my manager got demoted because of me – and now we have to go to a tropical island for team-building

I’m throwing this one out to readers to answer, because it showed up in my in-box at the last minute and is (a) fascinating and (b) time-sensitive. A reader writes:

My crazy manager was just demoted in large part because of me, and now we are going on a team-building trip. What to do?

To give a bit of background, this is my first job. My manager and I initially had a great relationship, but it soured over the course of a year. She essentially gaslighted me, lying to higher-ups about my performance and lying to me about what higher-ups were saying, in hopes of either me quitting or her being able to fire me. She tried turning the team against me (I found out she pulled aside a new hire and told her that I was crazy and a liar and to not trust me). There were many other instances. It got so bad that I would go home and cry every night because I thought I was crazy.

Eventually, when I started talking to the team and the higher-ups directly, it became obvious that she was the problem – the only problem. Over the last year, another a new manager has slowly taken over responsibility to shield us from her, as they have gathered evidence to let her go or make her leave (it is very difficult to fire where I am).

After months of waiting, yesterday she was officially demoted. She is still slightly senior to me by title, but if I receive the promotion I am hoping for, we would be even.

She did not take it well and stormed out of the office. I am glad she is finally out of power. This will give us more freedom to focus on our work instead of pleasing a crazy manager.

I would be happy to never see her again. Except, as a reward for hitting our sales target, we were rewarded with a team trip. The whole point is to be together as a team building exercise. We are supposed to spend all our time together. We leave tomorrow – two days after the demotion. We are flying to a tropical island and I was greatly looking forward to it.

Now, I’m frankly really concerned. My coworker made a joke about the manager (who is the only one who can drive) driving us off a cliff. I don’t think she would take it that far, but I am definitely worried (laxatives in tea, anyone?). It will be stressful and I fully plan on keeping one eye open the whole trip.

The upper management pulled me aside and asked me as a chance to use this to start fresh, so I can’t back out.

However, I think she hates me. I definitely get the sense that she puts the blame on me. She tried to fire me (I still don’t know exactly why, although I have my suspicions). I also think she feels that we are the crazy ones who are being unfair and are lying about her, although everything is documented. She does not think she has done anything wrong, so I am sure this demotion is the latest (and biggest) in a long line of insults that she feels are unwarranted. She is already a bit unhinged, I think. I worry that this could push her over the edge – and my team on our trip!

What should I do?

My initial thought is to make a point of being particularly nice to her (because it’s kind, because you won, because she’s probably in a bad place right now, and because it’s probably in your best interest to)  … but readers, what’s your advice?

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 152 comments… read them below }

  1. A non*

    This sounds horrible and I’m sorry you’re dealing with it. I’m confused by your statement that the crazy demoted manager is “the only one who can drive”. Is there not a single other individual on the team who knows how to drive? That strikes me as very odd.

    1. Kara*

      In larger cities with public transportation systems, not everyone feels the need to learn how to drive because a) owning a car is expensive, and b) there isn’t really a need when you can take a subway, bus, taxi, etc.

      1. A non*

        Kara, I see your point, but I have only lived in large US cities and always relied on public transportation. But I still know how to drive OP’s point below about this being abroad and there being an international license issue makes more sense, since that varies by country though there are also many countries where one can drive if one has a US drivers license too.

        1. Anon*

          Maybe the driving has to do with the rental car companies and instead of people not knowing how to drive. The more people you have listed on a rental car the more expensive it is.

          1. Ms Enthusiasm*

            That would make sense if everyone is really young (under 25) and can’t get on the rental agreement.

            1. some1*

              That’s what I took it as since the LW said it’s her first job — everyone is under 25 except the demoted co-worker.

        2. DeMinimis*

          I know when we had a national training at my former employer a lot of the people from NYC didn’t drive.

          1. Michele*

            I live in NYC and I never drive even when I go back to Portland I don’t. Its been 8 years and I don’t miss it a bit.

          2. Beth*

            This makes sense to me. I live in DC and haven’t driven in the 25 years since I moved here. I still have a license but would never agree to drive without practicing again and certainly not in a foreign country.

        3. LJL*

          It may even be a policy issue…I wasn’t permitted to drive the company car until I completed a safety training course for insurance reasons.

    2. Jen in RO*

      I don’t know where OP is, but in Europe having a drivers’ license is not as common in the US. Most (all?) big cities have good public transport, the railway system is very well-developed, and where there’s no train, there’s at least a crappy bus.

      (With the caveat that I haven’t been all over Europe so this might not apply in all countries etc etc)

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        That’s my experience too. Plus having a car would also require additional costs for parking, road tax, petrol and insurance.

        I know of some people who rely on public transport but will hire a car for a short period of time if they have special errands.

        1. Ethyl*

          Yup — in many large US cities we have a thing called ZipCar. It’s a service you pay into and they have stations throughout the city, and whenever you need a car for a little while you can go and pick one up. It’s a pretty great compromise because while you may not want or need or be able to afford a car, sometimes you just need a vehicle (going to Ikea is a common reason for needing one among my friends :D).

      2. Dutchwoman*

        In the Netherlands, it can cost up to €3000 to get a driver’s license, so it’s not one of those things that pretty much everyone does.

        1. Carrie in Scotland*

          Dutchwoman, if I may ask, do you know why it costs so much? (my first thought is it’s to do with promoting the cycling for which you’re known for)

          1. hamster*

            In Germany is also quite expensive, and I don’t think it’s just promoting the cycling.It’s just learning to drive a manual gearbox car and promoting very well road safety , parking etc leads to a long and expensive process. ( night classes, classes on the highway etc)

            1. The IT Manager*

              But in Europe or at least some European countries, americans with driver’s licenses can rent cars. The “international driver’s license” translates the information on a driver’s license to multiple langauges, but it doesn’t require any extra training.

              I never drove in Britian because it made me too nervous to drive “on the wrong side of the road,” but you do not need a special driver’s license for that either.

              1. Ruffingit*

                Yup, I rented a car in Germany last year with my US license. It was no problem and is not an uncommon thing to do.

              2. K.*

                My Danish friend came here for a year of high school, and her big goal for the year was to get her US driver’s license so that she didn’t have to do it in Denmark- it was cheaper and easier here.

            2. FRRibs*

              As an aside, I like the European model with regards to motorcycle liscensing; in the US we are very light on rider training and when you get your motorcycle certification, you can go out and buy the biggest thing you can find…and run it right into a tree. Without a helmet on, to boot.

