update: my coworker went through my trash can to get me in trouble

Remember the recent letter-writer whose coworker went through her trash can to try to get her in trouble? Here’s the update.

The following week I arrived at work on Monday, and was promptly let go by my director (I know! We’d built such a great rapport!) for the following reason: “it’s just not working out.”

While I suppose that’s a tremendous cop out, and what a horrible experience – I learned something (especially from the AAM thread!) very valuable: sometimes, the persona you project can really bite you in the ass.

I felt very indignant at the supposed injustices I experienced with that company; I hadn’t really given enough thought to why I had accepted the position in the first place and what I was going to do about it!

So, I thank you all! It was certainly a toxic work environment, and I was in denial of this plainly obvious fact when I accepted their offer. I was also in denial of my role in contributing to that toxic environment, to a lesser degree. I see now that I felt hopeless and the entire situation was a mistake.

As for me, I took a position in a very different industry (same field though, which FYI is marketing. Surprised?) and at a much lower rate of pay – and I love it! It’s the most relaxed, innovative, and encouraging work environment I’ve ever experienced. So, money really isn’t everything. Hell, they could pay me in post-it notes…

{ 133 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed*

    Ouch. Well…yeah I can see it. Nobody acted particularly good in this scenario, but no need to dissect it again.

    Sorry OP – but glad you like your new job!

  2. Nivaneen*

    OP, I’m not sure what the persona comment is referring to – was “unhappy note-writer” a persona you were consciously projecting? And it doesn’t sound as though you believe your note-writing was a valid basis for firing you. I’m not saying it is, but “building a great rapport” with your director doesn’t necessarily protect you from the consequences of your actions, and it almost sounds as though you expected it to.

    In any case, it’s a great thing that you’re happy in your new job. Here’s hoping you don’t come across any more people willing to rifle through your trash.

      1. INTP*

        Same here. (Or perhaps the persona she was projecting socially – she mentioned the women at work being catty, which is something that tends to worsen if you project that you are standoffish or too good for/disinterested in their dynamics.)

    1. Mister Pickle*

      I don’t want to put words into her mouth, but I believe I get it: human beings make choices about the kind of people they are. Some are conscious, some are unconscious, some are hard to categorize. OP re-examined her choices and made herself into a person that she likes better. Very cool.

      (OP, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong)

    2. Anonsie*

      I would expect, though, that if I had a good relationship with my boss, I would not be fired unexpectedly after being repeatedly told I was doing well and everything was ok and the incident in question was concerning only because they wanted me to be happy in my role. It’s one thing to say the note thing was unacceptable and let her go over it, but it’s another to pretend it’s a non issue for a week and then let her go without any actual negative or constructive feedback at any point.

      It sounds like the “great rapport” in this case really means that the director in question is one of those who doesn’t ever want to say anything negative, and he just glossed over all the problems that lead up to the firing. So it appears you’re doing well and have a good relationship, but in reality all the issues that should be discussed are being swept aside while not actually being forgotten.

      It’s also possible that he was more explicit than the LW is making it sound and she misinterpreted it as being more positive than it was. Even if that were the case, though, at some point I’d expect the director to see they needed to be very explicit and be unambiguously clear before letting someone go.

      1. Sophia*

        I think that may be reading into things since OP was only on the job for three weeks – how much rapport can you establish with someone?

        1. Stephen*

          I’m pretty sure LW is being facetious when she talks about the great rapport she established– poking fun at the way that she, with hindsight, can see that she must have come across to her manager.

          1. Emily*

            Yeah, I read it as a flip/eye-rolling comment too, like, “How short-sighted I was to think building a ‘rapport’ with my director would protect me!”

            I also think it may not be that the director didn’t want to say anything negative. In the original letter, OP mentioned that her director was trying to make sweeping changes and had hired her to be one of his change agents. He may have genuinely wanted to keep her on board to carry out his agenda and thought he could shield her from the consequences of the note-writing incident but was overruled by his own bosses (and we read that at least one of OP’s coworkers felt comfortable circumventing the director to speak with his bosses directly) or with others in the org who aren’t as on board with his change agenda and had less patience for his new hire making trouble.

