I was fired for taking initiative (and undermining my manager)

A reader writes:

Last summer, I decided to re-enter the workforce after five years of raising my kids. I applied to a bunch of jobs that I thought I could do, and got an interview at this one very small  company (~20 employees). The people I interviewed with – my future manager and her boss/the COO – were upfront with me that I didn’t possess the exact qualifications that they were looking for, but I interviewed well and they decided to give me a few (paid) one-off assignments to see if I would be able to learn what I needed to do the job. I proved myself and they brought me on full-time. 

I spent the first four months at that company doing a lot of learning on my own. My manager (let’s call her Betty) wasn’t very involved with my training at all, always claiming she had tons of work to do. Instead, she gave me lists of resources (training manuals, online certification classes, etc.) to go through, checked in with me maybe once a day, and assigned me a “starter project” so that I could “learn on the job.” So I basically taught myself everything I needed to learn, and the project I worked on was a huge success for the company. It launched about five months after I was hired. I got a raise out of it, and everyone in management seemed very happy with my work.

Once I had finished that project and the account I’d launched was doing well, I noticed some of the tactics/skills I’d used could be implemented on another account that wasn’t performing as well as the one I’d just launched.  I told Betty about my plan, and she completely blew me off. Basically she told me that she “already had plans” for this account, that she didn’t need my help, and instead assigned me to another (less important) project. Needless to say, I was more than a little insulted by her attitude. 

But I know that sometimes you have to push hard to get things done. I calmed myself down, and waited until the next day when Betty left for a vacation, and I went to Betty’s boss (Veronica). I walked her through the improvements I wanted to make on this other account. I was given the green light to go ahead and start that work. Clearly this was the right thing to do! Veronica wouldn’t have given me the go-ahead otherwise, right?

Well, Betty returned from her vacation on a Friday a few weeks later. I came in that Monday morning and found that she had sabotaged all of my work over the weekend! She went through everything I’d worked on that had already launched, and made a bunch of changes, took down some stuff, and more. Essentially she did everything she could so that I wouldn’t be able to show the improvements that I’d made to the suffering account, and reverted it to how it was performing in the past.  She also sent me a very passive-aggressive email along the lines of “let’s chat about this first thing Monday.”

In order to preempt another hissy fit from her, and once I assessed the gravity of what she’d done, I went into the meeting with Betty, but pulled Veronica into the conference room as well. I proceeded to explain to Betty that this project had been assigned to me by Veronica, and that she had no business interfering with my work. I was very clear that what she had done was unprofessional, extremely disrespectful, that the results I’d produced were speaking for themselves and that she shouldn’t meddle in things that don’t concern her.  Of course I was very angry and maybe I was a little forceful during that meeting, but I feel like I had every right to be upset at what she did! 

Betty was very quiet during this meeting. At the time I figured she just couldn’t think of how to defend her actions. Now I understand it’s because she’s even more conniving than I thought she was.

The next morning, I was called in to sit down with Veronica and the CEO. They told me that things weren’t working out, gave me a severance check and told me I was laid off. 

I feel that I was treated extremely unfairly by this company. I had a clearly incompetent manager, I never received proper training, and when I tried to help by taking on important projects, my work was sabotaged and I was punished for my initiative. I think Betty may even have spread harsh rumors about me in the industry because despite applying to a bunch of jobs since then, I’ve had very few interviews, and the ones I’ve had never went past the ‘references’ stage. 

Some of my friends are telling me I should let this go and count my blessings that I’m out of that environment, while my husband wants me to get a lawyer involved. Money’s tight right now, and I really need income, even if it’s returning to work for that company (under a different manager). What should I do? 

You weren’t fired for taking initiative. You were fired for undermining your manager by going around her to her own boss after she already told you no, and for not being clear with Veronica that Betty had already told you no, and for having a bizarrely aggressive attitude about it when called out on it.

Here’s how this looks from a manager’s perspective:

* You offered to take on a particular project, but your manager told you she had it covered. You found this insulting, even though it’s your manager’s prerogative to decide who will work on what projects, to have her own plans for accounts, and to decline your help.

* As soon as your manager left for vacation, you went over her head to her own boss to ask the same question that you’d already been told no about. You didn’t tell Veronica that Betty had already told you no, which means that she didn’t have the full context to make a decision.

* You interpreted Veronica’s “yes” as meaning that Betty had been wrong, when all it really means is that Veronica didn’t have full information. When you write, “Veronica wouldn’t have given me the go-ahead otherwise, right?” the answer to that is no. Betty probably knows the work she oversees more intimately than Veronica, and could have all sorts of good reasons for saying no that Veronica didn’t know about (for instance, that your ideas had been tried in the past but didn’t work for particular reasons, or that a stronger plan was already in progress, or that the client specifically rejected those ideas in the past, or all sorts of other things). But even leaving that aside, there’s no way that Veronica wouldn’t want to know that Betty had already weighed in on this, and it seems like you intentionally didn’t tell her that.

* Then, when called out on it once Betty returned, you disingenuously claimed that Veronica had assigned you the work — when in fact you’d asked Veronica to let you do it without telling her Betty had already said no.

* Most incredibly, you had the audacity to say that Betty had no business “interfering” with your work — when she is your manager. Your manager’s business is to intervene in your work, if that’s what she judges is needed. She has complete standing to interfere in your work. You even said she shouldn’t meddle “in things that don’t concern her,” when your entire job is her concern.

* To make matters worse, you describe yourself as being angry and forceful in the meeting where you asserted all this.

* Throughout this, you interpreted all of Betty’s behavior in the worst possible light: You say she wasn’t involved with your training when she was meeting with you daily, gave you what sounds like significant resources to learn from, and assigned you work designed to help you learn on the job — all of which sounds pretty good, not something worthy of contempt.  When she undid the work that you did after she specifically told you not to, you called that sabotage (!). You described her as “passive-aggressive” when she told you she needed to meet with you to discuss all this, when that’s just straightforward and direct. You describe her as having “hissy fits” and being “conniving.” This is just a bizarrely adversarial approach toward Betty, and it’s rooted in a really fundamental misunderstanding of what your manager’s role is and the authority that she has over your work.

I’ll be blunt here: I would have fired you too. Most managers would. This isn’t a matter of making a mistake. This is a situation where you deliberately went around your boss, deceived your boss’s boss, and attacked when called out on it, and you still don’t think you did anything wrong. Firing was a logical response.

As for getting a lawyer involved, I’m not sure what grounds your husband thinks you’d have for legal action, but nothing you’ve described here is illegal. Companies are allowed to fire people for any reason they want, as long as it’s not based on race, sex, religion, disability, or other protected characteristic and as long as it’s not as retaliation for exercising a legally protected right like reporting discrimination. Even if Betty was wrong in her assessment here — and it doesn’t sound like she was — it would be perfectly legal to fire you for any of this.

The best thing you can do now is to use this as a flag that you need to do some serious re-thinking about how offices work and what it means to have a manager. If you find another job without doing that, you’re going to see this repeat itself.

{ 676 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’m putting this up here so hopefully everyone sees it before commenting further. There’s been some speculation below about whether the letter is fake or not. I don’t think it is, but more importantly, I don’t want a letter-writer to come in to read comments and find a big debate about whether she’s even real; assuming the letter is real, that’s not likely to prime anyone to take feedback well. I also don’t want others to have to worry about whether they’ll be the subject of that kind of debate if they write in.

    So I’m suggesting that we not continue that line of discussion (and acknowledge that I myself contributed to it at one point too). Thank you!

    1. Argh!*

      Coming late to the party, but I can honestly say that I have seen things that are so outrageous that people would think it’s been made up. Some people are really and truly clueless about how to behave at work. Every time I think someone I supervise has just taken the cake, some new stupid thing comes up.

      1. Samantha*

        I think Allison is wrong in this case. There are truly incompetent managers out there who don’t like being shown up by an employee. The person who wrote the question is right to assert that her manager was hands off. Forcing a new employee to train themselves is ludicrous and a poor business model. Who throws a new employee into that situation. I think the term meet is relative and not thoroughly explained by Allison or the person who asked the question. If they spent 2 hours reviewing the progress of the employee that is different than poking your head in. Some managers don’t have the best interest of the company at hand only their own and usually their ego is involved. If I was Betty I would be mad but I would not fire the employee. I am sure the employee was wrongfully fired. I would let it go.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          We don’t know that it was a bad business model; we only know that the LW didn’t like it.

          That a set of procedures works for one situation doesn’t mean it will necessarily work for another, and the LW, as a new employee, might not have as much information as she really needs about why that other account was suffering, to know that what worked for her first account would actually be helpful.

        2. Annonymouse*

          No-one is arguing there aren’t bad managers but objectively I don’t think Betty is one of them.

          I’ve had to train myself with supplied online courses and training manuals at my good jobs and less at other places particularly smaller businesses.

          To me it sounds like OP had plenty of training and check in from her boss plus a starter project.

          Betty had her own job to do and I assume she is not a trainer or that the business is large enough to have a dedicated trainer with less than 20 employees.

          What more did you expect? Betty to sit with OP and show her how to do … Whatever and then have OP do it after taking notes etc and Betty being there to correct her?

          It doesn’t sound like that kind of job for starters and again in such a small company you can’t afford to devote an employee long term to training someone.

          Also Betty was about to go on a holiday. If you had to assign someone to take care of your high profile account while you were away for 2+ weeks would you assign the newest member who presumably couldn’t contact you in that time or someone more experienced?

          Also OP asked Betty about it literally the day before Betty went away. Betty would have been busy making sure everything was in order and double checking her work would be assigned to go into too much detail about why OP wouldn’t be on the account.

          OP: Betty I want to work on high profile account.

          Betty: (while checking last minute assignments of her work) OP I’m assigning you to different account instead. High profile account is under my (or whoever she assigned it to) control.

    2. Meg*

      Am I the only one that thinks the “it must be because she’s been home with kids” argument is funny? Being a parent only reinforces to me that I can think that I’m in charge, but that’s not always the case…

      1. Been There - Done That*

        In some places, there can be a lot of drama with other SAHMs on PTO, highly competitive traveling teams, etc. and this may be the type of environment she’s operated in for the last 5 years, so her behavior apparently seems normal to her. I absolutely believe this letter is real, because there are people with a lesser degree of this attitude at my workplace. I hope takes the advice to heart for her own sake.

        1. MissLibby*

          Yes, please stop. There are also working moms and fathers as well that create drama with their kid’s activities. There are also plenty of SAHMs that do not create drama.

          1. Been There - Done That*

            I only meant to point out that she may be coming from a drama-filled ENVIRONMENT for the last 5 years where this sort of behavior (from her, or others) seems normal. I never said ALL SAHM’s create drama, or even that the writer is one of these people.

    3. Florida*

      Alison, I just want to say that I like how you put these comments at the top. You’ve done this a few times in the last month for very specific issues. It’s very obvious and makes it almost impossible to miss it. I like it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Oh, good, thank you. Doing it more than occasionally makes me feel a little heavy-handed, but it’s probably better to do it when needed than not do it.

        1. Liana*

          It’s definitely not heavy-handed. It’s helpful and efficient! In fact, I was talking with a friend yesterday about the various blogs we read, and yours came up as one where I am constantly impressed with how you manage the comments section – out of all the blogs I check out, the way you manage comments is probably my favorite.

          1. Rana*

            Agreed. I’ve been reading blogs for over a decade now, and there’s one thing that always is present in the comments threads that are thoughtful and productive: a blog author who is an active and respectful but firm presence in the conversation. This is particularly impressive when the commenting community is as large and as active as this one is.

            1. Rater Z*

              This is why I am hooked on reading all the comments with these letters to the point I don’t get anything else done. I get tired of reading comments on news articles, etc. where a few letters are worth reading and the rest is more a contest on determining how many different ways there are to call people names such as idiots and morons (and worse).

          2. TheSnarkyB*

            +1, also coming to this post late (and have neglected my duties of being a SnarkyB on AAM recently, but also felt strongly enough about this that I wanted to join the chorus.
            This is a little embarrassing to say, but when you have these things at the top, and when it’s discouraging the exact thing I came to do (not true here, usually applies to the “piling on” variety), it’s a really nice reminder to check myself, and also a reminder that my snarkiness is only valuable if it’s original ;) and not something 10 other commenters before me have come to say.

        2. Michelle*

          My first thought in reading your comment was, “Here we can see what a good manager Alison is!” You even manage blog comments well, by heading off problems as they come up and without coming off as heavy-handed at all.

    4. Mel*

      I appreciate this, too! And even if it were a fake letter, AAM’s advice is still incredibly well thought out and useful

  2. JMegan*

    Oh, ouch. I think this bridge is burned, OP. I don’t think there would be any benefit in getting a lawyer involved, or in re-applying to a different position in the same company. The best thing you can do from here is take this as a learning experience, and move on to other things.

    1. Miss Grundy*

      Principal Weatherbee and I totally agree.

      Alison’s advice here is really good and thoughtful. Try to find a way to learn from this, put it behind you, and move on. Don’t beat yourself up about it, though, please.

      1. annonymouse*

        OP, you were out of line.
        You bosses job is to oversee your work and assign you projects and train you. Which she did.

        Then you were incredibly insubordinate.

        You wanted to work on a project your way.
        Your boss told you no, I am not assigning you to that project.
        You waited until she was out of the office, approached her boss, forced your way into the project (without telling her your own boss said no) and completely changed the way it was running.

        Your boss comes back and changes things back to how they normally are and asks to meet with you.

        You attack your boss for doing her job in front of her boss.

        Newsflash! Betty is still your boss even if you asked Veronica to move you to project! Betty has every right to direct where and how you work. IT IS HER JOB.

        If you cannot understand why what you did was wrong to both Betty and Veronica then you are doomed to repeat it.

        Work is not a democracy.

        It’s like being a good parent. Your child wants to do something but as the parent you get final say over what happens. And no matter how much they complain or go to the other parent your decision still stands.

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      More importantly, the OP needs to understand that the firing was completely and totally justified and that her behavior was anything but.  She’s an employee, not a college so decisions like this aren’t up for debate or negotiation.  

      I find it hard to believe anyone is this out of touch with how a workplace is supposed to function, but then again I’ve had my fair share of co-workers who could act in similar ways.

      And one other thing, OP.  Never assume that because someone is quiet, she’s thinking of how to defend herself.  More than likely, it’s because Betty had a LOT of things to say to you but none were appropriate or professional.  That’s a good thing, OP!  She did you and your employer a favor by keeping her mouth shut and dealing with you swiftly.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        She was probably thinking “Dead [wo]man walking”. That is the most likely explanation I can think of for a good manager’s quiet response to this employee’s outrageous insubordination. She was probably mentally outlining all the t’s she’d need to cross and i’s she’d need to dot during the firing process.

        1. Adam V*

          Yep. As soon as I heard that response, I’d have been saying to myself “I need OP to leave the room so I can tell Veronica that she’s fired.”

          1. Ted Mosby*

            I was thinking more like “ok, she’s getting herself fired, I don’t even need toexplain this to Veronica now.”

            1. Yogi Josephina*

              That’s exactly how I saw it. “OK, I’m just gonna let her sink this ship on her own. I don’t need to say anything.”

        2. Jeanne*

          Not just that. If OP was acting unprofessionally, why does Betty need to act unprofessionally in return? Her own reputation is better served by not getting in a screaming match.

      2. Doriana Gray*

        More importantly, the OP needs to understand that the firing was completely and totally justified and that her behavior was anything but.

        This. OP’s entire attitude from minute one was concerning. I know you were out of the workforce for five years, OP, but that’s not long enough to completely forget office etiquette and how a hierarchy works. You came in acting like you ran the place, got mad when they called you on it, and then got fired because you didn’t demonstrate the humility necessary to recognize your mistake and apologize. Take this as a lesson learned and let this job go (and I wouldn’t put this on a résumé either because you pretty much shot your reference to hell).

        1. HumbleOnion*

          My first thought was she didn’t like the answer mom gave her, so she went to dad for a different answer.

            1. Ted Mosby*

              I did this ALL the time as a preteen. When dad founds out mom already said no, his yes turned to no and a young Teddy got a swift kick in her ass.

              1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                I got the same lesson growing up. My parents could not be played against each other, because they would check with each other, and if a kid were caught asking one parent without revealing that the other parent had already said no, that kid would be in trouble by both parents. My husband and I do the same thing with our kids, so they know that playing one parent against the other doesn’t work.

                Some kids don’t get that message at home, though, and I guess they learn that the behavior of playing people against each other is a valid and successful way to operate. It sounds like the OP doesn’t even think there’s anything wrong with it.

        2. Koko*

          When I got to the part about how she went to Veronica to overrule Betty while Betty was on vacation, my jaw literally dropped…and then it just kept dropping further with every sentence after that.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            My jaw didn’t drop from that per se, but the fact that the Op didn’t recognize she was telling on herself right there but was unaware and so nonchalant about it is what got me. She tells on hereof a couple times in the letter actually.

      3. Anon for now*

        If I go silent it is usually because either I have lost the ability to string words together to express a coherent thought, or I can still string words together to form a coherent thought but all the words are swears and the thought is one I should not share, or I am so captivated watching the other person dig a hole, climb into it, and then contort themself to get their foot in their mouth that I forget I can talk. I assume one of those was true for Betty in that moment.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          Or I’m sitting there thinking something to the effect of: “Nope, nothing I need to add here. Just going to watch karma unfolding.”

      4. motherofdragons*

        “I find it hard to believe anyone is this out of touch with how a workplace is supposed to function, but then again I’ve had my fair share of co-workers who could act in similar ways.”

        Yes to this. It’s all about one’s internal filter or story they’re telling themselves. Confirmation bias is real. If LW was telling herself the story that “I’m right, Betty is wrong, I know best and she’s a conniving shrew,” then she will collect a ton of “evidence” to prove herself right. Which it sounds like, is exactly what happened. For me, reading the letter and not having that internal frame of mind, I was like “Wow, yeah no Betty was fine and normal.”

    3. Hotsaucenmybag*

      JMegan hit the nail on the head. Everyone has had a feeling of “oh my idea would be better than this idea or what’s currently being done”, but your manager’s direction takes precedence, and as much as it may sting you’ve got to resist the impulse to overreach. I once had an employee who typed up a nice quote by Marcus Garvey and put it on her door. Everything was fine about it, except it was just typed on plain paper and taped to the door. It looked tacky. I explained this to her, and suggested framing it to make it look more professional and clean. I even said I’d bring in the frame if she wanted. She wasn’t interested, so I asked her to remove it. Didn’t I come in the next day, the paper was still taped to the door AND she’d gone to the office manager of the company with whom we share office space (not at all related to our business-we just share the same suite), and asked her if she was bothered by the paper on the door. When she was told it wasn’t a problem she took that to mean that she did not have to follow my instructions. Needless to say, I was really pretty taken aback. And that situation compared to the OP’s is pretty tame, so I know what the supervisor in this situation was feeling. There’s nothing to be gained by fighting this, but sit on it and try to see it from your supervisor’s perspective. That could really help moving forward.

      1. Ted Mosby*

        This. I’m managing two people right now. They’re really bright, directly out of my own undergrad school, and very focused. However, one has a lot of ideas. She likes to push and question why I won’t use her ideas. It’s frustrating because it assumes, usually incorrectly, that the reason I’m not using her idea is that this great idea never occurred to me. Usually it’s something we already thought of and there are too many hidden costs, or we tried it and it didn’t work, or the client didn’t like it when we brought it up, etc. Sometimes it’s just not a good idea, and I know that because I’ve been here for a while.

        OP, you need to know in the future that your managers have more experience than you, and explaining to you in depth why your ideas aren’t going to work is just taking away time and energy for more important things, and frankly get annoying really fast. Sometimes they might ignore an actually good idea, but you really, really need to accept that often the person above you knows more than you do. It’s half faith and half taking a big ole bite of humble pie.

        1. Adam V*

          And even if your idea is great, and will be cheap to implement, and could have an awesome outcome – there’s still possibly a reason why you wouldn’t want to do it *now* that your boss can’t go into. Like, your company is about to land a huge account and your boss is going to assign it to you. Or the client in question has already mentioned that they’re cancelling their contract in a month and your boss doesn’t want you spending the time if they’ve got a foot out the door.

          There are lots of reasons to say ‘no’ that are not a reflection on you or your idea, and your boss can’t always get into the details of why she’s saying ‘no’.

        2. Jeanne*

          If she’s right out of school, I hope you could sometimes explain to her why the idea doesn’t work so she learns more about the decision process. You don’t have to but you could be doing her a favor.

          1. Adam V*

            I agree that whenever possible, it’s best to explain a “no”, both to help someone understand why and to prevent them from suggesting virtually the same thing with one small change (like saying “okay, then what about [other client that has the same issue]?”). However, I always operate from the standpoint of “If I tell you no, and I’m able to (meaning I’ve got the time, there’s nothing secret about it, etc.), I’ll explain why, but if I can’t and I just say ‘no’ with no elaboration, then you need to trust that I *do* have a good reason, it’s just not one I can share at the moment”.

            Heck, Betty was going out of town the very next day, it sounded like – it could have just been a matter of “I’ve got 20 things to get done before I leave and I can’t explain this right now”.

          2. Ted Mosby*

            She’s more suggesting ideas for projects she’s not working on. I don’t have the time to go through everything with her. The bigger lesson for her here is focus on your own role.

            1. JessaB*

              An the suggestion might have been welcome, but the DOING it after being told no? Not so much.

            2. Jamie2*

              Maybe consider explaining to her your expectations of not continuing to push too. It took quite a few years and several bosses before I got to the point where I’m easy to manage (I think). Thank god my early managers were so patient with me!

    4. JustAnotherHRPro*

      Actually if she took the severance I doubt she could sue anyway, as typically severance is paid out on the agreement you won’t sue. Although I have been trying to figure out what grounds there would even be for wrongful termination. I’m assuming, of course that her employment was at-will (which it appears it was, since she was terminated on the spot).

      My favorite part of my job is always the people who threaten to sue…99% of them have ZERO grounds for it. But they always pull the “You’ll be hearing from my attorney”. I always say “Okay….”

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        It is amazing how many people think they should sue. I feel bad for them as they are often wasting money as some lawyers will take just about any case even if they don’t have any grounds.

      2. JessaB*

        Are we sure the OP is in the US, some countries have contract work and things where you can’t actually just let someone go for no cause or with no notice. Even if they fired for cause they might have wanted to pay the severance because it’s policy where they are and it’s not common to actually deny it unless the cause is really hugely egregious (and easier to pay someone who might not fully deserve it, than get in a fight about it and maybe owe more if the employee knows how to spin it.)

        Also in this case they’re not actually firing her for, how to put it, horrible damage, but more really, really bad fit, and they were probably being nice given the lousy job market for some positions. Whilst unemployment is down, finding fast work is not so easy in a lot of places. So even in the US if there’s a severance policy at that company it might be cheaper and less hassle to pay it unless you’re firing for something like theft, doing something else illegal or doing something so bad that it costs 1000s to repair or scads of hours of extra work.

        Especially since this employee went straight to “can I sue?” The actual severance payment might be far lower than the hours the lawyer would bill for arguing with her. And as others have said most severance agreements prevent that suit. So even if the OP got a lawyer, the agreement would have to be pretty rotten for them to actually take up the suit (IE giving up huge amounts of rights for teensy tiny pay.) So in a lot of cases paying is easier, and often softens things so the employee doesn’t go about on glassdoor trashing the company.

    5. Ro*

      I couldn’t help thinking when I read this that perhaps the “skills they were lacking” were not the technical skills referred to by the OP, but maybe the hiring manger got a sense they were lacking in some “soft skills”, made obvious later on by how they handled it. And that was at least part of the reason for the trial period.

      The OP did seem to be able to successfully train themselves and pull of a successful trial project (so good technical skills there), but then proceeded to go right off the rails when it came to understanding how an office hierarchy works/interpersonal skills.

      OP- I too hope this is a learning experience for you. Please do not let others (friends/family) allow you to continue to focus on how you were “wronged”. It may be hard, but if you can take a step back and learn from this, you’ll be so much better off. Coming to post your question here (and get some very objective feedback) was a great first step. Your friends and family are understandably going to have your back no matter what. But in this case, you’ll be better served by looking at this experience realistically.

      Good luck!

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Very good point. I actually feel a bit sorry for the Op though. Maybe she came from an industry or environment previously where it was more cutthroat and people just steamrolled each other like this? It sounds like she could have used a bit more coaching from Betty too. I mean she only checked in with her – a brand new hire that she knew was out of workforce for five years – once a day and just pointed her to some manuals? And she could have taken the time to explain why she didn’t want that customer account touched.

        1. Susan*

          Yes, I agree. I think that although OP could improve in some ways this may have been prevented if the manager were more supportive and open. For me it reads like the manager was threatened by OP’s skills.

          Of course there are two sides to every story so it’s hard to say for sure, but I don’t know that OP was 100% in the wrong here…

          1. Ted Mosby*

            It doesn’t matter if OP’s idea was the best idea in the history of teapot production. Going behind your managers back and doing something you were specifically told not to do is 100% unacceptable. As a new employee asking to work on an important project, referring to your request being turned down as a hissy fit and insulting is startlingly rude and clueless.

            OP’s inability to understand her own mistakes is also a signal that she doesn’t have a strong grasp on her role at the company. It makes me think she might not be objectively assessing the strength of her own ideas. I would be willing to guess that Betty had a good reason for undoing all the work she did the very day she got back.

            1. Susan*

              Agreed, it was inappropriate for sure.

              It’s hard to say but I see why you would think that.

              One could also argue that OP was just passionate about doing the right thing for customers and the manager was actually a tool. Still in that case the OP was wrong for going behind the manager’s back but it is more understandable.

              In any case OP it sounds like you and your manager were not going to be getting along well and so this may become a positive thing, in a way. Hopefully you can move onwards and upwards, and I hope you now have a better sense of how to show respect to authority so that you can continue to do good work.

          2. Annonymouse*

            We are of course only getting OPs interpretation of what her manager is like and what happened.

            The way I’m reading it is this:

            OP just finished a project/launch that went well and got assigned to another one straight away. Betty was going on holiday for at least two weeks.

