I reported my awful manager to HR and it’s not going well, refusing to give out employee salary info, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. HR claimed they were investigating my horrible manager, but now they won’t talk to me

I have a bad manager. She’s a bully: constantly screaming at me, calling me an idiot, jackass and blaming me for her mistakes in front of our department. After 8 months of enduring her harassment and bullying, I politely requested a meeting to talk with her candidly about her obvious frustrations towards me. She declined to talk me with me and continued to verbally abuse me. (I LOVE my job and my peers, which is why I held out for so long.)

I filed a grievance with my HR department the following week after she accused me of misplacing an important document and then calling me a “f—— idiot” after IT located it completed on her computer desktop. The director of HR called us into his office for mediation and she cried and said I was attacking her, ambushing her, and making her feel like a bad person. The director said that he would do a full investigation of my claims and it was to remain confidential.

Then coworkers in other departments started forwarding me emails that my boss had sent to them. They said, “Don’t go to lunch with Jane, she filed a complaint against me and we have issues……” and “Are you going to lunch with Jane? If you are, I don’t want to intrude because she tattled to HR about me.”

I showed the director of HR the copies of the emails and he said he would investigate. I ended up having to go on FMLA because of a medical condition, but how do I address the situation? HR has swept it under the rug and has not returned my emails concerning the matter.

There might be nothing else that you can do. Your boss is clearly horrid and dislikes you, and when that’s the case, there usually aren’t many options beyond moving on (or resigning yourself to an unhappy work life). HR doesn’t usually have the power (or the inclination) to remove managers or magically make them into different people. The most likely outcome is that they’ll give your manager some (possibly anemic) advice about how to handle her relations with you differently and explain to her why sending those emails is a bad idea, but then leave it to her from there. Their wording about doing a “full investigation” is making you think it’s likely to be something more than that, but HR is usually pretty limited in these situations. (It’s different in cases with allegations of harassment or discrimination, where the law requires the company to truly investigate and take action.)

There are cases where HR will act more forcefully, but (a) their not responding to your attempts to contact them indicates they’re probably not in that category, and (b) even if they were, that usually would mean the manager gets chastised and told to behave differently, not removed.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Can I refuse to give out employee salary info to reference-checkers?

I have a prior employee who is accepting a new role. The new employer has hired a background check company and they have asked me to send them the prior employee’s salary information. I am more then glad to give a positive reference, or date-joined/date-left, but I feel very uncomfortable about sending what I consider personal information like salary. Is this normal practice? I have never had anyone else ever ask for salary information. Am I legally required to give them this kind of information?

It’s not uncommon, but you’re not required to give it out. Many companies consider their salaries to be proprietary information or otherwise don’t care to share them. It would be fine to say something like, “We don’t disclose salary information.” (And frankly, most employees would cheer you on for doing so; their salaries are no one’s business.)

3. My coworker keeps turning around and staring in my direction

​What is the best way to handle a coworker whose cubicle is closely in front of my cubicle and who often turns around facing me — if standing, stares over my head ​or if sitting, stares beyond me? She does have notes behind her tacked to the cubicle wall, but I don’t mind this so much. I’ve ignored her for the most part, but sometimes I’ll look and she’ll appear to be staring at nothing or the wall, or we’ll have eye contact which means she was looking at me. She is friendly with others but not me.

Another coworker I’m friendly with said to just ignore her, but this isn’t stopping her behavior, which is extremely frustrating and distracting to me and ruining my concentration and work performance.

Are you sure she’s doing this to you, as opposed to just staring into space while she thinks? If it’s really bugging you, I’d just say, “Hey, Jane, when you stare over here, I keep thinking you want something from me! What’s up?” (Although if she’s staring at her own notes, that’s pretty reasonable for her to be doing and you shouldn’t ask her to stop.)

A better solution to this might be to figure out what pieces of it are within your control, rather than hers — can you change the angle of your desk so that you’re not facing her when this happens? Put up some kind of barrier?

4. Can I submit an updated resume to an employer when I’m already interviewing?

Is it too intrusive to submit an updated resume to an employer? I submitted my resume a month ago. I have had two interviews since then. I would like to update my skills (program evaluation, less emphasis on my step-down present job) show the new bulleted format to the employer.

Nope, don’t do that. You’re already in the midst of interviewing with them. You already had your shot at getting their attention with your resume — and you did. They’re not paying all that much attention to your resume at this point; they’ve moved past that into actual discussions with you. It would look weird to send over a new resume at this point.

5. How should my resume address being loaned to another team?

At the beginning of this year I was “loaned out” to another department in my company to help them during a period of heavy workload. During this time, my title did not change at all, but the work I did was essentially in a different field (think “assistant teapot designer” to “assistant teapot Mmaker”). I learned many new skills and did well enough during the 4 months there that I was offered a position in their department (which I declined). Now that I’m looking for a new job, how would I list this period on my resume?

It doesn’t require a separate listing on your resume, but you could certainly add a bullet point for this job that describes what you did during that time, such as “pinch-hit for teapot making team, welding spouts and performing quality assurance on lids; lowered spout production backlog by 50%.”

{ 231 comments… read them below }

  1. Ann Furthermore*

    #1: Unfortunately, Alison is probably right that there’s nothing more you can do, unless there’s something specific in the company’s code of conduct that addresses what is/is not acceptable treatment of people. Even then, it could be iffy.

    People think that HR has more power than it actually does in situations like this. I’m friendly with a manager iny company’s HR department. When she found out that a much-despised director had finally resigned, she was ecstatic. Many, many people had made complaints, but for some reason this person’s boss thought she could do no wrong. My friend told me that HR can make recommendations all day long, but in most cases it’s up to the person’s manager, no matter how terrible the employee may be. HR can really only intervene if the person is doing something illegal, like embezzling money or something equally egregious.

    It makes sense; in most cases, you don’t want am HR group to be able to overreach. But in your case, it totally sucks. I’m sorry you’re going through this. I’ve been on the receiving end of bad treatment from a manager who had it in for me, and it was absolutely awful.

    I hope the situation is resolved soon. I’d start job hunting. That’s how I got out of my bad boss situation. I was able to move into another department. My life improved immediately. Best of luck.

    1. A Non*

      Seconding this. My horrible boss was entrenched in his position for 15 years – his boss and the CEO thought he could do no wrong, while the staff knew how miserable and backstabbing he was. At one point they literally refused to listen to complaints from VP-level staff members about him. He even tried to bully the director of HR once. HR desperately wanted to get rid of him, but didn’t have the power to do so. This kind of scenario is not as uncommon as you’d hope.

      I stuck around because the CEO was retiring and I hoped her replacement might see that this guy was incompetent as well as mean. It paid off – the new CEO took my complaints seriously, investigated, and got my boss’s resignation within two months.

      My story ended well, but it was still more than a year of slogging through dealing with a bad boss in hopes of future change. It was an extraordinarily fast and positive outcome once the new CEO got involved – it doesn’t usually happen that neatly. And it was still agonizing. If you don’t see a leadership change in your organization coming very soon, start job hunting. HR really can’t protect you, even if they want to. I’m sorry – you don’t deserve it.

      (P.S. As an IT worker, I can guarantee that if your boss gave the IT staff any inkling that she blamed you for losing that document, they think very poorly of her right now. We know the difference between actual technical issues and drama, and we hate drama.)

      1. A Non*

        Aack, just realized that “I’m sorry – you don’t deserve it” could be taken two ways. Replace ‘it’ with ‘this awful treatment’.

      2. Jamie*

        (P.S. As an IT worker, I can guarantee that if your boss gave the IT staff any inkling that she blamed you for losing that document, they think very poorly of her right now. We know the difference between actual technical issues and drama, and we hate drama.)

        This is something everyone should know.

      3. Windchime*

        We had a big manager (“Susan”) recently given her walking papers. It took one of her employees (also a manager, “Terri”) telling HR, “That’s it, I have had it, I am quitting.” Others had been complaining for literally YEARS. HR finally convinced leadership to let bully manager Sally go; they then told Terri that they had been getting complaints for years, but could never “verify” them. Hello, dozens of people complaining isn’t verification?!?

        So frustrating. It’s like all these legitimate complaints just go into a vacuum someplace.

    2. neverjaunty*

      OP #1, thirding this because your real problem less HR; than your company tolerating your manager’s completely inexcusable behavior. Your manager could not continue to bully you without the tacit consent of her own bosses.

      In addition to looking for a new job right away, I would very strongly recommend you talk to a lawyer who specializes in employee-side employment law. Not because you are going to sue for discrimination, but because you need to protect yourself against your unhinged boss sabotaging your current and future employment, and a good lawyer can give you advice on that. You were smart to make copies of those emails; make sure you get documentation of everything you can about your job, not just about Evilboss but about your own work, in case your company also starts trying to argue you were a less-than-stellar employee.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        This is actually really good advice. I once worked for someone exactly like this person. And it escalated quickly. I found myself worrying about sabotage more than the bullying before it was all said and done. I spent a few hundred bucks on a retainer for a lawyer who specialized in employment law, because I was really worried that I was going to be terminated when I finally confronted my boss (and my concerns were justified, he put me on what HR told me in my exit interview was the flimsiest PIP that they ever saw and he had to go over their heads to approve it). I was looking for a new job in parallel, and the lawyer did advise me on how to communicate with my boss until I was ready to tender my resignation.

        It was the most stressful time in my career, and having that attorney in my back pocket helped.

      2. Ann Furthermore*

        That is good advice. My situation was bad, but not need-an-attorney bad. But if it had been, getting some legal advice would have given me great peace of mind.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        This. And don’t keep those copies at work either. Forward them to yourself and get them off the premises ASAP. That way if Horrible Boss sacks you, you still have them.

        HR is supposed to work for the good of the company, but they seem not to care about that where this stuff is concerned. A manager like this is absolutely detrimental to the company! He/she will drive good employees away. And apparently the higher-ups can be just as bad. This blindness and wimping out is one aspect of business that makes me want to scream my lungs out.