              1. Windchime*

                Not in every state. Helmets are required in my state (Washington), so I am assuming they are also required in some other states.

            1. Anna*

              I believe in some countries in Europe you’re required to take lessons from a licensed instructor and those lessons are expensive. In Spain you don’t even get your license right away; when you’re first starting out you have to have a big green “L” in the window of your car.

              1. Rayner*

                Same as with the UK. You start with a learner license – it’s green and ridiculous, and you can’t drive without an adult in the car, and if you have six points (various kinds of violations) on your license, it gets taken away and you don’t get to drive for a period of time. After a ban. Once you pass a test – a strict test, not one in a class in school – to get your full driver’s license, it’s two years on the same principle of six points, and a ban if you go over that. And then you get twelve points to play with after the six.

                Most people take about 20-40 lessons to pass, and then the cost of owning the car is almost prohibitive anyway. Being young and male also hurts your case – it costs almost three grand to insure a fourteen year old car that cost three hundred quid.

                But them’s the breaks.

                1. Bunny*

                  Yup! That and petrol over here cost SO MUCH MORE than it does in the USA. Between petrol, MOT, tax, insurance and basic car upkeep, it’s just not worth having a car unless you absolutely need to drive for your job.

          2. HarryV*

            Same in Japan. Reason why the cost can be so high is because they require certain amount of classroom and behind the wheels classes before you can take your license. The classes are $$$. In the US, there are no such requirements. Something to consider.

    3. thenoiseinspace*

      For my last trip, the company’s insurance would only cover the manager driving. From the sound of it, the crazy chick still outranks the OP, so that could be the case here.

    4. Lily in NYC*

      I haven’t driven a car in 10 years! I am a native New Yorker, and I have many friends who never even learned at all.

    5. Bea W*

      I totally missed that when I replied below. Maybe they should plan on cabs.

      It could be they are renting a car and everyone but the mean girl is under 25. Like other people have memtioned, if this is in a major city like NYC, lots of people don’t drive and have had no need to learn how. My grandmother and mother both grew up in Boston. They only learned to drive after moving to the surburbs. For my grandmother, she was in her late 60s. My dad taught my mother after they married. There was no public transit where I grew up. We’d drive to town and pick-up grandma on the weekends. So no need for her to drive at all until she scored senior housing closer to us. I got my license late as well, and only because I wanted to do it. I had been living on my own without a car 5 years. Everything I need is within walking distance or on public transit. I hadn’t been able to afford driving and there was no incentive to go there.

    6. Anonsie*

      Since she was talking about driving the rental car while on vacation somewhere, I assumed it was either 1) because the rental car was out in her name only and/or 2) because the vacation was in a country where not everyone’s licenses could be used and the boss had some other type of deal, or 3) because they are somewhere it’s not as common to have a license.

  2. Op*

    I should mention, I live abroad. I don’t have an international license, and it is not uncommon to not have a license in the city.

    Part of the issue with the manager is although we work for an international company, she is native to the area and has little experience with foreigners, and her English is weak so I do think there were culture issues as well that have created this mess.

  3. Courtney*

    If I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t go out of my way to initiate anything with her. You can be cordial without ruffling any feathers or being rude. Just keep a respectable distance. She did try to fire you after all. She feels some type of way about you but you’re entitled to feel some type of way about her as well.

    If she tries to speak to you and she’s not aggressive or unfriendly, pay her the same respect. If she tries to speak to you but is aggressive and rude, that would be the time to either kill her with kindness and be the bigger person or just be honest about how you view things and agree to disagree.

    I’m curious why you think she tried to fire you though. That’s pretty deep.

    1. Aimee*

      I would also make it a point not to be alone with her. I would always have a witness around.

      I agree with the others that if she’s nice, I’d be nice to her. I’d act like that’s in the past and move forward. However, it seems as though your demoted boss has some mental issues. People like that don’t think they’re the problem and they think everyone else is the problem.

      Be nice but be on guard.

      1. Jen*

        I agree with this. Don’t be alone with her. Be pleasant but not overly so when you see her. Take a cab if you need to get from point a to point b. Never leave her alone with your food or your phone or anything that she coudl mess with.

      2. PJ*

        I agree — be as nice as you can, but don’t be alone with her. If you truly think she’s deranged and may try to harm you, you need to share that with upper management.

      3. Amy*

        Ageed on above points from Courtney and Aimee. I would also suggest that you never ever trust this person. She may be nice and you can be polite back. But do not ‘open up’ to her or even in front of her. If she seems like she wants by-gones to be by-gones, I would not trust that and I would see it as an attempt to manipulate the situation in her favor. I made this mistake once and it cost me my job.

        Team building exercises can rely on vulnerability and I would be careful about how you demonstrate that with a known back stabber in your midst.

  4. FRRibs*

    Not having to work with this person, I can be amused by this situation…but how horrible for you!

    Noone else can drive? I don’t know about Hawaii, but many Carribean islands rent scooters which are fun; I’m not sure you need a DL to operate one, but it is an option if you want to control reliance on this person as far as travel around the island; it’s also just a fun thing to do. Surprised if this is a team larger than half a dozen that a bus couldn’t be arrainged.

    Trying as it will be, handle yourself with dignity. Unless this ex-manager wants to turn a demotion into a dismissal, I doubt she would do anything to ruin the trip for the team. Do keep an eye on your food and drink, and be especially careful with Drink.

  5. Amber*

    Treat her like you would any other employee but if you really feel unsafe then speak up to your higher ups. Otherwise just try to enjoy the trip and put the whole situation behind you.

  6. Clobbered*

    Cynical answer: given how even apparently sane coworkers become unhinged outside the normal office settings (Christmas parties etc) maybe she will do something so egregious that will make her fireable.

    Otherwise safety in numbers – don’t be alone with her.

      1. John B Public*

        If a sudden attack of the flu doesn’t happen *COUGH COUGH!* this is the way to go. Never be alone, always have your phone and/or mace to hand, and treat her like she might date rape you but you want to impress her parents. Which makes a great movie plot but sucks in real life.

    1. Anonymous*

      Others have mentioned it but I’ll reiterate – never be alone with her, in fact try not to be alone at all. Also don’t leave your drink or food unattended.

      Try to focus on the rest of the team and build up a strong(er) rapport with them as it seems like you may need to demonstrate that you are the sane one, let her prove to the others that she’s not, without any commentary or help from you. That way the people to whom she’s told all sorts of nonsense will be able to put any residual doubts to rest.

      And have fun ! It’s a tropical island – I wish my company sent me to one.