            If you were Betty would you assign your new hire (less than 6 months) to a high profile project where they’d be working (presumably) alone and unable to contact you?

            I wouldn’t.

            I’d do as Betty did and assign them to a smaller project where they can use the skills they just picked up and contact other staff still in the office for help/guidance.

            OP pushed back and said “Put me on the big project”. Betty said no.

            As a boss going on a two or more week absence I imagine she had a lot to get in order and wouldn’t have had the time to explain in depth why OP should stick to the project assigned to her and not do the big project.

            Also I find your comments that Betty didn’t provide OP with enough training puzzling. She had training manuals, online courses, a starter project and daily check ins. Short of Betty sitting with OP at her desk, explaining, demonstrating letting OP practice and correcting her as she was making mistakes I don’t know how much more hands on she could be.

            In a small company or any company your boss (unless they are a trainer) has their own job to do.

        2. M-C*

          Oh come on, the world hasn’t changed that much in 5 years. If the OP was doing anything remotely connected to the same field, I’m sure she knew better. Even 30 years ago that whole fiasco was never remotely OK.
          As to the manager needing to do more coaching? She went out of her way to provide education that she could have hoped wouldn’t have been necessary to begin with, and checked in daily. Isn’t that enough, and aren’t employees generally supposed to be qualified to begin with? The OP is lucky she got any severance pay at all, and was laid off instead of fired outright, as she so richly deserved.

          1. Ted Mosby*

            Yes. Most new managers aren’t going to be able to sit over your shoulder and hold your hand all day. If you know you’re being given a chance at a job you you don’t have all the skills for, you can’t really complain someone’s not watching you all day. This is the challenge you signed up for.

          2. Susan*

            I can see your points but for some reason I find your comment to be a bit too harsh / cutting. – I think it’s the “so richly deserved” part. You benefit from this letter for entertainment value. The OP wrote a letter for advice and doesn’t need to be talked down to.

            1. Stu*

              I disagree. She most certainly did not write for advice. She wrote to be validated. That much is clear.

  3. ZSD*

    You know what? I think this is the first AAM letter I’ve read that I’ve suspected could be a fake, or at least written by a different person in the story than it supposedly is. Phrases like, “Needless to say, I was more than a little insulted by her attitude. But I know that sometimes you have to push hard to get things done,” and, “Clearly this was the right thing to do! I mean, Veronica wouldn’t have given me the go-ahead otherwise, right?” just don’t sound like things a real person would actually write. (For some reason, it’s particularly the “I mean” that’s giving me this impression.)
    I’m wondering if perhaps Betty or Veronica wrote this letter with the intention of showing the ostensible OP the response, and showing her how she’s coming across. But then again, that seems ridiculous. So I guess I think this letter is real and that the OP is just, well, nuts.
    Alison, out of curiosity, do you receive a lot of emails with over-the-top phrases like that that you usually edit out for clarity or sanity’s sake, or is this one truly unusual in that regard?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m putting this here as well as at the very top of the post so that hopefully everyone sees it before commenting further. There’s been some speculation below about whether the letter is fake or not. I don’t think it is, but more importantly, I really don’t want a letter-writer to come in to read comments and find a big debate about whether or not she’s even real; assuming the letter is real, that’s not likely to prime anyone to take feedback well. I also don’t want others to have to worry about whether they’ll be the subject of that kind of debate if they write in.

      So I’m suggesting that we not continue that line of discussion (and acknowledge that I myself contributed to it at one point too). Thank you!

      (I posted this at 12:40 so most of the comments below had already been made when I put it here. Didn’t want to confuse anyone on that point.)

      1. ZSD*

        I apologize for causing this discussion to go so far afield, and I agree with your point that it would be demoralizing to come here and find that people are questioning whether you’re really who you say you are, or whether your situation is real. So I apologize.

    2. Rocket Scientist*

      I’ve certainly worked with people that acted/felt/wrote exactly as the OP did.

      It is an extreme case but those people certainly exist.

      1. Kelly*

        Agreed. I think it’s written precisely the way a person who behaved like that at work would write.

        1. Koko*


          It’s over-the-top language, but people who feel they’ve been wronged by being treated like a normal employee also tend to have a flair for dramatic language.

    3. Bekx*

      Er, I talk like that. I do type “I mean,” a lot in my text messages, for example. I didn’t think this was fake or oddly written. But, I mean, I talk like the OP so who knows. ;)

      1. Laurel Gray*

        If people wrote into AAM like they were writing an official document about a work issue they were having, this site would seem snooze-festy. I like that people write into AAM in the same style they would write a personal letter or email.

      2. ZSD*

        Oh, I’m not saying no one would ever type, “I mean.” I mean, I do that, too! It’s the use of it specifically in an instance where the writer is so clearly being otherwise obtuse that puts it over the top. It’s as if the person actually writing the letter thought, “How can I make it even clearer that this writer is in the wrong?”

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          It struck me the same way – that complete lack of self-awareness usually isn’t stated in black and white like this.

        2. Trainer*

          It sounds like sarcasm in this case. As someone else would have said it if they were speaking as the OP in an incredulous way.

          I thought it might be fake too while reading. That said, the OP could have a flare for writing.

      3. Sadsack*

        I think the whole thing seems scripted and just plain off. Right from the beginning with “I applied to a bunch if jobs I thought I could do,” to she is suddenly making these major decisions aboyt accounts and going around her manager. Maybe it is just a gut feeling that is hard to pinpoint, but to me it seems fake.

    4. art_ticulate*

      I also wondered while reading if it was actually Betty who wrote it. Some of the phrasing seemed too willfully ignorant, you know? Then again, if I’ve learned anything from being in the workforce, it’s that people like this really do exist. So who knows.

    5. M*

      Completely agree with this. The letter doesn’t sound like it was written by the actual person itself. In fact the crazy theory that it could be Betty or Veronica seems much more plausible here.

        1. Somov*

          I agree! Definitely seems like someone wrote this on her behalf, and it makes sense that it would be the husband. That being said, Allison is right on in her response!

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Once I got to the part about waiting for Betty to go on vacation, I “decided” that Betty wrote the letter.

        1. Andrea*

          Yes, I think it’s her or the husband. Or maybe even a completely different coworker/friend of the employee.

        2. BethRA*

          Because you don’t think someone would do that? Or you just don’t think they’d admit to it?

          I’ve had at least one former coworker do something similar (waited until our manager went out on medical leave to revisit an idea/project that said manager had already told her to drop).

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I think most people wouldn’t admit to it. They’d claim it was a coincidence. Because admitting you deliberately waited for your boss to go on vacation is admitting you were up to something.

            1. neverjaunty*

              No, it isn’t. “I knew that meddling fool would just block me, so I waited until she was out to do the proper thing and go up the chain of authority.”

          2. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Like teclatrans I didn’t want to wade into this discussion, but I can see that a person who did something like that would probably try to explain it better by saying something about waiting for an opportunity to bring her vision to someone who could appreciate it, for example. The way the letter stated it made it clear that the OP intentionally went behind Betty’s back without really justifying it too much. There were other justifications, but the lack of this one is a little odd, IMO.

        3. Trainer*

          If it was Betty, she made herself out to be a great pretty lousy manager. That could be writing from her employees perspective but when people write or talk about things like this they usually try to make the person seem really bad by making themselves still sound good. To me the descriptions of Betty being a bad manager were so subtle I doubt it’s a stroke of brilliant writing but rather actual unawareness that Betty wasn’t being a bad manager.

          Or Betty actually thinks she’s a bad manager. Or husband is trying to show wife how she screwed up after many arguments about it.

          Either way, if it is fake it doesn’t seem to me to be supportive of OP in any way.

      2. CADMonkey007*

        My theory is that OP is a man, and the part about being a mom returning to the workforce is just made up.

        1. teclatrans*

          I so don’t want to go down the conspiracy theory hole, but I have to admit that I stopped once to go back and reaffirm that this was a woman writing in, because it sounded like a man describing women. I decided it was someone very steeped in our culture’s casual misogyny, but it sure would comfort me to think it was an actual man who wrote it.

          1. teclatrans*

            Oh, it was also the entitlement. I could see a man thinking his female boss was passive aggressive and worthless, and going around her.

            Ooh, maybe the OP is a man and this really happened to him, and he just added the mom & husband stuff as a screen???

            1. A.*

              Eh, I don’t know. Internalized misogyny is real and rampant. Anecdotal, but the co-workers I’ve had who openly hated female bosses (in the, “All of my best bosses have been men. Women are terrible at management” kind of blatant stuff) and used the most sexist/misogynistic language about them have definitely been women.

              1. Koko*

                Even just internalized sexism – a good friend of mine who is most definitely not prejudiced against women once used the phrase “regular boss” to describe male managers, as in, “I had a regular boss in all my previous jobs but this is my first time reporting to a woman.” She was, in fact, happy about having a woman as a manager. But she was so accustomed to men managing her that without realizing it, she had classified that as the “regular” or default situation in her mind.

                I gave her a good-natured hard time about it and pointed out that I had been in the workforce for 7 years before I had my first male manager, so for me, a female boss was a “regular” boss! There were always plenty of male managers at the places I worked, I just never happened to report to one for the first several companies I worked for and positions I held.

            2. Lily Evans*

              Did OP ever specifically state they were a woman, though? Men can have husbands and stay home to raise kids too.

          2. Jillian*

            Yes! “Hissy fit” and “coniving” sound more like a man describing a woman’s behaviour. But I have had employees who’s thought processes seemed to work just like this.

    6. Just Another Techie*

      I use “I mean” in informal writing all the time. It’s a terrible tic, along with starting too many sentences with “Also.” But I’m not the OP!

    7. AnotherAlison*


      I had the same thought. For me, it wasn’t so much the phrasing, but that someone could genuinely be this clueless. It’s a different kind of clueless than some of the more outrageous AAM letters.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Yes, that’s it exactly. As I was reading this I was thinking to myself, “Oh, come ON! No one would really think that was a good idea!” And, even more unbelievably, the OP appears to be married to someone as deluded as she is, since her husband wants to get a lawyer involved. And after being fired, she still thinks she could go back to the same company and just work for another manager? In a company of 20 people?

        Like you said — who could really be that clueless?

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          Um…I managed this employee…and I eventually fired this employee.

          Though it was not the same woman, I had an employee go over not only my head but my boss’s head to our division VP. And when she was shut down by the VP, she said some pretty nasty things to her. And sadly, this wasn’t the worst or most clueless thing she did.

      2. GreenTeaPot*

        Yes! My thought, too. Even if a person is out of the workplace, much of this is common sense. Never undermine your manager!

        1. Boop*

          What struck me is how childish this is – Mommy said no so I’m going to go ask Daddy. If you had parents like mine, this did NOT work. These types of manipulations are juvenile and underhand. No way I would try it in the workplace!

    8. Turanga Leela*

      You know, I had the same thought. It’s entirely possible that the OP just writes this way and is convinced of her own rightness, but those phrases stood out to me too. I was also struck by the contrast between “my boss didn’t train me” and the pretty detailed description of a long training period. It’s like the letter is working hard to undermine itself.

      1. Three Thousand*

        I actually just heard someone complain the other day about how he wasn’t properly trained to do the job he was just fired from, followed by a long description of all the training they gave him (and his failure to follow up with them on the results of his training exercises). So that part I believe.

        1. TuxedoCat*

          I could see one of my coworker writing something like this, actually.

          I could see the same one being this clueless, too. She’s been reprimanded for going over people’s heads, undermining other’s work, not doing her work… Ineffective management that fears firing people is the only reason she’s still around from what I can see. She’s worked for many years (in other offices), so it isn’t an inexperience issue.

        2. Rana*

          I believe that part too. It’s part of the reason I used to have my students write an ungraded essay at the beginning of each class on the topic “What I know about the subject and what I expect to learn in this class”. At the end of the term, I’d hand it back to them and ask them to write another essay reacting to it. I once had a student start his reaction paper with “I didn’t learn anything this semester” but as he started going through his initial essay to show me how much he didn’t learn, he realized that he actually had learned a lot more than he’d thought. People’s perceptions over time are strange; if someone feels like they’re struggling the whole time, it’s often hard to see the progress they’re making.

          1. Snorks*

            Not sure if that’s a thing and I’ve just never heard it, but that’s awesome!
            I’m not a teacher, but I coach basketball, so I can adjust it for that.
            Permission to steal from you?
            (Don’t care really, I’m using it anyway ;) )

            1. Rana*

              Steal away! I don’t remember at this point where I got the idea from, so have at it. I love it when things like that work for other people too.

      2. Perse's Mom*

        For some people, it’s not ‘real’ training unless someone is physically sitting with them and walking them through every single step of a process.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          We have a detailed 4-week training plan for new hires that gradually allows more and more independent work, so that week three is simply a daily check-in with your lead and week 4 is just your weekly one-on-one.

          I have received complaints from hires that they were “only given a week of training,” because they only consider the first week where they are sitting with the lead every day training.

        2. MashaKasha*

          I was very curious/anxious/paranoid about the training part of OP’s letter, so came here looking for comments on that. The training that she described is a lot more thorough and comprehensive than I have ever received in any of my jobs. It is also kind of what I provide when asked to help “onboard” a new hire. Honestly I would not want to receive the kind of training when someone is physically sitting at my desk and talking at me all day. I’d probably only retain 0-10% of the information that is unloaded on me in that way. I prefer to learn by doing, at my own pace, and be able to ask questions of my trainer when I have them. Everyone I’ve worked with seems to prefer the same. Does it maybe depend on the nature of the work?

      3. Rat in the Sugar*

        That part I definitely believe; when you’re new (or returning) to a workforce that kind of hands-off training can feel a little distant and impersonal, like you’re not getting enough attention because they’re not holding your hand.
        Personally, I like hand-holding training as I am prone to overthinking and second-guessing, so I can see how someone who preferred that way very strongly would really dislike the hands-off approach.

      4. Doriana Gray*

        I’ll give the OP a pass on the training thing because I too don’t count being given a bunch of handouts as training, especially if you’re brand new to an industry and have no context for what it is you’re being asked to read with no further discussion. I mean, reading a manual that says this is how you use our internal workflow – yeah, you could probably figure that out on your own. But just thinking about my industry, if someone was just handed a bunch of papers and told to read it, they’d have no clue what to do with our actual assignments. Someone has to walk you through the process. OP might have been in a similar environment.

        1. Koko*

          She also said boss referred her to online courses. It wouldn’t be all that unusual for there to be nobody on staff who does OP’s exact role if it’s a subject-matter-expert type role. The manager might be an expert in teapot assembly and finishing, and knows enough about spout construction and basin construction and handle construction to supervise the construction workers, but not enough to actually train someone in spout construction.

          In a situation like that, manuals written by the previous spout construction coordinator, and training courses led by someone who specializes in spout construction, would be far more helpful than the manager giving the training herself. Most of my jobs have been like this, actually – I am usually much more familiar with the specialized work I do than my managers have been.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            And this could be the case too – we don’t know. But I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on this one thing here because the frustration about what she perceived as inadequate training probably bled into her interactions with the manager and led to this blow up.

            1. JessaB*

              Honestly though, the manager seemed to be checking in with the OP, there’s a point where an adult has to actually say “I know you sat with me for 3 days, and gave me all that paperwork, but I’m just not getting x, or I think maybe I’m not on track? Am I?” Any training even the kind in a training room for 3 weeks with sitting with someone for a week, requires at some point if the trainee doesn’t get it or thinks they’ve been dropped in the deep end without a snorkel for them to actually tell someone that. Because trainers aren’t mind readers.

              1. JessaB*

                Oh and to add on, something else occurred to me, OP had to know even subconsciously that there was something wrong with just going in and doing what they wanted to do on the other account. They wouldn’t have asked for buy in and end ran the manager to the higher boss if they weren’t sure it was an okay thing to do. If they knew it was okay and a good idea, they would have just done it. Which still would have gotten them in trouble “why did you do x?” But would have been a different issue of scope of error (thought it was okay to do this since I’m already doing y vs I was told no but did it anyway.)

    9. Sadsack*

      I agree. The whole thing just seems off, it is just too difficult to believe that the writer really believes she was right in her actions and attitude. I am calling it a fake.

      1. Carrington Barr*

        I came here to the comments to see if anyone else felt the same way. I also call fake.

        1. YaH*

          Me too!

          Although if it is authentic, then WOW.

          It does seem like it’s Betty writing this letter.

        2. irritable vowel*

          Me, too! It sounds like something you would read in Glamour magazine a la “you’ll never believe this happened to me!” and it’s so obviously written by a staff member.

    10. Whippers*

      I know what you mean about some of the phrases! They’re almost too…purposeful. They remind me of something out of a teenage magazine or self help book where they use really obvious, naïve language to demonstrate someone’s thoughts. Like; “I mean Alison wouldn’t have said she didn’t fancy Joshua if she really did, would she?”

    11. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Interesting — the phrases you pulled out are exactly the phrases where I thought “WTF?” But I actually don’t think it’s fake — I think that if you’re legitimately outraged by something, feel that you’re in the right, and are trying to explain the situation to someone else, those are phrases you might use. They just sound off here because the letter-writer’s whole assessment is so off. But I could certainly be wrong.

      (It’s a really long letter to write if it’s fake though. When I’ve thought letters were fake in the past, they’ve always been pretty short. I have no idea if there’s anything to do that or not though.)

        1. Mazzy*

          Not to mention the whole “if the person was faking it, why would they make it sound fake” thing.

          The only letter I’ve found suspicious was the one with the boss who dissappeared for a month then came back and was trying to catch an evil coworker doing…something bad?! There were way too many logical holes in that one.

          I’ve been digging through the archives and all of the ones that could look fake are still totally believable. People write different ways and crazy stuff happens.

    12. Sunflower*

      If Betty wrote it- and cared enough to make up the letter in the way that she was not the OP- I think she would have included more information about why she didn’t take the OP’s ideas

    13. NoProfitNoProblems*

      I’m curious about that myself. Alison, was there anything further in the email or your exchange with her that might give us more evidence of real or fake?

        1. Katie the Fed*

          When you’re in the throes of outrage, it’s really, really hard to think about a situation objectively. That’s how this letter reads to me. Not that I’ve ever been in the throes of such outrage, of course :/

        2. fposte*

          I’m curious, though of course you don’t have to say–was this one where the title was yours, or partly yours? “Undermined” seems more aware of the situation than OP looks to be in the actual letter. If that’s hers, then maybe she’s got more perspective than I realized.

    14. Bookworm*

      I’m not sure it’s really valuable to speculate on whether a letter is true or false. It seems if something was obviously fabricated, it seems unlikely Alison would run it. And sure, it’s possible it will happen – we’ll all comment on a situation that hasn’t happened, but that’s really hardly the end of the world.

      On the flip side, it’s possible OP was truthful and will come into the comments section looking for help….in which case it’s probably best if she doesn’t immediately see a long comment thread suggesting that she’s so crazy and full of odd phrasing we don’t even believe she’s real. Even a pretty tough-skinned person would shut down or get defensive at that.

        1. Ted Mosby*

          I both wondered if the letter was fake and felt a little weird about this thread if it was, but OP if you are reading this, it wasn’t a level of “crazy” that stood out and made me think it was fake. It was just something about the wording that seemed like it was an outsider trying to guess the emotions/rationale of another person. I think it was also that everything was phrased in a fairly intense, cranked up way, which I think is how many people are when they’re acting/lying/faking something, but also how most people are when they’re very angry, so I can see someone mistaking one for the other.

          1. Ted Mosby*

            sorry, I meant felt weird about this thread if the letter is real, as in I would feel crummy if everyone assumed I was a made up person.

      1. Ultraviolet*

        I completely agree and I’m glad you raised these points. I’ll add that this post is likely to attract a huge number of comments, and a subthread about whether the writer is a liar just makes the whole thing more unwieldy without adding value. And remember that even if this particular letter were fabricated, the fundamental situation of an employee undermining their manager has happened before and will happen again, so this post and relevant comments on it are probably going to help someone.

    15. RVA Cat*

      What pinged my fake-radar was that the OP mentioned time off raising kids, yet goes on the describe a situation that’s the workplace version of playing Mom and Dad against each other….

    16. AW*

      I’ve seen a lot of people write that way and it always seems to happen when someone is writing an “obviously I’m right here” letter as opposed to a, “was I right or wrong here” letter. The words “needless”, “obviously”, “of course”, “clearly”, etc. crop up a lot in those.

      I’ve seen people write “I mean” but I haven’t noticed a pattern there. It might feel weird to read that in writing since a lot of people say it as a verbal tic. It’d be like someone writing in with a lot of “um”s in their letter. I don’t think it’s a sign that it’s fake though.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        They are seeking validation for their position Vs help in solving the issue. I’ve seen this many times. And the more you point out what they did wrong the more they go but.. but.. but..

      2. AW*

        FWIW, I don’t mean “obviously I’m right here” to come off as judge-y; we do often see letters here where the OP *is* obviously right.

    17. LBK*

      Trust me, there are absolutely people who think like this. I’ve worked with plenty of them – they’re extremely common among service industry lifers. They’re often big champions of the “managers are all greedy evil monsters” line of thinking, convinced that anyone who doesn’t see the obvious value they bring to their role (read: usually average at best, often pretty bad) is just trying to screw them over out of jealousy.

      What’s really sad is that this causes a negativity spiral that only makes them worse employees, which in their head only further promotes the narrative that they’re underappreciated. I encourage the OP to step back, put on a fresh attitude and get a new job where she focuses on staying in her lane (which I know is a phrase that got a pretty negative response in a letter a few weeks back, but I think this is a prime example of when that advice is applicable).

      1. Sleepyheadzzz*

        Yeah, I’ve met these people too. A guy I dated years ago was like this – he was really nice and sweet to me, but went through 5 different restaurant jobs in the time I dated him because he always got into fights with managers because he had “better ideas” of how things should work and couldn’t understand why the managers weren’t praising him for his great ideas.

        I also had an acquaintance like this – same thing, went through 3 or 4 jobs in the brief time I knew her, and always ended up getting fired for getting into it with managers and then being confused or convinced it was some conspiracy – because why would they fire her when she has such great managerial ideas?!

        1. Boop*

          It’s amazing to me how people like this never stop to consider the obvious common thread in those situations. Hint: it’s not the manager(s)!

    18. INFJ*

      My first reaction as I was reading was also, “is this fake?” I think it’s because I’ve never read an AAM letter in which the writer was so… wrong? It just seemed unreal.

      Unfortunately, if this letter is real, it seems as though the OP isn’t open the possibility that she was in the wrong here and therefore won’t take any of AAM’s advice or insight.

    19. Meg Murry*

      Actually, it read a lot to me like the “my husband emailed my manager about our decision for me to resign” letter from back in 2012- which was also one that rang bells to some people as fake, and to others as simply over the top and not in line with their world view.

      I am leaning toward “probably real, from someone who has been outside of the working world for a while (at least 5 years) and possibly learned bad habits from a previous toxic workplace”.

      The common thread in both the overall letter to Alison and in her communications with the boss’s boss, OP paints herself in the best possible light, conveniently leaves out or downplays items that don’t agree with her opinion (like not mentioning to Veronica that Betty already said no to OP working on the project), and then is overall outraged at the final outcome.

      OP, in the future, a good way to take initiative on a project like this would be to make some kind of mock-up of what you would do if the big account was yours (without spending tons of time on it that you should be spending on your other assignments), and propose the mock-up to Betty, or possibly Veronica and Betty together *if* they ask your opinion. Not to wait until Betty went on vacation, skirt her authority and go around her to Veronica, and then start working on the project for real when Betty was gone.

      Betty doesn’t have to trash talk you in the industry. All she has to do is tell the truth: “OP made a proposal for a project, but I told her no and assigned her a different project. When I went on vacation, OP went around my back to my boss and got permission to work on the project I had told her no, and then launched a bunch of new initiatives while I was out. When I got back from vacation, I had to undo everything she had done and she threw a fit, pulling my boss into it. We couldn’t trust her after that and chose to let her go.”

      OP, learn from this mistake and move on.

      1. KarenT*

        I’m a bit surprised no one has mentioned Veronica’s role in this. It’s hard to say without knowing information, but it sounds like she erred by giving the OP the green light. Even if the OP hadn’t already gone to Betty, Veronica still should have directed her there instead of giving her the go ahead. If Betty’s in charge of the project, then Veronica shouldn’t be weighing in without talking to Betty unless she has very good reason, even if she is Betty’s boss.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I think this is very dependent upon how OP presented the situation to Veronica, which isn’t detailed in the OP’s inquiry. If she couched it in terms that she’d recently done the same on another account at Betty’s direction or hinted that she’d already run it by Betty and gotten approval, then Veronica may have not wanted to bother Betty on vacation to verify the story and not wanted to hold up work she thought Betty approved. On the other hand, if it was presented as a novel idea that OP had never discussed with Betty (since she clearly didn’t disclose that Betty said NO), holding off until Betty came back from vacation would have been more prudent.

          1. AnonAnalyst*

            I also think it’s possible that the OP heard something other than what Veronica said. I could see Veronica saying something more non-committal like “interesting, I can see how that might really improve x, y, and z” or “maybe that’s something we can look into for client ABC on the Acme project” and the OP interpreted it as a green light to start actually making changes.

    20. Creag an Tuire*

      For those who still insist this can’t possibly be a real person, my mother-in-law could’ve written this.

      She was let go from her childcare job after a -state inspector- attempted to correct her on a point of procedure and MiL retorted that “I’ve been changing diapers for thirty years and you have no business telling me I’m doing it wrong.”

      She was -indignant- that the center let her go the next day. Bear in mind that this is MiL’s side of the story I’m relating here.

      What’s more, if she wrote into AAM I’m sure she’d insist that her son-in-law agrees she was the wronged party, because I duly clucked my tongue in sympathy rather than start any familial strife.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        FWIW, your MIL is not the only person answering a state inspector in this manner. I have come to believe there are thousands of people answering like this.

      2. Koko*

        I had a friend years ago whose roommate wrote letters like this to address grievances he had with his housemates.

    21. Snake Nightmares*

      I mean, I can understand why someone would use such phrasing in their writing if they’re overly emotional about the topic. Needless to say, I think the OP is overly emotional about this topic.

