my boss crashed an employee’s wedding and now everyone hates him

A reader writes:

I’m an executive assistant. My boss made an unpopular personnel decision, and I’m the one who is bearing the brunt of it because everyone is upset with my him. He went to a coworker’s wedding because he had a question about something and she was the only one who could answer it. One of the groom’s relatives is a police officer and she had to escort my boss out because he wouldn’t leave. He tried to have the coworker written up at work over what happened, and she ended up quitting before she left for her honeymoon.

Many people here are upset at my boss over this. There is overt and passive aggressive behavior towards him, things like not inviting him to meetings or his mail being lost instead of delivered.

I don’t agree with his actions, but all this behavior towards him is interfering with my ability to do my job as his assistant. My boss thinks I am dropping the ball and everyone else thinks I am on his side. My boss is mostly oblivious to people being upset with him since I have to deal with them instead of him. I try to stay neutral and just address the problems I’m having with being able to do my job, but my boss and my coworkers don’t listen. My boss especially thinks I’m exaggerating. How can I get them to listen, or at least keep me out of the middle of this?


Your boss showed up at a coworker’s wedding to ask her a work question? Very, very bad. He had to be escorted out by a police officer because he wouldn’t leave? I’m trying to picture this (and really wishing I had details about exactly how it went down), but suffice it to say, this is so over-the-top horrible that I don’t know how your boss is going to salvage things. And then he tried to write up the bride for what happened? Dear god.

So yeah, I am not surprised that your boss is feeling the consequences of his actions at work now.

Really, he needs to profusely and publicly apologize, probably send the ex-employee whose wedding he disrupted an extremely nice gift, and accept that people are going to think he’s a complete ass for quite a long time.

But it doesn’t sound like he’s going to do any of that, and I would give up on trying to get through to him. You’ve tried, and he’s not listening.

But maybe you could convince your coworkers to stop doing things that make your job difficult, if you put it to them in those terms. For example: “I know that you’re very upset with Fergus, but when you don’t deliver his mail and you leave him out of meetings, I’m the one who suffers. I’m being blamed for these things, and you’re getting me in trouble. This is making my life really difficult, and I’m worried that it’s jeopardizing my job. Can you please have mercy on me and not endanger my livelihood this way?”

It’s hard to imagine a reasonable person hearing that and deciding that you’re just going to have to be collateral damage. So hopefully you’ll get some traction with that approach.

As for how this should be getting handled at your office: This isn’t anything you have the power to do, but ideally someone in a position of authority would see what was going on and have a serious conversation with Fergus about what happened. They’d point out that he’s destroyed his relationships with the people he’s dependent on to do his job effectively (which on its own could jeopardize his own job, if it means he’s no longer effective), and they’d insist on getting him some rigorous re-training in how to manage people. They’d also take a closer look at what’s going on with his team, because the tyrannical behavior he displayed at the wedding means he’s probably mistreating people in myriad other ways too, so there are probably a whole bunch of interventions needed in how he’s operating.

But on top of that, they’d also talk to the people who are sabotaging Fergus and tell them that what Fergus did is unacceptable and is being addressed, but that meanwhile they need to stop sabotaging him — it’s not cool to lose someone’s mail or leave them out of meetings they need to be in, even if they’re King Jerk.

Meanwhile, though, do you want to work for this dude? On one hand, being able to work effectively with difficult people is a great skill to have and if you’re someone who can put up with crap without being too rattled, more power to you. But it’s worth asking yourself who you’re working for and how you feel about that.

{ 402 comments… read them below }

    1. KarenD*

      Yeah, she basically covered every possible angle. The only thing I would add is that — if this is feasible inside the OP’s corporate culture — a trip to HR now where all cards are laid on the table, including the fact that attempting to deal with issues when they come up is not working (I would bring a narrative documentation of this, for example, “Last Tuesday Jane didn’t forward a notice about the meeting with Teapotapalooza and Boss wasn’t there to present the design changes. When I asked Jane why we didn’t get the notice, she just shrugged and walked away.”)

      This will probably be seen as “tattling,” but honestly, how could things get worse?

        1. KarenD*

          I should have said that I would try Alison’s approach first, of appealing to co-workers’ mercy and letting them know that boss isn’t the one who’s really suffering. (I meant to say that and just realized I didn’t. :-P )

          1. Tyrannosaurus Regina*

            Yeah, I wouldn’t do this until I’d made every good faith effort to appeal to coworkers’ mercy/decency and been rebuffed.

      1. Marisol*

        Well said. I completely agree and I also wonder why she isn’t taking the mail guy to task for “losing” the mail. Surely there is an informal hierarchy in place where she could have a talk with him. And not a, “please have mercy on me” kind of talk, but more like a…”speaking on the boss’s behalf, you are going to be in trouble if you don’t knock this off” kind of way.

        1. Annonymouse*

          Except that makes OP seem like they are on the bosses side.

          Try the “when you do this you’re actually getting me in danger of being fired – it’s not hurting jackass boss”

          If it keeps up then pull the “seriously, do your job or I’m going to refer this up the chain and you’re going to be the one fired.”

          “Yeah boss is a jerk but your revenge isn’t worth me losing my job.”

    2. Lily Rowan*

      Yeah, this is why she is Ask A Manager and not me — I’d be stuck at “WHAT.” and unable to go any further!

      1. Archie Goodwin*

        Yeah, pretty much. This has got to be one of the most egregious things I’ve ever heard of, and I’ve been reading this site for a while.

      2. Jane D'oh!*

        At least you formed a word…the only thing inside my head at the end of reading this was the sound of a record scratching off the turntable.

      3. EmmaLou*

        I mostly looked like a goldfish… Mouth open.. mouth closed…open closed… no real sounds just ..

    3. ATXFay*

      As a long time EA, this sounds like one of my worst nightmares. I will keep Alison’s advice in mind should I ever be put in a similar spot (though.. wedding crashing??? Hope that’s NEVER the case!).

    4. NoMoreMrFixit*

      Probably time to start looking for a new job. If this is typical of your boss’s behaviour it’s never going to improve. And it sounds like people have had enough of this guy.

      Sadly I knew someone who did a similar stunt at a funeral. At least that person waited until the funeral was over but still amazed me that someone could be so insensitive.

      Choosing the worst boss of the year is going to be a challenge this time. The nominations keep pouring in!

        1. Chicago Recruiter*

          This a tie with the boss who was shocked when her best employee quit after she wouldn’t let her attend her graduation ceremony.

          1. Jen S. 2.0*

            Ugh, that one makes me mad all over again thinking about it!!! And then she wanted to give her snide life advice!!!

            But anyway. Back to THIS particular fruitcake.

          2. Lissa*

            I kinda think that “worst bosses” shouldn’t include OPs of the letters, no matter how misguided they might be. I know that I would be scared to write in if I thought if I had misjudged a situation I might end up on a “worst of” list…

            But that’s just my opinion obviously. Not sure how those lists worked in the past, I’m a fairly new reader! (well about 6 months now, wow!)

          3. Clinical Social Worker*

            Almost forgot about that one. YEESH. After that employee always took on extra shifts, crummy shifts, rarely if ever took time off. Man I was happy that person quit.

          1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

            His brother needed a transplant. You could either sign up to be tested to be a donor, or be fired. On the spot. By his assistant. Yes, even the person who was on dialysis, had to sign up or be fired. And yes, people were fired.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      My former boss had two assistants and I was one of them. When the other EA was in labor in the hospital, my boss called her because she couldn’t find a file she wanted. I had just started that job and realized very quickly that I was not going to last very long (I made it 5 months which apparently was a long tenure with that evil jerk).

      1. Audiophile*

        Ok, that might be worse.

        Please tell me someone put boss in her place?? I have a bad feeling I already know the answer.

        1. anonny*

          Wow…..just, wow. As a woman who is currently 8-1/2 months pregnant, I really cannot even imagine this. Also, in my fantasy world, I hope she was like 8cm at that point and just an unhinged person and lit into him.

          Actually, in my fantasy world, jerks like this don’t exist.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          No, her EA told here where the file was and apologized for leaving it on her desk! Ridiculous. However, she got her comeuppance – I went to HR and asked to transfer to a different boss and ended up getting fired for telling HR that the boss was abusive (The HR lady was kind of a jerk too). The great part was that a few weeks later, the boss screamed at the same HR lady for no reason – she completely lost it on her. It was not the first time she had anger issues and the board ended up getting demoting her back to Partner (she was the president). She got pissed off and quit to go work in the White House under George W. Bush. I won’t say anything about my feelings about that since we aren’t supposed to talk about politics here. Except that she was a perfect match for that administration. I found out later that she had gone through 4 other assistants in the 6 months before I was hired (of course no one mentioned that in my interview).

      2. CM*

        I still remember when I was in labor and one of my clients called (why did I pick up??). He’d had some sort of gardening accident. He said, “YOU can’t be in the hospital. I’M in the hospital. Who’s going to take care of my tax filing??” I gave him the name of our paralegal and turned off my phone. But not before the nurse walked in and said disapprovingly, “Are you doing WORK?”

      3. Minister of Snark*

        When I was in labor, my husband received several calls from coworkers about a work related issue. He didn’t answer it, but he returned the calls in the lulls between contractions. The phone rang for the seventh time when I was getting the epidural. I told him that if he didn’t turn the ringer off on his phone, I would march down to his office, while in labor, and use my crazy pregnancy strength to beat the $#%& out of all of his coworkers. DH turned off the phone. My anesthesiologist had to stop because he was laughing too hard to insert a needle into my spine. (Good choice)

      4. Michelle*

        When I was in labor with baby #6, my husband received an email, obviously sent to him by mistake, informing his co-workers that he was being let go. He didn’t know.

    2. SOMA*

      I read this as ‘what the actual elf’ and thought ‘oh what clever way to swear in the spirit of the holiday season’… then I realized that nope, I just can’t read :P

      1. What the What!?*

        I read the same thing. And also realized I can’t read. Maybe time for more coffee or perhaps a nap?

  1. Temperance*

    Am I totally bonkers or did this situation come up here before? It horrifies me to think that there are TWO of this man.

      1. Nanc*

        It sounds like the plot of Two Weeks Notice except Sandra Bullock was a bridesmaid rather than a bride. Either way, it boggles the mind that people do this!

      1. Temperance*

        It was this specific situation – the boss interrupted a wedding, and the employee quit before her honeymoon. I just don’t want to believe that there are two of this man.

        1. SophieChotek*

          Same boss for all we know?
          Yah…sadly probably there are two of these bosses.
          Probably more we don’t know about…

          1. AnotherAlison*

            When I first read this, I thought OMG this is completely nutso. Then when I read the comments about funeral-interrupting and the second similar wedding post, I looked in the mirror at my own company.

            One of my managers was on PTO traveling to another state this week. For 2 whole days. Our next level up boss made a comment that “maybe [traveling manager] would read the RFP on the plane back.” Schedules aren’t flexible! Deadlines must be met! Maybe these horrible bosses are in horrible company cultures.

            1. fposte*

              Maybe it’s just academics speaking, but I don’t think that’s horrible. Getting emailed on a couple days’ vacation isn’t the same as having somebody crash a wedding or a funeral.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                It wasn’t the emailing. It was the expectation to review documents on vacation (like he couldn’t just wait 15 hrs till he was back in the office). It’s just one example of a whole culture that expects work to be #1. Another coworker had a vacation out of state with his family, and was asked to take a business trip in the middle of it. It was only a day, but still.

                1. SouthernLadybug*

                  Ok – that’s bad. A business trip in the middle? That’s definitely different than the “review the grant” on vacation that seems to happen all the time at my R1 Uni.

            2. Michele*

              I agree. In a well-run company, that report is either available before the person leaves for two days or there is someone else who can cover it. Yes, deadlines must be met, which is why we must plan ahead.