        1. Apostrophina*

          Surely the Borgia would say that food and drink (especially those green, off-gassing cupcakes–have two!) are highly encouraged. :)

  7. anon*

    As others have said, be polite and professional but keep your distance. If she’s feeling sore about this, she probably doesn’t want to forced to interact with you anymore than necessary- and the more you interact with her, the more opportunities she has to be unpleasant.

    If she does approach you, keep it courteous and friendly, don’t let her control the conversation, and don’t be afraid to say, “Sorry, I have to go now”. If you sense that she’s getting very upset/ angry, evacuate if you can!

    +1 on the “don’t be alone with her” advice. Maybe your boss will just avoid you and nothing will happen, but if something DOES happen, it always helps to be able to say, “Well, Bob and Mary were there too, maybe you should get their take on it as well”.

    Above all, try to enjoy it! Don’t let your boss control your trip, even indirectly!

  8. coconutwater*

    Do what you have to in order to keep yourself safe. Are none of the higher ups going to be there ? If not, do they not see how they are putting you all in harms way ? You may be ready for a fresh start but those with Narcissistic trendencies are all about payback. Just three days after her demotion… is crazy to send you off for bonding time with someone incapable of doing so in the best of circumstances. Sorry, I know this is not helpful. Being forced to do this would trigger my PTSD so bad that I would not be able to attend. There is no way I could ever feel safe enough especially knowing she was driving !

  9. Chaitra*

    Am I the only one feeling that there is not much point in going if it is going to be stressful for you? If you are scared of laxatives in tea, it seems to be your danger sense is warning you something…

    That lady comes across as unbalanced… I would anticipate that she will never forget what happened to her.

    I suggest you not to go. (I was spooked reading this post!)

    How about saying that “This does not feel right to me, I am sorry. Please excuse me this time.”

    Or, how about an emergency coming up at the last moment? (Lying is bad, most of the times)

    1. jeez*

      This is right. My other answer was on the assumption you don’t have a choice, and you do. Yeah, I wouldn’t go on a trip like this with this person.

    2. Chinook*

      While I understand that it feels like you have no choice, now would be the perfect time to get a case of explosive diarrhea because no one would want be on a plane with you! I normally wouldn’t recommend lying about being sick, but if you are worried about your safety, this may be an option.

      If you feel like the trip is not optional, definitely try and “kill her with kindness” when you have to interact with her, avoid her when possible and don’t leave personal items, food or drinks unattended. Also, I like the idea focusing scooters to get around – it really is a great way to see a place.

      1. Anon in DC*

        OMG. Eat a bag of those Haribo Sugar-Free gummy bears the day before the trip — you won’t be faking the explosive diarrhea!

        If I were in this situation, I am not ashamed to say that I would absolutely do this.

        1. Alex*

          Totally get out of it… Your cover story can be that you were taking probiotics to strengthen your system in preparation for the trip, and they didn’t agree with you and now you have a terrible case of PBS (poopy butt syndrome).

        2. Synonymous*

          I was going to say, DON’T accept any gummy bears from this woman because it might be the sugar-free variety.

  10. Mike C.*

    Be sure to tell us how the trust falls go! ;)

    More seriously, don’t be alone with this person, and watch out for situations with alcohol involved.

  11. jeez*

    This is such a bad idea, this trip. Even if it has to go through, it’s a huge mistake for your superiors to ignore the dynamics affecting this team and the days-old culmination of a year-long drama. And completely unreasonable , unrealistic, and borderline abusive, if you ask me, to ask you to commit to being in rooms/cars etc together 24/7. You guys don’t need a holiday, you need a mediator (until this woman leaves).

    I would talk to your superiors and see if it’s possible to at least *amend the schedule* to reduce pressure on people involved in a bombastic situation (that already has a paper trail!). Structured, whole-group team-building activities, 9-4 or whatever. Personal time after that.

    Be cool and polite. Do NOT be overly friendly, she will interpret it as cynical and manipulative, because that’s how she (probably) thinks. Your guarded stance is in conflict with openneness/fun required to actually build a team, but, what can you do.

    Don’t get in a car with her, figure something else out.

    Expect an explosion at some point. Document it when it happens.

    1. Laurauk*

      I agree with Jeez. Is it too late to get another person more senior than the manager to attend or, better still, an external facilitator? On transport, I’d suggest that you ask for a local taxi or driver to be given to you so she isn’t driving. Even if she weren’t being erratic you can pitch this in as trying to avoid someone having the responsibility in an unknown area and giving everyone a chance to focus on the exercise. I’d also suggest as has been said, that after scheduled activities people are free to do their own thing. However, if you are genuinely worried for your personal safety then you need to say this and consider whether you and the group feel strong enough to refuse to attend at this particular time. This doesn’t have to be a massive confrontation but you can certainly question the timing of this so close on the demotion.

  12. Kerry*

    It may seem like a small thing, but: she wasn’t demoted because of you, she was demoted because of her own actions. She may try to frame it as it being on you but the only one who was responsible for what happened is her.

    1. Lisalyn*

      Very good point and something to keep in mind, OP. You did not cause her demotion. She did. Don’t accept any guilt she may try to throw your way. Good luck!

    2. RB*

      This is exactly what I was going to post. Her performance and behavior got her demoted, nothing more-nothing less.

      Still, I understand your concerns. For the life of me, why is she being rewarded with this trip? She’s not ready for any “team building”. If others are as worried as you, join forces to go to senior management right away. State the facts and the behavior you have observed since being demoted (i.e. storming out of the office).

      Is there any management buffer going along on this trip?

  13. Rayner*

    If you can’t get out of the trip, I repeat the advice already given to you. Avoid being alone with her, buddy up with one or two other members of your team so if you have to pair up for a trip or something, then you can always find a different partner than your ex-manager, and don’t leave your food or drink alone with her.

    Sounds weird, but if nothing happens, then you know you did the right thing.

    Also, talk to your bosses. Explain that given your manager’s previous behaviour against you – and from what you’re saying, it’s long and very serious – you’re concerned that she may retaliate against you. Don’t say anything about the potential for laxatives in the tea thing because in many places, that is a serious crime that would require reporting, and you have no proof (at the moment).

    But explain that you feel she might become angry, or yell at you again, or resume very negative behaviours while you’re unable to avoid them, and around your teammates and see what they suggest.

    Above all, if you feel unsafe with her, at all, get out of there. Even if it means getting out of the car, or walking away from the hotel bar. Your safety comes first – listen to your gut instinct.