      2. Observer*

        This sounds reasonable. The manager really doesn’t sound like he was doing his job. But it also makes you wonder what else was being poorly or incorrectly communicated>

      3. Lily in NYC*

        The person who went through the trash went straight to corporate, not to the director, so maybe the decision to fire OP came from them.

        1. Anonsie*

          That’s true. I’d still hope to get more than “it’s not working out” in that case, though, wouldn’t you?

    3. MK*

      Frankly, the impression I had from the original letter was that the OP had an attitude that schmacked of superiority complex: she was great and the person who she had befriended was great and the director who had the good sense to hire her was great, while the company was a disaster, the other employees were ghastly, the culture was toxic, etc. The whole letter had a ”holier than thou” impression, which was unwarranted, considering the OP and her work friend had acted unprofessionally and the director didn’t handle things in the best way at all. Maybe that’s what she means, that she was coming across as someone who thought they wete removed from the toxic environment, at the same time that they were directly contributing to it. I think sometimes the culture of a place can bring the worst in a person pretty fast. The OP was lucky to get out so soon, it gave her the chance to see that she was taking the wrong turn and change her attitude.

        1. scloam*

          Haven’t dropped him a line in awhile! I believe he stuck around.
          I think I’ll shoot him an email or text right now. :)

      1. Mike B.*

        They get the pleasure of continuing to work in this environment.

        The punishment actually fits the crime.

  3. GOG11*

    Congratulations on finding a job with a more supportive and healthy work environment! And thank you for taking the time to update us :)

  4. Sherm*

    Congrats! Sometimes getting let go is the best thing that can happen to you. Meanwhile, the trash digger is stuck in the nuthouse.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      I once read somewhere that most people who get fired are at least a little bit relieved. I actually agree with that; I’d say 90% of the time something awful was happening that caused the bad situation in the first place.

      1. NK*

        I think there’s another reason for the relief – for people who have been performing poorly at a job they weren’t well suited for, there’s some relief in no longer struggling to do better. A family member of mine liked her workplace but simply couldn’t produce work at the rate required to keep her job (it wasn’t unreasonable, she just had a learning disability that made that type of work unsuitable for her despite working hard). After a year of being on probation I think it was a relief when they finally let her go.

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          Agreed. That, to me, counts as “something awful.” Poor performance, difficult relationships, tanking projects, lack of skills, poor results, toxic culture, poor fit with the culture, overwhelming personal problems and so forth are all “something awful” that make it unpleasant to be there. There also are plenty of people struggling with those issues but in denial about it.

          I realize that anecdote =/= data, but I will note that the one time I’ve been fired, it was because I sucked at my job and kept making mistakes (poor performance, poor results, and poor fit with the culture all in play). I hated the job and was already looking for something new. I was unhappy to be unemployed, BUT I wasn’t one bit sorry never to have to set foot in that office or try to do that frustrating work again.

          1. Annie Oakley*

            I could have written the above post. I was in a job like that for 7 years. I hated going into work every day and I was relieved when they fired me. I don’t miss that place or the people One. Single. Bit.

            1. TrainerGirl*

              I was fired from my first job out of college, and it was only after I went to work somewhere else did I realize how toxic that environment was. Sometimes being let go can be a good thing, especially if it leads to you finding a job you’re good at and that you enjoy.

          2. Emily*

            Yes, I’ve heard this from others who have been fired. They knew it wasn’t working out and coming to work each day knowing there would be more mistakes, more missed deadlines, more Serious Conversations, more STRESS, was demoralizing and eating away at their self-esteem week by week…but in this economy who’s going to pull the trigger on cutting off their own source of income without another one lined up? But then once the company did it for them, they at least got to stop going to that horrible place every day.