            3. Miss Displaced*

              It’s very possible they ARE, and are being pushed from above. But at some point if you are a manager you really, really do need to put your foot down. Part of being a good manager is to speak up. Part of speaking up means employees deserve some personal boundaries and are not on the clock 24/7, and most especially not when at a funeral, wedding, having a baby, or getting a medical treatment.

        2. Joan Holloway*

          I remember there was one where someone got into a physical fight at a coworker’s wedding, but I think it was another coworker, not the boss.

      2. Goth Di*

        Could someone please post a link to the the funeral crasher post? I tried to find it, but was was unable to locate.

    1. LouG*

      I thought the same thing, this question sounded so familiar to me! I read AAM everyday though, so I may just be getting my questions confused!

    2. Former Usher*

      It does sound familiar. Maybe it was in one of the open threads, but I think it was told from the point of view of an attendee or participant, not the manager’s assistant.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Ditto, my memory it was a Friday open thread and it was in response to somebody who asked about people who had quit with no notice. Poster responded it wasn’t their story, but a friend’s wedding and iirc they were a friend of the bride.

            1. animaniactoo*

              Someone found a thread and posted it below – I was wondering if I was just really mixed up, but if it sounds familiar to you, there’s not just 2 of this guy, there are 3 of him and holy carpamoly.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yes, I was also thinking this story came up in an open thread or something, either from a different person or from earlier in time when fewer consequences had unfolded. I hope it’s the same boss, so there aren’t two of ’em.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          The details are different enough- and in that case, the bride didn’t quit, and the boss was getting fired!- that it doesn’t sound like the same boss. OMG.

        2. Karo*

          Yeah, based on it coming from a different perspective I’m terrified that there may be two of them. Hopefully either of the OPs can chime in!

        1. JMegan*

          Thank you for finding that! And wow, it does look like a different boss, because that one got fired and today’s wedding crasher boss is sticking around. Good grief, who knew this was a thing??

          OP, I’m in the “get the heck out of Dodge” camp, as soon as you reasonably can. Your boss doesn’t sound like a good person to work for, and if company culture is such that people can retaliate against him being a jerk by just cutting him out, then I think there are bigger problems there than you can solve. Good luck.

          1. Karo*

            I’m hoping that this is one that got submitted to Alison over the Summer and she’s just had a chance to post it now, so that it can be the same person even though Government Lackey’s guy got/was getting fired.

            …Please just let me have this, I can’t live in a world where there are two of these guys.

        2. paul*

          Missing work for *2 years* and getting paid?!

          Oh wow. I’m torn between wanting to smack that guy and sheer jealousy at the chutzpah

          1. Michele*

            I used to work for the federal government. My boss would disappear for literally months at a time.

      1. mccoma*

        Interrupting the Reverend?!? I can say with some certainty that would not be met with kind words with my relatives.

      1. Sadsack*

        I do not remember this happening in that movie. There was a wedding and maybe a boss was there, but I don’t think it was a crashing situation. Am I remembering this wrong?

        1. Wendy Darling*

          The boss was there and invited but kept trying to insist the bride work, and then assigned his nephew I think to follow her around and try to make her work.

    3. Merida May*

      It’s a scary thought, but I am remembering several boundary pushing bosses that have been featured on AAM. Wasn’t there also a letter where an employee wanted advice on how to deal with a boss who was charging in to her chemo appointments?

      1. Christine*

        If I recall, we do not have an update about that one. I would have blown my cool if I was the OP / patient and my boss showed up at my chemo appointments. First time I would have told him point blank to leave & my tone would have be quite rude. Than I would turn around and call HR and the boss’s boss.

        Current OP? I would just go to HR in your situation. They may not be aware of what took place & how it’s playing out as a result. I hope your coworker goes to HR and discuss her unemployment, etc. I’m surprised that the boss hasn’t had his car keyed or tires slashed in this situation.

        Could you give us more detail about the reason he was escorted out of the wedding by the police?

    4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Yes, I remember this too. Not the funeral one — it was definitely a wedding, and I think I even remember the detail about the brother/police officer.

      It’s common for people to write into more than one advice columnist about the same question, so maybe it was in Carolyn Hax or something like that?*

      *As an aside, it’s crazy to me how often the same questions are answered by different columnists, given how many questions they must get!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        *As an aside, it’s crazy to me how often the same questions are answered by different columnists, given how many questions they must get!

        Some questions go straight to the top of anyone’s “must answer” list, I’d bet. It’s hard to imagine not using this one. (Then again, not every columnist may have my taste for the weird.)

        1. Partly Cloudy*

          “(Then again, not every columnist may have my taste for the weird.)”

          The good ones do.

    5. Merci Dee*

      There was a recent link to an open thread where this situation was discussed. I have the feeling that the person who posted a quick note in the open thread wrote in for help, once the consequences of boss’s actions started hitting critical mass.

      1. fposte*

        Now I’m curious which happened when. In that post the boss was getting fired, but I doubt Alison sat on this letter–so they were going to fire him for this and then actually chose not to? Ugh.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Wait, is it different than the open thread post linked to above? Or same one? If same, it’s probably two different situations (or it’s possible that the details were changed in the first for anonymity’s sake or something).

        1. Zahra*

          Now I’m really curious to know if it’s the same incident. Do you sometimes check with the letter writer to see if they are talking about the same incident as a previously published letter?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t think I’ve ever had cause to! (And in this case, I hadn’t seen the wedding crasher story in the open thread so wouldn’t have known to.)

            I usually don’t use stuff if I’ve seen that it’s already been in the open thread though.

          2. Temperance*

            It seems to be different – in the Open Thread, the person noted that the wedding crasher boss was FIRED.

    1. k*

      Oh man, I almost forgot about that one! Or maybe I was just repressing the memory, because just thinking about it makes me see red.

  2. Cambridge Comma*

    Whether OP wants to continue working for him or not, Fergus has shown that he could take disciplinary measures against her at any time for any unjustified reason, so searching for a new job would be a smart thing to do.

    1. LBK*

      I was going to give that award to the OP’s description of the situation as an “unpopular personnel decision”. That’s how you describe the boss hiring someone crappy or firing everyone’s favorite coworker, not crashing a freakin’ wedding. That is not an “unpopular decision,” that’s straight up sociopathy.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I was just thinking how much I love that incredibly delicate euphemism for this. “Unpopular personnel decision” would be like…transferring someone from one dept to another to avoid firing them, saddling the new dept with the person’s BS. Or announcing a last-second vacation blackout for the holidays, or deciding no one but the bosses get a raise this year. Or…literally anything related to the working environment and employees that inconveniences or annoys someone.

        Barging in to an employee’s WEDDING and refusing to leave until forcibly escorted out, just because you had a work question? That’s effing crazy, is what that is, and outright an abusive boss.

      2. Lissa*

        I am a huge fan of understatements like these. I don’t know why, but they always really tickle me. Then again, I’ve had people get mad at me for reacting in a “well…that happened” sort of way, so it’s definitely YMMV! but I loved “unpopular personnel decision”, ha.

    2. michelenyc*

      When I first read it I thought it meant that he showed up as an uninvited guest not to ask a question. That is just crazy.

  3. Anonymustard*

    I know it’s not always easy to just find another job and pack up and leave. But, if your boss is this batshit, it won’t be long before he does something like this again. Especially, if he is totally oblivious of how he is now perceived. I’m sure this level of crazy is showing up in other areas too. Nobody is this crazy on a part-time basis. This is a full-time occupation for him. I’d seriously start the process of looking elsewhere. Even if it takes a while, just start moving in that direction.

    1. The Rat-Catcher*

      +100 for “nobody is this crazy on a part-time basis.” That needs to be on a mug or cross-stitched onto something.

      1. OhNo*

        Seriously! I’m definitely adding that to my lexicon. I can already think of a couple of people for whom that phrase definitely applies.

    2. Temperance*

      Yep. Additionally, I find it amazing that he has had no consequences for his actions. The org has basically given Mr. Nutso carte blanche to treat his employees badly and act like an ass.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah, contrast this to the update from the airport pick-up person yesterday where not only did the boundary violating boss get fired, everyone who stayed was told by upper management that that behavior was unacceptable. If upper management truly has not intervened here (or if there is no one above Fergus) OP should consider getting out asap.

      2. OhNo*

        I’m hoping that the powers that be just don’t know that he did this. If that’s the case, I think the OP should either stop by HR to inform somebody high on the command chain, or encourage others to do so.

        If they do already know, and refuse to do anything, then there’s just no saving this place.

    3. hayling*

      Definitely, it’s hard to find a new job. But I think Alison often gives this advice to give the OP perspective. Sometimes when you spend so long in a dysfunctional environment, you don’t realize how out-of-whack it is!

    4. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys*

      Kudos for the bride for doing it though. How cathartic it must have been to be able to say ‘Take this job and shove it!’ Being in HR, I always try to stay in a financial position that would allow me to walk away if things got unethical or illegal. Fortunately I’ve never had too and have a great boss right now, but you never know when you’re going to run into crazy.

  4. PK*

    Good advice. I don’t think the employees have a leg to stand on though. I can’t imagine punishing a coworker because I think they poorly handled a situation that had nothing to do with me. The bride deserves a huge apology but I somehow doubt that’s going to happen.

      1. PK*

        The boss isn’t punishing anyone (well not now at least). The coworkers are punishing the boss because they don’t like how he handled the situation (that didn’t have anything to do with them personally) and the OP is the unfortunate bystander who is getting the brunt of the punishment (from said coworkers). Am I reading that wrong?

        1. Mike C.*

          My boss thinks I am dropping the ball and everyone else thinks I am on his side. My boss is mostly oblivious to people being upset with him since I have to deal with them instead of him.

          The boss appears to be punishing the OP because he’s a petty tyrant who can’t manage himself out of a paper bag, while the OP is simply caught in the crossfire.

          1. LBK*

            I think you’re reading an idiomatic phrase too literally. Saying the coworkers are punishing her doesn’t mean they’re the ones levying actual consequences over her based on their authority. They’re “punishing” her in the sense that they’re taking actions that are leading to her being punished by her boss, which is an accepted turn of phrase.

            1. hbc*

              This is a line of reasoning that people have to be really careful with, though. If I know that the jerk in the next office is going to get mad if I disagree with him and yell at his staff, I’m *not* responsible for their being yelled at. There is a cause and effect, but it’s completely unfair to say that I’m punishing them.

              It’s reasonable to ask them to cut it out (or to let them know their message is completely ineffective), but blaming them because the boss is shooting the messenger? No.

              1. Aurion*

                Well, if you disagree with a colleague but still handle your job duties, no, you’re not responsible for whatever insane reaction your colleague has with his subordinates. But OP’s colleagues are deliberately obstructing the OP’s boss in doing his job, which is causing blowback to the OP. And since OP’s colleagues think OP’s on her boss’ side. So yes, I think OP is well in the right to blame both her insane boss (because wtf) and her colleagues. Her colleagues are turning her into collateral while undercutting OP’s boss.

        2. Liane*

          I read it pretty much the same way. More specifically:
          Employees are rightfully disgusted by the Wedding Crasher Boss (WCB). Because they have no authority to discipline WCB, they have–individually or as a group–decided to sabotage him, as punishment &/or hoping he’ll resign/be fired.
          But WCB blames OP, which means she’s going to get a bad review or worse. Hell, WCB may be telling his bosses/peers (who may or may not know/care about what WCB did at the wedding) how incompetent OP is.

    1. paul*

      I kind of got vibes from the letter that while she may not like it she thinks people are overreacting. If coworkers are getting the same vibe from her, I imagine they may be freezing her out too.

        1. PK*

          Exactly. They are interfering with the business running smoothly because of their personal feelings on his actions. They are very poor actions but still. I can understand a certain level of avoiding him socially but beyond that, it’s an issue.

          1. Mike C.*

            Yet for some reason folks aren’t holding the manager responsible for actually doing a basic root cause analysis or you know, managing the employees better. These coworkers didn’t just decide one day to throw out social norms and business conventions, this has likely been brewing for a long, long time.