  14. Area51*

    Wait…. so the trip has been planned for some time, but upper management just demoted her this week?
    And upper management pulled you aside and hoped it could be “a fresh start” with a person who was (and still is) stabbing you in the back?
    And you’re in line for a promotion?

    I’m just so suspicious of all this. OP, it seems like upper management wants to watch a catfight. Or they are putting you in harm’s way (emotional harm’s way) to test you out. Or they are oblivious and in denial.

    If she is so bad another manager has to shield your team, going on a trip with her is illogical and dysfunctional, especially after she got demoted. I’d definitely bail on the trip, forget the promotion–because management is putting you through this awful test to *maybe* get that promotion, another dysfunctional thing–and look for another job.

    1. FRRibs*

      I don’t know which country OP is in, but when I worked for a German company they used to gripe how difficult it was to fire someone there compared to here (USA)+. Perhaps upper management felt that their position wasn’t strong enough to fire but only demote, but pulling her from the trip also might make an even more unbearable situation in the office?

      OP, this trip is a reward to the team for meeting goals. Don’t let her take that away from you. If you have friends on the team and you aren’t going to bunk in the same room and sit across the table from her all day, go enjoy yourself and don’t let her scare you off from what should be an awesome trip.

      1. guest*

        Yes, I noticed the same thing when I worked with people from Germany. A lot of jobs had something similar to a union (even public accountants for big 4 firms) or if they didn’t have that, they had employment contracts and very different laws. That makes it very hard to fire people as compared to an “at will” employment environment in the USA.

    2. Sunflower*

      +1. Maybe management thought by demoting her she would choose to not go on the trip but that was a huge risk to take especially when the team was excited about the trip(even though she was on it) before this happened.

      I believe it may be hard to fire her so I understand the demotion but I do not understand the timing of it. I mean did your higher-ups really not consider the ramifications of this demotion right before a trip? I feel bad considering your team was so looking forward to this trip and now they are dreading it.

      Follow everyone’s advice about staying safe and be polite. Do NOT use this weekend as an attempt to bury the hatchet. If it happens naturally during the trip, so be it. If management wants you two to get along so badly, they can hire a mediator and you can deal with that on Monday in the office.

  15. Area51*

    Sorry! Writing late at night results in poor writing.
    OP, I don’t mean you are illogical and dysfunctional. I mean upper management is, by expecting you to go mere days after the demotion. They could have easily waited until after the trip to do that. However, they shouldn’t expect you to go on a trip with *her* anywhere, anytime, anyplace, period.

  16. James M*

    Wow! How terrible that you have to face such a situation.

    +1 to everyone who said “don’t be alone”. Bonus points if 2 or 3 of your coworkers can make a point of not leaving Ms. ex-manager alone either. Nothing thwarts trouble like a few extra pairs of eyes.

  17. meetoo*

    She may not take the laxatives in the tea approach but she is likely to start rummers and gossip about you both to upper management and to anyone who will listen. I agree don’t be alone with her but also think about how you can manage the gossip she might try to spread. Do you have close coworkers who will be willing to set the record strait if they hear other people repeating rummers about you? Having people on your side can help as witnesses and damage control. I also agree with the previous commenter that you should be open with upper management. Tell them that you are happy to be professional and try to make the fresh start but that you are very concerned for your safety because she will not see it the same way. When she has a melt down they won’t be surprised.

  18. J.2014*

    Well. I would say the manager was demoted because of own poor performance.
    And not because of YOU.

  19. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    Here’s my take. Being nice to people and being gracious is powerful. Being the bigger person always works.

    The one thing I would do is ask upper management if they can come up with a solution that doesn’t involve CrazyMcCrazypants driving you all around. That’s a weird shift in power dynamic that doesn’t align with the management changes they just made.

    1. Mary*

      Very good point. Nice and gracious is the way to go from the first. If you rise above any unpleasantness then the other person usually has nothing to latch on to.

      If you have to spend all you time together, and it is a small group, and she is crazy driving, and you feel very very uncomfortable, just feel really ill as the car is leaving and stay at the hotel for the day. Never admit to anyone you faked it; no matter what anyone asks; you were ill. And it would explain why you are drinking so little as well.

      Even if you head off with her for the drive and you feel extremely uncomfortable, take a taxi back to the hotel because you feel so ill.

      Once you have your option to get out of the situation you should feel better about it all and be able to participate.

      1. Bea W*

        The worst of them turn that niceness against you though. I’m all for being courtesious and professional but making an extra effort to rise above can sometimes blow up in your face.

  20. evilintraining*

    I hope she’s cooled down some by the time you get to your destination, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Maybe you could ask to talk to her (in a place where there are people around, of course). Ask her what it is about you that concerns her. Be nice. And if she doesn’t want to talk or just goes off on you, make sure there are witnesses (hotel bar, restaurant, etc.). You might be surprised–or not. But at least you’ve tried to clear the air. If she can’t be an adult and have a discussion about the situation, that will only reflect badly on her. I’m wondering if there are structured activities with a facilitator or if you’re totally on your own. If none, then this trip is an especially crappy idea, and I have to wonder even more what management was thinking.

    1. TL*

      No. Don’t confront her or ask her (in public or private, but especially not in public!) what her problem is. That’s a really bad idea and just asking for drama – either right then or afterwards; she’ll be either humiliated or more convinced that you have it in for her and likely to retaliate. Do not engage!

    2. Christine*

      I agree with TL. This would work with normal, sane people, but if this woman is as crazy as she sounds she will not react rationally. Crazy people can’t be reasoned with.

    3. PJ*

      Do not do this! You do this only with not-crazy people who are capable of separating personal from business, not people who have behaved as she has.

  21. Anonymous*

    Wow. I’ve been considering writing in for a while now about my old boss, and many of the details are very similar, including the demotion, the gaslighting, and the outright lying at times. I’m a bit further past the OP’s state, so I’ve seen more of my situation play out. In my case, I had been struggling to figure out how to bring up my issues with Old Boss because his lying always hit upon my weaknesses so there was a tiny kernel of truth that I did need to address, just covered in a mountain of exaggeration. Apparently he messed up enough in other ways that he was demoted. The demotion has left him scared and he reacted by being more horrible to me. Then our team building event was a fiasco–he blew up at another coworker, and was acting so miserable to everyone that he pretty much was put on a performance plan. The problem I’m currently struggling with is that Old Boss has been quite clever in dodging work which leaves him free to continue to constantly look at what I’m doing and continue his gaslighting campaign. He also is purposely unhelpful to me whenever possible–he’ll spend hours troubleshooting projects with a coworker, but when I ask for similar insight (he has vast experience in one of the challenging parts of our job), he will blow me off and not only give zero support, but he’ll use the request as another example of my “failings”. My current manager is restructuring the department workload to isolate Old Boss’ tasks so that he no longer can avoid work, and so that there can be clear performance measures to manage him against.