        1. Elizabeth Velez*

          Hi Elizabeth, OP from #1. I removed the copies from work! I’ve kept a journal of everything that started happening since January when I noticed her bullying and harassment. Thank you so much for your comment!

      4. Lamington*

        I have seen this too, former employee kept being harrased and berated by manager, until he was fired. Former employee found out that manager was giving bad references to potential consulting firms that might hire him. Eventually he found a job but was worried manager might try to get him fired there too.

    3. Suzanne Lucas--Evil HR Lady*

      Totally true. Since being a jerk doesn’t actually violate any laws, all HR can do in this situation is make recommendations to the jerk’s boss. The problem here isn’t (always) with HR, but with the manager’s manager.

      Now, it’s totally possible that the HR person didn’t bring it up with the boss’s boss, in which case HR stinks. But, more likely, the big boss doesn’t want to deal with these “little problems.”

      1. Elizabeth Velez*

        OP #1 Here…. I believe it is under retaliation. My husband worked for the company before they let him go for “structural reorganization”, but really because he was the only male in a female department. He filed and (won as of last month) and EEOC complaint back in January—- that’s when my manager’s attitude became abusive.

        1. Sal*

          Okay, given your close relationship with someone who has filed an EEOC complaint against the same company, I think it’s time to talk to your own employment lawyer. Retal is for real (and sometimes it’s even easier to make the retal case than it is to make the underlying discrimination complaint).

    4. Raine*

      I think the reason employees tend to be shocked when casually informed that oh well, HR has so little power, is because the employees would be facing immediate termination for the same behavior.

      1. Gina*

        Also they are used to hearing HR blamed for things happening (or not happening), as in “HR wouldn’t approve it” or “we gave this new policy courtesy of HR.”

        1. Taz*

          Yes, maybe it’s better to go straight to the supervisor’s manager? I don’t know. The “too bad, so sad” for you lowly employee answer is really frustrating.

      2. LBK*

        But that still wouldn’t be HR’s decision, it would be the employee’s manager’s. HR doesn’t hire or fire anyone, regardless of where they fall in terms of hierarchy.

        1. Judy*

          There are plenty of places that managers publicize that HR made us do things.

          An example: We had an intern that was fantastic. He was working on his EE degree, he was a non-traditional student, had been an electrician for 10 years or so before going back to school. Everyone expected the company to make him an offer at graduation. The manager told the rest of us that the reason she didn’t hire him was that she couldn’t, HR said that the university he graduated from was not a “preferred” university, since 40% of the group had degrees from there. Now, either HR had lots more power than at other places, or that manager didn’t want to own her decision. (She stated this in a group meeting when someone asked “Will Joe be working here when he graduates?” )

          1. Bea W*

            He didn’t graduate from one of the “preferred universities”? That sounds like such a BS excuse. If it is legit, it is seriously messed up.

            1. Judy*

              The only time before that I had heard “preferred universities” was when they talked about the ones that had on-campus recruitment. That company, and others I’ve worked for, certainly strategically pick which universities to interview on campus. But I had not ever heard of not hiring from an accredited university because of strategy.

              1. Artemesia*

                The State Department uses that excuse in not considering people who don’t graduate from a handful of Ivies or Georgetown when they are hiring people with masters degrees. This is one of the many ways in which privilege is based on money in the US. Wall Street also privileges those with family connections and those from a handful of very expensive exclusive universities.

                1. Janis*

                  Well, that explains why I didn’t get that FSO job years ago after I suffered through both the written and oral tests. Damn you University of Miami — take all my money and give me nothing in return.

                2. Away*

                  Weird. Very few of the FSOs I’ve served with have degrees from Georgetown or the Ivies. My colleagues have degrees (BA and/or MA) from Ohio State, Mississippi, Texas Tech, St. Andrews, UCal Davis, Florida, Virginia Tech, U Colorado….

              2. Bea W*

                It boggles my mind why a company would reject someone who was already working there as an intern and a known quantity over not attending the right school. He was good enough to hire as an intern while attending a non-preferred school. That’s just all kinds of WTH which makes me think the manager is making it up….or this company has some seriously messed up hiring practices.

          2. Joey*

            Managers typically blame HR because they don’t want to be responsible.

            “HR made me..” is usually code for I’m a wimp.

            “HR won’t let me” is code for I did a poor job of managing this problem up to this point.

            1. Ann Furthermore*

              Yes, that’s usually true. In my situation, I’m pretty sure I would have been fired, had I not been a 40 year old pregnant woman. In that type of instance, I could see HR making a manager wait to take action just because it could be a PR/lawsuit nightmare that would make the company look pretty bad: firing an older pregnant woman, leaving her and her unborn child without health insurance, and so on. I have no idea if that actually happened or not, but to me it is plausible.

              But much more often the reality is that a manager either won’t take the time to document bad behavior and poor performance, so the terrible employee just keeps on being a terrible employee. Or, the manager refuses to concede that s/he made an error in judgement when hiring the bad employee, and does nothing.

          3. Jamie*

            Most places I’ve worked managers make HR the bad cop for a lot of things – even things they themselves are driving and with which they agree.

            HR is absolutely more powerful when it comes final decisions on stuff than others, but even in companies where it’s all decided by the individual managers some will blame everything on HR.

      3. Bitter*

        As far as I can tell, managers can pretty much get away with anything they want, except for stealing money. I think that if a manager punched me in the face in front of everyone, I’d (a) know better not to report it, and (b) they’d get away with it. And (c) I’d get written up or fired.

    5. HR Manager*

      I don’t think the issue is whether HR has ‘power’ — but some HR departments can have a lot of influence. I’ve been lucky to work in companies where HR’s views and suggestions are listened to (and it’s something I look for in a corporate culture before I accept a job) and so when we have the ear of a manager or a senior management member about problems, it gets heard. In some cases, it is the fault of HR for not presenting the problem in the right context (e.g., see abusive work environment = high turnover = high costs, low morale, etc.). In some cases, it’s management who choose to tolerate the bad behavior (the guy is super-productive, so I’ll forgive that the guy’s a jerk). In those cases, it’s bad culture, and I’d be out the door.

    6. Whippers*

      Alison, why do you think so many companies are reluctant to do anything about bad managers? They seem to get away with egregious behaviour that a less high up employee would not. I can understand in some cases where the manager is excellent at their job but is terrible to work for, that there would obviously be ambivalence about getting rid of them. However, in many instances the manager is not very good at their job and is also terrible to work for, so I don’t understand why companies are so reluctant to act.

      Do companies fear that by getting rid of a manager they are undermining the whole managerial structure in some way?

  2. Kathy*

    #2 I just say that I need written authorization from the employee to disclose that information. If they want to fax/e-mail me a form with the employee’s signature, then I will fax/e-mail it back to them.

    1. Variation*

      I don’t love this approach- it can put an applicant in a tough position. The hard line approach is better to nip this activity in the bud.

    2. Jennifer M.*

      I work in government contracting and on our cost reimbursable contracts, everything is based on salary history. The gov’t agency won’t approve a daily rate unless I can substantiate the salary history. We submit a gov’t form with our requests that detail salary and educational history and the form is signed by the individual and a rep of the company. Whoever signs on behalf of the company is personally liable for the validity of the information and can be held criminally liable if a mistake is found (well, not oops I transposed some numbers type mistakes – but I didn’t bother to check mistakes). Therefore I will not sign a form unless I have verification from previous employers, a contract, or a paystub. I have had potential employees remove rates that could have justified a higher salary because they couldn’t be verified.

      1. Jennifer M.*

        Hit submit too soon! All this to say, when we recruit people for our contracts, we have them sign a release saying that we are allowed to verify anything that is on this government form.

  3. UKJo*

    Interesting -I read #4 slightly differently. I read that they have had 2 interviews since they applied to company A, but not necessarily that they were with company A. I’m quite probably wrong, but would that change the advice? I’d suspect not, as the view that they’ve had their shot would still apply.

    1. PEBCAK*

      No, it would be weird to send an updated resume in the middle of the interview process*. Now, if the OP has a THIRD interview, she could bring the new one, but she wouldn’t give it out unless asked, i.e. you should always bring a few copies of your resume to an interview, even though they will usually go unused.

      *If the process was so long that something had MATERIALLY changed, maybe this would be different…but there would have to be some sort of reason beyond sprucing it up…maybe if you completed a certification that had been in progress or something?

    2. Colette*

      Even if the interviews were not with company A, it still wouldn’t be a good idea to send a new resume so soon, IMO. It gives the impression that the applicant did less than her best on the first resume.

      1. Leah*

        Agreed. Unless there is a specific addition to the resume (such as an award or accomplishment) that wasn’t on the horizon when the resume was sent in, do not send in a new one simply because the format is easier to read. As for an extra copy for interviews, a new one is fine if there is new info (with a verbal note on the update) or use the previous version if the only change is a different formatting to avoid confusion or looking like you weren’t trying as hard when you applied.

      2. Benefits Nerd*

        Agreed- I have an aversion to receiving “updated” resumes during an interview. In my experience, the new resume always leaves out or glosses over items of concern I picked up on in the first resume. I then spend the whole interview over-analyzing everything in the new interview.

  4. Just Visiting*

    Re: #2, is it “weird” to ask your former employer NOT to disclose your salary info? I was in the running for a part-time position I really wanted, and while I can’t be certain that my former salary is the reason I didn’t get the job, I suspect it’s a factor (as the interviewer repeatedly said “you won’t make as much, we can’t match your former salary,” and so on, and I didn’t give them my old salary, it was strange). I was overpaid in my last position and I know/expect that I won’t get the same hourly wage again, especially if I’m working fewer hours. I have no idea if they disclose or not. I didn’t leave under bad terms at all, but I feel nervous about calling to ask about this for some reason.

    #3: You’re being a little paranoid, sorry. She’s not looking at you, she’s looking at her notes. Just turn your monitor or put up some papers to block her if you don’t want to constantly see her looking in your general direction.

