my boss is a mean girl

A reader writes:

I quit my first “real” job in November after 2.5 years (fancy title, big money, flexible, but very unethical with terrible bosses). I had two options presented quickly and ended up choosing what was supposedly an entry-level job because I wanted experience in the field and was sold very hard on being a fit for the culture.

My first day I was thrown in on extremely difficult projects that I ended up getting great feedback on. I continued getting piecewise work for a while and was given the impression I was to learn things for myself without questions. There was no onboarding or training for my first three weeks … not the best practice for a job that is nearly impossible to learn from experience alone due to extensive procedures, short inflexible deadlines, and very unique stakeholders. I was asked to run a major project on my own within a month of starting; this is before I had even seen the full process happen, and it was with what my boss jokes are “THE WORST” people to work with. It felt like a disaster, and we decided not to go through with the project because it was not a fit. Given that I made the mistake of taking a little more blame than I should have, I thought she was fair and empathetic. I was always very empathetic of the fact that she had never managed anyone before.

I thought my boss and I got along. She’s overly personal and very unprofessional in her manner, but the office is laid back. I know better than to bring up my personal life in the office, particularly because I’m the new girl. However, she would constantly ask about some volunteer work I do that she saw on my resume. I never brought the subject up myself and I kept those conversations very short but friendly when she did.

Fast forward to an out-of-town meeting where I’m having a conversation with a member of the board with whom I have a very close mutual acquaintance. My boss was in the room doing work. She jumped up suddenly, pulled me aside, and apologized profusely for what she had sent to me accidentally. She explained the messages were meant for someone else in our office of under 10 people, and they were sent on the official messenger linked to our work email. I told her I’d try not to read them (mostly because I knew I’d cry), but it showed in my notifications. They said:

“SHE IS TALKING TO [BOARD MEMBER, who used to work for my dad] ABOUT TEAPOTS”

“I mean, it’s fine in context, but she talks about them every day. [Husband] and I have a running joke about it.”

I have been dealing with a LOT of personal issues lately (two deaths outside of the family, flipping my car the day before the messages – then having to pull an all-nighter to finish some work she didn’t want to bother with). I kept that to myself unless absolutely necessary to discuss it. Knowing now that the boss I thought I was okay with is talking about me behind my back with her BFF just makes me want to quit, but I’m working harder than ever.

That didn’t stop my boss from ripping me apart in a 45-day review, which contained false information and essentially the sort of grades that make firing someone permissible. Of course, she didn’t fire me, because I do very good work (which she did state despite listing all 1, 2, and 3s out of 5s). She said I was having “great days” recently and it was as though nothing had ever happened. I am far from perfect, but everyone outside of my office “girls’ club” would have given me a much different grade.

What do I do, other than look for another job? My partner told me to go to HR because about the messages because they upset me so much, but I don’t want to make things uncomfortable–we share an office and she leaves for good in a few months anyway. I’m equally uncomfortable about the review, but I felt trapped into signing it. Am I right in just keeping the messages to myself? Should I write a counter to my review and submit it to HR, since I truly do good work? I’m concerned it would be all for naught because everyone in our department is in her corner because they’re friends or she brings in big money. I don’t want to have a follow-up meeting even though I know that’s the normal course of action because of that.

I could have overlooked the messages–it hurt, but it wasn’t a reflection on me. The review is a different story because it’s a reflection of my professional ability and motivation. I ran two departments at my old job and never received lower than an “A” grade from some tough bosses! I’m starting to wonder whether I should overlook either or both… any advice would be much appreciated.

Ugh. Your boss is a jerk.

Trash-talking your own employee is an incredibly crappy thing to do. The manager-employee relationship requires a certain amount of trust to function well, and one of the things you have to be able to trust is that your boss deals with you reasonably objectively and isn’t making snide, personal remarks about you to other people. It’s really a betrayal of her responsibilities.

That said, I wouldn’t go to HR about it. HR might agree that your boss was out of line, but any intervention they might do is likely to cause more tension with your boss, which isn’t the outcome you want. I’d instead just take this as useful information to have about your boss — that she’s a jerk and immature and unprofessional. Now you know, which is better than not knowing.

If you’re going to go to HR about anything, it should be about your review. If there’s objective wrong information in there, it could be worth pointing that out (although you’re right that it would mean another meeting, so you’d have to decide if that’s worth it to you). But I wouldn’t push back with HR about more subjective stuff, since it’s likely to lead to a dispute that your boss is much better positioned to win (since it’s ultimately her job to assess your performance according to her best judgment). Plus, since it’s only a 45-day review, I’m assuming it’s not tied to other things, like raises.

But the buried good news here is that she leaves in a few months! That’s huge. A few months is nothing nothing nothing at all, seriously. Having a bad boss leave is basically the best possible solution to these situations, and you’re getting it! So I’d just grit your teeth and get through the next few months, knowing that she’s going away — and meanwhile, focus on laying the groundwork to impress whoever her replacement ends up being.

{ 151 comments… read them below }

  1. AMG*

    OP, I feel for you. That does suck and it is unfortunate. It would bother me too if my boss was talking about me behind my back, and if I felt I were being evaluated unfairly.
    I say this with love and support: You will develop thicker skin over time. There’s (almost) always a jerk at the office; at least this one showed herself to you AND is leaving. That’s the best possible circumstance! Keep doing your best, keep your head high, and use this to make yourself a stronger professional. You’re learning a huge amount early in your career and it sounds like you are handling it with grace and dignity. In that respect, you are already ahead of your boss. Take it as a reminder of who you want to be someday when you are the boss.
    Please come back and give us an update!

    1. Amber T*

      Yes, please with an update!

      There’s a mean girl where I currently work. When I started she was above me in the food chain, and though she wasn’t my manager I worked directly with and under her. She went to our mutual manager EVERY DAY to complain about something I did (I went to her desk to ask her a question instead of emailing, I emailed her a question instead of stopping by her desk, I was working on another project for someone else and couldn’t do her print job immediately). Every day it seemed I was getting some negative feedback from my manager (who phrased it all as “You’re doing great! Just try this…”). It really hurt and sucked at first that she kept complaining about me because I just couldn’t figure out what she wanted to expected of me.

      You do develop thicker skin. Eventually it became a running joke with other coworkers (who she also complained about) that every time she stepped away from her desk, she was running to our manager to complain about something. I was promoted and no longer with with her, but it’s gotten to the point where she made my replacement cry (lots of issues with my replacement, but her mean girl attitude is not helping).

