I think my manager tampered with my drinking water

A reader writes:

I have a passive-aggressive supervisor. Today she was friendlier than normal, which happens when she’s getting one over on you; you know it’s coming. Well, I figured out what it was late that morning. I think she tampered with my drink at work. I left an opened bottle of water in the refrigerator in my office, which is mine. It was a fresh bottle, and I took a big swallow of it. I think she put water in it from the toilet. I spit it out, washed my mouth out, brushed, etc. I poured the drink out and threw it in the trash.

I’m a new hire so I am under probational status, which denies me access to the grievance procedure. Two things have taken place within the last two weeks where I would have been able to file a grievance if it was past my anniversary. I went to her boss, my divisional head, about both incidents.

What do I do in this situation? HR is aware of the problems, but it’s up to the divisional head to address them. There has been a lot of turnover within our department these last few months and I am actively job searching. I realized now that I should have had the bottle tested with the water still in it. What do you recommend? Have any of your readers been in this situation?

I suspect they have not. Because this is far, far into the realm of crazy.

In fact, this is so far into the realm of crazy that not only are you unlikely to be able to prove it, but even making the allegation is going to raise questions about whether you’re the unstable one. That’s doubly true as a new hire. If a new hire came to me with this allegation, I’d be pretty concerned about the hire, not the manager (unless the manager had a track record of extreme craziness, but being able to believe this about a manager absent some sort of compelling evidence is pretty incompatible with having continued to employ them).

Honestly, if things are at the point where this is happening or you believe it’s happening, I’d just get out. Either way, this is a situation that sounds beyond repair and that’s far beyond the realm of “I’d just file a grievance if I weren’t on probationary status.”

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 439 comments… read them below }

  1. Livin' in a Box (formerly CanadianWriter)*

    Why do you think your boss put toilet water in your water bottle? Just because she was nice to you? I feel like I’m missing something.

    1. KarenT*

      Seconded. Can you provide more context, OP? Did the manager make a threat along these lines? I’m willing to believe there is more to this story, but judging based on what’s here, it’s hard to leap to the toilet water conclusion.

      1. Linda*

        I’ve experienced a similar co-worker. The part about being especially friendly when they’re up to something is spot on!
        I had my own crazy one put fish oil in my hot water boiler, so it wouldn’t be detected until it started heating up! I made it known I’d sent the water boiler to the police to test for toxic substances and to see who’d handled it. I didn’t but it was enough to scare her into behaving for at least a few months.

    2. alma*

      On the one hand, I want to know this as well.

      On the other hand… I’m actually not sure I want to know, because I’m wondering if OP left out some details I don’t want to read right before lunch.

      This is definitely one for the books.

    3. Dutch Thunder*

      I’m also struggling to put the pieces together.

      If the OP is a new hire, it seems very early to know that the OP’s supervisor has a pattern of being overly nice when trying to do horrible things to her employees. I’d be very interested to hear about previous incidents that would make the supervisor putting toilet water in the OP’s water bottle a plausible occurrence.

      1. alma*

        I agree it’s a little early, but I’ve known some probationary periods to be in the realm of 90 days. And I’ve had some bosses show their crazy a LOT earlier than that (at two separate jobs, in fact, I had a direct manager have a huge emotional meltdown at a meeting within my first week of starting… am I carrying a hex or something?).

        Admittedly I’ve never had anyone who was toilet-water levels of crazy, that I know of, so I definitely share some of the questions on that aspect of things. But, I don’t think it’s entirely out of the realm of possibility that OP has a read on her boss.

        1. Dutch Thunder*

          You’re right actually, supervisor crazy can make itself known early.

          The toilet water is just so out there I can’t help but wonder what’s happened before that makes it a logical explanation of the bottle incident. So many questions!

            1. Stephanie*

              Same, although that’s not uncommon in government (at least when I was hired about six years ago). When I was a fed, you were hired under the “intern” program and did that for two years. The plus was that you got hired a lot faster. The negative was that you didn’t get any of the standard federal employee protections until you were converted to a permanent employee. In practice, a lot of friends’ agencies treated the interns like permanent employees. My agency used the intern program as a two-year probationary period where it was a lot easier to fire poor performers.

              1. brightstar*

                This was for the state government, and you received full benefits, it was just easier to fire you during that probationary period.

                1. Stephanie*

                  Yup, that’s exactly how that job worked as well. You got full benefits, it was just easier to get fired. Of course, there were PIPs and warnings involved. I think once you were permanent, a firing was a lot more complicated and required appeals and significant documentation.

              2. De Minimis*

                I have some kind of two-year probation with this agency but I’m not actually sure what it entails. People are fired here pretty frequently regardless of how long they’ve been here. I *think* the probation may just be that I can’t get another job working for this agency in our region until the two years is up. It’s actually up next week, so it doesn’t matter much now anyway.

                I have some other probation-like status because I was hired under a special hiring authority. After three years supposedly I can be converted to “competitive status,” which will let me apply to a wider range of federal jobs.

        2. Suzanne*

          “…am I carrying a hex or something?” So glad to know I am not the only one! I seem to be a magnet for bad management. I love my current job, and have a great manager, but for a while, I wondered if I had a curse on me or something!

          1. GrumpyBoss*

            You and me both. I’ve had 4 pretty lousy bosses, with two of them pretty firmly in sociopath territory. After awhile, you begin to wonder, “is it me?”

            Then you get a good boss and faith is restored in humanity.

            1. Anon.*

              Very late to the party, but I’ve been in that situation on more than one occasion. I feel very lucky to recently have had sane people as bosses.

              So, what did you or anyone else wanting to share their .02 do?

              Did you up and quit? Look for a new job? Ride it out and deal with the misery? Did you report the person or any of the bullying behavior?

              1. OP*

                I have stood my ground a couple of times to be threatened with termination. Am job searching, doing a lot of walking. Am keeping documentation in case she fires me so that I can file an appeal with the unemployment office. I have heard of food & drink tampering but have only been a victim of having my lunch or a soda stolen over the years. This is new territory for me. I’m leaving, trying to find something within my current office; but am willing to go to another that is a longer drive.

            2. the gold digger*

              Yes. I just left a crazy boss situation – couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Started looking one month after I had started. I have always had good or great bosses so this was a huge shock. I really started to question my sanity.

              But new boss is great and I am slowly starting to trust again.

              1. Suzanne*

                Yes! After one horrible situation (which I ended flat out quitting), followed by two lousy, although not as bad, it was very difficult to trust any manager and not be scared of work!

            3. Rachel*

              i am aspie and was raised in an abusive home. i’ve also had more than my share of workplace bullies including a few definite sociopaths. i ended up concluding that it WAS just me, but only because i am doing something that clues them in to the fact that i’m apparently an easy victim. they’re still crazy, horrid people, but even crazies are selective about their victims.

              i still haven’t solved this problem, mostly bc there aren’t so many jobs in my field that i can choose between competing offers or bail on a position.

          2. Ruffingit*

            Yes. I have totally been there. I’ve honestly never had a really great boss who I felt wanted to be helpful to my professional growth. I’m lucky if I get a mediocre manager rather than a sociopathic or abusive one. It gets really exhausting dealing with managers like this.

    4. Cat*

      I wondered this as well. I’ve never drunk toilet water, but my cats certainly seem to think it tastes fine and they’re picky as hell about water.

      1. Sam*

        I have…(dare, junior high), and while it had a weird taste, it was similar to when you have bottled water sitting out for too long, or in the car.

        1. BRR*

          But would you know if nobody had told you where it came from?

          (Anybody else thinking seinfeld with the toothbrush?)

      2. Jess*

        This was also my question…because isn’t toilet water just tap water? Assuming it was clean, how would you know it was specifically *from* the toilet? There has to be some context here that we’re missing.

        1. Rayner*

          It probably tastes weird – tap water can be filtered which toilet water isn’t, and you know. The uh… additional extras. Not to mention bleach or other toilet cleaners.

          1. LD*

            Tap water can be filtered but many organizations and even homeowners don’t add filters to their taps. The water comes in and goes out through the same pipes. The pipes just go through different junctions inside the buildings.
            I’d also be interested in learning more about what made the OP decide that the water in the bottle had been tampered with (toilet water or not) and why the OP would have concluded that the supervisor did it. What has that supervisor done already that would make her blameworthy in this situation?

            1. Allison*

              This is true, I live in a city where the tap water tastes okay, but if I visit the town just across the river the tap water tastes terrible! Maybe not as bad as toilet water, but not great. I think if I went to drink what I thought was fresh, filtered or store-bought water, and tasted that town’s tap water instead, I’d be so surprised by the less-than-fresh taste my knee-jerk reaction would probably be “UGH, what is this, toilet water? Gross!”

        2. KayDay*

          I would *imagine* it might have a bit of taste from cleaning products or rust if the pipes/tank are old. But I doubt I would be able to distinguish between toilet water and other funny tasting water.

            1. KayDay*

              For a very short moment, I was seriously considering getting some water out of the toilet to test it myself.

          1. Koko*

            Yes – a funky fridge with too-old leftovers or similar can make water stored in it taste weird. It’s why a lot of people buy those boxes of baking soda that you can rip the side off to absorb odors…instead of, you know, keeping their fridge clean. (Obviously I don’t understand this phenomenon, but the fridge boxes of baking soda seem to sell well, so it must appeal to many.)

            1. Natalie*

              My recollection from Cook’s Illustrated is that those boxes don’t really work. It’s probably psychological more than anything else.

              1. Rayner*

                My experience is they work for a mildly honking fridge but anything more than a faint whiff won’t be bothered by them. Pungent and foul aromas won’t even be touched.

              1. Natalie*


                (Article might be behind a paywall)

                “As it turns out, food scientists, including Washington Post columnist Robert Wolke, dismiss the notion that baking soda has deodorizing power in the fridge. In his book What Einstein Told His Cook 2, Wolke writes that while baking soda does neutralize acids, the likelihood of gaseous molecules from acidic sour milk migrating through the refrigerator and interacting with the baking soda is slight. He also concludes that no single chemical has the ability to deactivate all of the complex, gaseous chemicals that smell bad.”

                It does work as an odor neutralizer when used to scrub something.

                1. Ethyl*

                  It also works great at getting caked-on gunk from pans for the same reason a pinch added to beans or cornmeal will soften things up.

              1. JB*

                +1 I ferment vegetables sometimes, and some of them make your fridge smell like you’re hiding a decomposing body in there. I wish a box of baking soda would help with that.

                1. Stephanie*

                  Yeah, my Korean friend said her family had a separate “kimchee fridge.” I have a sourdough starter here my mom makes me put in the outside beer fridge.

                2. Ethyl*

                  My mom makes my dad open up the kimchee he gets from Mrs. Kim down the street out on the porch :)

                3. JB*

                  @ Stephanie,
                  I’ve been wanting a kimchee fridge for that very reason! I used to have a sourdough starter, and it does kind of make your house smell like a brewery, so I get where your mom is coming from. :)

                4. JB*

                  Yeah, there’s something about adding the pepper powder to fermenting vegetables that takes it to the next level in bad smells, like from “I think you’re hiding a body in your fridge” to “I think you have several decomposing bodies scattered about your abode in the middle of August.”

            2. Artemesia*

              Clean is not the issue — it is other food stored. In France they have little devices you put in your egg tray to help absorb the truly disgusting cheese odors that quickly turn a sparkling ice box into a monster with bad breath. Even covered food that is pungent smells and cheese properly stored (not in plastic) really smell up a refrigerator. Not a problem with Kraft slices of course, but with all those great natural French cheeses we can’t resist when in Paris.

          2. Anonsie*

            Agreed. Even clean toilet water… Smells a little off, I guess? Extra mineral-y and chemical-y. I always notice it when I have to fix a toilet and I’m leaning over the open tank for a while. If I tasted that, I would immediately think toilet.

      3. Linda*

        I think you’re missing the point. Apparently the crazy one tampered with her water. In Europe it’s a jail-able offense, here it depends on a lot of issues not least of all being able to prove it. I learned NEVER to leave any already opened packages or bottles around at work even if it meant throwing them out. If it wasn’t sealed when I opened it, I didn’t ingest it. And my job is a federal job!

    5. JB*

      I thought she was saying that her boss is extra nice to her when she is playing a trick on you. I’ve worked with people like that. You knew when they were up to something because they’d be just a little too friendly or jokey.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I had a executive admin above me who would always be extra-super nice whenever she was about to spring some kind of “Gotcha!” moment on someone. And she would have an expression on her face (kind of a crooked little sideways smile) that was her unwitting “tell”; it always reminded me of when a little kid is trying to hide something from you and doesn’t realize that hands-behind-back is an obvious “tell”.