  5. Worker Bee (Germany)*

    No comment to the letters, but an FYI for Alison. It might just be me but the “collapse reply” option has disappeared.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      It’s there on my laptop – I thought I read once that someone wasn’t getting that function on their tablet. Could that be it?

      1. Josie*

        It’s missing for me to, depending on which computer I use. The stationary (Firefox) or phone (Chrome) it’s there, but as soon as I’m on the laptop (Firefox), no longer an option. It’s odd.

          1. Josie*

            I noticed it a couple of weeks ago, but I’m afraid I can’t say the exact date. I do have a tracker blocker on the laptop that’s not on the other two, but that’s been there since long before you got the comments collapse option.

    2. Brett*

      Firefox updated yesterday for many people (the release was 9/2, but some devices picked up the release later than others). I just installed it though and did not find anything broken on the desktop release. Are you using mobile firefox by chance>

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you’ve disabled JavaScript in your browser, that would make the collapsing comments feature disappear (both the collapse all link up top and the individual thread collapse links).

      1. Worker Bee (Germany)*

        Thank you Alison. Today it is back.. Very strange. (I am using a desktop, yesterday it didn’t work on internet explorer and also didn’t work on firefox. Today fine on both.. Odd)

  6. Jennifer M.*

    #2 – I work in government contracting so we have to do a lot of rate verification. We generally don’t go to the reference, we go to the HR department. A lot of time there are slight discrepancies (think $5/year) due to rounding issues depending on if things are put into system on an annual, monthly, weekly, or hourly basis and HR will have the official record. So maybe kick it up to them as they will also know your company’s official policy on whether they will release this info.

  7. kcfountains*

    I’m kind of in the bizarro-world version of Question #1. A coworker with an extremely strong personality that many find hard to work with, “Martha”, has gone to HR about a well-liked boss, “Judy.” She has claimed that Judy singles her out negatively and bullies her, but what really goes on is that Judy stands up to Martha when Martha is trying to steamroll her and other coworkers (as I think a manager should). Is there any way to support a boss who is being targeted unfairly in this situation? I know exactly what the accusations are and was even present when some of the “incidents” took place and Martha has blown them way out of proportion/misrepresented them (something that she does frequently). I worry that HR will believe her and there will be consequences for Judy.

    1. RobM*

      Are you and others who are being “steamrollered” by Martha complaining formally about her behaviour? It seems to me that the best way to support someone else (boss or otherwise) that is having trouble with Martha is for all her victims to speak up & complain about the way she treats them, just to make sure that the pattern of behaviour surrounding her is made clear.

    2. Bitter*

      Honestly, management will be on Judy’s side on this one. Unless Martha has some whopping evidence, I don’t think anything will happen.

  8. Question Mark*

    #1: sounds like the solution is to find a new job. We all know not to badmouth or say anything negative at all about our current boss while interviewing. How should OP#1 handle interviews when she knows she won’t get a good reference? Of course she can say it isn’t a good fit, but what if they insist on talking to her current manager???

    1. misspiggy*

      In many cases the horrible boss wants the target of their abuse to leave, so one can make up an anodyne reason for going and expect a reasonable reference.

      1. Bea W*

        I am so glad my current employer didn’t insist. My direct manager at former company was forbidden from giving references and even if it had been permitted she was so tightly wound around Bully Boss’ finger I wouldn’t have trusted her. I can see Bully Boss bad mouthing her targets. I was assured I did not have to worry about being fired because Bully Boss never fired people. She preferred to keep them around for torture. From what I could tell that was true. The only way out of that department was by resignation or death.

    2. GrumpyBoss*

      My advice is to have a throw away interview if you don’t trust yourself to give a non-inflammatory answer. When I tried to move on from my dysfunctional manager, I took the bait at an interview when asked, “what would you do differently if you had your manager’s job?” Talk about a loaded question! And I knew better, but I answered it in a negative fashion anyway – “I’d put a greater emphasis on building relationships and partnerships with those around me.” They kept asking me follow up questions, giving me more and more rope to hang myself with. I left the interview ashamed of myself because I knew better. I was not surprised to get a rejection letter a few days later.

      But this turned out to be therapeutic. It got it out of my system, and after that, it was very easy for me to be extremely complimentary of my awful boss on future interviews.

      So while others will surely disagree with this advice, it helped me be mentally ready in the future. When you run marathons, there is a saying that you won’t be able to prepare for your next race until you let go of the last one. This was how I let go.

      1. Mike C.*

        I hate this so much about interviews. If you ask a question, be prepared to accept the truthful answer given without holding it against the candidate. Yes, some of us are looking for new jobs because our boss creates a toxic work environment. It happens. Don’t make candidates lie because you as an interviewer are uncomfortable with the idea that there are people who abuse positions of power in this world.

        1. GrumpyBoss*

          I think it is a dumb question to ask, but I think that the honest answer will hurt and it would be hard not to hold that against the person. If I was on the other side and heard trashing the boss, I’d think the following:
          What is the boss’s perspective? There are always 2 sides to every story, so maybe this person isn’t a peach.
          If I hire this person, will they be in some other hiring manager’s office in 2 years time complaining about me?

          Hiring managers only have so much info to go on. They need to extrapolate from the info given to make a decision.

          The real takeaway for me is: would I want to work for a company that asks so many loaded questions? I understand the “why are you looking” type questions, but continued follow ups and laying traps like this interviewer did for me is a pretty good indication of dysfunction.

        2. Colette*

          The problem is that an interviewer can’t tell whether the employee is a victim of a bad manager or someone who sees persecution everywhere. Even if the employee is telling the truth as they see it, they may not be telling the truth as someone objective would see it.

        3. A Non*

          I’ve had okay success with casting conflicts with bosses as ‘I’ve learned that I need x y and z in a work environment to be happy and successful’. So rather than saying “my boss nitpicked everything I did and I couldn’t please him”, it’s “I am someone who does best with lots of encouragement, and I was struggling in that environment.” This is a) true and b) if they have any problem with it, I don’t want to work there. Then move the conversation onward.

          But I do agree with you – there are serious imbalance of power issues with how modern workplaces are set up, and covering for past bad bosses is just one more part of it.

      2. Bea W*

        I was asked in one interview why they were getting so many applications from people working in the same dept at the company I was looking to leave. I felt trapped. There is no good way to answer that question without either appearing clueless or bad mouthing your employer. I hate lying, and I was intentionally vague to avoid being perceived as bad mouthing my employer, but dancing around the issue also makes you look bad. It was a no-win situation.

        1. Koko*

          If they suspect something’s up and you give a tactful answer that avoids mud-slinging, I don’t think that will make you look bad to most interviewers. They’ll think, “Ah, something’s going on there, but this candidate is too tactful to get into the gorey details.”

          I was once in a similar situation (mass exodus from employer) and whenever asked why I was leaving my current job I said something like, “I’m concerned that turnover has been very high these last couple of months and I’m looking for a more stable environment.” Nobody ever pressed further regarding why turnover was high or any other follow-up questions; most seemed to understand this was polite code for “Things are bad for a lot of people at my current workplace,” and be satisfied with that.

        2. Red*

          That’s a terrible question to ask an interviewee. If someone wanted the skinny on the situation, they should have asked a contact, not an applicant. Asking an applicant such a question reveals that the asker has either no sense or is really sticking the screws to someone.

    3. Anon Accountant*

      There’s some really good advice in the archives about when your boss won’t give a good reference because they’re upset you left, were abusive, etc. I think it’s generally posted in the advice about your boss category?

      1. C Average*

        I’m gonna have to check this out. My manager isn’t abusive, but we’ve proven to be a poor match in terms of personality and work style which, added to the fact that I’ve never particularly loved this job, is prompting me to look around. I don’t think she’d give me a BAD reference, but I don’t think she knows enough about me to give a useful one, and I think there’s a lot of potential for her to give a misleading reference in good faith.

        I’ve been tempted to start NOT checking “my manager knows I’m applying for this job” on the internal applications I’m submitting, but I’m not sure how that would be interpreted, and thus far I’ve been transparent with her about the fact that I’m looking. Thus far, she’s been supportive, but some of the encounters we’ve had lately make me think her “support” might not be helping me get a new job here.

        1. Marcy*

          You could have a friend call up and ask for a reference and see how your manager responds. At least then you would know what is being said.

  9. Momiitz*

    For #1. A video is worth a thousand words. Could you discreetly video her behavior towards you? Rant’s on YouTube seem to always make the companies that hire these bozos want to get rid of them.

    I don’t know if this is legal, it is half serious and half fantasy.

    1. MK*

      In many juristictions, filming people without their consent and making the footage public is illegal; usually it’s just a tort, but sometimes it’s also a criminal offence. Plus, no matter how crazy the boss, the employee may come across as a loon too; using surveilance to settle workplace disputes is not standard practice.

      1. Rat Racer*

        Yes, I agree – that works if you’re documenting police brutality during the Ferguson riots, not so much if you’re documenting a verbally/psycologically abusive manager.

  10. KayDay*

    #2 – I honestly don’t know much about background checks, so this question might be ridiculous. But, I am curious if refusing to verify the salary could cause an applicant to fail the background investigation, and therefore not get the job??

    1. Brett*

      It will not cause a fail by itself, but if there is a pattern of such missing information, it will. An exception is if the applicant only had one job for 10-20 years. Then it easily could cause a fail as that will leave the applicant with no verifiable employment history for the lookback length of the background check. (The background checker already has the applicant’s tax records, so refusing to release salary does not protect any information, it only brings the employment into doubt in the first place.)

      And this is assuming we are talking about a security background check, not just a standard check for employment. If it is just an employment background check, then really anything could or could not cause a fail and as the former employer, you should not worry about that.

      1. KellyK*

        Why would that be a fail if they verify the employment and the dates but don’t give out salary information?

          1. Jamie*

            That’s what I think – as long as the company verifies dates and titles they should accept pay stubs or W2s for verification.

            When I had to do HR stuff I didn’t verify salary because I don’t like the principle of making that part of judging what they should pay someone…salary should be based on the position and what they bring to that position.