    I’d like to say that the demotion was “winning the battle”, but it’s still a constant struggle. When Old Boss went through his “miserable” stage I actually felt relieved because multiple coworkers from a range of departments observed his pissy behavior and complimented me quite extensively for taking the high road. But now that he’s making an effort to salvage his job, and has reined in his pissyness to just me again, I am struggling to not fixate on the situation and not drag everyone else into what ultimately boils down to a personality conflict. Some people are advising me to confront him head on, but since he continues to focus on the truth-kernels I feel I will be unable to push back without the danger of looking like I am the problem. sample situation: My workload is currently excessive–another reason my new manager is restructuring–so I am unable to follow up every issue to a proper level. Old Boss will exaggerate the importance of one of those tasks and then criticize me for not following through on it. Ultimately I should be doing the follow up, so it’s hard to sound tough with an argument of “Yes I should but that’s not a high enough priority right now”.

    My current manager is quite complimentary of my performance and I feel that long term this situation will resolve in my favor. (I do speak about my struggles in our 1:1s, so my new manager is well aware that it frustrates me and backs me up whenever possible, but occasionally these attacks come when the new boss isn’t around but other managers are) The new structure being put in place positions me in front of senior management while Old Boss is basically out of the day to day mix. But it’s a constant source of unnecessary stress at work, which distracts me at times from what I *should* be focusing on. I’m glad the OP’s question is open to the readers bc I look forward to seeing the advice!

    1. Ash #1*

      One of the things that I would say to someone if they are talking about how Old Boss is crying about you is, “That’s weird. Since we’re peers now, I wonder why he is so concerned with my work. He should probably be talking to my manager about that if there are any issues with my work.” Something along those lines to point out that the guy is gossiping, he is no longer your manager, he has no business paying attention to what you do, and he should be addressing any real issues to your manager. Clearly since that’s not what’s going on, he’s probably not in the right.

    2. Anonymous #13*

      People who figure out a way to not have any work to do, get put in upper management or highly visible positions, and then use all their free time to make other employees miserable by pointing out all their errors or spreading rumors DRIVE ME CRAZY.

  22. Lindrine*

    Why don’t they just charter shuttle service or the equivalent for transportation? You could promote it as being more “team centered” since none of you have to focus on driving and can instead mingle with each other…or not.

  23. Carpe Librarium*

    If she is the only driver, please always be sure to have a special budget set aside for alternative transport.
    You don’t want to be trapped in a vehicle with her if she chooses to arc up – you’ll have the option to get out and make your own way.
    Also, you don’t want to find yourself “accidentally” stranded on the way to or from somewhere important (like the airport).

  24. Carpe Librarium*

    By special budget, I mean your own personal stash of currency.
    Definitely keep receipts for expense reimbursement, though.

  25. Jean*

    +1 to all of the advice re being super-duper careful to take care of yourself, watch your food & drink, don’t be alone with her in a meeting room or a car or anywhere else, watch your passport, and if possible get colleagues a) on your side; b) on alert to be another set of eyes on this woman.
    Don’t be shy about asking security to walk you to your (OWN) hotel room at night. Tell them you have phobias, dizzy spells, whatever…
    when you get to your room door, have them wait while you check the room.
    Finally, above all: Trust your inner voice when it expresses such concerns about your personal safety!
    – In addition to having extra cash / credit card / foreign currency (whatever is 100% functional at your destination), get YOUR OWN hotel room rather than share a room with this individual…even if you have to pay for it. Set this up NOW, before you leave, before you get to the hotel and find out that they’re totally sold out.
    And frankly, even though this is a reward for good performance, your safety is far more important than any bonus trip and you might have much more peace of mind being at home this weekend, even if it’s cold and dreary, than you would have being 110% on guard 24/7 on some tropical island with this woman. In addition you’d have the extra peace of mind of knowing that she’s safely out of town!
    P.S. Talk to other people outside work about this, especially if you live alone. Not in a spread-panic way; in a way that communicates “I’m concerned about this, don’t want to exaggerate but also want to take care of myself; what do you think I should do and could you help me?”

    1. Jean*

      P.P.S. Don’t worry about management eating the cost of the trip if you refuse to go b/c you feel that neither they nor you can guarantee your safety. They created this situation by enduring or condoning this employee’s behavior. If they think she’s so great (since it’s so hard to fire her?) then one of TPTB can go spend time with her on some tropical island.
      …Folks who know more about business than I do: Please speak up if you disagree with my advice! :-\

      1. Anon*

        It is a team building exercise, most likely this is not something she can simply opt out of without consequences. She has a possible promotion, if she calls out sick, this could impact her chances.

        1. AMG*

          Exactly. She needs to go and not lose the credibility that she has built up with management. OP, you should go, focus on connecting with other team members, and watch your back diligently.

          The management probably wants to make it a ‘fresh start’ because their hands are tied and they are trying to mitigate this as best as they can until your former boss leaves or gets fired. It’s also possible that they aren’t in touch with what a bad situation this is. Either way, you have gotten tthrough the worst of it, so don’t back down now.

          And please give us an update!

    2. PJ*

      I assumed the driving-off-the-cliff and laxitives-in-tea comments were hyperbole. If you feel the need to be escorted to your room by security personnel, and are concerned about her finding out where you live, poisoning your food, etc., then DO NOT GO. DO NOT GO. DO NOT GO.

      Trying to harm your career and trying to hurt you are two different things.

      1. Clever Name*

        I agree. To put it starkly, is it worth dying for the possibility of a promotion?

        Really though, I hope those statements mentioned were just for dramatic effect, and the trip will at worst be awkward.

  26. Del*

    Yikes, that’s terrifying!

    I would absolutely make a point of being kind to her — not just polite, but genuinely as nice as you can possibly be (while not having too much contact; you don’t need to seek her out for this). Worst case scenario, she absolutely loses her mind, and you’ll be protected because you acted blamelessly and all the crazy is on her. Best case scenario, you actually manage to defuse tensions to some degree.

    Either way, kindness really can’t go amiss. It can be really tough when you’re dealing with someone who’s inflicted this much suffering on you, but you will definitely be the bigger person in the mess.

