three more updates from letter-writers

Here are three updates from letter-writers who had their questions answered here this year.

1. My boss thinks he’s a mayan shaman

His shamanistic tendencies were really getting to me, and I tried going through the board but that didn’t work. We couldn’t do much because, well, basically people are worried that he would dissolve the whole charity.

So I posted a religious studies internship to the university that is close by and found someone for that. Essentially what I did was I hired him and told my boss (the shaman) that the intern was going to work on all the things he needs that don’t pertain to the charity. So I diverted the problem by hiring an intern.

Interestingly enough, the intern does enjoy his job and I actually have gotten work done! We just secured a $7,500 grant since and it has been fairly smooth. I still get bothered sometimes but things are a lot better.

2. I resigned after my boss was arrested

I wanted to give you an update to my question about what to say in interviews regarding my CEO/boss being arrested. I appreciated you taking the time to answer my question and all the commentators chiming in too.

I did finally land a new full-time job after some time of being unemployed/doing part-time work, and I’ve happily been there a few months now! My boss’s arrest and past employer came up in just about every interview I went on and, because of the management/leadership position I had held at my old company, a few interviewers did ask pointed, and sometimes ridiculous, questions about the situation (one being “what could have you done to prevent his conduct?” Well I didn’t know about it, so…). I also think just the perception of it did hurt my chances for some industry-related jobs too even though I wasn’t involved – some employers seemed wary no matter what I told them. However, mostly people were just sympathetic and said they were sorry that happened to me, and it definitely was a memorable answer to “why did you leave your last company?”

Anyway, I am moving on and hope that only good things happen at my new job. Thanks again!

3. My new coworker is the contractor who I fired last year

Like you and the commentors mentioned, she seemed to go out of her way to avoid me – I’ve only run into her a handful of times in the months since I wrote in. At about the same time, the whole division ended up preparing for a major security inspection, so everyone got much better about practicing both physical and computer security. We have had no issues, and the data backups came in handy when my computer’s hard drive died.

It turns out that the contract manager had a habit of dismissing performance complaints as “personality conflicts” when two women were involved. She was also a former employee of the company whose contract she managed. The contract manager was shuffled to a different job, so at least we don’t have to deal with that anymore.

The contractor turned employee still works here. I took your advice and did not talk to anyone but my supervisor about the performance problems when she was supporting me. She is still in her probationary period, but I don’t know anything more than that about her performance (which is as it should be!) or what her new team thinks. I still don’t know why the hiring happened without checking references, but at least my manager has gotten very firm about checking them for ALL hires.

{ 76 comments… read them below }

    1. Sharon*

      I agree. Major kudos to OP#1 for thinking outside the box (or was that inside the box?) to solve the problem!

      1. Blue Anne*

        Yeah. I can’t even work out how I feel about #1, except that I’m cracking up and feeling bad for cracking up.

      2. INTP*

        The intern could be unpaid. I’m not sure of the legality of not paying an intern for shamanistic work that is of no benefit to the organization except that the psycho boss would make someone do it whether the intern was around or not, but it’s a thought.

        1. Ted Mosby*

          University students don’t need to be paid in general, because they can be “paid” with credits.

          1. Three Thousand*

            They do need to be paid in most internships with for-profit companies. This sounds like a nonprofit, so they can legally hire unpaid interns.

          2. Red*

            University students in the US must be paid in a way that is compliant with FLSA regulations and state/local minimum wage and overtime laws. Saying that they can be paid in college credit in lieu of wages is not accurate. Please refer to the 2013 “Black Swan” case where Fox Searchlight was sued by unpaid interns.

    2. INTP*

      Yes! I did NOT expect one of the happiest updates we’ve seen to be about the Mayan shaman situation, but here we are. Weird world.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Out of context this is the single most hilarious comment I’ve read on this site. It would fit right into a fantasy novel or a D&D campaign. :D

      2. Ted Mosby*

        So true! I bet the intern is getting a lot out of this also. I would have loved to do that as a class!

    3. Formica Dinette*

      The next time OP looks for work, they’ll have an incredible example for anyone who asks about their problem solving skills!

  1. Rusty Shackelford*

    It turns out that the contract manager had a habit of dismissing performance complaints as “personality conflicts” when two women were involved.

    Yeah, I love it when that happens. Fergus badmouths Wakeen to customers and attempts to sabotage his work? The boss tells Fergus to cut it out. Cersei does the same thing to Jane? Oh, you girls and your silly catfights. Don’t involve me in your interpersonal conflicts. (No, I’m not bitter, why do you ask?)

        1. voyager1*

          It isn’t just women/cat fights. A lot of managers don’t want to deal with personalities of people because it is just easier to avoid them/the situation. With two women by agreeing it just easy for a guy to hide behind a stereotype though.