            I’ve found that focusing on those with little power while ignoring those with a great deal isn’t the way to go here.

            1. PK*

              That doesn’t make the coworkers right though and ignoring that they are negatively impacting the business is giving them a free pass for acting inappropriately as well.

              The manager should absolutely be held responsible…but it’s not the employees jobs to enact that punishment of their own accord. Both are in the wrong.

              1. Mike C.*

                I’m not ignoring or excusing anything, I’m pointing at the root cause of the problem. You deal with that or your problem won’t ever be solved.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  The problem with that, though, is that the root cause – her boss’s shitty behavior – is outside her capacity to “deal with”. This poor beleaguered EA is asking for help with the things she *can* deal with, mainly the interactions with her coworkers, because she doesn’t have the ability to “deal with” the boss’s behavior in any meaningful way.

                2. OhNo*

                  I agree with both you and Jadelyn. The only way to actually fix this problem is to pull it out by the roots. But since the OP can’t do that, what is left?

                  It’s the old treat-the-illness/treat-the-symptoms conundrum. Treat the illness first, and if you can’t fix that, at least treat the symptoms.

                3. LBK*

                  I don’t think anyone is ignoring the boss’s actions or not holding him accountable, there just isn’t much to say about them – they’re pretty clearly inexcusable. People are talking more about how the coworkers are reacting because they’re in more of a grey area, plus they’re more within the realm of things the OP can control. It’s not really helpful for her if we just fill the comments section with people saying “Wow, your boss is a jackhole.”

                4. Turtle Candle*

                  Yeah, I agree–I’m not sure how LW is in a position to “deal with” boss’s incredible inappropriateness. I am in a position where I could safely read my boss the riot act and risk being punished or fired–or, for that matter, quit on the spot–without serious damage to my life… because my partner makes enough to cover groceries and mortgage all alone. This is a privilege. But there have been times in my life when I would have had to suck up the crap with a smile because the alternative, should I quit or be fired, was most likely that I’d be out on the street.

                  The boss is a gigantic jackass, no doubt. But I cannot see how it is reasonable to expect his assistant to deal with the root cause of his jackassitude–or how she would even be able to do so.

            2. Kyrielle*

              If the boss, or his boss, had written in, I think you’d see a very different response. But the OP has no power over the boss, and the OP’s coworkers are sabotaging the boss AND thereby sabotaging the OP…who has _already_ tried to educate the boss, and failed.

              1. Mike C.*

                There’s a huge difference between telling the OP what she can do to make her work life easier and identifying the root cause of the problem. What people are conflating here is the idea that because her best solution is to talk to her c0workers that it must be her coworkers that are the root cause of the issue. That’s not the case. Her boss is the root cause here and if folks want to take out their annoyance on the issue, they should direct it towards the boss, not the coworkers.

                Incidentally, I’ve commented on the coworkers in case folks believe I’m completely ignoring the coworkers.

                1. Kyrielle*

                  Agreed. I think the coworkers are handling it unprofessionally and being jerks, but…they’re nothing on the level of the OP’s boss, who has committed multiple offenses. They are, however, the piece OP may be able to address without either leaving or looping in a higher power, and they are out of line also. Just not by as much as OP’s boss.

                2. LBK*

                  What people are conflating here is the idea that because her best solution is to talk to her c0workers that it must be her coworkers that are the root cause of the issue.

                  I’m curious where you’re seeing that. It seems like you’re actually the one conflating those two things by assuming that if someone’s just focusing on how the handle the coworkers, that means they think the coworkers are the root cause – I don’t see anyone explicitly pointing to the coworkers as the ones who caused the problem.

                3. JB (not in Houston)*

                  I agree with LBK. people are focusing on the co-workers because they are the only people the OP has any hope of fixing things with to control the consequences of her boss’s behavior falling on her. That doesn’t mean anyone doesn’t think the boss is a problem

                4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I read responses the same way as LBK and JB—that because OP has no control over her boss, they’re offering solutions for interacting with her coworkers. But aside from saying the coworkers are not responding professionally (despite their legitimate anger towards the boss), I didn’t see anyone blame the coworkers for WCB being a nightmare of a human…

                  I’m curious, about one thing, though. Before this incident, how much cache or contact did OP have with her coworkers? Is part of this divide happening because she’s been isolated from the others in her role as an EA?

            3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

              There is something inheritently dysfunctional about this work place, as any of this is occurring or thought to be acceptable.

              The fact that her boss was allowed to drive an employee to quit, and people feel their only course of action is to retaliate in this way demonstrates a large problem.

              1. Goober*

                If the boss isn’t punished for such egregious (and, apparently, *illegal* behavior), and his own subordinates feel comfortable deliberately sabotaging him, the entire company has such a toxic culture that the only reasonable choice is to go elsewhere.

                If the OP isn’t already looking for another job, she runs the risk of eventually being just like everybody else in the company.

                1. N.J.*

                  What behavior is illegal here? I’m actually curious, because I didn’t necessarily get that from anything in this scenario? Unless you mean the fact that he was escorted from the wedding by the relative police officer? I imagine that his actions involved breaking a few laws…

            4. Emilia Bedelia*

              The issue is that from the manager’s perspective,the symptoms of “my assistant is screwing up” are identical to the symptoms of “everyone else is ignoring me”. And the manager didn’t write in asking for help managing his employees- we’re advising the OP on what they should do in this situation.

              It’s certainly the manager’s fault, and he needs to be dealt with. But the other employees’ way of addressing the issue is not working, so OP should tell them what the actual consequences are, so that at the very least they know that they are not having the effect that they intended.

          2. Observer*

            This is not “personal” feelings that fall into the “social” domain. He violated basic workplace norms and is an atrocious boss.

            Is this the way to deal? No. But as long as people treat this a “personal quirk” that can’t be called out at work, staff is going to do what they think they can to fight back.

          3. MashaKasha*

            This. *1000. Not only are they setting the OP up for possibly being fired, their actions are affecting the company’s bottom line; which may affect them in the long run as well. There is no logic to what they’re doing. I’d be mad at Jerk Boss as well, but this isn’t the way to go about it.

        2. Bwmn*

          While they may ultimately just be hurting the OP and not making a statement to the boss/upper management – I think that ultimately this is a huge risk about working in a place that is ultimately dysfunctional. Due to dysfunction, people are stuck in jobs that they feel they can not improve and often can not necessarily leave immediately for a multitude of reasons.

          The feeling of “I’m stuck somewhere dysfunctional and can’t leave – ergo I’m going to XYZ unprofessional behavior” isn’t uncommon. It can be petty in a way that inadvertently hurts the wrong people, but I also see it often as a case where people position themselves ahead of time to blame other people.

          So cases like Teapot Sales team is being asked to sell 30,000 teapots in a quarter when they know they only have the capacity to sell 15,000 but saying so will get them in trouble with dysfunctional management. Teapot Sales team also knows that Teapot Production only has the capacity to make 20,000 teapots. So they agree to the 30,000 number knowing that they’ll fail, but also knowing that they can blame the Teapot Production team for the failure.

          If the OP’s boss was allowed to behave that way with no repercussions from the larger organization and is oblivious to how the rest of staff is responding to the impact of the OP’s performance – then it’s only time before she can be on the direct end of a Wedding Crash moment. That’s what makes places like that scary to work for – because *should* has stopped entering business decisions a long time ago.

          1. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys*

            Often people damaging things or causing problems as a form of protest are only hurting those caught in the middle, like the OP, and those who have to clean up or repair the damage. Instead of reporting the action, they are putting an innocent third party at risk. Good luck, OP! Send us an update. I am hoping it will be you have a new and totally awesome new boss.

      1. Roscoe*

        Well, I think they are overreacting. As much as I can understand them being angry at him, they are interfering with work at this point. Thats not good. You can be professional and civil and still have an issue with people. They seem to not be able to do that. And then freezing her out too because she is doing her job and not taking part in their petty actions makes them more petty

        1. paul*

          The only answer I could find to behavior like that that I’d consider 100% ethical would be to quit, and explain why in an exit interview.

          But I also ahve a house and mortgage and kids…so I’d be there until I found a new job. I imagine some/many of the coworkers are in a similar boat, and are doing what they can to basically get their own petty revenge, both on the boss and the company as a whole since it’s enabled it. It’s not great of them but I also can’t really act like I don’t see the appeal (or act like I’m sad that a company that dysfunctional may suffer).

          1. LBK*

            It’s pretty screwed up for them to get their petty revenge by using the OP as a shield for all the consequences. They may not have the luxury of quitting on the spot, but it doesn’t sound like the OP does either and she also doesn’t have the luxury of shirking her job responsibilities like her coworkers are since she bears the brunt of the boss’s rage.

        2. LBK*

          Yeah, I more or less agree. At the very least they shouldn’t be screwing with stuff that affects the OP – wildly unprofessional, no matter how mad they are at the boss. I don’t know if overreacting is the term I’d use, but they’re definitely not thinking about the collateral damage of what they’re doing.

        3. AnonAnalyst*

          This is where I am, too. These aren’t social interactions – this is work. If they want to start cutting him out of lunch invitations, office happy hours, and water cooler chat, fine. But it’s totally unprofessional to “lose” his mail or “forget” to invite him to meetings he should be in because they are pissed off.

          Also, is everyone in the organization besides the OP and OP’s Boss on board with this plan? Because if not, chances are that these folks might be hurting their own reputations while doing this stuff to get back at OP’s Boss. I know if I saw my coworkers doing these things it would definitely impact my perception of their overall professionalism.

          1. Katieinthemountains*

            I bet it’s a small office and the boss is the sole owner. If this company had HR or anyone higher than the boss, I think it’s more likely the bride would have spoken to someone after her honeymoon, if only to insure she got vacation pay before quitting.

        4. Bwmn*

          Petty or not, part of good management is to respond and manage staff. And this manager isn’t doing that. Regardless that his behavior was wrong (I mean, what if the Bride was the only person who had the codes to stop a nuclear bomb from going off……), he’s compounding this by not seeing or addressing the negative effect on the staff. And that is also his job. Which is interfering with business.

          So bad professional behavior and norms abound, and while I think that AAM gave the best response possible – I’d be really concerned about job security at a company like this.

        5. Jenbug*

          I agree with you. If they want to do something that might have an actual positive result, they should all march into HR with their concerns. Or go to the boss’s boss. I cannot believe that he interrupted someone’s wedding, was removed by the COPS, and hasn’t had any disciplinary taken against him.

      2. LBK*

        I got more of a sense that she feels stuck between a rock and a hard place. She doesn’t necessarily begrudge them their anger but for the time being she still needs to get her job done and her coworkers are making that impossible. I suspect the coworkers feel like she’s “siding” with the boss by continuing to try to get work done for him, which is messed up – not everyone can afford the luxury of risking termination by defying their boss, unreasonable and insane as that boss may be.

      3. Marisol*

        But she’s in a tough spot as the assistant. There is no way you can telegraph to people “yeah, I know my boss is a real prick” and still maintain your professionalism. Representing your boss well is usually a core requirement for an executive assistant. It wouldn’t surprise me if she felt that same constraint when writing in anonymously for advice (sometimes it’s easier to keep up the facade if you never break character). I can imagine coworkers reacting in the way you describe, but it would be unreasonable of them.

    2. JuniperGreen*

      Typically we hear from the person or department *directly* wronged by a Bad Boss… this is interesting in that our OP has to manage this incidental fallout, created by colleagues who, it seems, weren’t even directly impacted.

      This corporate culture sounds like it’s in rough shape. I’ve seen colleagues lose respect through workplace drama, but their own direct coworkers still usually get the benefit of the doubt in day to day operations. Shunning and sabotage to “avenge” a wronged and absent coworker is not any better than the original incident.

  5. Leatherwings*

    Hol.y hell. Good on the bride for quitting. OP, I’m so sorry you work for this guy. If you can’t quit right away, I do hope your coworkers have some sympathy for you and stop interfering like this. Someone (not you, obviously) needs to have a serious heart to heart with this guy.