      2. EE*

        I got fired at a place where I’d been planning to quit the next day. Couldn’t stop smiling!
        And it didn’t affect my career much because it was a short-term contract that has simply disappeared from my CV.

      3. Anon right now*

        Soeey im a regular poster but taken my name out just in case

        But yea I’ve been fired from what I thought was my ‘dream job’ and actually my manager was a sneaky horrible b!tch, HR were two faced and just crap and really after poor performance from rubbish training I dreaded work, I dreaded seeing my manager or worse talking to her, our catch up’s (micromanaging cow) and other stuff.
        I lost SO much confidence being there and when I was let go I spent so much time after worrying, and thinking I was crap at my job when actually I was good at it I just didn’t fit in with the culture there and them trying to change me.
        I had 2 months of unemployment over the Summer, which sucked a bit obviously but I got to have time off and spend time with my family (when i wasn’t searching for work), enjoy the down time, read and educate, and actually have some fun in my life.. so when I went back to work I was refreshed, happy, got my confidence back and now i’m super happy at my new job.

        As others have said, sometimes it takes something like being fired from a job you dread to make you realise how much you have when you find a new job and you really gel with everyone, enjoy the work, look forward to coming to work and enjoy it.
        My family actually said it’s been noticeable how much happier I am now and they hadn’t realised quite how miserable I was at my old job (I did a lot of “oh yea works great, im really enjoying it” to cover up)

          1. Preston*

            When you are in a toxic environment, it is amazing to me how many lies we tell ourselves to justify things while being there. Once one is out of that environment can one really see how bad it was.

  5. Mister Pickle*

    OP – you’ve made my day! I mean – it sucks that the other job didn’t work out, and I’m glad that you found a new job that you like more. But I’m especially happy that you examined the bad experience and took something positive away from it – and if I’m reading this correctly, it’s resulted in a an overall increase in your happiness.

    I wish you the very best!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I agree on everything Mr. P is saying OP. It’s tough to soar like an eagle when you hang out with turkeys. People can bring out the best in each other or they can bring out the worst in each other. Hopefully, you are now surrounded by people who are interested in bringing out the best in you.

      Sending you good wishes.

  6. Jake*

    I still find the most fascinating thing about this situation to be the divide in the comments between managers and non-managers on how “wrong” each party was.

    1. Scloam*

      OP here – there was a definite disparity and an odd disconnect there, wasn’t there?
      I hope someday in my future I can develop the skills and abilities to find myself in a managerial role, and be able to look back on this situation with a very different perspective.
      Should be interesting.

      1. Jake*

        We’ve all made mistakes, if you’re happier in your new role chances are this all worked out for the best any way.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Time will be kind. The best bosses I have had have done their share of “stuff”. They learned from it and they learned how to be a good boss to other people.

    2. Hair splitter*

      I would argue that a bit, the divide was not precisely management/non-management. Though recently a manager myself, I still empathized more with the so – called “non – management” perspective on this one, and was surprised at the assertion made by so many that the line was drawn between the two. I really had to refrain from commenting at all on that thread, because I would have said things I would have regretted I think, and the lesson I took away was

      Keep yourself to yourself, and never give anyone cause with a paper trail to boot… (Like I am doing now, bad me.)

      But I am sure many would argue my perspective speaks to the calibur of my management skills, good or bad.

      1. Jen RO*

        My thoughts exactly! I sympathized with the OP even though I am a manager. Probably because I’ve only been doing this for a few months…

        1. Emily*

          I sympathized with OP even though I’m a manager, although I’ve only supervised temps, interns, fellows, and the like–not career employees. Still, although I would put the kibosh on either one, I’d be much more alarmed at the idea that one of my employees was gunning for another employee than the idea that one of my employees was blowing off steam in an inappropriate way. Unprofessionalism can be trained out of someone with a little instruction. Mean-spiritedness and vindictiveness are more ingrained toxic personality traits.

          1. SJP*

            “Unprofessionalism can be trained out of someone with a little instruction. Mean-spiritedness and vindictiveness are more ingrained toxic personality traits.”