    As for practical safety, though — the suggestions here are good ones. Don’t be alone with her (as much as you can, don’t be alone at all), guard your food & drinks carefully, keep your money, passport, etc all on your person, and make sure you’ve got enough money to get the heck out of Dodge if you need to.

  27. Sunflower*

    OP I feel terrible for you as this manager is clearly fit for a straight jacket. Even though the manager is blaming you, your co-workers are probably also dreading the trip and most likely don’t want to be left alone with her either. Chances are if she is that pissed off, she may just avoid everyone all weekend(fingers crossed!)

    I would try to speak to a higher-up and or maybe the manager who is taking over some of her responsibilities? It seems obvious they know she came after you for no reason and I think they would more than understand if you had a few concerns primarily about the driving.

    Also I’m baffled as to why the company chose to demote her two days before a TEAM BUILDING trip? The point of the trip is to build team morale so why would they do this, especially to a difficult employee. The have been trying to demote her all year so what was the harm in waiting the weekend? It sounds like this trip is now going to do more harm than good unfortunately :(

    1. Anonymous #13*

      That was my thought too. Why demote someone right before a reward trip (despite being a terrible employee)???

  28. the_scientist*

    Honestly, this sounds like as good a time as any to pretend to come down with a terrible case of the stomach flu so you’re too sick to get on the plane. I don’t advocate lying normally, but your management’s suggestion to “use this trip as a fresh start” shows that they are woefully naive and totally oblivious to the dynamics at play here. This isn’t a training exercise or a sales trip, it’s a “reward” and it sounds like a bigger reward for you would be the peace of mind of not dealing with a psychopath for a weekend in a foreign country.

  29. HR Lady*

    I agree that you should take the “high road” — be kind, polite, and professional, no matter what she does.

    Be careful not to get your anxiety up too high. I think that your coworker’s joke about the boss driving people off the cliff really got to you. There’s nothing in your description of this manager that indicates she would actually do anything physically harmful to people. Gossip, possibly. But try to stop thinking about whether she would poison a drink or drive you off the road. Those thoughts are only making your anxiety spike — they don’t help you at all.

    The chances that she would do something to put you (or herself) in danger are extremely low, so low that you need to stop thinking about it.

    I’d definitely go on the trip, enjoy it as much as you can, keep the alcohol to a minimum (which is a good idea for anyone in their first job who’s on a work trip), and be kind and professional yet don’t make extra effort to be around the boss.

    1. Jen in RO*

      I was scrolling down to say something similar. I don’t get what part of the letter is making people so anxious – just because a coworker made a joke doesn’t mean the boss would *actually* drive the car off a cliff. I wouldn’t engage, but I wouldn’t panic either… just try to ignore her as much as possible.

      1. Anon*

        I agree, I don’t understand why people think she should be so on guard. What are the chances she is likely to actually put laxatives in her tea? If she was that crazy, why wouldn’t she have done it already? Yes, she is likely bitter but she is homicidal? Chances are, no. She is just a bitter crazy person.

        1. Loose Seal*

          I agree with this. I mean, I work with actual convicts with mental health issues (I’m a counselor) and I don’t even watch my food and drink around them. What are the actual odds that the demoted one will adulterate your food? I’d say slim-to-none.

      2. Jamie*

        I agree. I mean a lot of people are horrible and bitter, but very few actually harm other people.

        If it were me it wouldn’t occur to me to be worried about my safety – I’d be worried about the awkwardness, but nothing physical.

        This sounds horrendous to me and I wouldn’t want to go (but I don’t like to leave my house, so I’m not the standard bearer on fun travel destinations) but I would do what others suggested and just be polite and civil when you have to speak to her and when possible avoid her.

        Very few people in the world are unhinged enough to risk jail time or self-harm to square a workplace grudge. The proof is how many bad managers are still alive. :)

        1. HR Lady*

          Yes. I keep re-reading the original post and there’s just nothing that says to me that crazypants has any propensity for violence. In fact, several times OP writes that he/she *thinks* that crazypants feels a certain way – it’s not even like crazypants said these things out loud.

          Because this is OP’s first job, I’m thinking he/she just isn’t used to negative/crazy people in the workplace. (For instance, some people do storm out of rooms when given bad news, and that doesn’t mean they aren’t perfectly normal when they’ve calmed down. It also doesn’t mean they’re going to do anything violent at all.)

          1. evilintraining*

            Thank you! I think a lot of the people who posted let their minds run wild. She’s definitely a problem employee, but I doubt she’s a psycho killer who will drive everyone off a cliff. I didn’t get that at all. And sorry, but I still don’t see anything wrong with trying to have an adult conversation with her — and did not in any way imply that OP should frame it as, “There’s something wrong with you; what is it?” Rather, I’m saying it should be framed as, “We got off on the wrong foot, and I’d like to try to patch things up so we can work well together.”

    2. Ethyl*

      Same here. OP, I totally get that this is probably going to be a terrible trip that is zero fun, but if you are honestly worried that your former boss might physically harm or poison you or even outright murder your team (!), I think you need to take a step back and re-assess what of your fears are rational and what is not. Most people, no matter how awful, are not murderers even if they are gaslighting gossipy freaks.

    3. JMegan*

      I agree with all of this, and also with Ethyl’s point that most people are not murderers, even if they are nasty human beings.

      Can you talk to someone else on the team to get a handle on the actual risks involved, and what is actually likely to happen? I agree that it’s likely going to be massively uncomfortable for everyone – not only for you and the manager, but I’m sure everyone else will pick up on the twitchy vibes, even if they didn’t know what was going on in the first place.

      But if “massively uncomfortable” is the worst of it (and my guess is it probably is), then you can make a different analysis about the value of going on this trip. Definitely express your concerns to someone else in management if you think it’s appropriate, but don’t go overboard worrying about every possible thing that could go wrong.

      I hope you enjoy the trip!

    4. some1*

      I was coming here to say something similar. She’s not an idiot; she knows if your food or drink gets messed with she would be Suspect 1 in everyone’s eyes.

      Just because she tried to get you fired doesn’t mean she’s interested in going to jail.

      1. A Bug!*

        I really didn’t understand from the letter what would cause the OP to immediately jump to the expectation that the former manager would do something like spike her tea.

        I mean, it’s wise to be aware of the possibility, but to actually expect it as a likely thing to happen is something else. If you’re worried, keep an eye on your food and drinks, but don’t let it interfere with the trip.

        Really, I’d be more on guard against malicious gossiping, and in that case it’s much better to go on the trip so she doesn’t have carte blanche to talk about you in circumstances where you’re not able to defend yourself.