        1. Brett*

          For our security background check, have to match on employer, employer address, start date, end date, start salary, end salary, job title, supervisor reference, and a co-worker reference to be verified employment.

          The idea is to establish a wide range of confirming points covering the applicants history for the last 10-20 years; basically to confirm that the person is really the person they claim to be. The W-2s confirm all of this information. The background check is intended to match the W-2 information up to a real world location, supervisor, and co-worker. A background check is not about your employment history, it is about your history as a person.

  11. Concerned*

    1: The best things I think you can do in the meantime is document every incident (and keep all paperwork, including the emails your colleagues sent) as well as stand up for yourself to her. I definitely think getting an employment attorney is a good help, and giving him/her these materials can help in any case if you do resign and get smeared. Having been there, it makes me sad that good employees facing this issue have no option but to leave their company when they are not the ones at fault. And it’s really hard to do that right now, economically.

      1. Fact & Fiction*

        It sounds to me from more info posted by the OP that this abusive behavior is in retaliation to an EEOC complaint filed by her spouse, who was apparently fired as the only male in a female department. Now, whether that claim is true or not, retaliation isn’t usually allowed under the law. I’m not sure how this being “secondhand” retaliation would play out, legally speaking, but I definitely think that it is worth at least discussing with an employment lawyer, especially if they offer a free initial consultation. (Note: I’m not an attorney and this is obviously not legal advice, but I did work in the legal field for over a decade.)

  12. Ella*

    #1 You say you filed a grievance. To me, this reads of union speak. If you have a union that could help you, this would be the time to involve them!

    1. OP #1*

      Hi Ella, unfortunately, I don’t have a union. Our Employee Handbook requires us to file grievance about any issues with managers or directors.

  13. Joey*

    1. If you’re still of on fmla I bet hr ha a policy of not talking to you about work stuff until you return.

    1. Loose Seal*

      I agree with this but if HR did reply to an email to tell OP that this was the policy, surely that one communication isn’t considered work? I mean, you have to talk to HR about some things while you’re on FMLA, like when you’ll be returning.

  14. Lana*

    #3 When your co-worker turns around to face you, could it be a reaction to a sound or some extra noise coming from that direction? I’m autistic and on top of that I have a sensory processing disorder that means sounds that are unremarkable to most people can be anywhere from irritating to unbearable for me, and before I started working from home, if there was a sound that bothered me I would often look to see where it was coming from so I could try to figure out what was causing it and when it might stop.

    If I had someone sitting behind me who was regularly making sounds that bothered me, especially if I knew it was something that most people wouldn’t really object to, I might not do much more than turn around and look, because I would be worried about having a harsher tone than I intended if I did say something, and because I might not want to draw attention to the fact that I’m having a problem, if I’m very invested in seeming non-autistic.

    That said, I realize my situation is pretty specific, so it might not be relevant, but it might help point toward an explanation. If it doesn’t, though, I think the suggestion of a barrier of some kind is good — I have a friend who sat next to a person whose gaze sort of drifted over toward her while he was thinking (that’s our guess, at least) and she collected a bunch of plants to put on the half-wall between their cubes, which worked pretty well for her.

    1. Allison*

      I have SPD too! Not that I have any advice, just wanted to let you know I’m in the same boat. Unwanted background noise can be awful. But complete silence can be agonizing too . . . I love working from home because I have more control over my environment.

      1. Lana*

        Yes! An open office combined with a job where I really need to focus is a special kind of hell. I do need some non-disruptive background noise, though — I like music that doesn’t have any jarring or chaotic noises, or a movie or TV show that I’ve seen many times before. I’ve been working from home for about a month and while I still have some issues with focus, but they’re a lot less than they were before and much easier to deal with, and the sensory overloads are pretty much gone.

        1. Allison*

          Seconding the TV thing. People always tell me not to watch TV when I work from home because it’s a distraction. But when I have Gilmore Girls, How I Met Your Mother, or Grey’s Anatomy on, it’s generally an episode I’ve seen before and it’s not gonna be that distracting, but it’s welcome background noise that sounds a hell of a lot better than trucks backing up and cars getting into honking matches.

          In the office, TV isn’t an option, but swing music is a beautiful thing. Nice melody, mostly instrumental, and upbeat enough to keep me energized.

          1. Jamie*

            I do this – I can’t work to music so I put on sitcoms I’ve seen 100x for what I call “comfort noise.” It’s soothing in the background and masks all the other little noises that would bother me otherwise, but my brain doesn’t need to pay attention to it.

            SPD here too – and as the mother of a child with CAPD and on the spectrum I cannot agree enough with the difference when you can control your environment in these ways and when you’re at the mercy of everything.

            1. Windchime*

              Instrumental music for me, too. In fact, there is a track on YouTube that I love called “Zen Garden”. I’ve heard it enough times that I don’t get distracted by it and it’s very soothing to work to.

        2. alma*

          I listen to video game music — it is pretty much written for the express purpose of being in the background while you focus on your goal!

          1. Allison*

            Oh yeah, I went through a phase a couple years ago where video game music, specifically the Zelda that came with Skyward Sword, was definitely my music of choice. Made work feel like an adventure! And the old music from Bioshock helped my anxiety.

        3. Koko*

          I’m also highly sensitive and easily overstimulated. Over the course of years in an open floor plan, I got really good at mentally tunneling into my work such that I often didn’t hear when people were directly speaking to me because I’d tuned out everything else. I’ve since lost the skill from years of disuse.

          The one thing I’ve never been able to tunnel out is fire truck/ambulance sirens. Whenever one is passing it’s so overwhelming to me that I just tense up and can’t focus or do anything until it passes beyond ear shot. I’m grateful I now work on a high level of a tall building such that road noise doesn’t make it in to us.

    2. Azale*

      Hi Lana,

      Your idea is possible. Anything is possible. Though, I’m leaning towards the idea of her not liking me because she’s very loud and outgoing with others, but mumbled back to me the few times I said “good morning” to her. One time, another coworker to her side (divided by glass) stood up to leave, she also stood up and remained standing, as if in a show down, then sat back down.

      Your ideas are appreciated. Thank you so much for you kind input :-)

      1. Research Assistant*

        When I’m thinking of other things, my eyes often go out of focus and I stare off into the distance without noticing it. I’ve been told that this can be disconcerting if another person happens to be in the direction I’m staring. However, when I do this I usually don’t see the other person at all! When you say that your co-worker is staring over your head or behind you I would guess that this probably has nothing to do with you. Even if you seem to be making eye contact, she may not actually see you, as happens to me. I don’t like to sit completely still in one direction for a long time either, so I could definitely see standing up or turning around periodically throughout the day.

  15. David*

    #2: I have a lot of familiarity and experience with employment and income verifications (although not as part of employment, but rather lending). If your company has a dedicated payroll dept., defer income specific types of requests to them. My company, and companies that serve the specific purpose of performing these types of verifications, go to great lengths to ensure that the appropriate party is responding to such requests, and good practice would be to never go directly to a person’s supervisor or boss unless she is the one cutting the checks and handling payroll. I realize it seems like it’s passing the buck, but if you do have a dedicated payroll dept., they should be familiar with what to provide and how to express the information without opening you up to any security concerns or liability. If you are the person responsible for providing this information, I’d recommend establishing some protocols around it. Ensure the employee has authorized releasing the information and you’re clear on what will be provided and won’t. And it may not always be a new employer asking for this information. It’s very likely that if a current employee is attempting to buy a house, you will have to provide documentation supporting their employment and income. Better to be prepared for these instances than not.

  16. Joey*

    2. I’m sorry but I would never fall for salary as being proprietary. There are just too many people you give it out to fall for that. The IRS, any social services you use, credit companies, insurance, not to mention Nlras protections regarding salary. Now the specifics of a commission plan, maybe, but not straight salary for the average person.

    1. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      To me it’s different when it’s a private company, though (in this case it’s likely a competitor, as they’re hiring the OP’s employee). You can’t claim “propietary” vis-à-vis the IRS, obviously, but I see no reason to give out salary info to any random private company that asks for it.

      Also, it wouldn’t benefit the employee in question to give out information on what she was being paid in her previous job.

    2. ella*

      Alison (and the OP) aren’t saying it’s proprietary, though; Alison’s basically saying that employers aren’t required to disclose it, which is true. Just because I’m willing (or required) to tell my salary to certain people or organizations doesn’t mean I’m required to be willing to tell it to anyone who asks.

      1. Colette*

        And, if you want to be paranoid, the fact that someone says they’re from company X doesn’t mean they actually are – they could be an ex-spouse or another employee who just wants to know.

  17. Ilf*

    #1 Can someone truly love their job and hate their manager?
    A job is not a sum of tasks, but a company, a work environment, and a management chain. I would argue that the tasks are more likely to change to change and do change more often than management. If a manager is truly awful, there is a context to this. The manager did not materialize out of the blue in the company, someone has brought her and someone is keeping her in this position. The choice of managers speaks to the values of the company or at least of the department within the company.

    1. JustMe*

      Ilf, I think it’s possible to love what you do, but dislike the manager. I was in a similar situation as OP1, my boss was very cliquish and didn’t want anyone else on the team appear smarter than she. I moved on after 3 of my colleagues left – all within a 6 months span. Her buddies, whom she had no qualms about referring to as such, remained. I say that to say though my boss was horrible, my job function was ideal (though she tried to change my job function to something less desirable). So, yes one can be happy with the company as a whole, enjoy the functions/role of the job, but hate the manager.

    2. Polaris*

      Yes. I agree with you, in general, but it isn’t universally applicable. A job is also an ideal, a service, and clients/customers. I can think of a few public and academic librarians I know who have bad managers, but are hesitant to leave because they love their work and the communities they serve. That said, there’s a world of difference between a bad manager and one that is abusive.

  18. Joey*

    I’ll also disagree that verifying previous salary is no ones business. It’s not uncommon for people to use previous/current salary as a bargaining chip. As in “that salary offer isn’t high enough. I’m currently making x.” If someone’s going to do that I’m going to verify that they were being truthful because of course if market conditions are changing I’m not just going to take someone’s word for it.