        Ex. The exec. admin came up to my office and was very overly friendly with the little crooked smile in place. She chatted me up, asked me how my day and work were going, and then she sprung the “Gotcha!” portion of her little act: a faculty member had allegedly reported to her that I had been reading a magazine and had neglected them when they came into my office. Well, I was reading a magazine — an issue of MyBoss’sProfession Digest — to get a citation from an article written about his work.

        The thing I learned about Exec. Admin, though, is that she could have totally been making up that a faculty member said anything to her about it. She often used “someone else said” as leverage to back up her own dubious agenda.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            @JB — could be: she did a rage-quit back in January and we haven’t heard a word from her since. Well, unless you count the email that she secretly sent to our new dean giving him the lowdown on how terrible we all are and her specific advice to him on how to deal with each particular one of us; he forwarded that email to our associate dean with the subject line, “FYI!!!!!!” (and yes, he did use all six exclamation marks).

      2. Anonsie*

        Oh yeah. A lot of people have tells, and a lot of other people are really good at picking up on tells that might not be obvious to others.

        I’ve heard they’ve done some studies that found that people who grew up around particularly volatile people (parents or otherwise) are much, much better at picking up on negative emotions in the people they know than is average. I know immediately when I see someone I work with (or in my family, or friends) if they’re going to be cranky later, even if they’re still upbeat when I see them.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Wow, I guess that’s why I’m very good at picking up tells, then. My parents could both be pretty volatile and unpredictable. You could never tell if a particular action would be greeted with indulgence, indifference, or a shoe upside your head. So when Exec Admin would stand in front of me with the little crooked smile on, it always kind of blew my mind that she didn’t realize that I could SEE her.

          1. Anonsie*

            That would do it! And I know the feeling. My partner seems to think I’m making it up when I tell him someone is tense and primed to snap at someone– he can’t see it coming at all. And when it happens he never connects it to how they seemed earlier, he just tries to pin it to whatever happened immediately beforehand. I’m like, how can you not tell? It’s right there on their faces!

    6. Steve G*

      Not getting why they wrote “2 incidences” – I only see 1. Someone being nice isn’t an incident.

      1. JB*

        I don’t think she was characterizing the niceness as an incident, just a signal that an incident is about to happen. She didn’t say what the other incident was, just that there was another one.

    7. PJ*

      Are we talking water from the toilet bowl, or the stinky stuff you sprinkle behind your ears? The latter might have a taste of alcohol, but how would you necessarily know about the former, unless it was… um… “used” water?

    8. Chris Brownn*

      Food tampering is more common than people think. It is difficult to catch people tampering with food, so many attempt it. To the person tampering with food, it is a way to get even with people.

      A restaurant worker and cocaine addict at a sub shop where I live intentionally forgets to wash his face after shaving at work so whiskers fall into the food and it is appears to be accidental. He admitted this openly. A trend in Bloomington, IN is to serve food with hair in it and ask the customer if they want a replacement food. It is meant to be an insult. A local cocaine addict from Bloomington that goes by the Alchemist or Justin talked about starting this trend many years ago.

      I believe that a co-worker would put toilet water in bottled water because of hatred, drug addiction, frustration or whatever justification they can make up such as a rumor. People need jobs to pay their bills, so new employees would be especially vulnerable to food tampering coming from employees with seniority. Making people look crazy by tampering with their food and hoping they get upset is one way to gain an advantage in a competitive workplace.

  2. A.*

    Is it normal to be unable to file a grievance as a new employee on probational status??? I’ve never heard of such a thing.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      At the very least, shouldn’t employees be able to submit grievances about legally protected harassment or discrimination? I don’t think the law exempts probationary employees from those protections…

      1. Loose Seal*

        It does sound like OP has complained about the instances — her divisional head and HR both know about them. Is that different from an official filing of a grievance?

    2. EG*

      Not normal to my knowledge. In what world would it be ok to mistreat the new hire knowing they can’t file a complaint? No one would go to work at a company if they knew this was the case.

    3. MaryMary*

      “File a grievance” has union connotations for me. It’s not unusual to have to complete a waiting period, probationary period, or work a certain number of hours before joining a union.

      1. attornaut*

        This, exactly. “File a grievance” suggests the negotiated union process, which is entirely different from “file a complaint” about various issues through a less formal process.

        1. De Minimis*

          I think it’s pretty common in union environments for employees to have a probationary period where they don’t have full union protection and they can be fired for any reason, can be made to work mandatory overtime, and so on.

          1. Stephanie*

            Yeah, this was the case at my first job when I was a fed. We had a union, but you had to make it through the two-year probationary period before you got the full protection of the union.

        1. fposte*

          I think “file a grievance” is more a UK/Commonwealth use when you’re talking HR, whereas in the US you more likely complain to HR and file a grievance with your union.

            1. fposte*

              Care to expand? It’s true in my experience–I’ve never had a US workplace where you’d file a grievance with HR.

          1. jersey anon*

            I am not union, work in the US and can file a grievance if I need to. We do not have “probationary” periods either.

            1. LCL*

              In my union work place, located in the US, grievances are filed with the union regarding specific contract matters. Complaints are filed with HR about crazy supvervisors or employees.

      2. RJ*

        Grievance procedures do not necessarily have anything to do with unions. It is simply a policy or procedure that provides a means for employees to file a formal complaint. Many HR departments have grievance procedures so they can defend the organization from claims such as hostile work environment, EEOC claims, etc. I was a non-represented employee with an unbelievably abusive supervisor. After going to HR about a dozen times, they finally told me that my only recourse would be to start the grievance procedure and file a formal complaint.

    4. KayDay*

      This is actually what I was wondering. I have had jobs with probabitionary status before and the only significant difference was not recieving/being able to use benefits, and the procedure to separate was facilitated, if necessary. An even though I didn’t have most benefits during this period, I did have those benefits that were related to protecting employees–which in my case was only life insurance. Not allowing new employees to be able to file grievances seems rather sketchy to me, but my experience with probationary periods is rather limited.

    5. smilingswan*

      This act seems like it might actually be illegal in certain places. Surely all employees are allowed to report illegal acts!

  3. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

    I want to say this is way out there paranoid, but then I recall the Dear Prudence letter about the woman whose mother-in-law was deliberately sickening her through food tampering for years and I just don’t know.

    1. Artemesia*

      That was the one where the husband got furious when he got sick when his wife secretly switched plates at the MIL’s house — at the wife who was being poisoned and not the MIL doing the poisoning?

      1. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

        YES! And she wrote back later to update and said she and the husband were divorcing.

        1. Cari*

          Did the update say whether the husband was in on it and stood to gain a considerable amount on the wife’s life insurance by any chance? I can’t understand the husband’s reaction otherwise…

          1. Brit*

            From what I recall about that one, he was just a HUGE momma’s boy and basically sided with his mothr on it.

      2. alma*

        YES. I remember that letter! The husband got mad at the wife, and not his evil mom. I couldn’t decide if the MIL or the husband was more despicable.

        1. salad fingers*

          And even worse, the wife seemed pretty sure based on his reaction that he knew this was happening the whole time.


          1. Mints*

            Woah! Thanks for posting
            They’re all nuts, and I don’t even know how she could have stayed married to that nutso family

        1. LPBB*

          Most of the time Prudie’s advice isn’t worth the electrons it’s printed in, but every now and then she hits it out of the park. That was hysterical!

        2. Elizabeth West*

          The right thing to do would have been to discreetly knock around noon and ask if they were ready to order lunch. I’ve had to do this before myself. Almost nobody objects to such an interruption.

        3. Anonsie*

          I like how Prudence says this is indeed her job because she’s an assistant and fresh out of school and is an entitled pissant who gave the higher up attitude, but the letter doesn’t say anything other than that she is the bottom of the totem pole and this isn’t in her regular job duties.

  4. TotesMaGoats*

    I’m with the other comments. There has got to be something missing here because otherwise this seems to come from somewhere past left field. And what was the other incident? I don’t even know what to say at this point.

  5. Rayner*

    I think there’s a lot of context missing from this – how does the OP know it’s toilet water? What were the other grievances and what was your department and your role in them? Why would your manager choose to retaliate?

    I think it could be legitimate (if way outside of anyone’s experience here) but I’m struggling to understand why.

  6. Sarahnova*

    … what were these “two things” that have happened recently that you could have filed grievances about? Do either of them have anything to do with thinking your manager would have replaced your drinking water with toilet water? We are missing a lot of information here, and without it, I can’t help wondering if you are at least part of the problem. Sorry, but that’s a pretty steep and specific accusation to make without a context and evidence you haven’t given us here.

    Mind you, I am all ears for anything else you care to share.

    Also, I’m not sure having the water tested would have shown that much, unless it was a previously sealed bottle of mineral water. High levels of faecal bacteria would be icky to find out about, but could have come from, say, a tap touched by someone with contaminated hands.

    1. Rayner*

      I agree with your last point – the OP’s bottle could have been contaminated from a number of sources, including her own mouth – hey, your gob isn’t the cleanest of places – since she said it was an open one. Or even if it was left in a fridge with particularly odoriferous foods; they can change the way water tastes too.

      1. fposte*

        I reuse water bottles for tap water all the time, and [spoilage alert] they can indeed start to smell a little funky just from my own mouth, especially if I was eating near/while drinking. (And yes, that is a cue to toss them.)

        1. Cari*

          They can also taste really gross if taking a swig after a smoker or if one is a non chainsmoking smoker :|

        2. Nina*

          I experienced that, as well. I didn’t know a water bottle could smell bad, but they definitely can. I try to wash mine at least once a week.

          1. Natalie*

            I periodically bring mine to work and run them through the dishwasher. Dishwashers seem to get into the little crevices in a way a sponge never does.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      I think learning what the other incidents are would be very illuminating one way or another.

  7. Poohbear McGriddles*

    Is it Wednesday already?

    That’s quite dysfunctional if the boss being nice leads one to suspect that she tainted their drinking water. Does she normally pull crap like this when she is being passive-aggressive? Maybe she was all rainbows and sunshine with Wakeen yesterday, and then the SWAT team showed up at his house last night on an anonymous tip.

    Makes me appreciate a boring day.

    1. Hermione*

      Poor Wakeen. Always with the terrible bosses and crazy coworkers. I hope he works for himself one day…

      1. Karyn*

        Laughed out loud at this comment. :D Thank you for that! I feel like Percival also gets the short end of the stick…

        1. Eudora Wealthy*

          Fortunately, with all those teapots around, Wakeen can boil the drinking water just in case somebody put poop in it.

      2. Clerica*

        When is he going to just start his own business already? Or blog for a living, or write a book? Sheesh. :)

  8. some1*

    Passive-aggressive would be *hiding* your water, not tampering with it. Also wondering what made you jump to assuming that.

    1. JB*

      Eh, I don’t know. If we’re going to nit pick, you example isn’t “passive-aggressive” either under that term’s original meaning (which is more like passive resistance, like promising you’ll take out the trash but never doing it and never intending to do it), but I think either works under the way we often use the term these days as meaning an act of aggression that avoids direct face-to-face confrontation. I think the OP’s word choice works to convey what she’s saying about her boss’s personality: she doesn’t do direct confrontation but will find a way to stick it to you.

  9. UK Anon*

    TBH, testing the water would, I think, have been fairly pointless, as it’s quite likely to be coming from the same base source as drinking water from taps etc – unless, of course, you suspect her of having added something to it with the intention of harming you, in which case forget grievances, ring the police!

    I’m with the other commentators, though; this seems a very specific, bizarre and non-plussing incident without further information, and really quite hard to fathom.

    1. Stephanie*

      Yeah, that was my thought as well. There probably isn’t a ton of difference between tap and (clean) toilet water.

  10. J in NY*

    OP, perhaps you are jumping to conclusions? Please provide some more detail so we can understand. But you did say the bottle was open, maybe it picked up some funky tastes/smells from the fridge and not another source? Why is the toilet your first conclusion?

  11. Muriel Heslop*

    Am I the only who believes the LW? Maybe because I have worked with someone like this. We actually caught her spitting into someone’s Diet Coke bottle from the fridge. Gross, right? But how would you prove it if you didn’t catch her doing it? Why would you even think someone would do that? People would think you were bizarre! Her tell was always the same: if she was friendly, warm, or polite you knew she was up to something. Otherwise, she was a miserable person. Her favorite thing was to remove food from the communal fridge, have people wonder where it was, then replace it mid-afternoon. Gaslight!

    This was a public school teacher.

    1. Rayner*

      I think if you’ve experienced it before, it would be more believable but I don’t think the majority of commentors here actively disbelieve the OP. They just want more evidence than “my manager was shifty and my water tasted gross.” Explaining a bit more could definitely tip more people into the ‘actively believe’ side.