  2. Beancounter in Texas*

    Just writing to cheer you on for another few months.

    I had a Nightmare Boss once too. She wrote me up for ridiculous “offences” and I gave my notice. On the second to last day of my given notice, she asked me to stay. The next morning, when I came prepared with stipulations for me to stay, she said, “Let me save your breath. I gave my notice.” After she left, it was like the sun came out. Her boss threw away my previous write-ups and promoted me. Hang in there!

  3. Florida*

    I’m interested in your headline for this post referencing a mean girl. Often on this blog, when some one uses the term girl, as in big girl pants or big girl job, you will correct them and say it’s demeaning. Maybe, since the headline is talking about the bad boss, your intent is for the headline to be demeaning.
    I’m not asking you to change the headline, nor am I offended by it. I am just respectfully interested in whether mean girl is considered offensive. If not why mean girl is OK, but big girl is not?

    1. Punkin*

      It think it may be referencing the movie (TV series? can’t remember which) about teenage “mean girls” – thus emphasizing the childishness of boss’s behavior.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, it’s a reference to the movie “Mean Girls,” which has put the term into popular use, at least in the U.S. It was the OP’s subject line on her email and I liked it.

        You could certainly argue that nothing with “girl” in it is appropriate for adult women, but I think of it as a reference to the immature behavior of snotty teenagers (per the movie), which describes the boss pretty well.

        In any case, objections noted.

    2. Chrissie*

      I also immediately thought of “Mean Girls” which is a movie. I guess you could have headlined “my boss is a Mean Girl”, to be clearer.

    3. ancolie*

      I know headlines/titles need to be short and attention-grabbing, but I’m taken aback at this one, Alison. It’s jarring to see the same person who uses she/her for general pronouns and who tirelessly fights against unfair gender stereotypes and sexism… to describe a boss as a “Mean Girl”. Especially when the LW didn’t use that term herself.


      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It was actually the letter-writer’s subject line of her email to me, although I’m not sure that should change your mind if the term itself offends you. I’m fine with it for the reasons I wrote above, but I take your point.

        1. 2 Cents*

          Mean Girls is definitely a much-used pop culture reference to refer to members of either sex (at least it is in my office) who engage in immature, middle school-like snobbery, exclusion tactics, passive aggressiveness or a “holier than thou” attitude.

      2. Grow some thicker skin*

        I’m so sick of all this PC sensitivity.

        Seriously, sometimes you just need to get over it. I’m sorry, I had to say it.

        – Signed,
        Big Girl Who Wears Big Girl Panties at Her Big Girl Job

        1. asteramella*

          Relating to others respectfully and non-harmfully is clearly a topic that many commenters here (and Alison) feel strongly about.

          While examining this particular usage and phrase might be fruitful, making snide remarks about the “PC police” isn’t.

          Might I suggest a counterpoint: you need to “get over” feeling aggrieved about the fact that people are moving towards being more sensitive, accommodating, and aware of those who aren’t like ourselves.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            “Might I suggest a counterpoint: you need to “get over” feeling aggrieved about the fact that people are moving towards being more sensitive, accommodating, and aware of those who aren’t like ourselves.”

            Saving this for the future in these discussions, thank you. I started responding about 18 times to this comment but just couldn’t find the right words.

            1. Florida*

              Agree. This is brilliant. Asteramella, thank you for saying what I wanted to say, but couldn’t quite find the words.

            2. neverjaunty*

              Seconded. Isn’t it amazing how the people with the thinnest skins about “all this PC” are the first ones to scream that other people need to grow a thicker skin?

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Whoa, no. People do not need to just get over sexism, racism, and other forms of bigotry. I hadn’t thought this one through (as I note further down in the discussion, which I ended up finding pretty persuasive).

    4. Almond Milk Latte*

      I think to those who relate it to the movie don’t see it primarily as a gendered thing – I’d definitely describe my old boss as a Mean Girl because he was a living clone of Regina George in the body of a 35 year old man, and if you’ve seen the movie, you’d nod and sigh and understand why that job made me physically ill.

      The fact that no AAM titles are capitalized makes it lose a little of that context.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Ok, this will be my last post on this mini thread because I know I have the potential to derail this.

        Buuuut there’s no way the phrase “mean girl” can NOT be gendered. I’ve seen the movie (and nearly anyone in my generation and younger who grew up in the US will get the reference). But the fact that it’s a pop culture reference doesn’t change the stereotype it plays on. Using it to describe a man doesn’t change the fact that the stereotype is explicitly about teenage girls. In fact, it’s even more troubling that we don’t have an equivalent insult for men who behave this way – we literally have to refer to them as women to communicate the disdain we have for them.


        1. TFTF*

          Agreed. I’m not personally offended by it in this particular context – but it is definitely gendered.

        2. my two cents*

          sure we do – “boys club”

          speaking as a female electrical engineer, i can tell you that the ‘boys club’ or ‘good ol’ boys club’ is still very much a thing.

            1. AMG*

              It’s hard not to refer to someone as a child when they are behaving in a childish manner. Regardless, I really appreciate and respect you for this comment. :)

            2. Kate M*

              I think you could also say “My boss is a Regina George” and that wouldn’t be bad, right? Like I totally got the reference, but I get the objections too.

              1. Chameleon*

                Meh, except that I have heard of the movie “Mean Girls” and I get what it means. I haven’t seen the movie and I’d have no idea what “a Regina George” would mean.

        3. Tomato Frog*

          Yes. It goes hand-in-hand with this meme that desperately needs to die, that teenage girls/women are manipulative and damage your psyche while men are straightforward and stab you in the front. *eyes Kipling accusingly*

        4. RWM*

          Yep; I’ve recently become more aware of when this term is in a business/workplace context, and have been wondering if it’s a cousin of “catfight.” It does seem like these are specific examples of when we (the Royal We) criticize female bosses’ or employees’ behavior, we rely on gendered terms and gendered stereotypes to do so. And when men exhibit the same behavior, it isn’t thought of as explicitly tied to/a result of their gender.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            I’ve tried really hard to stop using gendered language like “catfight” too. I really hate the kind of language I used to use without even stopping to think of what it denoted.

            I would have liked to see this one titled something like “My boss is highly unprofessional.” or “My boss plays mind games”

        5. Katie the Fed*

          Agreed. I was surprised to see it here too. And that doesn’t make me the PC police or whatever – it’s just that Alison puts so much effort into not buying into gendered language and stereotypes that I was really taken aback to see it used like that!