          1. voyager1*

            I meant to write “with two women it is just easier to hide behind a stereotype.” Sorry hit the submit to quickly.

    1. Erin*

      Yep. One time I had the wife of a board member come in and scream in my face (not exaggerating here) and told me I’m “a little bitch” and “just a secretary.”

      My boss witnessed the whole thing. I barely said anything back, not wanting to engage in that kind of behavior. I just said, “You’re going to let her speak to me like that??” and he stared at the floor.

      Even though I did not engage, fight back, or do anything to defend myself, he later said he didn’t step in because he “didn’t want to get in the middle of a cat fight.”

      1. Camellia*

        Two of my favorite quotes:

        I love mankind. It’s just people I can’t stand.
        I like people. I just prefer them when they are not around.

      2. Ted Mosby*

        This is giving me black rage. I have two brothers, and growing up absolutely anything I complained about, no matter how reasonable or important it was, I was being a drama queen.

        (I am not the real ted Mosby and I am a lady, in case that wasn’t clear.)

        1. Blurgle*

          Or that “funny” Christmas meme that was just circulating, of a father and young son grinning while the mother and daughters were bound and gagged, entitled “Peace on Earth”.

          Because what men say is Important and True, but women’s voicees are just unpleasant noise until the dummies get back in the kitchen and make sammiches.

          1. Forrest Rhodes*

            Mid-1980s I lived in South Orange County, California, and often drove Pacific Coast Highway through Newport Beach (a very upscale-type community on the coast). On the front of one of the high-dollar restaurants I passed regularly was its logo, a larger-than-life, full-length drawing of what looked like a Puritan-type woman—she wore a long dress with vertically striped skirt and a white pinafore-type apron, and her hands were folded neatly in front of her. Her head was neatly sliced off at the neck. The head didn’t appear anywhere. The name of the place: The Quiet Woman.
            Most of the men, and few of the women, I knew thought the name and logo were hilarious. Me, every time I went by the place I had to forcefully restrain myself from heaving a brick through its plate-glass window.

      3. Sadsack*

        That sucks that happened to you, but I think I would have told her not to speak to me like that rather than tell her husband to control her. That line just rubs me the wrong way.

        1. Blue Anne*

          I think Erin asked her boss to stand up for, rather than asking the woman’s husband to do something.

        2. Koko*

          The boss was not the husband. The woman was a wife of a board member. She wanted her boss to stick up for her right not to be yelled at in the workplace.

    2. Annie Moose*

      I am a very optimistic person who likes to pretend that this sort of thing SURELY must never actually happen in the real world, in two thousand freaking fifteen… and yet here people go, disproving me!

      It’s just so… short-sighted, you know? Misogynistic too, obviously, but you are just setting yourself up for trouble if, rather than try to address actual problems that might actually be occurring, you just dismiss them as apparently unsolvable “personality conflicts”.

    3. EnterPseudonymHere*

      I’ve had a boss who did that (assumed when there was a conflict between two women it was “a catfight”) and it made me lose all respect for him and the company. it’s unbelievable that people still believe this / do this. at some point he even MADE THE CATFIGHT SOUND at me when I was presenting an issue. *head explodes*

      1. Blue Anne*

        Oh. My god.

        I would like to congratulate you for not being up on murder charges right now. If I was in that situation I’d be singing The Cell Block Tango before long.

      2. the gold digger*

        It completely de-legitimizes women’s anger, in the same way that men will ask, “Are you on your period?” if you express anger at something. I hate the condescension in it. We need to start asking these men, “Are you constipated? Do you have blue balls?” or something like that when they express anger or frustration.

    1. Racheon*

      Me three! Can’t believe i missed the Mayan shaman one first time round, i thought I’d read all the really crazy ones!

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I don’t know that it’s ridiculous. I’d ask something along those lines. If this was someone in senior management, I’d at the very least want to know what lessons they took away from it (like: “Going forward, I’d make sure that we switched auditors at least once every five years.” or whatever is appropriate).

      1. misspiggy*

        That is indeed a sensible question, but asking a question that implies the OP should have prevented the whole thing is a different kettle of fish.

      2. Alli525*

        But what if OP wasn’t in a place to manage such a thing? OP said they were in management when it happened, but maybe not a compliance manager or a manager of the department in charge of organizing audits.

      3. Observer*

        There is a HUGE difference between asking a person if they’ve learned anything from the experience and implying that someone could actually have stopped it. This is especially true when the person at fault is at THE top of the organization.

        Beyond that, there aren’t always things you can learn, except perhaps that it isn’t always possible to prevent all misdeeds.