  4. Juli G.*

    I’m not going to pile on. Allison gave very good advice. Please read it today and come back and read it again tomorrow after you let it sink in and really consider it.

    1. AMG*

      Yes. This can be a tough crowd, but if you are truly looking for a way to overcome the situation and come out of it better and stronger, I can’t think of a better place to be. I hope you will come back and give us an update.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I feel kind of bad for OP. My guess is she had a pretty hard-charging career before left the workplace and thought she could just jump right back in, without realizing that you have to prove yourself and bide your time in a new place.

      1. StudentPilot*

        I had the exact opposite thought. The further I read, the more it sounded as a younger person (say, someone who had their children in their early 20s, and those kids were close in age), going back to work, but looking to get away from the jobs usually associated with teenagers/early 20s (like retail, for example, where you’re expected to find things to do if it’s not busy) going into an office atmosphere for the first time.

        I do feel bad for the OP – she worked hard on one project, which turned out as a success, so I can see where she’s coming from, but the way she went about it was too off.

        1. wellywell*

          You may be right about that – I’d have to think this is someone who’d never worked in an office before (if it’s a genuine story)

      2. Doriana Gray*

        This is such a good point. If the OP was in management prior to taking time off to raise her kids and then came back to the workforce as an individual contributor, there could be some adjustment issues there.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I don’t know… you would hope that a former manager would have a better idea of what a “manager” does.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            You would, but then given my last manager…lol. Some people get promoted to positions of authority who have no business being there and have no concept of what their job truly is.

          2. Oryx*

            But if two people have vastly different management styles, I could see this happening OP thinks her way of managing is “better” and this is how she would have handled it with her employee.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Maybe. But I can’t imagine any manager saying “Oh yeah, waiting until I go on vacation and then going over my head is showing some real initiative,” so I find it hard to believe that the letter writer was simply adjusting to a non-management role.

  5. Bend & Snap*

    I…holy shit. What?

    I think OP needs to let this go, keep it off her resume and once in a new role, do as the manager says and not aggressively try to undermine her.

    1. GreenTeaPot*

      Perhaps some retraining is in order? Office politics, communication skills, etc. This unfortunate situation can be reversed if the OP is honest with herself and willing to change. We all make mistakes.

    2. Ted Mosby*

      +1 to keeping it off her resume. OP, you mentioned you’re not getting past the references stage. Even though you did great on your first project, I hope you’re no giving the names of ANYONE here for your references, even if it’s not Betty or Veronica. Sadly, I don’t think anyone here will give you a good reference, even if they weren’t involved in this conflict. It’s likely in a small office that everyone has a general idea of what happened, and it’s unlikely that anyone who hears this story will side with you (harsh but true; I’m sorry!), so even if they generally wish you well and think you’re a smart, nice person, they would likely be very unwilling to stake their professional reputation on recommending you after this happens.

      1. Michaela T*

        Yes! Keep this place off the resume, do not use anyone from this place as a reference, do not mention this job during any future interviews. Offer no opportunities for a potential job to find out what happened at this place.

      1. Dang*

        If this isn’t fake, it blows my mind. I cannot believe that anyone is so out of touch with reality that they would really think that they could a) get hired back at this company or b) even have one toe to stand on to successfully take the company to court.

        Then again, we’ve read a lot of real whoppers on this site, so clearly there are a lot of people who don’t get it..

          1. Jeanne*

            I think lots of us have seen people that bad or worse. There are a surprising number of people out there who don’t know how to act at work.

        1. Ignis Invictus*

          If my sister ever chose to head back to work after 10+ years as a stay at home mom I could see her behaving similarly, if not worse. She has an amazing skillset which is equally matched by her sense of entitlement. It’s as if anything she believes is true / correct, MUST BE true / correct. It’s one of the weirdest, most unrelateable, mentalities I’ve ever run across.

  6. AdAgencyChick*

    This is when I really admire Alison’s patience in reading to the end of a letter and giving so much feedback.

    1. AMT*

      Totally agree. This is the kind of frank, detailed feedback that most people will probably never get at work.

    2. KR*

      I too admire her patience. I had a hard time getting to the bottom of the letter mostly because I was embarrassed for the OP.

    1. Elizabeth*

      I couldn’t make it through the whole thing. I got halfway through and then skipped to Alison’s response because my secondhand embarrassment was so strong.

      1. Karowen*

        Me too! I got to where she went around her boss and then skipped to Alison’s response because I thought it couldn’t get worse than waiting until your manager was on vacation to pull crap like this. When I started reading Alison’s response, though, I had to go back and absorb the whole thing.


      2. KR*

        Same same same. A lot of letters like this are like that for me. I like to skim and get the gist of the letter, read some of the comments to find the focal points of the letter and then go back for details to avoid some second hand embarrassment.

        1. Mookie*

          Same with me. I read Alison and then most of the commenters, if it’s an old enough letter, so that I know everything’s going to be okay and the adults are in charge and they have ice cream and good advice and they’re going to see you through this difficult time. It’s like skipping to the end of a horror film to reassure yourself that the Final Girl is going to slaughter that mass murderer / alien / Candyman*.

          *spoiler for Candyman, though: she couldn’t beat ‘im so she joined ‘im.

    2. AW*

      I calmed myself down, and waited until the next day when Betty left for a vacation, and I went to Betty’s boss (Veronica).

      From this point in the letter I went “Oh nooo!” after every sentence.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        Yeah, me too. I can empathise with feeling insulted (and upset) that your idea was essentially brushed off/discounted. I can even empathise with the “sometimes you have to push to get things done” comment — because that can be true, when there’s a time and place for that. But, after your manager has specifically told you “no”, you drop it. Nurse that grudge as long as you wish, but “No” is a full sentence.

        This is extremely sexist of me, but along with the people who think this is fake, I kind of wonder if the OP isn’t male. Because I’ve seen it happen more than I want to think about that when a man hears “no”, especially from a woman, it means “try again later” or some other version of “it’s not really no.” I mean (ha!), I’m all old and stuff. I was raised before the Girl Power generation, so maybe this is something that younger women are doing now, I don’t know. I have a very vivid memory of being in school and we had to do this experiment. Our teacher had put out all the equipment we needed on our tables, except on the table I shared with my partner which was missing one thing. I was trying to get his attention but after answering a few other questions from people, he left the room. So I got up and got the thing we needed to do the assignment from the bench where they were kept. When he came back, somehow he found out that I had done this thing and yelled at me in front of the class. I didn’t see how I had done anything wrong, but apparently I had. Lesson learned. I should have left the classroom without permission and chased him down the hall so that I could be yelled at for that instead.

        There can be a fine line between standing up for yourself and overstepping, but this letter, OP went past that line at full throttle and just kept going.

        1. Liz T*

          I was imagining a woman but your theory makes sense. No woman I know would cast Betty as the villain and Veronica as the good guy.

            1. TootsNYC*

              But they might start using Betty and then need a second name, and grab Veronica.
              Also, Betty is the less sophisticated, less powerful one, and Veronica is the more polished, powerful.

          1. Mookie*

            Damn, I always loved Veronica (partially ‘cos I felt Archie was a Mary Sue and the audience was meant to experience a vicarious thrill that Beautiful, Vain Rich Girl was pining for him, producing stereotypically catty dramas over him, but he’d never have her because his heart was pure). I am woman-ing wrong.

        2. videogamePrincess*

          Your teacher had probably just been yelled at by the principal, or told he wasn’t getting a raise, or something.

    3. Alli525*

      I figured out where this was going pretty early on in the letter (my brother and I were masters of “splitting” our parents when we were kids) but couldn’t look away.

  7. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


    Okay, not gonna pile on. Alison did a great job breaking down your misapprehensions here, OP; there’s just one thing I want to add, something I think isn’t necessarily obvious or intuitive in the workplace if you’re not accustomed to it.

    As you move up the management ladder, there is less and less hands-on information and experience with the particular subject matter you, the individual contributor, is handling. This is by design — it’s just like going into Google Maps. You, the individual contributor, are Street View. Your manager is the lowest level of zoom on the overhead view. Veronica is a bit up from that. You see a lot more fine detail, but Betty sees a wider area, and Veronica sees an even wider area but at less detail than Betty. So you asked Veronica a question that needed Betty’s level of zoom to see properly, and Veronica based her answer on her wider but less detailed picture.

    1. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.*

      Yeah, this assessment is pretty brilliant.

      I actually feel pretty bad for the OP; it’s really not that hard to see this being someone’s for real take on things. It was pretty close to mine when I first started working out of college, but the difference with me would have been that I had little to no experience and thus had no confidence to back up what I thought were insults to my intelligence/social comprehension. I could think ‘Yeah, at MY house, THIS would not fly at all,” all day long, but I always realized that I wasn’t in MY house… (whereas OP may not)
      The OP began with telling us she’d been a stay-at-home parent for the past few years, so this implies that at some point she did work in the past; this sounds to me like someone who has been King of Their Castle for a while and now is realizing their work life is on a radically different plane of existence – just like the Zoom comparison.

      To all the people who think this was fake – you are hilarious. Not because it could actually be fake, but because you are gobsmacked that someone could be this ‘out of touch’. Wake UP. this is what the world teaches us. You have to be incredibly focused (which is admirable, but not instilled in every person) to bee-line for success; most of us are trial-and-error folks, who learned by building 9,999 ferked up light bulbs before we got one working idea!

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        To all the people who think this was fake – you are hilarious. Not because it could actually be fake, but because you are gobsmacked that someone could be this ‘out of touch’.

        No, it’s not unbelievable that someone could be this out of touch. The part that’s unbelievable to me is that someone who is this out of touch would so accurately describe her own failings. Usually people like this will gloss over things instead of explaining, in detail, exactly what they did wrong. They would say “I had no training” but not then go on to provide details of the training they had, as this writer did. They would say “I took it up with Veronica” and omit that they waited for Betty to go on vacation, because that’s completely meaningless to their story so why bring it up? They would claim they were completely professional in the meeting instead of admitting they were angry and forceful, because as far as they’re concerned, they were completely professional. They wouldn’t remark on needing to push to get things done, etc. That’s why it sounds like it was written by someone else trying to get inside the “LW’s” head.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yeah, they actually might. People who think they’re in the wrong but want to explain their way out of it gloss over certain details (e.g. the vacation) because on some level, they get that it makes them look bad. People who are 100% in the right – and have a dysfunctional cheerleading section at home backing them up – will be absolutely happy to give detailed information, because they’re simply incapable of seeing it as anything they could have done wrong.

          1. TuxedoCat*

            I wrote about my coworker further up in this post. She is in that second category. It’s astonishing to hear her recount events. She’s always painted as the victim or hero, and neither is close to correct. For the latter, it’s really obvious she was the one in the wrong. For the former, she always leaves out the fact someone else did everything (did the writing, pulled up the background info, ran analysis) and she might’ve corrected a handful of typos. But the way she talks- you’d think she did the whole thing and saved the day.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              She’s always painted as the victim or hero, and neither is close to correct.

              I have a family member who is so talented, she manages to be both the victim AND the hero of any work-related story.

          2. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.*

            Yes, this exactly. Rusty Shackleford is assuming that the OP realizes their actions were *wrong*. OP was defending her actions because she couldn’t see from another perspective; so yeah, she went into clear detail. Plus, there was a firing involved, so OP & hubby may be confused on what exactly went down (as a result of not being able to look from a manager’s perspective) and may just be getting excited about the idea of a ‘wrongful firing’, because (to them) it is the only thing that potentially makes the situation make sense for them.

            I really enjoyed the article someone linked in this post’s comments, about Straddling the blue-collar/white-collar world. As someone who more identifies with the social mores of the blue-collar world, starting to work in an office was incredibly difficult, and I went into great detail about the perceived wrong-doings against myself (still do, here and at home), equally hoping someone would call me out on it as well as fighting for a justification on why I felt the way I did. I’m an arguer, but more of a scrapper than formal Debate-style; so where I think I am following a mindful method by complaining and calling people out on their stuff (which I would appreciate from my new Midwestern neighbors – I am from the dirty South), I have to realize that those who are listening were not brought up in the exact same world as me, and will perhaps have no understanding of the connections and relationships that I employ in my unique conflict-addressing style. But, as I said in my original comment, that was a lot of lightbulbs I had to break before I got to that point, to where I could realize my brashness wasn’t always effective, and that others were seeing angles I could not, including perspectives that encompassed my behavior.

            1. videogamePrincess*

              I thought everyone was nice in the south, and everybody was honest in the north! It’s amazing how perceptions of a culture can vary.

              1. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.*

                that was when the south had money.

                I hear a lot (even on AAM) about how repressed and passive-aggressive Midwesterners are, and it does get exemplified to me regularly up here. Being from an area where the norms are overt and often aggressive racism/sexism, and extreme poverty, but also an area where spirituality (in many diverse forms) is valued and expression is encouraged always at the risk of accumulating more art, always at the risk of incurring change, and always, always at the much less significant risk of pissing someone off and having to then listen to (or sit through, for those who dislike arguing) their point of view…
                ok that sentence ran away from me. Being from there, Southerners have a tendency to be gracious hosts (by the values of our cultural heritage) who love to talk and argue (by nurture of our tumultuous upbringing).

              2. AnonT*

                Oh lord, no. As a lifelong northerner I can tell you that we just seem honest. For many of us, there’s really layers and layers of passive-aggressive emotion under the apparent honesty. It’s just that you don’t see it unless you were taught how to interpret that kind of thing growing up.

                (Several southern friends of mine have expressed something similar about the south – that they generally seem nice, but there’s more under the surface that you don’t see if you weren’t raised in that environment, but I can’t attest to that personally.)

                1. Just Another Techie*

                  I grew up in South Carolina and Mississippi, and I know approximately eight thousand ways to say “fuck you and the horse you rode in on” while smiling and adding sugar to your coffee.

          3. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I’ve had coworkers who would tell anyone who would listen exactly what crazy thing they did, because they didn’t think it was crazy. Like, they would say something absolutely out of line to a manager or a customer, and in retelling the story of their own righteousness, they would repeat the unedited version of exactly what they said and did, because they didn’t think they did anything wrong. I would be looking at them with my eyebrows up in my hairline and my jaw dropping lower and lower from the shock of how over-the-top they were, and they wouldn’t even take that reaction as a social cue that they were out of line. They just “knew” that they were “right”. I don’t think there’s anything you can do with people like that, except fire them and hope that some personal growth will one day happen for them.

        2. Mephyle*

          Yes, this is a good analysis of why it pinged so many people’s radar for potentially being fake or in fact having been written by one of the other people in the scenario. It wasn’t so much the out-of-touchness, it was the perspective.

        3. Three Thousand*

          They would say “I took it up with Veronica” and omit that they waited for Betty to go on vacation, because that’s completely meaningless to their story so why bring it up?

          Because anyone can see that Betty is so vicious and “conniving,” and so clearly in the wrong, that the OP was smart and resourceful to wait until she was out of the way to do what needed to be done. (I do like how letting someone dig their own grave is “conniving.” It sucks when people won’t rescue you from your own stupidity, especially when you’re attacking them with it.)

          1. Not So NewReader*

            It sucks when people won’t rescue you from your own stupidity, especially when you’re attacking them with it.

            Love it. Well said.

        4. LD*

          I have to say that the detailed explanations and descriptions are exactly what indicates being “out of touch.” The details are presented as “Of course, this is how a professional behaves in the workplace,” with no sense of irony that the descriptions are the exact opposite of professional behavior. This sounds like an episode of a workplace drama or movie where the hero flouts the rules and saves the day. It’s not that bending the rules never works, it’s that bending the rules requires real skill and knowledge and judgment, which the OP hasn’t had the experience or awareness to acquire. This is a hard way to learn, but a valuable lesson if OP will consider the perspectives offered by Alison and the other advisors here.

          1. catsAreCool*

            “This sounds like an episode of a workplace drama or movie where the hero flouts the rules and saves the day.” This!

          2. L McD*

            Ha! Yes. The OP sees themselves at Dr. House, but the rest of the world sees them as Dwight Schrute.

        5. Anon for this*

          I’m with you. People are often so stuck in their own world they have no idea what else is going on.

          Some of the letters I could write in!!!

          Dear Alison, I have a staff member who after 25yrs with the company and an excessively amazingly generous leave policy wants me to pay for her six to twelve weeks off for a hip replacement – because she’s used every day of sick leave every year (10 days a year) as soon as it’s become available, usually without certificates, she’s also used two lots of long service leave (6mths full time pay and leave total, most recent only a year ago when she knew she’d need a hip replacement soon), four weeks of annual leave, regularly hits up flex time, has used compassionate leave on flimsy excuses for years… how on earth can I get this (mature!) woman to see sense, and soften the blow of “no, not even if you go to the union will you get six to twelve weeks extra leave on full pay.”?!

          Dear Alison, How do I address the grumbles from staff after I terminated two staff members? These staff members were terminated for signficant and serious ILLEGAL downloading of adult content (read between the lines folks, normal adult content isn’t illegal here), appealed to the union for reinstatement saying because it wasn’t in our policy that they couldn’t download that specific content and share it on work time that they should be warned, not fired… ARGH! How do I tell other staff without revealing the real reason? (Because the fired staff actually have protections in privacy rules!)

          Dear Alison, My staff member has a ‘mental health day’ every week to fortnight without fail. How do I tell him that he needs to toughen up or accept that he’s going part time and losing some salary, or not being paid for these days anymore and going to also be PIP’d over them…

          Dear Alison, I have a staff member who does literally 5hrs of work a week, which I can automate into a 20 minutes file email task. Tell me why I should retain them?!

          I could go on… seriously!

          1. Labyrinth*

            This just proves that perspective matters. In my European country, you would be considered a tyrant for wanting your employee to go on unpaid leave because they need a hip replacement. You’d not only be technically wrong here (since, in fact, our employees ARE entitled to this) but also morally wrong. I still think you’re morally in the wrong, even though your decision to make her take unpaid leave is legal in the US. Your employee is not being immature, she’s raising a very understandable objection. If you don’t want to grant her leave, you’re allowed to deny her, but I’d caution against viewing people as “immature” because they need and ask for paid sick leave. That’s a reasonable workers’ rights issue. Her use of sick leave and time off actually supports her position (that she really needs sick leave), instead of undermining it.

            1. doreen*

              Would that person still be considered a tyrant if the employee could have saved her 10 sick days a year for 25 years and had plenty of leave but just chose not to? Because that’s what I think Anon is talking about. American laws regarding paid leave may be terrible , but that doesn’t mean individual employers are terrible and it doesn’t mean no employees are short sighted in managing their leave time. I have known more than one person who uses sick days for every sniffle and who therefore has no leave when they really get sick, even in jobs with generous leave policies ( and I mean generous- current lets me accumulate up to 40 weeks and the previous one had no limit). Whenever someone here comments that another person takes a sick day as soon as it’s available , others comment that it’s her leave , she has the right to take it and it’s not the employer’s job to worry about what will happen when she gets really sick. and this is what happens- you don’t have any paid leave left when you need a hip replacement.

              1. UK Anon*

                There’s no expectation here that sick leave is a thing you ‘manage’ it’s just what you take when you get sick. It would be very weird to think someone should ‘save it up’, and not go off sick with colds etc. in case they needed an operation. Most companies (not all) will pay full pay for a generous amount of time (6 months where I am, if you’ve been here more then 3 months), then you go onto the government provided sick pay. I had an employee who insisted on being given extra leave at the drop of a hat, and wanted to use compassionate leave because she’d fallen out with family members. She ended up taking the 6 months leave when she had a problem, and of course we paid it even though she was not a good employee. You just don’t expect people to somehow control their illness to suit the company.

                1. Doreen*

                  I didn’t say manage illness, I said manage leave. There’s a difference. I am not talking about people who legitimately use up all their sick leave for medical conditions. I am talking about people who use all their leave as vacation , whether the leave is in separate buckets or not. The people who call in sick because they want to go to the beach, or they don’t feel like commuting in the rain. Or because they have minor allergies like mine that cause a sniffle but nothing else. Maybe you don’t have those people on that side of the pond, but we do have them here.

                2. Mary*

                  Sick leave is a totally separate thing from annual leave here (you get 20 days of annual leave, which must be booked in advance, and sick leave is what you take when you’re too ill or injured to work. ) So swaping from”sick leave”
                  to just “leave” will confuse a British person.

                3. doreen*

                  Reply to Mary – I was trying to be generic enough to account for single bucket systems, but what you’ve described is how it’s worked at my jobs. And I’ve known lots of people who book all 20 days of annual leave ( I do actually get that many) and the five personal days for actual vacations and use their 13 sick days to wait for the repairman or because they don’t want to commute in the rain or they woke up and waned to go to the beach (which is not actually permitted , as those days are meant for illness or injury but medical notes are not required for a day or two, so it’s easy to get away with it) . I suppose this could be a strictly American phenomenon , but I kind of doubt it. The whole purpose of sick day carryover is so that you can save the sick days you don’t need for an actual illness this year in case you do need them some future year. I don’t think an employer is a tyrant for not providing an extra 6-12 weeks of paid leave because an employee made sure to use every sick day as soon as it was available.

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              Actually, a lot of people would consider it immature to blow through all of your leave instead of saving some for when you really need it (assuming the worker used it for very minor ailments, which seems to be the case).

              1. Clewgarnet*

                It could appear that I’m immature enough to ‘blow through’ my sick leave. After all, even with the very generous sick leave in Britain, I’ve occasionally run out of paid sick leave.

                In fact, I have a chronic pain/fatigue condition. If this employee needs a hip replacement, it suggests that she’s been suffering hip pain for quite a while. Pain is a perfectly valid use of paid sick leave.

          2. Lara*

            Well… your first example aptly proved your own point. Because my interpretation is;

            “A veteran, employee who is old / sick enough to need a hip replacement has the temerity to expect pay from the company she’s been loyal to for 25 years. Plus, she’s so lazy she’s had a whole ten days of leave and actually – gasp! – uses the flex time we choose to offer.”

            Seriously, this sounds Dickensian. I thought it was a parody.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Regardless of who wrote the letter, this kind of situation (going behind manager’s back when said manager is absent) does occur. Years ago, I had a switch pulled on me when I was on maternity leave.


        Alison and Countess Boochie Flagrante are spot on in their assessments. Honestly, we all have moments at work during which we think: “If only I were running things, Project X would save the world.” Unless you are specifically tasked to do so, “saving” should only happen in movies.

        1. Mimi*

          Can I just say I love that you referenced that great advice of someone named “Countess Boochie Flagrante”?

      2. NoProfitNoProblems*

        Actually, that’s a good point. Even though I’ve come around to deciding that the letter is real, OP really has a knack for conveying the sturm und drang of a situation. OP, if you can’t get another job in your industry, you should take up writing!

    1. LSCO*

      That’s harsh and inaccurate. OP made a mistake, yes.. and a pretty big one at that. But writing to Alison was a good call, and if OP takes on board Alison’s advice there’s nothing to stop her from having a good career in the future. Bridges have been burned here, but that’s not the end of the world and certainly not the end of her career. Even in a very tight-knit industry there’ll be opportunities, OP could move into a related industry, or she might move around the country, or simply redeem herself with good volunteer work or.. multiple possibilities.

    2. NoProfitNoProblems*

      By the way, even if that was accurate, these kinds of mean-spirited comments are really against the zeitgeist here in the AAM comments. I understand that they may be more appropriate for other comment sections on the internet, so I thought I’d inform you in case you were new.

    3. GreenTeaPot*

      We all make mistakes. It is how we handle them and prevent them from reoccurring that matters.

      OP, please take stock of the situation, maybe get some communications training, and don’t be too harsh on yourself. Alison’s advice is good. Please let us know how you handled this and how you are doing.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      This was her first foray back into the workforce after an extended absence. She badly miscalculated. Who among us has never made a bad mistake at work?

      1. AVP*

        +1 to this. I have a nice career I like now and a lot of compliments from my boss and clients, but if you’d met me when I was new to the workplace you would *not* have foreseen that for me.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Oh, I don’t think that’s the case. But the OP definitely was at fault here. What she did wasn’t initiative; it was insubordination.

      If she can learn from this and adjust her thinking, I think she’ll be okay. But if not, then she’ll just keep sabotaging herself.

    6. Z*

      Additionally, today’s economy is really not as bad as it was five years ago when the OP left the work force. Heck, my brother recently got fired and had a new job before Unemployment had time to finish processing his claim. At the same management level and approximately same pay rate (just not as cushy a schedule).

    7. Zillah*

      Along with what others have said about this not being a helpful or kind comment, I’d also like to point out that this is a situation where the OP being a SAHP could actually help them. It sounds like this was their first job reentering the work force, which means there won’t be any weird gap – it’ll just look like they stayed at home for longer.

      (OP, this does not mean you should lie about having the job – just that it’s not necessary to volunteer the information unless it comes up.)

    1. Sadsack*

      Yeah, many of us are doubtful it is real. However, it could be a fake letter based on a real incident. At least Alison’s response is still right on and should be helpful for anyone considering going around their manager in a similar scenario.

      1. Punkin*

        You are correct. My comment did nothing to help the OP.

        I hope the OP can learn from this. Goodness knows I pulled some doozies early in my career.

  8. Joseph*

    Seems like this all stems from a (wildly mistaken) assumption about the REASON Betty didn’t want OP working on this. As Alison correctly points out, there are plenty of reasons Betty might have wanted to do things her way rather than “well she just doesn’t know”.

    Also, Alison didn’t call out that whole idea that OP thought her project was “less important” than Betty’s, which is probably the most ridiculous thing in the entire letter IMO. First, it might not even be true – small accounts handled well now could turn into big accounts later. Second, even if it is true, that doesn’t matter – there are plenty of reasons why you wouldn’t want a junior level employee (still in training!) running a key project.

    1. Just Another Techie*

      Seems like this all stems from a (wildly mistaken) assumption about the REASON Betty didn’t want OP working on this.