        6. Not So NewReader*

          This may be too much of a derailment, but I did not see the movie. I just saw previews. It reminded me too much of what I saw happening to people in school and I immediately lost interest. Sincere question: Doesn’t the movie itself perpetuate the stereotype? Remember, I haven’t see the movie, I made my judgement call based on the previews and decided “Ick. NO. “

    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I had the same reaction. I don’t like “mean girl” much more than I like “big girl.” The boss may be behaving like a teenager, but she’s not any kind of “girl.”

    6. Artemesia*

      ‘Mean girl’ has powerful connotations and seems quite descriptive for this sort of situation; it fits here. Just as ‘Old boy’s club’ or ‘bros culture’ both fit where they apply. I don’t think we have to impoverish the language to be PC, but it is a good heads up to be sure we are not using ‘girls’ or ‘boys’ in a way that diminishes people.

      1. Mreasy*

        The boss is acting like a teenager though, isn’t that the point? I guess the issue is that we’d be hard-pressed to come up with a comparable shorthand for a male boss acting in the same way. Though I’m curious what it would be!

        1. Jaydee*

          I think that’s the problem. We have this shorthand, but what calling the boss a “mean girl” really says is that she is acting like a stereotype of a teenage girl, namely that she is snobbish, two-faced, backstabbing, materialistic, etc. None of those words are gendered, but the stereotype and the shorthand are. The reason we don’t have a parallel for men is that there is no stereotype of men who act the same way. Our stereotypes of men are different, so our shorthand for men is different. A “bro” is different from a “mean girl.” A “jackass” is different from a “bitch.” The real, underlying problem is that these gendered terms reinforce the gendered stereotypes, which in turn reinforce gendered behavioral norms. So then we struggle when we see aggressive women or emotionally sensitive men, etc. because those behaviors or characteristics don’t line up with our expectations and the words we have to describe them tend to be gendered and insulting.

          1. Mazzy*

            But “bro” isn’t the male equivalent of “mean girl.” Not even close. Jackass isn’t really the equivalent of bitch.

            Mean Girls was a movie, even I know it came out mid 2000s and Lindsay Lohan starred in it. It’s a cultural reference to a movie. I don’t think it’s anywhere as deep as these comments make it sound. I’m not sure why everyone is trying to make it mean more than it does, especially when the meaning they are attaching to it is negative and upsets them.

            1. Amanda*

              Why on earth do you claim people are “trying” to make it mean something? Isn’t it possible that the phrase means to them exactly what they say it means to them, and that that meaning is offensive and misogynistic (and therefore “negative” and upsetting)?

              Because I can tell you it took precisely zero effort for me to read this post’s title and go WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK? at it. I did not have to TRY to be offended. It just happens when I read offensive stuff. Weird, huh!?

              I expected better of Alison. Apparently, being a pop culture reference makes this sort of shit OK with her. That stinks.

              1. Mazzy*

                Trying to make it something because it was a movie. Much like calling a very young woman dating an older man “Lolita.” You are only referring to the people involved, not all people, which is another reason why your outrage is misguided. The letter refers to someone who is mean as…mean…so if you want to read a bunch of stereotypes into it that aren’t there and then diss the blog and Alison, that is purely your POV…

          2. Florida*

            Great explanation. I love how you say that none of the descriptive words are gendered, but the stereotypes are.

          3. R2D2*

            I think the male equivalent would be a “shark” — someone who acts like Gordon Gekko, basically. While in theory it could be seen as a gender neutral term, I don’t think I’ve ever heard it in reference to a woman.

      2. Grapey*

        If we want to avoid impoverishing the language, it would make more sense to use different terms than “mean girl”. For example: cliquey, supercilious, pompous to name few of many.

        (My comment isn’t meant to take a side on whether or not ‘mean girls’ is useful; just giving food for thought about whether or not it “impoverishes the language” to be PC.)

  4. EA*

    So I am a little confused about how she could give you 1, 2, and 3s out of 5, while stating that you do great work. In all the reviews I have gotten, some categories are soft skills that are subjective, where I could see her getting away with this. Others are much more clear cut, where if you say someone does great work, you cant get away with giving them a bad score. All reviews I have seen literally have a “quality of work” category.

    Was her review somewhat incoherent? Or is the form different than i am envisioning?

    1. F.*

      In many companies, doing your job effectively earns you a “3”. 4s and 5s are reserved for experienced superstars who are extraordinarily good at their job, a level that would be almost impossible to be at only 45 days into the job.

      1. Security SemiPro*

        This. Your boss sounds like they suck, but 45 days in, 3’s are about the top of the curve. “Still learning the nuances of the job needed to be great at it” is expected. 1s are a warning flag, but in general, I don’t expect any new staff on my team to be hitting anything out of the park solo until after the 6 month or even 1 year date. (If they do, that’s awesome! But “meeting expectations” involves a period of training and learning and making mistakes.)

      2. Margaret*

        This is how it works where I am. It’s still problematic if that wasn’t fully explained, but it can be confusing. Getting 1s might be weird, but getting a mix of 2s and 3s – because you’re catching on quickly and doing well but still have plenty to learn – very well might go along with “you’re doing amazing work! [for someone so new]. The scale of 2 or 3 out of 5 still means that for your overall level (where people stay maybe 2 or 3 years before moving up) you’re still learning and haven’t fully met expectations, and certainly not ready to be promoted to the next level which is what 4s or 5s would indicate.

      3. JessaB*

        But that kind of scoring metric should be made clear. In good jobs the way reviews are done are A: standardised so that everyone’s 3 is a 3 and not sometimes a 4. And it should be communicated during the review meeting – doing your job is a 3 across the board. Everyone who comes in here and does the job properly is going to get a 3. If you want to get a 4 this is the kind of thing we expect (IE you’re required to make 25 whatever a day, a 4 would make over 30, etc. (whether that’s talk time in a call centre, widget making in a factory whatever the thing is.) But a good company has a standard that they can explain to people.

        1. Koko*

          My company does that in the general sense, but not in the quantifiable sense. HR is very clear every year that not everyone can get “exceeds” and that most people will be getting “meets,” with a few “exceeds” going to people truly going far beyond what was expected of them, so don’t feel upset or insulted with a “meets.” But it’s up to individual managers’ judgment whether their reports’ work was worthy of an “exceeds,” rather than being set by the company. And while I would expect a reasonable manager to be able to give examples of the level of work needed to get an “exceeds” if their report came to them and asked, I also think reasonable for a manager to give an “exceeds” to the employee(s) they feel earned it, without a standard for that having to be publicized or made explicit ahead of time.

