have to worry about these sups being references, because most employers understand that candidates don’t want their current company contacted.

            1. fposte*

              No disagreement; additionally, she may be able to negotiate a graceful exit rather than being outright let go.

          2. Anonymous*

            Thanks! I thought you meant in terms of negotiating what the company doing the firing will say if contacted.

  12. Nancie*

    On the most optimistic end of the spectrum, a very conscientious manager might take this step to confirm that there is a genuine issue in the way the supervisor is treating the OP and that the OP isn’t having a similar problem with anyone else.

    If that’s the case, and if there’s an issue with the way the supervisor treats the OP, *and* if the supervisor is so oblivious to their own behavior that they don’t alter their behavior in front of a third party, then the manager will get confirmation of the OP’s concerns.

    At that point it’s still a toss-up as to whether the problem will be resolved in a way that benefits the OP. Can the OP be transitioned into a different group under another supervisor? If not, how likely is it that the supervisor will be moved out? Don’t count on the supervisor changing their behavior and not holding a grudge against the OP, that’s probably the least likely outcome.

    That’s a lot of “if”s. It’s not impossible that things will work out well for the OP, but they may want to start polishing their resume.

  13. The Other Dawn*

    “Their claim that I am mistaken has also led to their having another supervisor attend every meeting I attend with anyone, where previously these meetings took place a one-on-one meetings with me…”

    The word “anyone” jumps out at me. It says “anyone” and not “supervisors”, which tells me they are making about the OP. They’re not looking to see if the supervisor is the problem. If they were, someone would be sitting in only during OP’s meetings with the supervisors.

    I think OP should start looking for another job. I get the sense they are building a case to fire her.

  14. Katie the Fed*

    I’ve used/seen third parties involved in this way in only a few instances:

    -Taking a disciplinary action with an employee who has a history of making complaints to EEO, HR, or higher leadership. You want to have a third party there as a witness in case there might be an accusation of some kind.

    -Between two employees or an employee/manager who have such a toxic relationship that they cannot be trusted to handle themselves professionally without a neutral third party present. I’ve only seen this once – the two women involved were told they weren’t allowed to talk to each other without someone else there. It was a mess.

    Basically, I think the primary reason for doing this is to have a witness because they don’t trust the employee, or worry she/he might report the supervisor for something unfairly. I would be concerned that there’s some kind of disciplinary action afoot. I think if they had concerns about your manager they would have moved you to a different department while they sorted it out.

    In the future, when talking to your supervisor about her communication, I would suggest the following:

    1) Ask, rather than tell. (“I was wondering if you’re unhappy with my work – your tone made me concerned you were frustrated with me” is more effective than “you’re being condescending”)

    2) Focus on behavior, not attitudes. (“I felt like you cut me off when I’m talking sometimes” is more effective than “it seems like you don’t like me”)

    Hope that helps. I’d be looking elsewhere at this point.

    1. some1*

      These are the only scenarios that make sense to me as to why they want a sup in *all* the LW’s meetings, unless that particular sup has a history of setting up/sitting in on pointless meetings. It seems like such a time-waster.

  15. SAF*

    I used to have a staff member who insisted I could not communicate, and that his excuses were not excuses but reasons. He was the problem, but there was one member of our upper management team who preferred staff member to me (and to my boss).

    So before I could terminate this staff member (despite the fact that he was still in his probationary period!), we did several things like this. PIP, other supervisors always present to observe, instructions communicated in writing and reviewed with other managers… it was awful.

    I think the higher-up wanted to prove that I really didn’t communicate well. Sadly for him, he proved that staff member was incompetent and making excuses.

  16. John*

    What is unclear is how OP presented her concerns — whether it was done in the manner of trying to constructively iron out communication issues or if it involved reporting the manager.

    That’s important context, because my take was that she is now viewed as a troublemaker, and they are engaged in CYA.

    OP’s relationship with her employer is not in a good place. Surely, she’s discussed this with a trusted and objective colleague, who perhaps sees it more clearly.