      This is exactly the source of the problem. OP, I watched my father suffer for forty years because he always assumed his coworkers were out to get him. He is 75 years old, and has never held onto a civilian job for longer than two years. The only reason he stayed in the Army for his full four year commitment was because he would have been thrown in jail if he had left. And all his problems boiled down to assuming the worst of everyone around him when there was no reason to do so. For your sake and your family’s sake, OP, please learn to afford your colleagues a little bit of benefit of the doubt. Betty is almost certainly not conniving. She might be confused or bad at her job, or more likely, she has more information available to her, as the manager, than you do. Regardless, assume the best, do the best work you can on the work assigned to you, and try to smooth things over with the people around you instead of treating everything like an insult or confrontation, and your life will be much easier.

      I also used to treat everything at work as a confrontation (much like you, and like my Dad, who taught me my earliest workplace skills). I found an article about social class in the office, and how to “pass” in situations much different than the ones I grew up in, that was super helpful to me. I think it might help you too. I’ll link it in my next comment.

        1. AMT*

          Great article. I’m one of those “straddlers” who had a rough time getting accustomed to white collar school/work norms, but it was always hard to articulate exactly what the problem was.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Thanks for the link. The article made me think that perhaps OP would be better off running her own business rather than working for someone. Some people just cannot hack confinement and having an immediate boss is like a jail to them. I wonder if OP’s reaction to Betty is because she felt Betty was her jailer.

        3. Anonsie*

          Yeeessss! Yes! I used to bring this up here all the time before I decided to give my soap box a rest.

        4. Jessica (tc)*

          I’ve read this article before, and it really hits home. I had already read Limbo on someone’s recommendation (someone on here), and it really does explain a lot of my own discomfort with the work/life bleed-through as well as the networking aspect. There’s so much to the changing social class at work (and in relationships, which is another issue–particularly with in-laws).

      1. GreenTeaPot*

        Yup. Techie, I am or was once in the same boat. Nothing my parents taught me about working was helpful.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, my parents both had white collar jobs but they came from blue collar families. It was interesting, to say the least. But they carried many, many misconceptions about how workplaces function and they died on the wrong hills.

      2. Abby*

        Oh man, I have a relative like this– she’s incredibly suspicious of everyone and their qualifications. Granted, she certainly had toxic co-workers, but her bad experiences have colored every other interaction she has with strangers and colleagues. If a store associate doesn’t say “hi” to her, it’s obviously because they’re racist. If someone gives her a suggestion on how to do something, it’s pretty clear that it’s because they think she’s an idiot.

        I’ve learned not to talk to her about MY co-workers (who are all wonderful), because she’ll inevitably start asking leading questions, insinuating that they aren’t as good as I think they are, that they’re being deceptive, or have some other sort of character flaw. I’ve learned not to try to correct her vision of them, because it will almost always boil down to “you’re young, so you’re naive, but they’ll show their true colors sooner or later.”

        1. Pix*

          Oh gosh, same, only for me it’s a relative who won’t do ANYTHING they’re not 100% sure they won’t succeed at. Tried to get their MBA, didn’t pass, said everyone was out to get them and they’ve been working from home (badly) ever since.

          My own personal rule is never to attribute to malice what I can attribute to accident, forgetfulness, or human error.

          1. Hello Felicia*

            +1 I try to follow something similar. Even if I’m wrong and it really *is* malice, I’m a whole lot happier not thinking everyone is out to get me. That’s a miserable way to live.

          2. catsAreCool*

            “My own personal rule is never to attribute to malice what I can attribute to accident, forgetfulness, or human error.” Great rule!

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Boy, do I understand this one. “I am so sophisticated and savvy because I know everyone is out to screw me. See how sophisticated and savvy I am?”

          Yeah, and that helps you HOW?

          “It’s the one who won’t be taken that cannot seem to give. And the soul afraid of dying that has never learned to live.”–Bette Midler.

      3. irritable vowel*

        My dad was like this, too. He always either didn’t have his contract renewed after 1-2 years (when he was teaching) or would quit in a huff from office jobs because he thought his bosses were being unreasonable. It took me until I was in my mid-30s to realize what a number this attitude, as applied to parenting, had done on me. Not everything was all my fault after all, hooray!

        1. Artemesia*

          My grandfather was like this but even worse as he would build a successful business and then get in tiff with his partners and stomp out and leave the business and have to start over. He did have a serious head injury in a car accident as a youngish man and always had a sort of dent in his forehead. As an adult I have wondered if he didn’t have some frontal lobe damage that made it hard for him to control himself.

          1. MoinMoin*

            Reminds me of Phineas Gage, who had an injury to the frontal lobe during the American civil war and subsequently was reported to have a drastic change to his personality.

      4. snuck*

        Generally I don’t assume people are being malicious or vengeful or other intentionally negative traits that are directed at me specifically… that way leads to paranoia and madness. Instead I assume they are motivated by something more selfish, more about them.

        If someone is being a complete doodle bum to me I assume they have a good reason, that probably is less about me than them.

        It doesn’t sound like Betty was being awful, pointy or rude. So any assumptions about Betty shouldn’t be seen as a personal attack, probably just natural repercussions for actions taken.

        1. Just Another Techie*

          I just remind myself of all the bone-headed, asinine, and insensitive things I’ve done because
          – I just broke up with my boyfriend or girlfriend
          – I didn’t get enough sleep
          – I accidentally put decaf in the coffeemaker that morning
          – I was stewing over a fight with my dad
          – My knee hurt
          etc etc etc

    2. Bookworm*

      OP, I think Joseph has a really good point here. It sounds like there was some fundamental distrust between you and your manager – you really seemed to think that Betty was not on your side. That must be really emotionally exhausting and difficult to deal with.

      I definitely recommend thinking about why you felt so adversarial to Betty. Personally, I find it helpful to assume that everyone is doing their best, and if their actions don’t make sense, then it’s because they have information that I don’t have. Sure, that’s not always true, but it helps me approach problems and people from a strong, collaborative mindset….which ultimately benefits me in the long run.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        And what I mentioned below plays in here. You don’t have to respect the person, but you do have to respect their role in the organization.

    3. AnonEMoose*

      While I was reading through this, besides “Wow,” I was thinking that there was likely detailed information about this account that Betty was aware of, and the OP was not. I know that where I work, I deal with a lot of situations that are similar on the surface, but are actually quite different when you start digging into the detail. Or there could be specific things about the relationship with that particular client that Betty was aware of, but Veronica wasn’t.

      OP should have backed off when Betty said “no.” At most, OP, you could have asked Betty to help you understand why this account was different from the other. It could have been a great learning experience.

      I see where people are coming from thinking this one could be fake, but I, too, have worked with people like this. Trust me when I say that the answer to “could someone be this clueless” is “YES.” It’s like asking if someone is a god. (“When someone asks you if you’re a god, you say: “YES!”)

      1. Joseph*

        Excellent point in the second paragraph – The better way to approach this in the future would be to simply ask Betty why. She may not have responded immediately (given the timing, it’s entirely possible that Betty blew OP off because she was focused on clearing decks before vacation), but most managers I’ve ever dealt with will gladly give you reasons for things if you ask the right way at the right time. Wait till Betty comes back from vacation and is in a good mood, then politely bring up “hey, just wanted to follow up on our discussion and understand the reasons why you prefer our current strategy for Client X”. The tone should basically say “I respect your judgment and I know you know things I don’t, so I want to learn from your experience”.

        Then you listen politely and consider what she says. Even if you disagree with those reasons, you first go back to your office/cube and think about the reasons. Then you evaluate if it’s worth fighting over AND if it’s a winnable battle now. The latter is often less related to the merits of the argument than to “other” things, like your experience, recent performance, company factors like risk management, your relationship with Betty, how recently you two disagreed on things, and so on.

    4. LBK*

      And frankly, Betty doesn’t even need a good reason to keep the OP off the project. She’s the boss, and you don’t get to just decide to ignore your boss if you don’t like what they tell you. That’s the very definition of insubordination.

      I think what’s very telling is that the OP waited until Betty was on vacation to go over her head, which suggests to me that she knew she was doing something shady that could get her in trouble if Betty caught her.

      1. Chinook*

        “And frankly, Betty doesn’t even need a good reason to keep the OP off the project. She’s the boss, and you don’t get to just decide to ignore your boss if you don’t like what they tell you. That’s the very definition of insubordination.”

        This bears repeating – the boss doesn’t need to justify keeping someone off a project. That is the perk of the job – you get to choose when you, the boss, gets to handle a client and/or keep someone away from them. It is nice if there is a reason and she chooses to share it but it is in no way a requirement.

        I personally think that Betty kept quiet in that meeting because she saw the OP digging her own hole and realized she didn’t need any help getting herself fired. It is also possible that she had complained about the OP’s attitude in the past to her boss and was disbelieved by Veronica for the same reason so many of here are having trouble believing it and was relieved to be able to let the OP’s true colours shine through.

    5. INTP*

      Yes, this is a good point.

      Sometimes, you just don’t get to know everything that happens above your head. I get that it can be frustrating, but that is the way that it is. Sometimes people are not informed of issues with clients or changes that need to be made until things are closer to rolling out for a variety of legitimate reasons, hence why you have to listen to your manager when they tell you not to do something.

    6. TootsNYC*

      Also, Alison didn’t call out that whole idea that OP thought her project was “less important” than Betty’s, which is probably the most ridiculous thing in the entire letter IMO.

      The OP is the subordinate. Even if it were not a case of “not the right qualifications, exactly” and only 4 months of experience, the subordinates don’t get the juicy projects. The bosses do.

      When the OP gets to be a boss, she can hog the high-profile projects.

      (Absolutely it may not have been a case of hogging the high-profile projects–but even if it was, the boss wins.
      I remember being in a clash w/ my associate who was mad that I was moving her out of the window office. She said, “Is this some kind of power play?” I told my mom about it, and she said, “Did you say, ‘Yes, it is, and I win’?”)

  9. AMG*

    I have had a direct report like this. Couldn’t get her out fast enough. And yeah, she could have totally written this letter.

    1. CarrieUK*

      I have also walked this walk with a reportee, both as Betty and Veronica (as I got promoted part way through it).

      OP, going around your manager’s decisions is NEVER going to be something that makes them happy and is not likely to be key in advancing in the workplace. You can try to persuade someone, but at the end of the day, deciding direction is your manager’s job, not yours. Yours is to carry out her direction.

      You might want to spend some time really reflecting on your experience and what Alison has said, and then maybe doing some volunteering to get an up-to-date reference that will be more positive. I can’t imagine that any reference that comes out of this place will be one that makes another company excited to hire you. Even your own recounting of the situation would make me pull the plug, and that’s presumably seen through the best lens.

    2. EmilyG*

      I found AAM after working with an employee like this and pathetically googling for help, so I totally believe this letter. (I was Betty, and my Veronica was so well-meaning that it took us a while to figure out how duplicitous the employee was.) I found it quite interesting to read about this from the employee’s perspective and I think having read this would have made our situation easier to deal with, as a manager. Unfortunately, we did (eventually) realize that we needed to say these things point blank to the employee, but they weren’t willing to listen.

      I hope Allison’s answer was useful to the OP and just wanted to say that it’s useful for managers, too!

    3. anon for this*

      Something like this happened where I work. Veronica said yes to the op’s idea but told op that she needed to wait to say anything about it until Veronica could speak to Betty about it. Op (I will call her Archie now) went to Betty immediately and told Betty how things were going to be done from there on out. Betty spoke with Veronica about it and submitted her resignation the next day. Other people heard about this and two others resigned over it. Archie was transferred to another department. Archie gets transferred a lot. Veronica is still her manager and she has now run out of departments to transfer her to. Archie has different problems in each department she works in, all having to do with her people skills.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        And Archie wasn’t fired after this because? If you make multiple employees resign, you too should be on your way out the door soon after IMO.

        1. anon for this*

          Nope. Archie still works there and Veronica just complains about her but never does anything that I can see. Betty is glad to be gone.

  10. boop*

    Oof, OP must be the type to desire control, control, and more control. Those friends must have been given an alternative version of this story if they advised OP to avoid that office’s “environment”. That environment gave someone a HUGE chance that most people never get. They let you prove yourself capable, and gave you actual projects to learn on. They gave you a merit raise after only 5 months.

    No gratitude.

    1. JMegan*

      And they also gave her severance and laid her off after all that, when they could quite reasonably have fired her for cause. I think the company has been more than fair here, and I hope the OP can benefit from some alternate perspectives on what happened.

  11. Are you my retired co-worker?*

    To the OP:
    Is this the first time in your career your taking initiative was not appreciated? I’d like to hear more about your perspective.

    1. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

      Or in life in general? Do you bulldoze friends? Do you insist things should be done your way because you know best? Do people do a slow fade from you?

      1. Are you my retired co-worker?*

        I was trying to avoid terms like that ;-).

        I really want to hear this person’s perspective. My retired co-worker literally thought she knew better than anyone. I thought I was the only one who noticed because she was not reprimanded to my knowledge and it infuriated me. I learned later that others were aware but were able to “let it go” better than I was.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Initiative is a tricky thing. We want employees to have it, as long as they match it with good judgement. When they don’t can turn into disaster.

      I have an employee right now who has tons of ideas and initiative. Unfortunately his instincts are really wrong a lot of time and his ideas won’t work because he still hasn’t learned how the organization works. So I’ve had to put him on a really short leash, which I hate but I don’t trust him enough yet.

      1. Dan*

        Sometimes it seems that the greatest maturity someone can exhibit in the workplace is the knowledge that they don’t know everything/don’t have the big picture, etc.

        One thing I’ve found helpful is clear guidelines on where employees do and do not have latitude. For instance, rules such as “do not initiate a conversation with the client without my specific direction” are clear and actionable.

        Another area where the work place is like marriage is when you WANT people to take initiative in certain areas, you don’t criticize them for not doing things the way you would have done it as long as it’s decent. (If your way is better, then that’s a conversation, but a delicate one.)

    3. Marzipan*

      A friend of mine recently went out of town for a few days, leaving her visiting mother to look after her children. On returning, she found that her mother had done a surprise redecoration of a room in her house, including painting woodwork my friend had intended to leave unpainted. (Meanwhile, the kids’ homework, bedtime routines etc had all slipped, because the redecoration had taken most of the available time.) Was it a well-intentioned, nice gesture? Absolutely! Was it a good idea, welcomed upon implementation? Not entirely. Fortunately, it’s actually fairly plain and unobjectionable – she didn’t paint it fuchsia or anything – but it was maybe not such a good idea, all told.

      OP, the thing is, you may lack information to know whether or not what looks like a good idea to you will definitely be a good idea in practice. There may be metaphorical woodwork in the account you made changes to, that Betty had good reason to keep unpainted. Or, heck, just to prefer unpainted – which is her prerogative, since in this case it’s her ‘house’.

      And at the end of the day, showing initiative isn’t really about diving in and doing the thing. Going to Betty and suggesting the changes, as you did initially, was showing initiative, and is totally fine – good, even! You had an idea, mentioned it, and were willing to put in the work to implement it, which is what initiative is all about, and managers generally appreciate the sentiment even if they have to say no in practice. Going ahead with the changes even after she’d told you they weren’t what she wanted to do right now isn’t really about initiative, though. That’s as though my friend’s mother had asked “hey, do you want me to redecorate while you’re away?”, and my friend had said “no, that’s OK, leave it as it, thanks” and then come home to find all the skirting boards were lime green. And then been shouted at by her mother when she painted them white again, because her mother asked the kids and they said it was cool.

      My suggestion for the future, therefore, would be to go ahead and propose ideas (within reason), but to draw a distinction between suggesting them and implementing them – especially when you’ve been asked not to go ahead.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Add to it the “this is MY house!!” aspect, which absolutely applies here for the OP and Betty.

          It’s not the OP’s “house”; it’s Betty’s.

        2. JessaB*

          This so would have ended in “you will pay to have that woodwork stripped and any other major changes fixed and returned to it’s original state, and I will absolutely see you in small claims court if you do not How dare you touch my house.” and I don’t care how close I was to the person. There would be a professional in the house the next day fixing it at 100% their expense. Also I would be sitting in the chair while they put every single thing back where it was and I sat and enjoyed it. I would be absolutely ballistic if this happened to me.

          And I don’t care, but they wouldn’t be allowed to sit for my kids either. Because seriously? Letting things slip when parent is out is okay, but letting them slip that far? Staying up later maybe, eating junk food, okay I might not like it but it’s a rare thing, but not doing homework? I mean let’s face it things slip when someone else is in charge, but I’d not let them do it again. Unless my kids were special needs and there was a major issue with “routines MUST be followed, or else.”

          But I don’t even care if I loved the changes, it would as my family says have “developed thinghood,” IE some things are such that it doesn’t matter whether the result is good or bad, it’s a THING and it’s developed thinghood and you’re not going to screw around with things like that.

          And you’re by gods going to return any thing you changed to it’s original state. Even if a year later I go and paint it. It’s never ever on you to make permanent changes to things that don’t belong to you and you’re going to fix it at your time and expense if you do it to me. (And yes I am OCD and do NOT do changes well, so this kind of gets me in the OMG they did what? No no nopity nope. Never.)

        3. Anon Accountant*

          I wouldn’t either. I’d be livid.

          Actually would livid even cover it? What would be a more strong word? I’d hit the roof.

          1. Josie*

            Livid describes me when I came home from vacation to discover my mother had redecorated my livingroom. Nearly every single piece of furniture was moved. Then she yelled at me when I told her it was unacceptable, and that she’d have to move it back. She did it, but it was the last time she house-sat for me.

            1. Marian the Librarian*

              Wow, I didn’t know this was so common! This happened to my SIL! My MIL (her mother) found out where her spare key was, went into the apartment when SIL was away (IIRC she wasn’t even asked over or asked to house-sit), and re-arranged all her living room furniture. I’m pretty sure SIL just quietly seethed and moved it all back herself, but when I heard about this I was HORRIFIED.

      1. neverjaunty*

        “Was it a well-intentioned, nice gesture? Absolutely!”

        Yeah, I have my doubts.

        (Less cynically, it could have been that Mom was feeling overwhelmed with the kids’ and managing their routines, and seized on fixing up the house as Look, I’m Helping.)

        1. Oryx*

          Last summer my dad watched my cats while I was at a conference. When I came home, I noticed he’d hired a cleaning service to come in and clean my apartment and while I was a little unnerved that he’d let them in when I wasn’t there without my knowledge, I was very grateful.

          If my mom did that, I’d know it was not well-intentioned and was, instead, her usual passive aggressive attempt to show me how much she disapproves of my lack of domestic abilities.

          Oh parents.

          1. JessaB*

            Yeh the reaction to things has a lot to do with the underlying relationship. Your da was doing something nice, your ma would be doing something “that looks nice under the cover of being passively agressively nasty.” And it does matter. It totally matters.

        2. Snazzy Hat*

          A few years ago, per my request and her volunteering, my mother painted my bathroom when I was out of town for a week. On first glance, it looks cool. The colors are awesome. My mother doesn’t believe in painter’s tape or drop cloths. I found paint drops on the floor, toilet, and hall floor, and the baseboard looks terrible. She painted the hinges and knobs of the bathroom door and cabinet doors.

          Thanks, Mom, but maybe the next time you paint someone else’s anything, you act like it’s someone else’s and not your own?

      2. LawBee*

        Oh, this makes me feel ill. I would be a mess if my mom did this, because the last thing I ever want is to hurt her feelings – but omg she painted the woodwork. I’d have to lie through my teeth and live with it for years and really work HARD not to be resentful.

  12. 2 Cents*

    OP, if you’re using this company, and specifically Betty, as a reference, that’s probably why you’re not getting called in. All she has to do is say you were on the job for 4 months, received training, then failed to follow simple protocols and instructions. That’s a huge red flag for anyone. If you *must* use Betty, maybe you can chat with her (once you’ve digested Alison’s advice), apologize, then agree on what she’ll pass on to reference checkers that’s a) not a lie, but b) not damning either.

    1. BethRA*

      And assuming it has come up, I would take a long look at how you describe this incident or the reasons you left that company in job interviews. Because if it’s anything like how you’ve described it here, it’s probably killing your chances for the reasons Allison stated.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        If a candidate came into an interview and described this situation to me the way OP describes it here but in much more formal/polite language, they would not get hired.

        In fact I once recommended against hiring a guy who basically told me he left his last job because his boss was incompetent because I thought he seemed pushy and unprofessional. The manager decided to hire him anyway, and he was shortly after let go for being pushy and unprofessional and ignoring what his manager told him to do because he thought his plan was better.

        1. Sunshine*

          Just re-learned this lesson pretty recently, with an applicant who had several short term jobs over the past few years, and a lot of explanations for each. Always about something wrong with the company. I ignored the little voices and hired them – only to have her walk out a month later. Needless to say, reference checks are much more in-depth now.

          1. JessaB*

            Also, never ever ignore the little voices, that’s your experience telling you something is wrong. You can check it and decide you can live with it, because of other great things, but always check about what your voices are telling you in an interview. Make the decision deliberately.

    2. Ineloquent*

      honestly, I’d call Betty and apologize anyway. Offering an olive branch when you’ve made an egregious error is hard, but can be well worth it.

    3. Jinx*

      Since OP describes this as her first job after five years of SAH parenting, I feel like she should just leave it off completely (if that’s an option). Since she was already coming from an unemployment gap, she won’t be any worse off in this search than the previous one.

      Background checks wouldn’t turn up a job you don’t list, right? I’m not super-familiar with how that works, or if it’s even possible to leave a bad reference job off.

      1. Amber*

        Agreed, I’d leave it off as well. If you got a job after a long break, no reason you can’t find another.

      2. JessaB*

        Depends on how deep the background check is, but mostly no. They usually verify what they can see and general background info (no arrests, no warrants, yes they worked at these jobs for this time period, they went to these schools, got those degrees.) Unless you’re getting into security clearance or serious background checks for specific types of jobs, but those would clearly tell you “list every single solitary thing and if you leave something off, you’re going to have issues.”

        1. JessaB*

          To add, I have one job that was about 3 weeks that I leave off my resume, and have had many background checks done (once worked at a bank.) If I was ever asked about it, I’d tell the truth.

          No background checker ever asked me about that company.

          But I second the motion that since the OP already has a five year gap, a five year four month gap will not even be checked upon.

  13. fposte*

    OP, it sounds to me that you felt they needed you to prove yourself and to forge your own path right from the beginning, and that that’s in the letter because you felt your subsequent actions were in keeping with this approach, hence how stunned you were that those actions weren’t received well.

    But I think that’s your narrative lens, a view perhaps enhanced by your being out of the workforce for a while and feeling you had something to prove. I see a company that reasonably wanted to see some results from you before they committed to you and where their training was lackluster in a common way, not a place that specialized in workplace Darwinism. And that’s going to be true in most workplaces you encounter–they’re not going to reward you for effort that’s indifferent to hierarchy, which is one of the things I hear in your post, but penalize you for it.

    It’s not just about individual productivity. You can’t be the soccer player who runs over her own teammate.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Yes, particularly that last sentence, which is wise advice applicable to so many situations.

    1. sunny-dee*

      OMG, this! I moved to a new role, and I was trying to prep the person taking over a couple of my old projects. He kept insisting that he wanted to scrap the entire plan and build something new, except 1) both projects are nearing release dates and 2) he fundamentally does not understand the technologies or team processes, no matter how hard I tried to explain them. (As in, he cannot grasp the difference between a UI-based installer and a manual installation.) He is, sadly, causing a fair amount of unneeded chaos on the writing and engineering teams simply because he thinks the only way to prove his value is to Do Something New.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        Is there something you can assign to him that’s nice to have but if you don’t have it, there’s no loss? That’s how many of my software teams have dealt with people whose contributions don’t match their self-image. They think they’re doing something new and they’re happy; they’re out of our way and we’re happy.

    2. orchidsandtea*

      > they’re not going to reward you for effort that’s indifferent to hierarchy, which is one of the things I hear in your post, but penalize you for it.

      This is really important. Archie, the company doesn’t exist for your sake. It stings sometimes, but you’re a cog in the wheel in a machine that’s working towards bigger goals, and the way to show initiative isn’t by abandoning your responsibilities to do what you’d rather do. That just makes you a loose cannon. The way to show initiative is to identify ways to make your wheel or the whole machine function better, and to work well within the hierarchy so that your and others’ good ideas can be implemented as smoothly as possible. If you don’t want to be a cog, find another type of role where you can be a small machine. Run your own small business, perhaps.

      There are ways the system’s broken, but this ain’t one.

  14. Macedon*

    Real life isn’t a Marvel superhero flick. The gutsy protag doesn’t earn their peers’ grudging respect by acting outside of the law to save the day. I get the feeling OP didn’t entertain too high of an opinion of Betty’s competence and tried to force a fix on this project in hopes that the end will justify the means. It was a gamble – one that unfortunately comes with very slim odds.

    OP, I would cut my losses and be as placating as possible. You mention not seeing interviews past the references stage – this, of course, could be the result of anything, but is it possible you are getting a poor reference from your most recent workplace?

  15. Sunflower*

    ‘I think Betty may even have spread harsh rumors about me in the industry ‘. Quite frankly Betty doesn’t need to spread rumors- all she has to do is tell the truth that you have stated yourself to make you un-hirable to many employers! I don’t know your industry or location but if it’s a tight knit one, you may have burned a very important bridge here. However, with a mindset like yours, it’s possible you are the one who is sabotaging your chances. How you work with your manager and other employees is often something hiring managers try to suss out during interviews. I am frequently asked in interviews ‘what would you do if you didn’t agree with a decision your boss is making’. Go above her head is usually not the right answer.

    I really hope OP comes back because I am very curious about what OP thinks a manager does and doesn’t do.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I find OP’s disconnect from how her own actions impact others and how her actions cause others to react very concerning.

      OP, nothing happens in a vacuum. If you do x, then y will happen. For every action there is an equal an opposite reaction. Check to make sure you want the REaction BEFORE committing to the action.

    2. catsAreCool*

      Yeah, I think if LW is explaining why LW was fired, that by itself would scuttle any interview.

  16. Lurker*

    “I know that sometimes you have to push hard to get things done…”

    This line stuck out to me, because I’ve been given very similar advice before. I work in a vastly male-dominated industry. Being assertive and clear, surrounded by people with much louder (often forceful opinions), was not an easy skillset for me to acquire. It’s also hard sometimes to know precisely what “assertive” means on a practical level, especially when you work with people who aren’t the most reasonable or just haven’t worked with that many people before, period.