    2. Hous*

      I completely believe SOMETHING happened to the water–the difference in taste between filtered/bottled water and tap water is really noticeable in a lot of places, and if someone switched them I’m sure I’d be able to tell. I’m just not sure I’d ever jump to toilet water vs. just regular tap, and it does feel like there must be some missing piece that made the OP assume that was the new water’s source.

      (That being said, if I had a boss who swapped my bottled water with tap water, I’d probably still be looking for a new job, because that is a completely bizarre thing for someone to do, and I doubt I’d really want to keep working with them. But it would be less pressing.)

      1. AVP*

        Yeah…I was wondering if maybe someone accidentally drank the OP’s water (either on purpose, or mistakenly believing it was theirs) and then just re-filled it with tap water? Depending on where you live, tap water can taste kind of funky and noticeably different from bottled.

        1. PJ*

          Yeah, this. In my community tap water has a faint sulfur odor. They say it’s clean, but when I smell it, I think “toilet water.” No way I’d drink it.

          1. Ethyl*

            I just want to reassure you that it’s entirely safe. That rotten egg smell (hydrogen sulfide) in particular is one of those things humans can smell way before it’s at a great enough concentration to harm you. It’s ok if you don’t want to, but it really is safe.

        2. Stephanie*

          Ditto. Tap water in my area is safe to drink, but it has a noticeably different taste from bottled or filtered water. The water’s really hard, so I think the water softeners/other treatment chemicals can impart an off taste.

      2. Turanga Leela*

        Yeah, from my perspective, any tampering with food/drink is a sign of workplace insanity and a good cue to get out quickly. If someone changed my bottled water for tap water, I would be completely freaked out.

    3. A Jane*

      Yes, I believe the OP. My assumption is that they didn’t want to explain the full details of how they knew the water was tampered.

    4. The IT Manager*

      I’m not sure if I fully believe LW because that seems so outrageous it almost seems more likely that someone is paranoid about it happening than it actually happening by an adult who is employable.

      I believe that the LW left something out – like taking the first swig and thinking that it tasted like toilet water.

      But I just want to commend Alison on a most excellent answer. Whether it’s happening or LW just believe it’s happening, this situation is too far gone for recovery. The time to get out is now.

      1. JB*

        I have worked with people who have done stuff like this. They are out there, and somehow, they never seem to get fired.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          Yep, I had a co-worker who would put booze in her pot-luck dish because her “enemy” was in Alcoholics Anonymous. She told people afterwards and thought it was hilarious.

          1. JB*

            Wow. That is not ok. What always gets me is how they don’t realize they shouldn’t be admitting this to people.

            1. TeaBQ*

              What gets me with things like that is if this is considered stuff they cheerfully admit to what are they doing that they’re ashamed to tell people?

          2. PJ*

            This is awful. I had a friend who was taking anabuse. Even putting vanilla in the cookie batter would make him sick. This is just… awful.

          3. Jill-be-Nimble*

            These are the types of people who HAVE “enemies.” You ever notice how sane people just have “people they don’t see eye-to-eye with,” or something similar?

            That is so not OK that I just can’t even…

            1. Another unnamed*

              Oh, I’ve got _so many_ people I “don’t see eye-to-eye with”.

              … I save enemies for game night.

          4. madge*

            Whoa. I hope she was disciplined/terminated/publicly shamed. Booze and I are pretty tight, but I don’t see a sliver of humor in that.

          5. Cari*

            Was she also the kind of coworker who would think it totes funny to for example put nuts in a potluck with a co-worker with nut allergies?

          6. Elizabeth West*

            What the…. o.O

            Okay, I would have told EVERYBODY behind her back not to touch anything she brought in, ever again.

            I have a word for these people, but it isn’t polite.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The ADA doesn’t prevent you from firing someone with mental illness though. It requires you to (a) make reasonable accommodation (b) that doesn’t pose undue hardship to the employer (c) as long the person can still perform the essential functions of their job. If someone is highly disruptive or can’t work with others, it fails B and possibly C. Companies that claim the ADA prevents them from acting in that case are (a) wrong and (b) lazy/cowardly and (c) not working with a good lawyer.

            1. fposte*

              And I feel on pretty safe ground saying that the ADA does not consider allowing an employee to tamper with other people’s food and drink to be a reasonable accommodation.

            2. GrumpyBoss*

              I understand, and my post was meant to be facetious. I’ve just been given that line from HR before when I wanted to remove someone who did something batsh*t insane…. Think public defecation (I am not kidding).

              The mere mention of ADA makes a gunshy and/or uninformed HR department shake in their boots.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Ha, and I can no longer even recognize facetiousness where the ADA is concerned because people like your HR department say such ridiculous things about it!

              2. OP*

                I have gotten the impression that HR is quite disappointed that my co-workers have rolled over and played dead. They have me documenting everything so that they can get rid of her. I want out of there now; because I am afraid of what she’ll do next. I had a co-worker years ago that would say in appropriate things . . could be totally insulting. What I would do is wait a couple of days and tell her … you would not believe what someone said to me but am having trouble recalling who said it … than repeat back to her what she said. She would get wild eyed, and say I cannot believe someone said that. I did that twice and she stopped the ugly comments. She caught on that I was letting her know she was out of line without turning it into a confrontation.

                I tried that with this one … goes right over her head.

                1. Observer*

                  They probably are disappointed. It is SO much easier to get rid of someone when you have lots and lots of complaints / documented incidents.

            3. OP*

              I have considered going to an employment lawyer, but that is almost cost prohibitive. But I do know one thing, if she does something to harm me physically I will press charges against her.

      2. MisterPickle*

        Agreed. There seem to be a lot of people second-guessing the LW, speculating on details etc. But I think it boils down to either the supervisor did something to her water, or the LW has “issues”. Either way: getting out of there is the answer.

        1. fposte*

          It’s also possible that the supervisor does crazy stuff but not actually this. That’s one reason I’m interested in hearing what made the OP think so–was it bleach, as Mike C. suggests? That’s a pretty clear indication of adulteration, whether it’s toilet water or not (I would actually just think of bleach); if it was that it tasted off, I think it’s less clear.

      3. Katie the Fed*

        She’s accusing the manager of criminal behavior. Literally criminal – I would call the police if I had credible information that this happened. But…if you suspected this why wouldn’t you save the rest of the water as evidence?

        The whole thing is….odd. But yeah, LW needs a new job ASAP

    5. Juli G.*

      It’s not that I don’t believe her. It’s more that without the context of the two other incidents and a little more info around what led her to identify it as toilet water, there’s not much advice to give other than leave.

      1. Muriel Heslop*

        Upon reflection, I am sure my impressions are affected by the fact that I have experienced something similar and extrapolated that the toilet/bottled water is the final and perhaps not-grossest straw.

      2. Sarahnova*


        It’s not that I don’t believe her. I just really don’t have enough information to say anything. And it’s also possible that the OP is being paranoid here.

        1. Chris*

          Yes, it isn’t lack of belief. I believe there are people in the world awful enough to do something like this. But, I also believe that there are overly paranoid people. I also think that bottled water just starts to taste different pretty quickly after being opened. I don’t have enough information to figure out what is going on here.

    6. alma*

      Oh, I certainly don’t disbelieve that someone is capable of doing what OP describes. The chain of events just seems to be missing something that would indicate the boss spiking people’s drinks with toilet water. I think it’s just as likely that OP left out details in order to avoid grossing us all out, but I definitely had a “Wait, what??” moment as I was reading.

      1. Ani*

        It’s partly that toilet water would require a rather elaborate plan of action — including getting the toilet water (with what? the bottle itself? taking it into the restroom? or transporting yet something else from the toilet to the bottle?) and all without notice.

    7. Helka*

      I don’t disbelieve the OP, but I think being able to advise on what to do next depends pretty heavily on how provable the “toilet water in the bottle” claim is.

    8. Rebecca*

      And this is why I keep only sealed items in the common fridge, and never, ever, ever leave opened liquid anything there.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        This is why I have a mini fridge in my office. (Well, it’s really because I don’t want to have to deal with other peoples’ messes, but I was also glad I had it when stuff started disappearing from the break room fridge. At least that was solved relatively quickly.)

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Oops, apparently I misread “the refrigerator in my office” to mean the refrigerator in their place of employment, and the “which is mine” to refer to the bottle. But all I keep in my fridge is cans of soda, so I’m pretty confident no one is tampering with them….

          Hmmm, maybe I should start disinfecting the tops of the cans….

    9. Koko*

      I read a fascinating book a while back called “The Sociopath Next Door.” Written by a psychologist who worked with people recovering from depression and trauma who came to believe that the vast majority of her patients had been harmed by relationships (friendly, romantic, professional) with sociopaths. One of the key points she made is that because sociopaths have no sense of ethics, empathy, or remorse, they’re willing to do quite literally anything they’re capable of that they would like to do, and they’ll often do things so far beyond the pale that their victims either think, “She can’t possibly be doing what it seems like she’s doing to me. Nobody would do that. I must be crazy!” or their victim thinks, “Nobody would believe that anybody would do what she’s doing. They’d all think I’m crazy.” And as a result, victims of sociopaths suffer in silence while the sociopaths continue on their path of destruction because nobody is reporting/stopping them.

      1. Observer*

        The thing is, though, that sociopaths generally have a pretty good reason for what they do. And even when the reasons are not acceptable or valid, they make a certain type of sense – eg driving someone to agree to something in the sociopath’s favor that a reasonable person would normally not agree to – or are something we know about (at least theoretically) – eg a wing puller who likes to inflict pain. But secretly exchanging regular water for toilet water?

        I’m not saying it could not have happened. But, it is just bizarre enough that, lacking context and awareness by the LW of this level of oddity, I have to be skeptical.

        1. Koko*

          For sociopaths, though, entertainment could be their motive. One of the examples in the book was a woman who tormented a subordinate just for fun. She would make up obvious lies, like running into the subordinate and telling her she was late to a meeting across campus, only for the subordinate to rush to the meeting and discover there was no meeting, and the next day the woman who’d told her there was a meeting publicly denied even having seen her the previous day. Made it into a her-word-vs-mine scenario where her seniority in the organization and the fact that there was seemingly no good reason for her to lie about it made people more inclined to believe her

        2. StudentA*

          “But secretly exchanging regular water for toilet water?”

          Because in their minds, the’re getting back at the person. Why do bad people in the food industry tamper with food if the patron will “never know”? Same principle. They get a thrill out of it. I had a boss who got a thrill out of getting back at people in inane ways. Like the LW’s boss, she would have a smile about her when she did. I wanted to throw up whenever she acted like that.

          1. Observer*

            But, even in your cases, there is a reason. Perverse, illogical and totally warped, but still something we can describe. The wing puller gets to see the victim’s pain. The secret revenge person get the satisfaction of secretly “getting back” at someone who has more power than them. But here, what’s the motive? Of course, it could be something that no one has thought of and that we might not even be able to follow too easily. But, absent that and any other sort of context, it just doesn’t make any sense, and I think it’s reasonable to express some skepticism.

            1. Anonsie*

              The motive for someone like that is anything, absolutely anything, that they decided was unfair. That could be literally anything. Not weighing in on whether I buy the story or not, just that from my experiences with those types of people you often have no idea what they consider a slight until right after you’ve done it and you feel them focusing on you.

              The person I knew that most fits this mold, for example, once spent a considerable amount of time trying to get back at me because I suggested we watch a TV show that he really liked while we were hanging out at his house. Apparently he didn’t want to watch it at this particular moment, so he started to get angry with me, but then the other people there thought it was a good idea and put it on anyway. He was incensed; I had sabotaged his evening. I don’t remember how long he held onto that anger and kept trying to get me back for it, but it was days if not weeks.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Honestly, this type of behavior is exhausting. I hope you took a few steps back from this person.

                1. Ruffingit*

                  Exhausting and crazy. I too hope you took a giant step back as in ran away from this guy never to look back.

                2. Anonsie*

                  This was a long time ago, but unfortunately not at the time. It was just like Koko says, where you think “This is too crazy, this can’t be quite right?” and don’t take it seriously.

            2. Cari*

              Depending on how the OP could tell it was toilet water, it could be in the food industry food tampering camp. Tampererer’s bodily fluids in the victim’s food/water and whatever the tamperer gets from that (some sense of power?). But that’s wandering into the realms of really gross here :/

        3. LibLady*

          I also read The Sociopath Next Door. Utterly Fascinating. I recommended it to my 18 year old about to off to college. She was able to relate some sociopathic tendancies to an ex-boyfriend and it really reinforced her gut feeling about him.

      2. Eudora Wealthy*

        Yes, but in this case, it’s hard to know which one of the people has the “issues.” I don’t believe the OP. Why would she leave an opened bottle of water in the fridge if she knew her manager was capable of that kind of craziness? She left the bottle in there because she needs to get her “paranoid victim” fix. If she has a paranoid personality disorder, then quitting this job is only going to let her confirm in her own mind that the manager harmed her and that the world is out to get her. The solution is not to quit this particular job, but to see a good shrink.