  17. LCL*

    Where I work, (govt) this would happen if someone complained to HR about the communication issues. You presented all your issues with your manager as matters of perception-you think he’s patronizing. He thinks he’s just fine. He may have gone to HR as a preventative action to protect himself. HR requests someone else be there during the meetings to figure out what’s going on. No telling where this one will go, HR doesn’t have to report to you any results of their investigation. Or even who they think is more at fault. Note that nowhere did I say he isn’t a jerk and you are wrong.

  18. Anonymous*

    Ugh, I hate how often the only reasonable response is “find a new job” when the market is in the sh***er. (And indeed, it seems that way here.) Why can’t things be fixable?

    1. CF_programmer*

      And yet my employer has jobs going unfilled…no one wants to major in “boring” stuff like computer programming. BTW, you’d start at 72K.

      1. AB*

        Yeah, the problem is that all the programmers with minimum skills I know earn 80K or more, so salary may be a problem there.

        1. Anonymous*

          More in larger cities. And that’s for no experience, BS only. Also it’s a union job with full benefits and pension. I earn about $105K with my 15 years experience. The point is, sometimes following your passion can be done after work, you job does not have to be your passion.

          1. CF_programmer*

            gagh sorry the above is me cf_programmer. And for the other Dawn, start taking online courses from you never know…

          2. Cat*

            Yes, but there’s also often a weird assumption that all those people who went into non-science and math things for “passion” actually have the aptitude for science and math. I do just fine in my chosen non-computer science field, but I can promise you, nobody would be paying me $72k to do any computer programming, no matter what kind of degree I had attempted to get. Boredom is just a side effect of the fact that I would have been fricking incompetent.

            1. Cf_ programmer*

              If you can tell the difference between 1 and 0 and are willing to learn, I can teach you. My degree is an MS in Agriscience. Not working in my field , obviously.

  19. CF_programmer*

    I have to agree with everyone here. It sounds to me like OP should take the cue to (1) take on no debt (2) boost savings and (3) update resume.

  20. MR*

    First, I’d like to thank the OP for not asking ‘Is this legal?’ so kudos to her for that.

    This is a very, very tough situation. I’m trying to see if this is something, or nothing in the long-term. By that, I mean is this something that is going to keep going in two weeks? Months? Years? If in a few weeks, this just drops and nothing happens further, I’d probably just let it go. But if it keeps going? Yeah, you would probably want to start looking for a new job.

    That being said, it may not be a bad idea to casually put out some feelers for a new job anyways. This may not be a bad idea because it sounds like this may be a problem that has been brewing for awhile. A change in scenery for the OP might just be good thing. Just something to think about.

  21. Amber*

    What I don’t understand is that if the manager was doing something wrong they are almost certainly going to be on their best behavior when someone else is in the room so no matter what you’re going to look like the bad guy.

  22. JC*

    This is a tough one, I think I would go back to the person I made the original complaint to and say something along the lines of “thanks for having Jane sit in on my meetings with x, since she has I feel that x’s communication has improved” just to get the point across that they’re not behaving the same when they’re being observed and so they can’t come back to you and say that you’re imagining it.

    1. anon..*

      No advice to give that is different from everyone else, just hoping OP will weigh in and then update.

    2. QualityControlFreak*

      I think this is a good call. It sounds like OP needs to be in CYA mode since the employer appears to be.

      As to looking for another job, I would be. But I’m always looking. Not because I’m unhappy where I am; I love my job and the organization I work for and I can see myself working here until I retire. But because I want to keep my skills updated and relevant to the current job market. It helps me to assess the likely needs of employers as well as rates of compensation for comparison purposes in negotiations.

  23. josh*

    Personally, in a situation where there is conflict, I would much rather have an extra person in the room. People always act differently when they know they are being observed.

  24. Vicki*

    What I find weird about the situation is this: “Their claim that I am mistaken has also led to their having another supervisor attend every meeting I attend with anyone, ”

    That’s not a case of having a third party sit in on meetings with Supervisor 1 (about whom the OP has complained). This is a third party shadow in EVERY meeting with ANYone. That’s way way beyond the initial “my supervisor and I are not communicating well”.

    I see this as “We now have to watch OP like a hawk because she’s crazy”.