    I wonder, perhaps, if OPs being out of the workforce for a while, on top of hearing some of this rhetoric – that you need to be assertive and dominating – wasn’t… misinterpreted? I just have this feeling that OP was given bad advice. Or took what could be good advice to an extreme due to a misunderstanding of what an appropriate amount of “assertive” is.

    Maybe that’s reading into it too much, but I do hope that the OP takes this as a learning experience, finds something new soon, and that AM’s advice is able to provide the OP with better insight into future dealings with employers.

    It’s good and lucky that OPs employers are willing to count this as a lay-off. I’d try to make sure that story is consistent and just move forward.

    1. CADMonkey007*

      I worked with a guy who – in my mind – read one too many workplace self help blogs and took the phrase “self initiative” to an unhealthy level. He did a lot of unnecessary things in order to show “initiative” but never got around to the tasks he was hired for, pretty much ignored every direction he received and deferred instead to his own ideas. To make it worse he got offended that no one was falling over in awe at his ideas, and was livid at the slightest hint critical feedback.

      He lasted two weeks. These people do exist.

      1. Jill of All Trades*

        I had this exact same coworker. It was his first job out of college and he sincerely thought that we would be so amazed at him that he would be promoted to director in 2 weeks (he actually said this, out loud and often). He was also VERY concerned about everyone’s title and years of service. We struggled to refocus him to learning his job so he could be minimally productive at least. He unfortunately lasted almost 2 years in this fashion.

      2. Boop*

        I almost feel sorry for these personality types. Their lives are so hard! Yes, it’s mostly their fault, but it’s still a bit sad. You want to just remove their mental blinkers and allow them to see the world more clearly.

        But then I remember that I want them to see the world according to me and, well…duh.

      3. NicoleK*

        I had this same exact coworker. From day 1, she was pushing her ideas (all of them were terrible). She spent more time promoting herself and working on her pet projects while important tasks were left untouched or incomplete. She didn’t listen and assumed she knew everything. Pretty much everyone that had to work with her complained about her. Unfortunately, she lasted 10 months.

    2. Pix*

      I have a hard time thinking that OP could have not known they were doing something wrong: they deliberately waited until Betty was on vacation and out of the office to go to Veronica. If OP was so sure they were right, why wait? Why not go when Betty was in office?

      1. Rat in the Sugar*

        She probably thought that if Betty was in the office, she might have gotten a chance to put a stop to it before OP could prove how great her ideas were. Doing it with Betty right there would have meant fights and disagreements–after all, Betty is right there to tell Veronica, “No, I told OP not to do that already.” This way, everything happens during Betty’s absence and once she comes back, it’s all in place and she has no choice but to bow down and admit OP’s rightness.

      2. Oryx*

        Probably because she wanted to “surprise” Betty upon her return — like, “Look at this awesome thing I did while you were gone!” as a way to prove that her idea was right from the beginning.

      3. L McD*

        Because sneaky behavior always feels justified when you cast the person you’re sneaking around as the villain.

    3. Liz T*

      Yeah but what the OP did wasn’t pushing hard or being assertive–it was being sneaky and manipulative!

      Pushing hard would’ve meant returning to the conversation with Betty later, not actively waiting until she was gone to deal with the issue deceitfully. I don’t know if pushing harder with Betty would’ve been a good idea, but the OP didn’t even do that.

  17. BRR*

    In addition to others’ comments:
    -I wouldn’t say you were laid off in interviews. This wasn’t a lay off. Lay offs are when a company can’t afford to keep you or something in the arena of eliminating a position for financial reasons. If you say you were laid off in interviews it’s not going to reflect well if they learn of the situation.
    -I wouldn’t hire a lawyer. It doesn’t sound like company did anything illegal. Lawsuits are also long (if you’re in trouble financially now, you likely wouldn’t see a pay IF you won for a very long time), difficult to prove from your side, and can tarnish your reputation. You’re also not likely to be able to sue your way into a job.

      1. Bookworm*

        Yup, that’s a really good point. OP, if you’re still listing this job, you might want to remove it – it’s probably hurting you more than helping.

      2. BRR*

        I would also drop it from my resume since they did not hold a job before. Thinking more of ats where they ask you to list all jobs in the past X years.

      3. Poohbear McGriddles*

        Yeah, not much difference between 60 months out of the work force and 64. This one would hurt more than it would help.

      4. Sunflower*

        I would drop it too but I get confused about omitting things. I know it’s fine to omit stuff from your resume but on a job application if it asks about your 3 most recent jobs, do you have to list it? I remember reading here your resume is a marketing document but I think omitting it from an application would possibly be ground to get pulled from consideration.?

    1. Gandalf the Nude*

      Disagree. The managers told her it was a lay off, and it’s important to be consistent with their messaging. If a candidate told me she was fired but her former employer told me she was laid off, I’d think the candidate was creating drama where there probably wasn’t any and it would make me wonder if she would bring that attitude into my workplace.

      1. Sunflower*

        Yup -if the company says it;s a layoff, then stick with that. Although with the LW’s mindset I wouldn’t be totally surprised if she was actually fired but she heard laid off.

      2. BRR*

        If the managers called it a lay off I would totally call it a lay off. While I know we’re supposed to take the lw’s word at face value I think there’s a possibility it wasn’t called a lay off.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          When I got fired, I was told I was being fired, but that they were going to record it as a layoff, so that what I’ve always called it, and thank goodness for that!

  18. Seal*

    The red flag for me is why Veronica didn’t say “have you run this by Betty” when the OP approached her, particularly since Betty had just left for what sounds like a long vacation. If I had an employee who tried to do an end run around me when I went on vacation and then mouthed off when confronted I’d definitely show them the door. But I’d also make a point of sitting down with my boss to find out why they OK’d the project in my absence in the first place.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Veronica may have assumed that the OP *had* gotten the initial OK and was just looking for approval on actual direction or application. On something that had arisen after Betty left.

      Because it’s really, really unthinkable that someone would do this sort of end run around their direct manager. Especially at only 4 months on the job!

      1. Seal*

        Good point. She also may well have given a lukewarm or neutral response the OP assumed was a yes.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Yeah, all we’re getting is her version of events, not the boss’s boss’s version. For all we know, the boss’s boss said “Yeah, I don’t really know much about the details of that project. I don’t see anything wrong with what you’re proposing, but your boss knows this project better than I do,” and the OP interpreted that to mean “The boss’s boss didn’t see anything wrong with what I’m proposing.”

        2. hbc*

          Oh, yes. I have an employee with initiative who has heard “I’m not opposed to that” or “If it needs to be done, I’m all in favor” from my boss as “Boss says we should do this!” I have to remind him that it means Boss isn’t opposed to spending $50K on a new piece of equipment if we’ve done our due diligence, but that’s not the same as handing us a blank check because we saw a cool demo.

        3. Meg Murry*

          Yes, or it may have been a miscommunication where Veronica thought she was giving OP the approval to make a mock-up or draft that would be run by Betty when Betty came back in the office, not to go ahead and launch her ideas. I could absolutely see a situation where a higher-up would say to one of my co-workers, “yes, go ahead and work on that” to mean do some drafting and planning, not to mean “yes, take that idea, run with it and make it live without talking to the customer”

  19. UK Underling*

    Wow. Just wow. OP is exactly the kind of person that I hope I don’t come into contact with in my working life.

  20. newlyhr*

    This letter itself seems a little too fabricated to be true. But…..I think the situation happens more often than one might think. I have seen something similar to this happen in my own organization, so from that perspective, I think it’s a helpful letter to use in this forum.

  21. animaniactoo*

    LW, to put this in terms that maybe you will understand better:

    I’m assuming you have been the prime decision maker in terms of day-to-day stuff for your kids. So let’s say one of your kids came to you to propose that they should be allowed to oh, say, stay up 1 hour later, and gave you a bunch of reasons why they thought this would help them in managing their time, be able to be more relaxed about how much time they have to get their homework done, etc. You – knowing that it continues to be a fight to get them out of bed in the morning – say that you have plans for getting them to that point, but aren’t ready to do that, so no, not now.

    You go out of town for a week a day later and haven’t had a chance to mention this to your husband or discuss it with him (if you even would have any way). The day you leave, kiddo goes to your husband a makes the same pitch. He says “hmmm, that seems like it might be reasonable. Let’s try it out and see how it goes.”

    You come back to find your kid is staying up an hour later, and when you go to talk to them about it, they unload on you telling you that “Daddy said I could! You have no right to interfere, it’s not your business!”

    Is your kid in trouble, or have they just shown initiative?

    Yes – I recognize that you’re an adult here, but the point of this is the *authority structure*. Who is in charge, what is their responsibility and right as a person in charge, and who is not in charge and what rights/role do they have as someone who is not in charge?

    1. AW*

      Your scenario is one I thought of while reading the letter because it’s a thing kids often do: ask the other parent after the first one says no. Probably every sitcom about a family with children has an episode where this happens.

        1. Tammy*

          I’ve also heard this behavior called “triangulating”, both in a parenting context and elsewhere.

          1. animaniactoo*

            As far as I understand, triangulation usually means not just bringing in a 3rd person, but setting it up (or having an established expectation) that the 3rd person will then go talk to the 1st person, and resolve the 2nd’s issue with them.

            My husband’s family does a ton of this, and it’s something we’ve worked really hard to stamp down on in our interactions with them, and in getting our kids to move away from it.

            Judge shopping is a different kind of thing because they don’t actually want the 3rd person to go back to the 1st, they’re looking to cut the 1st person out altogether.

            1. TyphoidMary*

              Triangulating also refers to any time a tripartite relationship is used this way (i.e. bringing in a third family member to “help” with an issue between two family members), not just kids asking parents for permission. It’s very interesting!

        2. TL -*

          This always amazes me because my parents’ first response to any question was, “what did other parent say?”

  22. Cambridge Comma*

    I had a coworker who did something similar.
    Sometimes I think the clichés you see in films and shows like the Apprentice about taking initiative etc. can really hurt people who are out of touch with how to behave in the workplace.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Absolutely agree. I cringe when I read articles about “taking initiative” or TV shows where they steamroll others to get ahead and it’s treated as “taking initiative”.

      1. Creag an Tuire*

        I feel like most TV shows set in any kind of workplace should come with a disclaimer: “Warning: In real life, Elliot Stabler would’ve been fired, Gregory House would’ve been fired and stripped of his medical license, and Dunder Mifflin would’ve collapsed under, like, a dozen goddamn lawsuits. Do not attempt these actions at your own job.”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes! I could much more calmly watch movies and TV if that were the case, instead of muttering about how some workplace-themed plot point could never happen.

          1. Shell*

            Ditto. I always mutter under my breath about how many protocols the characters are flagrantly breaching. Makes it hard to have sympathy for the characters sometimes (I can’t get away with that!).

            1. Dan*

              My friend the pre-med student, late 90’s: “Don’t call me on Thursday nights when ER is on.”
              My friend the OB-GYN 10 years later: “Grey’s Anatomy? I can’t watch that crap.”

              Thankfully, TV doesn’t seem to make ongoing series out of things in my field. I will admit that Smithsonian channel had some stuff on crash investigations that was remarkably well done.

              1. Nervous Accountant*

                I’d kill to see a show about my field (accounting and taxes). FWIW, there’s never a boring moment at work. :)

                1. starsaphire*

                  Sadly, Monty Python convinced us all that chartered accountancy was… not an exciting profession.

                  You could try being a lion tamer, though… ;)

                2. Ms. Didymus*

                  I feel like….every moment…would be a boring moment for me if I were an accountant.

                  Probably why I’m not an accountant, huh?

                3. Nervous Accountant*

                  Well to be fair, my coworkers and clients make it fun/entertaining at the least. I think it has more to do with my particular workplace than the work itself though.

                4. AthenaC*

                  Not sure how anyone could think accounting is boring. Just for you, my two favorite jaw-drop moments:

                  Scenario 1:

                  Me: Are these accrual-basis or cash-basis financials?
                  Client: Oh, these are definitely accrual-basis.
                  Me: Well then where’s your A/R?
                  Client: What’s that?

                  Scenario 2:

                  Me: So, have there been any big changes this year?
                  Client: Well, we have a new CEO (the 8th CEO in 3 years) and we bought a company.
                  Me: Oh, that’s interesting – how did you record the purchase?
                  Client: Oh we just brought everything over at the other company’s book value.
                  Me: ….

                  See? Never a dull moment!

          2. Oryx*

            I feel that way watching shows set or with scenes in a prison. Just over the weekend I was watching “Jessica Jones” and yelling at the TV.

          3. The Cosmic Avenger*

            I miss House, because it was one of the few shows that got pretty much all the big and small stuff right, medically speaking. I love medical dramas, but I usually wind up yelling at the TV about how an on-screen procedure wasn’t done correctly.

            1. neverjaunty*

              True, but that hospital would have been sued to its foundations about a million times over.

            2. Kiki*

              One of the reasons I loved E/R so much was they got the med student jockeying for position just right.

            3. animaniactoo*

              I find it difficult to watch when shows/movies have theoretically competitive swimmers as characters and their strokes are sloppy as hell and their hips are all over the place. It makes me batty.

              It also makes my children/husband laugh when I’m busy yelling at the screen “Hire a double for that! That’s just friggen awful!”

              1. the gold digger*

                I’m with you! I am slow as molasses, but I taught swimming and I was on the swim team (anyone could be on the team if you showed up to practice) and I KNOW TO KEEP MY HEAD DOWN.

              2. LUCYVP*

                It’s dancers for me. The ‘professional ballet company’ roles always seem to be given to girls who took a ballet class once – 5 years ago.

                1. Jen S. 2.0*

                  I absolutely hate seeing terrible fake group exercise classes on TV!!! I’m all, “Who certified that nut?!”

              3. Lisa*

                It’s the fake violinists for me – drives me absolutely nuts when someone’s bow is floating a clear inch above the strings, or their grip is wrong, or they’re “playing” a note that’s physically impossible to hit on their current string.

                Makes my teeth hurt.

            4. SaraV*

              The new IBM commercial with “Watson” where the doctor is sitting in what looks to be a large hospital lobby and says “Watson, let’s pull up the electronic medical record of my next patient.” This got me to say loudly “You Shouldn’t Be Doing That In A Public Place!”

              Husband: “I was waiting for you to say that.”

          4. Jubilance*

            I constantly mutter about the bad or fake science on TV shows and in movies – CSI particularly gets me up in arms. Which is why I don’t want those shows if I can help it. The least Hollywood could do is hire some folks to consult and make the shows more believable!

            1. Creag an Tuire*

              I’m the opposite — I can deal with, say, Star Trek’s made-up science, but the older I get the more I boggle at the total lack of professional norms.

              I mean, FFS Jean-Luc, your first officer was complicit in lying about a major operation, your science officer broke the Prime Directive because he was bored, and your security chief straight-up murdered a candidate for head-of-state of a major foreign power. This calls for more than a stern talking-to. (Even if a stern talking-to from Patrick Stewart -would- make me curl up under my desk and die of pure shame.)

            2. F.*

              Scorpion is the one that sends me into orbit with gales of laughter. They totally lost me with the instantly hardening liquid concrete (grout) they put into a crack in a dam. Uh, water pressure anyone? Just Nope.

              1. animaniactoo*

                I had to stop watching that. It got way too ridiculous. It was a great concept, but the execution has become awful imo.

              2. Elizabeth*

                We always countdown to “we just went off the rails” where the science is concerned with Scorpion. It’s awesome for the “you’ve got to be kidding me, right?” factor.

                I really like Royal Pains for the science & DIY-medicine aspects, but the “how to run a hospital” (or physician practice) aspect drives me nuts.

              3. SusanIvanova*

                CSI:Cyber. I’m a software engineer; the only reason I could stand it last year was I was on heavy pain meds for a broken ankle and I needed a laugh.

            3. Amadeo*

              The CSI shows have created some pretty lofty client expectations of Photoshop for us designers, too.

              “Here’s a 1″x1″ photo of the house for my 24″x26″ poster. … … what do you mean you can’t blow it up and have it look fine? Don’t you just press a button for that?”

            4. Lisa*

              That’s why whenever people ask me if I watch CSI (or any other crime drama), I always have to give the explanation for my “yes” – it’s because of the characters, not the science. I love the original CSI cast – Grissom and Nick and Warrick and Sarah…I still harbor a grudge for Stabler leaving SVU…and I liked Ziva on NCIS (especially when she couldn’t get our American idioms right).

              As for the science – no state-funded lab is going to have all that equipment (CSI), and when are the investigators on NCIS going to learn they need something for scale when they take crime scene photos?!?!?! Hell, take a dollar bill out of your pocket – they have standard dimensions at least!

              Phew – glad to get that off my chest.

          5. Dan*

            You need to get out more ;) There’s lots of things that happen that shouldn’t, and besides, just because something’s illegal doesn’t mean people don’t do it.

        2. JennyFair*

          The episodes where angry people tried to kill Greg House were pretty much the most realistic.

        3. GreenTeaPot*

          Yes. TV shows were all I had to go on when I started working in the 1970s. My mother never worked and my father couldn’t hold a job…

          1. LawLady*

            Ugh, this is so unfair. I can absolutely see people not having positive white collar work role models and trying to imitate television. And that turning out really, really badly…

            1. GreenTeaPot*

              Yup. It took me years to unlearn. I suspect many of us who grew up in blue collar parts of the country had similar issues.

        4. Mimmy*

          I completely agree!! I always cringe when I see characters getting away with the things that they do. Sure, it makes for good drama – but I think we need the adult version of “Kids, don’t try this at home”. LOL.

        5. valc2323*

          It’s the outbreak investigations and hazmat exposures that get me.

          Dude. Your level-four biosafety suit ISN’T GOING TO WORK if it’s not zipped up all the way because you need to display your well-defined pecs.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Yes! I feel like this would work in a novel or TV show. The new employee makes an end run around the annoying boss, her idea is brilliant and makes the company a zillion dollars, happily ever after.

        1. Creag an Tuire*

          “Yer a loose cannon, McBane! Fortunately, by ignoring my direct orders you captured the bad guy without any civilian casualties, AND he gloatingly confessed his crimes on live television. (Which is just as well because literally all of the evidence you collected would be inadmissible in court.) Let’s go get drinks.”

    2. Creag an Tuire*

      I also feel like pointing out that the “Apprentice” guy has convinced at least 8,256,309 Americans that he should be their President, so maybe we should go easy on OP and realize that she’s far from the only “clueless” person who thinks that This Is What A Successful Person Acts Like.

  23. Allison*

    Definitely sounds like OP stepped on people’s toes. I wonder if OP is a bit older, or the same age as, Betty, and thus believes they’re on equal footing or that OP knows better than Betty. Or maybe OP was used to being in charge, or at least having more autonomy than they do at this new job.

    OP, you were new, you weren’t really a fit but were given the job anyway, you’d just learned how to do the job and suddenly started acting like you knew what as best for the department, and should be given authority over other people’s accounts. What you did would have been frowned upon even if you’d been there a while, but the fact that you were still relatively new makes the situation worse.

    1. Meg*

      Actually, this was one of my first thoughts, too. I wonder what the relationship between OP and Betty was prior to this incident. Maybe OP held positions comparable or higher to Betty’s before she left the workplace for a few years, even in a different industry. That might account for the level of indignation that saturates the storyline. It’s odd.

      I read this from Betty’s perspective and wondered what I would do in her position. It seems like she was fairly hands-off and allowed OP to learn and grow on her own, but did not explain enough over all for the big picture to allow OP to see it herself. (I love the Google maps analogy above.) However, I do not feel compelled to explain everything to my subordinates; it’s not productive for a manager to continually have to self justify all of their actions.

    2. Development Professional*

      I also wondered if OP is the same age or older than Betty. Her condescension of her own manager makes a little more sense to me that way.

      I also wondered if the praise that OP got for those early “trial” projects went to her head and made her believe that she knew better than anyone who was currently working there.

    3. Ashley the Paralegal*

      I had similar thoughts on this, but also wondered if OP might just be used to getting her way because she was the head of her household for five years. If she was used to having the final say on everything over her kids, she may not be used to having to follow directions coming from someone else. I hope the reality check Alison gave her helps her evolve a bit on this kind of thinking and that she becomes a better person for it.

      1. F.*

        I stayed at home raising my children for over 13 years and NEVER would have dreamed of pulling a stunt like that, so let’s not necessarily blame this on stay-at-home-mommy syndrome.

        1. Rana*

          Yup. I’ve been independent-minded for years; becoming a parent hasn’t made me more so. And at my age, I hope I can tell the difference between being firm with a toddler and being an ass to an adult.

    4. LawLady*

      This makes a lot of sense. I’ve been in the situation where I’m much younger than someone I’m overseeing, and it’s felt awkward to me, so I imagine it would be awkward from the other side, especially if someone hasn’t been in a workplace for a bit. The age differential dynamic is hard to overcome, because most of us are inculcated by society in a culture of deference to age, regardless of position.

  24. Three Thousand*

    I can easily believe this is a sincere letter, if a little unexpectedly defensive. Some people just don’t understand how these things work. They might have been given poor advice or good advice they misinterpreted through inexperience. It sounds like the OP was acting a bit outside of her natural inclinations because she thought that’s what you’re supposed to do, and felt supremely cheated because it backfired so badly.

    OP, you know you were wrong and much too angry. Listen to your instincts again. You know your boss wasn’t a bad person out to sabotage you, and you’re not supposed to try to convince anyone she is to save yourself. Don’t do this anymore. This is a job, not a reality show. You don’t have to push and fight all the time.

  25. Katie the Fed*

    Wow, we so rarely hear about good managers here, but Betty sounds like she did the right thing, and big kudos to Veronica for supporting her in that.

    OP, I’d have done the same thing. What you did was flat-out insubordination, and Betty would never be able to trust you again. This wasn’t even a gray area – she told you not to do something and you did it. There are few things that will set me off in a workplace, but that would have me at full hulk smash mode in about 10 seconds.

    I’m just going to say I agree with everything else Alison said, especially the part about the weirdly adversarial tone toward your manager. I know it’s hard to work for someone you don’t respect, but you still have to respect their role in the organization and recognize that you’re more junior.

    I’d be really careful how you bring this up in interviews too. I once interviewed someone who sounded a lot like you, and he gave a few examples to the effect of “I wanted to do X. Boss didn’t think it was a good idea. I did it anyway and it turns out I was right and was vindicated.” I don’t care how smart you are, you are not someone I would ever want to work with.

    1. Spooky*

      I was thinking the same thing about the managers! Plus all the training she gave OP (even if OP acts like it’s nothing,) how hands-on she was even though OP didn’t have the qualifications – this sounds like a fantastic management team!

      1. Chinook*

        ” Plus all the training she gave OP (even if OP acts like it’s nothing,) ”

        I can’t get over that. The training was “only” giving her a list of documents to read? That is the definition of training. This is how we are taught in university – read articles A and B and textbook pages 20 through 50 for next class and be able to discuss. Short of getting lectures to go with them, what was the OP expecting? Betty even held her hand with the reading material by checking in every day to see if she had questions. For someone who is new to the field, this was an amazing opportunity that the OP was not able to take advantage of.

        1. Laufey*

          Well, if we’re working on the theory from above that this might be blue collar to white collar transition, that might explain part of it. At my shiftwork/retail jobs, we had a distinct training period where we learned the mechanics of the cash registers and sat in rooms where we went over how-tos and policies. We might even shadow a coworker or be a trainee for a day/couple of days. Whereas in my first professional job, we were handed the book written by the founder of the company, told how many chapters we should read each week, and were assigned a project (with at least one senior analyst) for us to learn as we went. My company definitely considers the entire first year to be training to some degree – you’re rotated through a couple of different groups, learn how to use the databases, receive step-by-step coaching on the project, etc. – but to the people in it, it can appear very sink or swim.

    2. Dan*

      I’ve come to learn over time that “right” and “wrong” are very strong words in the workplace. Most things are judgement calls, and going over someone’s head without the full story is a very dangerous move. Hell, I’ll go to senior people in my department and ask, “What’s your take on X? What am I missing? Can you explain this to me” And you damn better believe that when I ever do that, said senior person is well aware I’m asking for background info only, and comments from either one of us aren’t for attribution. Because guess what, even if I am right, the real question becomes how to work it through the boss without pissing them off. It takes skill.

      Telling stories at an interview with an indignant tone is pretty much a fast track to the reject pile. People who don’t understand nuance tend to think that “being right” is all that matters, when it is really just the first step.

  26. {kh}*

    I kind of wonder what OP is saying about why she left the job in her interviews. If she gives a summary anything like what she relayed in her letter here, her interviewers are likely equally as aghast as many of the commenters.

    I actually think the company treated her quite well given the circumstances; a layoff and severance is much nicer than being fired and walked out of the building.

  27. Former Retail Manager*

    OP…Alison has made excellent points and you were very much in the wrong.

    More interesting to me is why. Did you behave this way prior to leaving the workforce to raise children or did you behave this way as a result of reading too many online advise columns about how to behave in the workforce to get ahead or are you just out of touch with work norms due to your lengthy absence? 5 years in today’s time is like an eternity. I ask these things not to be mean, but to encourage you to really take a hard look at why you behaved that way, what management’s perception of that behavior is, and really make some corrections going forward.

    My husband was out of the workforce for 8 years as a stay-at-home Dad. To say it’s been a tough transition would be an understatement. He has a very “me-centric” approach to all things and takes it personally when he puts forth an idea that is either dismissed or considered but not implemented. This seems to parallel your letter. I have had many a conversation with him about seeing things from another perspective (his boss’) which he admitted he NEVER does without prompting. It has helped him somewhat, but his shortcomings are also a part of his personality and he is now conscious of them and “checks himself” on a regular basis to make sure he isn’t giving off a bad vibe or saying things that will jeopardize his employment. It’s not always the easiest thing to see or admit about yourself. Best of luck in future endeavors!