        On the other hand, if the manager really did put toilet water in the bottle, then the OP should get the hell away from this job.

        I’d ask the OP whether she was treated like this by previous co-workers. If she can’t think of any previous co-workers who were trustworthy, then she’s probably got a serious disorder herself. Probably, but not definitely.

        The last option is that she actually lives in a horrible world where everybody is out to get her. Some people experience this. It’s lonely and awful.

        1. Koko*

          I wasn’t responding to the OP. I was responding to Muriel’s comments about working with someone who did things seemingly bizarre and without motivation (“But how would you prove it if you didn’t catch her doing it? Why would you even think someone would do that? People would think you were bizarre!”), which reminded me of this book I’d read.

        2. Cari*

          Because maybe the OP had the very reasonable expectation that their water would be safe in their personal fridge, in their office, regardless of any other incidents?

          1. Eudora Wealthy*

            OK, yes, legally. The OP has a right to expect that her manager would not make her drink shit.

            1. She knew her manager was cruel and crazy.
            2. She knew what toilet water tasted like.


        3. Zillah*


          If we’re going to be diagnosing people based on extrapolations from a few paragraphs written on a blog, I could probably come up with something for you, too, based on your paragraphs here… but I won’t, because it’s likely to be about as accurate as your “diagnosis” of the OP.

        1. Koko*

          Yes! It was that book that helped me get out of an abusive relationship with someone who was at best incredibly selfish and manipulative and at worst a sociopath. The author says that the primary red flag she identified for sociopaths is that more than anything else, they try to make their victims pity them, because pity is a powerful way to manipulate people. That was always what kept me in the relationship–whenever it got so bad I was ready to leave, he’d suddenly make himself seem like this pitiable person who just wanted to be loved but kept getting in his own way because he was too insecure or self-loathing. Once I realized that he was using pity to manipulate me, I was able to make a clean break.

          Ironically, I found the book in his apartment one day when he wasn’t home and read it without his knowledge. (Unless he planted it for me to find and pretended to be unaware. Wouldn’t put it past him.)

    10. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Here’s why I’m more skeptical: If this happened to you, I think you’d recognize it would sound crazy to most people and account for that in your answer — explaining why you thought it and providing more detail to support that, because you’d understand it was needed to make this sound credible. The letter reads to me like the OP isn’t quite acknowledging that aspect of it, which makes the account less credible overall.

      (Sorry, OP! But if nothing else, hopefully it’s helpful to realize this in thinking about how to proceed.)

      1. LBK*

        Exactly – it’s such an outlandish thing to do that you’d think there would be more detail about how the OP decided this was what happened. Especially because it seems like it would be very hard to detect non-scientifically.

        1. Mints*

          Yeah, even if you wanted to be purposefully vague for anonymity, I still think it’s missing a “I know this is crazy, but give me the benefit of the doubt and let’s say it’s true” which we sometimes do get in other letters

          1. Cari*

            We do get a quite a bit of the bizarre here though, I can see why someone would leave out the usual “I know this sounds crazy but…” :)

          2. NoPantsFridays*

            Right, if this happened to me I wouldn’t even write in because I would be well aware of how crazy it sounds and how much I’d be disbelieved/ridiculed. This is why I don’t talk about problems with other people. This OP wrote in, and right there is a pretty clear indication to me that something is fabricated (maybe not even intentionally– OP could be delusional/paranoid and not lying).

            1. Anon*

              I’m not sure. I’m skeptical too, but OP might really be in a ridiculous situation.

              I was once. I wrote in and readers thought I was making up various things. No, sorry, sometimes things just get that weird…

            2. Zillah*

              But this is literally the most anonymous you can be, pretty much – only Alison knows any identifying information about the OP, and I can see the OP feeling like they needed some guidance in such a ridiculous situation.

              Then, I had a friend whose roommate once peed in the water bottle my friend always left next to his bed for when he got thirsty in the middle of the night, in hopes that it would be too dark for my friend to notice the color. So I’d believe a really ridiculous boss to be capable of something like this.

              1. NoPantsFridays*

                Anonymity makes it *more* likely a fabrication, not less. I’ve known people to do ridiculous things too, even very harmful things, as a “joke”. I am currently in some ridiculous (personal) situations I would like advice on, but I don’t post on the Sunday open thread, because I doubt people will believe me.

      2. MisterPickle*

        Re providing more detail. I agree, but – having recently written AAM with a question myself, I noticed that there’s a certain amount of skill required in tersely summarizing a situation. The LW might be completely sane, completely truthful – and just not very good at writing.

        (That said, I’d imagine that from the AAM perspective, ya simply gotta go on what’s there (or not there) in the letter).

        1. Clerica*

          The OP could actually be great at writing but didn’t want to be picked at like in some longer letters we’ve had. I’m thinking of the nurse who had to park a mile from work and the…idk what the person did, but everyone kept interrupting her. Or him. Maybe they were both male. Anyhoo, both of them got nitpicked for including too much detail, but take away three sentences and it’s “There must be more to this story” or “We’re missing some important details.” There…doesn’t seem to be a Baby Bear option where anyone gets it just right.

            1. Clerica*

              When I looked up the nurse story before commenting, there was a whole long thread about how it had become a pattern and people wouldn’t want to write in anymore if it continued…

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yeah, it totally happened. It’s just not the norm. Out of the 1500+ letters answered here in the last year, I can only think of a couple of times it happened. Which I say only because I don’t think it’s true that this is a group that never feels like the amount of detail is right.

      3. Kelly O*

        Yeah, this is kind of what I’m thinking too. There’s not much “okay I KNOW this sounds crazy but” to the OP.

      4. Biff*

        Alison, I’m not sure that I would in my industry, simply because it is an industry well known for pranks, and pranks gone awry. But I get what you are saying. In an industry not known for office pranks, it’s harder to explain these circumstances.

      5. OP*

        I had two other people smell the water bottle … it was like “ewww.” But I have kept my mouth shut because it does sound paranoid. She had the reputation of being paranoid … the eaves dropping, the nanny cam in her office, which I all ready figured out about. She is terrified that someone will do something to her office and/or belongings.

        I learned a long time ago when someone is so busy protecting themselves from others it’s because they have done to others. They protect themselves from being receiptant of similar actions. You know like ”
        a man that continually accuses his wife of cheating without any evidence of, when he’s the cheater.”

        1. BullyFree*

          OP, has the crazy co-worker ever been known to brag about getting others into trouble or doing crazy things to other people? Is she obsessed with paybacks? Her paranoia does sounds a lot like projection.

          I worked in a crazy office where those in the office space I shared, bragged about all the horrible things they did to the person who had my job before me. This included putting Visine in their Ex-coworkers tea. About six months into the job I ended up in the ER after I drank from my water bottle. I had returned from an errand to see my water bottle lid was off and on my desk next to my bottle. I should have got the clue….

          1. OP*

            I am so sorry you went through that. Am afraid of something happening along that line. I am afraid of what she’ll do once she realizes that people are complaining about her.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t think people are dismissing her. They’re saying that this is an outline and they’d like to hear more of the story.

    11. Stephanie*

      Hmmm, I don’t doubt her. Food tampering is nutty, but not unbelievable. The lack of specificity makes it a little less credulous, but I could see this being plausible. Big takeaway is that if OP feels that uncomfortable or feels like a manager would even do that, it might be time to dust off the resume.

      1. OP*

        I have a date with Starbucks and my laptop Saturday morning to work on my resume. I saw two new job postings at the agency the town over. After the snit she threw today and finding out that other people are going forward I feel better about the situation. But regardless, I am out the door as soon as I find something else. Even if they get her to step down or fire her from the management position she has specialized skills, they may let her step back into her former position minus the manager’s salary.

    12. Cucumber*

      Just a quick note to say – “you’re terrible, Muriel!” (love your name) . What happened to the teacher? Was she reprimanded, did she lose her position?

  12. Snargulfuss*

    Is this place of employment we’re talking about here the middle school student store? Whether or not the supervisor did this or the employee is just delusional, both options sound pretty middle school-ish to me.

  13. littlemoose*

    Alison, based on your advice above, does this situation meet the “okay to quit without another job lined up” criteria?

    Also, it sounds like this “probationary period” is a year. If OP has been at this job for, say, nine or ten months, would it be better to leave it off the resume, or leave it on and find a neutral/non-crazy way to explain her departure?

    (I’m not the OP, by the way. Just wondering if Alison might be willing to flesh out her advice a little.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think so, yes — because it’s hard to see how continued employment there won’t actively harm her, either through maliciousness from a boss who could do something like this or — if she’s isn’t correct about what happened — through what would be anyone’s inability to work with someone who she believes has done this.

      1. KarenT*

        It would be hard to explain, though. Can you imagine interviewing someone and asking why they left their previous job so quickly without another job lined up, and they respond with my manager put toilet water in my water bottle? Even if the OP was more vague and said my manager was harassing me, it would still be a difficult conversation.

        1. KarenT*

          Although, if the OP is correct, or even thinks she may be correct, I fully support your advice to get the hell outta there!

        2. Turanga Leela*

          Maybe just “The office culture wasn’t a good fit”? You can leave out the part about how the “office culture” included bizarre tampering with your stuff.

  14. The Other Dawn*

    I have to join the chorus of those saying that something’s missing. Not quite following why OP thinks there was toilet water in the bottle. Not saying it didn’t happen, just not following the whole story.

    It seems really weird that an employee can’t complain about a manager. Sounds like a place with very rigid rules.

    1. Allison*

      It definitely seems odd that people can’t file grievances until they’ve been there a whole year. A lot can happen in a year, and to not give people recourse on legitimately serious matters in those first 12 months seems really odd.

    2. KarenT*

      Sounds like a union environment to me. Unions typically have strict rules about filing formal grievances. However, I’d like to believe if the OPs manager really did sabotage her with toilet water that that could be dealt with outside of the grievance process.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Or could be government.

        Considering the severity, and the heath risk, in this situation, I would think an exception could and should be made so the OP can file a grievance.

        1. KarenT*

          Government would make sense too. I tend to conflate the two, as where I am the government is unionized.

        2. De Minimis*

          I can’t remember what we could do as far as grievances during probation during my prior union job. They could fire you for any reason during probation, but I don’t know that if meant we could not file a grievance regarding a workplace issue.
          Most grievances in that environment did not have to do with terminations, it was usually about violations of overtime rules, seniority rules, management performing bargaining unit work, and things like that.

          If I remember correctly, things involving legal discrimination, harassment, and anything else that involved actual violation of law might have been handled by an EOE department, and not necessarily something covered by the grievance procedure–that usually involved violations of the contract.

      2. Sarahnova*

        Ah, that’s interesting. “File a grievance” is standard wording here which is not related to unions; one can file a grievance with the organisation whether there’s a union or not, no matter how long they’ve been there.

        1. KarenT*

          Where are you, out of curiosity? I’ve never heard that term outside of a union, but I could see it used in any place with a formal complaints process.

          1. Cari*

            Not sure where Sarahnova is, but we have grievance procedures here (UK) where I guess someone would “file a grievance” with HR, or absent an HR department a manager type. I think it’s what you have to do before you can take the grievance to an employment tribunal.

  15. cv*

    The comments so far are definitely supporting what Alison said, that “even making the allegation is going to raise questions about whether you’re the unstable one.” The commenters here are once again proving themselves to be a thoughtful and supportive bunch and aren’t rushing in to call the OP nuts, but all the requests for more context should tell the OP something about how this is likely to be received if he or she tries to have the issue addressed. Tread carefully, document what you can, and consider how to present your case so that you come across in the best light.

    1. JB*

      I agree. Having worked with some true nut jobs, I believe the OP–but I’ve also worked with some truly paranoid people who say crazy things about their coworkers. And I think the paranoid coworker is more common, so that’s what more people are familiar with, and therefore that’s what more people will think–that OP is paranoid. So there’s a definite chance that the OP will be the one that will be treated as the problem, unless other coworkers can back them up. I’d be looking for a new job.

  16. Turanga Leela*

    I am also curious to hear what made the OP think that the manager put toilet water in her water bottle. We know from reading AAM that crazy things happen, so we might be dealing with an insane, vindictive boss.

    However… This letter is setting off some alarm bells for me. The way the OP describes the situation sounds paranoid–as in, it reminds me of people I know who have been clinically paranoid. OP, is it just your manager, or do you worry that other people in your life are trying to get to you, maybe in subtle ways that other people don’t see? If this happens in other relationships (or with strangers), this might be a sign that you should see a doctor.