  25. Working Girl*

    Supervisor 1 seems to possibly feel you are a threat to them or dislikes you – most often because you may question them or seem to be smart or have the ability to do their job, even if you don’t want their job. Sounds like Supervisor 1 feels you stepped on their toes and is trying to put you in your place and maybe trying to get you fired. Sometimes just keeping your head down, staying out of the Supervisor’s way and working hard is enough for it to pass. The second person is a witness for the company. You are not paranoid. Many managers do not know how to deal with conflict between employees so they revert to defence mode. You should be documenting meetings and day to day practices related to the issue and any other matters. Ensure you put forth a positive attitude especially in the meetings such as stating you are working with the company. Confirm what they are asking or telling you so there is no confusion on communication. Do not let them bait you into getting angry. Stop and think before answering questions, take a breath, stay relaxed. You do not want to come across that you are being insubordinate to the Supervisor- you want to work with the supervisor, you just don’t know what they are asking you to do, turn the table but don’t say the supervisor is not able to do their job properly or attack them as the Company obviously does not agree, give examples of what your problem is, not general statements, copies of the supervisor’s comments in writing that are belittling, undermining you, etc.. If the company starts emailing you for written proof, stick to the facts on emails and don’t make statements of what you think unless you can back it up, stay general and don’t appear angry or defensive. HR sticks up for the company so get outside advice from a solicitor or outside HR person or counsellor. You will grow stronger in the long run for the experience, although it doesn’t seem so now. Keep your eye out for another job in case you need to leave. Good luck.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      “Supervisor 1 seems to possibly feel you are a threat to them or dislikes you – most often because you may question them or seem to be smart or have the ability to do their job, even if you don’t want their job. Sounds like Supervisor 1 feels you stepped on their toes and is trying to put you in your place and maybe trying to get you fired.”

      That’s an awful lot of assumptions/speculation. The only thing we really know is that the employee complained about the supervisor, which is probably enough to make any supervisor uncomfortable.

  26. MaggietheCat*

    If I am reading this correctly – it just seems really awkward that this person’s presence has not been acknowledged or explained in any way. I would have asked *someone* (manager 1, the person attending) for clarification the first time that happened. Poor OP, that is really uncomfortable!

  27. AMG*

    I really hope OP comes back and gives an update (hopefully that it resulted in a new job and/or better position).

  28. godiva de maus*

    In my experience (at large corporations) when this starts happening the company is looking for a way to document showing you the door (i.e. proving you are batty, have poor communication skills, and generally don’t get along and work well with others). You didn’t mention if the supervisor is a different gender from you OR if someone who might be considered to have someone of your gender as an interest OR if there’s a large age disparity between you, i.e. things that might make you a “protected” class, but often when they are looking for someone to “witness” on a regular basis, it’s to document for the company’s purposes, not yours.

    I’d continue to see how you can improve the communication and make things better while you polish up your resume and search for another job in earnest. If your communication improves in the meantime, you can always abandon the search. If you find a job that seems more like you click, you’re in a better place. Either way, it’s a better use of your time than ruminating.

  29. Corner Office*

    Looks like that big promotion is right around the corner! Sounds like they are using you teach others how to deal with people. Nice work and congrats! Well thats how I would frame it when I went back to talk to HR to find out what the hell is going on. Playing games right back is the only way to deal with situations like this. Put on your best suit and ask if there is a pay raise for mentoring and when do you get your office. (And don’t hesitate to ask for your own mini fridge, I don’t know how I lived without mine)

  30. Dkny*

    I had a co-worker like you, and all her meetings with her direct supervisor included supervisor 2 and HR. It was sad to watch, but I’d been going to lunch with her and I think she was starting to break from reality so I could understand how her direct managers had to cover themselves. She once said that the ex-girlfriend of a co-worker that she was dating had come to work and scratched her car in the company parking lot but when they reviewed the video, it was found that she had driven in one morning with the scratch already on her car. It was scratched, but not on company premises. We all sort of stopped going for lunch with her. Sometimes, it is really you and not your co-workers or managers. She is no longer working with us.

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