      1. Joey*

        Ideally you’re right, but that’s not realistic. It would be lovely if everyone in my market kept me up to date on what they were paying, but they don’t.

        Most employers look for salary data every few years (if at all) unless they’re having problems finding/keeping people.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          As someone said — you shouldn’t be relying on your candidates to gauge what the market is doing.

          Second – throw out “the book” for just a minute. Every candidate has his/her price. It’s like buying a house. You might be able to determine an approximate price by what houses around you are selling for. But what it comes down to = “market value” is the price agreed to between a willing buyer and a willing seller.

          Salary is not much different of a game – except, of course, it’s harder to find “Zillow” or “Trulia” guides, and your candidate may already be paid at the high end and has the ability to set his own salary with you.

          You should know – that if a candidate is working for a company in your area that pays on the high end, you’re going to also have to pay on the high end to get that guy or gal. It’s not “the market” but “this candidate’s price”.

          1. Dan*

            It’s not always clear cut that you must pay on the high end to get a candidate paid on the high end. People get paid at the low end and get excuses like “oh but our benefits are really good.” Yeah, I might take a slightly-below-average paycheck for flexible hours and great benefits.

            If you want to work me like a dog (60 hours a week, on call, get bitchy about approving my vacations) you damn better bet you’re going to give me the high end to put up with that.

            Then see above when I get tired of those working conditions. When I can, I try to find out *why* an employer pays what they pay.

        2. Dan*

          You can pay consultants for salary surveys. My last job did that.

          In the same vein, the only way I truly know what I’m worth is to go out and get an offer. Everything else is just… an estimate.

        3. Oryx*

          But it’s not just the market — what are YOU willing to pay for their skills? That shouldn’t be determined by what somebody else was willing to pay them.

          1. Joey*

            It doesn’t matter what I’ll pay if I can’t get candidates to accept. I’ve got to be competitive with other companies to have a fighting chance.

            1. Amy*

              I don’t see why the employee’s current salary is relevant there, though? You decide how much you want to pay this employee to do this job. Unless you’re a complete start up, your company knows how much they’ve paid previous people to do this job, so you can extrapolate from there. And even if you’re deciding the salary for a completely new position, negotiations mean that you’ll never be underpaying a new hire, because they’ll quickly correct you if you offer them too little.

              It doesn’t matter how much Teapots Inc are paying me, or what other teapot painters are earning. What matters is the salary you’ll have to pay me to move. It might be 20% below market value or 20% depending on my circumstances and how I feel about my current employer.

              Either way- the market is irrelevant. If you offer me less than I’m willing to take, I’ll tell you so and negotiations proceed. If they’ve decided to negotiate, potential employees aren’t going to take your first offer anyway, so it doesn’t matter if it’s a bit below the market.

    1. ella*

      You could ask the (prospective) employee for a pay stub, then, or ask the employee for permission to call your employer to verify. There’s ways to get information you want without asking third parties to disclose personal information about candidates.

        1. ella*

          Just because you don’t find it personal doesn’t mean that everyone feels the same. There’s a fairly well-established social norm that personal worth isn’t something talked about in polite conversation. I could very well ask you–why isn’t it personal? Why is it anyone else’s business what I make at Current Job?

          1. Joey*

            Oh I’m not arguing that people guard salary, but it’s an irrational tradition. And it’s actually to your benefit to know what everyone else makes. Keeping salary a secret only benefits the employers that don’t want you to know you’re underpaid.

            1. ella*

              Lots of our social morals/ethics/etiquettes/norms are irrational. They involve our emotional brains. That doesn’t make them invalid.

            2. VintageLydia USA*

              But in a culture, like ours, where salary is generally kept personal, being the one person who has to reveal it is a major disadvantage. The big bonus of having everyone’s salaries being available is to verify discrimination in pay, or lack thereof, and how close an employer is to market rate. But that information is almost never in the hands of regular employees unless the prospective job is government (and even then they can be hard to find.) Unless you are public about the salaries of your employees, the interviewee has absolutely nothing to gain to reveal that information. And even then it’s still not ideal. The vast majority of employers who ask for prior salary does it to base the new salary on (rather than what the job is worth to them.) It weakens the new employee’s bargaining position significantly.

            3. Jamie*

              I don’t know why you think it’s irrational for people to find salary personal, just because it’s not for you.

              It’s a fairly common social convention to consider salary and money matters in general private. It may be helpful in a job hunting sense to get a better feel for the market – but overall it’s invasive. Like it or not in our culture a lot of people judge you based on how much you make and this isn’t a data point people owe anyone who wants to know.

              Me, if I were in negotiations for a new job I’d try to do that without disclosing current salary, but if I had to I would – because I’m a pragmatist and I know that’s how it works most places in my industry and while I disagree in principal it’s not a hill I would die on.

              How much one makes, how much one weighs, and how much sex one has top a lot of people’s MYOB list, in no particular order.

              1. Joey*

                Its irrational because it does more harm than good. The only good it does is saving you from the self shame of knowing how you’re valued relative to others. If you want to look up the positives see Lily Ledbetter.

                1. Dan*

                  Well, when the five guys in the room won’t share their salary information, I’m fairly certain it’s irrational for me to share mine. Now, they have more information than I do, and that puts me at a disadvantage.

                  I know you are trying to argue that the overall societal view is irrational (I don’t disagree), but given the state of society on the matter, it’s more rational than not to play along.

                2. Jamie*

                  It has nothing to do with shame – it has to do with privacy. I’m not particularly ashamed of my salary, sure as heck not proud of it either.

                  And it doesn’t do more harm than good – in fact for candidates getting offers based on last salary it does harm them. If we’re up for the same job and you make 100 K at your last job and I made 80K and they want me…but my initial offer is less because they figure I’ll be happy with $95 or whatever. That’s how negotiating badly in the beginning of one’s career – or when desperate and out of work accepting a lower offer – lowers your lifetime earnings so drastically. Because you’re not just lowballed during the under market portion of your job, if future employers base offers on previous salaries you can end up low balled forever.

                  And plenty of employers do that.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But that argument only works in this context if the company is also sharing salary info with the candidate — like what the last person in the position made and what their budgeted range for the role is. Without that, this argument doesn’t really hold.

                4. Joey*

                  Well not necessarily. If I offer 80k and you tell me you already make 80k that’s going to be way easier for me to justify to my boss than most other explanations. To be clear I’m not advocating that you should always disclose salary (of course you shouldn’t) just that it is relevant and it absolutely can help you justify a salary higher than what you’re currently making.

    2. the gold digger*

      Then how about, “Nope. That offer isn’t high enough.” Doesn’t matter what current salary is. Do you want this person or not? Because what you are offering isn’t enough.

      1. Joey*

        I’m just telling you how people frequently negotiate.

        If my offer is too low most people just cut to the chase and say I’m making x and need about x more to leave.

        1. Fabulously Anonymous*

          I prefer to just cut to the chase and say, “I’m looking for X.” No need to get bogged down with what I’m making now. Maybe it’s less and I want more or maybe it’s more and I want less responsibility. Or maybe I’ve been out of work for two years for any number of reasons.

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            I once interviewed and said I am expecting $x. They came back with a lowball figure which I summarily and categorically rejected. It actually turned out to be what I was making but I had much better benefits, free parking, stock options, etc.

            They had already tipped their hand – they revealed the range for the job and I said I want $(x – close to the high end). It got testy – but – the “rejection” call ended with them asking “if we paid you more, would you reconsider?” I replied YES BUT — “don’t nickel and dime me. Come back with your best and final offer and I expect it to be close to the numbers we discussed.”

            It was – but I also had to tell them what I was making, and also awakened them to the fact that if you want to get someone to jump their current ship, you have to make things better for them.

    3. Jazzy Red*

      The job seeker’s salary is irrelevant. The job is worth what the job is worth. Either the employer is 1) paying less than the job (and experience) is worth, or 2) they’re paying what it is worth, or 3) they’re paying more than the job is worth. The job seeker shouldn’t be using that as an argument for a higher salary, either. (Well, maybe in your own mind it’s a good reason, but not to an employer.)

      It’s like telling your boss you need a raise because you have all of these expenses, when the only argument that holds water is how you achieved more than just the description of your job duties, and thereby have become more of an asset to the company.

      1. Joey*

        Worth isn’t wholly a salary number I come up with in the vacuum of my own company. The market determines worth.

        Part of how I come up with a positions salary is by looking at the salary data of similar positions at similar companies. In other words if I’m looking for a widget maker and you’re the exact widget maker I need but working for a competitor I probably have to make my salary competitive or better.

        1. ella*

          Hypothetical situation, because I’m genuinely curious: Let’s say I’m a Teapot Designer at Company Y, and I’m searching for a new job because I’ve discovered I’m getting paid 15% less than my male coworkers even though we have roughly the same workload and even though my teapot designs have won many awards and brought valuable business to the company. I’m up front with you that I’m looking for new employment because Company Y is paying me 15% less than my coworkers, and you say, “Great. We can definitely offer you $$$$$, which is a 15% increase from what you’re making now.” What if I say, “That’s cool, would you mind if I looked at the pay stubs of everyone I’ll be working with to make sure that my pay is equitable to theirs?” I mean, if it’s truly not personal information, then doesn’t the knowledge of it (and its subsequent power for negotiation) go in both directions?

          1. Joey*

            It wouldn’t go like that. My initial offer isn’t based on your current salary. Id say “we’re offering you x” which would be based on salaries of my staff and the most recent market data I have. If you wanted more down Id say “please walk me through why you think you’re worth more.” Plenty of people give me data they think is relevant and I decide how credible/relevant it is and if its worth it to my company.

            1. Dan*

              Just out of curiosity, how would you detect that the market is changing and you’re actually overpaying your employees?

        2. Jamie*

          But there are ways of gauging market rates for jobs without having your candidates do it for you.