    Let me be clear here: I don’t know the OP, the letter is very short and probably deliberately vague, and I am absolutely reading my own experience into it. It’s very possible that the situation is as the OP describes. As I said, though, I’ve known people who were paranoid, and it was terrifying for them and the people around them, and I want to raise this possibility.

    1. JB*

      In my current job, I’ve worked with two people who I could totally see doing something like this. Neither of them were fired. We were so relieved when they left own their own. If I tried to describe them to people outside of the office, I’m sure I’d sound paranoid. I don’t know if we ought to be diagnosing mental illness in people writing in here given that we aren’t experts and we have so little to go on.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Let me be clear that I’m not diagnosing anything. As I said, I don’t know the OP and don’t know the context.

    2. KarenT*

      I agree, but it’s almost so paranoid I start to wonder if it’s true. I can’t imagine someone coming up with this conclusion on their own. I would think a reasonable person who drank bottled water that tasted funny would think something was up with the bottle itself, and not leap to the conclusion that their manager had replaced it with toilet water. It’s such a bizarre leap that I start to assume the OP knows more than she’s shared here, such as a coworker telling her that that’s what her manager did, or her manager making such a threat.

      1. fposte*

        Might also be the possibility that the psycho supervisor convinced the OP that something was done to the water when nothing was.

        1. KarenT*

          That would be machiavellian brilliance! Make your victim paranoid and leave no trail of evidence.

    3. BRR*

      I wonder about the deliberately vague not only the other grievances but if the OP might have done something specific to warrant tampering. It’s unique enough that their boss would do this but to me it sounds retaliatory unless the boss is a psychopath (I’m keeping open minded to all scenarios).

      1. Zillah*

        I dunno, I feel like it’s pretty difficult to justify putting toilet water in someone’s water bottle no matter what the provocation.

    4. Nina*

      I got the same vibe. Even if this is true, the wording “Today she was friendlier than normal, which happens when she’s getting one over on you; you know it’s coming.” sounds pretty odd to me and offers zero evidence that this actually happened.

      The boss could have done a dozen different things to undermine or sabotage the OP instead of water contamination. The OP didn’t even say if the water tasted different. They returned to their desk and came to the conclusion that the water had been tampered with because the boss was acting friendlier.

      I can absolutely believe that this sort of thing would happen (and does) but this seems like pure speculation. That’s why those missing details are important.

      1. OP*

        She is antisocial and does not chit-chat and never asks how another is doing because she doesn’t care. We came in the building together .. she followed me into my office, and just hung out chatting away for about 15 minutes. She kept going in and out of my office for a few hours. She kept looking around while making copies, checking mail. At lunch I opened up my water bottle, swallowed it, spit it out, had two others smell it, they agreed something was off with it; than I emptied it and threw the empty bottle in the trash in my office. She came back into my office … looked over everything and I didn’t see her again the rest of the day. She will do something mean to you; than turn around and want to be buddy – buddy. She wants to be friendly when she knows you’re upset with her. When she’s super friendly and she hasn’t been ugly … you know that something is coming … usually some type of bullying or ugly comment.

  17. Mike C.*

    So I spent my youth working the family business – we were janitors!

    It would be clear to me that toilet water was used because the cleaning agents have such a strong smell and with strong smells come strong taste.

    1. JB*

      Wow, being able to tell tap water from toilet water is not something I ever thought I’d need to know, but now I’m wishing you worked in my office and were available for consultations. Because apparently you never know when you’re going to need to tell.

      1. Mike C.*

        Bleach and ammonia are pretty common and very distinct smells. I’m not sure why folks are so hung up on this.

    2. Mike C.*

      Also, I wanted to add this:

      Why do people keep saying that it’s more likely that the OP is paranoid than that the water was tampered? What are the P values for each event? Just because something is rare doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening in this case.

      Also, if there really was toilet water in the water bottle, the grievance issue isn’t important – it’s generally considered assault. It’s no different than drugging someone’s drink.

      1. Colette*

        I think there’s a big difference between saying “I think my water was tampered with, it tasted funny” and “My manager filled up my water bottle with toilet water”. The first one is quick and easy to do (although not likely) and the second one is logistically difficult, so jumping right to “toilet water”seems like an overreaction.

        1. fposte*

          Okay, looking around I’m seeing a wide variety of charges, from food tampering to reckless conduct, to a laundry list of aggravated assault, harassment, disorderly conduct and simple assault. No idea how many of these proceeded, and it probably makes a difference that most of them were food service employees doing bad things to police officers’ food.

        2. A Teacher*

          I had a psycho roommate in college, I actually use my experiences with her when teaching high school. Anyway, she was putting things like dish soap, ammonia, and other random products into my and the two roommates that lived with her after me in food products like peanut butter, jelly, butter, sauce etc… When I lived with her I thought my food would taste weird but thought it was just me. It was the roommate after me that caught her sticking dawn dish detergent in the jelly when the crazy girl spewed all the crap she’d done to people. She ended up being charged with harassment.

          Weird people do exist…

          1. fposte*

            Whoa. That is extremely horrible.

            But it is also reminding me of the common 20th century British practice of washing dishes but not rinsing them, which has led some people to discuss British food tasting soapy..

            1. Cari*

              That practice is news to me! My dad (head dishwasher :P) has always been a thorough rinser and taught us the same lol. Not rinsing is just laziness.

              1. Cari*

                Ooh, though dad has said when he was a kid, it went “wash, wipe, put away” because two sinks (one for wash, one for rinse) weren’t common, and precious hot water was from a coal fire. And you just don’t rinse with cold water… Wiping still gets the soap off though *shrug*

                1. UK Bod*

                  Hehehe! It’s so funny to realise something you do every day is peculiar to my country! I never rinse dishes – only glasses so they shine. And it’s not out of laziness. None of my friends or family rinse either. My tastebuds must be deadened to any soapy taste!

                2. Cari*

                  I’ve never noticed a soapy taste either on the rare occasion I’ve eaten after a non-rinser washed up. But have smelt it when cooking with one frying pan that seems to need extra rinsing. The only person I know who didn’t rinse is my ex’s eldest.

                  Thanks for the link fposte :)

                3. Cookandbottlewasher*

                  Apparently (and I wish I had a proper citation, but I don’t) the soap formula is different in the US to the UK. US soap is… clingier, and leaves more residue if it’s not rinsed. UK soap is lighter and wipes/slides off better.

            2. A Teacher*

              That was the mild thing she’d do, she was horrible to me but actually must worse to the girl that followed. Her last roommate she chased with a vacuum cleaner swinging over head to hit the girl…

      2. The Wall of Creativity*

        This is a job for Bayes’ Theorem, MikeC:
        p(toilet water|tastes funny) = p(tastes funny|toilet water)p(toilet water) / [p(tastes funny|toilet water)p(toilet water) + p(tastes funny|normal water)p(normal water)]

        To put it another way….
        Even if toilet water is 100% likely to taste funny, you need to factor in how even normal water might taste funny (because of other stuff in the fridge) and the low prpobability that the OP’s manager is dumb enough to switch the water. You can end up with the probability of it really being toilet water being pretty low.

        Actuaries can apply wizardry to management problems!

        1. The Wall of Creativity*

          Let’s have an example. Say that
          – probability of toilet water tasting funny is 100%
          – probability of normal water tasting funny is 20%
          – probability of manager swapping the water (before we know awhat it tastes like) is 1%

          If the water tastes funny, then probability that it’s been doctored is 100%*1%/[100%*1%+20%*99%] = about 4.8%
          In this example there’s a 95.2% probability that it’s just normal water tasting funny,, only 4.8% chance that it’s toilet water. Feel free to mess about with the numbers but Bayes is telling us the water’s probably not been messed with.

            1. The Wall of Creativity*

              I’m UK based, so we don’t have that over here but we do have something presented by Dara O’Brian that does this sort of thing. This AAM letter would make a great example on the program. It might even make a good actuarial exam question.

        2. Lora*

          I love you for using Bayesian stats.

          But one of your assumptions is false: that tastes funny|toilet = tastes funny|fridge. I mean, there’s a pretty big difference between Lysol and expired Italian Subway sandwiches.

          1. The Wall of Creativity*

            Not sure what you’re getting at Lora. There are only three parameters to set in the Bayes formula.
            (i) p(tastes funny|toilet) is shorthand for the probability that a bottle of water from the toilet that’s left in the fridge will taste funny. In the example I’ve set this to 100%, which it sounds as if you agree with.
            (ii) Then there’s p(tastes funny|normal water). this is probability that a bottle of untampered water will taste funny the next day. A number of people have commented that there’s a real chance of this being the case, so I’ve set it at 20%.
            (iii) Finally, probability that manager is dumb enough to try this, where I’ve gone for 1%.

            1. The Wall of Creativity*

              Probability of a sandwich tasting funny the next day after being kept in the fridge doesn’t come into the formula at all.

              1. The Wall of Creativity*

                Maybe this explanation of Bayes will help.

                Say there’s a 1% chance that the manager tampers with the water. What does this mean for probability that it tastes funny?
                Well 1% of the time it’s been tampered with and it will definitely taste funny if that’s happened, so that’s 1% probability.
                But 99% of the time it’s not been tampered with and 20% of 99% of the time it will taste funny. That’s 19.8%.
                So in total 20.8% of the time it will taste funny.
                That 20.8% is made up of 1% of toilet water and 19.8% of normal water, so there’s a 1%/20.8% = 4.8% chance that it’s just normal water tasting funny.
                Hope that helps.

              2. Zillah*

                I think the point is that funny tasting toilet water doesn’t necessarily taste weird in the same way as funny tasting fridge water. The smell of Lysol is clearly not the same as the smell of old fridge food.

                1. The Wall of Creativity*

                  Cat makes the same point below. I understand what the issue was & just needed to make my language a bit more rigorous. See my response to Cat.

            2. Cat*

              I think Lora’s point is that water from the toilet may inherently taste different than water that tastes funny from the fridge. I’ve tasted some pretty funky tap water, though, so I’m unconvinced.

              1. The Wall of Creativity*

                Ah, OK, I’m with you both now. In that case what I mean by p(tastes funny|normal water) is probability that a bottle of water left in the fridge and not being doctored tastes the next day like water from the toilet (as opposed to just “tasting funny”). In which case, feel free to reduce my 20% parameter to whatever you think it should be.

                And if you think it should be zero then we end up concluding that it’s definitely water from the toilet. But if it’s non-zero then there’s a strong chance that the water’s not been doctored.

              2. Lora*

                Yes, this exactly! Thank you. It is highly unlikely that toilet cleaner tastes at all like a food item, however spoiled it may be.

                Sorry to have ruined the entire premise of “Heathers” there.

      3. smilingswan*

        Am I the only one who thinks that the quantifying of the different scenario possibilities is hilarious?

        1. Kelly O*

          Nope, and I love that it’s being mapped out in a logical way. I don’t know why I keep coming back to this and giggling when I read this part, but it’s just kind of awesome (and representative of what I love about this community!)

        2. The Wall of Creativity*

          No. It’s not the numbers themselves that are the point. It’s that if there’s a decent chance that an untampered bottle will taste funny then the probability of a funny tasting bottle having been tampered with is pretty small.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      I agree with Mike on this. The amount of bleach used to clean commercial toilets would definitely be noticeable if someone tried to drink the water.

      Also, I’d be worried about possible poisoning if any of that water was swallowed.

      1. fposte*

        That level of bleach isn’t going to hurt anybody–it’s one way to sterilize drinking water in emergencies, in fact. Ammonia is another matter, but if the OP had encountered ammonia, I’d expect her to say and to have noticed before she actually ingested any.

        1. Mike C.*

          I didn’t say it would cause permanent damage, I’m simply laying out a possible way someone might think “this is specifically toilet water” over “this water tastes funny”.

          After all, you can smell/taste the chlorine in a public pool without it being harmful, right?

          1. Mints*

            This makes sense, but I definitely didn’t read that in the letter, and the lack of explanation threw me off as well. If the OP would have specified the bleachiness, the letter would have been clearer to me

      2. Colette*

        But … wouldn’t it be easier just to put bleach into a bottle of water than to take it out of the fridge, walk to the bathroom, dump out the water, dip the bottle in the toilet to fill it, wipe off the outside of the bottle since it’s dripping all over the place, walk it back into the kitchen, and put it back in the fridge?

        1. fposte*

          I think this is getting toward the people who smear their feces on the wall of public rest rooms–it’s about the defiling, not the convenience.

          (A girl peed in my drinking cup once at camp. That couldn’t have been easy to do, but she managed.)

          1. Colette*

            Oh, I’m sure it’s possible, but I’m also not sure that it’s reasonable to start under the assumption that that’s what she did. There are much simpler reasons why the water could have tasted off, including other ways of tampering with it.