    1. hbc*

      I can understand taking those things personally after years in control of your environment, but has there ever been a time in the workforce where you could tell your manager that your work didn’t concern her? There are places with very flat structures, but if they get so flat that you can do what you want, the “manager” title goes away.

    2. C*

      Well said, Former Retail Manager. I think the key in this letter is the being out of the workforce for 5 years. That can play into self-awareness and judgment of what is or is not appropriate in a working relationship (particularly with a manager) that I think clearly have impaired OP’s decision-making skills here.

    3. LawBee*

      oh yeah. I have a friend whose husband owned his own fairly successful business for decades. The business went under, and he had to enter the workforce. The man cannot keep a job because he doesn’t have the experience to put him at higher managerial levels (his business was in a very very niche field that doesn’t translate well to other areas) but he absolutely cannot take direction from anyone else. It’s been interesting to watch it from the outside – and this was the first thing I thought of when I got to the end of OP’s letter.

      That and I bet she’s a fantastic classroom mom/PTA leader, and I don’t say that sarcastically or in any way other than admiringly. Those positions NEED someone who will just up and do things. Basically, I bet the OP’s **** is sorted on the regular, and she’ll do great once she realigns her expectations.

      1. Granite*

        That’s a real interesting take. This sort of “initiative” could work to your advantage on committees like that.

        1. Chinook*

          “This sort of “initiative” could work to your advantage on committees like that.”

          I disagree. The OP’s kind of initiative is how volunteer organizations get destroyed from the inside out. I could see her being on a new committee and disagreeing with the committee chair. When her idea is shot down, she decides to go ahead with it anyway, which either a) creates more work for committee chair as any failure will reflect on her and not the OP or b) is a great success, removing any authority from the committee chair, allowing the OP to take charge and then have complete control, allowing no one else to take over for the next X years at which point she will probably complain about no one being willing to/capable of taking over her from her. Of course, this is only because any one else who tried to show any initiative was either shot down for undermining the OP’s authority or had their idea co-opted by the OP which meant the idea-giver never had an opportunity to grow in leadership of their own idea.

      2. the gold digger*

        When my dad retired from the air force, where he had been a maintenance control officer, he got his aircraft mechanic license and tried to get a job as a mechanic. He did not want to be the boss any more. He just wanted to work on airplanes and be outdoors (this was in Texas).

        One guy told him he never hired retired officers because they could not take orders. I think my dad would have been fine – he worked his way up from being enlisted to being an officer, which is rare, and definitely knew how to let someone else run the show and wanted to let someone else run the show.

      3. Rana*

        This is a good point. My professional experiences (and personality) mean that I am most comfortable in situations where either (a) I am the boss of me and calling most of the shots on my projects, and an equal among equals, or (b) I am a complete subordinate who just follows orders. Jobs in the middle ground – balancing initiative and independence with respect for hierarchy and deference to superiors – I find tricky. (But even so, that just means I make more mistakes than I’d like, not that I’m trying to overturn the system.)

  28. animaniactoo*

    “Basically she told me that she “already had plans” for this account, that she didn’t need my help, and instead assigned me to another (less important) project. Needless to say, I was more than a little insulted by her attitude.”

    Btw, as somebody who’s got almost 17 years in at my current job – no, this is not needless to say. My boss has shot me down multiple times on suggestions I’ve made and had me go work on something else, and this is the key here, *that needed to be worked on*.

    You show up, you do the job, you do the work they ask you to do. You don’t get to pick and choose your own projects over what your boss wants you to be doing. Sure you get to pitch why you think the less important project can wait or you should work on the other one. But end of the day, your boss is the one who gets to decide which one you’ll be doing. It’s their call. No matter how out of line, stubborn, or misguided you think they are.

    I do have a question here – what happened with that other “lesser” project that you were asked to work on? Did you get it done also, or put it aside while you instituted all your changes on the project you were told to leave alone?

    1. fposte*

      That’s a really good catch. No, it’s not insulting to be told to do what your boss needs you to do instead of what you want to do. That’s the basic requirement of having a job. “Initiative” isn’t the same thing as “never letting anybody tell you what to do.”

    2. themmases*

      Yeah, I started to feel a little weird about this letter when the OP described the training they received as having “basically taught myself everything”. But when their boss’ decision was an “attitude” and it was supposed to be obvious that it was insulting, I knew.

      Being insulted by not getting what you want at work will almost never help you get it. Even if you were right and there was really something disrespectful going on (and I don’t think that’s really the case in this letter), you make it harder for yourself to behave competently and sympathetically once you’ve decided to be insulted. My partner has worked with and managed people who went this route… They definitely made themselves remembered and even if they got to leave on their own terms they are not welcome back.

      Those who did their work and who put those feelings into off-hours conversations and a job search if they couldn’t resolve things, are still well-liked by everyone and could probably come back if they wanted to. For that matter, I did this at my last (terrible) job and I could go back if hell froze over, too.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      OTH, you can be insulted if you want to, but that will not help you stay in the job.

      I used to joke that at Old Job it was requirement that you must LIKE rejection. For every 10 ideas I offered, 9 were rejected. But, you know, “Let us know if you have ideas.” I had one great idea, that I had researched out. Boss: “Gee, I called the company and they said no.”
      My contact at the company said YES, what happened?
      I gave up after that. Too many years of my ideas being thrown away. And shortly after that I had to leave the company. Once you feel insulted, it’s all down hill from there.

  29. Serin*

    “And then I wrote to Ask a Manager, but she barely even addressed my question! Can I sue her, too?”

  30. Erin*

    Oh dear. I was cringing while reading this.

    All right. You were out of work for awhile and obviously not accustomed to certain work norms. I can see where you clearly had good intentions. Obviously, you’re fully capable of doing the work and working hard to get things done. This means you can probably get a job again. The other good news is that they considered your firing a “lay off” – saying you got laid off is much different, and better, than saying you got fired.

    You think she’s giving you a bad reference as your interviews don’t get past that stage. (I’m assuming they’re calling your former employers, not just going off your reference list, then?)

    So, here’s what you should do – after taking all of this in and accepting it for the learning experience it was – have a friend call this company, pretending to be a potential employer for you reference checking, and see what they say about you. Find out for sure. Then take it from there. If it’s bad, you can start practicing how to warn potential employers about this before they call your references (pretty sure Alison has advice on this exact thing somewhere.) Have a script ready on how you learned from all of this, etc. etc. It sounds like you’re really good at interviewing, so I’m confident you can bounce back from this. Good luck.

  31. Christine*

    “I’ll be blunt here: I would have fired you too.”

    Love it. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it needs to be said!

  32. Q*

    I almost always take the letter writer’s side but in this case, I agree with the managers. I would have fired her too. She was told to leave it alone but then and went and made all kinds of changes that her manager then had to undo.

    1. Melissa B*

      This really hits home. I have a unique client who wants things done in very specific ways… many of which aren’t efficient and don’t make much sense. If one if my co-workers were to change everything without knowing this background, I’d have to redo everything to meet the client’s requirements, and waste fee doing so. We’re already over on our fees and it’s a long and complicated process to get additional fees approved by them (the client has to go back to headquarters and get it approved there first). Sometimes your manager or co-workers who are nixing things have a VERY good reason for doing so.

    2. Jess*

      Poor Betty had to spend the weekend after her vacation undoing it all, too! I feel bad for Betty. What a thing to come home to.

  33. Creag an Tuire*

    Am I the only person who -didn’t- get a fake vibe from OP?

    What I see here is someone who is:
    a) Writing in the style of One Who Has Been Wronged.
    b) Her rationale for Being Wronged is pretty soundly rooted in that canard of bad career advice: “I was just showing -gumption-, dammit! Sure, I intentionally went around my line manager, because ‘it’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission’! WHY IS NOBODY ADMIRING MY GUMPTION?”

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Scroll up. But I don’t think it really matters. Enough people share that kind of sentiment, and the advice is useful regardless.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Yes. FWIW, this sounded totally plausible to me – but even if it’s not or was written by Mr. OP or Betty (or whatever the current conspiracy theory is), PLENTY of people think like this in whole or in part.

  34. hbc*

    Do not sue. There is no lawyer who would take your case without upfront payment, and I’m fairly certain the only reason you got severance was so that you would sign away your right to pursue legal action. You will almost certainly lose money if you proceed, and on the off chance that they agree to settle to avoid fighting this out, the details would definitely tank your reputation in the industry.

    1. sunny-dee*

      Or so they don’t get hammered on unemployment payments and have to adjust their unemployment insurance premiums. My husband works in management in the service industry, and they constantly (probably monthly) have to fight UI claims for people who were fired for cause. It’s expensive and problematic, and it may just be easier and cheaper to cut a borderline employee a check for two months’ salary and call it good.

      1. BeautifulVoid*

        Or maybe they’re just really, Really, REALLY nice. OP didn’t have all the qualifications they wanted, but they gave her a chance anyway. They even gave her a raise after only a few months. I can see them thinking something like “Wow, after this incident, we definitely don’t want this person working here with us, but with enough time and perspective, she could probably be a great employee somewhere else, so let’s just part ways as quickly and peacefully as possible since we don’t gain anything by torpedoing her career.”

        That said, I’m kind of leaning toward agreeing with the posters who suggested since this was the first job after a long absence, just leave it off the resume completely. (And obviously don’t list Betty or Veronica as a reference, even if this was a layoff on paper.)

  35. TootsNYC*

    OP, one thing I want to point out:

    You were fired by Veronica and the CEO. Those are some pretty big guns there! CEOs don’t get involved in firing lower-level people.

    Normally Betty would simply fire you. Your direct, individual manager is the person to whom you should have the most loyalty. They are the one who (normally) picks you. They are the ones whose input will often determine your raise. They are the ones whose job it is to observe you and to give you feedback. And they would be the one to protect you should you come under fire. And they would be the ones who would set up a PIP and then actually fire you.

    In your case, your manager’s manager and the CEO fired you–they’re sending a really strong message to you. They know you went over your manager’s head, and they want to make it -very- clear to you that there is no appeal here. You can’t circumvent Betty on this. They are telling you that they have Betty’s back.
    This is a fact of business life: The higher-ups’ loyalty will always be to your boss, not to you.

    Also note this: They gave you a severance check and told you it wasn’t working out. The very next morning. See how fast that was?
    They made their decision to fire you that day. In time to get a check cut for you. That’s a sign of how incredibly serious what you did was. They didn’t bother putting you on a PIP.

    (Companies -can- just fire you for cause, but a great many of them are actually required to follow some gradual firing procedure (because their state laws say that if they’ve followed a procedure consistently in the past, or if their HR materials describe one, they must use it). You are lucky, in a way, that they didn’t fire you for cause. Many organizations -could- fire you even so, because insubordination is often listed in policies as cause for immediate dismissal–along with theft, etc.)

    In fact, it’s conceivable that Betty was willing to keep working with you–and her boss refused to consider it.

    Either way, though, the topmost person in that company wants you gone–and wants it badly enough that he or she was willing to come and be in that meeting when you were let go. That’s a sign of how serious what you did is.

    (Note another way you completely undermined your boss: She told you she wanted to talk with you about this project, and -you- pulled her boss into the meeting.)

    I hope you can use this to readjust how you think about your manager, and about corporate/business organizational structures and authority. So you can succeed in the future.

    1. Florida*

      It’s a small company. In some small companies, the CEO is involved in everyone’s firing.

      1. neverjaunty*

        While that’s true, TootsNYC is right – this wasn’t simply the CEO being involved, but an extremely fast turnaround that involved more than one higher-up.

  36. IT_Guy*

    As was suggested earlier in the post OP, you may not have all of the data needed to make an informed decision whether to work on the account that Betty didn’t want you to. Did you consider that they are going to be getting rid of the account? Did you consider that the profit margin on the account is not worth the time to spend on it? This may be a strategic decision that Betty was going to to bring up with her management on whether or not to support this account.

    Since you short-circuited the chain of command by waiting until Betty went on vacation, I think this would be very actionable as well.

    1. AVP*

      Agreed – there are so many nitty gritty little things about working with clients that not everyone in the company would need to know about, making a unilateral change in any project just comes off as uninformed. Maybe they have a pet peeve about the color yellow, maybe it’s part of their charter that they have to use the word “ya’ll” at least once on every page of their website, maybe they have an approvals chain for every change that’s 6 people deep, who knows?

  37. LiteralGirl*

    I have to say that people chalking her actions up to having been out of the work force for 5 years kind of bothers me. I was at home for 10 years with my kids and managed to get back in (and stay for the last 5 years) without having control or insubordination issues. There are certain workplace norms that are universal, and going behind your boss’s back is a pretty clear no-no that isn’t going to change anytime soon.

    1. Michelle*

      Agreed. Not only did she go behind her bosses back, she waited until her boss was on vacation!

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      But you’re not everyone. And no one is saying (well, I hope not, anyway) that every parent out of the work force for 5+ years will end up like the OP—just that in the OP’s case, the 5 years seems to have had that effect (and that’s being generous to the OP in giving an excuse… perhaps the OP was always this way).

      When my friend eats peanuts, she needs an epi pen to save her life. When I eat peanuts, I just say “Yum” to myself and keep eating. It doesn’t mean peanuts aren’t the cause of her throat closing up just because it doesn’t close up my throat.

    3. sunny-dee*

      I think people are just trying to find some reason, any reason, someone would behave so horribly outside workplace norms.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I completely understand your concerns, though I think in this case, that’s an attempt to give the OP some benefit of the doubt. I hear you, though. Everyone I know who has come into the workforce after an absence is actually LESS inclined to go around their bosses, because that definitely wasn’t done at all when they were last working full-time. And they tend to tread more lightly, especially at first.

      1. L McD*

        It’s definitely an attempt, but I don’t buy it. There are certain types of people who manage to convince themselves this kind of behavior is okay, and certain types of people who can’t even READ this story without cringing. The second type of person wouldn’t ever behave this way, even if they’d been out of the workforce for 10,000 eons or been self-employed or been blue-collar or been a SAHM or whatever.

        I’m an exceptionally successful indie in my field, naturally ambitious and impulsive and an alpha go-getter who chafes horribly (but quietly!) under other people’s rules, but if I had to go back to working retail tomorrow like I did before, I wouldn’t behave like this. When you’re playing in someone else’s sandbox you don’t get to throw all of their toys out and do your own thing. Most people get this, no matter what experience they do or don’t have.

        That said, I sympathize with the OP. It’s tough when you go through life feeling like people don’t appreciate your talents and ambitions, and you’re always being smacked down for trying to accomplish more. Understand that you have to meet people’s expectations FIRST, then you are given the leeway to wow them. Other people don’t live inside your head so they can’t know how positive your intentions are; all they see is someone failing to follow simple instructions. In time, you could have developed a relationship with your boss where she trusted and respected you enough to say “look, that idea’s not going to work, because a, b, and c.” And then you would have either agreed, or been able to say, “actually, I can see what you mean, but I was thinking x and y.” And maybe things could have developed from there. But you went in with the expectation that your boss already knows you’re The Best At Everything (TM), which is not a distinction you get to have until you’ve earned it.

    5. TootsNYC*

      I saw that the hiring decision re: the OP was described as a joint effort between Betty and Veronica.

      And so that may have really muddied the waters in terms of making it crystal clear that Betty is the OP’s boss. Because Betty’s boss was involved in the hiring, I think that the OP is seeing Betty more as a senior colleague and Veronica as the “real” boss.

      Veronica and the CEO had Betty’s back in terms of seeing the OP’s insubordination as a major, major problem, but there’s a takeaway for all of us, I think, in seeing how powerful it can be to make sure managers hire their own subordinates, etc. There are messages being sent all the time about authority, and when a senior person gets too involved in a manager’s hiring decisions, that’s not a good thing.

      I’d be saying to Veronica, “Next time, have all your consulting w/ Betty be behind the scenes.” I might even insist that Betty be the one to personally deliver the firing/layoff, with Veronica and the CEO in the room.

      I had a subordinate (Jane) who was hiring freelancers, and she had one who kept coming to me to ask me stuff, and I’d say, “Sure, that sounds good,” and then find out later that Jane had actually said no. And she’d hear, “Well, Toots said.” I had to realize what she was doing; I just didn’t think about it at first. After about 2 of these (and 1 after I’d wised up, where I said, “what did Jane tell you?”), and her being rude on the phone, Jane came and said, “I’m going to fire her, and I need you to back me up. I need you to just trust me. And I need you to sit in the room with me and nod, so she can’t try to run to you after, etc.” (Jane was pretty fierce, in a good way.)
      So that’s what I did. I learned a lot, as a boss, about how to treat a subordinate manager, and where I should be involved or NOT involved. And how to back them up.

      1. Adam V*

        To be fair, my first thought when asked would be “oh, Jane must not have had time to answer these questions”, not “Jane was asked and she said no, and freelancer X wants a second chance to hear ‘yes'”.

        1. TootsNYC*

          It was partly that, and partly that I’d been a bit more involved in that particular project (but in a different way). And she brought it up sort of organically.

          Like Veronica (perhaps), it never occurred to me that she’d hear one thing from Jane and then come ask me without telling me what Jane had said.

    6. fposte*

      Sure, and lots of entry-level people don’t say unprofessional stuff to their interview panel–but it’s more common with the inexperienced than the experienced. Nobody’s saying that being out of the workforce is the road to professionalism doom, just that it may have contributed to the OP’s mindset.

    7. Augusta Sugarbean*

      If there were workplace norms that really were universal, Alison would get about half the letters she gets. In fact, if jumping the chain of command being verboten was universally understood, the OP wouldn’t be in this position. (My mom likes to send us meme emails. Today’s was “Common sense is not a flower that grows in everyone’s garden.”)

      1. K.*

        Heh – my grandmother used to say “Common sense is not that common.” One of my favorite expressions she used. (Another was “All his/her taste is in his/her mouth.”)

  38. LQ*

    Your bosses, all of them in the future, will say no. Coworkers will say no, executives will say no. You’ll get so many nos it will make your head spin. You have to find a way to be good with that. Most of the time the thing to do is going to be to accept it. Sometimes accept it and ask why so you can learn more and come with better discussion points for the next time if that is what you need or better understand the organization’s point, or your position, or the market, or whatever. Sometimes you’ll want to push back a little. AAM has great things to say about when and how to push back on things. Rarely you’ll find a hill you want to die on, this is a “no” that you think is absolutely 100% wrong, think things that are illegal, things that are immoral, things that are absolutely not ok with you and you are willing to throw your job at.

    Before you decide on your course of action at a “no” think about what kind of a situation the one you are facing is. Not getting an account but getting a different one? I wouldn’t call that a hill to die on (I’d call that a one to ask why about personally). It is ok if your metric for where each of these points lie for you, but consequences happen, and you pushed for hill to die on with your actions on this one. Does that reflect your personal values? And how can you make sure how you respond to “no” does reflect those values. (For me those values include sleeping indoors and eating as my coworker would say.)

    1. AnonEMoose*

      This. I recently successfully pushed back on something my manager asked me to do. But I did it by:

      1. Pointing out that what was being asked was to add a manual step, and reminding Manager that we were trying to get away from that.
      2. Also pointing out that making the step manual increased the probability of errors.
      3. Suggesting an alternative that takes advantage of technology, and places the responsibility on the people who need the information to retrieve it, while making it easy for them to do so.

      End result? They have the info they need, in an easy to access format, and I don’t have to add another step to something that’s already a bit cumbersome. Of course, it’s also true that my manager is pretty open to input, and that I had a handy alternative to suggest helped a lot.

  39. Florida*

    OP, I just want to say you have my sympathy for losing your job. It sucks to lose a job no matter what the reason.

    I know for me, one thing I can’t stand is when I *know* I have a better idea than someone else and they just can’t seem to recognize my brilliance. As I learn more about the situation, sometimes I find out that they were right all along. Other times, I learn that we should have done it my way. It’s frustrating as hell, but when it’s your boss, you just have to bite your lip. Alison’s advice is sound. I hope you will take it to heart, learn from this, and improve in your next job.

    Good luck.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I don’t even know that you have to bite your lip — I never mind when someone comes to me with a suggestion for improvement because sometimes fresh perspective brings great ideas — but you do have to take no for an answer. Sometimes, it’s because your boss has more perspective/information than you do, sometimes it’s because you can’t dedicate the resources at the time, and, hell, sometimes it’s because a client has very specific ideas about their project and/or won’t pay for it.

      Overall, I think OP handled this situation very badly but seems like a bright person who, if she could direct her initiative more productively and work on interpersonal skills, could go very far in her career. I have worked with a number of people that I can see having written this very letter, and, once they gain some professional maturity and work WITH their managers rather than against them, tend to do quite well. (Until then, I am still undoing the damage done by one particular person who, while brilliant and an amazing worker, was not at all interested in helping successors follow his work and we’ve lost a lot of time because he thought his way was better… and left us no breadcrumb trail for “his way”.)

      The last thing that I’ll add is that being able to sell your ideas is also an asset. You have to know what values are important and show that what you want to do furthers those causes rather than throwing effort at something that may not be the valuable part of a project.

      1. GreenTeaPot*

        Yes, sounds like OP has some positive characteristics that could fe channeled into the right job. You nailed it, NotAnotherManager.

  40. the_scientist*

    Not to belabour the point…..but Betty actually sounds like a fairly good manager? OP didn’t necessarily have the skills they were looking for, but they gave her some (paid) assignments to prove herself- that in itself is more than a lot of managers would be willing to do. Daily check-ins are far more frequent than I got with my manager when I started this job! Having to review training manuals in pretty par for the course for a new employee. And providing links to online certifications and resources seems above-and-beyond for a manager (assuming that “online certifications” isn’t referring to corporate safety training that all new employees need to do). And finally, they cut the OP a severance cheque when she was “laid off”. The fact that they didn’t fire OP outright is HUGE, and a sign that they did genuinely try to do right by her.

    1. Augusta Sugarbean*

      Yes! 1. I don’t quite have the skills but they’ll take a chance on me anyway. 2. Give me training materials and the opportunity get whatever certifications I need to do the job. 3. Then leave me alone so I can get to work. Sounds great. (And 4. managers who are more or less on the same page – at least once they have all the facts.)

      And Betty must be happy that she has support from her managers.

      1. many bells down*

        Seriously I would love that training. I haaate trying to learn something new with someone lurking over my shoulder telling me every step. Sure, that may be necessary at some jobs, but 99% of the time it just drives me nuts.

  41. Melissa*

    OP, I have one piece of advice for your job search: Is it possible that your cover letters reflect your attitude about being managed as expressed in this letter? If so, that might be turning potential employers off. There are a few positions out there where a candidate who is brilliant but unmanageable might get hired, but it’s really only a few, and you really have to be brilliant. Even if you are brilliant, OP, you don’t have the recent track record to get many offers if you give off an “unmanageable” vibe in your application materials or interviews.

  42. art_ticulate*

    I know we all know that people like this do indeed exist, but I keep coming back to “5 years out of the workforce” and wrinkling my brain over that. This is the behavior of an immature young person, not someone who it sounds like has had plenty of previous work/life experience. I think what gets me most is the OP’s certainty that she knew better than her boss about how to handle things. I actually kind of understand that, because I *was* like that… when I was 21 and thought I knew everything about the world. You should have outgrown that by now, OP. You write this in a purposely obtuse way, yet you’ve spelled out everything you did wrong step by step. It’s kind of amazing.

    1. art_ticulate*

      To clarify: Sure, sometimes you (in the general sense) DO have good ideas that may be better than your manager’s. But the OP here writes with a very inflated sense of “Why doesn’t anyone see how amazing I am” that she needs to handle better. Your boss is your boss, and sometimes it can be frustrating when you think you have good ideas and no one wants to listen, but undermining people is NOT the way to get them to hear you out.

    2. Alli525*

      I was thinking about that too, and it’s not only 5 years out of the workplace, but 5 years as (presumably) boss of her family – given the norms in the U.S., it’s likely fair to say that she made the majority of the day-to-day decisions for her family, from what the kids will wear to what the family will eat for dinner, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam. I’m sure her partner has input of course, I’m not saying she was the absolute authority – but my point is that she made so many executive decisions on her own for so long that it must have been a rude awakening to re-enter the workforce.

    3. Another anon for this*

      I have a family member with a narcissistic personality disorder who is almost 60. They could have written this letter.

      The disorder causes people to overestimate the quality of their ideas and input, while discounting the value, intelligence and capability of anyone who disagrees with them. They also literally cannot think they are wrong (because of the threat to their fragile self that it causes).

      This is absolutely NOT to say that the LW is narcissistic. I’m just saying that any age person may have a distorted idea of their capabilities, perhaps through lack of previous guidance, inexpeience, personality issues, a change of life circumstances (self employed, blue collar or SAHP to office job). It would not surprise me if the LW is older.

  43. I'm Not Phyllis*

    OP, I’m sure that getting back into the workforce after five years off was tough. Unfortunately the advice that Alison gave you is correct – I am finding it difficult to imagine an environment where you wouldn’t have been fired. It is almost always a bad move to go over your boss’s head, even if you think they’re wrong (exceptions would be few). Also you seem to have gone on the attack when you were called on this – also not a great move.

    But it’s in the past now. The best you can do is use this as a learning experience. This website has some fantastic resources for what constitutes “the office norm” … it might be worth your while to read through some of the more popular threads. Trust me, it helps – there are times when I’ve thought something was SO UNFAIR at work but I’ve come here to read other perspectives which have helped me tremendously. Good luck on your next job search!

    1. FD*

      Yeah, you could only really do this if there was some kind of ethical violation–such as if you noticed that your boss has a pattern of ignoring or failing to service accounts held by minorities.

      Even then, it wouldn’t be “I want to take these on”–it’d be “There’s something I’ve noticed and I feel I need to bring it to someone’s attention…” etc.

      1. catsAreCool*

        Yeah, if the manager was doing something illegal or unethical or something that was likely to cause big problems to the company – that’s when you go over the mgr, and even then, it might not end well.

  44. The IT Manager*

    Did they tell you you were laid off because it sure sounds like you were fired. Laid off means the job is no longer needed and won’t be filled, but it sounds like YOU were no longer needed, but the position will remain necessary

    1. sunny-dee*

      I think in this case, the employer means that they aren’t calling it a firing for cause (even though it was).