      4. Bwmn*

        I think what’s always problematic about such number rankings is when they’re directly tied to raises (typically found in the context of all numbers being added, and then the average of that sum resulting in the raise you get).

        If those types of grades are just linked to performance, then it would make complete sense for someone to get lower scores largely based on just learning and growing in the position. However, those types of numbers are very often associated with raises as well as termination processes and not to reflect “we only just started covering Teapot Process 3 and it takes 5 weeks to truly onboard”.

        Where I presently work, we recently adopted a review process that includes a numbered section and I went straight to HR to directly ask “will this be associated with raises or not”. The fact that they said it would have no bearing on raises was why I was comfortable being direct on categories and even happily gave myself a 2 for something to the effect of an expert on development opportunities (which is very true, in my field I don’t necessarily know exactly which development opportunities I should pursue and I follow up with my manager and other senior staff on their thoughts to grow in that area). I have no problem being candid when I’d appreciate assistance in an area – but if it’s tied to how I’m paid, I’m going to approach the process far differently.

    2. Chrissie*

      I have yet to experience a real review in the real world, so as a related question: the OP mentioned that she felt pressured to sign the review, which I can relate to. How realistic is it to say to your manager “No, I won’t sign this”? Do you merely need to whip up the courage? Can you get fired for this? Must you be senior and work in a crucial role to the department to get away with this?

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        Where I work, there’s quite a robust mediation process if the supervisor and supervisee can’t agree on the content of the report; it wouldn’t take much courage at all. But I’m sure this varies wildly across workplaces.

      2. Judy*

        Every review I’ve had to sign has a phrase about signing for the receipt of the review, not necessarily agreeing with it.

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          This is how all my reviews have been.

          And when I had an employee who refused to sign one, HR pointed out that the lack of an employee signature didn’t make it any less official.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          That’s how all my review materials have been: there is a disclaimer beneath the signature stating that the signature is to acknowledge receipt of the form and does not imply agreement with the content.

      3. BananaPants*

        Our performance review system allows the employee to make a comment before signing. If you felt that the review and ratings were unfair you could state that but it would be perceived very poorly. It’s expected that if there is disagreement, you and your supervisor will discuss and modify ratings as necessary – but in the end, what your boss says is going to carry more weight than whatever protest you try to make. I’ve never made a comment and don’t know anyone who has.

        If and when you ever went up for an internal transfer or promotion, your comments (if any) will be visible to HR and the hiring manager, so that’s also a major strike against making a comment openly disagreeing with a supervisor’s review.

        You *have* to electronically sign the review (electronically) in order to start a new annual plan year. I suspect that refusing to sign in protest could lead to disciplinary action up to and including termination. I’ve never heard of someone NOT signing it.

        1. JessaB*

          I think it depends on the comment. If I had a supervisor that refused to budge on a factual error I would comment no matter what. There are supervisors that do that, they swear x happened, and it never did or it was other employee or something else.

    3. Cambridge Comma*

      I thought that she might have written 1s, 2s and 3s whilst stating verbally that OP does great work, which is the worst of both worlds.
      If it says in writing somewhere in the review that OP does great work, I wouldn’t see it as a problem. The risk I see is that OP gets pigeonholed by the new boss as a low performer based on this review.

      1. my two cents*

        the single review may end up in OP’s file, but New Boss would only need a moment or two working with OP to realize it’s not particularly accurate.

        And if she’s on her way out, the coworkers are likely just trying to keep everything as pleasant as possible. It may appear as though they’re ‘in her corner’ when in fact they’re just trying to avoid confrontations or additional ‘mean girls’ style gossiping.

      2. TootsNYC*

        “The risk I see is that OP gets pigeonholed by the new boss as a low performer based on this review.”

        Yes! This is absolutely true.

        I had a great review with a boss once, and (I think) because she felt she had to say something, she said, “Let’s have you work on being crisper and shorter in your communications.” It didn’t seem like she thought it was a big ding, but something I could improve on–more like a goal. I didn’t think it was really a fair criticism, and I wanted to sort of object, but I thought, “I can improve, and if it fosters our relationship, sure.”

        Then she left very shortly after, and my new boss was immediately on my case about it in a way that really didn’t feel as though she’d done her own evaluation. (I was already trimming emails.) And it was presented as “me screwing up,” not “a way to be even better.”

        It made me realize how important it is to respond to a review if you think there’s a misperception. Because what was in that review totally colored the new boss’s opinion of me.

      3. Nanc*

        Great comment about being pigeonholed by the new boss. OP, this would be a great time to start tracking what you’re doing to improve on those low score areas (even if the scores were unfair). If you professionally point out it was a 45 day review and show you took steps to become stronger in those areas that’s to your advantage. At the same time, feel free to secretly hope that you get a boss who’s big on the “I don’t pay attention to previous reviews at first, I like to start with a clean slate.”

        Good luck, and keep us updated.

      4. Faith*

        I actually had the opposite happen to me once. My written scores were “significantly exceeds expectations” across the board, but the entire review consisted of my boss going off on me. The reason for that was that I had a very high visibility role and worked very closely with people much higher on the totem pole than my boss who would also have to sign off on my performance review. So, he could not put down in writing anything negative that was not true. But because he disliked me personally, he could not deny himself the pleasure of having me as captive audience for 1 hour and making me feel like dirt. The entire conversation went like “You have the highest performance rating of anyone on the team. You are getting the highest percentage bonus available. You suck.”

      5. Katie the Fed*

        Eh, I’ve never really taken previous boss’s word for anything when I take over as a supervisor. I like to form my own opinions.

    4. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I’ve had it happen to me.  I had two bosses who were easily threatened and made damn sure that my role stayed in admin territory even though admin work was a tiny fraction of the original job.  During every review time, they would trash me up and down.  For example, they’d complain that I took on too much initiative and didn’t ask them questions but later on they’d cite some example of where I asked a question when I should have taken the initiative to figure it out on my own.  Or they’d cite something I did 11 months prior and I had no memory of it so I couldn’t explain myself.  Or I said “Good morning,” to the CEO, and they said I was “bothering” him.  

      But on the paper, these women would give me nothing but a glowing review.

      The reason was Big Boss hired me and liked me.  They hated him, but they reported to him.  If they’d written anything negative, he would have followed up with them directly to review it and ask for examples — examples that didn’t exist.  (He eventually fired them years after I left.)

      To answer original question, yes, reviews like that are utterly incoherent.  It’s to trash the person JUST enough so they don’t get fired or quit but nowhere near enough to get any benefit.