            1. fposte*

              I agree–just noting that if somebody is deranged enough to actually do this, inconvenience isn’t a bar. (Unless they’re slackers, like those Jamie is lecturing.)

              I join everyone in wanting to know about the other incidents, which might explain why this was the conclusion.

            2. Observer*

              Especially since the supervisor would have had to take the water out of the LW’s fridge – which is in THE LW’S OFFICE.

          2. Turanga Leela*

            Ick. Yes. People are gross.

            I realize there’s the possibility that the OP noticed something obviously toilet-related (e.g. pee) in her bottle and was too polite to say so. OP, if you tell people about this, it will help to be very specific about how you knew!

        2. Cari*

          If it was a bleachy taste that gave the OP the impression of toilet water, that could be what actually what happened. And then OP’s impression of the manager being passive-aggressive could have lead them to think the manager *only* put toilet water in the bottle, rather than the manager went full on aggressive and put bleach in. I hope the OP fills in the blanks here, as interesting as speculating is.

          1. Ann O'Nemity*

            Yikes, I’m hoping the crazy manager didn’t put bleach in the water. Toilet water seems more like a prank. (A total inappropriate and unprofessional prank that would be a fireable offense in many offices.) But putting in bleach or another cleaner is really scary and actually criminal.

              1. Ann O'Nemity*

                I guess I’m thinking the difference is the intent. You could argue that you thought the toilet water was safe – and even find multiple internet sources to back it up. I don’t think anyone could argue that they thought ingesting bleach or cleaning products was safe.

                1. Ann O'Nemity*

                  (Emergency sterilization aside, as that calls for like 6-8 drops of bleach to a gallon.)

                2. fposte*

                  The laundry list including aggravated assault was for spitting in somebody’s food. Saliva really is pretty harmless. Once you’ve adulterated food, you’re pretty much in trouble, and toilet water isn’t much easier to defend than saliva.

                  I think it’s highly unlikely it was bleach instead of water, because the odor’s pretty strong; if it was little enough to get past the initial odor, it’s little enough that it’s unlikely to be harmful.

                  But we’ve basically invented the whole bleach scenario ourselves anyway, so who knows?

  18. sstabeler*

    I’m going to say that I AM pretty confused abut how you would know it was toilet water. If indeed it has been tampered with. (there is actually a difference in taste between cold water- as in, just out of the fridge- and room temperature water) and as has been mentioned, I’d have thought tap water would be more likely than toilet water.

    having said that, I would suggest that it’s a good idea for the LW to look for a new job regardless – Because if you are in a situation where it seems reasonable to you that your boss added toilet water to your drinking water, you are going to be always wondering what is going to happen next.

  19. The Other Dawn*

    One thing I would like to ask the OP: why would your supervisor do this to you? I don’t mean to say you did something to provoke this. What I mean is, why would she target you specifically and take the time to put toilet water in your bottle? Managers are usually pretty busy people and I’m sure they have far better things to do than scope out their employees’ offices, waiting for the right time to pounce. That’s why I feel I need more information here.

    1. Jamie*

      Of all the reasons I have for not trying to get my people to drink toilet water, being too busy has never been one of them!

      If this is something one is inclined to do then one makes time. I so want to see the Outlook reminder for this. :)

      1. fposte*

        “If this is something one is inclined to do then one makes time.” I love that you sound so sternly virtuous, like you’re reproving all those slackers who meant to taint somebody’s food but didn’t get around to it.

          1. C Average*

            I am laughing my head off over this exchange. Jamie, I don’t know where you’ve been lately, but you were missed.

            1. Jamie*

              Thanks – I’ve been in work hell – still am, actually, but got a few minutes of netherworld bandwidth to touch base with my happy place. The signal is very sporadic though – they don’t want me to have too much contact with people who don’t make me want to jump out a window. :)

      2. afiendishthingy*

        That is freaking hilarious, and I think you are absolutely right. I’m sure if I were evil, bizarre sabotage would take precedence over approving timesheets or what have you.

    2. LBK*

      Yeah, I don’t have so much of an issue with the manager having time to do this but I do question why she would bother (and why there have been 2 other incidents prior). Is there some kind of work-related issue between the OP and the supervisor? I guess if you’re willing to do something like this, you may not really need a valid reason to do so…so total insanity isn’t out of the question. But I can’t imagine there isn’t some reason the OP would suspect her supervisor is out to get her.

  20. illini02*

    This reminds me of the roommate scrubbing the toilet with a toothbrush thing. I had a roommate once who, in all honesty, I wouldn’t put it past, so I removed my toothbrush from the bathroom. However, its so ridiculous of an accusation that you really can’t put it out there with absolutely NO proof or context. In my situation, my roommate had proved himself to be very malicious and a bit nuts, so if I told any of our mutual friends, they would believe me. However, you gave so little backup to this assumption that its really hard to take it seriously. I mean, even the other 2 incidents would have to be pretty high up there in maliciousness to even make this leap. this is definitely a situation where I just can’t assume the OP is telling the truth based on their conjecture. Now the OP probably really does THINK this happened, but that doesn’t make it true.

  21. Kelly O*

    I can’t be the only one hoping the OP comes back with more information.

    Because this is just… it’s bizarre, and that’s coming from me. And I work in a very… “interesting” place. (And am apparently fond of ellipses when I cannot find words.)

  22. Nina*

    Definitely need more details on this one. I can believe this would happen, but it’s such a jump to go from “My boss is passive aggressive” to “My boss gave me toilet water.” OP, has your boss done things like this in the past, or have there been rumors of stuff like this happening? You mentioned past incidences.

    If I were HR in this situation, I would be asking for proof, immediately. Because if this is true, this goes way beyond a personal grievance. But if it’s an accusation without any kind of evidence, I would be baffled.

    1. Jamie*

      This. If true I’d assume it would be a criminal act, no? You’d really need to be able to back this up.

  23. Rebecca*

    If I was convinced someone replaced the water in my water bottle, in my personal office fridge, with toilet water, I would not have dumped it and thrown the bottle away. I’d replace the cap, put it in a plastic bag, and take it to a water testing facility. We have various independent labs here that test personal water sources, like wells, for contamination. I’d ask them to test the water, not tell them why, and await the results.

    The next step would to be never, ever leave anything open or able to be adulterated in the fridge again. If it’s a personal fridge, I might add a hasp lock and padlock the thing shut.

    This makes me cringe.

    1. Nina*

      Yeah, I thought about getting the water tested, too. You’ll find different stuff in toilet water than you would in regular bottled water.

      1. fposte*

        You’d probably want to bring another bottle of that brand of water and a sample in from the toilet to compare it to as well; I believe they’re testing for certain chemicals and bacteria, so you’d be looking to match a profile rather than to state independently what it was or wasn’t.

    2. Jamie*

      I totally agree and cringing here, too.

      I have a bottle of water on my desk I don’t even want to drink now – I am very suggestible, apparently.

      1. Laura*

        I have one of those reusable bottles on my desk. I take them in at the start of the week, bring them home at the end, and wash them.

        I’m working from home today.

        And I will have to remind myself repeatedly that my office is awesome and not crazy (at least like this, we are a little weird, but in mostly good and non-scary ways) in order to not take a fresh-from-my-dishwasher bottle in tomorrow. So, add me to the suggestible camp!

        1. Jamie*

          We can’t let it take hold. Can you imagine if we went into meetings with our water, go to take a sip and then before the bottle touches our lips feel compelled to ask our co-workers if they had replaced our water with that from the toilet?

          Just to check?

          In non-crazy* workplaces that can get people to suggest you take some time off. Hmmmm…maybe that’s a plan?

          *at least non-toilet water crazy

          1. Laura*

            LOL! Yes, I have to agree.

            The worst actual drink problem at my office is that the Vanilla Coke Zero all gets drunk out of the shared soda fridge (everyone stocks, everyone drinks, no worries about whose is what), and replaced with plain Coke Zero. But – but – vanilla!

            1. Laufey*

              It was a glorious day when I discovered that I could keep vanilla flavoring at my desk and make everything vanilla.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Me too…I’ve been sitting here reading this and thinking of my tiny milk jug in the fridge and hoping none of my coworkers (I haven’t even met all the people on my floor and I’ve been here a year-and-a-half!) are like this.

    3. Jennifer*


      And I thought the worst gaslighting at work story I’ve heard recently was my friend’s supervisor telling her to have something done by 4 and then screaming at her, “I want it done by 3! I never said 4!” (Meanwhile, the other supervisor said 4.)

    4. Zillah*

      I probably would have, too, but I can see how someone might not be thinking rationally in the moment.

    5. Clerica*

      If the OP wanted it tested for her own peace of mind (or lack thereof), sure. But testing wouldn’t give her proof of anything that she could show to others; they’d just say there’s no way to know she didn’t fill the bottle up with toilet water herself before having it tested. Not having it tested doesn’t mean she was lying, it could just mean she knew it was pointless.

  24. Allison*

    All the OP said about their supervisor was that said supervisor was passive aggressive. To me, passive aggressive means leaving passive aggressive notes, making passive aggressive, guilt-trippy comments, or loudly doing things they feel other people should be doing. Tampering with someone’s water goes beyond passive aggressive and into the land of sick, vindictive revenge. I’d like a little more context, including what the supervisor’s done before, and what she could’ve been doing this in response to. Not that anything warrants having one’s water tampered with, but if she did it she was probably overreacting to something the OP did, or something she thought the OP did, or didn’t do, or wore, or SOMETHING.

    1. Clerica*

      People often confuse the meaning of passive aggression and assume it just means anything nasty someone does without acknowledging they did it.

    2. AB Normal*

      No, the OP also said, “I went to her boss, my divisional head, about both incidents.”
      The OP reported the supervisor regarding 2 previous incidents–that to me would be enough reason, if you are looking for a reason for a “sick, vindictive revenge” by a toilet water crazy manager.

  25. Chinook*

    Believe it or not, I have been in this situation twice, but then I was a teacher and it was students (in two different towns) who thought it would be a cool joke to spike the substitute teacher’s coffee with either dishsoap or white out. Since I spotted the issue before taking a sip, thank goodness, I just took the cup the classroom sink, dumped it and contiued on with the class (and the next day, showed up with a coffee cup with a lid). A lack of reaction took the fun away from it, I never had any issues with discipline in either classroom again (they later confessed that they couldnn’t figure out how I knew and figured I literally had eyes in the back of my head. Hint – one leaves a film on the coffee and the other makes it lighter, especially if the drinker doesn’t use milk.). and. But, if I had been able to catch someone in the act, you better believe I would have dragged them to the principal and possibly even brought in the police (in the case of the whiteout) for attempted poisoning because that was what it was, even if that wasn’t the intention.

    In short, unless you have proof, a lack of reaction while still protecting yourself will either cause the problem to disappear or cause it to escalate in a way that will out the perpetrator. It is serious (some military guys were prosecuted in Canada for spiking their sargent’s coffee over a period of time) but all you can do is protect yourself until you have proof.

    1. Nina*

      a lack of reaction while still protecting yourself will either cause the problem to disappear or cause it to escalate in a way that will out the perpetrator.

      But assuming this is true, would the boss/culprit expect a real reaction from the OP? Drinking toilet water is disgusting to say the least, but I would think the boss wouldn’t expect the OP to taste anything different in the water. Them drinking it alone is revenge enough, and the boss can giggle in private because the switch worked. It’s not like spiking the water with a laxative where there would definitely be a physical reaction. I have tasted soapy water before (accidentally) and the difference was obvious.

      I have no idea what toilet water tastes like, but from what the comments read, if it came from a clean (ish) bowl, it seems like it would taste slightly different, but not flat out disgusting.

      1. Chinook*

        I am thinking that, if the OP just tossed the bottle and made no mention of it, the psycho boss would still want to see the OP drinking the water otherwise, what was the point? That is where the escalation may show up – either the psycho boss starts asking about the water or tries to do something else (but now the OP is aware enough to not leave anything consumable around).

        Then again, I do remember the story DH told me about how he got back at a particularly mean army instructor (who later got tossed from the course for his misbehaviour). Said instructor was staying in shacks that night and forgot his razor, so he asked DH for one. He said sure, went into the bathroom, got it and gave it to him. When asked his buddies why he was so nice, DH said that he gave him the one he used for his body grooming needs. So, I guess just the knowledge was good enough for him.

      2. Layla*

        This is making me remember the case of a lecturer being poisoned by cyanide in some common food here in a Singapore university …

        But I guess that is more of a murderous intent / not that easy to guard against if the person is really intent on doing that

    2. NoPantsFridays*

      OH WOW I was just going to share something similar. One of my middle school teachers had had a former student who spiked her coffee with white out. She also said that a fellow teacher had been caught spiking another teacher’s coffee with white out. I am horrified that these are apparently not isolated incidents.
      Another teacher was allergic to peanuts and had her coffee spiked with peanut butter, but she figured it out before taking a sip (that one was hearsay, so I’m not sure of the details, or how severely she would have reacted to the smell alone, or even if it’s true — but I had friends in high school who were allergic to peanuts who other students attempted to kill on several occasions, so.).