            Yea i’m inclined to agree with that

  7. Vancouver Reader*

    Congratulations on getting a new position! Sometimes money isn’t everything as it certainly doesn’t do much for the stress you’re feeling in that position (well maybe for the counselling you have to get while in that job).

    It does pay to listen to your gut feelings, and since you had reservations from the start, it was probably best you got out as soon as you could, one way or another.

  8. MaryMary*

    OP, I’m also glad you found a better work environment. Let me also thank you (I think?) for making me forever wary of what I throw away in my trashcan at work. I had notes from a totally legitimate but very sensitive internal meeting (resources, pay, etc). After I typed up meeting notes and went to throw the originals out, I thought “but what if someone goes through my trashcan, like they did to that one poster on AAM?”

    I still threw my notes away. But I stopped and thought about it.

    1. Scloam*

      Good! In fact, I am almost glad that it happened to me because now I am far more aware of the same thing. Not to mention my newfound awareness of toxic behaviors and immature choices.

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      When I was young — elementary school age — my mother told me never to put anything in writing that I didn’t want read.

      She came by this wisdom from having passed a note in 4th grade in which she said the teacher looked like a baboon and cheetah mixed together. The teacher, of course, intercepted the note and humiliated my mother before the whole class.

      That story has served me well. I am not the person you have to tell to clean up her social media profile, or not to put derogatory notes in my office trash can.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        A baboon and a cheetah? I hope that your mother can also chuckle a little bit about this. I remember 4th grade and we were nasty-nasty. That’s pretty benign.

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          Ha, yes, she chuckles about it now, but I’m sure in 1949 it was A) fairly mean to the teacher, and B) the worst humiliation she could imagine. Wow, times have changed, haven’t they?

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Oh yeah. In the 1930s a girl in my father’s high school class got pregnant. This was a huge scandal, it was reeeally big. The times have changed.

      2. Lee*

        I also was taught not to put anything in writing, and writing includes emails. And phone calls where they say “this call may be recorded.” I have also learned that I am a happier person when I don’t contribute toxicity. I just feel better about myself, and I try not to do it. But sometimes it is hard!
        As for the trash picker: I once had a boss (the owner) who went through the trash, through the desk drawers, and if you left it there, your gym bag. I still don’t know what he expected to find!

      3. Emily*

        My mom’s advice was, “Never put anything in writing you wouldn’t want to see printed on the front page of the newspaper over breakfast tomorrow.”

        Ah, remember the 90s, and newspapers? Today’s kids would need to be told, “Never put anything in writing you wouldn’t want to see retweeted 30,000 times on Twitter,” I suppose…!

        1. Preston*

          I throw everything in our special shred box. I have seen people go through the trash at a former employer. Some people just waste so much energy on not letting something go.

  9. AnotherAlison*

    I had not read the original letter, but reading both that and this update, what sticks out for me is that the OP had been at the former job only 3 weeks. Great rapport with the manager in 3 weeks? I’m sure it wasn’t terrible, but after only 3 weeks, I don’t have close enough relationship with anyone to *not* let them go for acting like a middle school girl in a professional setting. (Not that the office & others there are not flawed, too. I’d be frustrated if I didn’t have a computer for 3 weeks.)

    Anyway, glad it all worked out for the OP.

    1. My two cents...*

      ‘cept the manager seemed to have sided with the OP a bit when discussing the ‘event’, and the trash picker had circumvented the OP’s manager and took the note to a director. so, OP might have still *thought* they had a decent rapport with the manager.

      but CONGRATS ON THE NEW JOB, OP. (no more note-passing though!!)

    2. scloam*

      I wish there were a font for sarcasm; when I said “great rapport” in my update, I was specifically poking fun at my original post/myself. ;)

      1. JB*

        If it makes you feel better, I took your comment to be sarcasm, but when others didn’t, I started questioning my reading of it. A sarcasm font would be oh so helpful for things like this.

      2. AW*

        I also picked up your sarcasm.