  6. paul*

    Leave. Also, it reads like you’re trying to minimize your boss’s grotesque behavior–please understand that what he did was utterly unacceptable. It sounds like you’re somewhat sympathetic to his behavior at the wedding, and if you really are, and other people pick up on it, I wouldn’t be shocked if they’re deliberately trying to sabotage you as well as him. And I couldn’t really blame them much for it either.

      1. paul*

        I don’t know, I read it as OP feels like people are overreacting for being mad.

        Frankly, unless he was absolutely essential I wouldn’t invite him to meetings or CC him on anything either. he behaved like a royal jerk, alienated people, violated multiple norms, and is experiencing social and professional consequences for it

        1. Kyrielle*

          But withholding his mail pretending you lost it? Omitting him from meetings where he _is_ essential?

          He’s a complete ass and he deserves every cold shoulder he gets. But it’s not professional to “lose” his mail or exclude him from meetings he should be in.

          1. Lance*

            Basically this; in a way, they are in fact overreacting by, in effect, interfering with the operations of the business in general. The co-workers, while doubtless feeling justified, are taking entirely the wrong approach to this and hurting everyone in the process.

            There are far better ways to get the point across than such passive-aggressive methods.

        2. Cambridge Comma*

          I don’t think the colleagues’ passive aggressive behaviour is very understandable at all. I don’t understand why they don’t bring it to the attention of someone more senior than Fergus and otherwise get on with their jobs.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Agreed. If they find working with him so awful, they need to handle it through an appropriate means:

            1) confront him and ask him to apologize
            2) accept it and move on
            3) Find a new job

            1. AnotherAlison*

              I think #2 and #3 are the only options. Fergus is pretty clueless, and any apology at this point would be coerced and pointless, IMO. [I guess I just have media fatigue from people Doing Egregious Things, apologizing after the shitstorm, and everyone is supposed to be okay with that.]

              1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

                Only if there *is* a grandboss. OP is an executive assistant; her boss may be at the top of the food chain.

                1. Lance*

                  Yeah, that’s the impression I’m getting as well, else someone higher up on the totem pole would likely have been mentioned.

          2. Observer*

            I suspect that it’s because they have good reason to believe that nothing is going to happen. Remember, he tried to write the bride up for HIS outrageous behavior and apparently no one was willing or able to do anything about it. The bride would not have quite if someone had stepped in to stop it at that point.

          3. Grits McGee*

            It reminds me a little bit of the group of interns with the petition with the shoes. You get upset people in a group, and plans of action sound less ill-judged than they would if you were thinking about it on your own.

          4. Jadelyn*

            My guess would be because this workplace probably has a history of ignoring this kind of behavior. You don’t go from zero to interrupting your employee’s wedding in a day. This boss probably has a track record of poor boundaries and tyrannical behavior, and since employees haven’t seen it being addressed, they feel like it wouldn’t do any good to go to someone more senior. They may have even seen retaliation against people who try to complain, given that Fergus’ response to being ejected from the wedding was to try to write her up for having super reasonable, normal boundaries like any sane human being. Imagine seeing that – are you really going to think “it’s safe to report this behavior to someone higher up”? No, you’re going to think “if he was willing to write up an employee for not answering work questions at her WEDDING, what will he do to me if I dare to complain about the situation?”

            So you’ve got a bunch of people who are angry at this guy’s off-the-charts abusive-boss behavior, but who feel powerless to do anything real about it because they’ll find themselves the next target for his crap. Does it make their passive-aggressiveness *right*? No. But it makes it a lot more understandable.

          5. Lissa*

            Yeah, maybe because my brain just doesn’t work that way but I don’t understand how petty revenge for another coworker who isn’t there anymore is something that would be helpful to anybody? like, I’m far from a saint but I just don’t understand the train of logic here at all. If it was stuff like “well, boss is a jerk so I’m less invested in my work so I don’t care” and sloppy mistakes were happening, I’d understand that. I just don’t understand being deliberate it about it. It feels like putting your cat in timeout for destroying your new coat. Your cat isn’t going to connect the wrong they did with the “punishment”, the coat is still ruined, and everyone ends up annoyed.

            1. ceiswyn*

              It’s possible that part of this isn’t revenge so much as trying to avoid interacting with him themselves.

              I mean, if I hear that someone is so nuts that they not only crash a co-worker’s wedding but give her an official reprimand for it – with whatever negative consequences for her future career – I am going to do anything and everything I can to stay the heck away from that person in case they go full-on crazy at me too. So when it comes to inviting them to meetings and sending them messages? I’m gonna ‘forget’ a lot. While sending my CV all over.

        3. Temperance*

          That’s the impression I got from it as well, but I’m thinking it’s far more likely that it’s her stress talking rather than her actually being okay with her boss doing these terrible things.

          1. LBK*

            Yeah, that was my take – the OP may be downplaying it in her mind because needs to compartmentalize his awful behavior in order to continue to get her job done, and she needs her coworkers to do the same. I can understand the impulse to do what they’re doing, but the more I think about it, the more it just feels like sinking to his level.

        4. The Rat-Catcher*

          I think the OP’s gripe is that the cold-shouldering of the boss is affecting her job and how her performance is being perceived. When mail gets “lost” or meeting invites don’t make their way onto Boss’ calendar, the assistant is almost always the first one to be blamed. That behavior from the coworkers is being perceived as her incompetence, and she’s not in a position to do much about it.

        5. Goober*

          “Overreacting” is the wrong word. They’re not overreacting at all. They’re reacting inappropriately, but the scale to which they are reacting is entirely appropriate. This guy should be driven out of manager with a sharp stick.

      2. Observer*

        She called it “an unpopular personnel decision.” Sorry, that’s as minimizing as all get out.

        This was flat out outrageous behavior, and any other framing is simply going to backfire on her.

        1. Purest Green*

          OP said she didn’t agree with his actions, and I’m taking that at face value to assume she isn’t minimizing the situation. She’s attempting to deal with a very crappy situation in a professional way, and frankly I think she’s probably handling it better than many of us would.

          1. Mike C.*

            The idea that the best way to handle “professional situations” is always to be neutral and unemotional isn’t always the case.

            1. LBK*

              Hmm, I’m actually not sure I agree. You don’t necessarily need to *be* unemotional or *feel* unemotional, but I think part of professionalism is acting unemotionally even if you have strong emotions about a situation.

              1. Lissa*

                Also, some people just don’t get emotional and vehement about things. I have recently (in the current political climate, etc. etc.) had people get on my case about not presenting upset enough about certain things, but that’s just my personality when it comes to nearly everything — it’s not that I don’t care, but I’m not very expressive in that way, especially online, nor to I tend to outrage. I can realize something is really really wrong but I still don’t tend to get vehement. I am *not* saying this is better or worse! but it doesn’t necessarily mean the person is minimizing.

          2. Observer*

            The thing is that she needs to go beyond “disagreeing” here – this is not something that “reasonable people can disagree on.”

            I’m not saying that her co-workers are handling this well. But, if she’s going to get any traction with them, she needs to recognize the enormity of what he did and acknowledge it *to them*.

            1. LBK*

              The thing is that she needs to go beyond “disagreeing” here – this is not something that “reasonable people can disagree on.”

              That’s not what’s happening, though. I don’t see any indication that she disagrees with how her coworkers feel about the situation – the question of agreement or disagreement is with the boss’s actions, and it seems pretty clear that the OP does disagree with them.

              I guess I just don’t know where you find a middle ground between verbally disagreeing while still trying to get your job done. If they’re not satisfied by her saying “this was terrible but I can’t afford to get fired” and insist that she needs to participate in this rebellion, that doesn’t seem right to me.

              1. Observer*

                Allison asked that we leave word choices alone. My point was, though, that she actually needs to say something to the effect of “this was terrible but I can’t afford to get fired” – and it seemed to me that she’s not saying that.

                If I’m wrong, OP, I apologize.

          3. Goober*

            There’s a qualitative difference between kicking my dog because it pooped on your lawn, and shooting my dog because it pooped on your lawn. One, I disagree with, the other, I file criminal charges over.

            The OP is, perhaps, *under*reacting to her boss’s misbehavior, at least in the letter. (She may well be as appalled as everyone else in her own head.)

    1. LSP*

      I felt like OP was just trying to stay out of something that her boss dragged her into the middle of. She’s not concerned with passing judgement because all she wants is to be able to do her job. I don’t fault her for that. While you or I might have used space in the letter to express our personal feeling about this disaster of a boss, OP is choosing to make her focus solely on her ability to do her job well. I commend her for that. I’m not sure I’d have that level of restraint.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        This is where I land. Along with a side of the OP being frustrated with the coworkers who are (maybe inadvertently) “punishing” her along with her boss, when she had nothing to do with his behavior. As horrible at it was, what her boss did had a more indirect effect on her than what her coworkers are doing now (other than as a huge red flag for future craziness on his part). So I can understand why, at this point, she’s frustrated with the coworkers, and some of that is coming through.

        And she maybe can’t risk gossip about her condemning his behavior getting back to him. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t risk that in her shoes.

        OP, if you can, I would be looking for a new job, but in terms of surviving the current situation, I think the advice Alison gave is spot on.

    2. hbc*

      I got the same impression, for what it’s worth. OP is kind of equating the two sides (“my boss and my coworkers don’t listen”) in an attempt to stay neutral. And it’s true, that it took both of them behaving badly for her work life to get difficult.

      But the reason she is getting *punished* (and not just struggling with the annoyance of missing mail) is because her boss is being an ass and not believing her. In his shoes, maybe I wouldn’t look into the first incident, but the second or third time I’d be contacting the meeting organizer and asking them why I wasn’t invited. If they claimed I was, I’d ask them to forward the original invitation so I could figure out what went wrong. I’d be checking with the mail room and elevating the issue that someone there wasn’t doing their job. I wouldn’t just throw my EA under the bus.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Yes, but you’re a reasonable human being. The boss in this situation has made it very clear that he is NOT.

        1. Troutwaxer*

          This seems like a long shot – the office is probably too dysfunctional – but maybe the O.P. needs some canned phrases like, “I asked Wakeen why you weren’t invited to yesterday’s meeting and he said he is still angry over Sally’s wedding and he won’t be inviting you to any more meetings.”

          The O.P. is not required to be stuck in the middle. It’s more diplomatic to ask the other employees for help, but if they say “no” the O.P. has options.

          1. OhNo*

            I don’t think the OP will be able to get that specific, but that’s a good idea overall. If the big issue is that OP is getting stuck between their boss and others in the office, the easiest plan is to get unstuck and let them duke it out unhindered.

            Every time something goes wrong, just toss it back on whoever messed it up. “I know you weren’t invited to that meeting, that’s because Jim didn’t send the invite to you/me/us,” “No, we didn’t get that letter today. That mail room has been losing a lot of your mail lately, they probably did it again.”

            1. AnonAnalyst*

              Yeah, honestly, if the coworkers are willing to keep sabotaging OP’s job this is what I would do. I might even start reaching out to people constantly and copying my boss to check on things. “Jim, just wanted to check to see if the mail is here yet. I am happy to come pick up Boss’ mail since it seems like it keeps going missing en route to his office, so let me know when I should come down.” “Wakeen, will you still be having the Smith project planning meeting on Thursday? Boss wasn’t invited, but I am assuming that might be an oversight so I wanted to confirm. Let me know if I should add it to Boss’ calendar.”

      2. Bwmn*

        I agree strongly with this, and this is where I see the larger dysfunction around why staff are “acting out” as opposed to going to HR or Executive management. Maybe the director of HR is the Boss’s wife. Maybe situations like this before have gone no where or resulted in retaliation. And I’d also bet that if this is a long term issue, that the staff knows the kind of “resistance” they can get away with.