    2. TootsNYC*

      Yeah, I would call it a layoff if what happened is that the duties of the job turned out to be something that wasn’t the employee’s skill set. Which this is, in a way.

  45. Kate Nepveu*

    I agree entirely with Alison, and just wanted to point out that we don’t know the OP’s gender, since having husbands and raising children aren’t the sole province of women.

    1. JMegan*

      The convention on this site is to refer to all letter writers as women, unless we know otherwise. But your point is well taken, that women are not the only people who have husbands and raise children!

      1. Kate Nepveu*

        Hmm, I always read the posts and moderately regularly read the comments, and I hadn’t picked up on that as a convention–perhaps the comment threads I’ve been reading have had the LW’s gender identified. I’ll keep that in mind.

      2. Jeanne*

        That’s true. But I think Alison’s advice was non-gendered. It will apply whether we call OP a man or woman. I can’t decide if I think a woman or a man would be more likely to think this way.

  46. Michelle*

    OP, you were wrong. You intentionally went over your manager’s head to ask for something you had already been told no on. You sound like the conniving one- you waited until Betty was gone on vacation to ask Veronica if you could take on the project. Then when your manager asked to talk to you about what you had done, you get pissed and tell her to stay out of things that don’t concern her??

    You honestly brought this on yourself. You obviously had no respect for Betty’s authority, decided you knew better than her how to handle an account and when you called on it, you got defensive and angry.

    You could hire a lawyer but I don’t think you really have a case. You were fired for being insubordinate and not being completely honest with your employer.

    1. C*

      Agreed with everything – also, OP has no legal case whatsoever. There’s a host of things she’ll need to learn from this experience, and I hope she does that rather than pursue any legal activity on a case she doesn’t have a ghost of a chance of winning.

  47. Temperance*

    LW, my guess is that you are re-entering the workplace at a level lower than you left (or maybe the same level that you left), and you’re feeling some kind of way about it. Five years is not an insignificant amount of time to be away.

    You’re used to being the boss. You might not even realize this about yourself. Maybe you subconsciously resent losing career traction or answering to someone you perceive as less experienced.

    In your next venture, do your job without assuming you know better than your boss, pitch your ideas, but if they aren’t accepted, move on.

    1. FD*

      That was my thought too–if the LW has been out of the workforce for five years, it’s likely they had to re-enter at a lower level than they left it. In addition, it’s likely the LW had a large degree of influence and control in the home, since they were a stay at home parent.

      From experience, it can be severely annoying to be limited to doing lower level work when you’re used to setting your own projects and have done higher level work in the past. My sense was that the LW unfortunately let those feelings run away with them and it got them fired.

      LW- If this is the case, it’s understandable that you feel frustrated. You did something you felt was very important for five years, but it seems like you’re being penalized for it. However, it may be helpful to you to try and keep that resentment out of the workplace, since it’s likely to keep you from progressing if others sense it.

    2. Koko*

      If there was just one single piece of advice I could give to anyone in the workplace, it is this:

      Fight for your perspective when you have the chance, and then as soon as you realize you aren’t going to get your way, get on board as fully and as quickly as possible with the way it is going to be.

      Or, alternately, “If you think this is a shitty idea, make it your job to make it the best possible version of that shitty idea.”

      Not only will it help you professional to be seen as someone who is willing to work hard to get the best outcome even if it wasn’t the approach that you would have preferred, it will also be so much better for your mental health if you can move past your disappointment and focus on the challenge before you instead of dwelling on something that annoys you.

      1. Shell*

        I believe Jamie once named this very succinctly as “disagree, then commit”. I thought it was a great way to frame it. Disagree all you can (politely) when you get a chance to, but if upper management decides to do it anyway, throw your hat into the ring and commit to doing the best job possible under the circumstances.

        1. I'm Not Phyllis*

          This is my policy … I voice my concerns once as emphatically (while still being polite and professional) as I can, but if things are moving a different direction, I move with them.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Also–one thing about years spent raising kids–you are the boss. And you “work with” people that tend to do what you say. OK, they get defiant, but you are then entitled to force them to capitulate.

    4. Christian Troy*

      I agree with you. I reread the letter again and there are certain things that make it sounds like LW knows best kind of thing.

      LW, you’ve already been given a lot of advice but I would encourage you to do some serious reflection before interviewing or accepting another position (unless you want to go to on your own to do freelance). You need to seriously adjust your expectations and attitude if you want to get back in the workforce. I agree with the “disagree, and then commit” suggestions because that’s a good way of looking at it and realize you may have to do pay your dues before getting the kind of autonomy you’re looking for.

  48. Althea*

    I’m wondering where OP learned she could try this kind of thing (and not get fired). Do you suppose she started in someplace with many young people who try stunts like this a lot? How do you function in a workplace while thinking that your boss is not your boss?

    1. Slippy*

      OP got fired for all the right reasons. I wonder, for the sake of speculation, if the OP’s boss was younger than her and if she saw the boss as a child.

  49. AnotherHRPro*

    OP – In addition to the advice Alison gave you, please consider that what you seem to be missing is even attempting to see things from someone else’s perspective and to assume good intentions. This is a key lesson that many people need to learn. Very few companies want an account to fail, so assume when you boss tells you not to implement your great idea, there is a good reason for it. When you are thinking that you aren’t getting enough training, look at it from your boss’s perspective – they are spending time with you every single day and believe that you are picking the work up nicely (by your own account of the story).

    As Alison and others have said, you should have been fired for your behavior. Now you need to move on and learn from this experience. Spend some time thinking about what went do wrong, how did YOU contribute to it and what would YOU do differently.

    Good luck.

    1. Tammy*

      to assume good intentions

      This is hugely important. When my team members come to me to complain that so-and-so is “stupid” or “an a**hole” or “making dumb decisions or whatever”, I gently push back and suggest good intentions. I’ll usually ask some variation of this question: “Assuming that Valentina is a rational and professional human being, what would have to be true about the situation to cause her to make the decision she did?” It works remarkably well.

  50. Lily Evans*

    In the future, OP, when you have an idea you think is great that your manager doesn’t want to use, maybe try asking why that is. If you’d said, “I know you’re busy, Betty, but could you explain why you choosing to do _ on this account?” I’m sure she had a reason, and it would have been a good opportunity for you to learn why certain things are done a certain way. Asking questions (as long as they’re genuine and not challenging/adversarial) can show that you’re interested in understanding the inner workings of the company, which is usually a good thing.

    1. S0phieChotek*

      I agree; if there is time and Betty/manager is willing to do so. It might help the knee-jerk reaction that some might experience of “Boss hates me! Hates my idea! Doesn’t like me showing initiative!” and, like Lily Evans said, can help reveal inner workings of the company, which then, in the future, could further inform any ideas or suggestions anyone might have. While maybe it is not always reasonable or feasible to explain changes/decisions, knowing there is a reason and it not just arbitrary helps mitigate the sting or frustration of feeling like one is being told to do X, Y, and Z for no reason except “I said so” –though I know there is also a place for that also.

  51. Chris*

    So, taking this at face value, one thing I am struck by is the immaturity here. The complete failure to understand how a hierarchical system works (I agree with another poster that it sounds more like a “first job out of business school” thing rather than a veteran of the work force). You were assigned a project, did well, and were praised. Logic would dictate that… you get assigned another project, do well again, and get praised again. You had only been there 5 freaking months. Instead, you tried to put yourself in another project. That in itself isn’t terrible; in fact, perfectly reasonable. But the instant you went against the manager’s direction, you failed. This wasn’t some situation where disobedience is reasonable (“Bathroom breaks must be 30 seconds long!”, etc). This was your manager saying, “Here is your job, here is NOT your job”. Then you proceeded to walk straight off the cliff. Take this job off your resume. I sincerely wish you good luck, and I hope you comprehend all the errors you’ve made

  52. Yggdrasil*

    A counterpoint…
    What the hell do companies expect? Has anyone else ever been knocked on a performance evaluation for “lacking initiative” or not being “proactive”? These days, at many companies, doing only what you’re told to do is seen as the bare minimum. And while I don’t want to speculate on OP’s motives and/or mindset, I wonder if she ever got dinged for her lack of initiative at another company.
    Yes, a stern talking-to would have been entirely in order. The OP’s manager should have made her expectations totally clear. But I’m not sure a firing for a first offense was necessary.

    1. Adam V*

      > What the hell do companies expect?

      You sure don’t expect “I was told ‘no’ and then did it anyway.” Because yes – if you ask me and I tell you no, and then you go over my head, and then you tell me ” you shouldn’t meddle in things that don’t concern you” (!!!) – you’re gone. No second chances with a response like that.

      Why didn’t the OP ask Betty “is there a different client you’d like me to apply these improvements to instead?” Or alternately, “are there additional improvements with Client X you’d like me to try out?” That’d be a much better way of showing initiative than ignoring a “no” response from her boss.

    2. TootsNYC*

      This was a multipart offense.
      She was told no; all would have been good if she’d stopped there.
      But–she waited until her boss was on vacation; she lied to the Big Boss; she dragged the Big Boss in to back her up (apparently without briefing Big Boss); and she said, “My work is not your concern.”

      The last one is the worst.

      This is just so huge.

      If she’d had this idea while her boss was away and simply gone ahead and done it, and then said, “Oh, gee, I didn’t realize,” when her boss came back and undid things–it would have been a first offense worthy of a retraining.

      But this was just so multipart and so huge.

    3. fposte*

      For *this* first offense, it absolutely was. OP is no longer an employee who can be trusted by her manager; she shows no sign of realizing that what she did was her mistake and not her employer’s and no indications that she’s going to correct this tendency.

      Most people really do manage to figure out the difference between initiative and bulldozing early in their career. My staff does it all the time. It’s pretty unusual to assume “Show initiative” means “Frag your manager.”

    4. CADMonkey007*

      I think Betty was planning to give OP a “stern talking to” but OP hijacked the meeting and took it to a whole new level.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        I agree. It could have been a “this isn’t how to handle things and please don’t do it again” but it ventured past that territory.

        1. animaniactoo*

          OP makes it pretty clear that’s exactly what they were expecting and tried to trump it. (See: Hissy fit).

      2. Oryx*

        Yup, and then not only did the OP not realize that the Monday meeting was meant to be a “stern talking to,” but she actually pulled her boss’s boss into the meeting. WTF.

    5. neverjaunty*

      The fact that a bad company dinged you for ‘not showing initiative’ has zero to do with this letter. OP wasn’t ‘showing initiative’. Showing initiative would have been things like, volunteering for a particular project, asking for more advanced work, or proposing solutions to Betty. Going behind your boss’s back, telling your boss that your workload is none of her business – how on earth is that ‘showing initiative’?

    6. Anonymous Educator*

      What the hell do companies expect? Has anyone else ever been knocked on a performance evaluation for “lacking initiative” or not being “proactive”? These days, at many companies, doing only what you’re told to do is seen as the bare minimum.

      This seems like a false dichotomy to me. So the only two options are taking no initiative and completely undermining your boss? I don’t see those as the only two options. There are plenty of ways to take initiative (and not just be passive and do the bare minimum) without undermining your boss:

      1. Doing projects that your boss hasn’t explicitly told you not to do.
      2. Proposing new ways of doing things to your boss (and then accepting when they get shot down and then making more proposals).
      3. Initiating conversations about possible new projects to take on.

      I take a lot of initiative at work, and not once have I ever subverted my boss’s authority. Most of the time, I say “Hey, boss, I was thinking about doing blah,” and then my boss says either “Not cool. Let’s hold off on that,” or “Awesome! Go for it!” If my boss tells me to hold off, I hold off. But I also don’t just sit around and twiddle my thumbs until my boss says “Do this now.”

      1. S0phieChotek*

        This has been a good read — from the other side. I don’t think I’ve ever just gone ahead and done something without my bosses permission–if anything I might be too timid to do anything without my bosses permission (Boss has even explicitly told me, “feel safe doing X without running it by me”) but on the other hand I’ve had some idea that I thought were good that got shot down or felt like were given little consideration. Now I wouldn’t go off and do what OP did (I don’t think) but the discussions here of “why” Betty might have said no were good reminders to me that a) there might be something happening I do not know about that might affect why my boss said no to an idea I thought was amazing and b)still encourages me to bring ideas to my boss at appropriate times an an appropriate manner and thereafter listen for feedback and accept being told “no” gracefully.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Well, yeah, if you’re being shot down constantly with no exceptions, that means your boss does not value your opinions. Even then, the solution isn’t to do what the OP did and just go behind her boss’s back or over her head. The solution is to leave your job, hope your boss leaves (and gets replaced by someone better), or hope your boss changes magically.

          1. Michelle*

            Or talk to your boss about why your suggestions are not being accepted. Maybe you could get some good feedback that would help you give better suggestions. Or maybe your boss would realize that she isn’t valuing your suggestions enough and consider changing. I know that I, with my kids, got in a bad habit of just saying “no” to everything because I was overwhelmed with constant requests and it was just easier to say no. I had to train myself out of this habit. If someone outside of that context mentioned that I seemed to always shoot down their suggestions, I might think, “Oh no, am I doing that again?” and evaluate to see whether I needed to change.

    7. animaniactoo*

      Take initiative means “Propose ideas. Look for places that could use improvement and suggest those improvements, choose to handle something that is within your purview a different way and make it work better WITHIN the limitations of the job/company structure/project/etc., expand your skill set through classes/in-house training to be able to take on more and then make it known that you can do that”

      It does NOT mean “Do the thing you were told not to do by your manager, and then talk back to them and dis them in front of their superior”. Even if you don’t get the former, I think the latter is pretty clear logic to the majority of people.

      This was so far beyond a first offense – if they’d just done the work and then accepted Betty’s reprimand on the other end of it, that would be first offense but warning worthy. But OP here has made it clear that not only do they not respect Betty’s authority, they don’t even SEE Betty’s authority as being valid. As a company – for somebody who has only been there for 4 months? Yeah, I’m just gonna go ahead and pull the ripcord rather than take the risk that they’ll see the error of their ways with anything less than being fired. Because I just don’t think it’s likely. Note: This OP WAS fired and STILL doesn’t see it.

      1. TootsNYC*

        “taking initiative” also means, “do your basic job without me having to tell you to get started.”

        1. L McD*

          Boom. Someone who complains about “not being trained” when they were clearly given training is unlikely to be someone the boss sees as “taking initiative.”

    8. LQ*

      No. I’ve never been knocked for that, I’ve actually been complimented on it. And been given talking-to’s about it. My first job was basically all my own initiative (it only existed because I helped bring the job into existence), so at my second job I struggled a little. But even with all that I knew to never go behind my bosses back to try to get something from my boss’s boss sneakily. I knew to not try to demand things. And I absolutely knew to not ever tell my boss that my work was none of their business. So showing initiative is not the same as being insubordinate.

    9. Temperance*

      I’ve only been docked for those things at low-level CS jobs, where “show initiative” meant “clean anything and everything”.

    10. Sunflower*

      Proposing the idea is, alone, showing initiative and being proactive. I guess if we could ding Betty for anything, it would be that she could have explained why they didn’t want to go forward with OP’s ideas.

      Going above your bosses head on something you already got a ‘no’ on has nothing to do with initiative or being proactive.

    11. I'm Not Phyllis*

      I think you can still show initiative, while respecting your boss and his/her boundaries. And I think that’s what most companies expect when they talk about taking initiative and being proactive.

    12. Observer*

      It doesn’t make a difference if she got dinged for lack of initiative. As another poster put it, she went right over the cliff.

      She got offended when her boss said no.

      She waited for her boss to leave before going over her head

      She pulled her boss’ boss into a meeting as means to shut her boss up.

      She told her boss off and told Boss that her work is none of Boss’ business and that Boss should not interfere

      This is NOT what “taking initiative” looks like.

  53. Jill of All Trades*

    I’m picking up a big sense of entitlement from this letter. The OP strikes me as feeling that, due to Betty’s incompetence and the manner of training, the OP was entitled to undermine Betty and to then double down in Betty’s meeting by bringing Veronica in AND trying to further undermine Betty in a forceful manner. It comes across as very “I’m right, dammit, and how can no one see and appreciate how ridiculously right I am, even after I overcome all of Betty’s machinations to try to make me fail???”.

    They did not set you up for failure here OP. They gave you an opportunity to shine and to really build a lot of positive capital with them.

    1. CADMonkey007*

      It’s almost as if OP was trying to use customer service tactics to get her way (“I want to speak to your manager!”) but it doesn’t work that way when you’re the employee!

    2. Djuna*

      I had an interesting experience recently where a co-worker (from a different department) proclaimed to a room full of people that she is *always* smarter than her managers. Luckily, none of her managers were in the room, but other managers were. I cringed inside for her. It’s a weird mix of entitlement and misplaced conviction.

      One of the biggest lessons I learned (early in my 20’s) is that I am probably never the smartest person in the room, and that my perspective is often severely limited by my position and my access to information that people above me have. I feel bad for people who never learned those lessons, because they tend to be on the receiving end of some hard corrections.

      When life gives you a hard correction (and I think Alison’s directness in her response was both perfect and needed), the worst thing you can do is rail against it. There is a part of me that hopes writing to AAM at *all *is a sign that the OP, for all her bravado, suspects as much. The framing of the story is almost like she was seeing the other side while writing, but continued to argue with it.

      1. fposte*

        It also doesn’t matter who the smartest person in the room is; work isn’t a brain beauty contest. It’s a team, where everybody plays a role in fulfilling the mission, and being the smartest person on the team doesn’t automatically make you the best at everybody’s job any more than it makes you better at gymnastics or woodworking.

        1. Djuna*

          That is both true and important, beautifully put. My co-worker’s main argument for being “smarter” was that her managers made decisions that baffled her or were different from what she would have done.

          She was so disparaging and lacking in perspective that she jumped straight to the forefront of my mind while reading the OP. Some people just can’t see how they sabotage themselves with their convictions.

        2. aebhel*

          This. I was a ‘gifted’ child and I have a high IQ; I’m frequently the smartest person in the room, and that’s rarely had any meaningful impact on whether or not I’m actually better at my job, because pure intelligence is, beyond a certain base level, pretty irrelevant to competence.

  54. HRChick*

    Whether or not this is true, it’s definitely a shocking read.

    What struck me was that Betty literally said she was ALREADY working on that account and the OP STILL went above her head without getting any more information.

    OP, getting ahead by undermining and putting down others never works well

  55. Chriama*

    OP – you were insubordinate, aggressive, and selectively honest. Maybe it doesn’t seem that way to you but it seems that way to a lot of third parties reading your account of the situation. Maybe Betty was a terrible boss, and your ideas really would have made the account better. Maybe Veronica would have been happy to have you do the changes. But you operated on the basis of half-truths, acting as if you knew better than your boss, who was not only in charge of your work but also had been at the company longer than you and therefore knew its inner workings better. Do you see how, from a managerial perspective, that’s a really disturbing situation? Can you imagine having an employee who contradicts your direct instructions and then goes above your head to your boss to get validation for her behaviour? Whether or not Betty was ‘right’ to tell you not to work on this, she was your boss. You could have tried to justify things with her, or brought in some new initiatives on the small project she assigned you. I think that in your effort to prove yourself you got ambitious – and not in a good way.

    1. TootsNYC*

      “Whether or not Betty was ‘right’ ”

      Your boss is always right, actually.

      Just like the customer is “always right.”

      In neither is the person literally right, objectively right. But they ARE both to be treated with the respect that says, “they basically get what they want.”

      And CADMonkey007’s comment above about whether our OP was acting like a customer trying to get her way (“I want to speak to your manager”) is interesting in conjunction.

      1. L McD*

        Thank you for being one of the few people who seems to actually understand what “the customer is always right” really means.

  56. Anon Accountant*

    OP, I hope you take some time and glean some useful feedback from this. There’s a time to take initiative but you stepped on toes by the way you handled it. In your next job a way to take initiative could be offering to help your boss with a large project but if she says no then you can say “okay but if you would like me to do something for the teapot design project please let me know and thank you”.

    I think there’s too much of the advice “it’s easier to say you’re sorry than ask permission in business” because there are many times you should ask permission and not just apologize profusely later. Maybe your former boss thought the project you were assigned to was a good opportunity for you to learn some new skills and develop some experience for future projects. We all have some grunt work we’d rather avoid but it’s just a part of the job(s).

    Please consider leaving that job off your resume altogether.

    1. TootsNYC*

      In your next job a way to take initiative could be offering to help your boss with a large project but if she says no then you can say

      or you say, “I would really love to hear more detail about why these ideas, or my work, isn’t something you want to use. I’m eager to learn how this all works, and how you’re thinking.”

    2. doreen*

      I’m not disagreeing that there are many times you should ask permission, but what I think the OP doesn’t get is that the point of that advice is that having been denied permission, you can’t just ignore the denial and go ahead with your idea.

  57. Ineloquent*

    OP, it may just be that you are not cut out for following the beat of someone else’s drum. That’s fine – a lot of people feel that way. You could attempt to set up your own company. It’s expensive, it’s really really hard, and it may fail. But you would be the decider, and you could show all the initiative you want.

    However, if that’s not an option for you and you must have income, there is a simple cardinal rule of employment: you are paid to do your boss’ bidding. You can make cases to adjust their way of thinking if the circumstances warrant it, but at the end of the day, you are being paid to follow – not lead.

    I’m not going to pile on further, since this is already going to be a tough thread for you to read. Be encouraged, though by the fact that we all do stupid stuff. No one died, the damage, if you take actions to correct your attitude and expectations, is not permanent. You don’t even have to list this on your resume. If you choose to do so, they’ve been kind enough to lay you off instead of fire you – which is way nicer than they had to be and will make getting a job in the future easier. Work on your soft skills, and genuinely seek to understand future bosses’ and coworker’s reasoning behind decisions. You will have other jobs and it can be better.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      However, if that’s not an option for you and you must have income, there is a simple cardinal rule of employment: you are paid to do your boss’ bidding. You can make cases to adjust their way of thinking if the circumstances warrant it, but at the end of the day, you are being paid to follow – not lead.

      I think this is key here. I have a lot of friends who like to complain about how their bosses are incompetent or their own ideas are better than their bosses’ ideas. All of this may very well be true. But ultimately it’s not a meritocracy (in most workplaces). Your boss gets the final say. And if your bosses’ boss doesn’t like that, she can talk to your boss, but it’s never your place to go over your boss’ head, unless you believe your boss is doing something illegal and you’ve already brought it up to your boss or you don’t think your boss will be safe to go to about it.

      1. RVA Cat*

        This. It’s not your job to determine whether or not your boss is right, nor is it your responsibility.

    2. TootsNYC*

      No one died, the damage, if you take actions to correct your attitude and expectations, is not permanent.

      Important enough to pull out and focus on.

      There is life after this! Honest.

  58. Spectra*

    Wow. Just wow.

    I have been an avid reader of AAM for a long time now, though I haven’t commented on anything before now. I just had to for this one because:
    Holy Moly Batman this one is insane!

    I don’t think I’ve ever cringed so much when reading a letter here.

    I can’t actually fathom what would possess someone to take this kind of tone or to do this kind of thing. I don’t even think my absolutely horrible attitude filled 16-year-old self could have taken that tone. (I was a horrendous teenager, well beyond just the ‘I know everything and I’m always right’ type).

    I’m baffled. Just completely baffled. I hope the OP takes Alison’s advice. I would have fired her too, without any hesitation whatsoever. Learn from this OP, your current view on how the working world –office or otherwise– is severely warped.

  59. VintageCampus*

    OP if I were in your shoes my next steps would be:

    1) Own my mistakes in this job and tell interviewers the lessons I learned.
    2) If you still have Betty’s contact information, an apology email along with a “lessons learned” list you will be doing in future roles probably would not go amiss.

    What this looks like:
    Why were you fired from last job?
    “After being out of the workforce for 5 years managing a household I had really lost perspective on workplace norms. What I have taken away from my mistakes at OldJob is the importance of lessons 1, 2, and 3.

    1. AW*

      This is a good idea. If the OP is right and Betty/Veronica are providing a negative reference now, explaining how you won’t make those mistakes again is probably the only way to fix this. An apology could help soften that negative reference as well (assuming they’re even giving one).

      1. So Very Anonymous*

        That’s also assuming that Betty is open to an apology, which she may well not be.

          1. So Very Anonymous*

            Oh, absolutely — I was just thinking that in Betty’s shoes I might be ready to the put whole thing behind me and just be done with OP. I’ve definitely been in situations where my having to “forgive” someone because they apologized for really bad behavior felt like more work than I wanted to do. And given the OP’s tone, if I were Betty I might not trust an apology/”I’ve changed” email. Definitely think OP can try to apologize, but apologizing isn’t necessarily going to wipe out a negative reference that OP has likely earned here.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I wouldn’t really want to talk about this with interviewers. I think it would shoot her down right away.

      If I were interviewing, I wouldn’t want to hear about this, even WITH lessons learned. I’m not your therapist, and I don’t want to take a chance on someone with this attitude.

      This is not a smart strategy.

      I wouldn’t want to be in a position where someone was asking me why I was **fired**. They might ask me why I left, and I’d say, “It turned out not to be a good fit. I’m hoping for a place where I can be more supportive of my boss, and where I can be looped into decisions making. I have a lot of initiative, and I’d like someone who’ll help steer me to the places where I can be most effective. I’d like a boss who can spend some time mentoring me on how the company works, and teaching me about the decisions that get made.”

      1. VintageCampus*

        I have been in the situation where I made a mistake, knew I would have a poor reference, and needed to demonstrate that I had grown from it to my interviewers. I’ve successfully landed several jobs/promotions since then.

        In my experience, skirting around the fact that you were fired and trying to gloss over it does not land you anywhere – in fact it paints you as skirting the truth to good managers who follow up on your references. Even if you get “lucky” and the manager doesn’t call a reference then it’s a bit of a toss up how well the team is put together or if you are truly a good fit. At the very least you know you are going into a team with a manager who is not good at hiring.

        OP definitely doesn’t need to go into gross detail about this fiasco – which I am guessing is where you are getting the idea that owning your mistake and demonstrating lessons learned is treating your interviewer like a therapist. Something as simple as “Why did you leave your role.” “I was officially laid off from Teapots LTD, but I made some mistakes in understanding how the reporting structure works that I will not make again. From this experience I have learned that management has perspectives on work I may not be aware of and the importance of communicating positively.