        Sometimes I use sarcasm tags when I’m not sure if people will get it.

        sarcasm/I’m so sure everyone loves my super cool syntax./sarcasm

          1. RP*

            Feel free!

            I sometimes write it as full HTML tags with angle brackets or square braces but some commenting systems will pick that up as actual markup and make them disappear:
            Angle brackets:
            Square braces: [sarcasm][/sarcasm]

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I picked that up as tongue-in-cheek humor, too.

        Looks to me like she was told to fire you so she had no choice. It did not matter what she thought/knew about the situation.

        1. Observer*

          It’s possible. Still doesn’t make him a decent boss. The issue is not really that she got fired but that he set her up to be totally blindsided by it and then washed his hands of it.

      4. Another Lauren*

        I too picked up on the sarcasm. I thought it was quite gracious of you to be able and willing to poke some fun at yourself. It is amazing the clarity we get once we remove ourselves from a negative situation and take a step back to review our previous thinking…

  10. Observer*

    I’m glad to hear that you are in a much better place. And, I’m glad you were able to learn something from the experience, even though I can see why it would have been hard to do.

    As for your manager, it’s not very satisfying to hear that I was right about him. Whatever other toxicity was going on at that workplace, it seems like he fit right in. Whether he was being deliberately manipulative or just has a wishbone instead of a backbone, his handling of the situation was simply atrocious. If it gives you any comfort, I’m sure that he will either change for the better, or this will come back to bit, some day.

    1. Cheesecake*

      I can’t agree more. There is a saying in some languages (not sure in Eng though) that “fish rots from the head down”. I can’t imagine toxic environment with awesome boss, s/he is at least partly responsible for hiring right people and setting up “the tone”. And what i dislike more is when the boss actually admits “oh yeah, work environment is not good here”…and life goes on unchanged.

    2. AnonAnalyst*

      This. This manager is terrible. I don’t think I would want to work for this manager even if the work environment were great.

      OP, I’m glad to hear everything worked out for the best and you’re now in a much better situation! I also want to commend you for your willingness to step back and re-examine your own behavior and perspective. That’s not easy, especially since I know you took some criticism in response to your original letter.

  11. Caroline K*

    OP still does not seem to take any responsibility for her unprofessional behavior. The work place may have been awful, but I have a feeling there’s more to this story, as usual. I’d like to hear the employer’s side on what the OP was like to work with. I’m glad she’s happier now though.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, I see that kind of comment a lot, often on stories where the OPs say right up front what they did wrong, and I’m not quite sure what’s wanted. There is the occasional story where an OP really doesn’t seem to get it, but I don’t see that here.

        1. Mister Pickle*

          I’m not sure if I find it funny or not, but – yeah, this! The recent update from the person who locked someone on a balcony – the tone of the update had a real distinct feeling of “I don’t get it” (to me, but apparently, not everyone). But this update made me happy because it seems very obvious to me that the OP “got it”. And really put some effort into changing, too.

          1. Anonsie*

            Third-ed. This drives me nuts. We really don’t need to insist the letter writers prove they know their responsibility to an issue by spending a bunch of time waxing poetic about how wrong they were, it’s quite sufficient for them to just say they get their bit and move on to asking what they actually came to ask.

        2. Emily*

          I think there’s a bit of schadenfreude on this blog occasionally, with letters where commenters think the OP was in the wrong people really want to see them not just correct their views/behavior, but also feel badly/suffer. The commenters who disagreed with her don’t feel like she “learned her lesson” even though she was fired and writes above that she’s learned to better project herself at work–because she has a new, better job and seems to be in calm/good spirits.

          1. Clerica*

            That always makes me feel icky, too…probably because I see that attitude a lot in the teachers I work with. For some of them it isn’t enough to redirect a kid; they have to spend the rest of the class period smashing his nose in it and then the planning period bragging how they put him in his place. It’s petty and gross and a major reason I stopped reading so much.