    2. Ham Sandwich*

      Seriously, that’s the kind of situation where I would find it very difficult to avoid my “Are you effing kidding me?!” look. Also, sarcasm. “Gee, I guess I could have kidnapped my boss and tied him up, thereby preventing him from engaging in criminal acts.” Yeesh.

  2. Argh!*

    #3 I have been in a situation where management really didn’t care much about a person’s performance, interests, education, etc., only previous experience. In that place, my new supervisors (2 of them) never bothered to look at my resume or performance evaluations when they became my supervisor. If my position had been open and they had to hire me into it they would have done all that! (I wound up leaving because I was transferred to a position that didn’t fit my interests, background or career objectives in the least!)

    When I inherit people, I try to learn as much about them as possible, and I would treat an internal candidate (or contractor) the same as an unknown in the hiring process. It’s unbelievable to me that other people don’t, but apparently that’s rather common.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      But, and here’s an honest question for Alison — how should the intern put this experience on his resume and cover letter?

      1. A Non*

        Religious Studies Internship – Worked with a Mayan shaman doing research on traditional and modern practices. Through in a few more buzzwords and you’re good.

        1. Honeybee*

          For serious, I would use the basis of that, but replace “Mayan shaman” with “nonprofit organization”.

        2. the gold digger*

          I would like to see some results:

          * Improved accuracy of spell casting 43% in four months
          * Wrote training handbook about rituals that is now a standard part of new employee orientation
          * Found new supplier for shaman materials; reduced materials costs 6%

    2. OriginalEmma*

      I hope the intern is actually interested in Mayan religions, shamanism or something along those lines. I’d be upset if I were a public health intern, for example, whose interest was environmental health but who was stuck in an maternal/child health position. It would do nothing for my perceived immediate or future prospects.

  3. Ben*

    LW1: I am concerned for you and the board members in your situation. INAL, but you might need someone who is. Board members in particular (at least in my state, and I believe many other jurisdictions) have a fiduciary responsibility to the organization and that includes the management of funds. If they know money is being misspent, they could be (depending on laws of your region) civilly or criminally liable. Several high profile cases with similar “ED gets what the ED wants” problems have hit the news here. Board members knew or should have known, and they are the ones under scrutiny.
    You, as an employee, get to point the finger upwards most of the time. But claiming this solution as your brain child could put you in a bad spot if it becomes clear that the salary for this intern was not related to the charitable purpose of the organization.

    1. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

      I doubt they are paying the intern a salary–since it was a religious studies internship, I’d expect the intern is getting school credit instead. I agree it’s scuzzy though.

      1. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)*

        Yeah, I’m laughing at the whole situation but also scratching my head. By “dissolve the whole charity” does the OP mean he’d fire everyone? Cause I think the Board would have to dissolve the org, not just a mad ED. The whole thing sounds…not quite right.

        Still laughing at the original letter, though, almost a year later!

  4. Tomato Frog*

    I would love to hear how the religion internship was advertised. How do you get applicants who would actually be down for this particular job?

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I would love to hear from the intern about his/her experiences working for the shaman! What did a typical day entail? What did s/he get the most out of? Best and worst anecdotes from the internship.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I would love to hear from the intern about his/her experiences working for the shaman! What did a typical day entail? What did s/he get the most out of? Best and worst anecdotes from the internship.

    3. the gold digger*

      I have never recruited a shaman internship, but when I was looking for a (paid) intern to work for my friend, who is an interior decorator, I called the placement offices at two local colleges to place a job posting and I called a few art professors to ask them to tell students (whom they would recommend) about the job.

  5. Merry and Bright*

    This is a great set of updates. I was especially interested in the follow-up to #1. It was a very neat solution.

  6. Buu*

    In regards to #1, the intern may be happy now but what kind of work experience, pay or quality of reference do they get put of it? OP may have saved themselves having to deal with it but a non profit’s funds are still presumably being misspent and I kind of feel the intern isn’t getting a great deal out of it either.

    1. Racheon*

      I thought this, too. And what did she tell the intern before hand about their ‘duties’? But I guess she did say the intern is enjoying it, and I do think it was a genius solution.

    2. OhNo*

      If nothing else, it sounds like the OP is in place to give one heck of a good reference. If the intern took over all that random extraneous work, and managed to keep most of it out of the employees’ hair, that has got to sound good when relayed to a reference checker.

  7. Lisa*

    Creative on the part of LW #1! Maybe the shaman just needed to feel like someone else cared about his interests… hmmmmmm. Instructive!

  8. Chriama*

    #1: So I love the way you were able to divert your boss’s attention with this new intern, but if I were a donor to this organization and found that’s how my money was being used, not only would I stop donating but I’d do my best to get this reported and the organization shut down (or at least lose their nonprofit status). This is honestly making me a little ragey (not at you specifically OP, but this whole situation is kind of disgusting).

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