          Unless you are hiring someone for essentially the exact same job they did for a competitor, whose company is similar enough to yours for salary to be relevant, it’s apples to oranges anyway.

          And if you are filling very similar positions cookie cutter you should absolutely know the market rate for those. In manufacturing I can tell you exactly what is common for most of the floor positions in our industry/city without asking one candidate about their prior salary history. Everyone knows. (Especially if you’re filling positions usually started by temping. Your temp agency contact knows how much these people are jumping for to go direct hire at different companies. For other positions there are a lot of other ways to get a feel for the market.)

          1. Joey*

            I’m not talking about basing an offer on your current salary. I’m talking about when I make you an offer that you’ve determined isn’t high enough. That means despite my salary research I’m still not competitive. So I’ll be looking to you to help me justify a higher salary.

            1. Jamie*

              And in that instance I’d share it – because if you’re offering me lower than what I’m making now I’m not even considering it so I have nothing to lose. And yes, you can use that to make the argument to tptb if you need to, because everyone understands you don’t jump for less or equal money (usually.)

              But so many employers use it to determine where to set the initial offer. It’s lazy and imo wrong, but it happens so much it makes sense to not share this information casually without knowing what you’ll get out of it.

              I do agree that the more information we all have about the market for certain positions would be great. That’s why I will always participate in salary surveys for reputed sites because the more people in the data base the more accurate and comprehensive the results – that’s good for all of us. So I’ll share anonymously what my positions makes in my area at my size company all day long – that’s different than putting my name on it.

              And I have given people ranges and even told them mine when they were starting out and looking at different types of IT – my job is weird so it’s not really representative – but there are times it’s appropriate and I’d be okay. If someone I knew was a candidate for a similar job at one of my competitors and they had no idea what was reasonable to ask I’d help them out with some specifics.

              When my m-i-l tries to get my husband to tell her what I make because she wants to put a dollar figure on exactly how inferior I am to her other daughter in law…I am not okay with him being so forthcoming. Same if I was up for a job I’d prefer to not have the fact that I came in low many years ago keep haunting me.

              I get it in the sense your talking about, but so many employers ask because it’s part of bargain hunting and that’s where it’s dangerous to be too open.

              1. the gold digger*

                When my m-i-l tries to get my husband to tell her what I make because she wants to put a dollar figure on exactly how inferior I am to her other daughter in law

                Do we have the same MIL? Except all of her DILs are inferior – it’s the opposite of the Lake Wobegone effect.

                1. Jamie*

                  I wish – if you and I joined forces we could neutralize the threat. Or I can hide in another part of the house trying to figure out how to get out the window to my car undetected while you defend us.

                  How sick is it that I’m jealous you have company in your misery? Being a hated failure in every aspect of life gets lonely for me.

        3. Anonsie*

          What do you do if they’re coming from a competitor that underpays on average? Or if they company’s pay scale is normal, but that person is being underpaid?

          1. Joey*

            I offer them a salary based on my salary research. If it works great, if not I ask why and make sure we understand how we’re coming to different conclusions.

  19. C Average*

    Re #5: At my company we call this a stretch assignment, and we’d list it as such (at least when applying for an internal role where the lingo is understood). Is this terminology that’s used outside of my company? I honestly don’t know.

    1. ClaireS*

      I haven’t heard this terminology before but it’s pretty intuitive. I would know what it means if I saw it on a resume.

  20. Bea W*

    #1 This sounds so much like one of my former employers. HR was impotent to do anything, and Bully Boss continues her reign of terror. This is a toxic environment that can negatively impact your career not to mention your health. Sometimes the best course of action is to get out as soon as you can either by internal transfer to another department where she’s no longer your boss or another company.

    1. Carrington Barr*

      So sadly true. The only person my nutjob of a director reported to was our GM, and (as a former manager used to say) she was “so far up his [behind] that when he spoke, her voice came out.” HR could do nothing to rein her in.

      Our GMs opinion of her didn’t change until – as I’ve mentioned before – she bullied a coworker to the point where he did something unsafe and was killed. Then she was ‘unfortunately laid off’ 7 months later, with full severance package and benefits. It’s things like this that make me hope karma actually exists.

    2. Jamie*

      I agree – a toxic environment is brutal. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to convince someone that I’m not playing games, I say what I mean, I’m not secretly testing you, and if I ever get angry there will be no name calling or verbal abuse. And that I’m not out to get them.

      I was in a bad work environment for a little under 2 months and I was scarred – can’t imagine what it does to someone long term who has to develop coping mechanisms just to do their job.

      And I know you know this, OP, but you don’t deserve to be verbally abused by anyone. I hope you find something else. Jobs aren’t all drink carts and foot massages, but most of them don’t involve this.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Yeah but remember this = some management styles are INTENTIONALLY TOXIC. They think it’s a good thing.

        To make matters worse, there are probably some textbooks out there for pointy-haired managers that spout that bad morale is a good thing. I mean, we’ve seen “harum scarum” layoffs, right? To scare the pants off of people? Those destroy morale, create toxicity , etc. but some people thing “uh, duh, this is GOOD.”

  21. ella*

    #3–It sounds like you think your coworker doesn’t like you, and this turning and looking is her trying to convey her feelings or to subtly destroy you. And it sounds like you’re outwardly ignoring her behavior, but you’re not able to inwardly ignore it (that is, you’re still noticing it, and allowing it to disrupt your work).

    Stop caring. If she doesn’t like you, she doesn’t like you. Not everyone’s going to like you. If she wants to stop doing her own work to stare at you, as long as there’s nothing confidential on your monitor, let her. I have a couple coworkers whose attitudes basically make me shrug and think to myself, “If that’s how you feel, that’s fine, but I’ve got work to do.” Unless you’re trying to make friends with her, and as long as you’re behaving in a generally civil way towards her, I don’t see how her feelings are any of your concern. And frankly, she’s not ruining your work performance–you are, by letting her crawl inside your head this way. You have to figure out what you’re able to change, whether it’s some piece of your environment (as Alison suggested) or by changing your attitude or mindset somehow.

    1. Aisling*

      I agree with this as well. It sounds like the coworker is in your head more than anything else, so it’s actually you who is sabotaging you.

      1. Azale*

        OP #3 here

        The coworker i looking over my work area and her face is pretty close to mine when she does it, so others would be as annoyed, in face I’ve witness others being annoyed at someone standing over their cubicles.

        I disagree that it’s me who’s sabotaging myself.

        She’s in my SPACE, not just in my head. Your input sucks.

        1. ella*

          It seems like, regardless of the geographic specifics of your office layout that we’re unaware of, your options are:
          -ask her politely to get out of your space;
          -inquire to your manager about changing desks, or rearranging your cubicle so that she doesn’t have a reason to peer awkwardly at/towards you;
          -deal with it.

          Or some combination of the three. If you refuse to do any of the above, but continue to just let it cause you stress, then you are indeed sabotaging yourself.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      Oddly enough, when I was in college and a guy stared at me, I thought maybe it was because he was interested in me. I mentally came up with a reason for the staring. By the time I realized he was just blankly staring in my direction, that it had nothing to do with me at all, we were close friends (and we’ve been married nearly 30 years now).

      So, perhaps you think she doesn’t like you and is staring at you because you don’t really like her?

  22. illini02*

    #3 There isn’t really much you can do. Your problem, if I’m reading it correctly, is that basically you don’t want her looking in your direction. Despite any history, bad blood, etc, its hard to not sound petty by saying “don’t look at me”. I know its easier said than done, but I think you just have to try to figure out how to not let it bug you, because its not in your control.

    1. Azale*


      I agree, it’s not really in my control. I have to figure out a way to block her out so I can focus on my work.


      1. TL*

        You can always make eye contact when she’s looking at you and make a “may I help you?/what’s up?” face (raise an eyebrow or tilt your head). Usually people get really uncomfortable when awkward social behavior is acknowledged by others and they tend to stop.

      2. Jamie*

        Fwiw when she’s looking past you and staring into space if it were me I’d smile and look in that direction and ask her what’s over there…like there is something interesting.

        When I don’t have my glasses on I look like I’m staring at things I can’t even see – I’m just thinking. If every time you turned around she was staring at you then for sure that’s creepy – but eye contact once in a while is going to happen. Just do a quick smile and look away.

  23. Janis*

    #2 — We don’t answer specifics, we have been taught to answer “Yes, it was within that range,” or “No, it was not in that range.” If a person making $35K states to their new employer that they were making $80K, we would answer the latter. In my experience, the new company doesn’t press any further.

      1. NP*

        It will help her understand that her boss is never going to change, and if she wants to have a boss who doesn’t do all this horrible stuff, she’s going to have to find a new job. Since HR seems unlikely to do anything about the boss, she should just recognize what she’s up against and move on.

        1. Who are you?*


          I have the worst in-laws in the world. Years ago I read “Toxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies for protecting your marriage” and while it didn’t change my in-laws (seriously, some of the worst people on the planet) it did change how I reacted to them. Things got better for me once I knew what I was up against and what my options were. Might be the same for the OP.

          1. Jamie*

            No you don’t. I don’t usually issue declarative statements without knowing the facts on the other side, but you absolutely do not. I win.

          2. the gold digger*

            My in-laws are the worst.

            1. They are drunks.
            2. They are mean.
            3. They threatened to boycott my wedding to their son and oh, I so wanted them to.
            4. They finally came after my husband to be told them I was pregnant and if they ever wanted to see the baby, they would come to the wedding. (I was not going to let them be around that baby no matter what, though.)
            5. They spent nine days with us for the wedding. They slept in our room because they can’t take stairs. My husband and I spent our wedding night on the pull-out sofabed in the basement.
            6. They got drunk at our wedding dinner.
            7. They got drunk every night at our house.
            8. My husband’s dad got angry that I did not offer him oatmeal one morning when I made it for myself. I didn’t offer because he was already eating cornflakes. Go ahead. Judge me.
            9. My husband’s dad thinks I am a bad person because he does not like the way I eat bacon.
            10. When my husband told his parents a few years ago that we were going to Spain over Christmas, they called him a “bad son” for “abandoning” them. On Christmas day, we got an email from my MIL in which she said, “Everything sucks and I get despondent.” Merry Christmas to you, too.
            11. They threatened to disinherit my husband if he didn’t repair the relationship between them and me.
            12. Their retirement plan is for my husband to visit them a few times a year to fix things and take out their trash and clean around the cat box.