        I also have to say that in problematic and dysfunctional work environments – often being “professional” is not the most effective way to get stuff done. There’s often various gossipy coffee/happy hour/lunch complaining groups. These groups will also often defend one another as they often see themselves in an antagonistic position at work where they’re under threat or attack. It’s not that participating is professional, but not participating can make people clam up around you because they don’t know if you’re “safe”. And as soon as things become Us vs Them to the degree that they sound like in this office…..playing a neutral and professional role (when you have an dysfunctional boss that apparently is refusing to address what is going on) just isn’t read that way.

    3. k*

      I don’t think OP is sympathetic to boss, she’s just upset that people are taking it out on her unintentionally. I think OP’s probably been asking or hinting to people to stop messing up boss’s work, but hasn’t made it clear that it’s not because she feels for boss, but because she is getting blamed for everything.

  7. Katie the Fed*

    Wow, OP – can you ask the bride to write in and tell us the full story? I mean, maybe she doesn’t want to relive it, but we would LOVE to commiserate with her.

    I agree with the advice though – you should portray yourself as as much a victim of this guy’s behavior as everyone else. They should hopefully sympathize with you. But I do think you might want to look at getting out of there. Eventually his boundary-crossing is going to turn toward you, and that’s going to be ugly.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I want to hear from the Bride so she can tell us how the interviews went. “Why do I want to leave my job? Because my boss interrupted my wedding ceremony to ask me where a work file was.” I’d love to hear the reactions!

      1. not really a lurker anymore*

        I’d guess it would phrased along the lines of “there were boundary issues regarding work and personal time.”

        1. Callallily*

          I think clarification would be VERY necessary. You wouldn’t want to downplay it to sound like the boss called her at home with a reasonable question and have the employer thinking you’ll be out the door the second they encroach on your time.

          I would love someone to answer the interview question with ‘My boss had to be forcibly removed from my wedding for inappropriate behaviour’.

          1. Epsilon Delta*

            That’s interesting, because the advice for the OP a few days ago who got written up for “casual dress” when she was picking up the boss at the airport on personal time, was to be vague and not go into details if she wanted to look for a new job. The reason was that invoking drama as a reason for leaving your job makes you look bad and could make the interviewer question whether you played a part in it.

            My gut feeling is that it would be totally reasonable to provide the details here, briefly, like you and AndersonDarling did. But I’m curious why the advice is different here – is it because the problem can be summed up in one sentence and there is no room for questioning whether you were at fault?

            1. Daffodil*

              I think so. The ‘causal dress’ situation would take a while to explain, and there could still be reasonable doubt/misunderstanding about what actually happened. “My boss crashed my wedding to ask me a work question and had to be removed by a police officer, and then wrote me up for it” is so far beyond the pale of anything that could reasonably be okay that it’s not going to reflect poorly on the speaker.

            2. Hope*

              That’s exactly the reason. It’s so obvious that the boss was out of line that it makes it easy to see why someone would leave, even if they otherwise loved their job and was amazing at it.

            3. LBK*

              Yeah, I think in this case it’s a very clear cut situation where there’s pretty much no possible way there could be another side to the story. In the other scenario, there were just too many details and variables that could lead even a reasonable hiring manager to wonder if the candidate’s version was completely reliable.

              1. LBK*

                Oh – and also because in this story, there’s no way you could interpret that maybe the candidate was the person in the wrong. Even if “my boss crashed my wedding” is the most sanitized, interview-friendly version of the story, it’s still clear that the boss was the one who screwed up.

            4. TootsNYC*

              Here’s why I wouldn’t want to provide any details here.

              Because I want the interview to be about me and my skills, and my future at the new company.

              I do not want to derail by talking about my jerk of a boss.

              So I’d be avoiding that as a reason for leaving until I absolutely had to bring it up. And even then, I’d only bring it up in response to a direct question, and I’d try to say, “well, I’m happy to field an odd phone call or two after hours, but my boss at that job had a really extreme view of my needing to be ‘on call’ at times that no one else ever would. It was such a mismatch that I decided to leave.”

          2. paul*

            I’m curious about what manager types that hire fire think about it. I might say “extreme issues regarding boundaries” or something, but I can’t imagine going into details unless they asked.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              This is tricky because “serious boundary issues” raises more questions than it answers. (Now I have to wonder if the candidate’s assessment is right or whether she’s overreacting, etc.)

              I’d go with something like: “It was hard to ever truly get away from the work. I’m pretty flexible, but my boss actually showed up at my wedding to talk about work, which is when I realized I needed a different environment.”

              I usually don’t recommend getting into specific examples of drama (as Epsilon Delta noted above), but in this case I think it works.

              1. Turanga Leela*

                It seems like specifics work if there’s something objectively egregious about your last job that you can say calmly. Wasn’t there a letter from someone whose boss threw a chair at her? That kind of situation.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  For some reason that I’m having trouble explaining, I think the formula works best if you first mention the general pattern, then give one egregious illustration of the pattern. So for your example: “The environment in the office was fairly chaotic. I’m pretty flexible, but when my boss threw a chair, I realized I wanted to move on.”

                  Something about that formula sounds less dramatic to me than just “my boss threw a chair at me.”

                  I also like the inclusion of “I’m pretty flexible, but…”

            2. Michele*

              I have never gotten an answer nearly that interesting when I ask people why they left their last job. I can say, though, that I would consider that to be a completely valid reason and would not hold it against them. I can also say that when I discuss the candidate with the other interviewers, I would bring it up, partially to make sure she was telling the truth, and partially so we could all have a good laugh.

              1. TootsNYC*

                And right htere is why I’d avoid mentioning the chair throwing if I could at all. Because I don’t want you to talk about my dramatic past that has nothing to do with me. I want you to talk about my skills, or my interview answers.

                1. Michele*

                  You wouldn’t have to go into details about the chair throwing. If a candidate said, “my boss crashed my wedding and had to be forcibly removed,” that would be understandable to me. With my personality, I wouldn’t pry, but I would probably let out a “wow! Really?” which could be construed as wanting details.
                  However, if someone is obviously vague and says things like “personality conflict” or even “personal boundaries” I am going to want more information. I am not looking for anyone to spill humiliating details, but I used to work with a guy who literally considered personal boundaries to be crossed if you stopped him to talk about work in the parking lot.

  8. memoryisram*

    I keep trying to type a response but I’m so baffled. He. Showed. Up. At. Her. Wedding. To ask about a work problem. At least she has a good story when people talk about crazy bosses? Clearly this guy has no sense of decorum – I have to wonder if even getting a talking to by his boss would really help someone who has boundaries as ill-defined as this guy.

    1. Michele*

      I feel like this could be an episode of “The Office”. Michael Scott doesn’t get invited to someone’s wedding, so he shows up under the pretense of work and has to be forcibly removed.

  9. Hibiscus*

    This is not “an unpopular personnel decision.” This is Fergus showing a complete lack of respect for the former employee, social norms, and being a vindictive asshole. If this is how you phrase that incident, I don’t doubt your company peers are not also upset with you, because you are minimizing it in an effort to be “neutral.” There is no neutral in this situation.

    Fergus is a sinking ship. Flee.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I don’t think we should critique the OP’s word choices. She was trying to give a factual overview of the events that happened. It doesn’t mean she’s minimizing them at work.

      1. Not a Real Giraffe*

        This very much. Sometimes we give OPs so much grief on this site about being too personally or emotionally involved in a situation, and now that someone is writing in a way that tries to demonstrate just the facts, no emotions, we overanalyze the words they use. OPs can’t win.

      2. k*

        +1. She laid out the situation in a fairly factual, non-biased approach as to give a full picture of the situation.

        And let’s face it, when writing in or posting here there is always a chance that someone at work could come across this and trace it back to you, especially in such a unique situation. Does she want someone forwarding this HR or her boss to have them read, “My boss is a big stupid jerk face and everyone hates him, I hope he gets fired because he sucks big time”? She’s already worried about her job being at risk as it is.

        1. Observer*

          No, and I agree that too much critiquing of word choice is not generally the way to go. But her description goes way beyond factual. Had she stuck to the facts without characterizing it at all, I think people would have responded differently. But calling it a “personnel decision”, albeit and “unpopular” one, just sounds bad. If that’s how she is coming off in the office, that IS going to make people feel like she is actually on his side.

        1. kb*

          That’s how I read it too! Like she was using a bit of Southern genteel humor? Reverse hyperbole? I don’t know if there is a name for it, but it’s popular with other older Southern ladies I know.

    2. Allison*

      Right. Unless there was some crazy, inconcievable work emergency that would have resulted in the company going down in flames if he didn’t get the answer to that question, he did something objectively crappy, and this isn’t something to be neutral on.

      Also, if he needed that information that badly, someone dropped the ball on preparing for her absence.

    3. Marisol*

      When you are an executive assistant, you are generally expected to represent your boss well, and to speak ill of your boss would be a violation of a professional ethic.

  10. Mike C.*

    Since you’re working in crazy land, the fact that you’re “trying to stay neutral” is going to be seen by your coworkers as implicit approval. You can’t be neutral here – your boss was clearly and unquestionable in the wrong here and to not at least acknowledge that is going to generate a lot of ill will towards you. Expressing that as Alison suggested will go a long, long way in making your life at work easier.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Agreed. Even if she wants to stay neutral, it may be best to acknowledge it and deffer. “Yep, it was terrible, but everyone is talking about it and I can’t re-hash it again. Could you get me the update on the reports?”

    2. Grits McGee*

      Totally agree- If you can privately say to your coworkers that you think Fergus was way out of line, but your livelihood depends on your ability to work with him, hopefully that will redirect some of the actions that are affecting you.

      1. Liane*

        That sounds good.

        (And please fellow commenters, there’s been enough of the “OP, you shouldn’t be ‘neutral’ about this” for the point to be seen. For all we know, OP might have toned down her disgust in the letter because she was afraid that if she wrote, “I am SO disgusted at Boss, this is beyond the pale!” that there’d be 200 comments on how she couldn’t “know Boss behaved that badly, since you weren’t actually there.”)

      2. Hope*

        Yeah. If she could get away with it, an appeal like “guys, I know we all hate Fergus, but I’m the one who’s stuck working directly with him all the time. It’s hard enough as it is, can you please not make my job even harder?” might help. But only if she’s sure that’s not going to get back to Fergus.

  11. Fafaflunkie*

    Just when you thought we had filled our quota of Worst Boss of 2016 candidates, along comes another one.

    Good thing Alison hasn’t given us the vote yet. Who wants to bet we’ll see a few more between now and Christmas?

    1. Marche*

      At this rate, we’re not going to be able to vote until December 31st. So many bad bosses, so little time.

  12. Bend & Snap*

    Holy crap. This is one of the craziest letters I’ve read here…and I’ve read them all.

    What is with managers stepping way out of line and then writing employees up for it?
    Sounds like this guy ruined her wedding. No wonder she quit.

    1. Callallily*

      With great power comes great responsibility – too many let ‘manager’ go to their head and think they are the supreme ruler of the staff’s lives.

  13. KWalmostB*

    Wow, this is so beyond the pale, I’m without words. Alison’s advice is so good here.

    This boss is jockeying hard for terrible boss of the the year. What he did wasn’t unpopular, it was horrendous, though I’m sorry for the blowback that the OP is facing.

      1. Manders*

        This is actually not a terrible idea. The first step should be bringing up concerns through the appropriate channels, but if that doesn’t work, maybe the admin grapevine would.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Actually, if there is a Grandboss with an assistant, asking Grandboss’s assistant for advice in how to handle this would be _perfect_. They would have a better perspective on how to handle issues like this as an EA, after all…and the fact that they’d also be alerted to the situation would just be a lovely side benefit.

          1. Aurion*

            And hopefully the Grandboss’ EA would blow this open and mete out sweet justice like that other VIP’s EA…

  14. Emlen*

    There are some situations that are so beyond the pale that “trying to stay neutral”, as OP describes, is tantamount to approval of what went down. This is one of them, and I’d wager this is why your co-workers are painting the two of you with the same brush. I’m not saying you should start trashing your boss, but finding a way to telegraph condemnation of his behavior might help you out.