    1. MK*

      If by not taking responsibility you mean the implied assertion that the OP would not have acted unprofessionally had it not been for the awful workplace, I must say I agree with her: it seems to me that what happened was that the OP let the toxicity of the workplace get to her and, instead of acting with the professionalism she owed to herself, she behaved in the way she felt the company and her coworkers deserved.

      In any case, she sounds as if she realised her mistake, so I don’t get where you are coming from.

      1. Anna*

        Why? Sometimes you are affected by what’s happening around you and if everyone else around you behaves horribly you use it as an excuse to behave horribly yourself. Would you rather she said SHE was the horrible person and completely at fault for what happened? Because she probably wasn’t.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Right on. It is very, very easy to get sucked into foolish behavior and/or bad choices. We see examples of this over and over again in the news.

    2. LaurenLaLa*

      It sounds to me like she realized her mistake. But rifling through a coworker’s trash – that’s plain weird. It’s good she’s no longer in that nuthouse!

    3. Anita Brayke*

      Why do you want to hear from the employer? I think OP absolutely took responsibility for what she did.

  12. LaurenLaLa*

    OP, I didn’t then and I don’t now see that you did anything wrong (please don’t dogpile me, people; I know most of the posters would disagree with me :) ) and I am glad that you are out of an environment where people did through your trash looking for trouble. Best of luck to you!

    1. Carrie*

      I kind of agree with, Lauren. While I do think you need to be careful about who you vent to and while passing notes was not the best choice, I agree that the person who deliberately went through your trash to deliberately get you into trouble was way more out of line. It’s sneaky and just shows how much energy some people will put into taking someone else down. I’m happy you’re in a better environment.

      1. Anna*

        Yeah, what’s interesting to me here is that there were TWO examples of poor behavior in the original post and everyone seemed very eager to pile on the OP for why she might have deserved it, while letting the snooper take a pass. A good manager would have addressed each issue with the respective employee.

        1. Natalie*

          The original post did not strike me as a pile on at all – in fact, a ton of people disagreed pretty strongly with Alison’s response to the letter.

          1. Anna*

            I know. I was one of the first people who did. I just went back and re-read and there are a LOT of people who don’t even mention the snooper snooping, but we might be seeing different things.

            1. Natalie*

              For sure, I guess I found it fairly evenly distributed. But there was a lot of heated conversation that could feel piling-on-ish.

          2. Carrington Barr*

            I certainly did — it was the first AAM response in which I was actually disappointed. There was an awful lot of assumption on Alison’s part, which struck me as extremely odd.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          It strikes me that nothing happened to the coworker. All I can think of is that this is typical of toxic places. One person gets fired and the other person who is participating, also, gets to keep their job. Yet another reason to say that boss did you a favor, OP.

        3. Observer*

          I agree with you – I said pretty much this in response to the original post. The problem with the original post was that the OP was focusing, with a great deal of indignation, on the misdeeds of others while almost completely ignoring her role in precipitating the mess.

          I’m glad she’s out of there – it sounds like a really miserable place and the “awesome” boss was anything but.

      2. RP*

        I was talking about this with my husband and he said that at his previous job going through someone’s trash would get you fired. The privacy and confidentiality of information was very important and even if it wasn’t sensitive enough to require shredding didn’t mean that it’s OK for you to look at. In any case I can’t see where that wouldn’t be seen as weird and suspicious so I’m betting the person who went through the LW’s trash lied about where they got the paper from.

        As for the note passing, Sony execs are having to scramble and make a lot of apologies now because they put a lot of awful stuff in writing and it got out. Their situation makes a really good case for not venting about work at work. (Actually, they’re a really good example for a LOT of things not to do or be right now but that’s off topic.)

        I’ve worked in both types of environments. I’ve been in an office where even the bosses were OK with (a certain amount) of venting and I’ve been in an office where that wasn’t OK at all. If you’re in a small, casual office where all of your clients are remote from you then it might not be seen as a big deal. If you work for the government and a FOIA request could expose all of your paperwork for the past 5 years then it’s always a big deal.