      1. Chinook*

        “One of my middle school teachers had had a former student who spiked her coffee with white out. She also said that a fellow teacher had been caught spiking another teacher’s coffee with white out. I am horrified that these are apparently not isolated incidents.”

        Middle school teachers deserve hazard pay for what we put up with some days. Instead, we just play with their minds for fun :)

        1. NoPantsFridays*

          Yeah, given some of the things I was taught in middle (and high) school, I believe it :P

        2. JB*

          I have always thought that middle school teachers are saints. Even when I was in middle school, I thought middle schoolers were awful. Not all the time, and not in every way, but enough that I can only take a limited amount of time with the ones I’m not related to.

  26. Sophia*

    This would make so much more sense to me if it was toilet water: A scented liquid with a high alcohol content used in bathing or applied as a skin freshener.

    Although even then, I don’t know that I would recognize that it was perfume added as opposed to some random poison.

    1. Laura*

      Actually, I kind of hope this is what it was. Just as bad in one way, less gross in another.

      And if enough were in there, or got on the rim of the bottle, I can TOTALLY see being confident that’s what it was, especially if it was – say – the boss’s signature or current scent.

  27. Bend & Snap*

    There’s either a tinfoil hat thing happening here, or a whole lot of detail left out. Hope the OP returns.

  28. Kate*

    If the supervisor really did tamper with her drinking water and put a potentially harmful substance in there (as toilet water would be, with who knows what cleaning agents and *biological matter*), wouldn’t that be a matter for law enforcement? If I really thought someone was trying to poison me, I’d probably file a police report…

    1. Katie the Fed*


      This would absolutely be a police issue. That’s why I don’t really understand not saving the water and calling the police. Then again, I can’t say this issue has ever even been in my realm of possibilities.

      1. LBK*

        Honestly, I don’t think it would even occur to me to make this a police issue, at least not immediately. If this happened to me I’d be so shocked that I probably would’ve done the same as the OP – disposed of the evidence before I realized I might need it.

        I’m also just not mentally prone to filing claims/charges/etc. – for example, I took my car to get the oil changed and the service guy drove it into a post, leaving a huge dent in the front fender. I tried to go after them directly to repair it – it didn’t even occur to me that I should’ve filed an insurance claim until months later when retelling the story to someone else who pointed it out.

        1. Ethyl*

          I fell and sprained my ankle while loading my vehicle with work equipment, on work grounds, to then attend a work event, and I STILL needed someone else to point out to me that this was maybe a worker’s comp thing.

      2. Cari*

        Idk, my first reaction to gross tasting water would be to pour it out and get fresh water to wash away the taste, even with a passive-aggressive manager. *Then* I’d begin to wonder why it tasted weird and draw whatever conclusion. We don’t experience drink tampering as often as drinks naturally not tasting nice (milk that’s on the turn, stale or warm water, some joker putting whiskey in your tea or guinness in your strawberry daiquiri etc.), why would “this unsealed drink tastes weird, I better keep it as evidence in case of tampering” be anyone’s first natural reaction? It seems the feel from the comments here is the OP is being paranoid for thinking the manager put something in their water, but simultaneously not paranoid enough to override a natural reaction and keep the evidence.

        1. Cari*

          Although I’ve just noticed “think it’s toilet water” comes before spitting it out in the OP…

  29. E.C.*

    I believe that this could happen, as I had a drink tampered with once, but I am also morbidly curious as to what twigged the OP to something being wrong with her water.

    In my case, I was working a summer job in ticket sales at a theme park. One of the perks of our position was free drink refills, and a coworker offered to refill my lemonade. Her manner was kind of… I don’t know how to describe it exactly, but an ostentatious sort of friendly, given that we were reasonably cordial but not buddies. That in itself didn’t set off alarm bells, but it was notable enough that when she brought back my drink and it seemed to have a faint gray film on it, I was suspicious. I discreetly poured it out behind the ticket booth, and in the bottom of my cup was a big chunk of undissolved cigarette ash (she smoked).

    Still don’t know why she’d do such a thing, unless it was the time I was in charge of our location and had to ask her to take down her “sorry we’re closed sign” when the park opened and she was engrossed in conversation with her booth-mate.

    That said, we were both in late high school/early college, where one might expect this sort of thing to be more common than in an actual grownup office job.

  30. Reix*

    Am I the only one to think about Matilda’s Principal Trunchbull? Do something so crazy that, even if a child tells their parents, the parents will think the child is making it up.

    1. Jennifer*

      I am watching all the seasons of South Park this summer and there’s one episode (“The Death Camp of Tolerance”) where the gay teacher finds out that if he gets fired for being gay, he could win $25 million in a lawsuit. So he brings in a new “teacher’s ass” called “Mr. Slave” (dressed in leather) and keeps upping the horrible things he does to Mr. Slave throughout the day in hopes of getting canned. But when the kids try to complain to their parents, they get crap for not being tolerant and get dragged to a Museum of Tolerance, and later a camp, etc. It takes the teacher acting up and then finally just saying he was shooting for a lawsuit during an awards ceremony for anyone to get what they meant by “we’re uncomfortable with Mr. Garrison being gay.”

  31. Mena*

    I don’t understand how or why this would even enter your head but perhaps there is some background that hasn’t been shared … ??? If you think it is true, don’t let it happen again (e.g. don’t leave open bottles for anyone to get into)
    And if you are new to this position, why do you think your supervisory would do such a thing, and so soon?

  32. nicolefromqueens*

    In government settings, a pre-union/provisional/probationary period could be a long time (here, it’s 9 months). At another private sector job I worked, it was 60 working days before union eligibility (which worked out to 4 calendar months). That’s plenty of time to realize that a coworker is batish crazy.

    I do believe this incident could have occurred, but as far as OP’s manager being batish crazy, I think we’ll have to take his/her word for it. Posting the details of his/her workplace and coworkers on the internet, especially an active blog would be a very bad idea. Who is to say one of OP’s coworkers/managers isn’t reading these comments? I’m assuming OP needs the job to pay bills.

      1. Cari*

        I hope this doesn’t end up like the LW whose partner won’t let them pee over at Captain Awkward. It’s been a couple of years since that one and we still wonder how that turned out.

  33. Cucumber*


    Add me to the chorus wanting more information.

    I believe you, also. Just two of the adulteration stories I’m aware of – a guy in my home town ejaculating into the mayo at the local Burger King, which made the newspaper (early ’90s). Someone once confessed to me that when she was a teenager, she and a few other athletic team members got back at the team bully by urinating into a sink, and then dunking her shampoo bottle to add urine.

  34. sophiabrooks*

    This reminds me of something that happened in my department- we had a staff member who was “let go”, but was asked to finish out the school year. It was for poor performance, but he wasn’t told that (although we all knew because all our boss (a faculty member) would do for 2 years prior to this was to try to scheme a way to get rid of him. But for some reason our boss didn’t seem to realize he could just let him go– so he came up with a very complex scheme to get a faculty person to replace the staff person, with a different title etc. The whole thing was crazy! (note: this happened at my “side job” and it is in the arts, so the whole crazy situation doesn’t effect me that much.

    Anyway, this somehow made the poor man paranoid, and his behavior became pretty erratic. One day the secretary called me at my day job because the police had been questioning her. Apparently this man called the police because he thought a student poisoned his drink while they were working! The police had to question her, the boss, the students, etc, but they concluded that he just had an upset stomach. It was really weird, because up to this point, this was one of his favorite students and they worked together all the time!

    The man never ended up coming back to work.

  35. tango*

    I can definately see this being true. But it’s quite a leap from passive agressive manager to someone who is going to go into your office, into your fridge and replace your bottled water with that out of a toilet. To equal bad tasting water with a boss who intentionally is trying to make you sick is a big leap so maybe there’s a middle ground there?
    Maybe you ought to get you one of those nanny type cameras that’s disguised as a frame or clock or something and leave lots of open bottles of water in your fridge, etc, and see you can catch your manager doing something.
    Lastly, I noticed you said there is a lot of turnover the past few months in your department and you yourself are new. Correlation there?

  36. Snork Maiden*

    I propose to add “toilet water bottle” to the AAM lexicon, after “bitch eating crackers”.

  37. gem*

    OP unless you’ve got some cast iron proof or context that you’ve left out I really doubt that reporting it will do you any good.

    I agree with Alison’s advice, at this point you’ve lost so much trust in your manager that I’m not sure staying there will be good for you. I’d be constantly worried/looking over my shoulder in that situation. It sounds rough either way so I definitely agree, get out asap.

    1. OP*

      The reason I suspect her is that she’s the only one with a master key that had access after hours. Housekeeping turns their keys in at 3:00 to the main office. She was called on the carpet a couple of days before for a stunt she pulled on at work. She threw one of her horrible screaming fits at me; when there was a guy from IT in my office … he went to HR, but she thinks I did. I suspect she was given a formal written notice.

      I am job searching. I hate to say this, but I wish she would fire me without cause so that I can get unemployment. She’s not stupid, quite intelligent. She has enough sense to know I’m job searching; so she wants to do a payback.
      I had one interview at my own agency I was one of the top 3; and they decided to promote from within their own department. Hey, I was the top 3 out of approximately 60 applicants. Not bad.

      My concentration at work is shot, I’m back on blood pressure medicine and my IBS is acting up. I hadn’t had to deal with any of these medical conditions in years because I was able to manage it by diet and exercise. I know she’s off and I am trying to view it as working with someone that is mentally handicapped .. it’s helped but regardless it feels like a personal attack. There is only so much distancing one can do in this situation.

  38. Sitting duck*

    The toilet water thing is very disturbing. I would think that yes indeed it might be a different, noticeable taste. Something like that could put your health at risk. If you didn’t wash out the bottle already maybe you could have it tested for urine remains.

    1. OP*

      How and where would I take something for testing? I have noticed she will not eat or drink anything that others bring to work. She takes it, says thank you and you’ll see it in her trash can.

      1. Cucumber*

        That’s very interesting. Sounds like projection: perhaps she assumes that other people will engage in the kind of adulteration of food and drink you suspect her of.

      2. Ethyl*

        Do a google search for “drinking water testing” in your location and locate a lab. You’ll need to arrange with the lab for how the samples are to be collected and preserved; in most cases you can’t just bring in your shady bottle of water. You can also contact your local health department and ask about how to find out if your water supply is contaminated. Mostly these services are used for private well owners and stuff like that but I see no reason why you couldn’t get one sample of your questionable bottle checked out.

        1. OP*

          Thank you for the suggestion. I’m feeling lost in the forest with this situation. Our big boss is meeting with some of my co-workers this week to discuss their relationships with her. She threw a bit in front of a new staff member today, just a minor snit compared to the screaming rages but she is losing it quicker. The fact that they are gathering data is encouraging but I hope this isn’t in the heat of being a new upper manager and doesn’t lose steam once the actual work gets started.

  39. OP*

    I haven’t had a chance to read all the comments, just got home from work. I will do so, but yes my boss is mentally unstable. This is a government job hence the difficulty in getting rid of someone. I am a rehire .. I was with the organization for nearly 15 years, took a corporate job for a few years, than came back. Because of my break in service I am considered a new hire (I get the additional vacation time due to my prior service).

    Have met with her boss (the former boss retired recently) while she was out the other day. They are aware of the problem and are in the process of getting rid of her but it takes time and a lot of documentation. She has a reputation for payback, and many of my co-workers would like to file grievances but will not take the time to do and are afraid of her. She has been the manager for only a couple of years. Twice I have been witness to; and have been the precipitant of her screaming fits. They are terrifying. She stands in the doorway, screams, turns bright red and swings her arms, and also almost does a hop up and down. She blocks you in your office when she does this, you feel cornered. She stands outside my door and eavesdrops. I’ll shut my door at lunch and make phone calls, just rest, sometimes do e-mail etc … and I have looked and seen her standing there looking through a crack in the door; she sticks the key in the door, cracks it open, and listens. You go do the hallway and she just follows you, just follows you. She does it to a few others also. You turn around and ask what she wants, she looks at you and turns around. Every time she hears a voice in the hall, hear she comes. If she’s interrupted by someone and she is focused on something she snarls at the,m and in some instances screams at them. She has been known to go into offices and go through people’s trash. She acts inappropriate questions. We do not get paid OT,it has to be preapproved and she is constantly trying to get me to run personal errands for her .. it’s a constant test. She’ll ask you to do something; you say you’ll have to leave an hour early to do it on company time, and she turns around and asks others. She’ll go through 2 – 3 people saying no; than drop it. She will ask others to drive her places (she doesn’t want to pay for the gas). The two other people that worked in the office before me were too gullible; and did it but would complain to everyone. I’m the 5th person in my position within the last 18 months; she’s on notice because of the turnover in the office. She goes through my desk after hours, goes through my outgoing mail, pulls the stuff out of the envelopes. She will stand there and tell you the most ugly, insulting comments to your face, and will get this huge smile.