      1. Emilia Bedelia*

        She invited him and put him in the wedding party to push her father in his wheelchair so that he would give her more vacation time for her honeymoon.

        And then he tried to give her away because “he pays her salary, which she used to pay for the wedding…. so basically he paid for the wedding”. And then he had a tantrum and ruined the wedding.

        (maybe I’ve watched The Office too many times through)

    1. shep*

      I thought exactly this too! I love Michael, but Steve Carell can pull of nuanced lovable buffoon like no actual living person. And during Phyllis’s wedding, he just wanted to do the best job ever because he had such horrible memories of his mother’s wedding, whereas it sounds like this guy thought a work-related question couldn’t wait. Holy bejeezus.

      1. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys*

        I keep thinking there is a wedding joke based on The Graduate here, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

        *Pounding on glass* “Elaine!!! Elaine!!! The TPS reports won’t print!”

        Hey, even snuck in another movie reference. Ha!

      1. Student*

        Who works with people like this boss and thinks, “Gee, this person needs more authority over other people. Management material, right here!”

    1. Random Lurker*

      Believe me, they exist. I once worked for a man who showed up at my coworker’s father’s wake and asked work questions. He was the biggest ass I ever worked for, and it was made worse by the fact that it doesn’t even dawn on him that this behavior is inappropriate.

  15. Tex*

    Similar to the recent update from the person who was called to pick up her boss at the airport, maybe you need to tap into the executive assistant batman signal to discreetly alert higher ups. Your boss has been rendered ineffective at his job, he remains oblivious to what he did wrong, he just caused a key employee to quit and there is a revolt in the office. Your loyalty lies with the good of the company. This guy is probably riding roughshod over people anyways – is he really the best person to be in charge?

    Of course, if he is the owner/overall CEO then your only choices are to put up with this behavior or find another job.

      1. Christine*

        Does her boss’s boss have an executive assistant? Go to her for advice. That will let the cat out of the bag without coming across as tattling.

  16. Jake*

    Please give your boss a Stone Cold Stunner, flip him the double bird, pour beer on him, exit as your theme song plays.

    That’s the only proper response here.

    1. Golden Lioness*

      While I was working at the job from hell (I still have PTD over that place) I used to fantasize about making a dramatic exit while Johnny Paycheck’s “take this job and shove it” plays on

  17. Episkey*

    So many questions! How did the boss know where her wedding was, for one? Obviously he wasn’t invited and there are so many churches/venues/country clubs/etc that I am super curious about this (among other things)!

    1. Kelly L.*

      -He could have originally been invited and declined the invitation
      -It could have been in the paper
      -He might have asked another employee

      It’s not that far-fetched IMO.

      1. The IT Manager*

        It may have been a hot topic of conversation in the office so everyone knew where and when.

        What I want to know: Was the wedding during work hours? Or did the boss do this during his own off hours? Was it because he realized at the last second off work that he didn’t have essential info before she left on her honeymoon or was it all a bizarre attention grab?

      2. Episkey*

        I didn’t mean it was necessarily far fetched, I just want to know more details of how this all went down!

    2. MsCHX*

      Yeah, I don’t think it’s too far fetched either. Even just the fact that this is a thing people talk about. Because you’re *SO EXCITED* to be getting married at X venue because it’s so wonderful/beautiful/charming/where your parents were married/ blah blah blah.

    3. Ama*

      If it’s a town that still has a paper that runs engagement announcements, sometimes those include the venue (I know the town my grandparents live in still does this). Also so many people have wedding websites now that someone with the bride’s name, date, and even approximate location could probably find it.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Any time a coworker has gotten married, the entire office (including the boss) knew the venue and day/time, even though 90%+ usually aren’t invited. It seems pretty common for folks to ask people who are about to get married about the details of their wedding.

  18. Lady Phoenix*

    I thought you said there would be no “WTF Wednesdays” anymore.

    Try to tell your coworkers that you are just trying to do your job and then job in upper management to handle this huge dump of dog doo-doo. Like, I dunno if this is a HR situation, but SOMEONE needs to get involved in handling all of this. If there is no one who can handle the situation (or if there is no one who WANTS to handle the situation), then you need to take the Nope train out of F***ThisS***ville and don’t even think about looking back.

    You certainly would get a funny story to tell the interviewers.
    “Why did you leave your job?”
    “My boss interrupted a coworker’s wedding, tried to write her up for escorting him out, she quit, the coworkers went mutiny, and I realized it’d be safer to abandon ship.”
    ” . . . . Let me buy you a drink.”

    1. paul*

      Honestly, I can’t think of a day without at least one WTF letter on this site. I thought I’d worked in some weird situations (and heck, I have) but nothing like some of the letter writers. Makes me greatful for most of my jobs

    2. Isben Takes Tea*

      There are no “WTF Wednesdays” because there WERE no “WTF Wednesdays.” Alison has asked us not to use that phrase anymore, so as not to discourage letter-writers.

  19. Crazy Canuck*

    Wow, this boss sucks. I’ll agree with many commentors that this is not something that you can stay neutral on. If you stay with this boss, the stink from his actions will start sticking to you. I strongly advise the OP read Alison’s last paragraph again.

  20. Observer*

    OP, I haven’t read all of the responses, so I may have missed something, but I have a couple of thoughts.

    1. Find another job. Your boss is an awful person, and an awful boss who is already showing that he will treat you just as unfairly as he treated your former co-worker. Even if people stop doing things that put you in the middle, it’s not going to get better. And, it appears that either your HR is incompetent, or the dysfunction extends even higher up. So, the only way to get out from under this mes sin the long term, is to get out.

    2. Before you go talk to your co-workers, you need to adjust your attitude. No, it it TOTALLY not your fault that your boss acted like a jerk. But you really, really need to understand that what your boss did was not just “unpopular”, it was not a “personnel decision” and it was not behavior that was NOT his prerogative to engage in. As long as you think of it that way, people are going to see you as being “on his side” – because to an extent YOU ARE. Not that you encouraged him to do this thing, but you don’t see it for the outrage that it is. If you acknowledge that you do get the outrage, but then say that you still need to do your job so you can collect a paycheck, people are likely to react much better. Something like “To be honest, I cannot imagine what made him this this was ok, but I still have to work with him.”

    1. AMG*

      You know, I would normally come down on the side of showing loyalty to your boss, being professional and neutral, and focusing ok and not what an ass your boss is, but I think I could make an exception here. It may help for people to see that you are not on his side, and that this is hurting you a lot more than it’s hurting him. I would do that while I look for a new job.

      1. Observer*

        Exactly this.

        Normally, thinking about what a jerk your boss is, is not a healthy thing. But, there are exceptions to that, and this, I think, is one of them. Not that the OP should spend all of her work time thinking about it. But, it’s important to acknowledge that to herself and the people she needs to work with.

    2. Honeybee*

      I don’t agree with point #2. The OP already said that she doesn’t agree with what the boss did. But frankly, her opinion on the matter is irrelevant. What’s important here is that her co-workers are being (perhaps understandably) petty, and their passive-aggressiveness is affecting her ability to do her job. Best-case scenario they didn’t think about how their behavior would affect her work. Worst-case, they did and they simply don’t care.

      I don’t think she needs to adjust her attitude. She simply needs to make it clear to her coworkers that although she may disagree with what the boss is doing, she still needs to do her job.

      1. Observer*

        She can make anything she wants clear. The question is whether they are going to care. If they think she is ok with it, they are not going to care, and they are not going to change their behavior. And, given that this is apparently a deeply dysfunctional set up, she’s going to remain stuck in the middle if her co-workers don’t change their behavior. Neither her boss nor HR is of any help.

  21. Emmie*

    How is this guy still working at the company after such a fiasco? His continued employment is indicative of a larger problem at the company. If possible, consider going to the higher boss or HR regarding this concern (factual, concerned about the impact on your job, how to handle this.). You could explain the issues to other meeting leaders to explain your bosses absence; send emails to meeting leaders that boss wasn’t invited, and ask what happened; and / or seek “advice” from other admins on how to handle this situation (admins often talk among each other, are really in the know, and some gossip… it could be an additional avenue to get the “gossip” out about how you don’t agree with your boss’s behavior and garner some sympathy.).

  22. Karanda Baywood*

    I really feel for the OP. Sometimes, starting up a job search and/or finding a possible new situation is not as simple as it sounds. Maybe we all think she should get out pronto, but maybe is locked in for any number of reasons.

    She’s just trying to do her job as best she can. I read her tone as very neutral because she’s walking a tightrope of guilt by association and it’s not fair to her.

  23. animaniactoo*

    While I agree that nitpicking wordchoices is usually counterproductive, I would change Alison’s script from “I know that you’re upset…” to “I understand why you’re upset…”

    One is acknowledgement of a fact, and the other is a signal that “I GET IT. OH BOY DO I GET IT.” and it sounds like you really really need to give that signal.

    I suspect that part of OP’s trying to stay neutral is that they have started to normalize behavior in their own head just to get through the day – because a boss who is this nutbar did not just fall off the tracks today. He is regularly riding the train to crazy town. OP if this rings a bell for you – when managing up on crazy, you gotta be able to signal to the rest of the world that you understand that it’s crazy just so that they will feel “in it with you” as you deal with it. Because otherwise, as far as they can see, you are part of the problem and enabling him not for a paycheck but because you are part of his crazy. You don’t have to normalize his behavior to be able to work with it, so don’t do that to yourself. Don’t become a person they don’t care whether suffers or not in all this.

    1. Morning Glory*

      +1 I think this is important. ‘I know you’re upset’ seems like a “sorry if anyone was offended’ kind of dismissal, especially if people see her as a proxy for him.

      Acknowledging that she’s sympathetic to why they are upset will go a long way toward getting them to work with her.

    2. AW*

      I was thinking the co-workers were huge jerks (and still do, to be honest) but this does explain why they’ve been OK with punishing the OP for something their boss did.

  24. ArtK*

    Like the recent one about the OP being written up for not dressing well to pick up the boss at the airport in the early morning, this guy needs to lose his job. Even if you give him “three strikes and your out,” he loses: 1) Crashes an employee’s wedding; 2) Refuses to leave until thrown out; 3) Attempts to retaliate. Any one of those is worthy of a serious reprimand, but collectively? He’s a walking/talking potential lawsuit.

    1. Red*

      And that boss could’ve gotten away with it too if he’d just left his impromptu driver alone after. He got fired because he kicked up an irrational fuss and generated work for outsiders!

  25. New Girl*

    People never cease to amaze me. Just when I thought we’ve heard the most outrageous work situation possible. This guy is as unreasonable as they come. Wow.

  26. Erin*

    Yeah, I don’t see any other way around it than being upfront with these folks. If you emphasize that you agree what he did was horrible, you’re on their side, etc., then you’re probably more likely to get sympathy.

    I feel like this might be worth getting together as a group and escalating to whoever is higher in power than your boss. The higher ups need to know that this is going on. So, maybe suggest that when you have this talk.

    “I agree that what he did was horrible. Have you thought about raising this issue as a group to Bob? If you decide to do that I’m happy to jump in. But in the meantime, seriously, the not delivering of his mail and leaving him out of meetings and etc is really impacting my ability to do my work, and I think is even putting my job in jeapordy. I’ll help you if you want to escalate this to the appropriate person, but please let me do my job in the meantime.”

      1. Emi.*

        Haha, I just last night watched that X-Files episode where the planets line up and start handing out telekinetic powers and personality disorders.

  27. I'm Not Phyllis*

    This puts you in a really difficult situation! I’m going to stay away from saying “get out now” because I know that it’s rarely that simple. I’m not sure how high up the food chain your boss is, but if there’s any way all of this is going to result in your job being in jeopardy, I would document everything – all the conversations you’ve had with your boss, and all the ways you’ve tried to stop the retaliation. It may not help you, but if there is a way for you to say – to HR or someone higher up – that you’ve tried everything and he’s refusing to step in (which is what’s happening) it may save your job. Maybe. That is, of course, assuming you want it to be saved.