    2. Bend & Snap*

      I think the OP did something that a lot of people do, and got caught. I can see both sides for sure.

      1. MK*

        It’s one thing to say that what the OP did wasn’t dreadful; it’s another to say she didn’t do anything wrong. Also, something being common behaviour doesn’t excuse it.

        1. cuppa*

          True. I see the OP’s action as an extreme misjudgement, but something that could be handled and you could learn from. Maybe the other person’s behavior is the same, but I saw it as something more calculated and harder to resolve.

          Either way, I’m glad you got out of that place, OP.

  13. Denise*

    Based on the original letter, I’m glad op found a better place to work. Regarding being fired, since the coworker went straight to corporate, it’s possible that op’s director was instructed to let her go.

    I have to say I can’t agree with AAM coming down so hard on her in the initial response. Yes, the behavior was juvenile and unprofessional, but it had absolutely no impact on anything with respect to the business; and yes, sometimes employees gripe about their disaffection with their employer. (and sometimes those gripes are well deserved!) The fact that there was a coworker who would go fishing through a trash can to dig up something and run and tattle–above even her supervisor–reeks of elementary school. That alone suggests that the company environment was probably pretty bad. I mean really, who does that?

    1. MK*

      I think the severity of the answer might have been in response to the tone of the original letter. The OP had written fuming with righteous indignation about the violation of her privacy and willing to make a fuss about that, completely oblivious to her own problematic behaviour.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes. The tone of the answer would have been different if the original letter had had more of a “I totally misstepped here myself and I realize that” bent to it.

        That said, OP, it sounds like you’ve moved on nicely from it all!

        1. scloam*

          It’s funny, because I could SWEAR that I owned up to my behavior whole-heartedly in my original letter… so after I read this comment, I went back and re-read my original post. Boy, I really sounded like a snot…
          The only acknowledgment of my own wrong-doing was “It was poorly thought out on my part, I admit,

          Ha. You live and learn.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I have done this is writing. Something that is very apparent to me, never gets mentioned in what I write. I guess I go past it because it is just so obvious to me.
            Of course, what happens next is I get a message back, “Didn’t you know that ______.”

            Yeah, I did and never mentioned it.

          2. Denise*

            I guess I got the regret from the line. I didn’t think the offense itself warranted much more than that. I’d put it this way. The *only reason* the issue was brought up again is because a co-worker went out of her way to, literally, dig it up. The behavior in the meeting was obviously not so egregious that any supervisor felt that it warranted reprimand.

            That’s not to say that I don’t understand why corporate felt like they needed to let you go, especially being new. It caused a loss of confidence. But I have to say that if I were in any managerial capacity and an employee came to me with notes written by a coworker complaining about her job, I would lose a great deal of respect for the person bringing the notes and would deem them trustworthy merely in a sycophantic way.

  14. voluptuousfire*

    OP, Congrats on the new job!

    I’m curious: did you end up leaving this toxic employer on your resume? If so, how did you explain it why you left?

    I’m always curious how people spin leaving a job that was toxic without sounding like they’re badmouthing their employer.

    1. AW*

      That’s a really good question! Especially since the OP was there for such a short time. I’d also love to hear how they handled explaining their last job situation if it came up during interviews.

    2. scloam*

      Absolutely did not put this position on my resume. My time there was so brief, and the situation so volatile, that it would be like career death knell to add it to my resume and then discuss it during interviews.

      Though, I did bring it up with ONE of my Post-GarbageCanDebacle interviews, as they placed a strong emphasis on a company culture of integrity.
      So, I mentioned how difficult a situation it was, and the moral quandary of leaving it off my resume, etc, and how this impacted my desire to be compliant, while bringing virtue AND value to my team.

      I did receive an offer for that position, in fact – but I declined, as I was intent upon leaving that specific industry and the position didn’t fit my career trajectory.