      1. AMG*

        Yes, I wouldn’t discount the possibility of your boss being threatened by you. I have had a coworker take one look at me and decided that she hated me (that’s literally what she said to someone and it got back to me). I had a boss who was a running joke at the office because it was said that she didn’t like anyone ‘taller, thinner, younger, prettier, or smarter’ than her. Even the men knew. When I privately asked a male mentor of mine who had been at the company what he thought, he said it was pretty accurate. This was a very well-balanced person who didn’t get into the drama or exaggerate.

        Let’s see, from your letter I can see that you are you are young, work hard, well-liked by others, have connections, are outgoing, willing to take on challenges, ambitious, professional, and a good person. Your boss doesn’t have many of those qualities.
        This could all be one big backhanded compliment.

        1. The Strand*

          Wow … ‘taller, thinner, younger, prettier, or smarter’?

          I read that and I think that at least 45% of the planet would qualify as at least one of those, compared to me (hopefully not the last one).

      2. EA*

        That’s such BS. I did have a job once were I was rated “meeting expectations”, but told how awesome I was. I asked what I had to do to exceed expectations, and was told the department had a quota for those and I was new.

        1. TheAssistant*

          I was told in my review that I was “killing it” and my boss had nothing negative to say about me. I was then told I “met expectations” due to an offhand comment eleven months prior that I said to someone three rungs above me but wasn’t mentioned until one month before the review – I was told that I lacked emotional intelligence and only people with high emotional intelligence (in my office, extroverts) exceed expectations. That was my very first lesson in office politics.

          1. EA*

            Ha. I’m sorry, that is absurd. Also I don’t think they get what emotional intelligence is. You can easily have that as an introvert.

        2. The Strand*

          Ah yes. My former VP at an institution described getting a 4 as “qualifying for the Olympics” and 5 as “getting the gold medal”, and explained that almost no one would ever get them.

          Then, interestingly, a study came out which showed the metrics. There was no bell curve when it came to ratings: administrators received the highest average ratings and their graph was skewed to the right, with the most 4s and 5s, followed by faculty, who had plenty of 4s and slightly less movement to the right, and then staff had hardly any 4s or 5s.

          1. Crabby PM*

            At Former Teapots, we had a similar rating scale, with the similar constraints, which we heard about after everyone gave themselves 5’s. “No one is going to get a 5” well, then it’s not a 1-5 scale, if no one can get a 5, it’s a 1-4 scale. So everyone rated themselves a 4, and upper management got mad that everyone rated themselves so highly, bounced it back to middle managers, who then had to deal with angry employees.

            1. Koko*

              5 points is too many. You only really need 3:

              – Poor/Doesn’t Meet Expectations/PIP
              – OK/Meets Expectations/Continued Employment
              – Wow!/Exceeds Expectations!/Time To Find You Higher-Level Work!

              If you create 5 points then nobody will ever want to use 1 or 5 because they seem so “extreme” so it just ends up being a 3-point system anyway. You don’t need to get that granular when there are really only three practical outcomes (PIP, promotion, or no change).

    5. Person of Interest*

      I’m not sure the 1s, 2s, 3s, matter so much on a 45-day review – it can be hard to use that kind of system for a person during the training period. Either you know the task, or you are on or off pace in learning the task, or you haven’t been trained in the task yet – I could see a manager interpreting the “still learning” phase as a 2, just because you have to put down something and the person can’t be a 3 if they aren’t proficient in the task yet. One place I used to work actually reworded the 90-day review items so this could be more accurately documented, which I always found helpful as a manager.

    6. I'm Not Phyllis*

      It happens. I once had a new boss who was so impressed that I met all of my goals, yet rated me as “needs improvement” (resulting in a lower cost-of-living increase – it’s the second lowest rating you can get) because she didn’t think my goals that I had set with my previous manager were correct.

  5. Boboccio*

    I read this question as stating that Op’s job is on the line after her present 45 day review. She may not last there the few months until her boss leaves.

    1. Amber T*

      It sounds like a manipulation tactic to me. “You suck and need to work harder to improve, so here’s all my work on top of yours to show you’re capable.”

  6. Florida*

    OP, With bad bosses, the annual review can become a way for them to display their power. This serves no one (other than bad boss’s ego), so it’s a shame that it happens. Just know that many others (including me) have been in that situation. I encourage you to focus on the fact that your boss is leaving and this is a temporary situation.
    Good luck.

  7. Sharon*

    I would be concerned about leaving the bad review on the books uncontested because the new manager may come in an read all the staff reviews as a way to get a feel for the department she’s inheriting. It could poison the well for the OP’s relationship with a new manager. Or do managers not read reviews left by their predecessors?

    1. Mike C.*

      This is my concern. Perhaps I’m leery because I work for a large organization and records have a habit of showing up when you least expect it, but I’d be really wary of this.

    2. Rebecca in Dallas*

      I have experienced this same issue before. I had a previous manager get promoted (one of those “fail upwards” guys) and literally the day before he left, he put me on a PIP for things that he had never spoken to me about before. I was livid, mainly because I thought the new manager coming in would have a perception that I wasn’t a good employee.

      The PIP stipulated check-ins every 30 (?) days, so basically I did good work for the first month I worked for the new manager. When we sat down for my check-in, I had everything ready to tell her about what I was doing to improve in the areas listed on the PIP. I’m not sure if she had looked at my PIP prior to working with me or not, but she thankfully was able to form her own opinion of my work after working with me for 30 days and seemed assured that I would have no issues with successfully completing the PIP period (I think it was 90 days).

      I think the OP should just do good work as they work with the new manager and let that speak for itself. Maybe schedule a touch-base 30 days in or so to make sure they are on the same page about quality of work or whatever other issues may have been brought up in the review. But any manager worth their salt would use their own experience with an employee to form an opinion, even after reading a negative review.

      1. Bwmn*

        I agree with this. I also think that depending on review cycles, the OP could also present to the new manager that based on the 45 day review that perhaps a 6 month or another kind of interim review would be helpful. The new manager may ultimately feel it’s unnecessary, but if the OP is really concerned about paperwork on the books – it could be presented as a way to establish a baseline with a new manager.

    3. VintageCampus*

      One way I found to “protest” an unfair review is to put it in the comments as opposed to an HR stink which will not accomplish anything.

      In the one case I had to do this I wrote something like:

      “While I am disappointed that accomplishments A, B, and C did not earn me an overall quality score of 4, I understand that X and Y factors need improvement and contributed to the lower score.