    Your boss was WAY over the line (but I’m sure you know that) and he needs to apologize in all of the ways Alison has mentioned (I’m sure you know that too) but none of that is in your control. I know what it’s like to work for someone who just doesn’t get it – you have my deepest sympathy. I hope it works out for you!

  28. Spooky*

    I was reading this out to my coworker and she had a completely different reaction than I (and most of us here) did: “Wow, sounds like he’s in love with the bride and wanted to stop the wedding.”

    It’s not something that ever would have occurred to me, and it obviously doesn’t excuse anything, but…is it possible? If so, that’s a whole different can of worms.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      The thought occurred to me, but it doesn’t really matter why he did it. There is no possible explanation that makes it ok. So it’s not really another can of worms, just a different brand of canned worms.

    2. Cleopatra Jones*

      But life isn’t really a rom-com, so he doesn’t get to have a lovable but awkward excuse to his behavior. Nope, he doesn’t get a pass.

    3. Turtle Candle*

      That would make it actually vastly worse, in my opinion. A boss who did this out of entitlement/assholitude would make me mad. A boss who did this out of sexual or romantic feelings would also be entitled/an asshole but also deeply creepy. Just thinking of it makes my skin want to crawl right off my body.

  29. BTW*

    Failing to deliver his mail, leaving him out of meetings and them acting as if you are “on his side” just because you are his assistant is equally as petty and unprofessional. (Okay, maybe less so but it’s still ignorant) I understand that they are mad but this is no way for your coworkers to behave. If you ask me, they all need to grow up a little bit. I’m sure a lot of us think our boss’ or past boss’ were complete you-know-whats for things that they did (old boss could win an award for the terrible things he did to people) but this is a job and high school pettiness has no place in the workplace. You take it for what it is and move on. I’m so sorry that you have to deal with this! I’m sure you yourself are equally as mortified for the ex-coworker but that doesn’t seem to be stopping you from doing your job. And that’s great!

    I too, would speak up to said coworkers and if things don’t change, I would personally go to HR. When their opinion (and that’s just what it is, no matter how justified) of this boss prevents both you and him from doing your jobs, and could possibly affect your livelihood, someone needs to address the issue before things get even more out of hand.

    Good luck OP!

    1. Honeybee*

      Yeah, I agree. It’s one thing to be upset with the boss because of his actions; it’s another thing to be petty and jeopardize your own job over it.

  30. Honeybee*

    OP, are there ways to prove your coworkers’ behavior – at least keep a record of it? For example, if your company uses Outlook, meeting requests have lists of recipients in them. Can you save those, so that if accused you can later show your boss that he was left off the meeting request deliberately? Or are people being sneakier about this than that?

    Your boss doesn’t sound like the most reasonable person on the planet, so I understand that the next tactic may not work. But you say that the boss is mostly oblivious to people not liking him right now. Can you tell him, point blank, that people are unhappy with him now because of the way he treated Lucinda at her wedding, and that it’s affecting their work relationship with him?

    1. Michele*

      I suspect that the boss is not going to appreciate being told that people have a problem with his behavior. He seems like someone who would shoot the messenger. I do agree with your first point, though. Make sure everything is documented, including the wedding behavior. The problem with saving the meeting receipts is probably that the OP isn’t getting them in the first place because if she were, she would put the meetings in her boss’s schedule. However, if the boss isn’t invited to a meeting, that should be documented along with who scheduled the meeting.

  31. Observer*

    Another thought. As others have mentioned, find a way to bring your Boss’ behavior to someone who can and will do something about it, if such a person exists. Whether it’s talking to the EA of the person with power, or going to the top of HR, or whatever.

    When you do, it’s not about “tattling.” It’s about the fact that your boss did something that could have caused serious repercussions for the company (had the police actually been called to the wedding, that could have been a real problem for the company), he attempted to retaliate against the person whose wedding he trespassed (which could have created another whole set of problems) and now is blaming you for the fact that others in the organization are refusing to work with him.

    And, if there is no person in the organization with the power and will to do something about it, step up the job search. This is classic toxic job territory. The sooner you have an exit mapped out, the better off you will be.

  32. Moonsaults*

    Your boss is such an ass and so are the people who are acting out so childishly towards him that are in turn effecting you. This all screams to me that you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    I’d very much play the “I don’t know if you understand that this directly effects me and isn’t actually teaching Dumbass Boss anything.” Then you should use that time to find an exit plan.

    I had a side job working a couple days a week and the owner/boss was such a turdling, he didn’t understand that when I booked time off for surgery, plus a week’s recovery time it was because I was having a procedure that would leave me on my back for a week. I got a text moments before I went back to be prepped. Then I got phone calls from others who apparently were just given access to my phone number to ask me to do things that being home in bed it was impossible to do. I was hopped up on so many pain meds at that point, I did point them in the right direction to who could actually assist them with their issue and it also tamed me enough so I didn’t remind them why I wasn’t in the office that day. I quit a week after I came back because the backlog of work that had piled up and then demanding requests for immediate things that were stuffed down there in that backlog of numbers…nope bye.

  33. Venus Supreme*



    Excuse me as I pick my jaw up off my desk…

    Also, OP, in addition to an update, I’d love for you to expand on the wedding-crashing situation… I have a lot of questions!

    Overall, this is bizarre, shocking, and ludicrous. I hope your coworkers have the decency to keep you out of their line of fire, and I sincerely hope you look for a new job! This is a new species of crazy I’ve never heard about before…

  34. Ann Furthermore*

    Wow. I read The Devil Wears Prada and it said nothing about Miranda Priestley having a brother. Dear god.

    1. Pineapple Incident*

      Miranda Priestley would probably have sent her assistant to crash the wedding and ask that “oh-so-important” question, and said not to take no for an answer.

  35. Merida May*

    Oh wow, OP, I can’t even imagine how difficult this is making it for you to do your job. I’ll cosign the advice that suggests you make sure your co-workers are aware that their freeze out is making you take the biggest hit. I worked as an admin under two project directors who were very much disliked and I’m pretty sure the good standing I had with my co-workers was the only reason that I was still able to mostly do my job. Additionally, if you get the sense that your boss will turn his (out of touch) concerns about your job performance in to disciplinary action I’d be ready to get HR involved. A person who has to be forcibly removed from an employee’s wedding and seems to have no remorse or understanding of what that was a weird thing for him to do is not a boss that is going to treat you fairly when it comes to writing you up or even firing you. You may need some backup on this one.

  36. Student*

    Tell your co-workers to take it up with a higher level of management. Consider going to upper management yourself, framing this as a “I am stuck in the middle of this department fight that I had no part in. I tried talking to my boss, but he keeps blaming me for things I have no control over. I tried talking to my co-workers and they refuse to change their behavior so I can do my job. Can you intervene before I get fired over this?”

    Your boss is incredibly irrational/thoughtless. You aren’t going to get him to budge. Your co-workers are pretty righteously angry – you could gamble on this blowing over soon and wait it out, using AAM’s suggestions to try to get them to lighten up on you. You could start explicitly passing the blame onto them by spelling out what’s happening to your boss when things go wrong, but sounds like your co-workers will probably turn on you and your boss might not believe you. Or you can plan to move on. A hail-Mary with the boss’s boss might not be a bad idea if you think your co-workers are going to keep this game up long term and your only other recourse is quitting.

  37. Observer*

    One more thought. Alison is right that this kind of behavior rarely happens in a vacuum, and is not something any halfway decent boss would do. And it’s not something any reasonably functional workplace should allow. Given that, and how you describe your boss’ reaction to what people are doing, I’d be willing to be that your boss is probably treating you pretty badly. Please recognize this.

    I’m not trying to make you feel bad. I’m hoping you’ll try to find a better job. Also that you understand that it really is NOT you and there is very little you can reasonably do to make your boss treat you well. Hopefully that understanding will help reduce the negative effects that this kind of behavior can have on the way you feel about yourself.

    Also, if you “get” that your boss is off the charts, you are less likely to bring expectations of that kind of behavior to other jobs. Getting that kind of toxicity out of your system is always hard, but if you’ve come to believe that it’s somewhat “normal”, it is that much harder.

    Lots of luck!

  38. AW*

    My boss is mostly oblivious to people being upset with him since I have to deal with them instead of him…My boss especially thinks I’m exaggerating.

    It might be worth it to point this out to your co-workers. They may not care about hurting you in order to get at your boss but they might* care that they’re not actually getting to him.

    *The most cynical part of me suspects that the reason they’re retaliating this way is because they know that you’ll bear the brunt of the consequences instead of them. Either way, I’m not particularly impressed with them either.

    1. ..Kat..*

      Or they are retaliating against the easy, defenseless target. Harder to retaliate against the powerful boss.

  39. Manager in CA*

    I think I have a concussion from hitting my head against my keyboard. This boss is beyond the pale.

    For the OP, I’d spend my time looking for a new job. The fact that no one has taken any action against the boss means either the boss is in charge (e.g. CEO, owner) or the manager above the boss is as incompetent as the boss is insane. And for your coworkers to get revenge by doing passive-aggressive petty things that in the end could get you fired sounds like the type of people I’d run away from. The coworkers are right to be upset, but to turn around and then be unprofessional because they’re angry is no place to work.

    Best of luck to you and please give us an update!

  40. Troutwaxer*

    One of the things I really like here is Allison’s suggest that you speak to the other players and say, “I know that you’re very upset with Fergus, but when you don’t deliver his mail and you leave him out of meetings, I’m the one who suffers. I’m being blamed for these things, and you’re getting me in trouble. This is making my life really difficult, and I’m worried that it’s jeopardizing my job. Can you please have mercy on me and not endanger my livelihood this way?”

    You should add, if circumstances allow, that you’re upset with Fergus too.

    Keep repeating this as often as required for it to sink into the relevant heads, particularly if there are people above your boss in the hierarchy, because it could easily go down like this: Boss’s boss fires boss. One of Boss’s current underlings is promoted to manage the dept. now that boss is gone. New boss punishes/fires you because s/he thought you were on Evil Old Boss’s side.

    And start looking for a new job. The ultimate issue here is that you simply shouldn’t have to put up with this.

    1. Marisol*

      I do not think that scenario you describe is likely. It is possible that the OP could be fired due to her association with her boss. Sometimes when the exec goes, the assistant goes too. But trash talking the boss is not the preemptive measure to take. Trash talking the boss demonstrates to everyone that you are a trash talker, which is not going to help you with job security. In particular, if someone who is used to having an assistant, such as boss’s boss, hears the assistant question her boss’s judgment, the OP could be earmarked as a potential problem employee and that could make her employment less secure, not more secure.

      I’ll allow that saying it once or twice discreetly could be ok, if it’s something like, “yes, I wish he hadn’t done that. CoWorker was an asset and I’ll miss her.” But going around repeating that you’re upset with your boss seems like a profoundly bad idea. Sorry to be so blunt but I worry that this advice, if followed, could have some bad consequences. You’re encouraging her to break a taboo.

  41. Malibu Stacey*

    Was your coworker getting married during business hours? How did the boss know where the wedding was?

    1. AW*

      Because once people know you’re getting married, they ask.

      This may vary by location/culture but where I live people usually do ask things like, “Have you set a date?” and “Do you have a venue?”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Some people have an easier time working for difficult people than others. Or the job might otherwise be good, or well-paid or have a lot of flexibility, or all sorts of other reasons.

    2. Observer*

      I can think of another two reasons to stay. She NEEDS a job and hasn’t found another job yet. Or she’s gotten her view of how workplaces operate skewed and doesn’t realize just how out of the norm this is. It’s not a terribly uncommon thing to happen, and it takes people a while to adjust once they get out of the toxic brew.