            I could go on, but I have already written an entire blog about this.

            I think I win.

            1. Who are you?*

              Nope. I win. :)
              1. My in-laws are big into self medication. Got a pain pill? They need to pop it because they have ailments that the doctors are too stupid to recognize.
              2. My in-laws got drunk at my wedding and had a fist fight at the bar.
              3. My MIL threatened to boycott the wedding and told my husband that she couldn’t believe he would marry a gold digger. (FYI, I have consistently made more money than my hubby aside from the 4 years I stayed home with the kids)
              4. When he insisted that he was still going to marry me, she told all of her relatives to boycott the ceremony and only show up to the reception and then tried to force me to stay outside of the church until all of these relatives she told not to come showed up.
              5. After the wedding she started asking when we were going to have a baby so she could quit her job and be our daycare. She lived over 100 miles away and I would have preferred a pack of wolves watch my kids over her.
              6. While pregnant with my daughter my mil wrote a series of frightening letters to my unborn child about how she “felt her with her and that they were of the same seed and that she would be a mother figure to her” etc. Even my husband was creeped out.
              7. My MIL accused me of pushing my daughter out 2 hours before she got to the hospital out of spite so that she (my mil) couldn’t be there to watch the birth.
              8. While pregnant with my son, we went to a wedding for my husbands family. A cousin said to my mil “you must be excited! A granddaughter AND a grandson.” She said, in front of a table of witnesses, “Not really. I’ve done the boy thing already”
              9. Same wedding…my FIL forced me to dance with him during which he told me that I needed to understand that my husband had a responsibility to his “real” family first and not to me and the kids.
              10. Same wedding…we ended up leaving early because of some stress/pregnancy issues and ended up in the hospital all night. My inlaws told people that I did it for attention.
              11. My MIL gave my daughter her first piece of birthday cake two weeks before her birthday. She even took pictures of the event on MY camera and sent home a piece of cake to me with her “warmest wishes”.
              12. My husband, desperate for his father’s approval, spent a small fortune and a lot of time arranging for his father to have primo tickets in a private box for his favorite singer. The day of the concert my FIL and BIL got so drunk on the ride to the venue that they weren’t allowed inside. And they LAUGH about it to this day. It was over $500, but a joke to them!
              13. 5 years ago my MIL told my husband to pick between her and me. He chose me. She got mad. my inlaws decided that they wouldn’t have anything to do with their grandkids as a result.
              14. This year my inlaws both had some serious health issues so they wanted to see the kids. They started telling my kids that I hated them. My kids, God love them, agreed with them. “Yep, momma does hate you. A lot. But she loves us and let us come see you.” My daughter told them that if they said bad things about me they wouldn’t come back. (I love my kids!)
              15. My BIL is a 30-something old pothead with no job, no license, no car, no girlfriend (the last three he’s never had!) and he lives with my inlaws. several years ago my husband had to tell his parents that we would not be taking care of BIL when they died. His parents laughed. This year, with all their health issues, the conversation came up again. This time it wasn’t funny. They got mad. They want us to care for his able bodied, lazy ass brother and threatened to disinherit him. “We’ll leave you nothing!” Husband told them that this was fine, to leave it all to BIL, but that we weren’t taking him.

              1. the gold digger*

                I thought Jamie and I had the same in-laws, but now I think perhaps you and I do?

                Before I met these people, I did not believe these kinds of stories. My family has its own crazy, but they are mostly nice and we get along. It wasn’t until I met my husband’s parents that I realized there are some mean, mean people out there. Now I believe it any time someone tells me about their evil in-laws. I have been there. I know it can happen.

                1. Who are you?*

                  THANK YOU!!!! My husband thought I was overreacting about the birthday cake thing. But I have never met a woman, specifically a mother, who has thought she did nothing wrong.

                  I have no contact with my in-laws. It’s done through controlled phone calls with my husband. My kids aren’t allowed to be alone with them and their visits are scheduled by me. A friend who has a son who is getting married asked me what she could do to avoid the relationship I have with my in-laws. I told her “avoid being batshit crazy but beyond that, if you want to see the grandkids, don’t piss off their mom!”

                2. the gold digger*

                  She stole your baby’s first birthday! That is so wrong.

                  I don’t have anything to do with my in laws, either. My husband visits them twice a year, but his Christmas present to me for the past few years is that he visits them alone.

                  We don’t have any children – I had a miscarriage the week they were at our house, sleeping in our bed, eating our Good Cheese even though they are lactose intolerant and no, they have never expressed their sympathies (I bet they think my husband lied about the baby), but if we did, they would never be alone with the in-laws. And like you, any visiting they did would be so controlled. Mostly because I would want to protect my children from their bitter, mean, angry selves, but also (only a little bit – it would be almost completely about protecting my kids) because it would be the only thing I could do that would hurt them.

              2. Clerica*

                The cake thing sounds exactly like something my father’s wife would do. I mean, a situation like that has never exactly come up, but when I got to that point I could just hear her voice and see her positioning the baby and grabbing for the camera. Same petty personality, same need to snatch away something you were looking forward to and then act completely bewildered by your rage.

                I could understand your husband thinking it’s completely about the cake and wondering who cares about the cake, but it isn’t about cake. It’s that she went out of her way to steal something you felt was important two full weeks ahead (so there’d be no chance of the mission failing) and took pictures of it.

            2. Clerica*

              How do you eat bacon? I might be doing it wrong, too, and I need to know that before I try to catch a man.

                1. Clerica*

                  Oh, dear. Well, I actually eat it correctly, so…yay? I’m glad the litmus test for a Good Personhood is so simple. :)

        2. Gina*

          The answre and comment threads already told her that. Why rush out to spend money on a book that might at best bring her to the same conclusion.

          Some self-help or psychology books really help because they give you tools, I don’t remember this one giving anything but warnings. Not saying she shouldn’t read it, but right this moment her energies are needed elsewhere.

          1. NP*

            The point is that the comments have mostly said, “oh she’s just a jerk,” which has an implication that if HR threatened to fire her, maybe she’d clean up her act (because that’s what a normal person would do). A sociopath who is gaslighting you is not going to change her ways, even under threat of losing her job, because sociopaths are not normal and do not respond to the same motivations the rest of us do. The quicker the writer realizes what is actually going on (they are NOT dealing with a normal person), the better off they will be (either stay in the job and deal with it but with eyes wide open, or find another job).

            1. fposte*

              I’m not sure a book will genuinely allow a layperson to make a psychological diagnosis based on observed behavior, though.

            2. Loose Seal*

              It doesn’t actually matter if the OP really figures out what makes her manager tick (and I would say that, at this point, OP’s got a pretty good look at the manager’s behavior range). What really matters is if they are willing to put up with it. If not, they need to be looking for a job ASAP.

  24. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – You have to remember – that in the issue of a bad boss, HR in nearly every instance MUST back him/her up. Otherwise it would be messing with the manager’s style – undermining her, and the manager could complain that “you’re not letting me manage!” Every manager has their own style. Some manage by being jerks. The only time you will ever see HR put the brakes on a manager is

    a) if there’s a violation of law taking place
    b) if the manager’s decision is going to cost the company a lot of money (e.g., harassing an employee – employee resigns, and employee may need to be replaced by two or three people, or a major client will part ways over the employee’s departure)
    c) if the manager is openly violating published company policies

    #2 – Salaries? Every company I have worked for – in 40 years – salary is confidential. Many companies have a “gag rule” in place.

      1. Natalie*

        Probably not in a legal sense. The name calling would have to be based on a protected category (race, sex, religion, etc) or activity (union organization, whistleblowing in specific contexts, etc).

        1. Jamie*

          I think it still applies if the name calling is only done to people in a specific protected class. Like if you only call women names, even if the name calling isn’t gender specific.

          Am I wrong on this?

          I know the criteria for a Hostile Work Environment is specific and carries the weight of the law when violated. But as a person I would consider it a hostile work environment (in the non-legal sense) if anyone was yelling at or verbally abusing me. This would absolutely make me start looking for another job, because even if it doesn’t rise to meet the legal standard it clears the bar of crap no one should have tolerate.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, it’s not a really helpful term, because when you put the words together it has an obvious meaning that isn’t it’s legal meaning.

            I think you’re right that if you only scream at people of one particularly legal relevant group, that’s at risk of being a HWE, but I suspect it’s difficult to make a case of that unless there’s more than just yelling or if the yelling focuses on the illegal reason.

  25. Bryce*

    It’s been said before, but it bears repeating, #1: HR does not exist primarily for you benefit, but for the organization’s benefit.

    1. krisl*

      The really sad thing is, HR might not realize that getting rid of an abusive boss would be to the organization’s benefit.

  26. Jazzy Red*

    OP#1, do you have any witnesses to this behavior? That would pretty much be your only way to press this issue. If she’s also treating other people this way, you could try to get that person(s) to come forward as well. Even if you are the only one this woman treats like this, I would call that harrassment, or a hostile workplace.

    1. JM in England*

      Playing Devil’s Advocate here, many witnesses will likely be reluctant to come forward, fearing that they might become the next target.

  27. MisterPickle*

    #3 – can you wear some mirrored or dark glasses? If she can’t see where your eyes are looking, this may discourage her from looking at you.

    1. Azale*

      I forgot to add a name to my previous post.

      MisterPickle, thank you so much for the much needed lighthearted humor and support.

      That is a great suggestion!

      Manay thanks! :)

  28. #3*

    There’s never been a problem with others have who used to sit in the same seat in front of me. They focused on their work and only turned around to face me to say something, not stare over my head or past me for an extended period of time. I mentioned that she sits in front of me.