      Here is what I learned this year about X and Y. I plan to improve in X and Y by doing 1, 2, and 3”.

      When I had a terrible PTSD inducing boss, I put this in my performance review. It was frequently cited by my future managers as one of the items that stuck out to them more than my scores. : )

      1. mlmcreynolds*

        This is PERFECT! I wish I’d had this phrasing earlier this year. I have saved it for future use. Thanks!!

    4. Koko*

      This is a very valid concern. Even if some managers wouldn’t put much stock in the past reviews, the fact that ANY might exposes OP to problems later down the line. It’s much harder to correct a wrong first impression than it is to make a good impression in the first place.

  8. The Bimmer Guy*

    “I’m equally uncomfortable about the review, but I felt trapped into signing it.”

    Alison, when she signed the review, was she saying that she agreed with it, or merely acknowledging that she had received and read it? I know you mentioned something like that before…but it might have been for something like a discipline or dismissal letter.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Generally it’s to acknowledge receipt, although it would depend on the wording. If it didn’t clearly indicate that, though, it’s okay to write in that you’re signing to indicate receipt.

  9. RVA Cat*

    Honestly it sounds like the whole organization is disfunctional, though. Who the heck thinks “onboarding” should be “give the new person no training, then give her complicated projects with our most demanding customers”? It’s like they’re setting people up to fail — and possibly taking their business down with it.

    1. Kristine*

      FWIW, the company I currently work for purposely uses the ‘sink or swim’ version of “onboarding”. Their logic is that if you can’t pick up something, run with it, and make it great without training/instruction then you don’t have the problem solving skills and determination they want. If you fail then you were obviously a bad fit for the company. It’s a brutal tactic, but there are people (like me) who manage to swim in those scenarios (not that I enjoyed one moment of it, much to the contrary).

      1. RVA Cat*

        Yes, but I would assume they had systems in place to protect customers when people sink.

        1. Kristine*

          Not necessarily. I was put on a project that impacted almost 500 customers (a large number for us) during my second week on the job with zero training. And yeah, I made some customers mad because I had no idea what I was doing. But none of them canceled their contracts and we got larger upsells from many of them due to the work I did, so in all it worked out ok.

      2. Laura*

        I also worked for a company like that. At first I thought they were just being vague when I asked for performance feedback, but I realized that the company is OKAY with their high turnover rate. They expect people to leave, and management didn’t want to spend time coaching new staff; that “privilege” was reserved for the experienced employees.

        Brutal is the right word for it, but in industries like sales, that’s not necessarily a bad thing (for the company).

        1. Rabbit*

          Nearly all the companies I’ve worked at are like this–and yes, ‘brutal’ is an apt description. When I’ve been interviewing recently, I’ve made sure to ask companies what kind of training/onboarding procedures/company guides they have, and it seems like even asking that makes the interviewer give me a side eye and think I would be an employee that needs hand-holding or something. I’m not asking for someone to sit with me for the first 30 days–just maybe a week or two to acclimate to their procedures?

  10. NarrowDoorways*

    It’s hard to tell, but the messages don’t seem…horrible to me. Am I just reading it wrong? Hurtful, absolutely! No one likes being talked about even slightly negatively. But compared to comments like, “Oh I’m so sick of listening to this,” it’s a relatively light comment.

    I guess it reminds me of a co-worker who’s obsessed with dogs. I don’t mind dogs or her talking about them…most days. Most of my co-workers are on a similar spectrum, but every now and then there’s the eye roll and “Holly’s talking about dogs again.” I don’t see it as hateful, but then maybe the dynamic is different at my office.

    I’d focus on the review and THE FACT THAT SHE’S LEAVING!!! Now that is exciting. You can make it. I know you can.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You just can’t really do that as a boss. She needs to at least appear to be impartial and objective, and definitely not snarking on her own employee. It’s just a betrayal of the trust that needs to exist between them in order for the OP to know that she’s being dealt with fairly, that feedback she gets is unbiased, etc.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Precisely. Not only that but if a boss is openly snarking on one employee, it’s not a stretch to think she’s doing that to everyone else.

        Or at least that’s what I always thought when my former boss would rip my co-workers to shreds in front of me. I figured she was doing the same to me when I wasn’t around.

        That’s a horrible, uneasy environment that doesn’t inspire trust and confidence.

        1. Guinness*

          Yep. My boss does this now and it’s awful.
          I think someone might have said something to her, because it seems to be less prevalent than it used to be, but I also try to steer clear of her when I can, so who knows. The damage has really already been done so it doesn’t really matter.

        2. The Bimmer Guy*

          That’s the thing about trash-talkers. You don’t feel like you’re special or under the protection of the Mean Girls’ Club just because you’ve never heard anyone snarking about you; you just feel like it goes on behind your back, and you’re in the same boat as everyone else.

      2. Laura*

        Wouldn’t you say most bosses DO snark on their own employees in varying degrees? Obviously OP’s boss messed up and accidentally exposed her to the snark, but I feel sure that most people in positions of power discuss their subordinates in a negative way, but they keep it under the table.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No! I mean, it happens sometimes, but it definitely shouldn’t be something you’re doing re: most people you manage (maybe just one occasional person who really gets under your skin), and you should confine it to non-coworkers.

          I can think of a handful of people over the years who I made a frustrated remark about to a friend, but never to a colleague and never as a widespread thing. You’re their manager! You’re supposed to be on their side.

          1. The Bimmer Guy*

            Eggg-zactly. I could see taking it home and laughing/complaining about it to a spouse or friend who has no connection to the company or to the employee in question. But doing it with a colleague or another manager is disrespectful to that employee, and it’s just asking for trouble.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          I might complain a little bit about some of my people, but only to my husband or fellow managers (and then I wouldn’t use their names). I would never complain about a subordinate to a subordinate.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Maybe I have just had bad luck, but I think most bosses do snark on their employees.
          One of my gauges is watching what they say to me about others, then I can figure how they are talking about me behind my back.
          I have been less disappointed in bosses since I decided to assume that there will be snark from time to time. But Alison is right about a breach of trust. It is very difficult to trust such a boss.
          ha! I had one boss who would complain about someone every. single. time. I worked with this boss. Later, he congratulated me on being one of the few people that seldom talked about coworkers. He totally missed the irony of his comment.

    2. NicoleK*

      Boss at Old Job made passive aggressive comments about BEC coworker to me. Seriously, I would have preferred that she dealt with BEC coworker in a different manner. Passive Aggressive comments just pissed me off even more as she had the authority to fire BEC coworker. And call me cynical but if Boss is talking about coworkers to you, she’s probably talking about you to them as well.