    3. kb*

      It could be an issue of limited alternative options. I’m originally from a small town and know a lot of people kept working in unideal jobs because there just weren’t many job options in the area. The first example that came to my mind is that my town had the best public school system in the state for students with special needs, so moving to an area with better job options may not outweigh the help, care, and education their child was receiving.

      1. Editor*

        Yes, this. There are lots of personal reasons why people feel trapped in their jobs. In rural areas in particular, there often aren’t many employers to choose from. Every time some troll responds to a news story about the poor or the unemployed or the underemployed by telling them they should move away to get a job that would solve all their problems, I cringe. Having been transferred once in my life because of my spouse’s job, I discovered that there can be many unexpected reasons a move to a new job is difficult. A smoothly running life depends on more than the job itself — it also requires smoothly running transportation, health care, housing, and other things like decent grocery stores, schools, child care, elder housing and care, and more.

  42. Volunteer Enforcer*

    Just when we think we’ve seen the worst boss of 2016, another one comes along to cap it all…

    Since the OP is an Executive Assistant, I’d bet my next paycheck on the boss being the CEO. I’m not saying any lower level managers should be allowed to get away with this, but this possibility makes it even more awful. Hopefully the board of Governors / Trustees / etc are firm enough to talk some sense into that jerk.

  43. Mimmy*

    Say what now??! Definitely some wack-a-doodles this month! :P

    But on top of that, they’d also talk to the people who are sabotaging Fergus and tell them that what Fergus did is unacceptable and is being addressed, but that meanwhile they need to stop sabotaging him — it’s not cool to lose someone’s mail or leave them out of meetings they need to be in, even if they’re King Jerk.

    Amen to this. It’s just stooping to Fergus’s level, which doesn’t benefit anyone.

  44. b*

    Not this extreme, there is lower levels of this type of behavior at my office. Coworkers tell stories about how they were pushed to work through 9/11.

    I’m pretty good with working with difficult people. Which means I have a lot of difficult clients too. They don’t know those normal boundaries, so I have to set them.

    A lot of it here has to do with short tightness on the high levels. I’ll note that I’m preparing things in case I’m sick or out of the office or vacation. The president or higher up might push and say “Let’s just deal with that when it happens. This is important NOW.”

    And I’ll just calmly say “If I’m in the hospital or on the road or on a plane, you might not get this information from me.” “I’m putting it in a shared place where you can all find it as I do it.” “If I’m hit by a bus tomorrow, you’re covered. It’s best for your business and frankly I’d rather you all miss me than focus on how difficult I made your life.”

    It’s hard to have a backup plan for everything. It’s a priority for me to have one as much as possible.

    If the boss can’t run his business because someone’s at a wedding, it’s because of a situation he created

  45. Michele*

    Did the bride have an exit interview? I understand that you aren’t supposed to burn every bridge in those things, but the boss’s behavior seems like fair game in this circumstance.

  46. kb*

    Based on the OP being an executive assistant and that there was no punitive action against the boss, I’m guessing he’s CEO, owner, or some sort of untouchable in the company. Even though I wouldn’t call the actions of OP’s coworkers the high road, I can see why this is the path they chose to take if the boss is untouchable. If he wrote-up an employee for his own incompetence on her wedding day, I doubt he would take well to subordinates directly expressing displeasure with his actions. Making the boss ineffective may actually be the only avenue available to make sure he acknowledges his wrong-doing. Hopefully the coworkers don’t realize that the boss is attributing their cold shoulder to the OP, and once she makes it clear this specific method of revenge is actually only hurting her and she’s on their side, they’ll stop. I know this wouldn’t be an option for all the workers, but I hope everyone just up and quits on this jabroni.

  47. erin*

    And I thought getting a phone call with a work question two hours after my (scheduled) c-section was bad!

      1. erin*

        I was so out of it and panicked (the baby had just been taken to the NICU for not being able to breathe during our first nursing session) that I LAID into him. And his response was, “chill out! It’s just a question!” Ugh.

        1. designbot*

          no it’s not just a question. It’s an intrusion. On one hand he couldn’t have known that was happening right then, but he should have known that not everything goes perfectly and it’s a high stress situation he was inserting himself in the middle of.

          1. Kai*

            Seriously–I can barely imagine emailing someone while they’re on maternity leave, let alone calling them on the day they’ve scheduled a c-section. The nerve!

    1. Kai*

      That IS bad!

      My husband had massive abdominal surgery a while back and an assistant from his office called his personal cell phone to ask where they should send flowers. My husband was deeply drugged and in pain and not happy to answer that (not sure why he answered at all in the first place, though). As I recall the assistant got reamed for that one.

      1. erin*

        Aw, at least in that case they were trying to do something nice! but still – it’s like people are missing some portion of their brain when they think doing shit like this is okay.

        I used to have a boss that suffered from a mental illness that would often leave him in a manic state in the early hours of the morning. (3 am, for instance) At which point he would call us to ask us a non-emergency work question (“what’s the status on that long-range project you’re working on?”), I guess because he just figured we would all be awake like him. The only reason bosses should call people outside of normal awake hours or after something like surgery is if the damn building is on fire and that employee is the only one who knows where the extinguisher is kept.

  48. Jo*

    OP, sorry to hear you’re dealing with this issue through no fault of your own! With the similar posts we’ve seen this year, I’m beginning to think there should be a new category: Bosses who turn up inappropriately outside of work. Seriously, is anything work related that important that it justifies gatecrashing a wedding, funeral, or interrupting someone undergoing chemotherapy?

  49. BePositive*

    you already got great advice to stand up for your duties. However OMFG I can’t imagine this is real. Please update us!

  50. JenMidd*

    I’m interested to hear how he confronted the bride at the wedding. Did he approach her at the alter? Stand up and act as though he was giving a toast? I get that he wasn’t invited, but he must have caused such a scene to have required a deputy escort him out …

    What is wrong with people?!

  51. SusanIvanova*

    On top of everything else: “she was the only one who could answer it… she ended up quitting before she left for her honeymoon”

    He’s just made a serious hole in the institutional knowledge. Next time that question needs answering, what are they going to do? My ex-company laid off my entire team but had to hire one engineer back for two days as a contractor because nobody left knew how to do it or could figure it out in the time they’d scheduled.

  52. Marisol*

    To the people saying that the OP should signal to her coworkers that she knows her boss’ behavior is horrible, I want to explain something to you. When you are an executive assistant, a big part of your job is representing your boss. That means you don’t say bad things about him behind his back. Now, there may be a little gray area where you might be able to, let’s say, wink knowingly when referring to an idiosyncrasy. But for the most part, you don’t say bad things about him. Period. It’s taboo.

    I’ve worked for a few truly difficult bosses as an assistant, and I’ve had colleagues who had difficult bosses, and this has always been understood, by me, and I thought, by everyone around me. I never thought it was necessary to explain to someone, “now, just so you know, I think what he wants is awful and I wouldn’t be surprised if you felt angry by his request” and I’ve never heard anyone else say anything like that either. I mean, that would be completely unprofessional!

    The idea that the OP should curry favor with her coworkers by going out of her way to mention his bad behavior is offensive to me. I suppose if someone brought it up directly to her, it would be find to respond by saying something like, “I agree that was a bad choice” and leaving it at that. An assistant isn’t a robot and is allowed to disagree with her boss. But I get the impression that some others here really want you to vent some spleen about it, and I think that would be a terrible choice.

    1. Marisol*

      Something else that I implied but failed to say outright – what some commenters are encouraging is for the OP to violate a professional ethic. I guess that’s why I feel bothered. When you are an exec assistant, you are on your boss’s “side” and if you can’t get into alignment with that, with your external behavior if not your private thoughts, then you need to work for someone else.

      It may be the best choice for OP to look elsewhere for work; I am not saying this boss is a great guy or someone she should be working for. He sounds like a rotten person and I hope the OP gets a better job if she wants one. But as long as she works for him, there is most likely an expectation that she not sell him out for some political capital in the office. As horrible as his behavior was, she is still obligated to act professionally, and moreover, she cannot redress the boss’s wrongs by calling attention to them. What’s done is done.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        I noticed your other comment above and you’re absolutely right. Maybe a better way to phrase it is to say “I understand why everyone is upset with Fergus…” or “I totally understand why Sally quit..” or “I get that everyone thinks Fergus stepped over a line…” instead of using language which blames Fergus.

        If necessary, even make the point that as Fergus’s Admin she can’t take a side against Fergus without violating the Admin’s code, but she gets it, and she has tried unsuccessfully to communicate with Fergus about the issue, but could they find some other way of expressing their unhappiness which doesn’t hurt her?

    2. paul*

      Have any of them ever done something like this?

      I don’t think people are saying so much “vent her spleen” as explicitly tell her coworkers that yes, what he did was awful, but please don’t punish her for it. If she doesn’t at least acknowledge that what he did was wretched, the chances of her coworkers working with her are probably close to zero.

      Professional norms can sometimes break down in an environment this dysfunctional.

  53. Kittymommy*

    Get out as soon as possible. This a unacceptable environment on any level. As an executive assistant myself I can’t even imagine the nightmare your in. Your boss was way, way wrong and like others said, probably exhibiting these behaviors in the work setting, but quite frankly your co-workers aren’t winners either. Blaming and taking it out on you is high school behavior and deliberately sabotaging your boss and the firm is ridiculous and unacceptable.

  54. Drew*

    Every now and then, I amuse myself by pretending the person on the other side of AAM letters is actually the one who wrote in.

    “Dear AAM,

    I’m having a problem with my staff and I could really use your advice on how to solve it. Recently, I’ve discovered that I’ve been left off some very important meeting invitations and some of my critical office mail has been going missing. I talked to my EA about this and she swears she doesn’t know what’s going on. Could she be sabotaging me or are the rest of my staff really so incompetent?

    This is a new problem, which is why I’m so concerned. It seems like ever since my star employee, Sylvia, quit abruptly at her wedding, things have been going downhill. Sylvia really left me in the lurch, too, and it’s been rough trying to replace her. Help, please!”

    1. The Bimmer Guy*

      Yeah, you’d think that if the boss himself were writing this letter, he’d know he was wrong and conveniently leave out the fact that he crashed his employee’s wedding, as in your sample letter. But you’d be surprised. Some of the letter-writers who were themselves the cause of an issue have been really off-base in their logic, and so it’s perfectly plausible that the boss would write a letter talking about how he knows he went and crashed her wedding, but it was really important, how she overreacted and quit, and how his assistant is now “sabotaging him” in an alliance with the former employee.

      1. Observer*

        You mean like the guy who wanted to reach out to his former employee to scold her for quitting when he wouldn’t let her go to her own graduation?

  55. The Bimmer Guy*

    I’ve seen people fired for less. I think I would let this guy go for treating someone that way. He’s pretty much in the same vein as the boss who wrote up his employee for what she was wearing when he demanded that she give him a ride off-hours (and rightfully so). It’s just so over-the-top, and I’m not convinced I’d want the headache of re-training someone whose judgment is this poor; besides, I’m sure he has other issues if he’s this cruel.

  56. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

    OP – where is your boss in the hierarchy of the org? Is he the highest boss? If not, are his bosses aware of the situation? I ask for two reasons:

    If they are not aware, they need to be made aware. This behavior is so egregious, his bosses need to know what has happened

    If they are aware, and haven’t reprimanded him for it, you need to get out. I know that is easier said than done, but start looking immediately. That is a huge indicator of how the org values its employees (which is not at all) if they have no problem with a boss behaving in this manner

    If your boss is the top dog, do you have an HR department? They may need to be the ones to have the convo with him about the environment he is creating if there is no one above him that can

    As far as the situation you find yourself in, I would address it as it happens. Jane leaves boss off a meeting – go to Jane and use Alison’s script. Address it as it is happening. “I get you are upset, he crossed so many lines, but he isn’t seeing these missed meeting requests as you being upset, he is seeing this as me being incompetent and it is threatening my job.”

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