    5. Carpe Librarium*

      My comments about the passport and cash are more to do with a potential split-second decision by the demoted person to be a bit malicious by driving off or hiding the passport for the satisfaction of seeing the OP panic, but not really thinking about the serious safety issues that accompany being stranded in a foreign place.

  30. Bea W*

    Alison is a bigger person than I am. I would not be making any special effort to be nice to someone who does those things. The best I could manage would be common courtesy as needed. I firmly believe in staying disengaged as much as possible from any person who is that manipulative and nasty. That’s a lesson learned from too much direct experience trying to make useless special efforts to be nice to people who are the type who would just take advantage and continue to be manipulative abusive bullying jerks.

    She is in the position she is in because of her own behavior. The blame lies squarely on her. OP you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. You did not cause her demotion.

    If people are seriously afraid she’ll drive off a cliff, make sure someone else does the driving.

    1. Joey*

      Yeah, I agree. Going out of your way to be extra nice can easily come off as fake or condescending. But that’s me.

  31. kdizzle*

    Absolutely go. She is an unhinged individual who has taken up too much of your time and attention. She’s shown that she’s not worth to stress over. The trip should be a celebration that she doesn’t control your professional future.

    Be professional, be polite, be diplomatic. If she doesn’t act similarly, you can only come out further ahead in the eyes of others.

    1. Anon*

      I agree with this with the additional caveat – don’t be overly nice. Don’t go out of your way to change your personality and bend backwards for her. But be polite, leave no room for her to argue with you. Be irritatingly nice.

  32. Joey*

    Remain professional,be cordial, and respect the decision that someone felt she was valuable enough to stay on the team. Respect that she’s in the position now and still senior to you (although not your manager.). That means give her a chance and treat her professionally.

    If she gets crazy don’t engage. Let her drive herself off the cliff without dragging you along. Keep your composure, don’t get into it with her, don’t badmouth her and it will be obvious where the problem lies.

    Remember, she’s probably feeling down on herself and its anyone’s guess if she will get nasty or will truly try to turn over a new leaf. Give her the same opportunity to succeed in her new position that the boss have her.

    1. HR Lady*

      Well said, Joey. I’d add that the OP should respect the people who asked him/her to use this as a chance for a fresh start.

  33. Noelle*

    Once I had a boss who tried to fire me. He was unsuccessful, but he then made it his mission to make me as miserable as possible. Things got so bad that I ended up going to a therapist asking for advice on how to cope. Here’s what worked for me:

    1) Don’t go out of your way to engage with this person. It sucks that you’ll have to go on a trip with her, but I don’t think there is any reason for you to seek her out. Be polite and friendly, but that’s it.

    2) If she is mean to you, act like it doesn’t bother you. This was a HUGE help with my boss, because he was a bully. For instance, I had surgery and he told me my office wanted to send flowers, but he said not to. I was pretty hurt, but I just un-sarcastically thanked him for being so considerate of my privacy.

    3) Don’t complain about your boss to other people. Your coworkers will respect you more, and it also helps to just let her actions roll off you. I used to internalize all the stuff my boss did and then complain about him to others. This wasn’t a good way to handle it professionally, and it also made me more bitter. When I learned to just let it go and not let his actions affect me, things got a lot easier.

    Hopefully these are helpful. It is awful being in this situation, but it is not your fault and you have no responsibility for what happened to this person. Try to enjoy your vacation, and don’t let her get to you!

      1. Noelle*

        It definitely made a big difference for me. I was happier because I was deflecting my boss’s behavior instead of internalizing it or engaging in it, and since my boss couldn’t get a rise out of me he mostly left me alone after a while. I definitely don’t miss being there though!

  34. Tiff*

    I’d follow the advice given about being pleasant and professional, but also avoiding her when possible. But also…take the time to have a good time yourself and connect professionally. Becoming paranoid yourself or avoiding the trip altogether is going to keep up the dynamic of you-and-her. It’s a never ending saga and eventually people get tired of thinking about it.

    I think the better plan is to use the trip to re-align yourself with the right people. Crazypants will probably try to create a little vortex of misery and pull in some sympathizers. There will probably also be a camp of people who are just as relieved as you are that upper management recognizes just how crazy Ms. Crazypants is. Resist the urge to fall too deeply into those conversations. Talk about work impact instead of personality conflicts. Even though she’s the one who was in the wrong, you still have to re-brand yourself from Sworn Enemy/Victim of Ms. Crazypants to Ms. On the Rise.

  35. fposte*

    I had a boss get demoted to being essentially under my supervision. It was weird, and I wouldn’t have wanted to team-build with her immediately afterwards.

    But I’ll join with some downthreaders in thinking that she doesn’t sound like a drink-poisoning, cliff-driving threat–I can’t tell if you’re using hyperbole or not, but people who bitchily engage in office politics are legion, and it’s really not a predictor for people committing crimes. There may be something else that you didn’t identify that’s making you more specifically worried, but if not, I’d say stay cool, cheerful, and compassionate and keep a buffer person with you at all times.

  36. Julie*

    She sounds like an emotional vampire. This is a good read:
    They are narcissists and will never change. All you can do is protect yourself. And, yes, she probably will do things normal people would never consider as retribution for perceived slights. I managed one of these jewels once and she was capable of all kinds of insane behavior because she thought she was ALWAYS right, no matter what.

    1. AMG*

      I love this book. Had a very similar situation and bought this book when I was trying to get through it. It helped.

    2. coconutwater*

      That is a great book! I had forgotten all about it for I had lent the book out and it never found its way back to me. Looks like it was revised in 2012 so maybe time to buy a new one. Thanks for posting this.

  37. Sascha*

    The idea of going to a tropical island for a week with my coworkers, who are mostly sane and reasonable, is horrific to me. I sort of understand some people like these types of trips….but ew.

    Anyway, OP, I would just do as others suggested and be cordial, avoid her as much as possible, and relax. Enjoy the trip as much as you can. YOU are possibly going to be promoted, and it seems like you’ve proven yourself to be a valuable employee, so find confidence in that. Crazy Lady can mope all she wants on some other part of the island.

  38. A*

    When I worked with kids, we had the rule of threes, which basically translated to instructors could never be alone with students. For example, if a kid scraped their knee, then two instructors or an instructor and student would have to stay back to help them.

    It seems extreme and potentially overly paranoid, but it really helped if things blew up and ensured any incident didn’t end up in a he-said, she-said situation. Stay professional and polite, but definitely make sure that any interactions that might take a negative term are witnessed and avoid being trapped in any one-on-one confrontations.