  11. Ann Furthermore*

    OP, just grit your teeth, keep your head down, and ride out the next few months. Then she’ll be gone.

    And go to HR as a formality, and to get your comments on the record, but don’t expect them to do anything about it. I got a review once from a boss that didn’t like me that was untrue to the point of being libelous. I mean, I had concrete, irrefutable proof that what was in my review was untrue, mostly in the form of emails. And still, that bad review was allowed to stand. I asked, outright, “So this is how it works? Managers can just put whatever they want into reviews and it doesn’t even have to be true? That’s really how we’re treating people now?” And I got some sort of mealy-mouthed double speak load of BS, and the bottom line was that review didn’t change. HR is not there for you, they’re there for the company and to protect its interests. Unless your manager is doing something illegal, or doing something that violates a policy documented in an employee handbook or code of conduct, it’s unlikely that anything will happen.

    1. LeRainDrop*

      Similar experience here. The mean-girl partner was intentionally telling a story about me to one of our superiors in a way that left out crucial details to imply something bad about my performance. I pointed out the missing details, which were irrefutably evidenced by contemporaneous emails, but the mean-girl partner said, “perception is reality.” Later I got written up by our department’s boss for “insubordination” for “implying that a partner was lying.” That boss, who is notorious as the mean-girl partner’s steadfast protector, told me it did not matter whether what the partner said was right or wrong, but that I should never imply that she was not telling the truth.

  12. Argh!*

    She’s leaving. Keep your head down, be professional, and be friendly-cordial to other coworkers in case they’ve heard crappy things about you. Unfortunately, managers rarely get training in how not to be a jerk. I hope the next one’s better, but don’t count on it.

  13. C*

    Alison, I’m a little confused. I re-read the OP’s letter and see no reference to the boss leaving in a few months. Am I missing something? Was that something she mentioned in a follow-up email? Just not seeing that.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s buried in there! It’s in the second-to-last paragraph of the letter: “we share an office and she leaves for good in a few months anyway”

  14. Greg*

    OP: I’m sorry you’re in this situation, and I hope you can get out from under this boss one way or another soon.

    To everyone else: Let this be a lesson to you. If you must complain about your coworkers, DON’T PUT IT IN WRITING! I’m not talking about formal discipline procedures where you need to document an employee’s shortcomings, I’m talking about when you’re informally blowing off steam. Everyone needs to do it from time to time, but wait until you’re at lunch, or grabbing a drink after work, and talking with people you trust (and not within earshot of other coworkers).

    I’ve lost count of the number of times coworkers have accidentally IMd complaints to the person they’re talking about, or not paid attention to who’s on the CC line of an email. Anyone can make those mistakes, but if you stick to the policy of not putting certain topics in writing, you never have to worry about a minor slip-up blowing up into a major crisis.

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      I echo this. In the span of a couple of months, I had to fire two employees. Then, I had to slog through their email (at my boss’s request).In reading, I found that one used her connection to an account manager to have him complain about me to the head of our division because I dared comment on the quality of her work.

      I found out that the other was leading a cabal against me, literally she referred to the “circle of trust,” to get me fired because I was holding the department to a standard of work. I later found out that she had initially applied for my position and thought she should have been the department head.

      I also found out that fired employee #1 shared the intimate details of her firing, which fired employee #2 tried to use against me as a last ditch effort to get me in trouble as she was being shown the door by saying I was the one that had told the entire team this information.

      All this to say, my relationships with the other employees who were on/participated in these email chains was strained. I never held it against them, but honestly, it was hard to see people conspire because you were documenting processes and putting procedures in place.

    2. TootsNYC*

      Actually, the safest course is to train yourself to simply not be a complainer, to not be the sort of person who creates running jokes about other people.

      1. Greg*

        Fair enough. Like I said, I think some amount of blowing off steam is natural and inevitable, especially when you’re in a negative situation. But I agree, if you constantly find yourself in the position of complaining about others (in professional situations or otherwise), you might owe yourself a long look in the mirror.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Or you could train yourself to either talk to the person or decide to forget about it. “If I choose not to talk to the other person about it, then I am choosing to forget about it. ” I have had on-going situations with some people where I constantly reminded myself I had decided to forget it. Some things are not worth the time it takes to discuss it. Other things have no impact on the final out come but are an odd personal preference. Yet, other times I could convince myself to let go of something because I could not come up with a workable solution for the problem. And there were other times where I had battle fatigue and had to let it go.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Battle fatigue is pretty much my default regarding workplace issues these days. But I think this is a good thing really because I just don’t care enough to fight battles that are worthless in the long run. I’ve learned that overall very little actually changes in the workplace when things are unfair or wrong. Sometimes they do, but more often than not the solution is to leave rather than deal with a boss who doesn’t get it, is a psycho, HR who couldn’t care less, etc. And you know, I don’t say this cynically, it’s just more of an it is what it is kind of thought pattern. It’s helped me a lot to let go of things that truly, truly do not matter. So many people fight to the death in workplaces and it’s so much wasted energy.

        2. Jean*

          NSNR, Thank you for the reminder that although we can’t always choose our experiences we can usually choose our reactions.
          Ruffingit, Thank you for your clear sentence: “So many people fight to the death in workplaces and it’s so much wasted energy.”
          Your comments ease the tension created by my difficult week at work.

  15. Note Pattern*

    OP says she quit her first job due to unethical bosses and management.
    Then she talks here about a mean girl/bully/immature manager.

    If you’re noting these things, you’re better than them! My husband fell into a pattern where he was working for crazier and crazier managers at weirder and weirder organizations – family foundations, start-ups, nonprofits that weren’t registered in the state to do business… and telling himself “Oh, I’m good with these people! I can handle it!”

    It doesn’t matter. You don’t HAVE to be. You deserve to have a good manager, and you will, and you will be a good manager.

    It might be worth it (as it was for my husband) taking a time-out from either working or job-searching and talking with various support networks, including mentors, career coaches, therapists, etc. about this pattern and why you fall into it. It might not be — 2 could be a bad story, or it could be a pattern. Only you know. But I wanted to look at The Big Picture, not just This Boss and This Situation. You’re better than this, and it will end. Make good choices! You deserve the best.

    1. JessaB*

      Yes, it’s like someone who goes through nasty significant others because they’re in that pattern of abuse and don’t necessarily see the signs until they’re in. I would totally go over those hiring processes in my head and see if I could tease out any things that might have given me a clue about how this place worked, and whether I was just ignoring them or actually not seeing them or thinking they were normal. It’ll stand you well in your next interview in the future.