    I took a fresh bottle of water into work drank 1/2 of it put it in the refrigerator which I had just scrubbed a few weeks ago; so there is no stale odor. If anything there should be a slight citrus scent at most. Well I got the bottle out the next morning and it was downright nasty and smelled like our bathroom. I have left water open bottles in the frig for up to 3 – 4 days; very minimum change in taste.

    1. caraytid*

      to say this person sounds terrifying is an understatement!

      looking through a crack in the door – ugh!! gave me shivers.

    2. Cucumber*

      I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this horror, OP. I do think you were too kind in calling her “passive aggressive”; she sounds aggressive aggressive!

      I think the book mentioned upthread, “The Sociopath Next Door”, might be helpful (though of course, not brought onto the premises). She might not be a sociopath, but it might make you feel better to see that other people have survived this. Your boss is one sick piece of work, and it sounds like you need to watch your back, controlling her access to your mail, your trash, your computer, your office until they get enough on her to can her. Would it be possible for you to have the habit of taking your trash or personal items out during your lunch break, and leaving for a walk daily? I’m thinking that just getting out of that atmosphere during lunch, and avoiding her beady little eyes (or conversely, the giant Cyclops-like stare through the crack of your door) might make you feel better.

      1. Clerica*

        Was TSND using actual cases, though? It’s been a while since I read it, but the stories seemed really contrived to me (I think there were a couple of cases that were supposedly quoting real people, but then “narrative” ones like the one about the woman who deliberately drove a patient into a breakdown to undermine her coworker).

        Not that sociopaths aren’t good at acting “normal,” and it’s good that there’s literature to address it, but the sketches seemed a little too perfect for me. It still made me second guess myself because the examples were still pretty obvious.

      2. OP*

        Appreciate everything is saying. I’m just wondering where to go from here. I’m carrying my water bottles in and taking it at home at night. The research I have done on line regarding food tampering deals mainly with food tampering by employees at restaurants, etc.

        But there were a few mentioned where coworkers were tampering with food, etc. They were video recorded by HR, were terminated and were facing criminal charges. But I am leery of being considered paranoid, especially since is so afraid of what people are saying about her, and might do to her. I have heard about a few things done to her. I find myself frustrated with my co-workers. They are like, file a grievance … are egging me on to do it but by they shut up when I inform them that I had a break in service and am considered a rehire; and that the grievance process is not available to me.

        To be honest I have grown to resent my co-workers. They have all lived with this situation, but are too afraid of her to do anything. They complain and whine about her, but are not willing to take the time to file a grievance. They are afraid she’ll write them bad evaluations, refuse to give them raises, etc. But like I told two of them yesterday that until they take the time to file a formal grievance they are stuck with her. That they need to stand up for themselves and not expect others to do it for them. By accepting the bullying and plain weirdness, they are accomplices in keeping the poor working environment.

        I want out of there so bad it’s not funny. It’s affecting my personality.

        1. Observer*

          Wow. This context makes a lot of difference.

          Get a webcam. Unless your computer is really well locked down, you can get an inexpensive and fairly unobtrusive one. Set it up to constantly record. When something actionable happens, make several copies of the relevant clip and get them off your computer. Then you present it to the relevant people.

          1. Cari*

            Check with policy that this won’t land you in the shit first OP, if you’re working in government. Security restrictions on devices that record etc. i.e. if they don’t allow you to have camera phones on the premises, webcams in your office set up to record 24/7 are probably a “no” too.

            1. Zahra*

              If that’s the case, the manager’s nanny cams are a “no” too. Which, hopefully, would be another nail in her coffin.

        2. Cari*

          Sometimes all it takes is one person to kick off the process before others start talking and making formal complaints. Is there a way you can get HR (or whoever has the grievance restriction on you) to waive it in light of the circumstances?

          1. OP*

            They will not waive my rights, but I am keeping track of everything for my own protection. More in case she fires me without cause and I need unemployment. But I want a record of her misconduct in case she physically harms me or another.

            1. OP*

              Incorrect … waive my rights is the wrong phrase … not able to offer me additional protection.

        3. Mike C.*

          I totally understand your resentment. All it takes for bad people to take over is for good people to do nothing.

        4. Nina*

          OK, now it’s making sense. This woman sounds seriously disturbed; she should have been gone a long time ago. I’m really sorry you have to go through this.

          I second the webcam option, if it’s OK for you to do that. Document what you can, and keep job searching.

          1. OP*

            I can do audio recordings but not video. I did some research regarding state laws and have talked to HR regarding that. I cannot be terminated for recording the conversations. I’ve been told that I would be surprised at some of the recordings they have received.

    3. Purple Dragon*

      Thanks for the clarification OP – That sounds absolutely terrifying. I know it’s a government job and it’s tough to get rid of people but aren’t the higher-ups worried about a hostile working environment ?

      I hope you get out soon and things settle down with your health. Stress can do horrible things to you.

      1. Observer*

        Sometimes they get so frozen in process that they don’t recognize that issue.

        We had something similar – though NOWHERE near as bad. This on particular city employee – whose job was field monitoring of non-profits contracted with the agency – was simply waaaaay out of line with all female employees and staff of all of the contracted organizations. He’d go so far as to inform women how they needed to dress and what colors to wear to complement their “best features” – and try to ding the agencies he monitored if the women didn’t comply.

        It took YEARS for the gov’t agency to get rid of him. My first question was “don’t they realize he’s a law suit waiting to happen?” But, things started moving much faster once word was unofficially spread that the HR folks wanted everyone to document the problem to pieces. When you have a few complaints, you have to go through a lot more hoops. When you wind up with several dozen complaints – from multiple organizations – things move much more quickly.

    4. mdc*

      I would be leaving ASAP. Working with someone who is that mentally ill would not be okay with me, and if management is going to let it happen, nothing will change.

    5. Turanga Leela*

      Thanks for the additional info, OP. It sounds like a bad situation–I wish you luck in getting out of there!

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Okay, thanks for coming back—this makes much more sense. I hate that the workplace has to hack through so much red tape to get rid of her. She really needs to be in some kind of treatment, it sounds like to me.

      1. NoPantsFridays*

        Yeah, it makes a lot more sense now, this is the bigger picture. She is also doing this to other people it sounds like. And it is not isolated. Sounds horrible. Hope the OP is able to get out of there.

  40. Not So NewReader*

    Well, OP, I hope you are still reading.

    I am guessing that you could not come online here during the day because the boss might catch you.
    I am wondering how many other people who have asked questions here have the same issue. They cannot check the site during the day or cannot check it more than a couple times.

    FWIW, I believed you, OP. I am seen some real dingbats out there and, yeah, it makes sense to me. And it makes sense to me that you would not want to give a lot of detail in your question. To me it read like an S.O.S. If a person is drowning they are not going to explain how they got there, they are simply going to say “I am drowning”.

    I don’t know if it helps to frame it this way but you are watching someone’s mind absolutely crumble. How confused about life would you or I have to be in order to WANT to do all these things she is doing? That some pretty messed up thinking going on there. [As a taxpayer I am outraged that this behavior is allow to continue indefinitely on the taxpayer’s dime. But that really has no bearing here.]

    I don’t want to reach into a toilet to clean it, I cannot imagine reaching in to get water to mess with someone’s water bottle. ICK. Anyway, I fully expect that at sometime in the near future you guys will be finding smears on the bathroom wall. Anything could happen.

    So what we have is you are new. But there have been many new people in a short time. HR is aware of a problem and is trying to oust her. For some reason you know all this stuff. USE IT.
    Figure out who is the person to go to in HR and start a conversation. If you cannot figure that out talk to the people who have told you all this information and see what they think.

    Next time do not throw out the item she has mess with- your food, your water or your work. Okay, I would investigate a locking lunch tote for work. But she will find something to mess with, so keep the evidence.

    Start documenting NOW. Keep your records at home, do not bring them to work. Write down as much as you can. Date each entry. If you happen to remember the time of day then write that down, too. Write down samples of her ugly comments. You do not have to do this perfectly or completely. You just want to write enough so you can have this as a reference.

    I can’t believe I am saying this stuff. My real advice is to call up and quit over the phone. Don’t even go into work. Horrible advice, but you have a horrible situation. I am assuming you want to keep the job and you see a light at the end of the tunnel. The one thing that I will say to that is REMEMBER the management above her allowed her to carry on for this long. This MAY mean in all likelihood they will allow another dingbat boss to do the same. Make sure you reeeally want this job.

    On a personal note:I am embarassed and angry that this is happening in our government. This is nothing I want my tax dollars spent on. If you can, OP, maybe you can point out that if taxpayers knew this was allowed to go on, there would be such an uproar.

    Let us know how this lands.

    1. OP*

      I really like this organization and the people in it, but for my department. She’s a loon, and they are a bunch of fruit loops to have laid over and played dead.

      If I got a job offer that stated they wanted me state the next day. I would go in that night; clean out my desk and turn in my keys at the drop box at HR. I have started looking outside my agency, am hoping to be out of here within 30 – 40 days.

      This is one of those situations where I wouldn’t be surprised if someone physically assaults her and I hope to be out of there before it happens.

      1. Matt*

        So sorry to hear. At least you have options, at will US employees are at the whim of people just like this. This is what happens when managers are allowed to behave however they like unchecked- employees are not allowed to go around their boss/psycho and are forced to choose to suffer or leave.

        1. Zillah*

          By the same token, though, if this manager was at-will employee, she might have been fired by now.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        The IT person who reported her, I am seeing some hope there. Maybe you can talk to her/him and get some pointers or some tidbits. Barest miminum maybe you can find out who the IT person reported the boss to and go talk to that person.

        Really, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. She has backed you into a corner and you don’t have a lot of options but to stand up for yourself (in a cautious yet effective manner). This is why it is such a bad idea to back people into a corner, they can come out of that corner fighting like all heck.

        I am sorry your cohorts are so spineless. I am willing to bet that once they see you gaining ground they will jump on your bandwagon. That is usually how these things go- they are looking for a rescuer. I totally understand why you are losing respect for them.

        1. QualityControlFreak*

          “I am sorry your cohorts are so spineless. I am willing to bet that once they see you gaining ground they will jump on your bandwagon. That is usually how these things go- they are looking for a rescuer. I totally understand why you are losing respect for them.”

          I have found this to be true in practice. But it only works if the organization has clear procedures designed to address this kind of workplace issue. Which it sounds like there are in this case, and it’s really frustrating that the OP doesn’t have access to them!

    2. Cari*

      You know, I’d be tempted to actually leave things for her to tamper with. Is the manager clued in enough to do the tampering without leaving fingerprint evidence?

  41. nicolefromqueens*

    Yikes. I suggest you should investigate the legalities of a hidden camera in your shirt.

  42. JCC*

    It could just be the smell of your spit. When you drink out of a water bottle, do you put the rim in your mouth? Do you allow water that has been inside your mouth to return to the bottle when you lower it after a drink? A person’s mouth can be full of all sorts of bacteria, whose smells may not be immediately obvious until they leave your mouth.

    1. Laura*

      Not really – it was suggested by some commenters, but Alison said no in at least one comments thread I saw, because it could easily turn into a thing where some LWs might feel singled out or awkward about it.

      OTOH, she gets enough WTF letters that there’s usually something for people to comment about it, when Wednesday rolls around. (Or any other day of the week, as in this case!)

  43. DMented Kitty*

    Late in the party — but I wish I had all the cleverness in me to “counter” pranks — keeping myself ten steps ahead. It takes a lot of observational skill to do so, though. I may have a good idea or two, but I’m sure people just have the knack of turning a prank against the prankster.

    I was thinking of grabbing a very similar new bottle of water and just set it on my desk, wait for her to stop by and make sure she notices it, and take a swig. And just watch her reaction. Majority of trolls just do nasty things to get a reaction from you, so whenever someone tries to troll me, I just act like nothing happened (I can bitch about it later). It can backfire, though, as sometimes non-reaction would entail the troll to resort to even nastier pranks.

    I hope OP gets out soon. After reading “looking through the door crack” and “stalking you down the hallways”, that’s just outright psycho. :/

  44. steve*

    the concept of tampering with drinking water is very scary. Just like the days before special packaging for food and OTC medication our drinking water can be tampered with and we may not even know. I found WellSeal to protect my well water. check it out, wellseal.com Just think of the terrorist how they could affect a towns water???

Comments are closed.