    3. Karyn*

      You know, not putting them on your resume/job application can bite you in the ass if you’re applying to be a lawyer as I found out. Long story short, in the process of doing my character and fitness investigation, they got copies of my job applications/resumes submitted to previous employers and when they saw that I hadn’t listed ALL of my employers on my resumes, they questioned me – apparently they view this as being dishonest.

      I really had to bite my tongue to keep from explaining that a resume is supposed to be a marketing tool, not a complete work history. I can understand why they questioned me on the actual job application thing (where they ask to list all former employers) – that was my mistake, and I should have listed everything… but then again if you only submit certain ones on your resume and then they make you fill out the application and you include more… how does THAT look?

      1. TootsNYC*

        That’s why lots of people use the phrase “Relevant Experience” as their header over the list of jobs.

        and I -would- have pointed out the “marketing tool” aspect; I’m curious why you thought it was something to hold back on.

  15. Elizabeth West*

    Yay for getting out of there and finding something better!

    I have to say, the whole thing with the lack of equipment (for three weeks!) and the overwhelmingly negative work culture would have been huge red flags for me. If it’s so bad you are writing notes about it after only a few weeks–gah. The tattle-tale behavior of the other employee would just be the poo icing on the giant cake of garbage. I would have most likely quit at that point. They wouldn’t have had to fire me.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Agreed! If the company isn’t providing basic tools for employees to do their jobs that’s a red flag to me. I believe a toxic environment can rub off on people and bring them down to levels they never thought they’d reach. The coworker digging my note out of the garbage can would’ve been the final straw. At that point I’d have to seriously consider quitting without another job rather than face another day there.

    2. Nina*

      Same here. Talk about a toxic environment, even without the note writing. I’m really glad the OP is out of there.

  16. Not So NewReader*

    OP, thanks for writing a follow up and thanks for talking with us here. Some times comments are tough to read, so thanks for being willing to follow along!

  17. INTP*

    OP, I just want to throw in that I totally get that sometimes a toxic environment can make you behave in ways that you would never dream of normally. You’ve taken a lot of criticism very gracefully and I want to confirm that a negative environment CAN make otherwise professional people behave strangely.

    I worked in one place with a manager who treated everyone like children, and in turn we acted like it (we all liked each other, though, which made it a bit more tolerable). Every morning there was an unnecessary meeting, and people would whisper to each other, draw on each other’s papers to pester, crap like that. I got annoyed with it but sometimes I joined in too. When the managers were all out for the day, no one would do any work and we’d just talk and complain to each other. I consider myself very professional in general, most of my coworkers weren’t inherently childish, and looking back, that sort of behavior seems absurd. But it becomes normal when 1) everyone is unhappy and 2) there’s no real incentive NOT to behave that way. (Good behavior wasn’t rewarded and bad wasn’t punished, except to give a lecture or set new rules for EVERYONE.)

    1. Natalie*

      Indeed, I’ve been there too. I had a group of very negative, bitter managers and it took me a couple of years to realize I had adopted their crappy attitudes. Thankfully they’re all gone now and I work with a much better team.

    2. Anon Accountant*

      Or environments where good employees who work hard are treated poorly and those that are rude and obnoxious to coworkers and clients are rewarded. Management would bend over backwards to keep the obnoxious staff happy and the good employees who did the work and didn’t cause problems didn’t receive management support when needed and were treated like you were a dime a dozen.

      It absolutely can become normal when you are in that culture 40+ hours a week especially if it’s over an extended period of time.

  18. Bea W*

    Wow. I just read the original post, and great Scott! Rifling through the trash? Then taking a stupid bunch of comments to coporate? Who does that? OP and her co-worker may have been behaving badly, but not on any level akin to the trash picker. Holy crap! Not having needed work equipment and people openly criticized on conference calls are legit criticisms, and although the OP handled that badly, I was surprised Alison was much harsher on the OP than the blatantly messed up trash picker. Holy Jesus. I can’t stop exclaiming in my head “Holy freeing Jesus!” One action is a stupid misjudgement. The other is indescribably messed up. *facepalm*

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