    2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      Yes. I think people start to normalize bad behavior, or think all bosses will be that way.

      1. Laura*

        It’s psychological conditioning. I am five months out of a toxic workplace, but I still feel irrational fear when my boss calls or emails me, because that meant trouble at my previous workplace.

    3. Sammie*

      This is utterly brilliant and absolutely true. I’m seeing the same pattern in my own work life and have just enlisted a coach to help me find a way out!

  16. DaisyC*

    OP I feel ya! Glad for you that she is leaving.

    I went through something similar at a previous job, was with the company many years, always had glowing reviews of my work and my attitude in general, but the last year of that tenure was when it got bad. The manager of my dept of 4 people became “mean girl” and singled me out, and I never knew why. Lots of incidents occurred, but the final straw was when I was standing at a co-worker’s desk, going over some numbers on a spreadsheet on his monitor, and right then our boss IM’d him really mean gossip about me, not knowing I was standing at his desk. There was no mistaking the message. He tried to quickly close the message, but too late, I saw it. I asked him how he could participate in that? Since he and I got along and worked well together, or so I thought. He said he was sorry, but what did I expect? He had to go along with the boss and didn’t want to potentially upset her. *eye roll*

    This was a large company but HR was known to not be helpful to employees who were treated unfairly, it seemed their only real role was to mitigate the company’s liabilities. So I didn’t bother with them.

    My solution was to resign, which I did two weeks later, and even though I had to start over at a new company, it was the right move, and I was very happy at new job!

    1. Jean*

      Voting with one’s feet (as they walk the rest of oneself right out the door!) can feel very, very powerful.

  17. Brandy in TN*

    I once took over an employees position, I had my own position I transferred from, so I was set up in the system, but somehow when I took his desk, IT did a merge on the email and merged mine and his. He never deleted an email. I saw where him and my boss talked all day thru email about their thoughts on my sex life (if I was a virgin, the whole bit. We were all in our late 20s, including the boss. She didn’t know me much at the time and this is stuff I would never speak of in the office. Ugh.. I showed them to her boss and he never did anything. She never did like me and never warmed to me. Later on the company was sold and folded.

    1. Jean*

      Is it deeply unkind of me to hope that these two highly unpleasant characters (!) got a teeny bit mashed when when “the company was sold and folded”? Or to imagine the sold-ing and fold-ing as karmic retribution in the same tradition as having the Earth Open. Up. and Swallow. the. Evildoer(s)?

  18. Jill*

    I had a friend in a similar situation. Started a new job and the boss just decided she didn’t like her and treated her poorly. I begged her not to go to HR but she did anyway and it backfired. Like OP, she was so new that she hadn’t established her own positive reputation with colleagues, so naturally they believed the boss, who was well established. And the things she went to HR with were similar to OP’s – mean treatment, being treated differently than others….but nothing illegal or unethical so HR did nothing.

    I echo the comments of others, OP. Ride it out until she’s gone and make a fresh start with your new boss. It’s not worth looking like a complainer and a troublemaker while you’re still so new to the company. Plus, you don’t know how many of her co-conspirators are true loyalists of hers who will continue to make life difficult for you after she’s gone.

  19. VintageCampus*

    Getting only scored 3 or less in each metric may not be a bad performance review at all! There was one year I saved my company $742 million dollars. Million! I ended up getting only 3’s, 2’s, and 1’s that year as well.

  20. NicoleK*

    So I have a different take on the situation. For a 45 day review, rating of 2 and 3 out of 5 seems normal to me. At the 45th day, most new employees are just meeting expectations (very much still in the learning stage but where they should be or progressing at the appropriate pace). Your boss said that you’re doing good work and having great days so unless she starts treating you differently (ignoring you, leaving you out of key meetings, leaving you out of key projects, and etc) I would let it go especially since she will be leaving in several months. You’ve had a lot of personal issues recently so please take some time to reflect before going to HR.

  21. Not So NewReader*

    Hang in there, OP. You can get through this.

    Can you get any PTO? Maybe half way through the next few months take a day or an afternoon if it won’t hurt you, just to give yourself a little short break. Or maybe schedule some vacation time in the future if you can, so you have something on the horizon that you are looking forward to that is YOURS.

    Figure out ways to let her sharpen you. Bosses like this can really sharpen us, if we let them. Get plenty of rest and do your best each day. And let us know how you are doing.

  22. FairyGetStuffDone*

    Hold your head up! You are better than any of the BS she can dish out. I’ve been in the same exact situation and had a manager who was the head “mean girl” in an office of 12 women. It was a horrible experience for two years. She would praise me to everyone who dealt with us and give me great reviews. She would alternate between ignoring me and speaking to me in a terribly demeaning way. I went to HR several times but she would always play dumb and talk about how great things were. Just after my 2nd anniversary one of the other women in the office came to me in tears. She handed me a stack of printed out emails. She confessed everything to me about all the mean girls in the office and how they talked me behind my back. Essentially, my boss would start a daily email chain where they bashed me about everything under the sun and made up stories about me.

    My co-worker had printed every day’s chain and told me she would back me up with HR. She said she felt horrible about it and realized one day it wouldn’t stop unless she helped me. Of course, I read every single one of those emails and just about lost my marbles that day. I made an appointment with HR and they initiated an investigation. I ended up being given a paid leave that allowed me time to search for another position and they revoked her manager role and reassigned all of her reports to someone in the office. She still works there and I’m sure still leads the pack.

    Fast-forward 6 years and I’m happier, more successful, and beyond any of her crap. Hold your head up and take care of you! I ran into about a year ago and she said something really snippy to me and I looked her up/down, shrugged and said “still a $itch I see” and walked away.

    You got this! Use it to make you stronger.

    1. random lurker*

      omg! i can’t believe how awful people can be. i’m so sorry you dealt with that and that it turned out so well for you in the end.

  23. Justin*

    Why does HR exist if every single manager on Earth ever always suggests to avoid talking to them? What is a boss besides another talking monkey with a title? I seriously hope we evolve past this hierarchy BS. I have had ONE boss in my life who was worth working for. She was a 60 year old lesbian who loved everyone. The rest were all pompous asses who wouldn’t listen to reason. I mainly stayed out of their way so I could do my work without being subjected to a cacophony of willful ignorance, complaints, and what seemed to be several psychological disorders. Ironically enough, they were ALL Baby Boomers. Shocker there.

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