        Then when that manager calls Betty and she says “yes we laid her off but … she disrespected my decision, aggressively demanded… etc” it doesn’t appear that OP is lying. If OP also apologizes to Betty – in part because it is simply the right thing to do, but also it at least throws some water on that flaming bridge, it could change the tone of this mistake for the better.

  60. CH*

    I have a side question I keep thinking with this situation… I’m just curious if anyone thinks this scenario in anyway would reflect poorly on Betty? I know people will take risks and initiative. I’m thinking more along the lines of would Veronica think Betty could not manager her staff? Betty specifically told OP her idea would not work. OP still went around Betty to speak with Veronica and deceiving Betty. Would Veronica be thinking why should she have to deal with the OP in the first place.

    That being my side question, I totally agree that OP overstepped the line. OP should take it as a life lesson, learn from it and move on.

    Please know I’m not saying this to harp on OP. I am hoping OP realizes there are other ways to deal with situations and take initiative.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Not really. I suspect it was like this:

      Veronica: Hey, why did OP call me into that meeting? What exactly is going on? Why am I getting called into these things that you should be handling?
      Betty: I’m so sorry about that! She took it upon herself to invite you to that meeting, and she also completely disregarded my explicit instructions about Project X in the first place.
      Veronica: Oh, ok. Wow, that sounds like a problem.
      Betty: I agree. I can’t trust her anymore after this. I think we need to let her go.
      Veronica: Agreed. Let’s do it tomorrow morning.

      1. CH*

        Katie the Fed -your description kind of what I was thinking as well. I believe Veronica would know that OP was being overly excited about something. I would just think if this happened more than once Veronica would question how Betty was doing as a manager. Then again I think my inquiry is changing the question a bit, so I will leave this as thank you for responding to my comment!

      2. animaniactoo*

        That or:

        Betty: “I was aware that I had a problem with OP, and attempting to talk to her about it today. Were you aware that she had presented her ideas on the Teapots account to me, and I had said no?”
        Veronica: “Hmmm. No, I didn’t know that.”
        Betty: “Given what just happened, I don’t know if it’s possible to get this situation or her under control. Do you think it’s worth the effort to try?”
        Veronica: “She’s only been here for 4 months. She’s done great work, but that was pretty outrageous. I think we’re better off re-filling the position with somebody who understands the chain of command.”

    2. Jill of All Trades*

      Based on what’s here, I don’t see people blaming Betty for OP’s behavior, assuming that there wasn’t an obvious path to the insubordination after Betty said no to the proposal that Betty should have been able to shut down.

    3. AW*

      I’m thinking that at the time the OP spoke to Veronica, Veronica probably figured the only reason the OP is asking her is because Betty is out on vacation and didn’t come up with the idea before Betty left. That wouldn’t be Betty’s fault. Betty would have told Veronica that she’d already told the OP ‘No’ before reverting all of the OP’s changes. Also not Betty’s fault.

      I think the OP’s behavior in that meeting would make it clear that this was a “employee doesn’t understand basic office norms” problem, not a “Betty didn’t manage effectively” problem.

      1. CH*

        Jill of All Trades and AW – I agree totally with what you said. I observed a similar situation to OP in my office a long time ago only it was a more than one time occasion. At the time I was trying to figure out management’s angle. Thankfully my office situation worked out; I was just surprised how similar OPs situations as a whole.

    4. Grapey*

      It doesn’t in my opinion…if anything, taking this letter at truth, I’d glance sideways at Veronica. Yes, OP omitted the fact her own manager said ‘no’, but to agree to letting someone’s employee take over parts of a project while that manager is away doesn’t sound right to me either. Betty went away for a multi-week vacation; either it was OK to not have an account manager during those few weeks or someone else other than Betty was handling the account at the time, both of which Veronica could have told OP. (And should have if someone else was handling the account.)

    5. TootsNYC*

      Problem 1: OP didn’t think Betty had any authority over her
      -bcs Veronica was in on the hiring decision, this possibly created the impression that Betty was weak and only Veronica mattered

      Veronica should have let Betty handle hiring decisions, instead of being as closely involved; or if involved, should have made it clear that marching orders and evaluation all come from Betty (but w/ the OP, I think that still wouldn’t have worked; maybe nothing would have. Some people really only pay attention to whoever they perceive as being at the top, no matter where they themselves are on the chart.

      Problem 2: OP didn’t respect Betty’s decision about Interesting Interim Account
      -perhaps Betty could have been more explicit about why OP shouldn’t intervene, and explained, and gotten buy in, etc., but that’s NOT required.

      The only misstep I can see on management’s part had to do with Veronica: V’s being involved in the hiring made Betty look weak; and V’s not saying, “You need to follow Betty’s lead; wait until she gets back” (but we don’t know how the OP spun it).

  61. Grey*

    This brings back memories…

    Me: Mom, can I have a cookie?
    Mom: No
    Me: Dad, can I have a cookie.
    Dad: Sure
    Mom: Where did you get that cookie?!
    Me: Dad gave it to me!

    1. TootsNYC*

      I think this happened to my parents all of 2 times.

      Then it went:

      Me: Mom, can I have a cookie?
      Mom: No
      Me: Dad, can I have a cookie.
      Dad: did you ask your mother?

      If you said “yes, and she said no,” boy were you toast!

      If you said “no,” you got “why don’t you go ask her,” or he yelled out, “Honey, can the kid have a cookie?”

      If you said “no, I couldn’t get ahold of her,” he said, “yes/no” on his own.

      When Dad took me winter-coat shopping and ended up wanting to buy me two, I was stressed to the max because we didn’t have Mom’s sign-off.

      1. Oryx*

        Haha, I’m in my mid-30s and still sometimes when I’m out shopping with my dad defer to “What did Mom say?”

        1. Zillah*

          I disagree, but more importantly, I think it’s important to use extreme caution when saying that a fellow commenter’s family sounds unhealthy when they haven’t indicated feeling that way themselves. It can come off as quite insulting; I’d likely feel attacked if someone described my family situation as “unhealthy.” In this case, it’s also a serious leap in response to something that’s pretty innocuous.

        2. Noobtastic*

          If that is the only permutation of the questions, then perhaps it is unhealthy. But if it also falls as

          “Dad, can I have a cookie?”
          “Mom? Can I have a cookie?”
          “What did your father say?”

          Then it is an equal partnership, where each parent is making sure that the kid is not giving either one of them the run around.

          I have no kids of my own, but I have nieces and nephews, and learned pretty early that if one of them asked me for candy or a cookie or something, and their parents (either one of their parents) was there, the answer was, “I have no objection to giving you a treat, but ask your parents if it’s OK for you to eat it.” Frequently, I wind up sending the treat home with them, to eat when the parents give their OK later, such as after dinner, not before, or maybe the next day. We all know that the parents are the final authorities, and we all know that given the opportunity, I will spoil the kids, but not spoil them rotten. Also, if the parents are not there, then I, as closest adult relative, will make the decision about whether or not they can eat a cookie. The answer is usually “Yes,” but if they’ve already had two, then it is “NO, and don’t ask again today.”

          Thus, the kids learn the chain of command, and know that they can trust me to support them in everything good, and to uphold the family rules. My (almost) only form of discipline is to say, “OK, play time is over, and I’m taking you home, now, and telling your parents why you’re home early.” The parents may choose to administer further discipline, or not. The only time I’ll step up with some other form of discipline (which I already know is approved by the parents) is if I’m actually baby-sitting for a long time, as opposed to taking them for a play-date, and bringing them home early is not an option. And then I stick to the approved list. Because I know who’s who and that the parents have the final authority over the kids.

          Should I ever have children of my own, I feel confident that my siblings would behave the same way toward them, knowing that the chain of command for those children is with me at the top, and them in the middle.

          Checking with each other is not unhealthy. It promotes a feeling of security and trust, knowing that equal partners are being equally respected, and that the kids are not allowed to do the run-around. It’s not such a big deal to do the run-around about cookies, but when they are older, and want to use the car, or hang out at so-and-so’s house, or go to a party, it could be the difference between innocent fun and real danger, so it’s important to establish that dynamic early, and preferably train them out of even trying that trick before the stakes become really high.

          As for having Mom’s sign off on the coats, I figured that Mom was the one who balanced the checkbook, and therefore, would be the one to have a final say on the budget for that particular shopping trip. Go over on this shopping trip, and then you have to have all the fuss and bother of a family budgeting session, to see where you can cut back to cover it. That was probably the stressor there, not a Mom Power Trip.

          I know in my family, growing up, Mom was the one who handled the checkbook and paying the bills, so although Mom and Dad set the budget together, Mom was the one who had to do all the math and paperwork, so Dad was careful not to make extra work for her, and stick to the budget, or alert her to a change before he actually made the change. “They’re having a sale at Macy’s, and I want to get the kids new shoes. How high do you think we can go today? What do you figure will work?”

  62. Nervous Accountant*

    350+ comments already, oy. There goes my Monday!

    I’m just wondering how at any point of this did the OP not think “maybe I should ask for advice”? Like before she went to Veronica when Betty was on vacation? Or before the meeting? Or even when Betty wasn’t “training me”???

    1. Jill of All Trades*

      OP felt 100% correct in their actions, and that they were taking the ONLY path to success, and it seems this was in spite of the perceived obstacles to success that Betty was putting in OP’s way. OP is only asking for advice because they are now having a hard time getting a new job after being let go from this one, and they are actually seeking sympathy for their plight and what else they can do about Betty. At no point in the letter did the OP ask what they could have/should have done differently, or ask for perspective, or express any regret over their actions. They still aren’t really asking for advice for any of this.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      So I’ll confess that I’ve pulled off the “ask forgiveness not permission” thing myself in the past. But the key is you don’t do it on something where you’ve been given explicit guidance. I’ve definitely done it on things I knew my boss would probably frown on, but I didn’t have clear guidance, and it worked out.

      You have to do it really, really well though, and have plausible deniability. OP could have casually mentioned to Veronica in the course of an unrelated discussion that she had this idea, and waited for Veronica to suggest she do it.

      There are ways to be shady. But you have to be subtle.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yeah, once you’ve been told “no,” you can no longer play the “ask forgiveness not permission” game.

      2. neverjaunty*

        You also have to have a manager who isn’t better at spotting shady stuff than you are ;)

  63. I Love Spreadsheets*

    Oh my. I can just imagine Betty going in to work on Friday after a long vacation to catch up on e-mails, check the status of projects, and prepare for the following week, only to discover that instead of unpacking and running errands, she has to spend all weekend undoing the damage on the account from OP’s stint. I would be livid. I give her props for not flying off the handle and professionally and calmly e-mailing “let’s chat about this on Monday.” I know a few bosses who would not be this calm. I don’t think I need to add anything else about OP’s behavior here, as it’s been discussed at length.

    1. KeepWorking*


      I was also impressed at the conveyed ‘cool as a cucumber’ response from Betty. I can only hope if I am ever in such an unfortunate situation that I can also respond so unemotionally!

  64. Snargulfuss*

    I’m acquainted with someone like this. She has a compulsion to be involved and in control. She has tons of ideas and loves to organize things, but always take it waaaaaay too far and then when people don’t want to be involved in her schemes or reject her ideas she gets offended.

  65. Undine*

    Everyone is focusing on the hierarchical/insubordination aspect, which is certainly the most egregious, but I also want to point out — never work on someone else’s project without checking in with them. Manager, peer, subordinate — if they don’t expect you to be in that project, don’t start making changes. They’re the ones keeping track of everything that needs to be done, all the little tweaks that have to happened, the three conversations that they still have to implement and so on.

    There is so much chance that there’s another file somewhere that they’re actively working on that will conflict with your changes or that you will undo something really important. And even if not, you’ve just completely trashed their mental picture of the project and they have to spend time going through the whole thing to see what you’ve done.

    Sometimes there are workflows where multiple people can explicitly work on a single project at the same time, or where everyone is invited to make changes when appropriate. Otherwise, if a project has an owner, it never hurts to drop a line, “I’m going to go in and fix this typo in the Exotic Tease,” or I’m going to update the Chocolate Teapot numbers based on Jughead’s quarterly report — is that okay?”

    1. Nerdling*

      This is a very good point. I can imagine the mess that someone could make just going into a document or project folder and making changes willy-nilly without the original project manager(s) knowing.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, this is a very important point. I think the part about the letter that floored me the most was that OP was upset about “everything I’d worked on that had already launched, and made a bunch of changes, took down some stuff, and more”

        Maybe it’s just the industry I work for, but we would never, ever launch/make something live without the client’s approval – and if the client had given us the go-ahead to do that, it would never happen without at least 2 sets of eyes looking at it from our location. It’s distinctly possible that this client had a very specific set of graphic standards that OP didn’t know about, had already told Betty no, they didn’t want the kind of thing OP was proposing, OP’s suggestion wouldn’t work with some other part of the client’s existing software, etc.

        But Undine’s point is 100% true – you don’t just go making changes unless the project lead knows about it – and the project lead’s boss is not the same thing unless it’s an emergency and the boss specifically told you to do it in the project lead’s absence.

        1. KR*

          I was implementing a new system in work that I did the majority of the research and legwork for. It arrived and I couldn’t set it up that week because I’m part time, so another employee went ahead and did the initial software set-up even though I had a plan for how I wanted things done since the system was brand-new. Except she put in a bunch of things that cannot be deleted because of the nature of the software. It doesn’t negatively affect the way the software works (though I did have to find a work-around to how she did it), but it annoys me every time I see it especially since I’m the main admin for that system, so I’m the one who ends up seeing it all the time. She didn’t know I had a plan, but it was so annoying I’m sitting here telling you all about it. Lesson behind the story – don’t interfere on projects you aren’t cleared to work on or that someone else is working on!

          1. Rana*

            Oh, gosh, yes. One of my jobs was cleaning up a database that had years of strange entries and kludges and work-arounds gumming up the works because so many people who didn’t understand the system had been allowed access to it. It had been throwing out junk reports for a very long time due to this – junk that had not been recognized as bad because no one realized the extent of the problem – and it took forever to correct that. The very next thing I did after fixing it was write up a bunch of rubrics for future data entry, but the best thing would have been to restrict access to people who actually understood the system. Respect procedures and protocols, people; they’re usually there for a reason.

        2. TootsNYC*

          She was upset that the boss was changing her stuff.
          But apparently didn’t think that the boss would be made about HER changing the boss’s stuff.

    2. TootsNYC*

      never work on someone else’s project without checking in with them. Manager, peer, subordinate — if they don’t expect you to be in that project, don’t start making changes.

      Yep! i’m a manager, and I don’t stick my nose in on stuff my subordinates are doing unless they ask me to.

    1. Are you my retired co-worker?*

      I, too, want a follow up. I mentioned it in my earlier post. I would be surprised, thought, the comments have been harsh for the most part.

      1. Florida*

        I agree that the comments have been pretty harsh. Lots of pile on. Yes, OP could’ve handled this better, but at least she wrote in and asked what she should do. I wouldn’t blame OP at all if she didn’t follow up.

  66. Beancounter in Texas*

    I’ve been there. I haven’t done that, and I’m presuming the OP is inexperienced. I have quite often seen a more effective or efficient answer to a situation that is so obvious to me, that I cannot comprehend how any other answer could be conceived. Like 1+1=2 obvious, while everyone else says 1+1=3.

    Until I learn later, through experience, that 1 is actually 1.5 because of some stipulation by the client, or an extra process that isn’t documented because it’s internal, so on paper it reads 1. And then it makes sense why 1+1=3, even though I ranted to everyone at home how stupid my employer was to insist 1+1=3.

    So I sympathetize with your frustration of not having your obviously fanastic tactics implemented, but when your boss says no, you often have to grit your teeth and wait for another opportunity to shine.

    Good luck.

  67. some1*

    “I was very clear that what she had done was unprofessional, extremely disrespectful, that the results I’d produced were speaking for themselves and that she shouldn’t meddle in things that don’t concern her.”

    Ironically, I bet this sums up how Betty felt when she found out you went over her head after she told you No.

    1. TootsNYC*


      Our OP was mad that Betty had gone in and changed a bunch of stuff she’d done.
      But…Betty was probably pretty mad that the OP had gone in and changed a bunch of stuff that Betty had done.

  68. Tennysonlover*

    A former coworker of mine went out on Fulbright assignment and returned several months early after the situation didn’t work out. He actually sent a ten page PDF file of a copy of a letter to all of us, his colleagues, that he sent to Fulbright, explaining why he found the situation unworkable. It was extremely clear from this letter the situation was entirely his fault. His assignment was in The Maldives, and they were understandably disorganized, and he showed no flexibility whatsoever. He was insulted when he held a presentation on a holiday and no one showed up. He got involved in local politics and made some enemies. he got involved in local politics and made some enemies. He’s incredibly entitled and mysogynistic, but still, the writing didn’t quite sound like this. It didn’t work quite so hard to show a moral injustice. It just assumed its “rightness” from the beginning.

    Having said that, I have worked in a couple of dysfunctional work environments where people like the OP were the norm, and did not get fired. In fact, people like this routinely got promoted. If you’re used to that kind of environment, it may be quite a shocker when you find yourself in a more normal one.

    1. the gold digger*

      I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile, working with a group of indigenous women. To say that the Type A German in me did not fit with how they do things – oy.

      I had to change. Either I was going to have a heart attack or my co-workers were going to kill me.

      1. Tennysonlover*

        Ironically, this letter sounded exactly like the training guides that PC gives out and everyone has a discussion about what went wrong and how you prevent it from happening.

      2. valc2323*

        West Africa RPCV checking in :) Yep – I had to adjust to their norms, not the other way around. Have been drawing heavily on those lessons this week as I work with a group of indigenous populations. Different does not mean wrong, and in fact may be better than my approach, only I don’t have all the context to understand why. If I ask why they prefer an approach, I always get an answer, even if sometimes the answer is “that’s not really something we’re comfortable discussing, but thank you for asking, and we need you to understand that it is important to us.” And I’m okay with that.

  69. LawBee*

    I read through the letter again and man – Betty actually sounds like a pretty good manager. Daily check-ins and a starter project to learn the ropes sounds like heaven compared to a lot of training. And I’m surprised OP wasn’t called in over the weekend and fired, because there certainly was cause.

    OP, this is a blip in your road. Make sure your pendulum doesn’t swing too far in the other direction where you sit back and only do the bare minimum, and honestly, you’ll be fine. This seems like it was a really good opportunity for you, and it’s a shame that it ended up this way. Learn and move on.

  70. mockingbird2081*

    As a manager I would not have hesitate at all and like Betty I would have fired you on the spot. I may have decided the project you spent time on wasn’t needed anymore. Or that the company was going to take a totally different direction on it. Or I wanted to assign the project to another team member who had already approached me with some good ideas. Either way, it wasn’t your call and the way you went about it would have put me in fight mode. It seems to me that Betty was very calm considering how terribly you acted. It is very possible you aren’t like this in real life but the letter makes you come across as extremely arrogant and entitled.

  71. R2D2*

    I feel you, OP. Middle-managers are the absolute worst at being petty aristocrats. It’s bad enough at the DMV, let alone having to deal with it in the office.

    Try not to think too negatively of them — it’s easy to paint everyone like that as a cross between Pointy Haired Boss from Dilbert and “Respect My Authority!” Cartman from South Park, but you have to remember that this is all they have from a lifetime of work; the clock isn’t going to turn back, so this is what’s going on their tombstone. They’re all in because they have to be.

    Fortunately, you don’t. I think you’d be appreciated more at a start-up. Don’t lose heart!

    1. Effective Immediately*

      I know this isn’t particularly helpful, but wow. I see the OP’s general attitude may not be so rare in the wild as we may’ve first thought…

  72. Cubicle Four*

    Wow. Just…wow. I have every bit of love and respect for SAH parents, either moms or dads. This one seems to have had more trouble re-entering the paid workforce than many. It sounds, from hints she gives, that her home life isn’t ideal ( money is tight, husband seems a bit antsy) and that may have been part of her attitude. Perhaps she felt she was finally in an environment where she could take her own stand, push how she wanted, be a leader–see where I’m going here? She may have even been coached at home to go around Betty–who knows? I REALLY hope, if she’s following all of this, that she doesn’t allow any of the anonymous snark to further crush her spirits.. Cuz….even if it was completely wrong, completely misguided, completely bizarre–she’s still a valuable human being, and in her own way, she was doing her best. Sure–firing was probably the right response. But I’m thinking she may have been coached at home for much of this behavior. She genuinely believed she was doing the right things, or else she wouldn’t have done them, right? I once worked with a similar woman (who was also ultimately fired), so I’m not being unrealistic here. Just trying to shed light on some of her possible motivations, instead of letting her seem to be completely volatile and bizarre.

    1. Ismis*

      The road to hell is paved with good intentions… honestly, I don’t think it matters. What matters in the case of the OP is reflection and improvement, if she wants to get/keep another job.

      A good work life isn’t a replacement for a poor home life, for the employee or their coworkers :/

  73. Kassy*

    It sounds to me like maybe OP didn’t find it appropriate that she was starting from the bottom (getting a “starter project”). I can understand where that may have made OP feel entry-level when she (using the gender-neutral pronoun here since I don’t see gender indicators in your letter, not because I assume that you are a mom because you stayed home with kids) may have progressed past that point earlier in her career. Not to mention that the pre-hire assignments may have already served that purpose in her mind.

    But the truth is, this is very common at a new company/job. Even if you have been working in that field at that level, there’s still a certain amount of “how we do things here” that you need to know. You didn’t allow your manager to manage you, and that’s the real problem here.

  74. Human Resources Manager*

    OP, I would have fired you for this also, it’s was hugely insubordinate and antagonistic for no reason. I hope you learn from this so that you don’t continue to have these sorts of problems going forward.

  75. Some Random Commenter*

    I’m a bit late to the party guys, but several hundred comments of bashing OP’s behaviour is a bit much, no? She’s complained, Alison replied, she’s either learnt her lesson or she hasn’t. Let’s move on with life now.

  76. Creative Manager*

    To the OP — let’s assume for a moment that maybe, just maybe, your ideas for the account were better than Betty’s and possibly, just possibly, she was a little threatened by how far you were coming along so fast since your first project was a success and you had been given a raise. I say this because that’s what I get that you think (from reading your letter).

    Even if all of the above were true, what you did was still way out of line. Company hierarchy exists for a reason, even in small companies. I work for one of these small companies where the lines are blurred, as it sounds like maybe they were there if Veronica was even giving you the approval to go ahead with changes to Betty’s account, without asking if you had discussed it with Betty. I can easily see something like that happening at my company…and it has, with a young employee I had a couple years ago that thought he knew everything and wanted to bypass anyone that didn’t let him do what he wanted. It wasn’t right when he did it (and my boss, our COO, still allowed him to have the conversation and gave him the same input I had already given him…without knowing that I had already provided input on the project, based on what I knew about the needs of said project, which the employee had clearly been advised about) and it wasn’t right when you did it. In his case, and possibly in yours, the ideas weren’t bad and possibly could have made improvement, but if it’s not what the client (or CEO or whoever has final say) wants, it’s really irrelevant what you think. I’ll say it again. It’s really irrelevant what you think if the client / CEO / company owner has already specified what they want, despite you thinking your idea is better.

    A little friendly advice — learn from this situation and move on. If you accept a position, you are also accepting the boundaries of that position, whether you like them or not. Should you find yourself in a similar position later, do the work that you’re assigned to do. If you’re doing good work, and getting along well with everyone, hopefully your work will be recognized and you will be promoted and given more responsibility when the opportunity arises. A lawsuit and harboring bitterness is not the way to go though. It serves no purpose in helping you achieve your final goal. Even if you were right in what you wanted to do, you were wrong in how you went about it. If you’re truly honest with yourself, you will see that. Let it go and move on. It will be the best thing for you.

  77. Sarah*

    I would like to add that I can easily believe that this letter is 100% real because I have had an employee who easily could have written this letter. The exact details of the situation are a little different, but I had someone eerily like this working for me – and like the letter writer, she seemed to truly believe that I was a wicked witch “out to get her” and that her actions were 100% correct no matter how many times she was counseled by both me and HR. My biggest mistake was that I should have fired her immediately at the first sign of this incredibly inappropriate behavior (as “Betty” wisely did) and instead I tried to assume that she was truly trying to do the right thing and just needed some coaching on how to channel her desire for improvement into a more productive path. Wrong – people like this are trouble-makers with deep rooted issues and if you have one working for you, the best thing to do is to fire them immediately, as otherwise they will entrench themselves more deeply into your organization and become harder and harder to get rid of.

  78. AEM*

    I’m a little late to this party so I’m not going to pick apart any more of this letter because all that stuck out to me has probably already been addressed. Clearly some pretty serious mistakes were made here, but that’s not what I’m here to comment on.

    There was one thing I connected with about this: frustration about being left to learn things on your own. When I went to an art magnet in high school for digital art, I did not have the best teacher. He tried, but I can honestly say that most of what I learned in those years I taught myself, mostly from tutorials online and experimenting with different ideas and styles on my own. And that was super frustrating, and for a long time left me pretty bitter. For most of those years, the other dozen students usually came to me for help instead of our teacher, which added to the annoyance that made me feel like he wasn’t doing his job.
    This isn’t a perfect parallel for plenty of reasons, but I’m saying I understand how frustrating it can be when someone isn’t doing what seems to be their job and leaves you to pick up the pieces.
    I don’t know how involved (or not) your boss truly was, because your assessment of her is pretty harsh on all counts, and it leaves us wondering how much of this is true versus perceived through a negative lens after the fact. But I wanted to say that either way you can not only take what you learned, take with you the fact that to some extent you taught yourself, and you’re capable of teaching yourself more going forward. That’s a valuable skill in itself.
    Best of luck.

  79. Mimimimi*

    Reeeaaalllyyy late ti the party but anyway…

    “Betty was very quiet during this meeting. At the time I figured she just couldn’t think of how to defend her actions.”

    OP she was quiet because she was wondering exactly who the fuk you think you are.

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