    The cubicles are closely stacked together and facing one direction, and everyone faces in the same direction. I’ve never noticed anyone to turn completely around unless they are saying something to the person behind them.
    The desks are shaped in a way that the computers are all placed caddy cornered, so I’m unable to sit differently because the computer would then be too close to me. There’s not much that can be done with my seating position/computer.

    I did mention I had no problem with her turning to look at her notes. There’s a big difference between this and the other staring.

    My husband suggested asking to be moved. He remembers moving seats in one job for a similar situation. Another coworker said to ignore the behavior, which I’ve done so far.

    I might use Allison’s comment suggested. Thanks for the helpful, supportive feedback.

    1. Windchime*

      I know some people are just saying to ignore it and that’s probably a logical solution, but this would bug the crap out of me as well. If you can’t move to a different cube, I would try to put something between you to block her view, so that when she turns around she sees your plant or whatever instead of looking right at you.

      1. Azale*


        I am the last desk in a row close, she’s 2nd to the last. There is open space around us except for the glass dividing the next row of cubicles next to the wall.

        Thanks for your friendly tone.

  29. Who are you?*

    #1 – I hate that this is allowed behavior in the workplace and that you (as the bullied employee) have little to no recourse beyond changing jobs. Schools across the country have adopted zero tolerance bullying policies. Why aren’t workplaces adopting similar programs? Screaming at another child, insulting them, calling them names…that’s not tolerated on the playground. Why is it going on in a workplace and why is it legal? It bothers me that HR is unable to remove this toxic person from her position. This is something that HR should be able to do, especially when given documented proof that the manager is purposely sowing seeds of discord among her employees. How is behavior like that not classified as creating a hostile work environment?

    1. Colette*

      Bullying is something that is not the same to all people or in all workplaces. There are people who believe they are being bullied if their manager asks them why they are not at work on time or if they’re told to stay off of Facebook, for example.

      Should managers yell or swear at their employees or call their employees names? No. But why is that not up to their managers to handle, just like other performance problems?

      1. Illini02*

        You are so right on this. I personally think the term bullying is thrown around too much as it is. As adults, its a lot harder to define it, as it can vary from person to person. On this blog I have seen many actions labeled as “bullying behavior” and I have disagreed the majority of the time. A jerk boss =/= a bully. Even the definition of what constitutes a jerk is open to interpretation. I like a very direct and to the point boss who doesn’t mince words (attacking me personally is different than being blunt about my performance). Others would hate that. I get that some people based on their past have a very strong reaction to it, but its very hard to define it and make laws or even rules about this.

        1. Ted*

          I can define bullying pretty easily: swearing, lying, screaming, teasing, name-calling, isolation, gaslighting, inequity etc.

          Most folks know it when they see it.

        2. Jerk or Bully?*

          I’d agree with you, a jerk boss is a jerk boss. However, a boss name calling you, shaming you and screaming/yelling at your after your spouse filed an EEOC complaint is a bully boss.

      2. Who are you?*

        If the employee were to yell at, curse at, or insult her manager she would most likely be written up or worse.
        There’s a set of rules an expectations in place for a workplace. Arrive on time. Leave on time. Don’t waste company time with personal calls or internet time. Most likely these are written out somewhere and can be referred to if and when a rule has been broken. A manager has the ability to state “this is the rule. you broke it” and prove that they are not bullying an employee. Never, in all of my years or working, have I seen a handbook outline “Don’t scream at your employees” “Don’t curse at your employees” “Refrain from name calling” and yet, judging by so many posts here it seems like companies need to remind adults in their employ that these are things we don’t do to other people.
        For myself, I had one boss years ago yell at me. I was a waitress and he was an ass. He yelled at me in front of customers and other employees. I was mortified, but I was also young and didn’t care about the job. When he started yelling I stopped him by demanding “Who the hell do you think you are?” He started in about how he was my boss and I told him (God, I was stupid and brave!) “Do you sign my checks? Because unless you do I think you might want to shut up. I’m sure corporate might be interested in this power trip you’re on and how you’re talking to the staff.” and then I threatened to walk out and leave him to do my job all day. (I was the only waitress scheduled for a busy Sunday afternoon). The cook, who was a witness to this and had a crush on me, backed me up and threatened to walk out too. Luckily I didn’t have to walk out. He stopped yelling and I fumed for the rest of the day. I think the cook (or perhaps one of the customers) complained because he was “reassigned for additional training” a week later.

        1. Colette*

          So if an employee would be written up by their manager for yelling, why does a manager yelling need to be handled by HR or through legal channels instead of by their manager?

      3. Amy*

        Bullying is not the same to all kids or all schools either, but we still expect schools to have a policy in place about it. I’m a teacher, and I see kids claim they’re being “bullied” all the time, when that just isn’t the case. Plenty of kids I’ve taught have exhibited nasty behaviour themselves (cheating, lying, name calling, stealing, starting fights) and claimed they’re being bullied when other kids justifiably don’t want to spend time with them.

        There are still basic behaviours which are considered bullying though, and I don’t see why that couldn’t apply to the workplace. If someone claims they’re being bullied, investigate it and stomp it out if it’s true. If it’s not true, mediate or ignore.

    2. Joey*

      Bullying is a slippery slope. I’ve had an employee come to my who said she was being harrassed by her manager (my subordinate). When I asked for details she said her manager wouldn’t stop telling her what to do and that she got on her case for not following her directions. I’ve also had people complain that they were being yelled at anytime they got some negative feedback.

    3. fposte*

      To answer the last question, because a hostile work environment is something that happens to you because of your membership in a legally protected category. The law in the US doesn’t govern whether people can be assholes or not. It just governs whether you can hurt somebody’s career with bigotry.

      (And zero tolerance hasn’t stopped bullying in schools.)

      1. Who are you?*

        You’re right. It hasn’t stopped bullying. But having a zero tolerance policy has given the administration a bit more power in how to handle things.

      2. Ted*

        So what? Just let bullies run wild? Not to fposte in particular.

        Perhaps bullying will be legislated just like sexual harassment someday.
        It is absurd to allow behavior that in any one else, in any other situation would be called harassment to go on.
        Absolutely absurd. It’s not OK to swear and scream at people, or call names or lie about them.

        1. Loose Seal*

          I suppose you could write your representatives about proposing an anti-bullying in the workplace bill. But how would you define it? I think people’s judgments over what is or is not bullying are pretty subjective. And how would it need to be reported? Would the person who feels bullied have to say something right there or would they have to report it up the chain? What should be the remediation for the person found to be doing the bullying?

          I don’t agree that it should be legislated. But I am curious as to what you think a law should look like, since you mentioned it.

  30. Sandy*

    I have a boss that sounds like she would fit right in at #1’s workplace.

    All I can do is sympathize and pass on a word of wisdom I got from our HR director after I tried to report very similar behaviour.

    He effectively said: Look, I’ll be honest with you. My job in HR is to protect management. I advise them on harassment suits, I give them guidance on how to handle problem employees, etc. it’s not that I don’t see the shitty situation that you’re in, but my hands are tied. HR protects management, your union protects employees. If you want to fix this, you would do better to bring it up with them.

  31. Buu*

    Re #3 I had a similar situation where I think I was the “starer”, it wasn’t deliberate it was just the fact that another employee was sat next to my boss. My boss was snowed under and being really bad at replying to emails so I kept looking over to see if my boss was busy so I could just go and ask for work instead of siting and waiting for an email. The trouble was every-time I looked over that other employee looked up, saw me looking his way and our eyes would meet. It was horribly embarrassing but it was one of those things where he was obviously super sensitive to people looking his way. Hard to give an excuse too because I didn’t want to drop my boss into trouble for being a bit behind.

    Thankfully our seating got rearranged and my boss ended up opposite me, other employee still looks at me oddly ( perhaps they miss those awkward moments :) ) but I have built a small fort of folders so I never have to catch his eye again. I def think a small desk re-arrange might be good; find something to block the view, or perhaps get coworkers notes moved? They shouldn’t have to be staring long distance to see them anyway!

  32. 21st Century Don*

    #1, this nonsense has been going on for 8 months and you haven’t recorded it and posted it on youtube for the rest of us to enjoy? Do you people not have iphones? May also make it a bit more difficult to hire your replacement when candidates Google the manager’s name and get that lovely jewel – then HR will wish they had listened as they are scrounging for candidates.

    1. Elizabeth*

      Lol! (I’m OP #1) I work in the Aerospace & Defense industry. My hangar does not allow cameras/cell phones on site! Love your style though!

  33. Ilyas*

    OP #2 – I know not all companies disclose this info. I know this becuase when I was getting my current job, I asked for a copy of my background check. The Screening company asked 3 questions: (1) my tittle, (3) date of employment and Salary. My former company disclosed my tittle and dates of employment and told them that they don’t disclose people salaries. The report even had the name of the person who responded to the background checker question.

  34. Jason*

    #1 Jane.
    first look to your labor laws specifically under harassment and retaliation. also i don’t know your ethnicity but discrimination could play a factor as well. The fact that you made a complaint to your HR department thats huge, because from that point of complaint is now considered “Retaliation.” The fact that you have the E mails and hopefully co workers that would testify you may have yourself a good little lawsuit. considering that your HR department as well as your supervisors should always keep a harassment complaint confidential. HR should always treat these cases with great respect and care towards the victim. you should definitely find a labor law attorney. But at the least you should definitely file with the ” Department of Labor commissioner” and depending your race the “EEOC.” plus remember HR is there to protect the company as well as the managers from “YOU” dont trust your HR to do the right thing. you can also file with the department of labor, possibly your OSHA , but either way file get a lawyer because when you get back they will fire you, not right away but down the road. and plus why should you leave a job that you love, because your getting treated illegally, i mean thats a joke. thats your job leaving a job or switching departments is not the right thing to do, make those accountable take the responsibility for there wrong doings. good luck and never let them see you sweat, and never believe what they tell you research

  35. aa*

    my onlyadvice here is for u to secretly videotape all her bullying and abuses and post it on youtube and be sure to put the link here on this site

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