  39. Mulier_Eximia*

    Just a little perspective from someone who has been in the workplace for decades. I am 52, have lived in 8 states, worked in a wide variety of fields and settings from corporate to goverment, higer education, private non-profit, startups, you name it.

    I _totally_ understand that the thought of having to find another job is extremely distasteful. However, in the BIG picture, this job has already cost you too much. No way is it worth being terrified for your SAFETY and your LIFE.

    Even those with exceptional work and personal ethics give you permission to be “on the verge of hospitalization” and NOT GO.
    I repeat, DO NOT GO. You are already on your way to a stress-induced illness: if not now, then in the near future. Better to lose your job than your health, your sanity, or goddess forbid, your life!

    Please do take care of yourself first and foremost, my dear!

    1. Another Emily*

      I like your advice. Sure, the crazy manager is a problem but I think a big problem with this company is bad management from her higher-ups. I mean… “We just demoted your lunatic boss for being horrible. Understandably she’s unhappy about this. We want you and the rest of your team to go to an island with her for some team building fun!” That is a terrible approach.

      I also like the advice from upthread to stay professional and calm, and to never be alone with her. Do this, but there’s no harm in quietly starting a job search too.

      I hope this situation works out.

  40. Emm*

    Don’t go. Seriously, aren’t we always talking about “The Gift of Fear” on here? If you are worried about your saftey for any reason, don’t go. Obviously the OP has some sort of subconscious fear of more than just an awkward situation…its a concern for safety. There is a reason for that and she shouldn’t risk it.

    1. A Bug!*

      Doesn’t that book actually go to lengths to explain how to tell the difference between real, reasonable fear and unreasonable fear? Because I’m really leaning toward the latter, here.

      1. Jamie*

        Good point. If I gave into every fear I have my kids would never drive. Or leave the house.

        As a matter of fact neither would I.

        It has to be reasonable.

    2. Tasha*

      I was thinking of that, too. Specifically, the author mentions a few cases where people made jokes about letter bombs, etc., for no apparent reason–and there turned out to be one. Subconscious clues alerted people to the fact that there was something seriously wrong with the situation. If the OP is getting those sorts of feelings and multiple people are making jokes about the dangers of traveling with this person (driving off a cliff, poison in the tea) it might be worth calling in sick.

  41. disconnect*

    Did I miss something? She was a horrible manager and lost her position because of her actions, not because of you. This is 100% NOT YOUR FAULT. The sooner you get that through your head, the sooner you’ll be able to look at her as a pitiable person and not a threat. Sure, don’t turn your back on her, but don’t feel like you have to walk on eggshells around her.

    Manners are a two-way street. If someone is polite and helpful towards you, it’s good to actively consider how to help them. But someone who lies about you and actively plots against you doesn’t get that same concern. I don’t mean be rude to anyone; in fact, I can’t think of any reason where rudeness is warranted, and politeness in the face of rudeness and hostility can really work wonders, especially when it’s backed up by an iron spine. And you can develop that iron by reminding yourself that this is all on her, not on you.

    Don’t be beholden to making anyone feel better about themselves. Just act honorably and be nice, and let people have their own feelings.

  42. Anastasia*

    My dad always told me you catch more bees with honey not vinegar. Although I know it is very difficult to be kind to someone as in this situation you will look better to management and your co-workers if you handle this with grace. You do not want her to get a negative reaction from you. Sometimes it’s a tough pill to swallow but that is what makes a strong leader. If you want to advance in your career (which it seems you are going to and want to) this is the best possible way to handle this. Let her dig herself into a deeper hole. Everyone will see that you can remain professional and friendly even in the most undesirable situations.

  43. MR*

    Take the high road.

    Clearly, management is well aware of what this person has done and is capable of. If she continues her destructive behavior, then I’m sure she will be fired. Her career with this company is basically over and eventually, she will move on – either on her own or because she gets fired.

    There is no need for you to stoop to her level or worry any more about her. The power has been removed from her and now you just need to be the better person. Good luck!

  44. Ed*

    Going away to a tropical island is a reward? I get along great with my team and that sounds awful. If companies are going to do this kind of crap, participation should be optional. I’d honestly rather stay at the office and work.

  45. Charlotte*

    Take a cab!

    No seriously, I hope there are friendly local taxi drivers, hopefully driving fun jitneys or something.

    Otherwise I would agree with everyone’s advice to 1) be civil and 2) don’t be alone with her.

    I also want to add, since this is your first job, that you should avoid her but also try not to blab too much about her to your coworkers. It seems they’re already aware of the problem and it doesn’t make you look good to be seen as negative, even if it’s true.

  46. Alex*

    1) What you’ve described is not gaslighting.

    2) I think you should keep everything professional as far as interaction with her and coworkers, mainly not gossiping about why Jane was demoted/has documentation for firing. You don’t need to go out of your way to be overly happy/cheerful around her, but be kind and polite.

    3) Not all life is like a TV show where people exact revenge on people who have wronged them, and I doubt your former manager is going to try to harm you. That being said, I would keep a documentation log on your computer with dates/times/descriptions if she does anything unprofessional towards you and communicate those to your new manager, who should be able to handle it along with higher ups at the company. Make sure your documentation is as neutral as possible: “Jane said ‘XYZ’ to me.” NOT “Jane was really mean and called me names.”

    1. Tasha*

      I completely agree with your last two points, with the caveat that OP should be quietly alert for things that cross the line between unprofessional and dangerous–especially since someone else has (albeit jokingly) acknowledged that possibility.

      But I do think what the OP described had elements of gaslighting. From the Wikipedia definition, the term “has been used colloquially since at least the 1970s to describe efforts to manipulate someone’s sense of reality.” S/he was lied to about what higher-ups were saying about their performance, presenting a different version of reality–namely, that they were doing badly and needed to leave.

  47. Ruffingit*

    The fact that your managers think this trip is some way to make a “fresh start” tells me they are, at best, delusional. This is not a fresh start situation. This is putting a volatile, lying, borderline psycho in close quarters with the people (and one person in particular, that being the OP) that she believes caused her to be demoted. That is a recipe for disaster.

    Given that you have upper managers who think this way and believe that a fresh start can even be made with someone like this, I would seriously look for another job. The dysfunction at your workplace does not end with this woman.

  48. Daisy*

    OP-how did it go? Update, please. And yes she has serious mental health issues (I have worked in mental health for 18 years).

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